Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Cookie Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Cookie Takeshita
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-465-13

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

<Begin Segment 13>

BN: Now, at Amache, a lot of the people there were from Los Angeles. And did you get along okay with the L.A. people? Because in many camps, they were seen as kind of "troublemakers."

CT: It was half and half. And the people from Northern California were mostly farm people. But we were brought up in town, cities, so I was able to really come together much faster, although the people from Cortez were so kind to us, and we all lived in the same area. But once we started school, all my friends, every one of them in my class were from L.A. And yes, the first time the L.A. people came in, and they were going to have a football, they had a horrendous, what would you call, row, with the L.A. boys and the people from northern California. And they did not really bond. I don't think even the women as much. But I was just one of the few that came from, like an offshoot, like I think there might have been ten families, three families from Alameda eventually ended up in Amache. One had gone to Yuba City, one had gone somewhere else. But in camp, we said, "My gosh, these people from Alameda," we saw the list, and so I think we had three families from Alameda. Most of them stayed within the Bay Area and they went to Topaz, and we wanted to be in Topaz so badly, but most of them went to Topaz.

BN: You had mentioned earlier that you had kind of a group of girls that you had a name, can you talk about the group?

CT: Yes, and you know, I think of this now, I think we weren't very nice. We got together in junior school and high school, and I guess we were active in school. And none of them were from my block, it was when I went to school and we just became friends through our classes. And so we formed this group and we said, "Gosh, there's too many." And they said, let's divide it into... and the one below the school and above the school, and so we called the Juniorettes that I was in, and then the other one, WeeTeeners, W-E-E-Teeners. But we did things together, but in my group, I said, "Well, can I pick some of the kids that lived in my area? So we did have some of the people from the, not from the city, but our two clubs did everything together and we became the best of friends. And I think the ones that were in the Juniorettes... no, no, I think there were about five people left now, one I just found out moved up to Seattle, and I guess she's not well, so her family up there, she went up there. And there are three of us, four of us that live in the Bay Area yet. And then Rumi Tonai, did you know someone... you're from L.A., aren't you? Did you know someone that we called Pachuk, we used to call Pachuk? Pachuko, she was tall and she had this... and she was like a fellow, so we called her Pachuk, "pachuk" haircut. Did you know Lane Nakano's wife, Fumi Sotomura, Fumi Nakano? You know Lane Nakano? She was my best friend. And Toshiko Aiboshi, she's the only one left of our group, and she's in Los Angeles, Toshiko Aiboshi. And Min Tonai, Rumi was in our group, but Rumi passed away.

BN: Rumi was in the junior...

CT: WeeTeeners.

BN: She was in the WeeTeeners.

CT: WeeTeeners, because the L.A. group was above the school and we were below the school.

BN: So about how many girls were in each group at the time?

CT: I would say about twelve. Maybe when we got together, about twenty-five together.

BN: Both groups.

CT: We did things together.

BN: And then were you all the same age?

CT: We were all the same age, all the same age.

BN: When we think about this house, we wanted to have our own little dances, and so we signed up for a reservation for one of the empty recreation rooms, and then we'd have a party. And it would be like, back to school social, school was going to start, and so before we started we had a back to school social. Or we'd have a Valentine's Day, and you had to reserve it from where that recreation hall was. And then we'd have a dance, just the girls, and we were only about fifteen, sixteen then, maybe fifteen. And we'd only invite the boys we liked. [Laughs] Nobody else got to come, and we invited the boys we liked, and then we'd have our own party. And of course we didn't have any food, but each one of us had an assignment, you bring two eggs, you bring four slices of bread if you could get it. So in every block, we'd manage to... and I had a friend who was much younger, she was my brother's age, and then, but she was an only child, and I kind of befriended her. So she stuck with me like glue, and her father was the chief cook in our block, and he always was so kind to me because this was his only child. And we worked together all the time because she came to me all the time, except when we were in school, she was much younger. But so whenever I went to our chief cook, I would say in Japanese that we're going to have a party, and can we have two eggs or whatever it is? Could we have half a loaf of bread, or any leftovers? And he always gave it to me. And he'd say, "Is Masako going to go?" I said, "No, she's too little, too young yet." And he said, "Oh, okay. Next time?" Because he wanted to make sure she was at the party, but she was three years younger than we were. And at that time we were fifteen or so, and then so we had little parties that way, but we invited just the boys we liked. We talked about that later, we said, "Weren't we terrible?" It must have made some people feel so badly, and I have a book here, my autograph book that it's 1942, I kept it. And then some of these kids, we were 1942, we just got into camp, they have written little notes to me. There's one fellow, the first year we were there, we were in the eighth grade, but it was very different. The teachers were from the Midwest. So when the first graduating class was going to graduate, the junior class presents them, so they picked me, the faculty, and this other fellow, Eddie Kubota, he was a nice fellow, very, very studious, very bright, but they picked him and me from the junior class, when the first class graduated, and we had to march them down, he wrote something so beautiful, I'm thinking, you know what? After camp, he committed suicide, but he has a page with beautiful writing, Eddie Kubota, I just can't believe it.

But 1942, and then when I finally was going to leave camp to go to Cleveland, and somewhat did in 1954, but I kept that. And one of the teachers, everybody used to say, "Mr. Montgomery, you're his pet." I said, "I am not," and they said, "Yes, you are. Look, he made you sit right in front of him." I said, "Well, that's because he hits me on the head all the time when I'm talking too much," and they said, "Oh, no, you're his pet." By golly, he wrote something in there for me. And you know, I was at one time very active in JACL, and there were a hundred, ninety-nine of us that went to Japan when Reagan was elected. At that time, I was not a Reagan fan, but we represented the Japanese, it was the first big group, and we went to Japan. And so the Japanese people were doing all this banquet, they asked us to be the receptionist because they were going to have some Caucasian people, and would we man the desks as they come into this restaurant? So I and this other girl, she was in the camp with me in Amache, we were there with all these cards, and told them where, seat they were. I said, "Gosh, it's starting, the orchestra is going to start, and we better close up." There was one envelope, and it said "guest." And I said, "Who do you suppose it is?" I said, "Who do you suppose?" but it said "guest," so we started to fold up the table and we were about to go in, and this man comes running through, and said, "I'm sorry to be late," he said, "but I am a guest to this occasion." And I looked at him and I said, "Mr. Montgomery," he was my teacher, the one that everybody said I was his favorite. Then I looked, opened up the thing, I opened up the thing and it said "Melvin P. Montgomery." And he jumped over the table, I had not seen him since camp. And that was the most wonderful thing for me, but he wrote something so nice for me in there. I was just looking it over yesterday and I thought, my gosh, I have some people who've since passed away, a lot of them. But when I think of this Eddie Kubota who took his life, I can't imagine, I had such beautiful, beautiful handwriting, and we were just kids. So I guess it affected people different ways.

BN: Different ways. Did your parents do any work at the camps?

CT: Well, my mother was not well, so she did not. But my father, what was he going to do? Oh, he was not a carpenter, he was not a cook, he was not anything. So the one thing I thought he might get into was in the newspaper business, but somebody came to him and said, "Mr. Takano, we understand" -- he's straight and narrow -- "will you work with the police department?" And my father saw the FBI and he said, no way, he didn't want that at all. "I don't want to do anything to where you're arresting people, I don't want that." This isn't FBI, they said, "But we need something that could speak Japanese and still understand English."And my father said, "Well, my English is not good, it's strictly Japanese." They said, "No, but can you join us? We need somebody of your character, something." And my father said, "Because of the police always arresting the Japanese?" He didn't want to have anything with it. They said, "No, no, you're not going to be everything, you'll just be keeping sure everything's quiet. But we have several people, so somebody suggested that you should be." And so my father came and talked to my mother, and my mother said, "Oh, dear," she said, "It's going to be like, if somebody's arrested, it's like when the FBI came around." And that's how he felt, he didn't want anything to do with arresting people." Well, he never had to arrest a person but he finally decided, okay, there's a lot of reports we have to write, and once you do that, you'll be doing that more. So he said all right, that's fine, so he did. But you know what? He would say, well, we'd have dances in our high school, my father said, "I'm going to be, I have night duty tonight, and are you going to the dance?" I said, "Yes." [Laughs] I said, oh, shoot. He said, "You know, you'll be home by..." they used to end it at ten o'clock or something. It was from eight o'clock to ten o'clock, and so I still remember that he would be in the police department. [Laughs]

BN: The last thing you want at a party is having your dad being a cop.

CT: Yeah, you're right.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.