Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marjorie Matsushita Sperling Interview
Narrator: Marjorie Matsushita Sperling
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Culver City, California
Date: February 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-smarjorie-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: When you returned to Wapato, how had it changed in the course of the year, or of the war?

MS: Well, there were a lot less Japanese, for one thing. And you know, my parents didn't have any ways of earning a living, and they had very little money. So they had to go on welfare, and I think a lot of other parents did that, too, and it was embarrassing for them to get social security. Not social security, because didn't have it at that time. But to get aid, and they really did manage, but it was hard.

TI: Now, why was it hard? Why couldn't they return to farming? What was different?

MS: Well, you couldn't. My parents were getting old, and they, it does cost to be able to farm again, seeds and equipment and so forth, it's too much. And people didn't come back to the valley to farm. Some of them, they had kids and so forth. And we, the people that are in the valley now, like the Inabas, they're very good friends of ours, but they had the family to be able to come back and do those things. And they came, and right away, after you came back to the valley, it was not hospitable. The people were very anti-Japanese, and you're not welcome, so it was very difficult. I know that Kara and Tak had a hard time in the beginning, to come back. And I think that was the story all over, that kind of acceptance and people finding it very difficult to pick up. And if they had property, they could do that, but if you didn't, it was very difficult to do that. And very few did come back to the valley. So it was a tragic kind of thing that went on.

TI: And when you say "few," we talked about it earlier, but there were thirteen hundred before the war. What's your guesstimate in terms of how many were there after the war?

MS: I don't think it's more than three or four hundred, or five hundred.

TI: So just really a dramatic...

MS: Absolutely. A lot of our valley folks went to Idaho, Oregon, Nyssa, Oregon, and Caldwell, is that what you call it? So they were there. But they were big families to begin with, so families moved, and there's quite a contingency of former valley people.

TI: Now, did you notice any, just in terms of how, say, white people treated Japanese, a difference between St. Paul and Wapato?

MS: Absolutely.

TI: So talk about that.

MS: In the city, you didn't see that much, because I did, I needed to work, and I was hired by the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima, and I went to work with their library. And I think in the city, these people were businesspeople, so they're not going to be ornery. And by the time we went back, I went back to be with my family, it was more acceptance. But I think, like in lower valley, they're not as educated, and I feel that they probably were feeling that the Japanese were coming back and taking back some of the business that they'd been able to take over and so forth. So I think there was a feeling that it was, they didn't want that threat. And I think that's human being, isn't it? Isn't that the way human beings behave? Whether it was that time or now, when they feel that somebody's coming back and infringing, there was a sense of fear. And I think we all behaved that way, unfortunately.

TI: Yeah, it's almost counterintuitive in some ways. Because here, the Japanese and Japanese Americans were neighbors and friends and had this long history, and yet it sounds like you were treated much better in St. Paul, which didn't have that history.

MS: That's true.

TI: And you were treated much better. It's ironic in some ways.

MS: Yes. And the few people that stood up for us in the valley are the ones that their neighbors were down on them, too. Like Mrs. Boyd, who was a hardware lady and stood up for us, Mr. McDonald and so forth, and I think they were people that had suffered some of the prejudice. And you appreciate people that are standup people, and you find that every day. I think it was a human nature that continues on regardless.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.