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Title: Toshi Nagamori Ito Interview
Narrator: Toshi Nagamori Ito
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: November 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-itoshi-01-0023

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MN: And then you returned to Heart Mountain for the holidays?

TI: Yes. I went to, for Christmas that year. Oh, it was so nice. And Yuri went with me, so it was really nice.

MN: So this winter of 1943 was the first time you spent Christmas in Heart Mountain.

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: Now, what was, what was it like there in Heart Mountain?

TI: Well, the people gathered tumbleweed and made a Christmas tree out of it, and put the tumbleweed on one of the columns in the mess hall. And the camps, they used a lot of canned food, so the can tops were used to make ornaments. And then the people made chains out of red and green paper and had it on the Christmas tree. And then they had a Santa Claus, and the Presbyterian church and the Friends, the Quakers, sent toys for the children like crayons and coloring books and books and other things. So they had a Christmas, very nice Christmas.

MN: What was the New Year's celebration like?

TI: Well, the year before, they had even made a cement vat to make mochi, and the men in the camp would make, pound the mochi, and we would have ozoni for New Year's morning, yeah. So it was very nice.

MN: Now, were there Japanese vegetables in the ozoni?

TI: Yes, because we had grown some vegetables, Japanese vegetables like... let's see. Nasubi, Nihon no nasubi, and nappa. So we had that.

MN: Now, you returned to National College in 1944 in June. And at that time, your future husband, James Ito, volunteered for the army and he came to visit you in Kansas City.

TI: Right.

MN: Now, how did this meeting go?

TI: Well, it went very well. [Laughs] He came and we went for a walk in Swope Park in Kansas City. And then we went to a ballroom, and we were dancing, and he said, "Reach for something in my right pocket," so I did. And I found my engagement ring. [Laughs] And so we were engaged.

MN: Did you have any idea that he was gonna ask you to marry him?

TI: No, I had no idea. And so I telegraphed my parents what had happened, and I was so surprised, the answer came back that in the summer, they were going to go back to California. So they knew that they would be in California in '45, summer of '45. So they said, "We'll prepare your wedding there." So that's what happened. I thought they would say, "Wait until you graduate from National College," but I knew that I wasn't going back for my senior year.

MN: Why did you know that?

TI: Well, because my parents would be in California, and I knew they wouldn't have enough money to keep me in school. Because the rent money went to my, for my college education, and there was no rent money coming in after that.

MN: Now, the West Coast was not officially open to Japanese Americans until January '45, but your parents were able to leave December '44, and they made a detour to Amache, also known as Granada.

TI: Right.

MN: Why did they have to go to the Colorado camp?

TI: Because my father had been in charge of the, treasurer of the Japanese Episcopal Methodist Church, and they were paying the pension for this retired Reverend Baba and his wife. And they were in the Amache camp, and everybody knew that they would have to leave. They wondered what were they going to do with this couple, and my father went there to consult with them, and he told them how much money they had, and that was all. And after that went, there wasn't any more. And he really didn't know what we would do with this elderly couple. But I think the reverend died in camp, I'm not sure. But I think Mrs. Baba came out, but she died soon after that, too. But anyway, that's why they went there, and I spent my Christmas there with them that year.

MN: What was Christmas like at the Amache camp?

TI: Well, it was similar to the one in (Heart Mountain). I don't remember much about the celebration there, I just was so glad to be with my parents. [Laughs]

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.