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-01-0004

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TI: Going back to your father, you mentioned he was more the scholar.

BT: Right.

TI: Describe what that means, I mean, why would you call him a scholar?

BT: Well, he was sent from Japan to be educated here in the U.S. and he was supposed to be enrolled in one of the college or university, which he never really accomplished that. Other than that I don't know too much about his background in terms of Japan.

TI: But then when you were growing up, did you see him do a lot of writing or reading?

BT: Oh, yes, in the old days they used to have Japanese movie in the church huge auditorium, and you, family would donate money to see the movie and he would write their name in Japanese which they would put up on the wall. So if people paid, donated hundred dollar, their name would go up on the wall and this is what he did.

TI: Oh, so to help finance the movies, these families would essentially sponsor it with money.

BT: Yeah, right with a donation.

TI: And your father because of his writing ability was the one who would write these names.

BT: Right.

TI: 'Cause they'd want someone with good calligraphy, good writing to put up there. I see. Okay, that makes sense. So let's talk about your childhood memories. I mean, with eight children and parents, tell me about your house or your home.

BT: Well, when my dad decided to quit farming and moved into the city I remember we rented a house and the upstairs, there was one, two, three bedrooms. And downstairs, one of the living quarter like your, it would be considered your living area for entertainment, that at night would turn into a bedroom and this is how my parents survived.

TI: 'Cause I'm looking at the dates, so they had eight children during the Depression. And you're now in the city, how was it for the family? I mean, did you have enough to eat and everything?

BT: Of course, the older brothers and sisters all had to go and work and I know two of my sisters used to do what they call a housekeeper, they went to school but over the weekend they would go to a certain Caucasian home and they would cook and do the dishes, clean the house, that type of situation. And I know my two older sisters did that for quite a while to help the family financially. Now we were younger so as we get older we didn't have to do all that, which I'm so thankful. I would make a terrible housekeeper working for someone. [Laughs]

TI: So fortunately for you, your older siblings were able to do a lot of that.

BT: Yes.

TI: So with your free time, what would be some activities you would do growing up as a kid?

BT: Let's see now. Well, with our school friends we would play. In those days, you know, it was safe to play out in the street so we would play things like Kick the Can. I don't know if you're familiar with that, where you kick the can and you hide and the opponents have to come and look for you, that type of ... these were very innocent type of clean, to me, it's clean games and that's what I remember playing things like that. Other than that, oh, I joined also, much later I was old enough, I joined the basketball team. And in those days there were what, they started out with something like nine courts and then they made it into half a court and I was considered a little taller than the rest. And I would have to play a guard which you couldn't shoot the basket, you had to just guard.

TI: Oh, I see because they split the half would be like defense and half would be offense.

BT: Right, and my girlfriend and I we were on the, considered on the tall side so we always had to be the guards and that was not too exciting.

TI: Oh, that's good.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.