Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sharon Tanagi Aburano Interview II
Narrator: Sharon Tanagi Aburano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Megan Asaka (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 3, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-asharon-02

<Begin Segment 1>

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

TI: Today is Thursday, April 3rd, and so this is, we're starting now the third hour of the interview, Sharon. And the first two hours, we spent time talking about your family prewar Seattle, which was just fascinating. And where we left it was right at the moment when you had packed up everything and were ready to go to Puyallup. And so I thought we'd pick up there, and why don't you talk about going from Seattle to Puyallup and what that was like.

SA: Okay. When we started... let's see, if I backtrack, by the time we were evacuating, my father had been taken and my sister was at Washington State College, and so it was my brother, (...) mother and I. The funds were frozen, of course, (and) we sold everything that we could off the shelves, and that gave us sufficient cash. The money that my father had hidden went to my sister because she would have to find lodging (and pay the tuition at WSU). So we started off packing, and as I said, we bought (six black) suitcases, (two each as the unspoken rule, "what you can carry"). Ms. Mahon (...) our principal at Bailey Gatzert school, the dear soul (came) down to where we boarded the bus, I think it was (at Eighth Avenue and) Lane Street, and she was kissing (and hugging) all of us goodbye, and she had tears running (down her cheeks). And I thought that was wonderful of her to be there.

TI: Well, that's interesting because, I mean, you had probably, you were in high school, so this was years after you were at Bailey Gatzert.

SA: But she was there for (our) people, for (us), her children.

TI: Wow. And what did, did you guys talk about that, the other students or former students of Ms. Mahon?

SA: (...) It was comforting to know we had a friend. See, this was our problem, I think, that all of us didn't have Caucasian friends. If we did, we would have been, I think, been able to defend ourselves a bit better. But because we stayed within our confines, we never visited a Caucasian (home). I know Sumi Suguro told me, in Bellevue where they (lived prewar), that one of her sisters got invited to a party by one of her classmates, unknown to the mother. And so her mother (and) the whole family (were) excited, and they put her in her prettiest dress, I don't know if they had bought anything (special). And they waited outside for the car to come to pick her up. And when she went, they all were envious that she went. Well, evidently, she got to the party and the mother was astounded to find an Asian (classmate) bringing a gift, that was another thing, they didn't know what to bring. And so she was telling us this, and then when she came -- and of course because she was there, they couldn't send her back. At first she thought they were going to take the gift and she would have to go back. But they did, evidently have her come in. So when she came home, they were all excited, they were wondering. So they waited for her to come and they asked her what happened and everything. But the fact that they were envious that someone would be invited to a Caucasian home, I thought that was pretty good.

TI: And you mentioned, in terms of when the mother saw Sumi, she was surprised?

SA: Sumi's sister, yes.

TI: Or Sumi's sister, she was surprised to see her?

SA: Yes.

TI: Because she didn't realize that an Asian...

SA: The class was invited, and (she) was an Asian (classmate). That's what Sumi said, you could talk to her, she says it very well. Sumi Akizuki is (her) married name. And so I thought, well, probably if you lived in a Caucasian area, (you might mix in), but our only contact with a Caucasian was that Russell Meat Market next door. (Mr. Russell) was very nice, but we were never invited (to his home).

<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 go back to Ms. Mahon. So what, how was she during this sort of send-off? I mean, how would you describe...

SA: Well, she was quite emotional. It was her (students). I mean, as I said, Bailey Gatzert bordered Chinatown, so we were about ninety, ninety-eight percent (Asians, Chinese, Japanese, etcetera). I think I saw a picture at Wing Luke, somebody snapped after we were gone, and you could see the empty classrooms with one or two Caucasians left. So she really was like a social worker as I said, she was trying to indoctrinate us into being a "good American (citizen)" and what it meant, the democratic principles (explained). It was a great thing to have someone like that in the principalship at (that) time. And Tony Allisino took over after the war, and he also was a staunch, (good) Catholic, and he also supported us, which was wonderful for us.

TI: And you said that it was sort of ironic when you think about Ms. Mahon and how she talked about democratic ideals. Earlier you mentioned that she had this sort of club, in fact, about...

SA: The "Good American Citizens Club."

TI: ...good American citizenship, and then to watch, as you say, kind of her, her students being, American citizens being taken away, not because they did something wrong, but because of their race. It was so un-American, and for her to see that must have been very ironic.

SA: I think so. And you know, as I said, we marched into the (Bailey Gatzert) assemblies with the Sousa marches, you know, it's just amazing.

TI: I didn't hear about this. So they used...

SA: (Yes), we had to stand, if you ask anybody our age -- Raymond Chin's a good one (to ask), he's in Chinatown, and (...) he and Willie Chin, we were all talking about it (a few months back).

TI: Oh, I see, assembly at Bailey Gatzert.

SA: Yeah, as we come into the assembly or the cafeteria room, (...) we have to stand there at (the entry, one) room at a time, and we'd be stamping, [hums], (marking time to the beat). But it really brought in all those songs which (sound) patriotic, because (Sousa's music was used as marching music in) the army. So it was interesting, we all marched in step, then we'd march into our slots, you know, that we had, (in) the assembly (room).

TI: So this is a little bit of a tangent, but for the Japanese Americans who went to Bailey Gatzert, do you think this impacted them differently in terms of, perhaps, being a little more focused on democratic principles...

SA: Oh, yes.

TI: ...and maybe patriotic songs and things like that?

SA: I think so. I mean, it really made us Americans, because they laid the foundation for us.

TI: But more so than maybe the people from different neighborhoods that didn't go to Bailey Gatzert? Do you think Bailey Gatzert...

SA: I don't know if this was done in other schools, but (it was done at Bailey Gatzert). Social-wise, (Ms. Mahon) knew that the Japanese-speaking parents weren't coming to PTA, that was (...) sure. So she realized again, when the girls reached (puberty/pre-adolescent) age, (since Bailey Gatzert school) went up to eighth grade. (She had all the girls, fifth grade group) go down to the PE (gymnasium) and that time focused on (the health issues). The PE teacher, and I don't know who else, came down and told us all about what we should do and what we should expect because she knew (our mothers) wouldn't speak to us about these things.

TI: That's really interesting.

SA: (She was) an amazing (person). She filled a need.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

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

TI: So, let's, let's go back to the trip to Puyallup now.

SA: Okay (...). Anyway, we boarded (and followed) the instructional sheets, as you know, that went up on the wall, on the telephone poles and on the sides of the houses, where we should meet and the time (...). So we went down, we walked there with our suitcases. Actually, I think some of them, the heavier (bags) were picked up by truck, I think. Because we certainly didn't board with (them) in our hands, so it could be they were picked up prior to that (...). By then we were registered and we had our (family) numbers, and they were (pinned) on us like (...) little children. Some (children wore tags) with the family number because we (could lose the youngest ones). And then what happened, actually, as (I) watched my mother through all this time, and it's really to her credit, she (...) was quite stoic throughout this whole (time).

And when we got to Puyallup, (...) we were vaccinated (and had) our typhoid shots. (I was) impressed (that) there were two Caucasian (doctors in charge). And because we were under the army (command), as you know, it was (doctors from) the United States Public Health Department. One Caucasian from Washington (and) one from Tacoma. The one from Seattle was Dr. Thorburn McGowan, and he was a young doctor. And to my amazement, (after the war ended and) I returned (and saw him, Dr. McGowan) never mentioned it, and I never even knew (he was the camp doctor) 'til years later. (...) He knew all about the evacuation, (and) he never mentioned it. (When I) came back after the war, and (...) walked up to the United States Public Health Hospital, which was the Marine Hospital. (I was) assigned (...) to surgery, and I thought, my goodness. I didn't have any specialty, (but) I reported up there, and (Dr. McGowan) was the chief surgeon. He never mentioned (the evacuation), but he was unusually kind to me, (and) I wondered why. Because when my father had an operation (at Providence Hospital) and he didn't wake up from the anesthesia, they called from Providence (Hospital's OR), Dr. McGowan said, "I'm going with you." And I said, "They may not allow you to go into surgery." And he said nonetheless, he's coming with me. And so we went, and he actually told them to give my father picrotoxin (a stimulant drug), and you know, he pulled the (intubation) tube out (to awaken him). (He saved my dad).

TI: So this was an interesting connection. So this was a surgeon that you worked with after the war.

SA: Yes.

TI: When you were a nurse you worked with him, and you found out later that he was the same doctor --

SA: Found out much later, it was...

TI: -- who was overseeing the vaccinations at Puyallup.

SA: Isn't that an amazing thing? And I didn't know that 'til after he retired and I was looking at (...) the Puyallup Assembly Center letter, and there it was, Dr. Thorburn McGowan, he was (the same) public health (doctor who oversaw the initial vaccinations at "Camp Harmony.")

TI: And he never talked about it?

SA: He never once mentioned it, but he always had me scrub with him, and he's the chief surgeon, you know. And I was amazed, 'cause I was new, and yet, for every visiting consultant or anything, he'd always say, "Step up here, little lady," 'cause I'm too short for the (surgical table), and they always had to kick in a stool for me to stand on. And I always had him, and he always looked for me. And I thought, "How strange."

TI: That's an interesting story.

<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 go back, so you're just finishing the vaccinations, and then...

SA: Yes, and then they told us to -- this was the only place that this ever happened -- to pick up our bags and fill it with straw for the mattress, and that's the first time I saw my mother's tears. To be reduced to that, I think, was just too much for her to bear or something. But she had never broken down, and I was just amazed. But it is demeaning to have to fill up your (bed mattress with straw). Up to this time, I thought, you know, the Japanese are full of pride and dignity, but this was too much (for her) to bear.

TI: So how did that feel for you? You're what, about sixteen years old?

SA: I was fifteen going on sixteen, because I turned sixteen in October and we were in May that year.

TI: And then to see your, your mother sort of break down for the first time...

SA: Yeah, I was (shocked), because as I said, on December 7th, when my father and mother heard about Pearl Harbor, they were ashen-faced but not a word came out of 'em about anything. But like I said, that's a Japanese virtue. They don't want to talk about problems or illness of any type, and they don't talk about finances, (etcetera, it's taboo).

TI: How about your brother, did he have a reaction, was he there also when this was happening?

SA: I think so, but you know, I don't think he noticed the details. [Laughs] (Boys) don't generally, you know, (they're) worrying about other things, and he's three years older, so (he was more) interested about who's coming into the camp. [Laughs]

TI: So you stuffed your bags, I mean, your mattresses.

SA: Yes, we all had to. It was terrible.

TI: And then what happened after that?

SA: And then we were assigned to our barracks, and of course, as you know, I'm sure you've heard, but we had (the long barrack) open-ended on the top (of the dividing side walls). It was kind of a slanted structure, and I think Norio Mitsuoka described it well in his Odyssey book. So we were in this one long barracks (that) had the walls going up to maybe five feet or six feet, but you can hear the sounds, (because the walls didn't reach the ceiling), from one end to the other. And so you can hear babies crying, and I used to wonder about the newlyweds (with no privacy), this must have been a terrible thing. Because a lot, as I said, got married on March 29th, to avoid being separated, and here it was May. But what we did (...) if we knew the person next door (was take) a plank off so we could walk right into their place. We had one door to each opening (from the outside) we were really (crowded inside), much more than (later at) Minidoka, because in Minidoka we were enclosed into (one) room, (not a compartmentalized unit).

TI: I'm curious, so you made an entranceway to the next space.

SA: Oh, yes, we could (do) that.

TI: So why did you, you knew them, but why would you do that?

SA: Well, (...) you can visit back and forth without going outside, the weather permitting. But there we had less privacy, really, and less community places we could play, (so we went next door). It was kind of a hardship for everyone.

TI: And so for those first few days, what kind of things did you do?

SA: Well, I think some of us were walking around trying to find our friends, and we were divided, as you know, at Puyallup, because we had Area A, B, C and D. (...) A and D, I think, was where most of the Seattleites went, but we were in the (smaller) parking lot areas, which (were) B and C, they were the smallest. C was the smallest, we were in Area B, so we're with (some Seattle people). But mainly, we were with the Fife, White River Valley people, which (took in) Sumner, Fife, Orting, Milton, (etcetera), and so (did) Area C. So the places we could play (were) very narrow in between the barracks. The ones that had the Ferris wheel (...) was Area D, and that's where the main (offices were). (The) main post office, the makeshift hospital and a lot of the (administrative offices were) there.

The only time I ever got to go (out) was when I fell ill after we (were in Area B, and I had acute) bronchitis of some sort. I think (it was) the dust, (etcetera), and all that. And so I was taken over to Area D. This (incident was interesting) because I went into (nursing) medicine later. (So) when I look back, (I see it with a different understanding). This place that they put us, and Suma Yagi was also there, she also was having asthmatic problems. But we had one girl having mental problems, (a) young (teenager). She was between us and Suma and I talked about this later and we said we were both afraid of her because she was making all these sounds. And here Suma was worse off than I was. But there were knotholes in these walls, and I thought, for us to be breathing in that (dusty air), when you think about it, we were hardly in a suitable place for what we had been diagnosed with. But anyway, it was amazing we got well. And then they had to walk me back across (under guard as), you know, (to Area B from D).

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

<Begin Segment 5>

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

TI: Describe the health care sort of facilities and the personnel at Puyallup.

SA: Well, Puyallup (had) a makeshift (hospital). We had about four doctors (on a 24 hour cell), Japanese Americans (and the) Japanese Issei (and Nisei) doctors. Drs. Suzuki, (Koike), Akamatsu (and Shigaya). And then we had the two American doctors, (Dr.) Thorburn McGowan (from the USPHS) and the other one was from Pierce County, (Dr. Magnusson). Anyway, but in camp, it was the Japanese doctors that took care of us. (One medical student, George Sawada), was so (thoughtful) because he carried me (outside on a sunny, hot, hot day) because it was summertime, to get some fresh air, and I thought that was so kind. He died (later) in the war, which was sad because he was going to become a medical doctor. I don't know how much time he had put in at the University (of Washington), but he wrote a tremendous (letter) to his dad when he was in the army, (which said he was looking forward to becoming a doctor, and optimistically looked to the future).

TI: I think I read that letter.

SA: It was really touching. He (was) a wonderful (fellow) and he was engaged to a beautiful girl, I don't know what happened to her either.

TI: So let's go back to the medical facility. So there were four...

SA: Yeah, (there were four doctors, and it was a) temporary (hospital barrack), as you know (...). So I think there was an IV going (on) Suma (who had a severe asthma attack. As) for the mental patient, they did have side rails (up), thank goodness, but we couldn't sleep because she was making all these (loud, horrible) noises. And we were afraid (she might climb over the bed rails), we didn't know what she would do (to us). (We) didn't get to (move) to the other units, though.

TI: And generally, what were people in the, sort of, facilities for? What were some of the illnesses?

SA: Well, I'm sure it would probably (...) be injuries (or infectious diseases). But I'm sure there were deliveries, 'cause there was a baby born (in Puyallup. May 18, "First baby born in camp to Mrs. Amelia Kita," in Puyallup news). So we would have OB, and I suppose we would have isolation (and) the usual. But I don't know how much surgery was being done. I know later, in Minidoka, (...) I saw my first autopsy there. And again, I saw deliveries. And I did see the one unit where we had some small surgicals (procedures like the) TURs. But you have to remember, this (was) 1942, and we didn't have (oral) penicillin (then, and the antibiotics were) brand new, (just in vials), in Rochester, (MN). But it wasn't available to (many) of us, we were (relying) heavily on sulfa (drugs). So I don't know as far as medicine how much they got, but there certainly wasn't very much. And I know that when they passed out (oral medicine in Minidoka), it was on trays. And if anything shifted, you know, we have the rooms (mixed up), I keep thinking it would have been a terrible thing to get somebody else's medication because it's sliding around on the trays (...). But we did have (medication RNs and) I'm sure there (were) some Caucasian nurses. (I saw two of them in the hospitals when I worked as a nurse's aide, later in 1943, prior to leaving for nursing school.)

TI: So how long were you in Puyallup, in those medical facilities?

SA: Oh, I wasn't there too long, I think maybe about two weeks until I was better (though not completely cured). I had my relatives, (...) my cousins in Area D (for visitors), and so that helped, but my mother couldn't come over and visit me (from Area B). Because she, only the patient can go. So they had taken me across the street with armed guard, of course, and that's the way I was returned, with an armed guard back to Area B, which I thought was interesting.

TI: So that seems a little harsh to not let your mother visit you for those two weeks.

SA: Yes, but then, you know, I was there for a stay (and there was no reason to stay for her), so there was no point in her coming out when you come down to it. But it was all right, I wasn't in any mood to have anybody sitting there, either. It was kind of tough (to be fifteen years old, not to be physically well, and with no immediate family around, though).

TI: So when you returned back to Area B, did you notice any changes in those two weeks?

SA: No, actually not. I mean, it was kind of, like I said, temporary, we just had the (mess hall, where the food was no better,) sewage was a problem there, (so the hospital stay in Area D was better).

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

<Begin Segment 6>

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

TI: So any other memories of Puyallup that you'd like to share?

SA: Well, there wasn't much, but I think we had to turn in all of, of course, all of our ration coupons, because it had to go to the army to get food for us. And we were supposed to be on the same rations as the army, but I think they fell far short of that. But I think it was just an adjustment thing, it was hard.

TI: So to make sure I understand when you say the ration cards, so every family was distributed a certain amount of ration cards...

SA: Before the (evacuation).

TI: Before the war. You would turn them into the army with the thinking that you would then get those rations to each family.

SA: Yes, but of course they can't, because it's mass produced food. At that point, they have to buy in quantity. But it's things like sugar and meat. So I didn't get the ration coupon back 'til, I think I had it, a small one left when I left. (I still keep it, as a souvenir of World War II).

TI: Now, I'm curious, you mentioned earlier, I was curious what families did with, you mentioned how when you sold your inventory, you were able to get some cash. Were families, because you probably didn't put these in banks, did families --

SA: We had to keep it with us.

TI: So families would just carry cash.

SA: I'm sure they must have, I don't know what others did, but of course, we didn't have that great an amount. But we needed it (for daily needs, like toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etcetera) because there's, I don't know if, I don't remember a canteen in Puyallup, but there might have been. But we did have one in Minidoka, and if you weren't working, like my mother wasn't, and I didn't work really -- I went out on apple picking as I said, (and) potato picking, and then finally I did work as a nurse's aide, and you'll have that document, too, when they assigned me. (I received) sixteen dollars (a month). But that's the only money and we had to go to the canteen to buy clothes and whatever else we needed. And because we were in the mud, a lot of us had to get boots or whatever, (we did not bring).

TI: So was the canteen kind of like a bank for people, they could actually keep money there safely?

SA: Well, I don't think we could keep money there.

TI: But you could buy things there.

SA: You could buy things. But you would have to --

TI: So I'm curious, first about, so if you have money, how did people sort of keep it safe in places like Puyallup?

SA: I have no idea what they did. But I think that for us, I think my mother might have kept it on herself.

TI: So like a money belt or something like that?

SA: We didn't have (any other way). But Japanese are (honest) people, and you don't (think) so much of theft. As far as I know, I don't think anybody stole from anybody. But we were tight on money. Of course, the wealthier families, I don't know how they did it, but I think some of them must have rented their places. And those that had children over twenty-one (years of age) actually owned (their) place, and they had turned it over (to friends or workers). Like on Bainbridge Island, I know, I think it's (the) Kitamoto family, they turned it over to a Filipino worker. And some, evidently as I've read, down in California, they had to turn it over to Caucasian friends. And of course, the money made was put into their banks, and so they could get an income from there. So some had money, quite a bit.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

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

TI: So let's move from Puyallup to Minidoka and talk about that.

SA: Okay. That was (...) by train. So the funny thing about it was, you couldn't put a lock on the toilet doors because you had to have entry, (and) we went into the trains along with soldiers. So (it was an ordeal), we were so crowded, only the very ill could get the bunks in the back, not bunks, but you know where you have rail cars with suites. So the rest of us (had to sit up) and these were older trains. They were always derailed for the military (because the military) went first. So (we) had all the shades drawn. I don't know the object of that, but I know a little child in one of (the seats) was quoted (as) saying he thought we were going to the moon because at night he could (see) the moon. And I thought, "That is so sad to hear." And like they thought, when we got to Minidoka, (the little children) wanted to get back to America and they thought they were in Japan because (everyone's) Japanese.

TI: That's what this little child felt.

SA: Yeah, this little child thought, said, "I want to go home, I want to go to America."

TI: So did people know where you were going?

SA: No one knew. This is it, I have to hand it to the Japanese for being so disciplined. I'm sure they were, internally (upset), especially the older Isseis, were worried and were anxious, (and) nobody knew (what) the future (held). Nobody knew where were going. And so it's an amazing thing that we traveled as well as we did (without quarrels). The guards were actually in the aisles sometimes. And you've got (...) the toilets jammed because there's too many people. It was a terrible thing for those who were not well, and I keep thinking about the women who were pregnant. I don't know how they handled it.

TI: And so generally, what was the mood during...

SA: Well, I think it was (depressively) heavy. We were all sitting with our parents at the beginning, but we were talking to our friends and yelling, so it was a lot of noise, a lot of confusion, and there was tension always because the soldiers were there. And I think the greatest thing was the lack of privacy and the fact that you knew that the toilets were jammed, and what are you going to do? And trying to step over people to get there, I think the immediate concerns were our biggest worries.

TI: And how long was that train ride?

SA: I thought it was at least (...) a couple of nights, but I could be wrong on the timing.

TI: So let's go to...

SA: But we're sitting up (all that time), you know.

<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's get to when you arrived in Idaho.

SA: Well, you know, I'm taking this from George Townsend's notes. He had wanted me to work with him on a book later, but as it (was), he suffered a stroke after I met him in Seattle, and so he left me his notes (...). And from that, he said he was the assistant project director in charge of (community services), activities and things. He wrote that he was a Quaker, and he was under (Dr. Milton S.) Eisenhower, (director of the WRA), who was the brother (...) of the general (Dwight Eisenhower). He said he was astounded to drive out (to Hunt, WRA Center), and I guess he had been down in California watching the other (WRA centers, the) Manzanar people. So he said he came out (to Minidoka and) this was the first time he saw us coming in by train and then by bus. But he was there when the buses were being (unloaded), and he said he just wept because he said, "What are we doing to these people?" I have his notes that maybe I can bring in, but he said it just tore at him, 'cause he knew this was wrong. But he said we looked confused and bewildered, and evidently the train steps were high and so some (soldiers and WRA officials) were out there in their cars, (they lifted) us down to the ground. And he is right because I remember that part. It was a far drop. And so with women and children, he said that it just (emotionally) tore him down (...). Frances Haglund wrote -- and she was a teacher in Minidoka, I kept up with her (...) when I went to Minnesota. I also visited her home in (Cannon Falls, Minnesota), en route to my rural nursing place. (...) She said (again) it was so wrong of us to have been put in camp. (Talking with her), I realized that these teachers (in Minidoka) were teaching off the cuff the first few days. They were teaching (with no lesson plans) because no one was ready. There (were) no blackboards, (...) no textbooks, (...) nothing. The major (portion) of the teachers had been recruited -- according to Townsend's notes -- from the Twin Falls, Idaho, STA group, this is the State Teachers Association. That's where we got our principal, and that's where we got the one who was (our) superintendent of the schools (Mr. Richard Pomeroy), which was interesting to me. And that was under George Townsend.

TI: So let's go back to George Townsend. Why do you think George Townsend took this job?

SA: Well, he said he wasn't prepared for it, but (...) I think he had sociology in (his) background. Plus the fact, I think (his) being a Quaker and (devoid of racial prejudice and) having worked with groups of people, I think that (...) he was the right person for that job, because his heart was with us. And so was (the project director, Harry Stafford, and) Eisenhower. They realized from the beginning that this was wrong, and they said they would do all they could (for us). (George Townsend had) Abe Hagiwara working under him, and we, Irene, (my girl friend) and I, were under Abe. And because he was coming into the (community) activities, (George Townsend was) the one that sent out the (orders for the) trucks and things to pick up (needed supplies), along with Reverend Andrews. He's the one who got the community church members together, different churches, to agree to let (the WRA) into the churches to pick up the choir gowns, (music sheets), and the hundreds of chairs that we were labeling, and the things we needed, (folding chairs), seventeen pianos (and books were) brought in (from the local Seattle Japanese churches).

TI: So let me see if I can summarize some of this. So Abe Hagiwara worked for George Townsend...

SA: Yes, he was one of the truck drivers.

TI: And this was while you were working with a community sort of...

SA: (Mr. George Townsend) was head of community activities, (Abe Hagiwara worked) under him because he was (one of the truck drivers).

TI: And so it was through this connection that he was able to work with the churches within the camps to get things like chairs and things for the community activities.

SA: Well, he was the only one able, actually, to order the transportation (needed) to go into Seattle and pick up all these things from the different churches.

TI: Oh, I see.

SA: 'Cause he had the agreement from (the) Methodist (church pastor), 'cause he had already met with them, and they agreed to let them have (whatever he needed, he received it), otherwise, we'd have nothing in our barracks. (In the) one barrack, we had occasionally a few movies come in (and) we tried to get (them) on a regular basis. That's the little (red) card I (have for entry into the "Wednesday movie time").

TI: I see. So let me make sure I understand this. So was this Abe Hagiwara or George Townsend that...

SA: George Townsend headed all the truck and transportation, and Abe was one of the (truck drivers) under him. But he was a great one because he (...) was from Alaska, and (...) a very uplifting, positive fellow. And as I said, (Abe's) the one (who also) directed people under him, which was us, and we were just numbering the chairs and where it came from, so we could return 'em. The same went for seventeen (pianos). I think at that time we had thirty-four to thirty-eight (blocks of barracks to supply, so a lot) had to be shipped (and assembled. "Two boxcar loads," according to Mr. Townsend's notes).

TI: And these were all coming from, primarily, the church?

SA: From the churches, (in the local Seattle areas).

TI: This is the first time I've heard this, this is interesting. So they actually sent trucks to Seattle.

SA: Oh, they had to (move and pick them up) because these are too heavy, and you know, how are we going to get them? (But they moved them according to Mr. Townsend in two boxcar loads to Minidoka. From his notes, I can't say for sure if it was our WRA trucks that moved it from the churches, but it was our Minidoka trucks that brought them to camp.)

TI: And they got chairs, pianos, things like that.

SA: We got chairs, choir gowns, (pianos and books).

TI: To bring back to, to Minidoka.

SA: To put into the blocks so we could use them. (The community activities, such as adult educational classes, craft group meetings, weddings, church services and social group meetings, movies, etc. needed the chairs, pianos, music books, etc.)

TI: Interesting. So we're jumping around a little bit, so we talked about first going to Minidoka, that's how we talked about George Townsend.

SA: Because he was there to meet the buses.

TI: Right, and sort of his reaction.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

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

TI: So tell me more about your first experiences at Minidoka, because...

SA: Well, I think along with all the others in the train, we were flabbergasted. Because here, out of the dark (trains), it looks like, and (out of) the buses, we get out, and here we're in the desert. And the dust is something unlike anything you ever saw. It's light because it's lava, old lava dust, and this is why we had trouble. (Because) when it rained, it turns to this shoe-pulling mud, and this is why some of the Isseis made getas, which was ideal, 'cause it's (like thongs) on stilts, it's wood. For the rest of us, it was hard. You almost had to have boots. (...) And again, we had a lot of wind that blew in the desert, and this would hit against the windows. We had one pane to every room, I don't know how you'd put it... so it was always dusty. And actually, as the Issei said, they dusted every day, but it would still seep through. It's really fine and powdery. And again, because it was in the desert, this tale came out that if someone died, they'd get this hinotama, which they claimed rolled into the camp, and it would tell you someone had died. Whether it's true or not, I don't know. I did see one roll in, but later, I thought, I read in some scientific (book) that when animals die, there must be a deterioration), there must be some carbon or something released and maybe (this gas), this blowing thing, looks like a hinotama.

TI: You're going to have to explain this to me. You say "hinotama"?

SA: Hinotama. (It means) a light, a light ball. Hi is "fire," fireball is what... they claim it rolls through. Now, it's an interesting thing because (someone) trying to write about the camp (...) had heard (about the hinotama), and they said, did I ever hear such a weird tale? I said, "It is not a tale, it is true." 'Cause the Isseis would always say that, "Oh, there's a hinotama." It wasn't (a common thing, though).

TI: So explain to me again what it would look like...

SA: Well, I just saw something, I just thought it was just plain dust rolling in.

TI: But it was kind of like, in a ball-like...

SA: Yeah, and they would claim it's a fireball, hinotama, and it would precede (or) it was a notice someone had died, and I don't know if they thought it was a soul. But then I read somewhere that something like that does happen in the desert. I don't know, and they thought it was the decaying bones (of an animal) or something. I'll have to look that up again; I don't know where I found that reference, but it's interesting.

TI: Now, were there other kind of, like, stories like that that you heard from the Isseis about being in the desert, being in the --

SA: (Stories, not as exciting as "fireballs," but they wrote of camp life). There were some, I think Roger Shimomura's got (some of these) poems, haiku and (prose), that were written by the Issei ladies. And Mrs. Itoi (...) had 'em compiled and Mrs. Shimomura must have had a hand in it. So (there are written works). They are really upbeat and (...) they had these (words and songs like) when you see the Bon Odori and they go "choina choina," they'd say you'd see the dust and all this, and the food's terrible, (etc.) and they go "choina choina," and the mess hall gong is ringing, and "Daddy, hurry up and put your shoes on." And it's kind of, I thought it was pretty great of 'em to (have) an attitude like that and to put it to music, "snakes are out there," and all this (musical "choina choina" phrase).

TI: So who was creating these poems?

SA: (Some) Japanese ladies, writing these short haikus. And they wonder "if their iris buds are swelling at the homes (and in) the gardens they had in Seattle," and things like this. It's pretty interesting.

TI: Now, would they ever recite them, or where would these poems show --

SA: I think they wrote 'em, and they must have got together because they were kind of, they were all together in this (compilation)...

TI: And you say Roger has copies of these?

SA: Well, Roger (had) copies of it, but I think, but he was going to use it, he said, but I don't know (how).

TI: Yeah, he didn't tell me about these. I'll have to ask him about this. [Laughs] Okay, that's good.

SA: Yes, he has, and I think Mrs. Itoi somehow, maybe she's the one that (wrote) them down. I (saw) a few.

TI: Okay, but I was just curious, do you recall, besides the, these little fireballs, any other little stories like that that...

SA: Well, you know, we were always afraid of Rocky Mountain Spider fever, because we were in tick country. They're on the sagebrushes, and when they herd their sheep and animals through -- so we did have (an "anti-tick") shot, I think some of us had Rickettsia shots when we came. But I know we did have one case coming in, but we were told, not all of us, I think, I don't know where I (heard) it, probably when I was a nurse's aide, you have to get (these ticks) out, (or you'll) get this "spotted fever" as they say. So that was a prime fear for a lot of the Isseis, too, I'm sure. Well, mainly it was health concerns.

TI: But like superstitions, anything that you could recall?

SA: Gee, I don't (recall superstitions) that's peculiar to the area, I can't think of anything at this time. Probably think of it later (...).

TI: Okay, that's fine, I just wondered if anything came up. So talk about your, your living unit, the barracks and the unit you, your brother and your mother lived in.

SA: Well, we got the end units, as I said before. The barracks, you know the setup that they have, the blocks and then the center is the mess hall and the laundry. And then sometimes (one empty barrack) for activities, but (it was every other block for activities). Block 12, I (lived) in 12-5-F, and so this means (we're) the fifth unit. You count the twelfth block, and then you go one, two, three four... and the end units were the smallest ones. And so if it was the smallest family, and I think (we were), in ours, we had the whole Beppu family, so Monroe and Rosemary had just been married, they took the other end, and we were, my mother and I, because my brother eventually left (at the other end). So we had the smallest (unit), and then the next unit would have four (people), and then the center would be the big one. So in (our) case, "Link" (Lincoln) Beppu had the biggest family. He was in the center. Taft I think was at (the other ones) and Grant (was) in the other. And I think Paul Tomita was opposite us. But, but it was (fortunate for me because when I) needed a job, Grant (headed) that job apple picking, (so) he picked the people, so that's how come (I) got into that.

TI: That was Grant Beppu?

SA: Yeah. Grant headed that, they...

TI: I just have to make a note, it was always curious to me that this family, they named all their sons after U.S. presidents.

SA: That's right, yeah.

TI: Was that something that other Niseis felt interesting or different?

SA: I thought it was great, 'cause she was, I think Mrs. Beppu, wasn't she a midwife, too? I think she was. But to name them that at a time, and they had the tackle, fishing and tackle (shop). Taft, and then -- he was the oldest -- and then Lincoln and then Grant.

TI: Lincoln, Grant...

SA: And then the youngest was Monroe.

TI: So they were all named after U.S. presidents.

SA: Yes. Isn't that amazing? I thought it was wonderful, to me.

TI: And how did other people think about that? They thought that was...

SA: Well, (the Beppu family) were pretty prominent in the town because they (had) older (sons). We didn't have very many older (Niseis). So I just really, I never thought too much about it, but when I thought about it later, I thought, "Gee, that made (them) more American." [Laughs] That's what we were all striving to be, trying to prove our loyalty, and there was a good example.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

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

TI: So you talked about the unit, you mentioned your brother eventually left. Let's talk about that right now, where did he go?

SA: Well, he went on sugar beeting before he left, though, too, we all went out and helped with the harvest. And then he left to go to Pullman (to WSU), and of course he (got drafted and), he went with the Military Intelligence, MIS, to Fort Snelling. Because, I guess, he volunteered, too. I think a lot of (others went) to Shelby, (Mississippi).

TI: And how did your mother feel about that, about your brother going into the U.S. Army?

SA: Well, I think she actually never was as upset as most of the other mothers. Because some of the (boys) who volunteered, they were hiding in the coal bins, they were afraid to go home because they knew that their parents would practically disown 'em for doing that. And as you know, the COs had a hard time, too...

TI: The conscientious objectors?

SA: Yes. And I don't know if you had talked to (Gene) Akutsu, but his mother, later, after the war, (...) committed suicide.

TI: Right. But going back to your mother, so her reaction, she didn't have that strong of a reaction.

SA: No, and actually, it was a good thing. We had block managers, but my mother, actually, because she could do more English than most of 'em, she felt, she was used a lot as (a translator). But it was good for her because (now), for the first time, (she as an) Issei had some leisure time, and I think they really welcomed it. And of course, the husbands were taken, so the women had their knitting and their social (group) things came up, which they never had time for before. So, (besides that), there was an English class, and it's an interesting thing, that my mother wrote a letter to, I think it was to Eleanor Roosevelt in that English class. But her penmanship was better (than most) so they let her write it. And after the war, the Todo family, Daisy Todo thought her mother had written it, so she asked if I had that (letter). She sent me a copy of the letter, and it had everybody's signature (in the English class) on it, and then she found out later it was my mother that had written the letter and not her mother. But it was kind (...) of her to acknowledge that, and I have that letter.

TI: Oh, I'd love to see a copy of that letter. Do you recall what was written in that letter?

SA: Well, mainly that they were loyal, and they couldn't see their sons, I think, going into the army but it was mainly to (...) Eleanor (Roosevelt), but I do have that letter with those signatures (from the Japanese Issei ladies, and the answer from the White House).

TI: Did they send it to...

SA: They did send it.

TI: Did they ever get a response?

SA: (Yes, I have it).

TI: I'd love to see that letter.

SA: I thought by now you might have collected all these things. [Laughs]

TI: Not that letter. I'll have to make a note of that one.

SA: Daisy has it, too, 'cause she mailed (it) to me.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

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

TI: So I want to -- because not too many people have talked about the Isseis in camp, and I wanted to get your thoughts about your mother, you have more leisure time, and what it was like.

SA: Oh, I think (the Isseis) were spectacular. And if you look at the Lordsburg (Japanese internees), too, even (as) prisoners of war, they were considered "enemy aliens" as you know, they also went, a few of 'em, into the towns, and they showed them their handiwork. And I guess they, I don't know if they sold it or how they did it, but it said they brought in wood pieces, too. I was quite amazed that they were allowed access (to towns near the PW camp). Whereas in Minidoka, from the construction, what was left over of that wood, that was in great demand. And the crates that they could get, that food came in, and everybody was after them. But very few had -- well, I wouldn't say very few -- but some of us had no male (person around), so we didn't get anything. But people had to make things. We can hold a crate and put things on it, but others made beautiful tables out of sagebrush wood. I think (Margaret Gojio) has one you should see, it's beautiful. And then they made a watchtower (miniature of what) they saw, I don't know if it's the water tower or if it's a guard tower, but I think (the Kadoshima family) has one. We brought it out for the Wing Luke exhibit --

TI: Oh, so they made a little model of a...

SA: Model. Yeah, and it was really done well. So (if) you look around, (many have camp objects). I had a coat hanger that Larry Matsuda's father made. I don't know (...) where it went, or if it's in the Wing Luke collection. But that was good (too) because all we had was nails to drive into the walls. We didn't have closets, as you know, it was just the beds and the stove, the big belly stove in the unit, so gee, we're living out of our suitcases. And some of us, well, most of us, I think we bought our (wash basins) through the catalog. We had the Montgomery Ward catalog and the Sears catalog in the canteen, so everybody had the same stuff.

TI: But let me go back. So with these scrap pieces of wood and things, these sort of little handiworks were made.

SA: Uh-huh, tables and chairs.

TI: And that's what the, primarily the Isseis did, or the Niseis?

SA: Isseis did, the men who were available, and I think some of the (Nisei) boys that were old enough (helped). I don't know where they got the tools, maybe they got it from the construction people, 'cause we couldn't bring anything sharp in, you know. So I've wondered, too, where they got all that, but eventually they must have loosened up and let them buy it through the catalogs.

TI: And how about the Issei women? What were some of the activities that...

SA: Oh, they were crocheting, (knitting, sewing by hand), and, of course, they could buy that yarn and all that through the catalog again. And anybody that can go out, like we were going out for harvesting, and they would ask us to buy them pencils, buy them pens and things. And I don't remember on the day trip doing that, but I know my brother was out sugar beeting, and he bought me a necklace and things like that, (even) shoes, I think he bought (me). I was amazed they even fit.

TI: That was good. How about your mom? What things did she do?

SA: Well, she was taking classes, actually, like I said, for the first time. So I know there (were) English (classes), and what else did she take? She took another... might have been knitting and crocheting, (calligraphy, etcetera).

TI: And what, how would you describe her, sort of, mood or her reaction of being in camp?

SA: Well, I think seeing all the other women who were worse off than her, though they were certainly enjoying the leisure time, like the Matsudairas with all the children, the Shimizus, I mean, when they have over ten children, of course they're happy, 'cause you don't have to cook. [Laughs] You don't have to do anything, and they're running around all day playing. It was a wonderful time for them. I think it lengthened their lives, (...) 'cause they could rest. For the first time, they could rest. The men that were there, (too, rested, but) as you know, one of 'em wandered out into the sagebrush (to get one to polish), got lost and died out there, got burned by the sun. And I remember the bunch of fellows that went out looking (for him), one of the younger ones, (...) I think was Mas Horiuchi, and he came and he vomited at the sight of the burned person. So I think it must have been tough for the fellows.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

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

TI: Okay. I want to ask about, we just touched upon this, the schools at Minidoka.

SA: Oh, that I thought (the teachers were) tremendous coming from (outside), because I went into teaching after (nursing and) I thought it was pretty lucky 'cause I have a degree in nursing, and I did work as a nurse's aide. So now I look back and I see what things they did, and it amazes me we did so well. As you know, they didn't think about schools. I don't think anyone realized how long we were going to be there (in the WRA center). It wasn't that long, but you consider '42 to '45, that's three years out of a person's life, and that's pretty long. And of course they're worried about the education process because as I said before, that's what helped us assimilate into the American (democracy) because our ideals were the same; our goals were the same. It was education, hard work and having dignity and perseverance, (to becoming a good, productive citizen).

TI: Right, so in your case, you were, you finished your junior year, and so you were...

SA: I had my senior year to do.

TI: Still your senior year. So talk about, I guess, fall 1942.

SA: Yes, we started in '42.

TI: What was school like?

SA: Well, it was imperative that we start, I don't think they were ready, and from George Townsend's notes, I wondered where they got all the teachers. But we had some pretty good ones, because (Ms.) Amerman was teaching civics, I think that's what her field was, probably English, too. But she actually was a Stanford grad and had a master's in education. I found that out later when we were going to do our first reunion, I wrote trying to get them all (to our first reunion). And I was amazed at the credentials that came up. But the majority of the teachers came in from, evidently, Twin Falls, Idaho. And for them it was great pay, and they could commute, which was something. Some lived, like, on the premises because they came in, one, I think, came in from the Burma war (area), it was missionaries, of course. And it was great because we had some Quakers and some missionaries. Because we knew they were more on the benevolent side, but at least we knew we were in good hands. But I understand, from what George Townsend wrote, that to (fill the teaching staff), they didn't realize how many children there were. And I'm not quite sure, but out of ten thousand people there at the camp, nine thousand or so, there must have been at least twelve hundred children, and then to have to divide 'em into elementary through high school. They used a lot of our graduate students and the older Niseis who had degrees as assistants, and I'm sure they might have got -- but they didn't get the pay that the Caucasian teachers were getting, full pay. But they were only getting, I think, nineteen dollars at the most if they were considered professionals. Otherwise they're sitting as the rest of us as aides and getting sixteen dollars.

TI: Going back to the Caucasian teachers, you mentioned, like, two kind of, I'll call them groups in terms of you had one group where you had the missionaries and the Quakers, who you kind of mentioned as...

SA: Well, anyone they could get.

TI: Right. But then you also mentioned the Twin Falls teachers.

SA: Oh yeah, we had to fill in.

TI: Was there kind of a difference in attitude between the two groups, do you think?

SA: I don't think so, because I think they melted well under the superintendent of schools, which was a Twin Falls teacher. At that time, I think he was the president of the STA for Twin Falls area, (Mr. Richard Pomeroy), and it was a good thing he met him because, because of his connection to the teachers, he was able to recruit some to leave their jobs and come into the camp, which is asking a great deal. But we opened in September, which is the time when you generally open school, so it would mean a contract with the government instead of in the Twin Falls (or Boise school district) territory.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

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

TI: So describe those, like the first few days of school, what that was...

SA: Oh, gosh, you know, because they had to open up one block (of barracks), I think that's what they were, so the schools, the classrooms were there. I (...) thought that the science teacher, (Ms. Frances Haglund) was very good, as I said. She chose the laundry room because there was running water, you can't conduct anything in the barrack rooms. And I thought, "How smart she is." So we had to sit alongside on the benches, you know, that (...) was the laundry room and then the toilet facilities, showers (...) were taken out. And I know that the first thing she did, when I say "teach," 'cause we didn't have blackboards, we (really) didn't have anything. And so she said we would have to get things like on, go out in the field and find something. And (someone), some truck driver came across this little baby rattlesnake, so they popped him in a (milk bottle) and then must have given it to his child to take to school, And that's what we had for our first science (lesson) was this little rattlesnake. And we would scream 'cause every time its little head popped up over the thing, we'd be afraid it was gonna come out. [Laughs] So (...) then, poor thing,(Ms. Haglund) ended up taking it out and dissecting it in the end. She (made a lesson out of it to) show us things. But I thought she was tremendous.

TI: So they had to be very...

SA: Innovative, creative.

TI: ...innovative, spontaneous.

SA: And we had to go look for things until we could get the textbooks. And again, we didn't have individual desks and things of that sort for quite a while. Toward the end, (...) when I heard about the camp, (...) they had (...) the blackboards, (...) the textbooks and (...) paper (...) brought in, so they did very well. But I thought for the beginning, these teachers with their aides who were the internees, (...) conducted... classes in math, literature, and (even) P.E., 'cause you can do (sports like) baseball. We had more (space) there than in (Puyallup's) assembly center. Because the assembly centers, in Area B, as far as I can see, the only thing we could do (for sports) was volleyball, because you can string (the net) up between the barracks. And I know, I don't know if you saw it, but I was captain of the, what we called the "Weak Spots" at the time, but we did take the championship for our little area, which wasn't much. [Laughs] But that's the only sport (in small areas). They had baseball in Area A and D, 'cause they had more room, and they did invite us up. And of course, as I said, it was pretty sad, 'cause I was pitching and they hit everything I pitched 'cause I (can't) pitch very (fast balls). we never got our turn at bat. [Laughs] It wasn't fair at all, 'cause they had practiced and we never did. So I always thought, "That's terrible," (not fair).

TI: Going back to school at Minidoka, I'm curious about how the students reacted to these chaotic, sort of, situations. Was it hard for students to really kind of focus and do the work?

SA: Well, it was like play, (...) you know, I think it's amazing we even got accredited. But that allowed us, when we went out, to get into colleges, (and) over the years they really got it up to standards, which is amazing. But it was because the teachers were so good.

TI: When you say it was "like play" initially, what do mean by that?

SA: Well, we were mostly talking. I think discipline was hard for them to maintain. But as a rule, we were more quiet than other minorities. I keep thinking, "Boy, if it had been any other race, it would have been (more) chaotic."

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

<Begin Segment 14>

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

TI: So after you finished high school, then what...

SA: Well, actually, during high school, I think -- I have to connect with your aunt because Ish and I were painting (chairs and) those things, and I think we did it when we were working. I think we, some of us had enough credits to graduate and I think that's why we went half-time. And I think in that half-time, we were doing this painting the numbers on the chairs.

TI: Painting numbers on chairs?

SA: Well, these are the chairs that they had brought in from Seattle, and you know, like if it's Baptist church we would put "JB" and ("JM" for Methodist, etcetera, and) one, two, three, so they would get it back.

TI: I see.

SA: And we had the Methodist church, we had about ten (different denominations) churches. I don't know if every one of 'em had enough chairs, but the bigger churches did.

TI: This is a side, a tangent, but after returning to Seattle, did you ever see these chairs?

SA: No, I haven't. I don't think I did, but I thought it was a funny thing for us to do at the time, but I see now the rationale behind it.

TI: And you were doing this with Irene Kinoshita.

SA: Well, Ish and I were doing it. But I don't know how many others were, we were working under Abe Hagiwara who worked under George Townsend, and he, again, was one of the truck drivers, I don't know how many they had.

TI: I just have to do full disclosure, so that is my mother's sister, my Aunt Ishii.

SA: Ish might remember more, 'cause when I last saw her, she was, she wrote a letter and she said, "Remember? We were the Gold Dust Twins," and I had forgotten that, so I was kind of glad she had brought that up.

TI: So do you know why you were called the "Gold Dust Twins"?

SA: I don't know, ask Irene. I don't know how that was. The dust I could see, we were always covered, I think. But it was something, I thought it was something on a, like a, I think on the cover was a moon and two people sitting on it. It's something like that.

TI: Okay, I'll ask her. So you and... so do you call her Ish or Irene?

SA: Well, I called her Ish, they called Ish-ka-bibble or something, it was a nickname. We all seemed to be having nicknames. In camp, this was quite prevalent. I don't know why, we had Mole Face, some were not very complimentary. You know, the Hubba-Hubba Girl and Tangerine. [Laughs] I mean, it was really funny, and White Christmas was a very pretty girl from Portland, she wore white. It was interesting. But they had a group your father belonged to, the OT gang. I don't know if he ever referred to it.

TI: Yes.

SA: And I said, "What does that stand for?" and I think they said, "Odorless Toe" or something like that. You could ask him.

TI: I think it's "Odorless Turds." [Laughs]

SA: Oh, I don't know what it was -- "toe" sounds better to me. [Laughs]

TI: But anyway, did you have a nickname?

SA: Well, the closest it came to it was because my last name was Tanagi, there was a song out, "Tangerine."

TI: So your nickname was Tangerine?

SA: Well, yeah, (...) that's what they (called me). I don't know (why). They had Prune Face, it wasn't very complimentary. [Laughs] That was the boys. I think your father could tell you more. We weren't as prone to it as some others.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

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

TI: So we're talking, so when you were still going to school, you were doing, sort of, this part-time work in Community Activities?

SA: I think it was part-time. I have to check with (Irene), but because I know when (...) I graduated, (...) in that short time when I was still (in camp), that's when I (became) a nurse's aide, and that was a full-time (job), evidently, according to that pay form I received, it said full-time (for) sixteen dollars (a month), that's pretty good.

TI: So how did you get involved being a nurse's aide? What made you decide to do that?

SA: Well, I think (...) because Irene always wanted to be a nurse, that was fine, but I never did. As I said, I wanted to go in art and I knew I could never get there, art school (tuition) being what it is. But (nursing), it's a practical skill, and since Father Tibesar said, "There's this cadet nursing (school) that's free tuition, and it'll give you a little allowance," it sounded great to me. But again, I'm going ahead of myself, but it was a good experience for me, I know, going (to) work in the camp hospital, because I saw my first delivery. And when I talk about the (medicine) trays, that's how we were giving out meds, but we didn't do it. There were two nurses, Caucasian, and they passed (out the medication). And I think maybe Teru Uno was the main (Nisei) nurse. She was excellent, when I think of all the things she did, she helped with the surgeries, and she's the one asked me if I wanted to see this autopsy. It was really something that I was amazed at because it was hot in the room, of course you know it's not the best smell in the world, but I'm glad I saw it because I could never have seen it in a nursing school 'cause they don't show you that part. So I was glad I had seen one, now I know what they're talking about (when they say autopsies).

TI: And I think you said earlier you thought the medical care was quite good?

SA: I thought for the (time)-- well, of course, it's not excellent because, well, there just wasn't the materials, they didn't get, I'm sure the doctors didn't get the medication they wanted. And I know they (didn't have surgical rooms like they needed) -- I shouldn't even talk about this part -- but there was a circumcision done in one of the (wards), on an adult. So then they had these little curtains around, well, not curtains, it was these movable things because you can put (them) around the bed. And they did it there. Of course, the doctor, whoever it was, did it there. And then we had an isolation ward, and again, it's hard to isolate in a place like that, but we did have an isolation ward. So we must have had some tubercular cases and things of (other diseases).

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

<Begin Segment 16>

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

TI: Besides the nurse's aide, we talked earlier and you also mentioned sometimes -- and your brother did this, too, he did sugar beets.

SA: He did sugar beets.

TI: But you did also some seasonal sort of out of camp...

SA: I did potatoes.

TI: And I think you mentioned that you did this with...

SA: Bainbridge group.

TI: The Bainbridge group, but you mentioned in your notes working with Jamaican...

SA: Oh, there were Jamaicans, but we kept apart from them. But they're, they're different than our blacks. They're really (much darker and spoke with a different accent).

TI: And so they were Jamaicans that --

SA: But they scared us, 'cause they were adult males out there, and we were (girls) in our 'teens. So like I said, when they banged on the door, we were scared. We're banging on the side hoping the guys next door would come help. Nobody would come out, and finally Mr. Yokoyama came, Roy, and he's one of the smaller (men), but he came, he was trying to (help us), he comes running. But they (had left). But aside from that, we could see them working out there (daily).

TI: And so explain that a little bit more. So when you picked apples, so you would leave Minidoka --

SA: That was fine.

TI: -- and you would live, sort of, in these...

SA: Well, the apples were different. That we went to, that was a daily (commute), we went in and out every morning and came back at night.

TI: So let's talk about the potatoes, I'm sorry, the potatoes.

SA: Okay, the potatoes, we were in this kind of shack, well, you know (a little house), it's really a shack. And I was gonna check with Ritsuko, she's about the only one around that I know (still living). Because of the four of us girls, there (was) Yo Nakata on the Island yet, but she doesn't remember much (about that time). Anna died in Chicago of tuberculosis, (...) Mary Yotsuuye-Ikeda died in Tacoma. So there's only two of us (left). And I don't know how many (more are left), lot have died, because they were older than us. And the only ones that really worked hard, of course, were the married men because they needed to bring money in.

TI: So it was kind of a piecemeal kind of...

SA: Well, the truck goes ahead of us and plows up the dirt, and we followed with a sack and we picked (the) potatoes (uprooted). And the thing we had to watch out for (were) scorpions because when they uproot (them), they're there, too, and we don't want to get bit. So it was dusty, dirty work, 'cause we're behind this (truck) that's kicking up the dirt.

TI: And were you paid by the hour or by...

SA: By the sacks, (I think).

TI: By the sack.

SA: How much we turned up.

TI: So you would fill, you would work all day and then at night you would go to these shacks, you mentioned?

SA: Yeah, and I was wondering, this is what I wanted to ask, I was wondering if, because I don't think the food was brought in, I think we had to make our own with four girls. Actually, there (were) families like the Hamamuras, (Kouras, etcetera).

TI: But so in the shack you would share this with three other girls?

SA: Yeah, there (were four) of us. I'm wondering how (or) what we did. I couldn't remember what we did at the time, but we must have brought in some food. 'Cause there, we were there (...) for a longer permanent stay for potatoes.

TI: And then during this time when you were picking potatoes, you said there were also Jamaican workers there.

SA: Yes.

TI: And so they would have shacks in a different part of the...

SA: I don't know where they came from, but we'd see them in the field. And you know, when they came and banged on our doors, they must have been around, close by somewhere.

TI: And so why did they bang on your door? That's the part I don't...

SA: Well, I don't know, we were scared to open it. We just knew we should not.

TI: Now, can you remember what some of the reasons or why you were fearful of the Jamaicans? What was kind of the sense?

SA: Well, you know, because we've always been within the Japanese community, I think, and we never had much to do with other minorities. Except the Chinese for us, but then our status was about the same except that because of the war, they didn't have to be taken. So this is, again, a minority thing. We didn't have very many blacks, as I said, prior to World War II, because they came in with the defense factory need for workers from the deep South. And these Jamaicans, as I said, were darker and bigger. They seemed huskier. I could be wrong, (but we were scared because we never encountered very many blacks. The minorities didn't mix in Seattle except for business.)

TI: And so did you ever get a chance to ever talk with them?

SA: No, we stayed away from them. [Laughs] This, this is it. I think the great thing about this evacuation is that it turned a lot of us (into a bigger world), it really matured us, I think, to take the responsibility (for civic actions). And like I said, the groundwork was laid by the Isseis because of Japanese culture, we were trying to be dignified. We had enough pride, and yet we were educated enough because they pushed it. And their (Japanese) values were, of course, to be honest, to be righteous, and to work instead of, and to serve others. This is it, I think the great thing was the service, because they did, the tanomoshii, they had to work as a team, and Japan is noted for that, you know, "the nail that stands out get clobbered." Which is different here in America, individualism is, is something they're proud of (here), and creativity. But the Japanese, it's always the teamwork. And they did this in camp, which is why I think we were the best camp of the ten, you know.

TI: Now, why would you say you're the "best camp"?

SA: They said we had the least amount of trouble. And I said, "That's 'cause we're from the Northwest." [Laughs] Down in California, my gosh, they are the majority, and in a lot of places like Terminal Island, it was just almost all Japanese (customs and culture), speaking Japanese to the extent that one of the girls that came into nursing actually had to be tutored on the side by some of the nursing instructors because (her) English was not (...) par. It was amazing. And that's because they came from Terminal Island where Japanese was spoken on the island. They crossed by ferry to the mainland for school and went back (and forth daily. Great students, again Japanese goals for excellence.)

TI: Now, while you were at Minidoka, did you ever get, or hear of the other camps?

SA: No, I heard of this later because when I went into St. Mary's (School of Nursing), we were there with people from Poston, Heart Mountain, Amache, from the different camps. And from there, I learned about their experiences. And I thought, "Wow," and I thought then, too, "Gee, some of these people are very Japanesey," which is different from us in the Northwest. Don't know why that is, (less Japanese, I guess).

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

<Begin Segment 17>

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

TI: So let's, you talked about, sort of, nursing school, let's talk about your decision to join the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.

SA: Well, that's because I knew I could never be a housekeeper. I mean, I'm just not good at cleaning and doing those things. [Laughs] But I wanted to go in art, like I said, but I knew that was an impossibility. I knew one thing, I had to develop a skill of some sort that was practical. And though I wasn't crazy about nursing (but) because Irene wanted to be a nurse, I just went along with it. And it was actually the best thing because I got a job the minute I got out. I pulled in, in the morning (to Seattle and), by afternoon I walked up there to (the) Marine (Hospital), and I had a job to report to the next day. And I thought that was fantastic. I didn't have to look for a job (long), we were short on nurses. So that was the right thing at the right time, for that I'm very grateful.

TI: And so how was your mother's reaction?

SA: Oh, she didn't like it, as I said before, because that's "low-class" work. Evidently, you know, I was looking into this after I spoke to you, because there (were) midwives, but I think they're more honored because Japanese men don't like men doctors touching the women anyway, so this way I guess it's good. Never thought about it, but that's what I heard later. For that era, they trusted the women to be with women. So I think they were honored more, and they made quite a good living. And what they did was because they're not licensed as such to do it in the hospitals, they did it at home, then they were in contact with a Caucasian doctor and they can bring the child after the delivery and get a birth certificate. And that's why I was gonna pull out mine to see who the midwife was.

TI: That's okay.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

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

TI: So I wanted, about this time when you were considering this, I wanted to go back and talk about your father and where he was at this point.

SA: Well, this is interesting. I look at the Lordsburg papers, and I found out that there were ten permanent internment camps, which were our camps. We were under the army, they were under the Justice Department, that was the difference. They were under the INS, they called it, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and they, that service turns them over into the Justice camps, so they're classified differently than we are. And so they had two, only two at that time (specifically for Japanese internees) that were supposed to be permanent, which was Lordsburg, (New Mexico), and (...) the other one was (Stringtown, Oklahoma). However, they had a lot of these temporary (military) camps at which they had POWs and (everyone) else. And evidently, my father fell into (that) category. They had a hearing, evidently, after they were taken and into the permanent camps. And of course there were only three ways, you were either released outright, you were paroled, or you were there as a permanent internee and classified as "enemy alien" and under POW, but not exactly a POW, but a POW status. However, they found out that later they were bringing in regular prisoners of war from Italy and Germany, according to this report. And so they had to move some out and release 'em because there was too many in the camp and we didn't have that much space. So then they wanted to release the civilian internees back out from the army into INS, or whatever way it went. Maybe it was the other way around. So they got into temporary (military bases), and this is why my father got moved to (Fort Missoula, Montana), Camp Livingston. (Louisiana), and Kooskia, Idaho, (...) Santa Fe, (New Mexico, and Lordsburg, New Mexico).

TI: And while he was going from camp to camp, was the family aware, was your mother aware of where he was going?

SA: Well, the letters were far and few between, and as you know, they were heavily censored. And the great thing is, as I read it, as I looked at that (Santa Fe directory) one, and I didn't see his name written and I said, "Where is (he)?" because I knew he was there. Well, in the back pages, it said, "These people are being presently moved," and there was my father's name, heading for Kooskia, Idaho, but just a few were being moved again. And the great thing was, he was at Kooskia, Idaho, so when they were released into the Minidoka camps in '44, Kooskia, Idaho, was not far from Twin Falls, so he could (come home) -- of course, he's under armed guard 'til he hits Minidoka. But it was interesting to me, I didn't know that. But by the timing and by the dates, he was at the right place to come (to Minidoka to be reunited with Mom and I).

TI: And so what, how did it come about that he was released from Kooskia into Minidoka?

SA: Well, I wrote a letter, and I thought it was my letter, but it wasn't. [Laughs] It was Joe Tsujimoto who was in the armed forces before the war and then released and went back in, I guess. So he knew the army chain of command, and he told me later, "It's not your letter, it was mine," that went up the chain. And he wrote the same things I did, that I was in the U.S. (camps and) I wanted to get into the (U.S. cadet) nursing corps, and I couldn't because my father wasn't released. My three cousins were in the armed forces already, Roy was in (an early volunteer, and) he had gotten shot and was coming back, but (while cousins) Roy and George were in the European Theatre, (...) my brother was in the MIS, my other cousin was in counterintelligence, so (we) listed all this, that we were really loyal. This is what we were talking about, prove that the family was (very loyal and patriotic), and so they did release him (eventually with a lot of others in 1944).

TI: And so you wrote a letter to -- who'd you write your letter to?

SA: Eleanor Roosevelt. [Laughs] I thought she would be more (sympathetic) -- actually, she was against this evacuation totally, so was Herbert Hoover. They had a list of people, prominent ones, who were against it, because it was against the Constitution. But as you know, the Department of Defense (...)... was it McCoy, (who was under) the Department of, Secretary of War, Stimson (were adamant).

TI: Yeah, McCloy.

SA: And so, you know, it was basically DeWitt who was under that, Lieutenant DeWitt, he's the one who was the commander for the Western Defense.

TI: Right. So I wanted to ask, going back to Joe, he wrote a very similar letter. Who did he send it to?

SA: (...) I don't know, he said it went up the chain of command. He says, "That you would have never known," which is true. [Laughs] He said it was him, I said, "Okay." It was a good thing he said that because he died shortly afterwards, and I thought, "Wow."

TI: So his letter...

SA: His letter evidently turned the trick.

TI: And so he was...

SA: Yeah, he was released, 'cause they had so many things against my father as you know. My son's an attorney and he found it in the archives when he was in Baltimore, he looked (up my his grandfather's record). And that's why I have a picture of my father with fingerprints and all, and (his) medical history, which isn't that much. But it's interesting to see what they did.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

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

TI: And when your father was released, were you at Minidoka?

SA: I was still there because my mother wouldn't let me go, 'cause we'd lose (our) room, and she'd have to go to the singles' (dormitory-like) room, and she was darned if she was gonna do that. [Laughs] She didn't care, she was gonna keep me there. And so I really had put in for the February 1944 class and he wasn't yet released (and I was worried). And this is why Irene went out and she went on to Peoria. And so I was (too late to go with her), so Father Tibesar had me go to St. Mary's. This is why we were in different schools, and I was in Rochester, (Minnesota).

TI: So at what point did you hear that your father was going to be released?

SA: Well, it was just prior to that, you know, and I thought, I'm never gonna make that February '44 class, 'cause he's (not) here (and) it is January (then), he came, he got released... I forgot the date, I had it down someplace, but just prior to that. So I didn't see him for very long at all. It was like we were passing (by) again.

TI: So during that brief time when you saw your father, describe the family reunion with you, your mother, and...

SA: Well, he was really dispirited, I think he was depressed. He never really got back to himself again. As you know, the minute I hit town (in 1947), he quit working. That's the state of his mind at the time. (He didn't want to work again for anyone).

TI: Well, describe the day he came to Minidoka as much as you can. What was it like?

SA: Well, you know, I'm sure he was joyful within, but as all Japanese men are pretty stoic. And my mother was happy, too, but their greetings are, of course, very formal. And I don't know how he felt about our surroundings, but I know he was glad that he was finally together with the family. And I was just more in a hurry to get my things together so I could get out on a bus, and I had to get my pass to go out, and (fill out) the application for leave. And I think I was very upset because I had to check out my things before I left, or I wouldn't be allowed to leave, and that was to check back in the cot and mattress, (etcetera). Of course, my father could take it, I thought, but I had to check 'em all back in, blanket (and all), before I could be released. I thought that was insane. So I'm sorry I can't say too much more, 'cause I think I was so involved trying to get out, and he, of course, coming in, he's observing, but he didn't have much to bring in, too, because he came in with his clothes and that was it.

TI: In that short time, did you notice any changes with your mother in terms of how she was?

SA: Well, I think she was basically relieved that she's no longer (alone), but at the same time, I wondered, 'cause she'd been independent -- [laughs] -- and got to do everything she liked. I'm sure she did (enjoy that). And what my father did immediately (was) he joined the other men and he got a sagebrush piece which he, they used a manual 'cause they didn't have sandpaper. And it's a beautiful piece, he found one that's kind of curved like a fish that I still have, and he found a base to put it on. So he was trying to beautify the place. And (I know) he put in a garden, we all did, and they liked to put radishes 'cause they come up fast, you know, you can eat it even when it's green. You can make tsukemono out of it, and so, if they get rice (from the mess hall). And you can (...) eat in your room, that was a private thing that everyone enjoyed doing. You can only have a hot plate, (with only one outlet in each family room. Dad also made some furnishings, Mom said).

<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 we're starting the fourth session, so this is about the fourth hour. And where we ended up was your father had just returned from Kooskia...

SA: Kooskia, Idaho.

TI: ...Idaho, to Minidoka, and they're, so your mom and dad are reunited.

SA: Yes.

TI: Which allows you now to go to training.

SA: Yes. Boy, I was so relieved. I think it was about a two, three week interval there, but at least I could get there. And they gave me (a) one way pass, I call it, that's what it was. And Father Tibesar was great, he told me, "No matter if you get vilified, you (must) not retaliate, turn the other cheek, or we won't be able to send anybody else out if you don't make good." And you know, (these amazing words were fulfilled). He said, "Whoever I send," in other words, you host, even if I'm in the nurse's quarters. And the first person he sent was Ben Fujita who was blind, with his (...) father.

TI: So let me explain, or get this a little bit more.

SA: It (was surprising).

TI: So Father Tibesar first put a little pressure on you saying that you have to do well because if you don't do well, "We won't be able to send more people out."

SA: This is right, I think they must have told (...) all the other people (going out the same thing).

TI: And furthermore, that once you're out there, be prepared to host other people.

SA: Oh, yes.

TI: You're sort of a trailblazer, you're going to be out there, and then you're going to have to make it easier for other people.

SA: Well, we have to help people get out (of camp). So, you know, the service, and the great thing was, the motto for St. Mary's -- this is Franciscan nuns -- (...) had a picture in the lobby of the Good Samaritan, and under it was "Enter in to learn, go forth to serve." And that actually was the best motto I could have, 'cause I've kept that in mind all these years. That's what we are here for. Not that we can teach anything, but the fact that you should serve others. But that was great for me, it kept me on track.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

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

TI: So talk about your training, what was the training like?

SA: Oh, I think it was superb. Again, this is looking back at it, but because it was (associated with) the Mayo Clinic, I hadn't realized we had the Mayo Clinic doctors. And amazing thing, like in surgery, the instruments were named, the ones they even use (today) here, you know, (are) the Harrison retractors, and their instruments. (Dr. Judd), Dr. Black, all these (doctors) actually created (medical instruments), the ones we were working with. So in surgery, I think (we had outstanding doctors). The two Mayo brothers started (the hospital and clinic) with the Franciscan nuns at the beginning (but added other factors). But Dorothy (Mayo), their sister, was mentally retarded, and yet she had the run of the city, so she'd say, "This is my hospital, this is my (city)," and she had free (ride on) the buses (...). Everyone knew who she was. And I thought it was great of them to let her roam like that and be free and independent.

TI: And what city was this?

SA: Rochester, (Minnesota). And actually, a lot of the real estate there, I'm sure, (were owned) by the Mayo brothers. We graduated and had a reception at the Mayo Foundation (House). Very plush place. They also controlled things like (entertainment places) -- it was a good thing that (because they didn't want post-surgery patients running around). The patients, (and) great amount that (came) in, this is like a last-ditch stand for a lot of people. We had (government) people from Washington, D.C., (and) people (from) the War Department anyway. But we also realized (at) the same time, that we had the best teachers and the best instructors because the Mayo fellows would (follow) a surgeon (or other doctors). And so, of course, for all of us as student nurses, (we listened and learned, too), we had galleries like you see in Gray's Anatomy (TV show). And (new drugs) came, Sodium Pentothal for the first time, Curarie, some of the anesthesia (drugs and) penicillin, we were granted that, and we watched the polio epidemic, (used) the iron lungs, something you never see anymore, but we manned that. I think we had a tremendous (education), up on a lot of the others, Johns Hopkins (Hospital was) the other one that was known. But I saw Helen Keller, I would have never seen her, (except she came to Mayo's for her physicals).

TI: And so how did you see Helen Keller?

SA: She came with Anne Sullivan, of course, but I was on night duty, which was good (...), because then her nurse, her specialist, they asked me if I wanted to see her, nobody was allowed, (but) then I got to step in (to her room). Of course, she's blind, but just seeing her lying there, you could just (see), she just oozes with nobility. I mean, you could see she was someone special.

TI: And how old was Helen Keller at this point?

SA: Gee, I don't quite know. I never did look up her age, but she was quite along in age. And I don't know what her diagnosis was, because she was there, but I felt so lucky to be able to even see her. Of course, you can't talk to her, it's nighttime, she's sleeping. [Laughs] I think she was asleep.

TI: How about other prominent people that came through?

SA: Well, I can't remember, but we had somebody from the Department of Defense, (pretty high up, "Happy" something), and he ordered his food from outside, (and) what impressed me, he wasn't gonna eat the hospital food, and they were running (outside to get it for him). And he, of course, had special guards up at the door, too. But I think the one incident that stood out was we had some of the returning vets from the war, (the nuns) were worried, I think, about us, too, because when we went in, we were not allowed to participate in some of the meetings until our probation time was over. I'm sure they didn't do that to the others. But for us seven (Japanese Americans) that had come in (from the class of '47 and) there were some prior to our coming because we weren't the first class there, (it was a worry to the St. Mary's Franciscan nuns).

TI: So you're talking about, because you were Japanese American?

SA: Yes, but they had started (with others before us). (Ms.) Taguchi (...) was already instructing in OB when we got there. She was supervising, maybe in a lesser categories, but she was an RN already, (when we got there), she was there, so that helped us, too. And her family lived on the outskirts, I think your father knows that, in a motel, and (her) mother was cooking Japanese foods as (much as she could). And that's where we loved to go because we could get something that we're used to (like rice, short grain). Otherwise, we're using kosher pickles for the tsukemono and (substitutes) like that.

TI: In general, how well did the Japanese American nurses, or the trainees, do at St. Mary's during this period?

SA: I think they did exceptionally well. Of course, you don't grade on a curve like you do in normal schools. It's more practical, so it's on what they observe you doing. I mean, they teach you how to make a bed, you do an IV, you do, learn how to give a bath when they're bedridden and stuff like that. It's procedures that they follow through on. But we did learn chemistry, and again, this is what was great about St. Mary's, they had the best instructors. They wrote the textbooks. So I still have some, but we didn't realize the value of the thing until, of course, later. Now, when we gather together, and we still get together yearly, the (St. Mary's) group, and we said, "Wow, we never realized Krug wrote the pharmacy book." We had the best teachers. It was just like Bailey (Gatzert school), it was specialties, (with excellent teachers).

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

<Begin Segment 22>

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

TI: Well, after about a year, your parents wanted you to help them resettle. So the war had ended --

SA: That was (1945).

TI: -- and they wanted you to help them resettle into Seattle. Can you talk about that at this point?

SA: Yes, well, that was kind of defeating to me, because I thought I was gonna get my RN and I could go through (to finish). And then when I got this telegram, I think they sent (it), that I had to come back and get them out, I thought, "Well, why couldn't someone else do it?" But my brother was already in the military, and my sister had her hands full with (her husband's) side. There was, the (mother-in-law) there, (and) six brothers, there were five at war. And the one remaining (son) was her husband who was (turned down. He had vision trouble and was) diabetic, so he couldn't volunteer. But all his brothers were in the army.

TI: So your sister had married, and...

SA: Married a Bainbridge (boy).

TI: And her husband had six brothers...

SA: It was five, but (her husband made six) in the family.

TI: And the five brothers were all serving?

SA: Yes, they were all in the service.

TI: What family was this?

SA: Okazakis from Bainbridge Island.

TI: And so her hands were full, as you say.

SA: Oh, yes.

TI: So you were the one called to help.

SA: I was the only one that could take them out (of Minidoka). So I asked (Sister) Antonia if I had to go, and (could I) leave, if (I left could) please take me back. I had hoped -- 'cause I said I may not be able to come back, but if I could, I would like to (return to complete the courses), even if I was lagging behind. And so she said it was all right, and of course I didn't have enough money. We got fifteen dollars' allowance (a month), but you know, it's wartime, and we had (to buy clothes, cosmetics, personal necessities, even) white stockings, if we went out on a date, we used to dye 'em beige, and then we'd come back and bleach 'em out white and wore it. It was that bad. But it only covers what you need, (the fifteen dollars), so there wasn't much left. So then the other fellow students helped (me by chipping) in, and I got thirty-six (...) dollars, which helped me (buy a ticket) for the Greyhound ride. I had to take a bus, of course, to Seattle, and as I said before, it never occurred to me, I never, well, you never have experiences like this, so (it was) a new thing to me. I boarded the bus, and then when we stopped for lunch, I realized I don't have enough money if I used that (to eat). 'Cause I had the bus ticket, but it was one way, again, because I wasn't sure if I needed to (return or) do anything else, (I didn't want to spend it). So there was a young group in the back of the bus, and (some) older people, (...) all Caucasians, but the group in the back I was with, and we were singing songs (together). So I got to know them, and then the older people I was talking to, and they were wondering what I was doing on the bus. So I told them, and I don't know if they realized the enormity of what I was saying, I don't think so. They just knew that I was young, and I was going back (home), and I didn't have any (money). So then it was one of the older men that told me what to do. And so when we got to the lunch counter, I wasn't gonna eat, I figured if I can get water... he's the one told me, "Order hot water," so they (brought) it, and then he was telling the girls, they were ordering soup and sandwiches, to get the ketchup bottle from down that way. So then he told me to put it in -- I don't know if he did it or if I did it -- and then he stirred it around and says, "There's your soup," (tomato soup). Then he gave me his crackers so then the other girls started giving me their crackers from the soup. So that's what I had the entire (ride). I don't know how long that trip was, it was by bus, so I suppose it took at least two days (or more. A lot of stops cross country, Minnesota to Washington).

But as (...) I always say, the Lord is with me, because (when we) stopped in Spokane again, and Kaoru Ichihara boarded. (...) she asked me where I was staying (in Seattle). She was the secretary at Bailey Gatzert school (where I attended), that's how I knew her. And she recognized me as one of the students, of course. So she said that, when she asked me, I just all of a sudden realized I had nowhere to stay. And I thought, "How stupid," but how did I know what Seattle was like? So she offered her place and I was so glad, 'cause she was, "un-boarding" her house, so to speak, they all put boards (to close homes), those that could, over their house windows, (doors, etcetera), just like Higo Ten-Cent store. So I got to stay there, and I was fortunate, to (have a place to sleep) when I went -- I didn't know where to go to find a job (for my folks), but I was limited on time because I didn't have enough money (to last long). And if I was going to make it back, I'd have to (find them a place) and I had to get (a) ticket back (to St. Mary's in Rochester).

TI: And when you first got back to Seattle, describe Seattle. How had it changed?

SA: Oh, it had changed because there was a lot of blacks (as a minority group), for one. And of course Chinatown (and Japantown) was now all Chinese, there wasn't -- in fact, I think it's the dissolution of the Nihonmachi. Because we didn't come back to it because it was gone and it was taken by, like in our case, by the Chinese (...). Rex Hotel upstairs was also, and all the hotels surrounding, were run by either whites or Chinese. So only those who outright had sons, twenty-one (years of age), or so that owned the place could come back. So it was a big change, and if I walked down there, there's no one I knew (...).

TI: And when you came back to Seattle, how many Japanese were back in Seattle?

SA: There were not that many, but they were coming back because I could see them at Yesler housing (...). And they were staying at the Fujin Home, that's (with the) Japanese Baptist (Church), and the (other) churches were crowded, (as well as the) Japanese school, (all were) loaded. They had a lot of rooms there, so there were families all over. (But) my folks (...) hadn't returned because they were waiting for me. That was the situation, (but I was already eighteen). And so the only thing I could think of was (who knew my dad). (I) went down to (where he bought) his produce, maybe I can go there, (I thought), and that's where I headed for, Western Avenue. And luckily, I found someone who knew (my dad), and that was (Mr.) Prato, who sold produce to him (prewar). He was the middleman at the time, between the farmers and the grocers. So he had gotten, fortunately, quite wealthy, 'cause he inherited, I think, (...) a lot of the (Japanese-run) farms, and I don't know how much, but he had a Medina home (now), you can imagine, and he had, I think, about two acres. And so it was "park-like," and he could use help, he said, as we sat and talked. So it came out that, I said, I'll make a deal. I said, "If you can meet them in for me (from Idaho) and take 'em," because the main thing for me was safety at that time. 'Cause even Reverend Andrews was having to ride "shotgun-like," with the Funais, as they will tell you later, (to sell their farm-products), and it was still bad. Tacoma had this great big, kind of, (trouble) that got publicized in the media, and this man was saying, "We don't want any Japs back here." (The Japanese) were having trouble getting (hair cuts), even the veterans (...) had trouble. And in Hood River, (Oregon), they wouldn't put the Japanese (Americans of World War II) on the honor roll, and (in) the cemeteries, they had overturned the Japanese cemetery stones. It was a bad time, but I didn't know much of that 'til later, (of) what was happening to the others. All I knew was I had to get (my folks) a job, and I had to get out of Seattle (quickly) if I wanted to continue (my nursing). I had no skills at that point. So I was lucky, he said he'll take my father, and I think it's because I said, "You don't have to pay him. I'm after (their) safety at this time."

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<Begin Segment 23>

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

TI: So going back to Mr. Prato, so you mentioned that he, perhaps, got wealthy by taking over some farms?

SA: I think so.

TI: Are you talking about the Japanese farms?

SA: I don't know what he did, but he, I didn't ask him where he got so wealthy. But he did. Before, he wasn't, and all I knew was in this short span, all of a sudden he's got a home in Medina, and he's got park-like grounds (...). And he had a wife who had this big place that maybe my mother could help. (My mother) certainly didn't know anything about Caucasian cooking, and she never cleaned a house except our own. This was a come-down for her. I mean, she'd been educated in Japan, she was a teacher. Much as she hated the grocery store, at least it made quite a good income for a while. So this was the lowest she could go, to work under someone.

TI: So what you were able to do, though, was arrange the situation --

SA: It was a safety thing. (It would be for two years, 'til I could support them. Room and board and security was what I asked for).

TI: -- where your dad would help out with the yard and your mom would help out with the house in Medina, and they would live there in Medina.

SA: And it was up to him if he wanted to pay him or not. 'Cause I said, "Give me two years and I'll be through, and I'll take 'em back off your hands." And of course, he liked that idea of free labor, I think. I never, ever got to talk to him on that score. But he was willing to do this, and I thought, "Wow, this is great. Now I can turn around and go home, and tell 'em to pack and he'll meet 'em in," and that's what happened. And so I got back and Sister Antonio was glad to see me. I was glad to get back.

TI: So before you went back, though, did you see your parents in Seattle?

SA: No, he said he would meet them in. So he took 'em directly, I guess, to his place.

TI: Did you ever get any feedback from your parents how it worked out?

SA: Oh, they didn't like it because they did hear from some people, I guess they were free to go to town, I don't know where they heard it, but they heard that you could work at Providence Hospital, it was a great place, they needed dishwashers and people. And because Father Tibesar was from the Maryknoll Division, they were open, and the hotels would take you on as dishwashers, too. And as for the women, they were all doing housekeeping, they're getting on the buses and going in, which is what happened when they learned they were getting money and they could afford a place of their own, of course they wanted to be on their own. So I don't know what kind of arrangements they made, but by the time I got back, there they were (in Seattle on their own). I think the apartment they had was first, all filled with evacuees, of course. But my father was washing dishes at Providence, my mother was going out to Broadmoor and places like that and doing housecleaning. And it was terrible for them because they're not exactly young. And I think that it showed, their Japanese cultural background, gaman, endurance, and do the unendurable, which they did. And they were making a living. It's just amazing.

TI: So let's go, so let's go back to your training. So you went back --

SA: I went back and I finished. I thought it was a great training, like I said, we had the polio epidemic, we had all these things, and I did do a little bit of (private duty). I was trying to get enough money to get back. And so I did at the outset some private duty nursing. But at the same time, I did give the money to the nuns and asked what portion I could keep, 'cause I thought that's what we had to do, and they let me keep it, so I did get a little bit (saved. But) when it came time to go back, I was dependent upon my roommate because it was up to her brother to drive us (back to the coast). He was coming in from New York, he was doing some translating. So he had (a) car and he was gonna come to pick us up, meaning my roommate and I, and then another couple (of girls), one going into Los Angeles, but we were going to drop her off at Denver where her sister was, and they were gonna travel back. But meanwhile, we had to wait for him, and while we were waiting, I did some of that private duty nursing, trying to get enough money.

TI: But then when did the rural nursing come in?

SA: That was (in my) last year. That was still in my student year, but the last quarter.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

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

TI: Okay, let's talk about that before we go back to Seattle. The rural nursing and what that was like.

SA: Well, they asked for volunteers, and instead of just staying on at the hospital with nursing, there was a chance to do rural nursing. I had read about how great it was because, not in the workforce, but you (in rural nursing) would get to do deliveries and things like that, plus being out on your own, so I signed up. I was the only one, I didn't know that, but I did get, this, again, a ticket out. I think they gave us the fare by bus from (...) Rochester to Itasca, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. And I was joined by three others (from the) Minneapolis territory. It was two from Minneapolis General Hospital and one from St. Paul's, so there were four of us girls. So we all got (...) together on the bus, and we were discussing what great fun we'd have together. We got along so well, I was really enchanted with the idea I could go with these girls and we'd have fun up there. [Laughs] It wasn't to be, in a way, and it was (all right in) other ways 'cause we worked together. But when we got there, and we got there at eight p.m. at night, which didn't help, it was getting dark, (and since) it's up north, north toward the (Canadian) border, (it was cold). And so they, Ilo Myers was the coordinator for this rural nursing experience (a), field thing. So she said, she didn't say anything (to me) when she picked us up at the bus stop, that was the whole problem. And maybe she didn't want the others to know, I don't know. So when we stopped at the only apartment available in this forty-family village from where we went out (on the road and where) we also manned the small hospital there. She dropped off the three, and I was trying to get my bags out, too, and then she told me to put 'em back, and I thought, "What is this?" Anyway, that was my first encounter on my own against this racial thing. And she said, "You have to come back in, Sharon." I said, "Why?" And she said, "I'll tell you about it in the (car)." So I think the other three girls were just as amazed, 'cause I know they looked back and they were wondering why I had to get back in there. And I don't think they realized it 'til I met them later. And she, (Ilo Meyer) must have talked to them, because it never came up again. Meanwhile, she drove me to this house, and it was a nice little house. But then to my astonishment, they were (both deaf and mute).

TI: Before we talk about that, so during that ride from the apartments where she dropped off the three, to this house, did she explain?

SA: Well, she said that the war had been over but the veterans were returning, and some people in town had lost some of their (sons), so they would not understand (my being there). But she did find me a place, but she didn't tell me until we were almost at the door that they were (both) deaf mutes.

TI: And while she was talking to you about this, how did you feel? I mean, what did you think?

SA: Well, I was really upset. In the first place, I never lived with handicapped (folks and) I didn't know what to expect, and I didn't like the idea that (I was) kind of isolated from the rest of the girls. But (...) I guess I must have really looked very upset, because I asked -- we don't call them deaf mutes -- it's hard of hearing, they (use that) term. I asked the people that greeted me that night, the Stoke family (how I looked to them, that first meeting). And they said I really looked mad. But there was no point in my talking to them because they can't hear. And so I thought, "Wow." And they were being very frugal, well, they are to some extent, but the house was cold all the time 'cause they wouldn't put up the temp. They were wearing sweaters, but I'm not used to that. And (...) they had two children, three and five, and when I went in, the first thing they did was to sit me down at a table and they had this paper. (They wrote me questions and) so I'm writing the answers down so they could read it. But they told me that these were the rules, and I thought, "Boy." And it was, "Answer the door," and they put down in parentheses, the dog had died, that he would jump up and down at the door if somebody (...) rang the doorbell. And now it was my job (to answer the doorbell), and would I answer the ring on the telephone, (because) they can't, but to write down anything. 'Cause the children would answer it, but Royal was only five years old, but he already could do sign language. This was interesting, the child was used, like she would go to the store, he'd do the talking and she'd (use sign language) and he would tell them (what) she wanted (like) thread, she wanted needles, and things like that. So, actually, Royal was my best helper. Darryl, on the other hand, was three, and he, of course, he didn't like the idea -- and I didn't know this 'til much later -- (that his folks couldn't speak to him). He's also a Fulbright Scholar and actually studied six years in Japan. And he said he didn't know why he was doing these things, (learning Japanese, etcetera), for the fact that somehow, at age three, it came across to him that I was Japanese, I guess. And he said he, and his whole home (was decorated with) shoji screens and (...) he could never understand why he (liked things Asian). And he liked a girl in Hawaii, (too), who was of Japanese ancestry, he didn't get her unfortunately. He's still single (and) he's a wonderful guy, he's a professor at Emory University.

TI: So what Darryl was saying, so you probably influenced --

SA: Well, that's what he said. He said he didn't realize it 'til he came for some meeting in Seattle and I invited him over. And, of course, when his folks came, thirty-eight years later, (...) they drove up when (we lived) in the Seward Park house, and Darryl came, too. So he finally realized what the whole thing was about.

TI: 'Cause he didn't realize you were Japanese back then?

SA: He must have known, (but he was only three years old). I didn't know 'til later, but he's just wonderful in that when he took his sabbatical at Irving, he got a place on Laguna Beach and he wired me to come on down and he brought his folks in from (Minnesota). We had a great reunion down there, he (treated). He's now in Peru on a two-year (teaching contract but) he should be back soon. But (we want him to come and stay with us) when he comes to town.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

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

TI: So going back to the rural nursing, so you go into this situation, you're separated from the other three nurses, you're told that you have these returning vets so you may not be welcome as a Japanese American, so what was the rural nursing experience like in this community?

SA: Well, it was really something because (some) didn't know I was a Japanese American. They had heard, though, the owner of the apartment had heard there was a "Jap" coming. But that was all they knew. But then the other families, I don't know how much the whole village knew, but when I turned up at their homes for tea parties, this is such a small rural place, anything you do is news, you know, and so you're in the paper, their little paper that runs around, like so-and-so had tea. And it's so funny, but they invited me to all the functions that were going on, but they thought I was a French-Canadian Indian girl. 'Cause (...) in that area, wooded areas, (...) where we were doing rural nursing, we were covering (lots of) ground, (some Indian territory). And we would drive out, I can't drive, we're paired with someone who can, and usually it's a social worker, and that was Mrs. Payment, so she and I went. And so I told Bob and Sigrid, they were kind of worried about me, which I really appreciated. But I didn't know 'til much later because it was news to them, it was the first time they had ever rented their house, a room out, and for them, it was because they lacked money. I asked them why they took me in, and they said it was money, unfortunately. They needed it. [Laughs]

TI: But they, but they, so they were concerned, or did they know that you were a Japanese...

SA: Oh, they knew I was a Japanese American. But, see, nobody hardly came to their place because they're handicapped. And his mother came, and then the pastor came, Reverend Mooney came. But I don't remember anybody (but) one friend that was (also) deaf, (who) came. But it was great (and) I didn't have much to do with the townspeople unless they were sick and in the hospital. But after spending a (quarter, it lengthened out to be more), there, and I'm in the hospital part of the time. They knew who I was, I think. (But) they gave me a great send-off, I really appreciated that because they even came up from Duluth and (the) Hibbing (area), and the areas I covered. That was a big party.

TI: But at some point, did they realize that you were Japanese American, or did they always think you were (a) French-Indian Canadian?

SA: Well, I don't know when they fully realized it. (They) did, at the farewell (party), because they asked one of the returning soldiers, actually it was a fellow I was going around with. And he's Finnish, of course, so he was this blond, blue-eyed guy, and this is why one time, when we went out, I don't know if I told you, (there) was a tavern, 'cause there's nothing there to go to. The High Hat tavern. Anyway, so when I was sitting there with Dusty and her boyfriend, that's another Caucasian couple, and I said, "Hey, what happened to the boys? All of a sudden they're gone," and she says, "They're out in the back fighting." I said, "Fighting?" and she said, "Sure." I said, "What are they fighting about?" She says, "You. You're the cause of it." And I said, "Me?" and she said, "Didn't you listen?" They were playing some music of the '40s, and they had switched to "Night and Day." I didn't think it had anything to do with me, but that was it, I guess, that was to (say), I'm the "night," and he's the "day" because he's blond and blue-eyed and I'm dark. [Laughs] And I thought, "Wow, I guess that touched off something," and I don't know what, but anyway, they came back, and that was the only incident that I know of openly. I don't know what else they went through, but...

TI: So your Finnish boyfriend was in the back fighting the person who probably put this music --

SA: Yeah, and Dusty's boyfriend, the two of 'em against somebody who must have made some comment. But mainly because (of) that song, I guess, touched it off.

TI: Were there other experiences similar to that where you had to deal with...

SA: No, not really, because as I said, as I made (my way north), I went to the one room schoolhouses, and any problems they have (medically, they would) bring up. And it's like International Falls, this is on the border of Canada. It was a twelve-bed hospital and they were wondering why the patients were dying on the operating table, and could I check it out. So I went and I checked the sterilizer, (autoclave) and all that. Everything looked okay. And then I asked them, "What are you using for anesthesia?" And it (was) drop ether, 'cause you're in the woods, and the easiest thing to do is put the mask on and drop the (ether) 'til they're (asleep). Trouble is, the people in that neck of the woods (there are a lot of) immigrants, and they're Finnish and German and (from the) Baltic countries, Norwegians, Swedish. So they drink a lot, especially the Finns. And so to put 'em under, you gotta give 'em an awful lot. It's a tricky thing (when) you get to that. And evidently, I think they just dropped a lot more than they needed to and the person just went all the way out (and) never came back is what it (was). But I think that's it, because I could find nothing, and that's the only thing I could think of. Everything was sterile, as far as I could see. (The autoclave) wasn't leaking, and they were using the right (sterilizing) methods. There was only one doctor, and he was out there fishing (at a lake nearby), I could see him from the hospital. But it was impressive to me because I think the nursing care was spectacular. There was one nurse running the whole (twelve bed hospital). They had a preemie, as I said before, and here at (the) Mayo with all the latest equipment, we had trouble keeping a four month (premature baby) alive because this was sixty years (ago), more than that, ago (...). Here she had a two-pound preemie in a little apple crate, sitting out there in the hall. And the only thing I could think of, it's living because nobody's touching it. Whereas we had all these (conveniences, oxygen) tubes and everything, and the heat on. I think we touched (the preemie babies) too much. I don't know. (...) But in that day it was a miracle to me that she -- I don't know how long (the baby) lived, though, see, 'cause I (left) right after. But to see it laying there exposed like that was really a wonderment to me. I thought, "Boy, she's tremendous, she's got that (baby) still alive." I think it was at least a week (old).

TI: So Sharon, I actually just wanted to go back and just ask you about, so you, during this time you had a Finnish boyfriend.

SA: Yeah. Well, more a friend.

TI: Or a friend. How did his family...

SA: They were really nice. They were the ones who invited me, actually, to dinner on Christmas Eve. That's when I got in the accident. And so, actually, there was no overt prejudice of any type, and it was just, I felt accepted because like when I was at the hospital and there was an accident down the road, and of course this young guy was inebriated and actually his girlfriend was dead in the car. And he came up to the emergency, he needed help. But like I say, he was drunk, it's a good thing. He had his skull (fractured) and the skin was broken, and he had a (bad) cut. And so I think it was, (Dr. Boltz, who) was on, (the doctors) take turns. So I called him (...), I never saw anything like this. With his scalpel (the doctor) kind of cleaned up the wound, but he lifted the flap and he says, "Have you got any IV?" We have 5 in 1, that's saline and water, and he just cleaned the wound out with that. We just opened a bottle. And then we put in some sulfa packets, and then he sewed it up, and he says, "Now, let's push him out the door," and I said, "What?" Meanwhile he is swearing at us and saying he was gonna have us outside of Anderson's funeral parlor by morning. And we knew a lot of 'em carried knives in their hip boots. And then I said, "Wow, we're gonna let 'em go?" and he said, "Yes." Meanwhile, one of the hospital (personnel) -- I don't know (who) -- must have been an aide, went out the car, and that's when came back and said, "She's gone, she's dead." So it didn't seem to bother him any, but like I say, he was inebriated. So it's kind of interesting, that's the kind of care we had out there, (for the populace. Really worked!)


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

<Begin Segment 26>

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

TI: So let's talk about the accident, Christmas Eve.

SA: Yes, (...) right after dinner I was supposed to report back to the hospital because I didn't have any family (to celebrate with, so I took) the night shift. So we started off, and unfortunately, the snows were piled up, and in Minnesota, up in the north, (snow piles) up. It's not a joke, it really is high, snowdrifts. Anyway, this (old) fellow, was kind of (on a) rise, a little rise, and he came up on the other side. (He) was an old man, (...) actually way up in his years (...). And he had been denied a driver's license because of his age, and yet he was driving on the wrong side of the road. Of course, I suppose you can't tell because the snow is deep, but we collided head-on, and (with) enough force that... we didn't have any of these, any safety equipment of any type, air bags or anything like we have today. So I went down and I hit the dash with my jaw, and so broke it in three places, which is why I have (these) dentures here in the lower front. I had a head concussion, (too). And all I remember is I got put in a ambulance, and it headed for Hibbing, which was the nearest big town with a decent hospital. Because where I was, (the hospital) was a small one in the village, and nobody there could (do too much surgery). We had doctors, but I don't think they wanted to tackle anything like that. And because I was in from St. Mary's (nursing school in) Rochester, they drove me to Hibbing, which was the place with the best hospital mainly due to the open mine that they have. (They have) the world's biggest open ore mine, and so they had a million dollar schoolhouse, glass schoolhouse and everything, and they had the good hospital. So I was driven there in (an) ambulance, and they took pictures of me there to show how deformed I was. I had (a) broken clavicle and broken ribs. And I was conscious all that time, 'cause I remember the ambulance (...) siren going on.

So they did the best they could patching me up, but the interesting thing to me was the insurance company couldn't see me because the doctors locked the door on 'em. Because one of 'em had a nephew that was an attorney just back from the war, (...) from (the Guadalcanal area), too, Pacific Theatre. And he wanted to have a good job, and so of course I'm a good (client) 'cause I didn't know anything about insurance or anything, so this was great. (An) "open and shut case" because the other man (had) died (...). He was (driving) on the wrong side, so the case (was closed, it was now) with the insurance company. It was a clean case where they would give me the entire amount (to settle). This way, (the) attorney (...) didn't have to do anything (...). So he took (their statement), it was five thousand dollars, at that time it was quite a bit of money.

TI: So I want to make sure I understand. So while you were being examined, they locked the door so the insurance person could not come in?

SA: Well, (the insurance company) wanted to settle the claim immediately.

TI: With you?

SA: With me.

TI: While you were being treated?

SA: Well, yes, because that's the best way to do it, isn't it, (for) the insurance company. Maybe it was a day after (that), they came in, because that was at night, late, and I think they came the next day and they were trying to get in and couldn't.

TI: And what they were trying to do was figure this out so that the doctor could be paid and all that?

SA: Well, it's like, yeah. Well, the doctor wanted his nephew to take the case so he could (make some money, just being back from World War II, as a commission).

TI: And so his nephew was the lawyer who was doing this?

SA: Yeah, (he was) my lawyer (...). And Dr. Clelland (and) Dr. (Boltz), they really doctored up the picture, putting all that ketchup looking like blood on me. And to tell them that I was deformed for life, which is not true, because they set it. But I had these (...) Steinman pins, and I still have the (scars) to keep the jaw intact. So it did look terrible, and they had my (photo taken). (My jaws were) out of line, and (I) was bleeding (a little), but not as much as they were trying to make it (seem). I shouldn't even say that, (...) but it was true, and with the clavicle out, (I looked deformed).

TI: And so your lawyer was working against the other insurance company?

SA: Oh, yes. Well, they have to deal with the insurance company, so they would ask for more and then the insurance company would have to (settle for more). (That worked and) they gave me the settlement, (...) it wasn't really half -- he gave me three thousand (and the lawyer took) two thousand (with very little work). He didn't have to do anything, 'cause it was "open and shut." (No witnesses, and the old fellow who hit us had died.)

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

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

TI: And so in terms of your further treatment, after this initial couple of days, then what happened?

SA: Well, they wired me immediately from St. Mary's in Rochester, told me to come back and have the Mayo Clinic doctors (take care of me), and what was I thinking of to let the country doctors even try to take care of it?

SA: So I found myself on a bus with my friend, and we went back to Rochester on the bus. And of course I went straight to the Mayo Clinic, and they pulled out the pins (that they had put in). It was a good thing I did, I guess, because then, you know, whatever healing had started, they broke it up again because they wanted to realign my teeth, too. I'm glad I had them do it, because maybe it was even better than what I had (before), because my teeth (weren't properly aligned) and then (they) fixed that. And I had really not knocked (out every tooth, some) were loose, (...) so I could get a straw through, and then they wired my jaw shut. So the good thing was, we had dieticians (at the hospital who) mashed up all they could (to feed me). In the morning I would get a codeine shot to take care of the pain, and then I worked. Amazing, I said, those nuns get the most out of you. (But it was good. It made me take my mind off my pain.)

TI: They made you work?

SA: They put, on the (fractured) clavicle, (...) a harness (so the bones pulls it together) and it's like a brace. It holds it. Well, (so with the brace, it healed together). They had my jaws shut, so I couldn't speak very well, (but) I was put on (the) prep shift, which (meant) all I had to do -- but it wasn't fun -- was I'd prep, shave the patients for surgery. So this is called the "prep shift," and I was on (from three p.m. to twelve p.m.), readying the patients for surgery in the morning. So I didn't have to say very much. I could talk, but not as well (or distinctly).

TI: I'm amazed.

SA: It was kind of interesting, and my roommate would give me a shot (of codeine) in the morning. And they said if I couldn't down enough they'd have to give me an IV, but the dieticians, they were terrific. They were mushing up everything, even potato soup, I don't know how they mushed it up enough to get it through a straw. So I did very well. I thought this was remarkable. When I looked back on it, I thought, "Well, but I survived." And it doesn't take long to heal (when you're young).

TI: Earlier you mentioned that this experience of actually the accident and this period was sort of "making lemonade out of lemons."

SA: Oh, yes, 'cause now I had three thousand dollars.

TI: Oh, okay, so it was the...

SA: It was the monetary part.

TI: Okay, so having all of a sudden the money.

SA: Well, that I spent when I came back here and I found my folks living in this apartment, and (...) I signed on first for the p.m. night shift, anything for an extra bonus. I think I took the three to twelve (p.m. shift), 'cause I had to walk down to get the bus and go home. But I took all the emergency calls I could (in surgery), 'cause I got extra money. And the whole name of the game was we had nothing, and we had to start all over. 'Cause everything had been taken, (during the evacuation), the home, the store, the (furniture), nothing was there except the few things my parents had stored in somebody's house, which is why I have (a few Imari dishes, tea sets, etcetera).

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

<Begin Segment 28>

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

TI: So let's talk about going back to Seattle. So you recovered, you finished your training, so you now had a RN degree.

SA: Yes, I came back with a skill.

TI: And so you returned to Seattle, so about what year is this now?

SA: '47.

TI: Okay, 1947, and you are about how old now?

SA: I'm twenty-one, twenty going on twenty-one.

TI: Okay, twenty, twenty-one. So let's talk about, you said earlier that it was almost like the first day you looked for work, you were able to get a job.

SA: Yes, you know, I came in, (...) Frank, (my roommate's brother, drove us) down to Fresno. They lived in Fowler, right outside of Fresno. I say Fresno 'cause that's the biggest town near (their home). He had a great farm, they did very well. And that was evidently (because he owned it and had a friend run it.) We stopped in Salt Lake City where (they) had a cousin. (...) Utah was really good to us (Japanese) even from the time we were in camp. (Many) went to Clearfield, (Utah), for sugar beets or everything like that, cannery jobs and freezing, whatever, at the time. We didn't have frozen (vegetables), that developed (later). We had dehydration plants, but Ogden, Utah, and Salt Lake City, they had a great number there of Japanese staying, Japanese Americans. Chicago was the other one. They both had them in the thousands. The Mormons were good to them. I went to a ward meeting with the people I was staying with, the Oda family, and (it was the) first time I saw (people) saluting the State of Utah (flag), and I thought, "Wow, they're pretty strong down (here, the Mormons.")

TI: Okay, so this is on your way back to Seattle, so you stopped...

SA: Yes, (...) I ended up in Fowler, (California), and I rested there for a few days, and then I took the coach (train north). I was in coach, but they told me I could sit in first class 'cause it was empty. By the time (...) I got to Portland, (...) they (had) moved me back into the coach, (so I got to Seattle). That was in the morning, and my folks met me, but I don't know if they had gotten somebody (to help me). Anyway, we got up to this apartment -- they had moved (in), as I said, out of (Mr.) Prato's to this place. But there was a junkyard or something nearby, and there was a lot of noise in the morning with all the trucks unloading. (...) The closest hospital was the United States Public Health Hospital, which was (the) Marine Hospital. It's right there on (Beacon) Hill where is. We were down on Fir Street, (...) between Twelfth and Fourteenth (Avenue). So I had to get to Jackson (Street, so) I had to walk (...) to catch a bus to go around to Beacon Hill (...). It was kind of (unhandy) when I had to take emergency (calls), I stayed at the hospital 'cause there was no way (to get to the hospital quickly).

TI: And so you did this, and this is where you mentioned earlier, you worked with Dr. McGowan.

SA: Yes, that's where I met Dr. McGowan, and I was amazed that they assigned me to surgery. I thought I would take a floor and kind of break into the place. But here, I go at noon and the next thing I know, (I've a job) in surgery. And I thought, "This is strange." That was all right, but I was amazed because Dr. McGowan told me to scrub in with him, and I thought, ("They don't know what kind of a nurse I am, and here I'm scrubbing for the chief surgeon!")

TI: So in retrospect, looking back, after you talked about your training, do you think it was the training you got at the Mayo Clinic that...

SA: I think it was because he knew I was a Japanese American, and I think he had his eye on me from the time I entered that place. I don't know, I never got to talk to him about it 'cause he never talked about (the evacuation). But he'd make jokes, you know, because he'd make fun of the fact that I was quite devout. And he'd say, "You know, if you told Sharon here that the moon is green (and) it says so in the Bible, she's crazy enough to believe it." I mean, he'd always say things like that. And when we're (closing, like him) sewing up (the) stomach, it's a (series of single sutures). You had these small (curved) needles, (...) and what we (do is we string needles) called "interrupted sutures." It means you take one stitch and you tie. Continuous (stitching) is when you go (stitch) all the way and it's one tie. Well, we have to do interrupted (stitching) on the stomach (cases), kind of a delicate thing, and he'd put his hand out and I'm supposed to keep whipping in these things, but (to keep ahead when) he's so fast and I'm (so) slow, he said, "She's like those (brides) when Christ comes in," the Bible, and you have these (lamps) of oils and some (brides) have forgotten to fill it. So when Christ comes (as) the bridegroom, (...) they're not ready (with the lamp) so they don't go to heaven (...). So he says, "There she is, she's one of those left behind. Hurry up." [Laughs] And I thought, "Good night," (...). But he'd always say things like that and I thought, (wow), but he never told me (about the internment) camp and (that) he was there at the assembly center. (I wish now, I had known that.)

TI: But then tell me the story about your father now. Your father was at Providence and then...

SA: Yes, (...) I took him in because he had varicosities and (they) wanted to strip his veins. And they gave him a general anesthetic, and for some reason, I think it's because he's (small), five-foot-two, and (he was only 112 pounds) in his report at the FBI files. So when you give him a normal dose, it really knocks him under, (too strong a dose). Even my mother, when she was in Keiro, she got an overdose and she didn't wake up ('til) the second day. And I was concerned about that. But my father didn't wake up, and so they (...) called me, and I took the phone call in surgery. So then I said, "I've got to go," and he said, well, he's going, too, he didn't have a case, so he said he was going to take me and go. And I said, "You don't have to go," but he went with me. And I thought, "Wow." I should have thought then, "Why is he doing this (for me)? I'm just a worker." It wasn't until years later, and by then he had (retired and) left, I guess he had a stroke or something, he was (admitted to) a hospital back on the East Coast. And I thought, "I wish I had gone to thank him." I thought, "It's too late, why didn't he tell me?" He never did. Isn't that strange?

TI: Yeah, that's a good story.

SA: You'd think he'd say something.

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

<Begin Segment 29>

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

TI: From your nursing career, you did this switch in careers.

SA: Well, I mean, we just graduate with an RN, it doesn't matter where we go in. But I thought I'd start in on the floor, at least acquaint myself with the hospital, but gee, I was put in surgery and I'm there the next afternoon. I thought, "Wow." Scrubbing in, I thought, "Wow, this is amazing."

TI: But then, but then you started going to the University of Washington.

SA: Yes, I did. I took the summers off, whatever vacation time I could get in, and I didn't carry (many subjects), but I (did) take two years' vacation time, lump it into one so I can get at least six weeks, or enough time (to) put in some education courses. Actually, it was in (the) nursing courses first, 'cause the degree I got (was a) Bachelor's out of the UW in Public Health and Nursing Administration, which I never used. I did go out to (do) Public Health in the internship field work to Tacoma. I didn't like it at all.

TI: So how did you get into education from that?

SA: Well, because I lost my son. I got pregnant, and my son, my second son, (Jon), was only a year old when he died. But he had (...) a ureter (problem, it) was constricted. It was (a) kind of a minor thing, (but) maybe there was more to it than I realized, but (...) at that time, you couldn't read the (nurses' or doctors') notes. I know I went to (the) Children's Orthopedic (Hospital) and I asked if I could watch the surgery, and they said, "No, it won't take long, just go wait in the other room." And then I realized when I saw the code (light go on), and then I saw these doctors and they were not in scrub suits, (but in clean) suits. I knew something (happened to my son). So I turned (to Reverend) David Nakagawa, (our) new pastor. It was his first (...) church, I didn't realize it (then). His wife (Vicky was only nineteen years old). And I told them to go and pray (for us), 'cause I saw (the doctors) coming (...) and I didn't know what had happened, but I said, "(Please) run down (to the) small chapel (and pray for us)." I said, "I will join you (later)." And of course they came to tell me that they had lost him (on the table). And they could not tell me why, but the surgeon then told me that he would talk to his father, and then he would let me know, 'cause his father was also a doctor back east somewhere. He never let me know. But what was so cruel, I thought, was when we left the hospital, they stopped us at the accounting (desk), and since we had lost our son, they wanted full payment. I thought that was really cruel, and my husband was so upset. Of course we paid, but he said if that person who was at the accounting office wasn't a woman, he would have slugged 'em. She (also) had only one arm (...). But anyway, it was just hard to take, when (...) you've just lost (your baby son), to hear that. And I thought, "Wow, they can't even wait." And of course the (hospital) charts were closed (to us). Years later, it was opened, and that was when (we found out that our son, Jon, died from a surgical error).

(What hurt us more) was when (we) tried to bury (Jon) at "Babyland," this was after (World War II), they refused (him) because he was Japanese. (We) couldn't bury him there. And I told them at Washelli (this) last Memorial Day, I told Steve Hopkins, "You know what happened here (at Washelli in 1956, and) why we have the grave? Because," I said, "we couldn't bury him in Babyland, so we had to buy a plot. (On a granite stone), it's a flat one, but I (had engraved) "Beloved Gift of God" and I drew a picture of a little boy (...) angel, you could still see (he's still) there. It was, again, a racial thing. And it's terrible when you're already in grief and then you're told (it was a) surgical error (...) in the paper later (...). And then to go out there in your grief and then you're told that you can't bury him in Babyland. (...) You're short enough on cash but you've (had) to buy a plot. (...) But I was (...) grateful that I could (...) write something on the stone. (...) John's grave is (still) out there.

TI: I'm sort of stymied for, in terms of how you were, how you got through this, this time period.

SA: Well, I don't think I got over it for a long time, but you know, I had Brian, (your older brother) Danny's friend (to look after). And of course, my mother's after me (to get out of the) nursing profession. So I started taking education courses, I had my (B.S. already in nursing so) I was able to move a lot of the 300 subjects, as you probably know, into (my requirements for education) which was great (and) they must have been short on teachers, too, because (even if I was) eighteen credits shy, (they let me) into the classroom. (...) My cadetting supervisor and (the teacher) I was cadetting under in Seattle Schools (...) didn't get along to the point that (the cadet supervisor) yanked me out of Wedgewood school and put me (into a teaching job. She) asked me where I wanted to go. And I wasn't even through (...) with methods (in) reading, (but she said), "That's all right," she says, "I'm getting you out." And since it was mid-term, I couldn't go into another school to take cadetting again. She told me, "You're ready for teaching," and I said, "I am?" And she said, "Well, you've been teaching," the three times (she had come), she said, "I've seen enough, you can teach." (...) So I said, "Seattle." So I came into the Seattle school system on an emergency certificate which was okayed for K-12, and it was signed by Mr. Chichester, (the superintendent of the Seattle Schools).

TI: And this was about what year?

SA: (1959-60), something like that. So I spent more time in education than I did in nursing. And then (to top that), they moved me (in) two years (to) a reading specialist (position). (And I ended up at the school library in) Montlake. So I had to go get my master's (in library science). Well, I didn't have to, but I (didn't) know how to run a library, (and since) I'm teaching remedial reading, (too). (...) I went after hours to get my master's in librarianship. (...) At least when I (entered into) education, I (had the same hours as) my son (and) that was what I was trying to get, the summers off. Nothing idealistic. I hate to say that, but I do love children, it helped. (I loved teaching)

TI: And so you had three sons, you had Brian, Jon, who died...

SA: Yeah, died, Jon.

TI: And then your third son's name?

SA: It's Richard.

TI: Is Richard. And I never asked, but how did you meet your husband?

SA: Oh, he was recruited by Boeing, believe it or not, in 1949 he came (to Seattle). He finished at (the) University of Michigan, he also has two degrees, but they're both bachelors, one from Albion College in liberal arts, that's where he went from the (internment) camp. He was in Amache, and he went on his own money, which is amazing, but finished up with the GI Bill (at the) University of Michigan in (electrical) engineering. Boeing came out to recruit, and so he came to Seattle. And of course, the only person he knew was the Japanese minister at our church, and he lived at the manse with him. (So) since it was (also my) church and I'm there, (we met).

TI: Okay, so you met through church.

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

<Begin Segment 30>

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

TI: We're just about out of time, and so I just wanted to follow up. We've done over four hours of interviewing, and something that really strikes me is how positive you are in terms of your outlook on life and even looking back on all these events. And yet, as I've gone through this interview, there are so many difficult times that you went through. And I was just curious, what is it that allows you to be so positive?

SA: I think it's (because "doors and windows" always opened up for me. Good experiences, and successful ones, help!) I think when you're young, you don't think ahead.

TI: No, but right now. You right now, looking back, you have such a positive outlook on life.

SA: Because I realize that had (the war not come along, and) had I stayed here, all of us (...) Niseis, we would have been blue collar workers sitting in our little ghettos. Actually, this war helped tremendously to disperse us into all fifty states. Plus, I went out as a fifteen year old maybe, going on sixteen, but I came back with a skill in nursing, which enabled me to make a life. And with the Bolton Act, my nursing was free, I was educated enough to be considered (skilled and had a profession). I didn't have to do housework. Had I stayed, I would have never gotten there. And I came back, I was able to earn a living, and my brother came through the GI Bill, and my sister already was established as a TA by that time in Pullman. So we all came back with a skill. And for the whole (Japanese American) community, with the GI Bill we were educated within that one generation, amazingly. We all went out into uncomfortable places, of course, but it matured us. We were now interacting with Caucasians. We wouldn't have a thing like this happen again, because we would have them backing us. It was our own fault we were in this ghetto, but of course it was the sign of the times. Everybody was staying within their own (minority group), the Chinese, too. And some still are. I mean, (we) came back, they're still there in Chinatown. But here we are, there's hardly any Nihonmachi left. And then again, in the intermarriages, you see this, and this is about (the war, too. Intermarriages started after the war and it) was about sixty percent about twenty years ago, it's about eighty, I think, now, eighty-two or more. So we have, again, as someone said, one of the teachers, in fact, in Minidoka at the time, I don't know which one it was, I kept thinking it's (Miss) Amerman, said, "The only way you people are ever going to assimilate is to marry outside your race." And she's darn right. 'Cause now we have (about) the fifth generation, and of course the cultural values are disappearing as you see, I think the Niseis carried it with us, but we owe it all to the legacy that the Isseis left us, and that was they really visualized far ahead, I think, for us. They did everything to their utmost (to educated us), and because they did it, that "go for broke" makes sense, 'cause the Niseis went out and did their utmost to try to prove our loyalty. And we did, that's the one thing we got done. I mean, the poor 442nd and 100th (battalions), they shed their blood to prove it, but the rest of us, and the Isseis really endured what was considered unendurable (through World War II). Through it all, because the Isseis maintained their dignity and their pride, we were able to stand up because we modeled after them. So we made it through the same way, and we tried to give it to our children, but of course, you know, the third generation, I think that was about the last that carried any of the (Japanese) culture. 'Cause now, what have they got? They've got the food, but they're thoroughly Americanized, to the extent that they're not making the honor rolls as much as -- it's true, isn't it? You look, and who is making it? The immigrants that have just come in. The Westinghouse Science (scholarship) group that they finally got (...). The students, they were all immigrants, they were Koreans, Cambodians or (...) Vietnamese. You don't find the Japanese (third, fourth, or fifth generations) out there, (striving so hard, like the Niseis).

TI: So it's almost, it's interesting, so you talk about this Japanese culture and values, Isseis, Niseis sort of dissipating, Sanseis, and then you talked about, earlier, about the assimilation, which you seemed to say that was good, too.

SA: Oh, yes.

TI: It's almost like, are they sort of countervailing forces? I mean, do they... I see one area where the Japanese culture is dissipating, and you see it as assimilation. How do you feel about all that?

SA: Well, I think that you have to accept the fact that generations do matter. I see very few Sanseis that speak Japanese. In fact, one particular (student) approached me to ask if I would speak with him in Japanese, and for myself, I'm not that great in it, I can't read or write it because I didn't finish Japanese school. I took three quarters under Professor Niwa at the University of Washington because we had to have a (language) for a master's at that time (...). And then I still have the audacity to go and teach Japanese. When they told me, "Do something for the gifted, anything," I said, "Anything? I get to pick anything? I'll take Japanese." And this is (for) elementary (school), so of course they know nothing. And I'm making up my own games and writing my own things like color by numbers, I put Japanese letters, and English I would (write) midori, and here I have (them color it), and they'd make it "green," so they absorbed some. And I'm writing little picture stories and putting down, like, "(Destry) went to get a book," I'm putting it in Japanese, so they had their own names in that, (so that) makes them do it. And then I'm throwing these (blocks), looked like dices, with "a-i-u-e-o," the letters, and then (have the students roll it or) throw it and then by fortune, if they throw something (like two blocks), two of 'em that come out with a word, sora, I'd say, "That's the sky. What's that word? What's the sky?" It's because I taught remedial, I'm really using everything I've (learned) to hit at the core of what's fun, (so they'll learn). Today it's even worse (to teach) because you have television you have to deal with. You've got to entertain the kids to make 'em learn.

TI: At this point we're out of time, and I could probably sit here and talk to you for hours more.

SA: I'm not that (interesting).

TI: This has been fascinating, Sharon, so thank you so much for your time, and just sharing these memories. It's been really...

SA: I just think that as you get my age, (we) appreciate (our Japanese ancestry). Took me to this time to appreciate the Isseis. But I look back and I think, wow, they never spoke much, and I see what they've gone through and I think, wow. Their legacy is the culture and themselves (as models. We owe them a lot!)

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