Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Esther Takei Nishio Interview
Narrator: Esther Takei Nishio
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 21, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nesther-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

SY: So when you were working on the camp newspaper, then, is that when it was, were you at that time thinking about leaving camp?

EN: Well, I hadn't thought about leaving camp until Hugh Anderson showed up to talk to us.

SY: Your family friend. And can you tell us a little bit more about who he was?

EN: Well, he was a friend of Mr. James Yoshida, who was one of our employees, and apparently they met each other at Pasadena Junior College when James Yoshida came to school to learn, to study English, and they became fast friends. And so he knew James was working for us at the time the war broke out --

SY: James was from Japan?

EN: Yes, he was from Japan, from, I understand, a very well-to-do family. And when the war broke out and we had to leave, go to camp, Hugh Anderson offered to keep our furniture and personal belongings for us because he knew us through his friend Jim Yoshida. So we didn't really know him too well at that time, but because Hugh Anderson was a CPA, he had been traveling throughout California on, doing his job, and I guess in 1942 the state government told him to switch direction and concentrate just on the Japanese families, and he learned all about the problems that we were, all the Japanese were having and was very concerned about the treatment they were receiving. So he and another, he was a Quaker, he and another Quaker in Pasadena, Mr. William C. Carr, who was a prominent real estate broker, formed a group called Friends of the American Way and they decided to do something to help the Japanese Americans return to the West Coast.

So I think they formed a group of about twenty to twenty-five people and they contacted the commanding general of the Western Defense Command and said, "Look here, said these people are being mistreated and it's wrong. They're, most of them are American citizens and their parents, and we want to right a wrong and bring them back to their rightful homes." And General Bonesteel, who was a commander at that time, who was an entirely different sort of person from General DeWitt, who was in charge during the evacuation, agreed. He said perhaps it's time we did something about it, so he said, "I was thinking of, perhaps we could try an experiment. If you can find someone who's willing to come back as a test case, we should try that." So that was when Hugh Anderson got in touch with us and came to visit us, and because of, he knew us through his friend Jim Yoshida, he traveled all the way from Pasadena to Colorado to see us. But even before that he had been working in Poston, Arizona, helping the government set up credit unions 'cause they'd asked him to set up a credit union for the camp, and so he was well acquainted with what was going on with the Japanese and their families.

SY: Did, what was, what happened to James Yoshida? Was he...

EN: Well, he returned to Japan after the war, so we never saw him again.

SY: But during camp he was, he was in a camp?

EN: I don't remember where he was. He must've come to Santa Anita, but I don't remember what happened after that. I don't remember seeing him again.

SY: But he, it's curious to me that he really, that Mr. Anderson picked you as this test case. There was, I mean, did he ever tell you why?

EN: Well, I think he was the only one that he knew.

SY: You were the, you were the only family that he knew?

EN: I think so.

SY: Of all the people he met in Poston, and...

EN: [Laughs] I don't know why he picked me.

SY: Clearly he felt connected to your family if he came all the way to Colorado, from Colorado.

EN: I guess so. I never thought of that.

SY: And he, I think the organization that he formed was an offshoot of the Quakers?

EN: There was a Friends, American Friends Service Committee. He was a member of that, and they had approached, they had discussed this possibility of bringing someone back from camp with that group, but Friends of, the American Friends Society said no, we don't want to get involved with that.

SY: So it was the local chapter of that American Friends?

EN: Yes. So then Hugh Anderson and Mr. Carr had formed Friends of the American Way, but they didn't want to get involved because, I guess that was a very touchy subject, so they decided to do it on their own, just the two of them. This is what I learned upon reading Hugh's autobiography. So it was really just the two of them that were inspired to pursue this with General Bonesteel.

SY: I see. So his initial, do you remember his, when he came and visited you, and the conversation he had with you? I imagine it was both, with both you and your parents.

EN: Right. I think he must've written to us first. I don't recall. He must have contacted us, but he, anyway, showed up on our doorstep and talked it over with my parents, and my parents discussed it with me and we all thought it was a great idea.

SY: So you had a say in it?

EN: Well, I'm sure they asked me if I wanted to and I said, "Of course." And so Mr. Anderson returned to Pasadena and contacted the general. General said okay, so he, the general sent me a telegram authorizing permission for me to hop on a train and come back to California.

SY: Did you have any idea, I mean, what was your feeling when you...

EN: I'm sure I was very excited.

SY: It was more excitement than fear.

EN: Yes. It was a big thrill to perhaps be able to do something really, really wonderful.

SY: So you knew that you were sort of a test case. And your, and did you discuss this with your friends, like your good friends?

EN: I'm sure I must have, but I don't remember. That's a depressed memory. Isn't that a shame? I must've been very excited, I'm sure.

SY: So when the, all of this took place over a period of a few months, weeks?

EN: I think it was just a few weeks.

SY: I see. And then your parents were sad, were they afraid to see you go?

EN: No, they're, they've always encouraged me to do things.

SY: And the fact that you were going, you were leaving camp, did you have an idea of where you were going to be staying?

EN: Well, I knew I'd be staying with the Anderson family, so I wasn't worried about that. No problem.

SY: I see. And then you knew that you were going to be going to school.

EN: Yes.

SY: And how did, how was that all set up, the arrangement?

EN: Well, I didn't know any of the things that were brought about before my return to California, but on reading Mr. Anderson's autobiography, apparently the school board was approached and the student body was approached and the school administration was approached, and they all approved the experiment. So they wanted to go ahead with it.

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