Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Betty Tanakatsubo Interview
Narrator: Betty Tanakatsubo
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-tbetty-01-0010

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TI: I'm going to ask you about that a little bit more, but before we do that, just tell me your first impressions of Tule Lake when you first got there.

BT: I know it was very huge and I'm trying to think. The ground, there was a lot of seashells on the ground and a lot of sand, and we used to have sand storm and that would hurt because the wind would come through. And other than that, as far as the Isseis were concerned, because there were so many shells being a formerly lake, they used to make, the Isseis made... (...) they would dye the shell and make jewelry. My mother I know made several jewelry and she gave me one of 'em, and to this day I don't know whatever happened to that. I wish... at that time you would think you would treasure it but no, oh, you look at it and so, oh, it's a seashell, mom made this, and you didn't really appreciate it.

TI: Well, see if you find it because that's valuable.

BT: But a lot of the Isseis, the ladies especially did this type of thing. There was nothing else to do so they collect and made from shells beautiful leis and brooches. (...) They were very creative and very ingenious when it comes to doing something like that.

TI: And how was life for you? You're like a senior in high school and what was like the social activities for you?

BT: Well, they used to occasionally have a dance group so a bunch of us would go, the women would go and the guys would be there. Other than that, there was no social outlet. It was very limited and even that I know graduation day when we graduated we wanted to have a little party. And I know there were about six of us fellows and the ladies, we went to different mess halls to see if they would let us have a party. (But) the majority of them said no until we came to one area and this (person) was in charge of the food and he said, "Sure, why not? If you want to have a party I'll open up the mess hall for you people." And we were just tickled because the others all refused us.

TI: And this was your high school graduation, so for most people high school graduation is a big event and you were just looking for a place to have a party?

BT: Yes, a party, right, that was it. That was our graduation and I think there was some auto dealer because all of sudden we saw a cake, a huge cake, and we wondered who baked it and they said, no, it was given to us by and outsider. And it was from what I heard, it was a car dealer and he heard about the Japanese people being in the camp and evidently he must have talked with someone and found out that there was a group that was graduating and he donated this cake. And we thought all the time that someone baked it in camp (...). No, it was donated by this car dealer.

TI: Oh, that's a great story. Do you know any more information about who this car dealer was?

BT: No, we had no idea.

TI: Or what kind of car dealer, if it was Chevy or Ford?

BT: Nothing, all we knew was it was a Caucasian man who evidently heard about the situation and he donated the sheet cake.

TI: And was this a local car dealer, maybe Klamath Falls?

BT: I think so, Klamath Falls probably.

TI: Interesting, that's a good one. I'd love to find out more information about that. That's a nice story.

BT: I wish that... all I know is that we were finally find a place to have a get together and then to find some outsider donating the cake. And I think that was great.

TI: How does that make you feel when you think about that?

BT: In those days you don't... you're just grateful that somebody is thoughtful enough to lend us the place, the mess hall, and to someone, totally stranger donating a cake. So for us that was a great celebration.

TI: And how about the graduation ceremony, what was that like?

BT: It was standard. It was held outside, and I think if I recall, they had a lot of chairs where the people could come to see the graduation and then our graduating class, we had to march down and accept the diploma.

TI: Now did they have music playing when you did that like Pomp and Circumstance?

BT: No, nothing like that, no.

TI: Did they call out the names as people picked up their diploma?

BT: Well, we had to get it in order and I'm trying to think. No, this diploma... in fact, I don't even recall seeing my name on there. Evidently it was just a diploma passed out to show that you graduated but there was no name. And my mother, after she left for Sacramento, she had all these things put away, and to this day I don't know what happened, I don't have any diploma, nothing. Some of my mementos, they all disappeared.

TI: Now how about the graduating seniors? What did you wear? Did you have anything special to wear?

BT: We, I'm trying to think, we had... I think we had just a gown. I don't recall seeing any cap. I think it was... when it comes to something like that it's very vague. And I can't remember (either) having any cap and gown offhand.

TI: How about speeches? When I go to high school graduations the valedictorian or somebody goes up there and they talk about the future or whatever. Did you have speeches at your graduation?

BT: There was some I think in terms well, some of the class presidents might have spoken up, each group had officers and I don't know if my books --

TI: That's okay, you don't have to worry about that. I'm just curious because I think of high school graduations so much about finishing high school, and then you're going to go out into the big world and there's hope. And I'm just curious in terms of the mood of your graduation because you're behind barbed wires, and what people said.

BT: Well, evidently they encouraged us to eventually leave the camp and get involved with some occupation whatever and several, there was one girl in particular, I know she left for Missouri to attend college, but a lot of us, we were not able to do that. Financially when you left camp they give you so much right but other than that we had no definite goal. Many of us landed up figuring what should we do.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.