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_2-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So let's, let's go to December 7, 1941, the date that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Can you describe that day for me in terms of what you heard and what happened?

RO: I just heard by what was on the radio.

TI: And where were you? Just describe as much as you can where you were and things like that.

RO: I'm sure I was at home. But, you know, going back to school after that occurred, there wasn't that much resentment. There were a few people.

TI: And when you say a few people, what did those, what happened? When you say a few people, what happened?

RO: It was just the way they'd say something, not directly at me, like call me a "Jap" or whatever, nothing like that, but just maybe in their looks or such, you know?

TI: How about on the other side, did some of your friends come up to you and say, "Hey, Bob, must be tough right now, but we're behind you"?

RO: Definitely. Definitely.

TI: So tell me about that. Who were the people doing that?

RO: Just classmates. I don't remember the older people because they weren't, they were my dad's friends and such, but several of them came down to Puyallup when I was there, and here we're on both sides of the barbed wire fence and we're just conversing and stuff. It was nice to have 'em come to visit.

TI: And tell -- [coughs] excuse me -- so we're getting a little ahead, but I'm just curious, who were they? 'Cause that's a pretty long trip, I mean, they may have been down in Seattle or something, but even to go to Puyallup, though, is, that's a pretty long trip for them to go to.

RO: Well, there was this one gal I remember, Jean Ellis, she was a classmate, but she came. I don't know the reason, but she must've been in Seattle or something.

TI: And how did it feel for you to see Jean Ellis at Puyallup, for her to come? What was that like for you?

RO: I was sort of impressed by her, to take the time to come to something like that.

TI: Okay. So going back to after December 7, 1941, so school seemed to be okay. How about business at the store? Did that change at all after December 7th?

RO: Well, the thing that changed was that the husbands were all gone. They were incarcerated over on Annette Island, and the wives who really probably didn't know much about the business end had to take over for everything. And, well, it's like I was telling you, Mrs. Hagiwara at the bakery, I used to help her, and I'd go to these other bakeries and she'd order certain things, like maybe bread or cupcakes or something, and sell it in store. She had no actual regular outlet from her husband.

TI: And during this period. did the business go down in all the stores? I mean, did people still patronize the stores just like before?

RO: I think that's where, like the Native American community is pretty good.

TI: Okay. So let's go back. You said all the husbands were taken away, so can you describe that, like do you know about when that happened? And then describe how it happened.

RO: It was not more than a couple weeks after the war. They were taken away. And the ironic thing was about two weeks after they'd been on Annette Island they allowed my dad to come back. I says, oh wow, and that was really a blessing. But -- this is where the salmon comes in -- we were having salmon and they come and take him back. I don't know why.

TI: It was almost like a, for you then, almost a tease in some ways, to let him come back and then take him.

RO: (Yes), exactly. Exactly. We have a lot of correspondence of that stuff, when my dad was down in Lordsburg, New Mexico. We were trying to get him released to Minidoka, and we even had some of his white friends in Ketchikan, an attorney, the mayor wrote letters in his behalf.

TI: And you said you have, like copies, or you have the, all this?

RO: Uh-huh.

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