Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James "Turk" Suzuki Interview
Narrator: James "Turk" Suzuki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 7, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-sjames_2-01-0003

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TI: And do you know about what year your mother and father were born --

JS: Let's see.

TI: -- or not born, but were married?

JS: I don't. However, my sister was the firstborn, and she was, she is now eighty-nine years old. And so...

TI: So that would be... I'm doing the math really fast.

JS: Yeah.

TI: So about 1918 would be the year she was born, so probably a little bit before then?

JS: Yes, sometime before then, I'm sure.

TI: And so before we get to your, your siblings, tell me a little bit about your mother.

JS: My mother?

TI: And her, her family.

JS: Well, my mother was also a college graduate, although in Japan I believe it would be considered a, like a community college or a two-year college instead of a full four-year college. And she became involved with Christianity, with the American missionaries over there. And that's how my father and mother met, through the Presbyterian group.

TI: Now, do you know what your mother's family, what kind of work they did?

JS: I really don't, except that her name, maiden name was Matsui. And her first name is Toyoshi.

TI: Okay, so let's, so they're married now.

JS: Yes.

TI: And you said they had children.

JS: Yes, they had two daughters.

TI: And these are your sisters, so...

JS: Yes.

TI: The first one, can you give me the name of your...

JS: My oldest sister, who was five years older than I am, her name is Midori. And my father, he had a second girl, a daughter, and I can't... I believe the second girl, who died as an infant, was named Kimiye, but I'm not certain about that, 'cause I never knew her. Then he decided -- my father, that is -- decided to come to America to go to the university here, and he wanted to become a minister as I said earlier. So he left my mother and his two daughters in Japan, and he was attending the University of, I believe, of Idaho, which is rather strange, but that's my recollection. And, but his goal was to go to Princeton, and he never attained that, but I've heard him speak of Princeton University. Anyway, while he was here in the U.S. as a student, one of his daughters, the younger, second of his daughters passed away of some illness. Diptheria, typhoid fever or whatever it was, and so he returned to Japan and brought his wife -- my mother -- and my sister Midori to the U.S. And they came over in 1923 because that's the year that I was born in Seattle.

TI: Okay. It's interesting because, yeah, because of the Gentlemen's Agreement between U.S. and Japan, most men didn't immigrate to the United States after 1907 or '08, around there. But then your dad was different because he came over, it sounds like, as a student.

JS: Yes, he originally came over as a student.

TI: Not a laborer, so that probably is why he was able to come in.

JS: I'm not certain, yeah.

TI: Okay, interesting. So 1923 or the early '20s, so your mom and sister come, settle in Seattle, you're born.

JS: Yes.

TI: And so what, what kind of work did your dad and mom do?

JS: Let's see. My father attempted to operate hotels, but he was not a very good or successful businessman. In those days, of course, they couldn't own property, so most of the Issei men who operated hotels were leasing them, leasing the hotel and the, and the grounds, and then they paid monthly rent to the owner, and then they would operate the business. But my parents were never, my mother was more of a businessperson than my father, but he was never a roaring success.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.