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-1000-465-19

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

<Begin Segment 19>

BN: But I just want to end by just asking you about why you feel it's important for people like you who've lived through that time period to talk about the camps and those experiences for the younger people.

CT: Yes. Do you know that the thing I think is from our parents. No matter what, you do the very best you can. I mean, you just don't say, "Oh, well, that's okay," you did the very, very best. Then you're not like the rest of the crowd. And if you have to do one more than that, where nobody will, "Oh, don't do it," do it. And at UC Berkeley, I think they were the biggest employers of Nihonjins after the war. Of course, some people were lucky enough to get... I had many parents that went across, they went to San Francisco and they couldn't get a job. And the ones that did, then they were paying twenty-five cents to get there, twenty-five cents to get back. For us, it was just ten cents to get on the streetcar. But I would say that it was the... of our parents, that they expected us not to just do mediocre, you have to do one better. And we said, "Well, why do we have to do one better? We're same as anybody." They said, "Well, for one thing, the prejudice against you, but not only that, it's just, you do better than you're expected to." The Isseis all had this thing that they pounded on us, do the best you can, just don't say, well, she did it. And I got hired there, but you know, I became the head of that department within two years. And the people were older than I am, and people I hired, I would say to them, "I have to train you a solid year, so I'm not going to hire you unless you promise me you will be here a minimum of three years." You know, they all stayed with me a long time. There's a woman came to me, she says, "I've had fifteen years of experience," so she said, well, I said to her, "You'll have to forget everything, I'm going to teach you da-da-da." And she said she went home and told her husband, "I don't know about this gal, and she said she's going to teach me? You know what? I'm ten years older than she is." She said after the first week, she went home and she told her husband, "I'm glad she didn't fire me." Armstrong College was meticulous, absolutely meticulous. It was expensive, but you got one comma wrong, or one whatever wrong. So she said, "I had told you I had ten years' experience, didn't I say that to you?" And she said, "You had to teach me like we came out of kindergarten," she said to me. She worked for me thirty years. And people I hired later, if they were putting their husbands through school, or they would get a master's, they stayed at least six years or eight years. So I can honestly say that people, many people worked for me for at least twenty, twenty-five years. I was so grateful, I worked there forty-two years, but that's my second home.

But a lot of Japanese people did work at UC Berkeley because they went on to college and all and they couldn't get a job, they came back to Berkeley and they were hired. So my girlfriend Nancy Fujita, Nakayama now, she worked in the president's office, and I worked in the building where it was called Giannini Hall, and my department was very rich because Giannini was A.P. Giannini, Bank of America. He started the Bank of America when he was, it was called Banca d'Italia, Bank of Italy, but later became bank of America. But during the depression, he was a farmer, and he brought his cart in from the country and he sold it to the people. And then he lent them money and the charged them interest, and he started this little bank called Banca d'Italia, and then became the biggest bank in the world. And then so our building is called Giannini Hall, because A.P. Giannini, Amadeo, whatever, and a big portrait of him. So that's the building I worked in, in Giannini Hall. But there was an Italian man during the depression who made all this money. So it's amazing, so they were surprised when somebody said to me, "Did you know Mr. So and so?" And I said, "Yes, he was the Rice King before the war." They said, yes, Koda, I said, "They were in our camp, and my father knows him well." He said, "Well, he was just here in our building today." I said, "Oh, for heaven sakes, the Kodas, and the rice king. And I said before the war, there was a Potato King, Potato King was Japanese also. And then Hirasaki, did you know Sumi and Manabi?

BN: Yes, very well.

CT: Yeah, he started the big strawberry... in fact, I just talked to his wife, she called me, she's in a rest home, but she all of a sudden didn't want to see anybody. But her daughter called me yesterday, and I talked to her. Manabi and my husband were like this, they were in the army together. And so when my husband died, Manabi was one of the, took part in the funeral, and Senator Inouye, we all did. It was nice. So two Jewish people came to speak on behalf of my husband, because my husband was with the group that saved the Jews. And then we went to Israel, so when I think of it, it was really interesting meeting up with the Jewish people in Israel. And we hired people from Israel as professors, visiting professors, and they said to me, "Know that you have a friend in Israel," and they said, "Please come." So my husband and I, a group went to, they're from JACL, about twenty-five of us went to Israel, and we were treated so nicely. You know, the Jewish people have kind of the same kind of... the Japanese.

BN: Well, and I think there was a special connection with the 522 guys because of that.

CT: Yes, exactly, 522 Charlie. So Manabi and my husband, he just passed away. He was teaching at Harvard, he was a good friend of ours, he was a professor at Harvard, he just died last year. If I say the name... and they put him on the float last year's New Year parade.

BN: Yeah, thank you so much.

CT: Well, not at all.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.