Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Art Abe Interview
Narrator: Art Abe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: January 24, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-aart-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Let's go to December 7, 1941, and I wanted to ask you your recollection of that day and what happened to you.

AA: Yeah, it was a Sunday morning, and I was working, we were doing a little bit of remodeling in the store. When I heard the news, I couldn't believe what was happening, and we were kind of stunned, and we were wondering what was gonna happen, 'cause we were all in the Caucasian neighborhood, and all of a sudden business dropped down to a fraction of what it was before.

TI: Were there ever any sort of direct comments made to you or your family about being Japanese at the store?

AA: No, not that I recall. But those people that used to come and trade with us, we didn't see them. And then we used to give credit to the customers, whereas stores like A&P and Safeway never extended credit. So those customers stopped coming and they didn't pay their bills. So I still remember going with my parents to go out and try to collect some of those bills, 'cause we had bills that we had to pay to the wholesale house. And then shortly after, we started getting visits from the FBI, and they said some of our customers had complained to them that my dad was associated with, with some of the people that were sympathetic to the Japanese. We had a real good friend that was working for the Bon Marche, he was kind of a janitor, and he was a trusted employee of the Bon Marche. And at nighttime, after the store closed, he'd take the proceeds of the Bon Marche to the bank. Nobody would expect the janitor to be carrying the proceeds. He got picked up by the FBI and sent to Missoula, and we couldn't figure out why they would pick, pick him up. And the management at the Bon Marche vouched for him, but didn't do any good. And they finally found out that he was a bachelor, and he had an automobile, and so the, when the Japanese fleet came into Seattle on a visit, I think the Japanese community asked for volunteers to take care of some of the sailors. So he said okay, and he picked up three Japanese sailors and took them over on a tour and went up to Mount Rainier. And we figured that was the reason. The FBI was monitoring all the activities, and I think they checked on his license plate when he went down to the docks to pick up the sailors.

TI: But in the case of your, your family, your parents, did they have similar type of activities? When you mentioned the FBI...

AA: My dad never did have any contact with the Japanese organizations, other than the grocerymen's association.

TI: So do you think, you mentioned that the FBI came by the store right after you were talking about how your parents were having a hard time collecting money owed to them on credit. Do you think that possibly some of the people that owed your parents money were the ones who were talking to the FBI?

AA: I think so. My, I have no proof of that, but the FBI didn't name people, they said, "One of your customers." This happened two or three times, so we had several visits. The FBI would come out and says, "Oh, another one of your customers called and so we have to check out everyone, every call." So my mother would serve them tea and cookies, and they'd chat for a few minutes, and so they'd come by. And they'd say, "Well, your dad's clean."

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.