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Title: Chizuko Omori Interview I
Narrator: Chizuko Omori
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 14, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ochizuko-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: All right, let's get started. Today is March 14, 2011, Monday. We're at the Woodfin Hotel in Emeryville, California. We have Tani Ikeda on video, we will be interviewing Chizu Omori, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. Chizu, let's start with your parents' names. What is your father's name?

CO: Isao, I-S-A-O, and they all called him Bob. That was just a nickname he picked up. Omori, O-M-O-R-I.

MN: Did he pick up the name Bob after camp?

CO: No, no, before.

MN: How about your mom's name?

CO: Haruko, H-A-R-U-K-O. Her maiden name is Fujita.

MN: Which prefecture did they both come from?

CO: Kumamoto.

MN: Are your parents both Issei?

CO: My father is Issei, my mother is Kibei... was.

MN: And where was your mother born?

CO: Oxnard, California.

MN: So your maternal grandparents were in Oxnard, California. What were they doing there?

CO: Farming.

MN: So when your mother married your Issei father, did she lose her U.S. citizenship?

CO: I don't know. It was something... I don't know, it never came up, or at least I wasn't aware. I'm assuming that she did, because that was the law at the time. But she was a Kibei, and I don't know that the citizenship issue was terribly important to her at the time. I don't know. She came when she was sixteen back from Japan and married right away.

MN: Well, how many children did your parents have?

CO: Three?

MN: And where are you on the sibling hierarchy?

CO: I'm the oldest. My sister Kinu is the second, and Emiko -- she says hello to you by the way -- Emiko is third, last.

MN: And what year were you born?

CO: 1930.

MN: And what city were you born in?

CO: Oxnard, California.

MN: You were born in Oxnard, but actually your parents did not live in Oxnard, is that right?

CO: No, they did not.

MN: Where did they live?

CO: At that time I think they were living... gee, I'm not sure. They used to sling a lot of names around, but as an infant I wasn't aware. Buena Park perhaps? I don't know, someplace.

MN: But somewhere in Orange County.

CO: Uh-huh.

MN: Where were you born? Were you born in a hospital or someone's house?

CO: No, I was born at home. I was born in my grandparents' home.

MN: And who delivered you?

CO: This white doctor. I should have looked at my birth certificate so I could have given you a name, but anyway... I get that from the certificate, not from what anybody said.

MN: Okay, so what is your birth name?

CO: Chizuko, C-H-I-Z-U-K-O Omori.

MN: But you dropped the "ko."

CO: Well, yeah, I mean, Chizu is just like a nickname or a shortened word. I mean, as a child and younger person, they used to call me Chizzie, and I really didn't like that. I grew to kind of get really irritated with that name, so first chance I got I said, "Okay, I'm dropping that. I'm Chizu from now on." "Chizu" is a more Japanese-sounding name. Just seemed nicer, I liked it better.

MN: And you never thought about picking up an Anglican name?

CO: Well, there is a story in the family that they did give me a middle, white name, but they forgot to put it on my birth certificate. So it's never been my legal name and I've never liked it, so I've never used it. So that's not my name as far as I'm concerned. [Laughs]

MN: Now, when you were growing up, which language was spoken at home?

CO: Japanese. I didn't really speak English until I went into school.

MN: So when you went to school, did you have difficulty communicating with the teachers and the other students?

CO: You know, I have this memory of grabbing the teacher's skirt and dragging her around because I couldn't quite tell her what I wanted. [Laughs] But I must have picked it up really fast because I don't remember that there was any real difficulty, no.

MN: Now, when you were about three years old you were sharing with me that you experienced your first earthquake?

CO: Yeah.

MN: Can you share with me how -- you were living in Orange County, and how did the adults react and how was your reaction?

CO: Well, I was outside playing, the adults were eating dinner inside. So I guess when the building started shaking, I wasn't in it, so I didn't experience the actual, the real rough spot. But everybody, what I remember about that earthquake is just the reaction of all the adults and others around me getting really... well, Japanese are very sensitive to earthquakes, you know. So they came running out, I guess, and anyway, it was scary because they were so scared. The house moved around so much the furniture was shifted all over the place, and they couldn't get the door into the bedroom where my baby sister was sleeping. And so that was a big problem, I guess, and I remember they went to a lot of trouble to get her out. And she must have been fairly newly born at that time. And then because they were so afraid of aftershocks and everything, we slept in the bed of the truck that night, all of us, because they wanted to drive away in a big hurry if they needed to leave. Because I think that was the thing that stuck in my mind, because everybody was so worried about what might happen. And I guess that was a major earthquake because it's in the books.

MN: I think if it's the same earthquake that the Terminal Islanders were talking about, they went, left Terminal Island because they were afraid of the tsunami.

CO: Yeah. I don't remember hearing anything like a tsunami, but I guess, well, possible, certainly.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.