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-01-0041

<Begin Segment 41>

AI: Well, now, eventually Tak finished his officers' training, and I think you said then he was transferred --

KK: To Staten Island. And I still lived in Carlisle and would visit him in New York City on weekends. So, and then, after his period in Staten Island, he was sent to the camp that was near Joplin, Missouri. So, we... I remember we drove to Joplin, Missouri. And I don't know where we got the car, or whatever. But we drove to Joplin, Missouri, and were there only for about... over a month, maybe. I can't... I can't recall. But I remember having my tonsils removed there. And I was sick a lot of the time there in Joplin. But Joplin, Joplin, Missouri, is an interesting little town with a town square. A small town. But only people I got to know was doctor and nurses and people like that, and didn't get to know the town too well.

GN: Did you live on base or --

KK: No, no. I can't even -- we had an apartment in town, and I remember it wasn't too far from anything. Joplin is a small, little town.

GN: You had no housing problems?

KK: Usually we rented one-room apartments, efficiency apartments.

GN: Did they rent to Japanese Americans?

KK: I don't think we had... they may have, we may have been rejected at some of the places, but usually one-room apartment owners are, they really don't care unless they get paid rent. And, you know, there's a lot of movement within the military. We weren't the only military couple, and it, a lot of the places we lived in, like in Louisville, were, were converted old houses that were broken up into apartments. Maybe one or two rooms with shared bathrooms and places like that. And they were usually military couples that lived in those kind of places. And there was a lot of turnover.

AI: Even though you were only in Joplin a short time, I'm wondering if you had much of an impression of the racial segregation there and the racial dynamic, which, again, would be different in the South.

KK: It would be the South, wouldn't it? Well, of course, I was aware of that in Louisville. And I discovered I didn't have to go to "black only" places. But, but in Joplin, I wasn't sure. I don't think I even registered the African American people there. I either had a very bad case of tonsillitis, or I was unaware, in some way. And after, it wasn't a very good surgery, so I was sick for quite some time.

GN: So you were aware, though, in Kentucky?

KK: Oh, yes. And once you get over hesitating which entrance to use or, I don't, I guess they still had the back of the bus, too.

GN: How did you know your place?

KK: I think I asked. And they said, "Oh, you can go to the white-only," or... but I didn't, I didn't know many African Americans. And they were, I don't remember seeing people employed at the Courier-Journal who were African American, either. Most of them were not. So I, as you, you have this little shell around you where you look after yourself. Your self-preservation. And no matter if conditions are rather normal around you, you do, you assume a shell around you once you leave camp because you, you know almost instinctively when to, to become active in certain social causes or to speak up or to avoid instances. And I think it's a normal reaction that you're unaware of at the time.

AI: Did you know where you could go and where you couldn't go?

KK: Well, you know, with a military salary, and what little I earned on my own, there are limiting... it's a limiting factor. And the time factor, also. But when we were, when I worked for the newspaper, we were able to get season tickets to cultural and music and symphony kinds of activities. And we lived just about a block away from the music center there and to the civic performing arts center. And so we were able to go, and I don't think we were ever segregated or anything in those activities.

GN: Not like Yakima when you had to go to the next floor.

KK: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I remember that. And that, and the balcony. Yes, I remember that.

AI: That's so interesting that as, when you were in Yakima that you, you were segregated. You couldn't sit with the whites in the theater --

KK: And then in a Southern town where you could go sit with the white people. [Laughs]

AI: That's interesting. Well now, during this time, did your... did your parents stay in Heart Mountain for the rest of the war years?

KK: Well, my older sister and her husband, Amy and Jim Nose left camp, and they went first to Spokane. So my parents were alone in camp. And then my, Jim and Amy Nose went to St. Paul because they were able to get something, Jim was able to find work there that was better than in Spokane. And then when they went to Spokane -- to St. Paul, they called my father and mother from the camp to St. Paul, and they, they rented a house. And my sister was there, and my younger sister Marjorie was there, and then Jim and Amy Nose, my older sister and husband, were there. So they lived with them for a while until they decided, my parents decided they... that was fine, but then my father wanted to do something more and, and since there was a need for farm workers in Eastern Oregon -- the Nyssa, Oregon camp where many of his friends had relocated -- they decided to move to the Nyssa camp in Eastern Oregon. And eventually that was where, after we returned back to the Yakima valley that we got them back home and resettled in Wapato.

AI: Well, now, when did that happen? That was about 1945?

KK: Probably about '46.

AI: So the war had ended.

KK: Yes.

AI: And then, and Tak was discharged.

KK: Discharged. And, and he really had a little difficult time finding a job in Yakima.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.