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-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Now, then, also getting into the '30s, you started high school and attended Garfield High School here in Seattle, and I wonder if you could just give a little sense of, of the high school years.

MN: High school years? I know we used to walk to school every day, and that was quite a hike every day. And only when it rained we'd take a streetcar on Yesler, but, and you still had to walk quite a bit to get to Garfield High School. But that was fine with us, because that was the only way we knew. And as far as mingling with people, I guess we stuck pretty close to the Japanese people, even in school, because we felt more comfortable with the Japanese.

AI: What was the general ethnic composition of Garfield, the student, the student body?

MN: There were Chinese, Japanese, mostly white, and very few, and there were some black students.

AI: And then what about the teachers?

MN: They were all white.

AI: Well, I was wondering, during the high school years, did you also work while you were going to school, or did you have...

MN: In the summertime, I guess, 'cause I remember going to Puyallup for berry picking during the summer, strawberry picking. And then a couple times, I went to do housework, which I hated. And, but that's about all I did as far as work during high school.

AI: Tell me about, were there any people who had a particular influence on you while you were growing up, as a child, or during your high school years?

MN: I can't recall anybody that had any influence on me.

AI: High school is also kind of a time when a lot of kids want to fit in, want to belong, and I was wondering, where did you feel that you fit?

MN: I must have been a misfit, 'cause I don't know whether I fit anywhere. [Laughs] But I remember graduation, we weren't allowed to go to the prom, because they went to a club that we, Japanese weren't allowed. And so I remember forming and doing our own dance, getting it all set up and doing our own thing.

AI: When you realized that you wouldn't be allowed to attend the main prom, how did you find out about that, and how did that feel?

MN: It was taken for granted, because we knew about it, so it didn't affect you that much, because we understood that's where the line was drawn.

AI: So at that time, that kind of different treatment was...

MN: Didn't affect me, or it was acceptable, because that's the way it was.

AI: So, then were you involved in putting together your alternate prom event?

MN: Uh-huh.

AI: Tell me a little bit about that.

MN: I don't know much about it, but I know it was well-attended and we all had a good time.

AI: So then, as part of a, you mentioned earlier that you felt more comfortable with some of the other Japanese American kids. I was wondering what kind of activities you had, or did you, did you date while you were in high school?

MN: Yeah, not that much, but, and they were all Japanese anyway. And got to be friends with quite a few Jewish kids while in high school. In fact, about two or three years ago, we still got together with some of the Jewish friends that I had during high school. And I still get a letter from one of 'em that lives in San Diego.

AI: Well, from what I understand, what I've heard from others and some reading, it sounds like there was an amount of anti-Semitism at that time, also, that not only that Japanese Americans weren't allowed to go to certain places such as the prom, the country club, but the same with Jewish people. Was that something that you were aware of at the time?

MN: No, I wasn't aware of it. Like I say, I was in a very protective environment, and you don't grow living under those circumstances, so you didn't know what was going on in the outside world.

AI: Well, you were mentioning how a certain amount of this discrimination was just accepted at the time. Were there places in Seattle that you simply didn't go to because you knew that you would not be served, or you would not be allowed?

MN: Well, first of all, we didn't have transportation, so we didn't wander around that far. I think the only, furthest place we went was, took a bus to, it was like... it's where Bitter Lake is now, and it was a playground. And maybe once a year or something, we would venture out that far, but that's about as far as we ever went.

AI: So it sounds like you pretty much had a little world that you stayed within, and that was comfortable.

MN: It was comfortable, and so you don't feel that discrimination because you grew up in that little world.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.