Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Dorothy Michiko Ishimatsu Interview
Narrator: Dorothy Michiko Ishimatsu
Interviewers: Tom Izu, Tom Ikeda
Location: San Jose, California
Date: March 19, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-idorothy_2-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, it's March 19, 2012, and we're in San Jose, California, at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. And we're interviewing Dorothy Michiko Ishimatsu. So you were born where, can you tell us?

DI: June 17, 1927, Mayfield, California, which is now South Palo Alto. I think that's where it is.

TI: And what was your name at birth?

DI: Pardon?

TI: What was your name at birth?

DI: Dorothy Michiko Kobayashi.

TI: What was your mother's name?

DI: Ikuko Taketa Kobayashi.

TI: And where was she from in Japan?

DI: Iwate-ken, Japan, that's northern part of Japan.

TI: And what kind of work did your family do in Japan?

DI: Oh, they've always been farmers.

TI: And how did she meet your father?

DI: Oh, my father went to Japan, it was the picture type of thing, I think. Then they met, and it was agreeable on both sides, so they got married. And I think he brought her back to Mountain View.

TI: About how old was she went she got married?

DI: Oh, my gosh. About nineteen or twenty I think.

TI: Can you tell us what your mother was like, personality, and how she treated you?

DI: Oh, she was the disciplinarian in the family, Tom. My father would tell her, and she would transmit instructions to us. So my father was always a good guy.

TI: What kind of expectations did she have of you? What did she tell you she wanted?

DI: Oh, I had to go to college because I had to find a husband in college. And it worked. [Laughs]

TI: Was that a little bit unusual, do you think, for your peers at the time?

DI: I think it was unusual because I really don't know who among my friends my age in Mountain View even went to college. They were all daughters of farmers and they worked hard, and after high school instead of going to college, most of them went to work doing domestic work.

TI: So why do you think your mom had that expectation of you to go to college, do you know? Why do you think your mom expected, or wanted you to go to college?

DI: I think she didn't want me to marry another farmer. She was wrong. [Laughs] I married a farmer.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: I'm going to ask some questions about your father now. So what was your father's name?

DI: The Americans gave him, his landlord gave him the name Henry. Hikojiro Kobayashi.

TI: And where was he from in Japan?

DI: He was from Mie-ken, Japan.

TI: And what kind of work did he do in Japan, his family?

DI: I don't know what their family did in Japan. All I know is when he came here, he was sent by his parents. They were here first. Then when he came here, it was a big farming operation that his father had, and that was in Mountain View. Apparently he had a farm where he had tenant farmers who stayed in around the farm, and they harvested strawberries, other berries, and they trucked it to the city.

TI: About what year was that when he came over?

DI: Oh, my. He was eleven, so he was born in 1896, and eleven after that. My math is not good.

Tom Ikeda: So 1907.

DI: 1907? That sounds about right.

TI: And he was about how old, you said, eleven when he arrived?

DI: He arrived here when he was about eleven. He always said that. He never mentioned the year, but he was eleven. And he went to the same grammar school that my brothers went to later on, well, it was the same school district, different school. He had one of his old teachers even. That was interesting. The teacher told him that his father was a better student.

TI: So can you tell us a little bit more about what he was like, his personality?

DI: My father was very easygoing, he laughed a lot, he was musical. When I played the piano, he would dance to it rhythmically. So he had a musical ear. He was a very hard worker, but he never complained. He was very good in math, in mechanical drawing type things. He would invent mechanical things to make his equipment run better. He built his own blacksmith shop back at the barn so he could mould his tools that he would attach to his tractors. He learned all this from a Swiss blacksmith who lived around three houses away on Alma Street, he'd go over there and make the big sugar beet beds for his truck, shaping the iron to hold all that wood framing to back of the truck and have it lift up so it would spill the sugar beets over into the train cars, I guess. And after borrowing and going back and forth to the blacksmith, he just decided to build his own, and that's what he did. And we had the job of, you know the bellows that you have to turn to heat up the coal? That was my brother and my job. It was fascinating, though.

TI: And what kind of expectations did he have for you? You talked about what your mother wanted you to do, but what about your father?

DI: He didn't talk about things like that to me. He was just very loving. I guess he spoiled me. And my mother was the one that did the critiquing... he would talk through her, and I would get it. So I learned all the things that I think my mother wanted me to learn if I were an ojousan growing up in Japan. And so she had me take piano lessons, odori lessons, I didn't get around to ikebana, I did that on my own. And go to school, the upper grades, things like that. She wanted to send me to Japan during my grammar school years, but at the last moment she lost heart and couldn't do it. But she had the passport, my picture all ready to go, and at the last minute she couldn't let go of me. So I stayed and finished school, Mountain View. Oh, was I glad. [Laughs]

TI: You were the oldest then, right?

DI: I was the oldest, yes, uh-huh. And the only girl. So she wanted to bring me up like an ojousan rather than a farmer's daughter, I think. I didn't know the difference, I was just glad I didn't have to go anyplace. I was very relieved later when I understood all of this. At that time I was too young to know.

TI: Can you tell us more about your siblings? So you had just brothers then?

DI: I've got brothers. Oldest one was Albert Kazuhiko, second one is Robert Toshihiro, third one was Harry Mikio, and the last one is Roy Torao, born in the Year of the Tiger. Same as my mother, born in the Year of the Tiger. So out of the four, my brother Albert, an avid 49er fan. After a winning 49er game and on the bus coming home, he collapsed and died on the bus. And then my third brother Harry, during a holiday when his daughter took her sons to Disneyland, she came back during the holidays, Christmas holidays, to find her father lying in the hallway dead. And he had an aneurysm of the aorta, and that's what did, that exploded, I guess.

TI: And your two other brothers, Robert and Roy...

DI: Yes, now I've got two left. I've got my second one, Robert, he's down in the Los Angeles area at Huntington Beach, and I have one in Penn Valley, that's across from Grass Valley. Everyone knows about Grass Valley and they've never heard of Penn Valley, but it's neighboring.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up? You had four younger brothers, and what was your relationship like?

DI: Oh, I was the boss until the boys grew into their sub-teens and physically grew stronger than I. That's when I quit being boss, I guess. They became their own person, no longer under their big sister's thumb. And big sister became a mother's helper by then, helping with the cooking, coming home early from work to put the rice on, coming home from school, putting the rice on the stove. Anyway, I helped with the cooking, the cleanup, the housework, laundry, things that girls do in those days. So I think I was typical in that kind of sense. All my classmates worked on the farm after school. We went to Nihongakkou and then we went home and did what we had to do.

TI: And you were, this was still your, was it your grandfather's farm originally still?

DI: Well, I don't know. I've never met my grandfather. He was already gone back to Japan when I was born. And he was here during the early 1900s, I guess. And had the farm where he had other Mie kenjin farmers do a lot of farming under him. And he took care of the shipping of the fruits... not the fruits, but the berries and such. I didn't know about this until I read Bittersweet. I knew that my father had this trucking business where he trucked all these huge boxes of berries to the city. But I didn't know that it was part of this farming operation that Grandpa had. I found that out just reading about all the families who worked on the Kobayashi farm. And that was all news to me; they never talked about it.

TI: They never talked about that business?

DI: That era to me. So I never knew.

TI: So when you were growing up with your brothers, were they doing berries, farming berries mostly, your family?

DI: Oh, we just farmed on the Peacock Farm. He was an Englishman who leased out his farm in Mountain View. It must have been around sixty acres between the city limits of Mountain View and Permanente Creek, which used to overflow in the winter. And my father has always farmed as far as I know. But he was a man of many talents, but farming was his vocation, that's what he made his living on. And so his brother, his older brother also helped after he became a widower. He helped on the farm with the irrigating and such. The younger brother, my father, was the one who ran the farm. And my mother was out in the field helping him right along. He needed her.

TI: Did you help on the farm, too, and your brothers?

DI: Oh, we all worked out on the farm. As soon as I was able to pick berries, I picked raspberries, I picked blackberries. When the beans got ripe, I picked beans, I picked cucumbers. We did whatever the farm had, we harvested. And before we were able to do things like that, we played in the irrigation ditch in the water. We played with whatever was out in the field, the stacks of cannery crates, we built homes and houses and such and made paths, roads, and played out in the field. And so we, with the five of us growing up together, we never lacked for other children to play with. That's all I remember. We had the neighborhood children who were of Hispanic descent, my brothers played with them, and there were two older girls in one of the families, they used to come over and I played with them, but they were older than I. But I never needed other children to come over and play because, I don't know, somehow our lives were so busy just within our own big family.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Can you tell us a little bit more about your experience in school? So you went to...

DI: We went to the Mountain View Highway elementary school, and that's where I met all the other Japanese families. I knew the ones who were part of the Mie Kenjinkai group, because we used to have the kenjinkai picnics, and that's where I met the other children. I was too shy to run and get prizes, I was too shy to really socialize with them, but I knew them by sight. And they're all the people who came from Japan from the Mie-ken side. And then I would see them at school, and some of them will be in my class. But socially I was very backward, now that I think about it. Because I never had to socialize. I just grew up with my brothers, I climbed trees, I played out in the field, I just did boy-type things growing up. So having girls as friends was so strange to me. It was difficult for me; it was really difficult. Socially I was very shy. If I saw someone coming towards me coming home from school down Castro Street, the main street of Mountain View, my mother said she'd watch me, I'd walk to the other side of the street and come home. Or else I'll go to the library after school and I'll check out two books and I'll read the books coming home. I just didn't socialize. To me that was perfectly normal because that's what I was happy doing. I loved to read, I still love to read.

TI: Did it make any difference whether they were Japanese or not in terms of socializing? Did it make any difference between whether they were Japanese or not Japanese, how you felt about socializing?

DI: Well, they were just classmates. I was just socially shy with anybody. I think one of the main reasons was because when I started school I could not converse in English. I just spoke Japanese at home, being the eldest. And when I started to learn, I think I became very comfortable probably by the fourth grade. It took me a long time. Because I didn't communicate with other children, I didn't have a chance to use it, and therefore it took me around four years. By the fifth grade I was very comfortable speaking English. And I loved to help the teacher and so they would help me do work before class began. They'd have me do artwork, they'd have me do extra things in class that helped me out that way, because they knew I just didn't know what to do in a social situation, I guess. [Laughs] So it was difficult for me to play during recess with my classmates, because an individual type of thing, team play I would be part of a team. If it's a group play, I'd be part of the group. But I never did have too many close friends during grammar school. Maybe one. Yeah, Amy Mihara, I think she was the only one that befriended me, came home with me and kind of befriended me at that time, that's about it.

TI: So were you, how you and your family were treated? Were you aware of any discrimination being Japanese?

DI: How did my family treat me?

TI: No, now did -- I'm sorry, were you aware of any discrimination against you and your family being Japanese?

DI: No, not in Mountain View, because there were so many minorities in Mountain View: the Slavonians, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Japanese, we're all in that neighborhood all mixed together. We loved the Portuguese fiesta. There must have been a lot of Portuguese because we had this big fiesta down the main street of Mountain View. Everybody dressed up in historic costumes, it was fun watching.

TI: How about high school? What was high school like?

DI: I only had --

TI: I'm sorry, did you go to Mountain View High?

DI: I was in high school just a few months before evacuation came. I came home from school one day and my parents had packed everything under the truck and told me we were leaving for Utah.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Did you remember when Pearl Harbor happened? Do you remember that?

DI: Vaguely. We knew that Japan declared war, and we knew we were being noticed as looking like the enemy. So for the first time, I realized we're different from the rest of the people. And it was rather uncomfortable. It was just a matter of a couple months, but even getting our final grades from the teachers, it was uncomfortable because we got stared at taking our report cards to be graded, each class, they would give us our final grades, and because we didn't finish out the quarter, some of the teachers wouldn't give us our grades; they'd give us an "incomplete." It all depended on the teacher that we had. So some of them were very prejudiced, or else they're going by the book, I don't know what. But we turned in our report cards and then we came home. And then my parents were all set to leave. I was in such shock, I thought, "For heaven sakes." But in those days, we were not taught to question our parents' decision, so I just went along. I didn't question anything. I was never taught to question what my parents told me; I just acquiesced to it and said okay, and I did what they said. And we knew it was a very difficult time for them, and so we just went along.

And to this day, I really don't know which cars we took. I know we took a big truck with everything loaded. We must have taken either the pickup or the sedan, I don't know which, 'cause we had more than one car that we traveled across Nevada with. My father's nephew-in-law had gotten a Mormon farmer to sponsor us. They needed farm labor in Utah. All their boys had gone to war, and so he recommended his uncle -- this was my father -- who was a farmer and would know what to do on the farm. And so my parents agreed to go, and so he made contract with a Mormon farmer to take us in. They had housing for us. So we traveled across the country just towards the end of March when you were still free to evacuate on your own.

TI: Do you know much about why your dad decided to do this, to leave?

DI: Well, we didn't want the government to, I guess, round us up. And then when this nephew said, "We have a chance to go across country and continue farming under the Mormon farmers," that's his occupation, so he acquiesced and said yes and went.

TI: So on your trip, you...

DI: I didn't question it.

TI: It was your family and who else was with you when you, who else was with you on this trip to Utah? It was your family and...

DI: Let's see, our family and the Nakamura family, that was his nephew-in-law, Fred Minoru Nakamura, and his wife Miyo, his two children, Stanley and Susan. And then halfway through Nevada we acquired the Sugimoto family, who had split up from their caravan. They were headed towards Colorado, but the younger brother had an argument with the older brother and he decided to join us and go to Utah instead. So we had the three families, the Nakamuras, the Kobayashis and Sugimoto. So we went to Orem, Utah, which is right next to Provo, where BYU is located.

TI: Oh, before you talk about Orem, what happened to the family farm back in Mountain View?

DI: Oh, the family farm, we had Filipino workers who came annually, and two of them, they came every year. And they, we turned, my father turned the farming operation over to them because they were familiar with the farm and the equipment and what we did. And therefore they stayed in our house, and the seasonal workers would be put up in the barrack that was on the property. And so the two Filipino men took care of the farm all during the war years, and they lived in our house and took care of it and the garden. And Mr. Peacock oversaw everything, I guess, financially, the contracts, etcetera. So they were there until war was over, and they knew we were coming back and so they left before we came back.

TI: So you took off and you traveled, I don't know how many days it took to get to Orem, do you know?

DI: Gee, I don't know how many days we took. Those days are like a blur.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Can you tell us what Orem was like, your impressions when you got there?

DI: Well, the Mormon people were very friendly; we were thankful for that. They didn't show any prejudice. The families were very friendly, and I was trying to remember the name of the family that we worked for. I forgot the first family's name. Anyway they had a large house plus a smaller house. We took over the smaller house which had a basement. So the Sugimotos lived in the basement, we were on the regular floor level, and then the Nakamuras took over the main big house that the farming family had, not abandoned, but left to us to use. So the Nakamura family took over that house with their two children. So that was a... I was trying to remember whether it was a brick house or a white wood house. It was white, so it must have been wood. But on that farm they had strawberries, they had chicken coops, there were cherry trees, it was like being in Santa Clara County. And the weather was nice, too, because it was springtime when we went there. We didn't realize it was going to snow in the winter.

TI: So what was your life like there? So you had to do a lot of farm work with your brothers?

DI: Well, after school and during the summer we did a lot of farm work. During the school year, I transferred right into the latter part of my freshman year into Lincoln High School. My brother and I were there. Let's see, my brother... I was in the freshman year, and he was... the high school and the grammar school I think was on the same property, so we were all together there. And the teachers and the classmates were all very friendly. I think the teachers explained our situation to them. So there wasn't any bad feelings or anything. The only time we had discriminatory remarks made was when we went to Provo. We parked the pickup, and then we saw some schoolkids going by, young kids, and they happened to see us sitting in the front of the pickup and said, they just stopped and pointed and said, "Look, Japs. Real Japs." It just took us by surprise because we didn't encounter anything like that anyplace. And that was the first time we heard remarks made at us directly by anyone there in Utah. So that was our first encounter with discrimination, but it's by children who didn't know any better, I suppose.

TI: And so you spent, can you tell us any more about high school, what happened, the most memorable things about high school?

DI: Oh, in high school, they have a program -- because it's a Mormon country -- they have a thing called a seminary where they would like their high school children to take, besides the regular high school classes, some Mormon classes like church history, Old Testament, New Testament. And so not knowing anything about anything, I just agreed to whatever they recommended and I took the end of Old Testament, I took a whole year of New Testament, and it was interesting. I'd never been exposed to it before. And they had dances after school. I don't remember how frequent it was. I never did social dancing before, I just watched. And so... and I helped out with the lunch program because it was suggested I help out with the serving. So I said okay. So I guess that was one way of introducing me to the rest of the student body, of my face, dishing out the food so they can see who I am, I'm just like the rest of them. And that was an interesting experience, too.

And their programs in P.E. were slightly different, not quite like California. They had things like, for the girls in P.E., "Posture Parade" where they all march in all kinds of formations like you see out in the football field. And I used to watch because I had never seen anything like that before in P.E. class. It was interesting. And it was the P.E. teacher's responsibility to train the whole group of girls in P.E. to go through all these different formations: circling, out of the circle, lined up, etcetera. And I was, they didn't seem to mind my watching them, so I watched and got to know familiar faces from my class and so forth. They got to know me. And I had two good friends who befriended me in my grade level and they kind of sheltered me and took me around and showed me around. They were really nice. So I was very comfortable at Lincoln High School.

TI: Were they Mormons? The friends you made, were they Mormons?

DI: Oh, they're all Mormons. They were all Mormons. Even the one Japanese family in Orem, they'd been there since the railroad was brought to Salt Lake City, and I guess the father must have worked, or some member of the family must have worked for the railroad, building the railroad. And so there was one Yasuda family who lived in Orem, and so Mariya, they called her, M-A-R-I-Y-A but pronounced "Mardiya," she more or less introduced me to the various parts of the high school and to the teachers, and she was my guide. She was in the upper grades, but they excused her just to show me around. She was very nice. And so there were always a couple girls who kind of took me in hand at Lincoln High School and later on at Jordan High School, too.

TI: So you went to a different high school?

DI: Yes.

TI: Did you move yet? Because I think you moved once when you were in Utah?

DI: We were in Orem for two years, then we moved to Sandy, Utah, for one year. I graduated from Jordan High School in Sandy. There I met another family, the Mori family. I think the youngest son is now a representative in Congress. Anyway, I met Yukiko Mori, the sister, older sister. And Nobuo, Nob Mori. And I knew there was an older one, Shig, but I never really knew him socially. I just knew Nob and Yukiko, and I didn't know the younger ones at all. And then there was Ruth Naruo. I met her after the war a few years ago. And then Lucille Nagashima from San Jose, she was there. And so Lucille and I became very good friends with Yukiko and Ruth, so the four of us kind of stuck together.

And they would have... what is it? Oh, yeah, I had another discrimination type of thing at Jordan at their social dancing. Nobody would really ask me to dance. And one boy would talk to me. We were up against the wall talking, and he dropped the comment that if I were white, he could really go for me. I thought, "Oh, gee, gosh." [Laughs] So that's the only incidental thing that happened that I thought, "That's not very nice." Kind of nice in a way, but not nice in another way.

So other than that, I graduated from Jordan. I think we had a little program during graduation, and I had a line that I had to say nice and loud. I forgot what the line was that I had to speak up, stand up and say, but they all heard me because my voice was loud, even then. And then after graduation, I think we had a graduation dance in Salt Lake City at one of the big hotels there. And Henry Kasai, the insurance man, was... I remember he was one of the chaperones. And he danced with all of us, and he was a very good dancer. Then I went to the University of Utah after that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Oh, before you talk about your university experience, Dorothy, you visited some of the internment camps while you were living in Utah.

DI: Oh, yes. While we were there, let's see, was it during... I'm trying to remember, was it during the time we were in Orem or was it in Sandy? But I remember visiting. First we visited Colorado, Fort Lupton, during the winter, and visited the Watanabes who were Mie kenjin friends. Then we visited Delta, Utah, and visited Topaz camp. Because we had the Hayashis, relatives by marriage.

TI: They were in Topaz?

DI: Hayashis and the Ishizakis in camp. My mother baked a turkey and we took that still hot turkey and put in the trunk, made gravy and took it down to Delta to Topaz. And because it was still warm in the trunk, the gravy just got bad in the trunk, it spoiled, but the turkey was okay. And they really enjoyed the turkey, I remember. One thing I remember about Topaz was dead of winter, it was cold. On the back part, north side of the barrack, they had put a frame, flooded it with water, and it was frozen, and that's where they kids were ice skating. I thought, "Oh, how neat." That's all I remember about Topaz.

And another trip, we went to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, during a snow blizzard in Cheyenne. We could hardly see. Went through Idaho, to Cheyenne, and up to Heart Mountain. And I remember trying to get into a car, the key, I couldn't get the key into the lock, it was frozen stiff from the ice and moisture. And somebody came to help me. I don't know how we got the key in there. Maybe he lit a match or something, melted the ice. But it was dead of winter, so I really couldn't see what type of a social life, or really didn't visit too many people. My parents were there to visit friends, fellow Mie Kenjinkai, Mie-ken people. And I didn't know too many people, so I just don't have too many memories except the ice and snow and traveling in that condition. And I don't even remember where we stayed in camp while we were visiting. Details like that are just gone.

TI: Do you remember, did you get to walk around in the camp then pretty much, do you remember?

DI: No, I don't remember. We must have not walked around too much because it must have been slushy and cold and snowy and frozen. It wasn't the best time of year, but that's the only time my father could get out of farm work. And he liked to travel.

TI: Do you remember how you felt going to the camps?

DI: It was just another place to visit, and I saw faces of familiar friends, and I really, like I say, I wasn't that sociable, and therefore I was just comfortable within my own family group, and I felt secure within my own family group. And therefore I really didn't miss other social contacts that much. I knew of them and I socialized with them when we visited, but it was not an important part of my life at that time.

TI: Did your family talk much about the camps?

DI: No, we were too busy working, too busy working so hard. In Sandy we had workers from Topaz come and help with the labor, because we had tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, onions. And Mr. Toone, the landlord, had horses. My brother Albert loved it, 'cause he loves riding them. He saw the neighboring boy riding his horse, and so he got up on the farm horse and he learned to ride, too, and he learned to control them. He was very adventurous. The farmwork, we had, the Hayashi family joined us in Sandy, we got them out of Topaz camp. And they came and we had this, the Toone family provided housing, it was like a shack, barrack, small short barrack, and so we were in one half, Hayashi family was on the other. Then we had a separate barrack where we had young men from Topaz who did the farm labor, extra farm labor, they were housed in the other small barrack.

And one time, my mother had to go to the dentist in Salt Lake City, so she left me in charge of their meal for dinner. Oh, my, I think the poor men starved because I didn't know how to make much. [Laughs] And so they had plenty of rice, I think. I made chicken noodle soup out of a dry mix, Lipton's chicken noodle soup, dropped egg into it, but I swirled beaten egg into it. So they had soup and rice and I don't remember. I think I made salad. For hard-working men, it was a very light dinner. When I thought about it later on in the years afterwards, I thought, "Oh, the poor men that night. They must have been so hungry afterwards." But I just did my best; I didn't know any better. My mother said, "Oh, make the rice, make the soup and the salad," and so I did. She forgot to mention any protein, so they didn't get any except for the egg in the soup.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So, Dorothy, you went to the University of Utah, too, right, after high school?

DI: Yes, I did. I completed one semester. I think they were on a semester basis. My parents went back to Mountain View earlier, and I said I wanted to stay and finish out the school year, I mean, school semester. So I stayed a few months beyond that, packed my one suitcase, put on my gabardine suit, my high heeled pumps, checked out of school, got my grades to transfer over to San Jose State, got my application for transfer, went to the train station, got on the Southern Pacific, went across that Salton Desert into California, traveled by myself. I couldn't see out the window, it was just completely full of dust and stuff, I couldn't see out. And the train went to Oakland, and from Oakland I transferred over to the ferry to go over to San Francisco. And from San Francisco to the railroad station, the Southern Pacific. And from there I went to the Mountain View depot. Then I walked three blocks home carrying a suitcase in my heels. I don't see how I did it. And another thing when I think back, it was safe. I was very innocent, I didn't know about dangers that could occur, and it was safe in those days. And I just came back by myself, and I had no fear. I just merely asked where to go, where to check in, and bought my ticket. I just walked home.

TI: So your parents...

DI: They were working out in the field.

TI: And they heard, when they were still in Utah, they heard it was okay to go back to California? Do you remember much about that?

DI: They were in Utah and they heard it was okay to go back, and so they gave notice to the Toone family, the landlords, that they were leaving to go back home. And they just left, they packed up and left.

TI: And then you decided to stay...

DI: And I decided to stay because I was staying at a private home with another classmate, Helen Shimizu, who was a, the family lived up in Cottonwood Canyon, they had a home there. So she and I roomed together at this Japanese family, and we took the streetcar to college, to the university from there.

TI: So you just decided to stay on your own.

DI: So we were on our own. I wanted to go to college 'cause my mother had brainwashed me all those years, I had to go to college, so I went. And I just did what I was told. I was never taught to really think and give any type of argument. It never even occurred to me to even say no, I just went. That's just the type of brainwashing I had early on. So I did what my parents told me, and then I transferred over to San Jose State, mostly women there. And then that spring quarter, the veterans came, and that's when I met Bob and your father. They were always together.

TI: So when you went to San Jose State, were there many Nisei there at the time when you first got there? That was in, what year was that?

DI: I graduated high school in '45, and the veterans came in '46, spring of '46, I think, because it was the following spring they came. And then I found a fellow Mie kenjin family friend, Claire Funabiki. And so she and I palled around. I also found another friend from Nihongakkou days, Alice Nishimura.

TI: So when you got to San Jose --

DI: And then I found Lucille Nagashima that I graduated Jordan High School with. She was there at San Jose State. Yeah, there was quite a group of Japanese students. And once your father and the veterans came, there were quite a few Japanese then, lot of Chinese. So there was a Chinese student club, and the Japanese students organized the Deltans club. They said it was a service club; it was actually a social club just to get to know each other.

TI: So there was an influx, and they were all the Nisei who were veterans in World War II coming back?

DI: Uh-huh. They were all older men.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Now you had said you weren't very sociable.

DI: I was not very sociable, but when I took the so-called entrance examination and the tests at San Jose State, part of it was on personality. And I got called into the personnel office, and one of the counselors, she saw my test scores on my personnel deal and she was worried about me. She said, "Your test scores show that you don't like to be in a social group? You don't like people?" I looked at her and I lied through my teeth and I said, "I'm not afraid to be in a social group. I like people." And I decided right then and there, there's something wrong here. I've been perfectly happy being by myself and just having a few friends, but apparently that, according to my interests on the test, it showed that I was antisocial. I was very introverted. And I said, "That's not right." So I guess part of my mother came through and I decided, "I'd better straighten up here and do something about this." To have a counselor worried about my test scores, I'd better do something. And so that's when I decided to socialize more and get to know other people.

And the Deltans organization became my social outlet. The YBA, Young Buddhists Association in Mountain View, I became a part of that through the Sunday school, 'cause I was the pianist for the gathas, singing the gathas, and assisted with the Sunday school teachers. And so I became also a member of the so-called Mountain View girls club called the Debs. So it was from one extreme to the other in my life at that time, and I had a ball. My brother Albert, the oldest, thought I had gone utterly mad. [Laughs] He said, "Oh, Mom's gone wild." Not mom, "sister's gone wild." So I said, "No, I'm just having fun and these are really nice people that I'm getting to know." And after that, it just opened up a whole new world for me just because of the counselor's statements interpreting my test scores. I just turned over a leaf like that. It was really something. And I started being a more social person. I learned to talk too much. But I realized I'd been missing a lot up to that point. It's been fun ever since. And your father, Tom, was an organizer, and he and Mary made a really good combination organizing outings.

TI: Can you say a little more what the Deltans club did? What kind of things the Deltans club did while you were there at San Jose State?

DI: Well, I think, I just remember the social part of it because it was all new to me. We went to the beaches, we went to Golden Gate park as a group. Just getting to know each other, and we had socials with the Chinese club on campus. Mainly that's all I remember, 'cause I had activities with the Buddhist church side, too, and I got to know a lot of people there, and within the Sunday school group and the YBA group. And various hanamatsuri and the holidays, we'd have stage performances, and I would teach them the so-called folk dances that I learned in the P.E. class at San Jose State. We'd do that as part of our YBA performance, our contribution to the program, things like that. So I became a more outgoing person.

TI: So can you tell us a little bit more about the relationship between the Nisei men and the Nisei women? Because it sounds like they just kind of arrived and they were all older guys, because they had missed some years, right, because they were returning veterans?

DI: Well, I found that the Nisei men, one on one, they're very nice, they're very quiet and on the shy side. All in all, I liked them. At dances, if was fun. They would all line up on one side of the gym, we women would all be on the other side of the gym, they'd all kind of come over to the women's side to ask us to dance. They had to do it all together to give us, give themselves more courage, I guess. So I learned to social dance up to a point, 'cause I never did have lessons. But all we did was walk, walk, walk, anyway. And when it came to jitterbug type of thing, I wasn't in camp. Only the ones who were in camp jitterbug. So I'd just stand on the side and watch, enjoyed it.

TI: Did you notice many other differences between yourself and the Nisei who were in camp?

DI: Yes, they were a heck of a lot more sociable, and they enjoyed the dances. They already had friends galore. That was a big difference. And I had to start from scratch. I felt like, kind of like an outsider trying to work myself in, and little by little, I got more comfortable.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Now while you were at San Jose State, you met your husband, your future husband, Robert, Robert Ishimatsu.

DI: Because he was always with your father, Doug Izu. Because Doug was the leader and Bob would always be following. And so I loved Bob's smile and his sense of humor. And then by the junior year and senior year, everybody had more or less started to pair off. So just naturally occurred that I paired off with Bob. I'd been out with the other men, but I ended up with Bob.

TI: Was his background similar to yours? He was actually, he also went to Utah, right? He didn't go to camp.

DI: He didn't go to camp. His family went to southern Utah, 'cause his father led the family plus relatives, and they were the labor force. They volunteered as labor force for the Utah farmers. And I think they went to... I'm trying to remember a name, Logandale was one of the names. That was Nevada. In Utah it was Cedar City. And then Bob and Doug both got drafted into the army. I don't know if that was from the Nevada site or the Utah site, I don't remember. And then when we were in Sandy, Utah, the tomato plants that we ordered were from IKI Farms, and I found out later, oh, that was Bob's dad's farming operation where he grew tomato plants. Then when we came back to Mountain View, my dad ordered from IKI Farms, bell pepper plants. Then I realized, oh, that's Bob's father's farming operation. So somehow it was meant to be. [Laughs] After Bob graduated -- I graduated in '49 from San Jose State, and then Bob graduated just a quarter later, I think. So I was in spring and he was after the winter quarter. And then his father drafted him to be the accountant, to do all the bookkeeping for IKI Farms down south in Indio, California. And so right after graduation, he left for Indio. I never saw him until that summer, following summer.

TI: And what were you doing at that time, after you graduated?

DI: Well, we had decided to get married, and so we were engaged anyway. And then after he came back, during the summertime, we just prepared for the wedding and got married in August, that summer. But in the meantime, he got experience doing accounting work and all that, farm work. He was a farmer who never farmed; he was always in the office doing all the figures, the payroll. 'Cause they had to do all the borrowing of money for the farming from the banks and make sure at the end of the farming season, paid back the loan. He said that was his job, borrowing money and then paying it back.

TI: So what did your parents think of this?

DI: He didn't know the first thing about farming as such.

TI: What did your parents think of this, when you started dating Bob?

DI: Oh... I think my father was already gone by then, it was just my mother.

TI: When did your father pass away?

DI: Let's see, I graduated in '49. So he must have passed away in '48, just before I graduated. I don't like to remember figures like that, it's not in my head. I just know the events that happened.

TI: Now, your mom...

DI: Yeah, my mom... oh. I think she was very happy overall that I found somebody. 'Cause she wanted me to go to college all those years, from the very beginning she brainwashed me to go to college to find a husband, and by golly I did. And then I gave her two grandchildren while she was still alive, so she was very happy about that. Yeah, even though we lost our firstborn who was a boy, we lost him through cancer, but we had five girls after that. Gave up after the fifth. Bob says, "That's enough." He can't get up anymore at nighttime, he's too tired, for the feedings. [Laughs]

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Dorothy, I was going to ask you, when you got married, you knew Bob's father was I.K. Ishimatsu, who was a pretty big deal in the Japanese American community. Did you think about that much?

DI: No, I didn't think much about that. He was the most wonderful father-in-law a daughter-in-law could have. He and his, and Mom, they were such good in-laws. I could not have had anyone better. They were such wonderful grandparents to my girls and my son. They were there taking them to the beach, to the amusement park, no business entered into our relationship, it was all social, being grandparents, and they were always so generous with me. And I know one of my... not one, more than one, had always said I was so lucky to have in-laws who can speak English. That made a big difference with them.

TI: So your father-in-law, I.K., he did speak English pretty well?

DI: Oh, he was bilingual. Everything was English. My mother-in-law spoke English, my father-in-law spoke English, I never spoke Nihongo to them; I didn't have to. So I didn't realize my friends had envied me, because they had to speak Nihongo to their moms, all my Mountain View friends, none of them could speak English to them. So I didn't realize how fortunate I was. I just took it for granted, I was so lucky. Really lucky.

TI: Now when you got married to Bob, what kind of expectations did he have of you as the wife? Did you have some differences in views about what you were supposed to be like and do, and can you tell us something about that?

DI: Oh, my goodness. We really were not that conversational type of a couple. Because we basically knew we wanted a family, that I would be taking care of him, and that he would be the provider. Basically that was the setup. And within that framework, we took trips, we did things, I went to adult ed. classes, and we took turns with the children and he would put them to bed, I would go to my adult ed. class just to get a change of pace from changing diapers. We just worked things out between us, and my mother-in-law would watch the children while Bob and I went to some function. And we never really, we were never verbal in that sense, discussing our lives. We just kind of fell into it and just worked itself out. And if we wanted to do this, we just brought it up, said, "Okay, we'll have to get a sitter, we have to do this." Or as the girls got older, we knew they could take care of themselves. We just put Lorie in charge or had my sister-in-law come over and stay with them, and we would take off on our little adventure. And it just all kind of worked itself out. We never argued about things too much, it was just kind of... I don't know. Our daughters said they never heard us argue. And when I thought about it, that's true, we never did argue. When their friends would ask, "Don't your parents ever have fights?" Said, "No, we never even heard them argue." So I guess they're right, we never did.

TI: Can you tell us more about Bob? He was introduced to Christianity when he was in the army.

DI: Yes, he was.

TI: And you were Buddhist still.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So can you tell us more about that, and then also about your family life in relation to...

DI: Oh, that was interesting. I was brought up Buddhist, and that's where I felt comfortable, with the Namu Amida Butsu. And Bob was very Americanized. He, in a way, rejected his Japanese heritage when the war started, even before then. He was forced to take kendo, he rebelled, and he just quit. He just did... I think he said he did omen over his teacher's head, and he was let go from class. So he didn't have to go back anymore. But he rejected learning Japanese at Japanese school, he said he's an American, born in America, why should he learn Japanese stuff? He could never understand that. And of course, in the army, I think they give out the New Testament to all the soldiers. Anyway, he could understand that, whereas the Japanese with the language, it was all over his head, and therefore he went towards the Christianity in that sense. And then his field man, Bill... oh, I forgot his last name. He was with the Wesley church.

TI: That was his buddy in the army? His field man when he was in the army?

DI: When he was in the army he got introduced to Christianity, and he more or less stayed with it. And he felt uncomfortable in the Buddhist church, so he wouldn't go with me. And so I just stayed out of the Buddhist church just to keep him company on Sundays, and then he decided, he got talked by his field man that, oh, he'll take the girls to church if Bob's gonna be too busy on Sundays. Bob said, no, no, he'll take the girls to church. And so he started taking the girls to Sunday school at Wesley, and I stayed home with the little ones. But the older ones got to go, although they didn't understand why they had to go to a Japanese church. They always complained, "Why can't we go to a neighborhood Christian church," where they have friends. That was the only thing they were unhappy about.

TI: And Wesley is the Wesley United Methodist Church in Japantown here.

DI: Japantown, Wesley United. And so the children all went and I said, "Okay, you go during the time you're at home. And once you leave home, you're on your own, you can choose whatever church you want. So until then, you go to Wesley and you learn about Christianity, and I'll go through church with you on Sundays to see how I feel about it." But I felt very uncomfortable, so I decided to go back to the Buddhist church on Sundays. So while the children went to Wesley, I went to the Buddhist church, and Bob went to Wesley church. And that's the way it went. After they all graduated and went to college and nobody was at church, Bob still went to Wesley church. I'd drop him off, and then I'd go over to the Buddhist church. And that worked out fine. And for Obon festivals I'd bring the girls over to give them some inkling of what Japanese matsuri would be like by having them join in the Obon festival dancing.

TI: So you wanted them to learn more about Japanese culture?

DI: Well, I've always been interested in Japanese culture. I told Bob, "No matter what you say about being American, you look Japanese. You might as well know something about your background." No matter what I say about being an American, I'm an American citizen, yes, but I'm of Japanese background, I should know something about it. It's nothing to be ashamed of; I'm what I am. And he accepted that after a while. It took a long time for him to accept the fact that, "Did I marry a Japanese bride?" [Laughs] Anyway, he learned to accept it. It took a while.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And you had five daughters, right?

DI: Yeah, I had five daughters. He was a very good father to them, he taught each one of them how to drive, ride a bicycle, first of all, and he taught each one as they came along, driving age, he taught them how to drive, took them to the parking lot, made them learn, helped them with their driving. And he sent every one to college. He got every one of them, he would hand over one of our cars to them to take to college if they needed it at that time. Or after college if they needed one he'd give one of our cars. But he told them, "This is your budget, you work within that budget." And by golly, they did, just like I did. I have a budget per month, and I work within that, and I did. So he was very good in all the practical areas of bringing up kids, being married, budgeting, building a house. He knew I had background in home planning at San Jose State. So the second house he said, "Okay, we have our fifth daughter coming, we need to have a bigger house."

TI: This is in San Jose, where your house is.

DI: Yeah. And so he said, "You draw up the house any way you want," within this limited budget that he had. Within this, we had Sam Nakagawa, the contractor, "He will help you." And so I did the house planning with elevations, the floor plan, within his parameters, the square footage of what he had, but he was able to supply dollars and sense wise, and it worked out. And we found a lot to fit. I had planned this without even having a lot in mind. So we had to go look for a lot that the house would fit on, that was fun. And there were a few lots that were wide enough to hold the house. So we found one in Saratoga with a school close by, it had to have a school close by. We found one in San Jose, just a half a mile from there. The contractor was getting rid of, didn't want that lot to build on, so he had it up for sale, so we bought it because my house fit, barely, right on that lot. And it's worked fine all these years.

TI: So the neighborhood that you built your house, where your raised your daughters, that area was, it was mostly a white neighborhood?

DI: The first neighborhood was white. Sam Nakagawa built the house. I didn't know anything about building at that time, or that Bob would even allow me to think about such a thing. Apparently the realtor came around the neighborhood and asked the neighbors if they would mind having a Japanese family move in. And the neighbors told me later, "We didn't mind. Heavens, what's the problem?" So we were there quite a few years until our last daughter was going to be born. That's when Bob decided, "Okay, you plan your house the way you want it. I don't want to hear any more monku. You work with Sam again and build it." So we did. And it's worked out fine. He gives me leeway up to a point. That's been the way all our lives. He'll say... if I get too rambunctious, he'll just go, "Whoa, Nellie," and draw back. I said, "Okay." I'm very flexible.

TI: So did that also apply to how you raised the daughters? Did you have concerns how they would grow up in this neighborhood, that the last house you had was mostly a white neighborhood?

DI: Uh-huh. And the second house was mostly a white neighborhood. We had a Chinese neighbor, and there were Japanese families in the neighborhood, too, they were there. And so it was kind of mixed. There were more Japanese families in the second neighborhood where we are now. So that was no problem. We just learned to get along with everybody.

TI: You wanted them to develop some sense of being Japanese American?

DI: I wanted them to be proud to be, have Japanese as part of their background, nothing to be ashamed of. We're all American citizens of all different colors.

TI: So how did you do that with your daughters?

DI: With my daughters? I just did it by example. I just did things Japanese, and I said, "It's nothing to be ashamed of." That's what America is all made up of, all the different peoples from all over the world, all over the country. They come from Europe, they come from Africa, they come from everywhere, and we're all Americans. That's the main thing that unites us. But we all have some special things that we can be proud of in our background, our culture. A lot of things in our culture that we can be proud of.

TI: Well, I know you are pretty, you developed some pretty high level skills in traditional dancing, Japanese dancing, flower arrangement and all of those things. Did you pass those on to your daughters, too, and what did Bob think of all that?

DI: Oh, he didn't complain at all. He knew that's the way I was. During the childbearing years, I would escape into the adult ed. classes. I told him, "We're paying property tax, supporting adult education, why not take advantage of it?" And if I take sewing classes, tailoring classes, I can help the family with the children's wardrobe, and that'll cut down expenses. We're always watching expenses because we're setting aside money for college. And so I took classes that would benefit the family, not just for me. So I took tailoring class, alterations class, just general sewing. And I would make two sets of everything for the girls. And I had the girls so brainwashed, they told me later, they thought it was a privilege to get hand-me-downs from the older sister. They could hardly wait for the older sisters' patent shoes, for the older sisters' dress with a matching coat with a pretty lining, they could hardly wait. "Mom, you had us so brainwashed that that was a special privilege." I guess I did a good job. [Laughs] Anyway, they didn't want for anything.

TI: So the expectations you had for your daughters, was it similar to what your mom had told you?

DI: Well, I always told them, "I want you go to college and I want you to have a good education that you can use for your livelihood later when you graduate. I want you to be able to support yourself, be a good taxpaying citizen. I don't want you to be like your mother where you have to have another man to support you the rest of your lives. That's the old country thinking. You're an American, you have all this opportunity that we're giving you to go to college. You can choose any line of study that you want. Just make sure when you're through with it, it's something that you can put to use to, so that you can go out in the world and support yourself. That's all I ask." And so they all did; they all did, each one. I'm amazed. They did a good job for themselves. We supported them all the way. I was so proud of them. So now I'm relaxing doing nothing. My job's done. [Laughs]

I have one granddaughter; she inherited the mathematical engineering smarts from the Kobayashi side and from the Jacobson side, because my daughter married Randall Jacobson, he's a mechanical engineer, terrific person. And oh, he can do anything. And the daughter inherited the math ability, so she's looking for a good school to go after engineering degree. She's a junior in high school right now, so she's got to start thinking about colleges. She would love to come to California. They're living in Arizona right now. They've been in Arizona all these years. So we'll see how she does. We're encouraging her to apply for a scholarship, then she would come directly to California. But we'll see. Arizona has some good colleges that she can complete her lower division work and then she can transfer. But her parents will help her then, and Grandma will help her.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Your husband Bob passed away, when was that?

DI: It's been hard since he passed away.

TI: Not very long ago, was it?

DI: It's only been about ten months, yeah. Passed away in May. More than ten months. I thought I was all right, but when I think back, I've just been in a fog, I think, thinking I was all right. And I'm doing things I never had to do before; he did all the office work, the tax work, and it's all new ground for me. It's very difficult for me; it's not my field. So I'll be better next year, I'll know what's involved. But this year, it's been very difficult. So I had my brothers help me, my daughter helping me, and just keeping my fingers crossed that once this year is over and I've gone through this one whole year of being by myself, that it'll be better next year. I've gone through it, I can do it next year. But I've been fooling myself for a year that I'm doing okay, and I really wasn't. I'm just kind of starting to come awake, and there's all kinds of things that need doing. And what's worrying me is my memory is... my short term memory is really getting bad. And I think that's just part of the shock of losing Bob, too. I'm just kind of running away from it, but I've got to get my feet on the ground and get myself together this coming year. So as long as... I think my heart's just fine. We'll find out.

TI: Are there any other stories you wanted to share in the meantime?

DI: Oh, I don't know. All my life has been taken up getting the girls into adulthood, and now they're seniors themselves. My last one is going to be fifty this Sunday. That really makes me feel old. And they tell me, "Mom, makes you feel old? We feel old, too. We can't believe we're in our fifties." So somewhere, somehow, the time has passed, and it's hard to believe, but I want to see how everything turns out in the next five to ten years. I hope I can. We'll see.

Tom Ikeda: I just have one question going back. During the war you went to Utah, and you came across quite a few Mormons. And I was just curious how the Mormon religion or Mormons accepted Japanese Americans in Utah?

DI: Oh, they accepted us just fine. As far as our family is concerned, I think at that time, we were their source of labor; they really needed us. And so they were really good about befriending us, but they didn't try to brainwash us to get us into their religion or anything. They would bring it up... if we wanted to, we can come and join their... I don't remember. It's called, some kind of a get-together that they had, it's a socializing type of thing, but we never went. But they would have, at the end of a fruit season they'd have big canning get-togethers, they would invite us, my mother to come and join them for the canning. She did her own canning. But they were always hospitable. And we were just accepted and very comfortable with them. We knew how strong their religion was with them, but they didn't try to really shove it down our throats. They kind of gently introduced me to the New Testament and the church history and things like that. But if I had any knowledge of it, and they had more... what is it, stronger personality, more analytical mind, I would have probably said something. But as it is, I just went along with everything. I accepted what they told me and just went along with it. Which is fine; I learned a lot. No, they were very good to us.

TI: Thank you, Dorothy.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.