Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: June Yasuno Aochi (Yamashiro) Berk Interview
Narrator: June Yasuno Aochi (Yamashiro) Berk
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Studio City, California
Date: December 18, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-453-11

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BN: So you were in Denver for...

JB: About ten years. It was about '45 to '54, '53, something like that.

BN: So eight years.

JB: Eight, yeah. I think we came out of camp about '44 or '45. So I think my time in Denver is about ten years, I think.

BN: So you guys were in high school there, and then did you start working for JACL after graduation?

JB: Yes, after graduation. When Min Yasui became the president of JACL, Mountain High JACL, I think it was, I went to work for him.

BN: Now, were you working for him in the capacity of JACL or involvement in his law practice?

JB: Both. Well, his law practice was, he would do everything himself. And I always remember Min as the person who the Isseis would come in to have their papers looked at, and I think there was evacuation claims at that time, claim up to three thousand dollars of loss if you could prove it. And he would help the Isseis do that, but he wouldn't take any money. And I remember this one time I was in his office on the outside of his office, and he was inside with this Issei man. And the man got up and stood up and he says, "Well, how much do I owe you?" And Min would say, "Nothing, you don't owe me anything." And the man said, "No, you got to take some money, you've got to take something." Min said, "No, no, forget it. Happy to do it." And I remember the man insisting he's going to pay, so Min finally says, "Okay fifty cents." But he had done all his legal work for him, but that's how Min was. He was very, very generous. I had so much fun with him. And just going out to lunch with him, having him tell me all the things that happened to him, it was just, I would just sit there and just listen to him. He was such a good storyteller.

BN: How did you meet? Just because you were neighbors?

JB: Uh-huh, neighbors, probably, or maybe he came to our store and knew I was taking secretarial classes, maybe that's how. I met Bill Hosokawa there at our store, he was working for Denver Post, and Hikaru Iwasaki.

BN: What was Hikaru doing?

JB: He was a photographer.

BN: But, who was he working for?

JB: Life.

BN: So he was hired by Life.

JB: Uh-huh. We knew him, photographer for Life. He might have been doing this freelance also, on the side, I'm not sure.

BN: Then you would have graduated in...

JB: 1950.

BN: Started that fall?

JB: I think I started, I didn't go to college, I just started secretarial school and became a secretary. Then we left Denver in '53, and when I came back to L.A., I had a full time job and two part time jobs at night, and one of them was with JACL here.

BN: But you were also active in JACL in Denver.

JB: Not so much active, I was just his secretary.

BN: So you were more...

JB: He would travel a lot, because it's the time of, they were trying to get the McCarran-Walter act, immigration act passed. So he would travel to Texas and Mexico and Wyoming, wherever there was an audience, he would go to speak. And I remember one time he wanted me to join them on one of the trips with his wife, Tru, and the baby, and I couldn't go because I had to work at the store. But he would go, he traveled even to the southern states just to get people to try to get them to, encourage them to support the bill. And finally it did pass, and I did get to meet Mike Masaoka at one of the... I can't remember if it was a convention or a meeting, I can't remember what it was. I remember I was taking notes. I was taking notes at the JACL meeting, so more than being a participant, I was more like a secretary. So taking my notes was all on stenotype, so I was able to look around and see what's going on while I'm taking shorthand. That was fun.

BN: A lost skill today.

JB: Oh, yeah, even lost with me because I wouldn't know how to do any of that either myself.

BN: Now, I know when you were in Denver, we were talking earlier, you were on the cover of Nisei Vue in 1948. How did that come about?

JB: Well, for some reason, Hikaru Iwasaki wanted to take photographs of us fishing as a promotion for Colorado, maybe, I'm not sure. So he gathered my friend Pearl and I, and Homer Yasui, and we went to Granada Fish Company and we bought a dozen trout, ready to eat trout. And we drove up to the mountains, Rocky Mountains, and we laid the fish out there and he took pictures of us fishing, like we were catching fish. [Laughs] But the fish were all dead that we caught, but they were beautiful trout. For some reason, I don't know how I met Hikaru, but that was a fun trip to do. I think I didn't even realize it was for a magazine, I thought it was just taking pictures. It did end up, my girlfriend Pearl, we were friends for a long time, even here, but then she has had Alzheimer's. But Homer is still doing well.

BN: Yes, I saw him not too long ago.

JB: Yeah. I haven't seen him for a while, but I got together with Holly making the movie, and we had a Min Yasui civil rights committee here in L.A., and we put on a program at the museum on Min Yasui, honoring Min Yasui, so that was great.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.