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-01-0013

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TI: Okay, so Betty, where we ended up the first half was it was just about your father's death at Tule Lake. And then after that I think you went to another camp. So your family answered "yes-yes" on the leave clearance form. So where did you go after Tule Lake?

BT: Amache, which is in Colorado.

TI: And why did you choose Amache?

BT: Because my mother is the one that wanted to go to Amache due to the fact that my older sister who lived in Los Angeles was in Amache. So she said, "Let's go to Amache," and she said at least... she was worried about my oldest sister because she never had children, she was married but she never had children, so my mother felt like she'd like to go Amache. So I said, okay it doesn't make any difference to me where we go.

TI: And what were the differences when you went from Tule Lake to Amache? Were there any differences between the two camps?

BT: (...) It ran like any other relocation camp, WRA, you're in charge of the... you had different blocks and each block had... block manager had to take care of whatever's required for the people. But Amache is --

TI: So I just want to make sure I understand this, so before, yeah, I guess before the questionnaire you're saying Tule Lake was just like any other camp?

BT: Right.

TI: How it was run, and it wasn't until after you had left that it changed. And so from your perspective the way Amache was run was very similar to the way Tule Lake was run before it became a segregation camp?

BT: Right.

TI: Okay, so any memories about Amache? Because now you've graduated from high school, did you get a job?

BT: Oh, yes I worked for a Mr. Vecchio who was in charge of the employment office. (...) I was his secretary, and he was the man who if you wanted to leave camp he would send a clearance paper to Washington, D.C. to find out that you're not a "no-no" person. And then they used to have temporary workers who would leave the camp to do some farm work because there was a shortage for the farmers they didn't have people to do their harvesting or whatever. And he would have to release these people and then they would be gone for maybe about a week and they come back to camp. So Mr. Vecchio was in charge of this type of situation.

TI: And you were kind of his assistant or secretary?

BT: I was his secretary.

TI: So in that position do you have a sense of how many applications to leave, whether it's temporary or on a more permanent basis, how many of those were declined? I mean were there very many that --

BT: No, I don't recall any particular people being declined, no. Because like Mr. Vecchio would send these application and then the FBI would check through, I guess they have a record of everyone one on the... in the Washington, D.C. and there was none that was considered a "no-no" person so they were permitted to leave definitely or temporary.

TI: And did this include the Issei, the Japanese immigrants, were they also allowed to leave during this time?

BT: As far as I know, I don't know of any Issei that left for temporary employment or whatever, farm workers or whatever.

TI: But how about on a more permanent basis to resettle in places like Chicago?

BT: Oh, sure, we had these people all had to be cleared again. And their family or whoever is going to leave with them so Mr. Vecchio, this was his job to make sure that you were not considered "enemy alien."

TI: And for a family or an individual, how difficult was the process? How much paperwork or how much red tape did they have to go through to get out of camp?

BT: No, what I remembered the head, of the family had to do all the... each family had the head, like my dad being gone, my brother, one of my older brother would be in charge of all of us. And they would send him an application or he in turn be contacted and said, "Your brother wants to leave and we permit him to leave camp," whatever. But there was nothing negative, a majority of them were cleared up. There was no problem.

TI: But was it a situation where the head of the household could they prevent someone in their family from leaving? Say for instance in your case your brother that you want to leave and he said, "No, we want to keep her here." Could that prevent you from leaving?

BT: No.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.