Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bessie Yoshida Konishi Interview
Narrator: Bessie Yoshida Konishi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 13, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-kbessie-01-0010

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MA: So I wanted to talk about Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I mean, you were pretty young, nine years old or so. Do you have any memories of that day or hearing about it, or anything about that, those couple days following?

BK: You know, I don't remember that particular day, 'cause I was pretty young. But I know before that happened, even we had to black out the windows. And someone came and they took all of the firearms and cameras. And my one brother-in-law was a Kibei and so he could only travel so many miles from his home. He was restricted.

MA: This was your sister's husband who had lived in Japan.

BK: Uh-huh, yeah.

MA: So who came to your house, was that FBI or police?

BK: I would think some official, probably the police. I don't remember that part at all. But, in looking at pictures afterwards, there's a reverse of the swastika, the Buddhist symbol. And that was in a lot of the Buddhist temple pictures, and so they were blacked out. And they burned a lot of pictures, too. Because they didn't want people to think they were supporting Japan and had that connection.

MA: So people who owned the pictures would black out the Buddhist symbols?

BK: The symbols, uh-huh.

MA: Do you remember your parents being concerned at all about being arrested or being put in camp or anything like that?

BK: No, we, 'course we didn't have to, because we didn't live on the coast. But they did sponsor families from California, so they wouldn't have to -- if they had a sponsor, they didn't have to go into camp. So they moved to Alamosa. And my one cousin in particular, it's very sad, because he lived in Norwalk, California, and he wasn't a farmer. He had a very beautiful home in Norwalk. And so they came to Colorado and my dad set him up on a little farm and so he tried to farm. And horse ran away, it was still driven by horse back then instead of tractors. And the wagon ran over him and he died. And of course we couldn't meet in the La Jara Buddhist church at that time, because we couldn't congregate at all. So the windows were boarded up, 'cause the windows were being broken, and so they did open the church up and let us have the funeral for him there. And I have a picture of that which is very sad to me. To see the windows boarded up and the weeds knee high, and here was the funeral in front of that church. It's very sad. But most of them, the ones who came, instead of going into the camp, most of them moved back to California 'cause that was home after the war.

MA: So your father would sponsor them. I'm guessing this was early 1942, before the camps opened?

BK: Yeah.

MA: So they'd sponsor people to come, move to Colorado.

BK: Colorado.

MA: San Luis Valley, Alamosa, and he would help them find work.

BK: Uh-huh, yeah.

MA: Do you remember how these people who had come from the coast, how they fit in, in Alamosa?

BK: Oh gosh, they were welcomed. And it, it just doubled the population, so it was great. And then after the war, we were allowed to meet again in the Buddhist church and so the church was expanded in the back. 'Cause they didn't go right back to California. They stayed there a few years and then moved back. Yeah, I remember it as being great.

MA: So they added a sort of fun, added a lot to the community.

BK: Oh yeah. 'Cause before, we just knew the small group and most of us were either related, so it was nice to have some new people there.

MA: So going back to the issue about the church being closed, was that, did someone come in and, like a police, or authority, and tell you to close the church?

BK: Apparently, they must have, because we couldn't meet. We were not allowed to congregate together in large groups. I guess they thought we were going to plan something, you know.

MA: And that was sort of known in the community that you weren't supposed to meet or congregate.

BK: Oh, yeah.

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