Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mara Mihara Interview
Narrator: Mara Mihara
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: April 27, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-mmara-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is Thursday, April 27, 2006, and I'm here with Mara Mihara, and we're at the Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington, and Dana Hoshide is on the camera today. So thank you for doing this interview.

MM: You're welcome.

MA: I wanted to start by asking you when you were born.

MM: I was born September the 20th, 1925.

MA: And where were you born?

MM: I was born in the hospital in Spokane, Washington.

MA: Where are your parents from in Japan?

MM: They are from Okayama. I'm not positive the city, but they always say they're Okayama-ken, so...

MA: Do you know maybe around when they came to the U.S., when they sort of immigrated?

MM: You know, that's something interested, interesting, I never did find out. And they didn't come to Spokane first, they went to, oh, Tacoma, around that area, and then they came to Spokane, and then they stayed here in Spokane.

MA: Do you know what they were doing in Tacoma?

MM: In the lumber, you know, lumber business. And I don't think they were there too long. But my dad had problems breathing, so the doctor advised him that the air would be better here in Spokane, so that's the reason that they moved over here. And, but he liked it over there.

MA: In Tacoma?

MM: Uh-huh. But I think after he got here, you know, he was, probably felt better, the air, and so...

MA: And so he worked in the lumber industry in Tacoma, right?

MM: In Tacoma.

MA: And then what did he do in Spokane?

MM: He, he also worked on the Great Northern Railroad where most of the Nihonjins, Isseis worked, and then we also had a hotel, and so he helped my mom run the hotel. And then he was always busy doing things for people, and working at the church, so he kept himself busy.

MA: What were, what was his job at the railroad?

MM: Well, he was, he was a redcap, and he liked it because he got to meet so many people. He didn't seem to have a problem with his English language, he probably didn't speak very good, but at least he could understand, and then the people could understand him. But he liked the job because he met so many people. And then he was, there were other Nihonjins with different jobs, so, yeah.

MA: What exactly were his duties being a redcap?

MM: Well, it's mostly when the train stops and the passengers get out, well, then, you know, carrying their baggages. And then he had miscellaneous jobs like maintenance work and things like that. He liked the job, and everybody was very friendly, people who worked in the offices, so he really liked it.

MA: Were there other Isseis that were redcaps that he worked with?

MM: No, there weren't any redcaps, but there are a lot of other Nihonjins working, 'cause I would say the majority of 'em worked on the railroad. Not in that particular category, but, you know, just about everyone started out there at one time or other on the railroad.

MA: What were his, do you remember his hours, like, did he work really long days at the railroad and then work weekends at the hotel, or how did that work?

MM: Well, he worked, he worked... let's see. It wasn't exactly the midnight shift, it was more or less, oh, like from two o'clock or three o'clock, then... 'cause by the time my dad came home, it was in the evening, we were sleeping and all that. But he was an early riser, so he got the work done in the hotel, too. He, like I say, he liked his job and he liked the people. All the people were down in the offices down in the railroad were very, very nice people to him.

MA: These were mostly Caucasian folks?

MM: Yes, yes. I don't think there was one Nihonjin working in the offices, they were all Caucasians. But he really like the job. And then he, the days that he didn't work, well, he always had things in the hotel to do. My dad was very, he was very good with his hands, so he fixed everything.

MA: And you said also that he worked a little bit for the Methodist church, maybe helped out there?

MM: Yes, he, he had his fingers in everything. I mean, he was, he loved carpentry work, so they built cabinets, and then his gardening was his second love, I think. He just loved working in the yard. So it's like he was, had three jobs, really. But that was his first love, I think, was gardening. See the flowers grow and trim the shrubs and all that. So he enjoyed that, and then it was for the church. And then every time the Isseis would have a food sale, well, he was right there helping, you know. I think he just liked to be around people, and liked to help. Which was good, 'cause it helped my mom.

MA: Did your mom work as well?

MM: No, my mom stayed at home, and she took care of the hotel. My mom never went out and worked. I don't know if she was bashful, or... I think she had enough to do in the hotel in the first place. But, and then my mom was very shy about answering in English. She could understand, but it was very hard for her to answer back, although she could. But she was, I guess she thought that she wasn't speaking right, you know. Whereas I would speak to my dad in Japanese, and he would answer back in English. [Laughs]

MA: Why do you think he, why do you think he did that?

MM: I don't know. I guess it's because he spoke so much English down at work. But he spoke very good English, and that came with experience.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: Were your parents Christians, then?

MM: Yes, they probably were Buddhist when they first came from Japan. You know, over there, they didn't quite hear of the Christian religion I don't think, as much as they did when they came over here. But, but then they -- not, I wouldn't say the majority of them, but they had the Christian church, so that's why my mom -- 'cause I think they were probably both Buddhists, you know. I think the majority of them were anyway, unless they were Catholics.

MA: And then, so, they were Buddhist when they maybe came from Japan?

MM: Yes.

MA: But then how did they become involved with the Methodist church?

MM: Well, there was a Caucasian lady who was, she was very, very active in our church, and she helped, she helped all of us so much. Because the mothers and dads couldn't speak that much English, and they were, they never went visiting another church like they do these days. And she tried to get them out to, and she was a very religious woman. And everybody worshipped her because she did so much for the church, but something that she lived with all her life. So thankful for her, because she really helped us.

MA: What was this woman's name?

MM: Mrs. Butler.

MA: So she was sort of really active in, in the Japanese American community with the Isseis, bringing them into the church?

MM: Very, very active, uh-huh.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: Where did you live when you were growing up in Spokane? What neighborhood?

MM: Oh, let's see. We, the first house that we lived in -- 'course, I was a youngster then -- was on... well, it was right on Pacific... let's see. Second or Third and Pacific.

MA: Was that downtown?

MM: That's downtown, more or less. It only took about ten minutes to get, walk downtown, and then we moved to an apartment, and that apartment is no longer there because that's been so many years. And then we moved, then my folks bought the hotel that we were living, and that was right in town, but it's no longer there because the new businesses are up. And I would say we lived there the longest.

MA: In the hotel?

MM: In the hotel, down, right down in town. And the only nice thing about it was that the busses, you didn't have to take a bus because the hotel was right downtown. And it's different now. I mean, you can't live down in, downtown, in fact, there aren't that many anyway. But there are some, but then they're really nice ones now, you know.

MA: Oh, hotels?

MM: Yeah, uh-huh.

MA: What are your memories of that area around your hotel and that sort of neighborhood?

MM: Well, you know, we never had any kind of problems, and the war wasn't even on yet. And the hakujins, we just seemed to kind of flow in and got along fine with them. And then not only that, there are quite a few Nihonjin-no hotels and laundries, and there were some restaurants, barber shops, so it wasn't like there, one family that moved in, they were strange, it wasn't like that at all. It was really, really like they, we'd grown up with them. There was one Chinese family that lived down there, but they were the only ones that were really -- there were some adults, but not a family like that. They had a boy and a girl, but we always got along.

MA: What did the Chinese family do? Did they own a business?

MM: They had a... let's see. There were three or four Chinese restaurants, and the food was delicious. [Laughs] They... then there was, there were a lot of single Chinese men, and then there were some of those places where they... I don't know if you should publish this or not, but like they played baccape.

MA: What's that?

MM: It's some kind of Chinese word for gambling; they had gambling houses, you know. But we never fought with them, or we always got along with the Chinese people.

MA: Were those gambling houses sort of interspersed around that neighborhood, or was there one, like, street where they were all at?

MM: They were, it was more in the alley, you know. They alleys -- it sounds terrible, but the alleys in those days weren't like alleys... like now, you wouldn't think of going to an alley now, you know. But in those, in those days, they never had such things as rapes or kidnapping or anything like that. So we used to play in the, in the alley, especially that one alley.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: Was that Trent Alley?

MM: No, not Trent, it's the next one over. Okay, there was three or four Japanese restaurants and there was hair, where you get haircuts, and there was a tailor shop and there was a laundry shop. They were all in that one block, that's where we used to play, 'cause we didn't have any place to play. But you know, you never even heard of such a thing as... of course, all of us kids had to be home before it got too dark, but we never had any problems.


MA: What sorts of things did you do in the alley?

MM: Pardon me?

MA: What sorts of games did you play?

MM: Well, we'd always, during, when it was marble season, you know, we'd make our own places to play marbles, and then we used to play, I don't know if you've heard of it, but jintori. Oh, we really liked that.

MA: Can you explain a little bit about jintori?

MM: It's been a hundred years ago and I can't explain it. [Laughs] I can't, I can't remember, but I remember we played the game, and we had all kinds games. See, none of us, none of us girls had bicycles. The boys had the bicycles. In those days, our mothers didn't think that girls should be riding bicycles, so as a result, I never got a bicycle. [Laughs] But that's okay, that was their belief, you know.

MA: Was it sort of against the rules to play in the alley, or was it sort of...

MM: No, nobody said anything. There was one policeman that used to come around all the time, and his name was Johnny Sullivan, and he used to come around all the time, just come around to see how we're doing and all that. But you know, we never had, we never had anybody even going through the alley that looked suspicious or anything like that, because like I say, in those days, it was really different. Now you wouldn't think of going in there, because gosh, just walking down the street, you see the newspaper and be careful of this person and that person. There just wasn't things like that happening.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: It seems like back then, too, like you were saying, it was more of a community, everyone sort of knew each other as well.

MM: Uh-huh, but it certainly is not like that anymore. Yeah, those were the days. [Interruption] In the first place, my mother didn't have to be strict. I was the only one that she had trouble with; I don't think she thought I belonged in that family. But she was lucky to have my two older sisters and my brother. They were all, you know, I mean, I was, too, but I was kind of... I don't know, I think I enjoyed doing this and that, whereas they were more on the quiet side, and you know, those two were just like that. And my brother was very quiet, too, but I don't think the boys, all the boys were really good, good guys. And like Dick, he was here...

MA: Dick Yamamoto?

MM: Yeah, Dick and my brother were the same age, there was about four of five of 'em that were, always stuck together. But this is something that I don't think Dick even remembers, but this is something that I think it should be in, in there. Not because I said it, but you know, in those days, nobody had cars. You know, we wouldn't have any place to park 'em anyway, because all of us lived in hotels or restaurants. Anyway, that one day when they were gonna go camping, okay, nobody had cars in those days, and so my mom and my sisters said, "Hurry up and come to the window." And so we all went to the window and -- well, my brother was already downstairs, and so we kept looking and pretty soon, here comes Dick and Tom and his friends, and they had frying pans, you know, tied to their... [gestures to shoulders]. And all of 'em, there was about five of 'em, then, this is right on Riverside, the busy part of the town, one, then the next one, there's five, five of them, and then my brother came last because he was the last one. And they're all riding, and they're gonna go camping. And do you know, my mother almost had tears in her eyes, and I said, "What's the matter? He's gonna have a good time." And it wasn't that, it was, oh, you know, it's too bad that they can't have cars and they couldn't go in cars. But I said, "No, now those boys, wait 'til they get a little bit older. They're gonna appreciate it a lot more." Because none of 'em could afford to have cars, but yet it was so cute to see them, all of them with pans hanging off. But the kids these days, boy, they wouldn't be caught dead with a pan, but it's just something that in those days, they had to do it. But they used to do a lot of things like that, but, but they enjoyed it. It was a little bit different, you know. Now they gotta have cars with this and that. Oh well, to each his own. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: What were some of your hobbies as a child when you were growing up?

MM: Well, I, I was not, I didn't have too many hobbies. My sisters are the ones that had hobbies, 'cause you could never get me to crochet or anything like that. And everything I did was wrong, or was it, everybody in our family was neat. And along came me, and I wasn't -- but see, now is when I really wish that my mom was her, and my sisters even, because they taught me at a later age about crocheting and things like that. But see, if I was a little bit more serious about that when I was young, 'cause they all did everything, and I started it at a real late age. So you can't do anything, but I do what I can. I think it started because I had got arthritis so bad, and then doing something like that really helped my... and that's why I did mostly embroidery and all that kind of stuff right now. But I wasn't one for... and as far as, I'm not very domesticated. Like cooking... [laughs]

MA: You don't cook?

MM: I'm the world's worst cook. My sisters and my mother did all the cooking.

MA: Did you eat mainly Japanese food at home?

MM: But see, like filling the inarizushi, well, I used to like lots of gohan in, in the age. So I'd get my fingers and I'd press into the corners, you know, to get all the gohan in there. And my mother would get so mad because she said, "Don't do that." "Yeah," but I said, "Mama, I like inarizushi that's all filled up." See, I guess that's not very ladylike. You're supposed to put it in there, but not squeeze it, and I like it heaping like this. [Laughs] I think I was impossible, but I think I had more fun than anybody else, so a lot of the things... they were very, very ladylike, which is fine, but I never was quite that way. But the cooking, they, they did cooking, they did a lot of cooking.

MA: What are some other things you did for fun? I mean, you talked about playing in the alley, and what are some other things?

MM: Well, once in a while we'd have to walk way out to the swimming, and the park was Liberty Park, which was, oh gosh, two, about two miles away. But in those days, see, nobody had cars, so we'd have to walk from home way up to those, to the swimming pool. Oh, I'll tell you, that was a long ways, but we didn't go too often because, boy, you'd get so tired. But nobody had a car, so we didn't go too often. And in those days, it used to be hot, walking. But, but you look at the things like that, and I am, anyway, I'm just so thankful that -- I was telling my son this the other day -- that I'm thankful that I had... at the time, I probably wasn't too happy, but you appreciate so much what they did for you and a lot of the things, see, we never had a car until we moved up to the house. And little things like that that really make you appreciate what your folks have done for you. 'Cause like clothes, I would start to make something and oh, gosh, it wouldn't fit. My mother would take the whole thing apart and do it all over again. And my sisters were both real good seamstress, and they look at it and they think, "Oh, gosh." But I appreciate, and I always have appreciated the things that they've done for me.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: What were some holidays or special celebrations that you did with your family?

MM: Oh, it was always, I think the biggest one was New Year's, you know. And my mom would do so much cooking, and I'll have to tell you this first thing, this one thing. You know, I tried, I tried to do things the way she did, but you know, I'm just not that way. So she wanted me to cut the vegetables a certain way, and to put in nishime. And so I started cutting it, and I was cutting just the plain old way, just chop it like this. And she said, "Nani shoru no?" And I says, "Mama, I'm cutting this." My dad is sitting right there, my dad would always get a big kick out of me. He'd never let my mother know that, though. I'd always tell him, "Gee whiz, Mama gets so mad at me." I says, "Papa, I can't do it like Mama does. Mama's okichinto and I'm not." Well, anyway, I was cutting it, and she said, "Nani shoru no?" I said, "Mama, I'm cutting your vegetables. "Anna koto shitara, nanka mucha," or something, I don't know what she's saying. But so she's teaching me how. Well, after she taught me how, then it was... but I, I didn't know those things. But I had a good lesson that day, but my sisters, I told them, "From now on, you two cut 'em. She doesn't like the way I cut 'em." [Laughs]

MA: So for the New Year's celebration --

MM: New Year.

MA: -- did your whole family get together and celebrate?

MM: Invite some people. But that was, I think, our biggest -- 'cause even Christmas wasn't as elaborate as the New Year's. I think it was like that in all Nihonjin no families.

MA: But you did celebrate Christmas, too?

MM: Oh, yes, uh-huh. We had to, 'cause Ridgie was a baby, and they got all excited all the time for his birthday and his Christmas, the only boy. Only baby, in fact, but yeah, those are the good old days. And he loved to serve everybody.

MA: Who was this, your brother?

MM: No, my son, Ridgie. He was just... oh, how old was he? Must have been about six years old, and we were sitting in the front room with the big tables, and the food was all in the dining room on the big table. And he would love to get Grandpa's plate and ask Grandpa what he wanted, and my dad would tell him what he wanted. So he'd go over there and he'd get it. He loved to do things like that. But he's a big boy now, so he can get his own food. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: I wanted to talk a little bit about your hotel. What was the name of the hotel?

MM: That, that one was Stevens, but it's not there anymore.

MA: And...

MM: All these buildings are knocked down, now.

MA: Can you describe, I guess, the building and what the hotel looked like?

MM: Oh, it was, it wasn't anything fancy or elaborate. And the floor upstairs, the top floor on the one whole side, it was housekeeping rooms. 'Cause a lot of these people that lived there, they were men who worked in the lumber, sawmill and all that. Well, anyway, they would, they wouldn't work in the wintertime, so they'd, they'd always come back to our hotel, and so it was kind of nice. But they would have the housekeeping, but it isn't like, it isn't like it was smelly like some places. They were really quiet people, quiet people that lived in our hotel.


MA: I guess going back a little bit to your hotel, the Stevens Hotel, did you have to work there like after school or on the weekends?

MM: No, uh-uh. Just my mother and my dad, and then they had a man that was, was, ever since we bought the place, he was with us, and he helped. And he was real good because he was an older fellow, and he was, he'd kind of stay up late lots of times because my mother, she had to come into the, where we lived, and then lot of times she wouldn't because she'd be sitting right out there where they'd read the newspapers and everything. But we never, we never did have any kind of problems, but that man always helped, and he kind of watched over, which was really nice.

MA: Was he an Issei man?

MM: No, he was a hakujin, Caucasian. And lot of times, my brother and my dad would always bring the wood, we had one whole room that was full of lumber, and they'd always stack it out, out here where the great big stove was. And my brother always used to kind of keep track of it there and make sure that it's full. But we were really lucky, our clientele, because they knew that my mother was gonna go get a piece of lumber or something, the men in the hotel would always go get it, put it in that stove, so we were lucky.

MA: So the clientele was more, they would stay there for a long time?

MM: Uh-huh, yeah. So we were... I think that most of the Nihonjin no hotels were like that, 'cause we never heard of anybody having any problems, you know.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MM: And the schoolkids, the kids at school, during the war, the very first day, the principal had a big assembly.

MA: This was, when was this?

MM: Huh?

MA: When was this?

MM: Right after the, the war was on Sunday, and on Monday we had a big assembly, and the principal got up there and talked, and he did a real good job.

MA: What did he say?

MM: Huh?

MA: What did he say? What did the principal talk about that day?

MM: About the war, that there's American Japanese going to school, he was really good. But oh, maybe once in a while you'd hear somebody making a comment, but we were really lucky. I mean, we didn't have... I don't think, I can't even think of anybody that had any problems.


MA: And this was Lewis & Clark High School?

MM: Uh-huh.

MA: And you must have been a junior?

MM: Yeah, I was about a junior, yeah.

MA: How did your parents respond to the news about Pearl Harbor and the war starting?

MM: Oh, they were, they felt real bad. They had to turn in their zasshi, their magazines, and any kind of guns or knives or anything, or even pictures of the Tennoheikai, pictures or anything, had to turn 'em all in to the police station. And that wasn't bad, 'cause we didn't, we didn't have anything, I mean, like guns or...


MA: Well, I know the FBI took a few --

MM: Oh, Mr. Kasai, uh-huh.

MA: -- Isseis away. Do you remember that?

MM: Yeah, because Mr. Kasai was our good friend. See, he lived about a block, next block down, he had a hotel, too. And he took him to Montana, where they have the... yeah.

MA: The camp, the internment camp?

MM: Uh-huh. But...

MA: Why do you think they, they targeted Mr. Kasai?

MM: Because he was the mayor of Spokane. Everything -- I mean, he was the mayor of the Japanese community, let's put it that way. [Laughs] Yeah, he's, he was always, he took care of everything, and every time anybody had problems, they always went to Mr. Kasai, because he understood English real well, and he took care, and everybody, hakujins all knew him. And Spokane isn't that big of a community, so everybody knew him. And Mr. Kasai was really, he was sharp, but he wasn't mouthy or... he was nice to everybody, and he made sure that everybody was treated right.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: Did you notice any changes in the way the Caucasian people treated you or treated maybe the Japanese people in the community?

MM: No, I really... I really have to admit that the hakujins were really nice to the Nihonjins, I mean, I thought. And I don't know of any, unless, you know, there's always some of these people who, who don't know any better that will call you all kinds of names. 'Cause, see, my son, Ridge, when he went to grade school, when he first started school, he was the only Nihonjin in the whole... 'cause we lived out in the valley. And he came home and he didn't say anything at first, and then afterwards he, he said, "Mommy, I think I'll go to school someplace." And I said, "What do you mean, 'go to school someplace'?" He said, "Someplace else." And then he heard my mother telling me that I should take him to the grade school in town where all the other Nihonjin no kids are, and I said, "No, Mama," I said, "Ridgie's got to grow up in the, with the hakujin no people, and all the hakujin people there are nice." Well, a little girl that lives, not behind us, but kitty-corner from, their family and our family are real close. Anyway, that girl told her mother that, all the things that were happening. They called him "Jap" and all that, those kids, and I kept telling Ridge that those kind of people, they have parents that don't know any better. They shouldn't teach their kids to talk like that. And so that girl would come home and tell her mother everything what those kids were calling Ridge. And then the janitor liked Ridge real well, so he would follow Ridge every time Ridge went into the bathroom. [Laughs] And when they all go in, he'd follow him in there, act like he's doing something in there, to protect Ridge. Because there were some kids that were, they were calling him "Jap" and all that. But I told Ridge that you got to, when you get older, and it's not going to stop here. Those kids, they don't know any better. And I said, "Look at your good friends. They don't do anything, they don't call you anything like that. It's because their mother and father don't" -- it was hard. It almost, I almost had tears in my eyes, you know. And so I told my husband at that time -- he was still alive -- I told him, "Now and then, you should kind of mention it to him," because I said, "I've talked a lot about this and that and things are gonna happen."

Then after that, see, all his friends were hakujin no friends, 'cause that's, all hakujins, and then went to junior high school, his best friends were always the president of the class and all that. And then went to high school, and still, he was the only Nihonjin. But then that fellow got to be president of the high school, one of his best friends. And now, it's hard for Ridge to go to Japanese things. [Laughs] It's kind of bad because, you know, I was, I go to Japanese church and I used to take him to church, you know, but he has nothing but hakujin no friends. And I said, "Well, why don't you go to church sometime and join?" "Oh, I don't know, Mom. I'm a good boy and I don't do anything bad, I don't think I have to go to church." [Laughs] Smart aleck. But he's just been born and raised with hakujins, so that's the way it goes. And all his friends are hakujins, but he just... oh, well.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So going back to, I guess, the war years, the wartime years, you know, a lot of people from the coast, Nihonjins started coming to Spokane. Do you remember that and how that changed the community?

MM: Uh-huh, yeah. And the sad, the only thing I didn't like about that, it was sad, because you got acquainted with somebody, the same grade, in the same grade as you, and then you knew eventually they're gonna go back to Seattle. And I would say that the majority of them have gone back, and I don't blame them; that isn't what I mean. I mean, you know, you get to know 'em and then they're moving back. But like I say, you can't blame them.

MA: Did, were there many that came to your school, your high school?

MM: Yeah, there was a, there was, there was quite a few. There was maybe about three or maybe even four in our, my class. I mean, yeah, there were quite a few. But there aren't very many now, they've all gone back and you can't blame them. Lot of 'em had businesses, I suppose.

MA: How did they seem to fit in with the community?

MM: Well, I think they fit in... I mean, I just thought they did. I think, if anything, they were, there were more things to do in Seattle. Like Spokane, there isn't anything to do, you know, unless you have a big family and you do things with the family all the time. Yeah, those... but see, there isn't a one in my class that's, that's here. They're all, they're gone, back to Seattle or somewhere around there. There was only one girl in my class, I think, her name, her last name was Hikida? She, I think she was the only girl that... I don't think there's anybody now.

MA: Do you think that Spokane changed a lot during the war years?

MM: Oh... you mean the Nihonjins?

MA: Yeah, I guess the community or just in general, did you see any changes that took place?

MM: Well, I don't... I'll tell you why I don't notice it that much is that I, I myself am bad. I quit going a lot of places, you know. I quit going to a lot of things. I mean, to almost all the Japanese activities, so that's my own fault, you know.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So going back a little bit, you, I guess, graduated from high school in 19-, what year? 1943?

MM: 1943, I think it was.

MA: And what did you do after?

MM: Then after that I went to business college. See, my sister went to business college, it was a Catholic girls' business college, but actually, it didn't make any difference if you were Catholic. And it was a really good school, it was private, more or less a private school, and they had two, two Catholic, both of them were formerly nuns, and they were running the business college. And she really liked it, and so I thought, "Well, I'll try it," and then, so I tried it, and I liked it, too. Very small, and I really enjoyed it.

MA: How many students were in the school when you went there?

MM: Really small. They rented this space from, it used to be KHQ-KGA, and they ran, it was, the station, radio station was all on that side, and then half of this side was the school.

MA: And this was all in Spokane?

MM: It was in the Radio Central building. I don't think that building is up, it might be under a different name now, but it was right in town. And 'course, she went to that school and she graduated in no time, but I was in there just fooling around. They were really, really good teachers.

MA: What types of classes did you take?

MM: What...

MA: What types of classes did you take? What did you study?

MM: Oh, they had just about everything. You know, business English, shorthand and typing, and advanced... advanced... oh, you know when you interpret what somebody else -- when you transcribe.

MA: Transcribe?

MM: Yeah, yeah. That, and they had a full bookkeeping course, and there were two formerly Catholic nuns, those ladies, and they were really, really smart. You know, they're all smart, but they were really smart. They were really nice, they were really nice nuns, you know. [Laughs] But it was a good school, and a lot of times they'd have people come and they ask you if they can borrow a few students just for a short while and all that, so you had good experience that way.

MA: Did you live at home and then --

MM: No, no... yeah, I did, that's when we were living down at the hotel, see, so it was right in town, so it wasn't too far from where I lived. So, and then my sister was going at the same time -- not the same time, but she got a job right away.

MA: And how many years did you attend this school?

MM: I think I just went couple years, because I got this job offer that, before I finished everything, she had Bookkeeping 3 and Bookkeeping 4, all that. But I kind of wanted to get out and work and everything, but she... so I didn't, I didn't actually graduate. My sister did, though, but I would have to have gone a little bit longer to graduate. But there weren't very many students, see. And most of the students were elderly women who have had jobs, and they're kind of going back to brush up. But I liked the school.

MA: And then what was this job offer that you got?

MM: Oh, the first one was, while you were going to school there, there'll be a lot of times when a person would come in and say, "Could we just borrow somebody for a couple days?" or something like that, but it was for U.S. Plywood. And U.S. Plywood was the biggest lumber companies... I don't, I don't know if it's still U.S. Plywood or not, but I worked for them, and I really liked that job. And then it was good because I got, stayed there. But then...

MA: You got to stay where?

MM: At that U.S. Plywood.

MA: Was it located outside of the city?

MM: No -- yeah, it was outside of the city, but it's not far. And I liked everybody there, really young, you know. Of course, I was young in those days, too. [Laughs] But yeah, that was, everybody was nice there.

MA: What was your job at the company?

MM: Well, they had what you call a Cardex file that I had to take care of, mostly. It's when the, the lumber is sold, and you had to keep track of every lumber that, that, plywood that's sold, and you had to keep this Cardex file up to date. It was every day, because they had to have it accurate every day, you know. And then what I really liked was the teletype. When they said they're gonna teach me how to run the teletype, I said, "Not me." 'Cause, you know, it kind of scared me, 'cause it's electrical, and I, after I got used to it, I really liked the teletype. And they had lot of different branches, U.S. Plywood did.

MA: And how long did you work for U.S. Plywood?

MM: Oh, U.S. Plywood I worked six or seven years. And then, then I went to work for American Sign & Indicator. That's the ones with the time and temperatures in the banks, all over the United States. Well, I liked that job the best, I think.

MA: What did you like about it?

MM: Oh, just everything about it. You did a little bit of everything, and oh, I think I just liked, I liked the people there. And then it was mostly typing, I got, the accounts payable department, you had to type all the checks, you know. Nowadays they don't have people hand-type 'em, but in those days, you used to type all that. So I really liked that job. I think, I think I liked that job the best. I worked there for sixteen years, so I really liked that job. But, but...

MA: During this time, were your parents still running a hotel?

MM: No. We were living up in... on Chandler Street there. It's, it's not... well, it's, you can walk to, from the house down to middle of town, and it didn't take long at all. 'Cause my sisters used to -- see, didn't have a car, so my sisters used to catch the bus, you just had to go down this street, a short street and the bus came all the time, and we went right down, right smack in the middle, heart of town. And so they used to take the bus back and forth.

MA: Did your parents sell, sell their hotel then?

MM: The what?

MA: What happened to the hotel?

MM: Oh, we sold it. But, but it's not up anymore, because right through town now, none of the hotels are up, I don't think. If they are, they're new ones that rebuilt. But neither one of 'em wanted to learn how to drive, so I had to drive 'em back and forth, but I didn't mind it.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: How did you meet your husband?

MM: At the bowling alley, I think. We used to bowl quite a bit, and then we used to go to the farm. See, they, he had three sisters, three sisters and two brothers, and they used to have the farm.


MA: So when you moved to the valley, Spokane Valley, how, how different was that from, kind of -- I mean, you'd lived in the city, right, your whole life...

MM: Yeah.

MA: How was that transition?

MM: Well, it was kind of nice, I thought, but yet, I was kind of lonesome, 'cause where we were, used to be a big apple orchard. And there were a few families, you know, whereas like now, there's, it's just populated. But it was different, but see, in the evenings, it's really nice, and the weather-wise, I enjoyed it out there. But, and, but otherwise, it didn't make that much difference to me. But my mother and dad used to like to come out because they get to ride, car ride, I'd go pick 'em up and then bring 'em out. And then my dad used to really love water out there. The water out there is really nice and clean, and we used to just drink water like mad. There were a lot of... but now, there's so many families. Every, across the street and all over, there's families. But since we're the first ones there, then everybody knows who we are and everything, so that's what's nice. Because I'm a big baby, you know. I get scared of the dark and everything, and there isn't a one around there that would watch over us. But, yeah, it's, it's nice out there.

MA: And you said you were one of the first Japanese American families to live out there? Was, how was the reaction from your neighbors? Were they welcoming, were they...

MM: Yeah, they were really, they were really that, welcoming, they're really nice people. And then as the new ones come in, they know we've been there. But never had to worry about anything like that out there.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: One thing I, I'd been meaning to ask you was how you got your name, Mara.

MM: Oh, well, this Caucasian lady lived next door, and she wanted to name, put the American name, my American name on there for my mother's sake, because my mother didn't speak hardly any English or anything. So my mother named, put my Japanese name, and then she named me Mara. It's even in the Bible, can you imagine? My name in the Bible. [Laughs]

MA: So did your mother ask this neighbor to help her name you?

MM: No, she, she volunteered, 'cause she thought that I should have an American name and then Japanese name, and the last name. So she put the name on all of us except for my brother.

MA: So let's go through your -- so your eldest sister's name is...

MM: Nino.

MA: Nino.

MM: Nino. And next one is Anna, and then it's Mara. But my mother put the Japanese name on there, and my brother, I don't know where he got his name, Jimmy. That's an American name. [Laughs]

MA: So this neighbor helped your mother name all of you?

MM: Yeah, so it, it was, it was nice. She wanted us to have those names.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: Are there any lessons or values that you remember your parents teaching you that you really, sort of, kept to this day?

MM: Well, she, she has given me a lot of... but I've tried to, but I think the most important, the most important thing that... see, she never was one to say warukuchi about anybody. And even though there were things of value that you didn't like, that person, she'd always say that that person is that way, that's why. But what did she say? I might not, I haven't speak in Japanese for so darn many years that I almost forgot how. You don't copy... it's right on the tip of my tongue. You know when you copy... copy, it starts with a "mani" something. Just because somebody does something good or bad, don't copy. She said if it's good, that's fine, but if it's bad, don't, you know, repeat it, just forget about it. She was one to say good things about just about everybody.


MA: That's one thing that you remember about your mother, that she would never talk badly about anyone.

MM: Yeah, yeah. My mother never did, she really... but anyway, that's life, I guess.


MA: Do you have any plans for the next few years?

MM: Me? No, I think... I don't really think so. I'm too... I'm too dumb to go to college or school, further my -- so I'm just going to take it easy at home.

MA: Sounds like a good idea.

MM: But I'm hoping that I can get out in the yard this year. See, I just love to work out in the yard.

MA: Like your father.

MM: Yeah.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.