Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marian Shingu Sata Interview
Narrator: Marian Shingu Sata
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 23, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-smarian-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Wednesday, September 23, 2009. Running the camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And today we're here with Marian Sata. And so Marian, I'm going to start with a basic question. Can you tell me when you were born and where?

MS: I was born August 31, 1935, at the Japanese hospital in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.

TI: That's interesting. I just, earlier this week, I interviewed Francis Kaji, whose father was Dr. Tashiro, who helped, worked at that hospital and started them. So who knows, he might have delivered you.

MS: Well, probably. My aunt was a nurse there.

TI: Oh, okay. So they probably, I'm sure they knew each other.

MS: They probably worked together.

TI: Now, what was your given name when you were born?

MS: Marian Taeko Shingu.

TI: And was there any meaning or reason that you were named that? Like were you named after anyone?

MS: No. I think my mother, "Taeko," I think means some sort of a gate, like a torii gate, and I think that's... well, I'm not sure about that.

TI: But they, they gave you a, sort of an American or a western European first name, but then your Japanese middle name.

MS: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So let me start with your father. Can you tell me where your father was from, and his name?

MS: My father was Lloyd Shuzo Shingu, and he came from Hiroshima when he was a teenager.

TI: And in the same way, his first name was Lloyd?

MS: No. That was a name that I think a Caucasian family gave him when he was attending high school in Alameda and he was a schoolboy. He lived with the family and did chores for them, and then they called him Lloyd, so he kept the name.

TI: Okay, good. And he was from Hiroshima. Do you know what his family did in Hiroshima?

MS: Oh, they were farmers.

TI: And in, earlier, during the phone conversation, you mentioned that his father or your grandfather was, while he was growing up in Hiroshima, his father was already in the United States?

MS: Yes. I'm not sure when he came, but he was not the oldest son, so he did not inherit any land. So he came over here to earn his mountain of gold, I guess, and then go back, but he never did go back, of course.

TI: And where did your grandfather do this farm work?

MS: In Hiroshima, in the outskirts of Hiroshima, the family had land there, I guess.

TI: Right. But then, I'm sorry, after your grandfather came to the United States, where in the United States?

MS: Oh, he first came to Hawaii, but he didn't stay there long. And then he came over to San Francisco and on into the Delta area near Sacramento, Stockton area. So he lived in Stockton.

TI: And at what point did your grandfather have your father? I mean, was it sort of after he had come to the United States, or was it before?

MS: I think it was before he came. And because my father wrote a little bio for my son a long time ago, and he said that he had not, when he arrived in the United States as a teenager, he had not seen his father for years. So he was afraid that he wouldn't recognize him. So I think most of my dad's life, he was with his grandparents or whomever took care of him in Japan, and I'm not sure of that. His parents were here in the U.S., working.

TI: Okay. Did your father have any siblings?

MS: He had a younger sister. She's probably two or three years younger.

TI: And was also the younger sister in Japan?

MS: Yes, with my dad.

TI: Okay. Yeah, it gets complicated when you have all these multi-generations. So your father and his sister, your aunt, were in Hiroshima, your grandfather was already in the United States working on a farm in the delta.

MS: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So why did your father come to the United States?

MS: Because at some point, and I don't know the year, but he heard, my grandfather said that the government of the United States would not allow any more aliens from Japan to come in, so he wanted him here, so to make plans to drop out of school and come right away. And I'm pretty sure he was in middle school then, which would have made him maybe...

TI: Do you know about when your father was born?

MS: He was born in 1903, July of 1903, and I think he, if that's the case, then... let's see, 1903, he probably came about 1915, '16.

TI: Okay, so he's, again, like a teenager. And as a teenager, where did your father go?

MS: Well, he said he stayed at Angel Island for a few days, and then he was released and his father met him. And then they went to, stayed in San Francisco for a few days and then went out to Stockton where my grandparents lived. And I guess my grandmother had gone back a few times, so she said to him, "My, how you've grown." [Laughs] And she said that he, it was quite a reunion for them. So anyway, he lived in the delta area for a little while, and then I think he went on to try to finish high school. So he went to Alameda because he had some sources there where they could find him a schoolboy job.

TI: Oh, so he, so your grandparents were still in the Stockton area, and he went down to Alameda, sort of the Bay Area.

MS: Right.

TI: And got a job. I'm curious, did your father ever talk about those early years and how he learned English? I mean, it must have been difficult trying to go to school, especially at the high school level.

MS: I think so. I think he, in fact, I was looking through some pictures, and he started at seventh grade, although if he had been in Japan he probably would have been older, too old to be in seventh grade. So he started with much younger kids in school, and then I think just learned his way until he graduated.

TI: And so he got a schoolboy job down in the Alameda area, went to high school down in Alameda.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: And after he graduated from high school, where did he go?

MS: I'm not sure what he did in between, and if he went immediately to school, but he attended Fresno State, I think, for a year or so. And then he transferred to USC, he came down here to find some work and went to school.

TI: So for him to go to college, it sounds like your grandparents must have been doing pretty well in the farm business?

MS: No, no, they were farmers. They worked as most of the Japanese did. I'm not sure that they even had their own place. But he, by then, I think my aunt was here and she was married to this, my uncle who was the manager of a very large ranch, and they grew vegetables. So I think they worked with them.

TI: And so did your father ever talk about how he afforded going to college? I mean, did he work?

MS: I'm sure he worked his way through. Tuition was nothing like today.

TI: Tell me -- I have a daughter at USC.

MS: Oh, you poor thing. [Laughs]

TI: I think it's, yeah, there's no way it cost that much back then. So he goes to USC, and about what year did he graduate?

MS: He graduated, got his bachelor's in 1930, and then he stayed on and got his master's in psychology in 1932. My brother, my stepbrother, wasn't sure about all that. So when he was at USC, he looked up all of the old papers that are in the library, and sure enough, my dad's thesis was still there.

TI: Do you recall what his thesis was on?

MS: Well, I'm sure it had something to do with psychology, but I've never read it.

TI: Yeah, I was interested in whether or not he gave any sort of Japanese perspective on psychology because of his background. It would be interesting to...

MS: Yeah, it would be interesting. Maybe I'll someday go look it up again.

TI: Did he ever mention why psychology?

MS: No. He said he, it was something that interested him, and so that's what he did.

TI: Because that, again, is a little different. Because being a son of farmers, usually the story is that if they did go to college, it would be for something much more practical, business or maybe...

MS: Medicine.

TI: ...medicine.

MS: Dental school.

TI: Exactly. Something that when you got out, you could probably work inside the community and get paid.

MS: Well, I think that's what he was told by his mother, but he still did what he pleased, I guess. Maybe he had that little rebelliousness about him, I don't know.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So as he's doing this, give me a sense of what your father was like. I mean, how would you, how did people describe him, or you would describe him? What was he like?

MS: Well, he was a very opinionated person, but he also was a very likable person. They say he was quite a cut up when he was young, and seemed to know how to enjoy life. But then I knew him as a very warm and loving dad. My friends have told me about times when they, the times they were growing up, their parents were very authoritarian. But my dad was never like that. Maybe it was because he learned something at USC. [Laughs]

TI: In psychology.

MS: Right, uh-huh.

TI: Well, and so do you remember anything in terms of, perhaps, how he raised you that would indicate a psychologist or a psychology major in terms of what he might have done?

MS: Well, he was a single parent because my mother passed away when I was a year and a half, so although I wasn't with him during my early developmental years, he never spanked, and he never yelled, he never raised his voice. When he said, "We need to talk," that's when I thought, "Uh-oh." [Laughs] So everything was, you know, done on a... what's the word?

TI: Like more positive?

MS: Yeah, more positive or encouraging level.

TI: Encouraging.

MS: Yeah.

TI: So he used, essentially, positive reinforcement is one, probably, psychology...

MS: Yeah, and for that period of time, child-raising era, that was a little bit different.

TI: And how about verbally? Did he talk very much with you about things?

MS: Well, once we were in camp and we were together, yes. My favorite things were at night when he would be at home, and then put me to bed, and he was a great storyteller. He would tell me, and he would just be making some of these things up, but he would just go on and on about stories in old Japan, or he'd just make up something. That's how I remember going to sleep every night.

TI: Oh, wonderful. So he would maybe take an old myth or story from Japan and maybe embellish it or change it and just make things up.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you ever recall other kind of stories besides Japanese? Did he have any, like, I don't know, any from Europe or America or anything else like that?

MS: No. Mostly it was based on his background, so it was about stories of the old Japanese farms and how he grew up in this little idyllic setting, very peaceful and quiet. Because it was always at nighttime when I was going to sleep, it was always kind of a peaceful kind of a story.

TI: So try, calming and put you to sleep. Now, as he told his stories, can you recall if there were like certain values that he was also trying to impart upon you?

MS: Oh, absolutely, yeah.

TI: And what would be an example of something that you can remember?

MS: Well, always giving back, because even though we were in camp, we were always told that there were less fortunate people, and we should always give back to... it wasn't told in that way, but I think that must have carried on. Because I've always had that sense, that whatever we have, we should share or give back to the community.

TI: So you were fortunate, many Niseis who have Issei parents, they just didn't have this kind of communication sometimes. You were fortunate.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: You mentioned your mother dying when you were a year and a half. So before we get there, let's talk about some of her background. Do you know where in Japan, where she was from?

MS: She came, her family came from Kumamoto. And, but she was born in Colton, California, which is in San Bernardino County. She was maybe the third of six children, five of them, the oldest five -- no, the oldest four were girls, then there was a son, and then another younger daughter that I'd never met.

TI: And do you know how your father met your mother?

MS: Not really. I think the Japanese community was pretty small. Her family lived somewhere in East L.A. or in south Pasadena, somewhere in between there. And they had a laundry business, and my dad said that all the fellows used to go there because there were these three beautiful sisters all under one roof. [Laughs] So it was a good place to go, I guess.

TI: So a lot of the, maybe all the college men at USC or something knew, had heard about your mother's family. So they got married in the early '30s, probably after he got his master's degree?

MS: I think it was 1933, but I'm not a hundred percent sure.

TI: But that would kind of work in terms of, then you were born in 1935.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: So you mentioned that she died when you were about a year and a half, so she was still a young woman. What happened?

MS: Oh, she had tuberculosis, and it was the days before they had even sulfur to help the disease. So she was in a sanitarium somewhere up in the foothills here. So my dad at the time was living in Gardena, so he had quite a trip to make from Gardena all the way to the foothills up here near Pasadena. But she died in 1938, I think, April.

TI: And during that time, someone must have, probably had to, would have to tell you. So if you're father's in Gardena and you're mother's in a sanitarium, who was taking care of you?

MS: Well, I'm not sure, but I think my grandmother had to come from Stockton to take care of me. I have some pictures of me as a, like a toddler, with my grandmother.

TI: And how did people describe your mother? What would they say if someone asked, "What was your mother like?" What would people say?

MS: Well, I've spoken with my aunt, her older sister, and she said, "Oh, she was very bright and very ambitious." She liked to take classes, and she was not educated beyond high school, I don't think, but she liked to take piano lessons and things like that. She was always trying to improve herself.

TI: And personality-wise?

MS: Oh, that she was a very gentle person.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So during this time, you mentioned your father was in Gardena. What was he doing in Gardena?

MS: Well, after he graduated, it was hard for him to find a job. I think he applied with the State Department to see if he could get into some sort of social services. But because he was not a citizen, that was just absolutely impossible. So he was offered a position as a Japanese school teacher. Actually, he became the principal of what they call Moneta Gakuen, which is a Japanese school in Gardena. And also he taught part-time at Terminal Island for the children of the fishermen off of San Pedro, the port there. So I think he was...

TI: Did, how much did he talk about being a, both teacher and principal of a Japanese language school?

MS: Well, he didn't say anything special about it. I think he was happy to have a position, have a job. And I think he, it gave him an awareness of the communities out in that part of the county. I think he was very instrumental in fundraising to build the school as well. And I recall that he said that before that, the kids would come to Japanese school after regular school and on Saturdays. He tried to make it more, expand it. He would have, he started the undokais, you know, the athletic things that they would do, and have picnics and things like that. But it was part of the community things that they started.

TI: Well, it was interesting. I guess yesterday... yesterday or two days ago, I interviewed a woman who grew up in Gardena, and she went to a different Japanese language school, but she described the Moneta language school as the "classy place." That was where it was viewed as the better language school, Japanese language school.

MS: Oh, really? That's interesting.

TI: It was interesting when you mentioned how your father tried to expand it. He was very well-educated, and so I can see him trying to do this. Because most cases, when you hear about language schools, most people would say, "Oh, we just hated going, it was just very strict, very rigid." And it's interesting to...

MS: Well, I think, though, that he did maintain law and order, because we have, I have a friend, now deceased, who was a kid in his class at the San Pedro school where he taught part-time. And he said, "The sensei was tough. You had to, you had to pay attention, or he'd be right there." [Laughs]

TI: Good. So, okay, principal of Moneta Gakuen, we talked about your mother dying when you were a year and a half. So after your mother passed away, what happened to you? Where were you raised?

MS: My father couldn't work and take care of me at the same time, so I went back up north with my grandmother to the Stockton area and lived with her until the war started.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So I'm guessing that your, probably your earliest childhood memories are more of Stockton then, that's what you can remember.

MS: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: So let's talk about that. What are some of your memories of Stockton growing up?

MS: Well, we lived on one of the delta islands called Terminus Island. And there were, it was part of the big land ranch that my uncle managed. And so we didn't live too far from my cousins, my dad's sister's children, the family lived not even a mile away, I don't think. So I was raised partly by my aunt, because she had her children to watch, and my grandmother continued to work the fields. I think she also did some cooking for the Japanese workers, farm workers.

TI: That's right, because earlier you mentioned how your father had a younger sister by about three years. And so she lived nearby, your grandparents or your father's... so they're up there. So it sounds like there was quite a bit of family up there. You had grandparents you were living with, your aunt, she had children, so you had cousins. And so what, how would you guys play, say you were with your cousins. What was that like?

MS: Well, what I could remember, because this was all before I was the age of five, they lived in this very big house with, on top of a, kind of a hill. And there would be the lawn that came down, we would roll down the hill. That was, that was one of our fun things, that we would roll and race down the hill. They had dogs and horses, so we always had pets about. And there were just the usual kid things to do, I guess. We didn't have any special, special things like swimming pools or anything, but you know, we were kids in the country, pretty free to play.

TI: But it sounded like a pretty wholesome childhood, I mean, out in the farm, lots of animals, lots of space.

MS: Right, uh-huh. And a very, well, where my grandparents lived was a little teeny house. But where my cousins lived was a rather large house. And I spent most of my days there, I think.

TI: So the bigger house where your aunt and uncle, so it'd be your father's brother-in-law, what did, why where they able to afford such a large house?

MS: Well, he was the manager, and I don't know how he worked himself into that position, but he was the manager of this very large farm. And he was very sort of ahead of his time in all kinds of ways. He had cameras and he filmed the farm life, he filmed us as kids, in fact, that was part of our entertainment, to watch ourselves. And he developed all kinds of new techniques for farming, I think. On the films that he took showing how they converted not-farmable land into good usable farmland, and diverted the delta water into irrigation ditches and whatnot. In fact, John Esaki at the museum has all these films now. The Futamachi family donated it all to them, to JANM.

TI: Well, it's wonderful that he documented, 'cause you hear about the stories of Japanese farmers who did that, they improved the land so they can farm. And to actually have film footage of that would be amazing. So he actually shows diverting water?

MS: Uh-huh, and putting rocks to build the lower part of, you know, I'm not sure exactly what they're doing, but it shows them packing up the onions that they farmed. And my cousin always talks about the stringless celery that my uncle was developing at the time, and that had he, had the war not started, maybe, we would have stringless celery. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so he had, he was working on that, kind of, I'm not sure what's the right word, but cross breeding or... not breeding.

MS: Yeah, developing something that was new.

TI: And was your brother-in-law, did he have like a college education, or where did he get this...

MS: I don't know much about his background. I just know that he, well, he came from Japan, too, from the same area. But I don't know how well-educated he was.

TI: And his last name, or his name was?

MS: Harry Futamachi.

TI: Okay, interesting. So you mentioned, so you grew up there, and at about five, you start school.

MS: Six, uh-huh.

TI: Okay, at six you started school.

MS: Yeah. And it was a small local school, there were first, second and third grades in one room, and I suppose fourth, fifth and sixth in another. But my oldest cousin was third grade, and my, and I was first grade. So I didn't speak a word of English. Fortunately, she was third grade and spoke a little English, so she could help me out for the first few months when we started school. But I think after, yeah, just a few short weeks or months, we were, we were speaking pretty well.

TI: So that's like total immersion. You had to, in some ways, sink or swim.

MS: Right. They had no pity on us. And I don't remember much about the school other than it was a, one classroom with many grades in it.

TI: Now, do you recall if the kids in your area, I'm thinking maybe your older cousin or something, did they go to Japanese language school?

MS: She did, uh-huh. And there was one nearby, and in the films that they took, there's all kinds of footages about the school and the undokais that they had, and the picnics and things like that.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So you were born in 1935, so when the war broke out, you would be about six years old.

MS: About six, uh-huh.

TI: So this is about the time Pearl Harbor was attacked. Do you have any recollection of that?

MS: Not at all. I only, the only recollection is that I know my grandparents were very, they were talking. But I didn't pay much attention to it, it didn't seem to affect me that much directly. I just remember that right before we had to relocate, my grandmother was disposing of Japanese things, my dolls and things like that all disappeared. I think she buried them in the backyard somewhere.

TI: Oh, so all these, anything to do with, Japanese dolls, books maybe, things like that were all gone.

MS: Yeah, just destroyed.

TI: Now, the property, the house, was that owned by...

MS: No, I think it was all owned by the owner of the ranch. So it's still there. 'Cause I've gone back to visit it with my cousin, the house and all the farm buildings, the sheds and the barns and all that, it's still there.

TI: And so when you go back and look at this, does it look pretty much the same?

MS: The house really does look the same. And even the little shack that my grandparents and I lived in is still there. And we drove by the school, it kind of seemed familiar.

TI: And what was the community name? I mean, you mentioned Stockton, but this...

MS: Yeah. It's closer to Lodi, which is a small town between Sacramento and Stockton. And then if you go west of that, there's a whole series of islands that are in, surrounded by the delta rivers. And the island was called Terminus Island.

TI: And so when people locally would ask you where you were from, Terminus Island would be how you would describe it.

MS: Well, mostly I think we said we were from Lodi.

TI: Lodi.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: And if you're in Lodi, then you say Terminus Island, for the real locals, I guess.

MS: Right, uh-huh, then they would know what that means.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So right before you had to go to camp, you remember things disappearing, and you thought, perhaps burying things. I now want to talk about your father. Because you mentioned earlier he was the principal of the Moneta Gakuen. And it was pretty common for leaders of the community, principals of Japanese language schools or kendo clubs to be picked up by the FBI after December 7, 1941. What happened to your father?

MS: That's a big mystery. I've asked, I asked him about it, but he never gave much detail other than he found a way to get back up to Stockton area so that he could be with my grandparents and me, so that we would not be separated. So I don't know what he told the authorities that let him come up, or if he came up, you know, illegally or whatever. But he came up after a while and told me that if he had to leave suddenly, that he would be back. So apparently they were watching him, and they knew where he was, but they never did take him away.

TI: Do you recall when he showed up in Lodi with...

MS: Well, it was always a big occasion for me when he came up. And my cousin says, yeah, "He always brought you lots of toys, and we didn't get anything." So I'm sure, I don't really recall that particular occasion, but I know that he always, we went for rides in his car and things like that. That was always special.

TI: Do you recall what kind of car he drove?

MS: He always had an Oldsmobile. Even to the day he died, he had an Oldsmobile. And he said that he, that was one of the things that he had to part with for hardly any money when they went, we went to camp, he had to sell his Oldsmobile, which he had just gotten, like maybe a few years or a year or so before.

TI: But of course he had to drive quite a bit, especially if he was, like, teaching on Terminal Island and going back and forth to Gardena and things like that.

MS: Yeah, he had to have a car.

TI: Earlier, when we were talking about this, you mentioned something that, I wasn't really clear about this. But it sounded like when he came up, he used a different name? His last name was Shingu...

MS: Yes, and he said that on his way up, and at that time, there was no I-5, so it took like twelve hours to get from L.A. to Stockton, he said he went by the name Mr. Shin, because, and pretended to be Chinese, because the anti-Japanese sentiment was pretty strong at that time.

TI: So if he had to talk to authorities or people coming up, it would be just easier for him to be Chinese, essentially...

MS: Uh-huh, right.

TI: ...than Japanese. Interesting. But, so he's now in Lodi with you and his parents. And then what happened next? So he had to sell his Oldsmobile.

MS: Right. I guess he got rid of everything in Gardena, not that he owned a house or anything, but he had a piano, because we got that back after the war. Some pieces of furniture that we got back, like the piano was covered with shoyu, so it was ruined. I guess they did that on purpose, I don't know. But anyway, we got some of that back after the war.

TI: And where was it stored? When you say it was...

MS: Well, apparently he had a Caucasian, somebody he knew who said that would take care of it for him. So we did get some of it back.

TI: And so eventually, the families had to leave Lodi. So where did your family go?

MS: Well, because we were in that area, we went to Stockton Assembly Center, and that was... my aunt lives near the Stockton Fairgrounds where the assembly center was. And so when we go down under the viaduct, under the railroad tracks, I remember walking there with my one suitcase full of... not full, but with some books and some toys. Even when, years and years later, when I would drive under that viaduct, I still remember that, walking from wherever they had assembled us to the trains, or down to the, up to the fairgrounds where we were, we stayed for a few months.

TI: And when you under that viaduct, even to this day, are there certain feelings that you have?

MS: Yeah, I always think, yeah, we walked on that side of the viaduct. And, of course, the street is much wider now, but I still have that peculiar feeling that we're going on a different, new adventure. Not very good one, but...

TI: And so I want to make sure I, maybe I misheard this. But your aunt's place was, is close enough so that you walked from her place?

MS: Well, no. This was after, when she returned after camp, many years later, she lived in the city of Stockton, and it was near this place.

TI: Okay, so it's interesting that she chose to live so close to the...

MS: Oh, yeah. [Laughs]

TI: the former assembly center.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So tell me about Stockton. What was Stockton like for you?

MS: The assembly center? Well, the one thing that I remember vividly was the heat, and there was no shade unless you went to grandstands and stood in the shade of that. And it was the heat of summer, and the San Joachin valley, a hundred and ten and hundred twenty degrees, and then chicken pox broke out, and we all, all the kids, got chicken pox. It was the most miserable few weeks, I'll never forget that.

TI: Oh, I just, I mean, you have probably fevers, it's hot, you're probably itchy.

MS: There's, you know, no medication to help relieve the itch. It was terrible. So that's the one vivid thing that I remember about Stockton assembly center.

TI: When you had chicken pox, did you just stay in your family, sort of, living quarters?

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: Describe the living quarters. You spent a lot of time there, probably. What was it like?

MS: Well, I don't really remember a whole lot about the place, but I think I told you that maybe my grandparents and my dad and I were all in one unit. But you know, the more I think about it, I think maybe we were in two separate units right adjacent to each other. Because we were in one of the horse stalls, and it was very small, just enough for a couple of cots. And then my cousins, who were like my siblings, were kind of across the way. So we still could play together.

TI: I'm curious, you said there was sort of an outbreak of chicken pox. Did your cousins also get the chicken pox?

MS: Oh, yes. My cousin Rose got it first, and then the rest of us all got it one after the other. [Laughs]

TI: And other than just staying in bed for a lot, I mean, was there any other medical kind of attention?

MS: I don't ever recall going to a doctor.

TI: At Stockton, did your father have any jobs? Did he have a job in...

MS: I don't remember, and I don't know. Probably not.

TI: And so during this time, this was a pretty big transition. Because prior to the war, your father lived in a different place, and now all of a sudden it's the two of you spending lots of time. How was that for you?

MS: Oh, I loved it, I think. I remember walking in the evenings with him around, around the camp. And he would pick up a piece of coal, and he says, "If you have enough of this and enough heat, it's something that burns and gives warmth." So he was always teaching me things.

TI: That must have been a good time for you, then, just to become reacquainted with your father.

MS: Right, uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's move on. So after Stockton, what happened?

MS: Well, we had that three-day trip through the desert, all the way to Rohwer, Arkansas. And there we were, in a different, entirely different kind of climate, from the desert to swamps, lots of bugs, mosquitoes. Rohwer was situated in... there was a more foresty part, and then there was the barren part, and we were more in the barren part. But my cousins were in the next block, and my dad and I had a small room, and my grandparents had a small room just adjacent to it. So we had two separate quarters.

TI: Good. Let me ask a little bit more about your father. I think about his education, he was well-educated, he had a master's degree from USC, he was fluent Japanese, in fact, a Japanese language instructor and principal. Were those skills utilized?

MS: Yes. He also had some leadership ability, so he became the assistant to the camp director, and he always was spokesperson, made all the announcements at meetings. I think he arranged for things like that. There were people who were discontented, they always came to him.

TI: And when you say announcements, I mean, announcements in Japanese or also in English?

MS: Mostly in Japanese, because the only people that didn't really understand Japanese were kids like us.

TI: And so like when it was a camp announcement, was there like a camp administrator also present when he would address the...

MS: Well, this was just for our block. There may have been camp-wide meetings that he presided over, but I didn't go, so I don't know.

TI: Okay, so he made, like, a lot of the block announcements, but he was also the assistant to the camp director for the whole camp?

MS: Right, uh-huh.

TI: So I'm guessing that made him pretty busy.

MS: Yeah, he was busy all day. Of course, during the school year, I was busy going to school, so it was okay, but my grandparents were always there, my aunt was always around.

TI: Right. So as an assistant to the camp director, was he, did he ever come under criticism by the community members, thinking perhaps he's a little bit too close to the administration? Do you recall anything like that?

MS: I don't recall any problems that he might have had. He didn't share them with me, but I know that he was well-known and liked, and people knew who I was because of who he was in camp.

TI: And so generally, on a personal basis, your treatment was nice. I mean, people knew that you were the daughter of the assistant to the camp director, and people treated you well.

MS: Yeah.

TI: So that's a good indicator that people respected and liked you. It's just that in other camps, there's always been -- and each camp is different -- but sometimes people who helped the administration were sort of targeted as sort of... "traitor" may not be the right word.

MS: Yeah, right.

TI: But someone who is sort of selling out, and I was just curious if your father had to deal with any of that.

MS: Well, he may have, but I don't... he never passed it on to me.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: You mentioned while your father was the camp director, or the assistant to the camp director, that you were going to school. So what are some memories of school at Rohwer?

MS: Well, very cold that first year. I remember that it was just a dismal place, because they hadn't made any desks, we just had these benches to sit on. I don't know if we had any books, even, but I guess we had something that taught us how to read. I was second grade by then.

TI: And so these benches, you would use them to write on and things like that?

MS: I don't know. I brought the book that I mentioned to you that has a picture of my class. So this is me there.

TI: Oh, this is... yeah, I've seen this photograph.

TI: Yeah, I don't see any desks. [Laughs]

MS: No. But I know as time went on, when I was in... let's see, this was second grade, fourth grade, which was the last year I was in camp, I remember sitting in regular desks with the writing arm.

TI: And when you were not in school, class, what would you do to spend your time?

MS: Well, I guess we, the block kids all did the usual things like Kick the Can and play with the meager things that we had. I think we did a lot of jacks, the girls played jacks. We played, made paper dolls, we just drew and made clothes for the paper dolls.

TI: And during mealtime, what did you do during mealtime? Who did you eat with?

MS: Oh, I always ate with my dad and my grandparents, we always ate together, and my cousins, I guess. Well, no, we didn't, because we were in a different camp. I mean, they were in the next block.

TI: And what did your grandparents do during the day?

MS: Well, my... I don't think that they worked, unless they did some of the menial things like cleaning the washrooms or something like that. But I know my grandfather always had a little garden that he would plant morning glories to shade his porch from the hot sun during the summertime. He had -- I don't know where he got the seeds -- but he would plant things. I don't know what else they did, just sat around and enjoyed their non-laboring time, I guess, 'cause they had to work so hard most of their lives.

TI: How about excursions outside of the camp? Did you ever go with your father maybe outside the camp to a town or anything like that?

MS: No. My dad, during camp time, remarried a widower with, a widow with two children. So my lifestyle somewhat changed after a while. And he was out, going out of camp the last couple of years trying to find work so that when we relocated, he would have something to do to support, now, this very large family. But I never went out of camp during the whole three years that we were in camp.

TI: So tell me about your stepmother and your step, sort of, siblings.

MS: Well, she was, lived in L.A., and her husband passed away, leaving her with two children. My stepbrother was three and my stepsister was five at the time. And she tried to support them by living in a friend's hotel in a room, and then she would be the maid, she would change the sheets, and that was her room and board. But she always worried that she would not be able to support them, and that they would take the children away and put them in the Japanese orphanage. So she said she was determined that that would not happen. So when the war started and they had to be relocated, it was almost a relief for her that she didn't have to be separated from her kids. She's a very strong person, a beautiful woman, she still is. She still lives, she's still alive and lives in Keiro. But she came, she was born in San Francisco, but she went back to Japan with her whole family when she was about twelve. She hated Japan because they made fun of her because she didn't speak perfect Japanese, and she had an English accent. So the minute she graduated from high school, her future husband came back to the town, Fukuoka, to find a bride, she said, "Me." So she came back when she was eighteen, and so she had no family here because her whole family, she had many siblings, but they were all in Japan. So when she came back, and her husband, I'm not sure what he died from, something horrible. But she had nobody except her friends. So she had to be very strong to survive.

TI: Tell me about your stepsister and stepbrother. I mean, all of a sudden, now you're kind of big sister.

MS: Yes. She's a year younger, and my brother, my stepbrother is three years younger. We always got along, but I didn't know how to be a big sister, 'cause I'd been an only child for all these years. So I was always amazed when she would be worrying about my brother not coming home right when he was supposed to be there. And I said, "What is she worried about?" But she was always taught to look after him, and I just never did. And to this day, she's still kind of the take-charge person in our family. Makes all the arrangements, who's going to drive Mom to the doctor this time, and I just let her do it because that's what she does well.

TI: Good. Any other memories from Rohwer that kind of stand out for you?

MS: Well, there was one time, you were talking about what we did to play. We were playing something, and there was barbed wire nearby. So I ran after the ball and then got hooked on a barbed wire, and I still have scars on my leg where they had to take, like, fifteen stitches from the barbed wire. So barbed wire didn't, it was not real safe.

TI: Especially for children playing with balls and things, run right into the...

MS: Uh-huh. That was, I always had these scars there.

TI: Do you remember going to the, to the hospital or something to get the stitches?

MS: Oh, yes. And, you know, no, nothing to numb it, they just stitched it. And my mother, my stepmother at that time, she said, oh, I screamed and screamed. But you know, that's the way it was.

TI: Wow, that must have been hard also for the doctor to have to stitch up a little girl that's screaming in pain.

MS: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember, when you run into the barbed wire like that, did you get in trouble, or what was the reaction of the adults about that?

MS: No, I didn't get in trouble. I think they went to get my stepmother right away, and I think they called a, quote, "ambulance" and drove me to the hospital, which is a few blocks away, and then drove me back. That's all I really remember about it.

TI: Okay, that's a good story.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So Marian, we're going to start the second hour. And we were in Rohwer, and we talked about that. And something you mentioned was your father would sometimes go outside camp to try to find jobs. And I was trying, was he ever successful? Was he able to find something for the family?

MS: Well, there was, one that interested him was a teaching position at Antioch College in Ohio, and I think he really would have liked to have done that. But my, he was responsible for my grandparents, and they didn't want to go to Ohio, they wanted to come back to California. So he turned that down, and who knows what would have happened had he made that fork in road. It would have probably been what he had studied, and been very fulfilling for him. And I know he went to Nebraska for some job interview. I think it was more, you know, physical kind of work, I don't know what it was. Those are the only two that I recall. So I don't know when it came about or how it came about that a group of seven families decided they would go and start a farming community in Little Rock, Arkansas, and so that's what we ended up, where we ended up.

TI: Oh, so this is interesting. Because you don't hear very many Japanese or Japanese Americans resettling in Arkansas. And so why don't, so describe to me, first, what type of farming did the seven families do?

MS: Well, I think it was all headed up by my uncle Harry who was the true farmer. And I know this was always going to be a temporary thing, just for a few years until things settled back down in California so that hard feelings would subside, and maybe they could have a little bit easier life in California. So I think all these, the seven families knew one another from Stockton, they all came from the same area. And so they decided to do vegetable farming. And at some point they must have gone out to scout places that might work. And I didn't learn about this until I met with my friend in Little Rock that we met when we went to Little Rock for a reunion a few years ago. And she taught me that her uncle was the plantation owner that my parents and the seven families leased land from. And the only requirement was that the land be very farmable, and that it be near water. I don't know how many acres, but it was quite a bit of land. It was right near what they called Old River, it was a tributary of the Arkansas River that had been cut off, so it was more like a lake, so they could irrigate. And Mr. Alexander, George Alexander, the plantation owner, agreed to lease the land to them. And they worked out some sort of agreement like the Japanese families would get sixty percent and he would take forty percent, or something like that.

TI: So kind of like a sharecropping...

MS: Yes, uh-huh. So, and truck farming had never been done in that area, it was all cotton. So this was some new venture. And I guess -- and my friend, the granddaughter of, or the niece of Mr. Alexander, said that they worked out a deal where he would, he insisted that we kids would be able to attend the white schools. And he said that we needed to be well-educated because he could, he knew that we were bright enough to be able to handle it. And that community was not for our coming into this little farming community, but that he would attest to our behavior. And so he stood up for us.

TI: So Mr. Alexander, George Alexander, the plantation owner, he must have had considerable clout within that area for him to...

MS: He was a huge landowner. He owned huge tracts of land up there, or there.

TI: Do you know how the families got connected to George Alexander?

MS: I don't know how that all came about. These are these little trips, so my dad would take off for a weekend or for a few weeks, and it must have happened on one of those ventures.

TI: But based on the venture, it sounds like the families had the idea, and they, perhaps, approached him with the idea.

MS: Uh-huh, I think so, yeah. So, and I didn't know that he had stuck his neck out for us until my friend Bitsy told me that that's what her mother had told her. So this reunion that we had in Arkansas a few years ago was, we had lunch together. I learned so much about what, how much they did for us to make us part of the community there.

TI: So how does this make you feel after all these years? Because that reunion was, it must have been about five, six years ago, so it wasn't that long ago, to hear about these acts of kindness that you didn't even know about.

MS: Well, it was really mind-boggling to me. I thought that we had to fight for every bit that we had all along the way, but we did have help. So kind of restored my faith in humanity, I guess, sort of. There were other people that helped us too along the way. They, I remember needing to use the public library, but you couldn't own, you couldn't use the library unless you had a card. And the only way you could get a card is to be a landowner. So I was thinking, "What am I going to do?" And this man who was standing behind me says, "Here, I'll sign for your card." He didn't know me from anybody. But, you know, there were a few people that helped us along the way. Now, if we were a Japanese community of thousands, I don't know that it would happen. But since we were just a few families, that people treated us kindly.

TI: And so how do you think the community viewed the seven families? I mean, you're right, there were just a few of you. And, I mean, especially as, after the camps closed and the other Japanese left the area, and you were pretty much the only ones left, what did people think about you and the others?

MS: Well, people that we kids directly had contact with, teachers and students, were always kind to us, and we attended the local community church. And we felt pretty welcome. And I know that during the winters, when there were hardly any crops to be sold, my parents had credit at the local grocery store, so they must have trusted us. But I don't know, maybe it took a few, couple years to earn that trust, I don't know.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Now, was there any confusion, like when you were in school, that you were an American citizen, that you were born in the United States? Was that ever, was that ever confusing to some people?

MS: Maybe to some of the students, but I think, before we even started, Mr. Alexander had given our story to the principal and the teachers, so they all knew what they were, that we were coming. We started school that year, that first year, very late. There was a local school called Scott School that we all attended, it was from first grade all the way through high school. So we all went to the same school. We started school late that year, because my youngest brother, my half-brother was born in camp on August 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it's his birthday. So we couldn't move out of camp until he was a few weeks old. So school starts in, like, August, early, and then so we were probably six weeks late starting school.

TI: And so that's a difficult situation for any child, to kind of start late, after six weeks, the class gets formed and people get to know each other. So do you remember walking in that classroom, and was that hard for you?

MS: Well, it was probably harder for the students, because they'd never seen Asian people before. But we were accepted. I don't recall any acts of meanness or criticism or anything. And, of course, we excelled in school, so I think that helped, too. But they knew that we could keep up.

TI: Do you recall any of the white students reaching out to you in friendship in those early weeks?

MS: Not any particular incident, but I'm sure they did. We always had friends.

TI: Now you mentioned you excelled, but, so how many students, Japanese students came from these seven families?

MS: Let's see. There were, Yoshimuras there were probably three kids, and then Bob Yada was five... six, seven, eight, nine, ten, maybe twelve, fifteen kids.

TI: So there was a fairly large group that would start. And any, did any of the Japanese have any problems that you were aware of?

MS: No, I don't think so.

TI: So you were, let's see, about what grade did you start?

MS: I started in fifth grade, and stayed there until, through eighth grade. And then when it was time to go to high school, most of the plantation owners' children went to Little Rock High School, which was a little bit of a commute, maybe a half an hour. And they would all carpool and commute together. And my dad wanted us to go to Little Rock High School also. So that's how, when I got to ninth grade, or tenth grade, must be tenth grade, we commuted to Little Rock High School every day.

TI: Now, by this time, did your cousin, was she also going to Little Rock?

MS: No. They had, my uncle Harry had passed away while we were in Arkansas, he had a brain tumor. And so he passed away, and their family moved away when I think she was fifteen, or maybe younger, fourteen, something like that. So they went to Cincinnati, Ohio, because my uncle Harry had a brother there. They only stayed there about a year because it was just, life was just too difficult for my aunt. And she moved, and they moved back to California, they moved back to Stockton. And she, I don't know how she did it, but she managed to raise the three kids and provide for them, and doing housework. She really had a hard, hard life.

TI: It sounds like it.

MS: Yeah.

TI: It sounds like, and your cousin had to, it was difficult for her also to lose her father and to be moved around so much.

MS: Yeah. But they, well, they always had to be working, too, doing whatever jobs they can get babysitting or whatever.

TI: Now, when your uncle Harry died in Arkansas, what kind of service did the family have?

MS: They had a Buddhist service, and I think... I think somebody from Chicago came down, 'cause there was a little community in Chicago right after the war, and I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I know that it was a Buddhist service, and he was cremated. Because we used to order Japanese food from Chicago so we would have soy sauce and things like that.

TI: And to go from Chicago to Little Rock, that's still a long ways. Would someone... took a train down?

MS: No, I think they did mail order. 'Cause we did, they had friends in Chicago, too, who would, my mother's friends lived in Chicago. So I think they had them shipped.

TI: Okay, so they shipped down, like, goods. But I was thinking of the Buddhist priest, when, to do the service.

MS: You know, I'm not a hundred percent certain about that. I'm going to have to ask my cousin.

TI: That's interesting. And it must have also been a huge blow to the families, because your uncle Harry was the one true farmer of the group who knew what he was doing.

MS: Right. Well, by that time, I think we didn't all live in one area. I think there were, I know uncle Harry had bought land in North Little Rock, he had his own place, and maybe a couple of the other families also had purchased land, and I'm sure that there were a couple of other families that did.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So at the point they started buying land, earlier you mentioned how the plan was this was going to be a temporary thing, "After things settle down in California, we'll move there." But once they started buying land, was the sense that they might stay there?

MS: I guess so, because the Sam Yada's family bought land. They were still within that little compound when we left seven years later, and he bought lots of land afterwards. He didn't buy land to farm, though, he bought land to, for a nursery, I believe. He started a nursery business. My uncle Harry's land got leased out. And I think that's part of, that was part of my aunt's income, and they didn't sell it for a long, long time. The other families did eventually move back to California.

TI: But while they were there, you mentioned how you were doing a lot of truck farming, vegetables, and that they were pretty successful doing this. How would you know? What made you say they were successful? What would be an example of their success?

MS: Well, the vegetables were so much nicer than what was in the Safeway markets there, Kroger markets. And people used to come to the farm to see how we did it. And the irrigation pumps that pumped the water out, that was all something that had not been done there before. So...

TI: So a lot of innovations that probably your uncle learned in California, he brought to Arkansas.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: And where would the family sell their produce? How would they sell it?

MS: Well, every morning, we were kind of the central location, we had a telephone. And every morning they would call special markets like the Kroger markets, and some of the bigger markets in Little Rock, in North Little Rock, and they would take their order. So this would be for the next day. So that day they would divvy it up according to how many people had beets or how many people had onions or whatever, tomatoes or whatever the season was, they would divide up so many bushels of this, and, "Mr. Yada, you make this many," you know. And that's, that was how they did it. I remember a lot of times that they would ship it out, I mean, one of them would have to drive the produce the next morning really early to the stores. And sometimes there would be rain, and the trucks would get stuck. I remember once, it was just a really bad rainy season, and the truck got stuck and they could never, they couldn't get the truck out of the mud. So we just lost that whole order, and my dad was so disappointed, I remember that.

TI: Because the truck was filled with produce, ready for the market, and they got stuck, and everyone's out there trying to...

MS: Push it, and we had the tractor out there pulling, and just nothing would move that thing. So they lost that. So, you know, that's the way farming is, I think, it's sort of risky. But in a short time, they, we were there seven years, and they made enough money and saved enough money that they bought a car and drove back to California, they bought a house. You had to have some savings to be able to do that.

TI: When... I'm trying to think... oh, in terms of, so when the order came in and they had a harvest, was it like an all-family type of thing, too, where the kids sometimes helped out with harvesting or the preparation?

MS: Well, in the summertime, we were, we helped out. I always, I hated to go out in the sun and work in the field. So my job was to do the ironing, and my baby brother would be taking a nap at that time, so I would be the one to watch. And when he woke up, I would carry him on my back all the way to the fields where my mother was working. So we all had our little chores. We didn't work out in the field a lot, but sometimes.

TI: And so your father was, during this time, a farmer. And even though he had this advanced degree, he had to farm.

MS: Yeah.

TI: Did he ever express frustration, did he ever see, sort of, him regretting...

MS: No, he never complained, but I know my grandmother on occasion, she sometimes had a little mean streak. She would say, "I told you so," kind of, kind of attitude. "You should have been a doctor," or whatever. But generally my dad had four kids, his parents, wife to support, so I think he was just too busy to even worry about all that. He just had mouths to feed and shoes to buy. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So earlier we were talking about your schooling. And so you went through elementary school, up until right before high school in Scott. And then for high school, you went to Little Rock High School. And so I want to ask you, so what was Little Rock High School like?

MS: Well, at that time it was, of course, all white. It was a few years before the (nine) black children were allowed to attend. So I just thought it was just such a special place, I just loved the school, very high standards, excellent teachers, there was all the amenities of high school. Football team, band, choral groups, stage productions, it was a wonderful experience for me.

TI: Now, so Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas.

MS: Yes, and it was, at that time, the only school. It was called Little Rock High School in those days, now it's called Little Rock Central, because there are a couple of other high schools.

TI: But so being the only high school in the state capital, did, was, like the town the town elite, did they send all their kids to Little Rock?

MS: I think so. I think...

TI: So like if the mayor had a child, they would go there, or the governor, people like that?

MS: I would presume so, but I wasn't aware of people with special titles, kids of special people. I had a few friends who were really nice, and made me feel at home. And so I ate lunch with them and had my, we had clubs, so I was able to join a club. The second year, I didn't commute. I don't know who found me this job, but I did a schoolgirl job where I lived in and helped this elderly couple clean the house, did the ironing, and walked the dog and things like that.

TI: And so you did this pretty much to get room and board so that it would be a lot easier for you to attend, attend high school.

MS: Right.

TI: I'm wondering, there were other Japanese families back in Scott, but were you the first Japanese to go to Little Rock?

MS: Well, I learned at the reunion a few years ago that there was someone ahead of us that attended Little Rock High School and graduated. I did not graduate from Little Rock High School because we came back in my senior year to California. But we were definitely a few of us there.

TI: Yeah, so that's what I wanted to ask. In addition to you, were there any other Japanese during the time you were there?

MS: No. My sister came in the year after, my stepsister. There were just two of us and then Bob Yada was about, I think he came in the year I left. He was a couple years younger.

TI: I'm curious, do you know if there were any Japanese there when they integrated the school in terms of having African Americans?

MS: They did. Bob Yada's younger brother, I forgot his name. But anyway, he said that during that time that things were so volatile that they transferred to North Little Rock High School for a year.

TI: Oh, so that year they actually did the integration, they transferred?

MS: Uh-huh, and then came back. So they graduated from Little Rock, but it was just too volatile.

TI: Did, so when they did that, volatile, was any of the like in terms of hostilities directed towards the Japanese?

MS: I don't think so. I think it was just against the black children, and they just didn't want to be in that kind of environment. I'm sure it affected the classrooms also.

TI: So a huge distraction, the media, the police and everyone there, the protesters. So you mentioned that you weren't the first Japanese American there. Do you know who was?

MS: I should know this, but I don't remember the name. My sister remembers all these things, so she would know.

TI: But this was one of, not from one of the seven families? This was a different family?

MS: No, it was one of the... but they didn't live right nearby, they farmed in another area, so we didn't know them very well. I think their name might have been Oshiro or something like that. But she apparently was the first non-white person to attend Little Rock Central High School.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And how, what kind of student were you at Little Rock? If people were to talk about Marian as a student, what would they say?

MS: Oh, I probably wasn't the top student, because the school had very, very high standards. But I did very well, probably B-plus. [Laughs] There's certain subjects that I excel in, and others like math and science that I don't like, so probably didn't do as well.

TI: And you mentioned clubs? What clubs did you...

MS: Oh, they had these service clubs for each grade level and they met after school once a week or a couple times a week, and I was able to participate in that. And then on the, like Fridays, they would have their football games so I would stay and enjoy that.

TI: In these clubs or activities, were you ever singled out to participate in anything special?

MS: Not in the clubs so much, but I was asked to attend Arkansas Girls State when I finished my junior year just before we came back to California. So that was an entirely new experience that I had that had never, never had anything like that before. It was summer camp where they learn about state government. I don't know if they have them anymore, but every state used to have Girls and Boys State. So I was one of the two representatives from my high school.

TI: And so here you have representatives from all the high schools. Now, was this... I'm guessing back then it was segregated, so this was only...

MS: Only white kids.

TI: Only white kids. So you were, in this case, the only non-white.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: And the people at Little Rock High School kind of knew you because you were going there. Did you get any reaction from the other students at Girls State?

MS: No, I don't recall being singled out or anything. 'Cause back then, you know, you're either white or you're black. You drink out of the black fountain or the white fountain, or you sit in the front of the bus or you sit in the back of the bus. There's just no, nothing in between. And then since were considered, quote, "white," everyone treated us that way.

TI: But was there any curiosity in terms of asking what your background and where you came from?

MS: They all knew that we came from Rohwer, that there was a camp there. They didn't know much about what happened in the camps or why we were there, but they knew that that was why we were in Arkansas. So we got stared at a lot, but you know, you get used to that after a while.

TI: So did it ever come up in any of your classes where you were asked to explain the camps or who was there, why they were there or anything?

MS: Not really. I had to write an autobiography once, and I know that the teachers were passing it around amongst themselves because they were very curious to know our background. This was when I was maybe seventh grade, so it was very sketchy, and I wish I had the copy of that, but I don't. But they were really curious about our background.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. But it was, was it viewed as maybe not polite to ask you directly what happened? Why not just have you talk about it?

MS: I don't know why they didn't ask. Maybe they thought that we were still too sensitive about it, I don't know. But everything was told before we arrived. It was channeled, you know, through certain ways, and they never really, I don't ever recall being asked direct questions about our camp life.

TI: How was it for you on, like, the anniversary of December 7th, the bombing of Pearl Harbor? When Pearl Harbor Day came up, how did you feel on that day?

MS: In Arkansas?

TI: In Arkansas.

MS: I don't ever recall it being brought up. You know, I just don't think that they... well, maybe they did, but at least it never affected me.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: The other question I have, so you're in high school, you're, it sounds like you're popular, they elected you to Girls State. As a junior in high school, it's about the time when girls start noticing boys, boys start noticing girls. Was there ever any dating that you participated in?

MS: No. There were group activities that we were invited to, most of them things like hayrides, because it was still pretty rural. But I never went to any dances or things like that, ever. Everything was a group activity, going to the football game or something like that was about it. But I'm sure, and I know that's one of the reasons that my dad decided that it was time to come back to California, because we were getting interested in the opposite sex, and he was still the old fashioned school where, you know, you had to marry Japanese. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so do you think that was one of the contributing factors of going back to California?

MS: Right, I'm sure it was. Plus, I think they had had a couple of good years on the farm. And so they felt they had enough to start again in California.

TI: So when you guys decided to leave, was there any, oh, I guess maybe event to signify your leaving? Like the other families, did they say goodbye to you? Do you remember any goodbyes from either the Japanese or Mr. Alexander or anything like that?

MS: Well, I don't recall any big party or anything like that, but I know Mrs. Alexander or Mr. Alexander's mother gave us, gave my mother some special crystal or something that we still have. The other families knew, must have known that we were leaving because my dad didn't plant crops that would be harvested after we left. We came back in August. So they must have planted. I was just too much into my own world, I just didn't pay attention to all these little omens that were happening.

TI: And so suddenly, it sounds like, you're leaving Arkansas to go to California. How did you feel about that?

MS: Well, I wanted to stay and finish my high school years there, but my dad was absolutely adamant that we come back. The other sad part was that we had to leave our dog. And Mr. Yada moved into the house where we lived, and he said that dog just pined away. Oh, it still makes me sad, because we wanted, I wanted to bring the dog back with us. But my dad said no way we could do that, 'cause we drove all the way down Highway, Route 66.

TI: So where in California did you resettle?

MS: We came to Pasadena where we have lived ever since.

TI: So this is about 1952?

MS: '52, uh-huh. And my dad had some friends who had settled in Pasadena, my mother had always, stepmother had always loved Pasadena, she said it was the most beautiful town. And so we came and stayed with friends, started high school, and then shortly after school started, my parents found a house and he started his gardening route. So he worked as a gardener until I think my sister and I were in college. And then he started studying to become an insurance agent, and so he sold mutual funds and became an insurance agent and serviced most of the Japanese-speaking people.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Yeah, so I want to go back to you a little bit. So here you were in Little Rock High School, which, besides you and your sister, was all white. So describe when you went to Pasadena. What was the makeup of your new high school?

MS: [Laughs] Well, it was mostly white in those days, Muir High School. And there was, well, a sizeable Japanese community and some black children. Not too many, but they were... but it was so, to me, cliquish. All the Japanese kids ate at one table at lunch and kind of stuck together all day long. I didn't understand that, that was really strange for me. But I still meet with some of my friends, my Japanese friends who befriended me in those days, and they all, they tell me how they thought that I was very snotty, that I wouldn't sit in the back of the bus. I said, "Well, I just came from the deep South. How would you expect me to sit in the back of the bus?" But they still tease me about that. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's interesting. Because it was such a, probably shock in terms of culture shock, from coming from the deep South, segregated society, then go to a high school where not only whites but blacks, Japanese. So at lunchtime, where did you sit?

MS: Well, I sat with the Japanese kids because the Japanese kids weren't really close to the white kids. They were still a step down. So I adjusted to that, but that was an adjustment. I was not comfortable with that for a long time. But then that's the way the whole system worked in those days. You had little clubs, not in school but outside of school that were social clubs, the girls clubs and boys clubs, had dances, and that's how you met, met other people.

TI: So I'm curious, so as a senior, did you start dating? Did you start dating Japanese...

MS: Yeah, I did. But there was... well, Pasadena was Cal Tech and there were a couple of guys at Cal Tech that used to come over, so I had a boyfriend. [Laughs] So that was okay, my dad was okay with that because he was a Japanese guy and he was at Cal Tech.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So I'm going to switch gears now. You're now in Pasadena, and all of a sudden, there's this huge national hoopla about Little Rock High School being integrated. And so it must have been kind of a weird sensation for you to be reading in the national news or on TV about your old high school.

MS: It was. I think it was the first year I was teaching, maybe like 1958, was it, I'm not sure. But I was teaching, and all of this was going on and I just had the hardest time concentrating on teaching. [Laughs] Because I wanted to go home and see, watch what was going on or read about it in the paper. It was... it was something that was very hard to imagine. In my mind it was a peaceful, beautiful place that I had just loved, and now it was being stormed by all these state troopers and all these people carrying placards. It just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I mean, the hysteria. It was the right thing to do to integrate the school, of course.

TI: And do you think, from what you know, how well did the media tell the story in terms of the rest of the country? I mean, here you knew the school, the people, and as you watched what was going on, one, you weren't there, so you're not really sure. But did you think Little Rock and the people from Little Rock were getting a fair deal in terms of how they were being portrayed?

MS: Well, at that time, I think that it was... I always knew it was the right thing that needed to get done, and I felt the governor was behaving very badly because he was the one who called in the state troopers, and why couldn't they have done it in a different, more calming way. But yes, at that time, that's the way it was. It was hard to break from old stereotypes and rules.

TI: But in addition to the governor, I mean, when I think back to those images, it just, there was, in the faces, a lot of, it seemed like, anger or hatred. And these were, I mean, you were older, so they weren't the same students. But yet, they were essentially, the same people that you grew up with. So what did that tell you? What did you think about that?

MS: Well, you know, I never thought of it was the same people that I grew up with. Because I felt that they were very tolerant in accepting us. I felt that they were more the rednecks that come out of the woodworks when things like this happen. So I never equated the same people I knew with the people that I saw on the TV, the anger and all of that.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So what you saw on the screen was maybe a certain segment of that population.

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: And yet, the people that you knew, you wouldn't equate them with that same segment.

MS: I didn't at the time. I'm sure that they felt some of that same emotion, but that's just not how they came across as I knew them.

TI: Did you ever communicate with anyone in Arkansas, whether it's the Yadas or former classmates about what was happening?

MS: No. I kept up correspondence with a friend for a few years, but kind of fizzled out after a while and it just became Christmas cards and then eventually nothing. And Bob, my parents kept in touch with the Yada family. And then, you know, we reunited when we had the reunion a few years ago. And I, he called a couple times, he came out here once. But I think it's just up to him to keep in touch, 'cause his wife is not interested. She's a Caucasian lady. And I think he's just busy with his own life, that he hasn't kept in touch. But I send Christmas cards to him every year.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So I'm going to shift gears again here. Because the Pasadena schools had their own issue about segregation or integration. And can you talk about that in terms of the Pasadena schools and some of their issues?

MS: Yes. We were the first northern, quote "northern schools" to be court-ordered to integrate. And my oldest son was going into first grade that year, that first year. So by that time, I had become a really strong proponent of public education. And so we formed a new chapter of the JACL so that we could move forward. There were a group of us who felt very strongly about this. So through this new JACL chapter, we were able to just move forward with the school district, administration, and over the years, try to develop a curriculum that integrated some of our experiences into the school curriculum. And we felt that doing it in the elementary schools would be the best thing. And we wanted to do it while our kids were in elementary school, so there was a little bit of urgency to that. So anyway, that was how we... and it was very discouraging because every year there would be more white children dropping out, more families that shared the same values that we shared, moving to Arcadia, to La Canada, to nearby cities that weren't court-ordered to integrate. So it was very discouraging at times, but we kept it up for, until we were, we felt that we did develop all kinds of new things that I thought was a good thing.

TI: So help me, explain again the court order and why there was a need to integrate. I mean, what was going on in Pasadena that forced the court order?

MS: Well, Pasadena has a corner of the older Pasadena called the Northwest. It was all mostly minority students. And the usual thing, they got the youngest and the least experienced teachers, they got, they were the last to get new textbooks, you know, the usual thing. And so a white family from one of the wealthier areas brought a lawsuit and won. So that's what brought the court-ordered integration order about. And...

TI: And so I'm not clear. So this one family, white family, brought a lawsuit to do what?

MS: To integrate the school so that all children in every school would be, have equal access to whatever was available.

TI: Because prior to that, could the non-white students attend the other schools? So they were prevented?

MS: No, because you went to school in the area that you lived.

TI: And tell me why the non-whites lived just in one part of town and not other parts.

MS: Well, Pasadena, you know, has always been a very wealthy community. But we've always had a minority segment of the community to service the upper-class whites. Which is not like Glendale, which is a middle-class white community. So they never had African American families living in Glendale, because they just never would allow it. Pasadena always did because they needed the services of Japanese to be gardeners and blacks to be domestics and so on and so forth. So that's why they were always relegated to this one section of town. And so we did have somewhat of a segregated system in those days.

TI: And in some communities, I'm not really clear about Pasadena, but in places like Seattle, I know there were sometimes restrictive covenants that prevented the non-whites from living certain places.

MS: That's true. And that was true in Pasadena. 'Cause the house that we live in now, when we first bought, when we were first married and ready to buy a house a few years later, we knew of a house that we wanted to look at, and the realtor would not show it to us. Instead, he diverted us to sort of a middle area of Pasadena that had a mixed neighborhood. But since then, then we moved to another house, and that house had a covenant on it that said that it could only be sold to white families. But that, of course, no longer applies.

TI: So the situation in Pasadena was the segregation happened more by where people lived, and there were certain parts of Pasadena that was all white because that's... and so those schools were all white, and then you had the other schools. And so the court order was to do things like bussing?

MS: Well, the court order was to find a way to equalize the educational system, and they did it by bussing. So that caused a whole outflux of white families, 'cause they didn't want to be, Pasadena is not big, but it's not like L.A., but it's still, it's a problem.

TI: Okay, so I understand this.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: But the other thing that was, I wanted to mention was to work with the schools, you formed a new chapter of the JACL. Why a new chapter and not just work through the existing chapter?

MS: Well, the existing chapter didn't want to really offend people and do these sort of way out things. They were comfortable doing what they always did. So we felt we could move faster and still have the backing of the national organization to implement some of the plans that we had come up with. And at that time, we had some really incredible people in our community that were part of this new chapter. So we wanted to just move right along and not have to explain everything and try to convince everybody that this is the thing to do.

TI: And so it sounds like, yeah, the existing chapter wasn't very receptive. How was national? Was national JACL receptive to your efforts?

MS: Yeah, I think so. And, of course, a lot of things that we did, we didn't have to consult with them. But we used the national chapter with so many thousands of members as part of our, part of our ulterior motives. [Laughs]

TI: So your group was pretty savvy politically.

MS: Oh, yes. We had some incredible people who have contributed in their own ways to doing good.

TI: Do you want to mention any of them in particular?

MS: Well, we have, one is Harry Kawahara, who is still active in the community. He is the head counselor at PCC until he retired a few years ago. We had Dr. Bob Suzuki, who was at MIT, and then he became the vice president at Cal State Northridge. And then president of Cal Poly Pomona. We have Rae Osaki, who was the first woman who graduated from, in law from, I believe, the University of Idaho. And she was a tough lady, never really practiced law, but she used all the knowledge that she gained in law school to, she just was so articulate and spoke about her experiences, that she could convince anybody of anything. She was really a savvy lady.

TI: But it sounds like -- go ahead, I'm sorry.

MS: Yeah, so there were people like that. And then others who have been like my brother-in-law, the Uchida family has been in Pasadena since the early 1900s. So then they had a nursery, or have a nursery still, that had the respect of the community. And so all these things just kind of wove itself together, and so we were able to develop the curriculum for the Pasadena Unified Schools. And then we also started the Asian American Studies at Pasadena City College, and Harry was one of the main teachers where we would all come in and help out.

TI: That's a good story.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So I want to finish up the interview with some family things. You mentioned earlier a husband. How did you and your husband meet?

MS: Well, his family lived in Pasadena at the time, and then he was in the service. So when we moved to California, but when he came home from service, I don't think he was discharged yet. But my brother-in-law is Bob Uchida, and he brought my husband, Frank, over to meet my sister and me. So we ended up with Bob and Frank.

TI: And I'm sorry, your husband's name is...

MS: Frank.

TI: Frank?

MS: Uh-huh.

TI: And his last name?

MS: Sata.

TI: Sata, that's right. And children, did you have children?

MS: We have three, uh-huh. The oldest one is Leigh, and he lives in San Francisco, he's an architect just like his dad. But he doesn't practice architecture. He works for a construction management company. My second son is Warren, and he's a director of operations for a charter school for L.A. Unified. And my daughter is Mutsuko Adachi, Sata Adachi, and she's married to Jeff Adachi the public defender of the County of San Francisco. You should interview him, he's a very interesting guy.

TI: A future, yeah, I think he has a bright political future. I won't make any predictions. [Laughs] Well, this has been wonderful. Is there anything else that you would like to say for the record? I mean, thinking about maybe great-great-grandchildren who are going to see this in a hundred years, what would you want them to know?

MS: Oh, I think this kind of thing would be wonderful, but like my grandsons could tell their classmates, "Look on the Densho website and you can find out all about what my grandparents went through." I think that is just a wonderful thing that you're doing, and I know it's really painstakingly slow. Hopefully more people will be able to participate.

TI: Well, thank you, Marian, for the time. This was a wonderful interview, I really enjoyed hearing about your life.

MS: Oh, thank you. It's gone very quickly.

TI: Well, thank you.

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