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-

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

SY: Alright, today is, today is September 21, 2011, and we're with Esther Takei Nishio and we're recording it at her lovely home in Pasadena. My name is Sharon Yamato and Tani Ikeda is the videographer. So, Esther, I would like to start with having you talk a little bit about your parents and where they were from.

EN: I love to talk about them. They're my favorite people. [Laughs] My father's name is Harry Shigehisa Takei, and I'm sure he added Harry after he came to the United States. My mother's name is Ninoye, it was Ninoye Hayakawa, and they married in 1923. I understand that my father was married previously and had come to the United States early in the 1900s, I'm not sure exactly when, and lived in Chicago, and he and his wife had three children, two daughters and a son. But during the flu epidemic his wife passed away, so her father came to the United States from Japan and told my father, "I'm going to take your children back to Japan with me," because he had been a yoshi. His daughter, his wife was an only child and he had therefore agreed to take her surname when they got married. So his father-in-law returned to Japan with his three children and he was, of course, very, very sad.

SY: Left on his own.

EN: So --

SY: What, is that, I've heard the term yoshi from, for the first time from you, but that was apparently something that was quite common?

EN: Well it's, apparently it's a very common practice. When you're, when you have an only child who is a daughter, then when she marries someone her husband is expected to take her surname to carry on her family line.

SY: So he then switched his name back after she passed away.

EN: Right, so when his father-in-law came to claim their children his father-in-law said, "You've fulfilled your obligation to my family, so please take back your surname and I'm going bye bye."

SY: And so did your father ever talk about those three children? Did he have any contact with them?

EN: Yes. Well no, he, after he married my mother he, he had me later on, but we were kept separate, but this was, of course, later on. My mother learned about the children after they were married and she wanted to bring those children to join our family.

SY: Is that right?

EN: Uh-huh. So I think it was in, when I was about three and a half years old, she and I went to Japan to Yamanashi-ken and apparently those three children were living with their grandparents in Kyushu, and so we traveled there with the purpose of requesting that they release the children to our care so we could bring them back to join their father and his new family. But we were unsuccessful, so the, his early family remained in Japan and we returned by ourselves.

SY: So your father didn't make that trip with your mother.

EN: No, because they had this business and he couldn't leave.

SY: That he was taking care of, I see.

EN: So I didn't see them. Of course, I've forgotten 'cause I was just a little child then, but I did meet them, I think in 1944, when I went back to Japan later.

SY: Wow. And they were, they were quite a bit older than you.

EN: Yes.

SY: Interesting. So now can we go back a little bit and you can tell me about your father's parents and your mother's parents and family in Japan.

EN: I know nothing about my father's family at all. I don't know where they lived or what they look like. I don't, even if I saw their picture I wouldn't recognize them. I did meet my mother's mother on this trip that we made to Japan, and she was quite elderly at that time, but that was the only time I met her, and I think the father had already passed on. But I understand that he was a schoolteacher, or a school principal, I don't know which, and he was an educator and that was all I know.

SY: I see. And when your father came here to this country, he was, you mentioned his, he had an older brother that preceded him?

EN: Yes, his older brother was living in Venice at the time and he was apparently a great billiards champion, so he had the nickname Sharky. [Laughs] And he had a very beautiful wife and a lovely daughter, and we grew up together and she was wonderful.

SY: So do you think that his brother being here was the impetus for him coming to this country?

EN: Well, probably, but his brother was in Venice but my father was in Chicago when he first came. I don't know what he was doing there, but I do have an old photo of him driving some kind of truck and I think it was a laundry business of some sort. But that's the only clue I have of his early occupation.

SY: I see.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

SY: And about, and your mother, was she the only one in her family who came to this country?

EN: Yes.

SY: And do you know why she decided to come?

EN: Because she'd married my dad.

SY: Oh, they married in Japan.

EN: Yes. There was a great earthquake in Japan, and after my father had lost his wife and children he joined the Salvation Army, and I believe that was in San Francisco, and I don't know how he decided to go there, but that's, I believe that's where he joined the Salvation Army. So he joined the group that traveled to Japan on the relief program, and apparently he was introduced to my mother there in Yamanashi ken.

SY: And your mother was, what was she doing at the time?

EN: She was a kindergarten teacher at a missionary school. And so apparently when he proposed she told him, "Well, I'm not going to marry a man who's gonna be gallivanting all over the country, all over the world," and he so he quit the Salvation Army.

SY: Which was, was that considered a fairly good job at that time?

EN: I have no idea. [Laughs]

SY: But he was willing to settle down for her.

EN: Yes, so then he brought her back to Venice and joined his brother.

SY: And I love the fact that you came to Venice, California, because it was probably not, well, I don't know, do you remember, were there very many Japanese Americans living in Venice at the time?

EN: Well, not where we, we lived just a block from the ocean, and my father and his brother had concessions on the Venice amusement pier, which is quite an unusual occupation, I'm sure, for Issei at that time.

SY: Right. And your father's brother had already started this business?

EN: Yes, I believe so. So my father joined him, and I don't know how many years later, but his brother retired and returned to Japan with his family so my father carried on the business after he left. So he and my mother carried on the business.

SY: I see.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

SY: So now tell me, when you were born, through all of this, when, when exactly were you born and where were you born?

EN: [Laughs] Well, I was born in 1925 and I was born in, I think in Little Tokyo. I don't know whether it was a hospital or whatever, but I grew up in Venice. That's, that was where our home was.

SY: I see, so you, so your parents came to Little Tokyo to have you.

EN: Yes.

SY: Even though they were living in Venice at the time.

EN: Yes.

SY: I see. And then the, I don't know if you remember from your earliest memories, what, I would love for you to describe what Venice was like then.

EN: At that time it was, well, when I was born it was a lovely place because the canals resembled those in Venice, Italy, and there were lots of canals and little bridges over the canals, and it was a lovely place to live. And there was no Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm, so people would come to the beach to sun themselves and go swimming and then come to the amusement pier to have fun and go dancing at the grand ballroom, and there was also a beautiful cafe called the Ship Cafe, which was shaped like a steamship. It was a very exotic place to grow up in.

SY: So it was kind of a, I guess, a vacation spot.

EN: Yes, like a little resort.

SY: And were, was it mostly tourists who would come there?

EN: Yes, and people, yeah, people that wanted to have fun. So we were usually busy, busiest on weekends, of course.

SY: I see. That was the big time. And can you describe this business that your uncle had established? What was that like?

EN: Well, the concessions were the kinds of games that you see at the carnivals nowadays, the amusement section. They're, I remember our, the first little place that you would come to on the pier was a string game, and that was right next to the ballroom, and the string game was a little booth and there was a, like hundreds of little strings that came from the back and the person behind the counter would gather all the strings and hold them in his hand, and you would pay a nickel, I think, at the time, and you were offered, you pull the string and, you pull the string and it would draw up a prize from behind the, not the screen, back there. And so it could be a big prize or a little prize. Usually it was a little prize. And then the, then the ballroom was next to that, and on the other side of the ballroom we had another game where you shot BB guns loaded with cork, corks, and you shot the corks against candy bars or cigarette packs to win, for prizes.

SY: And was there more? Is that --

EN: Yes, then next to that there was a booth where you could throw penny pitches, pitch games for prizes. And then next to that there was another special booth where we had a series of glass boxes, and there's a contraption that went up and down and on the counter there was a, what do you call it, pedal sort of thing, and you push the pedal down and there was an incline and little rabbits would go up. It was like a rabbit race. And that was a fun game.

SY: That's great.

EN: It was really cute.

SY: Yeah, it's amazing that your uncle, so basically --

EN: Well, this is all my dad's stuff.

SY: I see.

EN: That uncle had already left. And then further up the pier we had another booth where you pitched baseballs for, to knock the milk bottles down. You've see that at the carnivals.

SY: Right, yeah.

EN: And then later on we had a ride that was called the octopus ride, and that was very popular. And at the very end of the pier there was another long booth that had a galvanized ring, tub that went all the way around the room, and it was filled with water and there were little wooden fishes that went swimming by and had a little hook on their nose right here, and we had the fishing poles with hooks on the end of the line, and you fished for the fish. So if you caught a fish then you picked you up and there's a little tab on the tummy and you pull the tab over and it indicated what the prize was that you'd won. So we had all sorts of fun things to do there.

SY: I'll say.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

SY: And your, so what happened when your father joined your uncle was, he had established a few of these booths and then when your father joined then...

EN: They expanded, and then later on they had a bingo parlor, or they called it tango, but it was a big building at the foot of the pier. And they had this tango, sort of like, what do you call, bingo, when you play at church socials, and you won these beautiful prizes.

SY: So it must've taken, by the time all these things grew, there were probably several people that were working, working for your father.

EN: Yes. It was quite a large enterprise.

SY: And as, were there others on, that also did similar things, or did he have a monopoly on the game...

EN: No, there were a lot of other vendors. And I think he, there was one other Japanese Issei, but I don't remember what he did. I just remember his name was Yama-san, but he left quite early, I believe.

SY: Right, because it was not a usual profession for Japanese Americans.

EN: Yes.

SY: And then, and what, how old were you when you first started helping out there?

EN: Oh, I think I was in junior high school when they asked me to help out. But until then I'd stay with them on weekends and play on the pier and sleep under the counter when I got tired.

SY: So you got, you had a very fun childhood in that you got this --

EN: Yes, it was kind of unusual.

SY: And were you going, now, do you remember, have memories of going to school during the week, and where was that?

EN: I went to, oh dear, Florence Nightingale Elementary School, and that was just a couple blocks from the ocean so that was a lovely little school. And I believe my uncle's daughter, Tama-chan, she was the only Japanese American to attend the school when she was there, and then after her I was the only Japanese American student, so it was mostly Caucasians at that time. And then the junior and senior high school was Venice Junior and Senior High School, and I'd go there by the red streetcar.

SY: And how, what was the Japanese American population?

EN: There were quite a few there. It was the first time I saw so many, and it was a lot of fun.

SY: I see, and all this time your father was still running the concession stands?

EN: Yes.

SY: And it must have been kind of unusual. Do you remember telling other kids that that was the thing that you got to do on the weekends?

EN: I don't remember, but I'm sure they all knew and they'd see me at the pier when I was a teenager, so it didn't seem special at all.

SY: It didn't? It was, it was just the job that your father and mother, your mother helped out, I imagine.

EN: Right. Yeah, she did.

SY: And I guess being the only child, what was that like?

EN: It was kind of lonesome sometimes, but I had a girlfriend that bummed, we bummed around with all the time, so it wasn't lonesome at all. It was always fun.

SY: That's nice.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

SY: So you remember when you were in, I guess by junior high school, or even in elementary school, what kind of student you were?

EN: I think I was okay. I think I was supposed to be a good student, and if I did an art project or something and if I was messy I got bawled out because I was expected to do, be better. [Laughs]

SY: Really? Your parents were strict that way. And were they Japanese-speaking, or did your mother, your --

EN: My parents?

SY: Uh-huh.

EN: No, they both spoke English quite well.

SY: Quite well.

EN: Uh-huh..

SY: I see, so they learned, they must've learned when they came to this country.

EN: Well yes, I'm sure. My mother went to this missionary school in Japan and her favorite teacher was a Canadian missionary lady, and so I'm sure they spoke English together. And my father, I don't know where he learned his English, but he spoke quite well.

SY: So did you learn Japanese at home, or did you speak only English?

EN: No, we only English. They spoke Japanese once they retired and went to Japan. Then they spoke a lot of Japanese, but they spoke both, both to me.

SY: So you did learn Japanese as a young...

EN: I went to Nihon gakkou, but I wasn't a very good student.

SY: [Laughs] Yeah, that's a problem I think most, most of us had, especially because of your speaking English with all of your friends. But did you, did you become better in Japanese as you got older?

EN: I don't think so. [Laughs] Well, I guess I did get better because once I started going back to Japan about once a year and spoke to my relatives, I was forced to learn a few words.

SY: I see, so yeah, but it must've been, I guess it was not too unusual for you because that was what you knew, but growing up in an area like that which was, which, I mean, I assume it was very, very busy on the weekends right?

EN: Yes, it was. But it was a lot of fun. Met all sorts of unusual people and met a lot of Hollywood people that would just come to bum around.

SY: So it was a little bit glamorous.

EN: Yes, it was a lot of fun. And then the ballroom would have dance music on the weekends, and being a little gal I'd get to go and sneak in free and dance around by myself. It was really fun.

SY: Wow. That is special.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

SY: So then, then this, your life actually had to turn around at some point. I'm wondering if you have strong memories of when Pearl Harbor happened?

EN: Well, I was home alone because my parents had already gone to the pier.

SY: So they were still working.

EN: So they were working already, and I heard the news on the radio and it really frightened me. And I was supposed to join them, of course, but I was too scared to leave the house.

SY: And how old were you? Do you remember roughly?

EN: I was, let's see, sixteen.

SY: Sixteen, so you're old enough to realize that it was something really...

EN: Something horrible had happened. So I finally gathered up my courage and went to join them a couple of hours later, and by that time my father was pretty upset, but that's all I remember. I don't remember his, how he reacted or anything. I'm sure he was very distressed.

SY: I see, yeah. And was he concerned about you being at home, or do you remember that?

EN: I don't, well, I don't remember.

SY: Yeah, that was a long time ago. And then what happened? Do you remember the series of events that led to your...

EN: It's very jumbled and it's hard to recall. I just remember that my cousin, William Takei, was with us. He was working for us.

SY: He's your uncle's son, the one that started the business?

EN: I think so. And he had purchased a property in Los Angeles, a nursery, and I think, I don't know what happened, but we, after he was drafted we had to go take care of the nursery for him. And so I don't know when we left our home in Venice, but...

SY: But eventually you --

EN: And I think my dad was taken by the FBI while we, when we were still in Venice, but it's still all so jumbled. I don't remember when he disappeared.

SY: I see. But it, but you do remember him disappearing, or being gone.

EN: Yes.

SY: And it was...

EN: I don't remember what, how early it was. I just remember someone taking us to visit him in the Santa Monica hills somewhere. I believe it was a CCC camp. And then that was the last time we saw him.

SY: I see, so they took him relatively close by, Santa Monica being...

EN: Yes.

SY: And there was a camp for just Japanese Americans there?

EN: All the Issei, whoever the FBI gathered up, were taken there first.

SY: And you have memory of going there.

EN: I just remember going somewhere to meet my dad.

SY: And he was, you don't remember what it was like, whether there were a lot of people?

EN: No, have no recollection at all.

SY: Yeah, pretty traumatic.

EN: And I don't remember what happened to our property or, we had a lot of equipment at the time because during the summer my father would join a carnival and he'd take some of the employees, and he had a huge trailer to carry the game booths and two house trailers and then go traveling and leave, be gone all summer, and so they must've disposed of it somehow. I don't know what they did.

SY: He had a, this was a fairly big operation.

EN: I think so.

SY: So later on did you find out why he was picked up, why your father was picked up?

EN: Well, my father and mother were too busy to really be active in the Japanese community, but I think in 1941 he had become president of the PTA for the Japanese language school, and so my thought was perhaps that was why he was picked up.

SY: I see. And that was the same language school you, you were in?

EN: Yes. We went to Japanese language school after regular school every day and all day on Saturday.

SY: Every day.

EN: Uh-huh.

SY: And that was close by?

EN: I believe it was called Futaba Gakuen, and it was on the border of Ocean Park in Santa Monica.

SY: Wow. And it was, and how long was it that you attended this school? Was it all through your --

EN: Forever. I don't remember. [Laughs] Ever since I was a little kid, and through high school.

SY: And you kept going even in high school. Interesting. Wow, that's...

EN: I didn't learn much 'cause I was a very poor student. [Laughs]

SY: In Japanese. But how, you, were you actually, you hadn't graduated from high school when this happened, so you were only sixteen so were you just starting high school when Pearl Harbor --

EN: No, I was a senior in high school.

SY: Sixteen was, you were a senior in high school. And did you graduate from Venice High School, then?

EN: They gave me my diploma, but I didn't graduate officially.

SY: How did, how did they...

EN: I don't remember whether I visited the school before I left for Los Angeles or whether they mailed it to me in camp. I have no idea. I just know I have it in my hot little hands. [Laughs]

SY: That's very good.

EN: So I didn't have a graduation ceremony.

SY: So it was very close to graduation, though, must have been.

EN: Well, we left for Santa Anita, I think, around April 30th, somewhere around there.

SY: Yeah, that was close then. And so you were at that time, then, living near your uncle, who, inland somewhere.

EN: In Los Angeles somewhere.

SY: Somewhere.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

SY: Do you remember the, being, the process of going from your home, your uncle's home to Santa Anita?

EN: Well, no, we had our own home in Venice.

SY: But then you moved inland to, before the, before you actually were taken to Santa Anita?

EN: I think so, yes. In the El Serena area, wherever that is.

SY: The home you had in Venice, was that leased? Do you know if that was a leased home?

EN: No, it was a rental.

SY: So you were renting that.

EN: Yes.

SY: And then you had all, and your parents had all this equipment.

EN: Right.

SY: That somehow they were able to...

EN: I don't know what they did with it.

SY: They didn't, they didn't store any of it, did they?

EN: No. When we, when my mother and I had to go into camp our friend, Hugh Anderson, stored every, stored our furniture and personal belongings for us.

SY: Now, how did you know Hugh Anderson?

EN: Well, one of our employees was a student at Pasadena Junior College and met Hugh Anderson, who was, I guess, president of the senior class at the time, and they became very good friends. And so when the news of the evacuation came Hugh Anderson volunteered to take care of our property for us.

SY: Did he do this for many families?

EN: I think just for his close friends. He was a CPA and he traveled up and down California, I believe. And when the possibility of war with Japan was imminent, the state government told him to drop everything and just work with the Japanese people and their accounts, and so he became very acquainted with the problems that the Japanese were encountering.

SY: I see, so, but he was first kind of hired on, like by the government, to make arrangements for the Japanese to...

EN: Yes, just to take care of their business, whatever a CPA does for the government. I don't know.

SY: So you were, your family was fairly close to him before the war, then.

EN: Not really, we just became acquainted with him through our employee.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

SY: And then when you actually were, left to go to Santa Anita, do you have memory of that, what the, do you remember?

EN: No, my father was already gone, we knew not where, and I think we were living in the El Serena area and so we joined the Los Angeles group. And I believe from First Street, somewhere around there, by bus, and were driven to Santa Anita.

SY: And this was just you and your mother.

EN: Yes.

SY: And do you remember your mother's reaction?

EN: No, isn't that terrible? I have no idea. And I remember that I was told that if you were seventeen or older you had to go to work, and so I was drafted as a waitress at one of the mess halls, and I don't know whether my mother had to work or not 'cause I was busy working. I don't know what she did. So she may have had to work too, I have no idea.

SY: So this was, was this at Santa Anita or later?

EN: This is at Santa Anita.

SY: Oh, at Santa Anita. So can you, do you have memory of the, your first arrival at Santa Anita and what that was like?

EN: No, I don't. I just, I just remember it must have been a big mob scene and we were given tags with our ID number. It was just a big blur.

SY: And were you actually in one of those horse stalls, or were you given a barracks?

EN: No, we were given a unit in a barrack out in the parking lot.

SY: So that was one of the nicer, nicer places.

EN: I guess. [Laughs]

SY: Were you one of the earlier people to get there?

EN: No, there were others already -- husband, future husband was already there. He was in the stables.

SY: So how, and you just met him, how did you meet?

EN: We were just introduced by a mutual friend there.

SY: And he was the same age as you were?

EN: No, he's four years older.

SY: I see. But you have memory of having met him there, right?

EN: Oh yes, he was really cute. [Laughs]

SY: That's nice.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

SY: So then when you were, what are, what do you recall about Santa Anita when you had to work? So you were old enough where you didn't have to go to school, you basically --

EN: Well, I wasn't, I should have finished high school, I suppose, but I was drafted to work as a waitress at this yellow mess hall. So they had three, there were so many people there that each mess hall had three shifts for each meal, so for breakfast it was pretty, I don't remember, it must've been quite early.

SY: And you worked any shift wherever?

EN: Each shift.

SY: You worked each shift?

EN: Yes, we had to work each shift. And they fed us after the last shift. The waitresses had to be fed after the last shift.

SY: I see.

EN: So I guess one day they ran out of food and they couldn't feed us, so that made us, we were quite upset.

SY: Stuck in your mind.

EN: So we told 'em, I told them, "Next time you have to feed us before everyone else, otherwise we're not gonna work. We're gonna go on strike." [Laughs]

SY: I see. Did you really say that to --

EN: Definitely. That's wrong.

SY: Right, because you were working and you...

EN: Sure. You have to stand up for your rights.

SY: You weren't afraid to say anything.

EN: I guess not. I just remember that, yeah.

SY: You remember what you were serving, what kind of food?

EN: Well no, I don't remember. I just remember for breakfast we had sugar rationing during the war, and so there are thousands of people for every meal so we had to carry this mug of sugar and a teaspoon and offer each client a teaspoon of sugar. And they had to let us know whether they wanted it in their coffee or in their cereal, and that was real hectic 'cause, you know.

SY: You had to go to each person. But it wasn't, was it, were you serving more then at that point, or were they, I thought they had mess hall lines.

EN: I don't remember. That's the only thing I remember serving, is the sugar.

SY: Sugar. Maybe they didn't --

EN: So I don't know what else we did, but we must've done something. [Laughs]

SY: I was gonna say, I could understand, though, they probably didn't want to put the sugar in the line in case people took more than one, one teaspoon.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

SY: So that kept you pretty busy, then, and you and your mother were in one unit?

EN: Yes.

SY: So you were, you had more room, basically, than most families.

EN: I don't remember.

SY: You don't remember living in the actual, where you were staying?

EN: And I remember taking a shower in the roundhouse. That was one of the horrible experiences we ever had. You know how private one is about bathing, and the roundhouse was just a bare room with, I guess, showers, and even bathing with other women was sort of a shock.

SY: And it was, why was it called the roundhouse?

EN: That's where they washed the horses, the racehorses.

SY: So the showers were already there for the horses. I see, so the floor must've been pretty awful too.

EN: I don't remember. I just remember that was one of the most horrible experiences we ever had.

SY: Did your mother, do you, you don't, do you remember going in with your mother?

EN: No, I don't remember. You know, so many of the details are lost to me.

SY: Right. Well, it was probably pretty traumatic. And how about the restroom facilities? Was it in a separate place? Do you remember?

EN: I think it was in a barracks, like a separate barrack with toilet facilities, and one side was for men and one side was for women.

SY: So was that also partitioned off, or...

EN: Well, there weren't, I don't believe there were doors on the stalls. And I think the, later they built, they had the showers in these barracks, shower buildings, but one half was for men and one half was for women, and unfortunately the men would knock out the knotholes and peek in on the women. [Laughs]

SY: Really? You remember that?

EN: Uh-huh.

SY: That was a very specific, big memory. So it was, it was uncomfortable to go any time, night or day. Did you find yourself, or was your mother, did you find yourself going at odd times?

EN: I don't remember that. I just remember that one of my boyfriends had suggested that we go take, take a shower, he on his side and me on the women's side. But I said no, I don't want to. Then that's when I learned, later, that there were knotholes that were missing. [Laughs]

SY: That brings up an interesting point, though, you were actually dating, I mean, not dating, but seeing, you were at the age where you were --

EN: Yes, that was the interesting part. There were so many young people that you met all kinds of possible dates.

SY: Right.

EN: So there were, I think there were a lot of socials.

SY: At the assembly center. Yeah.

EN: Sort of a vague blur, but I believe there were dances.

SY: Was that, was it, would you consider it noticeably different than when you were in high school, in terms of the numbers of guys available?

EN: Yes.

SY: And was it, being Japanese American guys, did that have an attraction to you?

EN: Sure, I always, always liked them.

SY: So you, so you were socially very, you had an active social life.

EN: Yeah, I always had a boyfriend. [Laughs] But I never had so many at one time as in camp. That was really unusual.

SY: Wow. That's so funny. I've always been curious about that. But then, and at some point, I mean, you didn't really know how long you were gonna be there, I assume.

EN: No, we, that was a scary part. We had no idea what was going to happen to us.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

SY: And had you heard anything at all from your father when you were there?

EN: No, it was, he was missing, period. And then I don't recall exactly when it was, but he suddenly showed up in Santa Anita.

SY: So it was at Santa Anita that he appeared.

EN: Yes. And we, our family was shipped to Colorado, I believe, in September, so he arrived sometime before we left Santa Anita. That's all I remember.

SY: And never really talked to him about what happened to him?

EN: No. We were too busy just trying to survive, and we never talked about what was, had happened. I'm sure he talked to Mom about it.

SY: Was he typical of the Japanese male who didn't say much?

EN: No, he was really quite outgoing. He was really a wonderful man.

SY: I see, so you had a pretty close relationship with both your parents.

EN: Yes, we had a great rapport. They were both so loving and caring, both for each other and for, for me and others. It was fun growing up with them.

SY: Do you remember your mother's reaction when he appeared? Or that's a blur?

EN: No, I don't remember. I'm sure he was thrilled.

SY: I'm sure. I'm sure. So was it, it must've been shortly thereafter that you were given instruction as to where you were gonna go next?

EN: Well, they didn't tell you where you were going. They just loaded you up on the train and off you went.

SY: And was this at a time when everybody was leaving?

EN: Yes. People were just suddenly disappearing, and we never saw each other again usually.

SY: Really? So a lot of friends you made at Santa Anita just were taken.

EN: Right. Never saw them again.

SY: I see. So all those boyfriends, they were gone.

EN: Gone. [Laughs]

SY: What a shame.

EN: But the one girlfriend that showed up at the yellow mess hall when I started working there, we had just started, I guess on the first day, and she came up to me, said hi, said, "My name is Aki Nakagawa. What's yours?" And I told her Esther Takei, and we've been friends ever since, and she ended up in Amache as well, so that was wonderful.

SY: I see. So that was good that you were able to stay friends with at least a few people.

EN: Yes.

SY: But you had no idea --

EN: But I think she was the only one that, from that period.

SY: Really? Wow. So would your, were your parents able to make friends, or do you know?

EN: I don't know. I was too busy pursuing my own life, I think.

SY: Right, right.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

SY: So how long was the trip to, Amache is where you ended up, right? Do you remember how long it took you?

EN: It took about three days of train travel.

SY: And you remember that train ride?

EN: All I remember is that they told us to keep our shades down. We weren't allowed to peek outside.

SY: I see.

EN: And I just remember somewhere along the way I got curious so I leaned over and pulled up the shade, and the MP came along and slapped me on the behind and the men in the car got really upset with him. That's all I remember.

SY: Really? Wow.

EN: I never did that again. [Laughs]

SY: Although you were pretty, it sounds like you were pretty brave to do --

EN: No, just stupid. [Laughs]

SY: You were, you obviously weren't too afraid to take that chance to do that. And it, and as far as you remember it was pretty nonstop, this, this train ride?

EN: Yes.

SY: So you remember sleeping on the train?

EN: Well, we, I think we just had to sit up on the seats, 'cause the, I think if you were pregnant or had a tiny child you were given a sleeping, a berth kind of car, but if you were an ordinary person you just had a chair, chair car.

SY: I see. And when you arrived at Amache, what do you remember?

EN: It was a very desolate scene.

SY: Compared to Venice, for sure.

EN: Oh yes, it was just all desert.

SY: And do you, I mean, is there a vivid memory of getting off the train?

EN: No, that's also a big blur.

SY: Blurry.

EN: I don't remember.

SY: But you did end up going, obviously, to one of the barracks there.

EN: Right. It was in block 6-E and that was in the corner of the camp, and it was near the sewage plant. Lovely location. [Laughs]

SY: I was gonna say, that would, how did you get so lucky?

EN: So lucky.

SY: And you remember that, the smell?

EN: No, I don't remember an odor at all, so I think it was pretty good.

SY: And what end of the, were you on one of the end units in the barracks?

EN: Yes, one of the first ones.

SY: And the three of you were in one room.

EN: Yes, in one unit.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

SY: And you don't remember your impressions? Was it an improvement, do you think, over Santa Anita?

EN: I don't remember our room at Santa Anita at all. I guess I was too traumatized, so I don't remember what our quarters were like at all.

SY: Right. So this was, I mean, you were clearly aware of how horrible the whole situation was.

EN: Right. Well, being a senior in high school, we were studying civics and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and how you're so lucky to be born in the United States, and so when this happened I was really shocked. I couldn't believe that our government would do this to an American citizen and her parents, you know?

SY: And do you remember talking, were there, what the reaction from people who were not Japanese American was at school? Did you get --

EN: No, I don't remember at all.

SY: Was there reaction in your neighborhood or that area?

EN: Well, I wasn't living in my neighborhood at the time.

SY: When, after Pearl Harbor. But when, when --

EN: I mean after...

SY: After you --

EN: We were taking care of my cousin's nursery, so we'd moved away.

SY: But I think it was in Venice, though, where you had black out the windows?

EN: Yes.

SY: So obviously you're aware that there was a possible danger of... and probably, did it have anything to do with anything that happened, or was it just because --

EN: No, it was, that was the order, the government order. You had to cover up your windows so that no light would escape, 'cause we were right next to the ocean.

SY: I see, it was because you were by the ocean that the government was extra concerned.

EN: Yes.

SY: So you had a strong awareness, obviously, that this was something terrible. By the time you got to camp, then how, how were you feeling? Did you have, did you, were you given any idea of what was gonna happen next?

EN: No. I guess I couldn't, I can't recall because I think until about 1999 I just didn't want to talk about it, and in that process I just couldn't remember. So I still can't remember a great deal of what happened.

SY: I see. Yeah, that's understandable.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

SY: So you, you somehow, though, were at an age where you really didn't, were you forced, were you told to work at Amache too after Santa Anita?

EN: I don't think I was told, but I did get a job right away.

SY: And that was...

EN: Well, my parents knew Dr. Nagamoto, who was head of the dental clinic at, in Amache, and so he agreed to hire me as a dental assistant. And so that was quite a promotion from being a waitress in Santa Anita. [Laughs]

SY: And also because you had no training. How did, how were you trained to be a dentist?

EN: They just train you on the job. It was really fun.

SY: Did that, that must've happened some time after you got to...

EN: Well, we got, we arrived in Santa, I mean Amache, in September, I think September 22nd. No, no, no, I think -- anyway, it was around, in the fall, and I went to work right away.

SY: Oh, you did? So they set up these dental, they set up Japanese people...

EN: Right, they had a hospital and a dental clinic, so they put all the professional people to work right away, doctors and dentists and nurses.

SY: And do you remember how much you got paid?

EN: Eight, I think it was eight dollars.

SY: Eight dollars, even though, yeah, that sounds not even, I thought the professionals made more.

EN: Yes, I think, like the doctors made sixteen dollars.

SY: So that was, that...

EN: That was top pay, I believe. I think there was an intermediate, twelve dollars for something, but I don't think I qualified.

SY: Yeah, you were on the lower end. And your parents, did they get jobs?

EN: My father was a block manager, I think, early, at the beginning. And I don't know what my -- my mother was drafted at a waitress at our mess hall.

SY: So she was doing pretty much what you were doing at Santa Anita.

EN: Right, at Santa Anita.

SY: I see.

EN: So a lot of the Issei ladies were working in the mess hall. So it was a jolly crew, really. It's no fun just sitting around, sitting on your hands. It's better to be doing something, and you make new friends and so forth.

SY: So she, she was as good as could be expected. And how about the facilities there?

EN: Well, the barracks were barracks. I think they had brick floors and thin walls and, of course, no curtains or anything, so the families tried to make their homes more comfortable somehow with what they had.

SY: And the showers, were they better?

EN: Well, one side was for men, one side was for women, same deal.

SY: Same set up. And the same with the restrooms, bathroom facilities?

EN: Yes.

SY: So if you, you had a pretty regular job there, then you, what did you do at night?

EN: That was up to you. So the, I think the Issei organized singing classes, the Japanese singing classes. And I think in our block we had a well known artist, Mr. Uematsu, and he owns the Bunkado on East First -- I think he's passed on now, but he had a Japanese gift shop on East First Street, and so he started an oil painting class in camp, so my mom went to his class during the week.

SY: So she liked drawing.

EN: She was very artistic. So everyone tried to keep busy doing something.

SY: And what did you do? What was your favorite activity?

EN: I don't remember what I did. I think I bummed around after work. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 15>

SY: There were a lot of social activities.

EN: Yes, I think they had socials. Different blocks put on dances, and I think the young men had baseball games and things like that, so everyone tried to keep busy.

SY: Were there many your age that you could hang around with?

EN: Quite a few, yes.

SY: And both, I mean, did you make more girlfriends there or more male friends?

EN: Yes, but unfortunately I don't remember all the names.

SY: But you didn't, were able to hang out with other kids.

EN: Yes. Right.

SY: And did you eat with your family? Or did you --

EN: No, that's one of the things that keeps cropping up, I think. All the young people had meals with their friends and not with the family units.

SY: Yeah, especially if your mother was working, right?

EN: Right.

SY: So you really don't remember too much about what you did on the, since you didn't, it was, you didn't have to go to school.

EN: No, I didn't go to school. I was already put to work.

SY: And so you really did have pretty much free time when you were, when you weren't...

EN: Right, and I remember my girlfriend and I started a little club for, like eleven, twelve year old girls, and we were their advisors, helped them have fun. That's all I remember.

SY: Really? That's nice. And you led young girls, a group of, a fairly small group of --

EN: Cute, cute little girls.

SY: This is the same girlfriend from Santa Anita?

EN: Right, the one that introduced herself. She was in our, she turned up in our block, which was very fortunate.

SY: I see. That's nice.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

SY: So you obviously were trying to think of ways to keep busy.

EN: Yes, right. Then, we arrived in September, I think, and then I think the following year I left Amache, went to Boulder, Colorado, 'cause there was a university there and I wanted to go to school, and you had to establish a year's residency before you could apply.

SY: So by then they were already allowing students to leave camp.

EN: Students to leave camp.

SY: Was it a special program, or was it just --

EN: I think it was called student relocation council, that helped students go back to school.

SY: And you had to qualify for that in any way?

EN: Well, probably regular, just like going to regular university, probably your grades had to be at a certain level or whatever.

SY: So you left camp and lived in Boulder?

EN: Yes. I don't remember when, but probably in the summer of '43.

SY: I see. And how, do you remember how long you stayed there?

EN: Not too long. I think about a year, maybe less than a year. One of our employees from the Venice amusement pier was working at the Japanese language school that they had opened in Boulder for the armed forces, and so he knew the head of the language school and so he asked him to find me a job when I got to Boulder. So I worked as a schoolgirl for a dentist while I was establishing my residency.

SY: I see, so a schoolgirl, what were...

EN: You're a little slave. [Laughs] I did all the housecleaning. It was a two story mansion and I did, cleaned upstairs, downstairs, and did the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and a little bit of gardening.

SY: So was it, was that a pleasant experience as far as the family that you worked for?

EN: They were very nice people, but I hated housework. I still hate it to this day.

SY: But it allowed you to...

EN: I earned eight dollars a week.

SY: So that was an increase. You had a pay increase. And that, and going to school, was that paid for? Do you remember?

EN: No, I don't remember, 'cause I guess I was so unhappy --

SY: You were unhappy.

EN: -- that my father came after me and took me back to camp.

SY: How did he, how did he know you were unhappy?

EN: I must've written that. I don't remember, but I must've been unhappy because otherwise he wouldn't have come after me.

SY: And you don't remember exactly what made you unhappy? Was it the work more?

EN: I don't remember.

SY: It was just a very unpleasant experience, especially since you wanted, what were you studying?

EN: Well, let's see, I don't remember. Probably just regular college courses at that time. So anyway, I remember my father came after me and we returned to Amache, and that must've been in 1944, early 1944.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

SY: So you, as far as you can recall, you were there for about a year.

EN: Maybe not quite a year. And so when I returned I went to work for the camp newspaper. It's called the Granada Pioneer, and I, so I got a job as a reporter, I think a Sunday school reporter, something like that, and it was news. And then I graduated to having my own column, and then I decided I'd like to draw little cartoons, so I invented a little character called Ama-chan, short for Amache. So that was, that was what I was doing when I left camp to come to Pasadena.

SY: Wow. That sounds very exciting, enterprising.


SY: So can we talk a little bit more about this, working on that camp newspaper? 'Cause I think that's so, so nice that, so did you actually get paid to work on the camp newspaper?

EN: Of course.

SY: It was a paid job, then.

EN: I think it was also eight dollars, but it was fun.

SY: So you obviously were a fairly good writer if you wrote a column.

EN: Well, I don't remember. I've never seen a column that I wrote, and I don't imagine it was too wonderful because I was only, what, eighteen or so, nineteen, going on nineteen.

SY: And you don't remember what you wrote about?

EN: No, I have no idea. [Laughs]

SY: Well it must have been --

EN: Can't imagine what I could write about.

SY: But also to be able to draw cartoons.

EN: Yeah, that was fun. I have a couple of cartoons that I received from Valerie Matsumoto. She got them from somewhere and sent them to me.

SY: She found it. That's wonderful. So your mother was interested in the arts and that was, obviously you had some of her talent.

EN: Maybe, yes.

SY: So your mother was more interested in, what kind of art did she do?

EN: She did oil painting, landscapes and things like that, and then she loved the Japanese utai, and she played the Satsuma biwa.

SY: Okay, you're gonna have to explain. Utai is an instrument?

EN: Japanese kind of storytelling, singing, I think.

SY: Oh, so she actually sang?

EN: And I think she danced as she, sometimes, so she was quite talented. And she was a wonderful artist also, so she didn't get to do all those things while we were in Venice, but when they returned from camp she had time to pursue her hobbies.

SY: Wow. So these were things...

EN: So Dad loved Mom so much that wherever Mom went he went, so he also took the classes that she took, so he got involved in her activities.

SY: I see. So it was kind of an artsy family that you had.

EN: Yeah, they were. I don't think it rubbed off on me, but they had fun together.

SY: Yeah. The cartoon strip, though, that takes a little bit of talent.

EN: Well, it wasn't a strip. It was just one little square and it was this little girl.

SY: And it told a story? The little girl told a story?

EN: A little situation, not too clever. [Laughs]

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 19>

SY: So then you, again, boarded a train.

EN: Right, hopped on a train and took three days and arrived in Pasadena on September 12, 1944, which happened to be Mr. Anderson's birthday. It was really exciting.

SY: That's nice. And he met you at the train station?

EN: Yes, he met me there with, I think it was counselor for the Student Christian Association at school, and the editor of the school paper and some other, a few other students.

SY: So there was kind of a welcoming --

EN: A little welcoming committee, yes. It was very nice.

SY: And it was a pleasant experience when you arrived.

EN: Yes, it was very nice.

SY: No problems?

EN: No, there was no problem at all. And that evening, I think, I met the president of the Council of Churches, something like that. They welcomed me.

SY: They welcomed you and, now, do you remember how old you were when this, when you --

EN: I was nineteen then, old lady. [Laughs]

SY: And you got off the train and it was a very, very, there was no problems, but how was it following that period? Was there a period where you felt a little uncomfortable, or was it --

EN: You mean that day?

SY: That day or --

EN: No, that day was wonderful.

SY: So it was very exciting.

EN: It was really, coming back to California was so thrilling, come back home. Really wonderful.

SY: Really? Even though you were all by yourself, you didn't mind at all?

EN: Yes. Right.

SY: And did Mr. Anderson have a family?

EN: Yes, he had a beautiful wife and I think there were four children.

SY: Wow, all younger?

EN: Well, they were not that old at the time. I think Helene, Margaret, and Richard, and then little Aiko Susan came along after that.

SY: They named her Aiko?

EN: Yes.

SY: And I assume his wife was Caucasian as well, right?

EN: Yes. They named her Aiko because we had a mutual friend named Masao Igasaki, who was an attorney, and the wife's name was Aiko.

SY: So he liked that name, or he liked her?

EN: Both. [Laughs]

SY: And he, so you, he sort of welcomed you into their family?

EN: Yes, I stayed with their family. And not, just a few years ago I realized that they must've, one of the children must've given up his or her bedroom for me and I didn't even think about it until now.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

SY: So, and what was that like? Did you feel comfortable there?

EN: It was a very lovely home, two story home in Altadena, in a very nice neighborhood.

SY: And they treated you like one of the family?

EN: Just like one of the family, so that first evening was very pleasant. But it wasn't until the next day that everything changed.

SY: How was that?

EN: Well, I'd been met at the train station by the editor of the school paper, and so he had this big scoop, the first Japanese American to come back to the West Coast, so he took his story to the Pasadena newspapers and that was picked up by the L.A. papers, so by the next morning it was in all, it was a big headline.

SY: I see.

EN: And so there was a big protest at, they had meetings, the school board meetings, and there were big protests and things that lasted for several weeks.

SY: Wow. And do you remember the headlines in the, was the L.A., were the articles negative or were they just reporting what happened?

EN: There were quite a few negative articles, uh huh.

SY: So the Japanese were definitely still not...

EN: Yes. Not welcome.

SY: Yeah, and how did it affect you personally, emotionally, how did you feel when you saw this?

EN: The student body was fine and the teachers were excellent. There was no problem at school at all. It was only when you're out on the street sometimes that you met some uncomfortable reaction.

SY: So do you remember any of that specifically?

EN: There was one little old lady, a famous little old lady of Pasadena, that ran into me at the bus stop almost every day, and she'd call me a "dirty Jap" or something like that, and one day she hauled off and slapped me just before I got on the bus for school. And one of my fellow students happened to be there and he asked her, "What'd you do that for?" She said, "Well, she's a dirty old Jap." But he said, "Well, she's a better American than you are." So that's how students were. They were really great. But she was the only one I remember that gave me any guff at all.

SY: Other than these, these terrible headlines. So did you attract a lot of attention?

EN: Apparently, well, not personally, but in the papers I did.

SY: But not when you were --

EN: Right. They had all these horrible meetings at the school board because they're trying to get rid of me, but Mr. Anderson would never let me attend those meetings. He was protecting me and his family. And things got really tough, apparently, and all the newspapers would publish his home address, so there were streams of cars driving by all day long trying to get a glimpse of me. And I guess he decided, one period he thought it was quite dangerous, so he sent his family off to stay with another friend out of town and I was sent to Mr. Walt Wright's home. He was the advised counselor for the Student Christian Association. So I think that lasted for about a week, and then things simmered down so people came to their senses. But what really amazed me was all these newspaper articles were carrying on, but the armed forces, the soldiers who were serving in the South Pacific, came to my aid. They sent me wonderful letters protecting...

SY: 'Cause they'd read the articles. They knew about you.

EN: And they said they were fighting for people like me and, "What are these people trying to do to you? They're wrong." Says, "You have a right to go to the school of your choice and you're an American citizen," and all these things. And I had servicemen coming to visit me.

SY: Now these were Japanese American servicemen?

EN: No.

SY: No?

EN: Not all of them. Some 442 fellows that were recuperating in the army hospitals would hike in or bus in to see me, but there were a lot of Caucasian soldiers who'd read the story in the, that newspaper, the armed forces paper, and they would hitchhike to Pasadena to protect me. It was really an amazing experience.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 22>

SY: And do you remember how, about how long you were the only Japanese American student there?

EN: There were some young students who arrived from Gila, Arizona, and I thought they came in early 1945.

SY: So maybe a few months?

EN: But my friend, I asked her recently, she said, "No, we didn't come until towards the fall of '45."

SY: I see. So it's closer to a year that you were, that you were the only one.

EN: Right.

SY: That's a long time. And you, so a lot of things must've happened during that year. I mean, it was...

EN: I suppose, but I really can't remember, I just remember that I had these wonderful friends and took part in a lot of activities, but not too much detail rises to the surface.

SY: Right. And you also had, had school that you were dealing with.

EN: Yes.

SY: And you were, what were you studying?

EN: I think I, because I'd worked at the camp newspaper I was taking journalism as my major.

SY: And enjoying that too, the school part?

EN: Yes, I enjoyed it very much.

SY: And with mostly Caucasian friends, then what was your social life like? Was it, was it drastically different than from camp?

EN: I don't believe I went to any dances or anything, but I do recall -- I was thinking about it last night -- I did go to a dance or a party, something, involved going to the party with one of your teachers and so I chose my -- this is apparently after my parents had joined me -- and I chose my art instructor. And he was a very nice older gentleman, and so he picked me up and my mother had made him a corsage out of radishes and things, a cute little corsage, and we went, I guess, to this, I don't know whether it was a dance party or what, but it was kind of fun.

SY: That's very nice. But as far as other people your age, you didn't date at all?

EN: I don't think so, not while I was going to school.

SY: Yeah, so it was mainly you were focused on your studies and going --

EN: And then I guess in the summer of, see, I came back in '44, in '45, summer of '45 the Student Relocation Council asked me to go to Gila to, I guess, help encourage students to go, leave camp and go to college. And so I just lasted one month there. [Laughs]

SY: Why was that?

EN: It was so hot. I guess I'd forgotten how hot it was in Amache, 'cause that was out in the desert also, but I stayed there a month.

SY: But you remember what you told kids?

EN: No, I don't. I just remember I stayed with a lovely family, I believe their name was Araki, and they had a lovely daughter, I think her name was Kiyoko.

SY: Did they have a son named Jim?

EN: I'm not sure. I think, when I stayed with them she was the only...

SY: Person in the family.

EN: Person there. Maybe she had a brother, I don't know.

SY: Or a son. Well, I, yeah, because I know that Michi Weglyn was in Gila, and she was one of the people that, with the senior relocation.

EN: Oh, really? Is that right?

SY: I was wondering if you might've encouraged her.

EN: I don't know. I don't think so. [Laughs]

SY: Do you remember talking to the young kids there?

EN: No, I don't remember any of the young people I met. I just remember one of the counselors, a hakujin man, and he was so nice, but I've forgotten all the names of all the people I met.

SY: And you stayed by yourself there too?

EN: I stayed with this family, but I just remember one evening we were coming back from one of our tours of the camps and there'd been a horrible accident and there were so many bodies lying around on the street. It was so kawaiso.

SY: Wow. It was a natural accident?

EN: It was a, no, a vehicle.

SY: Oh, a car accident.

EN: Car accident.

SY: And so...

EN: All these young people were lying around. It was so sad.

SY: Wow.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

SY: So you were able to go, come and go from Gila.

EN: I think it was, were there two camps there, or I don't remember what we were doing.

SY: Yes, there were.

EN: So we must've been going from one camp to the other.

SY: I see. And then, but as far as you having been recruited to go to Gila, then were you able to leave whenever you wanted as far as --

EN: I believe so.

SY: So you just, you were the one who decided what was --

EN: Well, I wasn't the only one there on this project. Haruo Ishimaru was another one, and the family that I stayed with, Kiyoko, or what was her name, Araki, she was another one on the project, so there were three of us that I remember were doing the same thing.

SY: And they were all part of the Nisei --

EN: Part of this project.

SY: The student relocation.

EN: Relocation Council thing.

SY: I see. So did Mr. Anderson have anything to do with your going there?

EN: No, this was an entirely different matter.

SY: And then when you came back you went back to live with his family?

EN: No. By that time my parents had returned, so were living in, at an apartment in Pasadena.

SY: I see, so how did that happen? How did your parents end up coming back to Pasadena?

EN: Well, they were able to leave camp and Mr. Anderson had found this apartment for us, and it happened to be just almost next door to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. And so we lived there and, since we'd lost our business of course, my dad went to the hostel where, in Pasadena, where all the Issei people were going for help, and all the gentlemen were learning how to become gardeners so he studied, I guess the, whatever it was you needed to learn to become a gardener. He bought his few tools and started a gardening route.

SY: Wow. And with no experience at all.

EN: No. None whatsoever. [Laughs]

SY: And his, was he still being helped by Mr. Anderson?

EN: No, he did this on his own. And my mother became a cleaning house, a cleaning lady. She hopped on a bus and went to these wealthy homes and cleaned house every day, a different house every day. So they worked really hard. Really, really tough for them.

SY: And at the same time you were going to school.

EN: Yes.

SY: So they, did it, it took a while for them to reestablish, and did people bother them at all when they came back?

EN: I don't know. They never talked about it, so I don't know.

SY: Did, they came back early?

EN: Well, I believe they came back in '45.

SY: So it might've been as the war was ending.

EN: But they were both such charming people. They, they were so nice. People loved them, so I don't think they had any problem, really.

SY: That's nice.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

SY: And you, you were at this point in your, what year of school? How many...

EN: I think I was in my second year of junior college.

SY: And were you working at the same time, or did you end up getting a job while you were going to school?

EN: No, I was just going to school. But seeing them work so hard, it just really broke my heart. I was really upset, so I quit school. I just couldn't stand it. You know, I was just going to school and they were working so hard.

SY: I see.

EN: They didn't complain. It was just really heart wrenching for me to see them doing this, so I quit school and I went to the Sawyer School of Business 'cause I thought maybe I could learn secretarial skills, so that's what I did. Just went long enough to learn how to type and take shorthand and a little bookkeeping.

SY: So how, do you remember how much more school you would've needed to graduate? Or was it just...

EN: I don't think it was much longer for me.

SY: But it was, it was...

EN: So it was probably a stupid thing to do. [Laughs]

SY: Well, apparently it all worked out in the end. But your, but so was, by going to -- business school, right? It was a business school in Pasadena?

EN: Yes. It was the Sawyer School of Business.

SY: You still had to watch your parents working, though, right?

EN: Right, so then I didn't even graduate. I just learned the skills and then went looking for a job, and I looked in all the Pasadena papers and went for interviews, but I got turned down at every job I went to. I was told, "Oh, we just filled that job," had no luck whatsoever in Pasadena. So then I started looking for a job in Pasadena...

SY: You mean you were, you looked in Pasadena first.

EN: Yes, I did.

SY: And then you went outside of Pasadena?

EN: Then I had to look for a job in L.A. and found a job with Prince Meski Lebov. [Laughs]

SY: What is that?

EN: He was a Russian import-exporter.

SY: Really?

EN: So that was my first job, but it was kind of fun.

SY: So he interviewed you, whoever this, this...

EN: Prince George. [Laughs] Meski Lebov.

SY: Prince George?

EN: Right, so I worked for him for a while. And then, then I found another job at, in the flower district in this war surplus store, and it was a bigger outfit so I got paid a little more. And I worked there until I got married.

SY: So you were able kind of to contribute a little to your family's...

EN: Yes, a little bit.

SY: A little bit, yeah. And were you, did people remember you as the person who was, were you known in the area, Pasadena area, as someone who came back from camp early?

EN: I don't believe so, no.

SY: So by then it had completely died down.

EN: I think so, yes. Well then my father, I guess after a while, he and his friends had decided to quit gardening and they formed a Rose, the Rose Frozen Shrimp Company, which was a frozen food company. And I think that was the first venture of that kind that was formed by Issei, so I think that went on for quite a while.

SY: So that was fairly successful? That got your father out of having to do heavy work?

EN: Gardening. Yes.

SY: And that was where, this Rose?

EN: In Los Angeles somewhere.

SY: So it sounded like it might've been a good move fairly.

EN: Apparently. I know they, the Rose frozen shrimp was sold in all the supermarkets, so it must've been quite a huge operation.

SY: I see. And your mother in the meantime, what did she do?

EN: She quit cleaning houses and worked in a garment factory doing power sewing machine work in Pasadena.

SY: So she stayed working as well.

EN: Yes, she did.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

SY: And as far as other students coming back to Pasadena Junior College, or was it, it was called Pasadena Junior College?

EN: At that time, yes.

SY: Were you still there when other Japanese American students started coming?

EN: Yes, I was there until 1944 sometime, and so, let's see...

SY: '45.

EN: '45? So by then students started trickling in from the camps.

SY: And that was when they were just releasing people from camp.

EN: Well, they were coming, yes, coming back to school, which was really wonderful.

SY: So you got to be friends with the people that were coming?

EN: Yes, we're still friends. I think in '45 or six the girls that we met at the Pasadena Junior College formed a Nisei women's club and we called it Pasonas. It was, no one knew what that stood, it sounded sort of exotic, they didn't know it had any meaning, but it was Pasona onna, Pasadena women.

SY: Pasona onna.

EN: Onna.

SY: I see, that's the, very nice.

EN: So we still have some of the original members with us today, I think. We're still friends after all these years.

SY: Wow. And that was a group of how many women back then?

EN: I think at the time we, the most we had were about fourteen, fifteen members. And then as we all got married we became Mrs. Pasonas.

SY: So it started as primarily a social group?

EN: Yes, it was a social group.

SY: And did you intermingle with other, with other groups?

EN: Yes. When other groups formed we had socials together, and it was a very fun time.

SY: There were, there were groups like this all over the city, right?

EN: I believe so, yes.

SY: Did you, was that something that you got to know other people in other parts of the city? Or was it just, did you pretty much stay to yourselves?

EN: Well, in Pasadena we were the first group to form a women's group, and then a little later there was another group called Mesdames. There was another group, so there were two women's groups.

SY: And how about the men?

EN: And the men, let's see, there was a men's group. I forgot, I can't think of the name of it, but they were quite active and they were sort of a social and service organization.

SY: I see. And was that your, that how you would describe your group?

EN: Well, we were more social, I guess. We participated when there were things we could join to help the community, but it was mostly, we started out as a social group.

SY: And this, can you describe some of the things you did? Were they...

EN: We had dances, sponsored dances, and the Nisei would come and we'd have a live band.

SY: So you put these --

EN: We called, had, I guess it was called the Christmas Eve ball, so that got to be quite a big thing. We had it in a hotel somewhere in Los Angeles and it was quite a big shindig.

SY: I'll say. And these were all women about the same age?

EN: Yes, we were all the same age. We met at school, so that was around '45, '46.

SY: All of them at Pasadena Junior College?

EN: Right.

SY: I see.

EN: Now we're in our eighties. [Laughs]

SY: But you're still here.

EN: We're still friends.

SY: Yeah, 'cause I know that whole women's group, it was kind of a phenomenon, really, because there's nothing like it today.

EN: Is that right?

SY: I think so.

EN: Well, it was something we needed at that time.

SY: You wanted to sort of stick together.

EN: We needed to stick together.

SY: And then also was a way of meeting...

EN: Others, true.

SY: So at that time were you dating a lot of guys who were coming out of camp?

EN: Yes.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

SY: And how was it that you got reunited with your husband, your future husband at the time?

EN: [Laughs] Well, I met him in Santa Anita. I was going around with someone else who knew Shig, so we were introduced but that was it. But after I came back to California and was living in Pasadena, apparently Shig had returned from Michigan. He was working in Michigan and came back to Whittier, and one of his friends said, "Do you know Esther Takei?" Said, "Yeah, I met her in Santa Anita." Said, "She's living in Pasadena." So, "Oh, why don't we go see her?" So he and his two friends came to visit me one day.

SY: Wow. So, and from that point on he was, you...

EN: That did it for me. [Laughs] He was such a sweetie, and I just thought the world of him, so he asked me for a date and that was it for me.

SY: I see. And you were still at Pasadena College then, or no?

EN: Let's see, I don't remember. I think I was working by then. I was working.

SY: But he had to commute from Whittier to see you.

EN: Right.

SY: And that was the only way you were able to get together.

EN: Yes, so we tried to see each other every Saturday, but sometimes he had to work or something so he'd miss our date.

SY: And so did he eventually move to Pasadena?

EN: After we got married, yes. [Laughs]

SY: Oh, you made him move to Pasadena rather than you move to Whittier.

EN: Right.

SY: That's how it worked out.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

SY: And your parents, were they happy in Pasadena?

EN: Oh yes, they built a home, or bought a home in Pasadena and were working, and then when they decided to retire they returned to Tokyo.

SY: So they were, is that something they talked about, that they wanted to go back to Japan?

EN: Apparently, yes.

SY: Yeah, so it was a decision that was made after the war.

EN: Yes, after the war.

SY: I see.

EN: Well, they, they were so busy doing things all the while they were here and they were so active in the community and in their social life that I guess they decided that they were getting to the age where they wanted to lead a more serene life, and they thought going back to Japan would be the thing to do. So they decided to live in Tokyo because Mom had an older sister there and a younger brother living in Yamanashi-ken. And I don't believe my dad had any relatives left by then, but they bought a beautiful home in Tokyo.

SY: And sold everything here.

EN: Yes.

SY: So did they ever talk about why they didn't go, want to go back to Venice?

EN: There was nothing to go back to, so we never discussed Venice at all after we left.

SY: After the war.

EN: That was just gone.

SY: I see. And did you stay close to the Anderson family after your parents returned?

EN: We'd see them occasionally, yes, but we didn't socialize too much.

SY: He was able to keep your things for you during, or some things for you.

EN: All of our things.

SY: All of your personal belongings.

EN: It's amazing. He had a two story house and a huge attic, and I think he stored things for other friends too, so he was really wonderful. He did a lot for everybody.

SY: And he helped your parents in terms of resettling? Did he...

EN: Well, he found the apartment for us when they returned to join me in Pasadena.

SY: Do you know if he helped them financially at all?

EN: Oh no, nothing like that. No.

SY: So it was just his support.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

SY: And when you and, how long were you dating Shig before you decided to get married?

EN: Well, I think met him the summer of '46.

SY: So pretty soon after camp.

EN: And he was supposed to be drafted, I think, that fall, but just before he had to go in they, the war ended or something and he didn't have to join the army, and so we were married in June of '47.

SY: Wow. So that was lucky.

EN: So I was the first one to get married in our Pasona group, so it was really hectic 'cause we didn't what, how to have a wedding. [Laughs] We didn't know what to do.

SY: You had your friends to help you, though.

EN: They helped me. It was so funny, it was the first wedding and we didn't want to get too fancy, and we had it, we wanted to have the wedding at our church in Pasadena, but we invited so many people it was too tiny. So we had it at the church in Los Angeles. I don't remember the name of the church, but it was Reverend James Yamazaki's church.

SY: I see.

EN: 'Cause it was a little larger.

SY: It was a Methodist church?

EN: I think his was, no, it wasn't Methodist. It was something else. But anyway, we were gonna have Curry's frozen punch -- that was a favorite of ours -- and tea sandwiches, nothing fancy. Mom and Dad wanted us to have a Japanese chop suey dinner, and on East First Street, that was a norm, but we insisted on this American style punch and sandwiches. So all my Pasona girls came over and busily made all these little tea sandwiches for us, and we ordered this frozen punch from, I think it was Curry's Ice Cream, and we hauled it over to the church reception hall. And so time for the reception we came out after the wedding and had our reception, but lo and behold the serving committee had thawed out the punch 'cause they didn't realize it was supposed to be frozen punch. [Laughs] But anyway, it was fun.

SY: So it sounded like it was a good and bad experience.

EN: It was nice.

SY: It, was it a, it was a good size number of people if you had to move it to another church.

EN: Yes, it was. We had a large family and we had a lot of, Mom and Dad had a lot of friends, so it was a lively group.

SY: That's great. And helped by all your women's...

EN: All my Pasona friends. They were so wonderful.

SY: That's great. What a, so it must've been hard on them, though, if you were the first one to get married. No? They were really supportive, they wanted --

EN: You mean my friends?

SY: Yeah.

EN: No, they were very happy about it.

SY: Great.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

SY: So after you were married, then did you stay working?

EN: Yes.

SY: And you continued what, I'm trying to remember.

EN: I was working at the war surplus store as a secretary.

SY: I see. So you really utilized your business degree.

EN: [Laughs] Yes.

SY: You were able to do secretarial work quite...

EN: Yes.

SY: And was that a job that you...

EN: Yeah, I enjoyed it very much.

SY: So did you stay working very long after you were married?

EN: Well, until I became pregnant, and then taking the streetcar ride made me really urpy, so I had to quit.

SY: So you were working downtown?

EN: Yes.

SY: And you had to, and so you, did you kind of semi retire after you were...

EN: Until John was older, yes.

SY: Your son.

EN: Then I guess when John was in junior high school or so, I think I decided to go back to work, so I found a job with Craig Associates, who, it was an industrial design firm in Pasadena. So I worked there for many, maybe twelve years or so. Or maybe not that long. Anyway, quite a while. And then later I switched to the Henry Dreyfus office. I worked there for about twelve years.

SY: Wow. So you had long term jobs.

EN: Yeah, but they were really wonderful jobs. They were so much fun.

SY: And in the meantime your, when your husband didn't have to go into the army, what did he do?

EN: Well, he left his, the farm. His family had a ranch in Whittier, so he had to leave them because he got married to me, so he worked as a gardener. It's an entirely different occupation. But then he became a real estate broker, so that was his occupation, and an insurance broker.

SY: And had he been able to go to school for that?

EN: Yes.

SY: So he left his job, he left his parents' farm and then he went to school?

EN: He studied, yes. He studied.

SY: While he was working.

EN: Right, he had to work as a gardener to support us when we first got married, but then he went to school and became a real estate broker and insurance agent until he retired.

SY: Well that was lucky. And his family, did they stay working on the farm?

EN: Yes.

SY: So that was their, they were able to regain whatever, they came back to a farm that they had before the war?

EN: I'm not sure how that worked out. I don't know whether they owned their property or whether it was leased or whatever.

SY: Left with someone.

EN: Yes.

SY: So he, so he was able to support you while you were, had your child, and then --

EN: Yes, definitely.

SY: So tell us a little bit more about John. John is your son?

EN: Our one and only. I wanted a huge family because I was an only child and I envied all my friends that had siblings, but as it turned out I just had my John. [Laughs] And he was a cute little rascal when he was growing up.

SY: And kept you busy.

EN: Yes. But he was very artistic, so I guess he took after my mother.

SY: I see.

EN: So he became a ceramics artist and pursued that for many years, and then he retired and he said, "I've always wanted to be a sushi chef," so he went to sushi school and worked for a sushi restaurant for a while. But he discovered that you would have to be on your feet from morning 'til night, and his feet were too flat to take that long hours.

SY: And strain on his feet.

EN: Right, so he had to retire from that.

SY: I see. So he still pursues his art?

EN: Yes, he's very, he does all sorts of videos and things. He's really wonderful.

SY: That sounds like it definitely was handed down through the family artistic genes.

EN: [Laughs] He's really, really very good at that.

SY: Wonderful.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

SY: Now, I also, during that period, I guess, when you were still with the Pasonas, right, and you had your first child, this was, when was John born?

EN: In '48.

SY: 1948. So very early on.

EN: Yes, right away.

SY: Then after a while did you, were you thinking, you totally ignored your, I mean, you really didn't talk much about your camp experience?

EN: No, I didn't talk about it until 1999.

SY: 1999? And what was it that prompted you to talk about it?

EN: Well, all through the years I'd been approached by various people who wanted to interview me, but I always turned them down because, I said, I don't want to talk about it. But in 1999 I was approached by Darcy Iki when she, while she was working for the Rafu Shimpo, and I don't know why, it must've been because she was so charming, but I agreed to an interview with her. So that was the first time I opened up to anyone.

SY: And can you just say a little bit about why you decided?

EN: Well let's see now, I did an interview for the, was that for the museum, was she working for the museum?

SY: She was working for the Japanese American National Museum.

EN: Right, that's the one. That was the one that --

SY: In '99.

EN: Right, that's the one.

SY: But why did you choose not to talk about the camp?

EN: It was too painful to talk about the evacuation.

SY: Camp experience. But even though, would you describe your experience of coming to Pasadena as a good one?

EN: Very good.

SY: So, but it didn't, it didn't register that it was...

EN: But I just didn't want to talk about it.

SY: You didn't want to talk about it, I see.

EN: No, definitely not.

SY: And then once you started talking about it how did it affect you?

EN: Well, I was willing to remember what happened.

SY: So the memories came back as you, as you...

EN: Right. I still don't have total recall, but I do remember the wonderful things that happened when I came back.

SY: I see. So is this something that you talk to your husband and your son about now more?

EN: No, not really. Only when people come to interview me. [Laughs]

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

SY: So at some point, then, during the 1980s when they were having these redress hearings --

EN: Yes.

SY: -- were you approached to talk about that experience that you had?

EN: Yes, they asked me to testify at the hearings, about my return to...

SY: Pasadena.

EN: The Western Defense Command.

SY: Right. And what was your reaction?

EN: Well, I felt that I had no, I had no relevance to what was going on with the redress hearing. I couldn't understand why they'd want me to talk about my experience.

SY: Really? So it was because you just didn't think it was important enough?

EN: Right. I didn't think it had anything to do with redress.

SY: With asking for some sort of reparations for what you went through.

EN: Yes.

SY: Even though you had had this horrible experience of going to Amache, you didn't think, you still didn't think...

EN: No. I really didn't see any connection to redress at all.

SY: So was it Mr. Anderson who asked you to testify, or was he --

EN: No, it was whatever group it was that was conducting the hearing.

SY: And did, were, did Hugh Anderson actually approach you or did you talk to him?

EN: No. He was also asked to testify, and it was, happened to be on the same day, so we drove in together to wherever it was they were conducting the hearing and we waited to be asked to testify. And as it happened they called me first, and so I did my thing, but they never got around to Hugh Anderson, which was, I thought, very sad. So he never got to tell his story.

SY: I see. Now, you then, in fact, did testify even though you were not sure.

EN: Right. I didn't think I needed to.

SY: And were you, like, coached in this preparation of what you were gonna talk about, or did you pretty much do it on your own?

EN: I don't recall how it happened or what they asked me to do, but I have a copy of my testimony and it's really just a recap, a recap of what I just went through with you, what happened.

SY: Going to Amache, going to...

EN: Yes, going to camp and coming back.

SY: And so at the time that you gave this testimony, then do you remember what the, any reaction?

EN: No. That's also a big blur.

SY: It, was it pretty scary to give the testimony?

EN: It must have been, but I don't remember. Isn't it strange how you, you can't remember these important dates? I don't understand it myself.

SY: But you managed to get the courage to do it, or whatever it took to do it.

EN: Apparently.

SY: And that was really before you really started, people asking to interview you and all of that. So it was, was this, that the first time you started thinking about that whole experience?

EN: Well, I tried not to talk about it or think about it, I guess, and I don't know why. I just didn't want to. And it was only when Darcy asked me that I suddenly decided maybe it's time I should talk. And I've been talking ever since. [Laughs]

SY: Does, has it helped to talk about it?

EN: Not really. But -- you spoke about interviewing Harry Kawahara -- but he said it's my job. [Laughs]

SY: So you consider it your job, your responsibility.

EN: I guess so.

SY: And obviously because you were so helped by the Quakers, then that, does that have anything to do with...

EN: I'm very grateful to them, yes.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

SY: And did you stay in touch with, with Hugh Anderson after the hearings?

EN: Yes. He'd come to see us or call us every year somehow.

SY: And his family as well?

EN: Yes, his family. Yes, he had a wonderful family of young children; they're all grown up now. They're all married. But I've lost touch with them recently.

SY: They stayed, his family, he stayed a Quaker throughout his life?

EN: Yes, he did.

SY: But you're not sure about his family, whether they carried on.

EN: Right.

SY: But you had a, there was a program at the Japanese American National Museum where you spoke about being helped by the Quakers.

EN: That might have been the forum, democracy, forum on democracy or something.

SY: So was this after he passed away?

EN: I believe he passed away several years before that, yes.

SY: Before that. So you were able to talk about that whole experience again.

EN: I was glad to do something for him 'cause there hasn't been too much publicity about that group that helped us so much.

SY: And were there others there who talked about being helped by him?

EN: No. I don't think they knew about him.

SY: Really? So you really, he really took a special...

EN: Yeah, definitely. We really wanted to preserve his memory.

SY: But the fact that he, you were sort of handpicked by him to, to help.

EN: Yes.

SY: I mean, I'm sure there must have been others that he assisted in a more general way.

EN: I'm sure. Yes, definitely.

SY: But he never took in any other Japanese?

EN: I'm the only one who stayed with his family during that period.

SY: Yeah, so he was obviously close, there was a reason that he chose, again, that he chose you.

EN: Possibly. [Laughs]

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

SY: So now the other thing I wanted to ask you about was, having never graduated from Pasadena Junior College, was that something that you had regret, you have regret about?

EN: Well, I think I was quite stupid not to do that, continue with school, but I've not really regretted it 'cause I've led a really wonderful life as it was. Might've been even better if I'd continued with my education, but --

SY: It never really hindered you, though.

EN: No, not really.

SY: But you did recently get an honorary degree.

EN: [Laughs] Along with the other...

SY: How many people?

EN: I can't remember. I knew last year when it happened, but there were quite a few of us. Some of them I don't think could make it, but Dr. Lisa Sugimoto was president of the school at that time and she really went out of her way to make it a special occasion for all the graduates, really a wonderful day for everyone. And I told, kept telling them, I don't belong here, I'm not supposed to be here, but they said yes, you are. And I'm so glad that they included me because it was really special.

SY: It was. So it was a ceremony that was honoring all the, all the people who both graduated and --

EN: Those who were in school at the time of evacuation and who were unable to continue their schoolwork that year.

SY: And you were the only one that --

EN: Only one that didn't fit in that category. [Laughs]

SY: Well in a way you did, though, because you weren't able to go to college because of the war. And were you, did they talk about, were you singled out at the ceremony?

EN: No. I don't remember. I don't think so. I was just included in the group.

SY: You were introduced and you each received a diploma.

EN: Yes. It was a really thrilling day.

SY: That's nice. And there were quite a few. There were quite a few.

EN: There was quite, I think there were about twenty-two at least.

SY: Wow. So that was, did, that was a pretty nice culmination of your, all of your experience.

EN: It was really, really wonderful.

SY: Yeah.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

SY: So the Japanese community, is there a reason you decided to stay in Pasadena?

EN: Well, I don't know. I guess I just fell in love with Pasadena, the way they treated me when I came back and all the wonderful friends we made here. Just became my home.

SY: Really, that's lovely. And now how is it that your parents, since your parents went back to Japan, how were you able to keep in touch with them?

EN: Well, because they were in Japan and I wanted to see them I wanted to work for an airline, and I was lucky enough to find a job with the Flying Tiger airline, which is an all cargo airline, and so that way I was able to fly to Japan at least once a year at no charge. And I did that all the while I was working there.

SY: That was from, from when to when?

EN: Let's see, I don't, I can't remember. [Laughs]

SY: That's okay. But it was quite a few years?

EN: Many, at least twelve, fourteen years. I could still use my airline benefits if I wanted to, but they're gone now.

SY: The Flying Tigers -- oh, your parents. [Laughs]

EN: Yeah, my parents. The Flying Tigers became the FedEx Corporation.

SY: I see. So your parents then were really well situated in Japan?

EN: Yes. They, let's see, I don't, I guess they built, they didn't build, but they built, bought a lovely home in Shinjuku, no, Koganei, which is a really nice community in Tokyo, in the suburbs. And they had a very wonderful life there until Papa passed away. And Mama lived by herself for a few years, but then my relatives said that she was having a tough time by herself so we brought her back to live with us, and we had her for eleven years after she came to live with us.

SY: How nice. But they were, they clearly were happy that they decided to move back to Japan.

EN: Yes. They had a very, very joyous social life. They followed their hobbies and had relatives they could visit. They had fun.

SY: And your mother, when she came here, what did she end up doing? Was she pretty --

EN: She immediately signed up with her music classes.

SY: Good.

EN: And she was busy. We were busy squiring her to all her music classes, and she had fun while she was living with us.

SY: That's great. So it was a nice rounding out of their, of her life, to come back and be with you.

EN: I hope so, yes. We really, really enjoyed having her with us.

SY: So really she had to leave family behind in Japan, then?

EN: She had an older sister and their family, and a younger brother, so she had people she could call out there.

SY: So your, so she, how long ago did she pass away?

EN: I don't remember. I should've looked it up before you came.

SY: That's okay. That's not that important. And, and when is it that you retired, roughly? How many years have you been retired from working?

EN: Let's see, when did I retire? I don't remember either. [Laughs]

SY: 'Cause it's --

EN: 1981 maybe, or '82. Somewhere around there.

SY: Really? So now what does your life consist of today?

EN: I'm just enjoying being a social butterfly, just flitting around and reading the paper from cover to cover and just taking life easy.

SY: And your husband, what does he do?

EN: He's retired also. And I feel really bad because in my younger days I wanted to fix the world and do really wonderful things, but I'm not really doing it right now. [Laughs]

SY: Well in some ways you have. I don't know, do you look back and think, I mean, having, being given all this attention that you've been given --

EN: No, I don't have any regrets. I'm just glad that I didn't do anything really bad in my life.

SY: But it's, but it was an important thing that happened to you, I guess.

EN: That's what I've been told.

SY: But also I'm wondering that, along the way you made some very conscious choices, one was clearly to stake out whenever nobody else went, right?

EN: Well I think I was very lucky to be able to do that. It was a great opportunity to strike out and do something, perhaps help other people, so I'm glad I was able to do that.

SY: So you feel, is that, is that something that you, that stays with you in terms of the way you approach life? Is it something that you continue to do? I mean, do you speak out about things?

EN: Usually. [Laughs]

SY: Wow. Well, Esther, I think this has been a wonderful interview. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's a very important one.

EN: Thank you for coming. I'm so glad you came, and I hope that it will prove interesting to some people.

SY: It will. Thank you.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.