Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Molly K. Maeda Interview
Narrator: Molly K. Maeda
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 17, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mmolly-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Thursday, April 17th, and we're in Seattle at the Densho office. And today, this morning we have Molly Maeda to do an interview. So, Molly, I'm going to start from the very beginning. Can you tell me when you were born?

MM: Where?

TI: Yeah, where and --

MM: In Dee, Oregon, November 23, 1919.

TI: And Dee, Oregon.

MM: Well, like here would be Bellevue, Bothell, all those. It's Hood River County and it's about thirteen miles out of the city of Hood River.

TI: Okay, so it's like a suburb or small town.

MM: Not a town, no, it's (in the rural) country (...). Fruit growers, cherry growers, (strawberry growers, and a sawmill).

TI: Now, when you were born, did they have, like, a hospital or a clinic that you were born in, or were you born at home? Where were you born?

MM: That I don't know. (...) Because Dee is the East Fork (at Hood River and there is the West Fork) and we're right in between there. There's the mountain (range) here, and it's a big sawmill, quite a good-sized sawmill, and my dad worked there. But that would be after Snoqualmie.

TI: Okay, so let me back up just a little bit.

MM: He came when he was nineteen and worked in Seattle, the Snoqualmie area railroads.

TI: Okay, so he worked at the old Snoqualmie sawmill, too, or just at the railroad?

MM: Not the sawmill, I think more the railroad he worked. And then he made enough money to go back to Okayama and get a bride. And then my mother came.

TI: And so, first, tell me what was your father's name.

MM: Yasuta.

TI: Yasuta. And the first time he came to America, how old was he?

MM: Nineteen. (He was born in 1885).

TI: And do you know about what year that was? Do you know like what year he came? Like 1800s or 1900s?

MM: (1904).


TI: Going back to you, what was the name given to you at birth?

MM: Molly? You mean Mariko? Mr. Yasui gave it to me, my mother always said, because my face was so round, they named me Molly. You know, in Japanese, that's ball, "molly" is a ball.

TI: Oh, so like Molly, even though it's kind of a European English name, there's a Japanese meaning for "Molly," too?

MM: No. Mariko, and then when I started going to elementary school, they started calling me Maniko or something, they couldn't spell it right. They thought the "r' was an "n." So then it became Molly in grade school.

TI: I see. So let me make sure I understand this. So the name given to you was Mariko, and that was...

MM: Mari, short.

TI: And that was kind of like a round face.

MM: Round face.

TI: But then later on in elementary school, the kids couldn't say Mari or Mariko.

MM: So it became Molly.

TI: Molly.

MM: Picked it up in elementary school.

TI: And the name Mariko came from Mr. Yasui?

MM: Mr. Yasui.

TI: So he looked at you and said --

MM: [Laughs] My round face.

TI: Okay, that's a good...

MM: Big round face.

TI: And then let's talk about your siblings right now. So can you tell me your, like, older sister and younger sister and younger brother, their names?

MM: Mikie is M-I-K-I-E, Mikie, is Japanese.

TI: Okay, and how much older was she?

MM: Two. We're all two years apart.

TI: Okay. And then you came next.

MM: Then I came next.

TI: And after you?

MM: And then Lena. It's Lena, but it's Rinako, R-I-N-A-K-O.

TI: Okay. So people had a hard time saying...

MM: Lena. Then they called her Charlee after a while, she got a nickname Charlee.

TI: And then after...

MM: Then after that, my brother Bob is Yeichi. His Japanese name is Y-E-I-C-H-I.

TI: Okay, good. And all two years apart.

MM: Yes. Oh, I made a mistake on my dad. It's Yasu they used to call him, but it's Yasuta, T-A on the end.

TI: Okay, Yasuta.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: And how much, tell me a little bit about your father's family in Japan. What did they do in Japan, or where did they come from?

MM: Okayama. In fact, the whole family, I wonder if there's a picture there. (Our) whole family went to Japan before they passed away, the grandparents. That was when I was ten years old.

TI: And in Okayama, what did your father's family do?

MM: Over there? The grandfather you mean?

TI: Yes.

MM: Rice farmer. Rice farmer.

TI: And so why do you think your father came to America when he was nineteen years old?

MM: Adventure. He came this way and his younger brother went to South America for adventure. But he contracted a tropical illness in South America and passed away, so he didn't get to enjoy South America. I think Brazil, I think it was.

TI: That's interesting. So why didn't they come together to America, or go together to Brazil?

MM: I don't know. They just separated. My dad came here, and the younger brother went to South America. They both wanted, I guess, adventure, see what was across the ocean.

TI: And how would you describe your father? What was he like?

MM: Hard working, real hard working. We had a small farm, yet he wanted all of us to go to school. Worked hard, "You have to go to school."

TI: And how about his personality? Was he talkative?

MM: (Yes), he was pretty outgoing. He played the shakuhachi flute. But it was a community of mostly Japanese farmers. But there were enough of us to have built a big white community building with a stage and social hall and school, we had Japanese language school. And they hired teachers from different places, and they came and taught us Friday afternoon after school and Saturday mornings, they taught Japanese.

TI: Well, so earlier you talked about your dad first going to Snoqualmie working with the railroads, and then he went back to Japan.

MM: To get a wife.

TI: To get a wife.

MM: Came back, made enough money to go there and come back, and then they... oh, I skipped that. At the Dee Sawmill, which was a pretty (big) sawmill, he worked there. There was a boarding house there, and all Japanese single men had come from Japan evidently, and my mother was a cook, became the cook there.

TI: Okay, so this is after, so your dad went back to Japan, married your mother, and they came back and they found a job...

MM: (They worked in the hop fields of Independence, OR, then later) started working at Dee Sawmill.

TI: The Dee Sawmill.

MM: There were quite a few Japanese working there. They were, I believe, all single men. I remember that boarding house was very (simple), no rug or anything like that, just board, little rooms here, little room there, these single men, and my mother cooked their meals for them.

TI: Now, were there very many other women that lived in...

MM: Not that I remember.

TI: So your mother was, I guess, unusual in the sense that she was one of the few women.

MM: And she cooked until they could (move up to Dee Flat). That's where my dad farmed. But they had to clear that land. It was brush (and trees), and they had to dynamite and clean it all before they planted any trees.

TI: Okay, so I was reading a book, so I guess a lot of that land used to have lots of timber, they would cut it down, and then there would be stumps there.

MM: Oh, they had to dynamite.

TI: So they had to dynamite, which was, I guess, very, very difficult.

MM: They (didn't) have those diggers like they have these days. They did it by hand and some horses.

TI: And so this was after he did the Dee lumber.

MM: Dee. Then he, I guess, had enough money to start the farm, and that's where all the Japanese started farms all around there.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Going back to your mother, what was your mother's name?

MM: Ichino, I-C-H-I-N-O.

TI: And do you remember her maiden name?

MM: Bichiu, unusual. B-I-C-H-I-U.

TI: Bichiu, okay. And I'm guessing she came maybe from the same area as your father? And do you know --

MM: They were in Okayama.

TI: And do you know what her family did, her father?

MM: Gee, no, I don't. I don't know. But she lived to, I think she was about a hundred three, my mother's mother.

TI: Wow. And did she ever tell you what it was like coming to America for her? Did she want to come to America?

MM: I don't know that, whether she wanted to come or not. (...)

TI: And what about the age difference? Were they about the same age or was your father older than your mother?

MM: (Father was born in 1885, and Mother was born in 1894. Mother was nine years younger.)

TI: And then it sounds like right away, then they started having children? That's when Mikie, you, Lena and Bob?

MM: Lena and Bob were born up at what we called Dee Flat, up on the farm. We were born down there by the sawmill.

TI: Okay, good.

MM: But they all have passed away. I'm the only one left in the family.

TI: And when you think about your mother and father, what kind of relationship did they have? Did you see them interact very much, and did they talk very much? How would you describe them?

MM: Real happy, I think, and they enjoyed the Japanese community, and we had all kinds of programs, you know, holiday celebration in the community building. Community building was built right across the (road) from our fruit farm.

TI: Oh, so this community building was in Dee.

MM: Dee, right in Dee. The Japanese built that, had help, but they built that big building, and now I notice it's all torn down and gone.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So tell me how large the Japanese community was in Dee. How many people, Japanese people were there?

MM: See, I don't know how many people. I couldn't tell you that, but I know the whole flat was what they called the Dee Flat. Majority of farmers were all, practically all Japanese farmers (and a few Caucasian farmers. One Caucasian owned a poultry farm, and one Caucasian owned a dairy).

TI: Now, when, like when you have like an event at the community hall, how many people would be there? Would it be, like, filled up with people?

MM: Oh, about a hundred or more. Then we had New Year's celebration down in the social hall down in the basement, and we'd all get together and it was full. Hundred or more if all the families get together. It was just a close-knit community, and they were all fruit farmers at that time.

TI: And when they all got together...

MM: Programs.

TI: Yeah, were there a lot of families like yours, or were they mostly, like, men?

MM: Oh, farmers. And they're farmers and strawberry growers, lot of children. There were several families I think had about seven, eight children, big families.

TI: I've read during this time that in those early years, the fruit growing and things like that was pretty good, I mean, the people could make a pretty good living off the land.

MM: Yes, it was. But now a majority of the young people went into professions, but every once in a while some child would stay and took over the farm, but there are not nearly as many Japanese farmers there now. They're taken over by Caucasians.

TI: But if I go down to Dee now, I could find maybe one or two or a few farms?

MM: Oh, more than that. I think more than one or two, because they've got Kiyokawas and Imais. Oh, golly, there aren't very many. No, there are only a few.

TI: I'm curious, I'm going to go down there, I'm really curious about this.

MM: They became dentists, doctors. But some, like the Yasuis now, the boys, my sister's two boys went to Oregon State and graduated in agricultural economics and forestry, but they came back to the big farm, Ray, Chop's farm, they took over.

TI: Going back to that community center, describe what kind events would happen there? I mean, what would be a typical reason for a hundred people...

MM: Getting together?

TI: Yeah.

MM: The big one was New Year's. But then other times, Fourth of July, something like that.

TI: So describe the Fourth of July. What would happen?

MM: Just everybody'd just gather and meet, talk to each other. And then when we had a teacher, we learned Japanese dances and we had a little play, and we'd have a stage, entertainment.

TI: And so would the children do the play?

MM: (They were taught by the Japanese teachers). And then when they have just a meeting, and somebody from Japan come visit or something, they'd have play, like my dad would play the shakuhachi, and different people like that.

TI: So when your dad played the shakuhachi, at what point in the program would he do that? Would that be at the beginning or the middle or the end? When would that happen?

MM: Oh, just amateur entertainment.

TI: And then going back to the Fourth of July, so that's usually maybe during the day.

MM: Just like a picnic, but at the community hall (or sometimes out to a park).

TI: So would every family bring food?

MM: Everybody. Sometimes they cook a little in the kitchen.

TI: And then when people brought food, would it be shared with everyone, or would every family just have their own food?

MM: They'd put it out there, and some people would share it (...)... but it was a community thing. (Everybody knew everyone, very friendly gatherings).

TI: And then what would the kids do on Fourth of July?

MM: No special thing, no special thing. They just played with each other. Well, later they built tennis court right outside, too, but all of that is gone now, the big building. My folks' farm was right (across the road), and that building was right here and the tennis courts and everything.

TI: So it sounds like your family was about the closest to the community center?

MM: We'd always get the, oh, one teacher came from Portland and one teacher came from California, another teacher came, dance teacher came from Japan. For a short while, teachers. And then they had an organization that they contacted these people, so we'd have somebody.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: And was some of that Japanese language, too? Did you have a Japanese school where you could learn the language?

MM: I only took three years and I hated it. [Laughs] I wished I hadn't... but the little I learned, I know more (than my two daughters who took Japanese courses at the U of WA).

TI: And this was, and the school was at the community center?

MM: Right there. They built wooden long tables, built them for us, so we always sat in (wooden) chairs, it was full. All the children came out.

TI: Yeah, so for a class, how many children would be at the Japanese school?

MM: At the Japanese school? Gee, there are different grades, but... oh, how much would I say? Maybe fifty.

TI: And then each grade, how many students would there be usually?

MM: I only went one, two, three, but they took, I think, about four or five grades. But by then it disintegrated.

TI: So if you had four or five grades, fifty, so maybe about ten students per, ten Japanese students per grade?

MM: About that many. I remember those wooden tables that the farmers built. They didn't buy them, they built them. But then we had wooden folding chairs, but they bought those. But I remember those rough tables. They're not polished tables, but they were substantial. We had a (...) potbelly stove for heat in there.

TI: Now, you mentioned you didn't like to go to Japanese school. Why was that?

MM: Oh, we used to think, "Gee, all our Caucasian friends don't have (to). (They) can go out and play on Friday afternoon, we have to go to school, go there from four to six every Friday." Saturday morning, nine to twelve.

TI: Okay. And the teacher came from Portland or something?

MM: Portland, California, different teachers. Mrs. Tsuji from Portland, Dr. Emi, I think he came from California, but different people. Then we had dance instructor, and then we'd also learn, what do you call that? Not calligraphy, but we learned sumi painting, we'd have that. And here's the big building, and here's a ditch (across the road) and here's our farm. So in our ditch we used to go there and rinse out our brushes, I remember. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so that's where you and all the students would rinse?

MM: We could clean our brushes there. There was running water if we went downstairs, but...

TI: Now who would organize all this?

MM: Who would what?

TI: Who organized all these activities?

MM: (Teachers organized painting classes). Just like everywhere else, they had sort of a group of men. Somebody would be in charge, chairman or president. I remember a couple years my dad was, then Mr. Imai was, and Mr. Sato was. They'd take turns as the leader. (The parents found new teachers).

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Earlier you mentioned when you were born, Mr. Yasui gave you the name Mariko because of your round face. But he lived in Hood River, right?

MM: Hood River city, yes.

TI: Yeah, so that was...

MM: Thirteen miles. Thirteen miles.

TI: So how frequently did the Yasui family come up to Dee?

MM: Come up to Dee?

TI: Or the Dee people went down to Hood River?

MM: Mr. Yasui was the voice for practically all the Japanese in the valley. I mean, when they have a meeting about the fruit, what they should do or what they should spray, he was, he'd come around and talk with the people. He was sort of a volunteer, just a helper all the time. So he'd come around. But he, also opened a little store, Japanese store in Hood River, so he was there part time. But usually his brother ran it.

TI: This was a store in Hood River?

MM: Hood River city. There's a building named Yasui building now, it's called Yasui building there.

TI: And so for the families when they needed to get supplies, they would go down to Hood River city?

MM: It had Japanese food. Not like Uwajimaya, but there was quite a bit there.

TI: Okay. And how often would families like your family go down to Hood River city?

MM: To Hood River city? Not too often. To shop there, only about once in, I think, several weeks or so. But when they had to drive the truck with the fruit and take it to Hood River, they'd go every day during the harvest season. They had to haul it in.

TI: And so during the harvest season, that must be a really busy time.

MM: Busy time.

TI: Everyone was working. Like for the kids, what would you have to do?

MM: We all had to work. When there were strawberries, we had to hoe berries and get the weeds out and everything, pick berries, pick apples, pick pears. We all had to work after we came home from school. Didn't hurt us, though, I guess.

TI: No, that sounds good. When you talk about school, let's go to your regular school. I guess the first question, with so many Japanese, how many Caucasians were in your class?

MM: In the valley, you mean in Dee Flat?

TI: Yeah, in Dee Flat.

MM: Oh, I'd say about (two)-third Caucasians and about (one-third) Japanese, I think. (There was only one elementary school in Dee and Dee Flat. The majority of the sawmill workers were Caucasians.)

TI: Okay, so the majority of the people there were Japanese. And was that the same in the regular school, there were more Japanese?

MM: (No. Many farmers were Japanese, but the majority of the sawmill workers were Caucasian). Oh, yes. Our school was the elementary school, it's still standing there. Now Hispanics are living there as a home, but the nice elementary school was still there (...).

TI: And what was the name of the elementary school?

MM: Just Dee Elementary. And we had to walk about a mile, no buses. [Laughs]

TI: And so how large was your class at Dee Elementary, when you went to school?

MM: How what?

TI: How large was your class?

MM: Twenty, twenty-five in each class, and then eight classes, all eight classes. Then we had to go to Hood River junior -- middle school, they call it middle school now -- junior high for freshman year. And then Hood River High School, sophomore, junior, senior.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So the junior high school in (Hood River city) was only one year, or freshman year?

MM: The junior, yes, one year. And we had to be transported thirteen miles every day by bus.

TI: Down to the Hood River...

MM: Because there wasn't any other.

TI: But going back to your elementary school, about twenty-five students, so that meant maybe about eight to ten were white, and the rest were Japanese?

MM: About twenty, twenty-five in each class. (Fourteen were Caucasian and seven were Japanese). It was a nice school. We had a baseball diamond in the back, had a big auditorium in the center.

TI: Now were there any difficulties or tension between the whites and the Japanese?

MM: No.

TI: So you got along really well?

MM: Not that I... no, those days, no. There weren't any other minority groups at that time. Now I think there are, but they were just either Japanese or Caucasian.

TI: And the Caucasians, what ethnicity, I mean, what countries did their parents come from or their families come from? Were they from Europe, or from what countries?

MM: There were a couple of Italian families I remember, but they're all just European, just Caucasian, I believe. And they worked at the sawmill, because the sawmill was right here along the river, they had little residential homes here. And then all, sawmill people all lived there.

TI: Did any of them, were any of them also farmers, too?

MM: Not those people that lived down there by the river, by the sawmill. But there were a few farmers up on the Dee Flat, and some raised chicken and turkeys and farmed a little. And others, several had farms, but Japanese was majority of the farmers up there.

TI: And how did the workers get along with the Japanese, the workers who were at the sawmill, the Caucasian workers? How did they get along?

MM: Oh, they seemed to be just fine.

TI: So it sounds like at Dee, there was really good, kind of, race relations back and forth between the whites and the Japanese?

MM: I didn't think they had any trouble, we never did. We had Filipino and Hispanic workers coming in to pick food even then, but not too many. Not like right now.

TI: Because I was reading the book Stubborn Twig, you know, that book, and they talk about maybe in Hood River city, that sometimes there was tension between the whites and the Japanese. And I was just curious what it was like in Dee.

MM: Well, we didn't feel it in Dee, but I guess there were in Hood River more, I think. But they were really against us when the wartime came.

TI: Well, we'll get to that later. Because next you talked about taking the bus to go to school. So describe that, what was it like when you made that transition from the Dee Elementary...

MM: Elementary school?

TI: Hood River city during school.

MM: Well, I think we just integrated okay. We didn't feel anything. No, it was an old junior high, so I remember it was an old building right in Hood River. And I don't know why they didn't deal with the high school for four years, but it's three years, it was. But now it's different. Now it's completely different. They have one big high school, Hood River High School.


TI: And so there were fewer Japanese?

MM: (The majority of the Hood River city people were Caucasians. The Yasui family were the only Japanese living in the city. The Japanese farmers lived in rural Hood River County areas, as Dee, Odell, Oak Grove, Pine Grove and Parkdale.)

TI: And so what percentage would you say were Japanese?

MM: Oh, gee. They're also Hood River, not just Dee. They were Oak Grove, (...) Parkdale, different sections. A few Japanese farmers, but they were all farmers. Gee, there weren't too many of us, I couldn't say exactly how many.

TI: Like in a class, maybe if you went to one of your classes...

MM: No majority, no, very minority.

TI: But maybe, like, three or four?

MM: In a class, yes.

TI: And were there ever any problems now in Hood River when you had more whites than Japanese, or was it about the, still the same?

MM: Oh, it's about the same. We didn't feel any animosity then, it was the war time it got bad.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Let's go back to Dee. When you had free time, what kind of things would you do in Dee?

MM: Oh, what did we do? We'd just visit, swim, go wading in the pond, homemade pond in the farm, and my neighbor Sato would be, they dug a big place where mountain water would come down, and we'd go wading in that. Oh, when they had the tennis courts, then they started playing, going to play tennis. They didn't have golf and things like that then, no. Just fishing, lot of fishing, because a lot of stream, you know. So they can go East Fork, West Fork, Hood River, go swimming, go fishing, things like that.

TI: And how about things like hunting? Did a lot of people hunt in Dee?

MM: In Dee?

TI: Like your father, did he hunt?

MM: (Yes, he went hunting once a year with Caucasian friends to Eastern Oregon for deer).

TI: Going back to your father, you mentioned that he played the shakuhachi. Did he practice a lot at home?

MM: Rainy days. Other days, he worked every day, worked, worked.

TI: And where would he play in the house on a rainy day?

MM: How would he what?

TI: Where would he play? Where would he practice?

MM: Oh, in the living room he practiced, uh-huh.

TI: Now, for shakuhachi, would he have, like, music to follow, or did he just play?

MM: Just played. We tried, we always tried to blow a note and couldn't do it. He had two of 'em. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, no, I've tried that, too. It's really hard to just get a note.

MM: My daughter has one of them right now, and (one relative) in Hood River has one, they still have it.

TI: You talked about the house, and I saw a picture of the house, and it's a pretty nice house.

MM: Oh, the house? You mean you have a picture of the... when it was still in one piece? The last time we went, the Hispanics were using that as, like a cabin, staying there. So it was all run down.

TI: But describe the house when you lived there. How big was it, how many rooms did it have?

MM: Well, my dad helped build it. It was, we had a living room and a bedroom, and then we had a big kitchen clear across, and not separated, the dining room was here. And we had outhouses those days, but since the war, we had bathroom with running water and everything. Oh, we had to pump the water, well, (in the early days).

TI: And how many bedrooms did the house have?

MM: Two upstairs, but the steps just came up and divided the two, and downstairs, one.

TI: And so where did you sleep?

MM: Upstairs.

TI: And who did you sleep with? Who else slept in that room?

MM: Older sister.

TI: Okay, so two of you were...

MM: Two of you.

TI: And then your parents? Where did they sleep?

MM: Downstairs. And then my... let's see now, how did my brother... oh, they had, I guess they had two bedrooms, my brother and my younger sister. I can't remember where my brother slept.

TI: Maybe in a twin bed upstairs?

MM: Upstairs? It was clear across, so it was big. So stairs came up here, oh yeah, there were there two beds, I think, in that room.

TI: And you said your father helped build that house? So who helped him build the house?

MM: That I can't remember, but he helped, he did a lot of it. And then later on he built a tool shed, and he built a double garage, he built all that. He built also a couple cabins for the workers, too, on the farm. He built most of it.

TI: No, I, again, it's a beautiful home.

MM: Oh, it was at that time. And he was particular. The big lawn in front was just so... in his time, when he had it, he's working on that lawn to make it nice and big lawn, my mother would tend to the flowers and (they were) particular... now it's just full of fruit boxes piled up in front, and no lawn anymore. (...) Hispanics used it (as their home). The Japanese farmer bought my dad's place, too, so Kiyokawas, they're a big farmer, so they needed a lot of cabins for workers. Lot of Hispanics, many Hispanics.

TI: And when did the family sell the farm?

MM: After we came back from the war, and then my brother... I can't remember the date, but about ten years or more.

TI: So in the '50s, kind of, late '50s.

MM: And then my brother just sold that and started working for the Apple Growers Association in the office, California Spray (Co.)

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Now when your family owned the farm, how large was the farm?

MM: Only ten acres, very small.

TI: Only ten acres? [Laughs] And what was on the farm?

MM: Ten acres, but then there was a swamp right here, and then more land was cleared for strawberries, so there was, afterwards, I think there was another five acres or more.

TI: Oh, so ten acres, fifteen.

MM: But the nine, ten acres was very small. Everybody else had big farms.

TI: And what did the family have on those ten acres?

MM: Apples and pears, those days. But now they're changing more to, I understand, to cherries and things like that.

TI: And do you know what kind of apples and pears the family grew?

MM: What kind?

TI: Yeah, what kind.

MM: Nowadays they have hundreds of kinds. We only had Red Delicious and Newton, (...) and Gravenstein. Oh, we had Winter Bananas, a little bit of Winter Bananas, pale green with a little pink cheek. Now they had... oh, I don't know how many kinds they have in the (stores now). There are so many. They had very few (these days).

TI: Now when you look today at the apples in the store, how did they compare to the apples that you grew on your orchard?

MM: Oh, they were good. They were good, but then they're expensive. There weren't such things as, like the Honeycrisps that costs $3.99 at QFC, a pound. They're good, but I guess ours weren't that good. [Laughs] They weren't as good as Honeycrisp.

TI: Well, when you, so when you eat a Honeycrisp today, you think that tastes better than the apples at your orchard?

MM: Then there's Fuji and Braeburn and Gala, all kinds now. I haven't even tried a lot of those new ones. (Honeycrisp is especially good!)

TI: You can't even find a Red Delicious anymore.

MM: I think at Washington State, there are researchers and they're trying different things, pretty soon they're going to come with an apple that's red inside. They're talking about that.

TI: Now when you were growing up in Dee, like in your high school level, was there much dating going on amongst the boys and girls?

MM: Not much. No, not much then. We'd go to dances, just single, just as a single. Oh, talking about what we did in the wintertime. (...) My dad would make skis with wood like this, curved up like that. We'd ski on (our) bottoms, go down the hill, we had hills, and we'd just, in fact, we just made with nothing, I think, those days. We just, everybody just enjoyed themselves. A few people had skis, but you didn't have nice outfits or anything like that, we just went out and played in the snow. My dad would use wood and cut it, big tub outside, make a fire and get that wood in there, so it'd get curved, and they'd wire it, make "skis."

TI: Now would you ever go up to Mt. Hood and ski?

MM: No, we skied just around the area. Oh, we'd go to Mt. Hood, too, because that's only about twenty miles or more away. We'd go visit, but we didn't ski.

TI: So you'd just find a hill by your place...

MM: Around our farm. Down the road, not many cars come by, so we'd just go down the hills.

TI: And in the winter, would you get quite a bit of snow?

MM: (Lots of snow).

TI: Good.

MM: We'd buy sleds. They had sleds those days. But we didn't have all these fancy things to play with those days, you know. The farmers (...) worked very hard. They worked very hard to make it with the families. We had soup (in) cold weather; we had soup served in the basement of our school, elementary school, and I noticed that a couple families I remember, they couldn't pay for the soup for their children. They had about six, seven children. They'd bring potatoes and dry onions and things like that, carrots, they raised, in exchange. They had a struggle, some people were having a hard time with the big families, so they'd take that.

TI: I mean, it was during the Depression, too.

MM: Oh, yes. We used to hear that some people never used soy sauce, they used salt (during the depression days).

TI: But at least the farmers had food, I guess.

MM: Yes. Oh, they all raised big gardens. You couldn't give away great big tomatoes (they) would rot in our garden, I remember.

TI: Because everyone had tomatoes.

MM: Everybody raised, yes, they raised practically all the vegetables, everything they could.

TI: But it was kind of interesting when you were talking about, so in the basement of the school, it was like a hot, that was the hot lunch where they'd always have hot soup.

MM: Hot soup to supplement our sandwiches that we'd bring from home. They had a hired couple, lady in the kitchen to make the soup.

TI: That sounds good, especially during the winter when it's cold.

MM: It was very good. It was very little that we had to pay, I can't remember what it was.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Now going back to high school, what year did you graduate from high school?

MM: High school? Now that's... here is junior high, and right in Hood River High School, too, was Hood River High School, three years. And that was a big football field and everything, that kind of a thing. So there were quite a few Japanese, but not that many.

TI: And so you must have graduated in, what, 1937?

MM: '37.

TI: And tell me a little bit more about high school. What are some memories of going to high school in Hood River?

MM: Hood River High School? It was a nice, new high school, three years. We had all kinds of activities there, glee club, plays, everything. It was fun.

TI: And after you finished high school, what did you do?

MM: Then went to Oregon State.

TI: Now, was that common for women to go to college at this time?

MM: Not so many women, more men, though. But then they gradually started going. They had big families, they all went. But then some came back and became farmers, others went on (as) professionals.

TI: Now, to go to college, was that something that you wanted to do, or your parents thought you should go?

MM: My parents were always, since we were little kids, "You have to go to school, you have to go to school, or you won't be any good. You can't take it away from you." And they also said we had to go to Sunday school, had to go to Sunday school, and they were Nichiren Buddhist until after the war, they became First Methodist. But they insisted. And it was held right at that elementary school, we didn't have a church in the country, in the auditorium. We'd go to school, it'd snow. You know, would be pretty close to Mt. Hood, so we'd have up to our window sometimes. My dad said, "You have to go to school," so he'd get boots up to here, and he'd make footsteps, like that, and we had to go in those footsteps and walk a mile to school. We never missed.

TI: So he would go before you just to make a path so you could go to school.

MM: Go to school. Oh, he didn't want us to skip school or anything. Very strict about that.

TI: And so when it came to college, he also wanted you to go to college? Did he tell you what you should study?

MM: No, no. So my older sister Mikie was a teacher, and I took business and secretarial, and we both got scholarships. Tuition was, I had scholarship the last year, and she had scholarship one year, too. It was only ninety dollar tuition then.

TI: Was that how you chose the college you went to?

MM: Oregon State?

TI: Yeah, because you got a scholarship there?

MM: I don't know how we both chose Oregon State. My third (sister) went to Oregon State, too, but got to finish only, not quite two years, the war came.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Before we go to Oregon State, I forgot to ask about the church. So you talked about going to church, were there Christian churches at Dee also that the Japanese went to?

MM: (No, a community Christian church held in Dee School auditorium). Hood River Japanese Methodist Church. And they had a building, too.

TI: They had their own building?

MM: That's how I met Henry Itoi and Bill Yorozu, there were two, only two people I knew in Seattle. They used to come to Young People's Christian Conference, it used to be called, just community, the young people would meet.

TI: So the Methodist church was very active, and they would have things that...

MM: Yes. Quite a few Japanese were there.

TI: Now, when you mentioned that the Buddhist, Nichiren Buddhists met at the school? Why did they meet there and not the Japanese community center that was by your house?

MM: By my house? TI: Yeah.

MM: Did they? No, they didn't meet in Dee. (The) Methodists met in Hood River, city Hood River. We didn't have any... and they only went, they weren't active, the Buddhists in Dee. They went to Portland when there were special occasions. They had to travel to Portland, I remember my dad would, too. Because there wasn't any organization in a place like Dee (on) Hood River. But there was (an active Methodist group that met in Hood River).

TI: But then for every Sunday, I thought you said they had services at the elementary school?

MM: Oh, that was at the (Dee) elementary school (church service). (A community church service on Sunday school. At that time, no church in Dee).

TI: I see. So if there was, like, Obon or something like that, would they do...

MM: Portland.

TI: Portland. Would they do Obon sort of, any kind of services in Dee, like Obon dances or anything like that?

MM: No, they didn't. No, it wasn't organized.

TI: Yeah, I forgot to ask about that.

MM: But I know the Methodist was, because they had a group.

TI: So let's now go to Oregon State. And so what was that like for you in Oregon State? This was kind of a, pretty far away for you.

MM: I guess I was brave. I didn't feel like leaving home was a difficult thing. I guess maybe I learned from my older sister.

TI: Because she was there at the time?

MM: She was there, yes, two years ahead of me.

TI: So when you went to Oregon State, where did you live?

MM: Dormitory, in dormitory. I don't think there were any Japanese in sororities or fraternities at that time. I don't know of anybody that even tried to apply to any. But they were friendly.

TI: And how did you like Oregon State?

MM: Oh, I liked it real well. I studied hard.

TI: [Laughs] And what were some of the things that you loved about Oregon State? Besides studying, what were some other things that you did?

MM: Oh, we had councils, meetings, and different groups in our dormitory, about three hundred, so we had groups, and I joined. I joined them (...), went to the Oregon coast before school started the next year to discuss what we're going to do. I joined, and my sister joined in journalism and different things, too, so we did okay.

TI: Now, did you do things like go to football games?

MM: Yes, football games and everything, yes. Helped with the prom, the dances. We helped.

TI: Now, on the football team, I think I read this someplace, that there were either one or several Japanese who played on the football team?

MM: Yes, and it was sad because Jack Yoshihara, the football player, he didn't get to go to the Rose Bowl because the war came on. He couldn't go that year. But he got a ring, I saw him with the ring. He passed away recently, yes. And then the baseball, there was, Ko Yada used to play baseball on the baseball team. Those are two athletes in the school I think I remember. They took part quite a bit.

TI: And at the college level, how about your sister and you? Did you start dating when you were in college?

MM: Yes, we went to dances, went to a lot of dances.

TI: And were there quite a few Japanese at Oregon State?

MM: Yes. Oh... no. I think about, now there's more, but more like, maybe twenty. Not that many. About five girls, and then all the others were boys. So we got to go to dances a lot. [Laughs]

TI: So it was a good ratio if you were a woman, you had fifteen guys and five girls.

MM: But there was International Club and different things that they went to. So they were very friendly. It was a small school, only four thousand at that time, much bigger now.

TI: Now during this time was there any, like, interracial dating? Did, like, any the Japanese date non-Japanese, whites or other races?

MM: No. We had a Japanese lady from Japan there, I remember one lady. But increased, there were a lot of them later on. We were only five or six women, and all the other men, but now there are many.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Now when you decided to go to college, what did you think you would do with a college education? After you graduated from college, when you're in college thinking about this --

MM: What I was going to do?

TI: Yeah, what did you think you were going to do?

MM: Work in the offices, and that's what I did. I was working in the administration building for the registrar when the war broke out.

TI: Okay, so let's talk... so after you graduated, you got a job in the registrar's office. Now, why did you do that and not go back to...

MM: Hood River?

TI: ...Hood River.

MM: Oh, I went back to Hood River for a few months, and I worked for a lawyer, but they called me.

TI: The Oregon State people?

MM: Oregon State, the registrar's office, they asked me to come.

TI: Now were you working there, like, part time as a student? Or how did they know about you and want you back?

MM: My grades, I guess. Phi Kappa Phi. They didn't have Phi Beta Kappa then, I don't know whether they have now or not, but you had to go to University of Oregon to get Phi Beta Kappa. But Oregon State only had Phi Kappa Phi.

TI: So were you one of the top students at Oregon State when you were there?

MM: Luckily I was.

TI: So when you say luckily, tell me a little bit about that. I mean, how good a student were you?

MM: Oh, we had a certain grade point average. After I made the four-point, then they invited me to join.

TI: Oh, so you had a four-point grade point average?

MM: Not for the whole four, no! But for that year when they chose me for Phi Kappa Phi, I got four-point. Three-point-six, three-point-eight.

TI: For the whole time you were there? But that one year you had four-point, which is perfect. You got As...

MM: Yes, that's the year, the junior year, that they chose. I had Alpha Lambda Delta as a freshman, sophomore, that was underclass honor.

TI: And so the Oregon State people wanted you back because they knew that you were a really good student?

MM: I don't know. I don't know who suggested they call me to come. I don't know.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And backing up just a little bit, on December 7, 1941, where were you when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MM: I was in a lady's building. She had a boarder, and I was there at that building, and I remember two Caucasian friends came over and said, "Did you hear that?" And I had just heard it in the evening. But then I had, from there I had to walk every day quite a few blocks to go to the registrar's office.


TI: But going back to you, your thoughts when you heard about the bombing, and then you saw the two other women who told you about it, what were you feeling?

MM: I thought, "Oh, no. What will I do? What will happen?" I didn't call my parents. I thought, "Well, I've got to quit the job and go back home because we had to leave." Then I thought, well, I'd better do something about going home. And we couldn't travel on Greyhound or train or anything. So my good sociology professor and religion professor helped me. They helped us get on the Greyhound to go home to Hood River. That's how I got home after I had to... well, I worked from, until end of March, and then (in) May I had to leave Hood River.

TI: Well, so let me back up a little bit. So on December 7th, so in December, did you go back to Hood River then, or did you wait until March? I mean, did you stay --

MM: Oh, I was working. I was working until March.

TI: Okay, so you stayed in...

MM: Stayed and worked.

TI: Oregon State.

MM: Worked. But end of March, I had to quit. They didn't fire me, I said I had to leave to get ready, May, to leave, evacuation.

TI: And after December 7th, what kind of communication did you have with the family and with your parents about what was going on in Dee, and they were probably worried about you a little bit. How did you communicate?

MM: I didn't contact them very much. No, my sister (...) would call me, but no, I didn't contact them very much. Then when I, after I had to pack up and go home to Hood River end of March, well, then I had April to get ready. And in May, I had to leave. I left ahead of the Hood River people, because I was engaged, and I had to, couldn't get my marriage license. Chop, Ray Yasui, stood in for my husband-to-be and went to the Hood River County courthouse to get my marriage license.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay, so let's back up a little bit here. Yeah, so you were engaged, so let's talk about who you were engaged to. So what was the name of your husband?

MM: Milton, M-I-L-T-O-N, Maeda.

TI: And where did you meet him?

MM: He was at Oregon State, but he graduated ahead of me. He was at Oregon State in engineering. And he was a good friend of the Yasuis.

TI: And when did the two of you decide to get married?

MM: We didn't decide. We hadn't decided, but when the war came, and we heard that we were going different places, then we decided we'd better get married. But now I figure how brave I was at my age to leave home and leave all my family, because nobody came to Portland. I was, I got special permission. I have that with me, I still have it.

TI: Okay, so let me make sure I understand this. So when the war broke out, Milton was in Portland and you were down at Oregon State.

MM: He couldn't travel more than six miles or something like that.

TI: (Six) miles? I think it was (six) miles.

MM: He couldn't travel.

TI: And when the orders came to leave the area and to be put into camps, Portland people would go to the Portland Assembly Center, Hood River people would go to Pinedale and then Tule Lake.

MM: Yes, and Tule Lake.

TI: So it was at that time that you decided that the two of you should get married so you could be together.

MM: Get married.

TI: And so then you would go to Portland.

MM: Portland. I had to get special permission from the army. Jeep in front of me, jeep in back of me, going to the Portland Assembly Center so I won't run away, I guess. [Laughs]

TI: And this was from Hood River?

MM: To Portland. I was followed by the army.

TI: And what were you traveling in? Just a regular car?

MM: That I can't remember all of it, with Min Yasui. He was, he had to go to Portland.

TI: Oh, so Min was --

MM: He was driving that old car, and I don't know what happened afterwards. How he got rid of the car then, but he was there at that time. But we had jeep in front and jeep in back all the way to get to the fence, barbed wire fence.

TI: Okay. And I'm trying to understand, at one point, Min turned himself in, right after Executive Order 9066 came out, because he disagreed with the curfew violations.

MM: Yes.

TI: And so he turned himself in to the police department. And do you remember when that -- you were probably not around, you were probably down at Oregon State, so you may not have heard about that.

MM: No, I didn't follow him. I just know that he drove me into Portland. Then I don't know what happened to him until Minidoka.

TI: But when you had that car ride with Min from Hood River to Portland, do you remember talking about anything during that ride, anything that was said?

MM: No, we didn't. And then after he got to Portland, I don't know what happened to him, whether he left or stayed there a while. That I lost track, I don't know.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So let me back up a little bit. So after Pearl Harbor you stayed at Oregon State until (the end of March).

MM: March, end of March.

TI: End of March, and then you then went back to Hood River. When you went to Hood River, what was the community like at that point? At that point they kind of knew they were going to leave.

MM: Oh, everybody was in an uproar trying to, wondering what to do, have somebody take care of their farm. We had a lucky Caucasian family that lived (up the road), he used to be our milkman (delivered) our milk from his (dairy). He just lived about a mile up the road, and he took over the farm for us. But he took over the farm, but he let the chicken run around in our house. [Laughs] Had some people, farmers stay, some helpers stay. And oh, they had to clean up when they came back.

TI: But other than cleaning up, was the house and the property in pretty good shape? Like the orchards, did they take care of those?

MM: The orchard was pretty good.

TI: Well, that was, you were fortunate, because I knew some people...

MM: But my dad let him have any profit, and it was good during the war, he could take it. Just take care of it. He was a good friend.

TI: And so your father trusted him.

MM: Yes.

TI: And it worked out for him, too, because he made good money doing that. And when your family came back, was there any problem getting the property back?

MM: No, no problem, except they had to clean up the house. Except they couldn't get paint in Hood River, you know, they were so bad. So Chop, (my older sister's husband), had to go to Portland to get paint to paint the rooms (...).

TI: And going back to that milkman, do you remember the milkman's name?

MM: (Yes, Mr. Rory Collins).

TI: I'm just curious, because I always like to mention people who treated the Japanese families well, and so I was curious.

MM: The people we knew, the Caucasians in Dee, they were... my folks said they were fine when they came back. But in the city, more the city people...

TI: Going back, at Oregon State, your sister was there.

MM: Mikie?

TI: Well, no. When December 7th happened, wasn't Lena there?

MM: Lena, yes, she was there.

TI: And so did she stay at Oregon State or did she go back?

MM: She went back to Hood River, and then I can't remember... it was a couple of years ago they had a special ceremony where they gave a degree, they gave it to her. We went to the ceremony.

TI: For the people who...

MM: Who were there in classes when the war started. We met the, Dr. Ray, the president and everything, it was very nice, very beautiful service. It was in the stadium with the whole graduation, it was part of the graduation. They were very nice. Then my brother didn't get to go because of the war, you know. He (joined) the army.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So now we're back at Hood River. Did you tell your parents or ask your parents' permission about getting married? So you decided that you were going to go to Portland and get married to Milton.

MM: Oh. Mr. and Mrs. Yasui were the baishakunin like, and they were good, my folks were good friends with them. So they came over and talked.

TI: And so how did you and Milton communicate during this time period? Because he was so far away, did you write to each other, did you call?

MM: When you, you mean from when I was at Oregon State and he was in Portland?

TI: Yes.

MM: He'd come. He'd come quite often on the weekend (before the war began).

TI: So how would he do that? Because of the curfew, you weren't supposed to go more than five miles away.

MM: Oh, five, six miles away. Oh, we didn't communicate much at all, just on the phone. But then communicated more with his sister. She was making the wedding plans, Frances. She did all of it.

TI: Now, how long did you and Milton date before you decided to get married? When did you start dating?

MM: Senior year, and little bit of junior year.

TI: Okay, this is when you were at Oregon State.

MM: Not very long, not that long. But I knew him. He and Chop, Ray, were good friends. They used to, I think Milt used to go to Hood River sometimes and spend summer vacation, part of summer vacation in Hood River (...). He knew Chop well, they're family friends. (The Maedas and the Yasuis were good friends).

TI: And Chop Yasui married your older sister. And when did they get married?

MM: (1939).

TI: The war started?

MM: War. And then (Joanie Yasui) was born in Tule Lake.

TI: So there was just, so it seemed like with Mr. and Mrs. Yasui being the baishakunin, there was just a real closeness with your families.

MM: Yes. They even named me. [Laughs] They named me Molly.

TI: So the Yasuis had a tragedy, their oldest son...

MM: Son, yes. I didn't even know him.

TI: Oh, so you never knew Kay?

MM: He was older than Chop, right?

TI: Yeah, he was...

MM: I didn't know him.

TI: Chop was the second oldest, and Kay, who by written accounts was a pretty extraordinary young man. Did the family ever talk about that?

MM: No, they never did. They never did. But in that book it says, I read about it, and it says about he, they wanted him to be perfect, they wanted him to excel. Well, I think all the children in their family did excel. I mean, they were real good at whatever they did. They had a big family but they all went to school.

TI: No, it's an extraordinary family, and it was such a tragedy that he, according to the book, committed suicide when he was seventeen.

MM: But I guess I was too young, I guess. I don't even remember him at all.

TI: Yeah, I was just curious about, you guys were so close, whether or not it came up.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So we talked about how you got this, I guess, army escort to the Puyallup Assembly Center, then you go into the Puyallup -- I'm sorry, the Portland Assembly Center.

MM: Portland Assembly Center.

TI: Portland Assembly Center. So describe that. What was it like for you when you went to the Portland Assembly Center?

MM: I knew very few people. I didn't know very many, really. We went to Portland for different occasions, but then I didn't really know many families, like the Tsuboi family, I knew the family, Tsuboi family, and the Maedas. But there were a few church ladies and people that I met (...) there. But everybody was friendly. I started working right away. I worked for Mr. Sandquist, the project manager there in the office.

TI: The project manager, or the project administrator?

MM: They're all civil service people, government people worked there. I remember Mr. Sandquist worked there.

TI: Now, for your housing, did they put you in with Milton at that time, or how did they arrange that when you first came?

MM: With the Maedas until we got married, May 19th. So I think it was May 12th that I left Hood River, and on the 19th, I got married.

TI: So May 12th you're with the Maedas.

MM: May 12th I came to Portland.

TI: And how big was their family? I mean, how large was their...

MM: Just Mr. and Mrs. and Roy and Frances. (...) Just Mr. and Mrs. and Frances. (Roy was still with family at Minidoka).

TI: It's okay. So it sounds, but where was Milton staying?

MM: (With the Maedas). He was, he went, he tried to join the army in Minidoka, but he was flat foot and they turned him down.

TI: But when he was at the Portland Assembly Center...


MM: (Roy was with the Maeda family in the Portland Assembly Center and Minidoka). Because I had a single bed with the Maedas there until, that week, the 12th to the 19th.

TI: So in one week's time, you got married to Milton.

MM: Nineteenth there?

TI: Yeah, on the nineteen. So that's one week.

MM: Then they got an apartment for us.

TI: So we'll... I want to go with this step by step. First, let's go back and tell me how you got your marriage certificate again. So you talked about how you got the marriage certificate before you went into the Portland Assembly Center, that you had, you said Chop was...

MM: Oh, you mean that Chop went to the Hood River courthouse to get that? Uh-huh.

TI: Now was it Chop or was it Min?

MM: Chop is Ray, is the oldest. Chop is Ray, the oldest. They call him Chop.

TI: Right. But Chop got that, or was it...

MM: Chop, no, Chop.

TI: Chop, okay. And so you got the marriage certificate before you went to Portland.

MM: Yes.

TI: And then you go into the assembly center.

MM: Reverend Hayashi (was the minister).

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: And tell me about the arrangements for your wedding ceremony. How was that done? What was the wedding like?

MM: It was in a whitewashed two-by-four, in the picture I can see it. All whitewashed, clean, and big, big rooms. And then almost right next to it on the corner was the women's showers and washroom. Ours was way over in the other corner of three thousand people where the men's was, and our apartment was right across from the men's. So this was women's way over here in the corner, there were only two central. And the people came with their pans, enamel pans and Tupperware and everything, with their towels and soap and came in, it was a big room, it was wide open, so they all stood in the back, and hundreds of people just watching. [Laughs] But we did send an invitation to, my sister-in-law arranged it all for certain people. But had hundreds in the back with all their shower things and everything, going home to their apartment, they stopped in.

TI: So you had a picture of your wedding ceremony, and in the background there are beautiful flowers, there are candleholders, and unless you look carefully in the back and saw the white, kind of, boards, it could be a church, I mean, it looks so beautiful.

MM: They fixed it. Frances did that, my sister-in-law.

TI: How did she get such beautiful things?

MM: She talked to her former colleagues where she worked in the office in Portland, and all her good friends she had. And those several ladies just ordered everything. They talked with Frances, and they were allowed to bring it in (...) over the barbed wire fence.

TI: Now, when you saw all that, were you surprised to see all this?

MM: Yes, yes, I was, because I didn't... she planned it all. I didn't do a thing. Cake and everything, because people have seen the cake and said, "How'd you get a cake in there?"

TI: And so where did the cake come from? Was it made outside?

MM: From Portland, outside. Everything came. She made all the arrangements.

TI: How did she pay for all this?

MM: I didn't. I didn't. They paid for it all.

TI: Well, I mean, it's really touching when you think about everything she did.

MM: And she never married. She was always a career lady, and the churches, she worked with churches. And these ladies were all good church friends, real close friends, so they did everything.

TI: And so what are some other memories from that day, your wedding day, at the Portland Assembly Center?

MM: Assembly center? [Laughs] Portland Assembly Center, well, we had this apartment they assigned to us right across from the men's showers and things, way over in the corner. I don't know what, I didn't think they had any, but they gave it to... but you know, it was only a six feet canvas hanging there. And you can hear babies crying, and people, (...) you're not supposed to (cook), have hot plates, (...) but then I'd smell food, you could smell food because it's wide open (above you).

TI: Going back to your wedding ceremony, did you have a maid of honor?

MM: She was, that lady, was a Tsuboi. See, my folks were sort of related in Japan to the Tsuboi family. And since none of my folks (and) relatives could be there, my folks asked the Tsubois. And so that's Mr. and Mrs. Tsuboi in there, and the daughter, youngest daughter. Now her older sister lives at University House where I live now.

TI: Was it a little sad for you that your parents and your sisters and brother couldn't be at the ceremony?

MM: (Very sad). (There was) just the maid of honor, just maid of honor, a bridesmaid, just the one.

TI: No, but I was --

MM: (...)

TI: But I was wondering for you, was it sad that your parents couldn't attend?

MM: Yes, it was, it was. It was, because I didn't have a single relative. But there's a, Roy Maeda's in there, picture. (Roy was still with the Maeda family when we were married. He joined the army later from Minidoka!)


TI: Well, during the wedding ceremony, who gave you away? Usually it's father who gives away the bride.

MM: Mr. Tsuboi.

TI: So they were kind of the proxy family for you. I see. One of the things I hear about a lot at the Portland Assembly Center, and you mentioned earlier, there really isn't that much privacy. The walls only come up to a certain level, you can hear people.

MM: You can hear people.

TI: So here you and your husband are now newlyweds, how did you find privacy for the two of you?

MM: Oh, there wasn't much privacy then, no.

TI: Especially you were right next to the men's, kind of...

MM: People were walking out there and everything, but we didn't care. We didn't mind. We went out, and I remember there was baseball, you know, it was getting to be near summertime, May, so baseball out there, we'd go out there... let's see, what would we do? Get a bag of popcorn or potato chips at the commissary and go out there and sit on the dirt. [Laughs] Yeah, that's what we did. We couldn't go on any honeymoon or anything.

TI: And what about just the living conditions? People talked about the smells, when it got hot, the black flies were there. How was it for you?

MM: It didn't bother us too much. The food wasn't very good, but we survived. We had the, did a lot of munching, snacks in the commissary. Probably shouldn't have eaten, but it was all right. Then we left in September, went to the back, by the railroad tracks, and old trains with the curtain down. We piled up in there, so I was only there from May, June, July, August, September, we boarded the trains to Minidoka.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: And then tell me about Minidoka. How was it there for you?

MM: Over there?

TI: Yeah, how was it?

MM: They had... well, there were tar covered cabins, and next to us were two Issei ladies that played the shamisen and sang all night. [Laughs] We'd hear them. But we got used to it. Potbelly stove in there. (What) was bad was when the wind came up, dust would come in right through the windows, they weren't sealed windows, wooden windows, you know, they'd just blow right in, the dust, gritty.

TI: And how about the food? You mentioned earlier in Portland --

MM: Some people say it was terrible, but we survived. I know my husband wouldn't go out for breakfast most of the time, because he didn't like it, but I was hungry. I'd get up and go to the mess hall and eat. It wasn't bad.

TI: And which block did you stay in?

MM: Thirty I think. It was 30 with the Maedas first, and then we were in 32, I think it was.

TI: And this was with more Portland people?

MM: Yes, a lot of Portland people. I got to know them there.

TI: Now did you get chances to go up and visit very much with the Seattle people? Did you know people from Seattle?

MM: Quite a few of them I met, I met in Portland. And they had activities there. And I also worked in the office there, too, we had to walk quite a ways. Sometimes mud... I got rubber boots up to (to my knees) full of mud. I worked for the office there, too.

TI: Now, this is really your first time living with the Portland people and Seattle people. Did they seem different than the people you grew up with at Dee? Here there are more city people versus people who grew up in the country.

MM: They're friendly. The Maedas knew a lot of people, and then I just gradually met them. So I wasn't that lonely. I wished some of my relatives were there.

TI: But did you notice any differences? Like did they act differently or did they seem different? City people versus...

MM: And Hood River people?

TI: And Hood River people.

MM: No. I didn't see much difference, no. We were all pretty friendly. The older folks didn't, most of them didn't work, but the younger people were working, doing something. Hauling coal, I remember my brother-in-law was hauling coal. But I worked in the office and my husband worked for the electrician, electrical.

TI: Okay, because he had an engineering degree.

MM: And I just worked in the office. Administration building (was quite) far, quite a distance away from where we lived, so we had to walk there.

TI: Now were there very many other Japanese Americans who worked in the administration building? There were quite a few?

MM: Except for the project director and the assistant senior director, they're all Japanese, all Japanese. I met a lot of them there, working there.

TI: And how did you communicate with your family at Tule Lake? Did you write to them very often or how did you get...

MM: I wrote my katakana. [Laughs] A little bit of hiragana in there. But not... I didn't write too often. I'd write more to the young people, and then they shared the letters.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And from this communication, how was your family doing at Tule Lake? Did you hear much about how they were doing?

MM: My dad was really, I think, pretty upset when he had to leave, but I think he got used to it and he... I don't know how he got the carpentry things to make it. But for my first birthday, which is November, and I moved September, he sent by express... six drawer chest he made by hand. Now, they couldn't take anything, tool or things, I think they'd be confiscated. I don't know whether he borrowed them from some project person, or whether he rented it at their commissary, but he pieced the wood, and the top is inlaid, dark wood with light wood. And my son-in-law and daughter, they still have it in their basement. I said, "Don't throw that away, give it to Wing Luke or someplace."

TI: Yeah, that's precious. That's really...

MM: Two small drawers and big drawers, I used to use it for my linens all the time. He built it.

TI: So that must have been --

MM: And it was big, and he sent it to me, to camp, for my birthday and Christmas, first gift.

TI: And maybe even as a wedding present, too.

MM: I don't know what kind of tools, because I'm sure they couldn't have saws or anything there.

TI: Yeah, they probably could borrow those tools. I've heard stories...

MM: From the camp people?

TI: Yeah, the camp people, they'd have work areas.

MM: Because they had to have people there.

TI: That's probably what he did.

MM: I know he had to do something, he couldn't just sit.

TI: But it sounds like it was a really well-made piece of furniture.

MM: It was. Handles were carved, so we can handle it. He did all that by hand.

TI: Do you know if he kept his shakuhachi and played it in camp? Did he do that? That's good. I'm sure that probably gave him some comfort.

MM: He also made one for Lena, too, my younger (sister). Says they got rid of theirs, they don't know what happened. But I said, "That's too bad, you should have donated it to the Legacy Center in Portland or something before." But they still have mine. I told them, "Don't throw it away."

TI: Yeah, no, you're right, they should take good care of it. So other memories from Minidoka? What else can you remember that you did?

MM: I remember the worst thing was the muddy (roads), when it rained, and had to go through the mud to go to work. And the sand, the sand coming, blowing in the windows, that was the worst. It was gritty.

TI: So what was the hardest time for you at Minidoka?

MM: At Minidoka?

TI: Yeah, what was the hardest time for you?

MM: Oh, being away from all my relatives, I think. I missed them the most. But I gradually got acquainted with the Portland people, then the few that I knew. But I only stayed there from September. (...) And then the following year, in October, we were released. We went (...) to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because my husband got a job in (an) electrical company. If you want to find a job and they thought you were serious about that, they let you go out of the camp to have an interview and you got a job there.

TI: And what was the date again?

MM: That was October of... let's see.

TI: '43?

MM: Let's see. September we left, and then not that year, the next year.

TI: So 1944?

MM: (No, it was 1943). So we only stayed in camp about thirteen (months).

TI: Thirteen months? Thirteen months.

MM: Excuse me, thirteen months, yes. But in south Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we lived in Milwaukee.

TI: I want to ask more about Milwaukee, but before we go there, I want to ask a few more questions about Minidoka. And I asked you what the hardest times were, how about the best times or the most enjoyable times? Was there anything that you recall with fondness about Minidoka?

MM: That was fun?

TI: Yeah, that was fun.

MM: I think just visiting friends, I think. And visiting them, we didn't have any programs to think of. Oh, the Boy Scouts and those people had definite programs. But we older people, we didn't have any program.

TI: So what would you do? You would just go visit, maybe, other friends?

MM: Other friends, the different ones. And then we went to work, so travel was quite a distance. Sometimes we got a ride on a truck, but we walked about a mile to the administrative building.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Okay, so let's go to Milwaukee, and what was that like going to Milwaukee?

MM: We couldn't find housing, so we stayed in an old Milwaukee hotel. It was an old hotel, but we stayed there until we found an apartment that they were remodeling the old home into four units. And when that was ready... four months we stayed in the hotel, then just went to work. No car, we just went on the buses. He had to go to south Milwaukee to work, and the company was south Milwaukee, so went by bus.

TI: And the difficulty in finding a place to stay, why was that? Why was it so hard to find a place to stay?

MM: I don't know. We couldn't find an apartment that we wanted to rent, maybe if we're downtown, right downtown. But this was on Ambaum Boulevard we stayed, and a Polish lady had one apartment, and we were up above her, and there were two. There was a Japanese family in one. We stayed there. That's where Sharon was born.

TI: In Milwaukee? And, well, I guess, because you had Sharon, probably, did you work in Milwaukee?

MM: Yes. I worked... yes, I worked for the YMCA office downtown.

TI: And what did you do at the YMCA?

MM: Office, in the office, secretary.

TI: Okay. So all that training that you got at Oregon State was useful, because you always seemed to be able to get jobs pretty easily.

MM: Yes, I had jobs every place I went. So the time went fast.

TI: And then how long did you guys stay in Milwaukee?

MM: About two and a half years. Sharon was born in February of '45, and we came back when she was eight months old.

TI: Okay, so about October of '45? October/November?

MM: September... yes.

TI: And where did you go? When you say you went back, was that to Hood River, or was that to Portland?

MM: Portland. But that was right after the war, and it was hard to find a car, something to buy, to go home. So he bought a... I remember that big black Buick he bought, he thought he had a good deal. And, you know, tires were hard to get. They were able to give him four new tires, and he drove as far as Iowa, and (the car) started smoking, and took it to a garage and they said it cost a lot to fix. So we took everything out of the old Buick, packed it up, they helped us pack it up there at a motel, and we took a train. So Sharon came home on a train at eight months, clear across from Iowa.

TI: And what happened to the old black Buick?

MM: Ditched it. Oh, he lost a lot of money on that. [Laughs]

TI: And what was smoking? The engine was smoking?

MM: I guess. It was just smoking, and I don't know what was wrong, but he was told that it cost a lot to fix, so he said, "Ditch it."

TI: That's too bad. That must have been traumatic or difficult.

MM: Yes.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And then when you got to Portland...

MM: Portland, and lived with Grandpa and Grandma Maeda in their house.

TI: And what was it like living in Portland for you?

MM: Upstairs they had a room, so we lived there. Diane was born (at Emanuel Hospital), they were only eighteen months apart, so Diane was born when I lived at Grandpa and Grandma Maedas'. And then we bought a house in North Portland.

TI: And then what kind of work was Milton doing at this time?

MM: What was that?

TI: What kind of work did Milton do in Portland?

MM: (...)

TI: But then Milton worked at the, at this time, at the BPA? Is that where he got a job?

MM: Yes. He had to start again, he got a job where he used to work before. He got a job as junior engineer, he had to start over at the bottom again. And then when they laid off a lot of the engineers in '55, came up to Seattle.

TI: Where he got a job at Boeing, you said? MM: (Yes).

TI: So I want to go back to your family. So what did they do after the war, your parents?

MM: Came back to their farm that their good friends took care of, and moved right in there, and they started to farm again.

TI: And how was it starting up farming again? Was it easy for your parents to do that?

MM: They said it was in good, the farm was in good condition, but the haiseki in Hood River was terrible at that time still. But they couldn't, you know, go buy paint, they had to go to Portland, my brother-in-law did. But then gradually... and now it's just completely, practically, maybe a few, they say, turn around (in) Hood River. It's just from so bad to, it's just friendly as can be.

TI: Yeah, so describe that a little bit more. So you said the haiseki was bad, so explain what haiseki means.

MM: Took all the (Japanese soldiers') names off, (...) you've probably heard of that. And they just didn't want to deal with Japanese. They really... well, I was gone, but then I heard all this, that they were so bad. But it just, now it's just as friendly as can be. They said, well, they can count maybe a couple people that still don't like the Japanese. But there were some people, like Reverend Burgoyne, Methodist minister, and then I remember there was Mrs.... what was her name? Lady who had an electrical company right across from the Yasui store. Those people were with us all the time. They tried to help, but there were so many against that it was really hard, I guess, at first.

TI: And how was it in Dee? Was Dee the same way, where people were against Japanese returning to Dee?

MM: They were accepted, gradually.

TI: So it might have been easier in Dee.

MM: But I guess it's with the American Legion people that were really hard. But they said now, everybody in Hood River tells us, "How is it?" and they said, "Just a complete turnaround, so friendly."

TI: Did most of the Japanese families return to Dee after the war?

MM: Quite a... most of them did. But then they gradually have given up farming and moved to town. They retired, they're aged, or their children have taken over, but not as many. But there were still quite a few. But the Isseis, a lot of them had passed away. My mother was the, I think, about the last person, she said, it's samushii, it's so lonely. Nobody, Isseis there. And she was about the last person, she died at ninety-five.

TI: And did she stay in the area?

MM: With my brother, uh-huh, with my brother and his wife. She stayed in Hood River.

TI: And so your brother stayed there. What kind of work did he do?

MM: He took over the farming after my dad. But after he sold that, he worked for the... I don't think they called it Apple Growers Association, they call it Hood River fruit company or something a little different. It's the same company they worked for. He was working in the warehouse, different spray companies sell, managing sprays and things for the fruit farmers. He worked there. But that's near Hood River, so he lived right there in Hood River.

TI: And your older sister, who married Chop, they went back to Hood River also, did they also farm, too?

MM: A big house, and now the son lives there now.

TI: So they stayed there and they farmed.

MM: They stayed there. But then they transferred it all to the two boys. They went, after they graduated college, they took over.

TI: And then how about your younger sister? Where did she go?

MM: She married (a Ontario, Oregon), Japanese fellow. And they (...) bought a fruit farm. First he worked for my brother, I mean, my sister's husband, like a foreman, and then he bought his own place. So my younger sister lived (on a) big farm, too.

TI: So it sounds like all your siblings kind of stayed in farming.

MM: They all... let's see. Anybody else go into... oh, my brother had a daughter and son. They didn't go into farming. (Brother's) daughter lives over in Sequim, and she commutes to Alaska Airlines office, and works for Alaska Airlines. And (her) brother (is) a purchasing manager at Barrier Motors in Bellevue. So they didn't go into farming.

TI: But I think that's probably common. Most of the Sanseis probably...

MM: Something else.

TI: ...did something else. It was too hard.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: When you think about your life, how do you think the wartime experience changed your life?

MM: Change?

TI: Yeah. I was thinking, one, it sort of accelerated your marriage. I mean, you got married maybe a little faster than you thought you might?

MM: I think... I think I would still have lived in Portland, probably. And I think my daughters, they probably would have gone to University of Oregon or Oregon State. I think we'd all be living in Portland.

TI: If the war didn't happen?

MM: Uh-huh. But since he came to Boeing to work since '55, 'til he passed away. So they both went to University of Washington. Although Diane went to Oregon State for a couple years to get her master's in clothing, and then she switched (to Urban Planning). [Laughs]

TI: So any other... well, there was one thing I wanted to back up. You mentioned how you were a really good student at Oregon State. In high school, were you also one of the top students?

MM: Yes, one of the five top (of graduating class).

TI: Now, of those top five, how many were Japanese?

MM: (Many Japanese were excellent students in high school).


TI: And what rank were you?

MM: I don't know. They just said top five.

TI: Okay, top five (of the graduating class that year). You were the only Japanese, and the rest were Caucasian. Now, do you stay in touch with people that you grew up with in Hood River?

MM: One. One person lives in... no, she wasn't in high school, but her husband was in Dee. Went to Sunday school, elementary, high school, college together. He just passed away last year, but he was from the sawmill, Dee sawmill days. But I keep in touch with his widow, she's still in Kennewick. That's the only person.

TI: So I came to the end of my questions. Is there anything else that you want to share about your life?

MM: My life?

TI: Yeah, anything that you think is important for people to know?

MM: Oh, I think I've been lucky. My dad had a small farm, but he wanted us to have an education. And it was a struggle, but he always tried to make it, he's going to make enough to send us to school. No one can take it away, you've got to go to school. To be a good person, you've got to go to school.

TI: When you moved to Seattle, you raised the family. Did you ever go back to work after that in Seattle?

MM: Temporary, and a mail order company at home for several years. And after I moved to... sold my house and moved to Eastlake, I worked for... what's his name? Mayumi's former husband. Glen Chin in the office there (in the I.D.) I worked in the office there for him.

TI: Any regrets? You mentioned earlier that you feel like you had a lucky life. Any regrets in your life that you wish you could do something over?

MM: Oh, if the... I think things would have been very different if it wasn't for the war. I think I would be an Oregonian, I think. But Seattle was fine. I'm more of a Washingtonian than Oregonian because '55 we moved up here. No, both my daughters worked out fine. (...) They just graduated, both (had) finished when my husband passed away, so I was glad that they had college. So I think life has been good to me. (My husband passed away too early at age fifty-seven).

TI: Well, I think so, too. So, Molly, thank you so much for doing this interview.

MM: Oh, you're welcome. There are a lot of things I probably can't remember. You can see these pictures and you can tell.

TI: No, you did a wonderful job, so thank you again.

[Narrator note: We worked a lot when old enough to do so. Mother, Mikie, and I went strawberry picking; when ripe in the lower Hood River valley, we picked. Then we went to the Upper H.R. Valley (closer to Mt. Hood) to pick. These were Japanese farmers. When cherries were ripe, Mikie and I rented a room in Hood River city and packed cherries at the Association packing house.

However, Dad took us to the Oregon coast for vacations many times. We traveled in a Model-A Ford to Yellowstone, Utah San Francisco area, etc. They weren't modern motels... more like camping. We had to work, but we played, too.

I am grateful to my family, relatives, friends and Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church. They have helped me so much and given me support through these many years.]

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.