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Title: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu Interview
Narrator: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: May 25, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-utetsushi-01-0020

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TI: But now, so did you move with your family to another camp?

TU: Yeah.

TI: And then you went to Amache?

TU: We went to Amache, and I stayed there a few days and I told my folks, "I don't want to stay in here." So I went to the camp placement officer, I guess that's what they called them, I'm not sure. But I went to see 'em and they asked me what I wanted to do. I said, "I want to go to an outside school, get my diploma from an outside school because I want to go into a college later on, and I feel that a diploma from an outside high school would be more conducive to my entry into a university." So he said, "Okay, where do you want to go?" I said, "I don't care, anywhere. I'm willing to go anywhere." And he said, "Well, we have people in New York, we have people in Philadelphia, we have people in Chicago and places like that. But he says, "How's Des Moines, Iowa, sound to you?" I said, "Sounds good to me." [Laughs] I didn't know where it was, but that's what he suggested. I said, "Yeah, I'll take it."

TI: So what did you know about Des Moines, Iowa? Did you know anyone there or anything?

TU: No, not a single person. I didn't even know the name of the director of the hostel there.

TI: So let me back up and give a little context. So you were at Tule Lake going to high school there, and in fact, entering your senior year, before you entered your senior year, you were voted class president? You were going to be the class president?

TU: Student body.

TI: Yeah, student body president of the Tule Lake high school.

TU: Tri-State High School, yeah.

TI: Tri-State High School. But then your family was transferred...

TU: To Colorado.

TI: Amache, Colorado. And then rather than go to high school there, you wanted to go outside. Now, this is pretty unusual. I've interviewed lots of men and women, and they tell me stories of going to college from camp. You're the first one I know that is actually leaving camp for high school.

TU: Yeah.

TI: And that was okay with the camp administration? Even though you were a minor at this point, they were going to let you go out to a strange city by yourself.

TU: All by myself, yeah. So I think it was a morning train I took out of the camp, or, no, an evening train I guess it was. So I got to the depot in Des Moines in the morning. I don't know how early in the morning it was, but I got off the train with my one suitcase, that was all my worldly belongings, just one suitcase. And I was looking around to see what I should do next, and lo and behold, this fellow, Ross Wilbur, comes up and says, "I'm with the hostel and I'm here to pick you up. And you could stay at the hostel for a few days until you find a more permanent place." I said, "Well, gee, that's great." So he took me to the hostel, and that was still morning, and he said, "Yeah, you're probably still kind of tired after overnight train ride, so why don't you wash up? Then when you feel up to it, come down and talk to me." So I'm in a hurry, so I washed up, and I went down to see him. And he said, "What do you want to do?" Said, "Well, I want a job as a schoolboy, I'll work for room and board to be allowed to go to school, high school." He thought about it and he said, "Hey, I think I have the ideal family for you." And I said, "Yeah? Can I go see them?" And he said, "Well, I'll call up and see if Mrs. Allen is home." Sure enough, she's home, and so he said, "You can go up this street to this Allen house, talk to Mrs. Allen, and go from there." So I went to this address, and she let me in, "Have a seat," and we started talking. And I said, "I'd like to have a schoolboy job." And she said, "You know, we're looking for somebody like you." I said, "Well, that's great." Said, "Is it okay if I work with you?" And she says, "Yes." And I asked, "When and when can we start?" She said, "Right now." [Laughs] So I hurried back to the hostel and picked up my baggage and reported to the Allen house, Allen home.

TI: So from the moment you got there on the train, within that day you already had a job and a place to stay.

TU: Yeah.

TI: So you didn't even spend the night. Within that day you already had a job and a place to stay. So you didn't even spend a night at the hostel.

TU: Exactly, yeah. So things were developing fast. They're used to having... I found out later that they're used to having young kids stay at the house, do odd jobs.

TI: "They" meaning the Allens were used to it?

TU: Allens, yeah.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.