Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mitsu Fukui Interview
Narrator: Mitsu Fukui
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 18 & 19, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-fmitsu-01-0034

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AI: Well, and now, getting back to your return to Seattle, that was later in September of 1945 and I was just wondering, what was your first impression? What was your reaction when you got back to Seattle?

MF: Gosh, I don't remember.

AI: Where did you stay?

MF: Well, I could remember calling my good friend up on the phone and she -- I didn't have very many Japanese friends 'cause we lived in north end by Woodland Park. And all my hakujin, friends were hakujins. And so I did call her up and, oh she was so happy to -- she came right over. And mother, and my dad had their home and nobody was living there when we came back. They were, some people were living there, I heard, but they didn't pay the rent so our Caucasian friend, they, we wrote to them and tell them to move out and just lock it up. And so they did for us. So we never had income from our mother's home until we came back.

AI: Oh dear.

MF: They sent the check about two months, I guess, and after that they stayed about six months before we kicked them out.

AI: So, since it was vacant, you were able to --

MF: Yeah.

AI: -- stay there.

MF: So we came, we -- Mother and Dad were still in camp and so we came back first and we stayed at Mom's place.

AI: Well, now, were you and Bill thinking of getting back into the same dry cleaning business again?

MF: Uh-huh.

AI: Because you told us how you had to sell your business before the war and so were you looking for places, then, right away?

MF: We asked to buy our old place back but they wouldn't sell it. So we looked around and then we found a Jap-, Chinese hand laundry on Twenty, well, it would be, I would call it Twenty-fourth and Union, East Union. And we bought that laundry and we just almost killed ourselves by working so hard. And my husband said, "Let's quit this and buy a press machine." And so we bought a second-hand press machine and then we started a dry cleaning business there. And then we found out that there was a vacant gas station right across the street on the corner and so we bought that place and we built our drive-in dry cleaning shop. It's still standing there.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you about what happened before then, before you were able to start up your dry cleaning again because I had seen in some of the papers that David had collected that before that, that you were trying to set up your business but that some people didn't, were not, would not do the wholesaling, dry cleaning with you as they did not want to take any business from Japanese Americans.

MF: Yeah.

AI: And that that was a difficult time.

MF: That was kind of a hard for a while. But Japanese start coming back and this man started a wholesale, Mr. Araki. And so we sent all our work there. And that was on, I think Fourteenth and Jackson. It was a, still a brick building. It's still standing there.

AI: So that's how you were able to --

MF: Uh-huh.

AI: -- start up again. Well, so --

MF: And then we were very lucky. This Chinese man that owned this building when we first started as a Chinese hand laundry, why, he started raising the rent every month, every six months or so and Bill said gee, that's not fair. And so we went to the bank, a couple of banks and they wouldn't loan us any money because we were just back from camp. But our friend loaned us the money. He loaned us six thousand dollars. Oh, that was the time that, that was the house that we wanted to -- 'cause we were living in the back of a dry cleaning shop and we didn't have a room to put a bed in. We had a mattress but we put the mattress on the floor. We slept like that for a while. And I remember one time Bill had a sort of a flu and Dr. Suzuki came and looked after him and he was shocked that we had to live like this for a while. That was right after the war.

AI: That must've been a hard time.

MF: Yeah.

AI: Living behind the shop.

MF: That was the worst time, I think. Of course, I'm glad David was very small at that time so it wasn't bad, but if he was older I think it'd kinda affected him.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.