Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yae Wada Interview
Narrator: Yae Wada
Interviewer: Patricia Wakida
Location: Berkeley, California
Date: April 12, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-476

<Begin Segment 1>

PW: So I'm Patricia Wakida, today is April 12th, and I'm interviewing Yae Wada in Berkeley, California. First of all, Yae, thank you so much for doing this interview, I so greatly appreciate it. So we'll start with your childhood. When were you born? When's your birthday, and where were you born?

YW: I was born in Berkeley, California, ninety-nine years ago, November 3, 1919. I'm still in Berkeley. I came back because my dad had a business over here and I had lost our home. I had a business that I lost, too, so I was lucky that I had someplace to come to, and I know a lot of people did not have anyplace to come. But I was able to relocate back to Berkeley after camp.

PW: And were you born in a hospital here in Berkeley or were you born at home?

YW: No, I was born at home, a samba-san, midwife, like many of us Niseis.

PW: Which neighborhood did you live in at that time?

YW: Actually, it was almost in the same neighborhood that I'm in now. Because at that time, there was still discrimination. So we had to live in just certain areas, we couldn't go over the border. And we were living in an area where there were some blacks and Asians... we were in an area where it was very convenient for us.

PW: Tell me about the border. So where was the border, what streets in...

YW: I think you could not go over, well, you could not be above Shattuck, for sure.

PW: What is the name of this neighborhood we're living in now?

YW: It used to be called Virginia Gardens many, many years ago. And it's right near where the North Berkeley BART station is right now. We were not able to live in this neighborhood at (that) time. I think the borderline, the cutoff was like University, so University is just a few blocks past the North Berkeley BART station. We lived right on the other side of University at that time. My dad had a laundry business on Ashby near Shattuck.

PW: Tell me about your father. What was your father's name, and where did he, where was he from?

YW: My father was from Hiroshima in Japan, and he came here as a young boy, I think about nineteen years old. I don't know if he was that old, but I believe he was about eighteen, nineteen years old when he came. And then he said he always wanted to come here, but he didn't have quite enough money to get here, so then he stopped in Hawaii. And he lived there for a couple years and worked the railroads and pineapple fields, I think, to earn enough money to come to California. Actually, he came into Berkeley, and he's been in Berkeley until he passed away. He started his business in Berkeley.

PW: What was the name of the business?

YW: Ashby Laundry, and it was a plant. It was a plant where they had the big equipment, it was a laundry plant, and they had big boilers and the big mangles, the big presses, it was that kind of a laundry. So they did hire quite a few people, and among them were Isseis, the first generation. And they were still young, they were maybe in their late '40s, early '50s, and good workers. He also had Niseis, the second generation, especially those that came out of high school, they couldn't find a job, they always ended up at the laundry because they got their free laundry, free room and board. There was kind of an unspoken rule among Niseis, and I think most of us kind of knew that when you turned eighteen or when you graduated high school, it was time for you to leave, find a job and leave. Because the Isseis, our parents, were having a hard time. And so I think the Niseis, the second generation, kind of had an unspoken rule that, yes, when you got out of high school, you were kind of on your own. And so when they couldn't find a job, they ended up at the laundry, my dad's laundry, my dad trained them to use a lot of the equipment.

PW: What was your father's full name?

YW: Kenichi Tokunaga.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

PW: And tell me a little bit about your mother then, too. What was her name?

YW: My mother was, her name was Tanabe, her maiden name was Tanabe, and she was from Yokohama. But she was sick and weak ever since I could remember, ever since I was a child. And I can only remember maybe seeing her walking around maybe about two or three times in her lifetime, and the rest of the time she was in bed, she was sick. And she had a very weak heart, and she died when she was only thirty-nine years old. I was fourteen, and so I was raised kind of by myself. I knew at that time that I would have to do something to make my own living. I wanted to do something more than working in a laundry plant. So I went to beauty school and got my certificate to practice. I opened up the shop when I was twenty-one, twenty-two years old. I had a beauty shop in Oakland Chinatown, and that was a good place for me because about the time (...), there was rumors of a war starting, and the government was building ships. The shipyards were right in our backyard, in Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond. And people were coming from all over the country, they wanted to work in the shipyards. It was a government job, a good job. If you didn't know how to build ships, they trained you, even the women. And that's where they got the name Rosie the Riveter. They did everything the men did, they were working right alongside the men. And there was always this friendly rivalry. The women were (...) working with the men, they always had these banners that said they wanted equal pay for equal work, but that never changed very much for a long time. But because they were still women, and women being women, they still wanted to look good. But the shipyards were open day and night and some of the women had to work these awful odd hours. They couldn't find beauty shops to get their hair done, so they finally (came to) Chinatown, and so I catered to them. And so our hours were long. But it was a good place for me, like I say, because the restaurants also in Chinatown were open late, and I think they were catering to these people that worked the shipyards, that worked the canneries that were supplying everything to the servicemen. And the hours were long, they worked so late that they couldn't (find) someplace where they could get their hair done.

PW: Were they mixed race? Were they many different types?

YW: Well, I must say that I think that in the beginning, it seemed to me that they would only hire white women in the beginning. I think they realized later that it was some of the minorities that were really good workers, and I think that was because I think they were more used to doing heavy manual kind of work, and they were very good. And so it got so they were... they hired many minorities.

PW: What was the name of your business?

YW: The beauty shop was Alice Beauty Salon.

PW: Why Alice?

YW: Well, it was the name of a person that used to own it previously. And she used to come to the beauty school, this woman was from, I think she was from Hawaii, and her husband had another business, and he needed some more help, and she wanted to help her husband, so she wanted to sell her beauty shop. And she had hired me as an operator just before that. So she got to know my work when she got ready to sell.

PW: So was she Nisei? Was she a Nisei also?

YW: She was... you know, I don't know. I'm not sure what she was. All I know is I think she was from Hawaii, because she spoke both Japanese (and English)... and she was Japanese, and she was married to a Japanese. So I don't know, I think she was a Nisei.

PW: Can you describe what the beauty shop looked like on the inside?

YW: It was small but we had all the equipment. We had... well, see, we're talking about, like, 1940, and so there were permanents, and dying a lot of hair, bleaching, everybody wanted to be a blonde. There was a lot of permanents and that kind of work, so it was a lot of work compared to what they do now, everybody had long hair. And yes, the area that I worked in, there were, the jobs were hard. There was dance halls, there was even a burlesque. And the girls were all very beautiful girls, and they kept themselves up real nice. The people that worked on the ships, because they also wanted to look nice with the long hair, they did pull up their hair, wrap their hair in bandanas, put on coveralls just like the men, and they were out there working right alongside of them doing all the work that the men did. Riveting, they got into the tanks and did everything, they were great.

PW: What were the hours? You said that you had to cater to later hours, but I'm kind of curious, like what was your day like for you to go to work?

YW: Well, because of the hours that they kept, we opened our shop probably about seven o'clock in the morning. I was there at the beauty shop 'til maybe about ten or eleven o'clock at night. There were shops that were downtown, nice shops, but the nice shops were in the department stores, and so they kept the department store hours. Like they would close at, what was it, five o'clock or six o'clock, whereas I stayed open 'til about eleven o'clock.

PW: And as the owner, tell me more about your responsibilities. Again, it's unusual that you were a Nisei woman and you ran your own business. I'm kind of curious, what were some of the things you had to take care of regularly at the shop?

YW: I did everything; I was the operator. I was the operator/owner, so we did everything. I had a partner, she used to be an operator before we went into partnership. So I learned a lot from her, but we did everything.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

PW: All right, let's go back a little bit. I never asked you if you had any siblings. Did you have any brothers or sisters?

YW: (...) I have a sister, she's a hundred years old and she lives in Ohio and her daughter helps her.

PW: What's her full name?

YW: Her name is Chiye Kondo. But she was in school most of the time, she went to college. But I was the one that was working in the laundry. I was busy, she was a student.

PW: So tell me about, so you grew up in Berkeley, I'm curious, what as Berkeley like for you growing up with your sister?

YW: Berkeley, I love Berkeley. We lived not too far from the campus, and because we lived so close to the campus, we had friends that went to school, and we met a lot of people. In those days, people were so busy, I guess they didn't have time to do their laundry because Dad was always busy. We never had any problems as far as work was concerned, we kept busy. And the Japanese at that time kind of stuck together. Because, as I said, there was still a certain amount of discrimination. Even going to school, there was a student club, Japanese student club, and they had their own social life.

PW: Tell me which schools you went to, grammar school and middle school, high school, where did you go?

YW: Longfellow grammar school, Westlake junior high school, University High School. I went to business school for a while, went to beauty school.

PW: Where was the beauty school?

YW: In Oakland. Everything was close by.

PW: What did you do for fun with your friends? What was a good time for you, even when you were little and then when you got older?

YW: Well, like I said, I lost my mother when I was fourteen, so I was pretty independent. For fun, there was a lot of girls that worked at the laundry, young girls about the same age as myself. And when we wanted to go out, I used to drive the laundry truck. We'd get all dressed up to go to San Francisco, all dressed up. And in those days, all the women wore gloves, high heeled shoes or hats. This is the way they dressed, they were beautiful. And so when we would go out, we'd go to San Francisco, and just to go see the women walking to the department stores all dressed up like that but that was the way they dressed. It was nice. And because I drove and because Dad did finally get a large laundry truck, everybody crawled into the back of the (truck) with the dirty laundries, and I drove. I was able to learn how to drive when I was quite young. And we'd be all dressed up, and we'd go into, with the laundry truck, and we'd go into San Francisco and go to a restaurant and pretend we were one of the ladies in San Francisco. [Laughs]

PW: Did you guys date, like in high school even?

YW: Of course, Because the University of California was right up the street, there was a lot of young men who, I guess they had a lot of fundraising and socials and things of their own up there. And maybe there weren't as many girls, Japanese girls there, and so those of us who lived near town found, they were very, very popular. And so we did get invited to a lot of the Cal things. We almost felt like we were going to Cal, as a matter of fact, because we knew so many people there and we attended so many of their functions. It was nice.

PW: Did your father and mother have you and your sister go to Japanese school?

YW: We did.

PW: Where was that?

YW: We went to school, we had to go to (Japanese) school for an hour after our regular school. And that was in Oakland, so we didn't have much time to spend going, playing after school for my regular school, because all the Japanese girls, all of us had to rush to Japanese school. And our parents wanted us to learn a little Japanese, I guess, so we can converse with them more. But we didn't have any problems actually talking to the Isseis, because all of us spoke the same way. We spoke English and threw in Japanese words that we heard our parents speak. And our parents did the same thing, they spoke Japanese and threw in a few American words. So we didn't have any problems. I think the people from Japan, once in a while they would come over here and wonder how children got along with their parents when we couldn't even speak Japanese. And I have to admit, when we went to Japanese school, it was different because the language that you speak in Japanese school is different from the language our parents spoke, because our parents came from different parts of Japan and they had dialects. And then when they spoke different dialects, it was like a different language. So a lot of our parents kind of spoke, they were speaking Japanese, but not the way you were taught in Japanese school. But my generation, we all spoke about the same way, and because we spoke English and threw in Japanese words, we all (...) understood.

PW: Did your family celebrate Oshogatsu or any of the Japanese...

YW: Yes. They did keep up all the Japanese customs, so we grew up with all the Japanese food. That was our regular diet.

PW: Then what about, I don't know if people in Berkeley did this much, but were there community picnics?

YW: There was. And because my dad had the laundry, he felt like everybody that worked there was his family. So when the organizations used to have their parties, and the different kens, the different...

PW: Prefecture?

YW: Prefecture, people that came from different areas, they had their own picnics, we all went, packed their lunch and went.

PW: Where did you go?

YW: Actually, the Albany Hills was one of the places that they went to. And there was an area up there where they would arrange to have races, and they had their sumo wrestling. Actually, I remember one of the picnics that they had, there was a ship that came in from Japan, and there was a lot of young sailors. The group had invited the sailors to come, and it was a time when everybody was doing hula hoops. And this Japanese man would tell the sailors, "Now, the young people in America can do something that these great Japanese sailors cannot do. And if you can do it, then you'll earn a great prize." And all these little children came out and they were using the hula hoops, and they invited all the sailors to come up and try, and if anybody can do what these little kids did, they can have the hula hoops. And so none of them could do that. But as the prize, they passed out hula hoops to all the sailors that came and told them to go back to Japan and practice doing what the little children in America could do. [Laughs] It was great, it was a great relationship. That's the way the Isseis kept us entertained and kept us together.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

PW: So when you had your, by the time you had your business, you said this was 1940, were you still single, or had you...

YW: No. I was married when I had my shop.

PW: How did you meet your husband?

YW: (...) I went to beauty school with his sister. He had a sister that went to beauty school, but that's how we met.

PW: What was the school name? I don't know its name. (East Bay School of Beauty Culture.)

YW: I married Tak, Takeshi Katayanagi. So I was married before the war started. And at the time, I was working at the beauty shop, two policemen came and said, "You're not supposed to be open, you should be going home and get ready to pack your baggage to get ready to leave." And I said, "Where? Why?" And he said, "Didn't you read all the posts that was posted on the telephone poles out there?" And I said, "No." And he said, "Well, there's a notice on all the telephone poles that says anybody of Japanese ancestry," they were rounding them up to be taken. Because of national security, because the war was starting. And that's how I was notified, when these policemen came to my beauty shop and told me that I had to go home, and I should be starting to pack. And I did get upset, and I told them, my beauty shop was full of people, customers, I handed him my comb and brush and told him, "Okay, you finish them and I'll go home." And so then they decided, okay, well, you can finish up the day, but you had to go home, close the shop. So I did, but when I got home, my dad told me to hurry up and start packing. And I said, "No, that doesn't pertain to me, I'm an American citizen." I was worried for him because Isseis at that time were not allowed to become citizens. So I was worried for him but I said, "Don't worry about us, we're American citizens," and things like that. "It's not going to happen, we're not going to be sent anyplace." So although they told us to pack our things, I was one of those holdouts that wouldn't pack until the very last minute.

And when I realized that this actually was happening, I did start to pack. And I finally looked at the list, and they said, in this package, you could take with you everything you could carry, but in this bundle, there are certain item that are required. And the requirements were things like bedding for each person, dishes, cups, knives and forks and spoons for each person. Yes, and they definitely said knives and forks, but at the same time, they're saying, "but nothing that cuts." However, I did manage to pack, but I packed like I was going to go on a vacation, because the rumors were they're going to send us someplace to the middle of a desert, and they're going to leave us there. This was the rumor. So I said, "Well, if they send us there, I won't stay there. I'm not going to stay there because when they clear me, I'll be coming home." And at the same time, the notices were saying that we should get rid of everything that's in our house, your furniture, everything. The house had to be cleaned, cleared. And I said, "Well, I can't carry my bedroom set, can't carry my refrigerator," but all I thought was that I had to carry my clothes, and then, well, I'm going to the desert, so we had to leave all our nice Sunday dresses hanging on the closet, all our nice shoes and nice dresses. So all I took with us were clothes that I thought I would need for the desert. And when I thought about the desert, they said, "We're going to go to a camp." At that time, all I knew about camps were Girl Scout camps and Boy Scout camps, I didn't know about concentration camps.

So, of course, the big shock was... oh, and they did tell us that, at that time, there were so many of us that the camp wasn't ready, but in the meantime, that they were sending us someplace else. And I thought I was going to go to a hotel or someplace like that. Instead, it was shock when I found out that they dropped us off at Tanforan, which was a horse racing place. And I knew that it was such a place because I had gone there with my husband a couple of times when we went to go see the horses race. I recognized that place. And when we got there, we saw some barracks, the kind the servicemen live in, and we thought, well, we'll stay here for a couple of weeks, and when I got cleared, I'll go home. I had my birth certificate, I had my driver's license. What else do I need? And they said, well, they need proof of our loyalty. How do you prove loyalty? I said, "What do I need to show you? What do I have to have?" And they said, well, the way you prove loyalty, just do as we ask you to do. Do it now, and do it peacefully, and we did. We did everything I was told to do. Gave up where we lived, I gave up my shop with all of my equipment and everything. I was not going to sell anything, because I thought that I would be cleared shortly, and when I come back, I would need everything, so I didn't want to sell anything. And also I thought, well, if I'm going to go to camp, I'm going to need a little money, because at that time, all I had was car fare and lunch money for the day. And I went to the bank, and they had already closed all our accounts. They said, "Your account's been confiscated." So we weren't allowed to get into our own bank account.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

YW: So we went to Tanforan, and like I said, we saw these barracks, and I thought, well, okay, I will go into one of those barracks. But they said you were assigned to this apartment number and you go find your apartment, that's where you'll be living. But my apartment turned out to be a horse stable. And I know now that they had beautiful stables, but in those days, the horses were stabled in these horse stalls, one horse, one stable. And the stable was just wide enough to put in two cots, one was for my husband, one was for myself, and then in the front end, my father. My family consisted of myself, my husband and my father. And I told my father at that time, "I'm not going to go in there, I'm not a horse." And he said, "Your government's asking you to do this." And like I said, they said, "To prove your loyalty, you do as we ask you to do now." So that was the biggest shock. It was a bigger shock than going to Topaz.

PW: Where did your sister go?

YW: She was in the same camp, but she had, her husband (and he) had his own family that he had to take care of, so they were another family.

PW: And was your husband a Nisei?

YW: He was a Nisei.

PW: Was your father ever visited by the police or by the FBI?

YW: No, not that I know of. And I was a little bit surprised because I had heard that so many Isseis were arrested, taken, but we never had any occasion where my dad had any problems. So when he left, there was a Chinese family that lived across the street from his laundry, and my dad asked him if he would take over the laundry, just run it, just keep the doors open. Just keep all the money that came in and just run the business, just keep it open until he was able to come back. And they did this, I don't know how they did it, because this Chinese man didn't speak Japanese, my father didn't speak Chinese, they didn't speak very good English together. But somehow, because of years of just being neighbors, being friendly, they settled that business on a handshake, just talking the way they talked, and they understood each other. And this Chinese man kept the laundry going until Dad was able to come back after the war, which was about four years, it was about five years before I was able to come back, and Dad was able to come back a little before I did. So it was close to five years, I guess, that this Chinese man did run the business for him. So we had a place to come back to. So I consider myself lucky.

PW: Do you remember going to the Civil Control Station, or did your husband go register the family?

YW: No, we didn't have to go through all that. It seemed like they had all our information that they needed. And so I didn't understand why we still had to, we still had to go to a camp. I couldn't understand that, because my husband and I, we had all the papers we thought we needed, and we had never been a problem with the law, we'd never been arrested for anything, and we had our birth certificates, what else did we need? They said we had everything. So that's why I thought that after everything got cleared, we would come back and nothing would have changed. But I didn't realize that when I came back, there was nothing. I knocked on the door, and there were some people living in my shop. And I said, "What happened to all the equipment in my beauty shop?" And they said when they moved in, that place was empty.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

YW: I think when they first notified us and when we got on the bus and we left, there were a lot of people out on the sidewalk standing around, and I thought they were just standing to see what was going on. I didn't realize that as soon as we left the house or the shops, people would come in and just take whatever they wanted. Although policemen (and) soldiers were there, they did nothing to stop them. The only thing they did tell us was, well, then sell it. We should have sold it, but they would offer you three dollars or five dollars for a whole dining room set, ten dollars for your car, and you know, it was ridiculous. But there were people waiting outside just for you to leave, so hurry up and leave. They backed up their cars, actually, to get ready to load their car, because they were free to come in and take what they wanted. I know that somebody offered somebody in our family three dollars for the living room set, and they said, "We said no, so they threw three dollars on the floor." And I'm trying to think who it was that picked it up to hand it back to him to say no, "Once you pick up the money, that means you accepted it." We said, "No." But they just picked up what they wanted and they walked off.

"Things that we couldn't carry," (...) people were trying to fill up their suitcases, but you really can't put very much in a suitcase, like your coats and jackets and your shoes and things. We couldn't put everything in a suitcase, so I got a big canvas and rolled up our clothes. Because if you roll it, you could get in more into those packages, and wrapped it like a bundle. We also made bundles out of (...) some of the extras that we had in the house like extra linens and blankets and household or some of your own personal things. And we wrapped it up in sheets, so whatever we could find, and we'd put our name and family number on the packages, family numbers, because we're no longer (...) our name, you were a number. And they said that name, they couldn't go by names but they could go by numbers. It's just like prisoners. And we left it on the curb, and they said that, if possible, somebody will come and pick it up and then you might get it. Chances are that you won't, but they were sure to, although they couldn't promise that we would get those bundles, they said they can only assure you that you could take what you could carry. So the extra bundles we left out on the curb, my canvas was opened, but I got most of my things eventually. It was weeks after I had gone to Topaz, but I got most of my things, which wasn't very much.

PW: Was there anything that you took that was personal to you? And did you bring anything special that meant sentimental or anything...

YW: No, because I thought I was just going on a vacation. I thought I was going to a camp, whatever I thought a camp was. In a couple of weeks, I thought it would take a couple of weeks, a good couple of weeks, because there were so many of us. I didn't know that there was going to be, like, ten thousand people in our camp or nine thousand, eight thousand to nine thousand, ten thousand in a camp. But yeah, I packed like I was going to a camp, like I was going on a vacation.

PW: Where did you go to take the buses? Like where did you meet in Berkeley?

YW: The buses, it was close to where I was staying. It was not a church, we were given a street corner. And our house was almost on the corner, it was the second house from the corner where I was staying. It just happened that the people in our area was to gather, it was almost in front of our house, so I didn't have to go very far.

PW: Did you have friends or people in Berkeley that said goodbye, or was there any kind of that connection that you had to leave behind?

YW: You know, we didn't have time for that. And like I said, I thought, because I was going on a vacation, I would be back soon, and that's how I left. I didn't know that it would take me five years to get back.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

PW: How long were you at Tanforan?

YW: You know, I'm not sure, we kind of lost track. There was no calendars, there was, you know, we had way of knowing, no radios, no newspapers, so I kind of lost track of exactly... I know that there's records of dates that I was supposed to go in, there's a record of when I was supposed to leave, but a lot of that is not accurate. Because things happened at the last minute and dates changed and I don't know what the dates were. I don't know how long, I think I was in Tanforan about, I thought I was there about seven months, but I think the records show I was there maybe about six months, I don't know. So I don't know exactly how many, the date I left, but I think it was close to about seven months that I was in Tanforan.

I must say, when we first got to Tanforan and I found out that we were going to be staying in this horse stall, which was a big shock, there was a lot of commotion. It was very quiet, and I think that's because Japanese don't go in very much for things like protesting. We didn't have to worry about people setting fires or breaking windows, nothing like that. They tried to be law-abiding, but it's a shock when you're put into someplace like that for not doing, being guilty of anything. I remember after we kind of settled down, we looked for the bathroom, there was two shacks about a block away. One said "black," one said, "white." It was the toilets, but we didn't know which one to use. Then somebody changed it to "men" and "women." And then we saw a drinking fountain, this is in Tanforan. And we saw drinking fountains, and one said "black" and one said "white." And that's when I realized we're not the only ones that were being discriminated. I had heard of those things happening back east or someplace, but California is so close to home that it was a shock. And I was sick all the time. I was sick from the beginning, and I thought it was because I was pregnant, but there was no hospital in Tanforan. If you thought you needed a surgery or something, they tried to tell you, "Well, wait 'til you get to Topaz because Topaz is supposed to have a hospital," but Tanforan did not have a hospital. There was a doctor, but he was so busy that it was hard to see him. You had to go to, I don't know, she was a nurse, you had to go through other people to try to get up to see the doctor, he was too busy to see you. And they decided that what I had, the nurse or whatever she was, decided that it was due to stress. But everybody has stress, so it was hard to see a doctor when I was pregnant. So I did lose the baby.

PW: In Tanforan?

YW: In Tanforan, yes. Well, I finally got the nurse to look, and then I don't know what happened except that when she was examining me, the nurse was examining me because I couldn't ever get up to the doctor. The nurse or whatever she was examining me, and all I can remember was she said, "Oh, and I just changed my uniform this morning." So I must have dirtied her somehow. But it was very hard. Tanforan was actually harder than Topaz. Actually, when we got to Topaz, there was a hospital there and there was a doctor. Again, it was harder to see the doctors because they were so busy that they didn't have time unless there was really an emergency, or unless you had a serious illness that was obvious that somebody needed some kind of surgery or something.

PW: So from what you're describing, you basically had to just stay in your barrack and just get through it, is that true?

YW: I think so. And it was hard because if you're sick, it's hard to get to help. When I was in Topaz, my barrack, between my barrack and the hospital, there was a big open field. You had to cross that field, you had to get into line because there's always lines for everything. If you're sick, you don't want to walk the distance. You don't want to sit and wait for hours to see even a doctor. Yeah, life was really hard for mothers, pregnant people, or if you just have stress, so they call it. Anything was called stress. But whatever it is you had, it was very hard.

PW: Were there people, either friends or friends of family that were able to help care for you?

YW: Well, like I said, everybody thought that it was stress, and so there was nothing much they could do. They said, "Well, you should eat this," or, "You shouldn't eat that," well, you had no choice when you were in camp to be on a good diet. You didn't have the choice, it was eat or don't eat. And if you're sick, you don't feel like eating much, and whatever food you got, it wasn't very good. They said a lot of the food that you received was just like the servicemen got. Institution food, which would have been okay, but I think because... well, while we were in Topaz, I was sick in Topaz, I think the food that was supposed to be delivered to us might have been the same food that they got, the servicemen got, but I think the person who delivered it must have gotten lost in the desert or something. You know, Topaz at that time, and it was in the middle of the desert, there was no road, there was no streets, there was no maps, and I think the only person who knew where Topaz was were the people that were building that place. We were told once, because the food was getting so bad and the food was spoiled, we were told by the person that delivered it that when they were delivering it, "They made us stop at a town that was closest to Topaz," I forgot how many miles away that was. But they made a stop there to try to find the camp, they made the stops at this little town. And while they made their stops, the trucks were always, somebody had gotten to their trucks and stole (the food), especially the things that were rationed at that time, like sugar. There was a lot of food that, during wartime, everybody had a hard time getting, like oils and butter, sugar, and those were the kind of things that were taken. But the people that did deliver the food, did say that when they made their stop in Delta, that little town, that the truck was broken into. So the cooks were complaining that they didn't get their regular supply that they were supposed to get.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

PW: So from Tanforan to Topaz, did you take a train?

YW: Yes.

PW: Do you remember anything about that train?

YW: Only that they made us close the drapes, the shade, so we couldn't see out. They said it's so people couldn't see in, what's the difference? But anyway, so everything was dark, people were sick, that's all I could remember.

PW: Do you remember when you got to Delta, did you get to Delta and then they took you on a bus to Topaz?

YW: You know, when we got to Salt Lake City, I think it was, where they transferred us to buses to go out to the desert.

PW: And I imagine that you were not well yourself?

YW: I was so sick, I didn't know where I was. The trains that they put us on were those old, old trains. The seats were like wooden seats, they were very uncomfortable. And we weren't allowed to walk around, like you could walk on some trains now, so it was very hard that way.

PW: So what were your first impressions of Topaz one you arrived? I don't know if it was night or day, but once you started to really look around, what did you think about Topaz?

YW: You know, all I can remember about Topaz when we first got there was get in line, move, move. And I hated that word "move," because nobody wanted to move. And we had to find our new barracks, and there was nothing in there except a cot. There was those old, black potbelly stoves, except there was nothing to burn in the stoves. You know, you burn coal in those potbelly stoves to keep you warm. And it's a desert, but you'd be surprised at how cold a desert could get, I didn't know that. I was born and raised in Berkeley, and wasn't used to the weather, we all had California clothes, and we didn't have very much of that. Like I said, there were Coleman stoves but no coal to burn. I noticed that in one of the museums, they showed some things that were taken from camp, and they had this nice, clean black Coleman stove, and they were saying, yes, it's nice and clean because it was never used, but yes, we did get a Coleman stove.

PW: Did your husband work?

YW: Yes, he was very fortunate. He was a big man and very strong, and he worked up at the hospital, he was a machinist, so they had a one and only... (...) ambulance. And he took care of the ambulance, and they treated him real well. Because he was a big, strong man, he was able to lift and carry patients. He was able to move the equipment, he was able to take care of the one and only ambulance. So he was given permission to go into Delta to the town that's the closest. And when he was there, he said that he could go to the restaurant to eat, but he didn't have any money. So before he went, we tried to get what little money we had, or we knew that somebody would buy what we had, we would sell it to get a few cents so I could give it to him, so when he goes into town he could eat a meal. And like I said, people liked him at the hospital because he was very useful, very helpful. So he was treated well, because that's where he spent most of his time.

PW: What about your father?

YW: My father remarried when he was in Topaz, and they gave him one of the, there was a small room at the end of the barracks. What they did was they broke up the barracks and made it into apartments, and then gave him the one on the end, which was the smallest and it was for maybe just a couple.

PW: And what was your stepmother's name since he remarried?

YW: Her name was Aya, but I'm trying to think what her... I can't remember now what her original name was. But she was somebody that I knew from before when I lived in Berkeley. They had a group of friends who used to play cards together, and she belonged to the same club as my dad did, I guess, in the same Buddhist church, and I think that's how they met. And she was very nice and very helpful after they married, and she came to the laundry. She did all the cooking for everybody in laundry, she babysat our children. She was very, very good, I was very happy for my dad, he had somebody.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

PW: So when you were in Topaz, you told me that you actually became pregnant again, and you had a baby?

YW: Yes.

PW: Tell me about it.

YW: I was still sick. I was so sick that I didn't have milk. I think when... the mothers that I know, the mothers that I know all wanted to breastfeed, because then they would be assured that their babies would get milk. The milk that the -- and this is what I was told -- and I always asked about these things because I couldn't breastfeed, I didn't have enough milk, and one of it was because I was in such poor health. They did tell me that the milk that they had first went to little children that were in camp, and I guess about two or three year olds and younger. They were first choice, and then also the next was the people that were sick in the hospitals. So those of us who had babies were expected to breastfeed, but because I wasn't able to, I was able to get into this group where we came after the little children and after the people in the hospital. Then if you needed milk for the baby, and I needed formula for the baby, we kind of had to wait in line, we were next. So that meant getting up early in the morning so you would get your five bottles of formula. So I think the mothers in camp had a hard time.

PW: Did you give birth in the hospital?

YW: Yes, I did.

PW: How long did you stay? Do you remember anything about that?

YW: No, and because I was sick, I had a complication, so I did stay... I think they said not quite two weeks. I kind of lost track of time again because we had no calendars, no way of knowing, so I did lose track of time.

PW: And the baby was a girl?

YW: Baby was a girl. And she was born with a weak heart, she had heart murmur, so they did tell me that (...) I should never get her into things like active sports. When she got tired, she would probably just sit down or lay down, which she did. And also, we didn't tell her, I didn't tell her, because then she would be too tired to do things like make the bed and wash the dishes. She wasn't sick that way, if she got tired, she would sit down. She didn't miss very much, but she did love sports, but she just couldn't participate. She was (...) great at supporting the teams. But for herself, she couldn't participate, but that was all right. I made sure she had her other fun activities.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

PW: Tell me what a normal day would have been like for you at Topaz. Like what time did you wake up, and what did you do in the mornings and afternoons?

YW: You know, there was some people whose feelings were, "The government put me in here, let them take care of me." But you know, soon, everybody that I knew that felt that way, they can only feel that way for a short time because you would see everybody working so hard to help each other. And if you didn't have that help from each other, I think it would have been hard for you to make it. I know I did, I needed help, and there were people that did help me. So I didn't have to wait in line too long. Things were hard because, like even doing laundry because there was no washer and dryer, you wash by hand or you wash by washboards. The soap that they used, I think, was lye, because it was a big yellow bar. And I can remember, if you took a shower and you washed your face, you had to rinse it real fast, otherwise it would start to burn. And I would wonder why it would burn, and they said, well, I think it's the lye. And I believe that because everything got clean, it burned clean and we did have to rinse it real good, and you had wait in line to use even the soap. It didn't last very long because people wanted it to wash themselves. If you had a baby [coughs] -- excuse me -- you would kind of use it for like a disinfectant, but you had to have lots of water to wash it down, rinse it so it wouldn't burn. So having a baby in camp was hard, having children was hard. And you wanted to keep things as normal as possible, so the young people that were in camp, I heard that many times, when people would ask them, "How was camp?" they would say, "It wasn't so bad," except for the fact that maybe they were hungry, or they didn't like the food. But otherwise, they didn't have to do any of the work. They didn't have to worry because everybody else took care of them. And like I said, we tried to keep things as normal as possible.

I had a friend named Jack Soo, Goro Suzuki. He was a friend of mine, we went to the same school together, same church, same clubs. And he was very active even in theater, that was his thing. So he kept the young people active, he was a good singer, and my job was to go out and find the kids that were, wanted to be in theater. That wasn't hard to do because they all wanted to play, and that was a fun thing to do. So that was easy on my part, but he did keep them entertained (...).

PW: So there were, like, theater performances and shows that he would do?

YW: Yes. He put 'em together and we made arrangements. And I don't know how he did it, but he went up to the administration and said, he wanted to know if he can have a bus to take the kids into Delta High School to put on a show. And he put this show together. Not only did he get the bus, he had to get the bus driver, and he was able to do that. And I could remember one time, the permit that... I was like his secretary, so I saw a lot of his paperwork. And one of the things was that it had to be accompanied by a Caucasian. And when they got ready to go, the person that was at the gate, looked at that permit, and said, "Who's this Mr. Cock-a-sin?" He didn't know what a Caucasian was and he was a Caucasian. [Laughs] And at first, they thought, well, of course not, of course they couldn't send a busload of kids into town, because they would all jump out and scatter, and then you have to go around looking, trying to gather them up. And Goro said, "No, they're Japanese." That's all he had to say. And there was no trouble getting the kids into the bus, there was no trouble... when they were supposed to meet to come back, they were right there, I checked them in, checked them out, they all behaved. So the main thing was, for the young people, when I say "young people," I'm talking about high school age and below. Yeah, it was kind of our job to try to keep them entertained. So it used to bother me a little bit when I used to hear them say, "Camp wasn't so bad." Of course it wasn't so bad for them. It was hard, and I give a lot of credit to a lot of these people who did everything to try to make things as easy for everybody else. And the Isseis, I think they tried harder. For some reason, I think they felt bad. I don't say they felt guilty, but I think they felt bad because they tried to work, they tried to help build things like the baseball fields and things, they worked hard to smooth the grounds. I remember they did so much in the cafeteria, in the mess halls.

PW: You mentioned that your father was involved, or went regularly to the Buddhist church in Topaz. Do you have memories of that?

YW: Well, no, there was no Buddhist church. There was a church in camp, there was a church, but not a Buddhist church. I think, for some reason, I don't remember a Buddhist church, and somebody told me Buddhist church was not allowed. But my father was active with the Buddhist church in Berkeley, outside at home. He didn't participate as much as, I don't know exactly what he did, probably the donation. And I know he helped Hiroshima when they had their atom bombing and some other disastrous things happened. Because we have a letter of appreciation, because my dad had helped, tried to help the friendship between the United States and Japan after the war, and they're trying to get them to work peacefully together. And there was a letter of appreciation, I have it in my room. The Isseis, I felt sorry for them because they felt bad. They still loved Japan, that was where they were born, but America's the country that they chose.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

PW: Did you and your husband leave camp first, or did your father leave camp first?

YW: My husband was the first one that was allowed to leave. He got his clearance early, because he was a machinist, and like I was saying, the people that were back east were losing a lot of their people, especially farm workers or people that did machinery, they were all coming to California because this is where all the jobs were at that time. And so they were willing to hire anybody with some experience, so because my husband was very capable and qualified to do some of those things, he was picked up early.

PW: What year?

YW: I believe it was... oh, it was 1943, of course, that was when my baby was born. He got to see the baby once, and then he had to run, that's when he left.

PW: And how did you and your daughter end up leaving?

YW: Well, we had to stay behind because my baby was too weak to travel. They didn't think she would make it if I tried move her, so it was safer for her to stay in camp. She wasn't well enough to travel for three months, and like I said, she had a weak heart. I don't know exactly what they did for her, but I do remember that they did say funny things like, "Watch her diet." There was no such thing as watching your diet, you know, she just needed food. And I used to be allowed to get five bottles of milk a day, if I lined up and was able to get it, I was allowed to get the five bottles of milk a day. And one day I found an orange in there, and I thought it was because they thought I needed it, because I was sick, so I ate it. And I didn't know... and I got this one orange about every other day, and I thought, well, and I was eating it because I couldn't eat regular food. And then I found out I was supposed to be making orange juice and giving it to the baby. [Laughs] Life was so funny in camp. But the young people managed, they were happy because they had each other. They were open with each other, they came to us a lot, and I admit, they did not go to their parents, to the Issei parents very often because they didn't get any answers, the Isseis couldn't answer any of the questions. So they used to come to us and say, what are they going to do with us? Are they going to kill us? We couldn't even answer, we didn't know.

I was pregnant and I had two girlfriends, we were pregnant at the same time, our babies were supposed to be born about three months of each other. And we were so unsure of our future, like I said, we made a pact that if anything happened to one of us, that the other two would take the baby. We spent a lot of time trying to find hiding places in the camps where we can hide our babies if the time ever came. And we were trying to be very realistic, someday they're going to have to do something with us, they're not going to just open the gate and say, "You could go home," because they knew we didn't have a home to go home to, and besides, California was not open to us at that time. So we (couldn't) go home. Anyway... I'm losing track.

PW: Well, so that's a great question, your friends are wondering, "What are we going to do?" "How are we going to get out?" Do you remember when the leave clearance forms came?

YW: No. What happened was because my husband was able to get out, I kept asking every morning for permission to leave, and they said, "Well, your baby is not well enough." That was a good excuse, because that kept me in camp. And after three months, I said -- if she stayed in camp, I was sure she was going to die. So I said she was okay, that I would take the chance, I was going to see if I can get a permit to leave. And because I told them, "My husband has a job and he has a place to live," but he really didn't, he was living in a hotel. It was actually a rooming house, but they called them hotels. And I said, "He has a place to live for us," so I wanted the permit to go, and they finally let me go.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

PW: So you were describing to me that you were finally given the permit to leave and join your husband in Ohio.

YW: Yes. We lived in this so-called apartment for a few weeks, and then the War Relocation Authorities, (found a) mansion that the person had converted into apartments, and she tried to get people with children into this place. (...) There was four apartments downstairs, four apartments upstairs. And I think we all had children. And the apartment that she gave to me was one that used to be a ballroom, so we had a beautiful hardwood floor ballroom, and a small narrow kitchen, a small little bedroom (...). But she did find this nice place for us, and I stayed there. I'm trying to figure out how many years, it was five years altogether, and I had my second baby in Cleveland.

PW: What were your days like? So I'm imagining you in this ballroom place, in this mansion, and you've got a young child, and your husband would go to work, what would you do during the day in Cleveland?

YW: Not too much. And actually, we were scared to go outside, I was, because I thought people were going to throw rocks at us, and I didn't want them to hit the baby. (...) I lived on the borderline of the white and the black area. And the people that stayed at my apartment, my husband and myself had some friends that had no place to live. And these were young kids, and I didn't know them particularly, but you can't watch young kids out in the street. And I said, well, if you can get a... what do you call these beds that you roll up? If you can get one of those, you could sleep on the floor in this dining room. Because it was big, the floor was clean, and so if you had one of those bedrolls, because we couldn't afford to buy beds, we said they were welcome to come. And they couldn't find jobs, but the way they got out of camp was to say that their friend has a place, and they said, "We could stay." And then they ended up at my place, first just to meet with other friends, and when I found out that they had no place to sleep that night, then we invited them to stay. So I had kids that stayed at my place and they just came with a bedroll. And they were young boys, and the way they paid their share of the rent was they would go someplace and they would buy, like, two carrots or one onion, one or two potatoes, that was all they could afford to give me. That's why we had stew every other night. At least it was fresh vegetables.

And then there was, because, as I said, we were on the borderline of the blacks and the whites, there was a meat market that was on the black side. I went there, and when we were in camp, I didn't know that there was such a thing as food stamps. It's not free, it just limits you to how much, things like meat, if you want to buy meat, you're only allowed to buy, I think it was not more than a pound and a half at the most. Everything was limited. If you wanted to buy sugar, you can't buy more than, it was something like three pounds. Anyway, they had coupons that limit you to how much sugar you can buy. But you still had to pay for it, of course. So I went to this black meat market. And when I went there, there was a row of men that were sitting against the wall, they all stopped talking. They were friends, they were all talking, and they all stopped talking and stared at me. They had never seen a Japanese before. And I went up to this meat market place, and this man was obviously the owner there. And I told him I just came out of camp, and I said, "Somebody gave me this food stamp, and I have only a limited amount of money, and I don't know how to use the stamp," because I had limited amount of money, and I had six people at that time that I had to feed. "Can you show me how to use it?" And he showed me how to use the food stamps, he's the one that taught me, (why it would be a good idea to) buy hamburger. Because you can do so much with it, do more like make hamburger, make spaghetti, make meatloaf, and do a lot with hamburger if you learned how to cook, and that was the cheapest meat, but it was still good meat. So he helped me, he was real patient, and he's the one that helped me.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

YW: Even on the train... oh, I tell you about coming from camp to Cleveland? I had my baby, I had her diapers or whatever, I had my clothes, and I had a bucket with five bottles of milk in it. I was having a hard -- and the baby, I was trying to carry her on the train. And the person that helped me was this porter, this black porter. And the black porters, the way they make their money is by helping customers, and they get the tip, that's how they make their money. But he was grand to me, and he was going to help me, and I had to say, "No, thank you." And he kind of insisted because he knew I needed help, and I said, "I don't have money to tip you." And he said, "That's okay, that's okay," so he helped me to get on the train. And, as a matter of fact, when I got on the train, once I got on and the train started moving, he said, "I have an empty room." And in those days, the train was old, but if you paid money, they had rooms, private rooms. And it was couch-like, that opened up into a bed, and they had a small bathroom with a toilet and a small basin, which was enough. And he said, "Nobody's going to use this room until we get to Cleveland, Ohio." And I said, "Well, that's where I'm getting off," and he said, "Yes." So he said he'd let me use the room. And I said, "I can't pay for it," he said, "That's okay." And after we got into the room, he even said... he saw me taking out my bottle with the milk, and he said, "I'll go heat it up for you." And he was showing me how I could heat it up in the basin, because there was hot water there, and I could put the bottle in there, and he knew exactly how to measure it. He said, "I have children." He said, "I know what you're going through, I have children." He was the first person that helped me. And so this black butcher, this porter, after you meet nice people like that, I had a little more faith in people.

And then the doctor that treated my baby... oh, I lived near a hospital, a private hospital, and this hospital was run by a doctor who had a couple of sons, they were both doctors. And my baby was, I knew she was going to die if I didn't do something, and I didn't know what to do, and I couldn't take her to a regular hospital because I didn't have the money. So I went to this little private hospital and I told them right off I didn't have the money. But if somebody could tell me how I could keep the baby alive, I just want to talk to a doctor. This doctor came out and he took care of it, he said, "Don't worry about anything, just come." And then he saw the baby, and I still don't know, to this day, I don't know what it is he gave her, what he did, but he played with her, and he said he had a young baby, too. And I knew that was true because on his desk there was a picture of his wife with this little baby. And he said his baby had this same kind of thing, and he was exercising my baby and playing with her hands and making her move, and he spent a lot of time. And he told me, "You come back tomorrow, come back the next day." And then he said, "While you're here, let me look at you." He said, "Do you mind?" After he looked at me, he gave me all these free samples and I said, "Wait a minute, Doctor, I said I can't pay for it." And then he said, "No, these are free samples that they give to physicians," and he said, "I want you to bring the baby and I want you to come," because he had some more samples. He gave me all these vitamin pills and calcium pills, I forgot what it was, but I had a stack. And then every time I came, he showed me how to treat the baby, and don't let her... and he told me that he felt that a, maybe, heart problem. But he was supposed to do some checkups, but he didn't. But anyway, so I had all these people helping me. You know, I started getting back my faith in people a little bit. Because by that time, really, you get scared of people, you don't know what to do, you don't have anything to pay for anything. And even these young kids that come out of camp and they don't have anyplace to sleep... you know, I see homeless people in Berkeley now, and they're just kind of sitting around doing nothing. And I think about all these young kids that were looking around for jobs, and all they get is people that call them names. It was hard to see that.

PW: So I know that you're pregnant, too, with a second child at this time. So did you deliver it there in Cleveland?

YW: Yes. So I went to the same doctor, so he took care of me through my pregnancy. I remember when she was born, she was the only girl baby. It was an osteopathic hospital, but there was a maternity section, it was just a small one, and I think there was three beds on one side and three on the other side. And they all had boys; my baby was the only one that was a girl. And so when they brought her into me, they had a pink hat on her and they had a pink little blanket on her, they treated her real nice because she was the only girl in that hospital. So I felt very comfortable there.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

PW: And how long did you... you said five years was the total time you were gone.

YW: Yeah, the three years in camp and then two years in Cleveland, about.

PW: About. So when, roughly, did you go back to Berkeley?

YW: Actually, when the war ended in '45... well, we couldn't go right away, because like I said, we had to save the money for the train fare back. And so when I was at Cleveland, I stayed at that apartment that they had for us. I had a nice neighbor who was from another country and I can't remember what country, but she was an immigrant from another country. And we became neighbors and friends because we're hanging up our clothes at the same clothesline and all that kind of thing. When we first came and we met, she gave me a, it was like a "welcome to the neighborhood" present. It was a live chicken, a live chicken. And we were talking about... of course, we didn't have any furniture, we moved into this apartment, nice apartment with a nice hardwood floor bedroom and everything, but we didn't have anything, no furniture to put in there. But anyway, this lady... well, I was telling her, I don't even have a refrigerator. And she gave me this chicken, she said, "Well, you just feed it, and then when you get ready to eat it, you just kill it." Well, nobody in our family had ever killed a chicken before, we're from Berkeley, right? The only kind of chicken I got were already packaged, you know, in pieces. But anyway, she said, "No, when you get ready to eat it, then you just kill it." (...) My father was there at that time, and my father wouldn't kill the chicken, and none of the boys wanted to kill the chicken, we didn't know how. And besides, the longer you keep it, you get attached to it, so all the more why you don't want to kill it. So she said, "I'll tell my husband to kill it. You ready to eat it?" "We're ready to eat it anytime." And he hung that chicken, I can remember, he tied a rope around the chicken's leg and hung him upside down on a clothes hanger. And when the chickens are upside down, then the mouth is open. He just took out his pocket knife, put it in the chicken's mouth, because the chicken is, their mouth (opens). (...) He put the pocket knife in its throat and just slit it, the chicken died. Okay, now you're supposed to pluck the chicken. Well, he showed us how to do it, and finally, I think it was my father or somebody, ended up by finishing plucking the chicken. It was awful. [Laughs] And then after the chicken died, I knew they won't eat the chicken. So what I had to do was (...) cut it up and then made a stew. So I mixed it with a couple of carrots and whatever the boys brought, we threw it in there and made chicken stew. And even then, they were kind of reluctant to eat it, but because they were so hungry, they ate it. But that's how bad we were. [Laughs] That's awful, when you can't, you have to kill your own chicken.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

PW: So your father, when he got out of camp, came with his wife and joined you in Cleveland?

YW: Yes. And then when they said that some people with a special permit can go back home if they show that they had a place to go back to, and my father did still have his business, because this Chinese man said he was ready to retire, he was so busy. Because in wartime, there was so many jobs, everybody was so busy working, making good money, they didn't have time to do the laundry. So the laundry business, he said, was booming, and he said he was ready to retire, so anytime my dad was ready to come back, he wanted to retire.

PW: He went first, right?

YW: So my dad and his wife went back first, and my dad started up the laundry again, and then as the people start trickling back, they went to him because they knew that they could get a job there.

PW: Meaning Japanese American people?

YW: Well, and Isseis. Isseis had the hardest time to get a job. But yes, Isseis and Niseis, so he had a lot of young people as well as Isseis. And then there were some Kibeis, there was also some of these boys that were drafted, or the ones that went into the service like the 442 boys. So they came back with Japanese wives, and they were looking for jobs, and they found out my dad had this laundry for those Japanese workers. And these girls from Japan were happy they worked there because then they had somebody to talk to, and they were good workers. But I know that some of them came from nice families, and they had to do work at the laundry. I felt bad, but they were very nice and everybody got along.

PW: And what about the house? Because I remember you left things in the house and just walked away.

YW: Okay, the house, yes, well, actually, I had a couple places that I was living. Because my mother, when she was living, she was living... there was no, she was sick, and there was no nursing homes for Japanese. There was a Japanese doctor that lived in Oakland, and he had his office, and in the back he had living quarters. And he had a room that was set up like a hospital room, and he let my mother stay there. And then he had bedrooms that were next to the, this hospital room, and... because he was a family friend, too. And he had somebody that cooked for him and cleaned for him. My sister and I stayed at this one room that was next to my mother's room.

PW: Do you remember his name?

YW: Dr. Yamada. And so we lived there half the time and then half the time we were in a house in Berkeley. But I'm sorry, what was the question?

PW: So we're going back to the house in Berkeley and your father's return. Is that house still okay?

YW: No. I meant the rooms that I stayed in in Berkeley at this laundry. There was a house that was back of the laundry, and that house was set up for the women who needed housing. So the girls, mostly single girls, and there was a single Issei woman that stayed when her husband had passed away, so she had one. The other rooms were for young girls who left the house because they were out of high school, and there was this kind of a special unwritten rule that after you're eighteen or you get out of high school, then you find a job and leave. It's nothing that parents made you do, it's to help your parents. Because the parents, Isseis were having a hard time, too.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

PW: So it sounds like your father had housing not only for your family, but he had rooms behind the laundry so he was able to give people jobs and a place to stay after the war, that's remarkable.

YW: Yes. That house is still there, but at that time, when we came back, we stayed at this house that was in the back of the laundry. Somebody else had lived in there. People, during wartime, I think the hardest thing for (anybody was) to find housing. So I don't know exactly who was there, I don't know the people that were there. But I know that the one thing I do remember is I tried to get back into my shop.

PW: What happened?

YW: When I knocked on the door, I could look in there and I said, "This used to be my beauty shop. Where's all my equipment?" Because I had rolls of dryers, I had tables and all my shampoo bowls and all the equipment, and a whole walk-in closet for the supplies. I said, "Where's all my beauty shop equipment?" And they said, "I don't know what you're talking about. When we moved in, there was nothing there." And I said, "Where's the owner?" "Oh, the owner sold this place a long time ago, and we heard he died, they don't know where the owner is." But anyway, they said they lived there, and pushed me out and shut the door.

PW: Do you remember the trip back from Cleveland to Berkeley?

YW: Yes, with two little ones, yes. Again, I have to thank the porters, because they were very helpful. But, of course, that was part of their job, right? That's how they got paid, in tips, but they helped you set up the beds, there was an overhead bed and a little bed. Because the kids were still young and small, they thought it was fun. On trains you could kind of run up and down the walkways. So the trip back from Cleveland to Berkeley was okay. In Cleveland, I don't know if you've ever been there, but there used to be a lot of smoke there. So you never saw anything white, even the houses, there was no white houses, there was nothing white. Because of the smoke, everything got gray. So when we were coming back from Cleveland, we left Cleveland and we went into another town and we said, "Look, there's a white house." There was even, I remember we even saw a white dog. And then when we got to Berkeley, and we saw all these white places, it was hard to believe that there was things that were still white and clean looking.

PW: And your husband stayed in Cleveland, or did he come with you to Berkeley?

YW: No, and then another thing, he came back on his own because he wanted to get everything ready for us. So he came back very early, too, by himself. So I did come back with just the two children, but that was fine.

PW: So the business was not there, but did you start work again?

YW: Yes. The business was there, because this Chinese man was running the laundry, so it was still busy.

PW: Right, your father's business. I meant your business. Did you begin again?

YW: No, I never did begin again. Because it would have been too expensive to set up a shop all over again. I didn't have that kind of money.

PW: But your father's business, you said it did begin again, which is incredible. Do you know the name of the Chinese man that helped?

YW: You know, I knew it, but I don't know. Do you remember, Lynnie, the name of that Chinese man? I heard he had children, I can't remember their name.

PW: So your family is growing at this point, where did you settle down? Did you live with his father and his new wife, or did you move somewhere else?

YW: No. And then on top of all that, I was going through a divorce. But because I was with my father, I was able to save a little money. Later I remarried, and he helped us. And because he was in the service, he got this... what did they give you? Anyway, with all his back pain and everything, he got this, it was some kind of a grant for servicemen, they helped him buy a house, and what they did was, they didn't give him money but you didn't have to have the down payment but you had to make monthly payments, and that's how he got the house.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

PW: Tell me the name of your second husband and how you met him.

YW: Well, I met him in camp. He was the only one that was helping me. Because my husband was so busy up at the hospital helping, and he was a big help up there, but he didn't have time, I guess, to help me, so I was by myself. But in the meantime, John (...) was a neighbor, lived close by, and he knew that I was struggling. So he used to come and help me, he'd drop things off, and that's how I met him.

PW: And that's John Wada?

YW: Yeah. So when we went to Cleveland, oh yeah, that's right, when we went to Cleveland, he was in this group of people who, they worked together, with my husband, because there was a group of them. They went to this place where they were building trucks for the army, and he was one of them. So I used to see him, but I saw John more than I saw my own husband, so that's how we got acquainted.

PW: But Mr. Katayanagi, your first husband, they knew each other in Cleveland together.

YW: Yes.

PW: Okay, just to clarify.

YW: Yeah. So we were all friends at the same time.

PW: So when did you marry Mr. Wada?

YW: After we came back, like I said, when we came back and he was able to get this house...

PW: The house we're in now?

YW: And then while he was doing that, I went to Reno and I went through my divorce over there, and my stepmother was watching my children, she was wonderful. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have been able to do all that.

PW: Do you said that John helped you get this house, were you talking about the house we're in today?

YW: Uh-uh. Well, see, he helped, so he bought this house that I lived in, I moved in with him. And actually, we went to... oh, he actually thought that the house was too small for two children and everything, so he bought a bigger house in Oakland. He came home one day and he said, "Hey, I bought a bigger house."

PW: What neighborhood in Oakland?

YW: It's near the lake. Okay, Lynnie, what street was it? It was near the lake. And it was a big house, but we really didn't stay there very long because then my stepmother got sick. And I was spending all my time going back and forth from Oakland to Berkeley, from Oakland to Berkeley, and sometimes in the middle of the night. I'd go, and then I was still trying to work at the same time. So we had to sell that house and then we found this house, (but) by then she passed away, and so my dad was by himself. I wanted him to come and live with me, but he said he's always lived by himself, and he didn't want to bother anybody. So I bought this duplex, because we had an entrance from both sides, and he ate over here as far as his food was concerned. So he thought he was independent because he was living over there.

PW: What kind of work were you doing? You mentioned you were working again.

YW: Yeah, then I worked for the bank. I was a personnel officer for Wells Fargo.

PW: And what did John do?

YW: He was in the service part of the time, and then he worked, he was working originally before that at the Oakland airport. And then he went to work for the Department of Agriculture, and he worked there for a long time, Department of Agriculture. And he did a lot of making equipments for these people that were developing different kinds of foods, these scientists that were testing all the foods that came in from other countries, things like that. They needed specialty equipment and so they worked with him and he did a lot of sheet metal work, so he made all the equipment for the scientists, because otherwise they weren't able to get the equipment, it was special.

PW And you had a third child?

YW: [Points at someone in the room].

PW: Actually, tell me the name of all of your children.

YW: Kathryn, Kathryn who was born in Topaz. And then when I went to Cleveland, I had Diane, who became a director of animal control for Contra Costa County, and Lynn.

PW: Three girls.

YW: Three girls.

PW: And tell me, I'm kind of curious about your father's laundry. Did he keep it going, did he sell it?

YW: No, he actually went into partnership with my brother-in-law, my sister's husband. They became partners and then my father retired, that's when he came to live over here. But then he got sick over here, so he needed to go to the hospital, but he wouldn't go to a hospital. Because he was kind of reverting back to his old Japanese ways, he was speaking all Japanese by then, and he wanted his Japanese food. I couldn't put him into a nursing home out here because he wouldn't be able to talk to them or anything. And the only Japanese place was in Los Angeles, and I knew the head nurse there, she was a neighbor of ours. The doctor that was in Los Angeles was a former doctor that we used to live with. So that was the only place I could put my father. And we went down there every Friday night after work, John and I would go down to Los Angeles and then see my dad Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning, and then we'd come back in time to go to work Monday. And we did that until the following, next year he passed away.

PW: Was that at Keiro?

YW: No. Oh, yes, Keiro. Oh, you know Keiro? Yes, that nursing home that's on the top of the hill near Boyle Heights, yes. How do you know that place?

PW: Because I lived in Boyle Heights also.

YW: Oh, really? Oh.

PW: So I know that you've been back to Topaz recently.

YW: Yes, for the opening.

PW: On the opening of the museum. What did you think about, and what was that experience like?

YW: Well, you know, the camp was our life, that's where my baby was born. Topaz is our history. And all my friends are gone, our generation's all gone, Isseis are all gone, and like I said, some of the young people that were like high school age, they don't remember the hardship part of it. There's nobody else to tell our story, then people aren't going to know about it, except for the museum. The museum is the one that's keeping up the things, like (what) our generation and I went through, so we kind of have to keep it alive, there's nobody else right now. I thank them for doing that.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

PW: And I know you had a very, a lot of challenges throughout the war. I have one last question for you today, and that is, who helped you the most throughout that whole period? Particularly like starting from when they send you to Tanforan and you're in Topaz and resettlement, like who helped you the most?

YW: When I was in camp? Just the people. Just nice people. Because the nice people that I remember are the ones that was after I left camp, but not in camp. In camp was, yeah, if you didn't have the help -- see, what they did was they put us there. They said, "Well, we gave you a place to sleep." They did, they gave us a barrack. Nothing in there, but they gave us a barrack, so yeah, they gave us a place to sleep, to live. They said they gave us food, but like when we first got there, everybody's thinking, well, it's a cafeteria, somebody's going to feed us. Well, who's going to cook the food? And they were nice enough to say, "Oh, we're leaving everything to you, this is where you're going to live, you run it the way you want to run it, here's your food." That was their attitude. Well, nobody had ever been a cook for a hundred people. If you cook, you want to cook for your own family, you don't cook for a hundred people, two hundred, eight thousand people. But they said, well, they gave us a thing, you do what you want. So you have to get organized. They finally hired block managers, and they kind of organized you. But up to that point, you're just kind of standing around waiting, what's going to happen, who's going to cook our food, or where's the food? Who's going to clean up after? So everything took a while until that hit us. Well, if we have to do it, then you can't just cook for you and your family, you have to cook for everybody, everybody. So it gets to a point -- and it took a while for the block manager to get the people together, okay, let's find somebody who's willing to cook for that many people. Well, sometime a man will say, he cooked for his family of five or seven people or something, maybe with extra help he can do more. And so other Isseis kind of helped, oh, the Isseis were good at that. They would volunteer and they'll help. They were good about doing that kind of thing, volunteering to help. And then you find somebody.

Well, first I was helping at the mess hall, and I thought, "Well, that's a good place, at least I'll eat." And I couldn't go very long, because like I said, I was sick. They tell you, they limit you to how much you serve, one tablespoon to everyone, equally, whether you're small or whether you're an adult. And there were men that were working out in the fields, my job was to serve, I was a server, and I used to give more to the men that were working in the fields because they're hungry. But you could only give them one tablespoon, the same as you're giving a little child. And they didn't like it because I just gave them that one tablespoon, and the cook's getting mad because the food's running out and if I do that, and I said, "What would you do if you run out of food?" And they said, well, they might have to open up some cans that they had. And I said, "Well, open up the cans," so they got mad. Anyway, so then I decided to quit that job, and I went to go work for the police department. I was a timekeeper for the police department. Then I spent my time as a timekeeper telling the Issei men especially, "When you go and steal the lumber, don't steal the lumber..." well, you're not supposed to be stealing the lumber, but you know, people wanted wood so that they can make chairs. You want to sit around, you can't sit around in an empty room, and you don't want to sit on your cots all the time, because the cots sink and they'll break and whatever. So they want to make their own chair, they want a table to sit around to eat off of. And so they said they're going to go look for some scrap lumber to make chairs, and they were real clever, they were real capable. But when the inspectors came around, we found out the inspectors came around, we'd say, "Don't go there to steal lumber at the same time, because this inspector's going to come." And you're trying to tell them don't steal the lumber at certain times. And I'm there myself, I'm looking for nails because you need nails to make the furniture, right? Well, they knew how to make furniture without nails by cutting into the wood somehow. You know how Japanese do that? They're so clever. But I did manage to pick up about six nails, I think. And at that time, girls were wearing hair ribbons, that was the style, all the girls wore hair ribbons to keep their hair back. I had my one and only hair ribbon, and I tied the six nails around with my hair ribbon, I gave it to my friend when she got married, and I couldn't find any Christmas gifts. So anyway, that was my Christmas gift to them.

But people did anything and everything to help each other. And it's not like they were meddling, they were really little things. They would bring you an empty can, like Del Monte used to have big cans to put in fruits, and they were getting ready to send to the servicemen and everything, so they had these big cans. Well, somebody would give me a can. The can was for me to throw up in, but you need something. You need something. And at first you use it to get water and wash yourself and everything, but you know, later on it's something to throw up in, or something to go to the bathroom in. I mean, I'm sorry, but this is real. When we were in Tanforan, that's why that was so hard, too, because we weren't allowed to leave the stinky, smelly stalls after a certain time. Like when I saw those signs in these stalls, in the bathrooms, supposed to be, and I saw the signs "black" and "white," I guess that's when I first learned the meaning of the word "discrimination." They were truly discriminated.

PW: How did this whole experience make you think about being Japanese American, since you were talking about discrimination?

YW: When you can't help being who you are, I think if I had to say what... I could (feel) for the people that were in the camps, don't ever give up hope, because that's all we had was hope. You hope the war would hurry up and end, you hope the boys would come home safe. And they're so young, they were so young. I think about these stories, I used to hear about these young boys that used to come to my apartment when I was in Cleveland. And it sounded like they were old men that were living on the streets, and they would come and, "Oh, did you ever hear of the family named such and such?" That's my parents. They didn't have anything to eat that they, oh, yeah, they ate that morning. And here it is late at night, they hadn't eaten since then. You just feel so... well, I was young at that time, too, but I felt like they were all family. So you had to take care of them, and they repay you with a couple of carrots or a potato. You know, that kind of thing stays with you, and you hope that they found a job, you hope that everything turned out okay.

PW: I think this has been a really incredible interview, and I think it's been so many stories. I could talk to you for another couple hours, but I think we'll stop. Thank you so, so much for all of your stories and sharing and experiences.

YW: Thank you.

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