Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Elsie Uyematsu Osajima Interview
Narrator: Elsie Uyematsu Osajima
Interviewers: Brian Niiya (primary); Karen Umemoto (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 29, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-451-10

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BN: Now, your brothers had left and gone to Nebraska, and you had gotten this offer to go to college there. How did your parents feel about possibly leaving now on your own?

EO: Oh, they were happy that I would have a chance to go to college. And as soon as they could, they found jobs in Omaha, Nebraska, so they left camp, took my sister, and the three of them started out in Omaha. And my sister really hated Omaha, the family they worked for. So they found work in Lincoln, near the university, very nice family. And my dad did the yard, my mother helped with the house, and my sister was just able to stay there, so they moved. It was great.

BN: Were you all... I don't know anything about the Nebraska geography. Were you all pretty close together?

EO: Well, it took me maybe an hour to get to Lincoln from Crete, I'd take a train. So it was very convenient.

BN: So you saw them fairly often.

EO: Yes.

BN: But you left, your brothers left and then you left first before the rest of the family.

EO: Yes. Because Helen, my sister, had to finish school, and she finished. Oh, no, she finished high school in Lincoln, that's right, they left fairly soon.

BN: How was the reception, or how was your reception when you got to Doane? Were there other Nisei there?

EO: Yeah, there were two Nisei women, one Nisei man, and one Nisei, I think he was a divinity student. I think he was there from before.

BN: So you weren't the first.

EO: Oh, no. But after I came, there were no more coming. And I think all of us, it was an easy adjustment. It was a religious college.

BN: So how did the other students and the faculty react to you and the other Nisei?

EO: Oh, they were all very nice. And then they had a naval program there, officers' training program. And all these sailors, with one black sailor. And actually, remember the uppity crowd at McKinley junior high? Well, one of the men there was one of the uppity students. [Laughs] He was very friendly, he said hello, but I knew that was him, I mean, he would (not) go beyond that. And I don't think he approved of my dating the sailors, but I did. They'd take me to the movies or something. [Laughs]

BN: So you dated the...

EO: I dated white sailors, officers.

BN: And there was no issues with that?

EO: No. There was a sailor who was six-feet-four, he was the tallest sailor there, he asked me to go to the movies and we walked down to the movies. He's so big, my hand, walking down the hill like this. Anyway, it made the gossip column in the campus newspaper. [Laughs] So I think I was accepted, socially.

BN: Did you have... many Nisei students had to give presentations in the community or lectures or that kind of thing. Did you have to do any of that kind of thing?

EO: Nothing like that.

BN: So you were just kind of one of the students.

EO: There's only one sailor made a remark to me once, and he thought it was because I wasn't paying my own way at the college. Because I was working in the kitchen, serving. But one night we all went out to a coffee shop, and I was ordering some stuff. He made some snide remark about my spending too much money when I can't afford it. And I'm sure he thought that I wasn't spending my own money, I was spending scholarship money. So I didn't say anything, I just ignored it, but I heard it.

BN: But you were working, you said.

EO: I was working. He knew I was working.

BN: What was your job exactly?

EO: What's that?

BN: What was your job?

EO: Oh, I worked for the library, I helped repair books. And then they tried me out, I'd do the weather reports, but I wasn't very good, so they let me go. [Laughs] And then what else did I do? I did some typing, but it was mostly library work. Oh, and I worked in the kitchen. So when the line came through, I would serve mashed potatoes or something. Oh, you know who was in the line? Johnny Carson. He was one of the naval students.

BN: Did you know him at the time, or did you find this out later on?

EO: Much later. I mean, I knew him, but I didn't know him well, I just knew of him. Because he used to entertain, he had a little show or something, so I knew of him. And then later on, years and years later, he becomes a big star. That's him. I used to serve him mashed potatoes. [Laughs]

BN: And then what was your living situation?

EO: What?

BN: Where did you live?

EO: In the dormitory, so that was nice. I had my own room.

BN: No roommate?

EO: I didn't have a roommate.

BN: And then what were you studying? What was your major?

EO: Major? I think it was English. Wonderful professor. First thing he did, first class, he taught us how to think logically.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.