Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sharon Tanagi Aburano Interview I
Narrator: Sharon Tanagi Aburano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Megan Asaka (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 25, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-asharon-01

<Begin Segment 1>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So today is March [25], 2008, we're in the Densho office. We're here with Sharon Aburano, and helping me with this interview, the secondary interviewer is Megan Asaka, and on camera is Dana Hoshide. And so thank you so much for coming this morning. And Sharon, let's start by asking, what was the full name given to you at birth?

SA: It's Setsuko Tanagi.

TI: And was there, like, a middle name, or where does "Sharon" come in?

SA: It was given to me by someone at church, and it's coming out of the Bible, the Rose of Sharon (...).

TI: But originally, it was Setsuko Tanagi, and then later on you got Sharon.

SA: Yes. So it was legally put in (later). Mainly because the Caucasians had a hard time with that T-S-U, "tsu" (in "Setsu"). And so by the time I left camp, it was (Sharon).

TI: Okay. So when and where were you born?

SA: I was born (in Seattle, Washington), October the 31st (...). My folks were married on April Fool's Day, so I came on (another holiday), Halloween -- [laughs] -- the year after. (...) I think it was a midwife (delivery), from what I've seen, because I looked at the birth certificate, and it (read), "Five (A.M.)" (and) I'm sure it was a midwife, and it was probably in the hotel room upstairs of our store.

TI: By any chance, do you know which midwife delivered you?

SA: I'm not sure. I think it was someone named Takeda.

TI: Good. So born October 31st, what year?

SA: 1925.

TI: 1925 (...).

SA: And the name Setsuko comes, actually, from Tencho "setsu," which (means) the (Emperor's birthday and) they just switched over to a new era in Japan. The Taisho era went out when Hirohito came in. So evidently, it has something to do with the coronation, (too).

TI: So do you think your parents were very aware of Japan and what was happening in Japan and they kind of timed things and named things after Japanese things?

SA: Well, my mother is one that (was into current events. She lived in) the era of the Meiji, and (the movements were) pro-West. (...) My mother (...) and father came from the same (village, Keitoku-mura) up north. We call it Tohoku (area), but it's (Kitakata-shi, Fukushima-ken). I think her side was quite well-to-do, but still, (the landowners) were farmers in that area. (She was educated) first in the village school (and then) sent (...) on to Tokyo (...). (She did complete) the Kitakata finishing school (first), and (they picked Tokyo), mainly because her older brother was already (there), in medical school. (What) was amazing to me was not so much (that they were academically able), but the fact that they were both converted Christians. There was a missionary up there in the north that taught her some English. And (so when she got married later, it was) by a Christian missionary (pastor).

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So, let me ask you, so first, family name for your mother's side was what?

SA: Suzuki.

TI: Suzuki, and what kind of work did her family do, or her father do?

SA: Well, evidently, they were landowners, (farmers, but with hired help), which was pretty good (for) the time. (They) had a (private) big (bathhouse), ofuro, which I guess the local (...) politicians or the ones that were running the village, would (visit), because (...) the public baths were (...) not as good as (the) private ones (...). So she got in on most of what was going on at the time, (locally, regionally and nationally, and) for a woman, I thought (that) was pretty good. So she went on to Tokyo, finished (the) normal school, and so she had quite a few years of education, more than the usual. (...) That's what made her push the (Japanese) culture and the customs so much. (...) The primary language at (our) home was Japanese, as was (with) most (immigrant families).

TI: And you said your father came from the same area?

SA: Yes, but he came out of a family that had a better (genealogic) background (...). Japan, as you know, is very status conscious, (...) on the Tanagi side, I got (the genealogy written) from the eleventh century on (and) because I didn't have much time. I had my cousin, the oldest girl, Chiyo, (translate and) interpret it. We stayed up two nights. I was writing (in) romaji as she read, and then it (became) quite revealing. Evidently, (their ancestors distinguished themselves in battle and were rewarded by the Lord Fujiwara), so that meant they were of samurai descent. I used to question that because everybody seemed to say they were samurai people. [Laughs] But it evidently has some merit because I think that helped. My father, though, did go to a temple school, but unfortunately the Russo-Japanese War came on, (1904), and he was drafted (earlier in 1901). So he had three years in the army, and that is why when evacuation time came, he was taken by the FBI. That was one of the charges against him.

TI: That he, he served in the Japanese Army?

SA: (Yes, in) the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). (Narr. note: He actually was in the army from 1901-1902, discharged with illness. Rejoined the "Home Guard" and served two more years, going into the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905.)

TI: Okay.

SA: He was actually in what they call the "famed battalion," (they took a hill), ni hyaku san juu kochi (230) or something, they call it, but it was the one in which the (battalion) flag was carried through all the (following) wars until they (...) lost at Guadalcanal (...) then they buried it. And because of that, we had a (reporter) from the (Yomiuri) Shinbun, (a Japanese newspaper in Tokyo, who came to interview him). My dad, at ninety-seven, was the last survivor of that famed battalion. And until then, he never even told us anything about (his past life). I was just shocked.

TI: So did he have any stories from that battalion and what it was like?

SA: (...)

TI: No, I don't.

SA: Well, (Mr. Kanno, a local friend) came along with this fellow from Japan, and they asked us if we had any kunshou, which is (army medals), and to my surprise, my father came out with a couple of them. (The reporter from Japan) kept asking (...) him was he beaten and slapped around? Because I guess the Japanese Imperial Army was pretty hard on their recruits. But (my dad) is a quiet, gentle person, and actually, he survived (...) because (he always did what he was told). The reason the battalion's so famous is the Russians had machine guns, I guess, at the top (of the hill), but the Japanese had none, and the hill was bare (with no cover). (...) Evidently, they were ordered to keep going up the hill, and of course they got mowed down, (...) a lot (...) died there. (Luckily) he survived. And I thought it was kind of funny because when my cousin Roy volunteered in World War II, he told him that (the way) to survive is to get in that foxhole and don't look out of it, just keep firing in the air. (...)

TI: [Laughs] That was your father saying?

SA: (Yes, and) I thought it was funny. But he did survive the war. I think he was (...) wounded, but he made it through.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Okay, so tell me, so Tanagi was the family name, what was his first name?

SA: Koi.

TI: And I'm sorry, and your mother's first name?

SA: Was Fuyo (...).

TI: Okay. And how did the two of them meet?

SA: Well, (it was arranged by) a baishakunin, (a "go-between"), you know, like they do, omiai these days, (through meetings and) interview. (...) They weren't as well-to-do as my mother's family, (...) but I think it's because he came out of a good family with a samurai background. (...)

MA: Sharon, you mentioned that your mother had converted to Christianity in Japan. Was your father also the same, converted to Christianity?

SA: No, he really didn't accept the Lord until, I think, 1973, (...) after the internment. But I've always thought that when my mother died, my sister and I were talking about this, what legacy did she leave us? And actually, the only two things that (we) really had, because this was after (World War II) and there was nothing material, (were) two things. It was the knowledge of the Japanese customs and culture, and the other one was the legacy of Christianity.

TI: So when you say "knowledge of Japanese culture and customs," what, how did that come across? How did she do that?

SA: Well, my mother observed (all Japanese celebrations, she) was very conscious that we should have soba New Year's Eve, and we (had Girls and Boys Days and we) still do observe that. (...) And of course, the only time we closed the store (was) on New Year's Day, as did a lot of the Japanese (merchants in Seattle).

TI: So let me, I'm jumping around a little bit here, but let's go back to your father. And first, what kind of work or business did your father's family have in Japan?

SA: (They were) just farmers, (but landowners, too).

TI: Okay, farmers. So why did your father decide to come to the United States?

SA: Well, you know, he's not the first son. The first son always inherits the land and everything (so the others usually leave). And just like all wars, at the end of the (Russo-Japanese) War, they (came) back (and didn't) know what to do. And about that time, there was contract labor. They were all through Japan trying to recruit (laborers) for America, and of course, he and two of the brothers (signed on). Actually, there was a third person that came in with him, but he actually was not related. That's another thing that was added to my father's (...) alien charges, that they had smuggled in a fellow. And he was going under the name of Tanagi. So all these things tallied up, it's kind of sad, (and this is why he was interned as an "enemy alien" by the Department of Justice).

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So, let's, yeah, let's step back, and so your father and siblings. So how many brothers did he have, and sisters?

SA: I think there were four that I know of.

TI: Okay, so your father had, there were four brothers including your father or your father and four brothers?

SA: Well, this is kind of a strange (story). They were actually (three) half brothers, because his father was an artist, and (was) traveling through (Japan). Evidently, (...) he was a court artist (...), and he met someone (also) at the court, and he married her. But to her horror, when she came (to his home with her husband and her son), my father, she found out (...) that he already had a wife (and at least) three (sons). So actually, (my dad) was a half brother, (but) he was raised by them, but there was a big age gap, so actually, they were (much) older. And two (half brothers who) came with him, (were) Daishiro and Daigaku.

TI: So they were the older stepbrothers?

SA: The older half brothers, it would be. It's the same father, different mother.

TI: Okay.

SA: And so they, and it was to the credit of his dad's wife, because his mother left (him and returned home to her folks). She was just shocked. (...) And so he was raised by his (father and) when his father died, one of (his half brothers) took him (...) because he had a son almost the same age. There was a big age gap (between my father and his half brothers).

TI: Okay. So, let's go back. So your father and two older half brothers came to the United States?

SA: Yes. They came to (...) Sugar City, Idaho. There was a man named (Mr.) Hamilton, to whom they were evidently (...) under contract to. This was a fellow who, (...) when World War II erupted, (wrote) that we could come there, which was an amazing thing. Well, my father was unusual, because he was young, (and he), after (working on raising sugar beets), went up to a (nearby) schoolhouse (in Rexburg) and asked if he could attend school. (...) This schoolteacher, I was quite amazed, took him under and he studied English for a year. And I was quite delighted because I found an old book, and it's a book of poems that was given to him by this schoolteacher, and her name was inside. (This is a book that) I still have (is) over a hundred years old.

TI: Okay, so let me back up a little bit so I understand all this. So about how old was your father when he came over?

SA: Well, I would think he'd be about twenty-one, because he got drafted into the army.

TI: Right, so he's about twenty-one, he comes over to Sugar City, Idaho, he's hired by this man Hamilton, and then during his breaks or after work, he goes up to this school.

SA: Actually, during the time he was working there (and) I don't really know the circumstances (that made him go)because our Isseis never spoke much and my father was quiet. (But) he had left behind a trunk (and in it, we found some writing and this book). And from what I understand, he had decided he would go because he was (...) put in as a household person at someone's house nearby, and he helped there, as well as doing (some) sugar beeting, but more of the time (he was their) houseboy. And it was from there that he felt he needed to learn English. So he must have, through contacts, gotten to this schoolteacher, and she taught him for a year. Which was great because he could write English and he could read a little. Not that he comprehended (all he read).

TI: So that was unusual for an Issei.

SA: I thought it was unusual. And my mother also was able to write English. I don't know how she got to that point, because she said this missionary (in Japan) came once a week.

TI: Okay, so now we're, we're still in Idaho. And let me back up, too, and how did they get the work in Sugar City, Idaho? What was the connection there?

SA: I think, as far as I can tell, there were contracts out for workers (in Japan) because this was typical of that (Meiji) era.

TI: So do you think they came into a place like Seattle, there was a contractor that...

SA: I think they were contracted in Japan.

TI: Oh, in Japan? So they went all the way directly to Idaho? Okay. And so that was not only your father, but --

SA: He came (...) at that time, with his (half) brothers. He wasn't married at the time, of course.

TI: Okay. But then his brothers or your uncles also went to Idaho also to work there.

SA: Yes. But they returned to Japan, both of (his half brothers). It's an interesting thing, (one of their sons stayed behind). One of my cousins' daughters said that she had researched and evidently sugar beets were just coming in. And it said that, it was recorded that there was a Tanagi that really learned a lot, enough to (raise) it in a big commercial-like way. And (they) evidently returned to Japan and went on, one (...) into Manchuria, one (...) into China, and they (raised sugar beets).

TI: Oh, that's interesting.

SA: Isn't that interesting? And then they returned to Japan, (I have a photo of both half brothers).

TI: Yeah, when you said you went through the documentation and saw that someone did sugar beeting in a big way, was that in the United States or in...

SA: It was here (in Idaho), it was my cousin's daughter Bea Kumasaka, (who said she saw the Tanagi home in a state government book or something).

TI: But I was trying to figure out which, so which uncle was big in sugar beets?

SA: I'm not quite sure which of the two. (...)

TI: But they -- I'm sorry -- they did the sugar, they did first the sugar --

SA: I don't know which one. They learned how to grow it and (harvest it and refine it, I think).

TI: -- here, and then they went back to Asia, Manchuria and Japan and did sugar beeting there.

SA: Not in Japan, in China. I don't know why. Evidently, there was more land available.

TI: And maybe the climate or something was good for them.

SA: That's true, too.

TI: Okay, let's go back to your father. So we're now in Idaho, he's working as a houseboy, learning English, and also going to school. So what happens next?

SA: So I kind of lost track there, but I know the family (of his half brother's son) moved into Oregon. (...) (He left and) came into Seattle (where) he worked at the Swift Meat Company, I think it's gone now, (but he saved) enough money and (went back to Japan to get married in 1918).

TI: And I'm sorry, about what year is this when he comes to Seattle?

SA: It must be (right about the) World War I (years).

TI: Okay, so about 1919, 1920.

SA: In fact, it might have even been prior to that because he went back to get married and she came in 1919 and he came back with her. So I think might have been 1918.

TI: Okay, so he came to Seattle, then he went back to Japan, got married, and then came back to Seattle around 1919?

SA: Yes, he came back to Seattle, (I'm not sure if he went back to work at Swift's Meat Company, but in) 1923 he bought a grocery store, and that's the one at 653 King. It's the one that was between Nihonmachi and Chinatown.

TI: And do you know why he went into the grocery business?

SA: I think that it was owned previously (by a friend of) the Shimomura family (...). But I'm not quite sure on that.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Okay, so 1923, let's talk about it because now they're married, and they...

SA: He went back and got her and came back. At the time she came back, they did not have this store. Got married in 1919 (and) came in 1919. So up to 1923 when they got the store, she was working at the newspaper office of what is now the Hokubei Hochi. And I was very pleased that when she died, they ran an article acknowledging she had been there (in early years).

TI: And do you know what she did at the newspaper?

SA: She was a (writer-)reporter. She had always wanted to learn about America, she had heard about America, and I think that's why she was willing to come.

TI: Now, was it common to have woman reporters back then for the Japanese newspapers?

SA: (...) I don't know, but it seems to me she was doing a lot of the writing. So maybe someone went out and got the (news) report and she refined it (enough to print). I don't know how they operated. But it would be interesting to look into it, but I don't know if they keep an archive of old papers.

TI: Yeah, that would be something interesting. So I'm thinking, so education-wise, how much education did she have in Japan?

SA: She had close to, what she writes is fourteen years. Because she did go (to Keitoku Elementary (K-8)) eight years to elementary, then she went to the high school, which they called the (Kitakata Women's School). Well, I think she had that, and then she went to the (Kitakata Saito) finishing school. And then after that she went down to Tokyo and went four years to (the Tokyo Fu Gyoshi Sheeban Gakko) normal school, and then she taught third grade at (Tokyo Kybashi-ku Taimay Shogakko) in Tokyo that I saw later. (...)

TI: Oh, that's okay. So let's talk a little bit, before we talk about the children, just what your mother was like as a person. I know a little bit more about her education, her upbringing, she married your father, but what was she like as a person?

SA: Well, all the Issei women appear like they're submissive, but I tell you, they were iron-fisted. [Laughs] But anyway, she was not a usual one. Of course, I think, as all families, they pressed education, she more than anyone. Because she felt that it was an important part to her. She had finished first in her class, which was why they thought they would allow her to go on to Tokyo, and she evidently excelled there. So it was hard on my sister, the firstborn. And as they say, they do devote more time to the firstborn and my poor sister, aside from her regular classes, she finished valedictorian of Broadway High in 1938. But besides the six hours there she had to take flower arrangement and she had piano lessons, she had voice lessons, she had sewing lessons, and she felt she was really being pressured. I could see why when I see what she's accomplished. And as you know, she went into chemistry (as her major at the University of Washington). One of the bedrooms (in our home), at her request, was turned into a chem. lab.

TI: Well, get to that later, but let's go back in terms of your relationship with your mother. What was that like?

SA: Well, I was the third child by then. [Laughs] Actually, the fourth, because I think the first child was miscarried. She said she lost a son, and I don't know to what month, if she had carried him or if he was born and had died at childbirth. So my sister was born in 1920, my brother Frank, well, he goes by Shig Tanagi, (...) was born in 1922, and I was in '25. But he, being the boy, of course, was prized more by the family. And then I came after that, so I was quite free. I was, I felt I was really lucky in a way. I wasn't pressured; my sister was, my brother was, but I think she gave up on me. (...) I had a little bit of tap dancing, (a few) ballet lessons, and I started Japanese school with the rest. But I had, think I had a chronic thing, and I was having -- now I kind of realize this, because my father smoked two packs a day, it was secondhand smoke, but I had respiratory weakness. I developed a bronchitis of some sort, so I was out of school (a lot), and I think that's another reason they didn't push me, and I was very glad of that.

TI: Okay, and I just want to go back, and your older sister's name was?

SA: Chiyeko, and she adopted a name, Rose. So it's Chiyeko Rose.

TI: Okay, so Chiyeko Rose, born in about 1920, Frank or Shig, born about (1922), and then you were the... and then 1925.

SA: (...)

TI: Okay. And there was one other that you think died.

SA: At childbirth, he was the oldest. That was a boy.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: I want to go back to your, now that we have sort of the kids, and the grocery business started in 1923, I want to go back a little bit to your mother, thinking of her upbringing, her education. I'm guessing that it was hard for her to all of a sudden have young children work in something as difficult as the grocery business, which I imagine she helped out also. And with her upbringing, did you ever get a sense that she struggled with this?

SA: Oh, she hated it, she hated it. Because merchants were actually, in that era, thought of as under the farmers (in status). It was the lowest, actually, on the status rank. She was very upset, and she kind of maintained that to the end. And it was kind of (sad), we always said, "Why can't she just realize that in America we're all equal?" But it never has gotten through, as you know. I was quite astounded at that part, she held firm. And so actually, we all worked in the store, and she was a great asset to my father because she could run the store. I don't think an ordinary person could. Because he was (up), from early morning he'd wake up at four-thirty (a.m.), he didn't get to bed 'til midnight, and he's up at four-thirty to go down to what we called Western Avenue, which actually runs into Pike Market. And the produce he bought there, he was quite fortunate in that the store we bought, (had) a balcony. The store is now Tai Tung, by the way, and there was a balcony there. And Mr. Kawamura used that as his office, and he actually had an express (...) service. He (owned) a big truck in which he had put on these heavy ropes, so there was a big enough area on that (truck) so that my father could buy a lot of the produce. And (my dad) bought for three other (grocery) stores besides ours. It helped in that we could get quantity sales. And so what he would do is go down and pick out all the produce for Tanagis, (...) his own grocery, but for the Teshirogis, the Tada family, (and the Satos).

TI: You're talking about Mr. Kawamura did this, or your father?

SA: My father would buy the produce, Mr. Kawamura would pick it up with his truck.

TI: I see.

SA: And (he) would bring it to our store. And besides, my father could communicate in English, which wasn't (great, but) it's broken English, of course, but enough to be understood. And the others couldn't, the other Isseis.

TI: And that was useful because, was there quite a bit of negotiation for the produce?

SA: Oh, it would help, you could buy in quantity, you could cut the price. I don't think he had that in mind, but he was asked by the others to please do the buying. And so he purchased, like I said, for the Teshirogis, (the Tadas, and) the Sato family, too (...).

TI: And so Mr. Kawamura's office was in the same building as your father's?

SA: Well, (yes), we were renting it to him, we were also leasing (the store). As you know, (Japanese Isseis) couldn't buy (any land or property) at that time. And so Mr. Kawamura had his desk and everything and his office on the balcony. But then the truck is parked in front of our store, our grocery store. But it really helped us out, and it worked for him, too, because he knew we would always pay him.

TI: And so while your father was out there buying the groceries, helping probably to deliver to the other stores...

SA: Well, that is it. He would (wait) until my father was -- he didn't go with him, my father walked down to Western. I don't know how he did that, it's quite a walk. And then he would purchase it and (he'd) leave it there, and he would tell Mr. Kawamura and he would go and (...) pick it up. So they would bring it to our store and then the others would converge on our store and pick it up because we didn't have a car and (some) did, (or Mr. Kawamura could deliver it).

TI: Good. And then while this was going on, what was your mother doing?

SA: Well, she was opening up the store and we were running it, you know, from eight o'clock in the morning. And we all worked it because we took turns eating. Someone had to be (in the store) front. And we did quite well for the times, from 1925 to 1929 when the Depression year started. Because I remember after I was grown that one of the fellows I met in camp said he remembered me from when I was about seven, and I said -- I had not known him -- but he said he walked into the store one day and a voice said, "Can I help you?" And he looked around and he couldn't see anybody, and he said my head was just above the counter. [Laughs] And I thought, "Wow, it's remarkable." But I do remember that after I came home from school, elementary, I was in the store. We had to take turns, so we all ate at different times.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So are some of your earliest childhood memories of the store?

SA: It was the store. In fact, I cut my finger slicing the meat, and we had a little meat cutter. And you know, it was interesting because we sold Copenhagen... Copenhagen snuff they called it, but we had to open up the little cans, we had this mechanism. And of course we'd get these jokes like, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" And we'd say, "Yes," and they'd say, "Get him out," you know, things like that. So those things kind of stay with you. It's really... we had the cigarettes, very few that they have now, but Camel, (Chesterfield, etc.). We didn't sell any liquor, though, I don't think that that was allowed in those days, I'm not quite sure. But my father didn't drink or (swear), and I think -- well, he smoked, but he didn't swear which I was very happy about. Because my mother was a strong Christian, and as I said, she doesn't say much, but...

TI: And how big was the store?

SA: Well, you know, the size of Tai Tung. I thought it was big for the times, because we put all (canned goods, meats, grains and) our groceries, though, the (fresh) vegetables (were placed) outside. In fact, we had to do that in the morning. I think you could (imagine) the size now, I'd say it was a pretty good size. When I look at other small stores, I think we had twice their size and we went back quite a ways.

TI: Right. And I should probably explain to people who sort of see this tape, so Tai Tung is a pretty well-known Chinese restaurant in the International District, and so a lot of people in Seattle, if you say, "Tai Tung," everyone knows what you're talking about.

SA: Yeah.

TI: Let's talk a little bit about your customers at the store. Who, who were the customers?

SA: We were very fortunate. We had the Chinese restaurants, and we had the Filipinos, the cannery boys, but they had a place called Rizal which was like a dance hall now, but it was a place they ate and where they hung out. Because the Filipinos had no women at all coming in (from the Philippines), there were single fellows. And (...) so they had to buy all the groceries from us, they were in the hotel rooms with a hot plate. And then we had the Japanese which, because we were (part of Nihonmachi), on that edge. On the same block with us was, I don't know if you know Raymond Sing, they had the Wa Sung grocery. There was the Chinese grocery but it was (...) small. So the bigger restaurants would come to us.

TI: Yeah, so it must have been large for the restaurants to shop at your place.

SA: Oh, yes, we were very fortunate to get them. We had one (called) King Fir, which was up the block, and we sold to (them). I (also) remember Chinese Garden restaurant, (a) smaller one. I (knew) the chef (at a nearby cafe and he) used to give me hum bow when I (walked) past, which I really liked. The great thing was we'd walk through Chinatown every day, 'cause our home was at 815 1/2 King. And so (...) we crossed the blocks. We're in the 600, the 700s was Chinatown, and then 800 block, we were (home). So it's about a block and a half. However, when the curfew came, of course, it was the King Fir Chinese that would bring a car down so we could (avoid being on the street after curfew hours).

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So let me get a sense of the... so King Street is one block of Jackson. And so that's where your store was.

SA: It's Maynard (and King).

TI: Right, so Maynard. And so from your store, where was the Japanese part?

SA: Center. I think they call the center about Main and... Main Street, and it would be about Seventh (Avenue), I guess.

TI: Okay, so that's about two blocks north and up the street a little bit would be the center of the Japantown.

SA: Because they extended further toward Yesler; the Chinese did not.

TI: Right. And the Chinese, you're saying, was on King going up to...

SA: King and Weller.

TI: ...Seventh and Eighth, going up that way.

SA: Uh-huh.

TI: And the Filipinos, where did they live?

SA: They really couldn't (say), they didn't have property. They were in the hotels. There were hotels all around us that were run by the Japanese. This is, even in the middle of Chinatown. The Yasudas had a hotel. But on the same block as we were, around the bend, which is Maynard, there was Adams Hotel that the Nishimuras had, and we had Freedom Hotel that (was run by) the Matsudas (...). And then over on, on the next (block), which is still on King, we had Atlas Hotel run by two families, Teradas and (...) the Mizutas (...). And then we had Aokis as you know, they had... what did they call their hotel? The name evades me. But there was an Alps Hotel. But again, you see, we had them as customers, too. But we had a lot of competition because the Japanese had (...) a lot of small mom and pop stores. There were a few that ventured out like the ones that my (father's friend), the Teshirogis (had. They) were on Twenty-fourth Avenue, which we thought was pretty far. And the Satos (...) were on John Street, they were (far) out. And the Teshirogis were far out, too. And so I don't know what the others did, I know the Kawaguchis ran one, too, on Jackson. A lot of competition. But I felt we were very fortunate in having, not exactly the bulk of it, but according to my father in the book Issei that had come out, we were making two thousand a month, and I can't believe that.

TI: Because that would have been a lot of money during that time.

SA: It was a lot of money.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: And this was, again, during that 1925 to '29.

SA: He made it, the bulk of it, evidently, from '25 to '29. And then when the Depression hit, this was interesting because I just found a letter of his, and evidently a lot of people he extended credit to during the '30s. We were having a hard time ourselves, but, and he couldn't collect. Consequently, from the China Gardens (restaurant), my mother and I went at night -- I remember that, 'cause I was still young, I think I was between eight, nine, around there. Mother and I would go out after dinner and we would have to go to China Gardens and we just stood and asked them and all they would give us was a dollar or two. Because after 1933, unfortunately, Japan invaded China and we had this big media on the "rape of Nanking." So the Chinese in Chinatown boycotted us.

TI: That included the restaurants, too, the Chinese restaurants?

SA: Yes. I don't know where they went to get their things, but we had to go and pick up the money from them. They weren't going to come down, so the only way we could do it was to go to them.

TI: So these were prior customers who had bought things on credit, they still owed you money, and then when, after this media about the "rape of Nanking" happened, they started boycotting the store. So you and your mother would go up there to collect whatever you could.

SA: We had to.

TI: And when you say "China Gardens," what does that mean?

SA: Well, it's the big restaurant they had. I don't know what the name of that place is today, but it's next, near the Chinese school. We had other customers, but they didn't owe us as much as that one. That is why we didn't go to (some) of the others, but to that one we went.

TI: And how did that feel, or what did that, what was that like to go stand there waiting for money? What was that like?

SA: Well, it was awful. That's why it stays in my memory. I just stood there, and of course my mother's trying to get, and we never got enough. It was (a very small amount), a pittance. I guess it just stood in my mind.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

SA: And of course, underneath Chinatown, there is another, a lot of gambling went on in the early days. Sometimes I'd go watch. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, I want to ask about that. So gambling, where would that be?

SA: Underground. Well, it's like Tai Tung underneath has a basement, I don't know if you've ever been there. But in between Rex Hotel and our place, there was a store, and I was kind of curious. But I would see a lot of these red little papers just flung around, littered around Chinatown, and those were, I guess that was a lottery kind of a ticket. But a lot of the Chinese did not have their wives here, (they gambled a lot). And I know in researching of late, some of the Chinese people would (ask), one researcher asked me, I think she's (a) professor (at Seattle University), she may be now, of Asian Studies. And Marie Wong asked me, "What do you know about Chinatown?" Well, the Chinese and the Japanese did not mix prior to the war, they kept to themselves. But I used to wonder, as I walked up and down Chinatown, where the women were. And there were very few, if you researched, that had families. We were lucky to know a few because we all went to Bailey Gatzert. That was almost, I'd say about ninety percent out of Chinatown and out of the Japantown. So I met a few there, and we're still friends to this day.

TI: And you're, again, you're talking about the Chinese, there were no Chinese women, Chinese American women.

SA: Yeah. Well, they weren't there because the Chinese men were married, but the wives were still in China.

TI: Right, and that was in contrast to the Japanese community.

SA: The Japanese brought the women in.

TI: There were lots of women.

SA: That was from 1908, they did have (an) agreement, Gentlemen's Agreement, (which limited immigration numbers, but the women got around that as brides, I guess).

TI: And so I think what you're trying to get at is, so what were the differences of the communities? So you had one where there were more of a bachelor community versus, with the Chinese, versus...

SA: Not only the Chinese, the Filipinos (were young bachelors, too).

TI: And the Filipinos, so you had these bachelor communities sort of close by or adjacent to the Japanese community, which was probably more family oriented. So what did you notice about that?

SA: Well, for one, I walked by and I just see the Chinese men. And it didn't seem to me they had a job. I often wondered what they did for a living and now it comes out a lot of it was in gambling halls. But, and I suppose the Japanese had their own in the early days.

TI: So when you saw that gambling in the basement of, underground, was that Japanese or Chinese?

SA: Well, I happened to have gone in that one time (and) it was Chinese. But what tickled me was, you know, they had a lookout right out between our store and the Rex Hotel. And when the police would come on a tip, they were, of course, the lookout would see enough, and I wondered how they got away. But then the thing is, by the time (the police) got down the stairs to the basement, the tables were tipped, so there was nothing there. And I thought, "Wasn't that clever?"

TI: So they were all, they were all set up so that --

SA: They're tipped. They tip right in. I don't know how they did that.

TI: And then what would happen to the people --

SA: They must have a, I suppose there must have been some kind of a pivoting machine, so it looks like they're drinking tea. Nothing was on the top. And all I could think was, "How clever."

TI: Well, you were able to take a peek when they were actually gambling.

SA: So that's because they just thought I was a child, and I was. And you know, you don't usually go down, but I went in 'cause the door was open, and I was kind of curious. (...)

TI: Yeah, so can you describe what you saw? I mean, what did it look like?

SA: Well, they were just (sitting around these tables and) they had a lot of this red paper and (...) watched the whole thing (going on), but they were punching (...) holes, and I didn't quite understand what (they were doing, and) there was money on the table. I wish I (had) comprehended what was going on.

TI: Well, and how many, how many men were down there and...

SA: Quite a few. There was a lot.

TI: Like ten, twenty?

SA: Oh, I think so. But they had (quite a number of) tables going. It's an interesting thing. But (those who) had families (who weren't there), you could tell. They (went as families to) gather seaweed, nori, and I don't know where they got theirs, I gather it might have been Lincoln Park, (Alki), 'cause hardly (anyone) had cars. (They must have used trolley cars). But they would string it up, you know, and what they (used to do) in Chinatown (is not done now). (And) they used to have these metal doors right on the sidewalk, I don't know if you've ever seen them, and they open up. Well, they used to put a mat on top of those, and then they'd put the wet seaweed (over it), and they would dry them there. And I'd see a lot of that. (Or) they'd hang 'em on, if they had any fence or anything, (and let them dry).

TI: And this was different seaweed than the Japanese would collect?

SA: I don't know because they were kind of dry (and were all dark). I know the Japanese liked that orangey-red, there was a certain type. And they got theirs, (too, at Lincoln and Alki beaches, but) I think the Japanese would go to Vashon and Bainbridge 'cause it's cleaner (water). But we didn't go hanging them (...) outside. You could almost, if I got, some time we'd, (as children), just (...) stamp on their seaweed when we walked by. We were so (bad). (We thought) it was just (...) fun. But it was kind of a great era, really. We didn't have toys as such, so we played jintori and "kick the can," and things of that nature. Anywhere where there was a lot (where we played), and that's where I met a couple of (African American children) -- there weren't very many blacks in that time. At the Coast Hotel there was a couple (that) had children, Martha and Mary Washington, and I played with them. But they were (the) only (African Americans) close to us in (the) Chinatown area.

TI: So let's talk about just sort of the, kind of the... your childhood and the mixing of all these races. 'Cause I'm thinking, I mean, there were some Chinese, you had a couple of blacks and then Japanese. How did the kids get along with the different races?

SA: Well, at school, we merged more, but you know, when we went back (home), we didn't play as much except (for) the Chin (family) right about, five (...) stores up from us. (When) their mother (...) died and their sister was raising them, (we played with them). (...) One of their siblings was blind, and I saw (her) quite a bit. So on top of that, you know, (...) there was an alley (nearby), we were raising our bean sprouts (down near the alley), Mother and I. And you know, it was actually (...) across from the Wah Mei (Club), I don't know if you know where that is. Anyway, but the (Rex) Hotel upstairs had a furnace room, and of course it's warm. So we had these big porcelain pots, and then Mother and I would (...) put the beans in, and then, of course, we'd change the water every day, and then we'd sell the bean sprouts in our store. (That furnace room opened in the alley).

TI: So that was you and your mother would do this? And because of the heat from the furnace area, things grew faster.

SA: Yes. It was wonderful. Now I look at bean sprouts and I think, "I know how to raise those."

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: And so during this time period, after the Chinese restaurants started boycotting the store, did, during this period, were there differences in terms of how you got along with the Chinese Americans your age? Was there any kind of difference that happened?

SA: Well, some of them would call us names as I walked through. And I was astounded because they were friends of ours at school. But I guess it must go down as such, children must hear from their parents. So they would call us "Japs." It was kind of hard to realize that they weren't our friends anymore. But I thought my father coped very well in that time because then we started shipping to Alaska. (Why Alaska?) It's a strange thing, and the only thing I could think of was there is a book that was called Sushi and Sourdough written by Tooru Kanazawa. Well, his sister married my cousin, Johnny Tanagi, and in about the seventh chapter of the book, amazingly, I found this (description of) where the Tanagis were buried (in Japan), and it was in front of the house, and I saw it later when I visited Japan. But he wrote about a fellow, and the character in that book was Matajiro (or something like that). And I thought, when I got that scroll on (our) genealogy, I was tracking down the dates, and I thought, "Wow. About that time there was a fellow in the genealogy," and his name was close to that, I think. If it wasn't Matajiro, it was kind of close (to the one) in the book. And I thought -- (if) they went to Alaska, and he had married a yoshi, meaning (...) when he got married, he would assume the wife's name because there was no one (male child) to succeed (and carry on the family name). And he turned out to have gone to Alaska, and I thought, "Could it be?" 'Cause the Kanazawas were also in Alaska (...) and was that the connection, 'cause I used to wonder where did this (...) short, portly man that came down (to our grocery store come from), and he would order. And he had a restaurant in Ketchikan, (Alaska). Next thing I knew, we were shipping to Alaska, and it was to the restaurants, the Japanese restaurants. So we did (...) well, and we made (it through) the Depression years.

TI: So that was in the '30s that this happened.

SA: Uh-huh.

TI: How interesting.

SA: And I know all of a sudden we were packaging up all these big things, shoyu and miso, the Japanese things. And I wondered where they were going, and they were going (to Alaska), Mr. Kawamura's taking them down to the ships.

TI: And Alaska during the Depression was doing well because -- I'm trying to think of my history -- is that because of the gold rush at that time, or what was happening in Alaska?

SA: Well, they were in mining, too, but they were also in the canneries.

TI: Okay, right, right.

SA: And if you look at that book, Sushi and Sourdough, which is the Alaskan pioneer of Japanese ancestry and (a history) of the Japanese. They had a real difficult time because of the weather, too, you know. And I read that and I was just astounded. We thought we had it hard, they had it worse, I think.

TI: So your parents -- and I'm not sure if it was your father or your mother, I mean, they were very business-savvy. I mean, they --

SA: Well, amazingly, I don't know, except, you know, like for credit, when (Dad) put down who (...) owed him (money, he) would say, "A man with glasses." Well, that could be anyone. When my dad was taken, we started trying to track down money 'cause they froze the (bank) funds the minute he was taken. But you know, when I, I want to go back some, as I said, the biggest creditors to us, because my father couldn't collect, they gave us what they (could, like) from the Filipino owner. He gave us (his) only asset, which was a 1939 car. But nobody had cars, so that was wonderful. So my brother, at eighteen, had a car, and I think that really set him apart. But we had to sell that, of course, to get the money to evacuate. But then from the Japanese restaurant, and it wasn't named, but I keep wondering, it was on Main. I keep thinking it was the Maneki restaurant because we got the furnishings and they were quite elegant people, I always thought. And we got the marbletop table, the leather sofas, and our house was furnished -- I used to wonder how we got furniture like that. And it came from them as their only assets we could acquire. And of course, the Chinese, we were up trying to get our dollar a day if we could.

TI: So I'm curious -- I'm going to go back now to that time period, from 1925, 1929, when the store was doing well and probably the restaurants were doing well, what did your parents do with the excess cash? I mean, as, you mentioned two thousand dollars a month.

SA: Well, they put it in the bank. The Furuya Bank was the Japanese bank at the time, and they started early, I think. Because by the time 1905 rolled around, 1906 when he came, it was already in operation.

TI: Well, and at some point, that, didn't that bank fail?

SA: Yes, it did.

TI: And so did your parents have lots of money in that bank when that happened?

SA: (I don't know). Well, you know, as I said, 1929 started Depression years, so they were really hard up, too, I mean, as the cash dissolved. 'Cause I see in 1939, he had borrowed some money, seven hundred dollars. I don't know where --

TI: This is your father?

SA: My father. And up to then he was doing fine, I thought. But he must have paid it off, because in 1940 my mother went to Japan, her first trip back, because her father had died and her mother was (old). And she of course wanted to go. And she was lucky to get back 'cause the war broke out in '41. She was, I think (on) the last ship out. So (Dad) must have done all right recuperating (from losses), I think, from (the year), in the '39, (...) '41.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So I want to go back to your mother and father's sort of attitudes during this time period before the war. So here they were, in a place where not only were their customers and people they dealt with were Japanese, but it was also Chinese, Filipinos...

SA: And a few Caucasians.

TI: A few Caucasians. And I'm also thinking of your, kind of your mother's upbringing. And now she's essentially a merchant, which she probably didn't really care for. How did she feel about the other races about this time?

SA: Well, I think she viewed them as customers. But you know, they stuck to their customs (and didn't associate outside of the store). My mother and dad were forever taking buckets of water and cleaning up (the streets). And I noticed they did that in Japan, they're forever sweeping the sidewalks. (...) The strength of our store really lay, not just because they were good businessmen. Next door was the Russell Meat Market, and that brought in a lot of customers and we're right there, (next door. So folks just dropped in to buy vegetables, etcetera).

TI: So there's just this line of stores that people would go to.

SA: Well, we were fortunate to have that meat market there. And then we (had), two doors to the right, (...) a Chinese chicken, poultry (business), bringing in fresh chicken. So I thought we were very fortunate, we drew the customers.

TI: Right. But I was wondering about more your parents' attitude in terms of during this time, you mentioned earlier how your mother would really pay attention to what was happening with Japan. And during this time, Japan was fighting China and places like this. So how did that play out in Seattle?

SA: We, so we were forever sending care packages, if you would call it that, (to Japan, for her folks and his).

TI: And how did that relate or how did that change how she dealt with, say, the Chinese customers? Did she ever, did that ever come up in terms of Japanese-Sino relations?

SA: (No), except I heard my father call them "Chankoro," which is really a, not a very nice term. It would be like "Chinks" or something. But I was surprised to hear him use that term. But I must say, the Japanese in the Meiji era had a lot of rules that they abided by. One of them, two of them in particular. You don't talk about your problems to anyone, and you keep your finances to yourself. And that, I think, has made most of the Issei stand up under the strain of coping with the Depression. 'Cause many of them, I know, formed groups. They had what they called the tanomoshii, one person would go around and pick up the money, so if you died, at least you could have a decent funeral. And that money also was used to launch businesses. There were about nine of 'em, well, they each take turns dipping in the pot, and that's what starts it. And maybe that's how my dad got started, too, I don't know.

TI: Yeah I heard that to start businesses, but you also said they would use that to help funeral expenses, things like that?

SA: Yeah. Well, the koden comes in on that, and I think we're still doing it, the Niseis are. I don't know about your generation, I think they've stopped. It should be stopped.

TI: And that was started, because that was pretty much something that was just started by the immigrants here.

SA: Yes.

TI: Because that's not something that is common in Japan.

SA: Well, I think they give it in Japan, too, they give a huge amount. They still do.

TI: Okay.

SA: Because I know one of my cousins had died, and I thought sending two hundred was quite a bit, but they said it should (be about) a thousand. (...) So, you know, things have gone up, they still do (koden in Japan).

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Okay, so we're going to start the second hour, Sharon. And the first hour, we were talking a lot about probably your family's business, the grocery business. And back then, what did you guys call the neighborhood?

SA: Nihonmachi.

TI: Nihonmachi. And then there was Nihonmachi and then Chinatown? Was that distinct?

SA: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay, because now we call it the International District, which encompasses all that area.

SA: Yes. In fact, there's hardly any Japanese. I mean, there's no place you can find -- this is what I'd like to talk about, is the tremendous change from our era to your era. Now, we're on the, where you're in the mainstream, we're on the banks.

TI: I'm sorry, say that again.

SA: To me, this is the way I look at it: we're observing what (your generation) people are doing and we're on the banks, and you people are in the river. You're flowing by, you're in the mainstream (of life where things are happening, raising a family, working, etcetera).

TI: Oh, I see. I got it.

SA: That's the only way -- 'cause, you know, when I listen to people, (...) I'm trying to stay on top (of current matters). The reason I say this is because I go into details because (...) I have a master's (degree) in librarianship (and) they thought I ought to go into reference work (and do researching). We didn't have anything like the computer in those days. But that's why I'm curious. I'd like to -- well, they come with questions (in reference work), you've gotta look for the answers. But I like to (look for information) and a lot of my peers can't conceive (this), they (don't use) the computer. (...) I was one of the first (librarians) in Seattle Schools to (use the computers and to) bring it in, and we started with tapes, you know. (The Seattle district) sent me to Radio Shack for three lessons, three quarters. I didn't really absorb a thing, but they wanted me to teach, and teach the other teachers. (...) I said, I can't do it, I don't understand it myself, (but I did do it once, because of pressure).

TI: Sharon, we'll get to that later, probably the next interview about...

SA: Changes, yeah.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: But I wanted to actually go back and, you know, earlier you were talking about how you had the Chinese community which was mostly bachelors, the Filipino community which was bachelor, and then the Japanese community which was more family oriented, where there were more women. I'm curious, because of the proximity, was there ever any interracial dating between the Japanese women and the Chinese men, or the Filipino men?

SA: No. There were a few (that) married Caucasians, 'cause in camp we encountered (them). But as I was growing up, there was none. And I really felt sorry for the Filipinos because they were the younger group that were sent here and trying to make a living, sending the money back (home). And the reason I say that was, as I was mentioning before, there was, the one thing I remember was chasing a fellow named Marcelino and evidently he had knifed his landlord in the hotel. I don't know what nationality the landlord was, but so he came running out and of course the police were there and they were chasing him, and then we were behind the police, of course. But we were running, and every time he turned, we would run back. It was kind of like (a game), but we raced through Nihonmachi, you know, Japantown, down the alleys. It was one of the most, I guess, exciting thing that ever happened to us as children. And he had a double-edged knife, and I thought, "That is remarkable." But I always thought he was such a bad person. Well, the story much later, and what had happened was he was one of the youngest boys in the cannery, and he had saved quite a bit of money. And this is how the Filipinos did it; they would save this money, and they would have, they don't, some of them don't trust the bank. What they did, what he did in this case was give it to the landlord (for safekeeping and) to dole out to him. Well, the landlord really was the one who was to blame, he didn't (give him his money and) he told him it was all gone, it was not. And it was very early in the season, and he was desperate. That's why he did what he did. And when you think about it, I took (a) criminology (class) later in school, (and worked at the juvenile home) a short time, and I thought, well, you know, he had a good reason.

TI: And so he knifed the landlord.

SA: Evidently.

TI: And did he kill him or was it just a...

SA: I'm not sure what happened. All I know is I remember chasing him.

TI: And so the police was chasing him through Nihonmachi?

SA: Well, they got him, but...

TI: But I'm curious, so the kids would follow the police?

SA: Well, a few of us were running because we were wondering what all the excitement was, so we ran after the police. And so we saw him running and them running and we're running. But when he turned, and we would run back. [Laughs] But of course, we had to go, get out of there. But I never knew what happened to him.

TI: Okay. So I want to go back to the, the interracial dating. So you say it didn't happen amongst Japanese and the Filipinos.

SA: No, I'm sure the Filipinos would have wanted to get married, but you know the Japanese.

TI: And so was there pressure -- I mean, why wasn't that happening? Was it from the Isseis who just did not let this happen?

SA: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. The Chinese, too. Everyone kept to their own race. And maybe it's because of language, but I think it stems from culture.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So I'm going to switch gears a little bit and go back to your family life. You mentioned earlier how the store was open every day except for maybe New Year's Day. So I'm curious, did you as a family, did you ever get to have outings like picnics or anything like that?

SA: Well, when my father was home, like on Sundays, weekends, then my mother, that's why my mother was active at church. She actually was heading what we would call the Fujinkai, which is like (the) Presbyterian Women's (Group) today (...). And she actually was heading it because she could write, and she could read, (so she led in faith).

TI: So your father would be at the store --

SA: Would be at the store.

TI: -- and your mother would be able to go to the church.

SA: (Yes). Or they would take turns because during, the fun things for us were the prefecture meetings as they have still today, which is where you come from. Like it would be what state or what area, the Fukushima-ken (for us). And then at Japanese school, though I only went six months or a year, maybe, at the most, my brother and sister were going. So we would have, every year they'd have kind of an annual event in which they would have kind of a picnic and they would have awards, sometimes promotions. (...) I think (they) used Jefferson Park. Lincoln Park was used for the other (kenjinkai), bigger picnics. And then we had the two big banquet halls, which we called (Kinka) Low, and the other one was Gyokoken. And I still have a menu that I (kept). Things were so inexpensive (then). [Laughs]

TI: And so generally which parent would you go with to these, to these functions?

SA: Well, whichever one was available. (...) My father really was kind of farsighted. He wanted us to get out in the summer, (during summer) vacation time. So I don't know how he ever did it, but he had us going to Alki beach. We took the trolley car, my sister, my brother and I and several of the neighborhood children, and we would take this trolley and go to Alki beach. And when we got there, he told us to go to this gasoline station. And, you know, (Alki) beach has no shade at all. He had this great big umbrella, beach umbrella, and on it he put Tanagi Grocery. It was an advertisement (but it was a property sign, too). [Laughs] And he had it, had the person at this garage (or) this gasoline station, (who) kept it for us there all summer. So we'd get off (the trolley) and we'd get our big umbrella and we'd push it into the (sandy) ground. We just stayed there.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So it was a form of advertising.

SA: I thought so, but I didn't know it at the time. I thought he did it, well, maybe he did it to just have an ownership label on it so it would be our umbrella. But I thought, later on I thought, "Hey, that's pretty good advertising," except it's really far (from the store). But we loved that trolley ride because it had a trestle, and we could look down. So we went (to Alki beach), and then we'd ride the logs. I am not a swimmer, (so) we'd ride the logs.

TI: What's "riding the logs" mean?

SA: Well, there was all (those drifting) logs -- and you don't have it now, but it would be floating out there, and we'd just sit on (them). Of course, we're in the shallow end, (we also had) Lincoln Park. Lincoln's (water) was cold, but Alki beach's was warm, I don't know why.

TI: Oh, I think they're both cold, I've been out there. [Laughs] So you're riding, so just sitting on logs.

SA: And we're sunning, which is why I'm so wrinkled (now). We used to be out there, (and) we tried to get as tanned as possible. It's just a crazy thing. But my mother thought that the sun was great for us, so we were out there, (tanning).

TI: And you're out there during the day, what would you guys eat during the day?

SA: Oh, we had a little lunch packed, generally sandwiches. And because we had a store, we always had fruit. I thought we ate very well, at home, too. Except half the time we'd be making our own because we're eating in shifts. I know I'd take cans of salmon and make -- I like salmon patties, so (that's what) I was making, I don't know what my brother pulled off (the shelves).

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

<Begin Segment 16>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So let's go -- earlier you mentioned church activities. Let's talk about that a little bit more in terms of, so what church did your family go to?

SA: We went to the (Japanese) Presbyterian church.

TI: Is that the same one that is still here?

SA: Well, the site is different, but it was at Ninth and... what was the next street over? Weller. Ninth and Weller.

TI: Ninth and Weller.

SA: It was close to our home, because we were at 815 (1/2 King Street), it was on the next block. I don't know if that's the reason we went to the church, but however it was, it's... because a lot of the Japanese, as you know, went to the Japanese Baptist Church. And all the outlying areas, you have to hand it to Reverend Andrews. He had this "blue bus" that you've probably heard, well, he went to Vashon and Bainbridge and the Kent Valley, 'cause he could drive. And so you'll find them all Baptists, Japanese Baptists, if you sit and think.

TI: But, so you're not really sure why your decided to go to Presby other than it was close.

SA: No, other than, I think proximity, probably. But you know, we had a wonderful pastor there named Reverend Kawamura. During the Depression years, and everyone had it hard, he would come and gather food, and of course we had the store, so he would pick up whatever he could, and then he would distribute it. But I thought he was quite a wonderful person, he walked up and down Jackson and Weller, and he was encouraging people and praying for them. And at that time, we had the biggest (membership), I think we got our membership up to three hundred.

TI: And so when you said he stopped by the store, would your parents give, like, donate food to him to give?

SA: Oh, yes.

TI: And was that pretty common?

SA: I thought it was for him and his family, 'cause he had a family. But we'd see him giving it out to others.

TI: And what kind of food do, would your parents donate to him, do you recall?

SA: Well, bread. Whatever we felt he could use. We sliced our own meat like you do these days. It was lunchmeat, mostly, because the fresh meat would have to come from next door. And fruits and whatever, vegetables. The vegetables we put out on the stalls and it's kind of cute because my father had these chopsticks, or he'd get sticks and then we'd split it so that we could put a sign on, and then he'd take his sumi brush and put down "10 cents, spinach." And we'd jab it into the (bunch), but the amazing part is I asked my sister, it never occurred to me how we washed the vegetables to get 'em out there, you know. And I remember we had a great big tub of water in our back, but we, I don't think we had a drain, maybe we did. And I guess we washed it ourselves and retied it, put it out there.

TI: And so that was kind of like what the kids had to do to get the...

SA: Yeah, we did that, and then, you know, my job with my friend, I had a friend (...) that came every day, we would (fold) out newspaper and we would (...) stack them up, and that's what was used as wrapping paper. I mean, if you would buy anything, we'd stick it in the middle and wrap it up in newspaper and give it to 'em.

TI: And where would you get all these newspapers?

SA: That's what I'd like to know myself, but there always was a stack that I had to, you know, unfold, which I didn't like to do, but, I mean, (but) that was one of my jobs.

TI: But these were, were these, like...

SA: Newspapers.

TI: Used newspapers people had read?

SA: Yes, (sometime, perhaps, like our own and friends' who were collecting theirs for us).

TI: Or, and then people would leave it there, or was this, like, extra newspapers?

SA: They looked like extra because they were clean enough, you know. Of course, you got newsprint and you think today, "My goodness, it's horrible." But that's what we all used, (almost all Asian grocery stores).

TI: Going back to your, before your mother came to the United States she was a Christian. Do you know what denomination she...

SA: I don't know. But I know she said that when she docked -- and this was later, we had an oral interview, my sister interviewed her in Pullman. And then she, I had the written things that she told me that my mother said. And she said when she landed, because she knew what my dad looked like (...) at least she wasn't a picture bride. But she was so frightened in a way to be alone for the first time and into a strange country, that she said she sang "Rock of Ages" and "Abide in Me." And I thought, "That's remarkable." So I think her faith carried her through, plus, you know, she's probably (...) wondering what kind of a place and curious (though fearful) as can be.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Let's, you mentioned earlier Bailey Gatzert. So let's talk about elementary school and what that was like for you.

SA: Well, I tell you, we had a remarkable woman (as principal) named Ms. Mahon, and she always brought her dog, which was a big collie dog. But she understood (who she was) dealing with. Like I said, it must have been ninety percent Chinatown and Nihonmachi (children). So she started a Good American Citizenship club. Now, I have never seen anything like this, and I was a teacher in later years. Well, in fact, twenty-two and a half years I spent in teaching. But I look back on it now and I tell my peers, "We had a platoon system at school." And (...) we don't have that (now), we have a self-contained classroom. But, (at that time), from third grade on, you were moved into a platoon system. We had a music teacher, Ms. Phelan, and we had specialists, actually. Ms. Laurie in art, we had Ms. McQue for math and we had, the librarian was Ms. Salverson and I could go on. But (the school had) specialized into these subjects. So we had an education far superior than you could even pick up now, I think.

TI: You mean, so, in elementary school, it wasn't your traditional one teacher all day with a classroom, you're saying that you actually moved from --

SA: It was not a self-contained classroom, teaching all subjects.

TI: You moved from subject to subject.

SA: (Yes, in) kindergarten, first, second, third, we were contained, but from fourth the platoon system started, fourth, fifth, sixth. And then at seventh and eighth we were sent to Washington middle school. But prior to my grade, I think when my sister was going, they ran up to eighth grade, and then on to high school.

TI: So, so I didn't realize this. So this platoon system at Bailey Gatzert was innovative. It was something that was not happening --

SA: Oh, I thought so. I don't know what other schools did, maybe they did it, too. But I know the bunch of us there that turned into schoolteachers, (...) remarked how, how lucky we were. Because the science teacher would take us, Ms. Chambers would take us walking on -- we don't have field trips -- but around and we used to look at the forsythias. She (also) got the mushrooms, you know, and we'd, she'd pass out black paper, I'd like to see some people do it now. Take the mushroom, invert it, and the spores would fall down and make a pattern. And when I think about that, I thought, boy they were innovative.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]


TI: You also mentioned something called the Good...

SA: American Citizenship Club. And if you ask anybody, my peers, we all had to line up. And each classroom (marched) in -- before school started, she actually had free breakfast for some, and that, because -- and she watched the children. We had a very obese (student), and she would make sure that he had a grapefruit every morning. I don't know where she got that. But for the very thin, she had mush. I think she thought we didn't eat, or some people didn't. And she made them (the thin ones), they couldn't take P.E., they had to rest, they had a rest period. You know, like Kay Kato said, she hated it, she had to go and rest when the rest of us were (having fun in P.E. class).

TI: I'm sorry, so how did she know which ones would...

SA: She could observe 'em; she knew. She knew the families and she made sure that the teachers did not send a bad report, 'cause she knew the Japanese and the Chinese parents would really take it out on the child, and some were, they were whipped.

TI: And so the ones that she singled out to rest was...

SA: The thin ones.

TI: Okay. And then she would feed them, you're saying. Or in the mornings she would --

SA: In the morning, if (she) thought they had (no breakfast), she had mush, oatmeal. She was very (compassionate) and then what she taught in the Good American Citizenship Club was she would try to bring in the (rules of) democracy, fairness, honesty, (equality, justice). And the amazing thing is -- maybe I shouldn't even mention it here -- but when the girls ran into (pre-puberty age), she would take all the girls down to the gym to show them how to take care of themselves. And we were amazed, 'cause we wouldn't have ever (known anything), I don't know if our parents would have told us. She would show us, at that era, we had the Kotex (pads) and the tampons. I don't know what she did (for) the boys, but I thought that was remarkable, 'cause she knew we wouldn't get (some of) that information (from home).

TI: And so as an educator, when you think about what she was doing during this time period, again, how innovative, how forward-thinking was she compared to, perhaps, other schools?

SA: Well, the thing is, I couldn't compare to any other school. But when I look back, because I did have a hand in the P.E. curriculum after I got into teaching, but I thought, "This woman was amazing." Well, they were all (great teachers). Ms. Laurie was terrific. She had us looking in mirrors and drawing ourselves, because (all teachers) were (...) specialized. She was (also compassionate, and) after the war, I bumped into her and she was inquiring about Ben Fujita, I don't know if you know him, but he had gone blind from a disease in camp. And she wondered how he was. And (I was) just amazed that she even cared. But they really were wonderful to us. Ms. Phelan taught us songs (...) like Kathleen Mavorneen, she must have been Irish, (and) "The Rose of Tralee," classical songs. And we would have (songs we) never heard (of) had she not brought it to us. She had us singing in (...) parts, and this was in the elementary (years). Well, I see music teachers now, and I don't know if they have the time to do that. But we also had a harmonica club for the few who could, you know, if you came after hours you could learn the harmonica. They did things that, to me, is just terrifically amazing, it's awesome (when you think of their dedication to teaching us).

TI: And how about the more traditional subjects of, you know...

SA: Math.

TI: ...arithmetic, math, reading, writing.

SA: Well, Ms. McQue did a good job (teaching us mathematics; the teachers from kindergarten-third got us reading) extended on into middle school and went to Washington Middle School. There (...) we bumped into another minority, (...) the Jewish population (of the) Garfield (area). So it (made a difference), now for the first time we were merging with a (majority) group of Caucasians, too, and that was different to us.

TI: And how so? When you say different, what was the differences?

SA: Well, (...) we'd never had much to do with Caucasians other than, you know, our missionaries at the church, but we were never invited into homes. And at that, I don't know, it just was not done.

TI: And in general, how did the two groups get along?

SA: Oh, I think we got along well. In fact, (we made some great friendships here, for the first time with other nationalities). I went into Smith Galland, (a Jewish) nursing home, and I looked at the walls, and there were names that I (remembered, like the) Alhadeffs and... so it stays with you. But there, too, (at the middle school, the) art teacher sent me into the cafeteria, (and) let me paint on the wall, and I thought that was astounding. So I didn't know what to put, so I drew "Ole King Cole and his merry old soul" because I figured we're there in the lunchroom, eating his pie or whatever. It was really crazy. But it's kind of amazing that so many were actually so interested in us, and they really cared for us. I think that element is what we needed. We needed to be nurtured.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Earlier you mentioned how your older sister was valedictorian at Broadway. When you went to Washington junior high school, when the students were there with, say, Caucasian, Jewish, how well did the Japanese do in classes in terms of grades?

SA: Oh, they were always on top (but the competition was there with) the Jewish people (...). But if you look at the list of the valedictorians and the salutatorians, like the year my sister was valedictorian, (1938) Ben Uyeno, the doctor, was the salutatorian. And almost everybody, (Japanese Americans made) the honor roll (...).

TI: So did that make it tough for Japanese Americans who weren't really good in school?

SA: I don't know (how they felt, but it must have been hard).

TI: [Laughs] I think I've interviewed a few of them.

SA: But you know, this is the astounding thing, the very ones that failed are the ones that are successes today. They're the ones...

TI: Oh, tell me about it. Why do you think that is?

SA: I don't know. Because they had nothing to lose, they take the risks. That's what I think. Because I know I was talking to one person (who was a failure in school, but today) he owns a lot of property around town (...). But they were very poverty-stricken, to the point that even now, one of the girls keeps talking about how Ms. Mahon, again, would call her into the office and how humiliated she would be to wear clothes that she, that Ms. Mahon was trying to put on her. Used clothes, of course. And she would have to go back to the classroom wearing things that (...) didn't fit, and how she still (feels bad and) remembers to this day. And she really felt it, and so did her brother. But (today) he know he's very well-off, every child of his owns enough property to be self-sustaining, (will inherit enough materially to be very secure).

TI: So some of the, the Japanese Americans who did not do well in school, you're saying later on --

SA: They are doing the best.

TI: -- did really well.

SA: And the only reason I could think of is because as he said, "You had the same opportunities, you just didn't take the risk," and he's right. We're careful and cautious, and we never get anywhere when (our) salary is (enough)? So there is something to this business of not having anything.

TI: That's interesting. When you're going to school, like junior high school, what were your favorite topics? What did you enjoy doing?

SA: I wasn't aware of any one that was my favorite. Of course, I liked to draw, but I never went into it. I wanted to, actually, when I finished high school, but the war was on. I ended up in the practical subjects like nursing and teaching and librarianship, which were about the only things women our age could do.

TI: You mentioned earlier your older sister was a good student.

SA: She was a maverick. (She spoke several languages, studied French, Russian and Japanese, of course).

TI: How about your older brother?

SA: He's a pharmacist.

TI: And so was he a good student also?

SA: Yes, I think he could have excelled more, but he didn't (go on to graduate school).

TI: And so was it hard for you to follow in the footsteps of these...

SA: I wasn't even following.

TI: Why is that?

SA: I don't know, (...) I think, because they considered me kind of sickly. (I had respiratory problems but) after the third grade I was fine. (...) Of course, you don't fail (in schools -- but get caught up to grade level) because then you're singled out more. (But) I did all right. (Narr. note: It's after the World War II years that I did get degrees in nursing, in education, and a master's in librarianship, all connected to what I was doing at that time.)

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Okay, so after Washington junior high school, where did you go to school next?

SA: Broadway (High School). And actually, even there, I think we bumped into more Caucasians. But I think, I don't know what the population was, I'd just take a rough guess. I think most of the high schools had about two thousand (students). I would say a quarter were Asians at Broadway, and that kind of made things tough when Pearl Harbor hit. Because one of the teachers wrote in an editorial, you know, where you can write letters to, that she had to bend over backwards to be nice to the Japanese students, and that was a civics teacher.

TI: Say that again, so the civics teacher said she had...

SA: She wrote this little thing and I'm amazed she even put her name on it. But she wrote that they were leaning over backwards to be nice to the Japanese, which I thought, I kind of rather resented. I happened to, at that time, I think I was a junior (or) sophomore (...), and I was on the social committee, (...) I think I was running for vice president or president, and I lost that, but because of that, they put me (as a chairperson) on the social committee, which was a token thing. Because of that I was supposed to pin a corsage on this same teacher that made this remark, and I sure felt like sticking it right through her because I was so upset at that time.

TI: Because she felt that she was just doing Japanese students a...

SA: I guess they must have been told that they had to be nice to us regardless of their feelings, which (I felt maybe was racist).

TI: Okay, but because of Pearl Harbor, she harbored ill feelings towards the Japanese American students, and she thought she was bending over backwards by just being nice to them, or treating them just like a regular student.

SA: Yeah, instead of, that she had to be aware. And I thought that was kind of not a nice remark to make. But in view of the fact that it was wartime, I gather it was the feeling of a lot of people.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Okay. Just going back to Broadway High School, you said, like, a quarter of the student body was Asian. What was the rest of the student body, what was the makeup of it?

SA: Well, they were coming in from Broadmoor, (the wealthier Caucasians and also the Japanese, Chinese, with ethnic background differences), and so we had a wide variety, I think from homes that were poor and middle to, I'm sure, the ones who had money.

TI: Okay, so mostly white, then, the other...

SA: Yes, I would say, (mostly white, others probably Hispanics, a few African Americans).

TI: I'm thinking, about this time, again, people are starting to date in high school. Did your parents talk to you about, that you were Japanese, or were there certain expectations of you because you were Japanese? Do you ever recall a conversation?

SA: No, I don't think, you know, nothing of that sort ever came up because that era, the boys and the girls really stayed far apart. If you even held hands, that was considered really an awful thing to see in public, so you can imagine it was an era.

TI: So any --

SA: People didn't date, I don't think. Eighteen, nineteen. Now they're out there at twelve. [Laughs] It's a big change.

TI: So any memories from Broadway that you recall? Anything that stands out in your mind?

SA: Well, I thought again, the student body got along very well. You see, it was a melting pot theory we grew up under. This is one subject that I love because it turned into this multicultural bit, and now we've got all these differences. They're even teaching Spanish and things on the east side in some schools from kindergarten on. Well, in that day, this melting pot theory was that all the immigrants should get into a pot and assimilate, and you churn out the product and everybody's (Americans, speaking English), which I think has a lot of merit. It keeps you united, and it keeps America on track. And it's when this cultural thing started, you know, where you bring in (your different backgrounds, ancestries), where we went, after school was over, after our basics are in to study, now we're interrupted with this multicultural bit, so you know, they come in with their kids and you have African American Day, (Native Americans, etcetera). When I was at Bailey, in the library, I used to wonder (if it's wise), and I taught most of the reading and some language arts (to those) they'd rotate (...) to me, (having trouble with English).

TI: So you're talking about later on when you were a teacher.

SA: But I noticed, this is it, they said to send in the ones that were blacks, because (it was) African American Day, or African Day. And I'd say, "How do I know which are black?" And then we had a Native American (Day), we called them, we didn't call them that then, Indians. And so I said, "How do I know, 'cause the blacks tell me they're part Indian?" So I asked one of the black teachers, "How do I know?" And she said if they have red in their hair, they're partially Indian. So gosh, a lot of 'em slipped through, I don't know what (ancestry) they were, but they wanted to get out of classroom, of course, so they said they're part Indian so they'd go into the cafeteria and make little crafts and things and have a great time. But you know, it gets rather complicated. I've always felt, and I read this in a London paper, they felt the same way, some teachers that were (in England said,) "If they're going to do these things, they better do 'em after school. There's enough interruptions in the (school) day, because the boys go out in sixth grade for patrol duty, and we have cafeteria helpers and they're all going (out of the class), it's hard for a teacher to teach. And then they wanted me teaching "health for the boys and girls as they grew," because I was an "ex-nurse," (and) had a nursing background. I really think these things could be done after school.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Which brings up kind of a good segue, because when you were growing up, after school, a lot of Japanese American students had to attend Japanese school.

SA: That's right.

TI: Was that something that you also had to do?

SA: Well, I didn't have to go because Ms. Mahon told my mother that she thought that I should devote my time to going to an English school and forget the Japanese (and) let me rest. (Up to the third grade, I had upper respiratory problems). And so I never went back.

TI: Oh, so Ms. Mahon said, so it was enough just to go to regular school and then after school you should rest.

SA: For me, not the rest (of my family).

TI: But your older sister and brother...

SA: (Yes), they went all the way through, (first through high school).

TI: Now, how did that make you feel? I mean, how did you feel --

SA: Oh, I was gleeful. I didn't want to go.

TI: So what did you do after school, then?

SA: Oh, I played. We had roller skates, (...) that's one thing we had. We didn't have bicycles. Maybe some others did, but we had roller skates, so we went up and down the streets. In fact, we went in one hotel, this (friend of mine), Haruko and I, we were talking about that the other day. We used to roller skate in the (hotel) halls and her father would get so mad. But if it rained, and it rains a lot (in Seattle), but we had our fun.

TI: And so you never felt resentful that you didn't have to go to Japanese school?

SA: No, I never resented anything of that sort. There was always things to do.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So I'm going to jump to December 7, 1941, that Sunday when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Can you explain how you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and where you were?

SA: Well, you know, it was a Sunday, and I went to church, and with three of my other friends, four of us, we decided to go to a theater uptown. So after Sunday school was over we went to the uptown theater, and about, I don't know if we were even a quarter of the way through the movie when we were (suddenly) interrupted. The lights all went on, and then this voice came out (of a speaker), because in those days you couldn't flash anything on the screen. And (someone) said, "We are at war. Jap planes (are) bombing Pearl Harbor." Well, the minute they said, "Jap planes," you know, you realize you're an American, but you realize you're of Japanese ancestry. And with the lights on, everybody looked at us, and we were just frightened. We were actually panic-stricken. And so we raced out as fast as we could (...) and streaked for home. We just (parted our ways) and went home. And I wondered if my folks had heard, you know, and I realized as I got home, they certainly did. They were just ashen-faced, both of them, not saying a word.

TI: Yeah, go back to the theater, I want to get a little more description. So how many of, you and your friends, how many were there?

SA: There were four of us.

TI: Four of you, and then...

SA: It was Mariko (Nakata), Mitsuko (Shimomura) and (Tokuko Naito) and I.

TI: And describe how you knew, or you said you felt panic-stricken.

SA: Well, because they all were looking at us.

TI: And were there any comments, or just stares?

SA: No, they... well, I don't know if they said anything, I can't recall. But it was just the look of hatred in their (eyes). It's hostility, you could sense it. And we're, we didn't know what to do, so we just ran out.

TI: And literally just ran out or walked out really --

SA: Well, (we) got out as fast as we can and then we ran. [Laughs] I don't know, we're in our teens. But I realized as I came home that it's not going to be easy. And I'm sure that's when, you know, all this went out to the high schools, too, on how we should be treated. Because at home, the Caucasians are going to get (mean), well, the media had (already) turned on us.

TI: But tell me first about going home and talking with your parents.

SA: Well, there was nothing to talk about, much, because they weren't talking. But I could tell from (their faces and their) body language, they were as frightened as we were. And then to top it off, that night, the FBI came and took Mr. Tsujimoto, upstairs (in Rex Hotel) away. And (...) his wife relied heavily on my mother for support. And so we thought they rounded (some up that next night), that was the first sweep. How they did that so effectively, I don't know, but they must have known, because my dad was taken in the second sweep, and that was in (mid-February, 1942).

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Well, let's talk about first, that first sweep. So they take away Mr. Tsujimoto in the first sweep. What was the tenor of the community...

SA: We were all tense. That started us burning everything that connected us to Japan, so I don't know if you had heard of it before, but you know, we had, in our family home, we had this kind of a belly stove, it's not a fireplace, and we burned all of our pictures, photographs, the flags, everything that we could, that would (link us to Japan). And this is why you find a lot of people don't have photographs of themselves as children.

TI: And so you can remember that happening?

SA: Oh, yeah, I helped stoke the fire. We were throwing in books, you know, everything we could.

TI: Now, as a, as a sixteen-year-old, you're about sixteen right now, what did you think about this? Did you think that you guys were doing something wrong or you had to do this? Why, why would you think that you would have to burn...

SA: Well, we knew, well, the media was hard at it, we were all, all of a sudden called the "yellow peril." This is the Hearst newspapers, this is why we took the (Seattle) Times against (the) Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And this was also the time, I don't know if you know Roy Tsuboi, he was a (patrolboy), one of the patrolboys at a school, and I have an article, (but) he's still living, (so) you could talk to him. But he got picked up by this white fellow who later turned out to be, I think, an immigrant. But the article (that) I have (says) he was dragged, literally dragged out, and this man (pushed), had him pushed into the car. But when he got in, evidently, another person stopped him and I think he got out the other door. But he said when they took this man down here, he said, "What's a Jap doing at a time like this, patrolling?" He thought that (we) should all be taken off the street. It, so we were on guard, too. The impetus (of hate) you can't help, but it does hurt you.


TI: Okay, so let's get going again. So we just talked about that first wave, FBI came by, picked up --

SA: Picked up the leaders.

TI: Yeah, picked up the leaders.

SA: Civic leaders.

TI: Did, during that first wave, was there, in your family, thinking that your father might get picked up?

SA: Oh, yes, we did.

TI: And why do you think your father might have, might be targeted?

SA: Well, they were picking up everybody they thought was prominent in the community, but that almost included everyone: the Buddhist priests, the pastors, anyone of any influence they thought. So they would come pick up the merchants next, I should think. But we didn't sense that then, that he would be taken, because we thought, well, they (can't pick) up everybody they wanted in the Japanese American community, but it wasn't so. But what I saw, from my standpoint, was (with husbands taken like Mr. Tsujimoto, the) wife coming (downstairs daily to our store), and she wasn't as well-educated, (what was going to happen next?)

TI: You're talking about Mrs....

SA: Mrs. Tsujimoto. I think most of the immigrants had about a fourth grade education. Very few were really academically able to get very far, especially the women. And in a society where the men made all the decisions, you can see what happens here. They didn't even know where the money was, they didn't know anything. And the children, the average age was about sixteen, seventeen, just maybe eighteen. So who was going to take over? No one really could. It was a hard time for everybody. And then the ones taken had their funds frozen, so then there's no money (reserve).

TI: So it made it really hard for those families.

SA: It was hard. The women came through, I guess, but evacuation was a good thing in that respect, (the women became decision-makers, and more independent).

TI: So during this time period when you were thinking possibly your father might be picked up by the FBI, and you would see this hardship, did your father ever talk with, with you or your brother or your older sister or your mother about what might happen if they took him away?

SA: No, but this is a funny thing. I didn't know this 'til much later, but when my father was picked up, I said to my sister, "I don't remember going down there (to the immigration building where they took him in)," and she says, "No, you were too young," but she was twenty-one and she went down. My mother did not, somebody had to run the store. So anyway, (my older sister) went down, and I said, "What did you talk to Dad about?" And she said, "He only said a few words," because there's someone there, standing there listening, too. And what he told her to do was to get the money, and she said, "Where?" and he had hidden nine hundred dollars in between the door and something, she said. But that was the only message. 'Cause I said, "Didn't you take him some underclothes?" 'cause I keep hearing everybody saying that they had to take fresh clothing and changes for the men down there. But she said, "No, he didn't ask for anything," he just told her to get the money, (from where he had hidden it).

TI: And so your sister went down to the immigration building --

SA: Yes, she did.

TI: --- where he was being held, and he told her to...

SA: Yeah, that was the only thing he told her.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: But go back and describe how your father was picked up and the sequence of events that led up to your father's pick up.

SA: Well, you know that E.O. 9066 came in February (1942), mid-February. Father was picked up February the 20th. You know, from then on, you watched the dates and it really goes pretty quickly. But the first warning we had was when Mr. Mukai, (who had the Atlas Theatre), came running over, and he had to get back (but) he said the FBI were coming through (his front entrance, so) he went out the back door (to warn my dad).

TI: And so they were coming after him?

SA: Yes. He knew that they were coming because the person (picked up) ahead of him had told him (he was next). What the FBI had was (a photo of the group), and the JACL people got blamed for this because they were cooperating (with the FBI). Someone had given them this picture of the Hinomarukai (gathering), which is the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Japan, Veterans of the Japanese (Army) -- and (the FBI were) rounding up everybody in the picture, because they had (served in the Japanese army). Of course, I think that year my father might have been the (head) which made it worse for him. And consequently, he was moved every two months, which was unusual, throughout the two years he spent. I mean, the letters kept coming in, he was at (Fort) Missoula and then he was at Camp Livingston, Louisiana, he was at Lordsburg, New Mexico, he was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he went to Kooskia, Idaho. I said, "Why are they moving him?" To this day, the only thing I can think of, they thought he was dangerous. Everybody else went to Lordsburg and stayed there, went to Crystal City, they stayed there. Not my dad, he was getting (transferred) all over the place.

TI: That's interesting. I've never heard anyone get moved that much.

SA: Me, too. I'm just really astounded. But that's the only reason I could think of.

TI: Okay, but let's go back again and so Mr. Mukai comes running in and says...

SA: My dad wasn't home, he was out purchasing things (for the store).

TI: Okay, and so who was at home when...

SA: My mother.

TI: And what was the reaction of your mother at this point?

SA: Well, I guess she was wondering what to do with the FBI if they came because my dad wasn't there. Well, he would be coming home, though, she knew that. And (the FBI agents) stayed 'til he came home. My sister and I were sitting talking about this.

TI: Well, what happened to Mr. Mukai? I mean, 'cause he kind of...

SA: Oh, he got taken the minute (he returned, since) they were waiting for him, too.

TI: Oh, so he just went back and then...

SA: Oh, he went back and got picked up.

TI: So he just, he just came by to warn...

SA: He wanted to tell us that, you know, a little warning that (Dad's) next. And I don't know who my dad was supposed to tell. (...)

TI: So it was almost like they knew the sequence of who was coming next.

SA: Yeah, because (of that photo and) we're close by. And the others had already been taken, the ones they knew.

TI: So while the FBI was at your house, what did they do?

SA: Well, they went right through looking for the contraband (items), which they considered (dangerous, like) any shortwave radios, any communication devices, the cameras, the projectors and things of that nature. And, of course, any weapons, of course, they were looking for that. Or anything that would connect them to spying or espionage.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Which reminds me, earlier you mentioned how your older sister was interested in chemistry and that you had converted one room...

SA: Well, they found that out, we were at the store when they came, and they consequently moved up to (our) house. And that really got my father in trouble, too, I think. Because we had burned everything, which is all right, but my brother had a shortwave radio, and we did have a movie projector, an 8 mm they had bought. We were doing quite well, so we had the projector. (But one thing they did not get was a) Japanese sword I had stashed in the garden and I never went after it (after the war). I'm really sorry I didn't, because (when I returned after the war) the freeway went over it, so it's buried in concrete. (...) Anyway, but they came to the "chem. lab," and they wondered why we had chemicals. So my sister said that was her chem. lab, (my parents) had (furnished it to) encourage her, you know, to let her do her homework (in chemistry at home), though she had moved out to the university area, because she's closer (to the university), and they wanted her to have time to study. But we had the beakers, (...) the sink, we had some (chemicals and) ingredients. So the FBI asked her if she knew how to make a bomb, 'cause there was some nitro glycerin or something. She said she did, and across the street from us, unfortunately, gearing up for the defense was the Western Gear Works, and they kept saying that she could make (a bomb) and throw it over there. I thought, "How ridiculous, she hasn't got a throwing arm anyway (and the distance)," we were the second house back, so you can imagine. But you know, there were ridiculous statements at that time anyway.

TI: And who was, who were making those statements?

SA: FBI agents.

TI: Okay, so they would say --

SA: There were two or three of them then.

TI: So they would write in the reports that she could make bombs, (and we're) across the street from the Western Gear company...

SA: Well, the curfew went in after that, too, but still, they, I think... some people say they trashed (their houses), but I must say, they were very nice (to us). They didn't go around trashing (our) place.

TI: And it was because, again, your sister was a chemistry student and she just had her own lab there. But she had, you said, nitro glycerin? That'd be uncommon.

SA: I thought, well, the ingredients that she could make a bomb is what they said.

TI: I see, okay.

SA: Now, I don't know the ingredients, but I mean, there was powder and stuff. I don't know what they do in chemistry. I'm not (knowledgeable) that way. She's academically very able, (so I guess she could).

MA: Was she ever questioned further by the FBI or only at the house?

SA: They weren't after us, but they had just made that as an offside remark, I think. But I don't know if they wrote it, but they thought it unusual, and it is unusual for that era. And I thought my parents were very forward-thinking to let her do it. It was her bedroom they converted.

TI: And during this time, was your father there also as they were going through the chemistry lab?

SA: Oh, yeah, they had him, all right.

TI: Okay. And so they were questioning him also in terms of why the chemistry lab and all that.

SA: Well, actually, I think more questioning my sister on that because (she spoke) English -- my father wasn't saying very much. But the amazing part was, when they turned to take him away, he had a suitcase already packed, and he had new underthings in (his bedroom). I think that's probably why he didn't ask my sister (when she went to see him). But whether they let him keep it is another story. But he was ready, and I think he did that from the first sweep, I think he was waiting. He never said anything, but I thought it was quite remarkable that (my father) was prepared.

TI: So I'm guessing, because of how prepared he was, he probably had conversations with your mother in terms of how...

SA: Well, I think he looked at what was happening, don't you think? I don't know what he was going through. He hardly spoke very much.

TI: And so they took him down to the immigration building, and so at this point, how was your mother reacting?

SA: Well, she had a lot of people coming to her for counseling because she could read and write. And they thought she was very able. So I think that occupied (her, and) then being in the church, too.

TI: Well, it's interesting, so that's, even though her husband had just been taken away, people were still coming to her for help.

SA: Well, they want to know how to pay bills and how to do things.

TI: So these were the wives of other men who had been taken away.

SA: (The) people in the neighborhood. So it was good.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: What happened to the business during this time period?

SA: Oh, we had to (keep it open and going), well, you know, the time when you look at it, E.O. 9066 went in mid-February. They set up (some civilian restrictions) to enforce it, (...) to enforce the other to make sure the military had the upper hand. So, and it was shortly about a week after that, March 23rd, I think the other (order) came out about a week prior. And Bainbridge Island was the first one hit, they only really had a week. I thought they had two weeks, but according to the dates, one was March the 23rd and they were out by March the 30th, supposed to be, so they really had it rough. Because I remember in the paper even, they were strawberry farmers, for the most part, and they said the strawberry lines formed an arrow pointing to Boeing field or Bremerton, it was ridiculous accusations. But that was how it was in the media and the times, so the prejudice, well, it just angered people more, I think. We were more defensive.

TI: So during this time you're hearing about Bainbridge Island, so what are you and your family doing?

SA: Well, I'll tell you, a funny thing happened to me at Broadway. I got pulled out of class to join eighteen girls, there were eighteen of us, and we were put in this car mechanics, auto mechanics class. I didn't even have a, in fact, none of us had a car, only one. I think Rosemary Thorstenson had one. Anyway, and we were supposed to help man (the station), I guess, because of the male shortages, the gasoline stations. So I still have that book, that, my notebook for that class, auto mechanics. We're taught to lubricate a car and pack and unpack a tire. And it's, and I just remember drawing pictures of the camshaft, and I didn't even know what they were, but I'm just following what they're saying. I got a "B" in the course, but I never got a chance to operate any (or) help in any (gasoline) stations. But I thought it was kind of interesting, I don't know why I got picked, but I was with all Caucasians. I think I was the only Asian in the group.

TI: Oh, that's interesting, so they...

SA: Yeah, I don't know why.

TI: One, that they would have this class, I mean, getting ready for the time when there would be a shortage of men, so they had to train women to do these things.

SA: We were supposed to pump the gas.

TI: But that they would choose you also...

SA: I don't know why.

TI: ...with, it was probably under this cloud that, what's going to happen to the Japanese Americans.

SA: I don't know if they even thought that far.

TI: So this must have been before the executive order had come out? This must have been more in, like, in January or early February.

SA: I don't know, if I have a date on my book, I could bring it in.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So anything else unusual happen at Broadway during this time period before you --

SA: No, we had some wonderful active people, now in girls sports, the Takahashi girls were in there. We had John Okamoto and them in basketball, Shig Murao, they were outstanding. And in Garfield we had the Yanagimachi boys in football, big, burly guys. Gee, we were finally assimilating to some extent, I thought. We had a debater, couple of debaters that were outstanding at Broadway. So all that got dashed, of course, and I think we all started crawling into our little defensive shells. Being more wary and almost paranoid, because we didn't know what people were really thinking. It was pretty subtle, this racism.

TI: Did you ever have conversations with non-Japanese Americans at school during this time about these issues?

SA: No, very little. I think they didn't know what to say to us, either. It went both ways.

TI: How about Japanese American friends, did you ever talk about how you felt and how they felt during this time?

SA: It's a curious thing, I don't remember speaking to anybody. I think we were all on edge, but we, none of us knew. I mean, what could we say?

TI: And teachers' reactions, did they ever say anything about the situation?

SA: No. We went on as usual, but everybody's on guard. You can sense that.

TI: So it's so interesting, because so much unsaid during this time when all this uncertainty was going on.

SA: It's the fact that no one knew anything. [Laughs] No one knew what the future held. 'Cause I know I wrote in a book, and I had written something about the fact that maybe that's, you know, it's like a river flowing -- me and my rivers -- that I didn't know where it led to, but we're on a journey.

TI: So was this like a journal that you kept?

SA: No, I just used to write little bits, and then after the war, Bud Fukei ran the North American Post, and I used to put in little poems now and then. The only money I ever got was from the Post-Intelligencer, I think it was. I had written (a poem), and I'm kind of amazed, but I likened this whole situation on race prejudice to the fact that, you know, we're all in this fog, and maybe out will come the sun of enlightenment, and lift it. I don't know. Anyhow, I got five dollars for it, that's all I remember. And they spelled my name wrong, (as "Shar Tenagi").

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: Let's go back to the business. So during this time period, did operations change?

SA: Oh, yes, because now it was like a garage sale.

TI: So at this point you knew at some point Seattle would be removed?

SA: We had the evacuation orders out already.

TI: Okay, for Seattle, and then so tell me about time period, 'cause here you have this --

SA: Well, when we found out Bainbridge Island only had a week, everybody got desperate, you know, and there was a run on suitcases, 'cause the orders were what you can carry. Now, there were some smart people, they had duffel bags. I don't know where they got them, but for us, it was trying to sell everything off the shelves. We were fortunate to have this store. We could eat (and) now, the Chinese came pouring in.

TI: Because you had this evacuation sale?

SA: Oh, yeah, and they knew they can get anything for a song, you know. It was a hard time. We only salvaged, I think it was the refrigerator -- no, we didn't even get that. We salvaged the cash register and the scale, and I think the Ikedas put it up in their, wherever they stored their things, and we got it after the war. But we didn't have a store then. But on the other hand, other than that, we were fooled again by the people we were renting from, and (our owner) came down, and I didn't ever get his name, which I'm sorry I didn't, because I never could track him down. But he said, "Just leave everything," the ice, what we called the ice chest and all these things, and we had all these store equipment. And he said, "Leave it all and I will take care of it and I will reimburse you," he said. But we never heard from him. The same thing happened at the house we were renting. They told us to leave all that furniture and you know, the furniture was really good. And he said he would take care of it, we never heard from him again. So it was a complete and total loss for us. I think that's what got my father down. He came back very dispirited. In fact, when I finished and got my R.N. and came back, he quit working the day I walked in. He never worked after that, and he lived 'til he was ninety-seven. Both my parents did. But my mother was doing housework, which I really felt sorry for her, 'cause that was even harder for her.

TI: During the evacuation sale, as you were selling things in the store, how much, what percentage off did things go for?

SA: Well, everything went, like, for whatever they would give us, and we couldn't be choosers at this, they gave us ten cents for something that's a dollar. We were grateful, at least the little bits would amount to something. But we took what money we could and, well, the other thing that my father had told my sister was to finish her college. She had a year to go, and maybe that's why he told her where the money was, I don't know. But anyway, it saved us. We gave her that and then what we could get, and we sent her away. She went to Eastern Washington. And it was during the curfew hours and I really felt sorry for her because she was scared, too. And we entrusted her with this money for tuition, and she had to get a job, of course, for a place to stay, and we figured maybe they had a dorm there. But she was accepted, they did transfer the college credits, so she finished at Washington State.

TI: Do you know if she got any help from the University of Washington to help transfer her?

SA: Well, at least they sent the transcript. Because I asked her, "How did you get into Washington State?" Because (the colleges) of Idaho (...) didn't want 'em. They weren't accepting, so she was lucky, I think, in a way.

TI: And she must have gotten special travel orders, too, because I think during this time period, not only was there a curfew, but there was a restriction in terms of how far...

SA: Well, they were gonna restrict, I think about a week after she went, I think they cut it all out. That was the deadline, March the 29th.

TI: Okay, so there's that short time period when she could actually travel.

SA: Yeah, she had to. So we couldn't take her down, she went to the station before eight, but then I think she said the train didn't come by 'til ten or something, and she was scared to be there alone, but we couldn't go, so as it was we were at the store and we had to wait for the Chinese to come pick us up and take us home.

TI: Before we get to that story, was there any talk about possibly sending your brother or you or anyone else with your sister to, during this time period?

SA: No, because we needed my brother to help us pack, so that was out of the question, it just had to be her. And there wasn't enough money anyway. And she was the most capable, we figured, well, if one of us made it out, (she'd) have a chance.

TI: Okay, so she leaves to go to...

SA: Washington State College.

TI: Washington State.

SA: And she finished there. And you know, she said that she had to run the lab after she finished, because all the boys were at war, which is true, the college... so there was no one to run the lab. So the professors asked her to do it, so she ran the chem. lab.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

TI: So back in Seattle, the store, there's a curfew, and the store would actually stay open right, I think, up to the curfew.

SA: To ten.

TI: To ten, so how would you get home?

SA: Well, that's it, the King Fir people, the cafe, one of our cafes that we used to supply, they had stayed friendly with us, but they didn't buy from us, but they were friends with us. And so they sent their car down, and it's marked "I am Chinese," I mean, they got a "Chinese" sticker on it, they got "Chinese" buttons on. You've probably heard that.

TI: And so they sent their car down...

SA: We'd sit in the back, yeah, we'd sit in the back and they'd drive us the block up, block and a half.

TI: And so it was even difficult to walk just a block and a half because there'd be --

SA: Well, yeah, if you get caught, if we had a hostile Chinese, they'd call in and we'd get picked up.

TI: So why did the police let you guys stay open 'til ten? I mean, I would think that if the curfew's eight...

SA: We're not on the streets.

TI: So as long as you stayed...

SA: You gotta be off the streets.

TI: Off the streets.

SA: Ten o'clock to eight... is it six? Is it six a.m. to eight p.m., that's how it... off the streets.

TI: So King Fir, were they, they were taking a risk to help you like this, to actually send their car to pick up...

SA: Well, we just figured, well, yeah, but nothing happened, we were lucky. But we weren't there that long, you know, by then, we were getting evacuated. And then the only Chinese that came to Puyallup was the one that was on the corner, and it was Mamie Chin, and she brought me a blouse, a checkered blouse. That was the only visitor I had. No Caucasians because -- it's partly our fault, too, because we stayed segregated in that little bit of the Japanese Nihonmachi. And races weren't mixing.

TI: Okay, before we leave Seattle, any other memories or stories during this time period?

SA: Well, my brother sold the car, which was fortunate, and that brought in quite a bit. Enough for us to get our suitcases, so we all got new suitcases. And then we had to buy -- no one knew what to pack at that time. So then it was what we could pack. But I felt sorry for him, he had to let go of his car.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.