Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frances Midori Tashiro Kaji Interview
Narrator: Frances Midori Tashiro Kaji
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Martha Nakagawa (secondary)
Location: Torrance, California
Date: September 21, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-kfrances-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: And so today is Monday, September 21, 2009, and we're in Torrance, California, at the Torrance Holiday Inn. And running the camera is Dana Hoshide, and then assisting on the interview is Martha Nakagawa, and I'm Tom Ikeda. And so I'm going to start, Frances, by asking, can you tell me what was the name given to you at birth?

FK: My birth certificate is Frances Midori Tashiro. But when I was born, I was born at the old Japanese hospital on Turner Street, and there were some Nisei nurses who worked there. One of them was Mrs. Kuroiwa. She wasn't married then, I don't think, but she was Catholic, member of the Maryknoll church. So my parents asked her to find me a Christian name. And Mrs. Kuroiwa named me Frances.

TI: And was your, were your parents Christian or religious?

FK: At that time, no, they were not. They were straight off the boat, you know.

TI: And do you have a sense of why they thought it was important to give you a Christian name?

FK: Well, my father was very advanced in his thinking for an Issei. And I guess he figured one of these days, who knows? And besides, he was a close friend of Dr. Kuroiwa. They worked together, they were both newly arrived immigrants. Well, at that age, I didn't have a chance to ask him. A lot of it I'm assuming.

TI: Okay, so we asked your name, tell me your birth date. What day were you born?

FK: April 30th.

TI: And the year?

FK: Well, 1928, yeah. Makes sense.

TI: And you mentioned -- well, before we talk about your father, let's talk about your siblings. Tell me who your siblings were in your birth order.

FK: Well, my oldest sister Aki was born in Fukuoka, Japan. My parents were married in Japan. My dad was, I guess he was... after he had graduated medical school in Tokyo, or Fukuoka... at least, I think it's Fukuoka. And his parents were already here in the States. They were farming in San Gabriel valley, in Temple City.

TI: Oh, interesting. Your grandparents were here already farming. And going back, so we're talking about siblings, so Aki was the first one born in Fukuoka, and then after Aki?

FK: Well, and then my parents, my father immigrated to the States and left my mother there with the baby. And after, I don't know, a couple of years, he was able to send for her, and she came with my sister Aki as an infant, and met them in San Francesco and brought them over to California.

TI: Or to Los Angeles, southern California, right.

MN: Right. And couple of years went by and then my second sister, Sachi, was born. And she was born in Gardena.

TI: And what was the age difference between Aki and Sachi?

MN: I think three years. Sounds right.

TI: Okay, so about three years. And then after Sachi came you?

MN: Uh-huh.

FK: And then any other siblings after you?

MN: And then after me, there was a boy, he was born in, two or three years after I was born. Back in those days, I guess infant mortality was rather high, so he died when he was about five, four and a half, five years old. So I remember having a younger brother.

TI: And do you remember his name?

MN: Ken.

TI: And do you remember what he died of?

FK: No. He was sick for a long time and then he died. Parents didn't talk about things like that.

TI: And how about, do you remember when he died? You were probably about seven years old or so.

FK: Oh, yes. I was, I think I was five and a half or six years old, because I was in kindergarten, I recall that. And he was my playmate when I would come home from school. And I keep telling my husband, as a playmate, we used to play in Nihongo. Because that's all I knew at home. So we used to crank up the records, Japanese records on the phonograph, and sing Japanese songs and play Japanese games.

TI: And when you say "Japanese games," what would be examples of some Japanese games?

FK: Boy, my memory doesn't go that far back. I wish it did. But everything was in Nihongo. And we used to go to kindergarten and not know a word of English. But we'd just sit there and smile and behave and turn around and come home, you know. So we were all well-behaved. [Laughs]

TI: So it sounded like you and your younger brother were pretty close.

FK: Yes, we were.

TI: And so when he got sick and died, what was the impact on you? I mean, what do you remember of that time?

FK: Well, the mood in the household was real quiet. And no one explained anything, but we knew something major had happened. And my mother kept telling me that, "Ken's up in Heaven," and so we'd always look up and see a cloud floating and think, "Oh, that's where Kenny is." It made it easier to bear.

TI: Now, was there a sense, was he treated, when he was young, differently because he was the only boy? Here you had three girls and then a boy. Was he given, like, special treatment because of that? Do you remember that?

FK: Well, usually with a younger sibling, you do treat them better, special, because... well, he just happened to have a nice personality. And we used to play games together, little kid talk. It was always fun, but it didn't last long enough.

TI: That's tragic.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Let's go back to your parents. You mentioned your father going to medical school in Fukuoka.

FK: Uh-huh.

TI: So I'm assuming that's pretty much where he was raised and was from?

FK: He's from Kumamoto.

TI: Kumamoto. And do you know what his family, what kind of work his family did?

FK: Well, one of my cousins told me -- the Japanese cousin -- told somebody in our family that way back in some, tonosama, you know what a tonosama is?

TI: I don't, so explain what...

FK: It's an...

MN: The prince or the head of the, of that clan, of the Kumamoto-ken.

FK: Right. They used to have, I don't know Japanese history, so I wish I could tell you, but they were in a feud. And my ancestors were with the winners of this feud, and so when there was a, peace came about, the winners were allotted a piece of land. And so someplace back there, my great-great grand, whoever, was given this piece of land. And in Japan, having land was, you're the boss. So some ancestor back there has this plot of land, and it's still there.

TI: And so that's your father's side. So they were landowners. And he went off and got his medical degree.

FK: Right.

TI: Why did he decide to come to the United States?

FK: Well, my grandparents were farming in the San Gabriel valley.

TI: That's right.

FK: And before my mother died, she came upon this small diary in which my father had written in English, handwritten in English, about this one particular summer when he was working as a student teacher at this boy's school in Kumamoto, where he had charge of, it sounded like middle school boys, and he used to supervise our games and the studies and all. And while he did that, his parents were over here, stateside, farming. And I don't know how they did it, but they were farming. And they would, ever so often, send cash back to Japan, and my father would be able to pay his bills and continue with his education. And I don't know how they mailed money back in those days, but this diary, which I read myself, I thought, "How did they handle cash transactions from overseas?" Especially when you don't, can't just push a button and assume that, well, I don't know, they're quite clever, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So your grandparents were already here in the United States farming. Your dad was, went to school, getting educated in Japan. Then after he graduated, he essentially came to join your grandparents?

FK: Not immediately after that, but somewhere in between there, he happened to go to another doctor's home, and my mother was working there as a nanny, taking care of this doctor's children. And my mother caught my dad's eye, and somehow or another, he asked for her hand and they got married, and fine. He decided that was done, he was going to come stateside, and left my mother there. But in the meanwhile, they had a baby. So rather than traveling with an infant, he left her and came over stateside back in '21 or '22.

TI: Okay. So let me back up a little bit. And your, name of your mother, her maiden name, her full name?

FK: Oh, her given name was Moto, her family name was Mori.

TI: Moto Mori. And then your father's given name?

FK: Kikuwo, K-I-K-U-W-O Tashiro.

TI: And do you know your, on your father's side, your grandparents' names, the ones that were...

FK: My grandfather's name was Saburo. He was from a family of boys, and so this land that they had had to be split into however they worked it. So maybe that's the reason he came stateside, I don't know.

TI: Now, did your grandparents ever return to Japan?

FK: Yes, they did. That's another complicated story, but my grandparents were over here with my father's younger brother. And this younger brother was working in the Santa Monica area as a houseboy for a hakujin family. And so I guess he picked up some English, and somehow or another, I don't know the details, but he went to Santa Monica High School and then to Santa Monica... I don't know if they had a junior college back then, but whatever. And somehow or another he made it up to Stanford. And there used to be a Stanford house for Japanese students. Like here at USC, they have Gakuseikai, and Stanford had this arrangement also. And my uncle, whom none of us ever met, went to Stanford for three years.

TI: And do you know about what year this would be?

FK: [Shakes head].

TI: But this is probably the '20s or '30s, probably?

FK: No. Early '20s, maybe. I don't know.

TI: Okay.

FK: I wish I did know. He had one child back in Kumamoto, and he doesn't remember anything.

TI: But so he went to Stanford, and then what happened?

FK: Well, there are so many little asides. [Laughs]

TI: This is what makes history so interesting. I love these asides. So go ahead and tell us.

FK: Well, he was... I guess my uncle was doing well. But in the meanwhile, my grandparents, my grandfather Saburo and his wife, after my mother came over here, went back to Japan. And my father was supposed to be supporting them, I guess he did. That's another question mark, none of us has the answer. But he, my grandparents returned to Kumamoto, and I guess they were doing well, except my grandmother, Saburo's wife, died. And Japanese men being the way they are, he wrote my father and said, "I can't take care of myself. Send your brother back to Kumamoto." So with just a year left in his education, he left and went to Japan.

TI: To take care of his father, or your grandfather.

FK: Yeah. So that was the end of his education. That's the Issei kind of mentality.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's go back to your father and mother. And so they returned to California, and where do they go live?

FK: Well, they had to live in San Gabriel. In fact, I think it was Temple City, in that area. And back in those days, I don't know what it was like, way out in the sticks, I'm sure.

TI: Well, when your father came back, did he practice medicine, or did he farm? What did he do?

FK: Well, he couldn't practice medicine, 'cause he had to take the state board. And he couldn't take the state board 'cause his English wasn't fluent enough. So he, his English was self-taught, 'cause somehow or another he passed the state board in a year or so. And back in those days, to go to medical school in Japan, aside from Nihongo, you had to know German, 'cause most of the professors were German. And so my dad was quite proud that his German was quite good. And he'd spout out things to us, his kids, you know, never heard that kind of language before. But he was quite... of course, being Issei, your hatsuon, your pronunciation didn't have to be that sharp like in English. You could mumble something in German. Anyhow...

TI: But he was trilingual, so he was Japanese, German, and English.

FK: Eventually, yeah. So all the Issei doctors had to take the test in English. In fact, my youngest son, when he was doing some research, he found, came across, there used to be a doctor named Isamu Sekiyama. My youngest son came across his papers for the state board, and it was all in English, beautiful handwriting. And so I guess they all made an effort to pass the state board. If they were alive now, it'd be a piece of cake, I'm sure.

TI: Interesting. So let me recap a little bit. So he came to the San Gabriel area, he, for a year, he needed a year to learn English so he could pass the state board. During that time, was he also doing farming or taking care of the farm that your grandparents were working on?

FK: I haven't a clue. There was no one to ask, and we didn't know these facts.

TI: That year that he was studying for the state board, had your mother joined your father yet?

FK: She did come over eventually, I don't know what year exactly.

TI: Okay, so right around all that time. So after he passed the state board, then what did he do?

FK: I guess that's when... in the meanwhile, he was scouring the area wondering what to do. And how he found Gardena, I don't know, but he did. There was, I guess, a group of Japanese who lived around there, farmers, mainly. And, I don't know, he just fell into it, I don't know.

TI: And this was to practice medicine?

FK: Yes.

TI: He was looking for a community where he could settle and practice medicine.

FK: Right. So he found this area down here near Gardena Boulevard and Vermont, there were a bunch of little cottages, and he found one to rent. I guess it was large enough for our family, so eventually he filled it with family.

TI: Well, so then after he got to Gardena, that's when Sachi was born, and then after that was... and what was the age difference between you and Sachi?

FK: Three years.

TI: Okay, three years later, then you were born. Good.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Tell me about Gardena growing up. When you were growing up in Gardena, what was Gardena like?

FK: It was really a one-horse town, really quiet. If there was a fire and a fire engine would come charging down the street, we'd all run out and watch. [Laughs] It was fun. And then not only that, we lived in the Gardena city strip, which is between Vermont and Figueroa, all the way down from L.A. down to the harbor. Anything that happened within that strip, it was a different police station, the 77th. Anyhow, when a fire would start, we would have to wait from the fire engine to come from downtown L.A. By that time, whatever it was burned down. It was a real one-horse town. It was fun, and that was our excitement. [Laughs]

TI: Well, think back to those days. Who were your friends? When you were playing, as you got into school, who were your friends that you played with?

FK: Oh, grammar school, my best friend was Pauline Phelps, she was a block away. Her father was a detective with the LAPD. And they lived around the corner from us. And the homes on Orchard Avenue are about 200 feet deep, so everyone had cattle, or she had goats. I used to go over to her house and get some goat milk to drink. It was fun, very laid back, and really a boring place to grow up in.

TI: Well, what would be examples of things that you and Pauline would do to play? What would be...

FK: Well, in grammar school, we used to listen to the soap operas on radio, and that was exciting. We didn't know what it was, but it sounded good, you know, "to be continued." And then afternoon there was the Lone Ranger, it was all on radio. And Orphan Annie. Oh, I should have brought my ring. I have this decoder ring, this decoder ring from Orphan Annie. If you send ten cents plus the seal from an Ovaltine jar, they'll send you back this ring where you can translate tomorrow's clue, you know, "to be continued." It was exciting. That was the highlight of my day.

TI: And when would you listen to these radio shows? I mean, would it be after school?

FK: Yeah, after school, before suppertime. And then she would, she had to babysit her siblings, I didn't have anyone to babysit, but we'd be on the phone or running down the street to compare notes. That was life in the big city for me. [Laughs]

TI: Now did, at this time, when you were in grammar school, did, were you aware that you were Japanese and different than Pauline? Did that ever come up?

FK: Well, Pauline was half Italian and half some kind of hakujin, I don't know. And it never occurred to either of us that we were different. But I guess somewhere down the line, someone called me a "Jap," but that was closer to the war. It was, I remember jut thinking, "I'm not a 'Jap,' what's she saying?" And then I ran home from the playground and ran up to my mother's room and looked in the mirror and said, "Oh. I don't look like so-and-so, I am a 'Jap.'" I mean, that was a total shock. But by then I was, must have been ten or twelve years old, I don't know.

TI: Well, how many other Japanese families were in Gardena during this time?

FK: Oh, they were scattered. It wasn't a colony. There were, well, one girl lived across the street, down the block, but neither of us was allowed to cross the street, so we had to wait for one of our mothers to cross the street, Gardena Boulevard. There was no traffic, but we had to follow the rules. And with that girlfriend, she was Japanese, we used to climb trees all the time, and that was our form of play. Climb trees and use those bean shooters, you know. That was fun.

TI: Yeah, we called 'em pea shooters.

FK: Pea shooters, yeah.

TI: And so like in school, in our class, like how many Japanese would be in your class?

FK: My class there was only one, one guy. Good, one-fourth were Mexicans, and the rest were white. A whole variety of whites. It was during the days when you used to see people who looked like Okies go through town, and we'd feel sorry for them, because a lot of the kids didn't have shoes on, I remember that. I thought, "I want to go to school without shoes," you know.

TI: I'm sorry, you said you wanted to go to school...

FK: Yeah. "How come those kids get to go to school without shoes?" I used to envy them.

TI: Now, why? I'm curious...

FK: It looked, it looked cool.

TI: [Laughs] More comfortable?

FK: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Going back to the Japanese community, were there ever any Japanese community events like picnics or anything like that that went on in Gardena?

FK: I guess with the Nihongakko there were some picnics. But my mother didn't drive a car, so we didn't get around. My father was usually busy working, so he didn't take us anyplace. If we got lucky, one of the family friends would let us hitch a ride. So that was our way of joining the others.

TI: So you mentioned Nihongakko. Did you go to Japanese school?

FK: Yeah, that was every day after school.

TI: And so describe that. I mean, so you would, like, what would a typical day, describe sort of the morning, through regular school, 'til Japanese school. How would it work?

FK: Well, grammar school was from morning to noon and then I'd walk home for lunch, because we were only a block and a half from home. And at that time, Pauline and I would compare notes on that soap opera, and then we'd go back after lunch, and then three o'clock, we were dismissed, and then I'd walk home to get my, what we called kaban, knapsack, to go to Nihongakko. And that was like, oh, about a mile and a half, two miles out in the field, way out. And we'd have to walk. Sometimes we got a ride with the sensei, but usually we walked. We'd go to school and go through the lessons and then come home, walk home.

TI: And about how many students were there?

FK: I never counted, I don't know.

MN: One question is, did you go to the Moneta Gakuen, and did they make you sing the Kimigayo?

FK: No. We went to the... Moneta was "classier."

MN: Do you remember what your Nihongo gakkou was called?

FK: Uh-uh. I don't recall at all.

MN: You didn't have to do the singing of the Kimigayo before you started class?

FK: No. I guess I never learned the words, for one. [Laughs] I don't know. I don't recall that at all. I guess I was unpatriotic, I don't know. Except 1940, '41, they were passing, I don't know what they were passing. We were supposed to help make these -- don't ask me what it means -- imonbukuro, we had to come up with a sack, knapsack, to send to the brave soldiers of Japan. And we would write, I don't know what the blazes it was. I never could finish the whole project. But I remember, "Oh, I didn't know there were soldiers from Japan over in whatever country." But we had to come up with this project. And to this day, I don't know what happened to the one I was working on.

TI: And this came through the Japanese language school? That was a project that they coordinated?

FK: Uh-huh. I might have been taken away for that, I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: That's interesting. Did you ever get up to Los Angeles, like Little Tokyo?

FK: Oh, yeah. Prewar, I started with orthodontics, Dr. Nagamoto, and I had to catch the, there used to be a Torrance bus on Figueroa that would go all the way into L.A., and then I would transfer to P-car and go downtown L.A. But once a month or whatever, I would have to stand there out in Figueroa and Gardena Boulevard and catch the bus, go into L.A. To this day, I wonder, why didn't my mother worry about me? [Laughs] I was a pre-teen, and I'd go off, and there was no fear.

TI: And what were your impressions when you'd go up there by yourself?

FK: Oh, I felt grown up. All of eleven or twelve years old, told us to catch -- and, oh, you had these couple of coins for the token, for the streetcar.

TI: Now, when you went up there, did you ever walk around the streets or anything?

FK: No.

TI: You'd just go directly to the doctor and then back?

FK: Right, right. No, and then after the orthodontist, I'd walk two blocks to my dad's office, he was on north San Pedro, right off of Jackson Street. And the place used to be called Higoya Hotel, Mr. Matsumoto ran it and my father rented space for his office there, on the second floor.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about your father's business. So he was, so every day he would, did he have a car? He would drive up to Little Tokyo, to his office?

FK: Well, his routine was mornings, he would open the office, which was... the building's still here on Gardena Boulevard, 749 Gardena Boulevard. And he would have office hours in Gardena. There were three or four rooms there, set up for an office. And he would see patients in the morning without appointments, they would just come in, take them in sequence. And then my father had these young doctors working with him, one of 'em was Norman Kobayashi, and others lived with us. They were mostly, at that time, they were bachelors. Sometimes, along the way, people would find them a bride. But they would all break for lunch, my mother and our housekeeper would feed them lunch. And then they would change to their street clothes and all get into my dad's car, which was usually a four-door something or another, and they would drive into L.A. This is before, pre-freeways, and they would drive all the way up to Avalon or San Pedro Street, all the way up to Slauson, into Soto Street, to Boyle Heights and the Japanese hospital was there. And then from there, they would make hospital rounds, and then after the rounds, they would go into Little Tokyo and open up the office there and then see the patients there, and then reverse the procedure and come home.

TI: And about what time would he be finished? When he came home, about what time would that be?

FK: Well, they had no appointments. So when the last patient was seen, then they would close up and come home. Or, sometimes, they might have home calls to make, so they would have lists of people they had to drop in to see. And that was a typical day.

TI: So it sounds like a long, a long day for your father.

FK: Oh, yeah, it was. But they thrived on it, or so it seemed.

TI: Would he be home in time for dinner, or would he always come later?

FK: No, Mother would hold the dinner for him. So most of us kids would eat ahead of time, because we had homework to do.

TI: Now, when your father did all this, were you ever able to go with him or observe him while he worked, either at the hospital or in Little Tokyo or the Gardena office?

FK: Oh, sometimes we'd peek in, but usually not. Because it was grown-ups talking, we'd just get in the way.

TI: Now, I'm curious, it seems almost a little inefficient. I mean, it's these three different places, and I'm wondering, why weren't there other, like, Japanese doctors who took care of Little Tokyo and stayed there, and your dad had, perhaps this area, and then someone at the hospital? It seemed like your dad had to cover such a large territory. Do you know why that was the case?

FK: That's a good question. I don't have the answer.

TI: Because it seemed like he had this group of doctors that did a lot, but they went together.

FK: They did.

TI: And I was curious why they did that rather than having just a few just stay in Little Tokyo the whole day or something like that.

FK: I don't know. I wish someone was around to give the answers.

TI: Well, were there other Japanese doctors in Little Tokyo?

FK: Oh, yeah. There were a number, I'm sure. I don't know where you would look up such a reference. Are there any books left in J-town?

MN: They would probably be in Japanese.

FK: Oh. Well, no, because the doctors who worked for my father, were with him, they were Niseis.

MN: They were?

FK: Yeah. Back in 1930, one of the older Niseis was Dr. Lee Watanabe, he was from San Jose. And he was a graduate of Stanford, I think. And then...

TI: You mentioned Norm Kobayashi.

FK: Yeah, he was from Cal. And later on, there was Howard Suenaga, I think he was from Cal also, I'm not positive.

TI: So where did these doctors go after they worked with your father for a while? Did they then establish their own practice someplace else?

FK: Lot of 'em did. But I guess, I'm not positive, now, I'm sure you could research this yourself. But back then, even though you graduated medical school, lot of hospitals would not take you on as an intern. And even if you were hired as an intern, they paid, like, fifty dollars a month. I used to hear these numbers and they'd be yucking it up, you know. "Who could get along?" They were at the bottom of the totem pole. And if you're a "Jap," that's the least amount of chance you had. But because I think a lot of these Nisei doctors graduated maybe in the top so many percentage, but they didn't have a chance of being hired or brought on board.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: And how would you describe the relationship with your, with these young Nisei doctors and your father? What kind of relationship did they have?

FK: As far as I know, it was quite open. There was a lot of conversation constantly. And my dad used to be very scholarly and bookish, and he subscribed to all the AMA and all those different journals. And he had piles of books and magazines that would come weekly, monthly, and he'd put out an article and say, "Read this. It's about such and such certain event, and a certain technique, and you've got to keep up with the latest." And I remember right before the war started, Dad together with Norm Kobayashi came up with something, it had something to do with sulfa drugs for wounds or surgery or something. And, well, there was another doctor, George Kawaichi, his son (became) a Supreme Court judge or something up in the Bay Area, Kawachi or Kawaichi (postwar).

TI: Kawachi.

FK: Yeah. And his wife was Margaret Kawaichi, she was Nisei Week queen way back in year one. [Laughs] But together with, I think, George and Norm and my dad, they wrote up this paper and sent it to AMA and had it published. And that was like getting the Nobel Prize. There was so much commotion, I remember, 'cause Dad had that thing reprinted and mailed it out to everybody he could think of. Because for a Japanese to get printed in the AMA was the height.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. And was this about that sulfa drugs?

FK: Uh-huh.

TI: And by any chance do you know about what year, was this like you said, '40, '41?

FK: Right before the war broke.

TI: Interesting. I may look for that.

FK: Yeah, because up until then, they didn't get any notoriety. After that, things happened, but then the war came.

TI: Did you ever hear them talk about, your father talk about the differences in training from his Japan training in med school versus, say, a Stanford and Cal training in med. school?

FK: I knew nothing about that. I couldn't even guess.

TI: Yeah, it would be interesting just to hear them talk about maybe the differences.

FK: Oh, absolutely.

TI: And what, perhaps, the American doctors learned from your father, perhaps what your father learned from them, just the differences.

FK: Oh, yeah. 'Cause unless you were up with the latest whatever, you didn't think a person was worth anything.

TI: That was your father? So your father had very high standards.

FK: Oh, yeah. And he'd always, if he had a Post-it or underlining, or what do you call these things, he would send all these articles to everyone he could think of. You had to keep ahead of the crowd.

TI: And did your father specialize in something? Like were there certain types of illnesses or cases that, in particular, they called your father in to help? Like maybe other doctors said, "We need help," and they called your father?

FK: They might have, but I wasn't aware of it. But I do remember once, before the war started, we went to Union Station down here in L.A. to see him off on a trip to San Jose with his surgery nurse. And they went on the overnight train to San Jose, and she took with her a certain set of surgery tools that she was supposed to hand-carry, and she was responsible for. And she told me about that a few years ago before she died, and I said, "I remember taking you down to the Union Station and wondering, 'How come you're going off with my daddy?'" you know. [Laughs]

TI: So there was something that he was really good at, that someone from San Jose requested that he come all the way up there.

FK: That's right, yeah.

TI: And it sounded like surgery tools, so he did surgery.

FK: Yes.

TI: He was a, performed surgery.

FK: I didn't know what was going on, but just bits and pieces, your ears are up all the time, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So here's another one that happened in that early... that your father was involved in a court case that actually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they challenged the Secretary of State in terms of the ability to incorporate.

FK: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you know much about that?

FK: We have it in a textbook at home, it was Jordan vs. Tashiro, that's all I remember. And I didn't even know about it until after Bruce and I were married. He was, right after we got married, he decided he wanted to go to law school. And so in one of his textbooks, he came about this thing, this case, and he says, "Hey, your father's name's in here." I said, "Really? For what reason?" And found out this major case. And that's the first time we heard about it, we didn't know. Because up until then, like where I was born, on Turner Street, was so-called Japanese hospital, but that's because the California, well, the whole USA wouldn't allow him to open up a hospital as Japanese. And anyhow, if you want that textbook, I think it's at home someplace.

TI: But it was a, a pretty, it was a major ruling, where he won.

FK: Yes.

TI: And that allowed some Japanese to come together and incorporate, or to form a corporation.

FK: Yes.

TI: And then the corporation could do things like own land. That was a, that was a big victory for the community.

FK: It was, it was. And we didn't appreciate that until after he was long gone.

TI: And I think they used that to help establish the new Japanese hospital. Do you know much about that, the new Japanese hospital?

FK: Well, it was built and opened the year after I was born, 1929. And so I think my younger brother was born there. But that was owned by Japanese stockholders.

TI: The new Japanese hospital?

FK: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember the doctors that helped establish that hospital? You mentioned...

FK: Kuroiwa.

TI: Yeah, Kuroiwa, and there was a Dr. Nakaya...

FK: Oh, yeah.

TI: Ozasa and Takahashi?

FK: Right. The names are all familiar, but I don't know what their... they all put up money for this and bought shares in it, and that's all I know. But because of that, when I had my children at the hospital, I got an employees' discount. That I remember. Stockholders' discount.

TI: That's good.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's sort of move on to December 1941. Now, how old were you when December 7th happened? Do you remember what grade you were in and how old you were?

FK: I was, I think I was in eighth grade.

TI: And so just as a, kind of a snapshot, so I understand, so you're eighth grade, what's going on with the rest of your family? So your father, mother, your older sisters, tell me what was happening.

FK: Well, my oldest sister had just started, enrolled at Santa Barbara State. She was in her third year of school, she was majoring in dietetics. And, let's see... I didn't even know where Santa Barbara was, but she was gone. And that Sunday morning, I know I got up and my older sister and I walked to church, because it was Sunday school. And when we turned around and walked home, we could hear on Gardena Boulevard this loud noise, My father was listening to the radio full blast. And, "What's he talking about?" That's where we found out the war had started. But other than that, that's all I remember.

TI: Do you recall your father saying anything about what was happening?

FK: It was hard to comprehend. Next day at school, we found out we had to go for assembly. And at that time, we were practicing for air raids, so we had to learn how to stand in the hallway where the lockers were and just stand there, and that was our protection, standing next to the lockers, that was it. And then all of a sudden, these people you were in school with, a few of them started calling you "Jap." But just a few. It wasn't all that bad in Gardena.

TI: But even with just a few, how did that make you feel when people started calling you "Jap"?

FK: Well, it was confusing, because I thought, "Well, I don't even know where Pearl Harbor is. Where in the world is Hawaii?" And this happened wherever, today's another day. I don't know, it was totally confusing. And then I think we had a special assembly and we had to listen to President Roosevelt. I vaguely remember, but it might be just my imagination, I'm not sure. I don't know, it's a total blank. It's so long ago.

TI: Now, were you still good friends with Pauline?

FK: Yeah.

TI: Did you ever, did Pauline ever say anything about what was happening to you? Did you ever have a conversation with Pauline?

FK: No. Well, in the meanwhile, her father had received a promotion in the LAPD, and they had moved to San Pedro. So I lost touch with her. But other than that, my other hakujin friends were, we were all kids, seventh, eighth grader mentality. That's all I remember. Of course, we had our own problems wondering, "What do we do now?" My parents didn't have any answers.

TI: Well, so how did the outbreak of war affect your father's ability to do business?

FK: Oh, boy. I don't remember. Well, in the meantime, my father, I think we had... I don't know if he was sick at that time or not, but he wasn't working. There's a big blank there, I'm not sure what was happening. I don't remember at all.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, so we're going to start the second hour, now, Frances. And at the end of the first hour, I had just started in the beginning of the war. But before we go more into the war, I'm going to back up a little bit. And I wanted to go back and get more information about Gardena. And you mentioned earlier how you lived on Gardena Boulevard.

FK: Right.

TI: And there were shops there. Can you describe sort of the type of shops and what was there when you were growing up?

FK: Well, across the street from us was a Ford agency, Les Arkenburg. And my father now and then would buy a car from Mr. Arkenburg. And then on the next, on the same block, on the corner was Rush Chevrolet. I remember Dad bought a car from them for my sister Aki when she was graduating high school. So she bought a four-door Chevy. But those days, you had to shift gears. And then across the street, just a block away, was a Safeway, and my job was to go there and buy a quart of milk and loaf of bread. And then close to there was this Kameya, the Japanese store that sold rice and, I don't know what all they... I don't know, well, I think had those little Japanese candies, I don't remember. But that was just across the street. And then further down, to Vermont, there was a store called Daniel's Cafe, and they used to have, I guess in today's terminology it would have been a beer joint, but I didn't know. But my ambition was to get grown up enough to go to Daniel's Cafe one day to have a hamburger and a malt. All those years, my sister used to tell me about it, my sister Sachi. And I said, "Mom, I want a hamburger and malt." To this day, I've never had one. It turns me off thinking about it. [Laughs] I was so deprived.

TI: Because you had to be a certain age, you had to be old enough to go there?

FK: Yeah. Well, my sister used to go with her girlfriend who always had money. Her name was Anna Kurata, she always had money.

TI: Oh, so it wasn't so much, when you say a "beer joint," so like teenagers could go there and get a hamburger and a malt.

FK: I guess, uh-huh. Well, it was a small town, everyone knew everyone's kids. And then a block away from there was the Kurata Depaato, the Kurata family ran this dry goods store. And that store is still there, but it's a Mexican grocery store now. And you could just walk from door to door to door within a five, ten minutes. A small town, it was very comfortable.

TI: And during the break, you also mentioned a tofu-ya?

FK: Oh, now that was the opposite way, across the street and half a block east. It was a tofu-ya, but they would always have tofu in these tubs. I didn't know what was going on, but sometimes I would be sent across the street with a pan to get fresh tofu. So it was... or otherwise, the fish man, there used to be a Japanese fish man who came around every week with fresh fish on ice, and that was our dinner, I could figure that out.

TI: Well, when you went across the street to the tofu-ya with a pan, what would happen? You'd bring the pan and then what would happen next?

FK: Oh, whoever was working that day would, it was family business. They would dip their hand in, into the big pool of water, and lift up a square of tofu and put it in your pan with some water in it, and it was fresh tofu. That was it.

TI: Now, does the tofu back then taste different than the tofu you get today?

FK: I don't know, I don't know. I was just the eater.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: When you were talking about the shops, you mentioned the car dealers, the Ford and they Chev dealers where your father bought cars at the Ford, as well as a Chevy for your sister. When I have interviewed other Niseis, it wasn't that common for Niseis to buy new cars. And so I'm curious, you mentioned also earlier when you went to the Japanese language school, you went to the one out in the fields, you didn't go to the "classy" one...

FK: Right.

TI: ...closer in town. So maybe the first question is, why didn't you go to the other Japanese language school?

FK: Well, for one thing, they were a bit farther away. You'd have to be going by car. Moneta would have been, gosh, from Vermont all the way across to Western Avenue, that's two miles, three miles? And then to go to Compton Gakuen, it was the opposite way up the hill towards Dominguez Hills and all, yeah. It's on Avalon and Rosecrantz, I think. It was a distance and you'd need a car. Because otherwise, you're walking out on the field.

TI: Okay, so it sounds like a lot of it had to do with proximity. That was probably the most convenient.

FK: Right.

TI: Maybe the, what I'm trying to get at, maybe, or I'm curious about, your father was a very prominent person in the community. And I'm just wondering in terms of how other community members perceived your father. I mean, how did he get along with the rest of the community, that relationship? Can you describe that?

FK: Well, as far as I know, I didn't know the difference. It was after the war, when you hear things that people are saying. But at that time, I wasn't aware of anything about class or position or whatever. Because none of my parents, neither of my parents made us aware of such things. But it was... I don't know. My father loved to talk their kind of language, sometimes it's coarse, sometimes it's... it's just like some people talk to each other in, like they're Okies or, you know, hillbillies or whatever. But there's a Japanese group that talked that way also, and he would use that, certain phrases to make them feel at home. And I'd hear this kind of language and I'd think, "Oh, must be Mr. so-and-so who's here." I mean, you could kind of tell by the twang or whatever. It was interesting to listen to. And my father wasn't the kind who would whisper, and it was always loud and backslapping kind of...

TI: And your sense was he did this just to make his patients feel just more comfortable?

FK: Uh-huh. 'Cause it's just by chance that he was where he is, or at that time, where he was. I don't think he believed that he was all that high-falutin'.

TI: That's interesting. Because, so he was, there was quite a bit of range in him in that, in one way, you described him as being scholarly, he liked to read and study, and would underline, sort of, passages for other doctors to read.

FK: Right.

TI: And yet with the more sort of common man, he was very at ease and able to converse there also.

FK: Right. I think he prided himself in being able to get along with everyone. He just loved being with people and talking their colloquial slang or whatever, and relaxing people.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: What would your father do to relax? Would he have any hobbies?

FK: No, his hobby was work and smoking. He'd tell his patients, "You got to quit smoking, it's bad for you," but he could never quit. So that's what probably eventually killed him at the end.

TI: And how about the time he spent with the family? Was there enough time for his three daughters?

FK: Four. I left out my younger sister.

TI: Oh, okay, four daughters. And her name is...

FK: Oh, Kaoru.

TI: Kaoru. And so she is how many years younger than...

FK: Seven years younger.

TI: Than you?

FK: Uh-huh, Kaoru Arbutis.

TI: Good, I'm glad we got that. So four daughters. I mean, did he have much time for the four of you?

FK: Well, now and then, out of the blue, he would tell us we're taking a trip. So I remember back in 1930-something or another, we all got into the car and went to Boulder, Nevada, to see the Boulder Dam. And when you think about it now, there were no safety belts, nothing, we just got in the car and went. And we would stop here and there and eat lunch, obento, we'd continue on, no air conditioning. But we ended up in Boulder City, and I don't know how we did it, but we had reservations for a hotel there. We got several rooms... oh, and we always took along a young man who would do all the driving for us. And it was either one of the doctors or some farmer's son who had time to drive us. And we went to Boulder and then stayed in Las Vegas back in the year one. And then another time, we went to, he said, "Oh, we're going up to San Francesco to see the Golden Gate," and I didn't know where that was, but we piled in the car and went up the Coast Highway to... first we stopped in Mountain View because a Gardena girl was getting married there. And so we went to... we stayed in San Jose and we visited with this Dr. Watanabe who was, who used to work for Dad. And he was married and had three daughters. But we were there maybe a couple of nights and then we went to San Francesco and stayed a couple of nights and saw the Golden Gate bridge. And then, for the first time in my life, we stayed at wherever it was in San Francesco and we saw Judy Garland in Over the Rainbow when it just came out. I still remember that, that was special.

TI: So it was a movie theater in San Francesco you saw this?

FK: Yeah. So last week when it was in the Times, I thought, "Oh, I was there."

TI: That's right, it's like the seventieth anniversary or something like that?

FK: Oh, yeah. That was a treat. So he did try to take us on trips. He didn't do the driving, 'cause, oh, when it came to cars, I would always get carsick, so I'd always upchuck on the backseat. And my sister would hate me. [Laughs] But never miss, after thirty-five minutes, oh, it's time to upchuck.

TI: [Laughs] Oh, no. So you kind of looked at these trips with some kind of apprehension, I guess.

FK: [Laughs] Totally.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: I haven't asked too much about your mother. Tell me about your mother. What was she like?

FK: She was low-key. She had to be, because she, well, my dad was overpowering, I'm sure. But she was brave enough to tolerate the whole mob of us. She was, she did all the, supervised all the cooking, 'cause luckily, she had help at home to take care of the laundry and the cleaning. And those days, she had to have somebody to help. Because in the meanwhile, at home, we had these doctors staying with us. They would get room and board plus whatever the wages my parents would give them. So the housekeeper we had had to do all that domestic stuff, and my mother would supervise it all. And meanwhile, look after us, and she had her hands full.

TI: And so how large a household? With all these people, how many rooms and how large was the place?

FK: I'll have to take you there, Gardena Boulevard. Well, the front room, probably in my imagination, it's huge. But the living room, there was an area we called a dining room, and behind the dining room was what was called a library. Because three walls were covered with bookshelves. And somewhere along those three walls were three twin beds, three or four twin beds, plus a desk. And at the desk, my mother used to keep track of the finances, and I could hear her using a soroban to come up with the bank statements, then after she put it together, we'd walk to the bank and she'd deposit the money. I could still hear the clicking. And so she did more than her share of work. Oh, and then there was a downstairs shower and bathroom for the men.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Okay, so I'm going to now go back to the war, after December 7th. I mean, when we ended up, it sounded like your father wasn't really that healthy during this time period. Can you describe what kind of health issues or problems he had?

FK: There was a lot I wasn't aware of, just seeing that Daddy's not feeling well, and we have to be quiet or whatever. And then he was, he was ill enough to be away from work, but three doctors took over the practice. So I don't know how things fell into place, but life went on. And that was, I guess, right before the war. When the war did start, let's see. There was another doctor who stayed with us, Tadashi Fujimoto, he stayed with us a long time, and there was a George Wada, let's see, I'm sure I'm leaving somebody out.

TI: That's okay. So with your father ill and the war starts, so let's talk about him. So what happened to him during this time period?

FK: Oh, he was at, I'm not positive, but I think he was hospitalized at Good Samaritan Hospital in L.A. And he was there some time, I don't know. I don't know how the pieces fell into place, but...

TI: But he was, I guess, ill enough, so he had to be hospitalized.

FK: Right.

TI: And so when this is happening, so your father was in the hospital, what was the rest of the family doing? Because at some point, the government, people started find out that they're going to be leaving the West Coast.

MN: Oh, that's right.

TI: And I'm curious what your family had to do to get ready.

FK: Well, somehow or another, I guess he spoke to my mother and told her that -- at that time, you could voluntarily leave -- and so he told her to get hold of Beacon's Van and Storage and have them pick up our furniture and move to Fresno, because that was the "free zone." So April of '42, that's what we did. We checked out of school and loaded up two cars and moved to Fresno. And we didn't know where we were going. But some people from Gardena had moved to Fresno, so we followed.

TI: And where did, in Fresno, where did you stay?

FK: How we found this place, I don't know. But on the next block from where we lived in Gardena, there was an Eto family. They had a seed and farm supply house, just, less than a half block away. And they had moved there and they had adult kids. In fact, their second son was in med. school at that time, his name was Jackson Eto. And he, the Eto family was, they were my parents' friends, and so they told us to come over there, and they found us a house that was vacant. So we moved into this really shack, this old house full of holes and broken floors and all. Anyhow, we moved in there and at that time, Fresno had a lot of Armenians. There was a big Armenian colony.

TI: Right.

FK: And people were afraid of them because they looked kind of "foreign." [Laughs] But, so we moved over there and my sister Sachi and I enrolled in Fresno at Roosevelt High School. And we went there from April 'til the middle of June, and they said we could no longer go to high school. It was outside of the zone. All these zones suddenly popped up. So that was the, almost the end of Fresno. In the meanwhile, my father had, I don't know if he had undergone surgery at Good Samaritan or what, but we had left him in L.A. I don't know what happened. I need help here, I don't know what happened.

TI: So I think they, did they move him to a sanitarium?

FK: Oh, he still had connections with Maryknoll, and Maryknoll sisters had a sanitorium in Monrovia, and he stayed in a cottage there. In those days, he was in good... what is it, connections with the Maryknoll fathers because of Dr. Kuroiwa. Anytime you kifu, you know... you know kifu?

TI: No.

FK: Oh, come on, you're part of the group. Kifu is a donation.

TI: Oh, okay, right.

FK: Japanese donation. Because from years past, thanks to Dr. Kuroiwa, my parents had been stuck with Maryknoll sanitorium, or Maryknoll church donations. Any time Kuroiwa said, "Give me a check," my father would write him a check.

TI: Oh, so he had done this for years before.

FK: Oh, yeah.

TI: And that helped pave the way for him to stay.

FK: Right.

TI: Okay.

FK: Yeah, 'cause our future was unknown at that time. 'Cause while we were in Fresno, we were told that we had to sign up for camp. So he went to Pinedale, it's just a railroad siding outside of Fresno for our shots, and got ready to go to camp. We didn't know where camp was, but it was in Poston.

TI: Okay, so let me recap this, so a lot of information here. Your father was ill, had surgery, then went to Monrovia, which was controlled by the Maryknoll priests. You went from Gardena to Fresno out of the, I guess, the first exclusion zone, and then eventually they decided that Fresno area, central California, would also be part of the exclusion zone.

FK: Right.

TI: So now you're in Pinedale. Now, Monrovia, I don't know my geography around here. That would still be in the exclusion zone, right? Monrovia, that's in California.

FK: It's just outside of where Santa Anita park is.

TI: Okay. And so for him to stay there, do you know if the Maryknoll priests had to pull strings to keep him in the exclusion zone, or were there other Japanese also there?

FK: Oh, there was a large group of Japanese there.

TI: Okay, so they allowed them to stay there.

FK: In fact, I think Mrs. Aratani was there.

TI: Because in Washington, they moved people east of the mountains, so it was kind of different. My father-in-law stayed at a sanitorium in Spokane, on the other side. So I was curious what they did. Okay, so now you're at Pinedale. So tell me what Pinedale was like.

FK: It was just a railroad siding, we went there for our shots, that was it. And we came home, or came back to where we were, and waited for orders to catch a train.

TI: And then where did the train bring you?

FK: Parker, Arizona.

TI: Okay, so that's the...

FK: Poston.

TI: ...Poston. So Pinedale, so Pinedale wasn't the assembly center, then, this was just the, to get your shots.

FK: Railroad siding.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So you go to Poston, and so it's your mother and the four sisters. And describe Poston to me. What was that like?

FK: That's hard to describe. It's just the middle of nowhere. Real nowhere. 'Cause we had to climb on these trucks to get delivered to Poston, and this was in July in the desert. I don't know, indescribable.

TI: So describe that first, sort of that first day when you were assigned your apartment. What was that like?

FK: Well, that's another story. Because since we were in Fresno, we didn't move with the Gardena people, we were with a totally new group of people from that location. And so rather than going to Poston I, we were taken to Poston II with people from Sanger, Fresno, I don't know where all they were from. So we were in Poston II at Block 227, I think it was 11-C. And we were there a couple of weeks. And meanwhile, my, I didn't know it, but my father was very busy corresponding with people. And he was corresponding with former patients who he knew from Poston I, from the Coachella Valley, Indio area. And he was told that if we, if Mother and the rest of us went to this area where the Indio Coachella people were, the men there would help us get settled. Because we were a family of females without a head of household. So little did he know that it wasn't going to improve our lot at all, but, "Hai, hai," you know. [Laughs] And so we were there in Poston II just a few days, I don't know, a short time. And somehow or another we were moved to Poston I, to Block 42, 42-11-C? No, what was it? Oh, that's really a shock. Well, it was Block 42, anyhow. I don't remember the barrack number.

TI: So this is, this is interesting how much influence your father had. He's in, essentially, another place writing letters, and he's able to manipulate the system in some ways to get you to move from one camp to another camp based on these correspondence.

FK: And the thing is, I never had the chance to complain to him before he died. [Laughs] "Why?"

TI: But, of course, he was trying to help.

FK: That's right.

TI: I mean, he was worried about you, he wanted to, in some ways, probably felt bad that he wasn't there.

FK: Right.

TI: And so he was trying to do whatever he could to make it easier for you, thinking that if he could just get you close to some people that he knew, they could help you.

FK: 'Cause everyone had their best thoughts in mind, but he wasn't there. We were there. But life goes on.

TI: And at any point during that did your mother or older sister say, "You know what, this isn't good. We shouldn't do what..."

FK: This is in the old days. You did what you were told. I don't... years later, I rebel, but not at that time. Age had to come up on me before I got mad at my dad.

TI: Okay, so Poston, what are some memories at Poston that you have? First, any fun memories? What are some fun memories of Poston?

FK: Oh, that's hard to create out of nowhere. [Laughs]

TI: Like dances or school memories? Anything that you can remember that was positive?

FK: Oh, it was zero. 'Cause I was four feet ten, weighed like eighty pounds, just skin and bones. No fun. Then I had this younger sister I had to take care of, she was a terror. No fun things.

TI: Well, were there any difficult memories that you can remember during that time that really stand out?

FK: Well, my mother was recuperating from... what did she have? When we moved to Fresno, she got, oh, what was that... problem with her, there's a name for it. I blanked out. (Narr. note: It was hepatitis.)

TI: Okay, but she became ill.

FK: Yeah, she was supposed to be on a bland, healthy diet, which she couldn't get in Poston. And so our biggest concern was making sure she got enough of the right nutritious food, which she didn't. So she was really frail. And on top of that, the heat. And it was really worrisome. And yet she, somehow or another, survived. That was really a harsh time for her. At least we were kids, so we, you know, were okay.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: And so describe how the family left Poston.

FK: Oh, that's another story. In the meanwhile, my father was writing to wherever. And he told Mom that, "It's not good for you to stay in camp with all these strangers and all, though the friends are helpful. You and the girls are to sign a sugar beet contract to leave the camp." In those days, the only way you could leave camp was if you had a job offer from the outside. And the only jobs were as farm laborers. So my mother, my sister Aki, and Sachi was still in high school, these two had to sign up as farm laborers and we, it was with farmers out in Colorado who happened to be former patients. And so Mom and Aki signed the sugar beet contract and we were to leave camp. This was in April of '43. So, actually, we were in camp only ten months. So we... oh, in the meanwhile, Father Lavery from the Maryknoll church used to see my dad all the time, and he had access to my dad's car. And right before the war started, in November of '41, my father had bought a Lincoln Continental from the man across the street, the Ford agency, and it had that tire thing in the back trunk. It was a beautiful car. So Father Lavery drives that to Poston, for us to leave camp.

TI: Oh, it was like being your driver to take you out of camp.

FK: Yeah. In the meanwhile, when we found out, when my mother found out that Father Lavery was bringing us the car, she asked around camp, I guess, and found this young man whose family used to farm in the Gardena area, and asked if he would drive us out of camp, Mother and the whole gang of us. So he said, "Sure," you know, brand new car, why not? So he was a nice young man. So we made arrangements to leave camp, and I don't know how we fit in there with stuff, but we did. And the first night -- oh, before we left camp, Father (Lavery) brought the car to our block, and the whole camp came and surrounded the car. And it's the first time electric windows came in, and all the kids were in there pushing the button and everything. Well, the car wouldn't start. So we had to get it recharged. [Laughs] And so our departure was delayed by a day or two, I don't know. So that's all I remember, we couldn't leave when we wanted to. So we finally did leave, and we headed first to Gila, outside of Phoenix, and stayed there one night.

TI: Gila the... not the camp?

FK: Yeah.

TI: So you went from Poston camp to another camp?

FK: Gila.

TI: And why did you do that? Were there people...

FK: Well, we had no reservations for a motel. Don't ask me, I don't know.

TI: That's what happened, though. That was interesting. So you went there...

FK: So the first night we stayed there, and then the next night we were out on a stretch of Arizona or New Mexico. And there was one motel stuck out there, so we pulled in and they had vacancy. So Mother and us girls and this young man, we made arrangements to stay there. It was the first time that my younger sister and I had taken a bath in umpteen years. So she and I played in the bath like two little seals, you know. It was so much fun. We didn't want to leave the bathtub. I still remember that, freedom. And from there we went to someplace in New Mexico where it was cold, the altitude was, was it Albuquerque? I think. And then from there, Albuquerque to Denver, and then from Denver we found, no, we went to Brighton, Colorado, where we had to stay with... we had made arrangements to stay with this farmer who used to be my dad's patient. And back to pumping the water, and an outhouse. And my dad thought we were going to have a better time there.

TI: Well, so was it? I mean, how was that compared to being in Poston?

FK: Well, at least Poston they had toilets with running water. This we had to go pump outside, aside from the outhouse. We survived. Oh, and this house, they had kerosene lanterns, too. Talk about roughing it. Poston was a piece of cake. [Laughs]

TI: And so your father, so he, again, through his correspondence, arranged all these things.

FK: Right.

TI: I'm curious also, during the war, he helped start this Japanese hospital in Los Angeles. Whatever happened to that during the war?

FK: Oh, before evacuation, somehow or another, I don't know who the connection was, but they contracted with White Memorial Hospital to lease the hospital to them. That turned out to be a good move. So they used it all during the war, and after the war, when we returned from Denver, somehow or another they signed the hospital back to the Japanese, and they were able to refurbish it and get back to work.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: And so we're now in Colorado, so what happens, or how long do you stay there before...

FK: Well, that was in April of '43. So my younger sister and I had to go to school, so I went to school in Brighton. And in the meanwhile, my older sister and mom were in Denver looking for a house for us to stay in. Because during the summer, we could stay in this... every farmer uses seasonal workers in that area. And there was a, usually small cottage about this size with an outhouse, and water outside. And the hired hands would stay there, they were just sleeping quarters, and they would be there, I guess, for the harvest time or whatever. And so we were taking up space. In the meanwhile, during the daytime, we'd go work at Mr. and Mrs. Koga's (farm), wherever the place was. We had to weed this crop of vegetables, and I said, "I'm never going to marry a farmer. I don't want to do this the rest of my life." And every day we had to go weed with... you couldn't see the horizon where the end of the row was, it was so far away. But anyhow, that was my try at working our way out of camp. Once is enough.

TI: And during all this time, we talked about your father's correspondence. Did he write very many letters to the family during this time?

MN: No, he was writing to my mother.

TI: And did your mother ever share kind of what they were talking about? Were these in Japanese?

MN: Uh-huh, I think so. We knew that he was okay, but nothing, no asides.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So we're going to start the third hour. And where we ended up the second hour, we were in Colorado. You were, I think your mom and oldest sister were looking in Denver to see if they can find a place.

MN: Right.

TI: And you were talking about how rugged those sort of seasonal sort of shacks were, that the seasonal workers would stay.

FK: Right.

TI: So what happened next?

MN: That was the early part of our arrival from Poston, so my sister Aki and Mom found this house in what's called north side of Denver, and it was a nice, quiet street. We stayed at, I think it was 4125 Vallejo Street, north Denver. And it was near North High School that I went to for two years. And it was a nice middle class neighborhood. And first the neighbors didn't know who we were, what we were, but they accepted us, it was quite nice. And it was an old house with a yard adjacent to it that my parents made into a victory garden. And I went to high school there at North High for two years. And the neighborhood was, or the high school was mainly Italians, Caucasian, and some Jewish kids. So that was the first time I experienced Yom Kippur or any other holidays, and all of a sudden the school is empty. Even the Italian kids would take the day off, just to get out of going to school. And I didn't know about Jewish holidays 'til then. But we moved in there and at least that place had indoor plumbing. So I thought, "Ah, this is great."

TI: You know, Frances, you mentioned your parents did a victory garden. Did your father join you?

FK: Eventually he did, after about a year.

TI: And when you saw him after these years, had he changed very much?

FK: No, he looked more healthy, 'cause he looked relaxed. And he always did like planting things, so it was good to see him out in the garden.

TI: And when he was in Denver, did he practice medicine?

FK: No, he didn't have a license.

TI: And in terms of his personality, did anything, did you notice any changes about him or when he first came, describe the reception for him.

FK: Oh, people started to come over to visit, and he was supposed to have been under doctor's care and in pretty good health. But he still liked to smoke, so he used to sneak cigarettes off of visitors and light up after they would leave, and try to get the smoke smell away.

TI: Now, he did that because who would disapprove of his smoking?

FK: All of us.

TI: Oh, so everyone in the family would...

FK: Oh, yeah, we were supposed to keep an eye on him.

TI: So eventually, from Denver, you go back to California.

FK: Well, we had to wait for the war to end, and this was in '44, I think. And he, in the meanwhile, big news in the newspaper was this story about... what was his name? A doctor from England who had found a miracle drug...

TI: Penicillin?

FK: Yeah, penicillin. That something could, some miraculous thing could come out of mold. He was doing his own research on the man and really got excited and started writing in Nihongo, and wanted it written up in the local paper in Denver. I guess it was a Japanese paper in Denver, and wanted everyone to know about it, because it was the miracle drug at that time. So he wanted to make sure everybody knew about it. But somehow or another, he liked to keep up to date.

TI: So he was planning to return to medicine after the war ended.

FK: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's go to Los Angeles, back to Los Angeles, and talk about how he had, what it was like, and how he restarted the hospital, the business.

FK: Which part? How far back?

TI: Yeah, so let's start with when you returned to Los Angeles, what was that like for you when you first got back?

FK: Oh, that was another trip. It was July of '45, before VE day, or VJ day, either of those. There was some excitement in the air, thinking, "Oh, now we could plan on going back to L.A." And so we all had this, I don't know how it happened, but we got in the car and drove from Denver through Wyoming, to Salt Lake, and down to St. George and then L.A. Oh, in the meanwhile, my future brother-in-law, Taul, had started making plans to move to L.A. And through my dad's friends, this man named... I forgot his name, Toshiyuki, he used to have, own the Tenshodo Drug Store on First and San Pedro, where the Miyako Hotel used to be. And Mr. Toshiyuki lived in Denver near our home. And he had contacts from years back. There was a time when San Pedro Street going north of where the police parking, building is, used to be Carter Hardware, what's his name... Victor Carter, he was big with City of Hope and also with a lot of property in J-town. And Mr. Toshiyuki knew him from way back, apparently. So somehow or another my future brother-in-law had found out about certain buildings. And I guess that's when they decided to lease at First and San Pedro. And I don't know when he came back to L.A., 'cause Taul had never been to L.A., he was strictly in Seattle, or Portland. Anyhow, I guess my dad knew about it, so I don't know how it happened. It happened so fast, and I wasn't aware of all this. They bought, they signed for this, I guess it was lease they acquired. I think maybe Bruce might know more details, I don't. But we came back -- oh, and we had no home to return to because the house in Gardena was owned by a family friend, a Nisei, 'cause my parents couldn't buy it. And the house on Gardena Boulevard was owned by Bob Matsuishi, he was a Nisei from Hilo. And my father had operated on his appendicitis back before I was born, and I guess those days, we used to try to cross your fingers and hope you'd find an honest Nisei who would sign up for your property. And it worked out fine. Anyhow, so before the war ended, we arranged to sell our house in Gardena. Because if the government found out, they'll take it anyhow. So we had no house to come back to, but somehow or another, I guess Taul or somebody found this house at 446 South Boyle in Boyle Heights. And that was to be our home here in L.A. And I don't whose name that was in, because I wasn't twenty-one yet. But the day I turned twenty-one, I started to sign papers. I was a property owner.

TI: So, Frances, let me recap some of this, 'cause there was a lot there. So it sounded like as soon as people could start coming back to (California), you mentioned your future brother-in-law, Taul Watanabe. And it sounded like he was doing things like leasing buildings so that... what's the right word? So he was, I guess, making investments early on back in Little Tokyo, places like that.

FK: Right.

TI: And at this point, was it, when you say future brother-in-law, was your older sister Sachi dating Taul? Was there a connection at this point?

FK: I guess they were, I wasn't aware of it.

TI: But you, but you knew this man doing all these things, and later on, I guess it became clear when he married your sister.

FK: Yeah.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And then during this time, what was happening with your father now? Let's talk about your father and getting his work started again. What was he doing?

FK: Well, that's when... there was so much going on. We drove back, we didn't have a house to return to, because the house that we bought in Boyle Heights was not vacated. The previous owner was still living there, and there was a big housing shortage postwar. So she, in the meanwhile, we stayed -- I don't know where my father got all this stuff -- but we stayed in a boarding house in west L.A. Do you know Rosie Honda in west L.A.? Well, I didn't know what a boarding house was 'til I met her. It was a long building, rooms on both sides, and a kitchen at the middle or someplace. And they had it, they had this in west L.A. because a lot of the bachelor gardeners used to live there prior to the war, and they all had a place to live. And when the war ended and everyone flooded L.A. for housing, my father apparently had invested or given money towards this boarding house. So they opened up a couple of rooms for my family to sleep in. So there we were, sleeping and eating with strangers, just like camp again. And I don't know... anyhow, it seemed like it was non-ending.

TI: Well, a theme that comes through a lot in this interview is your father's connections.

FK: Right.

TI: Whether they were former patients or from donations that he gave or investments, it seemed that a lot of these came back into play later on in terms of helping the family.

FK: Right.

TI: And that seems to come up over and over and over again.

FK: I guess that's a Japanese thing. We use those key words, on or gaman or all that kind of stuff. I'm not sure where you fit 'em in.

TI: It's just more than, I think, any other interview I've done, this one keeps coming back and back and back. It's interesting. So your, so you found a place to stay, your boarding house...

FK: That was temporary.

TI: Temporary. And then eventually you moved to Boyle Heights.

FK: Yes.

TI: Eventually your father was able to return to the hospital and get that going?

FK: Yeah, but that's when he sent for this Frances Shimizu, she was a very capable Nisei. If she were alive today, she'd be a hundred and fifty years old. She's really a super lady. In fact, her family was quite prominent in Pasadena, Kato family. One of her brother-in-laws was an artist with one of the studios. He did scenes, I don't know art enough to say anything, but he was quite prominent.

TI: So Frances (Kato) Shimizu helped your father reestablish the hospital by getting, I guess, a lot of the furnishings and restocking and organizing and everything?

FK: Right. It was wiped out clean, I think.

TI: And in terms of patients, was it pretty much the same patients for your father that just would return to him, or was it different?

FK: They were there. He didn't advertise or anything, but they were there in the waiting room. And this was days before, before insurance and all that. So they would come in and take a number and wait, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And then back to you, so you're now Boyle Heights, you now still need to go to high school.

FK: Right.

TI: And so which high school do you go to now?

FK: Well, I went to Roosevelt for a couple of weeks until the crowd just kind of crashed in on me. I couldn't stand it, so when this new friend offered to find me a "domestic job" outside of the area, I asked my parents and they said, "Okay, go." In those days, you could get a job as, it was called "schoolgirl," for, I think it was twenty-five dollars a month, which covered streetcar fare, that's about it, room and board. And it was nice because it was indoor plumbing. [Laughs]

TI: That's another theme that comes up over and over again, indoor versus outdoor plumbing. So from Roosevelt, so when you went to schoolgirl, then you attended another high school.

FK: Hollywood High.

TI: So you really moved around to lots of high schools.

FK: Oh, yeah. It used to be at least two high schools every stop. In Fresno I went to two. In Fresno, aside from... that was Roosevelt High School also. They froze us out of that one area in Fresno, so we had to check out and go to Sanger Union High for two weeks, and they said, "Oh, we don't have to do that anymore, you could check out and go to Poston." And then Brighton High School in Colorado, and North High, and then... oh, where was I? Oh, Roosevelt, and then Hollywood High, only six.

TI: Okay. So you graduated from Hollywood High, and then what did you do after that?

FK: I went to L.A. City College.

TI: And what were you planning to study, or what did you study at L.A. City College?

FK: Elementary teaching.

TI: Oh, interesting.

FK: 'Cause I was a babysitter anyhow, so why not teach?

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And then so after you go there, I guess I'm looking at our time, and so I think we only have about fifteen more minutes. So I'm going to jump around a little bit. And I guess one question is, let's go to your, your marriage. How did you meet your husband?

FK: I don't know. I don't remember any one time.

TI: About what age, or how old were you when you first started dating Bruce?

FK: Oh, gosh, it seems like forever. [Laughs]

TI: So were you attending the City College when you first started dating Bruce?

FK: No.

TI: So this was after City College.

FK: Uh-huh. That's too long ago.

TI: Well, what kind of work were you doing after City College?

FK: I don't recall. Oh, I used to help in my father's office, typing and filing, the usual busy work. Of course, you had to answer the phone, so knowing Nihongo was a plus.

TI: I'm curious, after you got married to Bruce, you eventually moved back to Gardena. And I'm curious to ask you, so what changes had happened to Gardena while you were gone all these years?

FK: Well, I did eventually meet up with some of my grammar school friends. And one time, we had a, sort of a reunion. I was surprised that my hakujin friends said, "We didn't know what happened to you. All of a sudden, there were no Japanese in school." No one told them anything. And I thought, "You mean the teachers didn't tell 'em what happened to us?" It was like, "Who cares?" So that kind of hurt me. And then another girlfriend told me, "Well, Frances, after all you Japanese left, my GPA went up." I said, "You're kidding. Well, that's a plus."

TI: Because the curve kind of changed so then it was easier for her to get better grades?

FK: Yeah, "It was a plus for us," you know. [Laughs] I'll never hear that again.

TI: Any other changes that you noticed? How about just the people in terms of, you saw some of your old grammar school friends. Had the population changed very much while you were gone? Did it grow, did it, was it bigger than before?

FK: I don't know. I haven't been that observant. I guess I haven't been aware enough to take note.

TI: Okay. I'm going to just jump around a little bit. You, in terms of your family after you married, you had three children?

FK: Uh-huh. And first, why don't you tell me their names, of your three children.

TI: The firstborn was Jonathan Taro. I named him Taro after Bruce's father. And then my second child, my daughter, is Miki, M-I-K-I, Angela. Miki is my aunt's name in Nagasaki. And then my youngest one is Troy. And since my mother never had a son who lived long enough, Troy's Japanese name is Tashiro. So my mother was thrilled, she said, "Oh, sonna koto dekiru?" "Can you do that kind of thing?" I said, "Sure, I can name him anything I want." So he's the only Tashiro left. But then he went and had five girls. [Laughs]

TI: Now, it looks like you consciously gave each of your children either a first or a middle name that was Japanese.

FK: Yes.

TI: Why did you do that?

FK: Because they're more Japanese than anything else. It's something to be proud of, I think. And luckily, my grandchildren will have Japanese names. Oh, except my one and only grandson. Most of my grandchildren are girls, five, six, seven of them, but my one grandson, he doesn't have a Japanese name.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Now when you think about your, your grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren and generations, we're recording this for posterity, and if you think fifty, seventy-five years in the future, some of your relatives will see this. Is there anything that you'd want them to know about you or your life many generations later?

FK: Wow.

TI: What would be some of the things that maybe you'd like to say that are important to you in life?

FK: Oh, you should have asked me that last week, I could have written out. [Laughs]

TI: An essay on this.

FK: Right.

TI: But what just comes to mind? What are some of the values that you think are important? You mentioned being proud of being Japanese, I mean, why? What is it about being Japanese that you think is important?

FK: Well, for one, we were brought up to believe in being honest with people. And whatever you do, you should be proud and happy. And I know when I married my husband, we were talking about family, I said, "Whatever you do, I want you to make sure that we don't have to be embarrassed by whatever sinful thing that you may have done and will do, because you have to be able to hold your head up and be proud." And I'd rather have that then a pile of money, because both his parents and my parents were, as far as I know, they were humble people. But neither of them, none of them, to my knowledge, did anything that we would be shameful of, in fact, we're proud of. It seems like not that big a deal, but to me it is. Because there are some people who acquire things, but a lot of good that does once you're gone. Oh, if you had given me more time, I would have written...

TI: No, that was very well-said.

FK: Thank you.

TI: I'm glad you said that. Martha, was there anything that you want to ask?

MN: Just one thing about your father's books. Do you know what happened to them?

FK: After he died, most of them, books were in the attic in the house on Boyle Avenue.

MN: Then you folks didn't burn those books.

FK: No. We ordered packing cases, wooden packing cases, and we, I don't know how many cases we filled, we sent it to Nagasaki, because they had been totally obliterated. The daigaku in Nagasaki, they had one section of their library set aside in Dad's memory. Because I guess for the Japanese, books are the thing to have. And I guess most of it... well, their entire library was wiped out with one bomb. So I never did see that library, I've been there a couple of times. But they were grateful for it. And some of them were just old stuff, but for reference, I guess, they need it.

TI: Well, Frances, thank you so much for doing this interview.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.