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-01-0004

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DM: Can you tell me about how you became, you came to be named Mariagnes?

AM: When I was ten years -- no, I guess that summer that I was ten, so it had to be 1935, my father decided that it was important for me to get a better education than what we were getting at Bailey Gatzert, I guess. I'm not sure how he made the decision, but he decided that it would be good for me to go to a Catholic school because of the discipline and more regimentation, I guess, that would be good for me. And that's how I ended up going to Maryknoll school, which was a Japanese, there was a mission school run by Maryknoll order of priests and nuns, and it was focused on the Japanese family in Seattle. So that's where I started Maryknoll school. And that following spring, I think it was, after I started it, that I became a Roman Catholic.

DM: And did you choose the name Mariagnes, or was that chosen for you?

AM: No, it was given to me by the Maryknoll priest. He said it was named after his Irish Catholic mother who would never have children of her own, I mean, that she would never have grandchildren of her own because of his priesthood, so he asked my mother and dad if I could be named after her. So Mariagnes comes from a very Irish Catholic, Roman Catholic name. Did not fit me very well.

DM: So at the school, was it mostly other Japanese American students?

AM: Mostly, yeah. There were a few scattered Filipino families, but mostly Japanese. Some Chinese, I think there were a couple of Chinese families, but essentially Japanese. It was not a big school. Eighth grade, the graduating class probably had twenty-two, so most of the school classrooms were probably twenty or more, but not more than that.

DM: Do you have any memories from attending school there?

AM: I tell the story only when I tell how I always ended up feeling as though I need to protect people. There was a nun who was Sister Mary Bartholomew or something crazy like that, and she would always pick on little boys, and she would pick up the boys by the ears and drag them across the room to punish them. And I used to think it was horrible to do that. My father never laid a hand on us, we were never punished physically. So I thought it was outrageous for a nun to do that to a child. So one time she was, we had a study circle, and we were sitting down and going to be reading. And so we were, put our chairs in a circle, and she was sort of sitting down on one of the chairs and she was sort of trying to find the chair to sit on, and I pulled the chair out from under her. And she fell with a big thump and broke her tailbone, I found out later. My father was called to the office, he was, he could not understand how I could possibly do something so horrible. But I remember now that it was because I thought she was such a terrible person to do such physical, punish somebody physically, so that's why I did that. But when I tell the story, I tell it only in the context of how I was always interested in protecting other people. I mean, as a child, this is when I was probably ten years old.

DM: So you had a real sense of social justice at a very early age.

AM: Well, I didn't know that was what it was, but that's what it was.

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