Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Elaine Ishikawa Hayes Interview I
Narrator: Elaine Ishikawa Hayes
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 12 & 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-helaine-01-0039

<Begin Segment 39>

AI: Well, you know, for, I want to... before jumping into that, I wanted just to get back to kind of what, when things happened, and from my reading, I think it was about, it was early in 1943 that the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" first came out. And that was also about the time when some of the young men were volunteering, were allowed to volunteer for the army. And so it was either late January or early February, probably, that the questionnaire was starting to come out. And I was wondering, do you remember when you were told that you had to fill this thing out? What, how did that happen, or what did you think about that?

EH: I think they announced it probably at dinnertime, and I think everybody sixteen and over had to answer this, these questions. And it was really provoking, because we never had a chance to discuss... as a family, we didn't know what the questions were going to be in the first place. But I thought it was kind of unfair to, to make us sign these, answer these questions without giving us a chance to discuss it as a family unit. When the questions came out, like, "Will you give up all allegiance to any other government, particularly Japan," and, "Will you be willing to join the armed forces?" one kind or another. And I would have been comfortable to say, "yes," but I knew that we really needed to know, what about, what about our parents? What about our younger sisters and brothers? Where, what's going to happen to them if we, if we leave? A lot of us were going to college so we were prepared to, to someday leave, but under forced conditions. And if we were going to be sent to armed forces, for instance, of some kind, we really needed to know what, what's going to happen to the rest of the family.

I also knew that by that time, I think I knew that our parents weren't eligible to be citizens, so that if you were forcing them to give up allegiance to any other government, they were (going to) be people without a country. And that really is what stirred up anger. You know, in areas -- I mean, I don't feel like I was in a block or an area that was, had tensions, but some of the other communities, who were very, much more Japanese, that it really riled them. And when, this must have been maybe an hour after dinner, and things were cleared, as the evening wore on, you could feel the tension. And we couldn't ask questions. That was, that was incredible. But we began to hear bells, you know, when dinnertime comes, the cook gets out on the mess hall door and starts ringing some kind of bell, and it's not a gentle triangle kind of thing, it's a bang-bang-bang. And we began to hear that in the distance. And as might be expected, some of the younger guys really started asking questions. And the people who were supposed to be supposedly leaders couldn't answer those questions. Well, when you have that kind of tension, and these abrupt questions come up, and you can't answer them, somebody's (going to) explode. And that's what was happening in the more Japanese areas. I don't know whatever, one of these days I'll have to ask a Northwesterner, "You were closer to that ward," they call, I think a ward is nine blocks, and each block is 250 people in two rows of barracks. But immediately that night it got tense. And there were, we began to hear about riots in some corners.

And then the next day we tried to carry on work and we had to show up for work. I was in the habit of going to Jacobys' probably once or twice a week, because she would have materials or we would discuss the plans for the future. And I think I probably wanted to share with them what was happening here, not realizing that Jake Jacoby was (going to) be really on the hot seat, because he had to quell these uprisings. And I kept, and I knew that was happening, but I, even if I did, I kept going and sharing. Also, I wanted them to feel that they weren't in jeopardy, but I also wanted to keep them posted about what was happening. Finally, on the third or fourth day after that, Joyce said, "You know, Elaine, I don't want you to come down here anymore." Because we were being called -- it didn't take long for people to start labeling, and if you were associating with the Caucasian population or administration, chances are you were (going to) be called inu, a dog. And I guess that was kind of me. I didn't let that kind of thing bother me, and finally the Jacobys said, "You know, we don't want you coming down here anymore."

AI: Because...

EH: "It's too dangerous." So I did have to drop seeing them. There was an, they had another close friend who was a (theology) student at that time, I think, and went on to be a minister. But he was also (a close friend), because he went to College of Pacific, he saw them a lot. And the fields are pretty similar.

AI: Did you feel that, in danger, yourself?

EH: Well, to a degree, I realized that okay, you're right. Because you really, if you associated with a Caucasian, you were a traitor to them, to the people who objected to. And I don't know, I never took a survey -- I, there were groups in Tule Lake that probably signed "no-no." And you know, the odd part of it is, I think we had to sit with a space between each of us, so that we couldn't share or we couldn't talk. And so my mother and my sister and I, we were the only three that would, were eligible to fill it. Ultimately, I don't know how my mother answered it, but she must have answered "yes-yes" because she got out of the camp. When they decided that Tule was a real "troublemaker" camp, "troublemaking" camp, and that happened because Tule Lake happened to be the first one. They didn't try before, they just used Tule Lake as an example, and it was their faux pas to ask that dumb question. They eventually corrected it, but it took maybe a month or two to get back. But the damage was done, because there were, there were (riotous) situations. I think people got hurt that night. If, if they had to find somebody to blame it on, they would blame it on the leaders or people who were, who because they were leaders, were associating with the administration to some extent. I have two or three friends who lived in that area, who began to make plans early, then, to leave, because they were being harassed, and they were being called inu so much. I guess Wendy Watanabe's mother is one of 'em. They were close, they were close friends. And they were, as I say, they were more Westernized than the average Issei was.

Another person I knew... I guess they should have been in Tule Lake, but Tule Lake got, the areas outside of Sacramento, one section, got separated in splinters. And they, this family, they were very close friends. (There) weren't very many Tohoku, Tohoku is northern Japan. There aren't many Tohoku people that immigrated to America. And this family was Tohoku and we almost, we became very close, almost like extended family. They happened to get shipped to Rohwer. Jerome or Rohwer, in Arkansas. And their son was already in the military, and when the government took it upon themselves to invite the Hawaiian, 442nd and 100th battalion people, because the Hawaiians were not understanding the Nisei psychology. I mean, we were different in many ways. In Hawaii, because the Japanese population is almost the majority population, and business has to be stabilized and going, you're, you don't have the minority complexes, I guess, that mainland Japanese do. So there were a lot of fights in, in the military initially, when the 442nd got formed. And the government took it upon themselves to allow the Hawaiian soldiers to go visit in Rohwer and Jerome, and, and they appreciated it, because they could have Japanese food, and maybe it was holiday time, and New Year's time and they were, they were (going to) have mochi finally, and that kind of thing. And one of my friends, a close Tohoku friend, ended up marrying a Hawaiian. They didn't marry right away. I think they left, but because they had a military star on their window, they got harassed. And then when, when the Hawaiian guy got involved with the daughter, it was double amount of problems. And they took a leave from camp early, because they were being called inu and being harassed too much. Now, that wasn't even Tule Lake, but I think that kind of issue went on a lot.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.