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-1000-465-17

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

<Begin Segment 17>

CT: I got the San Francisco Chronicle, the people in front, the house, I read there was a civil service test taking place in San Francisco, so I told my father I needed a quarter, I'm going to go to San Francisco. I took my civil service test, I came home, it was easy. You know why? When we were in camp, all the Nihonjins were so smart, you know, and we didn't have to study like crazy, everybody was smart. And so within a week, I told my father, "I'm not going to go clean house, I'll do anything, but not that." But within a week I got this thing, and it said, "Job openings," Alameda Naval Air Station, Treasure Island, Oakland Army Base, all this around, gosh, the Alameda Naval Air Station. So I got my money to get on the bus, transferred twice, and I went to Alameda Naval Air Station. I was the first one there, and they opened at quarter to seven, the employment office, and the next shift was quarter to eight, but I said, "Early bird gets the worm," so I was there at six-thirty. And when it finally opened up, quarter-to, I went in and there were women. And so I said, "I came to apply for a position," and they said, well, they were very nice, they just slipped me a paper and it had all this, and you filled it in. And I finished it and I brought it back. And so I waited, they said, "We'll call you." There were about eight people, one by one, I was there, the first one, for at least half an hour, and then people came in later. Then pretty soon they started calling people, they did the same thing, and they started calling these people, I was there first. And everyone went up, and they were going out for an interview, I knew that, they said, "Go to Building so and so," and I'm there from quarter to seven, this is almost quarter to twelve. And I'm thinking, well, we've been through this, they're not going to hire me.

So I thought, I was so angry, and I was about to leave, then three officers came in, navy men, and then this one has stripes, and I looked again, and I thought, "I know him." I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Lajeunesse? And he looks at me and he said, "Yes, oh, yes, young lady, what can I do for you?" I said, "You may not remember me," said, "You're I-ku-ko," he remembered me. He was my principal in grammar school. I forgot to tell you, when we left, my mother sent the school See's candy, a one-pound box, my brother took to his third-grade teacher, I did to my low eighth teacher, and then a two-pound box to the principal, he was our principal. And when I saw him, I recognized him. Yeah, and I said, "You probably won't remember me, but you were my principal at Porter school." He said, "Of course I remember you, I-ku-ko," he went, "I-ku-ko." He said, "What can I do for you?" And I said, "Well, I think they're prejudiced." I'm just this dumb sixteen-year-old kid, I didn't have any gift of gab. And I said, "I've been here since it opened, I was here since six-thirty, and I was the first one at quarter to seven to put in my application. Everybody went out for an interview, but I've been here since six-thirty. I think they're prejudiced." [Laughs] You know, stupid me. And he said, "Don't worry, young lady, I-ku-ko, I'll take care of this." I found out he was the head of employment on the whole base, and he was right under the... there's an admiral, there's a full admiral, and there's two other admirals. But he was right below that, captain, captain was right below the admiral, and then vice admiral and the something admiral. But, "I'll take care of that." And I saw him get on the phone, came back out, and I heard him raise his voice, and all were looking at him and they were looking at me, and I knew. And he came out, got on the boat and came out, he said, "You go here." And he took me outside, the stopped a jeep, a sailor on a jeep, "Take this young lady to Building ONR, and direct her to the office." So I said, "Thank you very much, Mr. Lajeunesse." And so I thought, well, I won't get the job. Well, I'll go over there and that'll be it. Well, the sailor jumped off, he led me into this building, had a code, and then the guard in there opened it up. It was huge, it was the biggest building on Alameda, over a thousand people in that building. And so he said, "Go up those stairs, and this office, you're to go to, it's there.

So I went in there, by then it's about five to twelve, and there's a woman in uniform, and she's called a WAVE, they were called WAVES, and the women in the army were called WACs, W-A-C, and the women who joined the navy were called WAVES. And she looks, and I said to this gentleman, "I was sent from the employment office," and he said, "Yes," and he said, "Oh, you came just in time." And she said, "You're taking my place?" [Laughs] I mean, sixteen, here she is. "Well, I'm out of here." And by then it was noontime, and she said, "I'm out of here." And this man said, "Well, good luck to you," something, he called her. All she said was, "Well, everything's on the desk, you have to do this, this, this." In five minutes she told me what to do, she didn't care, but she was insulted. Not only an Asian, Oriental, but a kid, and sixteen... sixteen, they look like twenty-eight now, but at that time, I looked like fifteen. And so he said, "Well, it's lunchtime now, would you like to have lunch?" And I said, "Well, whatever you think I should do." And he said, "Let's have Millie help you out," and he had a girl come in. And then that lady said, "You've got to do this," she just yelled at me, everything, and in five minutes, I got there five minutes to twelve. And so she took off, and she was discharged that day. So I had a notebook, my shorthand notebook, and in camp we took shorthand. Was I glad, everything she told me, I was writing down in shorthand, this tablet. I thought, boy, I hope I could transcribe it, here she took off, she was so angry that a kid like me was taking her place. And so this man said, "I'm sure you're going to have not much time to read it over, so why don't you just have lunch with Mille or something, unless you want to leave, you may leave if you wish, and come back tomorrow. But our shift is seven forty-five, would that be all right with you?" I said, "That's fine." I thought, "I'm not going to be choosy." And they started out with a hundred and forty-two dollars, and you know, that was a lot of money then, hundred forty-two dollars? When I was thinking my father got eighteen dollars a months in camp, I get there, I'm sixteen, hundred forty-two dollars a month I started out. But I had passed my civil service test, so I thought, I can't remember if they tested me, it's okay.

And so the next day I got up early, went to do my job, and my boss said, "Did you understand what so-and-so said?" 'Yes, I think. May I ask you?" But I had written down in my notebook, thank goodness I took it with me. And so I did all this kind of stuff. The only thing, the board that I had to write on was real large, and she was a six-footer, this WAVE. And so my boss calls downstairs, and then he'd say, "I want a three step, da-da-da," and within about fifteen minutes, these two sailors came running up, and they had a stepladder for me. So I got to write on it. And I wrote everything, what I saw the reports, what was supposed to put down. And then it was about part numbers, what was wrong with the aircraft. And so then pretty soon, about ten men came, and my boss introduces me. And I said, "I think I did it right, this is for..." and one man said, "Well, goddamn, it's the first time I could read the damn thing," he went like that. I was flabbergasted. And the Japanese as a whole had good writing, neat writing. And so he introduced me to all of them, and they were so happy, and so it was a report on what they needed to do on their particular aircraft. And so they were so nice, and they were so happy, and, "Are you going to stay?" I said, "I think so." I wasn't sure if I was going to get fired or what. And then the girl named Millie next, and she said, "Did you bring your lunch today?" I said, "Well, no, is there a cafeteria?" She said, "Well, we have a cafeteria, but we have a truck that comes here, same food. Just run down there and you pick what you want and you pay and bring it up." She took me down. And the job was so easy that Millie said to me, that WAVE, that work, took her all day to do it." You finished by ten-thirty." But ten-thirty, quarter to eleven, I was finished with the job. I said, unless there was something I wasn't doing. And so my boss, I was in a private room with him, he yells to this other supervisor, "Do you need some help?" And h said, "Do I need some help?" He says, "Well, I've got here, Cookie, would you like to have her help you?" He said, "Oh, please, please." And so then Millie was in that room, so he says, "Millie, have Cookie do, da-da-da." I finished my job before noon. I thought, unless I didn't do something, but that's how long that WAVE was getting, she was working there, took all day. But the Nihonjins were a little different, you do the best you can. And I thought, boy, I hope I did it right.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.