Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grace Watanabe Kimura Interview
Narrator: Grace Watanabe Kimura
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-kgrace-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay. So today is Tuesday, July 7, 2009, and Densho is here in Torrance, California. My name is Megan Asaka and I will be interviewing Grace Kimura today, and Dana Hoshide will be the cameraperson. So Grace, thank you so much for coming all this way to do this interview. We really appreciate it.

GK: You're very welcome, I'm happy to be here.

MA: Good. So I just wanted to start with a few basic questions. Where were you born?

GK: I was born in Los Angeles.

MA: And what area of Los Angeles was that?

GK: I'm not really sure. It was not in Boyle Heights because we moved there later. So I'm not sure... I think near the Gardena area.

MA: Okay. And when were you born?

GK: 1925.

MA: And what was your name at birth? What was the name your parents gave you?

GK: Just Grace Watanabe. I did not have a Japanese middle name.

MA: Okay. And how many children were in your family? How many siblings did you have?

GK: Well, there were three of us daughters.

MA: Three daughters.

GK: And I was the oldest.

MA: What are your sisters' names?

GK: The sister right under me is Jessie, and the youngest is Ruth. Do you want their last names, too?

MA: Oh, no, that's okay. First names is great.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And I wanted to also ask you a little bit about your father who has an interesting background. And can you talk about his childhood in Japan, where he was born and a little bit about his background?

GK: My father was born in Gifu, Japan, that's in the middle of Honshu island. And at one time, his family were quite well-off. They had land and other things. But then later, their, the luck changed and they were not as wealthy as they were before. Then a big earthquake hit Gifu, and the father died in the earthquake and the mother was left with, I think, seven children. So my father wrote that he was one of the children that was thrown out of the window to save his life. And so about four of the children were placed in an orphanage, a Christian orphanage. And so that's where he grew up. (...) I have a little record of his life, and he said that when the orphanage was not very wealthy, and so a lot of times the children had to go out and sell pencils or other little things to bring a little money into the orphanage. And many times the children were made fun of because they were trying to sell things. So it was not an easy life, and a lot of times they didn't have enough food. And so I think it was a harsh bringing up.

MA: And was this a Christian orphanage, was it affiliated with the church?

GK: Yes. I don't know which denomination, but yes, the man heading it was a reverend, Reverend Igarashi. And my father was able to meet some American missionaries while there, and so they really helped him shape his later life.

MA: And what are the reasons that he came to the United States?

GK: Well, I think to better his life. And I think he spoke to these American missionaries and they said, "Well, if you want to better your life, why don't you come to America, then?" So I think that's why he had the connection to come to the United States.

MA: Do you know how old he was when he came over?

GK: I believe he was about seventeen.

MA: Wow, that's so young.

GK: It is young, uh-huh. And I think he came with very little money, all by himself. And so I think he ended up in the San Francisco area. And it was sort of a Japanese community at that time. But he decided that, "Well, if I want to learn English, I can't just stay in this Japanese community, I have to get out." So he traveled to Texas and went to school and then later he went to Yale for his master's. When he was in Texas, he went to a college called Simmons College, which is now Hardin Simmons University. He made many friends there.

MA: And at that time, was he interested in becoming a pastor, do you know?

GK: I think maybe that's when he started thinking that he wanted to become a minister, yes. And then that's why he went on to Yale to get his master's. And I believe that was in the theological area.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: And then how did he meet your mother?

GK: Well, he met my mother in Tokyo. In 1924 when he was still at Yale, they passed the Oriental Exclusion Act, so no more Japanese or Chinese could enter the country. So he thought, "Well, if I wanted to marry a Japanese woman, I'd better go back to Japan right now." So that's what he did, he interrupted his studies and sailed back to Japan. And he was in Tokyo, and my mother's oldest sister was living in Tokyo at that time at the home of a man where she was a tutor to his children. So the man went, I think, to some church and heard my father speak about his impressions of America. And I think he mentioned he's looking for a wife, too. So then this man asked my Aunt Hana, "Do you know of anybody?" (In) my mother's family, there were eleven children. So Aunt Hana then contacted my mother up in Hokkaido, the northern island, and said, "I want you to come down and meet Reverend Watanabe." So that's what she did, she took the train down and came down to Tokyo and they met, and then they were married. So it was a very short courtship.

MA: And what is your father's name? I wanted to ask you...

GK: Paul Yorishige Watanabe.

MA: And your mother's name?

GK: Chie Watanabe. Same surname, but not related. Isn't that interesting?

MA: Okay, interesting. Both Watanabe.

GK: Yes, Watanabes, right.

MA: And what did your mother's family do in Hokkaido?

GK: Well, her father worked at the agricultural college in Hokkaido. (He was) in charge of taking care of the animals. So my mother says he used to bring home samples of milk, cheese and other Western type foods. So she was introduced to all that early in her life. That's what he did.

MA: And was your mother's family Christian, do you know?

GK: I don't think so, no.

MA: I'm wondering if your father ever mentioned how he was treated in Japan as a Christian growing up, and as part of a Christian orphanage? Just because I know that Christianity wasn't looked upon too well in Japan at that time.

GK: No, it wasn't. From the time he was in the orphanage, I guess it was okay, they were accepted. But then, like I said, when he went out of the orphanage to sell little things, they were taunted and made fun of and everything.

MA: So, okay, so your parents met and then married and then came back to the United States.

GK: United States.

MA: And did they go right to Boyle Heights?

GK: No. They landed in Seattle, and then they made their way down the coast, Oregon and then to California.

MA: And that's when they went down to southern California?

GK: Yes, and then they ended up in southern California, right. And I believe it was in the Gardena area.

MA: And what type of work was your father doing at that point, around the time you were born or a little bit...

GK: Well, I think for a while he worked for the Japanese Association. It was some kind of (social service organization) to help Japanese people (get settled). But then, so I'm not sure exactly when he was ordained. But then he went into his pastoral studies, and then he became a minister and gave up that Japanese Association work to become pastor of some churches there.

MA: And tell me about, I guess, a little bit about your parents, more about their personalities and what they were like as people.

GK: Oh. Well, they were very loving people, very supportive and caring. And my father was a very gentle man, and he was a good speaker, he was a good raconteur, and he used to tell us all sorts of stories around the dinner table especially. And he was well-versed in world and politics and things like that. So it was fun listening to him. And then my mother, she was more quiet, but then she had a good sense of humor. I can remember her having good laughs, she used to laugh a lot, which helped her. She was very supportive of her husband and she was a very good wife and mother.

MA: And, you know, I imagine your father was fluent in English because of his studies.

GK: Yes.

MA: Did your mother also speak English or just Japanese?

GK: Well, she could understand English when people spoke it, but then she was more comfortable speaking Japanese. So when we were growing up, inside the home, we would speak Japanese to her. And then once we went out the door, then it would be English.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: And what are some of your earliest memories? You grew up in Boyle Heights, what was, what were some of your earliest memories of Boyle Heights and of your neighborhood?

GK: I remember (...) it was a multiethnic neighborhood, there were Japanese, Chinese, Hispanic, Jewish, even Russian people there. So I think that was helpful to get along with all sorts of people. So there were a lot of Jewish shopkeepers, I remember, and so we learned to eat gefilte fish and pickled pigs feet and things like that. And one of my best girlfriends at that time was a little Jewish girl who looked a little bit like Elizabeth Taylor. So we used to pal around and she'd come to our home or I would go to her home, and our mothers were very nice to the children.

MA: So, that's interesting. So you would socialize with, like, the Jewish girls and the different ethnic groups would socialize together?

GK: Yes, yes, very much so.

MA: And what did (...) do you know what most people did? Like their occupation in Boyle Heights, was it sort of a working class community, was it more middle class would you say?

GK: I would say sort of between there. It was sort of working class and middle class. So I'm not sure what the fathers did, what the Japanese fathers did. I know one man was a newspaper man, and I'm not sure what the other fathers did.

MA: Was there an area of Boyle Heights like where there were shops or like a commercial area at all?

GK: No, not in Boyle Heights. But in Little Tokyo, which was a little distance away, (...) then there was the Little Tokyo community of Japanese shops and restaurants and businesses.

MA: Okay. So Boyle Heights was like, mainly residential?

GK: Yes.

MA: And what did your house look like, what kind of house did you grow up in, and the street you lived on and who were your neighbors?

GK: All right, we moved about three times when we were in Boyle Heights. And, well, I used to have some good friends there that we played with, and we would play games like jacks, we'd sit on the sidewalk and play jacks 'til my fingers were bleeding. [Laughs] Or we'd play hide-and-go-seek or kick the can. And one thing I remember we enjoyed was we'd wear roller skates and form a long line with our friends and go all the way around the block holding hands. So we had a good time. And I remember we had a pet called Happy, a little fox terrier, so we enjoyed watching him. My sister loved him so much that she kind of took care of him more than I did.

MA: Did you attend Japanese language school?

GK: I did. After regular school, I went five days a week to the Japanese language school. And the school was right in the church where my father was serving, the Evergreen Baptist Church.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: Okay, so your father was serving at the Evergreen Baptist Church, and that was the main Japanese Baptist church of that area?

GK: Yes, of that area.

MA: And do you know a little bit about the history of that church? Was it in Boyle Heights?

GK: Yes, it was right in Boyle Heights at, I think, Second and Evergreen Avenues. And I really don't know too much about the history of the church. But my father had a nice congregation there, and I have pictures, many photographs of the church members, they all stood in front of the church, and it was a group photograph that was taken. And it looked like one happy family. [Laughs]

MA: And I imagine there was also a Buddhist church, Japanese Buddhist church?

GK: (Yes), there were, and then I think something called Nichiren. And yes, there were other (churches) because a lot of the Japanese people were not Christians. They believed in other things like Buddhist and Nichiren, and I can't remember what other, but it was not all Christian.

MA: Right. Do you know what relationships were like between the various churches? Like the Buddhist church, for example, and the Baptist church, were they...

GK: As far as I know, they didn't do too many things together like they do now, you know. Now it's more ecumenical and all the religions tried to work together. But back in those days, they stayed in their own groups.

MA: I wonder about a lot of the Japanese Christian community in the United States and if they came over and then became interested in Christianity, or it happened more in Japan and then they... do you have any idea about when then that happened?

GK: I think for our parents' generation, I think they were, they became Christians in Japan and then they came over. I believe that's the way it was. And a few may have become Christians after they came here, but I kind of think they were already Christians in Japan when they came.

MA: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: And what, tell me about your elementary school. What was the name of your school?

GK: The name of the school was First Street School. And we went there from kindergarten up 'til sixth grade. And one teacher that I remember particularly was our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Futterman, and I remember her because she would let me fix her a lettuce salad for lunch every day, and then she had me put some French dressing on it. And that's the first time I had tasted French dressing. So she let me do that every day. And then another teacher I remember was in fifth grade, her name was Mrs. Cohen, but I really don't remember too much about her.

MA: And how big was the Japanese student population, do you remember, in...

GK: Oh, in First Street School?

MA: Yeah, in your elementary school.

GK: Oh, boy.

MA: Like in your classes, were there lots of Niseis?

GK: No, there were not a lot. Maybe ten percent, so it was not a lot. However, when you took the whole school, you know, I guess there was a sizeable number of Japanese students.

MA: Was it primarily Jewish?

GK: No, there again, I think it was mixed. We had some black students and Hispanics and Russians even, and Chinese and Japanese. So it was mixed.

MA: Yeah, it sounds very diverse.

GK: (Yes), it was.

MA: I was gonna ask you about what you, the food you ate at home. What kind of food did your mother prepare? Was it mainly Japanese?

GK: Yes, it was mostly Japanese, and she made good stir fried main dishes. So we always had rice and usually miso soup, and then she made these Japanese pickles, you know, out of cucumber or radishes. So yes, I would say it was mostly Japanese cooking.

MA: And did you do a New Year's celebration in your family? Or what holidays did you celebrate?

GK: Yes, well, we had New Year's celebration, so we had the usual mochi and then all the special dishes that they serve at New Year's Day like lima beans and... let's see, what else? They had, I guess, lima beans, and then they had fish, small fish, and all of those were supposed to bring good luck. So what else did they have? Oh, they had something made with seaweed flavored with soy sauce and things like that.

MA: And what were your Christmas, Christmases like?

GK: Christmases like? Well, my parents, we always put up a tree, and every Christmas they would buy some gifts for the three children but then keep them hidden until Christmas Day and then we were able to open them, then they'd put them in little suitcases for us. So we always looked forward to that, opening them on Christmas Day.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: And you took a trip to Japan. Can you talk about that trip? How old were you when you were...

GK: I think I was about eight or nine, and my sisters were like eight and three. So we sailed to Japan. In those days, it took about two weeks to cross the Pacific, and we went on a ship called Montevideo, which originated in South America. And first we went to visit Gifu where my father was from. And one thing I remember about Gifu is their (...) show where the cormorant birds, they would tighten their necks, and then they would go into the lake and then get the fish and keep them stored in their throats. And then they kept them there to feed the young, and there were a lot of boats there and they were all decorated with colorful lanterns, and this was held mostly in the evening. So people from all over Japan would come to see this event. And then my mother took us to Hokkaido, to the northern island, and my mother came from a large family so we got to meet, first, her parents, who were very nice, our grandmother and grandfather. And then we got to meet her sisters and some of her brothers. And one uncle in particular, Kiyoshi, gave us a ride on his bicycle, I remember. So we enjoyed it. We enjoyed Sapporo very much.

MA: And do you remember when you were in Japan, I mean, as an American but someone of Japanese ancestry, how were you treated by just, I mean, people in Japan maybe on the street? Or did people know that you were American or, I guess, did they assume you were Japanese?

GK: Yes. Well, back in those days, I didn't notice too much how they perceived us, how the Japanese people perceived us. But later on, after becoming an adult, there is a big difference in how we were perceived. But at that time, we were like, just eight or nine. So I did not notice that they were, that they thought we were different.

MA: And how long were you in Japan?

GK: The whole summer vacation, so about three months.

MA: And was that your only, only trip back there in your childhood?

GK: Yes, during my childhood that was the only trip.

MA: Did your father travel back and forth at all?

GK: You mean to Japan?

MA: Yes, to Japan?

GK: No. And then on that particular trip, he did not go with us. So he stayed in the States and just my mother took us children.

MA: Okay. I imagine he was quite busy with his church.

GK: That's right.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: And something that you wrote about in your written memoirs was something very frightening, the fire that broke out in your house. Can you talk about that (morning)?

GK: Well, it was early Sunday morning, and we had some houseguests, so they were sleeping in the front part of the house where my parents usually slept. So the rest of us, five of us, were in the back bedroom. And early that morning, I could hear, something woke me up and I could hear crackling. So I thought, "Oh, I wonder what's the matter," so then I woke up and opened the bathroom door, and all these huge tongues of orange flames came at me. So I quickly closed the door and shouted, "Fire." And then my parents woke up. They were sound asleep and they didn't even hear any of the commotion. And what had happened was our hot water heater had blown up quietly, it didn't make any noise, and then that set the place on fire. Oh, so then we had to hurry and, you know, get up, and then we had to go out the front door, we couldn't go out the back door. So we knocked on the bedroom door where our guests were staying, and we all went out and crossed the street and watched our house burn down. That was very frightening.

MA: And how old were you at this point?

GK: I'm trying to think. So it was after we went to Japan, maybe I was early teenage. That was awful.

MA: And your house was completely destroyed.

GK: Destroyed, yes. So it was a Sunday morning, and I'm sure my father had his responsibilities in mind, so I don't know if he preached a sermon that day or not, I don't remember that. But it was very scary.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: I wanted to talk a little bit more about your father's, the Evergreen Baptist Church, your father's church when you were younger. And did the church sponsor, like, social activities or was it like a community center as well?

GK: I think they did have some activities. I know they had a young people's group, and then they had the Japanese school. But aside from that, I'm not sure what other meetings they had. Because I guess I was kind of young, and I just didn't notice all the things that were going on in the church.

MA: And then you were telling me your father left that church when you were younger and founded his own mission.

GK: Yes.

MA: Can you talk about that a little more?

GK: Well, my father was at the Evergreen Baptist Church for several years, but then he found that a lot of the members didn't believe the way he believed, you know, in, like the virgin birth and the miracles that Jesus performed, things like that, and (did not believe) everything in the Bible. And so that bothered my father a lot, and he just couldn't seem to get them to "think the way that they should," because he had a very fundamental, evangelistic view of religion. So then he decided, well, the best thing would be to just resign, so he did. And then he decided he wanted to found a mission called the Fundamental Baptist Mission to the Japanese. So he did everything completely on faith. He didn't have anything lined up, really. So what he did was in the summertime, he would travel to Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and speak to the churches, fundamental Baptist churches. And they all welcomed him as a missionary. And so then they would take up offerings to help my father's work. So back in Los Angeles, my mother and he opened up this Fundamental Baptist Mission to the Japanese, and they started with children. They figured if you bring up a child in the way he should go, he would stay with it. So they opened a kindergarten. And we had quite a few little youngsters come over. And so my mother made soup for them every day for lunch, and the children heard Bible stories and they had craft work and other things. Then other people came to help there, too, help with the work.

So it was going quite well, and then it was nearing time for the evacuation. And about that time, my father was not feeling well. He had been on one of his trips to the East, but he wasn't feeling good. So when he came back, he went to see the doctor and he was told that he had cancer. So from then, his health really did not improve at all. When the evacuation order came, he was very sick, so he could not be evacuated with us.

MA: Yeah, the authorities said he had to stay, right? They separated you, basically.

GK: Right, they did. And so the Caucasian minister friends, Baptist minister friends, appealed to the government to, "Please, can the Watanabe family stay here with their father until he got better?" But we could not get special permission to stay. So then he had to undergo three surgeries. So after his first surgery, then we just had to bid him goodbye and leave for camp.

MA: Going back a little bit to your father's mission, I imagine it was difficult for him to sort of start over again?

GK: Very, very difficult, yes. So that's where their faith really played a big role. He just trusted in God. So God took care of him, so that just shows how deep his faith was that God would take care of him and his family.

MA: And he spent a lot of time traveling, it seems, and getting support from more of a national group?

GK: Right. But mostly he was traveling during the summertime. Because during the other months, then he was working in the mission. So as usual, in the summertime, he'd visit these different churches. One of the Caucasian ministers would make out a schedule for him. "Today you go here, tomorrow you go there," like that. So it was hard because every day he was in a different city and had to talk at each place. So it was very difficult.

MA: And so he traveled outside of the West Coast, right? So these were to mainly, like, Caucasian congregations?

GK: Oh, yes, they were all Caucasians, yes.

MA: That's interesting. Did he ever talk about how he was received by them? I mean, were they interested in him, his background because he was Japanese?

GK: Yes, I think they were all interested. That's why they came out to hear him, and that's why the Caucasian ministers announced to their congregation, "Well, tomorrow Reverend Watanabe is coming to speak," like that. So yes, they welcomed him. Yes, there was no prejudice at that time.

MA: And when your father left the Evergreen Baptist Church, was it sort of a, was it a friendly departure, or was there a little tension there?

GK: Yes, there was tension. For sure there was tension. So it was not an easy thing to do. Because he could have stayed and just had a comfortable life, because the church was going very well. So it was very difficult making that decision to leave. And then, of course, he knew he had a family to support. So it took a lot of courage to do what he did.

MA: And did he have the services or the kindergarten you were saying, was that in your home?

GK: Yes, it was in our home. We had a large enough home that it would accommodate those children.

MA: And how large was, how many children, I guess, were there at its peak?

GK: Maybe about fifty.

MA: Oh, so that's quite a few.

GK: It was a big group, right. And I remember one of the children who came, later (...) he started to work for the national government, he had some kind of an office, his name was William Marumoto, and we remember him as a little boy coming to kindergarten. And he started climbing up to national prominence.

MA: I imagine your father probably influenced a lot of people through...

GK: Yes, I think so.

MA: At Evergreen and then later at his mission.

GK: (Yes), because now that you say that my father may have influenced a lot of people. (One person was Dr. Paul) Nagano, (who) was a member of the Evergreen Baptist Church, and he was, I think, in high school at the time, and so my father baptized him. And at that time, I guess, Dr. Nagano didn't know which direction his life was going to go. So after his baptism, he knew that he wanted to go into the ministry, and so he did. And he became a very prominent Japanese American minister in California and also in Seattle, Washington, and he served for a time in Hawaii, too.

MA: Oh, that's great.

GK: Yes.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: And tell me about your high school experience. Which high school did you attend?

GK: I started out at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, but then after a year, they encouraged those of us who lived to the east, that since the school was too crowded, we should go to Huntington Park High School, so I transferred there. And I remember I was in the glee club there, and I learned clogging as part of the physical education program. So I remember we had to take a streetcar to get to the high school, which was kind of far. But we enjoyed it. It was a good high school to go to.

MA: What were some of your favorite subjects?

GK: Subjects? I liked music, so I think I was a member of the glee club. And I liked English literature and things like that, and math I did not like. And yes, that's about it. I think English I liked and then History I kind of liked, and then music, too.

MA: I'm just curious about your father's views towards education. He was quite educated himself, and if he encouraged you girls to have careers or to pursue higher education?

GK: Higher education? He certainly did. And especially me, since I was the oldest child, he kept saying, "I hope you'll go ahead and get your graduate degree, get your PhD," and so forth. Yes, he stressed education very much. But we didn't have that chance to pursue education like that, because he died.

MA: And so it seems like, you know, when you were growing up in elementary school in Boyle Heights, that all the different ethnic groups sort of mixed together and socialized. Was that the same? Did that continue when you were in high school?

GK: Yes. Now, when I went to Huntington Park High School, there was not that mixture of nationalities there. It was mostly Caucasian. So it was a little different, the atmosphere was different.

MA: What were some differences that you, some main differences, I guess, going to sort of a, going from a very diverse place to a not so diverse...

GK: Well, I think we were accepted, my sister and I. But I don't remember any outstanding experiences that we had along that line. So I remember we were comfortable in that atmosphere, for which I'm grateful.

MA: And how many, like, Niseis were in your class at Huntington Park?

GK: Huntington Park? Oh, there were none.

MA: Oh, so you were the only ones?

GK: (Yes), right. So I think most of my Japanese friends, they continued on at Roosevelt High School. They stayed in Boyle Heights.

MA: And where was, where was the high school located?

GK: I believe it's east of Los Angeles, Huntington Park.

MA: And at that time, what were some of your hobbies or things that you would do, social things on the weekends or after school?

GK: Well, I used to take piano lessons. So I took piano lessons for several years. And social activities, I don't think I had any special, except that I had my Japanese friends and we would just do the usual thing.

MA: Did your father's mission have, I know he was working mostly with younger children, but was there a youth group or anything, or did you do any activities with your father's mission?

GK: You mean after he changed to the --

MA: Yeah, after he changed.

GK: After he changed, yes. Well, let's see, there were some youth conferences of the other fundamental Baptist churches. So like in the summertime they would have these youth camps on the coast like Pacific Palisades, which was a nice area there near the ocean. So I remember going to some of those youth conferences every summer, which was very nice, and we were accepted and loved, really.

MA: Was there another, was your father's the only fundamental Baptist...

GK: Fundamental Baptist, yes.

MA: that area?

GK: Yes, it was. And I'm sure there were other denominations with a fundamental background, but then among the Baptists, my father's mission was the only one. So it's too bad that he didn't have a chance to really develop it. That's what he was planning to do. Because he wasn't really that old, he was only fifty-six when he died.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So let's talk about December 7, 1941, the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Can you tell me your memories of that day?

GK: Let's see. That was a Sunday, I believe. I think I was at home and had the radio on. And I can't remember, if it was a Sunday, we would go to church, but, so that part is kind of fuzzy in my mind. But I think I was at home, and then the news came on the radio of what had happened in Pearl Harbor. But that's the only remembrance I have of it. I don't really have any vivid memories.

MA: And what about, like, going to school the next day? How was that for you and your sisters?

GK: Well, it was kind of uncomfortable. Because the people looked at us like we were the enemy, because they didn't differentiate between Japanese in Japan and the Japanese in this country. So yes, it was uncomfortable. And even in later years whenever December 7th came, it was very uncomfortable because people would kind of stare at us. And we felt guilty, which we shouldn't feel guilty about, but yes, it was uncomfortable.

MA: And do you remember your father or your mother talking with you about Pearl Harbor, or do you remember their reactions to the news?

GK: See, at that time, my father was sick, so we didn't really get to talk to him about it. It would have been interesting to get his take on it, because he was really interested in world affairs and things. And my mother was, she was more quiet, so we really didn't have too many discussions about it.

MA: Okay, so your father was ill, then, right around that time.

GK: Yes, he started getting...

MA: He started getting sick right around Pearl Harbor.

GK: Right.

MA: And was he, so you said he was diagnosed with cancer.

GK: (Yes).

MA: So was that, was he in the hospital at that point?

GK: Well, it would be after Pearl Harbor that he entered the hospital, right. So I remember when we got the news that we had to be evacuated and my father was still at home, but he was very thin and weak. And he was helping with the packing, putting all of his books, because he had so many books, into these crate boxes and he was trying to pound nails into them. But I remember he was very weak. So then we had to get help from another young man to help us with the rest of the packing.

MA: And... I just, I can't imagine how, sort of, difficult and scary that time must have been for your family with your father sick. And here you are, you hear news that you have to be going to camp somewhere, being removed. And how did your mother cope during that time? You as the eldest daughter, did you feel like you had more responsibility?

GK: (Yes). My mother was a very strong person. She didn't talk a lot, she was quiet, but I'm sure she suffered. But she was very strong, and again, she had her faith in God to carry her through. But we sort of talked about it, that since I'm the oldest, then I'd have to help her. So it was a very difficult time.

MA: And then sort of preparing for camp, to be removed from the city, what happened to your possessions, your home, everything like that?

GK: Well, we had to, (sell out) appliances and furniture (...). And there were always people who would take advantage of people trying to get rid of their things. So I'm sure we practically gave away most of our things. And some of (my father's) books and things (...), some of our Caucasian ministers said that they would store them for us, which was very helpful. And some of our, like, albums and things that we didn't want to lose, they held for us. So we were fortunate that we still have all those things, albums, and my father's sermon notes, he had boxes and boxes of sermon notes, some of which I have donated to the Japanese American National Museum.

MA: Oh, good, so you were able to save all of those.

GK: Yes.

MA: That's great.

GK: Right, we were fortunate that we didn't lose all that. So that's what I did a few years ago, I donated them.

MA: When did it... so you were talking before about, your father was in the hospital. When did it become clear that you would be separated from him, that he would have to stay in the hospital and you were gonna, basically, have to leave?

GK: Well, when we got the evacuation order, when our neighborhood was supposed to be evacuated, that's when we realized, oh, then we have to leave our father. So it was hard having to just leave him by himself, as sick as he was. And then we were put on these old troop trains, and we didn't know where they were taking us, they didn't tell us, and we didn't know how long we would be gone either. So it was just a very, kind of a scary time.

MA: Right, and your father in the hospital, I'm sure you didn't know when you were gonna see him again.

GK: Right. So I'm sure he died earlier than he would have if our family were able to stay back with him.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: Okay, so we were talking about kind of that time you were leaving Los Angeles. And can you tell me about that day that you left and your memories of the day that you left for camp, basically, had to leave Los Angeles?

GK: Well, we had to meet at a certain location, and then we were put on these troop trains, these old troop trains. And there were these MPs with rifles guarding us (...). We weren't told where we were going or how long we were going to be gone, so that made it even harder. And then, so I remember we went on the train and then we crossed the border from California into Arizona, and then that's where they dropped us off. And that was a place called Poston, and we went to Poston I. And it was an old Indian reservation in the desert, completely bare and hot, and very dusty. The first thing they told us after we got off of the train was we had to stuff our mattresses. They gave us some cotton ticking materials, bags, and they said, "Okay, there's the pile of straw there, (you are going to) fill that up for your mattress." So we did the best we could, so it was not very comfortable. But I remember my mother saying that was really just the most forlorn feeling to first be taken out of your home and out of the state, and then (having) to stuff our own mattresses. It was very demeaning, but we did it. And then, I mean, do you want me to go ahead and talk about the camp?

MA: Sure, yeah.

GK: So after we stuffed our mattresses, then we were assigned rooms in each of these barracks, like these army barracks, was divided into four rooms or apartments, they called it. And you had to have five in the family to deserve one room. But since there were only four of us, and we told them we expected our father to join us pretty soon, can we still, can we have one room? But they said no. And so we were put in this room, my mother and three daughters, and then with another couple, a man and his wife. Because there were just two of them, so they had to share it, and then there were only four of us, so we had to share. So we put a blanket across the room, and you can imagine six cots in that small area, it was smaller than 20 feet by 20 feet. So six cots in there. And so they had to serve as our bedroom, (and) living room, there was really no privacy.

MA: Well, and you were living with complete strangers, too.

GK: Yes, complete strangers. So I kind (of) felt sorry for the man, he was the only man in that room. But it was very uncomfortable, and no privacy whatever. So in camp, everything was done community-style. We ate in the mess hall, and the latrines and the showers at the time we were there (were without) partitions. So it was awful. And then some of the older women who were very modest, would take showers during the midnight hours so that nobody could see them. And then the laundry had to be done by hand with washboards, I remember, my mother and other ladies in the laundry room doing the wash. And at the time I was there, there were no schools, they had not started up the schools yet. (...) I think I helped in the mess hall peeling vegetables and carrots and potatoes. And so there was really not too much to do at that point. So my father had written from his sickbed to the people at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas...

MA: Which was where he went, right?

GK: He went to school, correct. So he asked them, could he send his two daughters, two older daughters, on scholarship to the school. So these professors and school people remembered Paul, his name was Paul, they remembered him from many years back. So they said, "Well, if it's Paul's daughters, we welcome them." So we were able to leave camp so that we would not become wards of the government. So we went there, and then we had to leave my mother and youngest sister in camp. So it was kind of a scary time when we left camp. We didn't know how it was going to be on the outside world, and we were just sixteen and seventeen at the time. So, (yes), it was really scary.

MA: I imagine, going out by yourself.

GK: Right, right. So on the way, on the train, we would see signs that read, "black," "white," in front of the drinking fountains and the toilets. So my sister and I looked at each other (and) we thought, "Where do we fit in? We're not black, we're not white." So we thought, "Well, we must in between there somewhere." But it was very uncomfortable because we were kind of unsure of our identity, you know. Because here we've been placed in these camps partly because of our race. So it was kind of an uncertain time for us. But luckily, we made it all right. And then --

MA: Oh, I'm sorry, I was going to say it must have been different for you, too, coming from a background in Boyle Heights where everything was so diverse, right? And so many different ethnic groups, and then going to somewhere like Texas, traveling down there where you see it's all segregated and separate.

GK: Yes, it was. Because we had never seen, you know, that much about segregation. But we made it there all right.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So I wanted to go back a little bit and ask you about Poston. So you were, were you a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor happened?

GK: (...) I was in the middle of my senior year. I just really had one more semester to go.

MA: Okay, so that really interrupted your, I mean, high school education.

GK: Right, right.

MA: And then you were saying they didn't have the high school built yet in Poston.

GK: No.

MA: When did you, do you remember when you arrived in Poston? Is that, it was 1942, but do you remember the month?

GK: Right. I think it was the end of May.

MA: End of May, okay.

GK: 1942.

MA: And you never went to an assembly center?

GK: No. At least we didn't have to go to an assembly center, at least they gave us that break, that we didn't have to go to the assembly center. So we went directly from home to Poston, the permanent camp.

MA: And was that because of where you lived, or was that because of your father and the intervention?

GK: No, I guess that was because we did get permission that we could stay a little longer because of our father.

MA: And so when you arrived in Poston, it was really, I'm assuming, still being built (and) facilities were very rudimentary.

GK: Yes, very much so, yes. So it wasn't really comfortable or settled yet when we got there.

MA: And you said that Poston was on a reservation.

GK: (Yes), Indian reservation.

MA: Did you ever, was there ever any interaction with the people living on the reservation, or did you see them?

GK: Oh, no, we didn't see any Indian people, no. Just Japanese.

MA: And what about the food in Poston? What do you remember about that, what you ate?

GK: Well, the only thing I remember was we were fed lamb stew. We had lamb stew day in and day out, and the meat was not tender, it was more like mutton, tough meat. And it had carrots and potatoes in it, but it was not very tasty. But that's what I remember, the lamb stew. So I don't like lamb to this day. It just reminds me of camp. And I guess we had other things, but I don't really remember. It was not too good.

MA: And was there, at that point -- I know you were there for only...

GK: Five months.

MA: ...five months, but was there like a Christian church that was set up, or any type of religious activity?

GK: No, nothing was organized at that point. And I remember Dr. (Paul) Nagano, he started out in Poston I where we were. But then they moved to Poston III to start up a church. But then during the time I was there, there were no organized churches.

MA: Okay, so you were in Poston I.

GK: Yes.

MA: Okay. And so when you were in Poston, your father actually passed away, is that right?

GK: Yes. It was twenty-five days after we arrived in camp, then we got the news that my father had passed away. So then they said, "Well, all right, then you could go back to California to make the final arrangements and attend the funeral service." So my mother and the three daughters got on the train and we went back to Los Angeles, and two of the minister friends met us at the station, and they had a beautiful service for him. And, of course, there were no Japanese people, just Caucasian people. But it was good that they had something, a service for him. And then when we came back, then the Japanese ministers had another service for him. Because there were quite a few Japanese ministers there of different denominations, and they kept in touch with other. The Baptists, they kept in touch with the Methodists and the Presbyterians and so forth. So they were good enough to have another service for him, so it was very touching. And my mother said that they had these little flowers made of colored Kleenex, you know, and empty coffee cans filled with sand, because at that point, there were no flowers or anything. So that was very touching.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So you mentioned that your father, basically from the hospital, arranged for you and your sister to continue your education.

GK: Right, right.

MA: But did you have to finish high school first, or how did that work?

GK: (Yes), what we did was we finished high school in Texas.

MA: Okay, so before you attended college, you...

GK: Right. So I was able to, I had one more semester, so I completed that in Abilene, at the high school there, and my sister did also. She was a year younger than me, so we were just sixteen (and) seventeen at the time.

MA: So you were very young, and what were your impressions of Texas? I mean, where were you living...

GK: Well, we went to live with two families, two Caucasian families, of course, and we were called schoolgirls, to work for our room and board. So I lived with a family who had three children, and the father and mother had a pharmacy, so they were gone most of the time, so they needed someone to help with the housework and the cooking and so forth, so that's what I did. I had to work pretty hard, and one thing I remember are the piles of ironing I had to do. Because in those days, there were no knit fabrics or pressed, permanent press, so everything had to be sprinkled and rolled up, and that's how we ironed. So then I got calluses on my right hand, in the palm of my hand, because you have to press down real hard, you know. And during the winter, I would have to get up a little earlier to light all the gas heaters in each room for the family to get up, so they would have a warm room. And I used to study until late at night, maybe from about nine o'clock on, I started my studies, because until then I was doing some housework. But they were good to me, and I enjoyed the children. And that went on for maybe two and a half years, because then, my mother and the youngest sister were able to join us from camp. So then we didn't have to live with the families any more, we had our own apartment, so that made it nicer.

MA: Was your sister also a schoolgirl living with a family?

GK: Right, she lived with a family who had only one little boy, so she didn't have as much work as I did. And on weekends, we got together, at least they gave us Sunday off, so then we could meet other Japanese students. There were some other Japanese students not at Hardin Simmons, but at another college called McMurry College in Abilene. So we were able to meet them and do things together.

MA: How was that time for you? I mean, I guess, emotionally, you were separated from your mother and youngest sister and your father had passed away very recently, and you were seventeen and living in a brand-new place. How were you... I mean, what were you feeling and thinking about during that time?

GK: Right. You know, I guess it's because we were kept so busy that I didn't really think about it too much. And maybe it's a good thing because it could have been kind of tough. But I guess the main thing is we were kept so busy that I didn't really think about it. So we got along all right. Except that there was a camp, Camp Barkeley near Abilene, where soldiers would come into Abilene, to the downtown area, and I remember they used to stare at us, my sister and me, they just stared and stared and stared, which was incredibly rude on their part, you know. But I guess that's a form of discrimination. However, it was not like they didn't see other Japanese Americans because there were other soldiers, Japanese American soldiers at Camp Barkeley, and many of them had families still in the camps. And they had enlisted to show their loyalty to the United States, the country of their birth. So it was not like they didn't see any Japanese Americans, but I guess it was a sort of prejudice, racial prejudice, (that) they stared so much. But then when we were in the university community, they accepted us and we felt very comfortable.

MA: What about the town of Abilene? What was there? What was that like?

GK: Oh, well, they had a nice downtown, but then like I said, I didn't like to go into town because we were stared at so much.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: And so you went to high school, then, for about a semester.

GK: One semester, right.

MA: One semester, and were, graduated then.

GK: Yes.

MA: And then went into Hardin Simmons.

GK: Hardin Simmons, correct.

MA: What was the college like? I mean, what sort of classes were you taking and who were the other students?

GK: I remember I took a chemistry course there that I enjoyed a lot. And then I remember the chemistry professor, and he would take us to different meetings of chemical societies, I remember, he drove me and some other students to a meeting of chemistry students, and, of course, we had to take religion courses, too, which was interesting. And we had physical education, and I'm trying to think what else. Well, I majored in business administration, so then there were typing classes, shorthand classes, and, let's see, what else? That's all I can remember.

MA: And your sister also attended the same university?

GK: Yes.

MA: And was it a Christian...

GK: Oh, yes.

MA: Oh, it was a Christian college?

GK: It's a Baptist college, very much so.

MA: And were you able to, so you were able to attend church and services through the college, then?

GK: Right, right. So that was a good atmosphere to go to school, especially at that time. Because I just felt that we were accepted there, and (the) people knew my father, so I didn't feel so strange when we lived in Abilene.

MA: And after you said two and a half years, then, your mother and youngest sister joined you in Abilene.

GK: Right, that's right.

MA: And where did you end up living? You got your own place?

GK: Right. So we had our own apartment, and my mother went to work as a (housekeeper). She didn't just stay home, (said), "Well, I've got to be useful," so then she went to (work for) a family there where she did, she worked really hard there, did all the housework and things like that.

MA: When your mother came and joined you, was there any conversation about where you would go? I mean, you had to finish, you had to finish college, but after that, were you planning on going back to Los Angeles? What was your mother thinking that she would do?

GK: Yes, well, we had an uncle in Chicago, so my mother thought that she would contact them, 'cause her sister was married to this uncle. So she managed to contact them to see if we could move up to Chicago then. So we did, and then we eventually got an apartment in the building that they owned in Chicago.

MA: In Chicago.

GK: (Yes).

MA: And what year did you graduate from...

GK: '46.

MA: 1946, okay, and you majored in business administration.

GK: Right, right.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So what was, what was Chicago like, I mean, when you first arrived? What were your impressions of the city?

GK: Well, I just thought it was a huge city, and I wasn't quite used to that. But then I started working right away at the Church Federation of Greater Chicago in downtown Chicago. So we took the El train every day, we had an apartment on the south side, and we took the train in every day. And it was a Christian office, Church Federation, so everybody was nice and we enjoyed it. I first was secretary to a person in charge of relations, public relations, so that was enjoyable. I liked that field because it dealt with people. So I worked for this Reverend Weatherbee, but then after a while, then he decided to go back to Boston where he was from. So then the head of the Church Federation said, "Well, Grace, would you like to be the office manager?" So I thought, oh, that was a nice opportunity, but then I foolishly decided to go to another office, and that was a bad mistake. I should have just stayed there. So then, shortly thereafter, I got married, so I didn't work there for a while. Then we moved to New York.

MA: Going back a little bit, you said you lived in the south side. Was that, at the time, a primarily black neighborhood or was it Japanese?

GK: No, no. See, that neighborhood changed after we lived there. Because it was near the University of Chicago where we lived, and in fact, Eugene was a student there working for his PhD degree. So, no, there were Japanese families and other Caucasian families, but it was not primarily black like it is now.

MA: Oh, okay.

GK: The neighborhood changed completely in years after that.

MA: And was there like a Japantown in Chicago at that time? I know it became a destination for a lot of people coming out of the camps.

GK: Yes. There was an area there on Clark and Division, somewhere in there, where there were Japanese shops and offices and so forth, yes. And grocery stores, so it was nice. We had someplace that (we) would go to for Japanese things. But there was nothing on the south side, but it was sort of near downtown Chicago.

MA: And did your family, your mother and your sisters, were you pretty set on staying in Chicago? Was there ever any talk about going back to California or to the West Coast?

GK: No, because we had no one left in California. My father was buried there for the time being, but then we had his ashes brought to Chicago so that we could all be together. So we really didn't have any ties anywhere, no relatives or anything in California. So, yes, we just decided Chicago was where we were going to stay.

MA: And you did have that uncle living in Chicago, so you did have some family in that area.

GK: Right.

MA: And what, I mean, before you met your husband, what did you do for social activities? Was there, like, a community place where Japanese could go and socialize, or what were some activities that you would do?

GK: I know I belonged to a girls' club, and there were several girl's clubs like that. So it was nice, there were about a dozen of us gals who met regularly. And then sometimes we would go out for dinner after work, so it was nice to meet some other Japanese. And then we joined the JACL chapter, and that way we got to meet other Japanese, you know. So it was nice. I mean, we didn't feel lonely or anything, because there was a network of Japanese Americans in Chicago.

MA: And the JACL, what types of things were they doing at that time? I mean, I know part of it was social, but were they doing other activities?

GK: Yes, I think they were working toward civil rights or human rights matters. And I'm trying to think if the redress matter was... at that time, no, they had not started it. It came afterwards, you know. But that was a good organization for Japanese Americans, because you could meet others like yourself there. And it happened that the president of that chapter was (Shig Wakamatsu), Eugene knew him because they had taken a chemistry course together at the University of Chicago. (...) His sister was really my best friend in Chicago, and she and her minister came to call on us when we first moved there. The minister (was) from the local Baptist church. So they came to visit us, and we became good friends. We still are good friends.

MA: What is her name?

GK: Toshie Suyama. And her brother is Shig Wakamatsu.

MA: And where was she from? Was she in camp and then had resettled to Chicago?

GK: She was from the state of Washington. She must have gone to camp, I really don't know. She must have, though, if she lived in Seattle. I don't know what camp, though.

MA: I was just wondering if you talked about camp at that time with your friends or your family. Was there any talk about camp and what you went through, or did people just...

GK: (...) You're talking about at that time?

MA: Yeah, like when you were in Chicago, kind of in the years after the war.

GK: Oh. No, we didn't really talk about it. It's a strange phenomenon, that for a long time, we who went through the evacuation, we never talked about it. Maybe it was such an unpleasant experience that we just sort of buried it, you know, and didn't even mention it. So no, we didn't talk about it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: And you... tell me about your husband and how you met him.

GK: How we met? Oh, okay. We met at a meeting of the JACL. And so it turned out that he and I lived about four blocks from each other near the University of Chicago. So we got to see each other quite often, and we started dating, I guess for about two years. And then we were married in one of the chapels at the University of Chicago. And Shig Wakamatsu was the best man, and Toshie Suyama was my matron of honor, and it was very nice.

MA: And tell me a little bit about his background and where he was from.

GK: Well, he was born in Sheridan, Wyoming. And then when he was about six years old, the family moved to Seattle. So he actually grew up in Seattle, (and) he went to grammar school and high school and started at the University of Washington. He was a sophomore when the evacuation order came. So his education was interrupted. He and his mother were sent to a temporary camp called "Camp Harmony."

MA: Right, Puyallup, in Puyallup.

GK: You're right. So they went there, but they were there for only two months because Eugene had written to a friend of his in Wyoming, it's a Japanese friend, and asked him if there were any opportunities that they could live there. So the answer came back, "Yes, come on over." So he and his mother left the Puyallup Fairgrounds and then they went to Sheridan. But then they weren't there too long, because then he applied to the University of Nebraska, because he wanted to continue his education. So they were accepted, he and his brother. (Gene) got his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Nebraska. And then he came on up to Chicago and he was working toward his doctorate there.

MA: And then you met?

GK: Right, right.

MA: So you married in Chicago but then did not stay in Chicago too long, right? You ended up moving to New York?

GK: That's right. Right after we got married, Gene was already working in New York. So then right after we were married, we left for New York.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: And just, what were your sisters doing at that point?

GK: My sister, the one right under me (who) went to Abilene, together with me? All right, she got married right out of college. After she graduated, she got married in Texas, so she stayed there. And her husband's family is called Saibara, and they were at one time a big rice growing family, Edward's father was. So she married into that family.

MA: So they were from Texas?

GK: (Yes).

MA: Oh, interesting. Japanese American family?

GK: Right. Of course, (...) Jessie's husband, is a Nisei, but then his father is the one that started that rice growing business. And at one time, they were very prosperous and doing well.

MA: Wow, that's interesting.

GK: So then my sister got married right out of college and has stayed in Texas all during this time. Even to this day, she's still there.

MA: Oh, she's still there? Wow.

GK: Yeah, she is.

MA: So then in Chicago it was just you and Ruth and your mom, your mother?

GK: Right, (yes), just the three of us.

MA: And Ruth, did she continue high school in Chicago, or had she completed...

GK: Let's see, where was she about then? Yes, she went to high school. Oh, she went to Hyde Park High School on the south side, and so she finished there. And then she started at Northwestern, and then that's when she met her future husband. So then she got married and she didn't finish (college).

MA: And did she stay in the Chicago area after that?

GK: Yes, they live in a place called Joliet, Illinois, so that's about a half an hour from where we live, we live in LaGrange Park, so she lives close by.

MA: And does Jessie live near Abilene still?

GK: No, a place called Webster. Webster, (...) southeast of Abilene.

MA: And is her husband's family still involved in that rice business?

GK: No, no. They stopped that a long time ago. Then eventually Edward's father died. And after the father died, the business sort of slowly closed down, which is too bad.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: So tell me about life in New York and what it was like. I know you lived in Manhattan for a couple years.

GK: Right, when we were first married, we lived in one of those brownstone apartments, you know. So then I got work at Macy's in the legal department, so I was going there to work every day. And then I got pregnant so we thought, well, these brownstone buildings are not the best place to raise children, so then we moved up to Yonkers, New York. So there, we found an apartment on the second floor of a home, and this elderly lady said she would rent the upstairs apartment to us. So that's where we lived, and then our two daughters were born while we were there.

MA: In Yonkers?

GK: In Yonkers, right.

MA: When you were in Manhattan, who were the people in your neighborhood? I mean, were there any Japanese people there, really?

GK: No. When we were there, we didn't see any Japanese. But I'm pretty sure there was a New York chapter of the JACL, I'm sure there were. But we didn't stay in New York City that long, so I really didn't have a chance to explore what there was. But I'm sure there were some Japanese Americans.

MA: Did you and your husband ever have trouble finding apartments? I mean, because you were Japanese, did people ever discriminate against you in terms of your housing?

GK: No, we didn't meet up with that. We were fortunate.

MA: And in Chicago as well, when you were living with your mother? Were you ever, did you ever have trouble finding places?

GK: No, we did not. Because basically in Chicago, we lived in the building (which) he owned. So we didn't have to go look somewhere else. So no, that worked nicely for us, that he had this apartment building. So we had an apartment in there.

MA: Okay. And then in Yonkers you lived in an apartment as well.

GK: Yes. But it was a different kind of building. See, in New York, we lived in a brownstone where they had apartments. But this was a private home, and we were on the second floor. And so in those days, there was no air conditioning, it would get hot, so my husband decided to make a fan. And so he built this frame and then he put this powerful fan in there so on hot summer nights he'd turn that on. It would make an awful lot of noise, so the poor landlady, she didn't say anything at first, but I'm sure it bothered her. And then another time we bought a washing machine because I had the two babies, so I wanted to do the diapers in there. But it rattled and shook the house, actually, from the second floor. So then Mrs. Minehan said, "Oh, would you get rid of that washing machine? And I'll pay for the diaper service." [Laughs] So then that's what we did, we got rid of the machine. So she paid for the diaper service, so it worked out okay. And she was a nice landlady, very nice. She and two of her spinster daughters lived with her, so they were very nice to us. There was no discrimination there.

MA: Did you find a church in Yonkers and before that in Manhattan that you were able to go to?

GK: No, I'm sorry to say, in Manhattan we didn't go to church. And then same thing in Yonkers. I don't remember going to a church.

MA: Was there a Japanese American community in Yonkers?

GK: No, no, there certainly wasn't. Maybe we were the only Japanese Americans in Yonkers.

MA: And at that time, was Yonkers mainly sort of a Caucasian community?

GK: Yes, it was. So there were no other Japanese that I know of.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: And tell me about your children.

GK: Well, we have three children, Kathryn is the oldest and she's a lawyer. And she worked at McDonald's Corporation as a corporate attorney for thirty years, and last year she decided to retire. So she did retire then. And then I think she has so much energy and everything that she still would like to find a second job if she could. So she's still looking. And then our second daughter is Eugenie, and she's a registered nurse. And she goes with us to all the medical appointments that we have, and we have many. She goes with us and asks good questions of the doctor. She has one son, and Kathryn, our oldest, has three children, and they're all in college or doing graduate work. And then our youngest is Alan, and he's a retinal surgeon, so he's doing very well. But he said he wanted another challenge, so right now, besides his practice, he's taking a course working toward a master's in public health through Johns Hopkins. So he has a lot of reading and studying to do, but he says it's fascinating, so he's keeping it up. And he's not married, so he's making the time to do (the extra studying).

MA: And Kathryn and Eugenie were born in Yonkers, but Alan, you said was born in Illinois?

GK: In Waukegan? Yes, Waukegan.

MA: When did you make that move from New York?

GK: Let's see, the girls were just two and three years old, and then we moved to Chicago. And then that's when Alan was born. And we lived for a while in a place called Winthrop Harbor, and that's on the borderline between Wisconsin and Illinois. And it was a nice home to raise children, it was a big stucco house, two-story stucco house (with) huge kitchen, living room and dining room and the bedrooms were all upstairs. And so at one point, there was no bathroom on the first floor, so Eugene decided he'd like to maybe make a little bathroom on the first floor. So he borrowed some tools from Abbott Laboratories where he was working, and he made a big hole in the floor there and he made a nice little bathroom for us. But there was no heat, so in the winter it was kind of cold, but during the summer it was fine. One time we had a gerbil that the children wanted as a pet, so the poor thing, we left him out in the porch where there was no heat, and it froze to death. So we felt bad about that.

MA: And your mother was living still in Illinois at that time?

GK: Yes, she was in Chicago at that time. But then... let's see, I'm trying to think. In 1949, the year before I was married, my mother remarried. And she married a man by the name of Mr. Katsuno, Araki Katsuno, K-A-T-S-U-N-O, and he had his own business making artificial flowers and leaves. And at one time he had big accounts like Marshall Field and other big stores like that. So then my mother went to help in that business.

MA: And where was Mr. Katsuno from? Was he from Chicago originally? Or he was Issei?

GK: Yes, he would be Issei. So (yes), I don't know when he came to Chicago, but he was living in Chicago. And he was very active in one of the churches, and so I guess the minister of his church introduced the two of them. And so they were married. Actually, my mother was married longer to him than to my father. And my mother lived to be ninety-two, ninety-two years old.

MA: And that's great, you were able to live closer to her.

GK: Yes.

MA: For your children to be around her when you were growing up.

GK: That's right. So I'm sure my mother was happy when we moved back from New York to Chicago. And when our two children, two daughters were born, she would take the train and come to New York and help us, which was such a big help. Because when you have a new baby, you don't know what you're doing. So she came and helped run the household and did the cooking for us. It was a big help, she did that both times when the girls were born.

MA: And Eugene, what type of work was he doing in New York and then when you moved to Illinois?

GK: Right, he's a pharmacologist, and he was in research, testing drugs and so forth. So he was doing that in New York, and then he got a job at Abbott Laboratories just north of Chicago. He worked there for maybe thirty-one or thirty-two years as a pharmacologist and toxicologist to test for drugs to see if they're safe and things like that.

MA: And did you work again? Did you return to work?

GK: (Yes). When Alan was in high school, then I decided to go back to work. So then I worked for one company as a legal secretary, and then I worked at the Northern Trust downtown, so I commuted from Morton Grove, we lived in Morton Grove at that time. So I commuted on the train to downtown. And it was an interesting job, I was an administrative assistant in the international banking department, so it was very interesting. But the commuting sort of got to me because I'd get home late and I'd have to leave early. So then I decided to switch to another company close by. But now I wished I had stayed with the Northern Trust, that would have been a better company.

MA: Really? What did you end up doing after you left Northern Trust and you got that other job?

GK: Okay, then I worked for a company called G.D. Searle and Company, that was a pharmaceutical company. So I worked in several departments, and then I ended up in the CEO's office as the assistant secretary to him. So that was very interesting, it showed me how corporate America works, and the perks that they get when you're up on that level, corporate officer, you know. So that was very interesting. Then Eugene retired in 1989, so I thought, "Well, I'm going to retire, too. Why should I keep working?" [Laughs] So that's when I retired.

MA: And I'm just curious, when your children were growing up, I mean, did they ask you questions about your background and about camp?

GK: Not too much. They didn't ask too much. But then later, as they got older, then they started asking questions more, the specifics. But during the time that they were growing up, I don't remember their asking things like that. Maybe they were so involved with their own activities. But then as they got older, once they got married and got settled, then they started asking questions. And now, they're the ones who are saying, "Get your story told." They're the ones who are pushing.

MA: Yeah, I was gonna say, because they seem very interested in documenting your family history.

GK: Right, right.

MA: Which I think is great.

GK: So I'm grateful for that.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: And how did you feel about redress? When the redress movement was happening and when it finally, the government finally apologized, did the formal apology and the monetary payments, how did you sort of feel about that?

GK: Oh, we felt very good. We thought it was a long time coming, and it was a real struggle to get that passed. And so yes, we were very thankful that it did pass, and that people were awarded something. It wasn't a lot of money, but it helped. So, oh (yes), we were very happy about that. And then they had this Commission on (Wartime Relocation and) Internment of Civilians?

MA: Right, it's the CWRIC.

GK: Exactly. I was one of the ones who testified when they came to Chicago.

MA: Really?

GK: There were, I think, about forty of us that day that testified before this commission of, what, ten people or something. So I gave my testimony then. So, (yes), we were glad that we had the opportunity to tell our story.

MA: How did you get involved with that, with testifying? How did that come about?

GK: Let's see... I think we were at a meeting of Japanese Americans, I can't remember what meeting it was, but they were asking for volunteers, "We want some people to testify." So I guess that's when I volunteered.

MA: And did you sort of have a prepared statement that you read?

GK: (Yes), because they said to keep it under five minutes. We were limited in how much time we had because there were several of us who wanted to speak. So yes, I had a prepared (report). We called that the oral testimony, and it was a short version of the other one, the written testimony.

MA: And who was listening to your testimony?

GK: It was this commission, and I'm trying to think who all was on there.

MA: Oh, the government-appointed commission.

GK: Right, right. And Joan Bernstein, she was a prominent lawyer, she was the chairperson of the commission, and then William Marutani, he's Japanese American, the judge, he was on it. And I think Edward Brooke and Dan Lundgren, I can't remember the others, but there were about ten people. Arthur Goldberg, who was on the Supreme Court at one time, and somebody, Father Drinan, D-R-I-N-A-N, was on the commission. I can't think of the others, but there were about ten of them.

MA: And what did you -- that seems like such a short amount of time, five minutes, to sort of sum up what your experiences were. So what did you focus on, do you remember your testimony?

GK: Well, I think I focused on the hardship that our family experienced, you know, because of my father's illness, and we were taken away from him. And I think that's what I tried to focus on. Then I told them a little about camp life, but it was mostly the hardships that we experienced at that time, where our family was separated.

MA: And from what I've read about the hearings, that it was a time when people started talking about camp again for the first time.

GK: That's right.

MA: How did you feel sort of going public with your story?

GK: (Yes), it was kind of strange, you know, because we hadn't talked about it or really thought about it for a long, long time. But it felt good to be able to tell that story because it was a long time coming, and I think, (yes), I felt good about it, and I think all the others who testified felt the same way. It wasn't until we were urged to talk about it that we did, and it felt good.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MA: I wanted to go back a little bit and talk about your father again. I know he passed away at a relatively young age, but...

GK: (Yes), he was fifty-six.

MA: I'm sure he, you know, I'm just thinking he was such an incredible person with this incredible story, growing up in an orphanage and coming by himself to the U.S. when he was seventeen, and just, can you talk a little bit about his legacy and about his life and what you think his... I'm sure he had such an impact on this world, and what you think about that.

GK: Well, the thing I remember about him is he said that education is very important. He said, "Try to get as far as you can in education." And he was also interested in people relations and, you know, being active in the church and giving to the community and volunteering for whatever we could after we stopped working. He was also a very warm person, I remember his handshake, it was really warm. And he was just a very loving person.

MA: It seems like your parents were both very loving and warm.

GK: (Yes), they were.

MA: Good parents.

GK: Yes.

MA: And you mentioned Paul Nagano, that connection there. I mean, I think that just speaks to how many people he really touched, you know.

GK: That's right. And I think maybe those people who were baptized with Paul Nagano, there were others, too, that probably felt the same way that I just don't know about, but they felt the same way. But yes, I think the most important person was Paul Nagano, how his life (was changed), he said, because he was baptized (by my father).

MA: Yeah, and his career became influenced.

GK: Right. He became a leader in Nisei circles. And (yesterday) we met with him (at) lunchtime (with) his wife, and it was nice to kind of reacquaint ourselves. Because the last time we saw him was just before evacuation, and then when they had the Boyle Heights exhibit in Los Angeles, we met him there after all those years. And he said, "Let's stay in touch." So we had written letters back and forth, so it's nice that we got to see him (yesterday and) his wife and had a very nice time.

MA: A reunion of sorts.

GK: (Yes), right. And so we're going to see them tonight again. They're showing a film on 442nd at (the) retirement place where he lives, (and) we'll get to see that, so we'll see them again today.

MA: How do you think growing up in Boyle Heights, which was such an interesting area, how do you think that influenced you at all, or do you think it had an impact on your...

GK: Oh, yes, very definitely. I think it did influence me, and it (taught me) tolerance and diversity. You feel comfortable with other nationalities and their cultures and so forth. Yes, I think it helped me a lot.

MA: Because you were really exposed to a lot of things, like you were saying gefilte fish and different foods and different, sort of, cultures that a lot of Japanese Americans didn't have that exposure to so many other different...

GK: That's right. So I'm grateful for that, that we met all these different kinds of nationalities and kind of grew up with them. And that gives you an appreciation of other cultures and other foods and so forth. So I think that was a good experience.

MA: Well, is there anything else you'd like to share before we wrap up? Anything we didn't cover or anything that you want to say, any final thoughts?

GK: Well, I'm just grateful for this opportunity to tell my story. And I just hope that people who will see it or read about it, or see it on the website, I hope that they will learn something about what we went through. And, well, I just think it's a good thing for posterity.

MA: I agree. Thank you so much for traveling all the way here and sharing your story with us. It's been really a wonderful experience.

GK: Oh, thank you very much, I've enjoyed it.

MA: Oh, good.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.