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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

RO: So explain to me how your father now meets your mother.

RO: I'm not sure how that actually worked, but he went back to Japan to pick up my mother, and that was about 1924 somewhere.

TI: Okay, so around 1922 he goes back.

RO: Yeah.

TI: And how, do you know how he met your mother? Like how was that sort of, I guess, arranged in terms of your mother and father?

RO: I don't think it was an arranged marriage. See, a lot of that older stuff I'm not really familiar with.

TI: That's okay. I'm just getting some just general background information, so don't worry about not knowing all this.

RO: Sure. That's okay.

TI: So, but he goes back to Japan, gets married to your mother, and then they return to Ketchikan. And what, what does he do in Ketchikan? Does he continue working for your father?

RO: Exactly. Yes.

TI: And tell me, you said initially your father, your grandfather had a restaurant, but then that was the early days and he changed businesses, so tell me what you know about the different businesses or what he did after the restaurant.

RO: Well, like this photograph, that, you know, the storefront looks just like that today. [Holds up photo]

TI: So you're doing this photograph, and this is a, it's called the George Ohashi Store? Grocery store?

RO: That was from the old days, that photograph, but the storefront is the same.

TI: So that, that store is still in Ketchikan.

RO: That store, we, the family sold it, but it's being renovated to be a historic site, 1908.

TI: Oh, cool. So that's so neat that your, your sort of descendants, I mean, generations later, will probably be able to go up to Ketchikan and it'll be up there.

RO: (Yes). It'll be there, I'm sure.

TI: Now when they renovate it, will there be any pictures of when your dad owned it? I mean, when they're historically preserving it, is it about, are they gonna include that history of it being owned by --

RO: I'm sure they'll have a history, but I'm not that familiar with it.

TI: That's interesting. I'm gonna have to go up there and find out what they're doing.

RO: Really? You'll see Creek Street. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so we'll talk about Creek Street a little bit later. I want to be sure I get this. So before we go to your childhood and Ketchikan, why don't you tell me, first, what was your father's name?

RO: Buck, B-U-C-K, Wakaichi.

TI: Wakaichi.

RO: Ohashi.

TI: And then your mother's name?

RO: Komatsu Saito.

TI: And siblings, so can you tell me your brothers and sisters?

RO: Yes. I was the oldest. Next was Hope, then Neil, then Edward, and Paul.

TI: So four boys, one girl? Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's, let's talk now about growing up in Ketchikan, and so you had the store, but now where did you live in Ketchikan?

RO: Upstairs. This building here goes quite a ways back, and there was a big sort of a storage area downstairs. It extended way back and upstairs was our living quarters. In fact, I think it was when they were first in Ketchikan, he started to make rooms for renting as, like a hotel.

TI: And so it sounds like a fairly large building.

RO: It's good sized.

TI: And so describe kind of your living quarters. I mean, what did that look like?

RO: Just there were small rooms, with a bed and dresser and... we had about, let's see, one, two, three bedrooms upstairs. Yes. See, it was actually one, two, three flights, three stories. The store area is the first floor, then the second area was the kitchen and a few of these extra rooms, and upstairs was three bedrooms and a bathroom.

TI: And did you share a bedroom with any of your brothers or anyone else?

RO: Not really.

TI: Okay. And then, so describe, when you're growing up, kind of a typical day for you in Ketchikan. So you, when you wake up in the morning, kind of, let's just walk through a day just so I get a sense of what you did.

RO: Well, I could say that we, we enjoyed playing a lot. And in those days playing was just clean fun, not like today. But, well, I had a lot of Native American friends, and they all lived in that area which was called Indian Town.

TI: And what would be, when you say playing with the Natives, what would be some games or activities you would do?

RO: Marbles, swimming, roller skating. We used to roller skate all around. The only place that had concrete was the center of town, this one block, and we went all around, and that's where we used to roller skate, right in the middle of town.

TI: Now, describe the skates. I mean, what kind of skates did you have back then? Were they the type, those ones that you would put your shoe and then you would fasten the skate, or where they, do you remember what kind of skates they were?

RO: They were metal. That's all I remember. [Laughs]

TI: And so what, so going back to your typical day, so you liked to play, but when you woke up in the morning, like what kind of breakfast would you have and what would that be like?

RO: Toast, I'm sure. Cereal. But my mother was a good cook, and to this day I can remember so many good dishes that she's cooked. And like a lot of Japanese families, New Year's was a special occasion.

TI: So she would really do this large Japanese feast.

RO: Yeah.

TI: But day to day, kind of like your normal kind of menu fare, what would you have for, like one of your favorite dinners growing up?

RO: Halibut. I liked halibut a lot. Then she used to always make it with this sort of a tomato sauce. It was really good. But then there was this one dish that, it was a killer. [Laughs] She used to make bacon fried rice, and it got so greasy, and I just had a hard time holding it down. You know, we were not the most expensive, not expensive, but wealthier families in Ketchikan, but I think we were probably the more ideal family, actually.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's talk about school. So how close was the school, what was the school's name, like in elementary first, grammar school? What was that?

RO: Well, they were, every grade was in the main building called Main School. It was up on this hill. It was a big structure. And I went there all through high school.

TI: And so from, like grammar all the way through high school, same building?

RO: Yes. Yes.

TI: And how large was your class, the same people your age? How big was that class?

RO: Not more than a couple dozen, I don't think.

TI: Okay, but it was a full class, so it wasn't like one of these one school classrooms where you had multiple classes.

RO: No.

TI: It was like one class for each one.

RO: Yeah.

TI: And tell me about your class in terms of just the makeup of it in terms of different races. I'm just curious to get a sense of your class.

RO: Well, up to junior high school, Caucasians and a few Japanese.

TI: And then earlier you mentioned how you'd play with the Native kids, so you said your school was white and a few Japanese.

RO: Exactly.

TI: Where, where did the Natives go to school?

RO: They're about, let's see, maybe about four blocks south of Ketchikan and up Dearmount Avenue, they had this special school there for the Native Americans.

TI: And tell me why. Why did they have a separate school for Natives?

RO: I think it was prejudice in those days. I really do. They were good people.

TI: So it was kind of like a segregated school in the same way like the South would have segregated schools for blacks and whites.

RO: Yes. But in junior high school they were allowed to come to the regular school.

TI: So this would be an interesting kind of, I guess, question. So when they got to junior high school, how well was their schooling in comparison to the whites and the Japanese. When, so you came up in the regular school; they had a Native school. When you guys all came together in junior high school, were they, was their schooling as yours, I guess?

RO: I think it was fine.

TI: Okay. Okay, so it was just to keep 'em separate then.

RO: That's the whole thing. But the other thing was when they got out of the high school a lot of them went to Sheldon Jackson. That's in Sitka.

TI: And this is after high school or before high school?

RO: After, usually.

TI: And what, describe what Sheldon Jackson is.

RO: Well, I think it was sort of like a junior college, and my brother actually went there.

TI: And so why did all the Native kids after high school go there? Was there a particular program or something that...

RO: That might've been part of it, but their peers all went there. Some of them came south to, I think there was a (school) in Oregon called Chemawa, but I'm really not familiar with that.

TI: Now where would the whites and the few Japanese, when they graduate from high school, where would they usually go, for college for instance?

RO: South.

TI: So to places like the University of Washington?

RO: Washington, (yes).

TI: Okay, so universities back down in the lower forty-eight.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Coming back to your family, when you were, before school started, when you were a child, toddler, do you remember what language you spoke growing up?

RO: English.

TI: So your parents spoke English?

RO: Very well.

TI: So that's unusual. Most Isseis spoke Japanese to their kids, and you spoke English.

RO: Well, naturally there was a few words I'd pick up in Japanese from conversation with them, but not prolonged sentences or stuff like that. They were, they were pretty Americanized, really.

TI: Was there any attempt when you were growing up to learn, have you learn Japanese? Like was there a Japanese language tutor or Japanese school in Ketchikan?

RO: There was a Japanese school I told you about, but, well, like they celebrated the Emperor's birthday and Christmas. Those two things I remember. The whole community would go up there. But no school as such.

TI: So it was like a special hall or building or room kind of?

RO: It was, it was a building.

TI: And besides those big events, like during the week or every week, how would they use that building?

RO: Well, there was a Japanese person that worked for the sawmill that stayed there more or less as a caretaker. But the school was burnt down after the war.

TI: After the war or during the war, I mean, right, was it, when you say burned down, was it --

RO: It was right during the war.

TI: So was that an accident or was that kind of an arson type thing?

RO: I really don't know, but I'd be suspicious personally.

TI: Okay. Now, so this Japanese caretaker, so he's taking care of this building that, you mentioned these large community events, but I'm just trying to get a sense, it seemed like a pretty extravagant thing for the community to have a building just for a couple events. I mean, what was, what else did they use it for? I'm just wondering.

RO: Being a kid, I think that's what I mainly remember. I can remember them going, "Tennouheika, banzai," you know, for his birthday. But all the families, let's see, Suzuki, Shimizu, Kimura, us, Hagiwaras, Tatsudas, they all had their own businesses.

MO: Taninos.

TI: Yeah, you mentioned the Taninos also.

RO: Taninos, right.

TI: So numbers wise, you just mentioned about eight families, do you have a sense of how many Japanese were in Ketchikan?

RO: I think it was under sixty, and that was a fairly large group for Alaskan cities.

TI: And you mentioned all those families had, you said, businesses?

RO: Yes.

TI: So your family had kind of a store. What were some of the other businesses that the Japanese ran?

RO: Well, there was, the Shimizus had a restaurant, which is, we also called the New York Cafe after ours was gone. And Suzukis had a laundry, very successful laundry. Do you know the Tatsudas at all?

TI: No, I don't.

RO: Okay. They had a very successful grocery.

TI: So they were kind of a competitor to your store then?

RO: No. It was a regular grocery. I can't really remember too much about ours because that was a long time ago. And the Hagiwaras had a real nice bakery.

MO: Taninos had the restaurant.

RO: Taninos had Jimmy's Cafe. It's a real nice American restaurant.

TI: Now were these stores, establishments, were they all kind of close to each other?

RO: Yes, within, I would say within a couple blocks.

TI: And so would people kind of note this as kind of the Japanese area, or was there any reference to Japan or Japanese because all the owners were Japanese?

RO: All I can tell you, was called Indian Town. [Laughs] Yeah.

TI: And were there establishments for the Indians in that area? Or why did they call it Indian Town?

RO: That's where the community mainly was. They used to have a big dance hall right behind our store that every Saturday night you could hear this music coming down.

TI: And when you think back, what kind of music would be playing when you were a kid?

RO: Regular modern music.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Earlier you made reference to what is still a quite well-known street, Creek.

RO: Creek Street.

TI: Creek Street. And the store and your home was really close.

RO: Very close.

TI: So explain what, why is Creek Street so famous?

RO: It's because of the houses of prostitution.

TI: So describe that for me. When you say, is it one place, was it more than one?

RO: Oh no, there was several houses. Well, they were all together, but it's someplace that's even well-known now, for the past reputation. But it's not that they were bad women or anything.

TI: My, my research indicates that they were, it was initially, I think, set up for the miners and that when they would come into town it was lots, the brothels and the bars were like a main attraction of Ketchikan.

RO: Oh yes. Right.

TI: But this was early on. This was like the early days of Ketchikan. So when you were growing up in the '20s and '30s, was the, were the brothels still in, in...

RO: [Nods] Because I used to deliver newspapers to a couple of them.

TI: And so who would be the customers of the brothels, because this is after the mining, right? Or is, is there...

RO: Just anybody that knew the reputation of the area.

MO: The fishermen.

RO: Pardon?

MO: The fishermen.

RO: Well naturally, fishermen. Definitely. That's Ketchikan.

TI: So people who were working there. Now, would people come from other towns to visit Creek Street?

RO: I really don't, I couldn't say. I don't know.

TI: Okay, so going back to your, your story, so you used to actually sell newspapers. And so tell me how you would sell newspapers to the brothels?

RO: Well, we had this wonderful old time store called Hunt's, and the lady was actually one of the real pioneers of Ketchikan, and they used to have a wonderful store that had everything that a kid would want to buy, especially, you know...

TI: Like what?

RO: Toys, tootsie toys and whatever else. But what they did was they allowed us to take, say, maybe a half a dozen newspapers, we'd get it for a certain price, and then we'd sell it for more.

TI: I see. So you'd get like a, maybe a small commission for every one you sold and then you'd go back and probably use that money to buy more candy or something.

RO: [Laughs] Yeah.

TI: So you would grab some newspapers.

RO: I only used to take about half a dozen, steady customers.

TI: And so who were your best customers?

RO: Well, there was this one couple that, he used to be the bartender at our, the Welexum Bar was the name of it, but, that was one of our businesses, and his wife was a black lady, but she was actually one of the red light persons. Then a couple of the others in the red light area.

TI: And how, so you would sell these things, and it seemed like there was a pretty good, for you, mixing. You would go to sell newspapers to people in the brothels, you have Native friends, and so it seems like a pretty, what's the right word, maybe accepting community? I mean, is that, is that...

RO: Definitely. Definitely.

TI: That, you mentioned this woman who was black, so like different races. And so how did people treat or accept the Japanese? How were the Japanese accepted?

RO: Just as the whites were. I think they were really highly respected because of their honesty and ability to pay bills. But the small community like it was, it was very tight. They used, they'd come over to the store and visit or whatever.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Now, when you say the Japanese were accepted like the whites, was there kind of a hierarchy, though, in Ketchikan in terms of, class is probably too strong of a word, but like the, the whites and Japanese perhaps were more like landowners and the, I mean, was there kind of that kind of hierarchy in Ketchikan?

RO: Well, the ones that were treated, the Native Americans, the ones that were treated with a little more respect were the people from Annette Island. They were the Tsimshian Tribe, and a lot of them had their own boats and things, so, well, they had money too. Not a lot, but... the other tribe, the Tlingits in Saxman, if you go to Ketchikan you'll probably be able to take a little tour. It's about three miles out the road from Ketchikan and has Native woodcarvers and stuff.

TI: When I think back, I have been in Ketchikan.

RO: You have?

TI: It's, it has, isn't there a park with, like, lots of totem poles?

RO: That's Saxman. I'm sure.

TI: Yeah, when you mentioned that all of a sudden it clicked, because I, this was probably fifteen years ago. I just took the public ferries and they stopped at Ketchikan, so I remember we stopped there and we saw some things.

RO: Yeah.

TI: Okay. But going back to this, this hierarchy, so you start talking about the Native populations and you said there was one group that was from one tribe that was perhaps treated better than the, any of the other Natives?

RO: I feel that, when I think about it I think about the Tsimshians from Annette Island. They were sort of a little bit higher class. They had more things. And Tlingits from Saxman, they, they didn't have too much. See, the Tsimshians, that's where Father Duncan brought these people from Metlakatla in British Columbia. They migrated up there and he started a church.

TI: Okay, so initially they were Native Canadian then, or, or...

RO: No -- (yes), to start with they were Native Canadians, right.

TI: And then they moved up to Alaska. Okay. Earlier, can't remember if it was on camera or before, you mentioned how, when you say whites, there was a large Norwegian...

RO: Norwegians, Swedish, Scandinavians.

TI: Scandinavians. Scandinavian. So why is that? Why were there so many Scandinavians in Ketchikan?

RO: I imagine it's because of the fisheries. A lot of 'em had boats and such.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: How about things like canneries, sort of salmon canneries, things like that, was that a big industry in Ketchikan?

RO: Very big. There was New England, FIP, which was mainly a Chinese crew. You think of, I don't know, they must've had a special connection with somebody down here, but they were Chinese fellows. And then there was Ward's Cove. That was in Ketchikan. But there was so many, there's several canneries outside of Ketchikan.

TI: So describe to me when, 'cause I've heard lots of stories of Seattleites, and in the summertime a really good summer job was to go work in salmon canneries. So I'm guessing from your perspective you see this large influx of workers in the summer, so kind of describe that. You mentioned one was mostly Chinese. Was there one that a lot of Japanese came up during the summer?

RO: Well, the other ones were, I think, primarily Japanese.

TI: Oh, the other ones.

RO: (Yes). There was this one Chinese cannery, but I met a lot of Seattle people up there. When we were fourteen and fifteen, then Ben Kimura, one of our neighbors, and myself were hired to fly to Waterfall. That's the name of the cannery. That was a more advanced cannery in the whole Alaska, I think, and they had so much fish that they came and they recruited anybody. Fourteen or fifteen, imagine that. But that's where I met a lot of the Seattleites.

TI: So I'm curious, your first, kind of your first impressions of Seattle Japanese and Japanese Americans who were working in Alaska, what did you think of them?

RO: Nothing special. I used to stay, bunk with a person called Rhino Nakamura. I don't know if you've ever heard of him.

TI: I heard the nickname.

RO: Yeah, his name was George actually, but he was a football player, but he was real good to me. We used to all eat in a communal mess hall, like camp sort of. But I always remember the fact that when the season finished, there was a few of us that stayed on to clean everything up, but that was when we really got to eat well. [Laughs]

TI: Why? Was the food different, or just more of it?

RO: More of it. Yeah, that was a good cannery I met. All, they're a lot older, the boys were, but it's so many names that I still hear in this town.

TI: But I also heard complaints that they got tired of eating salmon, though. [Laughs] I mean, that's all they ate for weeks and weeks of salmon and salmon, and they were just looking for, like, vegetables and different things to eat.

RO: [Laughs] I hated salmon when I was in Alaska.

TI: [Laughs] I mean, I've interviewed people to this day that they still won't eat salmon. They just had so much of it.

RO: Yeah.

TI: But that they would also bring home boxes of cans.

RO: Exactly. I think the people that came from, like Seattle, they ate a lot of that. But, like you say, the wages were excellent. In two weeks while we're there, Ben Kimura and I made over two hundred dollars in those days. But the hours were very long. And as I say, that's where all the Niseis got their college education (money). It's great.

TI: (Yes). Over and over again I hear that, that they could work one summer and that'll pay for all their tuition, books, living expenses.

RO: That's right.

TI: And so it was very competitive to get there.

RO: Sure.

TI: I mean, you hear it, there were essentially, I can't remember the exact name, but kind of the bosses who'd decide, dispatchers.

RO: Nagamatsu.

TI: Yeah, they call 'em dispatchers, I guess. They would be the ones who would decide who would get the jobs and then when they're in Alaska which jobs they would get, because there was a hierarchy in terms of what jobs you would get.

RO: You know, one thing about the canneries, the Caucasian employees were, say, engineers and whatever. They ate better, but they were segregated from us. They had their own bunkhouse.

TI: And so the whites got better jobs in the canneries, the best jobs, and then what were some of the other jobs people got in canneries?

RO: Well, labelers. I used to run a machine that opened the cans up, and there's people that are actually doing the cleaning of the fish, putting it in the cans. But it's like you say, that's why I'm sure a lot of them brought salmon. But you know, the delicacies that occur now, like salmon eggs and such, that wasn't even wanted in those days. (Would) be tossed out.

TI: Yeah, so all these things that are probably the most expensive things now, the salmon roe, the eggs, roe, were all thrown away.

RO: Yes. It was just thrown in the bay below.

TI: How about things like kazunoko, the --

RO: Exactly.

TI: Were those things harvested?

RO: The Native Americans used to sort of harvest that, and it used to come on kelp. It came on cedar branches too, but the kelp was much, was classified as good. I still see it down here.

TI: Now, I'm curious, did the Japanese, maybe the older ones, did they ever recognize that the salmon eggs were good to eat? Did they ever kind of like mix it up with shoyu or anything and do something with it?

RO: Not that I know.

TI: Okay. Yeah, probably you'd have to kind of get it really fresh and it'd probably hard to do something.

RO: Well, it's like that or seaweed. Alaskan seaweed is good, but it's, nowadays it's pretty expensive. But the Natives used to harvest it.

TI: So that was part of their food culture, seaweed and...

RO: Exactly. Berries.

TI: Similar to the Japanese in some of those, those different things.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: How about, you hear about some of the, what's the right word, the criminal sides of the canneries, the criminal side meaning gambling and things like that. Did you see a lot of that happening?

RO: No, but I know there was gambling.

TI: Because I heard stories of, they would even, there'd be these professional gamblers who would come up to the canneries and try to take the money from the workers, and I'm wondering if you had heard stories like that also.

RO: No.

TI: Now, did the workers ever come into Ketchikan and go to the bars and brothels and things like that?

RO: Well, it was available to them. We used to have a Filipino barber next door, and that was quite a gambling place where a lot of the bachelors that were up in Ketchikan, they had music, just great. Next door and you can, they're playing a lot, too, with instruments.

TI: And when you say the bachelors, were these Filipinos or Japanese?

RO: Filipinos.

TI: Filipinos.

RO: It was sort of their gathering place, the barber shop.

TI: And what was the barbershop's name? Do you remember the name of the barber shop?

RO: Blanco, B-L-A-N-C-O. Right next door to us.

TI: So it was kind of a hangout for a lot of them.

RO: For the bachelors, yeah, Filipino bachelors.

TI: And did the barber have any role with the workers or the canneries?

RO: Blanco was actually a foreman at Ward's, I think it was Ward's Cove. But he was, he was a cannery foreman.

TI: Okay, so he had a lot of power, I guess, 'cause he, again, he'd be one of the ones who would determine where people would work and things like that. Okay. And in, I'm trying to think, so where would the, like for the Japanese workers, who would be the bosses of them, kind of in charge of the crews and things like that? Do you know?

RO: I don't, but they used to always have a foreman. And I'm trying to think of, well, of course, let's see... well, okay, the foreman of the area where I worked was Harry Takagi. He used to be an NVC chairman.

TI: Now, I'm curious, did the Japanese businesses ever cater to the Japanese workers, like with special foods or, or activities or goods or anything like that?

RO: As far as I can remember, I don't think they came into town that often, because they had their sleeping quarters and dining room out at the cannery.

TI: Okay. Good, that's interesting. It's just interesting to get your perspective, from the local's perspective because I hear the stories of people going up there, working, then coming back. And they talk about the long hours and...

RO: Exactly.

TI: And here you see these waves of workers coming up to Ketchikan, working, then leaving.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So now I want to talk about just other activities. I mean, when I think of that portion of Alaska I think of the outdoors. There's fishing, hunting, crabbing, all those types of things. Did you do a lot of those kind of activities?

RO: Not really. We were into swimming, especially during the summer. We had a special swimming hole called Rainbow Falls.

TI: And so this out, out...

RO: Beaver Dam, I'm sorry. It's Beaver Dam.

TI: Beaver Dam.

RO: Rainbow Falls is also there. And we were just young guys then, and it was an area that you had to walk quite a ways up in the hills, and you had this little tramway road about that wide, then we'd see berries and stuff coming back and forth. But it was an area where only boys were allowed to swim. [Laughs]

TI: So you mean you guys would just go kind of skinny dipping and just go?

RO: Exactly. Exactly. Strictly boys.

TI: And I'm also, when I go to Alaska, especially in the summertime, the days are just so long. I mean, you could be outside at ten o'clock and it's still like daylight when you're walking around.

RO: I think a tourist seriously, if they wanted to get a good idea of Ketchikan, they should go over the Fourth of July weekend, because there's a lot of activity there.

TI: So describe, when you were growing up as a kid, Fourth of July weekend in Ketchikan. What would happen on that day?

RO: What they did was, for the kids, they had races and such like that, but you'd win money, like maybe one dollar for coming in first or whatever. But, oh gosh, there were a lot of small businesses like in these, say, Georgetown or such, that have these food malls. But in wintertime the town, whole town closed down more or less. They roped off this one Main Street, which is the name, what it's called, and everybody would be sledding, everybody.

TI: And so when you say closed, so closed down for activities, not closed down actually in terms of businesses?

RO: No.

TI: Just, just...

RO: It was usually in the evening, but it was a wonderful thing.

TI: Yeah, I would, I can imagine how the Fourth of July would be a big holiday because the days, at that point the days are kind of the longest, so people are really...

RO: They had a parade. I wish I had a video or something from those times.

TI: And any really kind of particular incident or activity that really comes to mind that you would want to capture?

RO: The one thing, in our swimming hole, we had this pastor from the Saint John's Church, Episcopalian Church, and he was a big, heavy guy, and he used to come up there with his German Shepherd dog and he'd go skinny dipping like us, Father Warner. [Laughs] But like I was telling you, we first went to this Native American Episcopalian church. My classmate was the son of the minister.

TI: And when you went to that church, was it just you or your whole family?

RO: My mother used to go. I don't think my dad did.

TI: And then earlier you told me that after a while you went to then Saint John's?

RO: Right, exactly.

TI: Do you know why you switched from one to another?

RO: Well, I think it was closer in town, but I think Saint Elizabeth actually closed down. It's now a mortuary there.

TI: When you were growing up in Ketchikan, did you ever visit outside of Ketchikan? Like did you ever visit, say, Seattle for instance, or other towns in Alaska?

RO: Metlakatla was the only one. That was the Native American community.

TI: And how far away was this?

RO: Sixteen miles. That's where they had this army base that kept the Isseis, Issei men.

TI: During the, when the war broke out?

RO: During the war, yeah.

TI: But for you, so you were really kind of a small town boy.

RO: Definitely.

TI: I mean, you pretty much didn't have much experiences outside of Ketchikan.

RO: I never thought I'd ever want to leave there. Really.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And when you think of Ketchikan, growing up in that environment, what is it that is so precious to you? What's so, why are you so fond of that experience?

RO: Well, probably my friends mainly, and as I told you before, there, the prejudice wasn't there. I was friends with a lot of the children that were the higher ups in Ketchikan, banker's son, Coast Guard captain's son, and so on. But we had one thing in common, some of us liked to collect stamps, so that's what we'd, we'd get together for that too.

TI: Now if, after the war, later on as you got older, if you went back to Ketchikan, would many of your friends still be in Ketchikan?

RO: I doubt if they're around. Every year down in Seattle, in Edmonds, there's a Ketchikan picnic. In fact, there's one coming up on the twenty-third, and it's hard to believe how many people attend that. Although they might not be my peers anymore, there's usually about four hundred people.

TI: So I'm confused. Why in Edmonds of all places to have a Ketchikan kind of gathering?

RO: I guess it just started that way. But it's a situation where our generation's dwindling fast.

TI: But when you go to this Edmonds thing, there are a lot of oldtimers, I mean, people who are --

RO: There's oldtimers there, but I think it's more of a younger generation.

TI: Okay. Before we go to the beginning of the war, anything else before the war? Any kind of things you want to talk about in terms of growing up in Ketchikan, a story or thoughts about Ketchikan?

RO: Well, let's see. The, one of the reasons I chose my profession, pharmacy, was because I used to always go to this Walker Drugstore, and I'd see this pharmacist behind the counter there. You don't have bags or stuff, so he's hand packaging 'em, and that impressed me for some reason, clean, you know?

TI: So these, like pills and things, they would be wrapped up into little packages?

RO: Or whatever else, shampoo or whatever he's, hand doing it.

TI: Did you ever have any, your family, any medical emergencies when you were in Ketchikan, and what were the medical facilities like?

RO: Well, there was a, there's a general hospital in Ketchikan, but I was a serial asthmatic when I was young, and I didn't go to the hospital as such, but this one Filipino friend informed my mother that he knows of something that's good for asthma, and that was adrenaline. And in those days you could buy it without a prescription. It's an injection. And it really works, but then you can gradually feel the effects wearing off, too. Could be dangerous using it, you know, if you inject too much, but I was okay. My mother did a good job.

TI: Okay.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: But, so going back, when you say all the husbands, do you really mean all the, so all the, like all the Issei men were taken?

RO: All the Issei men, including the bachelors. You know, I didn't have time at home, but I have a picture of Lordsburg, the guys that were detained, and I have one of my dad alone with a Lordsburg t-shirt.

TI: Now, did you ever, did anyone ever give a reason why they picked up all the Issei men? I mean, on the lower forty-eight, or on the West Coast, the FBI selectively picked up Isseis. Generally they were, they were business leaders or community leaders, Buddhist ministers, sort of kendo instructors, things like that.

RO: Sure.

TI: And, but here in Ketchikan they picked up all the Isseis.

RO: En masse.

TI: So do you know why they did that and why that was different than the West Coast?

RO: No, I really don't know. I'm sure the, get away from the threat of Japanese invasions or whatever. They had a story about Pat Hagiwara. Did you know Pat, or heard the name?

TI: I know the name, yeah.

RO: They accused Pat of being up on top of a mountain waving flags for the Japanese to see. So crazy.

TI: And did they have a trial about that, or just...

RO: He wasn't arrested for anything like that.

TI: Okay. But it was, it was a newspaper article, or where did that come out?

RO: Word of mouth.

TI: Okay, so it's kind of like a rumor that... so there was some, I mean, it seems like it was unfounded, but there were fears in the town about the Japanese and Japanese were suspect.

RO: Well, when I heard about that he was up in Skagway where the, I think it was the National Guard, they were stationed before they came stateside, and I think the rumors started up there, Skagway, which is quite a ways north of Seattle.

TI: When they, for that short period when they released your father, did they release some of the other Isseis at that point? Just your father.

RO: Not as far as I know.

TI: Okay. So with all the men gone, so your mom is running the store, the other mothers are running the stores and businesses, how does that change your life? I mean, you said you had to help the baker.

RO: Well, that's what I did probably, was try to help some of the other Issei women in their business. I used to work at Tatsuda's grocery, and they always wanted a lunch break, which was sort of nice, the family, so they hired me to work a couple hours during the lunch break for fifty cents an hour.

TI: Interesting, so you would come in and the family would take a break.

RO: Yeah, they'd go upstairs to their dining room and I'd be down in the store watching it.

TI: So what happened, so eventually the families get a notice, or orders that their gonna have to leave Ketchikan, so what happens to all the businesses?

RO: Well, we were fortunate that this Filipino barber more or less took over the store for us in safekeeping, but I think several of the others just had to close. But when we came back they were started up again.

TI: Now your building, who owned the building?

RO: We did.

TI: And so how did that happen? Didn't, I mean, in Washington state there were, like, alien land laws.

RO: I really, I don't know, but we've had that house since 1908. Maybe they weren't so strict in those days.

TI: Yeah, so maybe that was before the, well yeah, the alien land laws actually happened after that, so in many cases they may have done that before, perhaps grandfathered in.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So any memories during this time period when people have to start closing down, packing up? Can you describe what that was like for you and the family?

RO: Well, all the Japanese from southeast Alaska, like, say, from about Juneau south, they congregated in Ketchikan, then we all boarded the ship to come down, but I can't remember much about packing things or such. Probably my mother did most of that, and anyway, it's a funny thing, we were able to take a washing machine down. A washing machine. [Laughs] It was probably the only one in camp.

TI: Yeah, I never heard of that.

RO: Yeah, we had a washing machine.

TI: How would you transport a washing machine?

RO: I don't understand that.

TI: So you'd have to load it onto a ship or something, then they would bring it down to Seattle, and then brought to Puyallup, the washing machine? So they transported that. That's a new one for me.

RO: Yeah, I liked it.

TI: But actually it'd be, it was probably very used in camp.

RO: It was.

TI: I mean, people had, initially had to do everything by hand.

RO: Yep. Yeah, we were fortunate to have it, really. But I just don't know how she got that out of Ketchikan.

TI: And do you ever, did you ever ask her why she brought a washing machine?

RO: No, not that I can remember. [Laughs]

TI: How about you? What did you bring? Do you remember anything in particular that you really wanted to bring?

RO: Gosh, no. I can't think of anything special.

TI: Well, for you, you're, let's see, you are about sixteen years old at this point.

RO: Yes.

TI: Never had really been away from Ketchikan, so describe the journey for you in terms of leaving Ketchikan and what that was like?

RO: Well, it was tough to leave, but we didn't have any choice, and like I said, coming down on the ship were all the families from southeastern Alaska and several of their sons going into the service at the same time on the same ship.

TI: Interesting. So there were young men who were being, to enter the --

RO: 442, yeah, or MIS.

TI: Interesting. When you left Ketchikan, did any of your friends or friends of the family say goodbye to you? Was there like a sendoff in any way?

RO: One of my boyfriends brought me a nice pencil.

TI: How about when the ship was leaving, or when you're loading onto the ship, were there any goodbyes or anything like that?

RO: That I don't remember really.

TI: Okay, so you're on the ship. Ironically, there are not only people who are going off to the camps, but then you mentioned there were Japanese American men actually going off to serve.

RO: Service.

TI: To service. So tell me what you saw when you, when the ship landed. Where did you land and what was that like?

RO: We landed in Seattle. They had a bunch of these sawhorses along the dock there, and we had to show what was in our suitcases and such. And after that we went to Puyallup. The husbands went the other way to New Mexico.

TI: Okay, so your father and the other Issei men were on the same ship. During that time, were they allowed to be with their families?

RO: I think they were. I'm not positive.

TI: So again, it's almost another tease. I mean, you can be with your family on the ship, and then you're separated again.

RO: Separated again in Seattle. And we'd get to be the first ones in Puyallup.

TI: So, so Bob, I want to ask you, what were you thinking? I mean... [interruption] you're raised as American, you understood the U.S. government and this concept of electing and the people, and here you see this happening. You're an American citizen and your father had done nothing wrong.

RO: Nothing.

TI: So what are you thinking at this point?

RO: What is happening? What's wrong with this government? We're American citizens. Well, let's see, it was, gosh, I'm trying to think, was my dad or mother a citizen then, Marian?

TI: Probably not, not 'til the 1950s could they become citizens.

RO: (Yes). But, well, they taught me high ideals, really.

TI: In school, or your, or your parents?

RO: Parents.

TI: I see. And what do you mean by that, what high ideals did your parents teach you?

RO: Doing things that are respectful and such.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So you go to, from, you get off the ship in Seattle, any first impressions? You probably were able to see the skyline of Seattle, which was probably much larger than anything you've seen before in terms of a city or a town.

RO: I never really even noticed, to tell you the truth, but I just remember first seeing that Puyallup camp. Having these communal toilets, that was really something. Then you have the barrack quarters that, the walls were only about six feet high, and so there was a big gap to the ceiling, and you could hear from one end of the building to the other.

TI: And do you remember, at Puyallup, what section you were in? I think it went A, B, C, D.

RO: A, Area A.

TI: And describe Area A for me. What area was that? Was that...

RO: That was the parking area, I believe.

TI: So more barracks that you had.

RO: We were on the very end. The Alaskans were on the very end.

TI: And when the Alaskans arrived, how many other people were in camp when you got there at Puyallup?

RO: You mean like Seattleites or such?

TI: Yeah.

RO: I don't think there was any.

TI: Okay, so you were like the, the...

RO: I'm sure we were the first. Positive.

TI: And so those first few days when you're the only ones there, what was that like?

RO: Well, it was different because you have these communal toilets, and it's just something you never experienced before. Then the barracks were this potbelly stove, a few bunks. But we ate alright. Food wasn't too bad.

TI: So describe how things changed when all the people from Seattle and other parts of the area, Puget Sound, start coming to Puyallup. How did things change?

RO: Well, it's a thing where I can, I made good friends, really good friends.

TI: Anyone that you recognize from the cannery days that you saw?

RO: You mean in Puyallup?

TI: Yeah, in Puyallup.

RO: No, but I remember the names very well that were up in the cannery.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So how did the Japanese Americans from Seattle treat the Japanese Americans from Alaska? I mean, what were their perceptions of...

RO: I feel personally that they were a little bit prejudiced, thinkin', who are these people from Alaska? Are they part Indian or what? But then the class of the Alaskans showed up fast.

TI: How so? [Laughs] What do you mean by that?

RO: [Laughs] Well, you get along with, especially like us, as I said, camp wasn't really that much of a hardship for, at least it wasn't for me. No troubles, no cares, and fun in those days was clean fun. If you had a girlfriend it'd be, definitely be an exception in those days.

TI: And so when you were exposed to the Seattle Japanese Americans, did you see perhaps a different value system, I guess, maybe, in terms of, were they different in terms of, you talked about kind of the high values your parents stressed to you, the clean fun? Now, when you came to Seattle, I mean, these, a lot of these guys are city kids and it's a very different environment than Ketchikan.

RO: But still I think in their youth the fun situation's very similar, really.

TI: Okay, so not too much of a difference between you and the Seattle kids.

RO: No. I always remember Shig Murao. You've heard of him, haven't you?

TI: Yeah.

RO: Shig came into Puyallup, and I always remember young Shig, who lived in our block in Minidoka, was packin' all the stuff and big Shig's walkin' behind him. He had sort of an entourage because he was a basketball player. But I met several older people that, well, like Akira Kanzaki. He died in Europe.

TI: Going back to the people that came from Alaska, did your ship also contain any Natives from Alaska, the Aleuts or...

RO: No, but I think there were a few of the children that were part, part Native and part Japanese. There was, I think, several of them, but not a lot.

TI: So when I hear stories from the Seattle Niseis and they mention going down to go look at the Eskimos, was that to look at, at your block? I mean, they talk about that.

RO: [Laughs] Probably.

TI: Yeah, they mention that, that...

RO: See? That's what I mean. They sort of felt that we were a little bit inferior to them.

TI: Now, I was always confused, because the Aleuts had their own camps in Alaska, so the, the Native population really didn't --

RO: Well, there was a few Natives.

TI: A few, but not very many.

RO: No, not many.

TI: But I hear these stories and I'm just curious what that meant when they said they were going down to go look at the, the Eskimos.

RO: Well, it's prejudice for you, without knowing the facts.

TI: So they're probably going down to your block and just looking at the ones who came from Alaska. But they were, again, they're, they say there was nothing else to do.

RO: They want to see if they're different.

TI: Yeah, probably. It was, again, they talk about it in camp. At Puyallup there's really not much to do, so mainly just kind of walk around and do things.

RO: No. There was a situation where there was a couple of Nisei that were draft age and they didn't want to have to go, so my mother had somehow concocted some alcohol and stuff for them to drink. [Laughs]

TI: And what would happen when they drank it?

RO: They didn't pass, anyway.

TI: Oh, so whenever they drank, if they drank it, then when they got their physical or something they wouldn't pass.

RO: Yeah.

TI: And how would your mother know how to do this? Did she have kind of --

RO: We had a bar, see, we had a bar in Alaska. It was called the Welexum Bar, which means "big" in Tsimshian.

TI: So your mother knew how to mix drinks, and she knew that this particular combination would, would do that.

RO: Alcohol.

TI: Interesting. So any other memories in Puyallup that you can think of before we go to next camp?

RO: Well, I remember eating in the mess halls, that's the first thing. We had never done that before. I just remember the living conditions, that struck me as hard. My brother actually climbed over the partition and fell in the next room in his sleep.

TI: So it was like sleep walking.

RO: Yeah, exactly.

TI: This is, what, Neil?

RO: Neil. Neil fell into a room full of women. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] So I bet you they were surprised.

RO: He was only a little kid, about fourteen. That was funny.

TI: So that was your neighbors essentially. He just kind of...

RO: Yeah, next door. Right.

TI: But that must've caused a big commotion.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's, let's go to the next place. So after Puyallup, what happened? Where did you go next?

RO: Minidoka. Long train ride.

TI: Yeah, tell me about your first impressions of Minidoka.

RO: Well, it was awfully dry, and it was dusty. I think the living quarters were a little, little bit nicer. Not much, but a little nicer.

TI: And so you're sixteen going on, you're seventeen now, so you're probably still in school. So tell me about school, like high school in Minidoka.

RO: Well, it was fine. It's just like any other school, but I know I should've studied harder, but I didn't and the grades showed it. But still, when I went to college it was okay.

TI: I'm curious, when you were in Ketchikan, you talked about, it sounded like a good student, like a leader in the school, good student. Now you're going to a high school where there're all other Japanese Americans, so how did you compete in terms of, when you look at the other Japanese Americans, in terms of your education versus other Japanese Americans who were educated in, like in Seattle?

RO: Well, we had the same education, but I think I was not trying as hard then.

TI: And why was that? Why did you not try during this time?

RO: Maybe just didn't seem like a real school to me. Met a lot of nice friends, Seattleites. But they're passing fast.

TI: (Yes). Hunt High School, right?

RO: Hunt High School. I have a diploma.

TI: Any other memories of like activities? I mean, you're there for a long time, you have time on your hands, what type of things did you do?

RO: Play basketball a lot, and we also had dances about once a week, which were a lot of fun.

TI: How about your mother? How was she doing during this time period?

RO: She did okay, but she had a little bit of allergy over there. I remember that. But she made some really fine friends, like I mentioned before, really fine.

TI: So explain that. How did she make these friends? Who were they?

RO: They were her fellow waitresses in the mess hall.

TI: And while she's working at the mess hall, you have a younger sister, younger brothers, who took care of them, or what happened to them?

RO: Not me. I was playing cards. [Laughs]

TI: So Hope, your sister, might've kind of watched them?

RO: Yes. Hope was real intelligent. She wrote a lot of correspondence to the War Department or wherever trying to get my dad back. We have all those papers, censored and stuff.

TI: Now, with your father gone during this time period, did you feel any added pressure being the oldest, oldest son in terms of being, like, the man of the household or anything like that?

RO: No, not really. My mother was the boss. She's, she was strict, but she was fair.

TI: And during mealtime, would your family eat as a unit, or would you eat with your friends? What would happen?

RO: I used to eat with my friends. In fact, one of 'em, when we had a reunion about five years ago, he came from Detroit and he was in the 442, he says, "Do you remember you sending me that t-shirt?" So I said, oh. Gave me twenty bucks. [Laughs] Paul Shimizu.

TI: So you sent him a t-shirt when he was in the service?

RO: Yeah.

TI: And what was the t-shirt? What was it, like something on it?

RO: I can't even remember.

TI: But he remembered.

RO: He remembered it, yeah.

TI: It must've meant something to him to get that t-shirt. Good. Your father, you mentioned communicating back and forth through letters and your sister doing some of that, did he ever get, or how did he reunite with your family?

RO: It was close to the end of the war, and I think they released a lot of the husbands back to their families 'cause he came to Minidoka, from where we went to Emmett, Idaho. I don't quite remember why, but it was fruit country. And he used to be the watchman at night. That's where he really started to enjoy fruit.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay, so from Minidoka you went to Emmett, Idaho, which, so you were in Minidoka, or Hunt, Idaho, so was this pretty close by?

RO: No. It was in, near Boise.

TI: Okay, so it was, it was...

RO: It was a ways.

TI: But going back to your father, when he was released from the Department of Justice camp and then went to the Minidoka camp, when you saw him, any differences from your father in terms of physical appearance or demeanor or anything like that?

RO: No, he was fine. It was nice to have him back, naturally. (Yes). But he's the one who decided that we were going back to Ketchikan.

TI: And so this, the stay in Idaho in this fruit farm was short.

RO: Very short. Very short.

TI: And he really wanted to get back to Ketchikan.

RO: (Yes). You know who welcomed us back first? The police chief of Ketchikan.

TI: And describe that. How did he welcome you guys back?

RO: Just to say, "We're glad to have you back," you know.

TI: And what did that mean to you that the police chief came and welcomed you?

RO: I thought that was very special, really.

TI: 'Cause it really, I think, when you, here you have the most important law enforcement person to, just to...

RO: Exactly. More or less thinking that he believed in what happened. But his son was my classmate. Leland Daniels, Marian.

TI: And how was the reception for you when you got back to Ketchikan?

RO: To school?

TI: Yeah, your friends and things like that.

RO: It was fine. It was fine.

TI: Did anyone, were they curious about what it was like and did they, did you...

RO: I can't remember talking about camp to any of them, actually.

TI: 'Cause I would think for many of them, if they were like you, they had never really left Ketchikan, so it was like you were on this big journey in terms of Seattle, Idaho, and then back to Ketchikan.

RO: Well, something I couldn't prohibit. Well, being able to work when we were in camp, out of the camp is sort of nice in a way. We got to see parts of Idaho. But I don't think we were actually paid that well, which was obviously a reason.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So when your family returned to Ketchikan, tell me about the building, the house and what happened to that.

RO: I remember the first thing we had to do was reroof it, which we did. My dad, my dad's a handyman. And then inside of the structure we have all these compartmented areas where Blanco, the Filipino foreman, must have been renting the small units to his workers, so that had to all be taken down. It wasn't much, but... I didn't, I didn't see anything different when we went back to school or such.

TI: How about the store? Was the store pretty much the same, or what changes happened in the store?

RO: The store basically was the same, and I'm trying to think of when we went back what we, I think we had a liquor store. See, we had a lot of different businesses, but the thing is we had the liquor store a little bit before we left for camp. But I know, like my dentist, he allowed us to pay what was owed in liquor, which was... [Laughs]

TI: So like a, like a barter.

RO: Exactly, which was fine. Ketchikan in the weekends, during, especially the fishing season, is quite a town, a lot of activity, especially the bars and stuff.

TI: Now, I'm curious, with your family owning a liquor store, were you ever asked by your friends to get a bottle or something?

RO: No.

TI: So you never, never were put in that position?

RO: No. Never. I just remember stealing a package of cigarettes out there when we went swimming.

TI: [Laughs] Okay. So tell me the relationship between, after the war, with Blanco and your family. So he took care of the building and then you guys came back and got it back. I mean, what was the relationship like with Blanco after the war?

RO: It was fine.

TI: So his barber shop was, stayed the same place.

RO: Barber shop was there. We didn't have to pay him anything for, 'cause he was leasing, not leasing but doing his own thing with the building. But it wasn't really damaged badly or anything. It was fine.

TI: So the arrangement was as long as he kind of watched over the building, he could use it and lease, rent spaces, and when you guys came back it was just there for you.

RO: Exactly. You know, we became an ice cream parlor too, and there used to be a gang of kids called the Pioneers, and my brothers, other Japanese kids were members of that with some others, Native Americans and a couple Caucasians, and it was like a gang today in a way, but very mild in comparison, and they used to come in the store for ice cream and play the jukebox and just hang around. But a lot of 'em are gone now. They were good, good kids. It was pretty good clean fun.

TI: How many of the Japanese families came back to Ketchikan after the war? Earlier you mentioned maybe around, a little under sixty were there before the war, and so what happened to the population after the war?

RO: Tatsudas came back, I know that, and I know the Suzukis did not. They, they had this real good business, really good business, a laundry. And I'm trying to think if Martha was up there after.

MO: Martha and them didn't go. She didn't have a father. He died in, before the war?

RO: No, no. Harry.

MO: I forget what he --

RO: No, he didn't die before the war.

MO: Was it during camp?

RO: I think it was after.

MO: I think it was in camp.

TI: But it sounds like, though, the population went down, though. It was bigger before the war and then it dropped.

RO: Exactly. (Yes). I guess the people that were there decided that maybe it's not gonna be the same, you know? They had no idea what their reception would be.

TI: And how about your parents? Did you see any difference in terms of how they approached life or their business after the war compared to before the war? I'm looking, like was there any impact because of that time in the camps for your parents that changed them?

RO: It's like my dad, it's like the Niseis do, they don't talk much about what they endured or stuff. But no, I think their reputation -- this is an incident when I was in the service. I came back, discharged, and there's this alley next to our store, and I had this pickup and I was backing up in there, and I accidently knocked the trim off the side of one door, and the guy next door in the hardware store come out and yelling like heck. And so I'm yelling back at him. The cops came, start talkin' to me, and he says, "What's your name?" "Bob Ohashi." "Oh, are you Buck's son?" That's all there was to it, see?

TI: So once they knew who you were, then you were, you were fine.

RO: That's all there was to it, (Yes). See, that's the way the reputation of the community was, actually.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's continue with your life, so you're back in Ketchikan, you're doing some things, you're helping getting the business, but then you mentioned the service. So tell me about that in terms of, what kind of service did you do? Where did you go?

RO: Well, I went into service in '46 and got out in '48, but I was at North Fort Lewis for basic training, but then we were shipped overseas to Okinawa.

TI: So all, was it like during the occupation time?

RO: Occupation after the war.

TI: And what was that like for you? I mean, here you're of Japanese ancestry, you, but you lived in a small town in Alaska, you had the camp experience, now all of a sudden you're in Japan. So what was that like for you? What did you think?

RO: Well Okinawa, it was really hard hit because a lot of action took place there. And I used to run a laundry with about a couple dozen women, and they'd come in to work with maybe some rice balls. That's what they're eating. That's all. And I felt very sorry for them, but some of them were able to work for the officers and they got to eat better and stuff. But people were very nice. I liked them. Course, they had their own dialect if they want to keep something from me. [Laughs] But they were, they were really nice people.

TI: Were you able to travel much in Japan when you were over there?

RO: I didn't travel in Japan at all.

TI: So you just stayed in Okinawa, kind of around that area.

RO: We docked in Yokohama before we went to Okinawa, and here I could see Mount Fuji and such, but I was one of the guys that didn't get off the ship because I was on KP. But I got, that's the closest I got to Japan.

TI: So from there you went then directly to Okinawa.

RO: Okinawa.

TI: And never had, like leave or something, able to go up and see the other, like Shizuoka or places like that, never got a chance.

RO: No place.

TI: So you're in the service for a couple years, 'til '48, discharged, and then what did you do?

RO: Came back to Ketchikan, then decided to go to college. UW.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So you went down to University of Washington. When you were at the University of Washington where did you live? Where did you stay?

RO: Well, at first, do you know Fleazy Okazaki?

TI: Yes.

RO: Fleazy and I used to work at this Kai Psi fraternity house, Caucasian fraternity. We were the houseboys there, and so we got meals and everything. I forget if we got money, but we must've gotten some money.

TI: And this is while you're going to school too, so you're able, you had to do work at the fraternity and then you would go to school, and you'd get room and board, things like that.

RO: Uh-huh. But then after that we stayed at SYNKOA, both of us.

TI: So describe the SYNKOA house. I'm curious about what that was like after the war.

RO: Well, there was, a lot of the town people used to come there, I mean students, but there was basically maybe a couple dozen of us stayed there. And what the heck, we did the normal things.

TI: So describe, couple dozen, were they all Japanese American?

RO: Strictly.

TI: And so it was, so each one had their own, like did you share rooms or was it like everyone had their own room?

RO: We shared rooms, two. We actually had a Japanese cook. Of course, most of us were veterans, so we got seventy-five bucks a month to live on, which was plenty.

TI: And SYNKOA, can you tell me what SYNKOA, where that name came from?

RO: I think it was the...

MO: It was the initials of the seven people who had something to do with the beginning of the university, Nisei going to the university. The last name, there's a letter for each one of those people, and I don't know --

TI: Actually, I think they were the ones killed in action.

RO: I think so.

MO: Oh, killed in action.

TI: They were killed in action, and so that's where the initials, yeah, were...

RO: I think you're right.

TI: So I think, at least that's my understanding. In fact, my mom's brother, Kinoshita, was killed in action, so I think the K is part of that. And so any interesting stories about SYNKOA? You're actually one of the few people that I've interviewed about SYNKOA. I mean, I've always known about the SYNKOA house.

RO: We had dances and things for the students, picnics, and like I told you, the story about the three legged race.

TI: So this was a SYNKOA picnic that you did this?

RO: Yeah.

TI: And so tell me the story about the three legged race.

RO: [Laughs] We came in first.

TI: So we meaning, who was your partner? [RO points at MO] So your wife. [Laughs] Was this the first time you had met her?

RO: I don't think so, 'cause we went out there together, to the picnic.

TI: Okay.

RO: They had a dance out there too, I remember.

TI: And the way I heard the story is that you guys actually won the race? Is that...

RO: Yes.

TI: [Laughs] Okay, and ever since then you've been together. That's good. The other people who stayed at the SYNKOA house, were they Seattle boys or where they from outside of the area?

RO: Well, for example, Bob Sato was there, Sam Mitsui, Frank Nomiyama, Bill Tanabe. Lot of them came from the valley too, but I think most of them were Seattleites. (Yes). One automobile between all of us.

TI: And meaning that you would share it, or just that one person would drive people around when they needed the, is that what would happen?

RO: Sam Mitsui had the car.

TI: Okay. That's good. And was it a good environment to study from? I mean, I'm wondering if you guys partied too much or if you guys were actually serious about your studies.

RO: No, I think the study part was okay, but there's always card playing down in the main room there, and we had a basketball hoop outside. I always remember going down to watch Oregon State play. We went down in Sammy's car. We got pulled over and we had this ticket for seventy-five dollars. Fortunately we had enough money between all of us to take care of it.

TI: Boy, that seems like a lot of money for a ticket.

RO: Yeah, it is.

TI: Back, way back then, seventy-five dollars. That's almost like what you would expect to pay now for a ticket. That seems like a lot.

RO: It was a lot.

TI: And my understanding was SYNKOA house, it was for the men, but there was a similar type of organization for Japanese American women?

RO: Valledas. Well, Valledas, of course, there was other groups before that, right, the women? Valledas was during SYNKOA time.

TI: And so describe the relationship between SYNKOA and Valledas in terms of...

RO: We used to hold several events together, and we used to have a sort of a bazaar, right, Marian? Sixty-orty. [Laughs]

TI: So what's, what's the sixty-forty?

RO: SYNKOA got sixty percent and Valledas got forty. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, okay. Was that because, was the bazaar at the SYNKOA place?

RO: No.

TI: You just, you guys just negotiated a bigger cut.

RO: That's what Popo always talked about, right? Sixty-forty.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And so at the UW what did you study? What was your major?

RO: Pharmacy.

TI: Okay. So you became a pharmacist.

RO: Yeah.

TI: So tell me, after you graduate, your, tell me about your career as a pharmacist. So where did you start after you...

RO: Well, I always did work at the Bon Rob when I was in college and I worked a little bit there, and then I worked at Jefferson Pharmacy, which was up by Providence.

TI: Okay. So Jefferson, I was thinking Jefferson up in Beacon Hill, but Jefferson Street on, by Providence Hospital.

MO: Jackson.

RO: No, it's Jefferson.

MO: Jefferson Pharmacy.

RO: Yeah.

TI: But you mentioned Bon Rob. I want to ask you about that, so that's kind of short for, what, the Bonnie Robinson Pharmacy?

RO: I brought a clipping for you to look at just for your interest. She was a very fair woman to pay us what she did, and there must've been about half a dozen of us pharmacy students that worked there during that time.

TI: Now, these were all Niseis that were...

RO: Niseis, right.

TI: So tell me, where was the store located?

RO: Fourteenth and Yesler.

TI: Okay, so just really close by here, just a couple blocks away.

RO: And a lot of the Nisei used to come there to drink coffee and stuff.

TI: So it had a little counter also, then?

RO: We had a lunch counter.

TI: And this is where you and other Nisei pharmacists would kind of get their starts, or would they work there during school and things like that?

RO: Whatever hours they had open, like after school probably.

TI: And describe what else was nearby the pharmacy, Fourteenth and Yesler back then.

RO: Back there, there was a couple of beauty salons run by black women who were very, very nice. They used to come to the pharmacy for coffee or whatever too. Then there was a dry cleaners run by another black gentleman, and Mar's Grocery was right on the corner, plus --

TI: So Mar's Grocery is, like, Chinese then?

RO: (Yes). And Mutual Fish was right next door to us, the original.

TI: And that's the Yoshi... I always get it, Yoshimura? Yoshihara? Yoshimura, yeah.

MO: Yoshimura.

TI: Yoshimura. Yeah.

RO: Mutual Fish.

TI: And so very diverse kind of neighborhood in terms of black, Chinese, Japanese.

RO: Oh, definitely. Definitely. But you meet some interesting people, believe me.

TI: Well, it was also known in later years, I'm not sure about then, but Fourteenth and Yesler was, it was kind of a rough part of town too, in terms of --

RO: Well, I think it was the Central Area portion of it. It didn't have that good a reputation because I think, like in the pharmacy we're open twenty-four hours, and I'm sure there was, well, I knew there were prostitutes and such coming into the store. While I was there, there was a guy had his gun out to shoot somebody outside in the street there, but thankfully it misfired, so he got away.

TI: Yeah, so a really rough part of town.

RO: (Yes). Not compared to nowadays.

TI: [Laughs] Yeah, well, now it's pretty gentrified, I think, in terms of what it looks like now.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So after, you mentioned the Bonnie Robinson, Bon Rob pharmacy, the Jefferson Pharmacy, after that what happened?

RO: I went to Owen's.

TI: Okay, so talk about that. Where is Owen's Pharmacy?

MO: Didn't you go to Sam's first?

RO: Oh, that's right. I worked for Sam Goldsmith up on Twenty-eighth and Cherry, right by the bakery.

MO: In the Jewish area up there.

RO: There used to be a big Jewish, Brenner Brothers.

TI: So this is kind of towards Madrona, that neighborhood?

RO: Exactly. Just before Madrona.

TI: Okay. And so you're the young kind of pharmacist working in these various...

RO: Sure.

TI: And that was pretty much the industry back then, like small drugstores, right, in neighborhoods?

RO: Well, that's true, but you know, especially right after the war it was very difficult to find a good job, very difficult for Nisei.

TI: For Niseis or for pharmacist Niseis, or just all Niseis?

RO: All Niseis, I would say. Like after we graduated I think there was very few jobs in the profession that they were studying for. But I look back on the class and there's a few, very few that were not successful in what they did.

TI: When you say class, you mean your pharmacy class or your just --

RO: Just the class in general.

TI: Just the class in general, all the people that graduated at the same time as you did. And what year did you graduate from University of Washington?

RO: '46? No, no, '48?

TI: No, that's when you came out of the service, '48, so then you went to...

RO: Wait a minute, I graduated...

TI: Probably in the early '50s.

MO: Let's see, I went five years and that was '51. Might've been '49.

RO: I don't think so. [Laughs]

TI: Must be a little bit later.

RO: I think so. I think it was around '51 or two.

MO: Maybe, 'cause I finished, I went the five year course and I finished in '52 instead of '51, I think. 'Cause they extended that...

RO: We were married then, though.

MO: Yeah, '51, so it was, well, you graduated '51. I graduated '52.

TI: Okay, so you married right about the time you were both graduating. And that's right, you told how you met, three legged race, and you did that. And so after working Twenty-eighth and Cherry, then you went to Owen's.

RO: Right.

TI: And this is up on Beacon Hill.

RO: Right, Fifteenth and Beacon.

TI: And do you know about what year that was for Owen's?

RO: We were up there, how many years, Marian?

MO: Where? At your store?

RO: Owen's Pharmacy?

MO: Forty years.

TI: Okay. Now, when you went to go work there, did you go there to work or did you buy the business?

RO: No, no. I was an employee. I was a pharmacist. But this is the whole thing that I'm sure was reason that Nisei were able to do well, is they applied theirself at their work. If I didn't fill a prescription I was dusting shelves, you know?

TI: So you were a small businessman. It was not just a pharmacist, but you were running a store.

RO: Yeah.

TI: And so forty years at the Owen's Pharmacy. This is, I always call it the junction on Beacon Hill, it's kind of like a little business area on top of the hill right there. What are your, what are some of your fond memories of Beacon Hill? I mean, at that time lots of Japanese Americans lived on Beacon Hill.

RO: Yeah, really a lot. I can always remember being held up.

TI: Oh my. So was that, did that happen frequently?

RO: No, but this fellow somehow eluded the clerk in the front and came to the back where the pharmacy was, and I was typing away at a prescription, and I just happened to look to my side, here I see this gun with a barrel, extra barrel on it like a silencer. So he says, "I don't want money. I want drugs." So I told him, "Put your gun down I'll give you what you want." So he did that and so I proceeded to give him some things, but all I gave him was laxatives. He never came back again. [Laughs] No, it was funny. I would have been a, really it was probably a dangerous thing to do when he found out it was all that junk.

TI: 'Cause he could've gotten angry and come back with his gun.

RO: Yeah, exactly. The girl clerk didn't even know that he had left when he left.

TI: But she, did she know that he had a gun, though?

RO: She had no idea what happened.

TI: And about what year did this happen? Was this in the '60s or '70s?

RO: I can't quite remember.

TI: Okay. That's okay, I was just thinking in terms of the times and, and when those things...

RO: Well, there was problems with drugstores then, robberies.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So we're coming towards the end of the interview. We've been doing this for two hours, and I just wanted to kind of finish by, any last memories or other memories about the pharmacy business before we move on?

RO: Well, I'll tell you, the pharmacy to me, I was very fortunate because it was really a multiethnic group up there on Beacon Hill and they were very good people. It's like I, the story I told you about the girls, they'd bring me the drawing or painting, I'd give 'em a candy bar. But they were trustworthy. I met one of the mothers just the other day. She recognized me. I was in Costco, I think it was. This black lady came up to me and I, she called my name and I says, oh (Yes). I couldn't quite think of what her name was, but her face was the same.

TI: Yeah, it's just such a, it brings back fond memories for me because I grew up in the neighborhood, and it's just a throwback from a different era.

RO: Exactly.

TI: The neighborhood pharmacy, drugstore where it was more than just a pharmacy. It was a place for all the neighborhood kids to buy their comic books.

RO: Sure.

TI: I mean, there was a certain day, I can't remember what day it was, but the comic books would come out on a certain day of the week and we'd all go there to look at the most current Spiderman or whatever.

MO: Sitting on the floor reading.

TI: And we'd sit on the floor reading. [Laughs] Actually we'd tell the, we'd tell our parents we're going to the library, and we'd go, we'd go read your comics.

RO: [Laughs] Well, the one thing, it's like I say, taking a chance, it was no big chance, but trusting these young black gals, they were all nice kids, actually, so they were the only ones that charged. But they all always paid.

TI: So you let these kids actually open, essentially, a charge account at your place, buy on credit.

RO: They were very minimal, actually, but what the heck. I sort of wanted to see, well, to put 'em in the right track too. They were all young gals about, what, they were about twelve or thirteen. (Yes). We had some real nice black customers and charge wise they were excellent.

TI: Good. Okay. So, Bob, so I finished all my questions. Anything else? Anything that I, that you want to talk about before we end this? When you think about your grandchildren, and as they get older, or maybe your great-grandchildren, at some point they'll want to know what you were like and the story. Is there anything that in particular that you want to talk about?

RO: Well, our great-granddaughter, Kristen, she really loves her [points to MO], I think probably even more than her mother. She does. She has great respect for Marian.

TI: But what should she know about Great-Granddad, you, Bob?

RO: She likes to push me around and stuff. [Laughs] She's a big gal, but she --

TI: But if you, if she were to ask and as she got older, what's important in life, what would you tell her?

RO: One thing I'd tell her is to be a good student, behave. She's very outspoken, but she's very smart. These kids nowadays are smart as H. But we've been takin' her to school every day and picking her up and then her mother picks her up, and I hope it's a good experience for her to remember. Now, the other one, Ross's daughter Tani, the older girl, we were at dinner last week or so, and here she comes walking in, she was a blonde. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so she dyed her hair.

RO: But it looked really nice the way it was.

TI: And what do you think about that, when you see, because she's a Yonsei and she dyes her hair blonde. What, what --

MO: She looked like a movie star.

RO: She looked real good. Surprisingly, she looked real good.

MO: Really nice.

RO: So we had to tell her that. And the other one is really an outgoing gal. They're both very outgoing, but she's gonna be going to London for, through the school, from school.

TI: Okay. Well, so Bob, thank you for doing this interview. We're now gonna interview your wife, so you get to hear her story now, but thank you so much.

RO: No, it's our pleasure.

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