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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So I always start this with the date and where we are, so today's Wednesday, June 15, 2011. We're in the Chicago area in the Hampton Inn in Skokie. And on camera is Dana Hoshide and I'm the interviewer Tom Ikeda. And we're here today with Betty Tanakatsubo. So Betty, I guess the first question is, just tell me when and where you were born.

BT: I was born in Sacramento, California, and you want the... well, you have my age so --

TI: Go ahead and give us your birthday.

BT: June 15th, which is today, 1925, I was born in.

TI: Sacramento.

BT: Sacramento.

TI: So I guess I'll start by saying happy birthday.

BT: Yes. [Laughs]

TI: And you're by my math eighty-six years old, and again you're just in remarkable condition.

BT: Oh, thank you for that compliment.

TI: And so Betty, when you were born what was the name given to you at birth?

BT: My Japanese name was Tsuyako, T-S-U-Y-A-K-O.

TI: Oh, that's a pretty name, Tsuyako.

BT: Tsuyako. And I had to change as I've gotten older and went to the outside world. A lot of people look at that name and they're afraid to say it. They mispronounce, so I used Betty which was given to me by one of my sisters and I think I was named after... we had a dog, a family dog by the name of Betty. So I was named after the dog. [Laughs]

TI: And how old were you when this happened?

BT: I was... you mean with what?

TI: With Betty, I mean when did you get the name Betty?

BT: I think I must have been about ten or twelve years old.

TI: So this is a new one for me. I finally found someone named after their dog. [Laughs]

BT: Yeah, right. Usually I was named after my uncle or auntie or whatever.

TI: Oh, that's funny.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let me ask first about your father. Can you tell me your father's name?

BT: Buichi, B-U-I-C-H-I.

TI: Buichi, and where in Japan was he from?

BT: Kumamoto.

TI: And tell me how he came to the United States.

BT: Well, he was sent by his parents to come to U.S. and he was supposed to, I think according to one of my older brother who knew more about my father's background, was supposed to come to Chicago to enter a college or university. Well, my father never made it. He landed up doing some farm work and he wasn't a very good farmer, he was more a scholar. And we moved, I think I was very little, but we moved to the city --

TI: But before going there did you know why he wasn't able to make it to Chicago? You say he wasn't make it to Chicago, do you know why?

BT: Well, I think he was like... I can't say a playboy but I think his cronies had something to do, you know, in those days they came from Japan and their wives or whatever family be in Japan yet and they had no idea how to go about finding jobs and that type of situation. So I think in terms of why he never went to school, I think the environmental situation, I think, prevented him from going to school.

TI: So where did he end up? If not Chicago where?

BT: He stayed in Sacramento.

TI: Okay, Sacramento.

BT: Yeah, he in fact... well, much later after we got evacuated to camp he didn't have much of a camp life, he passed away. When we went to Tule Lake and I think he couldn't have been there more than... less than a year and he passed away.

TI: Okay, we'll get to that in more detail later.

BT: Okay.

TI: In Sacramento you mentioned friends so was there sort of family or friends in Sacramento for him so he stopped there?

BT: No, not that I know of. He had in fact two other brothers, and his older brother accompanied him from Japan to come to U.S. and eventually his older brother made sure my father got settled and etcetera and then his older brother went back to Japan. But his brother just before him opened up a Chinese restaurant.

TI: Oh, interesting, in Sacramento?

BT: In Sacramento, and he was... my uncle was very well-known pertaining to the restaurant, Chinese restaurant and a lot of the Isseis used to go to the restaurant. So right away when we mention the name Togetsu, right away they would know we're talking about my uncle's restaurant.

TI: And so where in Sacramento was the Togetsu restaurant?

BT: It was right in the city on, I think it was on was that K Street, I Street, I can't remember. I'm going so far back my memory isn't that great anymore. But in the city of Sacramento he had this Chinese restaurant.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. And so all the old timers would know this restaurant?

BT: Yes, right. It was called Togetsu.

TI: And during this time your father tried to do some farming but you said he wasn't very successful.

BT: No.

TI: So he came into the city? And what kind of work did he do in the city?

BT: Actually he worked in the cannery for a short while and evidently he wasn't too pleased working as a laborer being a scholar. And so he quit and he stayed and he did the cooking and the fixing lunch while my mother and my sisters, older sisters all worked in the cannery in the city in Sacramento.

TI: So he was kind of like a stay at home dad?

BT: Yes.

TI: So kind of a man ahead of his time.

BT: Yes.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's talk about your mother a little bit. So tell me her name and where she's from.

BT: She's also from Kumamoto, her name was Tsuyo, T-S-U-Y-O, Okamoto is her maiden name.

TI: And how did she meet your father?

BT: I thought it was one of these picture marriage where we used to hear about. And my dad said, no, he said we lived in the same village in Kumamoto, a certain area in Kumamoto and he said, "I've always like her." So what he did was he went to Japan and evidently he must have proposed and eventually he came back and he sent for her and that's how they --

TI: So it really was a marriage of love then.

BT: Yes.

TI: Which is unusual for Isseis, a lot of times they are arranged.

BT: Yes, definitely they used to have what they call a baishakunin, right, go-between, and in his case, no.

TI: Okay, so they get married in Japan, he comes back and then later on he sends for her. And when she gets to Sacramento it sounds like she starts working at the cannery also?

BT: Well, much later, this I think in terms of cannery, she was a housewife for a long period of time because there were eight of us, four boys and four girls. So naturally she stayed home taking care of and raising the children. And once we got old enough she started to work in the cannery which was, I don't know, years, years later.

TI: So let me test your memory. I'm going to have... eight children, I'm going to have you name your siblings in birth order, from the oldest to the youngest.

BT: My first, my oldest brother his name was Akira Fred, his English name was Fred. And then Hiroshi, and Henry. Then my sister Yuriko, she went by the name of Frances. And Sumiye and she went as Eleanor, then we had Kowashi, which is a very unusual name, K-O-W-A-S-H-I, his English name was Tom, Thomas. And Mieko, Dorothy, then Tsuyako, that's me, Betty. And then my kid brother, Kazuyo, no, let's see now, trying to think, we call him Kaz. He goes by the name of Rusty, that's it.

TI: And at home did people use Japanese names?

BT: Yes, and the only reason a lot of us used our English name is when we came out when you left the camp and went to various city, people could not pronounce a lot of Japanese name. So then naturally you used your English name.

TI: Eight children, so your parents were very busy.

BT: Yes.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

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.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: How about things like Japanese school, did you have to --

BT: Oh, yes, after school, after the public school we had to go to Japanese school on the weekend and then half a day on a Saturday.

TI: Okay, so on the weekday, every day after regular school you would go for about how long?

BT: About no more than hour and then on a Saturday you had to go half a day. So I would say maybe four hours.

TI: And did all your siblings go, so your brothers and sisters?

BT: Well, no, just one of my brother, they're the last, let's see now, he would be number, Tom would be four and five and six, three of us had to go to Japanese school and I hated it. [Laughs]

TI: Why did you hate Japanese school?

BT: Because after you get through you had to go home and you have to study and you have to write the Japanese word all the way down and then the next word all the way down. And my father would stand over us and he would tell my oldest sister, we were two years older, two years older than me, and say, "Oh, she writes so daintily like she should," and he said, "You do not write like that." He said something about I was like a tomboy and I would just try to get it out of the way, so he would criticize the way I wrote Japanese. So this is one of the reason why I didn't... I wasn't that keen about Japanese writing or speaking.

TI: That's interesting that your father was the one who would kind of watch over.

BT: Oh, yes, not my mother but my dad being an educator, scholar.

TI: And did he help you with your Japanese lessons, too?

BT: Yes, would look... in fact, when we had problems all we had to do is ask him or he would correct us.

TI: How about church? Did you attend church on Sundays?

BT: Yes, Buddhist church in Sacramento.

TI: And tell me about some of the Japanese community events over the course of the year like picnics or Obon.

BT: Oh, yes, we... I think we used to go to Kumamoto picnic.

TI: So kenjinkai?

BT: Yes, kenjinkai type of thing, 'cause my dad and my mom being from Kumamoto. And other than that I don't recall too many activities. I'm trying to think back. I know my uncle, who had the restaurant, after the picnic I remember distinctly going... my dad says we're going to uncle's for a snack. And I had a balloon that was passed out in the picnic and the balloon fell under the table, so I went to retrieve it and it popped and scared my auntie. Since then I never like her for some reason, I guess because she really reprimanded me.

TI: Oh, interesting and you were just retrieving your balloon but she thought you did it on purpose or something.

BT: I don't know what her reasoning, but since then I was never that keen about my uncle's wife. [Laughs]

TI: And this was the one who owned the restaurant?

BT: Restaurant, right. So there's a few little things that when it came to the children, the activity of my activity when we were young I don't think we did much. We did the family type of thing where you went with the parents to the movies, the Japanese movies, that type of thing. We were very connected with the parents, but not old enough to go on your own.

TI: Now with your father being home, did he ever tell stories about Japan or Japanese stories?

BT: Yes.

TI: What would be some of the stories?

BT: Well, offhand I'm trying to think. He talked about Japan and I remember one of his friends, the lady friend, family friend, she said my father's family was considered very prominent. And their home was right in the center and then the outer center was others who had the home. So evidently my dad's side of the family was, I get the impression that they were considered well to do or whatever.

TI: It sounds like they were almost the land owners and the surrounding home were like tenants or workers.

BT: I'm not sure in terms of workers, all I remember was this lady telling us that my dad's home was right in the center and then surrounded by other homes.

TI: But did your father talk about his childhood memories with you?

BT: Not too much I don't recall. I mean, he talked about the present, that we have to study and etcetera, but other than that he didn't say too much about his life in Japan unfortunately. But of course sometimes they do talk about it and we wouldn't be interested. We were too young, goes in one ear and out the other and say alright, you know.

TI: How about like just Japanese folktales like Momotaro and things like that?

BT: Yeah, well, you learn that in Japanese school.

TI: Okay, that makes sense.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Earlier you talked about Japanese school after regular school, tell me about regular school. What kind of school did you go to?

BT: We went to a school (named) Lincoln School (where) most of the Japanese (students attended, and) students population-wise, Japanese, Chinese were the majority in that school. You had the (few) Caucasians they were maybe of Portuguese descent or whatever but they were considered Caucasians. We had only... (in my class) two black (...)... one girl and a fellow. Other than that there weren't too many at that time that we were attending (our) grammar school (...).

TI: So would you say the majority of the students were Japanese?

BT: Japanese and Chinese.

TI: And how did the Japanese and Chinese get along with each other?

BT: Well, as far as I'm... I don't think there was any, in my group there was no rivalry but evidently there's a certain amount of rivalry between the Chinese and Japanese. Because when the war broke out and they would have a sign says, "I'm Chinese," in other words they didn't want to be taken as Japanese because the Japanese were ostracized and beaten (...).

TI: So how did that make you feel when you saw your Chinese classmates wear "I am Chinese" buttons?

BT: It naturally upset you. You thought they were your friends. This happened -- same thing -- when the Pearl Harbor broke out on Sunday, and Monday we had to go to school. And I told my parents, my mother, "I'm not going to school." And she said, "No, you have to go." So some of my friends, we decided, okay, we'll all go to school, and this was in high school. I was very disappointed with my homeroom teacher, I thought she was such a sweet lady, (but) turned out to be the opposite and one of the student, who was of German descent, but he was born here, he got up in front of the class and he condemned the so-called, he used the word "Jap" frequently. And my homeroom teacher didn't... every time he spoke, she would not interfere, she let him talk. And so there were only two of us Japanese in the homeroom class and we couldn't say anything. We just had to sit and listen and I was very disappointed with my homeroom teacher to let this student condemn, knowing that there were two Japanese in that classroom. But maybe this Pearl Harbor turned a lot of people against the Asians.

TI: I'm guessing, when you describe that, I could just imagine that the two of you sitting there, you must have felt horrible.

BT: Oh, yes that's right.

TI: And it seems so ironic that he's of German descent.

BT: Here the Allies, right, was considered the German, Italian, the Japanese, the three Allies but evidently he didn't feel that way to go up there and condemn. And he kept using the word "Jap" a lot, which we totally are against that type of conversation.

TI: Now were there other incidents like that at school like on the playground or other classes?

BT: I don't know, (...) maybe the others had some experience like that. I have no idea. No one talked about it or none of my friends mentioned that something like that took place. I imagine to a certain extent it probably did take place, but they didn't want to talk about that.

TI: How about the other side? You mentioned you were disappointed that the homeroom teacher didn't say anything. How about other teachers or the principal did they come out and say anything?

BT: No.

TI: In terms of, "These are our classmates and they should be treated well," anything like that?

BT: Nothing, no backing in terms but I remember going to the assembly center and they had the radio on where Roosevelt spoke about the so-called "sneak attack" in Pearl Harbor. And you see the Japanese students scattered all sitting around different area (...) we just had to listen to the radio.

TI: Okay, so this is on December 8th, the day after you had an assembly at school?

BT: Right.

TI: And so they brought everyone together to listen to the President.

BT: Roosevelt.

TI: Essentially declare war.

BT: Yes.

TI: On Japan and that's that famous date of infamy December 7th, 1941.

BT: Right, but a lot of us were sitting around in the auditorium, and different groups from different areas, these are the Niseis. We just had to listen to all this and you could just imagine, in those days, we were not that outspoken. Now the Yonseis, Sanseis and Yonseis are more outspoken about these things and they won't tolerate it. But the Niseis were on the quiet side.

TI: So earlier when you mention how you didn't want to go to school on that Monday, was it because of these reasons?

BT: We figured something would take place, and that it's not going to be very pleasant. But my mother said, "No, you have to go to school." She didn't see any other way whereas we knew what was going to take place.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Okay, I want to back up just a little bit. On the day December 7, 1941, describe that day and how you heard and the reactions of your parents when they heard.

BT: Well, they were more concerned about my... one of my brother who was in Hawaii. He was one of the few mainlanders that was shipped to Hawaii and eventually he came back with the 100th Infantry.

TI: So was this like Fred?

BT: Tom.

TI: Tom, okay.

BT: Thomas.

TI: And so he had already been drafted?

BT: He volunteered and then he landed up in Camp McCoy and then he was shipped out to Hawaii and there he had to join the 100th Infantry, one of the few mainlanders that was considered as part of the 100th.

TI: Is Tom still alive?

BT: No, he passed away about four, five years ago (...).

TI: That'd be so interesting because you're right I mean he was one of the very few mainlanders.

BT: Right, in fact when the Senator Inouye came and he came to Chicago and I went up to talk to him and I mentioned to Inouye about my brother being with the 100th. And he said, "Oh, he said let me talk to him," and I said, "He's deceased." But he thought maybe he was at the banquet or luncheon and he wanted to talk to my brother, but unfortunately...

TI: I would have loved to asked him his impressions of the Japanese Americans from Hawaii and you hear all those stories about the mainlanders having a hard time understanding the pidgin and all that.

BT: Right. Not only that, when he was shipped to be with the Hawaiian group, there was a certain amount of prejudice. In other words, the Hawaiians didn't care for the Niseis here in America.

TI: I think they call them "Kotonks."

BT: Yeah, "Kotonks." And he used to tell us about... well this was after he was discharged, what he went through to be accepted as part of the Hawaiian group. Because they were a rather... there's an outsider, I think they couldn't have been more than... three offhand I know (of) besides my brother and two other fellows. I don't think there were too many Niseis (from us) with the 100th.

TI: Now what would... do you recall any of his stories about what he would do to be accepted by the Hawaiians?

BT: He was a man who never drank, beer or anything.

TI: So that probably was different.

BT: And he had to learn how to drink beer to be part of just what they did on their free time, they did a lot of drinking. And he said, he used to get sick, and eventually he was accepted which made him very happy. He says, "I didn't have to go through it again," but he used to tell us these little funny stories about what took place while he was with the 100th, mainly being accepted by the Hawaiian soldiers, which was great because eventually after much, much, how many years later they had a reunion in Hawaii for the 100th, and how there weren't too many left from the 100th, right. So he said he had such a good time and they were all very good to him when they found out here's a Nisei from U.S. coming all the way for the reunion.

TI: Especially one who served with them.

BT: Yes.

TI: I'm sure again maybe he had to drink a little bit then, too. [Laughs]

BT: That I didn't ask. [Laughs] But he said that I always remember how he had to learn how to drink.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So you're talking, this is back to December 7, 1941, so your parents were concerned about Tom because he was in Hawaii when this all happened.

BT: Yes, that's right.

TI: What else did they talk about? So they were worried about Tom, did they talk about anything else?

BT: Well, I don't remember aside from being worried about my brother, I can't think offhand any major worries of my parents. I'm pretty sure the Isseis kept everything to themselves, how they felt, but they would never talk about it.

TI: Now did your father, I'm guessing that he read a lot, the Japanese newspapers, and did he have kind of an inkling that something was going to go on between Japan and the United States?

BT: Well, when (he was) with his cronies, yeah, I think he used to have an argument and he said he did figure Japan is going to eventually... Japan and U.S. eventually are going to collide. And they said no, no it won't happen, the other Isseis, and he said no it's going to. So he had some foresight in terms of what will take place because he's doing a lot of reading in the newspaper, he gets this feeling that something is going to take place in terms of Japan and US.

TI: I've heard this from other whose father's read a lot that when they read the Japanese newspapers they had a sense that something was... might happen.

BT: Yes.

TI: Okay so your father was like that also.

BT: Yes.

TI: And so when it happened did you see any reaction from him? Did he say anything?

BT: No, in terms I'm pretty sure he probably told his cronies, "See? I told you so," but other than that he didn't speak too much about it. He was more concerned about my brother being stationed in Hawaii.

TI: And you talked a little bit about the next day at school. What are some other things that happened in the days after Pearl Harbor that you saw going on in the community or anywhere else? Did you see like FBI pick-ups or hear about those?

BT: Oh, (yes)... I know some of the so-called prominent officers or a group, some of the leaders were taken by the FBI. Now my father was a secretary for the Kumamoto Kenjinkai group, and fortunately he was not... when it came to the FBI he was not touched at all, which we were grateful. We thought Dad's going to get called in.

TI: Now like for instance, was the president of the Kumamoto ken picked up? Were the people that were kind of close picked up?

BT: Offhand I (don't know)... when you're that young you don't ask questions about these things. (So) you have no idea what took place.

TI: Maybe this is a better question. Did your father in any way prepare that he might get picked up? Like did he pack anything or anything like that?

BT: No, he just felt, I think, if they're going to come after him so be it. But fortunately he was never ostracized in terms of being the secretary for the Kumamoto ken group. So he was relieved.

TI: How about things like after Pearl Harbor, did anything change in terms of the job situation for your mother, like did they... was it harder for her work at the cannery or anything like that?

BT: No, I think in terms of... I don't think there was any after Pearl Harbor... I'm trying to think back. Naturally we were all put in camp and after we were discharged from camp I don't think... my mother went back to Sacramento with my sister. The only problem they had was the housing, trying to find a place to live.

TI: This was after the war.

BT: After the war.

TI: Well, before going to camp, how about your siblings? Did any of them have any difficulties during those weeks before you left for camp? Do you recall any sort of problems?

BT: No, that we were... in fact, I think it was mentioned how well it was organized and how the Japanese people went without any resentment. There was no discussion in terms of, I think the government was quite pleased how the Japanese people reacted to the relocation, how organized, how quiet.

TI: Now were any of your older siblings involved with the JACL in Sacramento?

BT: No.

TI: And what was the perception of the JACL?

BT: Well, (...) I think some felt that they were against, I don't know, the policy there was a pro and cons about the JAC, and I know there was a certain officers that they resented. They called them inu, dog, right and so if you were connected with the JAC group, I don't know what really took place, but I'm pretty sure there were several like the lawyers who were for the U.S., how they were ostracized by some of the Japanese people, not all of them.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Okay, so eventually you get the order that you have to leave Sacramento. So what did you do with all your possessions and how did you get ready?

BT: Well, we had a very good neighbor who lived across the street from where we lived, and Hazel and her husband, Howard, they said, "Some of your valuables, pack it and we will keep it in the basement." And so my mother who did all the packing left some of the boxes with this Caucasian couple. And after we were released from the center, my mother went to check on her items that she had the Howards keep for them. What happened was they both passed away and the sister cleaned the basement and she took a lot of our family's items and well, there's nothing we could do in terms of the items being disappeared. And some of the items were family's... that she wanted us to keep.

TI: So like heirlooms or keepsakes.

BT: Yes.

TI: Like china perhaps.

BT: Well, I think there was some other stuff that she wanted us to eventually receive, but all that was, either if there was any literature or whatever, all that was thrown out. So you know, it was a complete loss.

TI: So your mother must have been disappointed when she went back.

BT: Well, we didn't know that this couple had passed away because they even came to Walerga which was temporary. They drove in to see us and then when they went back, I don't know whatever took place but eventually I guess they passed away and we didn't know about it until my mother went back to Sacramento to retrieve some of the items.

TI: So were they quite elderly, this couple?

BT: I would say they would be more of maybe late fifties.

TI: Okay, so nothing you would expect in terms of something like that?

BT: No, and she always reminded me of this Kate Smith. She was a huge singer and this Hazel always had a beautiful voice and she would play her piano you could hear her singing with her voice just outstanding, very operatic type of singing. They were such nice people, it's a shame.

TI: Yeah, it's so unfortunate that when they died, but then if they had lived all those belongings would have --

BT: Oh, yes, that's right, the keepsakes.

TI: The sister that took over, and was she sort of mean about it?

BT: I don't know in terms... I don't know too much about her background, the sister's, Hazel's sister. All I know is that things had disappeared and my mother was rather upset about it, but there was nothing we could do. We didn't know where the sister lived or the background, so we couldn't even look into it which is very common what happened with a lot of the families that came back from the camp.

TI: And the couple, their name was Hazel and Howard?

BT: Howard.

TI: What was her last name?

BT: All I remember is Hazel and Howard. [Laughs] I can't think... I don't know their last name. All I remember is Hazel and Howard.

TI: And do you remember the address of your place in Sacramento?

BT: I should know.

TI: Or whereabouts?

BT: We lived on Second Street and that block there were one, two, three, four, five, six Japanese family. Either they owned the house or they were renting it out like we were, my parents were renting the house out.

TI: Okay, and did they do this with other Japanese families or just your family? Hazel and Howard, did they store --

BT: Just our family.

TI: Okay, so they were just close to your mom and dad. You mentioned already that you went to Walerga, so this was the assembly center that you went from Sacramento to Walerga. What were your impressions of Walerga?

BT: Well, offhand I know my sister who (now) lives in Denver, she and I were two years apart and we said to... we talked about Walerga and how there was no privacy. You had community washroom where there was no curtain, even for the john there was no curtain (...). Because it was considered a temporary camp and I don't have too much memory of Walerga aside from no privacy. (Can't remember) how long we stayed there (...) before we were transferred to Tule Lake.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

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.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: You know, as part of that uncertainty you mentioned this earlier about the leave clearance form with the questionnaire and question twenty-seven, twenty-eight about the loyalty. Tell me about that process, did that cause a lot of tension at Tule Lake?

BT: Well, in terms of a lot of my friends, I know of only one that where her family had said signed, "no-no" right and then the rest of us, there were say ten, out of the ten good friends, only one gal's family had answered "no." The rest of them we said "yes," we'll be loyal and that's when you get released after the FBI in Washington D.C. clear you, you were able to relocate to another camp.

TI: Now going back, so of your ten close friends, one, her family said "no-no." So what did you think when a family said "no-no"? I mean what --

BT: Well, we used to correspond and Tomi would write and said there was so much restriction, you couldn't leave you had to be in the barrack by certain time. You couldn't have any parties and what else... you had to go to a Japanese school, and there was a group from Tanforan who was considered pro-Japanese.

TI: Well, Tanforan is an assembly center, so it's either Manzanar or one of the... Topaz.

BT: No, this one here... originally I think these people must have been in Tanforan and eventually they, when they got out, but they came to Tule Lake and they sort of ruled the camp. You can't do this, you can't do that.

TI: And this group was more pro-Japan?

BT: Yes, from what Tomi used to write to me about it, she says, "We're so confined to what we can do and what we cannot."

TI: And when you corresponded with Tomi, was there a sense that Tomi had wished she or her family had done "yes-yes" and not gone to Tule Lake?

BT: Definitely, because they didn't realize another group was going to come over and started to run the camp. And she said, "I wish I was able to leave the camp," but they couldn't release them.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Okay, and so your family went "yes-yes" and then asked to go to another -- but before we do that, earlier your mentioned your father's health, that he died.

BT: Yes, he passed away.

TI: At Tule Lake?

BT: Tule Lake.

TI: So tell me about that, what happened to him?

BT: They came from I think Klamath Falls to retrieve his body.

TI: And how did he die?

BT: He died of a stroke, he had a stroke. In fact, he was rather on the tall side so in camp days they had to put these tar... well, these plaster board on the wall and on the ceiling. And he being a very tall man would get on the table and work on the ceiling for the plaster and one day he told my mother, he says, "I have a very severe headache," and so she told him, "Well, don't go to work today. Why don't you stay home?" And so he stayed home, and I happened to be home at that time and my dad got up to go to the bathroom, which was a community bathroom. So when he got up and he started to walk, he collapsed and my mother and I tried to lift him but we couldn't. And finally I had to go to the block manager and tell Min, "Call the hospital. My dad, something happened to my dad." So Min called and the ambulance came and they took him to the hospital, and no sooner, within two weeks he was gone because of the stroke. And the first place the doctor, the Japanese doctor, Nisei doctor said, "If your dad lived, he would have been partially paralyzed due to the stroke. And your mother would have to feed him," that type of situation. So in many ways, he felt that sometimes as much as you hate to admit it, he said, "Just as well he did pass on because it would have been a burden to your mother, and he himself would resent the fact that this happened to him and he would be quite broken up about it."

TI: And yet this must have been an incredible shock to you, your mother, the rest of the family because it was so sudden.

BT: Oh, yes.

TI: That he was healthy, he was working and then just like that he's gone.

BT: Right, see because now they say when you... like the beautician, when they wash your hair you have to tilt your hair back, and they said, "Don't do that," because it does something to your vein where it closes it up.

TI: Oh, like crimps it or something?

BT: Yes, when you bend backward. And then, I mean, these are things that they, years and years later they find out that no, you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't that.

TI: Your dad was doing that all day.

BT: Oh, yes, because he's up there fixing the ceiling and not the wall. So evidently it pinched his nerve which caused him to have to stroke. But in those days we didn't know enough about these medical things right so now you're more knowledgeable what took place.

TI: So with your father's death, what happened with the family, the service? Tell me about this.

BT: Well, I know they came from Klamath, I'm pretty sure it was Klamath Falls, they came after his body and they prepared for funeral and then they brought him back. They had ashes. In terms of the ash, I had no idea, I happened to be home and someone delivered this little box, package. And I didn't know what it was so I started to open it and I didn't realize it was my father's ashes that Klamath Falls went and prepared. But my mother happened to walk in when I was opening up the package and she knew right off the bat that was dad's ashes. So she kept it.

TI: And so when you realized it was your father's ashes, what was your reaction?

BT: Oh, I don't know, it seems... when it comes to something like this it seemed very impersonal 'cause it's just an ash. Somehow you can't... if it were the open casket or something I think your memory be a lot stronger, but with ashes it's not as... well I shouldn't say touching, but it doesn't quite hit you like if you had seen someone lay down in the... it's a lot different. In fact, we both said no, we're going to have picture at the funeral, no laid out. So the people always remember you when you're laid out and the memories there. Whereas with the ashes are picture you remember that person, oh, yes that's a nice picture type of thing.

TI: How was it for your mother to lose her husband?

BT: Well, I think she... I'm pretty sure she missed but she doesn't come out and say, Isseis don't talk about your personal feeling in terms of the relation of her husband. But I know she missed him, but she rarely spoke of my dad, she did it privately.

TI: And in terms of reaction of family and friends, now when someone dies, people visit them. Did that happen in camp also, did people come to your apartment and pay their respects or anything like that?

BT: Yeah, I think they still did that. I don't recall, but I'm pretty sure this is what they did in those... Isseis are really, when it comes to the tradition like that they were very, very strong.

TI: Well, another tradition during memorial services, koden, did they do koden in camp?

BT: Well, that I don't know what took place. My mother didn't speak about... I know that we always give (...) koden but I don't know too much about that.

TI: Yeah, I was just curious about what happens in camp, did these things still happen or if they suspended.

BT: (...) I can't say that it took place. It probably might have, I'm pretty sure like our close friends will probably give my mother koden but my mother never said anything.

TI: And then with the ashes, did she keep them or did she bury them?

BT: No, she kept them. She kept them and she took it when she left the camp she went back to Sacramento, she took the ashes and then was placed in the church. And one of my dad's good friend was a very good carpenter, he made the, what do they call it, butsudan where my mother could put the ashes and the candles and senkou and all that. So this good friend of my dad made one for my mother, and 'til this day my sister in Sacramento still has that.

TI: And are the ashes in there still?

BT: No, not anymore, I think they had to deposit (...) at the cemetery they bought a little plot so my dad's... at that time it was, his ashes were in the what do they call that... where it's in that little building, mausoleum, and his ashes are in that mausoleum and for so much you purchase a little area and my mother, so my dad and my mother are in the mausoleum. My sister and her husband also at that time purchased, they put money into it and purchased the mausoleum space for them.

TI: The other thing that sometimes happens at these memorial services is you find out something about like your father that you never knew because someone would tell you something in terms of what your father meant to them or something like that. Did you hear anything like that or learn anything more about your father after his death?

BT: Well, no, all I remember was this old family friend, this lady is the one that said, "Your father" -- oh, here in Chicago where we were renting an apartment, I was outside and Mrs. Okamoto was the owner of the apartment that we were renting. Her friend came by and then it so happened that this lady was from Sacramento and she knew my dad. And she told Mrs. Okamoto, "Oh, her father was an educated man." Well, I thought oh, this lady probably knows more about my dad than I do.

TI: Yeah, interesting.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

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.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So in your case you eventually left camp. And so let's talk about that, so what, I have my notes that you got a job offer in D.C. but your mother didn't want you to go.

BT: Right.

TI: So tell me about that job offer and how you found out about it?

BT: I took a civil service test in camp and evidently I don't know my score, must have been good where Washington, D.C. sent me a form to apply for a job out there. And my mother said, "No, there's no one in Washington, D.C.," and she was very protective and knowing that, we abide by our parents. We didn't argue. We said, "Alright, I won't go," type of situation so when this other application came and I told my mother, "I have to leave camp. Eventually they're going to request everybody to leave, go back to their own place or relocate," and a lot of young people decided they didn't want to go back to where they came from. And they wanted to venture out to different states, right? Well, I decided I'll go to Cleveland, so my mother said, "Yes, you can't go to Washington, D.C. but you can go to Cleveland," because one of my older brothers was living in Cleveland. And so I got a release form to go to Cleveland and when I got there I had to look for a job, and that's where I landed up with the WRA office, which was interesting because you had all these people coming out from camp. And you knew some of the people, some you didn't know but they came from various camps, and we always asked them to register because sometimes their friend may be looking for them.

TI: So I'm sorry, explain that register, what does register mean?

BT: Register your name, we had a booklet, so anybody that came into the office we asked them to register their name, their address, if they had a phone number. Because maybe someone may be looking for them, right, and we would have the info. Now my husband was discharged from the army, and he came into the office and I asked him, "Would you please register?" He said, "What for?" He said, "That's all I've been doing is doing paperwork." And I said, "Well, in case one of your friends want to contact you at least we have your info, where you live and whatever." So my kids always laugh they say it sounds like dad.

TI: So this was first time you met him?

BT: Well, he's originally from Sacramento too but the age gap where we're five years apart. So I didn't know him and he didn't know me. You figure when he was seventeen I'm only twelve years old. So this was interesting because in camp, in Tule Lake, his father and one of his younger brother lived in the same barrack... you have how many families living in one barrack, right, and his dad lived in one of the barrack.

TI: The same barrack as your family?

BT: Yes.

TI: Okay, so you knew the family.

BT: We knew the family but I didn't know my husband at that time.

TI: So when you found out his name, did you put that together that you knew that he was --

BT: Well, I knew that they had a brother, Nob, his brother, and other than that I didn't really know him personally. I knew of them but that's about the extent of it.

TI: Now did he know who you were?

BT: No.

TI: So did you tell him like, "I know your family"?

BT: Yes, I told him that, "We lived in the same block and your dad used to work in the mess hall as one of the cooks." And his younger brother we knew and his other younger brother, Bob we graduated together in Tule Lake.

TI: And so what was his reaction when you told him all of this?

BT: He said, oh no big deal. [Laughs]

TI: So I'm curious, did he register? Did he write his name and address?

BT: Yes, after... and I always used to tell this story, I said, yeah, I would mention something about dad being so grouchy, so my children said, "He hasn't changed a bit." They kid about it... well, you know when you have boys, they're comical. We all do a lot of laughing.

TI: So the two of you meet, is that when about you started dating?

BT: Not for a while because one of my classmates, they shared a room and board in Cleveland with this Japanese family and they opened up to these single people so Steve and my husband were like roommates and I used to know Steve. In fact, I went out with him a couple of times, Steve, then he said, oh, I have my friend and he mentioned my husband so I said I know of him but I don't know him personally. Well, then after that one day he called, he came over and he said, my husband said, "Hey you want to go out to a tennis," my husband was a very good tennis player. So he said, "You want to go see a tennis game?" I said, "Sure, why not." So we went to see, I don't know there was a Don Budge he was a good player, tennis player.

TI: Yeah I think I saw some tennis rackets named after him or something.

BT: Yeah, right so we went to see the tennis and then from there off and on we would go out on a date.

TI: Okay, so this was all in Cleveland?

BT: This was all in Cleveland right.

TI: That's good. And then did you get married in Cleveland?

BT: Uh-huh, yes, we've been married, what, sixty-four years. It's a long time.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Now I want to go back to your job at the WRA. How did you get that job?

BT: Oh, after I got released from Amache, went to Cleveland, I went to the office and I had talked to the head, Mrs. Barber who was in charge of the office, and this was the area office, we had two offices, one for the district and one for the area, and I went to the one for the area. And Mrs. Barber looked at my record and she said to me, "Would you like to work here?" And I was amazed, oh my goodness, right off the bat and I said, "Yes, I would love to work here." And so she told me go and take a test again so I had to take another civil service test and evidently the score was good enough for me to get hired. That's how I got my job at the WRA office.

TI: Okay in Cleveland you said there's an area office and a district office?

BT: Right.

TI: And so the district office is a much larger?

BT: Right, and various, whereas the area will be strictly Cleveland.

TI: So tell me about the area office. So what was the structure, I mean, how many people worked in the area office?

BT: There was let's see, Miss Barber, Cameron, Titus, and George. There were four personnel who were all Caucasians. And then if you're employed... one, two, three, four, there four of us of Japanese, Niseis working under these four heads.

TI: Okay so now I'm curious like the four heads, what was their job? What did they do?

BT: Well, one did actually... let's see now, Mr. Cameron was the one that looked into various job offerings. Mr. Titus would help you out on the housing, then there was a Mr. George. I'm not too sure what he actually, what his title was, but he, evidently he must have helped evacuees in some sort of area and then Mrs. Barber who was head of the WRA office there.

TI: And then you said there were like four Niseis who were helpers.

BT: Yeah.

TI: And what was their job?

BT: One was a secretary to Mrs. Barber and she took... well, in fact, she was more like an overall secretary for any of these Caucasian leaders. And then we had another lady who's originally from Bay Area she, Masa also helped one of the Caucasian employer. And there was another one, Sumi, I think a majority of them had this job where whatever their boss is in charge of, they had to do all the secretarial work and etcetera.

TI: And how would you describe was the goal of the area WRA office? I mean, what were you guys really focused on doing?

BT: I think mainly getting a job for the people who left camp and housing. They left camp, they have no idea how to go about it, so they used to come to the WRA office and ask, "I need a place to stay," or, "I need a job," that type of situation.

TI: And in general how difficult was it to find jobs and housing for the people coming out of camp?

BT: Well, I think housing was a little difficult. A lot of places did not accept... they were not quite ready to accept the Japanese people. I mean, here you are, where did you come from? A lot of them thought you came from Japan, right, which was very common. And in terms of job, I think once they were hired, the Niseis had such a good reputation being good workers and very reliable, intelligent. And so the word get around where eventually it spread out to different companies to hire Japanese people so that was a plus.

TI: So it sounds like, other than housing, so there's some discrimination maybe with housing. Did the Niseis experience other kind of discrimination or prejudice?

BT: I would say to a certain extent. I'm sure they had problem with wherever they were working when they first begin working there was a question. It was questionable as to what are you doing, what are you from Japan? Everybody think that we came from Japan.

TI: How about things like restaurants, theaters, did the Niseis have problems with that?

BT: No, well, I think a lot of people cooked at home and you basically went to a Japanese restaurant where there shouldn't be any discrimination. I remember most of the time when we were first married, we always landed up going to this one Japanese restaurant. Very rare did we go the Caucasian or American restaurant because you don't know whether they'll accept it. That was at the beginning, but as years went by, the Niseis were, reputation were a plus and people started to hire.

TI: So you're in a position where lots of Japanese Americans and Japanese are coming through your office and if they would ask you, "So Betty, could you give me advice or tips about what I should be doing in Cleveland?" What would you tell them?

BT: I usually refer them to one of the officers.

TI: Oh, no but I say, "Betty, you tell me what you think as a Japanese."

BT: Occasionally if it's someone I know.

TI: Yeah, someone you know for instance.

BT: Then I would tell them, "Well, go look, if you want a job, depending on what you want to do, let me know and I will talk to my head about whether you want to work as an engineer or just a common laborer, depending on your background."

TI: Well what about just the day to day living like is there anything that you would tell a friend like you have to be careful about this or don't do this. What would those kind of things be?

BT: Offhand I didn't have to mention anything like that because I think as a whole, we have a tendency to work behind, we don't want to be in charge, but you're a good behind the worker. And I don't know, I didn't give them any particular advice, I didn't feel like I'm qualified, if I had a position, yes.

TI: How about the office in terms of more official kind of instructions, I mean, I think I read someplace where at some point the WRA cautioned Japanese Americans from congregating in large groups or things like that to avoid things like this. Do you recall things like that?

BT: I know they discouraged what you just mentioned, and as a whole I think I don't recall any particular group being called down on it. If they did they'd do it... they would go to someone's home and get together. But as far as congregating at the corner, the block corner or whatever, this is something that we avoided.

TI: Now was the kind of like unspoken, people just knew that.

BT: Right.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Good, any other memories or thoughts about the WRA office?

BT: Well, my first day after I found out that I was hired, I was supposed to report by no later than nine o'clock. And what happened was I was not familiar with the transportation system, right? So what I did was I thought, okay here's the bus and I hopped on that bus. Well, it went to the suburb. And I thought oh, no, this doesn't look right, it's not something that I need to go to the suburb. So I finally got off and I waited for another bus, this time I knew this bus was going into the city so I hopped on that. And when I got to the office I was a little late. So then Mr. George says, "What happened to you?" And I said to him I explained what had happened, that I got on the wrong bus going the other way, and so he wrote it on one of these bulletins as something, this is what happens when you come to a city after leaving camp, you're not familiar with a lot of little things like that. And he thought it was funny.

TI: Oh, so he had a little newsletter or something.

BT: Yes, in Cleveland.

TI: And who read this newsletter? Who was it for?

BT: It was mainly for people who were interested in reading about the Niseis, and the Nisei themselves were able to get a copy.

TI: Okay, and the four kind of leaders at the office, what were their backgrounds? Why were they doing this job?

BT: They were, a lot of 'em were now, as far as I know, they had a secretarial job so they felt like they were qualified to work for the WRA office, which was nice. And eventually some of them, when the office after how many years they started to close up, some of the people went back to California.

TI: These are the Niseis you're talking about?

BT: Yeah, right that worked for the --

TI: But the white kind of managers, what was --

BT: I don't know whatever happened... I often wondered what happened to them. I'm pretty sure most of them are probably deceased.

TI: I'm wondering if they were like government workers and other agencies that transferred over or who they were, I was just curious.

BT: I have no contact. After I left I had no contact. Once the office was closed I had no idea where these people, Mrs. Barber or Mr. Cameron, Titus, these employees, Caucasian employees, I don't know what happened to them. I often wondered about them.

TI: Earlier you mentioned how you were married in Cleveland and now I'm curious, so how did you get to Chicago?

BT: Oh, my husband was working at a dental tech, and he used to come to Cleveland and over the weekend sometimes, and he would stay with this one family and stay overnight and then we would go on a date, then he had to come back to Chicago.

TI: Okay, so I see, he was working in Chicago?

BT: I mean after in Cleveland, from Cleveland he left for Chicago, he got a job as a dental tech, so this is the reason why he left.

TI: Okay, and I forgot to ask this, where did your family go after the war? So you came to Cleveland and then eventually Chicago, you mentioned your mother and sister, they went to Sacramento for a little bit.

BT: Yes, they moved to Sacramento again and then my sister one above me, she went to Denver because my oldest sister lived in Denver. So she decided to go to Denver. My younger brother went with my mother back to Sacramento. One of my sisters left for Sacramento and my brother, Tom, that was in the office, he eventually moved to Chicago after he got discharged. He decided to live in Chicago which was great 'cause I said we had at least I had a relative and this is the brother that was in the 100th Infantry.

TI: Right, okay.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So after getting married you then came to Chicago to live with your husband. So tell me about Chicago and the Japanese community in Chicago after the war. What was that like?

BT: I don't know. In terms... well, you figure the Japanese group was the JACL right, organized. And then we had what they called the Resettler Committee who helped with what we used to do help with the housing and getting job and any legal problem that you had, they would check into it.

TI: It sounds like it's almost like a follow onto the WRA office.

BT: Right.

TI: Housing, jobs.

BT: Very similar.

TI: And then legal issues. Now was the Resettler Committee financed at all by the government?

BT: Yes.

TI: But it was run by Niseis?

BT: Uh-huh.

TI: Now were you involved with that too?

BT: No.

TI: This might be a good time to talk about your friend, Aya, because I hear a lot about the Japanese who resettled to Chicago, and rarely do I hear about a native Chicagoan that's of Japanese ancestry. But you had a friend, can you tell me about her and do you know how her family got to Chicago?

BT: Well, her father I'm not too sure, but he ran, I don't know whether he came directly from Japan or what, I'm not too sure about her father's background other than the fact that he ran a restaurant and occasionally she would have to help out.

TI: Do you know the name of the restaurant?

BT: No, I have no idea.

TI: How about Aya's last name?

BT: Fukuda, well, it used to be... she's a Fukuda now, she's married, her married name is Fukuda, I'm trying to think of her maiden name, offhand.

TI: Okay, that's okay.

BT: Okay.

TI: So her father had a restaurant.

BT: And she occasionally would have to help out.

TI: Now what did she think about growing up in Chicago before the war? I mean, there were hardly any Japanese?

BT: No.

TI: So how was that for her?

BT: Well, I don't think she realized that such thing took place in terms of segregation. Being a native Chicagoan, they don't write in the paper all these minus thing that the U.S. government did to the Japanese people on the West Coast area.

TI: So how aware was she of what was going on on the West Coast and in the camps?

BT: Well, I think after she got to know some of the Japanese people, I think she realized what took place. Until then she says," I was ignorant about the whole situation."

TI: Even though she was of Japanese ancestry?

BT: Yeah, like she thought she was white, she was a white person. She says, "I didn't think I was any other nationality. I always considered myself a white person," but she had no Japanese friends.

TI: So how did she feel when all of sudden thousands and thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese started coming to Chicago?

BT: I don't think she was negative about it. In fact, I think she enjoyed being and seeing more Japanese and she's able to relax. Whereas with the other groups, you're not quite accepted at that time even though they act like your friend, actually you're not too sure. But with the Japanese people she says she felt very comfortable.

TI: Now from your perspective you were friends. Did she seem a little bit different with her upbringing as a native Chicagoan versus someone from California who resettled in Chicago? Could you tell the differences?

BT: No, I think her parents taught her the basic traditional upbringing and so she... I don't recall her ever saying negative about the Japanese people even though she thought she was a white person. But I think she felt very comfortable with her Japanese friends, which is great being exposed to a Japanese community or having Japanese friends.

TI: Well, and finding friends like you, and unfortunately she passed away a few years ago otherwise it would be great to interview her.

BT: Oh, yeah, we miss her, we miss her. She was such a lovely person. Not only that, when I had to give a eulogy at her service, I mentioned the fact that she was such a dedicated teacher. Now you don't find teachers like that anymore, a lot of them are very indifferent about it. That's a job and they put their nine to five and out the door. But she was very dedicated to the student and if she found a student that was behind she put that extra effort to help this student. And this is something that I admire her.

TI: She sounds like a remarkable person.

BT: Yes.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: The other thing I wanted to ask you about was so during the war and right after the war, a lot of Japanese Americans came to Chicago, but then in the ensuing years, many of them returned to the West Coast. Why was that? Why didn't more of them stay in Chicago or why did some stay? I'm trying to get a sense of the differences between the people who stayed versus the people who went to the West Coast.

BT: Evidently maybe they feel uncomfortable going to an area they're not too familiar with. I think this in one of the reasons why they... and Japanese have a tendency to feel very, what's the wording in terms... they're not as outgoing. They're hard workers, they're very quiet people, they're good citizens. But when it comes to being very forward about things, they lack, the Niseis lacked it, where the Sanseis, the Yonseis aren't that way. They are very gung ho about things, they don't hesitate at all.

TI: So you think for the ones that weren't as outgoing, going back to California or the West Coast was easier for them?

BT: Yes.

TI: So how do you perceive the Japanese Americans who stayed in Chicago? Were they a little bit more outgoing then?

BT: I would say so. I think when we first went to a Tule Lake reunion, even my husband said some of his so-called old friends, old buddies that they used to be together all the time, he said, "We had nothing in common." You could see the ones that left camp or were discharged came out east were more broad minded about things, more outgoing, right. Whereas the ones that went back to their original town or city, they had a tendency to still go back and being clannish, they don't spread themselves out. Though a lot of them did very well in terms of position in California, I don't know about Seattle and Oregon.

TI: So I'm curious, when you think about that, is it different because inherently the ones who stayed were already more outgoing and they continued to be that way and then the ones who weren't went back? Or is it the nature of the environment, that because you have to live in Chicago you just have to become that way more and more?

BT: That's right.

TI: Do you have a sense of which one it is or is it a combination?

BT: I think you have to learn to mix with different group, whereas in California you go back to Sacramento, you're in with the Japanese community again. And so you don't extend, they don't extend themselves, whereas the ones that relocated to the other big city out east, you have no choice but to, there's no such thing as Japantown so you're on your own.

TI: Good, okay, that's interesting.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

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.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Now I want to go back and end with you in terms of after your boys were a little bit older I think you went back to work? So tell me about that what kind of work did you do?

BT: It was an insurance company and the reason why I took this particular company because I didn't have, it was just around the corner and maybe about a block down, and when I went for an interview, I remember this particular personnel man interviewed me and he looked at me and said, wanted to know if I was Japanese, Chinese, and I told him about being Japanese. Then we started to talk about our tradition, how we as children abide by what our parents said. And I said if a friend gives you something in a dish, whether it be a piece of cake or whatever, cookie. I said, "You never return this empty handed, you put something on that plate and return it." These are the little things we talked about and he says, "I like the Japanese tradition." [Laughs] And he found it very interesting because I was the first Japanese to be hired by this company and I've been with them for, what, twenty-six years.

TI: And it was interesting just from this nice conversation about Japanese kind of traditions and cultures. So I'm at the end of my questions. Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about?

BT: No, I think we just about covered everything in terms of my life aside from being grateful that I'm living as long as I am right now and trying to stay active and healthy. I think that's the main thing is to stay active and keep your mind alert and someone said, "Well, what do you really do at home?" And I said, oh I transfer DVD things and I make tapes for my friends and little things like that, and it keeps you aware.

TI: So you use like computers to do that, the DVDs?

BT: I do it with my copier. I invested in a copier where if I make a DVD and my friend says, "I like that," I got a copier that I can transfer and I do things like that. This one lady, she always brings me these Japanese or Korean movies and she'll say, "Can you make me a copy?" She borrows it from someone else but she wants a copy so I say sure so I'll make copies for her and these are the things I enjoy doing.

TI: And it makes you keep learning.

BT: Oh, yes.

TI: Good, so Betty, thank you so much to do this interview on your birthday. So again, happy birthday. So hopefully your husband will take you someplace nice now to celebrate.

BT: Well, I think tonight my son the optometrist, he called earlier and he said he didn't realize I was going for an interview and he said, "We can go out to dinner tonight," and I said, "Fine." I said, "I have an interview at one o'clock," and he said, "Oh, that's great." And I said I'm fortunate enough to be picked, and I'm able to converse a lot of things that I thought would be interesting. And we don't talk about it, so this way the children would know what's part of it.

TI: Exactly.

BT: And my husband was also interviewed by this one De Paul University, he had to talk about his military life, and that was interesting too because a couple of them came by as students and they came by to tell him that that was something that they didn't know about, Japanese American being interpreters.

TI: So he was also in the MIS, oh, you're talking about your brother.

BT: Okay, my brother was in the 100th.

TI: 100th, I see and your husband.

BT: My husband was with the MIS.

TI: That's right, okay, good. Well, make sure you tell your son tonight that you did a really great job on this interview.

BT: Well, I don't know [Laughs]

TI: We have it on the record so that I said this. So thank you so much.

BT: Well, it was nice talking about it.

TI: I really enjoyed it.

BT: Well, to be interviewed like this it's an honor too that I'm able to express a lot of my feelings and my thoughts.

TI: And the history, all the history. So again, thank you.

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