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-01-0042

<Begin Segment 42>

AI: Oh, excuse me. Before getting back there, I wanted to ask a little bit about how you got back.

KK: From?

AI: Did you... after he was discharged.

KK: From, we drove back from, and we, it was in, I think, early September of 1945. It was soon after the... was it the European? Japanese war? The war with Japan was over. I can't remember.

GN: September of '45.

KK: September '45.

GN: September 2nd.

KK: I think that he was discharged soon after that date, and we prepared to drive back from Joplin, Missouri, to... and I have no memory of, of that drive back. But we got back to his parents' farm home, from Joplin, Missouri and decided we'd stay with them, or they invited us to stay with them until, until we got resettled in, in the valley. And, at that time, Misako, his sister, and her husband, Pat... Misako and Pat Hagiwara, who had, was, Pat was also discharged and was waiting to enter the university in mid-September. And they were living there, so our... the refugees, the kids, returned back home to the family farm and after Pat and Misako left for Pat to go to the university, well, we stayed there until we found a place of our own. But by that time, Tak had gotten a job with Browns Pharmacy and, and stayed on a number of years later. But that was our transition from coming back from Missouri to Wapato and then, eventually, we remained in the valley.

GN: Do you remember the initial reception?

KK: Oh. Coming back from... yes. I think coming back to the valley was a frightening experience. It was... in the first place, you weren't sure who were your friends or not. You'd gotten to the point where you did not -- that you heard enough that you did not quite trust anyone. And when you came back, every sign was, in our small town of Wapato, was "No Japs Wanted." And we heard stories as we, of those who had come to resettle in the valley who were encouraged to move on. And those who had come to stay at the hostels that were established, the Methodist church was occupied by a family that refused to leave and was forced to leave and, and the kaikan, the large community building of the Buddhist, Yakima Buddhist Church was, had a number of families who were living there. But, and many of them stayed there just during the transition period. But I remember the last, the first Christmas in 1945 we sat around and just wondered what was really going to... how it would, what we would face in the future because it was a very hostile time.

AI: Did you have people -- white people -- telling you to your face that you should move on, that you shouldn't stay there?

KK: I had, no, not to my face. And I don't think they did it to Tak, either. But we had numerous instances where we were told that they had stopped in to see the publisher of the Wapato Independent, the weekly, who just, who had known them quite well, just as a friendly way of saying that, "This isn't a place for you. You should go on." That kind of, and, and it was evident and in the feeling and the place where we used to meet for coffee or pop or whatever, we felt was a very friendly place, also had the sign. So you really didn't know who your friends were, and it was really... and having experienced the bombings in the past and some of the instances that had happened during the early history of the valley you, one was... I think we were, didn't feel comfortable to return. And I would say that two percent of the original group of about 1,300 returned to the valley. And most no one except for one family -- the Tateoka family -- returned to Yakima because, for numerous reasons. And many of them had resettled into, into satisfying areas. In places where they were much more satisfied and welcomed and had become established. Many of our former residents went to the eastern Oregon... western or the eastern Oregon area and had worked as farm workers and had acquired farms and started farming operations on their own. And others had gone to a newly developed area around Moses Lake and had settled there. And so having to fight the uncertainty of returning home, and they preferred to go on to different areas. Many of them were working in California in agricultural areas that were much more productive for them and so on.

AI: Well, and, of course, as you had mentioned earlier, most of them did not own property in the valley.

KK: No. No.

AI: Whereas in, in your case with Tak's family --

KK: Yes. They, fortunately, they had people who took very good care of, of the farm. And they were able to return there.

GN: But the Matsushitas returned. You didn't have --

KK: No. We had leased property and so, and you know my -- well, of course, Tak's parents were probably not as old as mine. And, and once you have reached in the late fifties, or close to sixty, you can't, it's very hard for Isseis to establish themselves. And it was... it was... and public assistance is a terrible term, and I think is very, something that hurt the pride of a lot of people. But, on the other hand, I remember my mother saying, "I was so worried about what was going to happen to us." And, and she was so grateful to receive some sort of public assistance. And, and that was so unlike them. That... but on the other hand, there didn't seem to be any alternative.

GN: Where were they staying?

KK: Oh, they, they sold... from the small bit of, from their selling of the possessions, very little. And they had a down payment for their new house in Wapato, but no way of sustaining any kind of living or living wage. Or any job, prospects of job. And so it was really the public assistance people who had set up the public assistance, monetary assistance. Not a very large amount, but just enough for subsistence. And, and I remember my mother was so grateful for that because it meant that they had some sort of income while they were living. My mother died in '47, I believe, and my father died later in a couple years. So it was not a long period of time. But they didn't have to worry about where they would get some sort of income. And, perhaps, that others -- I'm sure there were many Isseis who received that, and I feel that the state government, the federal government, realized this.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.