Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Thomas T. Kobayashi Interview
Narrator: Thomas T. Kobayashi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 30, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-kthomas-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Thursday, April 30, 2009, and on the camera is Dana Hoshide, and then interviewing, my name's Tom Ikeda. And so, Tom, why don't we just start from the very beginning. Can you tell me when you were born and where you were born?

TK: I was born September 4, 1916, and I was born right next to the Nippon Kan Hall down... let's see, is that Washington Street? There were two houses there, they're not there now, but where Nippon Kan Hall is, the first house, I was born there. That would be Maynard, I think.

TI: And so a midwife helped deliver --

TK: Midwife, yeah. At that time, it was all midwives.

TI: So 1916, that would make you...

TK: September 4, 1916. Ninety-two.

TI: Ninety-two years old. Good. And what was the name give to you at birth?

TK: Takao. T-A-K-A-O.

TI: And so where did the name Tom or Thomas come from?

TK: It's a Baptism name, Thomas. I was Baptized on the feast (day) of St. Thomas, I guess.

TI: Before we get to your life, I want to ask a little bit about your parents. So can you tell me your father's name?

TK: Masuichi. M-A-S-U-ichi, Masuichi Kobayashi.

TI: And where was he born?

TK: Okayama. That's the prefecture, Okayama, Japan. I don't know the prefecture.

TI: Oh, that's okay. How about, do you know what his family did in Japan, what kind of work they did?

TK: No, I don't know. It was a farming area, as I recall. Because when I went to visit there, during the occupation, it was a farming area.

TI: Do you know why he decided to come to the United States?

TK: Well, I think, I'm not sure. He was the second son, so he, apparently he had to leave. I'm not sure of the custom then. The first son stays in the family there, so the second son, I guess, had to leave, second and third, I think. I'm not sure.

TI: And how would you describe your father? What kind of person was he?

TK: He was a good worker, agriculture. So when he came over to the United States, he, well, he eventually ended up doing gardening work, landscaping. In fact, you saw my yard, that was done by Kubota Gardens.

TI: I know, it's gorgeous.

TK: Yeah, it's Japanesey. It was done by Tom Kubota. You probably know him.

TI: Uh-huh. So that's a little bit about your father, but how about your mother? What was your mother's name?

TK: Kumayo, K-U-M-A-Y-O, Emi, E-M-I, Emi.

TI: And where was she from?

TK: Same area.

TI: And do you know anything about her family, what they did?

TK: No, I don't know.

TI: And do you know when your parents got married? Was it in Japan or was it here?

TK: It was in Japan. Dad came over first, went back, and then they both came over, I think separately, later, different ships.

TI: And by any chance do you know about when your father --

TK: 1914.

TI: Is when your father first came?

TK: I think he came about 1914. Then he got back.

TI: And then shortly later, then you were born, 1916.

TK: Then I came around, yeah. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk about your family. So siblings, brothers and sisters?

TK: Yes. Second was Patrick. I'm using the Catholic name first, Patrick Shigeo, S-H-I-G-E-O.

TI: And how much younger was Patrick than you?

TK: Two years.

TI: Okay, so he was born, like, 1918?

TK: Yes, something like that.

TI: Okay. And any other brothers or sisters?

TK: Name of Francis Masao, M-A-S-A-O, Kobayashi.

TI: And how much younger was he than Patrick?

TK: He must have been about four... there's two years separating us, so maybe if I go back from me, Patrick and then Mary Elizabeth, my sister.

TI: Okay, Mary Elizabeth, and you're all, like, two years apart?

TK: Two years.

TI: Okay, so she was born about 1920.

TK: Yeah. And then Anna Kobayashi was right after Mary.

TI: Okay, so she was another two years, so about 1922, roughly.

TK: Well, no, Francis came after Anna.

TI: Oh, after Mary or Anna?

TK: Anna, after Anna. And then Mary Jane Kobayashi.

TI: Okay, so the order is you first, Tom, then Patrick, then Mary, then Anna, then Francis, then Mary Jane.

TK: Incidentally, Mary Jane's in Keiro right now.

TI: Oh, okay, so just a few blocks away.

TK: Yeah.

TI: So there are six, six children.

TK: Six siblings, yeah.

TI: And in the United States, what did your... you mentioned your dad was a good worker...

TK: Oh, what did he do first?

TI: Yeah, what did he do first?

TK: As I recall, he worked for the Grand Union laundry, which was on Main Street, I think. And then he worked for the Lincoln Laundry, which was near Columbia City, way down in the Rainier Valley. And then he worked for Kubota Garden, Kubota Gardening company.

TI: Oh, okay. And that's when he got more into the landscaping.

TK: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's talk about some of the places you lived. When you were born, where did you...

TK: Okay, I was born in, like I said, next to the Nippon Kan Hall. The first building next to it. There were two there, they're not there now if you go by there. Then I moved to this Montrose, M-O-N-T-R-O-S-E, Apartment, which is next to that building you showed me on the corner.

TI: So Fourteenth and Main, roughly.

TK: Fourteenth and Main, yeah.

TI: So this is literally just a hundred feet away from where we are.

TK: That's right, yeah.

TI: And so I'm curious, when you were growing up in that place, what was where we are right now? What existed where the Densho building is? I'm curious, I never knew what was here before.

TK: Oh, here?

TI: Yeah, here, in this building.

TK: I don't recall what was here, but eventually, this building was built as a dairy. And we used to come and look in through the Jackson Street window and watch the people working. [Laughs] But I don't know if, I don't remember exactly what was between that time and the time we were there. There must have been something here, but I don't remember now.

TI: Oh, interesting. So when you were a kid, though, they built a dairy right here.

TK: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And so, it's funny, I don't think of a dairy being in the city, I always think of it being out, but so they would bring milk in and they would churn butter?

TK: I think they were bringing milk in in big trucks and then putting it into bottles. And then I don't know how they made butter, but my sister, Mary Jane, said they were making butter here, too.

TI: That's good. And so was this neighborhood around here pretty much Japanese?

TK: It was pretty much Japanese, yes.

TI: And then where the Buddhist Church is right now, what was there before?

TK: I don't remember what was there before the church was built. I think there were houses. See, up on, is that Washington...

TI: Well, that's Main Street.

TK: Main Street. There were all houses up there.

TI: What about Collins Playfield?

TK: That was there. Collins Playfield was there. And that's where we grew up. We used to play basketball and then during the summer we would play games, inside, outside. I don't know if you remember the Yanagimachi family. Nobuko Yanagimachi was one of the people working at the Collins Playfield, one of the first Japanese hired by the Parks Department, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So tell me a little bit more about Collins Playfield. Like how many kids? Were they mostly Japanese or was it mixed races?

TK: Well, see, Collins Playfield was, at that time, I think it still is, three levels. The fieldhouse, and then the playground with the swings, and then on the bottom was a baseball field. So it was, you asked about the nationalities, well, there were Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, the Jewish community was just up the street, black (people), lots of blacks. You name it, everybody was there.

TI: And how did all the races get along with each other?

TK: We got along real good. That's why we never knew discrimination. We didn't know. 'Cause they were all one, we were all one bunch.

TI: And so growing up, did you have what you would call friends that were different races? Like someone who was maybe Jewish or Chinese?

TK: We were all friends, yeah. Because we met there at Collins Playfield, I remember Mr. Sandviggen, he was the man in charge, and he brought us all together.

TI: And do you think he consciously tried to get you all playing together?

TK: That's a good question. I think he must have, because now that we think of it, we never knew discrimination. Like I was a second baseman, and somebody must have been a pitcher. Oh, the pitcher was Italian, I think. They were good players.

TI: Good. So let's talk a little bit about school. What was the first school that you went to?

TK: First school I went to was, well, kindergarten, which was right kitty-corner from the present Japanese Baptist Church there. You know where the housing is now? Yesler Housing?

TI: Yes. So kind of where Boren...

TK: Boren and, I can't... but it was kitty-corner from the Baptist church there, so it would be right across.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay, so you mentioned the Maryknoll kindergarten. Let's talk about the Maryknolls. Can you describe what Maryknoll is?

TK: Maryknoll is a Foreign Mission Society with headquarters in Ossining, New York that's, they call it Sing Sing, but it's right above Sing Sing. O-S... Ossining. The way it sounds, Ossining, New York.

TI: A foreign mission of the Catholic church?

TK: Yes, Foreign Mission Society of America. I think that's... I'll give you the official name when I get back. (Narr. note: Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, Inc.)

TI: And so this was a foreign mission, but this is in the United States. Why do they call it a foreign mission?

TK: See, because they were sending priests and the nuns from there to Japan, China, Africa, the very places where they needed missionaries. So they were sending priests from there. At that time, mostly Japan, I think, and China. Oh, Manchuria, too, at that time. They were sending priests.

TI: And so then because of the, I'm guessing, because of the Japanese immigrants coming to Seattle, they decided to open up a mission in Seattle.

TK: Yes. That's when Bishop (Edward John) O'Dea asked the (Maryknoll) sisters to come here to minister to the, to these guys, young guys. [Laughs]

TI: Well, and probably your parents, too.

TK: Parents, too, yes. And so, let's see, that way the parents were introduced to the American society, too, because the sisters would have contacts with the Caucasians. Like the Knights of Columbus and those Caucasian... I shouldn't call them Caucasian, but those society people, St. Vincent de Paul.

TI: So really, it was Bishop O'Dea that really got things moving.

TK: Yes. I'm sorry I don't know his first name, Bishop O'Dea. O'Dea is like O'Dea High School.

TI: Right.

TK: O'Dea High School is named after Bishop O'Dea.

TI: Well, it's going to be fun as we go through this, because I think we're going to be mentioning names that now, I know them as names of buildings more than anything. And like you mentioned O'Dea, which is the name of a well-known high school in Seattle.

TK: High school, football team.

TI: So Bishop O'Dea made the request, so they start the Maryknoll...

TK: He wanted some sisters or nuns or whatever to minister to the incoming immigrants from Japan, and the Chinese, too.

TI: And what would be some of the services or programs the Maryknolls would do for these Japanese immigrants?

TK: Well, first of all, there was Catholic services, mass, and introduction to the Catholic religion, of course. Bring Catholicism to the Japanese.

TI: And anything else besides the religious part?

TK: Well, kindergarten, too. So it was, we didn't have any grade school so they had started with the kindergarten. Eventually, Maryknoll built a school on East Jefferson street, so that's where... oh, that's where, your wife went there.

TI: My mother.

TK: I mean your mother, yeah.

TI: So kindergarten, okay, so it was almost like a preschool prep kind of...

TK: Well, it was the beginning of Maryknoll school in Seattle. We had eight grades at Maryknoll on Jefferson Street.

TI: And I think you mentioned earlier that you were in the very first class?

TK: I was in the first kindergarten. But at that time, they didn't have any first grade or second grade. So that's when I went over to Bailey Gatzert over near the bridge over there.

TI: Let's talk a little bit about that first class. How big was that first kindergarten class?

TK: I would say about ten people only. But, of course, we went out and some more came in, so there weren't more than ten, fifteen, I think, in that house.

TI: So at that point, when you decided, when you went to the kindergarten class, did your parents, were your parents Catholic?

TK: No, they were not. You might say there were so-called Buddhists, I guess, all the immigrants were classified as Buddhists, I guess, at that time. But I think back now, that my mother thought, must have thought, "These are good people coming in." Why not send me there as good training? I think, as I think back.

TI: Okay, so the Maryknolls had the religious services, they had this school...

TK: Kindergarten.

TI: Any other programs?

TK: Well, whatever people teach in kindergarten, in the beginnings of schooling.

TI: How about things, like, for the Isseis? Did they have any programs for the Isseis?

TK: They must have had something for the mothers, yes. But, of course, I don't know about that. They must have had something. If they brought kids there, they must have had the mothers, too, there.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So then after kindergarten, you went then to Bailey Gatzert.

TK: Bailey Gatzert.

TI: And what was that like? How would you describe Bailey Gatzert?

TK: Well, all I remember is Ms. Mahon pulling my ears. [Laughs] I must have done something bad.

TI: So was she pretty strict?

TK: Well, she was strict with us, yeah. Lots of Japanese students must have been there. I don't know about the Chinese population coming up to Bailey Gatzert, but they must have been there, too. Of course, there were the blacks. Should I call them blacks or Negro? Blacks. They were there, too... Italians.

TI: Good. And many Japanese students, after going to regular school, would then go to Japanese language school. Did you do that also?

TK: Yes, I did. Right after school, we went to what we call Japanese school. Isn't that... I'm relocated here. Japanese school is right down the street, isn't it?

TI: On Weller Street.

TK: Weller Street, yeah.

TI: Just a couple blocks.

TK: Four o'clock to five o'clock.

TI: And how did you like Japanese school?

TK: I hated it. [Laughs]

TI: Tell me why you hated it.

TK: Well, we... is this on record?

TI: This is on record. [Laughs]

TK: Well, you could erase it, but we used to call it "Tip School" for some reason. I guess you've heard of that, "Tip School."

TI: And do you know why they, why you guys called it "Tip School"?

TK: Well, 'cause right after regular school, then we had to come back and go to school again from four to five. We didn't like that.

TI: And so do you know why you called it "Tip School'?

TK: I don't know. I don't know why. We often wonder why it was called that.

TI: So that time between the end of regular school and the beginning of Japanese school, what did you do in that...

TK: Well, regular school let out at about three-thirty then, I think.

TI: Oh, so there wasn't much time.

TK: So there wasn't much -- we had to come right down here to the Japanese school.

TI: And so it must have been kind of a sight. I know where Bailey Gatzert is, I know where the Japanese language school, so it's about a two, three block walk.

TK: Yeah, it wasn't very far.

TI: But you would probably see all these Japanese students walking from one school to the other school.

TK: [Laughs] Yeah, that's right.

TI: Now, did you guys have, like, snacks or anything between the schools?

TK: Oh, no, no time for that.

TI: And how many years did you go to Japanese language school?

TK: I don't remember now. I would say six grades, I think. I don't know how many levels they had.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So after Bailey Gatzert, what school did you go to?

TK: Washington school, which was right up on Washington Street, just up the street here.

TI: Up Jackson a little bit. And this was the Washington junior high school.

TK: It is now, yeah, that's right.

TI: And what was that like? How would you describe Washington school?

TK: Well, it was... I can't remember just what it was like.

TI: Any, like, memories from Washington that you...

TK: Nothing spectacular, no.

TI: Now, if I had one of your friends here, Tom, and I asked him, "So describe what kind of student Tom was in school," what would they say?

TK: I think they would say, "He was a smart, industrial guy." [Laughs]

TI: Was there like a topic that you liked better than others?

TK: Not really. But I think there, I learned how to... one of the teachers I remember would put us at the end of the hall and have us speak to her down the hall, speak English, enunciation, so she could understand down here. I remember doing that.

TI: Oh, interesting. So she sat far away, so you had to really talk clearly.

TK: That's right. We were on the one end of the hall and she would be down on the other, so she could hear us speak.

TI: And would she do this with all the students?

TK: I don't remember that now, but I remember being one of the students doing that.

TI: And this was in middle school, like Washington?

TK: Washington school, it must have been about fourth, fifth, sixth grade. Because at the sixth grade, I went over to St. Mary's.

TI: Which is another, a couple blocks away from Washington?

TK: Weller Street, Twentieth and Weller over here. Do you know where Gais Bakery is? Right across the street.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: And so do you know why you were sent to St. Mary's?

TK: Well, I was baptized a Catholic by then. So the St. Vincent de Paul people thought I should be going to a Catholic school. So the St. Vincent de Paul people put me into St. Mary's.

TI: And describe that. How was that different than Washington?

TK: Well, at St. Mary's we would be taught religion and how to be a good boy, you know. [Laughs] Things like that.

TI: And how did you like St. Mary's?

TK: I liked it very much. Because the nuns there took real personal interest in you. The nuns there were Holy Names nuns from Oswego... no. Yeah, Owego, Oregon, mother house. They took personal interest in you.

TI: And I'm curious, how many other Japanese were at St. Mary's?

TK: At that time, our family was the only one. Now, there were others going to Cathedral, near the (St. James) Cathedral, Japanese going to the Cathedral.

TI: Okay, good. So sixth grade you were at St. Mary's, and then after that, where did you go?

TK: Garfield High School. I couldn't go to O'Dea because of the tuition. O'Dea had tuition there, so I went to Garfield.

TI: So did a lot of people from St. Mary's go to O'Dea, your classmates?

TK: Well, I don't remember exactly then.

TI: Was that something you had wanted --

TK: Well, people from St. Mary's might have gone to Franklin, because a lot of the students of St. Mary's were from the Beacon Hill area.

TI: So when you think of St. Mary's, any interesting stories or memories about St. Mary's?

TK: Well, that's where they brought in religion to me. Going to mass and receiving communion, Sunday mass, feast days, those are memories.

TI: So it was probably very, like, new information for you to get all this?

TK: Oh, yes. Being the first Japanese Catholic in the family, it was kind of hard.

TI: And so you do you remember anything in particular, like a story or anything you remember?

TK: Well, for instance, Fridays we couldn't eat meat. And, "Hey, Mom, we can't eat meat on Fridays." [Laughs] And, "Mom, we got to go to church on Sundays," those are different things.

TI: Okay, so you were sort of the...

TK: I was the first one.

TI: Yeah, the one to explain all these things to the family.

TK: To the family.

TI: And how would you say your, what your parents' reaction was? Were they receptive to all this?

TK: Oh, yeah, they are receptive, because they were all good things. Going to church...

TI: Going back to St. Mary's, just in terms of you mentioned how you really felt the nuns paid close attention and were really good, do you have an example of that that you can remember in terms of...

TK: Well, there was a seventh grade nun that really took interest in me. And that brought me closer to the Catholic religion, I'm sure. Because I still remember her, even after I left St. Mary's. Her name was Sister (Rose) Monica, Sister Monica.

TI: And when you say she took interest in you, what would that -- because she's seventh grade, you're sixth grade, so she wasn't really your teacher.

TK: Oh, I started with sixth grade, then I moved up to seventh grade.

TI: And so she really took an interest in your studies?

TK: And she took real interest in me and the family.

TI: So what does that mean, "take interest"? How would you describe...

TK: Well, it's a feeling. Some people can just make you feel wanted.

TI: And I guess about this time, too, were you confirmed?

TK: I was confirmed, but I don't know when. I was confirmed at Maryknoll, so I don't remember that.

TI: By being a Catholic, Japanese American Catholic, how did the other families who weren't Catholic view that? Did you ever notice anything?

TK: No, there was no problem. A lot of my friends then were Methodists, and the Buddhists. But it didn't make any difference. They took us, "Oh, you're Catholic," and they're Methodist. So there was no problem.

TI: Do you have a sense how families decided? So a lot of them came over and they weren't Christian at the beginning, and then you see this, sort of, movement to either Methodist, Baptist, Catholic.

TK: That's right. I think my mother must have seen an ad in the Japanese paper, North American Times, now? That Maryknoll is opening a kindergarten. So she must have decided, "I'll send Takao there," at the time, to kindergarten.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So now we're at Garfield, and any memories or stories about Garfield?

TK: Well, Garfield, at that time, had the best football teams in the city. [Laughs] And Leon Brigham was the coach. And remember Harry Yanagimachi? He played center for Brigham. And Brigham introduced the T formation to the city. Remember the T formation? Before that it was the Notre Dame Shift. But he was the first one to introduce the T formation to the city, I'm sure. And Harry was the center on the teams that I was, when I went to school there.

TI: And so Harry Yanagimachi, were there other Japanese?

TK: Oh, yeah. Well, there was... not at Garfield, but at Franklin, there was, I can't remember his name. And there were other Japanese players like at Broadway, but I can't remember their names now.

TI: Well, it sounds like when you say Garfield used to have the Notre Dame Shift, they went to the T formation...

TK: Well, T formation was in vogue then. But Brigham introduced the T formation to the Seattle high schools.

TI: But it sounds like you were pretty involved in sports. That was kind of something you...

TK: Well, I was involved in it, but I didn't play much. I was too small.

TI: But then in the, in the Japanese leagues, Courier League, did you play?

TK: Oh, yeah. Jimmy Sakamoto and Ishihara is it? They started something good there, the Courier League. There were all different grades: midgets and seniors, whatever it was. I have a book on that at home, I think. I can send that to you.

TI: Yeah... no, I think we have it here.

TK: I think so.

TI: And so thinking, like when you're, in the summertime, in Seattle, when you're not going to school, what would be some of the activities that you would do?

TK: Well, we would go to Collins Playfield, which was nearby. See, Montrose Apartments was right here, and Collins Playfield was right across the street. So we would play there on the swings and in the fieldhouse when it was raining, cards and indoor, pool, things like that.

TI: And in the summer, in Seattle, it'll stay light 'til, like, nine-thirty, ten.

TK: Yeah, we used to play a lot of baseball down in the lower field.

TI: And then when you're done, everybody goes home and eats and plays.

TK: Yeah.

TI: So after Garfield, what year did you graduate from Garfield High School?

TK: 1934.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: 1934, after you graduated from Garfield, what did you do? What school did you go to?

TK: University of Washington.

TI: Now, was it pretty common for Niseis to go to the University of Washington?

TK: If they had the money. Like I told you in the car that I went to cannery two summers, and that paid for my tuition.

TI: And so when you say "had the money," so what was the tuition at University of Washington?

TK: Okay, the spring was... no, what is it? Oh, autumn was $30, winter was $30, spring was $35. At that time, even that was hard to get.

TI: Yeah, it's so funny --

TK: Because on top of that, you had to pay for your books and whatever laboratory things you had to have.

TI: And so for you to afford this, you said you went... and summertime you --

TK: I worked two summers at the cannery at Craig, Alaska. Thirty-five cents an hour. [Laughs]

TI: So describe that. So when you go to Alaska, how did you get to Alaska?

TK: Oh, at that time, the Japanese community had these contractors who would... I can't think of the name of the... they had about two or three contractors, and the Filipinos had their own contractors. They would, they would get workers together and send them up to these different canneries.

TI: And so they would recruit, like, a whole group and then...

TK: They would recruit maybe twenty per cannery, I would say, and send them up.

TI: And would this be like right after you finished school?

TK: Well, see, I think the Filipinos were already going up to the different canneries. Starting with Bristol Bay, working down, Bristol Bay would be the first season opening, and then the southern area would be last opening. So I worked in the southern area, which is the last openings during the summer.

TI: And when you were working at thirty-five cents an hour, what kind of things were you doing?

TK: Well, I was, we had a two-line cannery. That means the salmon cans would come down the line, and my job was to put these salmon cans into the trays before they were being cooked. So it was constant moving, that's how I got small hips. [Laughs]

TI: So all day, that's what you were doing.

TK: That was eight hours, yeah. But if there was overtime, it was... of course, we took shifts because you couldn't keep doing it all the time. The cans would come in maybe eight, and then you would transfer that to the trays for cooking, which would go into the retorts.

TI: And about how many weeks would you...

TK: It was only about, I think the salmon season was about six weeks, I think. Depending on the salmon season.

TI: And so when you were done with work and you're in Alaska with all these other men, what would you guys do?

TK: They play cards and stuff like that. We would be doing boxing.

TI: So any particular, any particular memories that were fond for you about Alaska?

TK: Not Alaska. [Laughs]

TI: Any hard memories about Alaska for you?

TK: Well, every night, you were able to take a big furo bath. They had hot steaming water, we couldn't go into that. One man would just jump right in, he was used to hot water.

TI: And so it was just too hot for you so you couldn't go in?

TK: Too hot for us, oh, yeah. Those furo was great big tubs, you know, and it would always be warmed from underneath by, I don't know how they did it.

TI: So when the men were up there, like, playing cards and stuff, was that for fun, or was it gambling?

TK: Well, gambling, too.

TI: Now, would you do things like that, too?

TK: Well, some of my friends did, I'm sure.

TI: But you didn't do those kinds of things, you didn't gamble?

TK: Well, I had no money. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so when you were working, they didn't pay you up there? I thought you would get the money...

TK: Not there, no. I think we got paid when we got back here. We had the... no, we didn't get paid at work.

TI: Interesting. Okay, so then you would...

TK: What you might call end of the season, we got paid down here at the contractor's office.

TI: So that was probably, for some men, good, so they wouldn't spend the money.

TK: Well, that was good, yes. That's right. Otherwise, some people just lost all their money coming back on the ship.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So let's go back to the University of Washington.

TK: Okay.

TI: When you were at the University of Washington, what did you study?

TK: I was gonna be a pharmacist. So I took pharmacy one year.

TI: And why were you interested in pharmacy?

TK: I don't know. I'm interested in science and things like that.

TI: But you mentioned only one year. What happened, why...

TK: First you had to buy your books. Those big pharmacopeias, it had all the, you might say, the medical recipes or whatever, they had to buy two of 'em. They had to buy the beakers and all the materials, no money. All I had was enough for tuition. And then I realized there was a drugstore on every corner, and all they were doing was dispensing sodas at the counters. [Laughs] I said, "Oh, not for me."

TI: And so instead of pharmacy, what did you study?

TK: Well, then I changed to economics and business.

TI: And why did you decide to go into economics and business?

TK: Well, that was my only alternative. I could transfer my credits from pharmacy to there, whatever science I had, they would take it, economics and business.

TI: And in thinking about those days at the University of Washington, were there very many other Niseis that you would see on campus?

TK: There were, you might say, a handful of Niseis, not too many.

TI: As a group, did you ever get together with other Niseis on campus?

TK: Some of them did, at the Japanese house there. But I never went there.

TI: Any other, like, memories from the University of Washington that stood out? Like a professor or a class, anything like that?

TK: Well, it was, it was pretty hard because not being a bright student, I got through it all right. I enjoyed the business, accounting and statistics kind of stuff.

TI: So on campus, the business school, or business education, what school or what building did you spend most of your time?

TK: Well, at that time, we had to go from different building to different building. Now, they got so many buildings, I wouldn't know where they are.

TI: But do you remember the names of some of the buildings that you went to business school?

TK: Well, there was Meany Hall for history. And that... at that Meany Hall, there must have been three hundred of us, just for history. You know, you've been to Meany Hall. And the other classes were, like, accounting would be smaller classrooms in different buildings.

TI: The reason I ask is, so I have a business degree at the UW also, and we had most of our classes in Balmer. But I think that was a more recent building.

TK: Yeah, it is.

TI: And I was just curious where the business school was.

TK: There was one class I took near the Avenue, Avenue there. I can't think of the name there.

TI: Okay. So when you finish the University of Washington with your degree, what did you do then?

TK: Oh, then I worked for the Asiatic Overseas. It was an export/import company.

TI: And about what year did you graduate?

TK: 1938, June.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So 1938 you graduate from the University of Washington with a business degree, and then you get a job with the Asiatic Overseas import/export.

TK: Yes. We were shipping logs over to Japan, and big bales of newspapers. I think it was going to India, I'm not sure now.

TI: And with this, with this company, what was your job? What did you...

TK: I was an accountant there.

TI: And did you ever have to speak Japanese in this job?

TK: If the client, not the client, but somebody came from Mitsui or Mitsubishi, I did have to talk a little bit Japanese. Let's see, there was Mitsui, Mitsubishi, there was another export company. See, ours was only a one-man company run by Seita Honda, and he ran this export/import company.

TI: And so he would go around lining up the logs, the paper?

TK: Yeah, he would go to Tacoma and contact various people that had these small logs and get 'em all together and bring 'em to Tacoma, to the docks.

TI: Now, how did you get this job? The reason I ask is --

TK: Oh, Father Tibesar knew Mr. Honda very well. Mr. Honda was a Catholic, and so he got me this job in this office.

TI: And, because I talked to some other Niseis who graduated from the University of Washington before the war, and many of them had a hard time getting jobs.

TK: Very hard, because only thing we could look forward to was working in -- I hate to say Bartell's, but in the back room or some other drug store, in the back room so that the people wouldn't see you, the Niseis.

TI: Yeah, so it was discouraging for many of the --

TK: Two or three of my classmates went to Japan right after 1938. They had money, so they went to Japan and went to college there, I'm sure. But then they, I understand they got drafted into the Japanese service.

TI: And sometimes they would go there because there were better opportunities?

TK: That's right, better opportunities. They could get into the, like, Mitsui, the Mitsubishi office there, because they knew English. But I had no money to go there at that time.

TI: So in your case, Father Tibesar helped you get this job.

TK: Yes, because, yes. Mr. Seita Honda was Catholic, and his wife was a Catholic.

TI: So tell me about Father Tibesar.

TK: Okay.

TI: And who was he?

TK: Well, he was born in Luxembourg... is it Germany? And he ended up in Maryknoll Society as a missioner. So he's, from the Maryknoll, he went over to Manchuria to missions over there, and then to Japan, of course. Other missionaries were going to China then from Maryknoll, Philippines. And he came back and then he was assigned to Maryknoll Seattle, and that's how we got to know him.

TI: And how would you describe him as a person? I mean, what was he like?

TK: He was an intellectual. He was very smart. His field was in anthropology, I think it was.

TI: And so really smart, anything else that you...

TK: Well, he was related to be a missioner, so he went over the Manchuria, learned the language and went to Japan, learned their language.

TI: How would you say the Japanese and Japanese Americans viewed Father Tibesar? How would they talk about him?

TK: See, he took interest in us, too, like the Maryknoll Sisters did. Because he knew our situation. In fact, during the war, he was the one that kind of guided the JACL through the crisis here. He was a good friend of Jimmy Sakamoto, who was Baptized later, and Bill Hosokawa and all those people. He was kind of a mentor to them.

TI: Oh, so during this really difficult time when the war broke out, people like Jimmy Sakamoto, Bill Hosokawa, would get counsel or advice from...

TK: Yes, because Father Tibesar could go to the people in the Western region... what do you call the Western region people that put us into camps?

TI: Yeah, the Western Defense...

TK: That's right. He would contact, he would have contact with them, you see, Father Tibesar would, and they would confide in him, too.

TI: Did you ever have an opportunity to talk to Father Tibesar about that? This is interesting.

TK: No, because I'm sure there was a lot of secret stuff. [Laughs]

TI: And so Father Tibesar, I guess what you heard was he helped facilitate the discussion.

TK: He helped relate us to the evacuation process.

TI: And so sometimes he would talk to people like maybe Jimmy Sakamoto...

TK: Yes, I'm sure.

TI: ...and he would then convey this information to maybe the military, and the military may say, "Well, this might be something to do."

TK: Yeah, it would be all secret, of course, at that time.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know that he played that kind of role. That's interesting.

TK: Well, he was sort of a go-between for the Western Command, the JACL, I'm sure. Now, that might be secret, I don't know.

TI: No, that's okay.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So let's talk about December 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Where were you, what were you doing?

TK: I think at that time I was at Seattle City Light working in the... in fact, I remember I was working in the accounting department. And I recall two men going into my supervisor's office, and they kept looking over at me. And I don't know, it was behind glass walls there. They must have been talking about me, and there were three other Japanese Americans working at Seattle City Light. We were the first ones hired by Seattle City Light.

TI: So let's talk about that. So you were working at the Asiatic Overseas.

TK: Yes.

TI: And then you, how did you move from there to Seattle City Light?

TK: Well, the, with the war coming on, we had to close the office at Asiatic Overseas. At that time, you had to get permits to ship anything overseas. Well, no more permits were forthcoming, so they were shut out. It was on the forty-second story of the Smith Tower. I can vaguely -- not vaguely, but I remember.

TI: So that was, for people, the Smith Tower, especially that high, that was...

TK: Forty-second floor.

TI: ...the first skyscraper. I mean, that was...

TK: It was. We were the highest building in the city then.

TI: And you got to take the elevator all the way up to the forty-second floor?

TK: Yes.

TI: That must have been special back then.

TK: Oh, it was. [Laughs] Then up above that was the Chinese restaurant.

TI: Because how many stories is the Smith Tower?

TK: I'm not sure how high that is.

TI: You were pretty much at the very top, I think.

TK: Forty-second story was pretty near the top, yes. That's where the, it levels off and then the tower goes up.

TI: Right. And so did you have a pretty good view from up...

TK: Oh, we had a nice view. Nice view of the Puget Sound.

TI: Well, I'm guessing that there are probably people who just wanted to go up there and see what it looked like.

TK: Oh, yes, oh, yeah.

TI: And then you would bring them up and show them.

TK: Oh, yeah. It was nice.

TI: But it sounds like, okay, so the permits weren't forthcoming, so you couldn't...

TK: Well, no more business with Japan.

TI: So at that time, you applied to work at Seattle City Light.

TK: Then I went to, well, I went to Civil Service, Seattle Civil Service, and they had openings. And one of the openings was at Seattle City Light, so that's how I got into Seattle City Light.

TI: And so what did you have to do to get hired by Seattle City Light?

TK: Well, you see, you had to take civil service tests. And the first three were chosen, they could choose any three. I was lucky to be one of the three, I think, to be sent to Seattle City Light. And it was a nice place to work because the supervisor was a Swedish guy, I think his name was Swenson or something like that. It was a good place to work, good people.

TI: But then after you were working there just for a while, the war started, and then you said these men came in and it looked like they were talking about you and the other Japanese.

TK: Yeah. They told me that I had to go.

TI: So this was before people were removed. You essentially, you were fired? Or when you say you had to go...

TK: I guess... I don't know if it was fired, but that would be the word, I think. Due to war circumstances.

TI: And was it because they viewed you as a, do you think, a security risk, and that's why?

TK: Security, I'm sure, yeah. See, there was three other Japanese. Ruth Kazama was one of them, and myself, and then there was another Japanese American working for Seattle City Light. And I think that was Don Kazama. But all three of us were let go -- no, it was a woman, I forget her name. We were all let go.

TI: And it was just Japanese Americans, not like... what about German Americans or Italian Americans?

TK: Not that I know of.

TI: And this was just, like days or weeks after December 7th?

TK: Well, I don't know. It must have just... weeks.

TI: I'm going to jump here a little bit, but in the '80s, I think Cherry Kinoshita worked on... I talked to her, and she said they worked to get redress payments for...

TK: That's right.

TI: ...for, I think you and the others who were...

TK: Yeah, that's right. I appreciate what she did for us. $20,000.

TI: Well, that was for the federal, right? I mean, for the city...

TK: The city gave us some monies, too.

TI: Right, but not $20,000, I think it was a lesser amount.

TK: I don't remember what it was then, but maybe $15,000, something like that. But Cherry Kinoshita was instrumental in all that.

TI: And so she got the city to do the payments and to apologize.

TK: She got the mayor or somebody to... yeah.

TI: And so you were one of those individuals. I was one of the three, yes. It's funny, I read about these things, I talk about people, but I didn't know who actually were one of them. So you're one of those men that...

TK: There was, Ruth Kazama was one of them, and there was another lady that I don't remember her name. I remember Mayor Rice, when we got the monetary payment, I forget what he said, but I think he said, "Good job," or something. He knew what our situation was. Good guy, he was.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay, so let's go back to right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Any events or memories from that time that stand out?

TK: Well, what I remember most is that at that time, all the shades had to be drawn. I remember sneaking, taking a peek underneath, and we would see these searchlights over West Seattle going like this. [Waves arm back and forth]. I remember that.

TI: And what would you think when you would peek and the whole city's dark except for these searchlights?

TK: I think of it now, it seemed like a game. [Laughs] War games.

TI: How would you... like on Sundays when you would go to --

TK: Church?

TI: -- church, would people talk about what was going on, or would Father Tibesar say anything about what was going on?

TK: No. But I remember that curfew was six o'clock, so we had to be home by six, and in the house.

TI: Okay. How about your father and mother? Did you ever talk to them about what was happening or what might happen?

TK: Good question, because I asked Dad one time, "What's going to happen to us?" And you know what he said? "The government will take care of us." I'm gonna cry. "The government will take of us," that's what he said. So they were Americanized then, the parents were. 'Cause what happened to us would happen to him and Mom, too. "What's going to happen to us?" I remember asking him.

TI: And so when the government ordered the removal and later on went to camp, did you ever talk to him about how he felt then?

TK: No. I remember we had to get rid of everything that was Japanese, everything. Textbooks, anything that looked "Japanesey" we had to, I remember burning them.

TI: Did you ever get a sense that he felt disappointed in the government in terms of what happened to him and other Japanese?

TK: Well, at that time, I was only twenty-four or so. Didn't dawn on me. Discrimination didn't dawn on me then.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: During this time, you mentioned people like Jimmy Sakamoto, Bill Hosokawa. Did you ever talk to them about what was going on?

TK: I talked to, not too well, but later I did because I roomed with Jimmy Sakamoto. He had a house, and this was after the war, but not at that time, no. Not during the war.

TI: Let's talk about anything that... how did Jimmy, or when you talked about, say, this time period with Jimmy Sakamoto, what did he say about this time in terms of what was going on?

TK: That I couldn't tell you because I don't know. Everything was so secret then.

TI: So Jimmy didn't talk about those things.

TK: No, nobody talked about anything then. It seemed like there was this microphone hidden under your table. You didn't want to talk.

TI: Oh, interesting. So there's always this sense that people were eavesdropping or trying to spy.

TK: Yeah, you didn't know.

TI: What was Jimmy like just as a person? How would you describe him as a person?

TK: I would say the top guy. I mean, he was always thinking for the Japanese people. In fact, he started the Japanese Courier, American Courier.

TI: Do you think the...

TK: You know how he lost his sight, huh? Boxing?

TI: Yeah, as a boxer, yes.

TK: See, our eyes stick out, and he was constantly punched there. I mean, our eyeballs stick out.

TI: So you roomed with Jimmy after...

TK: Oh, after the war.

TI: After the war. But I'm curious...

TK: I knew his wife real well, because his wife and the three, yeah, the three children relocated to St. Mary's with our family. St. Mary's, Indiana.

TI: So there was a closeness in the family. But I was wondering, Jimmy had a lot of pressure on him during this time period and during the war. I was wondering how you thought the war changed Jimmy. I mean, was it hard for him?

TK: See, I don't know about that, because Jimmy and Bill Hosokawa and all these other leaders, you might say, they were thinking about us.

TI: Yeah, and that's what... I was reading just some things yesterday about Mike Masaoka.

TK: Okay, Masaoka was out of the city.

TI: Yeah, out of the city, but just the amount of responsibility and pressure that these older Niseis felt to help look after...

TK: Oh, I see what you mean, yeah. There must have been a lot of pressure against Jimmy. Because whatever he said was, we were almost following him. Lot of, I guess, lot of Nisei didn't agree with that.

TI: And so I was curious, did...

TK: I agreed with him, Jimmy.

TI: And so I'm curious in terms of, did that change him? I mean, here...

TK: Oh, did it change Jimmy?

TI: Yeah, because here he felt that he had to, he was going out of his way to really help the community, and then others didn't appreciate that? And I was wondering how he felt about that.

TK: I don't know. I don't think it changed Jimmy because he was, being a boxer, he knew what he was doing.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And so eventually everything had to be sold, and the family went to Puyallup?

TK: Yes, "Camp Harmony."

TI: So can you describe what that was like, going to "Camp Harmony"?

TK: Well, first, I remember getting on the army bus, which was, they had sent it to, in front of Collins Playfield. I remember going there with just two bags, that's all we could carry. And getting loaded on the bus, and I don't remember the trip to Puyallup, even. Of course, we were blocked off with the side.

TI: Now, did you go with your whole family?

TK: Yes, yes.

TI: So there were six kids, your parents...

TK: There was eight of us.

TI: So a pretty large group.

TK: Yeah, each of us had a number.

TI: But then your, but in your case, your family, the kids were all pretty grown up. I mean, you were twenty-four...

TK: Well, Mary Jane was only a teenager, grade school yet. I was the oldest.

TI: Yeah, but some families had, like, babies and things like that. So that must have been harder for them.

TK: Yes.

TI: At least in your case, everyone could carry their...

TK: I was twenty-three, twenty-four, I guess. But what can you do with a soldier there with a gun in your back, almost?

TI: And so how did that make you feel? Here you are, you're a U.S. citizen, you have a college education, you were a city employee, and this was all happening to you. What did you think?

TK: Well, I think at that time, I was like a sheep, I think, following orders. Others fought that, and I admire them for fighting it. But no, I just followed orders like a sheep. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So this is, we're now in the second phase, and let's talk a little bit just about "Camp Harmony." What was that like? I'm just curious.

TK: "Camp Harmony"? I felt sorry for the people that had to stay in the area that's, Area D, underneath the stands. They had to sleep in the horse stalls. You've heard of that, I'm sure. In fact, some of the younger kids were sleeping in the upper deck where the, what do you call the...

TI: Like the grandstands?

TK: No, no, those that ride horses. Jockeys. Up above, they were sleeping in the jockey places, too.

TI: And so what area in Puyallup were you in?

TK: I was in Area A, which is kitty-corner across the street where the grocery store was. I don't know if you remember that.

TI: So these would be the barracks, there were barracks there?

TK: There were barracks, yeah. See, there were four, Area A, B... Area A, C, B, and then the grandstand over here. Terrible for the Area D people.

TI: And so for you in the Area A, what kind of things did you do at "Camp Harmony"?

TK: Not much. [Laughs] Area A was, it was the old parking lot. So the people from Alaska came, were in our area, so we got to know the people from Alaska. Nothing much to do.

TI: Were the people from Alaska any different than the people from Seattle?

TK: No, no different.

TI: Just different place that they came from.

TK: You've heard of the name Kashiwagi or something? They were businesspeople in Skagway or someplace up there. They must have immigrated, the family must have immigrated to Alaska.

TI: Yeah, no, I haven't heard about that.

TK: They're the same as us, no difference.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: When you were at Puyallup, was there any contact with the church?

TK: Yes. Father Tibesar came every day. In fact, he stayed over if he could have, but he was there every day with us at Harmony, "Camp Harmony." The Maryknoll sisters came whenever they could, two of them.

TI: And what would they do when they would come to...

TK: Oh, they would just be with us. No religion, unless they had the chance to, I guess. Just to be friends, hakujin friends, you might call them.

TI: And how did that feel to you and others?

TK: Oh, great, because they were some contact with the outside people. 'Cause usually they couldn't come inside, see.

TI: Oh, so if they couldn't come inside, then you would just meet them at the gate?

TK: At the gate. Father Tibesar could come inside.

TI: And was this...

TK: The sisters could come in if they were allowed to. But I'm sure they weren't, too much.

TI: And was this... did you see this with the other, sort of, ministers?

TK: Oh, yes. The Reverend Shoji is it? Oh, that's... Reverend Shoji, that's the Episcopal, isn't it?

TK: Yeah, but he was Japanese, so he would already be in camp.

TK: Yeah, that was Japanese, yeah.

TK: But I was thinking about maybe...

TK: Oh, Reverend Andrews from the Seattle Baptist church was just like Father Tibesar. He was a great guy. He was a Scoutmaster, and a good friend of the Japanese.

TI: Other than the Reverend Andrews and Father Tibesar, were there other people like that visiting?

TK: There must have been, but I didn't notice any. Of course, the Buddhist church, they were there, so there was no problem.

TI: So let's go from Puyallup to Minidoka. And describe that. What was that like when you guys moved to Minidoka?

TK: We moved everything that was in Seattle to "Camp Harmony." So Father Tibesar said mass every morning if he was available, at one of the barracks.

TI: And this is at Hunt in Minidoka?

TK: Minidoka, yeah. Twenty-two, area 22, you know, where it turns?

TI: So Block 22?

TK: Block 22, that's right.

TI: So did he have his own barrack to do this?

TK: He lived at Hunt, Idaho. And then when he got permission to stay inside, he had a room in Block 22.

TI: Oh, so Father Tibesar got permission to actually live on site.

TK: He had to get permission from the higher-ups, yeah.

TI: And this would be different than Reverend Andrews.

TK: Reverend Andrews, I don't think, ever stayed in the camp. I don't know.

TI: I think he lived in Twin Falls or someplace.

TK: That's right. Father Tibesar lived in either Twin Falls or... oh, Jerome. Jerome, nearby.

TI: But, I'm sorry, Father Tibesar eventually lived inside?

TK: Inside, eventually.

TI: And had his own, or his own barrack, or his own room, I'm sorry.

TK: Yeah, because he had a, I don't know how far that was, twenty miles.

TI: And what did Father Tibesar do inside...

TK: Oh, he would say mass every morning, and then he would go visit different families.

TI: And about how many people would attend mass every morning?

TK: Well, that I don't know, because I only stayed there six months. I volunteered. But I would say about twenty, maybe, in that small room.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So let's talk about you volunteering for the army. There really.... well, describe that. Why did you volunteer?

TK: Well, I figured... I never stopped. I mean, I never questioned it. I had to go. I said it was my duty.

TI: Was this a common sentiment amongst your friends?

TK: I don't think so. Well, like some guys, they just said, "No, I'm not going." What did they call them now? They had a name. "No-no boys," I guess. They didn't...

TI: Did you ever ask or talk to people like Father Tibesar or your parents about your decision to join the army?

TK: No. I told my mother, and I'm sure she didn't want me to go. But once you go, like all Japanese, they're proud of you.

TI: And so let me make sure I understand. So when you told your mother, what was her first reaction? Do you remember her face?

TK: I don't remember.

TI: But then you said eventually she was very proud that you volunteered.

TK: Dad and Mom were real proud that somebody had volunteered, yes.

TI: Earlier, in the car, we were talking a little bit about my uncle Bako.

TK: Bako, yeah.

TI: And can you tell me a little bit about him? Because he was killed in the war, so I never knew him. And I'm just curious if you could tell me a little bit about...

TK: As I recall, he was in my Boy Scout troop. We had about twenty scouts, and we would go camping over to Bainbridge (Island), Maryknoll had a camp over there. And picnics and whatever Boy Scouts did. [Laughs]

TI: But my understanding is that he also volunteered.

TK: He did, he did.

TI: And so can you tell me about that? Did you ever talk to him or know anything about him?

TK: I never talked to Bako, but I remember he, coming back, "I failed," the first time.

TI: This is what Bako said, that he failed the first time, the physical.

TK: Well, I don't know if he told me that, but I know he failed. Then he, I know he tried again and he got accepted.

TI: Yeah, I think the story in my family is that my grandmother gave him some, I think, herbs or something to help...

TK: Oh, the blood pressure?

TI: It was something to do with his kidney, I guess, and that helped, and then he was able to pass the physical.

TK: Okay, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So after you volunteered, tell me what happened next. Where did you...

TK: 'Course, then we were sent to Camp Douglas, Fort Douglas in Utah, that's where we were inducted. I guess there must have been about twenty of us, each group.

TI: And then from Fort Douglas, what --

TK: Oh, I want to tell you something about Fort Douglas. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, good.

TK: At mess hall, you line up and get your tray full of food. I must have been hungry, so I must have ate that, and I went back for seconds. The seconds is as big as the first one, so I couldn't eat at all. So I went to dump it. The garbage can is clean. So the sergeant says, "No, you're not gonna dump that, you gotta go eat it." [Laughs] I remember eating a second helping of all that food.

TI: So in the army you learned that if you take it, you use it or you eat it.

TK: If you get it, you eat it. And that garbage can that was for refuse had to be clean. And it was clean. [Laughs] That's what I remember.

TI: That's good, that's a good story. So after Fort Douglas, where did you go next?

TK: Of course, we went to Camp Shelby.

TI: And so at this point, what was the status of the 442?

TK: Oh, 442, we joined with the 100th Battalion in Camp Shelby. So those of us at Fort Douglas were 442. I mean, we were sent to 442, and we joined up with the 100th Battalion in Camp Shelby.

TI: So let me make sure. So the time you went was even before the 442 was formed? It was still the 100th?

TK: Well, I guess we didn't know about the 442, but we were sent as a group. And your 442, you join up down in Camp Shelby.

TI: So describe when you first met up with the other men in the100th. What was that like?

TK: What distinctly I remember is trying to get along with the Hawaiians at first. You're not Hawaiian, are you? [Referring to videographer]

TI: [Laughs] No, she's not.

TK: No? Okay. Well, we couldn't understand 'em because they spoke pidgin English. Until you got used to pidgin English... well, we got along after that.

TI: But initially it was a little bit more difficult because it was hard to understand them?

TK: It was because pidgin English, I can't... "You go come," you know, contradictions. "You go come," "We go." But there was Portuguese and Hawaiian all mixed up in their language.

TI: And so you had a hard time understanding them.

TK: That was only about two weeks, (after) one week, two weeks. We got along okay.

TI: And how do you think they looked at you, or the mainlanders, the people from the States?

TK: Well, they called us Kotonks, or Buddhaheads, I forget which now. Buddhaheads are one of us, or them. But we were Buddhaheads and Kotonks.

TI: And so describe your training. What was the training like?

TK: Oh, it was... let's see. I think we got up at six o'clock, at reveille. Then you had to go to the latrine, the bathroom or whatever. For thirty of us, I guess, there was only about six seats. [Laughs] Crowded, you had to be there first. It was a tough life.

TI: So any other stories or memories from basic training?

TK: Basic training, oh, yeah. I remember the chiggers, you sleep on the ground, and those little chiggers would crawl over your belt and you'd get all itchy. And then you sleep on your tarp and it's all wet from your sweat, 'cause it's hot in Mississippi.

TI: So it sounds like it was pretty...

TK: Oh, it's tough training, yeah.

TI: And so how long did you train?

TK: I think it was, as I recall, it was about... I was gonna say three months, but it must have been more than that. You can't get trained in three months. I suppose you could, but I'd say six months, maybe.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And then what happened after that?

TK: Well, then the people from Camp Savage came down recruiting for interpreters and translators. And luckily I knew how to write Nippon, so they accepted me.

TI: So they were looking for... so this is the MIS.


TI: Military Intelligence Service, looking for Japanese speakers who could interpret Japanese.

TK: Yes. At that time, we didn't know what the 442 was gonna do. To guard prisoners, Italians that had come over, or what were we gonna do? What was gonna be our duty? We didn't know.

TI: Well, that's interesting. So in retrospect, if you had known what the 442 was gonna do and you knew what the MIS was gonna do, would you have taken a different path? Would you have wanted to stay --

TK: No, I think I would still go with MIS.

TI: So let's talk about the MIS and what you did. So how did they select you? When they came in...

TK: Well, I don't know how they selected me because I did go to Japanese school and learn how to speak. But we had to learn military lingo at Camp Savage, and how to translate and all that. So especially kanji was pretty tough.

TI: And so memories from Camp Savage that...

TK: Oh, Camp Savage, we had to get up, of course the reveille, I think it was maybe six o'clock and then go to class from eight to, I think, eight to four. And then after that, we had to go back to the barracks and study 'til... some guys were studying under their blankets, 'cause it was tough.

TI: And how was it for you? How tough was it for you?

TK: It was tough for me, kanji.

TI: And so how would you rate yourself in terms of, with your other classmates in terms of how good your Japanese was?

TK: One to ten, let's say? Well, the ten would be good. And those would be those, what do you call, Kibeis. They had gone to Japan so they would know kanji. But to us, I would say one/two, or so.

TI: For you? You were like a one/two compared to...

TK: I would say, let's say, put it two.

TI: So the real, the real stars in terms of language was the Kibei who studied...

TK: Well, if they... because kanji was hard for me. I'm not a very bright guy, you know. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And so after, after you finished training at Camp Savage, then what happened?

TK: Oh, then I got sent to Camp... oh, the secret, we called in Signal Corps Intelligence.

TI: So this is Vint, the Vint Hill? That place?

TK: Warrenton, Virginia, is where we were sent.

TI: Okay.

TK: See, at Warrenton, Virginia, was the camp battalion, other Caucasian soldiers, then we were just one small unit there, fifty of us.

TI: Okay, so I've done quite a bit of reading about the Military Intelligence Service.

TK: Good, uh-huh.

TI: And your unit usually isn't mentioned. I mean, it's...

TK: Like I mentioned to you, we were secret first, and you couldn't even talk to your wife or girlfriend or any friends, of what you were doing if you went to town. Then we were classified as secret-secret, 'cause I guess they realized the importance of our unit. Then we became secret-secret-secret, and they just wiped us off the books.

TI: So in other words, you were so secret that no one was even supposed to know that you existed.

TK: No, we didn't exist at all. [Laughs]

TI: Because I know the MIS, it took years before people learned about that, because the whole unit was secret.

TK: It was.

TI: But your unit inside the MIS was a couple levels even more secret than that.

TK: It was, yeah.

TI: So explain why. What did you guys do?

TK: Well, we were -- when I say "we," I think it was the WACs. They were intercepting these messages. See, it's all in romaji, so A-E-I-O-U, well, the WACs could take that down. Those messages were like telegrams, like this size, and we would get that every day, maybe fifty a day, and we would translate those.

TI: Back up a little bit. The WACs, how did they get this information?

TK: That's... I don't know how they got that. We often wondered, (were) there microphones under Japan or how? I don't know. We don't know.

TI: But you would, but you would somehow get these short messages...

TK: Yeah, you know (like) Western Union telegrams? Same kind.

TI: And this would all be romaji.

TK: Romaji, mixed up, yeah. All mixed up.

TI: And then from that, they would come to your group and you would then...

TK: Yeah. Ours was only one group, I think. The Navy must have had theirs, the Navy Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, they must have been getting the same. But we were getting, I don't know how they selected what we were getting.

TI: And generally who was being recorded? Who were these messages from, what kind of communication was it?

TK: It was hard to say, because some were from business to business, some were private, whatever Japan was sending out. But those that were useful to the military, us, like I said, they found out we were, they were shipping uranium from Japan. And I don't know how --

TI: Shipping, I'm sorry, uranium to Japan? Not from...

TK: From, I think, to or from, I don't know. But these ships were carrying uranium, so from us, (the message) would to go Washington, D.C. and go to (our) submarines, "sink that ship" or something.

TI: Okay, let me make sure I understand. So it sounds like, so in some of the communication that you were translating, there was information about uranium shipments.

TK: There was a code word in there, I guess, that triggered it.

TI: And after you guys sort of translated this, this information was then sent to Washington, which then took this information and sent it to this submarine fleet.

TK: Yes. It was coordinated with all the other messages (going) into Washington, D.C., and it formed a picture, I guess. They could tell that a ship was coming or going to and from Japan, or to the Philippines if needed.

TI: That was, it was carrying uranium?

TK: Or something, yeah.

TI: And then you said it was communicated to the submarines? Because what would the submarines do?

TK: They would shoot 'em down, I mean, torpedo them.

TI: So because of your communication, they were able to target the ship...

TK: They would target, yeah.

TI: ...the ship that had uranium, so that could be the...

TK: You see, the admiral, Yamaguchi, he was shot down near the Philippines? Well, that was done by the, another group. Somebody broke another Yamaguchi code, I guess they called it. That wasn't us.

TI: But kind of a similar type of unit.

TK: Similar, yeah.

TI: But going back, this one is pretty significant. Because uranium would be used to make an atomic bomb.

TK: Well, apparently in the translations that we did, there must have been some keyword in there that said, must have been uranium. Because this general came to talk to our, major, and told us about it, which was later.

TI: Because during this time period, both Japan and Germany had their own atomic bomb programs.

TK: The Nazis had their...

TI: In addition to the Manhattan Project.

TK: That's right, it's about the same time. Nazi Germany and Japan were about the same level of improvements, I guess.

TI: And so why this would be significant, and maybe top-top secret was that if you stopped the uranium supply to Japan...

TK: That's right.

TI: ...that would damage their program.

TK: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: Well, that makes sense, why it would be so secret. They didn't want anyone to know that. And so when you're in this unit, so you're top-top-top secret, you're in Virginia. When you're off-duty, what kind of things did you and the others do?

TK: Well, we had friends there, girlfriends. [Laughs] Because a lot of Nisei girls that moved to Washington, D.C. for their work, so there were a lot of friends there. In fact, Niseis were already in that area, too. We'd go to USOs and movies.

TI: And so when they would ask you, and see you, says, "So, Tom, what are you doing here?" What would you tell them?

TK: We had to be careful what we said.

TI: And you just said, "Well, work for the..."

TK: We were stationed at Warrenton, Virginia. [Laughs]

TI: And about how long were you stationed there?

TK: I think that was about two years. I think it was two years.

TI: And besides the, finding about the uranium, any more interesting stories that you can remember?

TK: One message we remember was... it wasn't me that translated, but the, one person that was sending it to this other person said, "Say that again?" So they sent a second message. So we knew what they were saying. But that was funny. Even then, they didn't know what they were sending to each other.

TI: So, I'm not... so they wanted the message sent again.

TK: "Repeat, please repeat," it said.

TI: And what was the message?

TK: I don't remember. I didn't take that message.

TI: But you would see those kind of things.

TK: See, there was fifty of us, so we had all kinds of... you know the Hawaiian, the GIs? They knew more Japanese than we did over here. I guess they went more school or something.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So after this, what did you do? After you finished the MIS, what was...

TK: Oh, I got discharged at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, because that's close to South Bend, Indiana.

TI: And why would you get discharged...

TK: You were discharged to the closest place near to your family. So my family was at Notre Dame, Indiana, so I got, Camp Atterbury was my discharge point. Otherwise I would have come back to Fort Lewis, I guess.

TI: So describe how your family ended up at Notre Dame.

TK: Well, Father Tibesar, in relocation, he was going around various cities looking for job opportunities for us. And St. Mary's was one of the places. St. Mary's is associated with Notre Dame, Holy Cross order. So that's how we got close to Notre Dame.

TI: So Father Tibesar found, I guess, your father and mother jobs?

TK: Jobs, uh-huh. My mother worked in the kitchen and Dad worked in the farm.

TI: And how about your siblings? Did they all go also?

TK: Well, at that time, Mary Jane was going to college and so was my brother Francis. So Francis went to Notre Dame and Mary Jane went to St. Mary's College.

TI: And your other siblings? The older siblings?

TK: Oh, they were relocated to Bloomington, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon.

TI: And so when you go to South Bend, what was that like, seeing the family?

TK: Oh, it was great. [Laughs] I got to go see Notre Dame football.

TI: And was your family pretty happy being in South Bend?

TK: Well, they were treated very well. I don't know if they were happy, but...

TI: So how long did you stay in South Bend?

TK: I just stayed about three months, because I had to come back to work in Seattle within three months to get my old job back.

TI: And this is back at Seattle City Light?

TK: Well, Seattle civil service.

TI: And so when you got back, what job did you...

TK: Well, I applied for whatever job was open. And I could distinctly recall, they asked for a salary. I asked for $150 a month. Well, how was I to know that the salaries had gone up to five hundred, seven hundred a month? And the girl there, "Hey, you're crazy. Put something else down." I remember that.

TI: And so wages had just increased so much while you were gone?

TK: Well, how was I to know that in the service? We didn't know what's going on in the outside world. But civil service, you take what you get, so whatever job.

TI: And so what job were you...

TK: Well, this job at Seattle City Light was open. I took that. Accounting department.

TI: And how long did you stay?

TK: Well, I stayed there 'til... let's see. This was just before the war, I guess it was, wasn't it? Timetable? I stayed there 'til I got, you might say, fired.

TI: Okay, so we got that one, but after the war when you came back to Seattle...

TK: Oh, after the war. After the war I went to the Veterans Administration. Okay, I got that mixed up then.

TI: Yeah, so okay, so you came back to Seattle and you worked in the Veterans...

TK: Veterans Administration.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So let's talk about how Seattle had changed. So you had been gone for a while. What was Seattle like coming back?

TK: Well, the first thing when I come back, I had to look for housing, and you couldn't find housing then. So I stayed with family friends that had come back to Seattle, like the Matsudaira family, you've heard of them. I stayed with them one room upstairs. And the Yuasa family that had a room open.

TI: And how had the community changed? I mean, if you walked around this neighborhood now...

TK: Yeah, that I don't recall. [Laughs] I got along because of the, I was with the Knights of Columbus and St. Vincent de Paul Society, so I fit right in, no problem there. You might say the Catholic community, I guess.

TI: So do you think the Catholic community was more welcoming than...

TK: Yes, it was, it was.

TI: ...the rest of Seattle?

TK: Yes. All good friends.

TI: Was Father Tibesar back in Seattle?

TK: I don't remember if he was then. No, it was other Maryknoll priests, Father Haggerty, Father Lavery, all Maryknoll priests.

TI: For my family, Father Tibesar found jobs for my grandfather and grandmother.

TK: At the chancery.

TI: Yeah, working with Archbishop Connolly.

TK: Yeah.

TI: That was, it kind of reminded me of your parents at St. Mary's, but they got...

TK: He got a good job up there. [Laughs]

TI: So what else was, any other memories about those years right after the war in Seattle in terms of seeing people?

TK: Well, Dad had to find a job when he first came back, so he worked for Kubota Gardens. You know, they have that big garden in Renton which is now a Seattle park, I guess? He helped build that up, all the acreages of trees and bushes. Then after that, Dad started his own gardening business and I worked for him for a while.

TI: Okay, so this was like extra work? Because you still worked for the Veterans Administration?

TK: Yeah, this would have been filling in, helping Dad.

TI: And when you think about your parents, how did the war change them?

TK: Well, like Dad said, "The government will take care of us." And I guess, what's that word? Shikata ga nai or whatever, so-so. Take what comes.

TI: So you think that's how your parents viewed the whole thing? It's kind of like life, shikata ga nai.

TK: Yeah, shikata ga nai, you do what you can. But people liked Dad's gardening business when he started on his own, because he did good work for the people. They would talk and talk. Remember the Blackstock family on Queen Anne? Isn't what's her name related to them? Anyway, he worked on their lawn.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So when you look back, and I think about, Tom, you're ninety-two years old.

TK: Now?

TI: Yeah, now. And you lived through all these changes in Seattle, in your life. When you look back, what are the important things in your life?

TK: Well, it's the friends I made. But then I look through the classified ads now, I don't think I could, I could meet the standards. [Laughs] You got to know computers and all the technical things.

TI: And so your friends you made, anything else?

TK: Well, I value my Catholic religion because of all the friends that, (they are) your friends, no matter where I go.

TI: And when you think about the Japanese community, what do you think's going to happen in the future to the Japanese community?

TK: Well, when we were at Maryknoll, we were all one. But Archbishop Connolly says, "Disperse." So each family went to their respective churches where they were nearby. So we lost our group togetherness. Who was it, Augie Aratani and one of the Kinoshitas, Takisakis, we all dispersed. We used to get together, but now we don't. So we were kind of dispersed.

TI: So how do you feel about that? Because...

TK: I think take it for granted. We liked to get together once in a while, but we're so dispersed now. It's Sanseis and Yonseis now, and how do you get them together?

TI: Because that's different than when I think about the Methodists or the Baptists or St. Peter's Episcopalian, they've sort of kept together as a group.

TK: They come together more, yes.

TI: And so in some ways, do you wish that you were able to do a little bit more of that?

TK: At the Catholic church, we can go anyplace we want. So we're sort of dispersed. Remember Phyllis Campbell? Her dad, Takisaki, grandpa. No, it'd be grandpa-grandpa-grandpa, wasn't it? I don't know how far back.

TI: Well, Jiro Takisaki?

TK: Jiro, yeah. That would be his dad. Phyllis Campbell remembers talking about -- no, I saw it in the paper that she talked about her grandpa. He was an old samurai type of guy. Strict Japanese, I guess. I'm glad she's got, she is where she is.

TI: Yeah, so Phyllis was most recently the president of the Seattle Foundation, and is now the, I think the regional chairman of the JP Morgan Chase.

TK: Chase, yeah. She's head of it now. You know her story?

TI: Of the Takisaki family?

TK: She used to live in Spokane. She would fly every day to Seattle University. Every day, to get a degree here, I guess, in business. But that's dedication.

TI: That's amazing. She's a very hard worker.

TK: She's a hard worker. [Laughs] I don't think any of us can keep up with her.

TI: So I'm at the end of my questions. Is there anything that perhaps I didn't ask or you'd like to share?

TK: Well, like I mentioned in the car that I sure admire what you're doing. Because somehow, our legacy's got to keep on going. In fact, a teacher in one of the high schools here asked me for my autobiography for her class, so that she could teach that at her high school. Someplace in the valley here. People don't know that, Tom. People don't know.

TI: Well, so I'm so glad we got a chance to do this. Because now it's recorded, we'll have a transcript, so other people can learn so much from your story.

TK: Yeah. In fact, even my friends, "What did you do? Were you in the camp?" They still ask me. People don't know.

TI: Well, so Tom, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I know it's a long ways for you to come to do this. I so appreciate it.

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