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-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

SY: Yeah, the, so the people that were your friends and your supporters, was that what kept you going? Or how was it that you handled all this negative...

EN: Well, I had no problem because I knew I had all these wonderful friends surrounding me and strangers that wrote to me, these wonderful letters offering their support, it was quite a eye-opening experience, how wonderful these American people were.

SY: Did, I mean, if you had to put a number to the people that wrote you, could you? Or was it something that just happened periodically where you'd get these letters?

EN: Periodically, I guess. And I think one day Mr. Anderson took me to a conscientious objectors' camp because they had been supporting me, so he took me there to see them. That was, that was a wonderful experience.

SY: There was an actual camp?

EN: Somewhere, yes. So he took me there.

SY: And these were people who were...

EN: Had written to the newspapers in my support.

SY: And this was both men and women?

EN: I think they were all men.

SY: I see. And they, so there were, like, pockets of people that were really supportive. And how were you feeling being the object of all this attention? Was that something that you thought about?

EN: Well, I hadn't asked for all this attention, so it was kind of a burden.

SY: Right.

EN: But I had my new friends at school and I had my studies, so I had a lot of things to keep me busy.

SY: I see. And all of your friends at school were, there were, clearly, all Caucasian? Was that the primary ethnic group that you were, you were surrounded by?

EN: Yes, at that time. Yes.

SY: And, and Hugh Anderson, was he still working to get other people, other Japanese Americans? Or had you...

EN: Well, I think I was the only one at the time. I think he had his hands full just taking care of me. [Laughs]

SY: Just with you, true. And his, yeah, especially, so what other work was he doing besides protecting you at the time?

EN: He had his own business to take care of. He was a CPA.

SY: Was he, do you know if he was lobbying for more...

EN: Oh, I forgot, he was also involved in the guayule project. You know the rubber plant project that started at Manzanar?

SY: No.

EN: The Nisei were involved in raising guayule, which is a plant where you can extract rubber, and I think they raised it in, somewhere near Manzanar. And he was interested in produced guayule for the war effort, so he would travel to Australia because the Australian government was interested in that project. So he was involved in several things.

SY: So all the time he was, obviously, trying to help the Japanese make it through.

EN: Yes. Right, and the Friends of the American Way, their group would write letters to all of the Pasadena families in the camps and let them know that if they ever needed anything to just let them know and they'd be glad to try to send it to them, so they were a wonderful group.

SY: But was that because they were initially opposed to your, to Mr. Anderson bringing you as a test case?

EN: No, they weren't really opposed, but they just didn't think they could handle it as, as a...

SY: I see, as a group. So they still supported the Japanese in other ways.

EN: Oh yes, definitely. They were involved in other ways to help, help us.

SY: And was Mr. Anderson, then, still involved with them as well as this?

EN: Yes, he was.

SY: So he was, he stayed a Quaker and stayed involved with both of these organizations?

EN: Yes.

SY: I see. And the, are you aware of what the Friends of the American Way continued to do, the work that they continued to do?

EN: No, I don't -- that's really terrible. I should've kept up with their activities, but I guess I became so involved with my own life that I didn't continue to keep in touch with them.

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