Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kay Matsuoka Interview
Narrator: Kay Matsuoka
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 29 & 30, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mkay-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Well, tell me more about how you were able to build up your business, from starting from really a bare shop, and...

KM: Well, it was, well one time the local paper came to -- what is that word I want to use -- interview me. And then they said that, "Tell me about it." And so I told them. And then that was the means of advertising. And then lot of my high school friends that were already married or above me, they all heard, and so they started coming, and then they would tell others. And so in the three and a half years, I had 250 customers, mostly from Santa Monica area and San Pedro area.

AI: Wow.

KM: Yeah. And so I was busy. So when I, as my students graduated, I gave them all the alteration work...

AI: Now tell me. Let's back up a minute, because you didn't say about how you started taking on students. Tell me about that.

KM: Oh. No, that was, when I opened I said I was gonna teach as well as sew for myself. And as they grew, well, out of ten students for instance, there was only two that I can really -- some people don't have a gift of sewing. But those that I noticed that they were capable, I would assign them, then gradually I would give them a higher, more complicated work, and then they started sewing.

AI: Oh.

KM: So I had mix of Caucasian and Japanese, but most of the students were Japanese.

AI: And what about your clients, your customers? Was that also a mix of Caucasian...?

KM: They were all Caucasian. They were all kinda higher up people. And they would tell others, you know, their friends and so forth.

AI: So you were doing custom work...

KM: Yeah.

AI: ...for your customers.

KM: And by that time, by, just before Pearl Harbor now, I had -- let's see, I only had four machine beside my own. So there were five sewing machines. And then I had those students, and other students that were learning drafting -- drafting is pattern making, how they measure an individual. And one lady wanted her dress made to meet her husband in Pearl Harbor. And that's the first time I experienced prejudice. I had it all finished and I called her and told her that it's all ready, and, "Would you please come after it?" This was a couple of weeks after Pearl Harbor started, and she says, "I wouldn't be caught in a Jap's shop." And that's the first time that I heard that word [Laughs] used negatively. And I just felt crushed, because I was not responsible for that. So everything was just left. And when I tried to sell all my equipments, they said, "You're not gonna be able to take it with you." And so, they offered like 5 cents, 15 cents for pinking sheers. And my showcase window, I mean, case I had, it was just left there.

AI: Well that's, that sounds really awful.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.