Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Kitamoto Interview
Narrator: Frank Kitamoto
Interviewer: Lori Hoshino
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: April 13, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-kfrank-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

Lori Hoshino: This morning we're interviewing Frank, Dr. Frank Kitamoto, here at his dental office on Bainbridge Island. And our videographer today is Matt Emery and my name is Lori Hoshino, I'm the interviewer. And Frank, thank you for letting us interviewing you today and I appreciate you letting Densho have this opportunity to talk with you. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about Bainbridge Island before the war, geographically, what kind of place was it?

Frank K.: Oh, gee... Bainbridge Island was probably one of the first places the Japanese settled on in the Northwest. Port Blakely is where the first Japanese that came to this area started working. And the first reported evidence on Bainbridge Island is in about 1883. And by the time the early 1900s occurred, there were probably two big towns at Port Blakely mill, plus probably some people that were down at Port Madison mill because it's just a big sawmill area. Port Madison -- Port Blakely, excuse me, was the largest sawmill in the United States at that time. And I think there were as many as 800 people in the two towns that were at Port Blakely. From there, people, some of the people, left the mill, some people jumped ship... they came in on the mill, came to the mill. I think agricultural-wise, the Moritanis planted the first strawberries on the Island and that was probably in the real early 1900s. I think community-wise, the Islanders, although they had essentially a culture of their own from the Japanese American, Japanese culture, they did associate quite a bit with the Caucasians that were here. Of course, schoolkids ended up going with schoolkids, so I think a lot of the close associations were with Caucasian children before the war.

LH: So the, the primary industry of the Japanese here, coming to Bainbridge Island was farming and timber?

FK: Mostly farming, also, also timber. I know my grandfather had come here from Bellevue and had rounded up timber, lumber, he was actually floating logs. I think the story goes he lost a big shipment of logs and then... [laughs]

LH: Well, wait a minute, how, how do you lose a shipment of logs?

FK: I, I assumed in logs -- in those days they used to have the logs and they had booms around the outside to keep the logs together. And I assume one of the booms broke or something and, and the logs drifted off and he had no way of gathering them back up to get them back together. So, I think that kind of forced him into going into farming. But he did, I think lease some land in Winslow for a while, and then ended up purchasing the Captain Olson residence off Fletcher Bay. I think he might have leased that for a while and then ended up purchasing it. But I think the, oh, this must have been somewhere around 1917, 1916 that they started buying the place. The story goes that they used to drive all the way to Auburn once a month to, to pay their, either their rent or their, the money when they were purchasing the land.

LH: Now that's quite a drive because...

FK: Yeah.

LH: that time, Bainbridge was a community that was an island community. How was it accessible from Seattle?

FK: They did have mosquito fleet ferries that landed at various, various places on the Island. So, I guess my grandfather must have had a truck of some sort, must have been one of the earlier trucks on the Island. But, it must have been a whole day proposition to catch the ferry, and go into Seattle and drive to Auburn, and pay the money and come back. So...

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.