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-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well now, somewhere after high school when you were in business, is that when you met your future husband?

KM: Well, yes...

AI: Tell me...

KM: ...around that time.

AI: Tell me how that happened.

KM: Well, some, oh I guess around that time, see, I had my shop from '38 to '41. Around '37, I guess, Hiroshima had a famine. And then being that my dad was from Hiroshima, got this letter from relatives. And so they decided that all the people from America, if they should donate something and send it and help them. And so he covered most of the Southern California -- that's where we lived. And then he got all this list of central California, where, Fresno area. And so during the time that he came to different, each home -- you know, it's really, I don't see how he could locate where people lived, 'cause even if I see a map I get lost. But somehow he found, I guess by asking somebody else, and then came to this Matsuoka. And during the conversation, they said that, "Oh, are you Nakahara from Hiroshima, where?" And he said, "Oh, well I'm from there." "Oh, we're relatives." See, my father and my husband's stepmother were kinda long distance cousins. And so when she came to America, they said that you have a relative there, so for her not to be discouraged, or that they could look him up. But they didn't know the distance between Los Angeles and Fresno. And all this communication, I mean the streets were narrow, and the cars were poor. [Laughs]

AI: So, she was in Fresno...

KM: Yeah.

AI: ...and he was in Los Angeles...

KM: Los Angeles.

AI: ...but when he was...

KM: But he, she had the knowledge that he was... so, my dad came and everything kinda opened up. And they said, "Well how many children do you have? And how old are they?" So they decided well, my husband should come and see me. And he, my husband kept saying, "I'm gonna get my own. I don't have to have anybody select it for me." But, because he was raised like a Japanese, you know, obedient, he said, "Well, maybe I better just go. I can always turn it down after I come over." So one day he took a Greyhound bus and came over with a pretense of seeing my brother. But all the time, he never spent it with my brother, but he came to the dress shop. And, well, 'course, knowing him -- he's a, he doesn't speak much, he's like Paul, kinda quiet, doesn't say much. And I said, "Why is he just sticking around here for?" [Laughs] And then, ladies would come and I would fit them and go, they would come and go and he just kept sitting. And I said, "When are you gonna go visit with my brother? Go and let him take you around some place." But he just kept staying. But it was kind of, about one or two years later he says, "You know, my folks want me to get married." I said, "Oh? Who's the girl?" He says, "Well," he didn't say that time. And I said, "Well, what do you think about the girl?" He says, "Well..." [Laughs] Anyway, finally I said, "Who is the girl?" Then he says, "You." And I just said, "Me?" I says, "I'm just starting my career in dressmaking. I says, "I didn't have any thought of marriage." And anyway, he says, "Well, my cousin got married young" -- he was twenty-one then. "And my cousin got married young and so my parents want me to get married." And I said, "Well, now this is a real new one on me." I says, "Boy, I'm shocked. I'm speechless." [Laughs] That's the way it was. And he went home. Then, you know, so the parents decided well we can correspond by letter. And, you know, but I didn't have much to write, because I was so interested in my career. But he kept coming, kept coming. And then, they would always drive in the middle of the night and come home, arrive at my house real early in the morning, wake us all up, because it was easier driving at nighttime, they said. And then I thought, "Well maybe he'll start going out with my brother." Soon as I go to the shop, there comes his car. There he is. And I just couldn't make out why. But after I got married to him, knowing him, I thought, "Boy, with the, being so shy like that" -- and he even come out and said, when I asked him, "Who is this girl?" He says, "Me." I just still can't get over it. [Laughs] But anyway, his first impression of me was, "She's too Japanesey." But that's what the parents liked about me, you see. And they just fell in love with me.

AI: And what was your first impression of him?

KM: Well, I felt like he was too young. He just looked like a little boy to me. But gradually he matured and I said, "You look so young, can you support a wife?" [Laughs] I even asked him that.

AI: What was he doing at that time?

KM: He was a farmer. He was helping on his father's farm.

AI: And I'm sorry. What was his name?

KM: Jack Matsuoka. So that was a long... but one time though, just before the war, my mother came to visit. When this, our matchmaker was getting so pushy. She said, "Let me go and visit the family and stay one week. Then I'll let you know." 'Cause mothers, they have a kind of a intuition. They feel something, or they can see something. And then when she was there and then she came home, and she says, "You know, that isn't the family for you. And Jack may be all right," but the mother, who was the stepmother, and then -- from his real mother, it's his real mother's sister. But their age was so different that they didn't know each other. And so she said that, "When I stayed there one week, and she kept saying, 'Because you're a relative of mine, I'm not gonna do any cooking.'" Well, Japanese do lot of gochiso when they have a company, to impress, and so forth. And so she says she just kept on feeding the same thing over and over again. And so she, "You know, that isn't the way I was raised, that isn't the way I raised you. And you're not gonna fit into that family." So we finally put a stop to that at one time. And so much later I get a letter from his sister, which became my sister-in-law, saying that you sure broke Jack's heart. And she said, "He lost so much weight, and he doesn't eat any more." And shortly after that he wrote me a letter, says -- maybe you don't remember the song, Once in a While, Just Give One Little Thought To Me. That song was popular by -- oh I forgot the, some famous composer. Well, anyway, he wrote all of that out and I thought, "Gee, he's romantic." [Laughs] And I said, "Wonder where did he learn all these things?" But he heard that and he went to the record shop and got the words, copied it and sent it to me. And then, toward the end of that song it says, "...may the spark that we once had spark again." And, well, I'm going ahead of my story, but just before he died we were listening to -- we love Lawrence Welk Show, the old fashioned songs. And then this Norma Zimmer and her partner sang this, Once in a While. And then Jack and I looked at each other and said, "That's our song." So we held our hand, and said, "Oh, that's our song." And so ever since then, I been wondering, "Gee, I sure must've broke his heart." And in the meantime, Pearl Harbor came and they invited us to come to "free zone," which was Fresno, from L.A.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.