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-1000-465-6

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

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BN: So now, when the war broke out, you were twelve.

CT: Twelve years old, yes.

BN: Were you still going to the same grammar school?

CT: Yes. You know, I was in Porter school, we used to have low first, high first, like that, I was in low eight. And it was Sunday, we were in Sunday school, the Methodist church, people were having church, and I was at the Buddhist church. And when we got home, my mother and father said, they were all dressed up and they said, "Mrs. So and So passed away in San Francisco, lunch is on the table, so we're going to there right now, but we will be home by four o'clock." And they got into the car and they left, but they told us we were to go across the street to this Japanese family, they had some grown children. And, "We've told them, so after you have lunch, you go over there until we come home about four o'clock." So we thought, fine. None of us knew the war had started because of the time difference, three hours' difference, and we home from Sunday school about eleven, eleven-thirty, and they left. So we ate our little lunch, and then we went across the street, and they we stayed with that family because they had grown children. And we were reading the funnies and all, and this radio thing was on, and they were saying, "You know, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." And we said, "Where's Pearl Harbor?" and we didn't think anything of it. We just didn't give it a second thought until four o'clock came along, and five o'clock came along, and six o'clock came along, and my parents hadn't come home. And we were still staying with this family, they finally told us to eat dinner with them, we didn't know what had happened. But it turned out that when they finally got home to pick us up at eight or eight-thirty, they had not known when they left Alameda at eleven-thirty in the morning, they were stopped at the Bay Bridge. And they were frisked, they were held for about an hour, and they inspected under the car, everything. And the Bay Bridge was only about a couple of years old then, and they finally, after about an hour and a half or two, they finally got to their friends' place where the lady passed away, and they told them of their experience, and they didn't know that the war had started. And it was during this little, planning the funeral service for this woman and all, that one of their sons came home and they said, "Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." They said, "Where's Pearl Harbor?" They said, "Hawaii." "No," they said, it's a rumor." They said, "No, it's on the radio." Well, they didn't think anything of it, but on the way home, when they were going to be home by four o'clock, they didn't get home until about eight-thirty and we didn't know what happened. They got stopped on the bridge again coming back, and then they realized that the war started.

And the next day was Monday, this was Sunday, and the next day was Monday and we all went to school, we felt terrible. And then the principal, we all went into, I think the bell rang at nine o'clock and we were all called into the assembly hall, and the principal got up and he said that, "We will excuse the classes today, and you may all go home, but come back tomorrow. But we have called all the families, so somebody is home when you get home. We are at war now, but all of you are not to go meandering, you go straight home. But we will have school tomorrow." And then he did say, "We have many Japanese American students here, and they are not to be blamed. So they are Americans." I still remember our principal saying that, and I'm so grateful. His name was Mr. Lajeunesse, and a very nice man.

BN: What was it?

CT: L-A-J-E-U-N-E-S-S-E, Lajeunesse, Mr. Lajeunesse. And he was one of the teachers, and then he became principal.

BN: About how many, what percentage of the students were Japanese there, would you say?

CT: I'm sure every class from kindergarten up, there were at least maybe three to five children, Japanese, in every class. And then we had another school called Haight school where the Japanese were over there, but ours was the bigger one. Something very interesting about Mr. Lajeunesse I might mention later. But so he said, "Remember that our students here are Americans just like you, but we will have class tomorrow, but you are all to go home. Don't go meandering down Park Street or anything, go straight home." And so we all went home, we were so happy that we got to go home and play. That was December... we went back to school the next day, and December 7th and December 8th and December 9th. And within a short while, we found that Alameda and Terminal Island in Los Angeles County, we had to leave in February. There were no camps, and we had to leave.

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