Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Michiko Frances Chikahisa Interview
Narrator: Michiko Frances Chikahisa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 17, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-cmichiko-01-0011

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TI: So I'm gonna bring you back to the United States, so September you get a ship and you come back to United States.

FC: And back in Maryknoll School.

TI: Okay, so let's talk about Maryknoll School 'cause that's, that's interesting. So describe the Maryknoll School. Who was there and why was it set up?

FC: Okay. The school was set up in the early '20s as a Catholic mission. Originally there were French priests that came, but then when the Japanese immigrant population started to have their families they realized that this was an opportunity to have a school, so the Maryknoll School was established, I guess, in the mid '20s.

TI: It's interesting, so this was set up first as a mission, overseas mission.

FC: Yes.

TI: And now it's all of a sudden a mission within the United States.

FC: The U.S.

TI: But in the sort of ethnic Japanese community.

FC: And because it was so close to Little Tokyo they saw all these young families, and so they offered a school to teach English and then to teach Japanese in the class, which appealed particularly to the merchants on First Street. And then they had this ingenious idea of picking the kids up by bus, so these parents who were working long hours in stores didn't have to worry about how their kids were gonna get to school. The school bus came and picked 'em up. They were taught to speak English correctly and they were also taught to study Japanese. So it was a perfect arrangement for them, and so a lot, and it was really particularly directed to the Japanese merchants along Little Tokyo, but because of the bus service they were able to go farther out and pick up people that lived on the uptown area, up into the, near USC area. There were lots of Japanese there. And they also came across to where we lived, and so we got bus service morning and night, and we went to school and had Japanese lessons, so that really made my parents very pleased.

TI: Now, as part of this, did your family become Catholic?

FC: No, not for a long time. My parents --

TI: Okay, so that wasn't part, that wasn't part of the deal. They didn't have to become Catholic.

FC: My parents were originally Protestant Christians, but they never went to church. The minister would come to the house and pray and read the bible with them, but they didn't insist on us attending any kind of Sunday school. When we started Maryknoll School the bus came for us on Sundays too, so from the time I was in kindergarten I always went to mass, but my parents didn't allow us to become Catholics. They said it was not their religion and they said it's a difficult religion, and they didn't want us to make a decision without being a little more mature.

TI: So things like first communion you didn't do?

FC: Didn't do.

TI: Okay, but your classmates --

FC: No, the classmates were all like us. They were, almost all of 'em were non Catholics. They were the children of these immigrant merchants and families that lived around there.

TI: So the Catholic church was willing to do this, thinking, we'll just provide this and maybe over time they'll, become Catholic.

FC: Exactly. Yeah. But the actually impetus for people to become Catholics was during the camp.

TI: Well let's get there later. I'm curious how that worked, but let's continue with your schooling.

FC: So the classes, the population of the school was ninety-nine percent Japanese American, and the religious, there may have been one or two families who were Catholics, but other than that we were all of various, there were Buddhists, Protestant, whatever.

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