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-1000-465-18

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

<Begin Segment 18>

CT: And then I told them, they were going to promote me, and I said, no, the most I can work here is one year, because I wanted to go to college, and I have to commute to Berkeley. And, so, well, then, can you take, they said, "You could come in the afternoon," I said, "No, I have to go to college in Berkeley." Now, I was going to go to UC Berkeley, but this lady who was very well-informed, she was an older Nisei, she told my mother and father, "Cookie-san could go to UC for four years, but if she wants to be a teacher, so she's going to have a heck of a time getting a job. You should send her to Armstrong College." But Armstrong College tuition was like a hundred dollars every quarter, it was very expensive. Cal was $29.95 a semester, twice a year. Armstrong was quarter basis. But, she said, "She will be so well trained that, forget the prejudice, she'll be so well trained at Armstrong, that they'll hire her, they know Armstrong." And Armstrong was two blocks from Cal, but the tuition was so expensive. And Cal, like I say, was, at that time, $29.95 a semester, I guess I remember. But Armstrong every quarter, we had to pay over a hundred dollars. So my father took the advice of this lady, Nisei lady, she was much older, she was in her fifties already. And so I went to Armstrong, I was floored when I went to Armstrong, I didn't know anybody because I was in another camp, and most of these people in Berkeley, San Francisco, were all Topaz people. But a lot of Japanese people, girls were there, and they were all there at least one semester there, because it was still 1945, '46. And so I realized, when I went into that class, we had this screwy teacher in Amache, I took shorthand and we thought she was crazy, but people would dictate to you and write down, da-da-da. She made us memorize, on the back of a short book, they have all these short forms, you know. And if the teacher reads it, you're supposed to write it down, she didn't. She made us memorize it, she never called it out. So I knew that by heart as though somebody was dictating to me, she never, we had to memorize them, and we had four hundred and thirty-two or something of those characters, we had to memorize it.

But after Armstrong, we had a tough time getting a job, too, the Niseis. But this woman at Armstrong College, knew people in UC Berkeley, so she sent me for an interview. And so this one lady who interviewed me was very nice to me, and then she knew I was well-trained from Armstrong, they have an outstanding school. But then she changes her mind and she says, "Do you know Mary Tamaki?" And I said, "Oh, I graduated Armstrong with her." "Oh, no, I don't think so," she says. She says, "She's my cleaning lady." And said, "Oh?" So I thought it's an Issei lady took on, she said, "She's the best cleaning woman I've ever had." And she said, "But you know, I like you better because you speak perfect English, Mary Tamaki does not. I said, "Well, I went to Armstrong College with Amy, but on the campus Mary's getting her degree here, but the younger sister Amy and I are at Armstrong. And then she's thinking of hiring me to do her custodial work, you know, domestic work. I thought, "What is this?" and I left. She had me come back two more times, and then she hired me in this department. So when she took me, she finally hired me, I went two more times, she opens the door, she said, "I want you to meet a new member of our staff, we'll call her Cookie Takano." And one girl jumps up and she says, "Cookie." And this Caucasian girl jumps up, and she said, "You know Ms. Takano?" and she said, "She was my tutor at Armstrong College." That girl and I graduated at the same time same time. For us, it took us two or three months to get a job, and she got hired on the... and she said, "I would have flunked out if it weren't for Cookie." Well, yeah, she was from a rich, rich family, so Armstrong, there was a Mr. and Mrs. president, and called me in and said they've donated so much to the college that, "Would you kind of give her extra tutoring?" So I did. They didn't pay me, I didn't think of it, my mother and father thought, "How wonderful that they ask you. Don't even ask about money." I said, "Well, they should pay me, don't you think?" and they thought that was terrible for me to even think that, that I was even asked was honor enough. So I did. I didn't know when she was going, she got a job two months before I did, because, you know, we all had a hard time getting a job. And she said, "Well, since you know Ms. Takano," she said, "We'll move your desk." You know, that girl said to me, she started at like thirty, forty dollars more than I did for this position, same position, but you know what? She only lasted two more months. She wasn't the sharpest, but I don't think this job was for her. Because I tutored her at Armstrong. Anyway, she said, "I can't stand this job." And I said, "Well, you learned everything at Armstrong, it's not tough." "I don't like it," she said. So she stayed about two or three more months and then she quit, but she was from a wealthy family. But I was the only Japanese, I think, for months. But you know, UC Berkeley was the first ones that started hiring the Japanese coming out of the colleges. I was there forty-two years. I had to teach the PhDs how to get their thesis, you know, their PhD dissertations. We became the number one department in the country, my department, it was amazing. But I loved my job. But the Japanese people that came out of Armstrong, well, even out of camp, if they got a job at Cal, they took it. We had a lot of Japanese got hired, and you know, most of us worked for over forty-two years. I worked there forty-two years, most of the other Japanese people that I know, they worked at least forty years.

BN: How old were you when you first started there?

CT: I came out of college nineteen, maybe?

BN: You were so young, you graduated high school early.

CT: Yeah, that's right.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.