Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Eleanor Davis Interview
Narrator: Eleanor Davis
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: October 23, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-deleanor-01

<Begin Segment 1>

LT: This is an interview with Eleanor Davis on October 23, 2014, at Holladay Park Plaza where she resides. Let me begin, Eleanor, by telling you that Professor Roger Daniels and Tom Ikeda from Densho in Seattle are very appreciative of your consenting to this interview. They believe that you are now the only person who as an adult had meaningful contact with Gordon Hirabayashi both before and after his trial. And you continued to know him and keep in touch with him long after that. So you're thus an important witness for all of us, and countless others will be able to hear from your stories and your experiences. So thank you so much for agreeing to join us. I also will mention that in your own right, you also played a key role in Oregon's ratifying its Equal Rights Amendment in 1973, so you've been an outspoken advocate for women's rights, and a leader in your own. So one other comment is, we were talking about the top that you're wearing today. Can you tell us about that?

ED: About the what?

LT: About the top that you're wearing? Your blouse?

ED: The crowd?

LT: The blouse that you're wearing?

ED: Oh, yes. It was purchased by Gordon Hirabayashi in Southeast Asia, and he brought it home. He brought home, I think, two of them, gave one to somebody else, and one to me. And I made this out of the one he gave me.

LT: So he bought the fabric and gave you the fabric?

ED: Yes.

LT: Well, thanks for wearing that today, that has special significance. Let's begin with your personal life. Where were you born?

ED: Seattle, Washington.

LT: Okay. And what was the date?

ED: November 17, 1922.

LT: So you're ninety-two years old?

ED: What?

LT: So you're ninety-two years old?

ED: A little more than that.

LT: Almost ninety-three. And what was your full name when you were born?

ED: Winifred Eleanor Ring, is that right? [Laughs]

LT: We know you as Eleanor. How did that happen?

ED: How did what?

LT: We know you as Eleanor. How did that happen?

ED: Well, I changed my name when I was in fourth grade, I think it was, because my name at that time was Winifred Eleanor, and... Winifred Eleanor. There's some connection there. When I ran home from school, the boys started teasing me, and I didn't like it a bit, so I decided I would change my name to my middle name, and my parents agreed that was all right. So I had to notify the teachers and notify the principal and so forth that I had a different name. And they were quite astonished and stopped the teasing, and that was good.

LT: So as a fourth grader you took matters into your own hands and became a problem solver?

ED: Apparently so.

LT: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

LT: Well, let's talk about your early life. Your parents were Fred and Mabel Ring, and they were very active in the Seattle community. Can you talk about their roles and their activities?

ED: Well, to begin with, they were active in their Baptist church, and whatever they did came from that activity. They got acquainted with a group called, it was a group where a number of races in the group met together, and I should know that name as well as my own, but I don't at the moment. You'll find it in some history, I'm sure.

LT: Was this the Fellowship of Reconciliation?

ED: That was one of them, but it's not the one I'm talking about. They went to, say, three or four different groups that included people of different races, and one that they were active in was a group that met on Sunday evenings in somebody's home I believe. I don't recall that it was in another church, but I think it was in people's homes, and they invited people of different races to supper on that occasion.

LT: And what was the goal of these groups?

ED: What was...

LT: What was the goal of these groups, and what was the goal that your parents set out in participating?

ED: To get acquainted and to enjoy each other, I think.

LT: And also then inviting those from other races to participate?

ED: Yes.

LT: And also inviting others from different races to participate?

ED: Oh, yes. They invited people of other races, and any other thing to say about that, I don't know that there were people from other national groups, I don't recall that.

LT: Well, it's clear from reading your parents' papers, which they donated to the University of Washington archives, that they really had very different views of Asian Americans and those from other ethnic groups. Can you talk about that and their beliefs?

ED: Not particularly. They didn't talk about it in my presence, at least, so I don't think of it as anything terribly important.

LT: When you were growing up, what did you see your parents doing or saying or particular activities?

ED: Well, they certainly took a position and were active in their Baptist church. At some point they may have done something with the YMCA, but I'm not positive about that, and I couldn't tell you what it was.

LT: Okay, that's okay. And what did your parents do for a living?

ED: My friends?

LT: Your parents. What did they do for a living?

ED: They were mostly other chiropractors.

LT: And your father and your mother were both chiropractors?

ED: Yes, they were.

LT: Okay. So your parents were busy professionals, they were active in the community, they were inviting others from other ethnic groups to participate. As a little girl growing up, what did you see and how did that affect your childhood.

ED: It just was. [Laughs] I mean, that was what they were busy doing. And occasionally the groups met in somebody's home, once in a while in our home.

LT: Okay. So that was, you were a kid and that's what you did and that's what you saw your parents doing.

ED: Right.

LT: All right.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

LT: Now, as you were growing up and when you went to school, what do you remember about other Asian Americans?

ED: Very little, because there were very few in our area. I got acquainted with Asians through our Baptist church. We were Baptists, and the young woman who was in charge of getting together with other church groups pulled together a group of Chinese girls, and we met, we had gatherings with them, and that was how I got to be good friends with some of them, and I enjoyed that.

LT: So it wasn't until you went to college that you met Japanese Americans.

ED: That's right.

LT: Okay. And to go back, you graduated from high school in Seattle.

ED: What's that?

LT: You graduated from high school in Seattle in 1940.

ED: Yeah, I guess.

LT: And you entered the University of Washington that fall.

ED: Entered it, yeah.

LT: And is that when you first met Japanese Americans?

ED: I think so. I try to think about it, and it certainly would seem to be accurate that I had not known many before that.

LT: Do you have any particular recollections of meeting Japanese Americans in your classes or in activities or in organizations?

ED: What about it?

LT: Do you have any recollections of meeting Japanese Americans at that time, at college?

ED: No. There had been no other opportunity that I'm aware of. Mother brought a Japanese... Japanese boy? From the navy who had come to visit our church, she brought him home for dinner, and so that was one contact that I'd not had before. And she reached out that far.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

LT: You met Gordon Hirabayashi...

ED: What?

LT: You met Gordon Hirabayashi at the University of Washington.

ED: Yes.

LT: Do you recall when you met him and how you met him?

ED: Well, he was living at the YMCA on campus, and participating in their program. And since I was also participating in their program, we met that way. And that was a very busy program, so there was lots going on.

LT: Can you talk about some of the activities that you participated in with Gordon?

ED: Besides going to Seabeck in the summer, I suppose that we had a dinner once in a while at the Y, or there were other things they did, but since I was, I'm talking about a male group now, which the YMCA was, and so what they did was different from what I was involved in, to a degree. We didn't rule each other out entirely. But the boys did boy things. The boys were playing games and things on campus, more than the girls were.

LT: Do you have any recollection of a particular time where you and Gordon were involved in a project or an activity?

ED: At the Y?

LT: Uh-huh.

ED: Probably about 1940.

LT: Your first year at University of Washington?

ED: I think so. I couldn't swear to it, but I think so.

LT: Having gotten to know Gordon, Gordon was a student and also active in the YMCA where he lived. When you think back at Gordon as a student, how would you describe him then?

ED: As a student?

LT: Uh-huh.

ED: Well, as far as I know, he was a good student. I never examined his papers to find out, but he didn't seem to have difficulty in school. And he lived in the YMCA building with several other boys, and they did take advantage of knowing each other and helping each other with their schoolwork. So I'm sure Gordy was part of that group.

LT: And can I ask, were his roommates Japanese American boys?

ED: No, they would be quite a few American boys living at the Y, and so that was where Gordon socialized with them.

LT: If you could use words to describe him --

ED: What?

LT: If you could use words to describe him, what words would you use?

ED: Describing Gordy?

LT: Uh-huh.

ED: Well, he became a little more active and connected with other kids after he got to school. I think he was more quiet before he got into the Y and socialized with the other kids there. And he liked that.

LT: What kinds of things did you do with Gordon?

ED: Not very many. He was busy with what he was doing and I had my schoolwork to do. And the Y, what programs they had were primarily for boys.

LT: In the days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, what do you remember about what people said and thought and did?

ED: Said about the bombing? Not very much. I don't remember very much. I think it's possible that the boys were busy in their own group and were more likely to be discussing it than the girls. And I did not participate in adult discussions about it, so I don't what was going on there. I suspect that there was, like one of the churches might have held a discussion group about it, but I don't remember it.

LT: Gordon obviously was a Japanese American.

ED: What?

LT: Gordon obviously was a Japanese American, and many people's views changed about Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Do you recall people talking, wondering, worrying?

ED: No, I don't. I was just thinking about the occasions where I might have heard discussions in the kids, like at a ice cream shop or something like that. And I don't recall that there was that kind of discussion. Maybe it would have been a little early in the discussions where they weren't quite ready to talk about it. Gordy, I know, talked often with the friends he knew at the Y, and that was, those discussions were quite open, as far as I can recall.

LT: Do you recall what he said after Pearl Harbor was bombed?

ED: What?

LT: Do you recall what he said after Pearl Harbor was bombed? Was he worried?

ED: No, I don't. Sorry.

LT: But you knew he discussed with his friends at the Y.

ED: Uh-huh. I don't think there was discussion with a wider group than that at that time. Certainly they... I think there was discussion with other church groups, that seems to me quite reasonable.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

LT: Okay, so this is part two of our interview with Eleanor Davis in Portland. So, Eleanor, we were talking about activities after Pearl Harbor at the University of Washington where you and Gordon Hirabayashi were both students. You said life continued, and you and Gordon continued to participate in activities. You also mentioned that you went to --

ED: What?

LT: You also mentioned that you went to a banquet in downtown (Seattle) together?

ED: Well, you mentioned the banquet, it was a banquet put on by Nisei boys as a group. It was put on as some organization of those boys, had a place downtown, and they had somebody providing music, as I recall. And everybody seemed to be having a very good time. I don't remember how large a group it would have been. (...) I'm making sort of a wild guess at that point. I could probably look it up and find out.

LT: You were student at the University of Washington.

ED: Yes. It was not a University of Washington event, it was put on by the young men themselves.


LT: So after Pearl Harbor, were your parents active in support of Japanese Americans? I know at that time there were many who began to be suspicious of Japanese Americans, even those Nisei who had not been to Japan.

ED: My parents at one time kept a Japanese girl who was ill and couldn't go to the camp, they kept her in their home for a while. And I think some of the neighbors had some question about that, but they didn't stop at it, they did it anyway.

LT: So your parents continued with their activities. So your parents continued with their activities?

ED: What?

LT: Your parents continued with their activities.

ED: Yes.

LT: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

LT: On January 28, 1942, Gordon was studying with some of his friends, and there was --

ED: He was sentenced?

LT: Studying. Studying. He was at the library.

ED: Yeah...

LT: Studying with his friends. And at that time, there was a curfew that required that all those of Japanese descent be at home at eight o'clock. And on the evening of January 28, in 1942, Gordon decided not to obey the curfew.

ED: To disobey it.

LT: Right. What do you remember about that and how did you learn about it?

ED: How did I learn about it? I thought that was the occasion where he drove me home after... not after school, because school was still open, but he did invite me to drive home, he would drive me home. And I didn't click on what actually was involved, or what was the serious matter of his doing that, so I was a little dumb. But he went back to school, didn't go home, and I don't remember where his comrades scolded him or not, they might well have, because they had worked real hard to get him to follow the curfew. So when it was obvious that he had broken it, they might well have been angry with him. And these were not... these were not... these were... what were they? Caucasian or not Caucasian? They probably were not Caucasian kids -- they were Caucasian kids, I take it back. Because they would have been studying there at the campus. But apparently that didn't bother Gordy very much.

LT: So you're saying he was studying with his friends, he left so that he could take you home?

ED: No, I don't think... the taking home just came sort of incidentally, I think. He decided to break the curfew, and I think his, whether he happened to see me on campus and say he'd drive me home, I don't know how that worked, but I don't think it was an important part of the choice.

LT: But you did say that Gordon frequently drove you home from school.

ED: Did I say frequently? I don't know, he drove me home occasionally.

LT: And how far was it from the University of Washington campus?

ED: Three miles, not more than that.

LT: So what did you think when you learned that...

ED: Well, the trouble is I didn't think. If I had thought about it, I would have realized the implication of his act, but I didn't think about it. So I was involved. [Laughs]

LT: When did you hear about the fact that he...

ED: Probably the next day. Because I think these kids, his friends at school would have said, "Gordon," and really gave me a bit of problem.

LT: And were you able to talk to him --

ED: What?

LT: Were you able to talk to Gordon about that?

ED: Did I? I suppose so, but I don't remember it. I mean, he got pretty thoroughly talked to, I'm sure, by his friends at the Y, and maybe the adults at the Y as well.

LT: What do you think they said to him?

ED: What?

LT: What do you think they said to him?

ED: Oh, I don't know. I'm not going to speculate about that.

LT: But your parents were also worried, weren't they?

ED: Who?

LT: Your parents.

ED: Oh, I'm sure they were.

LT: And what did they say and what did they do?

ED: What?

LT: What did they say and what did they do?

ED: Oh, now that I don't know. Haven't any idea.

LT: But you did mention that your parents were protective of Gordon?

ED: Uh-huh, concerned about him.

LT: And how did they get to know Gordon and what kind of interaction did they have with Gordon?

ED: I suppose they would have got to know Gordon through me, and maybe things at the Y, one or the other or both.

LT: Did he come to your house?

ED: He could have. I doubt that Gordy did very often, I think he was pretty busy. But if a group came, he could have come with them.

LT: You mentioned that his friends at college were protective of him. Do you know particular actions they took?

ED: No, I don't think I do. They could have scolded him. [Laughs] And they certainly were trying to get him not to... when he was going to leave, they tried to persuade him not to, and that happened more than once, I'm sure.

LT: And this is speculation, but because you knew Gordon so well, how do you think he came to decide that he was not going to follow the curfew? What was it that he --

ED: I don't know that I ever did. I can't recall. We may have talked about it at lunch hour or something like that, not otherwise.

LT: Well, you had a good friendship with Gordon Hirabayashi. Were there any consequences for you --

ED: Because of that?

LT: -- for being a friend, were there any consequences for you for being a friend?

ED: I don't know of them if there were. We were all part of the Christian YMCA organization, and I don't think people would have, would have felt called upon to say anything. And most of them would have been supportive of Gordon in a way. They knew him as a friend already, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

LT: Well, after Gordon was indicted and he was taken to the King County Jail in Seattle, your father and your mother visited him.

ED: Yes.

LT: Do you recall what they said and what they did?

ED: Not much. I think they usually took him some fruit, or maybe part of a cake, not more than that. And I don't know whether that was an occasion when my father gave him chiropractic adjustments, but I know he did at some point. And the boys thought that was all right. My father adjusted some of the brothers when they were on, in camps around the country. If he went to visit them, he offered them an adjustment.

LT: That's a nice service. And what did your mother take when she was --

ED: Pardon me?

LT: What did your mother take when she visited Gordon?

ED: I don't remember that she said much of anything. She may have asked him how he was or something, but I don't remember anything more.

LT: Okay, you mentioned that she had baked a cake for him, too?

ED: Hmm?

LT: You mentioned that she baked a cake for him?

ED: Speak louder.

LT: You mentioned that he baked a cake?

ED: That she did?

LT: Uh-huh, and took it to him?

ED: I expect that's right. I mean, isn't that what a woman does when she tries to do something nice for a male? Maybe she had a particular kind that he was particularly fond of, so maybe that's why she did it. I think there's something in one of the letters about that, about her baking a cake.

LT: And I understand that you and your father also visited Gordon at the jail.

ED: Uh-huh.

LT: What do you remember seeing and thinking and talking about when you visited Gordon?

ED: Well, my father was a very silent guy. You didn't get much out of him. He may have talked more readily with my mother, but as to talking very readily with me, it's something else again. And he may have thought that what he said, what Gordy and he said were pretty private conversations, also legally a questionable thing. So there wasn't as much as you might think.

LT: When you visited Gordon at the jail, were you and Gordon able to talk?

ED: Oh, goodness. I don't remember. If there had been a situation where there were... if our right to talk was free at that time, I expect we could have talked a few minutes. But then he wasn't always free, and when we did talk it was probably limited, I think, for anyone who came to visit him. They took a picture, transcribed, etcetera, so you know that what you were saying was not private.

LT: So you remember being photographed when you went?

ED: What?

LT: You remember being photographed when you went?

ED: I don't remember. If we were, that may happen, but I don't remember for sure.

LT: You mentioned that when Gordon was in jail, he was influenced by his reading of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Can you talk about that? What did he tell you about that?

ED: A little bit, not very much. I think he was more apt to write about it than to talk about it. Because then you could respond more readily in writing than you could in stories. He wrote quite a bit, and he enjoyed that reading and writing on that topic, on the topics of the several philosophers he was reading. He kept busy. [Laughs]

LT: How do you think they influenced --

ED: Hmm?

LT: How do you think they influenced his thoughts and actions?

ED: How these people he read? Oh, I think from what I read, that they influenced him quite a bit. After all, he was in the kind of situation that these men, these authors were themselves. And, of course, I expect that's why he was reading them, because they gave him some guidance about how the situation might affect him. So he increased his reading in that field, I think, as time went by, read more of it, and that helped him considerably, I think. And I expect -- I'm theorizing -- that there were people here in town who were able to help him in that area, who may have been in prison themselves. I suspect that the ministers, if there was a minister who felt supportive of what Gordy was doing, would have made a real effort to talk with him. And from what I remember seeing in the letters, there was something about that.

LT: Okay, thank you. Actually, as I'm thinking, here he was, a University of Washington student...

ED: Didn't hurt any...

LT: He was in jail, he was not in school. How did that affect his relationship with his friends, the students, his university, the community?

ED: Well, I can't possibly say as a rule it did this or did that. Each individual, I think, would have been affected differently, depending on their own experience. There were ministers who made a special effort to visit him, and to give him support. And I think that was very, that was very good. And I expect there was occasionally an individual who had spent some time in jail and felt he had something to offer Gordy in terms of that experience. I don't remember Gordy saying anything about it, so I'm just theorizing here, but it makes sense. There were organizations after he got out that gave him support, church groups, school groups. Do you remember anything about it?

LT: A little bit. I'm wondering, do you remember any particular church groups or school groups?

ED: Hmm?

LT: Do you remember any particular church groups or school groups?

ED: Well, I think the school group would have been the Y again, the YMCA. And the church group, I don't know. I'm sure there were some, but I just don't remember about that.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

LT: Were there any consequences for you as a friend of Gordon's?

ED: I don't remember any. I was involved in the same groups he was involved in, so we knew the same people, and I felt like I was trying to get involved with a different group, so I can't say that I had any particularly unpleasant effects. The adults were supportive.

LT: Now the FBI, there was a consequence with the FBI because they called upon you at home, didn't they?

ED: Yes, they did. Two of them came out to the house.

LT: Can you talk about who came out, what they said --

ED: I have no idea what they said. I know what my mother and dad said, it was that they would be supportive of me, they would bring me to court if they needed to. I don't remember much more than that. What happened was that they were called to take me to court, but I was never asked anything. So it was unimportant.

LT: And why did the FBI initially ask you to testify, and why do you think they did?

ED: Or didn't? They didn't ask me in the long run.

LT: Okay. But why were they interested in your testimony early on?

ED: Oh, I think it was more a matter of their making sure they had down the names of everybody involved, and I was one of them. Maybe they felt that because I was a teenage girl, that I would be more interesting to the court, I don't know. (Narr. note: The FBI wanted my statement that Gordy had me out after curfew.)

LT: Were you worried at all?

ED: What?

LT: Were you worried about your testimony?

ED: No. We talked about it, and I had a clear idea of what I was going to say, and that was that. It was very brief. It was disappointing it was so brief. [Laughs] I didn't have a chance to say as much as I might have.

LT: Do you remember any questions that they asked you?

ED: I don't recall that there were. There may have been that I'm just not remembering.

LT: Well, as a follow-up then, you and your parents attended Gordon's trial, and it was the Federal District Court of Seattle on October 20, 1942. And as you said, you were prepared to testify...

ED: What?

LT: You were prepared to testify, they just didn't call you forward.

ED: No, they didn't think it was a good idea, probably. They didn't want to give a friend of Gordy's too much time, one aspect. I think they felt that they had material that I would produce already in their papers. Because at some point, what Gordy had to say or do was already in the papers. Gordy took a bunch of papers down to the court before the hearing, and they said, "Oh, we already have that." And so what was the point of saying it anymore? [Laughs] And all you could conclude from that was that somebody had been taking papers from the files and giving them to the FBI. Hate to think about who it was, but I think that's the only thing you can conclude. But I remember when the Quaker gentleman who was helping Gordy said, "We have this paper statement of yours, why don't we take it down and give it to the FBI?" So they did, and there was the old answer, "We already have those papers." [Laughs] So there was no point to that.

LT: And Gordon had become a Quaker of November of 1941, a month before Pearl Harbor was bombed.

ED: I don't know, I didn't know when it was. Well, that's interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

LT: So at the trial, did you see when Gordon testified?

ED: Yeah.

LT: Pardon?

ED: What did you ask?

LT: Oh, when you went to the trial, even though you were not called to testify, you had a chance to observe the trial?

ED: Yeah.

LT: What do you remember about the trial?

ED: What do I remember? I remember people, the crowd of people along the wall, and I can't remember whether there was much reaction from the crowd at any time to anything anybody said. I don't... well, there could have been, definitely, but I don't remember it, I guess. It was a pretty quiet affair.

LT: What did you think when you saw Gordon testify?

ED: What did I what?

LT: What did you think when you saw Gordon testify?

ED: Saw him testify? Just that, as usual, he was doing a good job. And it wasn't too long.

LT: Do you remember what he said, what answers he gave?

ED: No, I don't. I'm sure it's in the letters or somewhere around, but I don't remember it.

LT: Now, were your parents, were your parents called to testify?

ED: No.

LT: But you were --

ED: I think they felt that these people were pretty well-liked by the crowd, and there was no point in putting them up. So that's why they probably didn't call them. I don't know how many -- excuse me -- how many there were that they actually called from Gordy's side of the court. I could probably name some names, but I don't remember how many.

LT: What names do you recall?

ED: Well, two or three ministers whose names I'm not recalling. The staff at the Y, Eagleson Hall...

LT: And that's where he lived?

ED: Hmm?

LT: That's where he lived?

ED: Yes, that's right. Maybe somebody from the little restaurant downstairs, that were very supportive of him. (Narr. note: Matts & Siri ran the restaurant and hired many of the students.)

LT: And you said this is where the college students ate?

ED: What?

LT: This is the restaurant where the college students ate.

ED: Yes. Where many worked. No, that's about as much as I remember about that.

LT: You were disappointed that you weren't able to testify.

ED: Yeah, I guess I was.

LT: Eleanor, what do you think you would have said had you been up on the stand?

ED: I have to go home and see if I can see it in the papers. I'm sure that we had written down something that I should say if I was called. So there's not much point in whether I remember it or not. You should have seen it in the papers already.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

LT: Well, after the trial, what do you remember about the results?

ED: Well, I'm sure there was some negative result on campus.

LT: Because he was convicted.

ED: The students were surprisingly supportive.

LT: Of?

ED: Gordy. And they did have sometimes a luncheon to support him. Something that would be going on on campus in support, but I don't remember what.

LT: How did you feel?

ED: About what?

LT: After you learned about Gordon's conviction?

ED: Conviction? I presume in the paper, I don't know how else unless...

LT: Oh, no, how did you feel?

ED: Well, I guess I would say I was proud of him. I don't think at that point I worried very much about him. He had probably a long row ahead of him, a long time in jail, depending on what judge he got or whatever. I know he got a number of different judges along the line, and so there was lots of guessing or wondering what was going to come out of a particular judge, what point of view was he going to take? That was always interesting to figure that out. And I think Gordy always seemed to have an optimistic point of view, even after, occasionally.

LT: Even after the trial? Even after the trial, he had an optimistic point of view?

ED: Well, yeah, his family and friends were all there to support him. And I think he had no, I don't think he had any way of knowing at that point what kind of a sentence he might get, so I don't think there was much conversation about that. Though on another part of the occasion, that would be an important discussion, what's this judge going to do? And Gordy's mother, of course, would be quite worried about him, she learned a good deal about her son and about how the court ran and what to expect in some cases. I think his father was much quieter, didn't say very much, but his mother did. And it was, the family was kind of surprised and pleased that she became as vocal as she did. Of course, she learned a lot about how to do that.

LT: How did she become vocal?

ED: She was more vocal with other people in the court, say. And they made an effort also to converse with her. But before that, she was a very, very quiet person. And I think there were a couple of other women there, not necessarily -- there were a couple Japanese Americans, but some other American-Americans, others, who spoke to her and encouraged her. They encouraged her in terms of thinking about the sentence and how long that might be, and they worried about whether Gordy would get sick or whatever, but they said, "We're here." And that was a surprise to her, especially early on. She was quite worried, quite worried about the future, what would happen to him. And three or four Japanese Americans -- you must know this story -- Japanese Americans came to her house, I think, and said how much they all were proud of what she and Gordy were doing, and that amazed her, and, of course, bolstered her considerably. She didn't realize anybody cared one way or the other, except the Americans.

LT: I understand she was approached --

ED: What?

LT: I understand she was approached, in fact, by those women, when she was at the Tule Lake camp.

ED: Uh-huh, I think so. She learned how to work with the group, and what to expect from them, what to give them for that matter.

LT: Well, in fact, her son, after the war, spent about three months at the Tucson federal prison, because he wanted to work outside.

ED: Yeah.

LT: And then he also spent about nine months --

ED: What was that?

LT: About nine months at the McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary.

ED: Right.

LT: And did you continue to keep in touch with Gordon?

ED: She did.

LT: Oh, no, did you?

ED: Oh. I don't remember doing it, but surely I must have done some communication with him at that point.

LT: Do you have any recollections about what he was doing or how he felt during that period of time?

ED: Well, the letters will tell you that. I presume if he was at McNeil he may have been outdoors working from time to time. I'm sure they put some of their men to work outside. Not all of them, though. What the program was as a whole, I don't know. Maybe find out.

LT: And actually, one other point about your mother. As I recall, Gordon's mother and father were at Tule Lake and they were brought up to Seattle for his trial.

ED: Uh-huh.

LT: What do you recall about that and the kind of support that she gained from others when they came up?

ED: Well, she could certainly provide a meal from time to time, which is what she often did. And they could give somebody an overnight stay. But they had nothing to do with housing his parents or taking care of his parents when they were there. I don't remember quite how that happened, but they were not closely involved in that. They kept a little distance on that, I don't know why. But it seems to me that's what they did. They could provide an overnight, but I don't think they ever... maybe it would be easier to do that with the young people than with the parents. When they were first in the King County Jail, some women came to help them learn how to behave in court, what to wear, how to do their makeup. And they were, Mrs. Hirabayashi was quite touched. How to behave there. Well, I think Gordy was, too, touched that his mother would be helped.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

LT: During the rest of his life...

ED: What?

LT: During the rest of his life, Gordon spent most of his time outside the United States.

ED: Yeah, after the trial.

LT: Right. He graduated from college, and he taught sociology at the university level.

ED: Office of what?

LT: And he taught at the university level.

ED: Yeah.

LT: So he taught in Beirut, Lebanon, and Cairo, Egypt, and then in Alberta, Canada.

ED: That's where he wound up.

LT: So he spent the bulk of his academic career...

ED: Well, he taught in the Middle East, and three or four universities in the Middle East. That's not Alberta.

LT: So after graduating, he spent his life outside the United States. Was that deliberate?

ED: Stupid?

LT: Was it happenstance?

ED: Well, I don't think it was. I don't recall that he had really serious problems as a result. Maybe for his family. But he had academic friends who supported his ideas and supported his choice of where to go. And he stopped to see us occasionally when he came home, and I don't recall his speaking about it as a particularly difficult thing. He may have said something about maybe that was not a good academic idea, but I don't remember it now. He did develop a great group of friends with the Quakers, did quite a bit with them, did a lot of speaking for them. And what else? The Quakers... well, of course, academically he had to have good contacts, and I assume he did. But there must have been a few who thought he was a nut, but he did have, as I recall, when he was first here, before he went overseas, I think there was academic criticism. I don't remember what it was, but I just remember that there was some. But he seemed to do very well. And I can't remember, when did he and his wife get married? I don't remember. Before they went over -- well, it would have been before they went overseas, I'm sure, because the children were born before then, I think. We went to visit -- including my parents, went to visit them at the little Housing Authority house they were living in before they were going overseas.

LT: In Seattle?

ED: Yeah. Well, I can't help but admire Esther a bit, that was a tough time. I never knew her, but I'm sure it was difficult with four kids, taking them overseas, different language. I suppose she had some local help, would have had to. But nevertheless, a difficult time.

LT: So they chose a difficult route of going overseas and learning other languages as opposed to remaining in this country.

ED: They what?

LT: So they chose to go overseas as opposed to living in this country.

ED: Oh, yeah, that's right. Grew up quite differently. I don't think I would have liked that, though. [Laughs] But Gordy persevered, and I don't know how much choice he had of a different academic situation, I have no idea whether there was something he could have picked that would have been easier. Didn't have those conversations with him at that time. When he came back to the States to visit, he visited us whenever he could, and he and Charlie talked a lot about academics and --

LT: Charlie your husband.

ED: -- problems involved and so forth.

LT: I'm thinking about what you said about Gordon's father being very quiet, and his mother being quiet but learning to speak out. And then here is their son --

ED: What?

LT: And then here is their son who takes a stand to defy a curfew, and chooses to speak out about that. How do you think that happened? Where did that come from?

ED: [Laughs] Well, I think there was a lot of surprise and support from the community, support that she had not expected. And the Quaker community, too, gave them a lot of support, which probably surprised her.

LT: How do you think a young man like Gordon, who was raised in a family where his parents were quiet and didn't, and were not outspoken, where do you think that came from?

ED: The what?

LT: Where do you think that came from, to have the courage to take a stand and speak out?

ED: Well, somewhat the Quaker touch, and his willingness to, well, all the time in jail, he was involved with other guys who spent time in jail, and he had to have learned something about that from the men that, they weren't all just jailgoers, they were others who were, had a position, too. And it was an amazing experience for him, I'm sure. But he was ready for it, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

LT: You were a friend of Gordon's from 1940 when you were students and members of the Y in Seattle. You were a friend during his trial, you maintained your friendship throughout his imprisonment, you and your husband Charlie have maintained your friendship when he was, he and his family were in the Middle East --

ED: When they what?

LT: When they were in the Middle East, when they were in Canada, and then when he returned to Seattle. You had a long term friendship, and you've seen him from early until his later years until he died in 1987, I think. 2012, he died in 2012.

ED: I'm sorry about that.

LT: But I'm wondering, having the long term broad view of Gordon Hirabayashi, I'm wondering what you saw in him that remained the same and what was different. Let's start with the same.

ED: What remained the same?

LT: Yeah. From the time that you first met him when you were college students, through the span of his life until his later years, what were ways that he stayed the same?

ED: That he changed?

LT: What were ways that he stayed the same?

ED: Well, I think you'd have to look at his attitude toward his confinement, but he seemed to take that pretty sturdily all the way through. And I think he found his ability to talk with ministers helpful. Now, whether that's applying to that question, I don't know. But in school, after prison, I'm sure that there were kids that gave them a really hard time, but he didn't tell us about that. He came to our place and was pretty much, well, happy. Sometimes cooked for us, but he didn't often get involved in his family things.

LT: In what?

ED: He didn't bring his family into our family, which is too bad, I think. His kids were a lot more rambunctious than ours were. [Laughs] He cooked, as I said, and that was fun. But he would call us from Seattle or maybe from Canada to say, "I'm coming down and I'll be there such-and-such." And that was always a good visit. He was a good visitor and a good friend, and he was always willing to do anything he could to help. And he and Charlie had good discussions. We went to visit them in Canada one time, I regret that we didn't do it again. It was when he was ill, and his wife had to do quite a bit. And the kids were not there at all, they were off to their schools, wherever they were, so we didn't get acquainted with the kids, for which I am sorry. I made one real effort to get acquainted with the older girl, and we were with Gordy at that time, so Gordy said, "Well, she'll be bringing the dog home from something or other when you get down there, so why don't we call and have her take you to have you come for dinner?" So that was set up that we were going to drive down there. And we called him from somewhere, it all got mixed up. We didn't have a dinner with him, and that was sad for me. But Gordy did stop with us at our house occasionally.

LT: I'm taken by the fact that you describe him as happy, he had a positive attitude, and this is a man who was confined by the government for being Japanese American.

ED: Whatever.

LT: What do you think that came from?

ED: Well, it's on occasion imperative to maintain that attitude, or else you're sunk, or else you're down in the deeps. And so he taught my (grandchildren) to play poker, and played outside games with them, I think, I don't remember. And I presume he did the same with other kids, other families' kids.

LT: So you talked about the way that Gordon Hirabayashi stayed the same from the beginning when you knew him, when you met him, until his later years. Were there ways that you also saw that he changed?

ED: Well, I knew him when he was ill toward the end of his life. And I didn't think he changed very much. He persisted in holding to a good attitude. I can't say a happy attitude or whatever, but a stable attitude. And of course his wife had a lot to do with that; she was wonderful. I always regret that we didn't make that second or third trip.

LT: So you're talking about Susan, Gordon's second wife. Can you tell me more about her?

ED: [Ed. Note: Eleanor is talking about Esther, Gordon's first wife, not Susan.] Almost nothing. She was very young when we were in college, and she was a Quaker, and so we had very little contact. Later on, when Gordy was home, she was there at Eagleson (Hall) once in a while. But I can't remember much else. I think she was younger than I, and some of the younger women got more acquainted with her than I did.

LT: Thank you. You also knew Esther, his first wife?

ED: What?

LT: You also knew Esther, Gordon's first wife?

ED: Not really. She... during the first part of their relationship, well, I don't know really what that was. But when he was on campus and thinking about what to do, I don't know how much discussion they had amongst themselves at that time. She was just, I would say, a serious Quaker, her father certainly, her parents certainly were. But I don't know much more about her, actually, little contact. Well, the one occasion we had was when they were almost ready to go overseas, and they were living in a little housing unit put out by the city, you know, a low-cost housing, and we did go to see them. Well, I think one of the kids ran away or something disastrous like that. [Laughs] And one had the impression that she didn't have much control of them. That would have been difficult in any case, at any time, actually, older also. But when Gordy was on the island, Esther was --

LT: McNeil Island?

ED: Hmm?

LT: McNeil Island?

ED: Yeah. I assume that Esther would have still been the mother at that point, and she didn't quit, until she divorced him in 1950-something or other, what was the date? Better look it up. She divorced him because she fell in love with an airplane instructor, that's what I heard, anyway, but I'm not sure that that lasted very long.

LT: Gordon's... Esther and Susan, they were not Japanese Americans.

ED: Esther and Susan?

LT: Yeah, neither one of them was a Japanese American. So I'm wondering, so his, both of his wives were white Americans.

ED: Uh-huh. Well, it must have been a difficult life for the kids. No way other ways you can see it.

LT: Did he date Japanese Americans as well?

ED: Did what?

LT: Did he date Japanese Americans as well?

ED: Did he do what?

LT: Did he date Japanese Americans as well?

ED: I don't know.

LT: Okay, that's okay.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

LT: As you talked about Gordon, I noticed that you call him Gordy, and I think he called you Ellie?

ED: Oh, yeah, that's what he did.

LT: Were those college names, or were those names just that you two had for each other?

ED: College. I don't...

LT: Did other college students call him Gordy, too?

ED: I don't think I heard anybody else. But then he called me Ellie, and nobody else called me Ellie. [Laughs] So even on that, and then just... we had a good time with Gordy, and I'm sorry we never did know the kids, or Esther for that matter, I guess. It would have been impossible. The kids were all going to school somewhere else, and difficult for them as well. I don't know whether any other family members got into inviting kids to live with them, I've never heard that. I'd think it might seem a reasonable thing to do with that crowd. And the Quakers are usually well-spread around the world. You could pack one kid off to someplace else, and one to another place.

LT: But clearly you and Gordon --

ED: What?

LT: Clearly you and Gordon Hirabayashi were good friends who maintained your friendship --

ED: How did we get acquainted?

LT: No, I said clearly you were good friends who maintained your friendship throughout the many, many years.

ED: I'm sure I don't understand your question.

LT: Okay, I was saying you and Gordon Hirabayashi continued to be good friends throughout your life.

ED: Oh, yes.

LT: Is there anything else that you would like to add that you remember?

ED: About him? There's one thing I can think that baffled me, but probably I don't even remember it now. Well, he was always kind, but he always had a nice sense of humor, and he cooked. [Laughs]

LT: What did he like to cook?

ED: Asian food. If he was coming to our place, he would stop on the way and buy the food and then cook when he got there.

LT: Was there a specialty?

ED: What?

LT: Was there something special he prepared that you really liked?

ED: No, not that I can tell you, I don't remember. I'm sure there was something American that he liked, but I don't remember what it was. We were visiting them in Edmonton, and I think I told you an arrangement got made to meet Barbara, the older girl, was her name. We made, Gordy suggested that since were going down through Canada and so forth, that we could stop and see him, and she could fix dinner. That sounded fine and dandy, so we drove down there, and the deal had to be that we would meet them right after dinner or right before dinner, and somehow that whole thing blew up. I cannot... I know, we were supposed to meet them at their house after dinner or before dinner, and it didn't work. They were not there, and the arrangement had been that she would be out walking the dog and we'd meet them at home. Well, they never got home with the dog in what seemed a reasonable time to us. Eventually we just felt we had to leave, and we left. I took time to get my hair done, Charlie read the paper, of course, and they were still not there. So we never met them, which I think is really sad.

LT: That's unfortunate. Well, I'll have to tell you that Lane Hirabayashi, Gordon's nephew, met you in July, and he told me that you're an amazing person.

ED: Oh, my.

LT: And he says you're so ahead of your time in many ways, he was really struck by your independent spirit. And just to recount, you helped form Oregon's Council for Women's Equality in 1971, you played a key role in our state's ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1973, you served on a number of state task forces, including the task force on Sex Discrimination in Education, and in 1974 you were a paid field representative of the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor.

ED: Yeah.

LT: So you've always been a volunteer for women's equality and social justice.

ED: I guess.

LT: So I'm thinking, in some ways, your life and Gordon's life have paralleled, except you haven't been in jail.

ED: [Laughs] Right, just as well. Well, I appreciate your comment, and his comment for that matter. I'm sad that we've never actually met yet. We'll have to do something about that. We aren't so terribly far apart. We almost made it... the group that was working on... they seem to be trying to pull the [inaudible] together in a military fashion, it strikes me as that, and he was called up here to meet with, meeting here in the building. And I was somewhere nearby, but somehow we never got together. So we've had one or two missives about that, and seem to haven't made it yet. And this isn't very close to where he lives, so I don't know whether it will ever happen.

LT: I hope so. Thank you very much for your time.

ED: Well, it's been interesting to meet you. Thank you.

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