Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Robert T. Ohashi Interview
Narrator: Robert T. Ohashi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 29, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-orobert_2-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So Bob, the way I start this is I just, the date and where we are, so today's Wednesday, June 29, 2011. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and in the room we have your wife, Marian, who's watching. I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and we're in the Densho studio in Seattle. And so Bob, I'm just gonna start with, the first question is, can you tell me when and where you were born?

RO: Ketchikan, Alaska, July 24, '25, 1925.

TI: And what was the name given to you at birth?

RO: Robert Teruo, T-E-R-U-O, Ohashi.

TI: And any significance to those names in terms of why they named that?

RO: Teruo, not that I know of.

TI: Okay. So I'm just gonna start first with your father's family, and so, I think in the pre-interview we talked about actually your grandfather first, so why don't we start with your grandfather on your father's side, and tell me, why don't you tell me his name first?

RO: George, George Ohashi, but he had a Japanese name.

TI: Okay, so, but everyone knew him as George, though, in Ketchikan?

RO: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so George Ohashi. And why don't you tell me where he was from and how he got to Ketchikan?

RO: I'm sure he was from Shikoku, and well, he came, he was gonna go to the gold rush supposedly, near the turn of the century, but he, I guess the first stop was Ketchikan and I don't know, he just like it and he started that restaurant there, first business.

TI: So this is like early 1900s, turn of the century. And so he stopped in Ketchikan, which at that time, I looked at the census data, it was, it was a town. It was pretty small, more like in the hundreds of people at that point, maybe, maybe over a thousand.

RO: I think there was three thousand.

TI: Three thousand, okay. And you said he stopped there and started a restaurant, so tell me about the restaurant.

RO: I really don't know because it's before my time, but it's called the New York Cafe.

TI: And did anyone tell you what kind of food and what type of restaurant it was?

RO: No. Well, I'm sure they served American food, not, say, Japanese cuisine as such, just standard cuisine.

TI: Now, when your grandfather went to Ketchikan, was he, like, one of the first Japanese in Ketchikan?

RO: I think he probably was definitely one of the first.

TI: Okay. So let's now talk about your father. So your grandfather, George, is in Ketchikan, and tell me about your father. How did he come to the United States?

RO: Well, I guess my grandfather must've told him to come over from Japan, so he came, what was it, Marian, about 1920 or something like that?

MO: Close to there.

RO: Yeah, around there.

TI: Okay, so 1920 your father comes, and do you know how old he was at this point?

RO: About... [looks to MO]

MO: What was that about your dad?

RO: How old?

TI: About how old was Bob's dad when he came?

MO: When he came to America?

RO: Yeah.

MO: I think he was twelve or something when your dad came.

RO: Really?

MO: I think that's what your dad said, close to twelve years old.

TI: Okay, so your father comes to America, and where does he go?

RO: Went to Fife.

TI: So Fife, Washington.

RO: Yes.

TI: So close to like Tacoma, Washington.

RO: Yeah.

TI: Okay. And so why did he go to Fife and not to --

RO: Well, I think he wanted to pick up on the American language and get an education.

MO: Didn't he have an uncle there?

RO: Heisuke.

MO: Yeah, Uncle Heisuke.

RO: Heisuke -san was my grandfather's brother.

TI: Okay, good. So he goes to live with his uncle to learn English while your grandfather, his father, is still in Ketchikan.

RO: Right.

TI: Now, did your father have any stories or memories about Fife growing up?

RO: I've never heard (any).

TI: Okay, so he, after he finishes learning English in Fife for a while, then what does he do next?

RO: Then he went to Alaska.

TI: Okay, to join your grandfather.

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