Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roy Ebihara Interview
Narrator: Roy Ebihara
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-eroy-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so we're gonna get started, Roy. And today is Saturday, July 5, 2008, and we're in Denver. And in the room we have, on camera, Dana Hoshide, and interviewing is Tom Ikeda. And so why don't we start, Roy, by just asking, so when and where were you born?

RE: Well, I was born in Clovis, New Mexico, on January 11, 1934. And in a family of ten, ten siblings.

TI: So why don't we start with your name. What was the name given to you at birth?

RE: Well, I was delivered by a veterinarian. A veterinarian was -- we lived outside of the town because the town was segregated, so non-whites could not live in town. So we lived across the railroad tracks, so to speak. We grew up in the Santa Fe railroad property, in an enclave where there were other Japanese families, there were seven other families.

TI: And before we go there, let's just... can you give me, like, the full name?

RE: Oh, yeah. The, my brother, my mother said, "I'm gonna have a baby, so you better go jump on your bike and go get the doctor." So he was passing by the livestock, livestock yard, he saw this Dr. Miller. Dr. Miller was tending to some cows there in the livestock shipping yard, and he said, "My mom's having a baby. Can you come over?" And he said, "Okay, as soon as I'm done here." Which he did, and he delivered me, and my mother said, "I've run out of names. What can I call him?" He said, "Name him Roy after me." So I was named after Dr. Roy Miller.

TI: Oh, that's a funny story. That's good. So did the veterinarian usually deliver babies?

RE: You know, in a small town, a cattle town, railroad town, veterinarians had to do double duty, so they delivered their share of babies.

TI: Oh, that's a funny story, though. It's a nice icebreaker to tell people you were delivered by a veterinarian. [Laughs]

RE: Veterinarian, sure. [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about your father. And so do you know where he was born?

RE: My father was born in the Tokyo area. My father's father, my grandfather, was an industrialist in the linotype industry. And so my dad came to America around 1918 to go to school in Philadelphia, to further his education. And of course, he didn't go back to Japan, I think he, my story that I heard, he gambled away boat the passage money. And so it was, at that time, the nation was on a verge of a nationwide railway strike by AFL. AFL had four hundred, over four hundred thousand members. So literally they were gonna paralyze the railway industry for the duration of the strike. But there was a call for skilled and unskilled machinists. And my dad, thinking that maybe he can make his fortunes in America, is to, being under the wings of his father, went to Clovis, New Mexico, they had a roundhouse there.

TI: Okay, so let me, let me make sure I get this. So he, he came to America, and then rather than going back to Japan, something happened to the money, might have gambled it away. And so got a job with the railroad.

RE: Santa Fe Railroad.

TI: The railroad, and this was during the strike, do you know about what year?

RE: 1921, around '21.

TI: And so he then started working for the railroad in Clovis.

RE: Uh-huh. And then he recruited more Japanese workers and trained them, because, you know, my dad's training is in tool and die, and being a machinist.

TI: And what was his name and what was he like?

RE: Shiro, Shiro.

TI: And how would you describe him as a person, his personality? What do you know about him?

RE: Gregarious, I would say, maybe I took after my dad. Very, very smart, exceptionally smart. He can do most anything.

TI: Did he ever learn to speak English?

RE: Yeah, and Spanish, because he was forced to speak all of that in his employment, yeah.

TI: And so when you conversed with him, was it in Japanese or English?

RE: Japanese. Usually my mom and dad -- when my mom came over some years later with her three kids, the rest of us, of course, seven of us, were born and raised in Clovis, New Mexico.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So your, how did your mother and father meet?

RE: Oh, that's a pre-arranged marriage. My mother's side was the banking, in the banking side. So they were elite, their blood goes back to the Tokugawa regime. So certainly, again, my mother looked down on all the immigrants because she felt that they were all a bunch of farmers.

TI: And what was her name and where was she born?

RE: Fuji, Fuji Kobayashi.

TI: And was she also from the Tokyo area?

RE: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay, good. So her family was in banking, and...

RE: Uh-huh, money lending.

TI: So pre-arranged, sort of, marriage.

RE: Yes.

TI: And about when did they get married?

RE: Oh, I don't know. It goes back, I would say, several years before my dad came to America.

TI: Oh, so he was married before he came.

RE: Oh, yeah, my dad was about twenty-eight years old when he came to America.

TI: And so he, so he had three children, they had three children...

RE: Well, he didn't know the last one, that my mother was pregnant with my brother, Henry, Hiroshi or Henry.

TI: So then he came to the United States, got a job with the railroad, wired the wife, saying, "Come to, come to the United States."

RE: Well, you know, my father was disowned after he made that decision not to go back to Japan. So it was up to him to raise enough money for boat passage for my mother and the three kids to come to America. So it took about two and a half years before he was able to do so.

TI: And when you say "disowned," so his, your grandfather, his father, was not pleased by his decision.

RE: That's correct. After he had spent all that money.

TI: What was, what was your grandfather's hopes for your father?

RE: Probably eventually to take over the business, I would assume.

TI: And do you have a sense of how large the business in Japan was?

RE: I have no idea, really. I never thought of -- my dad never talked about it, nor did he want to go back to Japan any future years for the shame of it, I guess.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So your father was a skilled machinist, he's in Clovis, can you describe kind of his job in Clovis?

RE: My father repaired the locomotives in the roundhouse. The roundhouse, as you know, the westward movement occurred because of the railroad, from Texas into New Mexico, and ultimately into Arizona. So the roundhouse was built in Clovis simply because they had to repair the locomotives before they made that climb, the upward climb, about, I guess it was upward of a thousand feet from Clovis to Albuquerque. And so it was his responsibility to make sure these locomotives were fit to make those grades, sent up these grades.

TI: And so was he kind of like in charge of a crew of Japanese workers?

RE: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And you mentioned that he got started because there was a strike.

RE: Yes.

TI: And so what happened when the strike was over?

RE: When the strike was over, my dad didn't, in today's terms, he and his Japanese cohorts were scabs. They were the scabs, of course. And once the strike was over, they achieved the seniority and all these coworkers who were on strike lost the seniority. And so they were not well-liked for many years.

TI: And when you say coworkers, so how large a facility, I mean, how many other workers were there?

RE: I would say there were upwards of two hundred reasonably skilled people, and upwards of two to three hundred laborers.

TI: And how many of those were Japanese?

RE: There were, there were only seven to eight other Japanese railway workers along, working along with my dad.

TI: And so a pretty small minority, like five percent.

RE: Right. And so in this enclave that was allowed by the Santa Fe, since the townfolks would not allow non-whites to live within the town, we had to, they built this little compound, it was called "Jap camp" or whatever people used to call it, was built in the, on that property. They were sort of self-sustained.

TI: So describe that. Describe this --

RE: Oh, it was rather interesting. It was just like a small mini, mini village, so to speak. I know Nishimoto family, the Yoshimura family, the, and our best friends, the Kimura family, who had seventeen kids, we chummed around with them. So we pretty much kept to ourselves before we were in, when we were preschoolers, yeah. And we played around with American Indian, Mexican American kids here and there. We spoke Spanish and Japanese because of that.

TI: And the living quarters, describe that.

RE: It was like the barracks that you saw in the relocation center except that there was always an overhang that whenever a torrential rains come, it would drop down into these little barrels where they would save the water.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: And so for your family -- we'll talk later about your numbers, but you had lots of kids. How much, how many rooms...

RE: There were only two bedrooms in our house. And at that time, surviving, there were eight of us kids surviving lived in there.

TI: And like the Kimura family with seventeen kids, how large was their, their place?

RE: I can't remember, but I'm sure they packed 'em in there like sardines in those bedrooms. They always maintained a little, little shop, that he sold trinkets, Japanese trinkets. We, it was only through Mr. Kimura, Tom Kimura, that he would, we would have these bamboo (tubs) we used to call taru, and we would get miso, soy sauce and rice, they all were imported from Japan, they would come in these great big pine crates. That's how we got our Japanese foods.

TI: And can you remember how frequently those came?

RE: They would come about once every, every month. And so the townsfolks would come in on a Saturday to buy these little Japanese trinkets.

TI: Oh, interesting. So he would sell these trinkets.

RE: Of course, the other families raised vegetables around the compound. My dad built an irrigation system, so we sold a lot of vegetables on Saturdays.

TI: Oh, so it was like a little market that you had, and the townspeople would come, and produce and these trinkets.

RE: Uh-huh.

TI: And again, talking about, sort of, the segregation, so in town whites, outside non-whites, and so did they have other enclosures for different races?

RE: Yeah. The black families lived right near the livestock, it smelled to high heaven. Some of those families raised pigs as well as other things. I remember going back years later and there's still the same kind of existence. I don't think Clovis ever changed, horrible.

TI: And so you had blacks...

RE: Hispanics, Hispanics lived on the same street as, where the railroad was. But they couldn't go beyond that point. It was that one main street that ran by the railroad station, and that was the area allocated for Hispanic people.

TI: And so you mentioned earlier, so you ended up playing, not only with the Japanese kids, but also the other...

RE: And the only real access into town was a tunnel that ran about a hundred yards under the railroad track. It ran from near the coal chutes, I remember there was a huge coal chute. And you went about fifty yards past that, and the entrance to the tunnel led us in through these tunnels, this tunnel, and it came out about two hundred yards, just immediately past the railroad station, train station.

TI: So when, when people said, "living on the other side of the tracks," that really meant living on the other side of the tracks.

RE: Oh, absolutely.

TI: And that was, it was like a segregation line, or a line where the non-whites would live, on the other side.

RE: Correct.

TI: So growing up, how did that feel? I mean, did you ever think about that in terms of...

RE: No, you know, what does an eight-year-old kid know? I mean, feel, even my brothers and sisters, you don't think about racial discrimination. You live within whatever you're given. I remember the railroad station, I was puzzled by the fact it said "whites" and "colored," "white" and "colored." So I just knew that was the only sign of segregation that I could ever imagine as a kid.

TI: And when they had that designation, "white" and "colored," which, where would you go?

RE: I never thought about that. We never were allowed to use it anyhow, because we were not --

TI: So, "white," "colored," and then the others where you would just go in.

RE: We had outhouses over where we lived, yes.

TI: That's interesting.

RE: There were no flush toilets that you would know of, remember that you had the closet up there, and pull the chain. It was only at the railroad station, it was quite a fascination for us to see this. You pull the chain and the thing swirls around.

TI: So you would go in there and just see this.

RE: Yeah, and then the train people, porters, and they had to come in, they would kick us out of there.

TI: Okay, so it was like these town kids, and, "we have to get 'em out." Now, in, sort of, Clovis, was there kind of a hierarchy in terms of, I'm guessing, so the whites were kind of on top of the, in terms of the hierarchy. With the other races, did the whites treat the other races differently, like the Japanese from the blacks from the Hispanics?

RE: Well, yeah, when you talk about church and school, we were relegated to, since our family was the only family were Christians, and 'course, we lived outside of this little enclave because of my mother and father's choosing. But we were Christianized back in the early '30s, and I can get into that later, why we did that, why my parents choose to become Christians. But the fact is that, that allowed us the opportunity to go to public school. So our family, if I'm recollecting correctly, our family was a token integration into the public school in Curry County.

TI: And the, and the other Japanese went to...

RE: Went to a one-room school, one-room schoolhouse, which was about, probably about a half a mile from where we lived. And the Hispanic kids went to a Catholic school, grades one through eight. So it was for the other Japanese families, grade one through eight.

TI: And then what about the, the African American kids, the black kids, where did they go?

RE: I really don't remember. They certainly were in the, they were not in the public school, we were the only non-whites, I think, if I recollect.

TI: And that's interesting. And the designation was because your family was Christian, they were allowed to go to this --

RE: Most likely through the Baptist church.

TI: Let's talk about your family becoming Christians. How did that happen?

RE: The circumstances, I would imagine... in part, in 1932, my sister Yaeko, Yaeko passed away. In 1936, my brother Rokuo passed away. And, of course, the economy, what do you call it...

TI: The Depression?

RE: The Depression was on. I guess my mom and dad felt that that there was something to do with religion, that the gods didn't favor them or whatever. So they sought out other religions that would probably favor them better.

TI: And prior to that, were they religious -- like Buddhist or something like that?

RE: Shinto.

TI: Shinto, okay.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So going back to being the only non-white students at the public school, did --

RE: The reason was that my brother Rokuo worked as a janitor for a lawyer, prominent lawyer in Clovis. And so he was not allowed to go to public school, but nonetheless, the lawyer taught him as much as he could. And at the age of fifteen, Rokuo took the entrance exam to University of New Mexico. The lawyer falsified documents that he graduated from Clovis High School. At the age of fifteen, he was a freshman at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Weeks later, people questioned that he looked like he was twelve years old, so the administration at University of New Mexico inquired with Clovis High School and they said they never heard of the guy, kid. He came home with his suitcase.

TI: And how did your parents react to that? Do you recall what that felt like for the family?

RE: Shou ga nai, you know, you just live with circumstances. But Rokuo was a very brilliant, brilliant young man. I think he was near a genius, according to my mother, years later, she told me. But he wanted no part of being a machinist like my dad. When he was seventeen and a half, the lawyer taught him enough that he can take the four-day intensive exam in San Francisco to enter San Francisco law school, which had, apparently, no prerequisites that you have to be a graduate of a college.

TI: So by seventeen, he had essentially finished his undergraduate work, in other words. I mean, he knew enough to enter law school.

RE: He took the law exam in San Francisco, took the train there. And before returned, some of the Asian gang warfare was going on, and he was an innocent bystander, got kicked in the kidneys, came home with a damaged kidney. Ultimately, he died from a kidney infection, there were no antibiotics and such. Some months later, my mother received a letter of congratulation that he was accepted into San Francisco law school.

TI: And how old were you when he, when he died?

RE: Two years old.

TI: Okay. So you really don't remember that.

RE: No, my mother said, "You were crawling in the casket trying to wake him up," so that's about all I remember. I mean, I don't remember a thing, only what my mother said.

TI: And did you ever get more clarification, when you said an Asian sort of gang fight or something like that, do you know where that was and who was...

RE: The streets of San Francisco, well, he was gonna catch the train the following morning back to Clovis.

TI: Boy, what a tragic story, I mean, just so promising in terms of...

RE: My mother, for many years, remembered the dates of her daughter and son, and would always... she was well-versed in the arts of Japanese, she always had a shamisen. She'd lock herself in the bedroom and sing mournful songs, and we always left her alone 'til she came out of it.

TI: So we asked, I asked a little earlier about what your dad was like, you said he was gregarious. Describe your mother. What was she like?

RE: Oh, she was always a complainer that my dad (depicted to) her a picture of America lined, streets were lined with gold and how wonderful it is. She then came out to this God-forsaken country in the eastern, high plains of New Mexico. And my mother, for many years, never forgave my dad. I don't think she ever forgave him for what she was taken out of. She, she learned all the cultured things that most rich girls would always have, relegated to a ghetto, poverty existence.

TI: Do you recall whether or not she corresponded with her family back in Japan, letters, things like that?

RE: I don't remember those things. I think they really cut her off as well, I think. So there was very little communication that I recall ever went on. She also segregated herself from the rest of the (Japanese) families because she thought they were from -- you know, the caste system, the class system was very strong in her.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So let's, let's talk about your siblings, and you had ten siblings. Can you kind of run down the order?

RE: Hank became the oldest after the two died, Henry, Hiroshi. Everybody that we talked to when I visited, we visited Clovis would say he's Hiroshi. We've always called him Hank, but Hiroshi was his proper name. He wrote -- I'm not sure I shared anything with you about he wrote the President of the United States and Secretary of War Stimson.

TI: Yeah, I think you mentioned that, yes.

RE: It's a wonderful letter, when he was twenty-two.

TI: Yeah, we'll get to that later. Let's go down through the list of the names and then we'll talk about...

RE: Yeah, Hiroshi, he graduated in 1938 from Clovis High School.

TI: And how much older was, was Hiroshi than you?

RE: About ten years older.

TI: Okay. So after Hiroshi, who was next?

RE: My sister Amy, or Emiko. And she, Pearl Harbor was attacked when she was in her senior year at Clovis High School.

TI: Interesting, okay.

RE: Then, then there's Fumiko, or Fumi, she was in junior high school. And then my brother, Ben, he was also in junior high school at that time. And my sister Cathy, she was at elementary school with me, and then Mary, and then me, and then my brother Bill.

TI: And you mentioned that three were born in Japan. So Hank, or Hiroshi, was born in Japan. And then the... two, four, six, the other seven were...

RE: We were born eventually in Clovis.

TI: And, boy, that's... was it common for the families to be so large?

RE: Sure. [Laughs]

TI: And what was the thinking? That the more kids to help around the house, or what was the...

RE: I don't know, I think all of 'em came by accident. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

RE: I have no idea.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: I want to get a sense, for you, of what you could remember of Clovis in terms of just growing up. What the community was like, and some of the...

RE: Oh, Clovis was, it was fun, you know, as kids, we went to baseball games in the summer. Clovis had a single A baseball team. I knew the football -- I mean, the baseball players, all by names, and we used to catch fly balls that went over the fence, and we would, they wanted it back, but we'd run away from them. [Laughs] But we played around the railroad station, we sold, we used to take our wagon and we knew when the Pullman arrived, as I mentioned probably in that little thing. So we would sell everything from tarantulas in a mayonnaise jar to a rattle from a rattlesnake that we cut off and save, or a cactus in a Campbell's soup container. We did all kinds of things.

TI: And when you said "we," who would be with you?

RE: The Kimura family, Frank and Freddie Kimura were my buddies, and we were about the same age, and so we chummed around. My younger brother was too young to be doing things to be doing things with us, but we, we chummed around. We did things, we helped carry suitcases from the train station to the Hotel Clovis, and you know, we always did things to make a little money here and there.

TI: And so you would just get, like, tips from people to help. And then what would you do with the money?

RE: Buy candy, candy was, you know, one penny candies and whatever.

TI: Now, so it was like you guys were almost scheming. So you're trying to figure out what can you sell to these people?

RE: Correct.

TI: What could you find that you could sell? So it wasn't like you were buying things, it was like...

RE: And most people who got off the Pullman said, "Oh, look at the little Indian boys," and never dreamed that we were Asian background. 'Cause our hair was, we were so dark-skinned from the blazing son, and our hair was unkempt in most cases, unless my dad took the, cut around there, and then we looked like Japanese kids. But otherwise, we looked like typically Indian kids. So they would give us a few, two cents or something, you'd get a picture taken with the... that's when we'd line up with those white folks.

TI: Oh, that's interesting, yeah.

RE: Always had a handout before, no picture. No money, no picture.

TI: [Laughs] That's good.

RE: We were smart.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Was there any, you mentioned your friends the Kimuras, was there any... what's the right word, tension? Because you went to the public school and they went to grammar school. Was there any, kind of...

RE: You know, nothing was ever said. I don't think... as far as I recollect, and if I asked, I remember asking my older brother and sister about that. And they said, "You know, nobody ever said anything about that." I think they were content with going to school there. I think we received more animosity for being in public school. It was so cruel that every chance I could get, even recess, I'd run home. I never, I never liked school. I never learned to read or write in the first grade.

TI: Can you give me an example of some of that, sort of, antagonism or what happened at, at school?

RE: Oh, the kids would call you every name under the sun, "Chinks," "Japs." Adults called us "non-alien" kids, but we were always "Chinks" or "Japs." Those were the common terminology.

TI: And was there, like, physical abuse? Were you ever, like, hit or anything?

RE: Yeah, sometimes you'd be knocked around, yeah.

TI: And would the teachers try to stop that when they saw that?

RE: Yeah, I guess. Yeah, I don't recall too many things. It was only recess, I hated recess. And I tried to hide behind trees or do whatever to escape the taunting.

TI: And would this happen with your, your brothers and sisters also?

RE: I would imagine they went through something similar. But, you know, as the kids get older, they don't do the cruel things that younger kids do, obviously.

TI: So let's -- and you were there 'til eight, and you said you didn't learn how to read and write?

RE: No, you know, I started first grade well beyond the age of seven-and-a-half, so I couldn't read or write.

TI: And so why'd you start so late? It'd be a little earlier, like six? Or was that the age that people started?

RE: No, that wasn't heard of back in those days, no.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: What are some other things that you did in Clovis? Like the Japanese, when you got together, were there any Japanese...

RE: Oh, yeah, we were also part of the -- there was a big event in the late spring, early summer, it was called the Pioneer Days. And you know, you would have horses clippety-clopping down the cobblestone Main Street. I mean, there were parades. In our Japanese group, they would always have a float, and it was called... what's the cherry blossom? They would, the men and the women would decorate these bare trees with artificial cherry blossoms, and then the girls would wear kimonos and they would be on the, riding on the float. And I remember that. That was always an annual thing that they looked forward to.

TI: And generally what was the reaction of the townspeople to the float?

RE: Oh, yeah, it was, they knew us. Everybody knew. But as long as we were kept in our place, it didn't matter. We were still part of the town in that regards. We were accepted but not welcome as part of the neighbors, no.

TI: So how about other Japanese, sort of, traditions? Things like mochi pounding and stuff like that?

RE: Yeah, we, that was, that was awesome because one family would be designated to be the family that, the menfolk would do the, making the mochitsuki, and then, of course, my dad was the only one skilled at making tofu. So I remember the kitchen always smelled like tofu steaming and stuff, with cheesecloth, wooden things. And us kids would use a hand grinder and grind the soy, dried soybeans into a pulp, powdery stuff. And then the women would also be involved in making sushi and all these things. So it was a big, big deal. The worst part was seeing my dad drunk the next day. New Year's Day, my dad would be polluted. I remember my older brothers used to have to drag him home, he'd be singing away, happy as a lark, but drunk, you know. But it was the big, big event of the year, yes.

TI: And so your dad, so he'd be drinking with the other Issei men, so they would go off and...

RE: Oh yeah, they'd drink sake until they were, they couldn't handle anymore.

TI: And so this was, like homemade brew that they would do, too?

RE: No, that was, Mr. Kimura would order all these things, so that was always a special thing, yeah.

TI: And so did the other Issei men also get pretty drunk, too?

RE: Pretty much, yeah.

TI: And did you ever kind of watch them sing and have interaction --

RE: Oh, yeah, what could to you do? We'd go from home to home, that was the traditional thing. We went to, everybody visited each other, and that's how it was. It was bad for the women, obviously, they had to take, keep control of the food around. We had other things, we had a furoya, the men built a furoya. Yeah, that was, that was always, we'd wear those wooden, handmade geta, you know, wooden things, and my dad would take us to the furoya. It was hotter than blazes; I hated that.

TI: How large was it?

RE: You know, from a kid's child's-eye view, you can almost swim across, but it really wasn't that big. I don't think it was more than about eight foot in diameter.

TI: And when, so after... so describe it. I mean, I'm guessing it's traditional to wash up outside the bath, and then people would go in. How many people would be in the bathtub at one time?

RE: Probably no more than about six people at one time.

TI: And was it pretty much by family unit, or would other families...

RE: No, people just come in there, someone knock on that little wooden door, you could see through the cracks, "Who's in there?" and all that. That's the way it was.

TI: But you hated it, you said it was just too hot and not much fun.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RE: And us kids would play stickball in the summer days, but nothing ever occurred in the afternoon. It'd be blazing, blazing hot in the Southwest like that. So most of our activities, playing marbles, whether playing baseball and all that took place in the morning hours. They had a little, the menfolks built a little worship thing for the Buddhists. It was, it was teeny-tiny, I don't think it was one, less than one-half of this little room here. But nonetheless, they always had, we were Christians so we didn't, we didn't pray in there, but the whole thing was that they had a... I'm sure there was a, I mean, there was a picture with a curtain over it so you couldn't see the, what was behind the... and we were told never, never to sneak a peek in there. But, you know, one hot summer day we played baseball, and I was laying on my back, and I was looking towards that wall that had the pictures, so I crawled on my back all the way. And lo and behold, I can see there was a man on a white horse. So I went home that night and told my dad that, "I know what's behind the picture." [Laughs] At which point, my father yanked me out of the dinner table, spanked me so hard, I just cried. And I had no understanding of why he would do this, but later years, I found out that was the Emperor Hirohito on the white horse, and you're not supposed to lay eyes on him. In a picture?

TI: But, so for certain, like the emperor's birthday or something, they would, they would open the curtain for that.

RE: I would imagine. I don't recall, 'cause I was never inside that church other than to just feel the cool breeze coming from one end of the church to the other.

TI: And so in that, in that room or that building, so it's, that's where they did the, the Buddhists met in that space.

RE: Uh-huh, they burned incense and all kinds of stuff.

TI: Did, was there ever like a Buddhist, like, minister or something that would visit Clovis? Or how did --

RE: I don't recall.

TI: -- they conduct services?

RE: I, we were never, paid attention to what went on, because the times they would have services, we'd be in the Baptist church.

TI: How was, were there, like, Japanese entertainment? Did you ever have people who would come through town and, like, maybe show a Japanese movie?

RE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we had that. Mr. Kimura handled all of that, too. So they used to have a movie projector, and it was boring because it was, I had, we had no connection to, as kids, to all those horrible Japanese love stories or whatever it was.

TI: And so what kind of movies did you like back then? Did you go to the other movie theaters?

RE: Yeah, we went to the town movie house.

TI: Now, at the movie house inside town, did you have to sit in different places from the white?

RE: No.

TI: So that was, that was...

RE: But only in the church, we had to be in the right side, the last two pews on the right side. We were segregated in the church, yeah.

TI: And so other than your family, the Japanese family, were there, like, blacks in the church? Was it all white?

RE: All white and us, just us. The blacks were segregated out, they were not allowed to be in the Baptist church, or they didn't join.

TI: Any other memories of Clovis?

RE: Yeah, there was a lot of little things, but it doesn't come to mind right now.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So let's, let's move to December 7, 1941. How, where were you when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

RE: Well, we were pretty much still... you know, we used to sleep in. The church bus never came 'til about ten-thirty. You know, as Baptist church goes, the service would go anywhere from service... church service would go from eleven o'clock 'til maybe one o'clock, long. And us kids used to go to, you know, be half asleep and still jump on the rickety old church bus at about ten-fifteen and then take us to church. So it was close to ten o'clock, because my mother was yelling at us to get ready for Sunday school. And my dad was in his old rocking chair listening to his shortwave Philco radio. And he said planes, Japanese planes were attacking Pearl Harbor, we had no idea what he was talking about. But my mother did, apparently.

TI: And when your dad told you this and your mom kind of knew, I mean, what was their reaction? What did you see?

RE: Well, us kids, we were, we were just watching all this commotion. But I know my dad ran out and talked to the other menfolks, and they were all, there was just a huge commotion about what's going to happen to us, and all that kind of talk ensued. But later, as the day wore on -- I mean, there were constant discussions, especially the menfolks, and my mother would talk to the other women. But for us kids, we had no real understanding.

TI: Well, how about your older siblings? Do they ever talk about or recollect what it was like?

RE: Well, you know, my brother was gone to Los Angeles, Hank, and then I don't know... Amy, I'm not sure she was around. She used to go to Long Beach to, with the Kano family, she learned to be a seamstress and all that, so I don't recall seeing her around, I don't know. But no, we didn't give it much thought, but other than that, late in the afternoon, somebody came and said, "You can't go to school," so that was that. And my dad did go to work that Monday morning and came right back with his lunch pail. And the rest of the men, they were not welcome back to work.

TI: Do you remember that when your father came back from work that first day, or Monday, and what that was like, what he was...

RE: Well, the menfolks got together, they were concerned about how they were gonna feed the families. That was it.

TI: So were they fired from the, the railroad company, or were they just on leave, or what was...

RE: They were just let go temporarily because they were told, "We'll tell you when you can come back," so that was the end of that. That was an issue because of the railroad pension many years later. The circumstances, were they fired? No, they weren't fired, they were just relieved because of the potential problems.

TI: And during that time, do you recall any sort of incidences with the townspeople? After Pearl Harbor...

RE: Yeah, we certainly were verbally threatened. And so pretty much, the sheriff's department said, told us to be vigilant during the nighttime, have somebody stay awake and watch for any incidents. I don't recall too many things that went on during the night other than later.

TI: So did any other families, do you recall, like an event that they were harassed or something, that you can recall?

RE: Not really, no.

TI: So after --

RE: We pretty much kept to ourselves for fear, fear for our lives.

TI: So after Pearl Harbor, did you ever go back into town, or other people go back into town through the tunnel?

RE: Oh, yeah, because the grocer, the little store that he had, promised that we can get whatever we wanted, we'll put it on credit. He trusted the Japanese families implicitly, that they would repay him. So if it wasn't for him, I didn't think we could have survived all those many days and weeks.

TI: That's good. You mentioned earlier that there was this, sort of, pent up, already dislike of the Japanese railroad workers because of the, of the strike situation years, years before. I think you also, earlier we'd talked about how the, I think the New Mexico National Guard, they were...

RE: Uh-huh, they were shipped out to the Philippines.

TI: Right.

RE: And so the Japanese troops had already invaded the Philippines before Pearl Harbor was attacked as you know. And word came back that some of these National Guardsmen were brutalized and all that, started filtering back. So there was definitely a hate campaign, and then war hysteria even fueled the fire, so to speak.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So in the, in the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, so did it just get worse and worse? Did you get a sense that...

RE: Oh, yeah, you could feel the tension rising since, since Pearl Harbor, yeah. So we, we lived in mortal fear. We laid out our plans. Should they come and attack and we had nobody to help protect us, we would run in a certain direction through the cattle field which was nearby. And we would hide behind these old wooden fences that were, from my birds-eye view, was about eight to ten feet high. And we knew where we were all gonna hide and try to defend ourselves.

TI: And this was a plan that your, your parents talked to you about?

RE: Uh-huh, my older brother.

TI: And were the other Japanese families making similar kind of plans also?

RE: Uh-huh. Because we had to run in a certain direction to avoid these people.

TI: You mentioned that you had the, sort of the... I'm not sure, like enclosure where most of the Japanese families... but you lived outside of that in a house.

RE: Yeah.

TI: How close were you to that?

RE: Oh, probably about twenty-five, thirty yards.

TI: Okay, so right next to it.

RE: We were just outside this enclave, just out there.

TI: And during those weeks, did anyone ever come by and do anything in terms of...

RE: Well, pretty much the sheriff's department was informed by the immigration authorities to be responsible for these families, to protect them. But you know, they're the ones that, the plainclothesmen came and hauled out my dad's shortwave, Philco radio and chopped it up with an axe, I remember that. That happened late Sunday afternoon.

TI: I'm just guessing, you're a young boy, it must have been frightening for you.

RE: Oh, yeah. It was always... I recall crying oftentimes. It was just a frightening experience. So it was for my sisters and all of us.

TI: Yeah, I can see that. So what happened next? So you're in this sort of...

RE: Well, we sort of, the kids played together just during the day. But when sundown came along, of course, we were all huddled inside the house waiting for somebody maybe to attack us. And so we did that, it was a daily ritual.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RE: And then, on the night of January 19th, sure enough, the sheriff and state patrol came in their sedans, there must have been about eight, nine of those sedans. And they came in and said, "Get going, the vigilante group is forming, they're coming down through the tunnel, and they're coming out to kill you." So they said, "Grab what you can, throw 'em in a pillowcase and throw 'em in the trunk of the car, whatever you can, and make sure it's important valuables that you can do." And so we were all herded into these little state patrol sedans, and they moved out us out. I don't recall any lights, headlights, and they just moved us out.

TI: And, I guess, did you ever see the crowd coming?

RE: Uh-huh.

TI: So you actually saw them coming?

RE: Yeah, as they come out of the tunnel, you could see way down there with oil torches, oil torches, and apparently shotguns, I don't know what kind of guns.

TI: And the, and one of the state policemen or troopers said they were, "They're coming to kill you," is what he said?

RE: That probably was about, in the darkness, it must have been about nine, nine o'clock at night. And I recall just crying and crying, just living in fear, and so then we all cried and cried, us kids.

TI: And so they were able to round up all the, the Japanese there, put 'em in these cars, and then you just...

RE: We took off.

TI: And where did you go?

RE: Well, I remember going down dusty roads, it was just horrible. Hours and hours passed, and I didn't know where we were going. And most of the time, except for the lead car, everybody, I guess they had those little parking lights, so you couldn't see hardly the car ahead, you know, as I remember. They wanted to be as less conspicuous as possible. We heard days later that these people looted everything that they can get their hands on. But they didn't burn everything down 'til later. They came with bulldozers and bulldozed everything down.

But, but we traveled on and on and we came to a, looked like a prison camp. And in the early morning hours, you can barely see daylight. And we came to Fort Stanton, New Mexico, and that's where they were housing the German POW sailors, they captured them around the Gulf of Mexico. They also had other, other people in there. I think they were merchant marines, German merchant marines who were captured in the '40s off the Carolina coast, I understood. The British ships chased them across the Atlantic Ocean, and they didn't know what to do with these couple hundred German people. At that point in time, they were not POWs, America was not at war with Germany at that time. But eventually when we did go to war with Germany and Italy, they stuck 'em in with all the POWs.

But we ended up there, and they were intending, the immigration authority was going to stick us in, in two of the barracks inside that compound, two or three barracks. And my sister said, high school kid, said, "Hey, wait a minute. You're violating our rights. We haven't committed any crime. And they'll kill us sure as hell. Those people would molest us, kill us." Remember, they're men over there, and we have families. So they thought about it, and I remember gradually daylight was coming, and the hours ensued, and they said, "Okay, how about seventeen miles down the road, put 'em in an old abandoned CCC camp," and that's where we went.

TI: So that's interesting. So it was really your [sister] who was educated --

RE: Interceded.

TI: And she was kind of the spokesperson for the whole group, saying...

RE: Pretty much.

TI: ...that, that you have rights as U.S. citizens, the children in particular, that they could be put into this place. So I'm, so I'm trying to understand this. So I get the, the police coming, taking you out because, to protect you at that point. I mean, you had a mob coming. But once you got away from that, it sounds like they, they wanted to keep you under guard?

RE: Surveillance, yes. So the state patrol was now responsible to keep us together, that I don't know, the circumstances are peculiar. We're being protected at the same time we were held in suspicion, I think.

TI: Because what's interesting to me, this is January 19th, so this is before President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

RE: Oh, yeah, long before that.

TI: Before there was any action on the West Coast.

RE: A month earlier.

TI: And so this is -- but I understand them protecting you, but keeping you under surveillance or under guard doesn't make as much sense to me, why they would have done that.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So you guys go by Fort Stanton, and you go past that...

RE: And we go to Raton Ranch. It was called Old Raton Ranch. Used to be an old Girl Scout camp, at one time it was a CCC camp. It was also one -- I guess Fort Stanton was the tuberculosis hospital at one time as well, back in the '30s.

TI: And so describe what the Old Raton Ranch looked like.

RE: It's gorgeous. It was, it was in the woods, obviously, it was a Girl Scout camp, so it had to be beautiful. They had a log cabin which was the, actually, the so-called "mess hall," so to speak, for us. And there were barracks built by CCC boys, because they're doing reforestation in that area, in the '30s.

TI: And so at this point, how many were in your group?

RE: Well, there were, there were six families. Six families.

TI: And so roughly, I'm guessing, about forty or so, or more?

RE: No, less than that.

TI: It was. Because you had about...

RE: There were about thirty, thirty-two of us, thirty-three maybe, I don't know. I'm guessing.

TI: And roughly more kids than, than adults?

RE: Kimura family had a whole bunch. I don't recall the other families having -- because I remember the Nakamoto or Nakashima family, they took the, they went back to Japan before Pearl Harbor was attacked. She was sort of a quiet girl, and played the piano and all that, but they, they went back to Japan. So I think it was just the Kimuras and us kids, pretty much.

TI: And so how was it, were things organized? Were you just sort of let loose in the camp and you guys sort of decided who would sleep where?

RE: Uh-huh, uh-huh. And the administrators, the head of the border patrol, Mr. Tenney, was, and his two other cohorts lived in a, in a sort of a cottage across the way. My two sisters lived in another little place 'cause there were too many of us in one, one little barrack. But I think what happened, the men were now, not having been used to doing nothing, started cutting trees down that needed to be cut down, and they were kept busy pretty much.

TI: And so things like food and...

RE: It was brought to us.

TI: And so did you all eat in the same mess hall, or were you still as family units?

RE: Yeah, pretty much. My, my dad and Mr. Kimura did quite a bit of cooking, along with the women.

TI: And you mentioned two administrators. Were they there to watch over you in the sense -- I mean, did you ever...

RE: They were responsible.

TI: Did you recall that, did they have guns or anything, or were they...

RE: Yeah, they all had the, you know, state patrols, had their sidearms and all that, yeah.

TI: And so was it clear to you and others that you were supposed to stay there?

RE: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And there were, like, boundaries for you to stay within?

RE: Pretty much, yeah. Us kids, of course, roamed around. Kids aren't gonna run away, so they didn't care. But it was fun. We communed with nature. But my sister raised the issue around February that the kids lack education. And they wanted to ignore the issue, but she forced Mr. Tenney to deal with the local board of education which was centered in Capitan, New Mexico, which was probably about another fifteen miles away, or twenty. And they were reluctant, but they, to do so, but they were informed that these were American citizens and they had a right to an education. So we went to school in Capitan for three days. It was a one-building, three-story high brick building, and housed everybody from first grade through eighth grade. There was nothing beyond eighth grade. The majority of the kids were Mescalero Indians. I think we were ahead of them education-wise, but nonetheless... another vigilante formed over there that routed us out, and we were told never to come back or we'll be dead. And so threatened to shoot the kids. That was the end of our education in February.

TI: And so the sister who kept raising these issues, was this Fumiko?

RE: No, Amy. Emiko.

TI: Amy, okay, Emiko. Tell me what she was like. I mean, it sounds like she...

RE: Very, she was very much like an activist today. She always was very tough, tough little gal.

TI: Okay.

RE: But she, she was then informed by Mr. Tenney that he's negotiated with the Clovis school system to provide books, and they all came in cardboard boxes, and she was relegated to be the teacher. She didn't know anything about teaching, so it didn't last very long. I still didn't know how to read or write.

TI: And so at that point, you have lots of time, no school, so what did you do to...

RE: We hunted rabbits with barbed wire, you stick barbed wire through the hole, twiddle 'em around. If you got a hunk of fur, that was bad, but otherwise we gingerly brought the rabbits out tangled up in the barbed wire.

TI: Oh, so these were like rabbit holes that you would, you would...

RE: Uh-huh. We'd find the other hole and block that off, and then run, you know, we'd steal all those barbed wire fencing. Our, we found Indian artifacts, we had plenty of things to do.

TI: And so as a, a boy, it sounds like, it's not too bad. I mean, actually --

RE: No, it was great for us kids. But then when the winter came along, they, they had financially, the state couldn't continue to feed us and do that. And so the immigration authorities told the Poston, Gila River, Topaz and all that, "We need to transport these people to these camps," and they gladly would accept us. So we were given a choice what camp we wanted to go. We chose Topaz 'cause my brother Hank was there.

TI: So before we go there, so how long were you at...

RE: We were there from January 20th through December 13th of that, 1942.

TI: So almost a full year you were there, so a whole season. So describe just the seasons there. So you got there in the winter...

RE: The winters there was snow, the summer was just gorgeous. I think it would be like going to Lake Tahoe in the summer. It was cool, it was on a higher elevation. There was a mountain, Sierra Blanc or something, you could see the snowcap on it.

TI: And what would the... so, and the men would go out and do, kind of labor like cutting trees, you mentioned, things like that?

RE: Yeah, and my dad had a nice garden. They gave him, brought him seeds, and he... you know, it was like virgin soil, it was great. I don't know what the other men did, my dad tended to his garden.

TI: How about your mother? What did your mother do?

RE: Pretty much the household chores, washing clothes. It was interesting, we had no soap, things were rationed, so we very seldom saw sugar, staples that were rationed. My dad said to get him some lye with animal fat that he would accumulate, he made soap. It was potent, it could burn your skin. But that was soap we all utilized.

TI: That's a good story.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So we, in the first hour, we talked about the Old Raton Ranch, you were there, and then your family had just decided to go to Topaz.

RE: Yeah. In December or I guess late November, after Thanksgiving, we were informed that we have to make a decision soon, which camps -- we had the options of going to these camps. And so we were told we had to make that decision, I think, before the first of December, which we did. So it was a tearful farewell with especially the Kimura family, so we bade goodbye, they left a little bit later. We left early, we were on an army truck, I remember an olive drab truck that took us about twenty-five miles to Carrizozo, New Mexico, where there was a train station and we boarded the train there, headed for Delta, Utah. On that train were, I recall, there were people in military uniforms, and they would say, "What are you, a Chink? You couldn't be a Jap." And you know we were told by my older brothers and sister -- my older brother and sisters that, "Don't ever say anything. If they force you to tell you tell, tell 'em you're Chinese." And so it went, we were harassed almost all the way going to Delta. Some of those personnel were drunk.

TI: Oh, the army personnel that was transporting you?

RE: And women, too, in military uniform were on their way to wherever destination. But it was scary, it was always scary. We always feared people in uniform when we were kids.

TI: Before we, we get into the Topaz, so again, from a, almost like a legal standpoint, you were never in the military exclusion zone, which was the West Coast, Washington, Oregon, California. And so I'm, I'm still a little confused why your family had to go to one of the camps. Because --

RE: Well, they were no longer going to provide for us in that setting. It was costing the government too much money.

TI: Again, why didn't they just release you? Because there were other Japanese and Japanese American families that would --

RE: We wouldn't know where to go. None of us, they asked us, I'm almost certain, "You're free to go," well, I don't think that really was, I don't think that was a question. Because everybody feared we were one and the same enemy as far as people in New Mexico were concerned. I think partly from our safety, concern for our safety, as well as we had no destination. We couldn't go back to Clovis, so I don't think the options were really there anymore.

TI: Okay, yeah, I just wanted to establish that.

RE: Yeah, that's right.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay. So, so let's go to Topaz, and what were some of the, your first impressions of Topaz?

RE: Well, we arrived there in very, I think it was overnight and it was morning if I recollect. Of course, we're transported again in these military trucks with a canvas cover on it. And it was just horrible. It was in the middle of the desert, it was worse than Clovis, New Mexico, you know. [Laughs] But yeah, we saw the military guards there and all kinds of things, barbed wire fence, and we said, "What is this?" Then we saw all these barracks, and it was unbelievable, and what a sight to behold. One after another, they all looked alike. And they kept, we were there for about a few hours, three, four hours. And then, and if all the paperwork was done, we were, now went to Block 42 that was on the far end. That was the last, last of the blocks that would be build there to accommodate us, and that's where we ended up, yeah, in the far corner of Topaz.

TI: And when you got into camp, what did you see?

RE: Well, you know, it was bitterly cold, it was just awful. And we, it was enough to try to keep us warm. But fortunately, we had warm clothing, because that's how we left New Mexico, with warm clothing. But it was the whole idea, we had never seen so many Asian faces in our lives. I mean, it was just overwhelming. I think when we were fed lunch, lunch at that time, I think every eyes were fixated on us, you know. That the word got around that here we came from the Southwest, and so we were oddballs, that we were not from the West Coast. So people stayed away from us pretty much, we were sort of isolated from the fact that nobody wanted to talk to us.

TI: And so that's, again, that seems a little unusual. So no one actually came up and just asked you a few questions like, "Where are you from?"

RE: When they heard us talk, especially my older brothers and sisters talking with a Southern accent, we became a novelty, there was no doubt about that. And we were treated as oddballs in that, in that camp.

TI: Well, one of the reasons you chose Topaz was your brother.

RE: My brother.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So what was the reunion like with your brother?

RE: Pretty good. My brother was so happy to see our family safe, that was most of his concern, was the safety of the family. But found out that it wasn't too long, that my, he was, he was in a controversial situation as you know. Back in (...) early '43, 1943, they were embroiled in the controversy of joining the army or whatever, you know. My brother's stance was a patriotic stance that said, "We've got to prove our loyalty to America, there are no other options." And the other, there were only a handful of dissidents, but these young men said, "Why should we do -- " I remember being in the barrack, in the mess hall at nights, night after night when these things went on, at least six nights a week. They were, they were just, it was just the same old rehash, why we shouldn't go. And, of course, there were legitimate arguments on both sides, as I recall, recollect. Because, you know, when you're incarcerated like that with no charges, and then being asked to join the army, why would you want to do that?

TI: So describe these discussions. How many...

RE: They were heated.

TI: ...other people were there, and was it a debate, more, or how --

RE: There were at least a dozen if not more people. There were a few who took sides with my brother, but by and large, there were, the more dissidents at these meetings attacking my brother's stance. They said, "How could you be like that? You were born in Japan of all things," you know. My brother said, "That's not the issue. The issue is that you people born here should now find ways to get your, your family out of here. And how do you think you're gonna get your family out of here?" And that was his stance. But then, you know, he found that, what is he gonna do? So he finally wrote Secretary of War Henry Stimson.

TI: And so describe that again. So the letter and the whole process, why don't you talk about that?

RE: Well, prior to that, however, some fights ensued, and I think my brother got stuck in the back with a fork, I remember. It wasn't a serious wound, but nonetheless, my brother was beaten up on several occasions. Us kids were also considered bad eggs, so we would run around with these little plastic, like, helmet, what do you call those? Liner, helmet liners with guns, and we would play war. [Laughs] So we would get beaten up because we played American soldiers. So you know, all was, not all the great issue of to join the armed forces or not. But my brother finally said, "Well, I need to, I need to talk to somebody because I should do my patriotic duty. And so the letter he produced went to Secretary of War Stimson, and a copy went to the President of the United States. My understanding -- and I hope I'm correct on this -- was Eleanor Roosevelt apparently sauntered by the President's desk, saw the letter, was so moved, so moved by the letter that she asked the President the right to talk to my brother, and apparently she called him by phone to Topaz. And just said, "What can I do for you?" And my brother said just that, "I need to have, be able to be in the armed forces." Apparently the President directed the Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson, to act on his behalf. And he went, not many months went by when he was now allowed to join the army.

TI: Wow, what a story.

RE: So that hit the newspapers across the country.

TI: And how was that received inside Topaz?

RE: Well, you know, I'm not sure much was said because it wasn't too many months after that he and my sister Amy and my dad left because of the, the Quaker people were very kind to us. And especially our family was in imminent danger from the attack by people in the camp.

TI: So let's talk about that. So, so it didn't change over time. I mean, it was still pretty, pretty tense for your family.

RE: Yes. So it was that we pretty much, as a family kept to ourselves.

TI: And, and so I get the, sort of, over the decision to join the army or not. So there was a faction that opposed that, so they would --

RE: Yeah, I mean, they weren't, they were militant enough that they would be segregated out and sent to Tule Lake or anything, no. They argued their, their point pretty well, addressing that point that, hey, we've been mistreated, we've been... we're held here without due process and all this stuff.

TI: So I'm curious, did the Japanese American Citizens League ever come into play? 'Cause they were very, in the same way, feeling that men should volunteer. Did they ever try to support your brother?

RE: I don't recall that, no.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

RE: And, of course, my sister didn't help matters either. She, she raised a commotion and threatened to leave the camp, she was gonna walk out. So it was very timely in the fact that the Quaker and the friends of Quakers came to the rescue so to speak. They were negotiating with the War Relocation Authority, and of course War Relocation Authorities were saying, "Well, why not, if we can move them to the east of the Mississippi where they will be accepted, whether it's Chicago, Kalamazoo or Cleveland, or whatever." We became the first family to, big family -- I said, "big family" -- to leave Topaz.

TI: So let's go back to your sister, your activist sister, so Amy. What was she concerned about? What did she kind of object to?

RE: Well, she objected to the fact that, you know, like everybody else, about habeas corpus, and you know, all the, "This is wrong. We're wrongfully incarcerated." And she wanted to continue to raise that issue, that, "Hey, get us all out of here," you know. "You people are wrong." She knew the Constitution probably as good as anybody would who had graduated from college.

TI: And so mentioned earlier, so she threatened just to walk out of camp?

RE: Oh, yeah, she threatened to walk out.

TI: And she told the officials this?

RE: Oh, yes. They said, "Hold on, we're gonna get you out real soon." And so they had to promise her how soon and all that before she just cooled, you know.

TI: Boy, this is another good story. I've never heard anyone just saying, "This is wrong, let us out or I'll walk out." And then the officials saying, trying to make that happen. That's another interesting thing.

RE: Well, you know, my brother had a patriotic fervor, my sister was more concerned about the loss of civil liberties, you know, as a young girl who has never even finished high school. That's amazing. She went on to do other things later on, too, that's interesting, too.

TI: And as all this was happening, you mentioned how the newspapers covered your brother's story with Eleanor Roosevelt. Was there any newspaper articles or anything written about your, your sister and what she was doing?

RE: No, I don't think so.

TI: Or any, any letters or any documentation about this?

RE: No. I don't recall her writing anything, she was a lot more vocal. Her protests were more vocal than written.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And during this time, did you make any friends? Did you have any playmates?

RE: Yeah, I had, I had a good friend, Saburo Kami, who eventually became a prominent dentist in the Bay Area. But Sab and I chummed around together. I didn't... when they stuck me in the third grade with Sab, I couldn't read or write, so it was embarrassing. And every chance I had, if the window was open on the back of the room, I'd jump out and I wouldn't come back. I'd hide in the block latrine or wherever. But they finally caught up with me and they realized that I couldn't, I didn't belong in the third grade so they stuck me in the second grade. Now, why would they do that? 'Cause I still couldn't read or write. So by the time all was said and done, I was in the second grade, I sat through that and never learned anything. We left, we left 1943, December of '43 we left, I think, December 11th, we left for Cleveland.

TI: But before we go there, how did you become friends with Sab?

RE: It just, I don't know, by strange acquaintance I got to know Sab. Sab just was a quiet, nice guy, we just matched up. [Laughs] So we used to things together.

TI: What were some of the things that the two of you would do that you can recall?

RE: Oh, I don't know. We'd go out and play stickball with some of the other kids. We would roam around from one end of the camp to the other, may not come back for hours. Just not getting in mischief, but just seeing what other things were going on. We would go out after, we would go capture scorpions, see if we can get the biggest scorpions and look for flint, different things.

TI: And how would the, your other, sort of, classmates treat you? I mean, so Sab and you were friends, did the other ones still give you a hard time?

RE: Oh, yeah, but you know, even at that time, I still had sufficient Southwestern accent that we were, I was always harassed, so I couldn't get along with the other kids too much. Sab accepted that, but others would not. They wouldn't let it go. You know, there were times they would corner me and say, "Say something, say something," and then laugh like heck. Kids are cruel in that growing stage.

TI: And so how did you feel about being around so many Japanese, Japanese Americans?

RE: Oh, that was, it was awful. I mean, there were times that even my other sisters didn't care to go to the mess hall. I mean, we were more frightened of them, you know, it was just a, as a scenery we never had experienced.

TI: And your parents, how did they, you were there for almost a year.

RE: Well, my dad, my dad was given the job as assistant cook. He, he couldn't cook a lick anyhow, but the whole thing is he worked in the mess hall.

TI: And your mother? Do you recall what she was doing?

RE: Yeah, I think she just did the housewife things. She wasn't too busy.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about leaving Topaz. So, so your sister threatened to leave, finally administrators said, "Okay, we found this"...

RE: She left in June, I believe it was June.

TI: Oh, so she left ahead of the rest of the family?

RE: Oh, yeah, she and my brother Hank and my dad left for Cleveland in June of '43. The war was raging, it was at its peak almost. They left for Cleveland. The Quaker people found accommodation and a job, jobs for them in Cleveland.

TI: And then after they got established, then that's when the rest of the family joined them?

RE: Yeah. They skipped a meal a day so that they can provide for us financially. So we ended up in the Hungarian district of the west side of Cleveland where a Hungarian, elderly Hungarian family had a house that they rented to her.

TI: And were there any other Asians in Cleveland at this point?

RE: No, we were the first family there. There was another couple a Caucasian woman and a Japanese American man, who lived on the east side of Cleveland. But other than that, we were the first family to arrive in Cleveland.

TI: And so what was the reaction of, of people in Cleveland?

RE: Well, we were Chinese. [Laughs]

TI: So people just thought you were --

RE: We passed as Chinese for at least a year if not longer. Until more and more families, Japanese families came out of camps. And then we no longer had to do that. You know, in numbers there's strength.

TI: And as more and more Japanese families left camp and went to Cleveland, and people started realizing there were Japanese resettling in Cleveland, how was it then? I mean, did, were the Cleveland people accepting of you?

RE: Yeah. Cleveland people were pretty kind, I think, in the greater part. There were no hate crimes or anything like that that I heard of. I think we also knew that we had a job to do and we, and our parents even at the supper table would say, "You gotta do your utmost to prove that you're a worthy American, you're a better American than your counterparts out there." That was what we had to do.

TI: So in Cleveland, did the schooling improve for you? I mean, you talked about not --

RE: Yeah, I was now in the first grade at Cleveland's Clark Elementary School. I was ten years old.

TI: But finally you were getting the proper instruction.

RE: Yeah, and so then my other brothers and sisters, they missed some time. But they, fortunately, went through a year of schooling in Topaz where I didn't. I mean, I just, I just messed up. So it didn't take them too long to catch up. We were allowed to skip certain grades, so I graduated from high school at the age of nineteen.

TI: Okay, so you caught up pretty --

RE: Pretty much.

TI: But what was it like? So you're ten years old, going to first grade. How did people accept you?

RE: Yeah, because we looked like we were, if you were ten, you looked like you were seven anyhow, so it didn't matter.

TI: So physically in stature, you were smaller, and it wasn't that difficult.

RE: Yeah, that's the way it was.

TI: And were you able to make friends?

RE: Oh, yeah. We had friends. You know, war was raging, and so we would play war. That was the kids' game, war. I was always the enemy, so it didn't matter. [Laughs] But yeah, the first few weeks, the kids at recess would say, always say, "What are you?" And I would say, "I'm Chinese." But not everybody accepted that fact. The kids, when they're little, it didn't matter, you look like the enemy. At the end of the school day, I had to run like hell to go home because they have little stones and they'd be throwing stones at us. But we survived.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So you mentioned your father had to get a job in Cleveland.

RE: My father, initially, was relegated to making peck baskets, quart basket at a company called Asperin Basket Company. My sister ended up working for an optical company grinding lenses, you know, for glasses. And eventually when my sister came out with us, the other sister, Fumi, she ended up working there. But my dad, interestingly, in early 1944 when there were so many young men went to war. They were, they were lacking skilled tool and die makers, the machinists, and they needed my dad desperately. My brother Hank said, "My dad's skilled," and so they cleared him with vigilance by the FBI. My dad worked at a tank plant and became the first Japanese alien to work in a war plant in the United States of America. It was in the Cleveland Plains-Dealer, in the front page. Hit the fan right there. Lot of firsts.

TI: Wow. And when that hit the, the news, was it a...

RE: Well-accepted.

TI: So well-accepted. So it wasn't a critical article, it was like, look what...

RE: Look what this man who is an alien, you know.

TI: But you mentioned FBI, sort of, surveillance? So they had someone watching him?

RE: Oh, yeah. They even watched my sister with her not knowing it. She, being the activist that she was, recruited... well, she graduated from West High School, I remember, the first year we were there. And, but on the job, they would hire some minorities doing menial tasks, so she had them meet with her -- and we didn't know about this -- and they would talk about their civil liberties and why they needed to rise above where they were at this point. The FBI figured that she, she's a Communist sympathizer. Remember, soon after the war ended, you had hearings, the McCarthy Hearings. So she was a branded a Communist, as a Communist sympathizer, I think it was 1945, '46, thereabouts. So she was compelled to go to the federal building in Cleveland where there were a panel of men who interrogated her and accused her of being a Communist sympathizer. At which point, my sister raised the question, "What is a Communist?" She really didn't know. She said, "I can better tell you if I am a Communist or not a Communist," and that was the end of that. But she was now branded a Communist sympathizer. Many years later, when my brother graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree from Ohio State, applied for a job with NASA, and NASA rejected him on the basis that his sister was a Communist sympathizer.

TI: So your family had a file. I mean, everyone... they were looking after you.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So as you were growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, you got there when you were ten, and you went through schooling. What was life like for you growing up in Cleveland during this time?

RE: You know, as I became a teenager, I think prior to that it was always a fear that instilled in us that we, we need to be model students in school. And so it was, we made every attempts to do that. But you know, for me, I wanted to assert myself as to who I am. I got into the wrong crowd of guys, we grew up in Cleveland's inner city, eventually we moved from the west side to east side. So got into a lot of trouble and that, but other than that, I didn't excel as a student, I didn't want to. It was not a matter of I lacked any intelligence, I just didn't want to do anything.

TI: And how did your parents handle that?

RE: Shipped me out to California, a one-way ticket after I graduated from high school, to work with relatives in Sacramento.

TI: So let's, if you don't mind, let's talk about that a little more. So you said you got into this, the wrong crowd, east side. So who were some of your friends, when you say "wrong crowd"?

RE: They weren't bad, but we'd get into mischief, but we also got into things. I would say in our teen years we stole upwards of three hundred pairs of hubcaps and cars, you know, to satisfy the need for a junkyard dealer out of town. We did things that were literally criminal acts.

TI: So when you say with a junkyard --

RE: It was five, six of us.

TI: And so the junkyard dealer would essentially let you guys know what he was looking for?

RE: What he needed. Whatever automobile parts that was accessible to us to take apart, we did that.

TI: And then he would just pay you cash for, for these things.

RE: And we split the money.

TI: And eventually, did you get in trouble with the authorities?

RE: They never caught up with us on that. There were other issues that I don't want to talk about.

TI: Okay. Did your, did your parents kind of know what you were doing?

RE: Yeah, I was branded in the Japanese community as a good-for-nothing. That's why when I was running around with my wife in junior high school, that was the end of that. Her mom and dad said, "You're not going around with him anymore."

TI: Oh, so you started dating your wife in junior high school.

RE: Oh, yeah. We'd known each other growing up for years. So I was bent on marrying her one day, and I did. [Laughs]

TI: But you had such a reputation in the community that this other family said they didn't want...

RE: The bad boy.

TI: Was that just you, or your siblings, too?

RE: No, just me. You know, there's always someone who will come along like me in the Japanese community that's gonna say, "Okay, I'm not like the rest of you," and I guess there was a chip on my shoulder. But I'd come to the realization when I was in the service that, "What is life about?" I can't forever be getting into trouble. I even got in trouble in Sacramento, they shipped me out to Lake Tahoe. It was just like, you know, then I come to the realization that it's me, was the fomenter, the troublemaker, and life can't go on anymore.

TI: And so when you were, as, when you were kind of going through this troubled times, what were you thinking? Were you...

RE: I wanted to be like all my friends, my Caucasian friends.

TI: And what was that like?

RE: I resented the fact when I look in the mirror that I was, had an Asian face. I resented my parents, because they brought me into this world. I think there was this, I couldn't connect.

TI: So you were angry, it sounds like.

RE: I was an angry young man for being who I was.

TI: Well, and going through your life, there were lots, there was a lot of antagonism towards you. You know, from...

RE: But still, still, I don't know how much that had to do with what I did later, growing up in my later formative years. But I resented the fact that my, when I looked back, that my mother would yell at me in Japanese on the porch when I'd be out with my friends, and I hated that. I hated her to speak Japanese to my friends, yelling and screaming things, 'cause I did some things bad. So I guess that resentment was of the fact that, who I was. I wasn't proud of who I was. I'm sure there were other Niseis who went through those things, times in their lives, I think.

TI: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: And so they, they sent you one-way ticket to California. Was it because they just didn't feel like they could handle you anymore? Is that part of it?

RE: Correct, that's right.

TI: And so who did they send you to when they go one-way trip to California?

RE: Orite family. Ray, Ray Orite, not related to us, was a World War II veteran. And Ray, Ray was going through what was Fenn College, it's now Cleveland State University, getting his civil engineering degree. He lived with us because we could accommodate him in the house. But he saw the problem that was very big, and so he encouraged my mother and my father to ship me out to their family in Sacramento where they'll teach me a lesson.

TI: And what was that? I mean, what kind of work --

RE: Working at the produce terminal from sunup to sundown. No pay, work for my room and board. And they, in turn, they sent me to college, I think it's called Sacramento junior college now, I don't know what it was then back in the '50s. But I didn't even go to school, I made like I went to school and I hid out. Literally flunked out.

TI: And again, so you were still pretty angry at this point.

RE: Got into trouble with the wrong gang there.

TI: And so they then, you said they, you got in trouble in Sacramento and then you were sent to Lake Tahoe?

RE: They had a store, they had a partnership in a store in south Lake Tahoe, and they sent me there to work, and I lived in a cabin behind the supermarket. [Laughs]

TI: So they're trying to, essentially...

RE: Isolate me.

TI: ...separate you from the other bad, your...

RE: From society. [Laughs]

TI: ...from society. And so you're in Lake Tahoe, little cabin doing that.

RE: Didn't, because I was already now into the twenty, going into twenties, I got into the military conscript. They threw me in the Sacramento County Jail because I, I failed to report on a timely basis and that made me more angry. And the MPs took me to Oakland, California, for processing, and shipped me to Monterey, California.

TI: To be in the service.

RE: I was in the service now. And I went AWOL twice.

TI: Boy, Roy, you had a troubled life. [Laughs]

RE: Troubled life is true.

TI: But then something turned you around, and because, you're an incredibly successful person now.

RE: It's the realization that I have to get a hold of myself and what life should be. I had the GI Bill coming to me, and I went back to Sacramento and Mrs. Orite didn't want me back there. She said, "You're too intelligent, you're too good of a person to be driving trucks." I learned to drive semis, I enjoyed driving semis up and down the California coastline. She said, "You're to go back home and go to college," and that's what I did. But she was very instrumental in directing me in my life. But you know, all the damage you do, all the things you do in life, you've got to repay society somehow. I was bent on doing that. I wouldn't tell anybody, my wife knew, she sensed it. If you can imagine today, I've probably served in more capacities than anybody ever in this whole area, I mean, in this conference in volunteer work.

TI: Because it's almost like you feel like there's a debt to be repaid?

RE: I don't know if I've done enough yet.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So let's keep going chronologically through this, I'm really curious. So it sounds like between military service and then going back to school, this is when this transition really, really happened in terms of...

RE: Well, there was a time, it's interesting, I was in the service and my good friend was Curtis Roosevelt. Curtis Roosevelt was the son of James Roosevelt, and he was the, and Curtis Roosevelt was the grandson of Eleanor Roosevelt. When I was in the service, Curt was the mailroom clerk, I was a radar instructor. But we were nonetheless relegated to duties and guard duty, which I felt was wrong and everything. But the whole thing is that I fell asleep in guard duty one night, and the second lieutenant turned me in and I was being court-martialed. So Curt wrote Grandma, and Grandma came out to see us in the Boston defense area. And I told her what happened. This captain, they called me all kinds of racial epithets, so did the second lieuy, and she got on that and she went to see the colonel, and she got me off the hook.

TI: Wow, that's a pretty powerful story.

RE: Eleanor has come through for our family on two occasions.

TI: By any chance, did she know the previous story?

RE: Never talked to her about that. She didn't know who I was, really.

TI: But did you ever get a chance to meet her?

RE: Yeah, over, yeah, had dinner with Curtis and I and Eleanor, and somebody else, I don't recall. What do you call it, secret service people. We had dinner together in Boston.

TI: What did you talk about with her?

RE: Not much. I really, I was more embarrassed.

TI: Was she, did she ever ask you any questions about, about your...

RE: No, just about the incident and what, Curtis wanted me to tell her what happened, what transpired. And she jumped on that thing about racial epithets and that it was wrong. In fact, the captain of the battery, who was a POW in North Korea, made sure that he was committed to the hospital for head thing, and sure enough, he was gone. He was sick; mentally ill from his ordeal. So that saved me, too, based on the fact that all these things happened because it wasn't right.

TI: You know, going back to that dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt, did she ever mention the camps and the Japanese Americans?

RE: Not that I recall.

TI: What was she like during this, this dinner? How would you describe her?

RE: She's got a high-pitched voice, but you get used to it. I kept, I always looked at her teeth, they were so huge. [Laughs] Don't, don't put that. She was a wonderful person. Curtis was my good friend, used to go to Greenwich Village when we would have a weekend off, ride the train from Boston to Greenwich Village. I enjoyed it. I never communicated with Curtis after I left the service. I wanted nothing to do with the service, and, of course, I just failed to communicate with those who I befriended.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So you got out of the service.

RE: Went back to Sacramento.

TI: Went back to Sacramento.

RE: Didn't last more than a month when I came back home.

TI: To Cleveland?

RE: Enrolled at Ohio State. I was an old, old freshman.

TI: So on the GI Bill you went to...

RE: Ohio State.

TI: Ohio State. And what subject did you...

RE: I was in, just arts and science, pre-med type of courses.

TI: And when you were back in Cleveland, how, how were your parents with you at that point?

RE: Well, you know, I had changed, my attitude had changed, so it was acceptable.

TI: So they, you were more mature.

RE: I'd come to my senses.

TI: So the relationship was much better, I take it, that actually...

RE: Sure. But you know, many years passed. When my mother and father were on their last leg, my mother realized that she needed somebody to look after the gravesite in New Mexico where my oldest brother and sister were buried. So she just asked me if I would look after the gravesite. I said, "Why not anybody else?" the older sister. She said, "I trust you. You have more sensitivity, you care a lot more," she said, "I trust you to do this." I'm accepted. Be there, my wife and I have been there three times. And we'll be going this fall, so we'll see, we're gonna (see) Hershey Miyamoto in Gallup, and then we're gonna go down to the eastern part of New Mexico to take care of the gravesite.

TI: So at what point did you, sort of, get back, or start dating your wife?

RE: Oh, she had, we graduated about the same time.

TI: Graduated from high school?

RE: College -- high school. High school, yes. And, of course, I was fooling around with some other girls, but the fact is that she had, when I went to Ohio State, I was now a freshman and she was graduating that year. [Laughs] She had completed four years and so... I was interested in going back to, getting back with her. She wanted nothing to do with me 'cause I had no idea what I wanted to do. You know, her mother said, "He's worthless. He's not going to do anything to amount to anything." So I had to prove that I could.

TI: And so you went through Ohio State, and what did you graduate in? What topic, what, what was your major?

RE: Oh, I graduated in bachelor's in biology.

TI: And then what did you do after you finished?

RE: Then I, I looked at a professional school, I really, you know, I applied for med. school, I got accepted, and I just said... that summer I worked, I think, part of June and July I worked at the university hospital. They gave me the wrong job of cleaning up after surgery, and I, the sight of blood on sheets just turned me off. Then I worked a little bit in the university autopsy. The stench of lungs that were filled with tobacco and stuff, that was enough to make me sick. And I went over and said, "I want to quit. I'm not going to med. school." Med. school was starting in August, late August. So I applied into College of Optometry there, because I said, "This is better." And they accepted me because my point hours, grade was quite high. So there was no problem.

TI: And so you... I'm sorry, was this at Ohio State again?

RE: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay, Ohio State.

RE: It was the cheapest place. All the other college and universities were out of sight. Financially there was no way to cut it. People always say, "Why did you go to Ohio State?" It was the cheapest school to go to.

TI: So then you graduated from optometry school.

RE: Uh-huh.

TI: And then you started practice?

RE: Uh-huh, in Oberlin, Ohio. Because we wanted to be close to our parents. I felt a sense of duty to look after my parents and her parents eventually. Because they both liked us; they both were comfortable with us, rather than my older brother and with her, her parents, they liked me over the other Tanaka gang. So we spent a lot of time with them, taking them out to dinner and doing things that we did.

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

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So, so let's now try and get back in terms of, so when did you start seriously dating your wife?

RE: Oh, I guess I was two, two years in at Ohio, two or three years at Ohio State, I was still doing undergraduate work. I took her away from her other boyfriends.

TI: And her parents finally accepted you as pretty okay?

RE: Yeah, because they figured I was going to graduate from college. [Laughs]

TI: And so when did the two of you get married?

RE: Must have been forty-nine years ago. 1959, isn't it? Wouldn't that be forty-nine years ago?

TI: Yes.

RE: I better remember that. She always accuses me of forgetting anniversaries.

TI: So there was something about her that you were attracted to her from a young age. I mean, junior high you mentioned her...

RE: We've always did. Yeah, we've always, it was, chemistry was always there. Never was anything else.

TI: Even though both of you, it sounds like you had other boyfriends and girlfriends, it was always, you always sort of knew about each other.

RE: Gravitated back. I've never ever looked at anybody else, nor she... later years, we just, even when we were married, we were still very compatible. Although, you know, I would say bad things, she would give 'em back. So we knew how to handle each other, that's how life is.

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

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So when you were starting a practice, was that a difficult time? Was it financially, just starting practice --

RE: I would imagine, yeah. You know, it was difficult because by 1963, it was difficult for an Asian American to find any kind of medical practice, health practices in small community. We decided to come to Oberlin, but fortunately, Oberlin composition was lot of liberal people. Oberlin happened to be one of the underground railroad, so to speak, from Civil War days. So we chose that to allow us to... but yeah, there were the banks, the banking and the lending institution was cruel to us. They said, "Well, we never had a non-white person practicing, and we're not sure that we can trust you to succeed." Those were the things, and I remember professors used to say, "Well, where the heck do you think you're gonna practice? Why don't you stay on, get your PhD and teach and do research?" Which I thought about, yeah. And I had all the goods going for me, I even was offered a position in University of Alabama, too. But I wanted to see what I could do in practice.

TI: And so how did the practice go?

RE: It was great. I mean, I had no problem, it just grew like I couldn't believe. I took on an associate three years after I started practice 'cause I overwhelmed with too much business, so to speak. But eventually, yeah, some years later, not too many years later, I hooked up with a, this ophthalmological group called the Lakeland Eye Surgeons, with seven surgeons, and I became the primary practitioner because I did residency at the VA Hospital in Cleveland.

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

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: And so earlier you talked about getting involved with community organizations. Can you just kind of talk about your involvement of the various different organizations?

RE: Well, geez. There was a Oberlin Community Welfare Council which dealt with the community's welfare needs, and I was president of that. There was an Oberlin, Oberlin Medical Society, I was president of the medical society. I was president of the Oberlin school's Booster's Club for many years. I was on the school board, local school board for many years. I was involved in church activities and committees and that. I was the head of the service club, or organized a service club there, Young Men's Service Club there. It goes on and on. I don't know where to end.

TI: How about with either Asian or Japanese American organizations?

RE: Yeah, then I worked with the Cleveland JACL, yeah. And involved in, I was on the board several occasions. And committees, different things, yeah. Yeah, we were always involved. My wife and I were always involved in the Japanese American community things.

TI: So I'm curious if there was ever any difficulty. I mean, given how you were treated in places like Topaz... and if you ever had any difficulties with the Japanese American community.

RE: No.

TI: So when you come to... right now we're at a conference where there are probably over a thousand Japanese Americans, how does that feel for you?

RE: Well, you know, the years have made things so much more comfortable. You know, both my wife and I are bent on preserving our Japanese American heritage, you know. And we're gonna do our utmost to be sure that our grandchildren would accept all these things. And you know, and for the community, that's why I started a taiko group five years ago. It's one of the best in the Midwest.

TI: And who was the taiko group for? I mean, when you started, is it for younger people?

RE: Well, for the greater Cleveland area, for the community in large. And my, I was bent on having a youth group, and we have one of the finest taiko youth groups probably in the Midwest.

TI: And so when you, when you think about the Midwest, the Japanese American community, what kind of future do you see for the Japanese American community?

RE: Well, you know, the numbers of Japanese Americans are dwindling much more so, I think, in the Midwest. And it's, it's scary. You know, it looks like we comprise less than one percent of the population in Ohio, it appears to me. But nonetheless, I think we need to, we've got so many hapa kids, and that's our issue, is that they accept and they embrace their Japanese heritage.

TI: Good.

RE: That's important, I think, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: I think you, so you got married in 1959, did you have children?

RE: Yeah, a boy and a girl.

TI: And so do you recall when they were born?

RE: Well, my son was born when I was finishing in optometry. I had straight A's going into the fourth year, and I was gonna have two final exams, and I had to take my wife to the hospital 'cause he was being born, and that sort of screwed things up. But it didn't matter. Grades were irrelevant when you think about it.

TI: And your son's name?

RE: Jeff.

TI: So he was born, like, in the early '60s, it sounds like.

RE: Yeah.

TI: And then your daughter?

RE: Born three years later.

TI: And her name?

RE: Lori.

TI: And I think you mentioned earlier, you had grandchildren?

RE: No, I just have one granddaughter. Sorry, one granddaughter.

TI: And she's about ten.

RE: Ten.

TI: And her name is?

RE: Sophia.

TI: Sophia. So to end the, the interview, Sophia is still young, she's ten.

RE: Uh-huh. But she's showing interest. Because she invited Grandpa to come out and talk about taiko, and then she invited me again to talk about my wartime experience. And so, you know, it was only within this past year that she's expressed that kind of interest, who she is. She's part Dutch because my daughter-in-law's of Dutch background in Holland, Michigan. But she realizes that she wants to be more Japanese than Dutch. She said there's more to it. [Laughs] So that's interesting, yeah.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: And so when you think about her as she gets older, maybe even when she has children, are there any sort of thoughts or reflections you'd like to leave with her that we can record?

RE: I don't know. I think she should understand that she's, she's got the best of the blood, I think, being a Japanese American. I really think so. Today, I'm more proud than ever of being who I am. But as I told you, growing up, no, I didn't want to be who I was, you know. It's interesting how things can, your perspective in life changes. But the interesting part is, as much as we try to convey this information about what happened in our lives to my son and daughter, they really didn't care. It's only in recent years, as my son befriends people in an academic environment up there in Michigan that he wants to talk to them about his father and let the father come out and talk to them in these ethnic studies programs. So it's interesting. Our daughter is probably one of the highest-ranking women, Japanese American women in sports administration. She's the second ranking commissioner of the Big 12 athletic conference.

TI: And what does your son do?

RE: He used to be in the wireless communication business. His partner now owns the Atlanta Hawks and all that, but he got out of that. The pressure was too great, stress was too big. So he's in, now in the security business and he's got tons of business in securing these companies that have valuable metals, aluminum, copper and that. And so extremely busy in that industry.

TI: So it sounds like both, both children are doing really well.

RE: Got the Japanese blood in them.

TI: [Laughs] So Roy, this, this has been a wonderful experience for me. I'm so glad you took the time to do this. No, it really interesting how it did come back. I know growing up you struggled with your ethnic heritage, but now, it sounds like you've come full circle.

RE: Yeah, I think, I think it happens to others, too. I think the environment in which we grew up, in our formative years, has an importance. If you lived on the West Coast and you see enough of Asian Americans, it's acceptable. I think growing up in the Cleveland environment where there were so many, so less of us, and not encountering other Asian Americans had an influence on us that we had to do what white America was doing. That's about what it's at.

TI: Good. Well, thank you, again, so much for...

RE: Yeah, my pleasure, okay.

TI: Thank you very much.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.