Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Emi Somekawa Interview
Narrator: Emi Somekawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 21, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-semi-01-0016

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TI: So now I'm gonna go back to the beginning of the war because we'll come back after the war, but I just wanted to talk about the house a little bit. So at this point, so we're talking about kind of the summer of 1942, you're also pregnant with your second child.

ES: Yes. We were in assembly center.

TI: You're in assembly center. So tell me about that, about delivering your second child. How did, where did that happen and what was that like?

ES: My doctor that delivered my first child, I knew that I had a very difficult labor and so they were thinking about even doing a Caesarian section, but I finally delivered her normally. And so we were gonna have four children so we decided, and my husband was nine years older than I -- no, he was six years older than I -- so we decided we didn't want to have our children spread out too far, so we were gonna have four children right together.

TI: Why four children? What made you decide?

ES: Well my husband says, "We can divide the grapefruit in half." [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] And that's how he decided.

ES: And so in that way he says we don't have to waste anything. He says that way we don't have to worry about having four children. There'd be six, and the three grapefruit, cut it all in half, eat it.

TI: Okay.

ES: That was one of the funny things that he used to say. He said, "We're gonna have four children." I said that's fine. We had five in my family and he had six in his family. So I thought it'd be fun to have grandchildren.

TI: So you had your first child in 1941 and then your second child a year later.

ES: Yes. '42. Of course that ended that. Only have two children. "But because," the doctor said, "you had such difficult delivery, I'll have to talk to the executive of the camp, of the assembly center," and he did. He talked to him on the phone, evidently. He said that, "Emi is pregnant and I'm gonna have to deliver her because she had such a difficult delivery." And so it was agreed upon by the... I can't even remember what his title was, but anyway, he was the executive director of the assembly center anyway, and he said, "Sure. The minute her labor starts call me." I did, and the ambulance was there and took me to Emanuel Hospital, delivered me that night. And next day the ambulance came back to pick me up, bring you back to the base hospital 'cause they didn't want me away from the assembly center any longer than I had to be. But those were the days that you're supposed to be in bed for ten days.

TI: So compare the facilities at Emanuel Hospital with the facilities at the Portland Assembly Center. So here you were, you delivered and you were there for a day, and you knew the facility really well, and now you go to the Portland Assembly Center. How would you compare the medical facilities?

ES: Well, it was just a cot that we slept in at the base hospital. I thought, well, I'm just gonna get up and walk. I just couldn't take it, so I guess that was the way it's supposed to be anyway, so I got along fine.

TI: How about the staff in terms of the trained, the hospital staff at Puyallup -- or not Puyallup, Portland, the Portland Assembly Center? What was that like?

ES: It was okay because I kind of took care of myself. I didn't have to worry about --

TI: But see, you were lucky because you had the training. You knew what to do.

ES: Yes, that's right.

TI: But if you were a young mother who didn't, delivering for the first time...

ES: It's kind of sad, but then I figured there were other ladies who were pregnant too, had babies, and they had babies right there at the base hospital. And they really didn't have what you call obstetricians. At Emanuel, where I trained, we did have obstetricians and gynecologists because that's, that's part of the training, but it wasn't that bad. It wasn't that bad. I got lucky.

TI: So going back to you, here you have a one-year-old and now a newborn, you're at the Portland Assembly Center, tell me what life is like. I mean, what, how do you do that?

ES: Well, I don't know how I did it, except that I wonderful babysitters because there are a lot of Issei people that wanted to take care of my children. And anyway, sometimes I would give them their formula that they have, they can have for two hours, for two different feedings, and this one lady came and she'd take my, Carol -- she was my oldest, older one -- she'd take care of her and I wouldn't see her for the whole day. She'd take care of her and, because I had this little infant, and I just thought, well, how wonderful that was, that that lady would take the diapers and -- and my husband had to do all the washing. We never had disposable diapers, no. But anyway, it was amazing how well we did get along.

TI: And it helped, now, this Issei woman, was she a family friend? Who was she?

ES: She was a, not a real family friend, but anyway, she knew me because I was around a lot. I think her name was Tsuboi, and I know she's not living anymore, she's gone, because I remember when she died. But I remember I had her name in my address book even when we moved back to Portland, because she moved back to Portland, but she was ill at that time. And she didn't have any children. That was one thing. She loved Carol, and so she had her in a stroller and she had her with, had her naps together, and it was wonderful. I keep thinking about that lady all the time.

TI: Yeah, so that, having her there at camp helped a lot. What about the other side? Were there any hardships by being in camp versus if you were just at home?

ES: Well, baby food. Course you never think too much about baby food until you have a child, and you think, well, you can't have them eating that kind of food. They can't chew, they've no teeth. But I managed to bring home carrots and potatoes from the stew that we had. I'd make okayu from rice and feed them that if I were home. And it's amazing what you can get along with, but I really blame a lot of this allergy that my son has to wind and dust that we had to go through.

TI: So being exposed to that as a baby.

ES: Asthma. There's no way to keep that out of your home, which is sad, but that's one of the big reasons that he's in Hawaii. Because when he comes back here just to visit me his eyes start running and his nose starts running. I can tell that he needs a pill. But that's the only thing that I think is, just always gets to me.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.