Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Betty Morita Shibayama Interview
Narrator: Betty Morita Shibayama
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 27, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-sbetty-01-0010

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AI: Well, and then, let's see, you were in the third grade then in 1941 when...

BS: When the war, uh-huh.

AI: ...when war broke out, when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

BS: Uh-huh.

AI: And I'm just wondering, what did you recall that -- were you aware of what was happening that day when the bombing was announced?

BS: I really don't remember. All I know is maybe not specifically of that day, but later on that I could hear my parents saying that oh, that Japan is at war with the United States and the effect that it would have on all of us. And my dad, because, I guess he had this grandfather who had worked in Watsonville, I guess they had discussed things, and I guess the grandfather had told my father that people from Japan need to travel outside of their, their island and come and see the United States because they see what a vast country and all the resources it has. And so that must have impressed my father because my father said, "Japan is foolish to declare war with the United States because they don't know, the military people, they don't know what the United States, how vast it is and all the people." And he said, "It's foolish because they'll never win the war."

AI: So --

BS: And of course they have ties because at that time my grandmother was there and my sister Fumiko was there and my great-grandparents were still alive. But --

AI: So, it must have been painful for them.

BS: For them, uh-huh.

AI: Well, and then, so, that was a Sunday that Pearl Harbor was bombed and the next day was Monday, a school day. Do you recall anything from that day?

BS: I don't recall specifics that day, but you could tell certain classmates did not act very friendly. And, but there was, in my class, there was one Japanese American boy and his name was Johnny. We were the only two Japanese in our class. And actually his mother came with my mother on the same ship. And they remained friends, well, she was a picture bride, and she remained friends all the time we were in Hood River, or even after, remained good friends. But I know later that -- not me specifically -- but my brothers and sisters would say that people would call 'em "Jap."

AI: And --

BS: And they'd get in fights.

AI: Oh. Well, and what about your teacher? How did your teacher treat you?

BS: Oh, okay, at that time Miss Sovern was my teacher. Well, I don't know, she was, I can't say she was either way. I didn't feel that she treated me differently or anything. But my second grade teacher, when we were in Tule Lake, Mrs. Heaton was her name. She came to visit me. She was in Klamath Falls and she was visiting Klamath Falls so she knew Tule Lake was close there so she came and visited me. And even when we lived in Hood River, they never, she never came to visit our house, but it, this was something different. I just felt ashamed that she would have to come and visit me in a place like that. And she did visit me and then I just didn't know what to say to her. I was very happy to see her and then I took her to see the other classmate, Johnny Tameno. And then I don't know what his feelings were, but I was happy to see her but I just did not feel comfortable.

AI: So they actually allowed her to come into Tule Lake camp?

BS: Uh-huh.

AI: And you and your classmate were able to sit down with her and have a visit?

BS: Well, yes, well, I don't even remember sitting down and talking to her, but I... just seeing her and talking with her. And then I think I took her to where Johnny lived. And then she had a visit with him.

AI: It sounds like it was very brief.

BS: It was, it was very brief, though.

AI: It sounds like it was really painful for you.

BS: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

AI: So, even at that young age you really felt bad about being...

BS: Yes, yes, uh-huh. Well, I guess when we were in camp among the Japanese, 'cause we were all in the same situation, that it didn't... well, we figure you're in the same boat, so... but then when you see an outsider come it's just like, "Oh, we're different." And there's something... can't express it.

AI: It sounds like it made it very obvious to you --

BS: Yes.

AI: -- that, why you were in the camp?

BS: Uh-huh.

AI: And that was because of that difference.

BS: Uh-huh.

AI: Well, that is really an interesting story that she would make that trip.

BS: Yes. And she was very kind. But even, this other teacher, Miss Sovern, she was younger, a younger woman. And she was pretty, and then she'd wear sweaters that, I was a kid, so I don't know, but then all these older boys would say, "Oooo." [Laughs] And they would tease her with the principal and that. But she was young. But the last day of school, during... well, we had like a half a day because my parents wanted us to come home, I guess at lunch break. So, at recess she had all my classmates go out and pick wildflowers and then they made a bouquet for me. That was very nice.

AI: And that was your last day of school?

BS: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.