Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: May Y. Namba Interview
Narrator: May Y. Namba
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 21, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-nmay-01-0028

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: Well, so then tell me, I think you had mentioned earlier that after your youngest had started school, that you also started thinking that you would go back and complete your education.

MN: Yeah. When he started kindergarten, I'd been home for sixteen years, 'cause my husband said, "You have to stay home with the kids." Huh. Anyway, so I stayed home, and when Dean started kindergarten, I go, "What in the world am I going to do with my time?" And a girlfriend of mine asked, said she was gonna register for community college, so she said, "Why don't you join me?" So I did, and we didn't get accepted at Shoreline Community College, so she dropped out thinking any further about it. But I continued and applied at Seattle Central Community College when they first opened, and I attended Seattle Community College.

AI: So that would have been, let's see. If Dean was in kindergarten, that would have been about 1965 or 1966 or so?

MN: Yeah, that's when they were having the riots and everything at Seattle Community College. It was exciting, I thought. [Laughs]

AI: What was that about? Tell about that.

MN: I don't really recall what the whole conflict was about, but I remember one day we were, we weren't in the classroom, we were up on a hill on the grass, and the teacher was talking to us, and then all of a sudden you see the police marching down in full force, and I go, "Wow." And another time, they'll have a sign, "classes cancelled." And then one day, we were in class, and the teacher said, "Oh, the people (on) the other campus is marching down to our school." And so she immediately closed her book and she was the first one out of the building. And I go, "Wow. They can't frighten me out, out of my..." so I stayed in the building. And I was standing, watching to see what was going on, and then they started to throw rocks into the window. And one of the professors pulled me aside and said, "You're gonna get hurt." And so they marched into the building, and all they did was march all around the building and then walked out, and that was it. So it was exciting, because we never knew from day to day what was going to happen.

AI: Well, there was so many things going on at that time, in the 1960s, that there was, of course, the Civil Rights movement was going on, a lot of students were becoming active, either for civil rights issues, or the anti-Vietnam War protesting, and demonstrating was starting to happen. And then, of course, the women's movement was happening at that time. What was that like for you... let's see, in 1966, you would have been forty-four.

MN: I was young yet.

AI: And here you were returning back to school in this environment. Tell me about what, some of the things that were going on, what it was like.

MN: I remember one class, I don't know what kind of class it was, but we were supposed to tell us a story, write a story and tell us what happened, and I asked the professor, "Do you think I should write about our evacuation?" And he says, "By all means." So I, that was the first time I ever talked about it, and it was interesting, half of the people never heard of it. And some of the questions they asked was mind-boggling, because they really were ignorant and innocent about the whole situation at that time. They were probably never born then, either, when it happened. They wanted to know if it happened in the United States.

AI: And so your thinking was, were you surprised that they hadn't heard about this at all?

MN: Well, I was surprised at the amount of kids that didn't know anything about it.

AI: And so most of the students there at the community college would have been in their twenties, probably?

MN: Yeah, eighteen, nineteen, twenties.

AI: And they might have been born shortly after the war.

MN: Uh-huh.

AI: Or about time of the war. So what was that like for you? You said this was the first time that you had said anything about it.

MN: Well, I found it very interesting to be talking about my life and what happened in camp. And who was the attorney general? Warren, at that time, and how I read how he was for the evacuation and all this, and he was promoting it, and I said it was because he had bigger fish to fry and he was going to move up in the political lines. And afterwards, the professor put me aside and he says, "You were kind of tough on Warren."

AI: But it's true that when he was in --

MN: It was true.

AI: -- when he was in California, he was very pro-removing all the Japanese Americans.

MN: Yeah, he thought I was kind of tough on him, but I thought, "No, I wasn't." So that was a real interesting experience.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.