Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kara Kondo Interview
Narrator: Kara Kondo
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Gail Nomura (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7 & 8, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kkara-01-0004

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AI: Before we get there, why don't we continue hearing more about those very early days of the Issei. And, of course, that was before you were born, but perhaps the things that you had heard about what life was like for them?

KK: In the wintertime, of course, everything is at a standstill because the crops are in, and so the people are much, have much more leisure time. And, and it, for people who lived in closer to Wapato, which was sort of the mecca, or the center for the Japanese, I'm not quite sure what they did because we were out in the country, but... and I can remember having my parents' friends in almost daily. And I, we remember that my mother always seemed to prepare meals for them and that the men would sit around and talk. And that's where we used to listen to them.

But, but a lot of the Issei lives were the same in that we were sort of a self-contained community. We were able to maintain our Japanese foods and customs, and on New Year's Day they had mochitsuki and all that kind of, same kind of customs that they were used to. But it was a very difficult life, and I have a lot of memories about living out in the country and having wild horses come in to our land and having to chase them out and having the, the sheep coming in to graze on the last bits of alfalfa in the fall. These are memories that you have. And very often the, we could hear the coyotes at night and often see them around the haystack. But, for the Japanese --

AI: Excuse me. I also wanted to -- before we got too far along -- ask you whether your mother had ever told you a little bit more about what kind of living conditions she and your father had when she first got to the valley.

KK: Well, I suppose you have no conception. I can have memories, of course, you did your washing with a washboard, which I'm sure is a novelty nowadays. [Laughs] But a washboard where you had to heat your water on the cook stove. And your heating was usually by stoves -- either a potbelly stove or, for heating, wood stoves for cooking. And usually without running water in those days. I remember having horses. We did have a car, eventually had an automobile. But the early memories are that they used horses, mainly. They'd have, in addition to the wagons -- very utilitarian wagons -- they had buggies. And I recall, or my memory is that when they went to Yakima by buggy, they would have to stay overnight because... and they would take a bale of hay and stay overnight because that was quite some distance, about 20 miles or more -- probably longer in those days.

GN: What were their earliest race relations at that time? Did they ever tell you about before the anti-alien laws and some of that?

KK: Well, they, they did not talk too much, although reading some of the history of that area, there were some. And I, and I have read the early ones... in the early 1900s, the first ones, that my father had gone to Toppenish to send a wire to the consulate because, because they were threatened somehow. And, but, you know, you read that now, but I don't have any memory of that, of course. But you had the regular relationship with your neighbors. I don't think it differed very much. Our immediate, white neighbor was married to a part-Indian woman, and I remember the name of Maxwell. And with other neighbors the controversy, or friction, was over water, if I remember. And it's the same now. But I remember that our hired man, Mr. Tomita, was hit by a shovel. But it was, it was about water and whether or not somebody, they felt that someone was stealing water. The other memory that I had was that you really, because we were -- had distance between properties and residences, that you did not mingle that closely with the white, Caucasian neighbors and --

GN: Was there any sense of a Japanese community?

KK: Yes, there was. Always. It was, I think it was a very close... they had the Japanese Association. Eventually they had formed the Japanese language school, and in the '20s -- '22 and '4 -- the buildings of both the Japanese Yakima Buddhist Church and the United Methodist Church. And some of the early pioneers were those who came to be associated with the churches. But our, I remember when, it was a rare treat when they had Japanese movies. We would have them at the Association building, and we would sit by the person who (...) ran the projector and talked for all the people on the screen and... which was really a talking, before, long before talking, "talkies," as they said. The operators provided the entertainment. I remember that. And we used to sit by, watching him perform and take the parts of the -- speaking parts -- of those projected on the screen. We thought that that was really very entertaining.

AI: And these are things that would, events that would take place at the Japanese Association building?

KK: Yes. After that was constructed, yes.

AI: And I think I read that that was, building was dedicated in 1920?

KK: It could have been.

AI: Is that right in Wapato, was it?

KK: Yes. In Wapato. It was, that was where the first, the churches' services were held there earlier, and then each church had their own separate buildings. But the Japanese language school continued there, and it was added on where it was the center of, center of all the social activities.

AI: So, in the early 1920s, the Association building was dedicated, the Buddhist Church, and the Methodist Church --

KK: Church, yes.

AI: -- were both built and dedicated.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.