Densho Digital Archive
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Title: Molly Enta Kitajima Interview
Narrator: Molly Enta Kitajima
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: San Jose, California
Date: March 20, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-kmolly-01-0001

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TI: Okay, so Molly, I'm gonna start with just where we are and the date, so today's Tuesday, March 20, 2012, and we're in San Jose at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. And I'm interviewing Molly Kitajima, but Molly, the first question is, can you tell me when and where you were born?

MK: What do you mean when?

TI: Yeah, when were you, what's your birth --

MK: Birthday? I was born October the 10th, 1925, in Vancouver, British Columbia, at a midwife home.

TI: Now, was that pretty common for people in Strawberry Hill, to go to Vancouver, for their mothers to go to Vancouver to deliver?

MK: Yeah, either, or the midwife came out to the house.

TI: Okay. And what was the name given to you at birth?

MK: They were going to give me away. I didn't find that out 'til I was sixteen, but I was the sixth child in the family and it was very, very hard times. So the Japanese schoolteacher, the principal and his wife in Vancouver, wanted a child, and so they asked my mother and father, and so they didn't even give me a birth certificate because they were intending to give me away. But I guess after ten days my mother was there and she did not give me up. But when I was sixteen and I went to the train station to see another schoolteacher off on the train, the lady asked me who I was and where I was from, and I overheard her talking to the husband, saying, "Well that, she would have been our child." So I was very surprised, and when I went home and I told my mother, I said, "Why did Sato-sensei say that?" And she cried and she said, "We were going to give you to her, them." And she says, "I should have because you would've had a way better chance, greater education, everything." But so at that time I found, and I couldn't figure it out, when I went to school I didn't have a birth certificate, so the teacher said, "Well, you can't come to school. You have to have..." So I went home and I told my father that I don't have that paper that'll let me go to school. And my father said, "Oh," so my father went down -- so it was 1932 that I got a birth certificate.

TI: So for the first seven years of your life, six or seven years of life, you didn't exist in terms of the government.

MK: As far as, yeah, as far as the Canadian government was concerned. 'Cause see, I guess the way that, to make it very simple, I guess they would've just had me registered as their daughter, their natural birth child, I guess. But that was really the way they used to do it.

TI: Now, your, you mentioned when you told your mother that you saw Sato-sensei and she cried, why do you think she cried?

MK: Well, it was really funny, because when we were, when I was gonna go to high school, well, it got, really got to be hard times, and my father said, "No, the girls don't need to go to high school." So I was jumping up and down and saying, "I wish I was born in the Watanabe family," or something, see? 'Cause all my girlfriends were going to high school. And my mother said, "Remember when you said that you..." she said, "If you had been..." you know. But I learned after that they did adopt a child, but that child they sent to Japan. And so I would've been raised in Japan, never mind about, about being in the family.

TI: What a good story. So it's interesting because your mom was actually feeling a little guilty that they couldn't provide enough for you to go to school.

MK: Yeah. Well, it was very, very hard times 'cause it was, the, everybody, the Japanese people in town, they used to come to our farm and we used to load them up with all our, all our vegetables and stuff so that, 'cause they were all having a hard time. I could remember they loaded their cars down with produce because, I mean, that's just something to eat.

TI: Okay. And so when you were growing up, what did people call you? What was, was it Molly, or was there a Japanese name?

MK: Well yeah, it was Mari.

TI: Mari. But that's just how they said Molly, you mean? Mari?

MK: No, but the given name they gave me was Mary.

TI: Mary.

MK: Yeah. But when I went to school, when that teacher, when she said, "Mary," five of us jumped up, so she said, "Oh, we can't have this." So she said, "Well, what do they call you at home?" And I said, "Mari." And she said, "Oh, that's Molly."

TI: [Laughs] Okay.

MK: So that's why I was Molly from the time, I didn't even know my name was Mary, or registered Mary.

TI: So you thought it was Molly, or Mari, Mari.

MK: Yeah.

TI: Okay, got it. That's a good story. And did you ever have a Japanese name?

MK: No, but my mother always called me Mari, Mari.

TI: Mari.

MK: Yeah, my father too.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.