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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so I always start with the date and where we are, so today's Friday, June 17, 2011. We're in the Chicago area, in a Residence Inn in Skokie. And on camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and we're here with Frances Chikahisa. And so, Frances, let me just start at the beginning, and tell me when and where you were born.

FC: I have to say when? [Laughs]

TI: Yeah. [Laughs] I know it's 1929.

FC: Yes, I was born in January 1929 in Los Angeles, and actually I was physically born with a, my mother had a midwife, and so the house that we lived in was where I was actually born.

TI: Oh, very good.

FC: And we stayed there, that was the only home I ever knew until the war.

TI: By any chance, do you know the name of the midwife?

FC: Her name was Mrs. Harada, but I don't know what her first name was. She was like a great aunt to my mother.

TI: Okay. And when you were born, what was the name given to you?

FC: Michiko. And the character is actually Michi, "road," "street," and ko.

TI: And then your maiden name was Miyake?

FC: Miyake, yes.

TI: Okay, so Michiko Miyake. Let's start with your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

FC: My father's name was Yosaku Miyake. And he was from a tiny country village in Fukuoka, Japan, and he came to, he immigrated to the U.S. when he was, I believe, sixteen years old.

TI: And do you know why he came?

FC: Well he, apparently he was the youngest of a family of four, and by the time he was thirteen he had lost both parents, and so they were very poor and his older brother obviously was gonna get whatever farm the family had, so he could look ahead and find that there was not much future for him. And so he signed up to actually go to Hawaii. I don't know if you know the history of the Isseis, that most of them were contracted by the king of Hawaii to work in the plantations. So that was what my father signed up to do. Soon as he got to Oahu he looked around and he says, "I'm not gonna improve my life here." [Laughs] And there were labor contractors from the States who were wandering around Honolulu at that point enticing people to break their contract and move to the U.S., so that's what he did. He never went to the job that he was signed up for, and he came aboard the ship and headed to San Francisco. And the ship landed in April 1906.

TI: Right around the earthquake.

FC: Yeah, so they, it was, the port was in flames so they were not able to dock at the pier. There was no pier, so all the men were put on rowboats and just told, "Head in that direction," towards the, towards land. And so he said he had never been in that large a body of water and they didn't know how to maneuver this rowboat, but somehow they managed and they ended up in Alameda. And they had, the immigration officials were all up and down the coast because they knew the ship had arrived, and so they gathered up these guys, and I don't know how they processed them because the paperwork was all destroyed too. I guess the paperwork on the ship is what got them going.

TI: Wow. What an interesting story. I mean, it's so colorful thinking he goes to Hawaii, he sees this busy dock and then be enticed to go on another ship, coming to San Francisco, city in flames, and then going out in this boat and then a rowboat to Alameda. What a, what a story. What an introduction to the United States.

FC: Yes, yes. And they, he said they didn't know where they were, how they were gonna ever get anyplace. And then his first assignment was dynamiting the, for railroad tracks up on the Sierra Nevadas, and so he left the city and went up to the mountains. And he said that he got sick. He had typhoid fever because of drinking the water and it didn't agree, and so he was a lot of times, I don't know how long, but he was unable to work because he's running this high temperature. And he kept thinking that his brother was calling him. He thought he was someplace in Japan, and he was wandering around and they said that he almost fell off the mountainside in his daze.

TI: So he's just delirious.

FC: Yes. But he somehow survived, and I don't know how long he was up there, but he ended up in southern California not too much longer.

TI: And this was after he had fulfilled his contract work?

FC: I guess, or maybe because he was sick they released him, and then he was working as a casual laborer on the farms down, and then wound up in southern California.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: And then when he's in southern California, what does he do?

FC: I don't know. He did a variety of things. At one point he was working up in Mount Wilson, which at that time was kind of a resort area, and so he was working as a cook's helper. So that was probably one of his early jobs, 'cause he remembers taking that red car -- that was at the foot of Pasadena, and they'd take this trolley car up to Mount Wilson, which is then considered quite a high mountain. And he learned to cook and he stayed there for a short time, but he was always restless. He's looking for something that was more grand, so he left and I think he went to work in the produce markets at that point, being sort of like a swamper, helping with loading and unloading. And then for a short time he ran a grocery store right in the, that market area on Ninth and San Pedro. It was kind of clever 'cause he said his grocery store was called Red Awning Grocery, so he was, he was kind of, tried to be very Americanized.

TI: And I'm curious, when he was Red Awning, did he have a red awning?

FC: I guess he did because they had these, a lot of little shops along there on San Pedro.

TI: That is interesting. That's a very savvy marketing type of thing. I mean, especially if he had a red awning because then people would remember.

FC: The name, yeah.

TI: It's easy to...

FC: We never asked him that, but he did say that he named the store the Red Awning. [Laughs] And I don't think he did it for long, and then he bought into the wholesale markets.

TI: And describe where the wholesale markets are relative to, I mean, is this one that's not too far from Little Tokyo?

FC: There're actually two large wholesale markets in Los Angeles. One is sort of city owned and that was the Seventh Street Market, was on Seventh and Central, and it's turned out to be a very large, prosperous place now. And then, but he was involved in the Ninth Street Market, which was kind of a private enterprise, and it was on San Pedro and Ninth Street, not too far, and there were a lot of Japanese along in there, Tenth to Twelfth and Central. And so he actually was living as a bachelor someplace near there, because my mother's uncle, who was, had come to the U.S. much earlier, was actually like a Christian evangelist and he ran this boarding house for the Issei single men. And he ran it like a mission; he would teach a little bit about Christianity and he'd feed the guys, and so my father stayed there, I guess, while he was working as a swamper for the market. My father really loved this man. He said he was such a person with such character and he was such an honest and conscientious man, so he, they struck up a very, very close relationship. And so the uncle is actually the one who wrote home and tried to arrange the marriage between my mother and my father.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So your, so your mother's uncle was also impressed with your father.

FC: Yes.

TI: I mean, for him to want his niece to marry this man...

FC: Niece to, yeah, it was a mutual connection.

TI: And did your father, I'm curious, did he convert to Christianity?

FC: Yes.

TI: Okay, so your mother's uncle was able to convince him to become a Christian.

FC: Yeah. I think he was attached to some ministers that eventually formed the Christian church that was in, like on Twenty-First Street and San Pedro in Los Angeles, 'cause that minister was also very prominent in my folks' early life.

TI: Now, do you know his name?

FC: He was Reverend Kubota.

TI: Kubota. Okay.

FC: And then later on it was Reverend Unoura.

TI: I'm sorry, he changed his name?

FC: No, it was another associate.

TI: Another one. But Reverend Kubota was your mother's uncle?

FC: No, no. Reverend, my mother's uncle was Mr. Takei. I don't know what his first name was. He was always Takei no ojisan.

TI: And I'm sorry, Reverend Kubota, what was his relationship again? He was just the minister?

FC: He was the pastor of this particular Christian, little Christian church, and then his associate later became Reverend Unoura. And they, they were sort of the nucleus of the West Adams Christian Church of today in Los Angeles.

TI: Got it. Okay, good. So your mother's uncle, Mr. Takei, sort of is the go-between.

FC: Yes. Wrote home.

TI: And very impressed with this young man and wants his niece to marry. So how did he do that?

FC: I think at that point there were several nieces in Japan, so he's not necessarily picking my mother. He's writing home and saying, I met this very, very wonderful man. He's got a good future, so I want one of the nieces to consider marrying him. So that's, I think my mother heard about it and she wanted to go to the U.S. Now my mother's side is also interesting 'cause she was a graduate of jogakkou, which is like a junior college or a teachers college, and she won a scholarship by applying for a scholarship in Fukuoka ken and was admitted to this college and had completed two years and was now, like, apprenticed as a bookkeeper to a company that another uncle was involved with in Osaka, or Kobe, someplace. Anyways, it was not in Fukuoka. She was there learning to be a bookkeeper for this cotton company. And so, but then she decided she wants to go to the United States and marry this man.

TI: Based on this letter from her uncle?

FC: Yes. And my, her parents apparently were furious with her 'cause she was on this career path and were looking forward to having her work and find a nice husband. But she was determined and she said no, she wanted to go to the United States. And those days the Issei parents, the Isseis' parents in Japan had a certificate of approval of the marriage, even if these folks were of age, they still, Japan was very proper and wanted to make sure that families were not, kids were not running away from their family. So, but the parents refused to sign this, and she was so determined she took the form and took the train to look up my father's relatives that she had never met to this country town in Yame in Japan and asked the older brother to sign this certificate for her, which he of course did 'cause it didn't mean anything to him. And so that's how she came to the United States. She had to, she broke this contract for training and she says she had to pay back the money that they had given her while she was in training, and she went to that degree and left to come to the United States.

TI: That sounds pretty remarkable for someone to, to...

FC: Yes. Yes, it's incredible.

TI: Now what was your mother's name?

FC: Her name was Kikuno Takei.

TI: And yeah, very headstrong.

FC: [Laughs] Yes.

TI: To defy her parents, to break the contract.

FC: And I think for a long time she must've regretted it because it was so difficult, life in the U.S.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's get to that story, so she gets all the papers and then she comes to America.

FC: And lands in San Francisco and goes through that whole process. Somebody said that my mother had some kind of illness, I think an eye infection or something. My sister had mentioned that recently and I was not aware of it, but anyway --

TI: But how would she find out? Like through the documentation?

FC: I think my mother's oral story she related to my sister.

TI: I see. Okay.

FC: And so he had to stay there for a while. You know, in those days the Issei men had to go and claim their wives, and they only had a photograph and so they'd be standing in line looking over this photograph hoping that they selected the right one. [Laughs]

TI: Well, conversely, the women had a photograph too, and when they came off, my understanding is that sometimes the men, it wasn't always as accurate as...

FC: Sometimes it wasn't even the photograph of the real man. [Laughs]

TI: Exactly. Or if they, if they did take the picture, it was them, they would oftentimes take it in front of a big house or something that made them look more prominent.

FC: Yes. Maybe they worked there as a butler or a gardener, and they wrote home saying, "This is where, this is my home."

TI: "This is where I live." [Laughs] Right.

FC: There were all kinds of stories like that.

TI: Your mother, when she was going through the process, was this Angel Island?

FC: Yes.

TI: Okay. Any, do you recall any stories about Angel Island?

FC: She never did say anything about that, but I'm pretty sure it was Angel Island.

TI: Okay. So she has to stay there for a little bit for medical reasons.

FC: Yes.

TI: And then, but eventually she and your father meet. Any stories about that?

FC: And he says to her, "You're not as good looking as your photograph." [Laughs]

TI: Oh my. And that wasn't a joke? Was it, back then that's probably not, he probably just said that.

FC: Yes. She agreed. She did say that, he said that's what he told her, and she said, yeah, that's how she remembered it. So he was, he acted like he was okay with it, but he wasn't particularly pleased. So then they, I don't know exactly what, where he was in terms of his career, but they were pretty smart because when they came to Los Angeles she went to work as a domestic in a Caucasian home to learn English, to hear English language and also to taste some of the American foods. So I think she worked as a domestic for about a year. In the meantime he's getting himself settled. I think he, I don't know if he, I think he rented a house someplace in Boyle Heights.

TI: At this point was your father, he was in the wholesale produce business?

FC: I think he was in the wholesale produce business by then.

TI: On his own, or working for someone?

FC: I'm not really sure. I'm not really sure. But he was pretty much determined that this was where he wanted to become settled. And someplace, by the time I was born, he was already in the markets. I have a sister that's six years older, and I think he already was in the market when she was a toddler.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay, so let's just briefly talk about your sisters. So you have an older sister and a younger sister. What are their names?

FC: My older sister was Sonoko.

TI: Okay. She's six years older. Then you came next, and then after you was...

FC: Setsuko.

TI: Now how much younger was Setsuko?

FC: And she's eighteen months younger.

TI: Okay. Now are they still alive?

FC: Yes.

TI: Are they in California?

FC: Yes, they live in the Los Angeles, one lives in, where is that? My sister lives in Torrance. She used to live in Palos Verdes, but she downsized and now she's living in a senior condo building in Torrance, and my younger sister lives in Monterey Park.

TI: Now, when we started the interview you mentioned how you were born in the house that you grew up in, so tell me a little bit about the house. Where was it?

FC: It was, okay, we lived off of Central Avenue and Forty-Second Street, which was roughly Jefferson Avenue and Central Avenue, if you know L.A.

TI: Okay. I know L.A. My daughter went to USC, so...

FC: Yeah, it was a little bit east of the USC area.

TI: Right, so I'm familiar with the streets. I'm just trying to picture where that is.

FC: It's like, Martin Luther King Avenue was Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara was like Forty-(First) Street.

TI: Okay.

FC: And Jefferson is where SC is.

TI: Yes.

FC: And so we lived between Jefferson and Martin Luther King.

TI: Okay, so I know where this is.

FC: And my father selected it because it was close to the market, and again, he was so independent he did not want to live on the west side where most of the Japanese community gathered. He wanted, he didn't want that kind of connection with the neighborhood where they all talked about each other, so he chose to move a little farther away. And so we were on the east side rather than west side, and near Jefferson High School, which was not a particularly good high school. And the neighborhood when he bought was kind of like, I would say, working class Italian, Irish, some Jewish, but then the African Americans started to move in, and so by the time we were of school age the neighborhood was largely black.

TI: So you really saw a neighborhood change, sort of transform.

FC: Changing. And so, but there was a German couple that lived right next door, and these were all single family homes. We had, like, a three bedroom house, a detached garage, and a full basement -- not a full basement, a small one room basement that was mainly like a storage area cellar.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So childhood memories growing up in this neighborhood? Any, like stories about, I don't know, just activities and things you would do maybe on the weekend or after school?

FC: There were a couple of African American families that, my parents were very protective. They didn't want us running around the neighborhood, but if these girls came over to play they would be accepting of it, so these were African American neighbors. And an interesting story I remember is that two doors down, the family next door to the German couple was this African American family who were quite proud because they owned a Cadillac, and the mother and the grandmother would sit in the car and eat their meals in their car. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, they were so proud of the car they would eat their meals in it?

FC: Exactly. So the kids would run up, and they lived in a really large two story house, and they were quite affluent, and as I say, they were so proud of this car.

TI: For them to be so, to have so much money, what did they do?

FC: I don't even remember. I don't remember what they did. There was another family that lived next door to them that were very nice to us, and they, her husband was a chauffeur for a movie star in Beverly Hills. This family -- oh, I take it back. He ran a barber shop on Central Avenue.

TI: The one with the Cadillac?

FC: Cadillac. Yeah. And then on the corner of our street, at Central and Forty-Second, was one of, one of two large funeral parlors. And so years later the daughter of that family that ran the funeral parlor was at SC when I was taking my, we were both graduate students at the school of social work, so interesting how our paths crossed.

TI: How interesting how it...

FC: And I never knew her, of course, 'cause I went to a special school.

TI: When you talked about the, sort of the transition in neighborhood from white working class to then more African American, where were the African Americans coming from, and what kind of work were they doing?

FC: I think they were, one of the earlier, they moved from poorer neighborhoods. They were able to buy their homes, so this was sort of like the beginning of a middle class community of African Americans, and they were very proud of the fact that they owned their own homes. And so there was a couple that lived across the street from us that my mother got to know, and she would make doll clothes for us. Then two doors down was another woman, she and her husband, I think he also had something to do with the barbershop, but my mother said when she was pregnant with me this woman, especially towards the end, made some meals and brought it over for my family to eat. And she remembered being introduced to collard greens. [Laugh]

TI: So it sounds like your mother was really friendly and did a lot with the African Americans.

FC: Yes.

TI: And probably the whites too, or more African Americans?

FC: Yeah, well the German couple next door, she would, they would spend time talking across the fence in the backyard and talking about their lives. And it was amazing, my mother somehow was able to speak enough English to get along with the neighbor next door, the woman across the street, and the woman that brought the meals over. And then I got to know this woman whose husband was a chauffeur much later, when I was, in fact, I think it was mostly after the war that I got to be good friends with her.

TI: In the neighborhood, as the neighborhood started transitioning, was there tension between the whites and the blacks? Do you recall any?

FC: I don't recall that, 'cause I think they pretty much moved out fairly closely. The only persons that were left was the Italian family that ran a grocery store on the corner of Hooper and our street. And you could tell that they had some negative feelings about the African Americans, but I don't recall any major confrontation. But they sort of, they did a lot of cash and carry business, and they had people on credit, and I guess sometimes the black folks couldn't meet their payment at the end of the month, so you could tell that they were kind of disparaging of them. But the neighborhood was quiet. Almost everybody owned their own homes. And my folks were kind of snobbish, so they wanted us to only associate with people who had a better standing, so down the street was another family that had a son and a daughter that were a little bit more my older sister's age and they came over to play. In fact, when that Long Beach earthquake hit in 1933, the son, I remember someone holding me. He was carrying me while the house was shaking, so apparently they were over playing and the earthquake hit. So for some reason my family approved of them. There was a family that lived around the corner where the husband was Filipino and he was married to an African American woman, so those two kids were "acceptable" and we would go over to their house.

TI: Okay, so you would, I was asking, I was gonna ask whether or not you ever got to go to other people's homes. Sounds like people were coming to your house.

FC: Yeah. They were the only home that my parents allowed us to go visit. The rest of the families came to our place to visit with us. It's interesting.

TI: Yeah, okay.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So let's move on and let's talk about your father's business and how that kind of evolved and grew over time. So you mentioned last that he was in the wholesale produce business, so why don't you talk a little bit about his business?

FC: His business, he was in partnership with a Mr. Shiraishi. I think his name was Katsuzo Shiraishi. I don't know how they got to know each other, but they were, in those days the Isseis made their connections with people of the same ken, so he was also from Fukuoka, and he got, he was sort of the brains of the business and my father was the PR man, the front man. My father was pretty charming. So they made a good pair, and they named their store Southwest Berry Exchange, and then the initials was SWBX, which is another thing my father was proud of, that he had this fancy name that could be put in just initials, SWBX. And he had a lot of farmers up along Santa Maria, Guadalupe, San Luis Obispo, and so he took a lot of trips going up to visit the farmers. This is before supermarket days, so the farmers and the wholesale produce guys had personal connections with these farmers, and they'd go up and look at the crops and decide. And so while his name, business was named strawberries he actually dealt more with, I think it was celery and other kinds of vegetables, not so much fruit, because there was another Japanese market that was called United Celery. They laughed because he had more to do with strawberries and my father had more to do with celery. [Laughs]

TI: Even though his was the berry company, he did celery. That's funny. So he had these Japanese farmers, he would buy the produce from them, and then who would he sell it to?

FC: The grocery store owners, the small businessmen, they'd come and they'd look at the produce and buy it off the trucks. So the employees he had were guys that drove the trucks to go pick up the produce and bring it into the market.

TI: And it would sell off the trucks? They wouldn't unload it and display it? It was more just...

FC: I guess so. He had a couple of stores in the market and they would have boxes of his stuff, and the buyers would come and purchase what they needed.

TI: And so Japanese farmers, would he sell to Japanese markets?

FC: Japanese markets.

TI: So it's all kind of this inside the community.

FC: Yes, exactly. They all depended on each other because of racial prejudice and inability to really open up and bring in other kinds of, they were pretty exclusively Japanese. And they, the farmers didn't always speak English, so they would come to someplace where there was a Japanese connection. And he also had some local farmers, like in Downey and Santa Fe Springs and that area that did a lot of truck farming, beans and lettuces and things like that. So he had a variety of produce.

TI: Okay. Earlier you mentioned him as more of the PR person, but I'm trying to get a sense of, so when he would go out to the farms, for instance, and look at crops, would he be the one who would negotiate in terms of, for your celery crop this is how much we can pay, do all that?

FC: Yeah, he was doing all that.

TI: So he was kind of like the buyer also.

FC: Yes.

TI: Go out there and do all that.

FC: And then when, sometimes the farmers would themselves come into town and he would love to wine and dine them, so he would take them out to Little Tokyo and they'd eat. Those early days my father drank a lot, and I don't remember this so much, but my older sister remembers him coming home pretty, pretty much, pretty drunk and staggering. [Laughs] And she was always concerned because my mother was left alone so much. My mother never worked outside the home, so unlike a lot of Issei women, she didn't earn any money. And my father was proud of the fact that he could support the family.

TI: But your older sister was maybe concerned that if something happened to your father, what would happen to your family?

FC: She would see my mother kind of depressed, left alone, and when my father would come home drunk she would be really, really upset. And so I didn't, I didn't know that part, but my older sister knew it and felt very, very sad for my mother, and she had some pretty negative feelings about my dad for a long time.

TI: Because of the drinking or what, all that carousing about.

FC: Yeah, and felt like my poor mother suffered so much. But I think by the time I was old enough to participate in family activities, my father had pretty much settled down. I don't think he was drinking quite as heavily, and so he had now kids that are ready to go to school and he sort of began to think more in terms of the family.

TI: Earlier you had mentioned that your mother had a hard life, and this is part of, maybe, the hard life. I mean, here she was in Japan, well educated, on this career path, and her parents had probably all these future plans for her, what she would do and perhaps who she would marry.

FC: Exactly.

TI: And she sort of decides to come to Japan based on this letter. Did she ever talk about regrets or anything? Did you ever hear about that?

FC: Never. Never. It wasn't until, as I said earlier, my father died and she spent an evening telling me all the problems that she had. She even said that she thought my father had fathered a child outside of marriage before she arrived and that he would brag to her that he had a son but that he was in Japan, but I don't know that anybody ever identified, whether he had any contact.

TI: So it was kind of mean for your father to say that to your mother.

FC: Yes. They used to, they used to argue a lot about his drinking, and they used to particularly argue when we would get ready to go on a picnic 'cause my father considered himself some kind of a cook because of his short experience.

TI: At Mount Wilson.

FC: At Mount Wilson. [Laughs] And so he would have his own ideas about how the food should be prepared, and he and my mother would be up until way after midnight preparing this feast for us to take on a picnic. And they would, and of course, he'd be drinking the sake on the side, so they would be arguing while they're cooking the food for us.

TI: And you would hear that as you were in bed listening.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So I want to now go, before we go to school and other things, I want to talk about a trip you took to Japan.

FC: I was already in school when we took that.

TI: Oh, were you in school? Okay, but let's talk about that now because it kind of goes along your mother's story, and so why don't we talk about going back to Japan? You're, I think about, what, seven years old?

FC: Yeah. I was second grade and, I just finished the second grade in Maryknoll School, and it was also in the second grade that five or six of us from that grade were invited to a birthday party for Shirley Temple.

TI: Well, let's talk about that first then. Okay, go ahead.

FC: At Twentieth Century Fox Studio, so we all got dressed in our kimonos, and before we went the nuns would sit us down, tell us how to use the forks that were on the table, and they made us practice eating so that we wouldn't embarrass ourselves.

TI: How big a star was Shirley Temple at this point?

FC: Oh, she was in her heyday, Captain January and, what was that, Little Miss, whatever it was. She was, she was the star.

TI: And in terms of age, what was her age?

FC: We were the same, roughly the same -- actually...

TI: Okay, so that was the whole, the whole idea.

FC: That's why we were chosen. She was actually a year older, but the studio had her, concealed her real age and had her be a year younger. So we sat at this luncheon table and she was at the center with her little bouncy curls and her sweet smile, and she was really very charming and very nice. And there were like eight of us that sat and had lunch with her.

TI: And, interesting, you were in kimonos.

FC: Yes. And so we gave her a Japanese doll, and the priest had arranged -- there was a priest that did a lot of the trying to raise funds for the Maryknoll Society, and so he was the one who had arranged this. And it turns out that the photographs that they took of this, of us being there were sent to, all over the country and even out of the country, especially to Japan, and so when we went to Japan people had already known, had pictures of this in their fashion and home magazines of our birthday celebration.

TI: And you were in it, so they could see you. And so you were kind of a --

FC: So when I met my grandparents that was the first thing they said was, "Oh, this is the granddaughter that was at Shirley Temple's birthday party." [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. Do you have any of those photographs?

FC: Yes, I still do.

TI: I'd love to, we'll talk afterwards. I'd love to be able to get a picture of those.

FC: So that was a big, big thing. I always say my claim to fame was when I was seven years old. [Laughs]

TI: But on the other hand, I think of the age you were and Shirley Temple, there's a sadness too, that her birthday party was a PR event with people she didn't know.

FC: Yes. But she was doing that all the time.

TI: You just think of these child stars and what their childhoods must be like. It's just sort of this -- [coughs] excuse me -- facade of these PR events.

FC: Yeah, what I remembered, that she really was pretty poised and was friendly, and she knew exactly what was required of her and she played the part. And she gave us all autographed photographs, which unfortunately I've misplaced. I've lost it. But I do have a couple of photographs left over.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

FC: So then we go to Japan and we were supposed to spend the summer in Fukuoka.

TI: And this is the whole family, so your parents and both sisters and you were there?

FC: The three, the family of five. And we went, in those days it was all ship so we went on the Japanese ship line, NYK line, and my father was able to arrange second class passage for us, so we sat in this lovely dining room with waiters serving us. It was quite elegant. And most of the people in second class were Caucasians going on tour to Japan, so there weren't too many children and so we sort of got a lot of attention from the stewards because they knew that we were children that didn't have playmates. And it took two weeks to get to Japan. We stopped in San Francisco, then we went to Honolulu and we stopped in Honolulu, and then we proceed to Yokohama. And when I was in San Francisco I got really homesick. It was the first time I'd been away from home and I just bawled and bawled, and my poor mother didn't know what to do because I was crying 'cause we left our dog behind, and I kept saying, "Poor Jackie, he must be so sad." [Laughs] And I just, I was inconsolable for overnight anyway, and then when we got to Hawaii my father had a couple of employees that were from Hawaii, and so he introduced us to his relatives, so we went and sat there, had my first taste of papaya. And then we went from there over to Yokohama, and his, her youngest brother, who had left Fukuoka and was working in Tokyo, came to meet us. And then we went from there to Fukuoka. We didn't visit, we didn't do much sightseeing in Honshu at that point, and we stayed with a family that had been living in Santa Barbara and the husband had made a lot of money so he returned to Japan as an expat and built this nice, nice home.

TI: And how did you know this family?

FC: My father somehow knew him.

TI: Okay.

FC: I don't know what the connection was, but I think maybe through the market.

TI: And by chance do you know this person's name?

FC: Akiyama.

TI: Akiyama, okay.

FC: I don't know their first name. He had one son, Hajime, and they had this very nice home, but he was really struggling because he couldn't find a way to make money. They were not those, expats at that time were not too well received because they went home showing off their wealth and their American behavior and they were not given many opportunities, so he was struggling. And I guess us staying there helped him because my folks gave him money for the time we lived with him. And so it was in Fukuoka; my mother's family was in Hakata, which is a suburb of Fukuoka city, so we spent time at the Akiyamas', but also spent a lot of time with my grandparents.

TI: So what was the reaction of your mother's family meeting your father for the first time?

FC: Yeah, well, it was amazing because my father and my grandfather just struck it up famously, and he was so proud of the fact that my mother married this wealthy man. From his point of view my father was very wealthy, and so he would parade him around town. My grandfather was quite a man. We went there also because it was his, they were celebrating his seventy-seventh birthday.

TI: So quite, quite elderly for that time.

FC: Yeah, and he was, he would get up at five o'clock every morning and cast his net in the river to catch little trout that they ate. And he also had a little rice field, and he would tend his rice field. The family owned a little cigarette, convenience store. They sold cigarettes, stamps, and a little bit of postcards and something like that, and they lived in the back. So he was living with his eldest son, and they had a family, I think, of five. Yeah, two sons and three daughters, and there were two cousins that were roughly my age and my sister's age. The four of us sort of hung out together.

TI: And what about the dynamics between your mother and her parents? Because they did not want her to go and she went against their will, and now she's coming back, so how was that?

FC: My mother, in preparation for the trip, spent a lot of time getting us clothes that looked nice and she had a wardrobe of her own, so you could tell, and then she wasn't wearing a ring, but she got a diamond ring to wear for this occasion. My father gave her the ring. So we went and they could tell that we were, we looked like we were quite wealthy, and I guess over the years she must have written to him and sent packages home, so they had some sense that we were not struggling. So they were very welcoming, very, very welcoming, and she was very happy. And of course, he had that seventy-seventh birthday celebration in which all the relatives came, so we were all paraded in front of everybody.

TI: So you were kind of the rich family from America and came all the way for the birthday party.

FC: Yeah. And cousins that my mother had not seen in years were there, so it was quite a, quite a big celebration.

TI: But in some ways it was kind of a facade.

FC: Yes. Yes.

TI: I mean, here you kind of portrayed this wealth, which, your father was doing well in the business, but in some ways during this time your mother wasn't particularly happy. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation at that time.

FC: I think the fact that when she got home and the parents, my father and her father got along so well and genuinely, and so whatever suspicions they had about how things really were kind laid to rest and so she felt a lot better. And I think when we got back she was not quite as tormented by...

TI: Okay.

FC: So it was a certain amount of healing that occurred.

TI: But she had to kind of, I guess, complete some things with her parents by going back.

FC: Parents, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

FC: And so, and the other thing that happened while we were there, Japan and China went to war in July of 1937, and so the climate of the country changed 'cause you could hear newspaper boys calling, "Extra, extra," and they would have something pertaining to the war. And I don't know if you heard about this senninbari, they had these...

TI: The stitches, the thousand stitches.

FC: Yeah, so when you went downtown people would stop you and ask you please put a knot in this belly warmer, and so we spent, every time we went into town people would come up to us. So even as young as I was, I made this French knot, put the knot in this thing, and it's like praying for the soldiers and for their safety. So the climate was changing to a more militaristic kind of an environment, and so everywhere you went you could see soldiers waiting on trains and going, saying goodbye.

TI: Did your parents ever talk about that? Did you hear them talking about Japan changing into more military?

FC: I don't recall, but I'm sure that with the Akiyama family they talked a lot about, well, especially, he was having trouble finding an income. He kind of regretted leaving the U.S. and I guess with the war they're worried about the son, whether he might have to go to, 'cause he was at that point probably about fifteen, fourteen maybe, and if the war lasted any number of years he would have to go to, he would be drafted. So there was that kind of talk.

TI: Now, the Akiyamas' son, was he born in the United States?

FC: Yes, he was an American citizen. And as it turned out, he did, he was drafted and he was forced to work as an interpreter 'cause he retained quite a bit of English. And the story, what happened to the Akiyama family is really pretty tragic because after the war that part of Fukuoka was bombed quite heavily, and so I think their house was destroyed. They were really, really struggling. They wanted to come back to the U.S., but since he was, served in the Japan army, he was considered a traitor and he would've had to pay a huge penalty, monetary. If he put out enough money he could've bought his citizenship, or cleared his record.

TI: But even though he was drafted, it wasn't like he had a choice, really.

FC: They didn't, they didn't give him that consideration. He said if they put down enough money he could've cleared his record, but then they would have nothing left and so they couldn't even think about moving back to the States and not knowing how they were gonna survive. At that point Brazil was looking for immigrants and welcoming immigrants to Sao Paolo, so they decided to go to Sao Paolo. So at that point Hajime was already married and had several children, and so they decided, they went to Sao Paolo and they stopped in San Pedro overnight, and so we all went to the port to see them and they were crammed in this tiny, tiny little berth with, I think, another family. It was, it was unbelievable how cramped they were, but he said that they hoped to be able to have a future in Sao Paolo. They were looking forward to making a living there. They didn't, there were two kinds at that point, the ones that went into the actual jungle, and they were the real immigrants that went into prime forests and they were trying to establish Brasilia. So a lot of the immigrants were doing that, but they decided they didn't want to do that, roughing it, so they somehow found a job in Sao Paolo. And so that, after we visited them it was really touching 'cause they bowed to each other and they say, "We'll see you in heaven." They said...

TI: This was your father?

FC: And Mr. Akiyama, Mrs. Akiyama and my mother, they bowed to each other and said, this is sayonara for now, but we'll see each other in Tengoku.

TI: Because they realized that would be the last time they would see each other.

FC: Yeah. They didn't anticipate taking a trip back to Japan, and of course my parents wouldn't have thought of going to Brazil. So, but they were longtime friends and they knew they'd never see them again. It was very touching.

TI: Going back to kind of this buildup of the military in Japan, how did your father view it? Was he sort of proud of being Japanese, that Japan was now taking a stronger role?

FC: Actually, it turned out later he said that he had gone on this trip also to think about returning to Japan. He was hoping he had made enough money, that he would do what Mr. Akiyama did, he'd buy a piece of land. And then he said once he got there and walked around the country and talked to the families, he realized how Americanized he had been and that if he moved to Japan he would be put into this restricted kind of society, and he was the first one to say, "Let's go back home to America." [Laughs] He could hardly wait for us to leave Japan.

TI: Interesting. Okay.

FC: So he said he was an American. He did not identify at all with Japan. And it turned out that the ship we were supposed to come back to the States ran aground in the South Pacific so we had to wait for the next ship, so we didn't leave Japan until end of September, early part of October, when we should have left early in September. So our trip back was delayed a month, so we stayed in Japan much longer than we had planned.

TI: Now, for you, I want to talk a little bit about your impressions of Japan. You were there for several months. How did you like Japan?

FC: I enjoyed, I really enjoyed Japan 'cause we went to a lot of interesting places. I was especially fond of the fact that I met my grandfather. And I was amazed that here was this person that I'd never laid eyes on, my mother rarely talked about him, and we went to the, I remember particularly we went to the ocean, were going on like a beach party, and all of us had on our swimsuits. And I didn't learn how to swim. I was just, would toddle around on the shoreline at, in California beaches. Well, Grandpa was a good swimmer, so he was surprised that I didn't know how to swim and that I didn't want to go out there where the waves were, so he says, he put me on his shoulder and he says, "Come on, we're gonna go." And I'm thinking, here's this man, my father never held me on his shoulders. Here's this man I just met and he's willing to put me on the shoulders. He was so happy to know me, and I realized that that's what the family connection was, that here's somebody that if I passed on the street I wouldn't have recognized him, but he was Grandpa, and he was so happy to know us. It was the most, it made me realize how important these family connections are, and that you can make these connections almost instantaneously. And I guess he was accepting of us because he was so happy my mother had come back and she was doing so well, and so it was a real high point in his life. And after we left Japan he kept saying, even during the war, he was hoping that the war would end and we would return. And he lived to be ninety-one or something and he finally didn't, he realized that he wasn't gonna be able to see, the war didn't end in time. We wouldn't have gone back that soon, anyway.

TI: So that was the last time you saw him, was on this trip.

FC: Yeah, so it was the first and only time, but I was so, I really appreciated the connection I felt with him.

TI: Well, it sounds like a high point in your life, too.

FC: It was. It was, really. Yeah.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

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.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Let me ask you this question, when growing up, before you started Maryknoll School, what language were you most comfortable with?

FC: Japanese.

TI: Okay. So this school was really tailored for the Japanese community because there're probably lots of students like you who spoke Japanese up until school.

FC: Exactly.

TI: So they could, in some ways, tailor the curriculum so that it would help you learn English but also keep your Japanese.

FC: Keep your Japanese, yes.

TI: So it really was an ideal situation in many ways.

FC: It was. Yeah. And at home my mother would not answer us if we spoke in English, and she said she wanted us to be able to speak Japanese and to speak it correctly, so she insisted that we talk to her in Japanese. And obviously she talked to the neighbors in English. We could've gotten by with English, but she refused. She said it was the only chance for us to learn Japanese, and I'm forever grateful for that 'cause I still do a lot of counseling in Japanese. And since I came here, people are amazed that I speak Japanese. The Niseis, most of them don't speak a word of Japanese, and they say, "Gee, how come you speak?" I think part of it was because I went to Japan and when I was in Japan we spoke Japanese all the time.

TI: And that, you mean that one summer? Then...

FC: And then speaking it at home.

TI: Home.

FC: And because in Japan when I learned to speak I learned to speak outside the family and was somehow able to get along, so I was happy to be able to speak Japanese.

TI: And tell me about at Maryknoll with Japanese. Who taught the Japanese and how good was the instruction at Maryknoll?

FC: The instruction was very good. Not, not very strict. We probably could've gone faster, but because a lot of the kids' families were not like mine, they spoke English at home and they understood the parents talking in Japanese, they answered back in some broken Japanese, but they, a lot of 'em didn't speak really fluent Japanese. So studying the reading and writing was a slow process, and so we didn't move along too fast. And there were, it was surprising that a lot of my classmates came, well, some of 'em came from broken homes. Maryknoll at that point ran a children's care, we called it sisters' home, and there were children whose parents either through sickness or death couldn't take care of their children, so there were a bunch of kids that came from broken homes. Some of 'em were hapa kids. There were kids whose mother was sick with tuberculosis and the father couldn't keep the kids at home.

TI: So was it kind of like an orphanage?

FC: Yeah. It was a childcare institution, and they, the sisters had a convent on Boyle Avenue right close to where Keiro is today, and so they converted part of that into this children's institution. So they, I don't know how many children they had, but they had quite a few. And a lot of those kids came from very disorganized families and they only, they didn't really speak much Japanese, and so that's why the instruction was good but it was not at a fast pace.

TI: And before the war, how large was the Maryknoll School?

FC: Gosh, I can't remember. My class had thirty-two. There was only a single class for every grade.

TI: And it went from, what, kindergarten?

FC: Kindergarten through the ninth grade.

TI: So that's nine, ten, so maybe three hundred students?

FC: Yeah, probably.

TI: Okay, so a good sized school. Now, how did people outside of Maryknoll perceive the Maryknoll kids? I mean, was there a sense that the Maryknoll School was different than, say, the public schools?

FC: Yeah, I think, well, the people who lived around Little Tokyo really spoke well of the school 'cause it really served them in almost a perfect arrangement in terms of school and education. So if they were merchants they would not badmouth the school at all. So I think, but they also felt that because the nuns were Catholics and it was a different religion, that we were kind of imbued with beliefs that were not very Japanese, and they probably, the kids that didn't, that went to public school looked upon us as being kind of snobbish.

TI: And so did you, like, wear uniforms?

FC: Yes, we did. Not at the beginning, but we did halfway through.

TI: And so that was probably not common in Little Tokyo for other students.

FC: Yeah, so you were pretty, you were obvious when you walked around Little Tokyo with the school uniform on.

TI: And what was the school uniform?

FC: Well, the boys wore salt and pepper corduroy pants with a white shirt, and the girls wore a maroon jumper, and of course no pants in those days. That was basically the uniform. And we had, the community, Japanese community got really upset because Maryknoll would have a picnic on Memorial Day, and they said this was a day to honor the dead and what kind of a strange religion that they would party on such a somber holiday, so they got a lot of flak over that and later on they had to move it some time in October.

TI: Now, how involved were your parents with the Maryknoll?

FC: My, both of my parents were quite involved. My mother was in some kind of a mothers' group, mothers' guild, like talking about raising money for the school. My father would donate the trucks whenever they had activities. So they participated quite a bit.

TI: So it sounds like they were pretty appreciative that you're, that their kids were there and liked that.

FC: They did. Yeah.

TI: Now do you remember if there was, how high the tuition was for students?

FC: Gosh, I don't remember. I don't remember.

TI: But was there a sense that perhaps the kids who went to Maryknoll were better off than others because there was a tuition?

FC: Yeah. But I think that the kids that came from the sisters' home, they were charity cases because a lot of 'em couldn't afford it, so there was kind of a sliding fee, tuition scale. But my parents never complained about the money part.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so we're about halfway through and I want to keep going, so I'm gonna keep pushing you along here.

FC: Can I take a break and...

TI: You want to take a short break?

FC: I want to just take a sip of water.

TI: Okay, yeah, take a sip. Before we go to the war I just wanted, there was, something in your bio that struck me was your father's golfing. And so, so let's go to the 1940s and it sounds like the business has been going well and your father's able to have a little bit of leisure time, and so tell me about that.

FC: Yeah, so I don't know how he got going, but he did start playing golf. It was difficult for him at the beginning 'cause he had no control over this tiny little ball, and I think he told a story of getting so frustrated he broke the clubs and tossed it in the pond and left. But his friends wouldn't let him quit, so he continued and he really became involved with it and he loved golf, so every Sunday he would trudge out to the links. And he belonged to a golf club with Isseis and some Niseis. They were called the Yojioki Club, which I didn't, never understood, but it means, yoji is four o'clock, oki is waking up, so you know, four o'clock wakers club. [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. Do you know how large, how many people were in this club?

FC: I'm sure there must've been close to two dozen guys.

TI: And they'd wake up early in the morning...

FC: And they'd trudge out to play golf, and yeah, they were playing every Sunday. And he prided himself in playing eight eighteen rounds in one week, so one week he played two eighteen rounds on a single day, and then he played every other day of the week.

TI: So I'm sorry, say it, so he played eight, how many rounds in one week he played?

FC: He played eight rounds in seven days.

TI: Eight rounds in one week, seven days. Okay.

FC: And so that was his pride. And he came home with trophies and things like that. He truly, he truly loved his golf. In fact, he was playing in Long Beach on the golf course which bordered Douglas Aircraft, and they were playing when the security guard said, "I think you guys need to go home." And he looked at him and he said, what are you talking about it? He said, "Don't you know that Japan just bombed Pearl Harbor?"

TI: Oh, so he was on the course next to a, I guess, a defense contractor on December 7th. Interesting.

FC: [Laughs] That's how he found out the war had started.

TI: That's interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Well, let's ask you, same date, December 7, 1941, do you remember that day?

FC: Yeah. I was at mass at Maryknoll, and I remember Father Lavery, who was the pastor, said, "We're gonna say mass real quickly," because he just heard on the radio that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. So we all got real quiet, cleaned up, and took the bus and went home.

TI: During mass did he say anything about the war, about Japan in terms of what the Japanese should expect?

FC: No. He didn't say anything about that. I don't think he even thought about it affecting us.

TI: Okay. So let's talk about the next day, when you go to school. Any differences at school?

FC: Yeah, well, there was a lot of tension about, then, about what might happen, but we were encouraged to just continue school until things, whatever would transpire would, we would be notified.

TI: So do you recall anything that the priests or the sisters said to the students about what was going on?

FC: Nothing that I recall in terms of that. When the talk began to surface about evacuating us, I know that Father Lavery wanted to somehow keep the Maryknoll community together, and he was looking into moving the whole community inland and he was looking at some property, I think, in Missouri, thinking that if he could establish the church and the school we could all move there. But it was, it was, realistically it was not that easy because a lot of the children had other relatives that were not going to Maryknoll School so they would not want to follow that kind of a plan. So he talked it up for quite a while, but he, but he had to give it up as not practical. And so then he allowed the Japanese to put their belongings in the auditorium as a storage area, so he did a lot of things to try to help. And then the early guys that went to Manzanar to help set up the camp, a lot of them were the older Maryknoll men, and so he was, he was supportive of trying to get something closer to Los Angeles, and Manzanar was the closest at that particular time.

TI: Okay, so we'll get to that in a little bit. Well, let me finish that, so did Father Lavery go to Manzanar? Was he one of the...

FC: Yeah, he went to a lot of the camps. He didn't, he didn't stay in Manzanar.

TI: Okay. But he would travel because his, in some ways his congregation was scattered to different places.

FC: Scattered. So when the war started in December, Papa said they're gonna put a freeze on metal. He says, "I have to have a good car to keep my business going," so he went out and bought himself a Chrysler Imperial.

TI: So this is after the war? After the war started, I mean.

FC: Yeah, it's like mid December. He goes out and buys himself a brand new car and he paid cash for it, 'cause he says, I need it, never thinking that he wasn't gonna be around. So here we are in January, talk about us having to move, and he's got this beautiful brand new car, which he's not about to sell to anybody 'cause he knows he'd get nothing for it. And so he, I remember he's shaking his head that he never dreamed that there'd be talk of moving us. Then he said he thought that Isseis maybe would be picked on to move, but he had never thought that it would affect the Niseis. He says, "You're American citizens. He just couldn't imagine the government considering American born Japanese as potential traitors. So anyway, as it got, evacuation came along, he didn't panic. He didn't sell things. 'Cause he had a Mexican fellow that worked for him, so when the date came for us to evacuate he had this Mexican family move into our house, so we stored our belongings either in the cellar or one of the bedrooms and he came and stayed. We had a grand piano and some artifacts, katanas and things like that, and he asked some Caucasian bankers that were his friends to take care of those kinds of things. He didn't want to leave those in the house, so he parceled it out to people that he trusted.

TI: And the car, what happened to the car?

FC: And so he gave the car to Father Lavery.

TI: Oh my.

FC: And he said, "You keep it and do what you want," and so Father Lavery put on close to a hundred thousand miles going to all the camps driving this car.

TI: Oh, good story. So that's, yeah, so he was able to go to camps in style. [Laughs]

FC: And he went to those federal camps in Missoula.

TI: Missoula and Santa Fe.

FC: Santa Fe and, you know where that, the federal, the men were. And he worked hard to get them released to go back to their homes.

TI: And probably having this car helped a lot.

FC: Yes, that's what he said. He said that he couldn't imagine being able to travel all those miles without a car that serviced him as well as this car did. [Laughs]

TI: That's a nice piece of history right there. That's a good story. Interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, let's talk about your family, so what did your father do with the business?

FC: He sold it. I have a receipt where he was selling the business for some five or ten thousand dollars.

TI: And who did he sell it to?

FC: Some other guys that had produce businesses. There were these Italian produce men and there were Greek produce men and Jewish produce men that had these stores along there, so they had buyers. I think a, it may have been a Chinese person that bought it. I'm not sure.

TI: And when, when you sell the wholesale business like that, was he selling lots of the equipment and things?

FC: Yeah. The store itself had these huge scales to weigh produce, and then he had trucks and office equipment, so that's, I think, what he sold.

TI: Okay, so five thousand or whatever doesn't sound like very much for all that.

FC: Nothing. Yeah.

TI: Okay. But then it sounds like he was pretty savvy about not selling the home and things for pennies on the dollar like some people did. He kept it.

FC: Yeah. So we were really fortunate that he wasn't panicked. And because he never got taken to the federal camps like a lot of other men he was able, he kept, the family was intact, so that was a fortunate thing. He was interviewed by the FBI on three separate occasions, but they could find nothing that linked him to Japan in terms of political or alliances. There was a, there was a society, some kind of a dragon society that a lot of Japanese people joined. For some reason my father never wanted to put his money there, and so he never, I remember this woman that used to sell membership was constantly trying to hound my father into putting money in, but he never did, and a lot of the guys got taken because of that membership.

TI: Yeah, because I think about how prominent your father was in terms of his business and he had some money. What's interesting is if, if you had instead, were going to the Buddhist church or something and he put those resources in the Buddhist church, was on kind of the church board, then he'd have been targeted probably.

FC: He would've been, he'd have been gone. Yeah.

TI: But because he was with the Maryknoll, which was more of an American, U.S. institution...

FC: Exactly. In fact, the three times he was interviewed the FBI agents were all Catholics. They were all from the, like Holy Cross College and Boston College, and they were all New Englanders, so he would ask them, "Do you know Father Lavery?" [Laughs]

TI: So he would talk about that. Okay, interesting.

FC: And he said they could find nothing because his connections outside of his business was with this Maryknoll school, which was a Catholic school. And while it was for Japanese students, it was for making them be more Americanized, right?

TI: Right.

FC: So they could find no fault.

TI: Interesting. Yeah, I think that Maryknoll connection probably helped your father.

FC: Yeah, it did. It did, definitely. And the priest, Father Lavery, especially was very supportive, especially 'cause in camp, in Santa Anita my sister got sick.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Yeah, so let's talk about this. So you now go from Los Angeles and are now going to Santa Anita. You're in Santa Anita, and then tell me what happens then.

FC: Well, this is a camp situation in which the health facilities are very limited. It's clinic hours and you go and you sit in the clinic for hours and hours to be seen.

TI: And your sister's complaining of a stomachache?

FC: Stomachache, yeah. And my father was always kind of leery. He was real Japanese style, you could take care of it yourself, you don't have to go see a doctor, so he would try to find a way to get my sister's stomachache to go away. He did all the wrong things, and on top of it he didn't want to drag her over to sit for hours at the clinic, 'til finally she just, he could tell she was really sick. She got ashen, she couldn't move, and her temperature was up, so finally he does go down and insists that, to the staff -- and this is a Japanese American nurse -- that he needed some help. So she sends the ambulance, which is an army Jeep ambulance. They come after her and they take her to the hospital, and they converted the veterinary hospital for human surgeries.

TI: Right. Okay, so this was at Santa Anita, so this was for the horses.

FC: So the surgery was performed there, and fortunately the surgeon was a Nisei doctor, Dr. Norman Kobayashi, and he had the most recent medical experience, so he used sulfa drugs on her 'cause her appendix had burst and she was full of pus inside. And he cleaned her up with the sulfa drugs, which is why she's still alive today. She, but she was draining 'cause they were, she had all that in her system, so she was draining and she got down to be like seventy pounds. She lost weight and she couldn't eat, and so then the secondary tubercular infection came out and so she came down with tuberculosis. And so they didn't have any facilities at Santa Anita. For public health reasons she needed to be isolated, so she went to the county hospital and she remained there until -- they put all the Japanese tubercular patients in two sanitariums, one in San Francisco and one in southern California, and so she went to this, they took over a private TB sanitarium, put all these Japanese patients there, put on MP guard.

TI: Guarding the patients.

FC: And these patients were so sick, 'cause Japanese families kept them hidden away, so they were coughing up blood. If they tried to escape they would have hemorrhaged and died. They were very sick patients. But anyway, they got, she got sent there.

TI: And so she was sent alone? I mean, so the rest of the family went on to Arkansas?

FC: On to Arkansas.

TI: To Rohwer. But then she stayed.

FC: She was there the entire time.

TI: It must've been a frightening experience for her, 'cause she was about how old then?

FC: She was nineteen. She had just graduated high school in 1941. The summer of '41 she graduated high school.

TI: But she survived. And then she was able to join the family in Arkansas?

FC: No. We came back to California and then she was discharged.

TI: Oh, so she stayed there throughout the war.

FC: The whole war time.

TI: Now, does she have any interesting stories about being --

FC: I'm sure, but she never talks about it. I was thinking that there's, there's still survivors from that tuberculosis sanitarium. Their stories would be interesting.

TI: Now were, was the family able to communicate with her, did letters back and forth?

FC: Yeah, my mother wrote. I don't recall my writing her. At that point, see, she was always big sister and she always kind of treated my younger sister and I as the babies, so we were not close at all. And although the night that she had the surgery and one of the doctors said she wasn't gonna pull through, that's when I fell apart. I just couldn't imagine her not being a part of the family. But then she did survive. And then those three and a half, three years or so that we were in Arkansas I never saw her, and those were my teenage years, so I, in a sense I was happy she wasn't there to try to control me. [Laughs] So I had a chance to kind of find my own person and as a result of her not being around. But when we got back together it was really kind of rough because she could tell I changed, and we didn't have any, we weren't really close, so it was really tough. But in later life, after I got married and she was, and we both had children, she and I got to be real close.

TI: Interesting.

FC: So she looks to me for help, so our roles have kind of reversed and I'm, she looks at me as the one that helps her rather than the other way around. I still call her oneesan, big sister, but my kids call her Auntie Neesan. [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. Auntie Big Sister. That's good.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Well, let's go to Rohwer for you, and what were some of your first impressions when you got to Arkansas, Rohwer?

FC: Rainy and muddy, and it just rained and rained and rained. We got there around Halloween, and the weather had just changed. Arkansas you have distinct seasons, so it had turned cool and rainy, and the school had just opened. We were the last train out of Santa Anita. My folks stayed to the very end, just, just psychologically wanting to be close to my sister. So we stayed, and this trainload of people were dropped off at various camps. They were all people who for some reason stayed to the very end, and we were the last ones off of this train and then arrived in Rohwer in end of October. And I think the first of November school opened for the first time, so I didn't miss out a lot of school because it started late, but as a result we were in school through almost, I think, through the month of July. And all that humidity, we're sitting in desks and you could feel the sweat rolling down. You'd get up and you stick to the desk because you're all wet with sweat.

TI: So not so much the heat but the humidity was really high.

FC: Yeah, there's no fan, no air conditioning 'cause one of, they took one of the regular blocks and converted it. And I had that one year in junior high school and then I went to the senior high, which is on another location.

TI: So you're about thirteen when you first...

FC: When the war, when we evacuated I was thirteen, yeah.

TI: Okay, and then when you're at Rohwer starting school it's probably around almost fourteen.

FC: Fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen.

TI: And tell me about school. How was the quality of the schooling?

FC: Well, we had some, we had some strange teachers. [Laughs] We had one woman in the ninth grade who was a product of Arkansas. She was a slow moving, large woman and she taught world history, and she would give us an assignment, we'd sit there and read out of the textbook, no discussion, just read. And she'd be there picking her teeth, filing her nails, and all the students had no respect for her, but she was our teacher. And then we had some Nisei teachers.

TI: But going back, so that was very different than what you got at Maryknoll?

FC: Oh yeah. Very much so. I tried to take Latin 'cause that's what I would have taken if I stayed in L.A. and the teacher, it was not this Arkansas teacher, I don't know where she came from, but she was, but she was teaching Latin from a historical point of view. She was talking about how the Romans celebrated Saturnalia and this pagan kind of stuff, which I, because I come from a more Catholic background, I found very offensive and couldn't relate to the way she was teaching, so I dropped Latin unfortunately. Took Spanish instead, which if I took it more seriously it would be helping me today. But anyway, at that point, my folks not knowing what was gonna happen to us, they were not saying you got to study hard and make As, you know? They couldn't push us not knowing what was gonna happen to us. They just wanted us to go to school and do the best we could, so not much was demanded of us by the teachers as well as my parents. And once I got into high school there were some pretty good teachers. We had some people who were like Christian ministers, and so they were a little bit more conscientious. There was an English teacher that was exceptional, but we also had teachers who transferred from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they just never realized the Japanese students would be so studious, and they expected us to be like Native Americans and never quite understood that we were ready to be challenged. And so they didn't. They taught the classes way below our abilities. So we had a mixture, but there were, the people who were the American Service people, American Friends people, they were the best people all around. They were in administration, they were in schools, and they were, the men were doing it in lieu of army service.

TI: And so they were college educated and...

FC: Conscientious objectors and liberal and people with some kind of conviction about how life in the U.S. ought to be, so they were very, they were sympathetic and good teachers.

TI: Earlier we were chatting and you thought that after three years of high school, that the school in Rohwer was, like, the best high school in the whole state?

FC: [Laughs] That's what they told us, that in the three years that we existed, that academically we had the best academic record in the state of Arkansas.

TI: Do you recall taking standardized tests or anything like that?

FC: I don't, I think we did do some of it, yeah.

TI: Yeah, so there would be a way of testing that.

FC: Testing it.

TI: It'd be interesting to actually go back --

FC: And I know that we used to sing the Arkansas state song too.

TI: [Laughs] The razorbacks? I'm trying to think what, what...

FC: [Laughs] No, no, it wasn't that.

TI: No, that's, I guess that's the...

FC: It was some stupid state song that we used to sing every morning.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: I want to go back, and earlier you talked about the religion aspects, how becoming Catholic became something that became more apparent during camp?

FC: Yeah.

TI: And so I wanted to follow up on that. What did you mean by that?

FC: Well, the Maryknoll fathers positioned a priest in just about every camp. They couldn't live in the camp 'cause they were not, they were not official, so they lived in the town closest and the priest would come in and say mass and get to know us. So it was our hakujin contact and they were, we had a priest that had been in Japan, was actually released as a prisoner of war. The Japanese had interned him and he was released and sent back to the U.S., and he came to Arkansas with us, Father Ryan. And so he would, if we needed stuff from town he would shop for us. There's a cute story, one of the families that was from Maryknoll had two little boys -- they were like kindergarten age or preschool -- and they always wanted to leave camp and go to town, so Father said he would arrange it, he got the permission and took these two boys and drove into McGehee, Arkansas. And he stops and the boys say, "What are you stopping for, Father? Let's go to town."

TI: And he decided to stop by these, a couple buildings probably.

FC: [Laughs] And they couldn't believe that they had actually arrived in town. They were expecting L.A.

TI: Right, they looking for the buildings and there's nothing.

FC: So that was really funny 'cause Father though that was so humorous that these poor kids...

TI: Now, did your family convert to Catholicism?

FC: Not really until after the war. My father had pretty much said you have to be of majority age to make that decision. Now, he was, they didn't go to church with us. I went to church, my sister and I went to mass every Sunday as long as... she got sick again. My older sister we left behind, and in Arkansas my sister was one of two people who came down with valley fever, which is a fungus infection in the lungs, and it's contagious so she had to drop out of school and they put her in the hospital. And then it went, turned into pleurisy, and from that she became tubercular, so the last year of camp, I would say, she was in the hospital.

TI: In Arkansas.

FC: So when we returned to California she was in a Pullman car, and we went to the hospital, deposited her, took out my other sister, exchanged patients.

TI: So that must've been hard on your mother and father, both, two daughters sick. But I want to ask a little bit about your parents. What was life like for them in Rohwer?

FC: My father was block manager for a while, and then he ended up as a farm liaison person. He worked with the farm help and the students that worked a farm in the summertime, so enjoyed that job, that particular job. My, in spite of the fact that they had all these different classes in camp, my mother never went to any of 'em. She just stayed at home, and she did some sewing and cooking. As soon as we got, not as soon as, shortly after we got settled my father insisted that we don't go eat in the mess hall, so my mother would go and get the meals and then we had a hot plate and she would add other stuff, and we ate at home 'cause my father didn't like the fact that families didn't eat together and he just, he says, "As long as I'm here we're gonna all stay together."

TI: And how was that for you?

FC: It was, it was okay. It was like what I was familiar with. And I didn't particularly want to be sitting in the mess halls with these teenage guys that were making terrible remarks at the girls that came in, that kind of stuff. It didn't appeal to me at all, so I didn't mind that.

TI: Now, would you do all meals or just the dinner meal?

FC: Just the dinner meal.

TI: And then, so for breakfast and lunch you would use the mess hall?

FC: I don't, can't remember. I think for breakfast we went to the mess hall, yeah. And lunch we went, we ate at school. We must've packed something. I'm not sure, 'cause we didn't have enough time to come back, go back and forth. So it was the dinner meal in particular that we stayed and had in the barracks.

TI: Do you know if very many other families did that?

FC: I don't know. I don't know if other families did that or not.

TI: 'Cause you hear more of the story of kind of the breakdown of the nuclear family because the teenagers ate with their friends and then the parents...

FC: That's right. 'Cause the boys in our block all ate together, the teenagers. I don't recall what the other girls did. Some of 'em had sisters, so they went to eat with the family group, but some of 'em, they ate with their family instead of with their peers. But you could see that families, and some of 'em the fathers, had not yet come back from federal prison, so there was nobody, no central unifying figure. The mothers didn't have much control over their kids.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Any other memories from Rohwer?

FC: Hmm?

TI: Any memories from Rohwer you want to talk about?

FC: Well, having boyfriends for the first time. [Laughs]

TI: So talk about that. So like dances, or what would you do with a boyfriend?

FC: At the beginning I was really leery 'cause I was sure that my father would not approve of it, but, so I would say I'm going to the movies with a girlfriend and then we'd meet the guys at the movie. And so it was, we were sort of sneaking around, but it was not something I did a lot of because I didn't have a particular boyfriend. In fact, in the ninth grade there was some guy I was interested in, but his family went to Tule Lake, so he was gone. And after that I wasn't particularly interested, and was active in school affairs, student council and stuff like that. And in the meantime, because we were so close to Camp Shelby, it was across the Mississippi, and my mother had cousins, my mother's cousin had a family that lived all their lives in Texas. And they had six boys and six girls, and the boys began to go into the service, and so one of the sons was at Shelby and every weekend he'd find a way to come into camp because there're all these young girls and they'd have camp dances. And so Goro would come every weekend with his buddies and they, I didn't go out with them 'cause I was too young, but he'd stop and we'd, my folks may have had dinner with him, and then he'd take these buddies and they'd go out to the dance wherever it was at. And every time the weekend was over he'd come over and say, "This is probably the end, Ojisan. Thank you very much," 'cause they didn't ever know when they were gonna get shipped out. But the next weekend he'd be back. [Laughs]

TI: Now, would he bring anything back from the base, anything like that?

FC: No. Not that I remember. I think he probably did bring some, maybe tobacco or something for my father, but he, he would come with these guys. And then he got shipped out. And then his younger brother, Saburo -- oh, he's actually his older brother -- got into a fight with his dad and he signed up to volunteer, and he, but see, he was, what do you call it? He was able to dodge the draft because his father was a farmer and he needed him as a, so they...

TI: So there's some exemption.

FC: Yeah, he got exempted from the draft, so in spite of the fact that he was Saburo and older than Goro, he wasn't drafted, so when he got into a fight with his dad he was nineteen, I guess, twenty maybe, and he went to, he was sent to Shelby. He was there a very, very short while. He never made it across to camp with us so I never met him, but he died as soon as he got to Italy.

TI: Oh, so he was killed in action.

FC: And he's the first Nisei to be buried at Arlington, so he was one of the early casualties.

TI: And what was the last, do you remember the last name of that family?

FC: Tanamachi.

TI: Okay. And they were from Texas.

FC: San Benito, Texas. The Rio Grande Valley, there were Japanese farmers there.

TI: Okay. Yeah, there's a woman, I think, who's related.

FC: Yeah. She's one of the daughters that was the one that worked so hard to remove "Jap Road."

TI: Right, right.

FC: Sandra.

TI: Sandra, yeah. And what was the family connection again?

FC: Her grandmother is my mother's first cousin.

TI: Okay, so you're related. Good. Okay, so anything else for Rohwer you want to talk about?

FC: Well, the Tanamachi's second son -- the oldest son, Ichiro, spent a lot of time in L.A. 'cause he would have trouble with his father, so I recall when I was like five years old he stayed with us so I always called him Niisan, and then he would go back home. And in 1940 my parents arranged for him to marry a Nisei woman from L.A.

TI: So they were kind of the go-between for that?

FC: So they came and got married, and he was living in L.A. when the war came along, but as soon as we had to go inland they went to Texas. So that was Ichiro. And then the second son, Jiro, was of marriage age, so they came to camp and they arranged a marriage. This is Sandra's mother. So my parents arranged for this family that were famous for being baishakunin, so they arranged to have him meet Kikue and they arranged this marriage. And so that took place in camp, so she, they came, they went back and forth for a while because of the wedding and all of that.

TI: That's a good story.

FC: So she got to, he got his bride from Rohwer camp. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's keep moving. Let's get you back to Los Angeles.

FC: Yeah, so then we stayed and as soon as the exclusion from the West Coast was lifted, my father actually came out in January of 1945 to kind of take a look at how things were, and he said that he was okay about coming back, thought it was, that it would not be too difficult. So as soon as school was over for me in May we moved to return to California.

TI: And so returning to the house, what was that like?

FC: That was, the Mexican family moved out the night before, left behind a dog. And so it was just my parents and I because my other, older sister had not yet come home and my younger sister was in the hospital. So for a brief period of time, and I remember more than the house was how Los Angeles had changed in the three years, with all the influx of workers for production and assembly, war production, the city was humming with people, all kinds of people, and traffic was much heavier than I remembered. So it was like, L.A. was kind of a sleepy city when we left, when we came back it was like a metropolis. And of course I, before the war I didn't have much freedom, just went to school and back. I didn't know much of the rest of the world. Coming back I had to find a way 'cause I had to finish high school, and my father, he had a hard time. He didn't know what to do. He had, he was too old to start a business again and he had depleted some of his savings over the war years, and he had lost a lot of his zest. Before he was always up and ready to go. So it took him over a year to kind of sort things through. He ended up becoming a gardener, and here he is in his late fifties pushing a lawnmower.

TI: So that must've been hard for him, just, from before the war he was doing so well, the business was doing so well. So he wasn't able to get back into the wholesale produce?

FC: He was thinking about it, but the business had changed so much 'cause you had supermarkets and you had unions to deal with, and he couldn't start a little tiny business. You had to have plenty cash, so he said he just couldn't see doing it. So the most secure thing was something where he got money on a regular basis. And then a lot of the other Issei men were also gardeners. There was a whole army of gardeners at that point. So he went out and cut grass in the neighborhood, and he was pretty philosophical about it. He said, "I get to see American families from the inside," and he would cut the grass and he, the ladies would offer him a soda and he'd sit and shoot the breeze with these ladies. [Laughs] He'd come home and tell us what they talked about. He was able to handle himself, manage somehow. And by this time my sister had come home and she was working. And I was going to Manual Arts High School for the one last year, and then, I don't know, got into UCLA without too much trouble. My grades were not that great, but I think UCLA, because they knew we had come back out of camp, they had kind of a, they were not as stringent. Course there were also all these GIs that were coming back from the war, and so they had to accept credentials that were not the best 'cause these GIs, I'm sure, a lot of 'em did not, did not even complete high school or did not do well in high school.

TI: It must've been an interesting transition for the universities because the GI Bill, all these vets coming back, many of them maybe not really super serious about studies but because of the GI Bill they were...

FC: And a lot of 'em were already married and they had kids, so they needed the money that the GI Bill gave 'em so they were pretty serious students. But sitting in class, I'm seventeen years old sitting in class next to a guy that's studying up for classes at night and he's got two or three children. It's, they would look at us and they say, gosh, I can't imagine sitting next to a teenager. [Laughs]

TI: Just two whole different worlds.

FC: And UCLA was just totally unprepared and the registration was a nightmare 'cause you had to go from classroom to classroom to try to get in, and the hallways were jammed with people.

TI: And so because of that you transferred?

FC: I hated it, yeah, 'cause it was so crowded and it was so impersonal. I didn't know anybody. I didn't feel connected to any faculty member. And then at that point I also decided I wanted to become a Catholic, so my parents finally said okay. My younger sister preceded me. She was baptized first and then I said I wanted to, so they didn't object. And once the nun at Maryknoll found out that I was gonna become a Catholic, she knew this professor at this Mount St. Mary's College and she said, "I'm gonna call her and ask her how we could get you transferred." So at that point UCLA's tuition was twenty-nine dollars a semester.

TI: [Laughs] Yeah, don't tell the current students that.

FC: So I said, well, I don't mind transferring, but my folks can't afford the tuition of a private school, so she said, we'll talk. So the Mount St. Mary's accepted me with twenty-nine dollar tuition.

TI: So you just had to pay the twenty-nine dollars, what you'd pay at UCLA.

FC: So they took me in, and then, I didn't realize it, this woman that Sister Esther knew was a Ph.D. social worker and she was teaching undergraduate social work, welfare at Mount, at the Mount. And she was only there for, like, probably five years, and I had her for two of those years. I mean, she was, she changed my life in terms of the direction I was gonna go. And she had just a few social work students; she was so determined that we were all gonna get some graduate education on this, so she taught this class like the BSW classes are today in universities. She taught it in a very professional basis. She made us go on field trips to all of these institutions, and it was an amazing curriculum.

TI: So that influenced -- before that, what did you think you were going to do?

FC: I thought, well, I thought maybe I'd take sociology. There was some interest, I wanted to get into teaching when I started 'cause my family always said I was good with kids, maybe I'd make a good elementary teacher. And so when I started UCLA the professor, the advisor said, well, what do you want, what major do you want? And I said I guess I'd like some teaching. He said -- at that point L.A. teachers were all white. There were no minorities in education in L.A. city's school system, so he said, "If you get your degree and this district does not change you're not gonna find any employment." And he said, "Had you thought about that?" And I said no, I hadn't even given it consideration. So he said, "Try to think of a broader base curriculum," so I said maybe sociology. I could go work for the welfare department. And he said, "Okay, that's maybe, at least you'd be able to get a job." So that's how I did, and then when I went to Mount St. Mary's I realized that there was more of a professional side to social work. Now, I had some connections with social workers as a result of my sisters being sick, and in camp, talking to administrators when you were being processed through, so I did know that there were social workers, but I didn't have any direct contact. I thought it was kind of an interesting career, to be able to help people.

TI: So when you met this woman it just all came together.

FC: Came together, yeah. And she latched onto me. She saw me as a potential professional person. And Father Lavery, in the meantime, also had thought that I had some potential, so he encouraged me to continue in, and he was happy I decided to change to this Catholic college.

TI: Well, and also convert, to be baptized too, all that. [Laughs] You're a long term project, all those years.

FC: [Laughs] That's right.

TI: I'm curious, did he still drive the car?

FC: No, he gave us the car as soon as we got back.

TI: Okay.

FC: Yeah. In fact, I think I learned, no, I didn't learn to drive on that car.

TI: And so did your father use that in his business, use that car?

FC: No, he got an old car, a coupe, and then he built a truck in the back.

TI: I see.

FC: And so he did his work, and then later he bought a truck. But I guess we sold the Chrysler by that time.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Okay, but going back to your career, so you graduated in social work and then you went on and got your graduate degree.

FC: Yeah, 'cause I, she's the one that told me that the Catholic Charities had a scholarship, one year scholarship for graduate school with a commitment to work for the agency for one year. And so I said okay, I'll do that, so then I went to UCLA 'cause she, that was when UCLA first started the school of social welfare, and she said, you go to USC, you use up the scholarship money paying for tuition, go to UCLA, tuition is still affordable. So that's why I went, but UCLA was in the throes of getting established, faculty could hardly get along with each other, they did some horrible things to the students, they'd drop 'em mid semester and all this kind of stuff. It was not a good climate at all, but anyway, I felt I needed to go back to, go to work to pay back the scholarship, so I went to work for Catholic Charities for five years and then decided I needed to get my Master's. So then I went to --

TI: So at UCLA you weren't able to complete your Master's so then you just had a few courses.

FC: I finished one year.

TI: One year.

FC: I completed the first year, but I didn't go on for the second year.

TI: I see.

FC: And we came to a mutual agreement that I had never worked and I never knew the world. There was a time for me to take a break instead of pursuing, going into the second year. So I went, and I never thought I was gonna go back. I was figuring I did this, I'll work for Catholic Social Service and that'll be my career, but after started working I realized that I needed to complete the degree. And I applied then for a federal, a National Institute of Mental Health grant, and so then I was able to go to USC 'cause it was a pretty good grant, and I finished the second year. And the dean at USC was a wonderful woman and she welcomed me and she really tried to help me feel good about the profession, Dean Johnson, so I was lucky I got in and I really attached myself to USC.

TI: So that's where you got your Master's.

FC: Yes.

TI: And so this is about, what, 1956?

FC: Yes.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so you graduate USC, you now have your Master's, you've had five years of work at Catholic Social Services, so what do you do after you finish your degree?

FC: When I finished I stayed out in Pomona 'cause my placement was at Pacific State Hospital. It's a hospital for the mentally retarded. And I decided it was time for me to separate myself from my, to emancipate, so I decided to work and stayed, but Pomona was not my idea of where I wanted to stay. I stayed for a year. I worked and then came back to the city and went back to work for Catholic Social Service 'cause they opened up a sub-office in the Valley, and so I could stay and be disconnected from the downtown office where, downtown office was largely working with poor people who were asking for financial help, and I was more interested in doing more therapeutic work. And working in the Valley you had a middle class population, so I liked that and I worked there for a few years. That's where, actually, my path crossed with Paul.

TI: Okay, talk about this. So this is your husband, Paul.

FC: Yeah. So he was working for Vista Del Mar, which is a children's agency in West L.A., in Mar Vista, and they were sending him out to interview prospective, I think -- oh, he was working with the children in foster placement, so he was seeing the child and the parents out in the Van Nuys office and I was there, so we met there. And then also at that point there were Niseis who wanted to do some community work, and the gangs, the Sansei gangs were beginning to develop. They had the West Side gang and the Boyle Heights gang, and they were shooting each other and killing each other, so we thought that maybe we should have social workers see if we could do some intervention. So a bunch of us got together and that's when, Paul was there, several other Nisei social workers were there, and we, but we didn't have any clout. We didn't know where to go. We just sort of talked about it and couldn't get much going. But, and then out of it, I think, came this agency called Special Services to Groups, and it was headed by George Nishinaka, who was a social worker, one of the first Nisei administrators.

TI: But going back to this issue with Sanseis forming gangs and shootings, were there specific issues about Sanseis and the impact of camp on their parents, or probably on their parents, that caused perhaps some of this behavior?

FC: Behavior, yeah, I think... the sense the we had was that the parents were so busy reestablishing themselves after camp and that the kids sort of were left to their own devices, and the kids were responding, I guess, with anger to what happened to their parents. Nobody was talking, and so the kids got really, they found support from each other and then they'd find petty reasons to argue with the people from across town. They'd get into, largely at social functions, these, Japanese still had these public dances, and these gangs would come and they'd invariably end up in a fight over some guy looking at the girls from the other guy's property supposedly. And they would have all these fights, and of course there was drugs and drinking involved too and all of that. So it was shortly after that that Harry Kitano, who was a professor at UCLA, did this study about these adolescents that were so angry, and Paul did some interviewing with those families, so there was some sense of just family life being so disrupted, and I think the parents, these fathers that were adolescents in camp, their family life was so torn apart. And so we had a lot of that, but no real leaders because people were so busy trying to get themselves reestablished.

TI: But then Paul, so this agency, Special Services to Groups, was formed, and so did Paul run his group?

FC: Well, George ran the organization. It was largely, at the beginning, helping groups, not necessarily Japanese American, but gang groups, but then it began to move towards helping communities establish services for needs, social needs that were unmet. Now Paul stayed at Vista Del Mar for fifteen years, but he couldn't, he wasn't a real clinician. He understood it, but he didn't enjoy clinical work, and so out of this, developing this Special Services to Groups came this Asian American Mental Health Training Center. And they got a federal grant to work with the universities, and they started to administer the scholarships and select the students for the Master's programs, and so he was, he liked that idea, so that's how he got over to the Asian American Mental Health Training Center. And he and Royal Morales, a Filipino fellow who was a classmate of mine at USC, ran that program.

TI: And this was a way to really encourage Asian Americans to go into the mental health, social work field.

FC: Yeah. And they were looking specifically for folks who wanted to do community work. This is when private practices were beginning to develop, but they wanted, they wanted commitment from people that they would not just want to develop their own practice.

TI: Now, was it hard? Because during this time there's also this myth, this model minority myth, that the Japanese community didn't need help. I mean, they were able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do well, so this would be a contradiction to that, the sense of mental health.

FC: Yeah.

TI: So tell me about that.

FC: Well, there were, there was this belief that we were able to take care of ourselves. Those of us who were working with people in the community knew that there were a lot of problems with drugs, drop out from school, families that were broken up. There were also some newer Japanese immigrant families that had come back after the war, and those kids were really in trouble because their parents were too busy, they were like Issei parents, they worked all the time, they didn't know what the kids were doing. The kids were running wild. And so there were enough of us social workers at that point that knew that there's this undercurrent, that the model minority was a myth, that there're all these kids that were really troubled. And so we tried to find ways of serving them, and so AADAP, Asian American Drug Abuse Program, was developed, and there was a Filipino group -- I can't remember the name of that -- that was also developed. It was also the time when there was great ethnic pride, and so you had the Yellow Brotherhood group and so it gathered these malcontents, kids that couldn't find a place for themselves, and they, and so they were able to develop programs that they could maybe attend.

TI: That's fascinating. So you were there at a time when lots --

FC: He was. I was doing my own thing in Torrance. [Laughs]

TI: Your own practice?

FC: Yeah, I was doing my practice.

TI: And also, so you married Paul in 1960.

FC: Yeah.

TI: And then you had two children.

FC: And I didn't work when the kids were real young, so I was kind of out of it and I didn't go back to work until my younger daughter started kindergarten, my younger child.

TI: So this is like early '70s?

FC: Yeah, late '60s, early '70s.

TI: Late '60s, early '70s, and then...

FC: So I went to work part time at Catholic Social Service, but I really, and then at that point we were able to be licensed and act as full time practitioners. And so I said I'm gonna take that route, so I opened up my own office in Torrance. Just at that point, the Torrance Police Department had some money from the state to develop a juvenile diversion program, so I got involved with that and counseled a lot of these teenagers. And there were a lot of Asians in that group, so I was able to work with them. And Paul's doing his own thing over there.

TI: Now did, your private practice, did you ever deal with any Japanese Americans who had issues, again, from maybe the camp experience, the war years? Did those issues ever come up in your practice?

FC: Not directly. Most of the kids, the ones I talked to, were children of parents who came out of camp and who had very poor relationships. The families were not willing to talk about whatever happened. Some of them, well, some of them were so busy trying to make money. The general impetus after we came out of camp was everybody was determined to catch up economically and make a lot of money and prove that they were "true Americans," and so families did not encourage talking about problems.

TI: And so their children really were affected by that.

FC: Definitely. You know, not only did the parents not talk about how they felt about the camp experience, they were so hell bent on proving that they were successful Americans that they were pursuing the good life and making money and thinking that, if they got situated in the suburbs with the nice house and family, that it would compensate for that.

TI: So again, it was kind of a, almost a facade, that they looked like they were living the American Dream, but internally they may be having major issues with their children and they may be suffering.

FC: Exactly. Yeah.

TI: And there's a frustration because the parents not understanding their children and wanting them to be a certain way, and the rebellion and discipline.

FC: Yeah, there was a lot of struggles that way, and a lot of times the parents were really successful and they were, would remark about how these kids, there'd be a twenty dollar bill on the kitchen counter saying, "We can't come home 'til late tonight, go get your own dinner." And so the parents threw money at the children and so they really didn't have any idea. And it wasn't saying that the kids were such a, were in such trouble as much as they were disconnected emotionally from their children.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So, Frances, I'm looking at the time. We have about fifteen more minutes and I want to get you to Chicago. So we're in the early '70s, you did a practice up through the '90s.

FC: Yes, I was in practice for about twenty-five years.

TI: And during those twenty-five years did it remain more youth or did that transition in terms of what...

FC: I had a good percentage of teenagers, but they started to grow up and then I didn't want to work, and the kids that were coming from diversion tended to be younger and younger. They were now eight and nine years old, and I wasn't that interested in working with that population and was getting more Sanseis into my practice as well as individual hakujins that really wanted to work on their own issues.

TI: How about Niseis? Did you ever have very many Niseis?

FC: The Niseis were tough.

TI: And why is that?

FC: It's very difficult for them to talk about their problems. The only ones that came were couples that argued all the time. They were on the verge of breaking up, and they were so disenchanted with each other and it was layers and layers of discontent. They were very, very hard to work with. Tried doing some groups, but it, that was also difficult. My best work with, in the Japanese American population was with young Sanseis who were really looking for answers to their situations. They felt so distant from their parents, and a lot of 'em were given conflicting messages and they didn't feel warmth or love from their parents, and they were really hungry for connection. And so I was able to work with several of them. I worked with some who had marital problems, but generally the Japanese Niseis would come in crisis, and once the immediate crisis disappeared, they disappeared. And so it was hard to keep them connected, but they, but a good number of 'em did come, and most of 'em were not married outside the race. They were mostly Japanese couples.

TI: Okay, so you've had some experience with the Japanese American community on the West Coast, in Los Angeles, and then in --

FC: Go to Chicago.

TI: -- 1998 you moved. So unfortunately your husband died in 1996.

FC: Yes.

TI: And then your daughter was living in Chicago, lives in Chicago.

FC: Well, she was, she was living in San Pedro, was working and was supposed to marry the boy next door, a hakujin kid that grew up with, but he wasn't ready. He was wishy-washy and he didn't know what, so things got really bad and in the process she changed jobs. She was then working for the fashion industry. She got tired of not having medical insurance and having payroll be so shaky, so she finally got a job as a, what do you call, pharmaceutical rep, 'cause in those days the pharmacy company realized that an expert salesperson was better than somebody who had a premed background. They used to hire only people who had premed and biology backgrounds, but they were lousy salespeople. And so they opened the field up to people with a strong sales background. My daughter had a good sales background, so she got hired on and was being trained for this pharmaceutical rep job, and Martin Luther King was one of the hospitals that she went with a seasoned salesperson, and that's where she met her husband. [Laughs]

TI: This is in Chicago?

FC: Here. At Martin Luther King here, before the hospital closed. He was standing knee deep in blood in the ER.

TI: Oh my.

FC: But it's funny 'cause he looked at her -- he came out from Chicago hoping to meet some Asians 'cause he didn't want to marry a Jewish gal and he had in his mind that Asians were either very ambitious about education or dedicated to their families, and so he thought he had a good population to look into. So he's doing his residency in emergency medicine at Martin Luther King and, here, my daughter arrives. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so they get married and she moves to Chicago.

FC: Chicago.

TI: And so after your husband dies they encourage you to come to Chicago to live with them.

FC: Chicago.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: And at this point you're getting close to retirement.

FC: Retiring, exactly.

TI: But you come to Chicago and you start working at the --

FC: Yeah, well, when I moved to Chicago I fully intended to retire. I thought I'd do some volunteer work, so I started looking at opportunities and the volunteer opportunities were totally unappealing, cooking meals for homeless. I mean, I don't object to that, but I don't want to do that as my principal occupation for, in terms of time. And I said to the shelter people, "I'm a trained therapist. I'd be willing to volunteer my time." They said, well, it isn't quite that easy; you have to get the approval of the board and all that. So I said forget it, it's gonna take forever, so I did apply and started a small private practice, and I did have some Japanese clients. And then they were, the agency was doing a research project --

TI: This is JASC?

FC: Japanese American Service Committee was doing a research project in which they needed some, they were gonna do focus groups and they needed facilitators. So I had already gone and visited the agency, so they knew I was a licensed social worker, and they asked me if I would like to work. So I did that for a while, and that was all volunteer, then their staff social worker resigned. And they looked around, they're looking for somebody who speaks Japanese and they couldn't find anybody except me. [Laughs] So I came in as their bilingual social worker. I had done quite a bit of counseling in Japanese in California.

TI: And what kind of social work did the agency do? I mean, what...

FC: At that point it was mostly working with seniors, and seniors who were facing health problems, housing issues, loneliness and isolation, and a lot of 'em self abused. They just didn't want any help because they didn't feel they deserved any help.

TI: So these were essentially Niseis, right? When you say senior population, these were Niseis.

FC: Niseis.

TI: Many of them who had gone through the camp experience. Okay.

FC: And they were in their, at that point, late seventies, early eighties, and so I came and the agency really was very, very undeveloped, and once I got on the staff, we started talking, since Medicare would pay for the services of a licensed clinical social worker, we set it up so I was an accredited contract provider. So people could come in, and surprisingly, at that point the agency wasn't even charging fees, and so we tried to improve the status, so we are now a professional service provider and that people come in, they use their Medicare and secondary insurances, and so we, so I could go, I did a lot of home visits because a lot of these people wouldn't come into the agency and were, but if I went and knocked on the door they would eventually be willing to talk to me. So we'd work up, get 'em situated with doctors, and if they didn't have a way to get there I would drive them. I would sit in with the doctor to make sure I understood what the patient needed. And so gradually that's the kind of service we developed.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: And earlier you talked about the Niseis in Los Angeles and how they were a tough group. I mean, they didn't really, unless there's a crisis, seek out help. How would you compare the Niseis that you knew in Los Angeles with what you found in Chicago?

FC: I was appalled, really, because there were no other, there were a few social workers, but most of them were already retired. There was one young man that was working with the teenagers, and they were not necessarily all Asian population, and I thought oh good, there's somebody that I could connect with, but he died suddenly of a heart attack and so that ended it. And the Japanese speaking clients that came were very, very difficult clients. They had, a lot of 'em were new immigrants, they didn't have a lot of resources, and because they didn't speak English there weren't too many resources I could provide them. So we did the best we could. We, they were folks with anxiety issues, what do you call it, eating disorders, spousal abuse. They were a younger, they were not the senior population. They were a younger population, but they were all Japanese speaking.

TI: So let me make sure I understand this, so, like whereas in Los Angeles there would be health professionals there to address the Japanese and Japanese American population, but what you found in Chicago was there was a lack of that.

FC: There was total lack. There were, for the longest time we, and still we do not have a Japanese speaking psychiatrist. The only psychiatrist we came up with is a woman who's a Brazilian Japanese, and she's a analyst. She's not only a psychiatrist, she's a psychoanalyst and she's here from Sao Paolo, has been, has a practice. She doesn't speak a word of Japanese. In spite of this huge population in Japan, in Sao Paolo, I said to her, "How come you never spoke?" She said, "I had no reason to associate with them." Now, the population in Sao Paolo is very large and it's very stratified, class stratification, and she obviously came from an upper class and she had no reason to go to any of the services. So she comes to Chicago and we look her up because she's Japanese, and she doesn't speak a word. Well, fortunately she's tried to learn to understand some of those real psychiatric problems.

TI: That's pretty hard.

FC: Yeah, and so she can, if somebody is in crisis she can dispense medication, but other, that's the only psychiatric person we have.

TI: And then, so tell me about the need for these, these mental health services in Chicago? Is it, I mean, you talked about in Los Angeles there being a need, is there that same need in Chicago?

FC: Well, I'm sure the need is present, but the community here really believes in taking care of themselves, even if it's detrimental to their mental health, so that there's no, nobody's knocking on our doors saying we need some help. If they do it's some very concrete help. So among the younger Niseis and Sanseis now, they're not asking for mental health help.

TI: So is that different than California? Because you said the Sanseis in California --

FC: Are coming.

TI: -- would come, but in Chicago you don't see that?

FC: I don't see it. I'm sure there are people who go, but they go to see non-Japanese therapists. And so, but working with the Sanseis, I know that you have to have somebody who really understands the culture, because a lot of their issues come from the Issei-Nisei heritage that nobody ever really described to them, and it's really frustrating because --

TI: Now why is there that reluctance, you think, in Chicago?

FC: I think it's because when they came from the camps they had no community to fall back on, and so the community that helped get them settled were these Caucasian relocation specialists who told them repeatedly, "Don't gather in communities that identify you. Assimilate. Get out there and mix with everybody. That you were persecuted on the West Coast because you lived in these ghettos and you shouldn't do that." And so the Niseis, having nobody else to look to, really believed it so that they are very conscious of not gathering attention to themselves. And the story I remember that I think is so heartbreaking is when the Buddhist temple started, when they got released, when the services ended they would stand at the door and let the people go out two by two so that they wouldn't attract attention to themselves.

TI: So this happened right after the war?

FC: This is like in the late '40s, early '50s.

TI: Wow, so years after the war they would still do that.

FC: Yeah, because they are, they said that when they started the Buddhist temple people in the neighborhood didn't know what Buddhists, what they would do. They were leery of having a temple in their neighborhood. And then on top of that they were told, "Don't gather together," and it, for a while, early on, like in the mid '40s, it was such a problem that lot of the young people got very depressed and suicide rates started to climb, and the community really had to take a look at trying to form some connection with each other.

TI: I'm sorry, and this is in Los Angeles or here?

FC: Here.

TI: Chicago.

FC: Yeah. So that's when the, did they call it the, Resettlement Committee was formed, and that's the predecessor of the Japanese American Service Committee, and it was out of desperation.

TI: Interesting. Okay. So, Frances, here we're out of time. We went two and a half hours straight.

FC: Wow.

TI: This was fabulous. Thank you so much for this interview. This was really a tremendous interview, so thank you for...

FC: You get me going and we can't stop. [Laughs]

TI: No, this was good.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.