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-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

KK: But I remember growing up in a place called the Guyette area where we were nine miles on Fort Road from Toppenish. And that was a one-room schoolhouse. And in that neighborhood, we had the Caucasian families. And the families that I remember more closely were Finnish families who lived in that area, whose parents could not speak English. And the Kauppis, the Kantonens, and the Enboms. And we would, I would visit their families and learn about their saunas far before it became such a popular thing. [Laughs]

AI: How about old were... excuse me. About how old were you when you were living in that neighborhood?

KK: In that area?

AI: Uh-huh.

KK: I must have been in about fifth or sixth grade. And it was a one-room schoolhouse that I think after seventh grade you went on to Wapato by bus. But that was my first job because we lived right across from the school, called Guyette. And we had a, first I remember a, our teacher was single, and she lived in a little shack and had cats, I believe. And she lived there, and in very primitive conditions. You know, we didn't have running water, we had no indoor toilet, and... but the second teacher that came was a widow, too. She had a daughter, and she drove in a vintage car, now, from Wapato. And so when the days got short and it got dark, she had wanted someone to build a fire in the, in the stove, and clean, and sweep up the floor. And guess who? That was my first job. [Laughs] And I got fifty cents a month for that. But I remember when it got really dark that my father would come and help me, although I didn't acknowledge that very much. But, but we started, and we'd build a fire early in the morning and sweep up at night with kerosene lantern, in the light of kerosene lanterns.

And that, and it was so long ago that my Native American friends don't even know where the Guyette school was. And it's interesting that I was telling a person -- a Native American person I know -- about that, and I described this beautiful Native American young woman that I used to see driving by. And we had a little, our parents had a little fruit, vegetable stand so that we would stay out of mischief in the summertime. And we would sit there and sometimes they would stop in to buy watermelons. And here we saw this beautiful Guyette. Her name was (Rosie) Guyette, and we knew this area must have been named after her. And I was telling him, "I remember this beautiful woman who used to be in the company of white men all the time." And he said, "Oh, that's my aunt." [Laughs] But he didn't know about the area.

And here, you know, we had Finnish friends. And my younger sister's good friend was Dorothy Suluskin, who was from the Suluskin family, who were chiefs. Joe Suluskin was a chief, at one time, of the Yakama Nation. And then we had the Shephards and the Clarks and we had even one person who was disabled. And so we were just little kids growing up together. And we tolerated her because she had a horse, and so, and it was interesting to know that, she told us much, much later in life that her father was just livid because she had associated with Japanese and that he opposed her playing with us. But, but we thought we were tolerating her because of her horse. [Laughs]

AI: Well --

GN: So it sounds like a multicultural neighborhood.

KK: We grew up multiculturally.

GN: In your schools, too.

KK: Yes. We didn't, well, we didn't experience, I don't think... we weren't made aware of that kind of -- I think down deep we realized that there were limits. We didn't try to get into DeMolay or whatever the other kinds of, strictly, the Rainbow Girls or some of the things that I don't think we ever attempted to.

GN: Did you ever, what's your first memory of realizing, maybe, that you were different?

KK: Oh, I think we always knew. I think we always knew. My sister, when she went to first grade, couldn't speak English.

AI: Your older sister?

KK: My older sister. But by the time I went, though, I had learned from her, although my first language was Japanese. And I could read Japanese by the time I went to... yes. I spent time with my mother. I could read katakana and read Japanese stories. But I, by that time I was, I think I was proficient in English, but I probably wasn't. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.