Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: May Ohmura Watanabe Interview
Narrator: May Ohmura Watanabe
Interviewer: Nina Wallace
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 28, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-454

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

NW: So it is December 28, 2018. We are here in our studio at Densho with May Watanabe. I'm going to be interviewing, I'm Nina Wallace, and then on camera is Dana Hoshide. Also in the room we have May's daughter, Wendy Watanabe. So, May, before we get started, I kind of want to just go over a little bit of your family background, and some information about you. So let's start at the beginning, and can you tell me when and where you were born?

MW: I was born on May 13, 1922, in Chico, California.

NW: And let me ask you a little bit about your parents. So let's start with your dad. What was your father's name?

MW: His name was Shigeto Ohmura. And later he used Tom, I suppose being in America.

NW: That makes it a little easier.

MW: So I know his signatures would include "Shigeto T. Ohmura."

NW: And where was he from?

MW: Hiroshima. I mean, actually, he was born in Hawaii, but his grandparents and background was from Hiroshima.

NW: So his parents actually went to Hawaii first, and that's where he was born?

MW: You know, I don't know the details about his side of the family, about my grandfather on my mother's side went back and forth. He was kind of doing import-export kind of thing. So she had... actually, I guess she and her two sisters, she had an older sister, were born in Hawaii. And her older sister who was quite a bit older, went to Queens Hospital and trained there and became a midwife, delivered many babies. Kind of interesting that in Japan, the babies grew up and she became their baishakunin. So that was always kind of interesting to me that she kind of became the substitute mother, because their mother died and her younger sister was, I think, a small child. And so the older sister was, took care of them. Because my mother was educated in Japan, so when she was small, she remembers very well how her sister took care of her.

NW: So this is your mother then, your mother's family? What was your mom's name?

MW: Satsuyo. And she had nicknames, I think my father called her Chiyo.

NW: So both of your parents were born in Hawaii then?

MW: Right.

NW: And how did they meet?

MW: Well, they came from the same areas, the same... actually, I'm not sure, it was a community, maybe. And so they were childhood acquaintances. Somehow it developed into more.

NW: Did their families know each other, then? They sort of grew up together?

MW: I think so. They're the same age.

NW: That's interesting. Do you know about what time period this was?

MW: Oh, heavens, I'm terrible about...

NW: That's okay, we don't have to worry about that part too much. Let's see, so they were born in Hawaii, they went back to Japan, or, I guess, went to Japan for an education. Do you know when they returned to the U.S.?

MW: Well, my mother worked in Hawaii, I know. Because she was helping her dad raise money to pay for the family who was responsible for the big thing that makes the gong in the Buddhist temple, and so because my grandfather had a partner who cheated him or something, and so he had to make up for that in business. And my mother worked different jobs, she was a maid in a big home, lawyer's home, where there were butlers, upstairs maid, downstairs maid, chauffer, gardener, cook, huge place, and a very difficult person to work for. And so people said, "You're still working there?" They were surprised that she endured through that. Later she worked in a restaurant for Ms. Hardy. My mother was very small, and she carried trays and did all that kind of thing later. Ms. Hardy liked her so much she made her work at the cash register, which was much easier. And as I told you, she took her to the United States for a trip, but Mother didn't tell her that she wasn't going to go back. Because my father had been in America already in Seattle, and she'd been writing letters. And I guess she just decided she was just going to stay here.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

NW: So your father was already in Seattle, and your mother was just sort of...

MW: And I don't know the history of how long he was in Hawaii or how he happened to come, but you know, many people were coming to the States for a better life. And I think he worked in a bank and in a clothing store, and he knew the, later they were very close friends with the Kubotas, who were the Kubota Garden, and I remember Mom talking about the streets that I see now, and I said, yeah, I remember Mom talking about this street. They had a special place in their heart for Seattle.

NW: So you have some family history in Seattle. Is that where your parents ended up?

MW: Well, then they came to California.

NW: So where in California did they move to?

MW: They came to Chico, which is a small town. And I think they knew a family there who were farmers, and so they lived there temporarily. I remember, I think they picked strawberries. But my father always wanted to have a business of his own, and so he and a friend opened a produce store. And once again, this man kind of was not a good partner, so they parted ways, and Dad on his own had this produce store. Chico was a very small country community, and there were not many Japanese there. My daughter laughs because I said, "I can count the people, I know the names." So there were very few... they were doing varied things, like my father had a produce store. There was a man who had a fish market, oh, he said his family was a samurai family, very proud of that. And then there was a laundry, a barber, farmers, and there was a little rooming house this couple had. In those days, there were many single men who came over and worked, and so this is where they could stay. And so the numbers were few, the community was not like the larger ones in California where communities of Japanese, Marysville, Sacramento, of course, Los Angeles. But so we didn't have a Japanese school, some places where they went to school every day after school. And some of them had strong Buddhist communities, and so I feel that the community was different from many other Japanese and Japanese Americans that lived in California, which I think made kind of a difference because we were more immersed in the white community, so to speak. And maybe in the beginning, of course, my father and my mother experienced prejudice, of course. And I always tell the story about, I guess my mother must have told me they had fifty cents in the cash register when they started, and people would come by and see that they were not white and walk by. But in time, they developed a very good relationship and people trusted my father to be an honest and good man. And so there were prominent people, doctors and lawyers, the wives would just call him and say, "Tom, I want this and that," and he would have the groceries ready, the produce ready for them.

My father was invited to join the Rotary Club, and my mother was invited to join the Presbyterian church ladies' group. The ladies there, particularly one person who was a doctor's wife who was very concerned about the Japanese and Chinese, there were some Chinese in the community. And had the Sunday school, and my mother said... of course, her Buddhist background, but she said having some kind of religion or faith is important, and she sent us to Sunday school. And this woman would, at Thanksgiving, invite the whole Asian community for Thanksgiving dinner, and at Christmastime we'd have plays and we'd have shepherds and kings and, you know, the whole picture of nativity. She was such a devoted person, to be accepting and loving. So, later, the community, the few Japanese that were concerned about the children learning Japanese, even though we didn't have regular teachers there. So they built a one-room schoolhouse, and on Sundays, they hired a couple, both the husband and wife came to teach every Sunday, and we'd have Sunday school from nine in the morning until... oh, and then eleven o'clock, the Sunday school teacher came out to the farm, this little house, and we'd have Sunday school, sing our songs and hear our stories, and then we had more Japanese lessons, and we learned to sing Japanese songs and do Japanese dancing and put on a play. So this was the way that parents tried to continue to teach their children about Japanese culture.

NW: Sort of combined it with some of the other things, experiences.

MW: Right. And so it was very loving of them, I think. So that was my background.

NW: No, I think that's really... it sounds like your parents were special people. So I want to ask a little bit about you now. So you kind of told me a little bit about growing up in Chico, it was kind of a small community, not a large Japanese American community, but it sounds like a pretty close community. I'm curious about, a little bit more, I guess, about the bigger community in Chico. So you mentioned that there were not many Japanese Americans, because who was in Chico? What did the town look like?

MW: It was kind of like you see in a movie, one big main street. I remember a department store, and there was an ice cream place, I remember. Not Japanese, but I think they were Greek. And there was a barber shop, a beauty shop, a bakery, wonderful whole wheat doughnuts. I've never found any again like that. [Laughs]

NW: These are very important places. [Laughs]

MW: The funny things that stick in your mind.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

NW: So what kind of things do you remember as a child growing up in Chico? Would you help your parents in their store?

MW: Yes. Well, yes. I would help in the, it was not a very big store, but Dad was very proud about having good quality products. And I could just see the produce that he would check out, and be sure that everything was in the best condition. I, on weekends or in the summer vacation time, I would help. He also got to the point where he hired someone to come to help, too. My brother was three years younger, so a little different situation. We had a big fig tree behind the house where we eventually lived in, and he would climb up there and pick those wonderful figs and sell them to my father. He was quite an outgoing kid. And one of the stories I remember is that he came home one day, he'd been out fishing in the Chico creek, and he brought home a salmon that was half as big as he was. [Laughs] He was a Boy Scout, and he would lead the group to go camping and go and pick up the produce in Dad's market and go to the meat market where he knew his mom would buy meat, and buy the meat and be the leader of this little group. He'd go to the Bidwell Park and they would go camping with some kids.

NW: Very active.

MW: Very active.

NW: And what was his name?

MW: Paul. Kenji Paul. And there was always a story about one time my mother and I were out shopping, when we came home, you could smell this, like fried chicken. He had gotten frog legs and he was frying frog legs. [Laughs] So he was kind of an adventurer. But those were the few childhood things. [Cries] After I went off to college, we weren't together very much, and then there was camp. I always think I never really got to know him. Our lives kind of were separate, one of the things about camp. One of the regrets that one has. Sorry.

NW: Take your time, we can always take a break if you need to. Well, it does sound like you had the rich childhood or experience, a lot of good family experiences, good community experiences. So I do want to kind of shift a little bit more towards the war years, getting a little bit later. So you graduated from high school before the war, is that right?

MW: Yes, I was in college.

NW: And where were you going to college?

MW: I was going to Mills College in Oakland, a girls' school.

NW: And what were you studying at the time?

MW: Well, undergraduate, I hadn't decided. It was just at the time when I should be thinking about what my major is going to be, but I was in second year. And so as a child, I think I was kind of in a protected community, and once again in a girls' school. I got a scholarship. And the reason I went there was because one of my teachers, who was in high school, music teacher, she had gone to Mills. And she said, "Why don't you apply?" and encouraged me to go there, and that's how it happened. So at the end of my... I was actually, one morning, December...

NW: December 7, 1941.

MW: I went to chapel, on campus we had the chapel. When I came back that morning, that Sunday morning, to the dormitory, the radio was blaring. And I said, "What?" The "Japs" had bombed Pearl Harbor. It was unbelievable, lots of excitement and noise. And what I remember is that my head resident said, "Why don't you go up to your room?" Whether she was protecting me from comments that might be made or what, I don't know. I think there were, the girls' school was not that big, but I lived in a dormitory, Mills Hall. And I believe there might have been twelve Japanese or Japanese Americans. There were a couple of Japanese, too, in Mills. But the thing that I remember is that because of the curfew, I was not allowed to go from my dormitory, practically just across the street where there was a library, after seven o'clock. And my advisor, who happened to be the chaplain, was just furious at that sign on the telephone pole.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

NW: I want to go back for a minute to that day, Pearl Harbor day. When you heard that news, what did you feel?

MW: I was just in shock; I couldn't believe it. Like everybody else, I think... I didn't know what to believe.

NW: Did people treat you differently after that day?

MW: I don't remember that. I don't remember that they were... I think maybe they were just not expressing anything. I don't remember that there was hostility. I think there are a lot of things I don't want to remember, maybe, throughout my life. But no specific incident. Mostly I think they were pretty kind. And so the kind thing was that when it came time for me to... when the evacuation orders came out, I realized I don't want to be in a different area as my parents because they would be going somewhere else, and that's when they were good enough to let me take my exams in Chico, that was given by the Dean of Women. So I got all my credits, including piano, classes that I took for piano. And so I was very fortunate. I didn't lose my two years of college.

NW: So you were able to... or I guess you sort of had to move home then?

MW: I went home so that I could be with the family, and Mom was packing things, getting rid of things. And I think I kind of was numb and not remembering a lot of things about many things in my life, but the FBI did come.

NW: This was after Pearl Harbor?

MW: Yeah. And my father was taken to the police station. He knew that they knew him as a friend, the police chief. I think it was not easy for them to do this, but he was released. And so our attention was to packing, and like everybody else throughout California or everywhere, when they thought the police where coming they burned things, but we didn't have that much. Mother did have a little Buddhist thing, the temple. I remember when it was the day of her father's death, she put fresh rice and that kind of thing. But on the same time, she would go to the church with the church ladies and have social time with them. I remember going to the train station. Fifty years... has it been fifty-three? I went back to high school, a reunion, and one of the people there said, "I was at that train station as a soldier when you were leaving." I never thought about asking, "How did you feel?" "What were you thinking?" I think, now, why didn't I ask him? How many years? When I went back to the reunion they were very warm and welcoming. Stayed with one of the Caucasian friends. Anyway, old memories.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

NW: Well, let's talk a little bit about that day that you were leaving. So you moved back to Chico so that you could stay with your family as you were all being removed. Do you remember that day that you left?

MW: Not specifically. We carried our bags. I remember the train, blinds were down, and it was crowded, there were police or soldiers on it. And I don't remember eating anything on that train.

NW: How long was this trip?

MW: Well, I don't even remember how long that was. It was to northern California, to Tule Lake. Crowded... you hear so many stories, you think, was it like that? Did I really remember that? You think, what was real and what wasn't real? It amazes me that I hear stories of people telling so may specific things. I can't swear that that was my story or somebody else's story. I don't know if the mind does strange things and doesn't want to remember things, who knows? There was a tendency to try to look for the best and to make the best of things. I was kind of protected all my life up to then. I was probably kind of naive, even though two years in college, it doesn't mean that... I used to write letters home every day, I think. It's a little different than some people.

NW: Well, you were about twenty years old then? You were still very young, this was a lot to take in.

MW: Well, when I hear some stories, I think some people were much more mature, I think, in their thinking. I do think I was very protected. Took me a while to realize what's going on.

NW: So you take this train to Tule Lake, you don't know where you're going because the blinds are all closed. When you do arrive at Tule Lake, the blinds go up, you get off the train, you sort of see where you are. What was your first impression arriving in that place?

MW: Well, I remember the dry desert with tumbleweeds in the sand, blowing. And then the barracks which were barren. Four army cots and the potbelly stove, could hear everybody else, thin walls. So we made the best of it. Then the mess halls, the community bathing and toilets.

NW: What about the rest of your family, your parents or your brother? Did you get a sense of their reaction to being in this place?

MW: We didn't really talk about it. I think it's always been that protective kind of thing, making the best of whatever situation, not being... complaining. And my mother tried to make life as comfortable as possible. I don't remember her really complaining. Eventually she even did some cooking on that potbelly stove, trying to make it as pleasant as possible, because the mess hall eating was, food was terrible. And for some people it might be delicacies, but parts of the animal that I'd never eaten. And then as everybody else says, youngsters tend to find their own age group and the family life has changed. So I didn't see a lot of my brother because he had his own friends, and he was still in school. My brother was with a group of young people, they called them the... it was like Aloha Boys or something like that. And I got a job, first as an interviewer, just because I knew a little bit of Japanese. And then later I became a nurse's aide in the hospital.

NW: What kind of interviews were you, or who were you interviewing?

MW: I was interviewing Isseis who didn't speak English that much, and they had the fill in papers. And I don't know why at that point they were always filling in papers. So I could talk to them a little bit, I can't imagine I'd be very efficient. So eventually, as I said, when they got the hospital set up, I helped. I was at the point of deciding whether to become, go into nursing or not. So I had this good experience, real life experience before deciding. Saw my first delivery and I thought, wow, it's a miracle. I want to be a nurse.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

NW: Were you sort of a nursing assistant then? What sort of work would you do in the hospital?

MW: No, just nurse's aide. Because I had no training at that point. Nowadays, many professions, you get a chance to, even doctors, get into the clinical area early. But in those days, first years of college is all academic. I didn't interview some nurses, Japanese American nurses. But when you have the real life experience of being in the delivery room and seeing that, it's really revealing.

NW: And so what do you think drew you to nursing, then?

MW: Pardon me?

NW: What do you think drew you to nursing?

MW: You know, we weren't so liberated at that age that you thought about nursing or teaching. Now you have engineers and the field is wide open for women. When you think about my generation, that was kind of...

NW: Fewer choices?

MW: My mother was always, I think she could have been a doctor, she's such a caretaker. And I suppose caring for people, just making them well or feeling better was kind of a natural thing.

NW: So you were working in the hospital. What was the rest of your family doing?

MW: Well, my mother didn't get a job or anything, she had enough doing her laundry and so forth. I imagine she... eventually there were groups of women who did knitting and so forth, for the servicemen, how ironic. And there were... I don't think she went to a Buddhist group, actually, but there were Buddhist groups, eventually there were young Christian groups and so forth. My father, I don't know what went through his mind, but he was a man who wanted to have his own business. What could you do in this community? So he wanted to be of service to the community, so he hauled coal and discovered that hard work, I don't know much it contributed to it, but the doctor said he's developed high blood pressure and he shouldn't be doing that. So he didn't do that anymore. But there were so many people doing different things, and before you knew it, in that desert type of earth, they managed to make gardens. And Japanese have a way of bringing about beauty, I think. I mean, it was a regular community, most of those places became like another city, I guess. I'm not sure that Tule did as much as some of the others. Of course, it was a changing, Tule was a different type of place after the "loyalty oath."

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

NW: Well, so let's talk about that a little bit. Do you remember when they administered the "loyalty questionnaire?"

MW: It was just before I was leaving camp, because I got accepted to continue my education. But I was still working at the hospital, and I worked an evening shift. And I was brought home by the ambulance, because eleven o'clock or close to twelve at night. And I remember my father opening the door, "Come in, quickly." And there was shouting and people were shouting outside, and even throwing rocks because... and they called my father inu because the "loyalty oath," he said "yes." I've tried to... he felt he was a citizen, his children are citizens, so they need to grow up, go to school and so forth. And I think this is why. And as I remember, I think he had said "no" at first but then changed. And my reasoning is that he was thinking of us and our future. But there were neighbors who were friends, who called him traitor, I guess, inu. And literally physical threats. So we were moved from one barrack to another section.

And then at that time is when I was getting this opportunity to go out to school. My church, the Presbyterian church, had helped with documents, and the Friends, the American Friends Committee did so much, the national office, they got my papers and helped to get me admitted. First, the Presbyterian church because Wooster College is Presbyterian, had given me a scholarship. Then I found out that in order to become a nursing, I would have to go to Cleveland because they had no real nursing school. I thought, this is getting very complicated. And then the government had this program where if you promised to become a nurse for two years, I mean, to work as a nurse for two years, you get a scholarship. So I thought, wow, everything free, so I can do that. And then I asked my church if they could give the scholarship to my brother, so that worked out fine. So I left before all the movement from Tule Lake to other camps.

NW: The movement of other people being transferred to Tule Lake from other camps?

MW: Right. So that's what happened, and I never saw the other camp where they went to Colorado, to Amache.

NW: Your family?

MW: Yes, after I left.

NW: So they were transferred out of Tule Lake? Did that have to do, do you think, with your family being targeted?

MW: No, everybody who said "yes" were moved out of Tule. And then we had all these "no" people come in to Tule, but that happened after I left.

NW: I see.

MW: Then there was a big movement, so all the ruckus that happened after that, I don't know about. At least, I didn't experience that. And I don't even know what the life at Amache was like for my parents, because it wasn't that long. And I went on to Syracuse, first a hostel stop in Chicago, then Cleveland, and then to Syracuse. Already they had these hostels set up where people who were coming out could stay temporarily until they could relocate. So it was pretty amazing how those things just kind of happened. But once again, I feel that things went so well for me that I think I was pretty naive. And then when I went to Syracuse, there were, I believe, twelve other Niseis. They were engineering, I know a couple of engineering people, so a couple who were graduate students, PhDs, and then there were nursing from the Los Angeles area, the coast.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

NW: Before we start getting into Syracuse, I'm curious to know a little bit more about what the process was like for you to leave Tule Lake. Do you remember, did you have to go through any kind of application process?

MW: Oh, yeah, fingerprinting and all that kind of thing. And then I got on a train to go, and there were all these young, practically new recruits, soldiers. And they were so protective of me because there were these Caucasian soldiers on the plane and on the train. They would stay with me and some would go off the train to get the lunch and bring it to me, so cute. And then we stopped at Reno, and then I went to Colorado where my cousin, who had left Chico before... you know, you had an opportunity to leave, and so he, the one you saw in the picture, had married a woman, and their family got on a truck and even carried gas because they didn't know whether they could get gasoline, and drove to Colorado. And they lived on a beet farm, terrible, terrible conditions. It was so cold, she said the water was frozen from the faucet, they couldn't watch their face in the morning. They suffered, too, outside. But I stopped to see them, and then I went on to Chicago to a hostel and stayed overnight and then went to Cleveland to a hostel. And then when I went to Syracuse, I was met by a Quaker, they had found a place for me to stay, a professor, until school started. So I have been so fortunate all my life, I think, people have been kind and helpful.

NW: And so that was the Quakers who sort of helped you leave the camp and get settled?

MW: Everything. And they did that to many students, and they still do. They're usually the first ones when there's a war or something to go and help. And I heard later that they even made Christmas presents that children who were sent to Japan with their parents could open because they were on ship on Christmas. That's the kind of thing that they do. So anyhow, that's a side story. So I went into nursing, and I met Japanese Americans who were from California. I think they were all from California, the ones that I... and just a year or so ago, one by one, they're dying. Chancellor Talley was very open to having Japanese Americans come to school, whereas some schools, universities did not accept them. So same story.


NW: So, May, we were just talking about, as you were leaving Tule Lake, and you sort of got this assistance from the Quakers to attend school in Syracuse. So I wanted to ask a little bit more about that. You were just telling us about your journey from Tule Lake to Syracuse, and I'm wondering, what was it like for you when you arrived in Syracuse?

MW: Hmm. Well, first time being really alone, and it was exciting in a way, it's kind of an adventure. There was always a sense of, some fear, anxiety.

NW: Was the sort of anxiety of being away from your family?

MW: Right. Because I've always had very close contact. We didn't have cell phones. In those days, you didn't even send telegrams unless it was something awful happening or a birth of a baby. And it was very few lines. Life is so different now. I was grateful to have all that help from everybody. And that got us kind of excited, too, just a new adventure. I lived in a group home, an apartment that's a house that was made into many bedrooms. I guess we did have a dining room, too, and you have a house resident who's kind of in charge. So we had not just nursing students, there were people in different fields. And so I met different people, which was very nice. And the other Japanese Americans who came to nursing school, I don't remember what kind of situations they lived in, but eventually we were in dormitories. Since we were all in nursing, we had classes together and so forth. I can remember that they had soldiers or ROTC or whatever, marching around. You could hear them outside marching and singing. So there's definitely an atmosphere, presence of war going on. But the Dean of Women of the nursing school came from Stanford in California, and she said, "Are you sure you have enough warm clothes?" [Laughs] Very kind. One time I thought, they measured me and I thought, "Oh, they measured me under five feet." I went to the dean, I said, "Are they going to send me home? Am I too short?" [Laughs] Funny things that you remember. But she was a very kind person. When she retired and came back to California, one of the other students and I went to visit her. Those are the kind things that keep you going, warm.

NW: What time of year was it? Like was it cold?

MW: Well, it was fall, because school was starting, and Syracuse could be very cold, snow.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

NW: Do you remember the day that you arrived? Do you remember kind of your first impressions of the place?

MW: Well, as I say, I went to a home first, and I had to take care of a baby, and I had never taken care of a baby before. You had to get up at, like, six o'clock in the morning, when they first get up. That was the reason I was hired, I think, so that I could take care of the baby and they could sleep. No, actually, it was a professor's family. I think that was the only child, I can't remember. I was only there a few days until I got into the living center.

NW: And one thing I forgot to ask, what was your parents' reaction when you told them that you were leaving?

MW: Oh, well, they wanted me to continue education. I mean, they were highly supportive. I remember had a woman, people had sewing machines sometimes in the camp. And this was, I've heard of people who even had bought things. I don't know how it got there, but anyway, she had somebody make clothing for me to go to school, go out.

NW: Farewell gift.

MW: Very caring family. And then I went to my cousin's place, and I was pressing this taffeta blouse, and I burned it, brand new blouse. [Laughs] Those are the things you remember. My mother had this specially made, and here I ruined it.

NW: I suppose it's the thought that counts. [Laughs]

MW: So somehow we managed to get through.

NW: So you get to Syracuse, you're living, sort of, in this shared home. And you had mentioned that there were other Japanese American students there. So were these other students who had left from the camps?

MW: Yes. I don't remember exactly which ones. And I remember a couple of, I think I mentioned that a couple of men who were in other fields, not nursing, chemistry. Well, my future husband was in journalism or something like that.

NW: And he was also living in this same home?

MW: No, no, no. I mean, I don't know where he was living. These were all people... there was a married couple, I remember, Kitazawas. And then there was another young Japanese American man studying engineering, I think. And there might have been another that I didn't know, and then there were these nursing students.

NW: So there was sort of this community of Japanese American students?

MW: Oh, we didn't get together or anything, we didn't do anything.

NW: You were just aware of each other?

MW: Oh, yeah, we were aware that, I don't remember that... I mean, we weren't like, oh, we're alike, we'll just get together kind of thing. There was one that I was more close to, a couple more nursing students than the others.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

NW: So I'm curious, since you had left Tule Lake, there were other students who had moved to Syracuse from other camps. Was that something that you would talk about, either with each other or with other people?

MW: Not really. That's kind of interesting, we never... I never asked them, they never asked me, we just kind of went on with our lives, I think. I did go make some talks to different church groups. I don't know that the others did, but we had this minister who was very, he was Baptist and very into helping people. And so he encouraged Frank and me to go and speak at groups, so we did do that.

NW: And Frank is your husband?

MW: Yeah, future husband.

NW: Eventual husband.

MW: When I was in clinical nursing, I'd be in a hospital, I always tell this story about how they were kind of curious, because they'd never seen a Japanese face before. And you're in area where there were many natives, but there were no, so many Asian faces. So very innocently, I mean, just not curiously, they would ask me, "What are you?" So I said, "What do you think I am?" Because I wanted them to think, what are they asking? And so they would say everything from Chinese to Hawaiian to Native. So I said, "No, I'm an American just like you." Because I wanted them to think what they're saying. What are they asking? Even though I may look differently, I'm an American. Then it gives me a chance to say something about that. But I didn't want to be belligerent, I just wanted them to, say, think about what you're saying.

NW: Open your mind a little bit.

MW: Yeah. Hopefully that started something.

NW: And do you feel that people were, it was sort of curiosity more than anything else?

MW: Yeah, I didn't just, "Oh, why are you asking?" kind of thing. I felt like you just are not knowledgeable about this, you haven't thought about it. This is a new experience for you, but I want you to open your mind and think about it. Think about, what are you saying? And hopefully open something in their thinking. I think it's so important that we don't just ruffle our feathers and only bring a reaction of a negative on themselves. But if we can have a chance to talk, to think together, and I think ultimately, I think that's what I've tried to do. It's not always easy to do, but to be open so that, I think in our lives, that's what we need, to be able to understand better, each other.

NW: It seems like especially at this point in time, too, that would be an important conversation.

MW: As I think back, I think maybe that's the reason I've done the things I've done in the future.

NW: Well, so let's talk a little bit, so you had mentioned Frank. Who was Frank?

MW: Frank was a student at Syracuse, and he later went into advertising, but then he went to graduate school after we were married. He went into the service, he was at Fort Snelling, and he went to Japan. Then when he came back, he had the GI Bill, we were married and we went to Yale. And he actually got his degree in divinity and wasn't really, he did give some sermons because he had to for part of his work. And then where we lived later, Pittsburgh, much later, he actually went into student work, student movement like the Y. So his training was more for working with students. So we moved around a lot.

NW: Well, so before we get into that, how did you two meet?

MW: [Laughs] Oh, that's kind of crazy. But the person who was the house resident where I lived kept telling me, "Oh, there is this Nisei who's very active and he works in the," like the center of campus where you have all the activities like student activities. And so I heard about it, so, "Oh, you have to meet him." So finally, it must have been a year, maybe, or so, later, there was some activity, kind of a campus thing. So she said, "Oh, you must go," so I met him. So what? [Laughs] But as I said, we went to make speeches together and that kind of thing.

NW: So what kind of speeches would you give?

MW: Well, as I said, churches, mainly, to tell them about our experiences.

NW: Of being in the camps?

MW: Right. Telling them and trying to have them realize that we're the same as you are.

NW: And so was this while the war was still going on? This is while you were going to school at Syracuse?

MW: Yeah, because he went into the service after that. How long did the war go on?

NW: It ended August of 1945. I think you had left Tule Lake in 1943.

MW: So why did he go to Fort Snelling afterward?

NW: He may have been part of the occupation. There was work still after the war.

MW: That's so funny, language school, he can hardly manage. I don't know how he ever... married '47.

NW: Well, here, let's not worry too much about the dates here, but I am curious about these talks that you would give. So how did you come to be involved in that? Is that something that you volunteered to do?

MW: As I said, this minister encouraged me to, encouraged us to go. And I don't remember that we went to other than church groups.

NW: And who were the people in these congregations? Were they people who were, like did they know what was happening?

MW: I don't know, I just told them what I had to say. [Laughs] They were probably Baptist churches. Because at that time, Reverend Hayes was Baptist, I guess, and so was Frank.

NW: And so I guess I'm curious to get a sense of what people's reaction to this was.

MW: It was no great big deal, you know, I mean, I'm going to school, maybe on Sunday if I'm off and available, I wasn't a crusader.

NW: But you're still sharing your story and kind of spreading awareness.

MW: I wasn't a, really activist or anything like so many of the people who are West Coast and East Coast, and I'm in the Midwest.

NW: But you do your part.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

NW: So as you're going, you're at Syracuse, you're going to school, you're in this nursing program. I'm curious, how did people treat you at this time? Either people who were in the program or you had kind of mentioned some of the patients that you worked with.

MW: I wasn't aware of any great prejudice or anything. I didn't find that I was always fighting some... I'm sure I was aware that they think, well, is she Chinese, is she Japanese? What is she doing here? I don't know what went through their minds. I don't think I paid much attention to that kind of thing. Wasn't anything blatantly prejudicial.

NW: And so where is the rest of your family at this time? You had mentioned that your...

MW: My family? Well, my folks came out to Cleveland to the hostel, and they settled in Cleveland. My brother went to Wooster College and then he was drafted, and he went to Japan. Frank went to Japan, too, and that was postwar. My brother worked in the lab, medical kind of thing. So Mother said when he came back from the service, he kept washing his hands all the time, so very conscious about germs. He and Frank went to Japan at the same time, but they never saw each other. And my brother sent me silk that my mother used to make my wedding gown. He never got to see it, I mean, he never got to the wedding.

NW: Oh, your brother?

MW: Yeah. So I was kind of mad at them for not trying to see each other in Japan. [Laughs] Silly things.

NW: And do you know at all what kind of work they were doing when they were in Japan? This was just for the military?

MW: Well, Frank was at Fort Snelling, supposed to be in intelligence, and he had to study Japanese, but I don't think he used it very much. My brother was in medical, so he was in a lab all the time. He was so impressed with his superior that he named his son Thomas Lane, which is the name of his supervisor. They became good friends. but life puts you in different kinds of situations.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

NW: So after Frank comes back from Japan, after you graduate from Syracuse, at what point do you get married? What happens next?

MW: When he came back, we were married. And then he got the GI Bill and we went to New Haven, Connecticut, where he went to Yale Divinity School.

NW: So what did you do in New Haven?

MW: I was a public health nurse, and I was both a visiting nurse, and I worked under two hats in the Department of Health. So I can remember those cold winter snowy days where I waited for the bus to go and visit people in their homes, and I would check, for the Department of Health, I would be concerned about immunization and things like that, but I would also teach them about prenatal care and postnatal care. And I would teach them how to bathe babies, you know, when they come home from the hospital. Then I even taught some classes about having babies, having never had one. [Laughs] So that was, I became more interested in that kind of teaching and prevention and things like that. So I did some graduate work later in what is now called Western Reserve, it was Case Western then, public health.

NW: And so what kind of communities were you working in? Who were the patients that you would be serving?

MW: Well, lots of them were kind of low income, not necessarily, but at that time, I didn't drive, so as I say, I took the bus from one place to another. I don't know whether the visiting nurse, I don't know if many places had visiting nurse associations anywhere, the VNA was part of teaching. So things changed so much now, I'm not sure how it... but then later I got into student health work, being a nurse in colleges, universities, which I enjoyed very much.

NW: So one thing that I was curious about, so after you leave Syracuse, you and your husband moved to New Haven. So I imagine as a young couple, you're looking for a place to live at this point, and this is still pretty fresh after World War II. So I'm curious what that experience was like for you. As a young Japanese American couple looking for a place to live...

MW: When we were in college, it's different. When you're in a college situation... not quite, but there would be like a whole house of all divinity students, and the woman was in the college community where she depended, probably, on the students, and there were married couples in this one building, a big house we just made into several apartments. So I remember we developed some very good friendships. We had a couple who wanted to go to be missionaries in India, they ended up in Africa. But I kept in touch with them all. And I was just thinking I know the husband died, but it's terrible how you kind of lose contact with people. And recently more and more I find my friends are gone. I just had a nursing classmate who died last year, and I used to go visit her in California. And so you get to my age, you start thinking, hmm, I wonder if they're still there. And I was thinking, I haven't been in touch with this person, I wonder if she's still there. I was thinking of doing that this year. But life gets so busy you just keep putting off things. But anyway, it was after, when I was looking for housing, I remember when you called about an ad, and then when you get there, they say, "Oh, it's just been rented." That happens all the time. I got sick and tired of that, so I say, "I'm a Japanese American and I have children." I just came right out.

NW: You would just say this initial...

MW: Yeah, I wasn't going to fool around going there and get the door slammed in my face. I just accepted the fact that there is prejudice. And then sometimes it was a challenge to say, "Look, get to know me, I'm just like you." But a lot of times people were curious. When you have somebody come to the door selling apples or something. And they use improper English and says, "Wow, you speak good," or something like that. Well, I hope so. But there are people who just need to get to know you and learn to accept that we're human beings.

NW: So you did eventually find a place. Did you stay in New Haven?

MW: Yeah, we lived in New Haven. We lived in many places in California, we lived in Columbus, Ohio. We lived in different parts of California, Bay Area and Los Angeles, Minnesota. And Columbus you were kindergarten, I think.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

NW: Actually, before we get into that, let me ask you, what happened to your parents? You said that they resettled in Cleveland, is that where they stayed?

MW: Uh-huh.

NW: So what were their experiences like after the war, after being in Tule Lake, Amache?

MW: Well, I'm sure they had the same problems. They didn't talk about it. They bought a house, eventually, in Cleveland. My father had this heart condition, so couldn't do heavy work. But he tried to have his own business, I remember, by doing vacuum cleaning with my cousin, the one that became like a, my father was like a father to him. And they tried to do this business for a while, but I think it was very hard going into homes. And so eventually they worked for a place that sold vacuum cleaners or parts or something. But my father had a heart attack, and Wendy never got to meet him. Lori was, she must have been a year or more, I'm not sure exactly, and I was in California. My brother sent a telegram and said, "Come quickly." So when we got there he was in, nowadays they don't have that big oxygen tent. Sneaked her into the hospital, you're not supposed to bring... nurse let her come in, so he got to see her. But it was kind of sad because he was not sixty, he was fifty-seven or -eight I think. So then my mother had a hard time. So when my brother got married and had three kids and the wife died, she had to take care of them. Until we were, they were three, five and six, something like that.

NW: That's a lot of responsibility.

MW: So she had a very, she didn't have an easy life, but her spirit was strong.

NW: About how long after the war was all of this happening? Is this pretty soon after?

MW: Let's see. My brother was... I'm not good about...

NW: I'm sorry, I don't mean to quiz you. I think I have in my notes that your father passed away in about 1951. So maybe six years after the war?

MW: Lori was born in '51, so he died maybe '53 while I was pregnant, I think.

NW: And you had mentioned that you thought maybe it was all of the stress and the hard work that he had to do at Tule Lake?

MW: Oh, definitely. I'm sure it all had an effect. So it's sad, that's very young to die in your fifties.

NW: Well, he didn't get to meet one of his granddaughters.

MW: Yeah, there was a time... I guess Lori was just beginning to walk. He did get to see her at that stage, but he wasn't supposed to lift more than ten pounds, but he was very tempted and she'd come walk.

NW: It's hard to say no to the toddlers. [Laughs] I did want to ask a little bit more about your family and also about your career because you went into nursing. So you mentioned that you had moved around a little bit and you had two daughters, is that right? Can you tell me their names?

MW: Lori is the oldest, and actually I had a miscarriage, I guess, in between. And then Wendy is not quite three years younger. They are the jewels of my life.

NW: So where did you eventually settle down? You moved around a little bit.

MW: Oh, I was longest in Pittsburgh, I guess. And once again, Frank was in student work. And then I became a single parent. And Lori was at Kalamazoo College, she was just going, I think, and Wendy was still in high school. And I worked as a student health nurse at the University of Pittsburgh, so I was there over thirty years, I think. And that was my main goal, just bringing up my girls to be self-maintaining, good individuals, which... I'm so proud of them. Couldn't be more fortunate. They've become individuals that serve the community, strong ideals, and much stronger person than I am. [Laughs]

NW: I don't know, I think you're pretty strong. I think they had to learn it somewhere.

MW: Must be from their grandmother. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

NW: Well, speaking of their grandmother, your daughter Wendy had mentioned during the break a question about some of those strong family values that you had mentioned serving other people, kind of that independent spirit a little bit. Can you tell me about how, where those values came from?

MW: Yeah, if she was of this generation, she would have been a fireball. [Laughs] She read a lot and she believed in, I think she felt... partly because she had, at one time, she worked so hard when they were starting out in the business that she had a breakdown in health. And so she was a great believer in taking care of your body because if you don't, you can't do what you want to do. So I inherited that thought and spirit in being a nurse. So I'm teased when I talk about, in terms of good nutrition, what you should do. Well, when I think about it, my Sunday school teacher had said, "Your body is only borrowed, and you need to take care of it." And so I've always felt that we need to respect our bodies. And then Mom had a warm, giving spirit. All my life I remember her taking people in, feeding people, and she was a very friendly, open person. And I don't think... she didn't become suppressed by, Wendy was mentioning the incident when you're in a community where there is obvious prejudice. So if you go to a beauty establishment or haircut, there's prejudice. But my mother dressed up my brother very clean and neat and took him to get a haircut. And they weren't paying much attention, but she just sat there until they would wait on her. And eventually, of course, we all went there. I had the first permanent in the community of Japanese. [Laughs] That's just incidental. You're not taking all this down, that's to be cut out.

NW: That's a nice story.

MW: I mean, when I think about it, I think she's not a person that's hikkomiya, you know. She was kind, but she was, I think, proud of what she is, and expected to be respected. But we had many people live in our house temporarily. My mother would give big parties for my class of twelve or thirteen, and it was a very small, it was related to the college, but it was called College Elementary, and that's where I went from first grade. So my graduating class was about that big, I think, as I remember. She would have big picnics at the One Mile Dam. And you know, our class had dances and I was accepted. And I think it's partly because when you become a community member and say, "I'm worthy," it's not spoken. It's something that you have to say in different ways. And I think she did that.

NW: It's kind of the values that you carried forward.

MW: Yeah. And I think without realizing I have a sense of worth and trying to find that in other people. So even when I was working, I liked the... well, I guess I was wasn't working when I was in Columbus when my two children were still in school. Wendy was just starting kindergarten, I remember, and she was a follower of her sister, of course. And I remember seeing them going off to school. It's kind of a hard time when your kids are grown. Lori would always, if they had a party at school, she'd always bring a piece of candy or whatever it was to share with her sister. Wendy would follow her, and yet, at times, she was the individual. And so she made decisions later in life without consulting her mother. Like going to work in an Indian reservation during the summer. And she just tells me she's going to do that. Or she's going to work with the Mennonites in Seattle.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

NW: Let's talk a little bit more about your career. Because I'm curious to know where, I think some of that is where, Wendy gets that from you. But so you said you spend the most time in Pittsburgh, and that's kind of where you ended up. Where did you work in Pittsburgh?

MW: At the University of Pittsburgh.

NW: And what kind of work did you do?

MW: The nursing, students. Well, I guess what I was saying was even when I wasn't working, when I was at Columbus -- I got kind of off the track talking about my kids going to school -- I worked with the board of the YMCA, and we did fundraising. And so I don't know how I did it now. We had big sukiyaki dinners and had all these white women helping me. Sukiyaki is not something usually you do for a lot of people, you do it in a home. But I just went ahead and did that, and then I got acquainted with international women and I had a fashion show, and I had all these women come in wedding dresses and things that they brought. I thought that was pretty neat, and I thought, wow, how did I pull that off? [Laughs] But I've always had kind of an interest in a broader sense of people. We need to get to know people so that we get to appreciate people as human beings regardless of their color, their language, their customs or whatever. Basically, that is what's important. So beyond just having prejudice or bias, we have to start ourselves. So I think that's basically what was coming from Mom and her openness.

So when I was at Pittsburgh, even though I was working on the side, I still had this interest. And there was an organization which would, I'm sure in many cities, when students come in they find homes for them or help them. But I worked at the student health service, so there were many international students who came, who were patients. And I thought the doctors and nurses need to understand them as people more. I mean, there's a patient, take care of their sore throat or whatever, but when they come and they say, "I have a burning in my stomach," or something, the way they express themselves, things have changed now. So I decided I wanted the doctors and nurses and people to meet them more as people, not just patients. So I asked the supervisor if I could have a lunch during my lunchtime, have a bag lunch, and I called it Eat and Meet International Bag Lunch. And I advertised it all over the campus so anybody could come, not just international. But it was a chance for them to meet each other during that one hour, bring their bag lunch, no problem. I would make some carrot sticks and a banana bread, maybe. Then they would have a chance to talk to each other and get to know each other as people. And so they would share information about where they could shop for certain kinds of food or what was the best deal in doing this or that, so they shared. But it was mainly international people, we'd have some Americans come in. I had people who came from the counseling service, the vice... excuse me. So they would come and get to meet somebody on a non-professional basis.

So there were people who, I had one Chinese girl who was from Costa Rica, she didn't speak Chinese, she spoke Spanish and English. Her mother is from China, and she told her, "Don't ever get close to Japanese, they're terrible," because of the history. So she got to know this... she happened to be a journalist who came just temporarily to Pittsburgh to study, and she got to be good friends, and she said, "How am I going to tell my mother that I've become friends with Japanese?" But she did, and she told her about me. And you know that after a year or so, the mother invited me to come visit, so I went. And I lived in their home for a week or so. I thought, "This is worth the whole thing." Chinese and Japanese, this is what we need to do with the whole world, little by little. So I just got an email yesterday from Brazil from a man who had been to my lunches, and I had a man from Kazakhstan whom I helped to go shopping for things. And he said, "If you would come to Kazakhstan, I would invite you to my son's wedding." I thought, whoa. First, I didn't know hardly where that country was at that time. [Laughs] And I have people in Japan who have eaten in my home, and then one girl who married a Dutchman and is in Germany. I saw her when she had a new baby in Japan, and I thought, this is what we have to do, is connect with people. And so I think that was worth... I enjoyed it.

NW: Helping people make these personal connections and learn more about each other.

MW: Right, and I feel every day that's what we need to do, and not build walls. It's not easy, and we're human, so we have our own, we all have such biases, we don't realize how much it can be anything, we can talk well, but not achieve all that. So by living in Ann Arbor now, I moved from Pittsburgh to Ann Arbor after I retired a few years. Of course, they kept saying, "When are you going to retire?" but they quit asking me when I was going to retire. But anyhow, when I was still working, I had an opportunity to go around the world with students. There's a program called Semester at Sea, and junior year, there are students from all over the world who applied. And I thought, what a chance for me to go as a nurse, and I got the break. I was brave enough. Once in a while I get brave enough to ask for something. And I thought, wow, if I could go. And so I went and had the most wonderful experience, to meet people from... and now it's a much, much better program because they go to many more different countries. This was pretty early. And so it's kind of been in my blood, I guess, this business of trying to be connected with people. So now that I'm in Pittsburgh, I mean, in Ann Arbor, I've got connected a lot of things because of my other daughter. They're both... I don't know what to say, natural social workers, I guess, besides professionals. This daughter is very involved in racial things.

NW: Well one thing, another thing I did want to ask about, your own experiences as you were working. I know you mentioned that you became a single parent, you were working, you're raising your daughters. I'm just wondering what that experience was like for you as you are... because this is sort of during the '70s. So as a woman, as a single mom, what was that like for you, kind of raising your kids, working at the same time?

MW: Well, I didn't have time for anything else. My whole energy was in just making a living and seeing that they get through school. And I had a mother who was in another city, aging, and taking care of three kids while their daddy is traveling, working in a job that he's gone six days a week. And she had the full time job of taking care of them, feeding them three times a day, shopping, going on the bus. She had a much harder job than I did, and I couldn't be very helpful. I'm afraid I didn't spend much time and energy thinking about a lot of other things, except I was grateful I had a job that gave me security. So actually, I've become more aware of the world and social justice things since I've lived in Ann Arbor, which without realizing it, it becomes eighteen years or more.

NW: I'm sorry, I was just going to ask, what about as you were in Pittsburgh also? Because I'm thinking about, as you were working at the student health center, and you're making these community connections, this is also, it was kind of the same time that the Civil Rights Movement is happening, the anti-war movement, women's lib, all these big social changes happening. And I know you've said that you don't think of yourself as an activist, but I'm just curious how all of these social changes that were going on at the time influenced how you saw the world, how you pursued your own work?

MW: Well, as I told you, I did not get so involved in that kind of thing at that time. I think I've been more aware, but I didn't have the time or energy. But in the last almost twenty years, my goodness, is it that long since I've been in Ann Arbor? It's a very active community. And I've been very much more aware of social justice, and I get so many emails. [Laughs] And I send so many emails because when I stopped driving, then it makes it a little more difficult. But I go to a lot of meetings because Lori does, and I got involved in race dialogue, and I'm very much aware about white privilege. So I support these kind of things. I go and stand in the middle of Ann Arbor waving a flag about some of these things when I can. That's all I can say. You become less able when you don't drive, I think, but I'm kind of on a coattail of Lori there. And then I know that Wendy does things over here. So, as I say, I've had a very fortunate life, and I can't ask for more. As I say, I count them as my precious jewels. Who needs anything else?

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

NW: Well, one thing, when you mentioned some of these things that you're doing now and sort of being more active on issues happening today, do you think that that is something that is influenced by your own experiences of being in Tule Lake?

MW: Oh, yeah. You can't help but be. And when you're connected with... I'm not active. I've never been in a place where JACL was... see, being in the Midwest and not in Chicago, even Cleveland, and even Cleveland now that generations are changing, JACL is not that active. And so when I get the Pacific Citizen and they say, "What JACL do you belong to?" Well, I'm not really belonging, so they just put Cleveland on there. But going to the pilgrimages, I can't go every year, but I've gone to three. And my family this past year, when my two sons-in-law and my two grandsons came, besides my daughters, of course, it was really very, very special. The second one I went, my daughters sent, and my two nieces and nephew went. And the husband of one of the nieces who was Caucasian, This is all very thrilling.

NW: And what's it like for you returning to that place?

MW: I'm kind of sad that it's such a, not being made into a place to be remembered. Because all the other places are doing much better, and we have this opposition of the locals, then we have Trump cutting down the National Parks funds. And it's just so barren, and it's really heartbreaking. And we've come to the point of having a lawsuit, to me, that's not the way you achieve things, to bumping heads. You need to find way more for understanding. And so I'm a little disappointed. I don't think in my lifetime it will become a place that's... more and more, the world is not going to get better by bumping heads. We have to be able to talk, understand, to forgive. But we must have hope.

NW: Hope is always important.

MW: I don't know if there is much more to say.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

NW: Well, yeah, you've been so generous in sharing your story. I have just a couple kind of reflection questions for you. So one thing I was wondering, when you look back at your experiences and your life history, and I think particularly your time in Tule Lake and that experience of being uprooted from your home, do you think that had an experience -- or excuse me -- do you think that had any long-term impacts on your life beyond the war?

MW: How could it not?

NW: Do you feel it kind of show up in other places in your life or even today?

MW: Whenever there's an opportunity. In some schools, they hardly ever mention it, they don't hardly talk about it. So any time I have, I'm on the airplane. And before I know it, I'm making sure that they hear something about, at least, people tend to just kind of gloss over. Some people want to ask questions, but maybe you can mention something which will spark a thought in them. Sometimes it's spur of the moment. Most of the time on the airplane or I meet somebody, I have a little bit of conversation. Because you can't just say, "Oh, this was wrong," you just have to... and to some people it's complete, something that they've never really heard of or thought about. And you can't push too much. But maybe, little by little, wherever you have a chance. I'm not a crusader in terms of, you've got to listen to me, this is what's happening. But when I have an opportunity, I think that's all we can do.

NW: Put a human face on the story.

MW: There are certain things that I feel very strongly about, is the Native Americans. Excuse me. It breaks my heart. I mean, we can talk about all the wrongs to us, but when you think about them... my girls laugh because when I was on the plane one time, we were flying over the Dakotas. And I just felt very emotional about those people down there trying to fight for their rights. And here we are, in this luxurious plane flying over them. I thought to myself, I've got to say something. I want them to think about this. And so I thought, I only have a few seconds, we're about to land. [Laughs] So I stood up and I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have something to say. I just want you to realize that we're flying over the Dakotas right now, or we did fly over, where [there are] these people who are being so wronged." that's all I said. When I got off the plane, one man hugged me and he said, "Thank you, I'm part..." this and this, you know, some Indian group. And then another one also thanked me. And I thought, oh, they know that somebody thinks about them, and I hope that some people on the plane thought about something. We just have to keep reminding us.

NW: It's important to use your voice.

MW: Once in while I get brave. [Laughs] You don't have to tell this, but I just want to tell you because they are on my mind. As much as we think we suffered, it's nothing compared to them.

NW: There's a lot of painful history. Kind of in that vein, I have just one last question for you. And I was wondering, so for the people who watch this interview, whether it's students or young people, whoever it is, what is the one thing that you would like them to take away from this?

MW: Well, I don't know how I would say it in words, but I think I told you that...

NW: Take your time. Maybe another way to think about it could by why do you think that it's important for people to know this history and know the story?

MW: It's so important that we don't just concentrate on ourselves. The world is a big place, and ours is not the only history. History is important to everybody. But in the bigger picture, there's so much more than just ourselves.

NW: I agree. Well, those were all the questions that I had. So was there anything else that you wanted to say or anything I forgot to mention?

MW: Well, I admire how the group like Densho and other people of this generation are supporting the stories, their history and sharing. And at the same time, as I see in the Pacific Citizen, the attempts at being involved in social justice, not just because we're not alone. And it's a long struggle, but we need to be more broad and open and grow. It's not easy. But I'm just a little person, but it takes a lot of little persons, I guess.

NW: Little people change the world.

MW: You just do the best you can in whatever you can do.

NW: Well, yeah, May, thank you so much for sharing your story.

MW: Oh, I think this was a very disconnected kind of thing, and I think you could do a lot of scratching out. [Laughs]

NW: No, I think this was great. You gave us so many stories, and it's a great perspective on the history. So thank you so much.

MW: Thank you for all your work, you two, and all your organization. I'm sure you've collected, many, many. And I see some of those people who presented and I think, I haven't been doing anything. But we can only do what individually we can do, and you're doing a good job, both of you.

NW: Well, we're following your example.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.