Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieiroz Interview
Narrator: Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieiroz
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-qchizuko-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: So today is Wednesday, July 8, 2009, and Densho is here in Torrance, California. I am Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and I will be interviewing Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieiroz. Dana Hoshide is the cameraperson. So thank you so much for doing this interview.

CQ: Well, thank you.

MA: I wanted to start by asking just some basic questions. When were you born?

CQ: I was born September 15, 1932.

MA: And where you born?

CQ: Near Lodi, California, that's near Stockton in northern California.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

CQ: The name was Shizu, but my dad got it wrong. 'Cause my mother wanted "Chizuko," but I was the ninth child and the last child to be born. And there was a lot of problems because my mother was very sick after I was born. And so I was registered late. And so when... because I've always been called Chizuko. And then my dad said, well, my mother had named me Chizuko, but he had put on, by mistake, Shizu, and so we had it changed.

MA: And tell me a little bit about your father. What was his name and where was he from in Japan?

CQ: His name was Yutaka Sugita, and he took on the name of Joe when he came to this country in 1902. And he came from Hiroshima, and he was the third son. Sort of a change of life baby, because he had two brothers, and his dad was a lawyer, and his oldest brother was a doctor, and his middle brother ran the business, which was the transportation business in Hiroshima at that time. So he would only have a small little house and a small little piece of property that he would inherit, and therefore he came with his uncle who was a second son -- no, a fourth son, sorry. Yeah, he was a fourth son who took on the name of the woman he married, 'cause they had only women in their family. So that was Tamura. And so he came with his uncle, who was a few years older and was married, to make their fortune in this country because he, his uncle sort of was in the same position that my dad was in. They were not going to inherit the land and things like that, and would then just have a small piece of property. And so they came to the United States to open a hotel for Japanese immigrants. And they opened it in San Francisco and were very successful. And my dad's... I don't know who else came, but my dad said that his parents and his oldest brother and wife came to see how they were doing, and they were very happy. This was about, this was about two years later, so it must have been in 1904. And so they thought, "Oh, they're really going to make their fortune and come home." And so this really... and the United States at that time was considered a place where you could make a fortune, and a land of opportunity. And so they continued to do this, and they processed the Japanese that came through, came to America, and found them jobs and places to work and live. And so the hotel was the first, sort of a clearing house kind of a thing. And so my dad did arrange for them to work for different people. They basically were working, they were basically working on farms, the people who came through.

MA: Okay, so your father would arrange where they would go, where the laborers would go, and find them work.

CQ: Uh-huh, yes. And housing, and it usually was all together, the labor and housing was, you know, all together at that time.

MA: Did they, you said that they kind of thought they were going to make their fortune and go back to Japan?

CQ: Oh, of course. This was, you know, every immigrant's dream is to come to the United States, whether it's from any country, not just Japan, and make their fortune and then go back very rich and successful. And that's everyone's dream, I think, 'cause that was my father's dream and I thought that was almost everybody's dream. And then the earthquake happened in 1906, and it just devastated all of San Francisco. And at that juncture, his uncle and his wife went back to Japan. And he was supposed to go back also, but he said he's not going to go back, and he's going to make his fortune, and then he'll go back. And his parents and his siblings urged him to come home many, many times. And he just said, no, he's going to make his fortune, and they'll hear from him when he's very rich and famous, and he'll come home. And so that was it.

MA: And then how did he end up meeting your mother? Do you know that story at all?

CQ: Well, yeah. He did all kinds of things. He, of course, was sort of in charge of farm laborers, because that's sort of what he did with the hotel, so he arranged for... so he sort of became sort of like the head of farm laborers on different farms, and tended to their needs. He even treated them for illnesses and things like that, because he had picked up things from his oldest brother. And so a lot of people, especially the workers, depended on him for help shopping, things like that, and also for, when they got sick. And then he met, there were some people in Fresno, he was in... they had a community, and these people in Fresno were the Okadas, and they had quite a few brothers and one sister. And they were getting, they were sending, the parents were sending for the oldest that was born in Hiroshima, and then the parents left her with her grandparents, and they came to this country to make their fortune. [Laughs] And they had all their other children, which were, let's see, five other children. And then they sent for my mother, whose name was Tsugiko Okada. And she arrived when she was fifteen. And I think she came... I don't know exactly when she came. But then, so my father knew the brothers, of course, and the oldest girl, I mean, the next to the oldest girl, I guess. And then they, you know, everything went along. And as he saw that my mother was growing up, and that was a baishakunin, or he asked for her hand in marriage, and so they got married in northern California.

MA: Okay. And I know you had mentioned to me earlier that your mother had passed away when you were very young.

CQ: Yeah. Well, they had nine children, and so I was the ninth child, and it just so happened that she had some problems. And so she passed away within the year, I guess. They said I was still a baby. And so...

MA: And then you actually spent the first few years of your life, right, with another family?

CQ: Oh, yes. My mother's sister and her husband took me in, and my husband's -- I mean, my mother's sister wanted to adopt me, but after keeping me for two and a half years, she said that I was just too much of a crybaby and I hung on her skirts, and she didn't get anything done. So then, at that time, my oldest sister got married, and she took me with her new husband.

MA: So you, then, spent time with them.

CQ: I was there for another two and a half years. And so I came home when I was about five and a half or six, my dad brought me home to start school. And so that's the first time I really met my three brothers and three sisters. Well, I had been with my oldest sister, so there were just three brothers and two sisters, and I joined the family at that time.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And your father's home, can you describe that a little bit? The area where you grew up, your home, what that was like?

CQ: You know, I don't remember very much of anything early, of course. I only remember my Auntie Kakeuchi and Uncle Kakeuchi's home, and then my oldest sister and her husband's house. And then when I came home to live with my dad and my brothers and my two sisters, it was to Jersey Island. And Jersey Island is a small island in the Sacramento Delta, you know, the river. And it's, and our address was Via Knightsen, which was a town on the mainland. And so that was a very strange place because my dad and my oldest brother at that time were always going out to work and being with the workers. I don't know where, but it must have been around the area, but it wasn't on the island. Our island was very small. And he and my brother would come home every two weeks, and they'd bring us staples like rice and canned, you know, a box of canned milk, and sugar and flour and beans, you know, things that were real staples. And then we had chickens, and we had vegetables, a vegetable garden.

And so we had two houses, and one, they were both, they were both narrow and very tall houses, but it was only one floor. And so I don't know, really, what it was. We had an outhouse, and a Japanese bath, that was in 1939, 'cause I was six. Let's see, 1937, I guess. And my sister, my two sisters and I lived in one of the houses, and we had the living room and the kitchen and our bedroom. And then the other house was the same, it was next door. And it had three rooms, and my two brothers and my dad lived in that house. And that's what I remember the most. And the windows were very high. And so when I think about it now, I don't know, I don't know. I guess they were used for workers' housing, perhaps, but they were just two of them there. And we had pigs and chickens and a vegetable garden.

And I was never allowed to climb up on the levee, because the winds were really strong, and they felt that I would be blown into the river. And so the one thing I couldn't do is every climb up on the levee to go to the river by myself. And that was, you know, that's all I remember. But I remember my brothers were very active, and they did all kinds of things, and my brother made little stilts for us to walk around in, and he made all kinds of slingshots. My sister and I were never as good as he was, he would shoot birds, and my sister would skin them, my older sister would skin them, and then she would, you know, make, like, teriyaki, cut off the heads and feet, and she'd charcoal cook them, cook them over charcoal. And they were just fantastic, I mean, they were crunchy and wonderful.

MA: Was Jersey Island, I'm curious about that place. Was that, were there many Japanese families living there?

CQ: No, we were the only Japanese family on the island. And most of them were Portuguese, and that's really funny because my husband's last name is Portuguese even though his dad was from Mexico City.

MA: That is interesting. Do you know what brought them there or what the circumstances were?

CQ: They were all farmers, they were all farmers. The whole island was farming. And they farmed, basically, asparagus, and I don't remember what. But I remember asparagus because we always got a lot of asparagus. And they had a one-room schoolhouse, and they had a PO box. And then on the far side of the island, the ocean was there. And so it was a port, it was a little port. And I remember the school and sort of the store and everything was at that part of the island. And we were on the other part of the island where you came into the island from the mainland. And so, and take the bridge to come in to the island, and then my teacher, she was the only teacher from first grade through eighth grade, was Mrs. Skendall. And she would drive over the bridge, and we would all be waiting for her at the end of our lane. And we would ride across the island, straight through, straight through the middle of the island to get to the school. And then she would teach school. And she was very, very formal, so we never got to know her. And we were all terrified of her. But she always picked us up every morning.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So you went to this school, this one-room schoolhouse that you were telling me about.

CQ: Uh-huh.

MA: How many, do you remember, like, how many students were in that?

CQ: Yeah, about thirteen or fourteen.

MA: Total, or in your class?

CQ: Total.

MA: Total, okay.

CQ: Maybe sixteen. It seemed like a very small amount. I know my (sister) and Linda Rogers were really good friends. She was two years (older), they were, she was the second to the youngest. And then I played with Norman Rogers, Linda's younger brother in the first grade. So Norman and I were really good friends. And then there was Paul Rogers. I remember the Rogers family. And he was the same, or maybe a year younger than my middle brother. And then John Cunha was in the eighth grade, seventh or eighth grade, I guess. I was very fearful of the bigger kids. And then we had some other kids, and I don't remember their names. Because they seemed to sort of play together, you know. And so, and then my brother Tee was there. And at that time, my oldest sister maybe was in the ninth grade, so maybe she was at the high school, 'cause I don't remember her catching the car of Mrs. Skendall's to go to school in the morning. I think she caught a bus, and she had to, she had to walk to the bridge area and across the bridge to catch the bus to go to the high school.

MA: Okay, so the high school was off the island.

CQ: Off the island, yeah.

MA: So what about Japanese community activities? I'm assuming there weren't any on Jersey Island.

CQ: There weren't, no. I never, we never were familiar with the Japanese community. My first, my first encounter with the Japanese community was the Nisei Week, when they had asked me... well, the funny thing is, I heard through some friends of mine that there was this Japanese American festival in Los Angeles, and they had a talent contest, and they accepted all kinds of talent. And I was a poet, I mean, I thought I was a poet. And so I thought, "Oh, I'd really like one of my poems to be a song in the talent show for their Nisei Week." And so I had called, and I had called the Crossroads, I think that was one of the Japanese American newspapers. And I said, "I have a song, that I'd like it to be set to music, and I would like to have it entered. In fact, I have two songs, and so I'd like to enter it in the talent show." And so when I did that, of course, that was... that's my first contact with the Japanese American community. And then they asked this Roy Uno, who worked for the Crossroads at that time, said, "Oh, we need a candidate for the Nisei Week Queen, we're at the VFW," blah, blah, blah, I don't know, Los Angeles, I guess. "And if your brothers were in the VFW, or Veterans of Foreign Wars, then we would love you to be our candidate." And I said, "You're asking me to be the candidate?" He says, "Yes, we've been really looking." So I said, "I'll ask my dad." And then I asked my oldest brother. And at that time, my two older brothers had been in the army, and that was a lot later. But that was my first contact with any Japanese Americans besides my family, and, of course, our relatives.

MA: And what year was this, when you were involved with the Nisei Week?

CQ: That was 1953. And so...

MA: And so your dad, growing up, your father was also, then, sort of not involved in the Japanese community activities?

CQ: Just with the workers.

MA: With the workers.

CQ: And we never saw any of the workers. He had one good friend that would come for dinner sometimes, who was a Japanese fellow. But he died of blood poisoning; that was really sad. He had stepped on a shovel, or he had stepped on something that was metal, and got blood poisoning. And he, and my dad thought, well, if he drank a lot of (blood) -- I remember this because if he drank a lot of catfish blood, 'cause there was a lot of catfish in the river, the Sacramento River, that he would get better, but he didn't. And I think it was blood poisoning, I don't know. That's what my dad said, blood poisoning.

MA: So growing up, and this is, I think, prewar, how aware were you of being Japanese? I mean, I imagine, so you were the only Japanese family on this island with mainly Portuguese people. What was your concept of your identity, I guess?

CQ: There was really no identity problem as far as I was concerned. I had always been babied, and I'd always been talked to, and I never answered, of course. And it was the same at school. I always felt like I was like everybody else, and they all had the same problems I did. I mean, I have a scar here from when I was really little, and I just thought everybody had a scar but I couldn't really see it, you know. And then I had a scar on my foot, on the top of my foot where, when someone was carrying me too close to the stove, I burned my foot. I thought everybody had that. You know, I just thought I was like everybody else and everybody else was like me. I had no concept, and I always thought for a long time I was the firstborn because I was the youngest. But I never discussed anything with anyone. And all these things worked themselves out, thank goodness, in my brain. But I did have a lot of strange concepts about myself in relationship to other people. The only thing I knew that my middle sister had told me when we came home from, when I came home from my oldest sister's home, is she said, I said, "Lil, I really wish this and this and this and this." And they were little things. And she would always say, "Well, Chizu, if you only pray hard enough every night, you'll get your wishes. Your wishes will come true." So I said, "Oh, that's really good." She says, "But you must never tell anybody what your wishes are, because then they'll never come true." And so I listened to all the things that were told to me, and I absorbed everything, but I still was very, very shy. And when we were to give book reports or world news reports in our one-room schoolhouse, I would have my notes with me and everything, and I would just burst into tears 'cause I couldn't talk. So Mrs. Skendall would put me behind the piano. And I'd be left there, 'cause I was so quiet, until after lunch. And then she'd discover, "Oh, my god, where is Chizuko?" And so she'd remember that she put me behind the piano.

And that one-room schoolhouse, I remember vividly, a dentist came once a year and a nurse came once a year. And the dentist would fix everybody's teeth. And I remember my brother Sammy, who was four years older than me, was getting his teeth drilled, we could hear, he had set up and everything. And then my brother Sammy just yelled out and punched the dentist in the nose and ran home, all the way home, and that was like (five) miles, you know. And that's probably the reason why I remember the dentist came every year. And the nurse would come and she'd say, she'd say, "I'd like you to take this note home to your mom and your father," and I said, "I only have a father." And so she says, "Well, take it home to your father." Every year she'd suggest that I would be sent to summer camp because I was so skinny, and she felt that I was malnutritioned, that I didn't have good nutrition or something. And then my dad would get very, very angry, of course. My sister who was in the ninth grade or tenth grade by that time, she'd say, "You just have to eat more, you just have to eat more." And so I'd go, "Okay, okay." Anyway, so I know that we had a nurse that came, and we had a dentist that came. And then we moved from Jersey Island to Anaheim, 'cause my dad wanted to open a nursery.

MA: And this was prewar still, before World War II?

CQ: Yes, prewar. And so we came when I was eight. So I lived on Jersey Island maybe two years, and then I think I was in the third grade when we moved to Anaheim. And it was the outskirts of Anaheim, in the farmland area, and not too far from Knott's Berry Farm. My dad opened a nursery called Evergreen Nursery. And he had always had bonsai all his life at home. And so we went, we took all the bonsai, and then he had started a nursery business. 'Cause that was his goal, to have a nursery. And so he started his nursery, and then the war broke out.

MA: I was going to say, it seems like you weren't in Anaheim for too long.

CQ: No, it was like a year and a half.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: Okay, 'cause then Pearl Harbor happened 1941. And can you tell me your memories of that day, of the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

CQ: You know, I have no memories of that day at all. I have no memories of that day, I don't know what I was doing or where I was. I probably was reading, 'cause I was an avid reader ever since I was really little. And other people say, oh, gosh, they were working and they heard the radio. And I've heard a lot of accounts. But I don't remember anything. I would always go to the nursery right next door, and I would water plants or I would do things with my dad, pull little weeds, you know. I remember things like that. Not anything major. And I always remember when we came home from school, I would always get a piece of the rice that was cooked the night before, and it always was sort of kogeta, it's sort of brown on the bottom. I'd just get a little piece of that with the sakushi and then I'd put mayonnaise and shoyu on it, and then I'd go to the nursery and I'd start talking to my dad. And that was sort of what I remember I did when my dad had the nursery there. And I know people came and went, and one time I found a folded up twenty dollar bill. And so I went running to my dad and I said, "Dad, this was in the driveway." You know, the driveway also was where the cars would park to go to the nursery. And he said, well, he'll hang on to it, and if anybody has lost it, he'll give it back. But if no one claims it... he'll ask the people who come, you know, if they lost any money, then he said, "It will be yours." And I just thought, oh my god, this is a fortune. Because they had one-penny candies in those days, and twenty dollars was like a million dollars to me. And, well, I don't remember what happened, but I remember that incident. [Laughs] I don't remember if he found the person, I don't remember getting the money or anything, but I remember that moment that my dad explained that to me. And probably somebody claimed it, because I don't remember getting it. But that was just the most exciting thing I've ever heard in my life. And so I remember things like that. But I had no problems in school.

MA: So after Pearl Harbor, you don't remember any incidences, people maybe singling you out?

CQ: No. As far as I was concerned, I felt I was just like my girlfriend, who was a blue-eyed blonde. I never thought of myself as anything other. And for some reason, I don't remember any of my brothers or sisters talking about it. But you know, I never listened to them unless they were talking directly to me and telling me what to do and what not to do and how to do something. And I guess I got that way when I was with my auntie, because she was very, very strict. And anything my cousin, who was five years older than me, and I would do that would upset her, we'd be punished immediately. And so I remember one time when we were just rolling marbles in the kitchen along the grooves of the wood, and she got so angry at us that she gave us yaitos on our knuckles on both hands so that we'd remember never to do that again. And that's where you put the little punk on (your skin) and then you get your incense and you light and then you light it here, so it burns intensely and it leaves a scar. That was our punishment.

And then when I'd kick under the table... I remember these two incidents, and I couldn't have been more than two or three, 'cause I wasn't there any longer than that, and I went to her before I was walking. And I'd kick under the table and she'd say, "Don't do that." And my uncle and her and Robbie and I would be sitting there. And then I'd kick again, and she'd get so mad she'd just lift me up and take me to the shed and lock me in the shed outside. And she said, "You never listen to me," in Japanese. So I tried only to listen to things that pertained to me, I guess. And it was sort of the same when I was living with my brother-in-law and my sister. They had their lives, and I was with my sister, but she took care of (her kid), too. And then she was having a baby of her own, and so I played with the kid next door a lot, had a lot of flea bites, 'cause we lived in... where is that place that has all those clams along the coast? Anyway, it's in the middle of California. And they had a lot of sand fleas.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

CQ: But anyway, I knew something was going on, but I never, it never added up to me. Like when all the searchlights were on when we came home, and we came home before the curfew one evening. And the FBI had all, like three searchlights just going all around from our property. And I don't know why they were going up, but they were.

MA: Had they ransacked your house?

CQ: Yeah. They had ransacked this man's house next to us, who worked for my dad, and he was from Japan, and our house, and they turned everything upside down. They took all the drawers out, they lifted, they just turned all the mattresses over, they just, it was, everything was in chaos. And they took my oldest sister's -- and she was married, of course, and living with her husband -- they had taken her sword. It was a fake sword, because she was in Japanese dance, she took Japanese dance. There's another, there's another thing besides kabuki, another kind of theater. And so we had a Japanese flag and a Japanese sword, and fans and things that she had in a box that she used for her theater arts. And they confiscated those, and my middle sister, who was in high school at that time, said, "These are my sister's and they're her props for her dancing, the Japanese dance and theater." But they took those, and I guess they looked enough like props that we weren't suspect. But the man next door they took immediately. He only was able to get his clothes and a toothbrush. And they took him because they found pictures of him in Japanese army uniforms, and they had found a shortwave radio and something, you know, things like that. So they took him. And so I knew something was going on, and then, but you know, I still thought we were just moving, we were just moving. We had goodbyes with the neighbors and everything.

MA: So you weren't aware that it was, what it meant, I guess?

CQ: I didn't know really what it meant, but I knew something was going on and something was sort of, tension for the adults. And, but you know like at school we'd play "Kill the Nazis, Kill the Japs." And I played the same games with them, and I didn't think anything of it. And obviously they didn't either because, you know, it was just teams of whatever we were doing. It was just like any other little game you play in the third grade at recess. And so finally when the day came that we were -- well, I knew something was going on 'cause we were packing everything and putting everything into the garage. And my dad and my brothers took the two cars, and they took all the wheels off and they stacked them on, someplace in the garage, one of the shelves, and then they put the cars on blocks. And so I knew that we were gonna be gone for a while. I mean, I was still aware of all these things, but I never asked questions because they always thought I was urusai, you know, always in the way. They never liked me to ask any questions. I think that was the way people were raised, I don't know. But as far as I was concerned, they just treated me like, "You don't have to know any of this."

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

<Begin Segment 6>

CQ: And so when we went to camp, I was not afraid, but I noticed that, you know, there were soldiers with guns with bayonets on the end. And I noticed that there were all these people dressed and carrying suitcases and duffel bags, and just anything. And I knew that we couldn't take anything with us unless we could, unless we could carry it. And I knew all of those things, I know, I remember when they pinned, when my sister pinned my little tag on me with a number, and I just thought, "Oh, so it wouldn't get lost." But then everybody, my whole family, had them, it was A-B-C-D-E, and our number. And then all of our bags, they tied the same tag number on all of our bags. Or we did, or my sisters and my brothers did. And then, and I knew we were just jam-packed into a train, just jam-packed into a train. And it was long and dusty and the shades were drawn, and it was really hot. And then when we got to our destination, there were all these army trucks waiting for us, and they were throwing all the bags on these trucks also, you know, and we were just loaded onto the truck like cattle, just as tight as possible. Then we were taken, we arrived in Parker, Arizona.

MA: And you were headed to Poston?

CQ: Yeah, and then we went with army trucks to Poston, Arizona. And then when we were in Poston, Arizona, the first thing I remember was this horrible sandstorm. And it just was really, it just, it was like you had to close your eyes, and it was just this really windy, windy fine dust. And so my sister said, "Close your eyes, put your head down, cover your head." And then it sort of subsided, and then we walked over to where they were registering everyone. And so I guess they did the registration, but I don't remember that. I remember putting straw into canvas bags for our mattresses, that's what I remember. And I remember my oldest sister, she was the middle sister, but she was the oldest, she was like our mother. She was sewing up these canvas bags. But I remember putting straw into them, and then I remember that we were taken to our room that we would be living in. And I do remember the light bulb was the only thing there. And then later, some people must have brought the army metal cots, you know, with the little wire, I mean, the army metal cots, they were all folded like that. And so they brought six of them, or I guess seven, seven of them. Because my dad, my two brothers, and then my two sisters and myself. Three brothers, yeah. So there were four boys and three girls. And then my older sister was married, and she had gone to Idaho. So yeah, that's it.

MA: And tell me about, we were talking earlier about you have this memory of a conversation you had with your sister where she basically explained to you what was happening.

CQ: Oh, gosh, after a few weeks or a month, I don't remember, I came running home. And I said, "Lil, Lil, do you know everybody?" The school hadn't started yet, and we were still sort of like a family still. We were still sort of like a unit. And I said, "Everyone in this camp is Japanese. Did you know that?" And I thought I had made the most fantastic discovery, and everybody would just be so astounded to hear this news because I had discovered this thing that I realized all of a sudden. And then she said, "Well, Chizu, this is..." [cries] It just really... she said, "You know, we're all Japanese Americans here, and we were put here for this reason." And it was so upsetting to me because she said that, "They think we're the Japs because we look Japanese, but we're really Americans," and I don't want you to forget that. And she explained the whole thing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and everything. And it was the first time I had ever heard a whole story, and the whole thing sort of came together. And I was so depressed, and I thought, "Oh, my god, I'm a Jap, I'm a Jap." And it was a terrible feeling because I had played these games just a few months before with my hakujin friends, you know, all these kids near Anaheim, of "Kill the Nazis," "Kill the Japs." And I felt I was an American and I was killing the Nazis and killing the "Japs," you know. And then, and so it was a really, very, very horrible feeling, that I was a Jap. And this just sort of really made me feel terrible, and that was my rude awakening, that was just the worst thing that ever happened up 'til that time in my life. I mean, even being locked in sheds and things were nothing compared to that, you know. And so... and I do have to say that when I came home to my dad and my sisters and brothers, it was just like milk and honey. So the three years I had -- it was not quite three years -- that I had with my family was really great. And then going to camp became another horrendous experience for me, because at first we all ate together in the mess hall. We had to walk to Camp 1, certainly, which was on the other side of the camp, because our mess hall hadn't been completed yet. And a lot of building was still going on, for barracks and things. We were some of the few Japanese Americans that did not go through like a holding camp and then to the concentration camp. We went directly to the concentration camp.

And so, and very shortly after that, a man was killed by a soldier in our camp, and they said that the soldier had shouted, "Halt, halt," and the man did not stop. He didn't stop, and he kept walking along the edge of the fence inside the camp, and so he was shot to death. And so that sort of reverberated through the camp. And so all the kids were told that we have to learn all the army words like "mess hall" and "latrine" and "halt," and "issue," like you were issued a peacoat, you were issued your silverware, things like that. And that we had to learn the word "halt," and "halt" meant "stop," you know. And never go near the fences, barbed wire fences, and never go near the sentry towers. And so that sort of reinforced that we were the enemy. And so it was a very, it was a very demoralizing thing for me.

And I did not like camp at all, because (all) of my sisters and brothers started eating at the mess hall with their friends, I didn't have any friends, I only had this person next door who was my age. And her mom and they would all often go by themselves, of course, 'cause she was the youngest and she was nine years old just like I was. And then I'd just sit in the barrack and whine and cry and gnash my teeth or whatever. And then when my sister or my brother would come in, I'd say, "How come nobody took me to the mess hall with them?" And they'd say, "You're nine years old, you're not a baby anymore, you've got to start growing up." And it was really one of the hardest periods of my life, 'cause I had no social skills, and I had no wherewithal to know exactly what I should do and how to do it. And then it got to the point where I could go take a shower by myself, I should go to the bathroom by myself, and it was a very, very difficult thing for me. And I never liked to go anywhere by myself because I'd never done anything by myself all my life. There was always people around me all the time, you know. I always had someone, my oldest sister, my auntie, there's always someone there all the time. And then my sisters and my brothers, when I came back to live at home, there was always someone there, I could always go out and see my dad when we had the nursery. That was the happiest time of my life because I could just be with my dad and my sisters and brothers would come home from school.

And so I hated camp. It was like... and I always prayed that my mother would come back to life. Prayed and prayed and prayed, because Mary had a mother, and that's why she didn't have to go anyplace by herself. And like my sister who was eleven when we went to camp, she never wanted me following her and her friends around. She had a lot of social skills, and she just did not want me tagging along. So, of course, I was unwanted there. And so I sort of went and became a bookworm, basically.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: I was going to ask, at that point, how did reading and writing and art become an outlet for you?

CQ: Well, my teacher was very, very good. I remember her, and she recognized that I had an artistic talent, 'cause I'd always drawn and painted and things like that, 'cause my sister was a painter and my dad was really a bonsai artist, and he made all kinds of little sculptures and even did, was experimenting doing bonsai pots and things, you know. And so he was very artistic, and he could do a lot of things. And so I was able to paint paintings for the white teachers' dining room.

MA: And this was in camp?

CQ: In camp, yeah, in the fourth grade and the fifth grade and the sixth grade. I was fourth, fifth and sixth, I think, there. And then I was a very good reader, I was compliant. So she asked me if I would have my eyes tested for the teacher's meeting, and I had 20/20 eyes, somebody else had 20/100 eyes, and they were talking about how important for the kids to learn. So the kids who couldn't see very well, always asked anyone who couldn't see very well to come and sit at the front of the room. And that was when I was in the fourth grade, and then I was a very good reader, I was a good student, and so she was the one that really gave me the confidence and sort of like I felt a little special. And so I read a lot, and during the summer months I would just read and read and read, and I'd read, like, three or four books a day. And I'd read the same things over and over because, you know, I wasn't really interested in some of the books, I was interested in stories, and all the fairy tales and things like that.

MA: And in Poston, was there a library that was available to you? Was there a lot of resources, books?

CQ: The thing is, the Quakers and the Mormons sent books and newspapers, old newspapers, to the camp. And there were a lot of wonderful, wonderful people, and I'm sure, just teachers, other students who came to camp sent books to camp also. Because everything was, everything had to go through... what do they call it? Censorship. And, but the Quakers and the Mormons were so fantastic, they were the only groups in the United States that felt it was wrong that we were incarcerated in the camps. And they were the only groups that sent teachers to teach in the camp, you know, of course, they were paid by the government. And they sent books and magazines. And a lot of them were censored, but it was okay, because we did get them. So we had a half a barrack was a library, and then eventually I think a whole barrack became a library. And then as a year went on, they built the adobe auditorium at Poston, and I think they... for the older kids, they must have had something else, too, because I have read a lot of things about the older kids being able to do sports. And so they must have built, maybe the camp people did it, probably the inmates did it. And, but this library was my haven. It was a lifesaver for me. And I remember it being there after the first school year, and then summer vacation. And summer vacation, the library saved me. And I would read the books, and when I would find Mary was free, my little next-door neighbor friend, I'd tell her about every book. And so she liked just hearing the stories. So we got along really well, but she was a mama's girl, too, you know.

And she probably, it was really funny, 'cause I wrote my book, I had my show, Camp Days, when my two youngest grandchildren at that time, two girls, my daughter's two girls, were seven and nine. And then, and then when they were eight and ten, I wrote the book. And then when they were nine and eleven, I got a big shock of my life, and I knew why I was in the wrong place at the wrong age at the wrong time in camp. My nine-year-old granddaughter, Carolyn, was still saying, "Grandma Chiz, can you read a book to me?" Or, "Let's paint, let's do this, let's do that." And we'd do so many things together. And my eleven-year-old, we all did all these things together until they became about nine and eleven for some reason. And it just hit me really hard, then Jessica, the eleven year old, was no longer painting with us, no longer reading books with us. She was going to sleepovers and she was thinking about, you know, clothes and her friends coming over, and doing this and baking over there and baking here. And Carolyn and I were still like a baby and a grandmother, you know. And we did everything together. And then I realized, when I was nine, I was still a baby. I was probably more babyish than Carolyn was. And my sister was like Jessica. She wanted nothing to do with Carolyn. You know, she was going to a movie with her friends, I'd say, "Oh, can Carolyn come along?" You know, "Carolyn probably would like to go." And Jessica would say, "No, Grandma Chiz. She would get nightmares from this movie. She's not old enough." And, you know, I thought, so I'd say, "Oh, Carolyn, we'll go to another movie. We'll go see this other movie." And so that's what we'd do. And so I realized when I went to camp, that was, I was the wrong age, I didn't have a mother, and I... 'cause everybody else had fun. My sister had fun in camp. My brothers were doing judo, my oldest sister was, the middle sister, who was like a mother, was working in the canteen, and my dad was working in the mess hall, and my oldest brother was a fireman. So the three older, my dad and my oldest sister and my oldest brother that was home, were all working and had lots of friends and lots of activities. And my two brothers who were still in school were doing judo and doing all kinds of things. I remember they just had judo gi, and, 'cause I'd watch them sometimes.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: Can you talk about the, I guess, the impact of camp on you, specifically, I mean, we talked about earlier, it kind of forced you to grow up.

CQ: Yes.

MA: And you, what you told me was you kind of made a resolution to yourself that, "I'm going to change and be different."

CQ: Yeah, and I had to. It's true. My dad had always said, "Out of every good comes some bad, and out of every bad comes some good." That was just a Japanese traditional saying. And so out of all the bad that I experienced in camp, the good was that it did make me resilient, and it did make me strong, and I no longer was complaining and whining as much. I'm sure I complained and whined, because after camp, when I would say anything about camp with my brothers and sisters, they'd say, "Oh, my god, you were such a whiner and a crybaby. Don't even talk about that." When I'd say, "Oh, wasn't camp terrible?" They never wanted to talk about it. I wanted to talk about it and say all the things I hated about it, but I never got to because they would just cut me off. And it was because I was a whiner and a crybaby, and I was the youngest and I just didn't understand anything anyway. And so the whole idea was I knew I had to change, and I knew that we had to relocate, my brother came in from Fort Shelby, he was in the army at this time, and he found us a hostel in Los Angeles. 'Cause you couldn't leave camp unless you were given a place to live or offered a job, and my dad was never offered a job. He just never was. So my brother took us out of camp, and took us over to the hostel, and we rode a bus, of course.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: Do you know what year this was when you left?

CQ: This is '45, of course. And it was when the Indians were reclaiming their land. They were walking through Poston, and the tumbleweeds were there, and we were, everything was drying up, the little gardens that people had planted were all gone, and there was just sand all over the place again. And I, my dad said, "You know, they put us here, they're gonna have to find, they're gonna have to take us out, 'cause nobody wants us." And I again felt like, "Oh my god, nobody wants us." And so that was it. And then when my brother "Eb" came from the army, he was to go to the 442 to Italy, he was to go with the 442 to Italy to fight. And he had broken his foot in bivouacs, and well, his whole leg, I should say, his whole leg was broken. And so then he was, he did not get to go, he was in the hospital for a long time. And he was getting really good and he no longer needed any crutches or anything, and he got a week's leave of absence so take us out of camp, put us into there, and then he shipped over shortly after that with MacArthur's occupation forces in Hiroshima. So it was... it was August, September of '45. 'Cause I know it was three and a half years. 'Cause "Eb" was there, and he took all the pictures of the devastation of Hiroshima. It was just flattened completely except for some of the buildings that were partially there. And so he had all these glass negatives of that, so I know he must have been there in September, November. And so we were taken out, I know, right after the war. 'Cause we were writing letters to the Red Cross, my sister was writing letters to everybody trying to get us out of there, you know, she was in high school. So we finally got my brother who was in the army to come and get us out. I mean, she had finished high school, and then, so we went to this hostel. (Narr. note: My brother who was in the Army was Iwao Sugita and his nickname was "Eb" or "Ebo.")

MA: In Los Angeles.

CQ: In Los Angeles, and that's when my dad, after about three months, was offered this job to take care of three properties for this man for a chicken coop to live in. And so we were just so joyful. Somebody finally wanted us, and we could leave the hostel and start a life and go to school and become like Americans again. And I mean, the chicken coop was just like living in a part of a barrack like the hostel, anything else. It was just, you know, it was something, someplace to have.

MA: And was this in Los Angeles?

CQ: In Orange County. It was in, I think it was... what's the name of that place? It's not Tustin, it's not Santa Ana, it's... I can't remember the name of the place, but it's a small town in between all these other towns in Orange County. And it was there, and then my dad... and, of course, there was nothing left except the old shell of the Model A. No engine, no tires, nothing, just the shell. But my youngest brother, who was four years older than I, was just a mechanical genius. And he ordered all the parts from Sears-Roebuck with money that my oldest brother had sent my father every month from the army, and he got this Model A running. And at that time, Sears-Roebuck sold motors, everything.

MA: And this was your car you had before the war?

CQ: That was my oldest brother's car before the war. And the sedan, of course, was gone. Everything else was gone, everything was gone. Everything was gone. And Mr. Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm) had bought all the nursery stock and all the bonsai from my dad for two hundred dollars on this contract that he would sell it for two hundred dollars back to my dad when we came back. My dad thought we were going to be gone for a few months, and of course Mr. Knott thought we were going to be sent to Japan. And so when we did get back, he hemmed and hawed and said he planted them, he did this, he did that. And when my dad just said, "Well, where are they? If you planted them, where are they?" "Oh, they died." Then he said, "Well, you must have something left." And so then Walter said, "I'm sorry, Joe. I thought you were going to go to Japan, so I sold everything." So we never even got anything. And so that was a blow. So then with this Model A Ford, I think it was a '29, 1929, my dad and my youngest brother and my middle brother started this gardening business, 'cause they only had to take care of the properties. And then they met Mr. Dabney of Huntington Beach, and Mr. Dabney was really into bonsai and plants, exotic plants and things. And he said, "Joe, I'll give you our storage house, which has a bathroom at the end with a bathtub and toilet inside, to live in, if you'll come take care of my properties." So this was fantastic news for my dad. And so they, so we all moved to this storage house, which was like a long barrack. My dad's room, a little sitting room, the girl's room, the three girls, three of us girls, and then the living room, and then the kitchen, and then the washroom, and then the bathroom, oh, the boy's room, and then the bathroom. So to get to the bathroom, you had to go through all these rooms. But it was okay. It was a really great place, it was about the size of a barrack, and a little narrower, and it was just like living in a large barrack that was all your own, and not just a quarter of a barrack. And so we were very happy there. And then he encouraged my dad to start his bedding plants and things like that, 'cause he knew that my dad really wanted to start his nursery again. So my dad had all these bedding plants, and then he'd transfer them into gallon cans and things like that. And it was about six to eight years, and he opened his nursery in Long Beach again.

MA: So this was the beginning, the rebirth, I guess, of your father's business.

CQ: Yes, yes. And then, of course, he left a dozen of his best bonsai with Mervyn Carmen, a very good friend of his who was an architect in San Pedro. And when we came back, all the plants were there. Even the one that had died, he had kept it, kept watering it. And my dad was just so grateful because there were his prized bonsai, which would start his bonsai part of the nursery again. Because he called his nursery Evergreen Nursery, and so it was the Evergreen Nursery again on Seventh Street and Long Beach. And I think that was in '51, '52. I guess '51. '51 he started. No, '50, 1950. So it was from '45 to '50. So in five years, because of the help that we got from my brother in the army, and because of my sister, who was, middle sister, who wasn't married, of course, she got a job as a housemaid in Pasadena, and my dad was able to make it back and start functioning on his own. But to help out with the family and his bills, things, like that, doctor bills, he needed that extra money. And we never, we never had insurance or anything, but my dad always found whenever we needed a doctor, we just went to the doctor. Whenever we needed a dentist, we went to the dentist, no matter what. It was always, there was... and then I find out later that my middle brother, by then who had been drafted into the army, came, sent home money to pay my dental bills and my siblings' dental bills, because we just had a lot of dental bills. I don't even remember going to a dentist in camp, but I'm sure there were dentists.

MA: But it seems like your family really came together and contributed.

CQ: Oh, yeah. And because, because we were in the United States, I realized that -- and because my brother had joined the army, we were able to make it. Because a lot of families didn't make it. And we hear about all the successes, but we don't hear about all the failures. And we were able to make it because my dad and my mother had a large family, and even though my dad didn't want my brother to join the army because he said, "Why would you want to join the army when we're being kept prisoners here in camp?" And my brother said, "Because I have to prove myself." 'Cause the whole idea of everybody was proving to be 100 percent American and nothing else. And my dad sort of got this feeling, too, because he, as soon as 1952 came around and aliens could own land and aliens could become citizens, he bought his nursery and he became a citizen. And it was the happiest day of his life. And I remember my dad didn't smile for any photographs, never. 'Cause you know, the people from the old country, they never smiled. That was an idiot's profession, to smile for the camera. And, but on the day that he got his citizenship papers, we have photographs of him just smiling so broadly. It's just really wonderful. I mean, I even did a painting this last year for the American Friends Society, the Quaker group, when they had immigrant experiences, and they asked a lot of artists to submit paintings to be judged for the hanging, for the show. And I did when my dad became a citizen, and I used some old photographs, and I just did a very, sort of, abstract. But here he is just smiling, and it's all in red, white and blue. It's just nothing like my work at all. But to me, it was a great immigrant experience. So I did them all of my dad. I submitted three, 'cause that was what you could submit, and all three were accepted. They were, it was really joyous because I'd always wanted to do them, but I never thought of it until this opportunity arose, because I was always painting for another show.

MA: Yeah, and fitting that it was for the Quaker group.

CQ: Yes, yes. It was just, it's really great. My middle grandson became a Mormon when he got married, because his wife was a Mormon. So, I mean, you know, I know that there are a lot of goods and bads about all religions, but I'll never forget the Quakers and the Mormons.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So I was wondering if you could talk about the impact that camp had on you and forcing you to sort of grow up and change, and how that played out after you got home.

CQ: Like I said before, out of every bad comes some good. And the thing that did come out of there was I was able to go to the bathroom by myself, I was able to go to the showers by myself, and I was able to go to the mess hall by myself and found someone to eat with. But it was very difficult, it was very hard for me to be very social. So when we came out of camp, I decided, when I start school again, I'm just going to be the person I really want to be. And so I pretended. I pretended to be really outgoing, I pretended to be really friendly. Because these things weren't really natural to me, but they, but when you pretend, and when you -- and like my sister who was like a mom to me, my second sister in the family, she always said, "Never think about yourself. Always think about the other person." And so that's what sort of happened, and I, with all this pretending to be a good person that I knew that I really was, but I wanted it to come out and I wanted to be helpful and I wanted to be gregarious, and I wanted to have friends. And so I really tried very, very hard, and I felt, I started doing this in the seventh grade when I came out, and the teacher had given me the name Judy. And a very good friend was another blue-eyed blonde, Mona, this time, she gave me the best compliment in the world. 'Cause the war had just ended and she said, "You know, Judy, you have nothing to worry about because you look Chinese." And that was the best compliment that I'd ever heard in my life. Sort of like, you know, "Thank you, thank you for saying that," because I was feeling so bad about being Japanese that I, you know, I didn't want to be considered the enemy, and I really wanted to be something else. And I would never be considered an American, 'cause everyone would always ask you, "What are you?" And you'd always say, "I'm an American." And they'd say, "No, but really, what are you?"

MA: "Where are you from?"

CQ: And so I'd always say, "I'm a Japanese American." And so that was sort of fun, and we were very good friends. And so when I went to Huntington Beach high school as a ninth grader, I just was much more outgoing and so I volunteered for a lot of things, and I was the yearbook art editor, and I did decorations for the junior/senior prom, and then I was in charge of decorations for our, when we became seniors for the junior/senior prom. And then I, you know, was president of a teenage club in high school. And so I really had a group of friends that I felt very comfortable with, and went to the sock hops and we just did everything. And I was always shy inside, but I felt that I had at least come out enough, I wasn't really in the popular, popular groups, but we had a very strong unit of people that I hung around with that were, you know, we were all studious and we all did the right things, and we went out for sports, and we went to the dances, and we just had a lot of fun. And then I went on to college, and I was the first in my family to go to college.

MA: And tell me about that a little bit. Did you always sort of know that you wanted to go on to college? Was that something that you thought about a lot, or just sort of...

CQ: I just always wanted to go. I just didn't want to start working like my sisters and brothers, and I just didn't want to get married right away. But it was because of my brothers and sisters, that they did start working, that I was able to have a car, that I was able to have a coat, I mean, you know, like my sister just above me, she worked at the Bank of America, and she'd buy me a new coat every year. Little things that I would never even think of having, 'cause my dad took care of a lot of things. But then my brother was such a mechanical genius, he could just put anything together and make a car, almost, and so he got a car for me. And I went to college. And of course I worked as a housegirl at Long Beach State.

MA: Did you stay with a family also, and you...

CQ: Yes. I took care of a little boy at night, 'cause they worked at night, both the husband and wife worked, they were draftsmen and an engineer. So they sort of worked in the late afternoon, and then the night shift or something like that. And so I was there for their kid, and I was able to go to school. And I just had to make dinner and clean house and stay with her, stay with their small son. And so it made a very good arrangement for me. And so I was like a schoolgirl, they used to just call them schoolgirls, "Schoolgirl Wanted."

MA: Did they pay you or was it in compensation, they gave you room and board?

CQ: They gave me room and board, and they gave me ten dollars a week.

MA: Small.

CQ: Yeah, a small compensation. And then I had enough friends that would pick me up and take me to school and drop me off after school, or I could take a bus. And so it worked out really fine.

MA: And which college did you attend?

CQ: I went to Long Beach junior college, it was called Long Beach City College. And then I transferred to Long Beach State.

MA: And what were you studying at that time? Were you pursuing arts education?

CQ: Well, yeah. I was going, I was going to be a graphic designer, an artist, and so I was taking all these classes. And they had a really great schedule. And then in my sophomore year, I started, instead of working at Broadway for Easter vacation, summer vacation, I went to work for the YMCA and I started teaching the arts and crafts program. That carried through, through the school year. And so I was teaching arts and crafts to these kids from seven to eleven. Or was it eleven to fifteen? I don't remember. Anyway, they were a little older bunch of kids, so it must have been a little older, maybe it was seven to fifteen. But there were several groups that I taught after school. And I loved it so much and I had so much fun, that I decided I'd become an art teacher, and that's what I did. I got my degree in art ed.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: And did you teach in the public schools?

CQ: Yes. I first started at Compton, and then I was there for three years under Sam Zacheim, our principal. And I wanted to quit every year. I was so exhausted, and I was just tearing my hair out because these kids just had so many problems, and I felt I couldn't really help them, and they needed more help. I mean, you know, their brothers and sisters were either incarcerated or on road camp. Compton was a really rough area at that time.

MA: What was the racial, I guess, breakdown of Compton when you were there teaching, the student body?

CQ: It was probably, it probably was half black, some Asians, some Mexicans, some whites. It was changing, I taught at Walton junior high school, which is at the edge of Compton, which was all white at one time, and then it started changing to more black, more black, and people started, they called it "white flight," and they started moving out. And I had very few Asian kids, quite a few Mexicans, mostly blacks, and very few whites. And I mean, I would cut hair after school, I would listen to their stories, I would, you know, break up fights. It was exhausting work. I loved the kids, but I felt like... you know, I was pregnant, I was gonna have a baby, I had gotten married. And so I just felt I couldn't teach anymore, so I said, "I just can't teach anymore." And so I took a year off, and while I was still pregnant, I did some things on, my girlfriend was teaching in Palos Verdes, and she said, "Would you talk about Japan? I'm having this unit," blah, blah, blah. So I would go in and talk about Japan, and then I'd meet some other teachers at that school. It was an intermediate school, sixth through eighth. And they'd say, "Oh, would you do an art project for our class?" blah, blah, blah. 'Cause I wasn't teaching at that time. And so then I got to know the principal really well. He said, "You know, I'd like you to be our art teacher next year." And so I go, "Wow." And so it was a dream job.

MA: And this was at Palos Verdes High School?

CQ: No, it was at the intermediate school.

MA: Oh, I'm sorry, okay, intermediate school.

CQ: Malaga Cove Intermediate School, and then I went on to the high school. And then I became the department chair and everything was fine. And we had wonderful, wonderful students, who won all the national and local and the state awards. And they were just phenomenal, phenomenal students. And, well, the ones in Compton were phenomenal also. They were really good. The students just have that gift, to rise to the occasion, and if you encourage them enough, they produce fantastic work.

MA: During your career as a teacher, did you ever face, like, I don't know, in the public schools, did they ever cut funding, or were you fighting against budget cuts during that time? 'Cause I know now they're really cutting back on art programs...

CQ: Oh, yes, it's terrible.

MA:, and even physical education.

CQ: They were trying to cut the programs at Palos Verdes High School. The Palos Verdes school district had the elementary schools, a few intermediate schools, and then they had three high schools while I was there. Miraleste High, Palos Verdes High, and... oh, two high schools, yeah, two high schools. So they were always going to cut the budget, I mean, cut classes. And so, of course, the art department and the home arts and the shop classes were the ones that were going to get the axe first. So what you had to do is you had to just fight tooth and nail, and it was a very dirty kind of fighting that we had to do because we were protecting our own programs. I was protecting my department, the theater, the music, the visual arts. And the other people were protecting their departments, and I was very, very active. I was a representative, and I would go to the board meetings and I would do a lot of presentations in front of the board of my people who had won congressional district art awards, and that meant I had three congressional district art award winners. That means that there's only one student from all the high schools in the district that gets to have their work hanging in the halls of, between the congress and the senate for a whole year. And you have to, and each high school was able to submit one art work, and then whoever judged it would pick the one they felt was the best. And so everything that my students did, every award they won, I made sure that it made the newspaper, and that somehow, the district was involved with giving an award at the same time to the student. And like I would ask for funding for the mother of the student when we went to Washington, D.C. for the awards. And so I kept, I kept ours in the news a lot, I mean, in front of the board. That's the most important thing. And so I don't feel proud of what I did, it was a necessity. But it got rid of all the shops and it got rid of all the cooking and sewing, and I kept my entire department intact.

MA: It seems like you had to. I mean, what you were saying, to keep it alive.

CQ: Yeah, I felt terrible, but I felt the theater and the music and the arts, the visual arts, drawing and painting, ceramics, the crafts, I fought so hard for that. And so they did cut the other programs, and they didn't touch mine. And I made sure that they knew that my art club was always making tons of money with their art sales and cookie sales and everything else for scholarships and things like that. And we were, our kids were really going on and becoming very viable graphic designers and commercial artists and real painters in our society. And we just had the right mix. We had people that were in the forefront in their families, you know, they came from families that would work hard and supported the arts also. I couldn't have done it alone. But we had to, I had to go into all these areas to make it work, and I felt that we had one of the strongest art departments in the area.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So how did you balance all the work that you were doing as a teacher, as an administrator, with your own career as an artist and your own art?

CQ: Well, see, I was raising three kids, and my husband was an artist. And he was the major artist, and I was a minor artist. Even though he was not Japanese American, he was Irish-Dutch-Spanish, Eberts is a Dutch name. And I had married him, and I really believed in his art. I really believed in his art and I really believed that he had a fantastic amount of talent. And he worked as a longshoreman, then he worked at USC as an art teacher. But he, his major work was his own art. And my art was sort of confined to doing the brochures and announcements for his shows. And I was a Sunday painter, I would paint on the weekends, my own watercolors, my own oils, my own... you know, I did all kinds of, I used Prismacolors, I used acrylics, I used pastels. Since I was an art teacher, I taught all the medias. But I was just a Sunday painter, and I never took myself seriously because my husband didn't take me seriously. And so I was sort of like floss or fru-fru or whatever they call it, and he was the serious guy. And that was okay with me, because I was very busy just raising the kids and teaching, and inspiring my students to be really great artists. And it was, it didn't happen that I went into art until I retired.

And while I was in college I was -- I think I told you -- I was writing poetry, I was writing my songs, and I was doing dance, I was really into modern dance. I did a lot of innovative things, like when I pledged Tri Delts. At Long Beach State, I got all the, we were all the pledges, and I had them do, I got kimonos from my sister-in-law, and I had them all dress in kimonos and we did sort of a mock take-off of "Harry Kari and the Six Sake Sippers," which was a musical group. It sounds really strange, but they were funny and they were popular. And so we did all kinds of, sort of, Oriental and American songs like "Come On to My House, My House" in kimonos, and things like that, and I had a lot of fun.

And I think you asked me before if I ever felt any discrimination. In my entire life, I've never felt any discrimination except once from a teacher, a colleague, that I was Japanese American. And if there was any feelings, it was never shown to me. And I'm very sensitive to how people feel, and I think it's because I made it a non-issue. I always said, "I'm Japanese American, and I have a lot to offer by bringing my culture to the school, or by being a part of the community."

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So talk to me about when you retired and then went into your art full-time. How was that transition for you and what did you start working on? What was kind of your first project, or what did you, how did you start that?

CQ: Well, the thing that I did was I retired early to take care of my grandchild who was being born. My oldest daughter went through medical school, so she got married and wanted to have her children after she was through and started practicing. And so she was pregnant, and her baby was due in September. My husband was retiring that summer, and I said, "I'm going to take retirement. I'm going to get out of here, I'm going to take care of my grandchild." And though she wasn't my first, they weren't my first, they were the ones immediate, 'cause my other daughter with the five boys had moved to Idaho, and I no longer had to -- I wanted to, I loved taking care of the kids during the summer and things like that. And so that was my goal, was to take care of my first grandchild from my oldest daughter.

And then I started painting at that time. And I met some artists from Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, and they had some paintouts, that we would go painting like every Thursday. Well, I couldn't make it every Thursday, but I'd go when I could make it, and my husband would fill in for me when my granddaughter, my first granddaughter got a little older. And I started painting Plein Air paintings, and I met Henry Fukuhara way early in my career when I was still teaching at Palos Verdes High School. And Henry Fukuhara was a watercolorist, and he became sort of my guru. And when I said I was a Sunday painter, I really painted like once a month all day. All day Saturday once a month with his group, and he organized where we were going to go, and this was giving back to the community. And he's a fantastic artist, he's ninety-five now, and has lost his eyesight for the last three and a half years, but he still paints. So we go and paint with him, and I take all my supplies. And he paints blind, and he'll just say, "I think I'll paint the Santa Monica pier." And then he'll, I'll say, "Okay, Henry, what colors do you want?" I put gloves on him, 'cause he's frail now. And he'll do the Santa Monica pier. He has such a love of painting, and his strokes are just so beautiful and everything comes out. He's always been sort of an abstract painter. So he's sort of been my guru, I met him when I was teaching at Palos Verdes High School and I'd taken a class called Innovative Watercolor. And so I would watercolor with Henry's group once a month during my teaching days. And that's why I said I'm a Sunday painter and I would paint on the weekends. But nothing really serious, because I was always preparing my lessons and doing everything else for my regular art classes. And, oh, I did have a lot of advanced placement classes, I had the art history and the drawing and the studio art. So I was very busy with my students, but Henry gave me that break, that I had a full day, Saturday, committed, and nothing would come in the way of that.

And then so when I retired, I started painting in the patio of my daughter's house in Irvine. 'Cause I stayed with her three nights, and my husband would take me from Palos Verdes to Irvine and I'd stay with her Monday through Thursday morning and then I'd come home for the weekend to Palos Verdes. So we finally moved to Irvine, of course. But I started painting with the Thursday group when I could, and then I made some very dear friends, and I'd paint with Bea Reilly, and I'd paint with the people that I knew. And I'd paint by myself a lot. And then, of course, I was introduced to Sandstone Gallery through Bea, who was a free spirit like I was. And she was a watercolorist and I was a watercolorist by then. That's my choice of media. And so I started having shows at the Sandstone Gallery in Laguna Beach. And they were very successful, I would sell half my paintings, and they were all Plein Air paintings of the beach or the mountains or the backyard of people, anything that took my fancy.

And then I decided, you know, my grandkids are growing up, and my kids are growing older and I'm growing older, so I think I'd like to take a writing class and tell my story so they'll know what I went through during the entire World War II. And so I took a writing class, which was really hard, and then I took another creative writing class and worked really, really hard. And I started writing, this teacher said, "Just write down all your thoughts, all your thoughts of what you want to write about, and just write about every thought that comes to you. And then you can put it together later, but just write about all the things that you remember that you want to write about." And that was very good for me, because I remembered all these things that happened in camp. And so I wrote them all down, and I started writing a book. And then on my yellow sheets of paper, I had all these drawings on the side, and sometimes half the paper was drawings. And my writing, the drawings came into my writing, and I go, "Oh my god. I'm really not a writer." I have to write things twelve times to make it make sense, and that I know it's a good sentence, and that I know what's good 'cause I've read a lot, and I know what's not. And so I said, "I'm a painter."

So I, after my second writing class, I decided I would paint for a year, and I painted inside. So I painted the whole year of 2003, painting all my memories. And I had like 250 written down from my writing class, and I had a lot of them just in paragraph form what had happened. And then I had a whole story that I was gonna write. But I had, since I was gonna do a painting, I thought, "I've got to make this so that they'll understand, my family will understand everything that I've been through." So I wanted it to be everything that I felt strongly about and everything that I remembered and things that... just all the things that changed my life in camp. My life was very family-oriented before we went to camp, then it was not family-oriented, I mean, you know... and so I, after I had finished sixty paintings, it was about eleven months. And I said, oh my god, I'm just, I was so exhausted. I thought at one time I could not paint anymore. 'Cause it was so draining and I'd cry. I'd remember things and I'd just cry. And then I'd try to paint it and then it didn't come out like I wanted it to come out. And so I'd just get so discouraged and I'd call this friend who was a really great watercolor painter, Tom Fong, and I said, "I just don't, I don't know how to get inspired. I get so down and so upset from some of my memories that I'm trying to paint." And so he let me talk, and I was just on the phone with him, and I said, "You seem to just be so joyous painting all the time, and I'm really joyous and I really want to be joyous, but I need to get these out. And what can I do? How do I find, how do I find myself through this?" And he just, he talked to me on the phone and he said, "Just do it. Do it, do it, do it. No matter what happens, do it, throw it away, do it, throw it away, do it, throw it away." And I said, "You know, that's all I've been doing, and it's so discouraging. It's not coming out the way I want it to, I feel that it has to come out."

So anyway, so that was really good advice for me. And I did get it, and then I did one more painting, and that was the one about my sister saying, "If you pray hard enough, all your dreams will come true." But in camp I realized my mother was never gonna come back to life, and I was never going to wake up and be a blue-eyed blonde." In camp, reality struck me, and that was the last painting I did. And it was the most abstract, and I must have painted it six times before I got the painting I really wanted, that I felt sort of gave the feeling that I was, that I felt this sort of... you know, it's not going to happen. You're going to have to make it happen. And that's... things aren't going to come to you just because you pray hard enough. You're going to have to do something about it, you have to be the person that changes and makes things happen. And that's exactly what I did.

So everything I did from then on was, you know, I just really worked really hard to make things happen. Even running for Nisei Week Queen, I was really, the most important thing was Emperor Akihito, who was then the crown prince at that time, who was about the same age as I was, was going to come the year I was queen. And so it was going to be really, really important for me to meet him, and I wanted my dad to meet him, and I wanted my dad to have that experience. And that was really disappointing, because when they had this big dinner at the Ambassador Hotel for him, all the dignitaries of Los Angeles, I got to sit at his table, and I begged these three old men who were on the board of this whole thing if my dad could please take my place. I said, "He would have so much more to talk about." And they told me, "You're not going to talk anyway. We don't want you to talk to him. You just smile and answer anything he says, but we don't want you to talk." Because, you know, they didn't want me to... they just wanted me there as the symbol of the community representative. And so, of course, my dad couldn't take my place, which I thought would be the most wonderful thing in the world. And well, anyway...

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: How did you feel when you finally finished your painting, and you finished the Camp Days collection? What was that like for you, after a year?

CQ: It was very cathartic. I just felt that I'd gotten rid of a lot of demons in my life. And we never talked about camp, no family talked about camp, I mean, that I know of. And my family certainly didn't talk about camp. My dad was always, "Things are in the past, and you only are here in the present, and you plan for the future," that kind of thing. And you take everything as it comes. He was raised in the Meiji era, which is, no matter which station in life you're in, you do the best you can. And that sort of really rang a true... that was sort of my mantra my whole life, I think, is, "No matter where you're at in your life, no matter what you're doing, you do the very best you can. And you never hurt anyone else, and you never hurt yourself. And you help everyone you can, whether it's someone very great or someone very, very not-so-great." And it sort of came to me that that's sort of what I've done all my life, is follow that theme, even though I've only heard it once or twice from my dad, you know. And I think a lot of Japanese families are like that. That I felt a big weight off of me, I wanted to do some more paintings, but I knew that I wanted to start painting outside, and I didn't want to be inside anymore.

And I know Marge had said, four months before my exhibit was going to be, she said -- this is our gallery dealer -- she said, "Well, what's your theme this year?" 'Cause I'd always had a great theme. And I said, "Oh, it's just going to be Camp Days." And she said, "Oh, like summer camp?" I said, "No, it's going to be Camp Days, the World War II years, the concentration camp when we were in there." And she said, "Oh, that's sounds good." She was like, "Oh, that sounds good." And I said, "Well, Marge, I don't think it's really going to be great for you guys because I'm not going to sell these very much. I don't think very many people are gonna want these paintings because they're my personal experiences. And I don't think people are that interested in my personal experiences." And she said, "Oh, don't worry, Chiz, just make them cheap." So I said, "Good idea." [Laughs] So that's how it went. And so I had my show, and I sold a lot of paintings. And a lot of people who bought my paintings didn't even realize they were of the concentration camps. They saw "Camp Days 1942-1945," but you know, a lot of people just don't read... I didn't even have a, I had a little bio of myself as an artist, so I didn't have anything in there about my even being in camp. Because you're just talking about, you know, your, the people who influenced you, the people that were your teachers, things like that, and how you feel about your painting and what you're painting.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: Well, it seems like there was great interest in your collection, and even... I was hoping you could talk about your collection when it was shown in Hiroshima, and that experience for you.

CQ: Well, it's the same thing each time I've had my show. I've had a lot of great comments, and a lot of people that were very, very interested when they finally found out what it was about. And the people who bought my work at my first show, of course, a lot of paintings sold. But the people from Hawaii who bought the one large painting that, you know, camp, the sky was, in camp, the sky was the most beautiful thing to me. The fellow said, "Oh, when I was in summer camp, the sky was so beautiful also." And when I told him what it was about, he says, "Oh, but the sky is so beautiful." And he says, "Your paintings have such bright colors and they seem so happy, of such a sad time." And I said, "That's because I've always seen in color. And I paint, I'm a color painter."

And so after the show, when the Japanese American, I mean, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles wanted my show, and I wrote to all the people who had bought my original work, and I asked them to send it back, and I would pay for the, I would pay for their mailing it back to me and I would mail it back to them. But they must give me permission to make giclees of them, the reproductions. And so they all agreed to do that. And so when I got them back, before I had the show, I took them out of their frames, and I had a whole CD made of all the giclees for several thousand dollars, and it was the best thing I did. And my girlfriend from New York, who's an artist, said, "You've got to do this, Chiz, because it's a historical thing. It has nothing to do with you hate reproductions. We all do, but this is very important." And so when I did that, it really made a big difference, because otherwise, I would have had only thirty-four of my paintings to show instead of sixty-one. Because as it dwindled down, I wouldn't have had any paintings left.

So as I continued to have shows in the United States, then this nonprofit company in Kawaguchi outside of Hiroshima... USA-Japan... it's a cultural exchange, that kind of a nonprofit group. And so they would bring like a taiko drummer over here or they'd bring a harp player to Japan, and it was a cultural thing. And so they asked if they can show my artwork in Kawaguchi in the early part of 2006. And so that was arranged, and I went to Kawaguchi and I taught some watercolor classes at this old farmhouse that was converted into an art gallery, and studios for teaching calligraphy and things like that. And so that made the news in Japan, it was on the AP. And so after that show, which was very successful, the mayor came, and it was just a really nice, wonderful show. And I stayed, they arranged for me to stay with this family that had this art gallery and was involved with a nonprofit organization. And it was a wonderful thing.

And then a hotel and a newspaper man from Hiroshima had information about my show in Kawaguchi, so they contacted me and said if I could have a show -- one thing that I had said in Kawaguchi is that I'm, I show my work basically so that people will know that war is a terrible thing in our present time, and I am for peace, and no more wars. And of course I have said that both my parents were from Japan, Hiroshima, Japan. So those were in the news clippings, I guess, they saw in Hiroshima. And so they arranged to have my exhibit at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. And by that time I had my books, and so I took about 150 books with me and I shipped all my paintings to Hiroshima. And they had a lot of volunteers, they have a lot of volunteers, and they had volunteers that helped me hang. I mean, I didn't really hang, I sort of said how I wanted the paintings placed. And then I was told by the Peace Museum that nothing can be sold. So I said, "Oh, great, I can just give my books out." And so it was just fantastic. Fantastic showing, because the newspaperman knew a lot of people in Hiroshima, and so did this hotel owner. And they had arranged, as soon as I came in, they had arranged for me to come in a couple of days before my show, and they had me on a show called something like Good Morning Hiroshima or something. And I had this hotel man, who had a lot of contacts, and he was there. My interpreter, who was like a UN interpreter, as soon as I'd say something, she was able to say it in Japanese and get the answer and give my answer to me like no time had elapsed. And so it went very well, and so I was on a news program before the show opened, and then they had a lot of newspaper coverage before, also. And they had posters at the museum and around the museum area. And it was a very, very successful show. And many, many people came, they said they had the highest attendance of any art exhibit.

And I had men who, two men who came, they were together, and they had been in the bombing. And they actually showed me the scars they had on their body and their legs from the a-bomb blast. And they said they didn't even think anyone else had ever suffered even mentally. And now they realized that other people were hurt also. And I just, it was like having a crying fest with many of the people that came to my exhibit. Because my interpreter was so good that she could interpret immediately. But I mean, you know, part of the scalp had been gone, this man had a hat on, but they survived all these years. And they came to the show, and many people who were also visiting Hiroshima from the Philippines or from as far away as India and Europe, had come to the show. And I really realized for the first time that Hiroshima is the City of Peace. And you know, you hear it, but these people come because they believe in peace and no more wars. And so it was a perfect venue for my exhibit, and it was the most rewarding. And so they had a station, a TV station that followed, they spent an entire day and a half with the interpreter and I as we walked to the peace park and to Noguchi's sculpture of the eternal flame, and through the A-bomb Museum. And they recorded conversations that I had. It was like, don't even pretend we're even here, with people from Australia and different parts of the world that talked to me. And I talked to them just about... not my artwork at all, 'cause it wasn't even part of there, because the Peace Museum is this old, old bank building that they refurbished, that had the skull of it that became the Peace Museum, where they have like a billion folded cranes from all over the world, made into paintings and everything, on the upper stories of this large building that they used as a gallery. And it was just an amazing, an amazing TV portion that they used in part of their evening news. And then the other three stations also did different kinds of interviews at my art exhibit itself, interviewing other onlookers. And then another TV station that did it when I spoke to the faculty and the students of the University of Hiroshima.

And it was probably the most important show of my life. Because here I was with people who were of the exact like mind of... and I said, "Nothing could be worse than what happened to you people here in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust during World War II. And these events are just horrific compared to what we went through." But I said, "The wars do hurt people, and so my show is here because I represent peace. And it all starts with each one of us." And it was very, very well-received, and I know this newspaper man said, "Chizuko, if you could just stay another two months, we could have you elected mayor of Hiroshima." 'Cause people would recognize me on the streets and then in the park and in the restaurants, and they'd come up and talk to me. Or they'd say, "You bought a manju mochi from me," or something like this. And it was this huge city that seemed like this very, very small community of very, of the closest of all families. And so it was such a great experience. I just could never believe how wonderful it was.

MA: It seems that it was cathartic for you, the process of producing your collection, but also cathartic for people who saw your paintings and viewed your paintings. And I think that that speaks to the power of art, to really reach so many people and to cross boundaries. I think it's the power of art and your painting, really.

CQ: I know that people have said, "Why do you use such bright colors and happy colors for very, very sad things?" And I said, "You know, there's nothing else I can do." I mean, I'm not a black and white painter. And the other thing that was really important that people have asked me... probably the most telling question that was asked in Hiroshima was this one student said, "Do you consider yourself" -- at the University of Hiroshima -- "Do you consider yourself Japanese or do you consider yourself an American?" And I said, "I am an American, I consider myself an American, but my heart is Japanese." And I realized when I said that, it's really true. Because I have all the Japanese principles that were ingrained in me through my dad and my older brothers and sisters. And you cannot, you cannot bring shame to your family, you cannot do something unjust, that you must commit hara kiri and kill yourself if you do something bad in the community or you do something bad to bring shame to the family. And these are very, very Japanese principles. Maybe they're Christian principles, too, I don't know. But I know they're very Japanese, very Buddhist, very much. And so I do feel like maybe my grandchildren don't feel like they have, except a quarter Japanese or an eighth Japanese blood in them now. But I feel I'm really Japanese inside, and I'm an American on the outside.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: Well, you know, we only have a couple minutes, but I wanted to know if there's anything else you would like to share before we wrap up, any thoughts?

CQ: Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world. Because with the reparations I was able to start the grandchildren's fund for college. As far as I was concerned, my husband became a philanthropist and gave to every group that he thought should deserve a thousand dollars or more. And it's come full circle. An apology from the President and a small token did go a long way into making me feel that I'm appreciated as an American. And it was too late for my brothers and my aunts and uncles who lost everything during World War II, but it does help the future generations, and that's really important. And the other thing I'd like to say is I'm just very, very happy being an American, and I'm so glad that my dad came to this country. I'm so glad that I went through that horrible experience, because it taught me so much. And I married the man of my dreams that my dad said he would commit hara kiri if I married him because he was a hapa, he was half Mexican and half Japanese, Richard de Quieiroz, and I married him after two failed marriages but three wonderful, wonderful children. So out of the bad came good, and I'm just very happy playing tennis and doing tai chi and qi gong and painting and painting.

MA: And busy with your ten grandchildren, I'm sure.

CQ: Oh, and yes, loving every minute with the grandchildren. And they say, "Oh, Grandma Chiz, can you just bring a racquet down to the Kid's Club right now?" I mean, I will just jump. And my husband's sitting with the other grandchild. It's just such a joy. It's just such a joy. Life is so beautiful, and everything that I look back on is a fantastic experience. And all the sadness and all the trials and tribulations and the heartache and the pain that I thought I went through during World War II really, really proved to be sort of a stepping stone into becoming a better person, if that's possible. [Laughs] I'm teasing, I'm teasing.

MA: Well, I want to thank you so much for sharing your story. I learned a lot, and it was just a wonderful interview. So I want to thank you for sharing.

CQ: Well, thank you so much, and I'm so glad that you called.

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