Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Robert Coombs Interview
Narrator: Robert Coombs Andrews
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: SeaTac, Washington
Date: August 2, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-crobert-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is August 2, 2003. We're here in the DoubleTree in SeaTac near Seattle, Washington. I'm Alice Ito with Densho Project and we're speaking with Mr. Robert Coombs today. Thank you, Mr. Coombs. And our videographer is Dana Hoshide, also from Densho. And Mr. Coombs, you're here for the reunion of Minidoka, and I'm so glad that you're able to take this time with us to do some interviewing. I wanted to ask you to just start at the very beginning of your birth and your family background and I understand you were born in 1918 in California?

RC: I was born in Visalia, California. With me came a twin sister, which was not really a surprise to my mother because her mother had had three sets of twins. As she was growing up, (...) she knew how to take care of twins. We lived on a farm, and it wasn't too long before my father sold the farm, and (we) moved to Sacramento. So I grew up in Sacramento and went through the schools in Sacramento.

AI: Well now, could you, maybe we should back up a bit, and I'd like you to ask you to tell me a little bit about your mother and father and their background.

RC: Well, my father was the son of a preacher. My grandfather was quite a sterling type of minister. He was on the circuit with William Jennings Bryan, and they traveled around the country in those days preaching the Word. My father was born here in Washington, I think it's called Colfax, if I remember the name of the little town. And then my grandfather had a church in Pasadena and that's where the rest of the children, my uncles and aunts were born. My mother was born in Cleveland. Her mother and father came over from Stutgart, Germany, and they settled in the part of Cleveland that was German. The German people, just like other people coming from foreign countries, (...) sought out their own kind and that's where my mother was born, and her brothers and sisters. When my mother was thirteen, the (chore) of taking care of so many babies, helping her mother, affected her health. (...) The doctors said she would have to come west, get out of the Cleveland weather. There was a blind lady who needed to come west to Whittier and she needed a companion. In those days it didn't seem unreasonable that a thirteen-year-old girl would take on the responsibility of being a blind lady's companion. (...) The travel was by big heavy trains, and my mother was up to it, and they got to Whittier. This lady and my mother lived together for a number of years. She was very good to my mother and my mother was very good to her. She saw my mother through high school in San Diego. It was a very interesting experience for my mother to be with a group of people, (Quakers), like the people who were settling in Whittier, from a religious standpoint. When she was finished there, she went to Los Angeles and got herself a job and that's where she met my father. And my father made up his mind, "there's my wife-to-be," and they were married.

AI: About when was that, that they were married?

RC: Let's see... I would say about 1910, or a little bit before then. I'm trying to figure -- I have two older brothers, or had two older brothers, and my oldest brother now is ninety-three, so we, you can use math and go back to when he was born, and so it was in the early 1900s.

AI: Right. So he would have been born about 1910?

RC: 1910, yes. And then a year-and-a-half, my next brother was born, and then my twin and I were born in 1918.

AI: What's your birthday?

RC: May 26th.

AI: May 26th.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.