Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kiyoko Morey Kaneko Interview
Narrator: Kiyoko Morey Kaneko
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: July 29, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-kkiyoko-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay. So the way we start this is I just say the date, that today's Tuesday, July 29, 2008, we're in Watsonville, in Kizuka Hall. And then I, my name is Tom Ikeda, and I'm with Densho, and on camera we have Dana Hoshide, and she's also from Seattle.

KK: I see.

TI: And so today we have an interview with Kiyoko. And so the first question is, when and where were you born?

KK: I was born in South Pasadena, the year was 1911, September 3rd.

TI: And when you say South Pasadena, were you born in a hospital?

KK: I think in those days, everyone was born by having a midwife come. A doctor was, so-called, in attendance, but he wasn't actually there at each one. But he was supposed to be available, I guess. And he's the one that signed the birth certificate.

TI: And on the birth certificate, what was the name that they put on the birth certificate?

KK: For me?

TI: For you.

KK: Kiyoko Morey.

TI: And do you know, Kiyoko, why they named you Kiyoko?

KK: They never... they never explained that.

TI: Okay, good. Let's, I'm going to ask next about your father. What was your father's name?

KK: My father was Bungoro Morey.

TI: And where in Japan was he from?

KK: He's from Wakayama-ken. Did you want more detail than that?

TI: Yeah, I'm curious about... because I read someplace where he actually was with another family first and then went to the Morey family?

KK: That's correct.

TI: Can you explain that to me?

KK: Only thing that I heard was that the Morey family had no children. And, of course, according to custom, every person should, every family should have an heir, a male heir. And so that's where my father went, to the Morey family. Actually, he was born to the Kitabayashi family in Nakamura, Wakayama.

TI: And so I'm guessing that he wasn't the first son, that he had older siblings?

KK: No, he was number five. Bungoro means number five, so that's his number. Probably they had four other sons already.

TI: So he was expendable, I guess, in some ways. [Laughs]

KK: Well, if he grew up, he would have no inheritance.

TI: And I'm curious about the spelling of the name. It's M-O-R-E-Y.

KK: Well, that was spelled that way when he arrived in Vancouver. Up to then, he was M-O-R-I.

TI: Okay, so the immigration official spelled it M-O-R-E-Y.

KK: That's right.

TI: And then ever since that time, it sort of stayed that way.

KK: Well, yes. Dad wasn't about to change his name afterwards. Many people did change their spelling and all that, after they were, went to the States.

TI: So he came through Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia.

KK: That's right. The boat led to Vancouver, and that's where they arrived on the continent. And I don't know when or why they went to Seattle, but the first jobs were up in the sort of wooded area. So I surmised that he was in a, not in the city, is what I'm trying to say.

TI: Yeah, because up in the Northwest, lumber or timber was a big industry.

KK: Yes, that's right.

TI: And so he might have worked in the lumber mill.

KK: Yes, he did. I don't know about the mill or not, but he was five feet ten or eleven. Now, that is exceptionally tall for a Japanese born in Japan. And all his family were short men, and they all had short-handled tools, and they all were farmers. To use that kind of a tool, you'd have to bend way down to do it, and he experienced some excruciating back pain. So when the time came, I think, that he could escape, he joined one of those labor teams and he came away from that. So even if he went home to his birth parents, it would be the same problem. They still had the short-handled things.

TI: So he wasn't much for that physical, sort of, stoop labor, because he was so tall, it was very hard on his back.

KK: Yes. He had back trouble all his life.

TI: So eventually he made it down to California. Where did he settle in California?

KK: Well, it took a long time. I don't know how many years it took them, but he and a few of his friends sort of kept together, and they got their way down. Now, they, I know that he was a camp cook someplace, and he spoke about joining the lumber industry. And that didn't suit him very much. So he did about everything possible to escape the short-handled tools. If the tools were supplied by the employer of the labor team, they were bound to be short ones, because all the rest of them were short men.

TI: And how would you describe him? What kind of man was he in terms of personality and demeanor? What was he like?

KK: Actually, I was kind of scared of him when we were young. That's the Japanese way. But I think other people seemed to be in awe of his big stature.

TI: So it sounded like in addition to his stature, his height, there was a demeanor that was a little scary about him, or a little, maybe stern, or how would you describe...

KK: Yeah, kind of stern.

TI: Maybe more proper, like that, sort of?

KK: Could be. I think most of the other Japanese men of that era were pretty stern folks. And of course those that stayed here had to be rather strong characters.

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