Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collectiom
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

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: 2010, we are at the residence of the Ito family in Laguna Woods, and we have Tani Ikeda on video, we have James Osamu Ito in the room, we'll be interviewing Toshi Nagamori Ito, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. Let's start with your father's name.

TI: All right, my father's name is Seiichiro Nagamori, and therefore by "ichiro" means that he was the firstborn.

MN: Now, which prefecture is he from?

TI: He's from Tochigi-ken.

MN: And how about your mother? What is her name?

TI: My mother's name is... well, in her school years, she was called Okei-san, but her name is Kei. She just used Kei. And they didn't use Keiko in her era. And so her friends would call her Okei-san. And my father called her Keiko.

MN: And is she also from Tochigi-ken?

TI: No, she's from Yamagata-ken.

MN: And what is her maiden name?

TI: Her maiden name is (Hiraoka).

MN: And your mother had a very interesting family upbringing. Who was she raised by?

TI: Well, her real mother, her biological mother, I mean, was old when she had her. So she was adopted by her eldest sister who was married and didn't have any children. And she was a sickly person, she often went to live with her grandmother during the sick periods. And so she was really raised by her own mother, but she referred to her own mother as "Grandmother."

MN: And your mother also, she graduated from high school and then attended a Methodist college in Tokyo which was really unusual for females in Japan at this time. How was she able to get so much education?

TI: Well, I know she didn't want to marry the person that her family had picked out, and so in order to "escape," so to speak, I think she used the ploy that she wanted to go to college. And she went to Tokyo, and went to Aoyama Gakuen, which was a Methodist college at that time.

MN: So her family didn't have a problem with her going by herself to Tokyo, unmarried? There was no protest?

TI: No, I guess not. She lived in the dormitory at the college.

MN: Do you know how she funded her education?

TI: No, I don't.

MN: Do you know why she chose a Methodist college?

TI: No. [Laughs]

MN: And then, so while she was attending this Methodist college, your mother accepted Christianity.

TI: Yes.

MN: Do you know how she came to this decision?

TI: Yes, because a lot of the instructors were American Methodist missionaries to Japan, and so under their influence, she became a Christian.

MN: Do you know if the rest of her family had a problem with her becoming a Christian?

TI: I don't know that. I guess they didn't protest because she was able to do it.

MN: Most Japanese women at this time went into college or high school to find a good husband. But your mother became a teacher at Ei Jogakkou in Hakodate, Hokkaido. How did her family feel about her going off and doing this job by herself?

TI: Well, I don't know about that either, but that's what she did.

MN: I understand, just talking to my own mother from Japan, if women at that time weren't married, people talk and gossip, "Oh, there must be something wrong with her." Do you know if your mother faced those kind of criticisms and harassments?

TI: Well, I suppose she did, because she was pretty old when she came over to the United States.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: Now, while your mother was working at the Ei Jogakkou, your mother was offered a job by the Methodist Foreign Missionary Society to go to Los Angeles to be a director at the Jane Couch Home.

TI: Right.

MN: This is a big decision. Do you know how she came to accept this offer?

TI: Well, I think she just thought it was a good opportunity for her because she didn't want to marry at the time. Because they had picked out a husband for her that she didn't want to marry. So I think this was a good escape.

MN: Did she ever share with you how she felt coming here by herself? Was she excited, was she scared?

TI: Well, the only thing she shared with me was that they gave her fifty dollars to outfit herself in American clothes. And she told me that she had two pairs of custom-made high-top shoes made in Japan for six dollars a pair each. And then the rest of the money was spent on buying underwear and dresses and a coat.

MN: Now, can you share with us, what was the Jane Couch Home?

TI: The Jane Couch Home was a shelter for the Japanese "picture brides." If their marriages didn't succeed or, you know, these "picture brides" came without knowing (...) about their husbands. And sometimes there were personality clashes, and sometimes these women were lied to, and sometimes these men were much older than they said they were. And so there was many obstacles for them. And so they, some of them came to the shelter to get away from their husbands, and they brought their children with them. And there were also orphaned children in this home that she took care of.

MN: Do you know how many children and women were at the shelter?

TI: No, I don't, but there must have been quite a few going and coming, you know. Some of them went back to Japan if their family was able to afford them going back. Others married other men. And so... but then when the Gentleman's Agreement came into effect, the Japanese brides stopped coming. And so finally the home closed.

MN: Now, at this shelter, what did your mother do? What were her responsibilities?

TI: She ran it like a co-op. All the women had chores, duties to do. They had to cook their meals and clean their rooms (...). And then they were encouraged to go to the Methodist church, which was in the neighborhood. The Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church. It became Centenary Church now, and it's down in Little Tokyo. (...)

MN: But at that time...

TI: At that time, it was on Normandie and Thirty-fifth Street.

MN: So the Jane Couch Home, was it connected to the church?

TI: No, no. They lived several blocks away.

MN: So this, this home was not in Little Tokyo, it was a little south of Little Tokyo.

TI: It was in the west side of Los Angeles.

MN: Do you know who Jane Couch was?

TI: No, I don't. I should look that up.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now, how did your mother and father meet?

TI: Well, they met at the Methodist church. And so they got a baishakunin for them, and then they were married.

MN: Do you know how your father became a Christian?

TI: Yes. He attended the Methodist Church, because I think they had English classes there. And so he became a Christian (...).

MN: And so at the time your mother and father met, what was your father doing?

TI: He was selling insurance. He had an insurance business.

MN: And your parents married on June 2, 1923, the garden of the Jane Couch Home.

TI: Yes.

MN: Can you share with us what this wedding was like?

TI: They put palm fronds to make several arches, and Reverend Kawashima officiated. And according to her bride's book, there were, I think, 125 guests at their wedding. So it was quite a large wedding.

MN: Do you know if your grandparents from Japan, did they come over for the wedding?

TI: No.

MN: Do you know if your parents returned to Japan for a separate ceremony?

TI: No, they didn't.

MN: Did your parents go on a honeymoon?

TI: Yes. They went on a honeymoon to Yosemite park, and my mother said that the roads were very curvy and there was only two lanes, so she had to honk the horn for my father every time they approached a curve.

MN: Well, you know, most Issei at the time, they couldn't take the time or the money to go on a honeymoon. Which, so, and I find this really unusual that your parents were able to do this. Do you know how they, was your father working and doing very well, or how did they fund a honeymoon?

TI: Apparently so. [Laughs] I have pictures of their honeymoon.

MN: Do you know why they chose Yosemite?

TI: No, I don't.

MN: And then is it after, shortly after they got married, is that when the Jane Couch Home closed?

TI: Yes. It closed before, that's why my mother married.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: And then about a year later you were born.

TI: I was born.

MN: September 19, 1924.

TI: Yes.

MN: Now, most Nisei were delivered by a osamba-san, but you were not.

TI: No. My mother really shocked her peers by going to a male doctor, and she was delivered by a male doctor in a hospital.

MN: Well, not only a male, a hakujin doctor also.

TI: Yes, right. [Laughs] Uh-huh.

MN: And you know, my understanding at the time is there was a lot of discrimination, a lot of Japanese Americans could not go into a hospital, but your mother was able to go into the hospital. Do you think her connection with the Jane Couch Home allowed her to go?

TI: I don't know. I don't know, but I know that the insurance company doctor recommended the doctor that she should have. So maybe through the insurance company connection, she was able to go into the hospital.

MN: And this was the Clara Barton Hospital on Olive Street.

TI: Yes. Which is no longer there.

MN: And what is your birth name?

TI: My birth name is Toshiko Nagamori.

MN: Who are you named after?

TI: I'm named after my father's favorite aunt.

MN: Do you have siblings?

TI: No, I have no siblings. I'm an only child.

MN: Now, you were born Toshiko, but now you go as Toshi, and you dropped the "ko." Why did you drop the "ko"?

TI: Because it was harder for all the Caucasian people to pronounce my name correctly, and so when I dropped the "K-O," they could pronounce it much better than when I put the "K-O" on it. Also, when I went to junior high school, my mother let me adopt the name Joy. And so I was known as Joy through junior high school and high school. So some of my friends call me Joy, and some of my friends call me Toshiko.

MN: How did you pick the name Joy?

TI: Well, my mother picked it for me, actually.

MN: Do you know how she came to pick Joy?

TI: No. I said I wanted a short name, so... [laughs].

MN: Now, going back to your birth, now when you reached a hundred days old, your parents had a celebration. Can you share with us what this is?

TI: Yeah. The Japanese people, when a baby reaches a hundred days, it is quite a feat for them, they had so much infant mortality in those days. And so they had a Baptismal party for me, and Reverend Kawashima, the pastor that married my parents, came and Baptized me in our home. And I know that they had a party afterwards, my mother has told me.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Now, in 1925, your mother played a pivotal role in keeping two Japanese schools open, the Daini Gakuen in Uptown, and then the Brawley school in Imperial Valley.

TI: Right.

MN: Can you share with us what your mother did?

TI: Okay. There was a ploy to close down the Japanese schools at that time in 1925, and so they said that if one of the teachers had passed the civics test, that they could keep the school open. So the Japanese people who ran those two schools asked my mother to take the civics test. And so she went to Mrs. Douglas who was her mentor that brought her over from Japan, and asked her to get some books to study civics, U.S. civics. And so she studied them and she went to take the test and passed. And so her name was put on the roster of Daini Gakuen and the Japanese school in Imperial Valley.


MN: And is it, your mother was one of the few women who were bilingual? Is that why she was asked to do this?

TI: Yes.

MN: Now, when your mother was helping the Brawley Japanese language school, were you living separately? Were you in Los Angeles and she in Imperial Valley?

TI: No. My mother and father, we all went down and rented a house and stayed there for quite a while. But we still rented our house in Los Angeles.

MN: So what did your father do while you were in Imperial Valley?

TI: Well, he had, a lot of his clients were in the Imperial Valley. And so it was a good time for him to sell more insurance. [Laughs]

MN: Now, while you were living in Imperial Valley, did you attend the Japanese school?

TI: No, I was just one year old. I was the baby. People down in Imperial Valley have told me that, "I babysat you while your mother taught." [Laughs] I have several friends that have told me that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now, let's see. And then you folks moved back and then in 1928, your family became homeowners.

TI: Yes.

MN: Can you share with us whose name the property was in and why it was sold?

TI: Because my Issei parents could not own property or a home, so I am the owner of our home, and they got me a... what do you call it? The person that you to have an adult...

MN: Like a protector?

TI: Yes, something like that. What do you call that person? A guardian, yeah. They appointed a guardian, who was Seiichi Nobe, and he was a U.S. citizen and the builder of our house. So he was appointed my guardian, and then my father was able to procure the land and had the house built.

MN: Now, do you remember the address to this house?

TI: Uh-huh, 3060 St. George Street in Los Angeles.

MN: Do you know why he chose this property?

TI: Well, it was close to our other house.

MN: And how long did it take to have this house built?

TI: Well, I was only four years old, so I don't remember, but I remember going there during the time it was being built and walking around in the half-built house. And I remember my father showing me my room, yes.

MN: How did that make you feel? Were you excited?

TI: Well, at four years old I don't think I realized what it was about, really. [Laughs]

MN: Which elementary school did you attend?

TI: I attended Ivanhoe elementary school.

MN: What was the ethnic makeup of Ivanhoe?

TI: Ivanhoe was predominately Caucasian, but there were a few Japanese and Mexican and... but predominately Caucasian.

MN: So were most of your friends non-Japanese?

TI: Yes. And I had some Japanese friends, too.

MN: Did you attend Japanese school at this time?

TI: No, I did not.

MN: Did your mother enroll you in anything like ikebana or chadou classes?

TI: No. But my mother got me a tutor when I was about third grade. And she came to the house and tutored me in Japanese.

MN: Was this every day?

TI: No, once a week.

MN: And were you the only student?

TI: No, Emiko Hikuchi that lived in my neighborhood, she came and learned Japanese with me.

MN: And then what happened that this teacher no longer came to your place?


TI: She always came to the school to pick us up, and so she had a Chevrolet car, and we would ride home with her. And she... I don't know what happened, but she drove the car into a telephone pole. And so I cut my lip and had to have a stitch put in it, and my friend, she got a bunch of bruises but nothing else. And the teacher hit her nose on the steering wheel, and she had a very big bump on her forehead. And, but my father said, he asked her why she ran the car into the telephone pole and she didn't have an answer, so my father said, "Well, I guess these lessons are going to stop." So that was the end of my Japanese school experience.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now, in 1931, your family visited Japan.

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: Now, why did your family make this trip?

TI: Well, my aunt wrote my father and said that my grandmother was very ill, and, "If you want to see her alive, you better come." So we went. But instead of dying, she immediately got so much better. She was so excited to see my father that she sat up for the first time in days and she began to eat. She wasn't eating much, and she was eating less and less every day. And so, and she fully recovered by the time I left Japan.

MN: How long were you there?

TI: We were there for three months.

MN: Now, what do you remember of the boat trip to Japan?

TI: Well, it was like a cruise ship in those days, and it was dry here in California, and so there were a lot of rich alcoholics on the ship because they could drink from morning to night. [Laughs] And so, well, it was a very pleasant trip because we would have Japan Day and have sukiyaki dinner on the deck. They would bring out low tables and zabuton, and we would sit on the zabuton and have sukiyaki cooked on our table. And we had a costume ball, which I was allowed to attend. And it was quite a luxurious ship, the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, NYK line. And they had a gym and they had a swimming pool, and my mother and father played deck tennis, and they had a great time. And my mother played mah jong almost every day.

MN: What did your, you said there was a costume... what was it? Costume ball?

TI: Yeah.

MN: What did you wear to that?

TI: Oh, I wore my Nihongi, and my mother wore her Nihongi, yeah.

MN: Did you get seasick on that boat?

TI: My parents did, but I did not. I guess I didn't know what seasickness was. [Laughs]

MN: So was this like a first-class ticket that your --

TI: Yes, it was. And when we were coming back, Sessue Hayakawa, the actor, and Michio Ito, the modern dancer, were on board ship, too.

MN: Now, when you arrived in Japan, what was your first impression of Japan?

TI: Well, we got off at Yokohama and we went straight to Tokyo to my grandmother's house. I was only six years old, so... and I, as long as I stayed with my grandmother's house, I played with the children in the neighborhood. And my mother was so surprised that I picked up the Japanese language.

MN: So the neighborhood kids didn't tease you for coming from "Amerika"?

TI: No. I had a good time playing with those kids.

MN: And your family also visited your great aunt Toshiko that you're named after.

TI: Yeah.

MN: Can you share with us about her?

TI: Yes. She was quite a tall woman, and she was really frightening to me because she had painted her teeth black, which was considered quite modest and the thing to be doing in those days. And so I took one look at her and I just clung to my father because I was so scared of her. But I know it was quite an embarrassment for my parents that I was so scared of her. I regret it now, but as a child, I didn't know any better.

MN: I understand the blackening of teeth was for the upper class women also?

TI: Yes, right.

MN: The courts, and... your aunt came from very upper class...

TI: Well, she was a farm woman. She lived on the farm, and she was the favorite aunt because my father spent summer vacations on her farm there and had such a good time, he named me after her.

MN: Then you spent a lot of time with your Aunt Tomiko and your grandmother.

TI: Right.

MN: What memories do you have of spending time with them?

TI: Well, my grandmother was well enough then to take me shopping to a toy store. And she went and bought me a fishing set, a little celluloid fish, and a magnet on a fishing pole. And she got the dishpan and filled it with water, and we floated the fish on it and fished for the, a celluloid fish. Discs, I don't know what they called them in Japanese.

MN: Ohajiki?

TI: Oh, yeah, ohajiki, and she taught me how to put your little finger between two and you would try to bump the other one. And if you bumped the other one, you could take it. And I think she let me win every time we'd play.

MN: Did your family get a chance to travel while you were there?

TI: Yes. My mother and father went to see their old friends and various things, and then I stayed with my aunt and my grandmother during that time.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: And then after three months, you returned to Los Angeles.

TI: Right.

MN: Now, when you came back to Los Angeles, you were still in grammar school, is that correct?

TI: Uh-huh, right.

MN: And then after grammar school, Ivanhoe, you went into...

TI: Thomas Starr King, yes, junior high school.

MN: Thomas Starr King junior high school, okay. What year did you enter junior high school?

TI: Oh, gosh. [Laughs] Six years after...

MN: I have here a question mark, '36 or '35?

TI: Must have been '36.

MN: '36?

TI: 1936.

MN: And then, can you describe some of the physical education clothes that the girls wore during that time?

TI: [Laughs] Yeah. Well, I was so happy that we didn't have to buy black bloomers, because the bloomers, I understand, were really tight around your thighs, and they weren't very good looking, you know. And so our class was the first ones to wear shorts, but we still had to have the middie blouse with the tail that you had to put between your legs and button up in front of you, so your shirts wouldn't come out of the shorts. So that's what we wore.

MN: Now, Thomas Starr King junior high school, what was the ethnic makeup there?

TI: Well, it was predominately Caucasian, yeah. We had a few Mexicans and Japanese. I don't remember any Chinese, isn't that something? There must have been.

MN: And your friends were predominately Caucasian or some Japanese...

TI: Mostly Japanese.

MN: Your school had this demerit system. Can you share with us what this is?

TI: Oh, yes. You were given a hundred demerits -- I mean, a hundred points -- [laughs] -- at the beginning, and then if you were tardy to school or you forgot your gym clothes or you didn't bring in your homework, then you would get one demerit taken off the hundred. And I was very fortunate, I guess, to remember my gym clothes every Monday. So I maintained a hundred percent. I never had a demerit the whole time I was in junior high school. So I had the good citizenship award pin when I graduated.

MN: Were there a lot of students who were able to be a good citizen?

TI: Most of the Japanese girls, yeah. Not the boys. [Laughs] But the girls, yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now, during this time, your father had an office in Little Tokyo, and then your mother helped your father. Where in Little Tokyo did your father have the office?

TI: It was in the Tomiyo Building, and later it was called the Taul Building, and then, anyway...

MN: Taul being after Taul Watanabe?

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: The Tomiyo building was First and San Pedro?

TI: Yes.

MN: And what was on the ground floor of the Tomiyo Building?

TI: The Iwaki Drug Store. And I often had lunch there.

MN: And did your father have his own office, or did he share it with others?

TI: He shared it with quite a few insurance agents from various companies.

MN: And how many days did your father work? Five? Six?

TI: Usually five, but sometimes if he was really busy he would work, go down on Saturdays.

MN: Now, your father's office had this system where one of the secretaries answered all the incoming calls for one day? So what day was your father responsible for?

TI: He was responsible for Wednesday. So when I went to junior high school, I would take the streetcar and go down to Little Tokyo and I would spend my day there, do my homework from junior high school, and then help sometimes in the office stuffing envelopes or putting stamps on the envelopes or filing.

MN: And then once in a while he asked you to bring over the check and cash to the bank across the street?

TI: Yes, right.

MN: Who was the teller there?

TI: Paul Bannai. [Laughs] As a teenager, you know, I thought he was the best-looking guy I had ever seen. [Laughs]

MN: You know, after the war, did you help Paul Bannai, you know, he was running for office...

TI: No, I didn't.

MN: You didn't get involved in his campaigns?

TI: No. I never met him again, 'til just recently. He read my book and found his name.

MN: What did he say?

TI: He said... I don't know. He just said, "You wrote a very good book. [Laughs] Oh, dear.

MN: So since Wednesdays your family worked late in the office, and you had to eat in Little Tokyo sometimes, what places, what restaurants do you remember in Little Tokyo?

TI: Yeah, well, we would go to the Manseiyan Noodle restaurant and then to Sankoro sometimes and Far East sometimes, and Matsunozushi. Anyway, the various restaurants in Little Tokyo. But when it was raining, we would go downstairs to the second floor, and they had a Chinese restaurant there. I can't remember the name of it, but we would have dinner down there.

MN: Would that be like Lem's?

TI: Something like that. Yeah, it could be.

MN: Before the war, it sounds like Little Tokyo had a number of Chinese restaurants.

TI: Yes, yes.

MN: And then before the war, Far East was known as Ento Low?

TI: I think so, yeah.

MN: Now, you also mentioned while you were walking home from school, your friends would pick the loquats, the biwa?

TI: Yes.

MN: And there's not a lot of American kids these days that I know that eat loquats. Was this popular during your childhood?

TI: Well, I guess so. And most of the kids I went to school with and walked home with were Japanese.

MN: Now, on Sundays, were you attending Sunday school?

TI: I did attend the Centenary, I mean, Methodist church for a while. My father would drive us, drive me down to the Sunday school there. But it got to be quite a chore for him to make two trips, so finally when I was about eight years old or so, I asked to go to the Sunday school with the kids in the neighborhood. So I went to Hollywood Independent Church until the war came.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: And then you graduate from Thomas Starr King junior high school in 1938. Can you share with us what your graduation was like?

TI: Well, graduation was, the girls were asked to wear a white skirt and a white blouse, and then each class picked their class color, and my class picked apple green. So we were given, we purchased, rather, a green chiffon scarf to tie around our neck. And I wanted a completely pleated skirt, but my mother said, "If you get it dirty and it's white, you have to send it to the cleaner's, and the cleaner's really ask a lot of money because of the pleats." They didn't have permanent pleats in those days. So I went to my father and I asked him if I could have a completely pleated skirt, and he told my mother, "Well, since it's her graduation, buy it for her." [Laughs] So I was able to get that skirt. And then it was the first time I was allowed to wear silk stockings, and so it really made you feel grown up to wear silk stockings. And I wanted to buy a pair of high heeled shoes, white high heeled shoes, but my mother wouldn't let me. [Laughs] So I gave in and got a Cuban heel shoe.

MN: Now when you talk about silk stockings, we're not talking about, like, the pantyhose we see today.

TI: No. They're just stockings and you had to use garters. [Laughs] And you had, yeah, so I had to get a garter belt and silk stockings. And all the stockings in those days had a seam down the back, you know, and so if you crossed your legs, sometimes those seams would go crooked, so you had to be sure that your seams were straight, otherwise you look like you were bow-legged. [Laughs]


MN: At your graduation for your junior high school, your homeroom had a graduation swim party.

TI: That's right.

MN: Can you share with us where it was held and what happened there?

TI: All right. We went to the... I can't even remember the name of the park.

MN: Brookside Park?

TI: Yeah, Brookside Park in Pasadena. And it was to be a swimming party. We would go to the Plunge after we had lunch, our picnic lunch. And we had our lunch, and then we had to sit around for a while because it's not good to go swimming right away. And then we to were line up to go into the Plunge, and Motomu Nagasako was the first Japanese American boy to be in the line. And he was told that they don't allow Orientals in the Plunge. And so he came back and told us, embarrassingly, and he was really angry. And we all sat around glumly and watched the other kids swimming. And then we all wished we could go home.

MN: How did your teacher react to this?

TI: I don't remember. I guess she just accepted the fact and didn't intervene or anything.

MN: Now how did you feel about having to...

TI: Well, I thought it was, you know, they said, "You could come back on Friday." That's when they changed the water. But, of course, it was not on Friday, so we weren't allowed to go in.

MN: How many other Japanese American students had to wait out with you?

TI: Oh, about six of us.

MN: So you waited outside while everybody was...

TI: We stayed on the lawn, just sat on the lawn by the Plunge.

MN: Was this the first time you encountered this kind of racism?

TI: Yes, right.

MN: There was no parents there that stood up for you folks?

TI: No. They were all Caucasian parents.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Now, that summer that you graduated from junior high school, your family also visited Vancouver, Canada?

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: How was your family able to afford going to Vancouver?

TI: Well, my father had sold enough insurance that he qualified to go to their convention. And so instead of taking a train, we drove up. And since my mother had a friend in Vancouver, we went to visit them. And we were to stay in Vancouver, and then my father went on to Jasper Park where the convention was held. And they didn't have enough room for spouses that time. Sometimes they did.

MN: Now, what did you think of Vancouver?

TI: I thought it was a very beautiful city, and I really liked their Stanley Park where they had the big totem poles and various things. It was so different from down in California. And it's so green up there in Washington, I mean, Vancouver. Not Washington.

MN: Close by. Now, you came back and then you entered high school. John Marshall High School?

TI: Right.

MN: And what was the ethnic makeup of your high school?

TI: Well, it was predominately Caucasian. There were Mexicans and some Italians, and a goodly number of Japanese students, yeah.

MN: Now, you also joined a outside social club called the Junior Misses?

TI: Yes.

MN: Can you share with us what the Junior Misses was?

TI: It was the YWCA Girl Reserve club. And I wanted to join a social club, so since my mother was a board member of the YWCA Japanese branch, through her, she found out that Miyo Kikuchi was a club leader. And so she lived one block down the street from my home. So she invited me to ride with her to meetings that they had.

MN: And then what sort of activities did you do with the Junior Misses?

TI: Well, we invited the boys YMCA clubs to dances, and we would also have skating parties at the Shrine Skating Rink, and we would go there. So that was our club activities.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now, you were a senior at John Marshall High when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

TI: Right.

MN: What were you doing on that Sunday, December 7th?

TI: Well, I was playing hooky from church, and I was working on my Christmas dress. And I had the radio on and I heard about Pearl Harbor. And so that's what happened on December 7th.

MN: Now, what was your first reaction when you heard this news?

TI: I was sort of unbelieving, you know. "It couldn't be true." My mother and father, they were just shocked, especially my father.

MN: What was it like going to high school the next Monday?

TI: It wasn't, it wasn't very nice. We Japanese students all clustered together and we just didn't do much talking, we just stayed together.

MN: Now, did you get harassed from any students or teachers?

TI: No, no, not at all. In fact, when I told my teacher that I'm going to have to leave, they were very kind and they let me take the textbooks into Santa Anita so I can finish my courses.

MN: Now, every Wednesday your father had been going to the Sun Life insurance company office on Grand to check up on his policies and he picked up this hakujin daughter of a neighbor, 'cause she worked there as a secretary. Now, after that, the first Wednesday of the Pearl Harbor attack, what did she do?

TI: She came down and told my father, "I don't ride with a 'Jap.'" So that was that.

MN: How did your father take that?

TI: Well, he said, "Well, sensou dakara, shikata ga nai."

MN: Now, the spring of 1942, the Terminal Islanders were kicked off of Terminal Island. Now, did any of those Terminal Islanders move into your neighborhood?

TI: No, they did not.

MN: Did you see them move into any of the churches in Little Tokyo?

TI: No, I didn't see that. We were under a five-mile curfew, so we traveled very little. But my father did go to the office.

MN: Did he get a special permit for that?

TI: No, because it was in the five-mile radius.

MN: Did any of the FBI take away any of your neighbors?

TI: Yes, my next-door neighbor, he was taken away.

MN: What was the explanation of why he was taken away?

TI: There was no explanation at the time, but he had been a ship chandler for Japanese ships that came in, he would supply them with groceries from his wholesale market. So I suspect that's what the cause was, that he was incarcerated very soon after Pearl Harbor.

MN: Now, you know, having heard something like this, how did that make you feel?

TI: It really scared my father. Really scared my father. And he took his rabbit, that rabbit rifle that he used to go, when he was a youth, used to go rabbit hunting. And he took that gun and buried it.

MN: Now, you were talking about this travel restriction. Can you share with us about the family that needed food and...

TI: Oh, that was in Terminal Island, we heard from them when we reached Santa Anita. My mother had some friends that lived in Terminal Island, so she told my mother how some of the families in the row of Japanese cottages the fishermen had some of the families didn't have any food, so the families that did have food would throw cans of food through the window. And then that's how the family was fed during that time. But very soon after that, they sent them away.

MN: Since we're talking about Terminal Island, I'm gonna go back a little bit. Can you share with us, your mother, she went to Kaki Gakkou on Terminal Island. Can you share with us what that is?

TI: Yes. It's a summer Bible school. And each summer, the Protestant, Japanese Protestant churches would all get together and they would go down to Terminal Island and they would, they had a church down there. And we would stay overnight, several nights, and we would have bible school, summer Bible school, studies. The children and the adults.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Now, going back to Pearl Harbor, now, when you heard the Japanese Americans would have to go into camp, how did you feel?

TI: Well, I was so young, it really didn't hit me, but it certainly concerned my parents. And I remember going, walking down to the corner to see that 90... what is it? 9066 order, and my father reading it and saying, "My goodness, we have to take all these bedding," and so on and so forth. And then he said to my mother, "You take Toshiko down and buy yourself a pair of boots and one for Toshiko, too." So we went down and bought ourselves boots because my father surmised that we would be sent to someplace that would be very cold and snowy, and it certainly turned to be true.

MN: Now why did your father register the family using the Little Tokyo address?

TI: Well, our good friend, the Kinoshitas, he was also a Sun Life Insurance agent. And so they were very good friends, and especially my mother and his wife. And so we wanted to stay together and be in the same camp. So that's the way we got to stay with them, stay together.

MN: Now, you owned your home. What did you do with the home?

TI: Well, my father rented it to one of the Sun Life Insurance company men and his family. They moved in.

MN: Were they basically staying free during the duration of the war? Did they pay rent to your family?

TI: Yes, they did.

MN: Do you remember what month you left for the Santa Anita Assembly Center?

TI: I think it was April.

MN: And from where did you leave to go to Santa Anita?

TI: Santa Anita has race, I mean, railroad tracks right in the complex. And so a World War I vintage train came to pick us up.

MN: But from, did you leave from Santa Anita, from Little Tokyo?

TI: No, from Santa Anita.

MN: No, to get to Santa Anita.

TI: Oh, I left on a bus.

MN: From where?

TI: I think it was Weller Street in Little Tokyo. Yeah, I'm not quite sure.

MN: So it was not the Nishi Hongwanji building.

TI: It was in back of the Nishi Hongwanji building, I think.

MN: Was it First and Central or First and Weller?

TI: Gosh, I don't know. Anyway, from Little Tokyo.

MN: How did you get to Little Tokyo?

TI: On a bus.

MN: From your house in Los Feliz?

TI: Harry Matsunaga, who lives in Stanton, he had a grocery store and he emptied out his grocery store to go into camp. And so he offered my father the space in his abandoned grocery store to store his car. So he drove us down to Little Tokyo to get on the bus to go to Santa Anita, and he took our car and took it back to Stanton and had it professionally prepared for storing in his emptied-out grocery store.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now, when you went to this point of departure in Little Tokyo and you got on this bus, did they tell you where they were gonna take you?

TI: No, we had no idea where they were gonna take us.

MN: So how did you feel at that point?

TI: Well, it was kind of an adventure, you know, 'cause I'm only seventeen, and what do I know? [Laughs] And when we got there, I was so glad that we were one of the later ones to get there, so we were able to live in a barrack room instead of a stable.

MN: And those were all in the parking lot area?

TI: Uh-huh, in the parking lot area. And they were brand-spanking new, and they used green lumber to build them, so while we were there, the boards all shrank and even the boards in the floor shrank, and we could see below the floor and we could see our neighbors through the cracks. So finally my father tacked up a sheet on the side that the other family stayed.

MN: Now, you were also able to participate in graduation ceremonies because you couldn't graduate with your own high school class. Tell me about that.

TI: I was so fortunate to be able to take my textbooks in and finish my courses through correspondence with my teacher. And Verline Kersey, superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District, brought our diplomas to us. And Motomu Nagasako was also in Santa Anita, and he and I both got our diplomas at that time, in June.

MN: Now, how many students participated in this ceremony?

TI: I don't know, but there were quite a few. And I don't hear about that at all. It seems like I'm the only one that says, "I got my diploma and I had a graduation ceremony even, in Santa Anita racetrack in the grandstand." And Motomu's gone, and one of, my other friend that was in my same homeroom, she's gone. And I've never met anyone that said that happened to them. But I sure was fortunate.

MN: Now, can you describe what the bathroom situation was like at Santa Anita?

TI: Yes. Our bathrooms at least had walls on each side, but no doors. So we had some privacy. But I would always go down to the last one because I didn't want people to see me, so I would always go down to the last... what do you call it? Compartment. And on the men's side, I understand there were no walls in there at all, so they just sat on the commode with everybody else.

MN: Now, there was no soap dish, so what did you guys do?

TI: Well, that was when we were showering. So we showered at first in the shower, shower house where the horses were showered. And so there was a wall in the middle to separate the men's side from the women's side, and absolutely no partitions in the shower room. So all of us had to go there and undress, and there all these naked women showering together. [Laughs] And it was quite an experience for me (...). It didn't faze my mother at all, who was used to public bathing in Japan. [Laughs] (...) She just chided me all the time, "Don't be so shy. You have to take a shower, so take a shower." [Laughs] But anyway, it was an experience, yes. But finally, towards the end, we had showers with walls on each side, but no doors again.

MN: So how did you do your laundry?

TI: Well, they had a long trough at Santa Anita, and spigots, and this was all outside. And they had hot and cold running water, but there was nothing to catch the water to do your wash. So my father ordered a galvanized tub from Sears Roebuck, and we would put our dirty wash in there. And he also ordered a Red Flyer wagon, and we would put the washboard and the tub on this little wagon and our clothes, and take it down to the washing shed. And we would do our wash on the scrub board, and my father came down with us and he wrung out the towels and the sheets for us. [Laughs] And my mother and I did the rinsing and the washing, yes. And lots of people couldn't afford to buy a galvanized tub, so our galvanized tub and washboard was borrowed quite often.

MN: Now, some of the Nisei men I've interviewed would tell me they used to sneak a peek into the women's restroom, shower?

TI: Yes, yes.

MN: Have you ever caught any of the boys doing this?

TI: No, I wasn't aware of that. George Yoshinaga writes about that. [Laughs]

MN: And you never peeked in, did you ever peek into the boy's bathroom?

TI: Absolutely not. [Laughs] I could hardly wait to get out of there. Boy, I just rushed in there and took my shower and rushed out. Oh, dear.

MN: Now, which mess hall were you assigned to?

TI: I was assigned to the Yellow Mess.

MN: What do you remember about eating at the mess hall?

TI: Well, one time they gave us pork and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the second day they gave us a breakfast of pork and beans again, for lunch and dinner. So the third day, we all got together and decided that we would accept our dish of pork and beans, and we'd put it upside down on the table and walk out. So that's what we all did. And then the powers that be called it a riot, that we were rioting. But it was a good thing we did that, because then our menu really changed and much better, we got what we should have been getting.

MN: Now, I hear stories about people getting diarrhea also?

TI: Yes. We had a dish of, we had some fish one day, and everybody in our mess hall got diarrhea. And so the latrine was being used quite often, and finally the cesspool overflowed. It was terrible.

MN: Now, I've met former camp, Nisei, people, who don't eat certain foods because of camp. One of them, one lady I know doesn't eat pork and beans or apple butter. Have you had those kind of lingering issues?

TI: Yes, I don't like apple butter either. And also in Heart Mountain, they gave us a lot of rutabagas. I don't eat rutabagas. [Laughs]

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Now, what sort of jobs did your parents find at the assembly center?

TI: Well, my father didn't have any job, and neither did my mother.

MN: How about yourself?

TI: I was a gopher, which means I worked in the mess hall, and whenever the bread bowl was empty, I would go for some more bread. And if the apple butter was empty, the can, then I would go and get some more. So I was euphemistically called a "gopher." [Laughs]

MN: Now, you also later had another job circling clothing?

TI: Yes.

MN: Can you share --

TI: I had a brief job of circling clothing in the Sears Roebuck catalog. And I circled thermal underwear. So I told my dad, and he said, "See? We're gonna be sent to a cold place."

MN: So is that the WRA told you, "These are things you're supposed to -- "

TI: "You can order," and we had to circle them. "Turn to page so and so, circle this and this and this," that was our brief job that we did.

MN: And then you gave these catalogs to everybody in the assembly...

TI: Yes, and everybody could come and, you know, order these things without paying for them.

MN: That was part of the clothing allowance?

TI: Yeah.

MN: Now, was there any Sunday services held at Santa Anita?

TI: Yes, uh-huh, in the grandstand. And I suppose the bible readings and the hymns have never been sung there since. [Laughs]

MN: I was talking to Reverend George Aki, he's a chaplain of the 442nd.

TI: Yes, I know him.

MN: And he said one time there was a brief period where he sort of questioned God about all of this. Did you ever have that issue with you questioning God, and, "Why is this happening?"

TI: No, I did not.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Now, there was a riot at Santa Anita. Do you remember that?

TI: Yes.

MN: What do you remember of the riot?

TI: Well, I remember that the soldiers on a little tank with a machine gun manned on the top, went up and down the streets, and we all had to stay in our barracks.

MN: So you weren't there out there throwing rocks at them.

TI: No, no.

MN: What did they tell you that, why the riot started?

TI: No.

MN: They didn't tell you. And I've heard it's because of this Korean (...)?

TI: He was our steward, and after the riot, (...) I never saw him again.

MN: I heard he was beaten up pretty badly.

TI: Oh, really? I don't know.

MN: That's what several people have told me.

TI: I never saw him again.

MN: When this riot happened, how did you feel?

TI: Well, I heard, I just heard that, well, the aftermath, I know two men that were in our mess hall. They never came back, so I suspect that those two were selling our food on the black market, and that's why we had pork and beans three times a day.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: Now, how long were you incarcerated at Santa Anita?

TI: About three months. April, May, June... no, more than that. Let's see. May, June, July, and then first of August we went to Heart Mountain. So three and a half months, maybe.

MN: Now, when your family was going to be transferred to a more permanent camp, did they tell you where you were going?

TI: No, not a word.

MN: Now, how did you get to Heart Mountain?

TI: On a vintage World War I train. [Laughs] I say that because the train had gaslights. I had never seen gaslights before in my life, and I was intrigued that the conductor would come along with a flame torch and light the gaslights at night.

MN: And then you were also talking about these Excelsior seats. What is an Excelsior seat?

TI: It's shredded wood, and it was compacted down. It was so old and it was compacted down so hard, that it was just rock hard. We had to sit on rock hard Excelsior-upholstered seats, and the seats were covered with mohair, and the mohair had big circles of holes in it, and I could see the Excelsior.

MN: Now, did you have to sleep sitting up?

TI: Yes.

MN: How did you make yourself comfortable?

TI: We were so uncomfortable that my seatmate and I would take turns lying down on two seats, getting our pressure off our back. And I envy the boys, they were allowed to sleep on the floor in the dining car at night.

MN: How many days did it take for you to get to Heart Mountain?

TI: It took us four days and three nights because we ran into... what do you call it? A very heavy rainstorm. And the water just covered the tracks, so it was unsafe to go on these tracks. So we got set aside for long periods of time before we were allowed to continue.

MN: So it was like a flash flood on the tracks.

TI: Yeah. A cloudburst.

MN: Did you get sick on the train or did other people get sick?

TI: I don't remember anyone getting sick, but there was a train for infirm and babies, those that had babies, and they had a Pullman car so they could sleep on the two-decker bunks.

MN: Now, did the train take you straight to Heart Mountain or did you transfer onto a bus?

TI: No. The, Heart Mountain had railroad tracks come right up to it. So we disembarked at Heart Mountain.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: What was your first impression of Heart Mountain?

TI: Well, it was a prairie and the wind was blowing and the dust was blowing. My mother and father said, "Oh, boy." [Laughs] "Sabaku desu."

MN: Did you ever see your parents cry during camp because of this?

TI: No, no, they never broke down and cried.

MN: Do you remember your barrack address?

TI: 30-17-B. Barrack 30 -- no, Block 30, Barrack 17, Unit B.

MN: Now, what kind of jobs did your parents find at Heart Mountain?

TI: Well, my father was a block manager, and that's a job of being the liaison between the administration and the people of Block 30. So if they had any grievances, they went to my father, and then my father would tell the administration what was wrong, or whatever problem they had that they wanted fixed. And my mother, since she was bilingual, she had the job of being interpreter for Ms. Virgil Paine, who was the social welfare director of the camp. And my mother interpreted for Ms. Paine, when the Issei people had problems.

MN: Now, at Heart Mountain, did your, did you and your parents continue to attend Sunday service?

TI: Yeah.

MN: Who was the pastor there?

TI: Well, I remember Donald Toriumi, and who other? There were several, but I can't remember because they were Issei pastors. Donald Toriumi was Nisei.

MN: Was his brother Howard Toriumi? Reverend Howard Toriumi?

TI: It could be, I don't know.

MN: And then you mentioned there were Nikkei families living near Heart Mountain?

TI: Yes. There were two farm families that lived near Heart Mountain, and they were there before we came. And one family particularly had sons, and they were of marriageable age, so the family was so happy to see all these Japanese people. And the mother and father would come to camp very often just to talk. And the boys came and found their brides there, yes. And then we had a Japanese American veterinarian, and he came to our camp and found a bride for (himself). (...)

MN: So these people could come and go as they wished into camp?

TI: Yeah, yeah.

MN: Now, what was food like at Heart Mountain?

TI: Well, the food was a little bit better, but at the beginning it was not. It was mostly canned food, you know. And then when they got the agriculture going, then we had fresh vegetables, and oh, what an improvement. But up until then, the food wasn't anything to talk about. [Laughs]

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: Now, how long were you at Heart Mountain before you left for the Methodist college in Kansas City, Missouri?

TI: I was there just two months.

MN: Now, how did it --

TI: August and September, end of September I was gone.

MN: How were, how did it come about that you were able to leave for college so soon?

TI: Well, they told us -- I read in the Heart Mountain paper that they would let you out if you found a college that would accept you and also provide housing. So again, we went to Mrs. Douglas, and she found a Methodist college in Kansas City, Missouri, that would accept me, so I went there.

MN: Now, can you share with us how you met your future husband, Mr. Ito?

TI: Yes. I went to his office, he was in charge of leaves from Heart Mountain. So I went to his office and I said I would like to leave for this college in Kansas, City, Missouri, so he gave me papers to fill out. And in those days, there wasn't a copy machine or ball point pens, so you had to take a pencil and three carbon papers and press very hard and answer all these questions that they wanted answered. And then finally my permit came, and so I left for Kansas City. And the day I left, Jim came down to see the two girls that he got to, going to college, yeah, he wanted to see us off. So he came down and I guess that was the first time he really looked at me. [Laughs] Because I was wearing a dress and silk stockings and high heeled shoes, you know. And so, and then when I came back the first summer, he came over to see how college life was, and then we started to date. [Laughs]

MN: Now, this other person you went out with, did she also go to the same college with you?

TI: A year later, Yuri, yes.

MN: Now, how was the train ride from Heart Mountain to Kansas City?

TI: It wasn't bad because -- but, they sold more tickets than they had seats, and so sometimes some of us had to sit on our suitcase. And so it's very uncomfortable sitting on a suitcase, it's so hard, and it has these clasps. So the first stop, I got off the train and bought a magazine and put it on the clasp so it was more tolerable to sit on. [Laughs]

MN: But the passengers didn't harass you?

TI: No, no.

MN: Now, how did it feel to be traveling away from your family, you're going to an unknown place...

TI: Yes. It was kind of scary. It was really scary for me, and I kept wondering, would I get off at the right place?


TI: Yes, the, my roommate to be, Milly Kerwin, came down and also the president's wife.

MN: Now, do you know if they had a difficult time finding a roommate for you?

TI: No. It's a Christian college, and they knew my situation, and so they chose a very outgoing personality girl for my first roommate. And she really was diametrically opposite from what I was. She was blonde, she was blue-eyed, she was Irish-English extraction, and she came from a huge family of, I think, seven brothers and sisters, and I was an only child. And she spoke with an Eastern accent, and I would say "bath" and she would correct me and say, "bauth." [Laughs] And if she would say, "idea," everything that ended with an "a" ended with a "er." So, "That's a good 'idea-er,'" she would say. [Laughs] And so I would tell her, "I have to correct your pronunciation of 'idea.' There's no 'E-R' on the end, there's a 'A' on the end. It's 'idea.'" But she would still say, "idea-er." Oh, we had a good time laughing at each other.

MN: Now, were there other Japanese Americans at National College?

TI: Yes, there were.

MN: How many more?

TI: Let me see. Shizu Yamaguchi was there for only one semester. And then, then Yuri came, and then we had, the president's secretary was Japanese, Fumiko Kobayashi, she came out of, I've forgotten which camp, and she worked for the president. And then we had boarders also, Japanese American boarders at the dormitory, and one was Kay Kumai.

MN: So you could have boarders there but not, they don't have to necessarily go to the school?

TI: No. They had rooms, so they rented them.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Now when you went to National College, you brought along this pair of red boots. Can you share with us what this meant?

TI: Yes. Well, since my father bought me those red boots, I really treasured them because I felt there was a parent that really loved me and cared about me. And so it ended up being my "security boots" instead of a security blanket, it was a "security boots." And I would always place it in the closet where I could see it, and it really gave me comfort when I was lonely or blue. I had some homesickness when I went to college, especially at Christmastime.

MN: How was living in the dorms at National College different from living at Heart Mountain?

TI: Oh, such a difference. We had central heat, steam heat, and we had, you know, your own room, but I shared it with a roommate. And the food was so much better than camp, especially once... no, there was a time when our food wasn't so good because the cook miscalculated our points. During the war, you had to have points to buy meat, and you had to have points to buy butter, and you had to have points to buy shoes even, and sugar. Because they all went to war. And so she miscalculated our meat points and so we ended up eating tongue and sweetmeats and things like that that we weren't used to. [Laughs] So some of us that had a little money would go down to the hamburger stand a half a block down the street.

MN: Now, at this college, you had to take a dose of cod liver oil?

TI: Yes.

MN: Why did you have to do that?

TI: Because they thought since I'm from California, I would be susceptible to catching the flu, or a cold. So they made us take cod liver oil every morning, and a nurse was assigned to see that we took it. [Laughs] Oh, dear.

MN: Now, you arrived at National College late in the semester when midterms were going on. How were you able to catch up?

TI: Well, I was able to catch up with most of my classes except my history class. So the professor that taught the Rise of Civilization on the Mediterranean Basin said she would lecture me during the Christmas holidays, so I couldn't go home. And I stayed, and she lectured me.

MN: How was that like, being away from your family?

TI: The first time. It was hard at first, yeah. But it was an adventure, and I had such a wonderful roommate, and I really was lucky to get away and go to college in a natural environment without being incarcerated.

MN: Now, is it my understanding that each student was assigned a church and they had to teach a Sunday school class?

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: Were you one of the only Japanese Americans to be teaching a Sunday school class?

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: Now, how did the congregation react to you?

TI: They were all told before I went there, so it was very nice, and nobody said anything.

MN: Now, when summer came, did you stay at National College or did you return?

TI: No, I returned to Heart Mountain the first summer.

MN: Now, when you returned to Heart Mountain, was it hard to adjust back to camp life?

TI: Yes, it was. [Laughs] It's such a culture shock when you have to, you know, go to the latrine outside of your room and take all your meals in the mess hall. Though it's something like school, too, you went to the dining room. But it was different.

MN: How did you spend your summer at Heart Mountain?

TI: Well, I just had a good time, and I didn't do much. And since Jim came to court me, we went to movies, the camp had movies and they had dances, we would go to dances. He would come over and my father belonged to the Book of the Month Club, so Jim would sit there and read all these books. I had other boyfriends, too. [Laughs] So in camp, you don't have a telephone, you know, so they can't telephone ahead and say, "May I come over?" So sometimes I would end up with three guys on the bed in our living room space. [Laughs] It was really funny. Then my father would come in at nine o'clock and say, "Well boys, you'll have to leave. I've got to go take my shower and I want to go to bed." So then all the guys would have to leave, get up and leave. It was funny.

MN: So your husband had competition?

TI: Oh, sometimes. [Laughs]

MN: Did he ever get jealous?

TI: I don't think so. [Laughs]

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Now, in September 1943, you returned to National College as a sophomore. How did you feel about returning?

TI: Oh, I was glad to go, yes. Because it's so nice outside.

MN: And then you said this, this time around, Yuri went with you?

TI: Yes, Yuri went with me, so that was really nice.

MN: And during your sophomore year, you met Mr. Patrick?

TI: Yes.

MN: Can you share with us... now, he offered you a job as a counselor, camp counselor?

TI: Camp counselor, yeah.

MN: At Camp Adventure in North Carolina. Can you share with us what this job was, what it entailed?

TI: Well, I had met Mr. Patrick, his name was Patrick Patrick, a good old Irishman. And he had come to attend the Methodist National Conference, the Methodist Church's national conference. And so he came to our school because he knew the president, and at that time, I was assigned to sit with the president, at the president's table. And so I met him, and he offered me a job in North Carolina at his school's summer camp establishment. So I accepted, and I went.

MN: Now, when you traveled to North Carolina, was this the first time you became aware of the whites and blacks only?

TI: Yes, yes.

MN: Now, when you saw the separation, what did you think?

TI: Well, it sort of threw me for a while, and I went to the "black" restroom and I looked in there. It looked so dirty that I went to the "white" restroom and hoped that nobody would object. And the drinking fountains were that way, too. I was surprised.

MN: But you always went to the "white" one?

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: And no one harassed you?

TI: No.

MN: Now, how did the staff at Camp Adventure treat you?

TI: Well, they all knew that I was coming, and so it was very comfortable and they were very friendly.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: And so you're, you are this Japanese American camp counselor in North Carolina in the middle of the war. And Mr. Patrick decides to have a Japan Day.

TI: Yes.

MN: And what was your reaction to this?

TI: I said, "Are you sure?" [Laughs] Since, you know... and he said, "I want you to teach them a song in Japanese, and a dance. He said, he asked me, "Do you know a dance?" And I said, "Yes." And so I taught them "Kutsu ga Naru," that song, and I made the motions for it. And so we had Japan Day and we sang the song and we did our dance, the group that I was to teach. And then he ordered a Japanese meal for us to have at lunchtime. And I went to the cook and the cook said, "The only thing I know how to cook is fried rice." I said, "That's fine, let's have fried rice." And then Mr. Pat said, "We must eat it with chopsticks?" I said, "Are you sure? Chopsticks are very hard to use." He says, "Yeah, I want chopsticks." So he went down to a pencil company in Asheville, yeah, and ordered a hundred pair of chopsticks made. Because we had about a hundred people, the staff included. So I tried to teach them how to use chopsticks, but the boys, especially the boys, they couldn't wait to learn to use them. So they usually took up the dish and just scooped it in with the chopsticks. [Laughs] It was fun.

MN: Do you know how this pencil company reacted when they got this order for chopsticks?

TI: I don't know, because Mr. Pat had it made. I didn't go with him.

MN: Did you ever ask Mr. Patrick why he decided to have a Japan Day?

TI: No, I didn't. I just asked him, "Are you sure?" [Laughs] Because I'm the "enemy," you know. Well, I think, "love your enemies, do good to those that harm you." I don't know. But he was really before his time, I think.

MN: And none of the parents complained?

TI: I never heard a complaint. Of course, I left after that one time. So I don't know what kind of reaction he got when the kids got home and told their parents, "I know a song in Japanese." [Laughs] I often wondered how they must have reacted. Even the camp counselors. And after I printed out the words and had it printed up, and even the camp counselors could sing it. And by the end of the camp period time, I could hear some of the camp counselors even singing it. And the kids would request singing it very often during our songfests.

MN: Would you mind singing it for us?

TI: Let's see if I remember. [Sings song] Let's see... it leaves me.

MN: That was very nice. Thank you. Now, while you were there, did you have any opportunity to share about what happened to Japanese Americans on the West Coast?

TI: Yes, I did. Lake Junaluska is the Methodist conference grounds. And so lots of the youth groups would come up to Lake Junaluska during the summer, and so Mr. Pat sent me down to talk to them and tell them about my incarceration. And they asked me to sing songs in Japanese, which surprised me. And so I did. And I was surprised that I got an encore, applause. So I had to sing two songs. [Laughs]

MN: What were the two songs that you sang?

TI: I sang "Sakura," And then I sang "Ano Machi, Kono Machi."


MN: Share with us the songs that you sang at this assembly?

TI: I sang "Sakura." [Sings]

MN: And they gave you a standing ovation?

TI: Yeah. [Laughs] It's kind of a sad melody, 'cause it's in minor key.

MN: So what did you do for your encore?

TI: I sang "Ano Machi, Kono Machi." I don't know if I remember all the words. I think I made a mistake in the "Sakura." Well, anyway... [Sings] Oh, dear. All right, I think I'd better pitch it lower. [Sings] No, it's too high. Oh, dear. Well...

MN: Okay, we get the idea. Okay. So after this, you returned back to National College.

TI: Right.

MN: And your sophomore year was, there was no, it was not eventful, you got through all the classes.

TI: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

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.

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: So when did your parents actually return to the West Coast?

TI: Right after that.

MN: So was it January of '45?

TI: Yes.

MN: So before, you know, your family left for Santa Anita, your parents rented out their home. Were they able to move right back in when they returned to L.A.?

TI: No.

MN: What happened?

TI: The family that rented our home wouldn't move out. And so my mother went back to Mrs. Douglas again, and she said, "Well, the way to do it is to go to the sheriff." And so my parents went to the sheriff and had them evicted. And in the meantime, they got out, but they vandalized some of our furniture before they left.

MN: And so what kind of reception did the neighborhood give to your parents?

TI: They knew that my father had his car, 'cause he got the car when he came back. And so when they drove up to take possession of the house, they had nails strewn across our driveway, and they had a big sign, "No Japs." But my father and mother took possession of the house anyway.

MN: Was your father able to get his old life insurance job back?

TI: No, not at all. No, they wouldn't hire him to do anything. He offered to do some bookkeeping for them because he was so good at figures, but they said no.

MN: Now, your mother, where did she have to go to do her grocery shopping?

TI: Oh. The people in the neighborhood, the grocery stores in our neighborhood, knew we were Japanese. So they told my mother, "We don't sell to Japs." So my mother had to take a bus and a streetcar and go to Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, near Chinatown, to hopefully pass for a Chinese woman to buy her groceries. And she would go down there once a week with two great big shopping bags, and bring back the food for the week.

MN: Now, when did you return to Los Angeles?

TI: I returned to Los Angeles in May, the end of May of 1945.

MN: And you did not finish your senior year at National College.

TI: No.

MN: Now, a lot of Nikkei families who were fortunate to have homes to return to allowed other returning Nikkei families to stay with them 'cause they had nowhere to go with the housing shortage?

TI: Yeah, that's what we did, too.

MN: How many families were in your house?

TI: Let's see. We had, we had our neighbor, the Yamashita, June Yamashita came to stay with us while she got the house down the street vacated. And she got a job, and then she called her parents to come back to their house. And then we had a couple staying with us. They were both pharmacists, so they got a job right away. And they stayed with us until they saved enough money to put a down payment on a house, and then they moved out. Let's see... oh, we had brief stays from a lot of, a lot of girls, Irene Abe and, let's see, who else came to stay with us? Everybody had it so tough. Going into camp was a piece of cake compared to coming out. Coming out was so stressful, especially for the Issei. They had no money, no job, no place to go.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: Now, you returned in May 1945, and you and Jim married...

TI: In July.

MN: Now, how did you pick that date?

TI: Well, it was a, it was his two-week furlough, so we had to pick a date in that two-week time. And so it was a Saturday and it fell on the fourteenth. Little did we know it was Bastille Day in France. [Laughs] So anyway, people say, "You got married on Bastille Day?" I said, "Yeah, we didn't know it was Bastille Day." So anyway...

MN: Now, the war is still going on. Were you able to invite friends from camp to the wedding?

TI: No. There was hardly anybody back except my neighbor down the street, and she was my, Miyo Yamashita Abe was my maid of honor, and I had been friends with her since childhood, four years old. And June, her sister, played the piano for us. And she's the one that stayed with us until she could get her house vacated and call her family back. And we had one neighbor, Mrs. Corsini, she was an Italian neighbor, and that was it.

MN: And who was Jim's best man?

TI: His brother-in-law who had gone to Chicago to live. And he worked for Ryerson Steel in Chicago, and he was so afraid he would lose his job, that he took one day off to get here to Los Angeles, and then it was Saturday, and we got married, and he went to the dinner with us after the wedding, and then Jim had to take him down to the train station and he went down to Chicago.

MN: Now, how did you prepare for the wedding?

TI: Well, there wasn't much to prepare for. The only thing we did was... poor Jim. He was the driver, and he went after the wedding cake, and he took us to the Douglas's home where we had our wedding, and he took Frank down to the train station. And then we had our dinner down in the Wilshire district, and then he says he was so busy, he doesn't even remember the ceremony. [Laughs] Yeah. It was fun.

MN: Now, what did you do for a wedding dress?

TI: Oh, well, I bought a white, short cocktail dress and a little hat, and I was married. And fortunately Dr. Douglas, our host, was an ordained Methodist minister, so he officiated. We were married in their home.

MN: And just so I know the Douglas's are a big part of your family, can you tell us again who Dr. and Mrs. Douglas were?

TI: Oh. Dr., Mrs. Douglas especially, the woman who was instrumental in getting my mother to come from Japan. She belonged to the Methodist Missionary Society, Women's Missionary Society that sent my mother the fare to come to the United States. And so she was their mentor throughout her stay in the United States.

MN: Now, you talk about the first dinner that you have as a "wedding breakfast"?

TI: Yeah, it's always called a breakfast because, I don't know why, it's a tradition, but it's, ours was actually a dinner. [Laughs]

MN: And you had it at the Nikobob restaurant in Wilshire? How did you pick that restaurant?

TI: I don't know. I guess it was close enough by, yeah.

MN: Where did you have your honeymoon?

TI: Well, we went to Chicago by train, and in Chicago, Jim's family, most of Jim's family was there in Chicago. So they gave us a second wedding reception, and they had a very nice dinner for us. And they also paid for our stay at the hotel, Stevenson's Hotel in Chicago, yeah. And then we went on to Fort Snelling.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: And when you got to Fort Snelling, you received a telegram.

TI: Yes. Nine days after I got there, I received a telegram to come home because my father was very, very sick. And so I came home, and I was met by Mrs. Douglas at the train station, and she said to me, "I have a very sad message to give you." And she told me that my father had taken his life. And she said my mother would be in the car. So it was a very sad homecoming.

MN: Do you know why your father took his life?

TI: Yes, because he just wouldn't go on welfare, and he was too proud to go on welfare, and he couldn't find a job. He was so distraught he had a nervous breakdown, and he took his life. He knew, being a life insurance agent, he knew that the insurance company would pay my mother. Because he had even paid the premiums while he was in camp. And he didn't buy the policy with the intention of committing suicide, so he knew that clause was in there and that they would have to pay him, pay my mother.

MN: Now, I know among Christians, suicide is considered taboo. So what did you tell people?

TI: With the Catholics more so. But with the Protestants, not as bad.

MN: So when people asked you what happened to your father, what did you tell him?

TI: Well, he had a nervous breakdown, and because he just couldn't find a job, and he had nothing to do. And it just made him so, so agitated, that he couldn't find a job. So that's the way he chose.

MN: From a Japanese cultural viewpoint, some would consider what your father did a very honorable thing, taking his life.

TI: Yes.

MN: How do you consider this?

TI: I think it's... I know he sacrificed his life for my mother. And, you know, he had been very agitated up to my wedding day. He was so nervous, he would just, oh, he would just drive himself... and, but my wedding day he was calm as a clam, I don't know what happened. But I think he thought, "Well, I'm handing over the responsibility of my daughter to Jim," so I think that was a relief for him. I really do.

MN: How long did it take you to tell your own children about your father?

TI: Oh, I couldn't tell them 'til I wrote my book, and I had to put it in my book, so that they found out.

MN: How did they take the news? How did your children take the news?

TI: Well, they never knew my father. I wished they had. My girlfriend says, "Lance looks so much like your father," and so did my mother. Here she always thought he looked so much like him. And she would even say, "Aruki tsuki demo sokkuri." And even my maid of honor, my girlfriend, she says, "You know, when I was watching Lance during the trial, he just looked so much like your dad."

MN: And, of course, the day your son Lance was born...

TI: He was born on the exact day, (five) years after my father took his life. And so my mother never said it in so many words, but I think she thinks he was a (reincarnation of my dad).

MN: Do you need to take a break?

TI: Yeah.


MN: So with your father gone, how did you and your mother manage?

TI: Well, we had a rough time for about a year and a half. And during that time, the, his will had to go through probate court, and so we had to sell his office equipment, especially the steel things went to war. And so we sold six steel cabinets, filing cabinets, and we sold one of his typewriters and his adding machine, and we sold his car. And we were able to meet our bills, and I go to college. I went to Chapman College.

MN: Was that a very difficult decision for you to go back to college?

TI: No, my mother insisted that I finish my college education. So I applied to go to Whittier College first, but then I would have to stay in the dorm because I didn't have a car or anything, I didn't know how to drive then anyway. But then my mother said, "No, you can't go to Whittier because," well... and then Chapman College opened, and it was in our neighborhood, so I went there and I could go by bus.

MN: I'm gonna go back a little bit and ask you about when you got this news about your father, and then you told your husband, James, so what did he do?

TI: He got an emergency leave, and he came to help us. And it was so good because he drove us to the mortuary and made all the funeral arrangements for my father. And that cost a lot of money, too, and so we were just flat broke. And that's why we had to sell the car and the steel cabinets.

MN: And then it was also during this time that Jim, Jim's platoon went overseas and he was left behind.

TI: Yes. He was left behind, and since the war ended in August of 1945, that they mustered him out. But he says, "You know, I owe the army." So he reenlisted and went to Korea for a year.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: So, and then you talked about going back to college and you, what did you get a degree in?

TI: I got a degree in Sociology, a BS degree.

MN: And what year did you graduate?

TI: '46.

MN: Were you able to find a job right after you graduated?

TI: Yes, I was. I found a job with All Nations Foundation, and it's a Methodist establishment, and I worked in the nursery in the morning, and then I did group work with the girls that came to the girl's club in All Nations Foundation.

MN: And All Nations, was this located on skid row?

TI: Yes.

MN: Where did the children come from?

TI: In the neighborhood of skid row. So they were black children, Mexican children. I really should say Hispanic, Chinese, and... I had Chinese, but I don't think I had a Japanese child.

MN: So while you were working at All Nations, your husband returned from duty.

TI: Uh-huh.

MN: And you became pregnant with your first child. While you were working there somebody said something to you. Can you share that?

TI: Yes. Well, the nursery school children, I would take, you know, walk with them to cross some of the intersections because they were so dangerous. So they would be black children and Chinese children and Hispanic children with me. And one day I was walking with them with a maternity smock on, and I heard one man say to, to the people around him, "I wonder what color the next one's gonna be." [Laughs] I was really offended at the time, but now I can laugh about it.

MN: So when your mother found out she was gonna be a grandmother, how did she react?

TI: Well, she didn't react very well. She was not happy to be a grandmother. Surprising. But after they came, she was very happy with them. [Laughs]

MN: So at this time, what was your mother doing? What kind of work?

TI: She did not go to work until, let me see... I've forgotten what year she went back to work. But it was... anyway, she found a job again with the YWCA as being director of the Magnolia residence in Boyle Heights on Third and Mott. And they housed mostly Japanese American girls that were coming back from the camps. And it was dormitory living more or less, and it was a cooperative again, and the girls all took turns in cooking and cleaning, and my mother was the director of that house until it was no longer needed again, and it closed.

MN: Do you know how long she was the director?

TI: Seven years.

MN: And do you know how many females were living there at the peak?

TI: It varied, but I don't know. About, at the height, I think maybe fifteen or twenty girls. They had a large attic, and it had alcoves, and many girls stayed in the attic. And then there were bedrooms, and sometimes three and four girls stayed in a bedroom.

MN: Is that house still there on Third and Mott?

TI: Uh-huh, it's still there. But it's owned privately now. In fact, they used it for some movies recently. It's a beautiful house.

MN: There's a lot of beautiful houses in Boyle Heights.

TI: Yeah. You know, eighteen hundred houses, yeah, and it's really kept well. And that beautiful magnolia tree in front. I was the one that named it. They were wondering what to call it.

MN: Oh, so because of the magnolia in the front, that's why it's called Magnolia?

TI: Called Magnolia residence.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: And now you had your first baby, Chrislyn Kei Ito. How did you come up with her name?

TI: Well, I wanted to name her Carolyn, but Jim's sister had a girl named Carol, so I didn't want to take Carolyn. So then I thought of Chrislyn, I put the two together, sort of, and that's how she became Chrislyn, but nobody calls her Chrislyn, everybody calls her Chrisie.

MN: And then three years later you had your second child. And how did you pick his name?

TI: Well, there was a attorney, and his name was Lance Smith, that helped Jim with selling and all the things he had to go through to sell the ranch that he owned. And his name was Lance Smith, and I guess his mother chose Lance because it was such an unusual name at that time. And there weren't many Lances during that era, so I thought, well, he was such a nice attorney that I'll name Lance after him. Because "Ito" is such a common name, and there are about six Jim Itos around. And so I said, "I'll have to really choose an unusual name. But now it's so common, a whole lot of people have the name Lance.

MN: And what about his middle name Allan?

TI: Well, that was named after a congregational minister who was the one that took stewardship of the Hollywood Independent Church in Hollywood. And you know, the people in the Hollywood Independent Church, Japanese American Hollywood Independent Church, they were, they stored their belongings in that church practically up to the ceiling. And everything was intact when they came back, because this minister and his congregation took charge of that church while they were gone. And so we began to attend his church. And so, and he's a saint. He really was. And he was a man that was a reporter during World War I, and he saw war, and he became a pacifist. And he counseled with Lou Ayres, who was a pacifist, and he counseled with the conscientious objectors as well as the armed forces.


MN: So we were talking about Dr. Allan Hunter. Anything else about him?

TI: Yes, he would visit Manzanar, and once there was a baby at Manzanar that really needed medical attention that they couldn't give at Manzanar. So they had the couple come out, and he went after them and brought them to his home and the army permitted it, so the baby could go to Children's Hospital. But unfortunately, the baby died.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MN: Now, your own child, Chrisie, at four years old, she contracted an illness. Can you share with us what it was?

TI: Yes. My daughter Chrisie, when she was four years old, she went to the bathroom and came back, and she called to me, and she says, "Mommy, Mommy, I can't get into bed. My legs won't work." And so I knew then that something was very wrong. And so I called Jim and we took her down to the doctor's office, and he put her on the floor and said, "Stand up," and she couldn't stand up. And so he said, "I'm sorry, I think she has infantile paralysis." And in those days, they called it "infantile paralysis" instead of polio. And so he said, "You must take her to General Hospital. All cases must go to General Hospital." So we took her to General Hospital, and then Jim stayed out in the car with Lance, and I went in with Chrisie, but they wouldn't let me touch her after I gave her to them. They put me in a straitjacket, and the straitjacket was made so that you put your hands into a sleeve, and you cross your hands like this, and they tie your hands, they tie the string in back of you so you can't move your hands. And so I couldn't carry Chrisie or anything, I just could stand on the other side of her bed. And they said, "Well, we're going to have to take a blood test." So they said, "We're going to prick her toe." And so they did, and a big bubble of blood came up. And I just went in, I just couldn't stop crying. I didn't cry out loud, but the tears would just roll down. And they had a mask on me, too, and so I couldn't wipe my tears, I couldn't do anything. And so all the tears went down over the mask and fell on the floor. And, oh, it was just something. And then I had to leave her. They said, "You have to leave her here, and then tomorrow you come back, and you will take her to Children's Hospital." So that's what happened.

MN: Why did they put you in a straitjacket?

TI: They didn't want me to get the polio. They didn't know too much about it, so they knew it was a germ, so they didn't want me to, they asked me, do I have any other children. I said, "Yes, I have a baby." And so they said, "Well, we'll have to put you in a straitjacket," so that's what they did.

MN: And then while Chrisie was going through treatment, a nurse came in and asked you to sign a release form one day.

TI: Yeah.

MN: What were they filming?

TI: They were filming -- I thought it was for medical purposes that they were going to film, because they said they were going to film her having the Kenny Treatment, which is putting her in a warm bath and then wrapping hot, warm wet blankets around her body. And so I thought that was for medical purposes they were going to film. I found out that it was for the United Community Chest, or United Way. And so it went on the TV. And here was this little face with pink, hot blankets wrapped around her body, and just perspiration, bubbles of perspiration just streaming down her face. And my mother saw it and she's crying, and my relatives all saw it and they said they cried. And I saw it and I cried. I was never allowed to see the Kenny Treatment room, you know.

MN: Your second son, your second child, Lance, grew up to be a prominent judge.

TI: Yes.

MN: He became very well-known for presiding over the John Keating trial and became very famous worldwide for the O.J. Simpson murder case. How did his fame affect your lives?

TI: Well, I lost my identity. Nobody bothered to find out what my name was, I was just the mother and Jim was the father of Lance Ito. [Laughs] Yeah, it was funny. It still happens to this day.

MN: Now, during the trial, a lot of racist things were said.

TI: Yes.

MN: How did you feel about that?

TI: Well, one of my friends says, said to me, "He's not white, he's not black, he's just right." [Laughs] And so that's why they picked him.

MN: Now, on the flip side, Jay Leno on his show had the "Dancing Itos."

TI: Yes, yes.

MN: What did you think about that?

TI: Well, I thought... well, Jay Leno is Jay Leno. He has to, that's his living. He has to pan everybody.

MN: Were you folks allowed to sit in the courtroom during the trial?

TI: Yes, just once, though. We had to get permission. I mean, Lance had to give us a ticket or something. He had two seats that he could have at any time.

MN: Has it really been difficult for Chrisie to have such a famous brother?

TI: Well, you'll have to ask Chrisie. [Laughs]

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MN: Now, when redress, when talks of redress happened, did you ever think that was possible?

TI: Well, I didn't think we would get it, but I was surprised when we did get it, yes. You know, Aiko Yoshinaga was in my club, in the same club, the Junior Misses. That's how I met Aiko. And I was one of the first ones to send my name in to get reparations through Aiko.

MN: That's wonderful. Now, was your mother alive still to get redress?

TI: No. She was gone.

MN: Now, your son is a judge. Has he ever talked to you about the legality of camp and how he feels about it?

TI: No.

MN: Now, regarding Heart Mountain, when did you first return to Heart Mountain after the war?

TI: Well, we first, we took the children up to see Yellowstone, and then on the way back, we stopped at Heart Mountain. But the children were so young, I think Chrisie was eight and Lance was five. So they don't even remember.

MN: How did you feel about going back to camp?

TI: Well, it brought back memories, some good, some bad, but mostly good, yeah. And it was amazing to see how much has built up around there. Because when we went there, there was nothing there but our camp. But, of course, there was the little town of Powell and Cody, but they were, one was fifteen miles away, and thirty miles away, that way.

MN: How do you feel about the work of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation?

TI: Oh, I think it's wonderful that they're going to build this museum. And I hope that it sends a message that, you know, "Let's not have another concentration camp ever in the U.S.A."

MN: Is there anything else you would like to add? I've asked my questions.

TI: No. I think I've been fortunate to become a teacher, because before the war, they didn't allow Asians to become teachers in the elementary school, and high school, too. And so when I got out of camp and I had my two children, and I went back to college and got my teaching credential, and I was one of the first Asian teachers to go into teaching. So that was a plus.

MN: How many years did you teach?

TI: I taught about twenty-five and a half years, twenty-six.

MN: So your husband and yourself were teachers, so during the summer you were able to travel a lot?

TI: Yes, yeah. So we were able to travel. And then we were fortunate to get a sabbatical one time, and we went to Europe and Israel and all over.

MN: Okay, thank you very much.

TI: You're welcome.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.