Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Carolyn Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Carolyn Takeshita
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 15, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-tcarolyn-01-0005

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MA: What are your memories of kindergarten and sort of living in Colorado?

CT: You probably just remember all the uncomfortable things. I remember riding a slide for the first time. I'd never been on a slide and watched the kids coming down on the slide on their stomachs, so I wanted to try it. And I did, but I forgot to brace myself and so I landed on my stomach. [Laughs] So that kind of memories, but I went to a one-room school house in Greeley. And so they had the typical, you know, you had, like, kindergarten to third grade in one room, and then the fourth to sixth grade in another room. And I remember there were some kids that would come to school on horseback and then put... they had a little stable, so the horses waited 'til it was time to come home. But somebody picked me up and we drove in a car, and then they dropped the kids off at school. I don't remember kids teasing us or being any different. But I think I was younger. I remember more when we moved to Denver, then there was more teasing by a lot of other kids that you were a "Jap" and saying mean things. But then the elementary school that I went to was probably about seventy-five percent Japanese American students, because we all lived in the same area because of the housing restrictions.

MA: This was when you moved to Denver?

CT: When we moved to Denver. So I do remember and still have friends from elementary school that was there, but like I said, it was really predominantly a lot of Japanese American students.

MA: So why did your father and mother decide to move into Denver?

CT: Because my father was able to get a job. When we were up in Greeley, it's a farming community, so once the season's over, then people go and try to find other jobs. So he was able to find a job working in a foundry here in Denver, making machine gun barrels. I think they were manufacturing. And then we continued to live in Greeley until he was able to find housing for us. 'Cause it was pretty hard, wartime. Housing was really hard to find.

MA: Do you know at this point if there was, if he encountered any housing segregation?

CT: There was. Most of the Japanese Americans lived in and around the Japanese business section down on Larimer Street, Lawrence. And they had a lot of apartment houses that rented to Japanese and Japanese Americans. But there was a certain area that you couldn't cross over and you couldn't buy property. It was pretty restricted at that time. So, it made it kind of nice. We kind of formed a ghetto, so to speak, but it was a safe one. The two churches, the Christian church and the Buddhist temple were located, we all lived there, the stores, businesses were all there. So it was kind of, although it was never labeled, so it was kind of like a Little Tokyo or a Japantown. But interestingly in Colorado, when, because I'm working with a newly formed group called the Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado, we've been talking and interviewing people that lived in Colorado prewar, during, and after. And I've always asked them, "What did you refer to the Japanese business area when you came into Denver?" And nobody called it Japantown or Nihonmachi or anything, they named, either they were going to go shopping on Larimer Street or they were going to a specific business. But it was kind of an unspoken thing that you were going to the Japanese section.

MA: That's interesting.

CS: Isn't it interesting? We don't have a name.

MA: I wonder why there was never, yeah, why a name never developed, that area.

CT: Some people said, "Well, we called it Japantown," in their family. But at least up until now, the people that we've talked to never really had an official name. Whereas the Chinese community, they called it Hop Alley. And that was kind of known throughout, and they would refer to it in the newspapers when you go back and read from the '30s and '40s. But it was just never named.

MA: Where was the Hop Alley? Where was that located in relation to...

CT: It was located really close to the Japanese section. I think that's kind of traditional, that the minorities, and especially the Asians. It seems like when you read about the history of Asian communities, Japanese and Chinese lived in a fairly close proximity.

MA: Uh-huh.

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