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-1000-465-16

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

<Begin Segment 16>

BN: So how long, so when you were in Cleveland, it was very short, then?

CT: Very short, I just took one course.

BN: And you were called back by your mother?

CT: Yes, the war ended, and, "Come back," she said, because we had to pack and they were closing Amache first. Amache was the first camp they were closing. So my sister stayed behind, and then I went back, and then they recalled all those men that were taken out of camp to help for, whether it was farming or whatever it was, my father never farmed, but they took out the men who held enough, I guess my father was in his fifties at that time, and they took him out. And he came back because Amache had to move out first, they were closing it first. So that's when I came home, my father came home, and we packed up and then we left.

BN: And then where did you... you went back to Alameda?

CT: Well, actually, we got a telegram from a camp in Arkansas. And one of the boys had worked for my father, and they had this huge house. They owned it because their children were much older than we were, and the father and mother bought, the minute one son became twenty-one, they bought the house, and they had about eight children. And they said, through the Red Cross, they contacted us and they said they are letting two of the people from Jerome or Rohwer, to Alameda to open up the house because they said they wanted you, they contacted my father, to live there because, "They're closing your camp first," and you have nowhere to go, because we weren't allowed to buy a home. My father was so happy, so they left one day before we did, and they opened up the house. This is the oldest sister and brother, and they opened up the house. The neighbor was taking care of the house, and so I guess it was about, they gave them a month. And so this family said, "You have to vacate that house," because the families are coming back. So when we got back to Alameda, the house was empty, and the two from Rohwer had come back the day before.

And that's when we were lucky, we got dumped off on University Avenue. And we thought, my gosh, where will we go now? We had nowhere to go. But they just dumped all of us from the Bay Area that was in Amache in that train, dumped us out in Berkeley and whatever it was. But most of the Berkeley people, they all went to Topaz, so I don't know what the others did. But luckily for us, they gave every family fifty dollars, that was it, I don't know if I told you this. So he said, "Get a cab," and he said, "We'll take a cab." So we got in the cab and we went all the way to Alameda, and I think that just about was enough that what was an omen to me was, it was a University Avenue train station. I looked at the street and coming up, University of California, the Campanile, everything, I thought, wow, that's the University of California, that's right, I remember that now. And then that was like an omen; I went there and I worked for forty-three years at UC Berkeley. Can you believe that? That very first day out of camp, and I saw that building, it's amazing. So that's like my second home.

BN: Then when you came back to Alameda, what did your parents do for a living?

CT: Do you know, my mother couldn't work, but my father, the only thing he knew how to do was gardening, and his equipment and stuff was all gone. But he went, and I didn't realize this, but this is Nihonjins for you, he rang doorbells and he said, "Gardener, cut lawn," you know, limited English, little better. And they say, "Are you a gardener?" "Yes, ma'am." "Oh, where have you been?" One time I was with him, and I didn't want to tell him we're in a concentration camp, because I said, "Well, we were out of state and came back to California." "Oh, I need a gardener." And so my father, he went to every door, he took the whole block across the street. You know, my father was so smart that way. And some of the men told my father, "Oh, Takano-san, that's not good, we went into Oakland." And my father was going to get a dollar an hour, and they said, "We're going to get a dollar and a quarter or a dollar fifteen, you get more." And my father said to me, "No, I could walk. I had two cars, but I could still walk as long as they had the equipment, and then I'll buy my equipment." But they had to get a car, then they had to travel and pay gas. And later years, they said, "Takano-san," they told him, "you were smart. You didn't go one day out of Alameda," so he had blocks, across the street, the whole block. And I was floored that he had thought that much.

But in the meanwhile, my father comes home and tells me, "I want you go to this address, she needs some help." And I said, "Oh? What does she want me for?" and he said, "I don't know." I thought maybe she wants me to clean the house, I wasn't sure. So he gave me the address the next day, and he says, "Go from the back," you know, I'm so subservient that, "don't go and ring the doorbell." And I said, all right, I went to the back and rang the doorbell, and this woman said, "Yes?" I said, "Mr. Takano, Taka, sent me. You needed some help today?" And she says, "You're going to help me?" Because I was only sixteen. She was expecting my mother, I guess, Issei lady. "Oh, dear, well, it's too late now. Well, you come in." And she said, "Do you know how to clean house, vacuum?" I said, "I do, because my mother is not well, so I have to do the cleaning." She had a nice house, and she told me she wanted me to mop the kitchen, literally cleaning the house, and then vacuuming, and then doing the ironing when I finished. So I thought, "She expects me to do that? I wonder how many hours." Then she said, "So when you leave at five, you'll find the envelope on the table." I said, "Oh, so I do have a whole day to do it in." I'd never done anything like that. So I worked hard, da-da-da, and I ironed everything after keeping house, then I picked up the envelope, I went home. And about seven-fifteen, we were living with this big family, we were in the back house, they were living, and they had the phone. And they said, "Cookie, there's a phone call for you from a Caucasian lady." "Oh?" so I went up there and then she talked to me, I came down. And my father said, "Who was that?" and I said, "The lady I went to clean house for today." He said, "What did she want?" I said, "Bakatare," I said, "she's so stupid, she said to me, 'Did you clean the bathroom?' and I said, 'Yes.'" I said, "You know, I cleaned that bathroom twice, twice, on my hands and knees," I told my father. I said, "Yes, I did it twice." And then my father said, "But she had to ask you, 'Did you clean the bathroom?'" I said, "Yeah, bakatare," I went like that. I had given him the envelope, I didn't even see what was in it. I gave him the envelope, he put it in his pocket. He took it out, and he gave it back to me and he said, "You take it back." I said, "What?" "I said, you take it back." I said, "What? I worked all day, eight o'clock to five o'clock," I didn't stop for lunch because you didn't tell me to take my lunch. I wasn't going to open up her refrigerator and eat her food, so I worked straight through from eight o'clock to five o'clock. I was so flabbergasted that my father would tell me to take it back. And then not only that, when I left the house, I started to... and my mother felt so terrible for me, but she wasn't going to say anything. Anyway, he says, "Go from the back door," you know what I mean? That did it. I thought, oh, so I went from the back, she has a bell, and a couple of times I rang it, then the lights came on, and I see her peering out to see who's coming from the back, and she sees me. So she opens the door and she said, "Yes?" She thought I forgot something. She saw that I had been crying, I said, "My father told me to return this to you," I'm so stupid, I'm going to... and she said, "What?" I said, "He said I didn't do a good job, so he told me to return it to you." So I gave it to her, and she could tell I had been crying, and then I turned around and left. And so I went home and I told my mother, "I'm never gonna go do domestic work again, ever, ever." All the Isseis were doing that, I'm not going to do it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.