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-01-0004

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AI: Oh, and so, excuse me. I, I should have asked you, so you, you were born in Willows.

EH: Uh-huh.

AI: And you had described about the rice ranching and how your father --

EH: Had to give it up.

AI: -- really had to give it up because of the alien land law.

EH: Uh-huh.

AI: And that would have been, you mentioned --

EH: 1924.

AI: -- 1924. And so then he decided to move to Chico.

EH: Chico, uh-huh. Chico certainly was... probably had a hundred, maybe, oh, maybe twenty Japanese rural families, and there six or eight families right there on the same block that we lived in. I, I'm sure... I think the address was First and Wall Street. And at a distance there was a railroad track, so we were, I think, on First Street was the edge of town, and somewhere not very far in the meadows was a railroad track. And then across the street on the east side across from the front door was a Ford dealership, a glass building.

And then my father was able to rent a sizable two-story house in Chico, had a big yard, and he hung some swings for (us) on a long rope. I don't know how he managed to get up on that tree to hang the rope (to) hang the swing, but we had a swing. And the house was big enough that there was a sizable room on one side of the entry. There was a big room here and there was, our living room was on this side, but in that big room was probably maybe a twenty by fifteen size room. He established, among other things, a sewing class on Saturdays, and probably ten or fifteen women came from not just (Chico), but I know as far as Colusa, and Colusa must have been thirty, at least thirty miles away, (and) Gridley, Marysville. And he hired a woman who would teach everything about dressmaking. She (even) taught how to make patterns and we had a picture of a sizable group, maybe twenty women and children, sitting on our cement front steps for a picture of that sewing class. And the other thing he did was establish immunization, annual immunization, or maybe semi-annually. And I just remember the crying that went on, the screaming that the kids (did). and somehow I don't think the immunization was done outside. I, we had pictures of kids in coats, but maybe that was the only place they could take pictures. I mean, we probably didn't have flash cameras in those days. But he found a Caucasian doctor who was willing to spend Saturday afternoon immunizing all these kids.

And then we were at the edge of town and on First Street also was a Japanese -- I mean, First Presbyterian Church of Chico. It was a tall (...) steepled, brick building. And that's where my parents went to church. It was within walking distance, about three blocks. And because my father was fluent in English, he became active, and I think ended up being the treasurer of the church. And my mother talks about how he was able to bring that skill to Sacramento and became treasurer of the Japanese Presbyterian church.

But the things that my mother liked, we had... (...) it was missionary night or international night. We had pictures, and I remember having to be in a room about not quite this big, Sunday school rooms probably, that had sliding doors and, that were open. And my grandmother had sent hinamatsuri dolls, girls' festival dolls set. So she had that displayed, and then we sat on our knees like proper ladies, but I remember in agony. And my grandmother had sent us some cotton kimonos and a nice cotton obi. And there we were sitting around a little table and probably drinking tea. And then we had Chinese neighbors. One Chinese family on that block lived at the end of our lot, and they had a Chinese restaurant around the corner. The other street, the other end of the block was Main Street. So they had a Chinese restaurant around the corner. And I remember, I don't know whether we went to eat there, but I remember walking to... we could almost walk through everybody's backyard to get on Main Street, and we walked through that yard and the Chinese had a big barrel with live turtles, and they probably used them in their food preparation. And then there was a laundry, a Japanese laundry (run by a) Kinoshita family, and they had three or four boys. The older boys all had to help run the laundry. There was the Eishima family, and I think they had a small fish store. There was a Hayashi family, and I never knew (what work), they might have been farmers. I mean, father probably went to work in a farm somewhere. There (...) was a May Omura. May and Paul lived in the next block, and May was a year older than I was and we played constantly together. She'd come over to our place. We had a big cement, kind of a porch, and a number of stairs, so the house was kind of built up. And so there was room enough on that porch to play, and there were two big almond trees. And I used to break out in hives every year, because I would eat green almonds. And green almonds were very (milky)... I don't know how we got them. Somehow we shook 'em down or they naturally fell. And anyway, we always had (lots of almonds). My parents learned to roast, to blanch the almonds and then roast them in the oven, so we had blanched almonds. When we moved from that house, a couple of our friends somehow used to send us small sugar sacks of almonds. They apparently went over there and picked them and, and sent them to us, which we missed.

AI: Now, you had also your sisters, two sisters were born in Chico; is that right?

EH: (Yes). (Yes), Martha was born fifteen months after I was, and then Jean was born in 1928. And I guess they, we were all born in hospitals, but they were... Jean was two years old when we moved from, from Chico. But my mother also taught Japanese language school on Saturdays.

AI: In Chico?

EH: In Chico. Well, we drove from Chico to a town called Palermo, and there was a big orchardist family. Tokunos had a huge orchard and a huge barn. And it was in that barn that my mother had to run a one-teacher language school. And in the summertime it was deadly hot, I remember. But the Tokunos, one of the Tokunos was almost the same age as I am. David Ko of, of Channel 9, is a filmmaker. He's a grandson of that (family), and Karen Ko, who's, has done a lot of things in city offices, but also (was) a director of Denise Louie, they were both grandchildren. And I met their mother, their parents, in Richland, I think. But (...) when I met Karen, she distinctly said, "Oh, you're, she's the daughter of my mother's Japanese language teacher." And I just was floored that she could know that or even that her (mother remembered) -- I only met her mother once on a visit to, to Richland, and she, and then she came over and visited once, but she remembered that Alice was about the same age as I was, so we were primary school age kids when we were having to sit through those hot Japanese language schools every Saturday.

AI: Well, let me ask you, was it ever difficult for you when you were such a young child there and your mother was the teacher of the Japanese school?

EH: Oh, well, it was only difficult in, in that it was such a large situation. The boys were restless and they didn't want to be there. They wanted to be out playing baseball. And so my father would almost, like a sergeant of arms, be in the back and, and just calling individual names that were being unruly. Other than that, I had to learn the A-I-U-E-O and simple kanji, like everybody else did. But it must have been trying, very trying, teaching under those circumstances. But a lot of Japanese schools in rural areas went that way, even around here. Everybody that grew up in rural areas went to Saturday Japanese school. So it wasn't that (unusual). Once we left Chico, then she, she wasn't able to travel that distance to come. The other curiosity was that my father, being an insurance agent (by then). Eventually he gave up the Nihonjinkai and became an insurance agent.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.