Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Aya Uenishi Medrud Interview
Narrator: Aya Uenishi Medrud
Interviewer: Daryl Maeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 13, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-maya-01-0019

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DM: So I want to move on to the postwar years, and you mentioned that you had graduated Hunt High School in 1943, so did you go to college after that?

AM: No, I never went to college, but I, when we were living in Utica, New York, I had always wanted to go to an art school, and my father was not too keen about that, but in 1946, I think it was, there was -- for the spring semester of, the fall of '46, I think it was. It was after the war, and we were still living in Utica, New York, and my sister and I decided we'd go to school in New York City. Now, when you stop and think about what that meant for my mother to let two girls go out to New York City to go to school, but they found a room for us with some friends of friends. And this was my first interracial marriage that I encountered, because Mr. Takiguchi was the Japanese, he was a Japanese citizen who lived in this country for many years, but had a business in New York City. And his wife was English, and she, her name was Mary Takiguchi, very prim and proper. So my parents apparently thought that it was safe to have my sister and me room with them. They lived at 135th and Riverside Drive, and my school was, was about out 50th or so, off of Riverside Drive, actually. So it was not very far in terms of distance. So my parents thought it was perfectly safe place for us to be. So I started a school called Traphagen, T-R-A-P-H-A-G-E-N, run by a woman named Ethel Traphagen who thought she was Hans Holbein, the artist, so she went around with a black cape over her, she was a tall woman and had a black, huge black beret, and she would smoke a cigar. She was a real character. Anyway, she was a director of the Traphagen School of Design, and it was after the war, so it was hard to get facilities, so we had, they had cooperative classes with Parsons School of Design. So I went to there, and then I also took classes at Pratt in New York City, of course, which meant that we had to travel from place to place. But it was, you know, I mean, at your age, at that age, it was great. I loved it. I thought nothing of taking the subway and coming home at midnight. Could never do that now, but in those days, it was nothing to do that. So I went to school and learned... learned design, fashion design mostly, but design in general.

And I got, apparently I was good enough that I interned with a fashion designer. Her name was Valentina and she was a white Russian immigrant, but was a sought-after socialite designer. The reason I tell this story is something that I experienced. So I'm her intern, so I'm following her around, and she's kind of, quite dramatic. But the thing that I remember about this is that all these fashion designers cater to the socialite group, so they had an inflated sense of themselves, I guess. But anyway, I remember one time she had this Mrs. somebody or the other, she was getting a design, clothes, she was being fitted for it, and I remember that there was a woman who was probably either Slovak or Italian seamstress who was at the bottom of her skirt and trying to fix it or something. And Valentina didn't think she moved fast enough, so she kicked her. And I was just, (...) I just stood there in just absolute disbelief that anyone, any human being would do something like that to another, just because she was in the way and she was crawling around on the floor to try to fix this thing. You know, I quit because I thought, "I can't do this. I mean, if this is what I'm going to be doing, then I don't want to do that," so I quit. And shortly after that I quit school and signed up to go to, work for the Department of Army, that's another story.

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