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-01-0019

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TI: So let's go back to your life and so you came to Chicago, you're married and earlier I think you mentioned you have three boys. And why don't you tell me the names of your sons.

BT: Okay, our first number one son is Niles and he's an architect. He lives in California in the Bay Area. And then Ramsey, he's an optometrist.

TI: And where does he live?

BT: He lives in Skokie.

TI: Okay, right nearby. And then the third?

BT: And then a third one is a field specialist, Stewart, S-T-E-W --

TI: W-A-R-T?

BT: Yeah.

TI: A field specialist?

BT: He's a troubleshooter for, when it comes to the various equipment and things like that. And he's been with this company for thirty years.

TI: And where does Stewart live?

BT: He lives in Lake Zurich, that's way out in the suburbs.

TI: Okay, good. And was it challenging... you were raised in Sacramento, were there any special challenges raising Japanese American sons in the Chicago area? Was it easier, harder?

BT: To me I think it was easier. We've always been very active with Cub Scouting. I was a den mother for nine years heaven forbid. And then my husband was manager for the drum corps for quite a while.

TI: And this drum corps was mostly Japanese American?

BT: Well, it started out with the Niseis' children, and then eventually it was opened up to other ethnic group whoever wanted to join. And I know some of the board members resented that, so my husband said this is... we are discriminating because there were two black people who heard about the Nisei drum corps and they wanted to join. And the board said, "No, we don't want them."

TI: But your husband wanted them to --

BT: But he said, "No, we are wrong. We have to... this is a youth movement, you cannot discriminate." And he told the board member, "You should know better 'cause we've been discriminated." And so they finally accepted the two black people and they were the best kids, very disciplined. In fact, one of the drum corps when they had a banquet years, years later this Stanley told his children, "I wish you had the opportunity that I had to mix in with the Nisei drum corps, and how I learned discipline," a lot of things that normally you don't... organizations don't give you that kind of a background. But discipline was what he liked and he said when you're a teenager you need discipline and Nisei drum corps gave it.

TI: The Nisei drum corps, it sounds like it was set up in a way by the Niseis so that their children could have a community of other Japanese Americans.

BT: Right, it started out as a activity for our children. And like my husband said, they gave him a choice of either being a commander or being in charge of a group of young people not realizing it was going to be the drum corp. So he took the youth movement thing and landed up being a drum corps manager, which was good because he was very tough and the children admired... they didn't like him at first. Oh, is he tough, oh, is he mean, you hear comments like that. But much later they found out that he was a very good manager, no favoritism, anyone who got out of line he called down on it, and so no one was treated as a favorite and that's something that when we had a banquet, they mentioned that.

TI: That's a good story. Other than the drum and bugle corps, were there other activities that you did with your sons to get them connected with their Japanese heritage?

BT: No, I think drum corps was the only thing that I knew that was with the Japanese community. Our youngest son used to help the Nisei posts when they used to have teriyaki chicken, then he would come all the way from Lake Zurich to help with the cooking or running for errands and things like that. But the other two, the one in Skokie, he didn't participate in terms with his father's activity, and then of course the one in California, being out there, that eliminated. But the youngest one always, he said being among the Caucasian where he lived, he said he misses the Japanese activities, like the chicken teriyaki and things like that. He says he misses all that.

TI: That's your son, even though he's in California where there's a lot more --

BT: No, this one is our youngest son.

TI: Oh, your youngest. Okay, got it, okay. Oh, I see, I got it.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.