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-1000-465-9

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

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: Let's, we've gotten to Cortez, so maybe from there, can you talk about now going to Turlock?

CT: Okay, when we went to Cortez? Okay. We moved from Alameda, and we didn't have any relatives. And other people who had relatives moved to San Jose, as long as you got out of Alameda. And this family said, "Mr. Takano, come. This war will be over, or it's probably temporary, you'll go back to Alameda in three months, just come and stay with us." So like I say, we got to Cortez, it took us twelve hours, now you can get there in an hour and a half. And they said my father had said that the FBI had been in Alameda, and they said they just left a half hour ago, and they took several of the Issei men. And it was a very frightening time for us. So the one son had gone into the U.S. Army, so they gave my sister and me his bedroom, but they had this big tank house, and it was very big, so they had three beds in there. And they said, Mas and my mother and father, "You could say here." And then for mealtime, "We bought a stove for you here so you could cook, but Teri and Cookie could stay with us here and they'll eat with us if that's all right." My father said, "My goodness, they could eat with us, you don't have to feed them." "No, no, it's no problem." And so we were there, and they truly thought that we would be going back in two or three months. And what a low blow when we got this thing about, we're going to have to evacuate somewhere, and everybody show up at this one place because you have to have shots. We said, "Shots for what?" They said, "Well, we're going to have to leave here, and you're going to be put in another place." So we all had to go to one place, and then we got these shots, both arms. And then within a week, we ended up in the Merced Assembly Center they call it, which was for horses. They had horses and they called it Merced Assembly Center. In Los Angeles, what was that one in Los Angeles?

BN: Santa Anita.

CT: Santa Anita, there's was a horse place, too. Well, all places were horses were. And Tanforan, San Francisco, that was a horse, yeah, stables. And they said in San Francisco it rained, and when it rained, they couldn't even get into where the horses were held. They said the smell of manure was so horrible, they stood out in the rain rather than go inside those. So gratefully, we were there about three months.

BN: And were you in a regular barrack?

CT: No. We... was it assembly center? No, we were in a horse stable, too, but they had painted it, and it was clean. But some of them got into, I think, some better, but they had painted it and it was much better. And they had the grandstand, but it was a horse stable. And do you know what? But it's open on top, so my brother and I, we'd get on each other's shoulder and look over to say, "Hi, hi," when we're kids. Somebody swatted us, "Get down here. Nani shiteru?" But we could see all the way over. But that was temporary, but were there only, I think, maybe two to three months. And at that time, my father had left most of our things, furniture, and everything, in Alameda, and we went to Cortez, but he did take Japanese kimonos and things in the footlocker, and we took it to Cortez. So when we went into the assembly center in Merced, the official said, "We wanted to make it as pleasant for you," which was very nice. We have a stage, and you had Japanese dancing and things like that, and they said yes, but they didn't have all the Japanese, and my father did. He brought it from Alameda, it was a big trunk. So they took my father and the owner of the place where we stayed in Cortez, and he let my father bring his trunk full of Nihongi, the Japanese kimono. So you know, we were lucky my father was able to salvage that, so when they had, anybody wanted to dance, Japanese dance, the Japanese kimonos...

BN: So he was able to bring that with him to camp.

CT: So they took him back to the house with the owner of the house and came back with his footlocker of these Japanese kimonos, and so we still have them, but everybody else had to leave them, and so that was one nice thing. But then my father got into there, they said, "Would you do the recreation?" and my father said, "Well, what's that?" "Well, it's entertained..."

BN: Wait, is this at Merced?

CT: This is Merced, yes, Merced.

BN: I'm sorry, Turlock. No, you're in...

CT: You see, there was a town of Turlock

BN: Right, but you were in Merced Assembly Center.

CT: Yes. And then Cortez was the country, and the townspeople lived in Turlock, but we went to the country where people were farmers.

BN: Yeah, I get mixed up, 'cause there was also a Turlock Assembly Center, but you were in Merced.

CT: Do you know the Turlock people ended up in Merced Assembly Center? And people from Fresno came up and went into Turlock. And they had a Fresno Assembly Center, too, I think.

BN: Yes, and Pinedale was also in Fresno.

CT: Yeah, and they ended up in Turlock, but the Turlock people ended up in Merced.

BN: Confusing.

CT: We could never understand that.


BN: And then before we leave Merced, I'm always interested in things like the bathrooms and so forth, do you remember what the situation was at Merced?

CT: Yes, it was terrible. When we first... was that Merced? Did they have bathing for us? I don't think they did. Was that Merced or was that Amache? No, that was Merced. It was one room, this was Merced, yes. We went into this one room, and there was a long chain. And the tallest person, there were about ten or fifteen women, they would pull the chain and then the water would come out from the ceiling. But if you were short, you couldn't pull it, so you had to go to the... well, you know the younger, twenty, twenty-one years, they didn't want to see us in with them, and they wouldn't go in when we went in. So we couldn't reach the thing, so finally they did succumb to having a shower with us, and there would be about fifteen people, twenty people, somebody would pull the thing. I remember that. We brought the toothbrushes in... was that Merced? I don't remember too much about Merced.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.