Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sue Takimoto Okabe Interview
Narrator: Sue Takimoto Okabe
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 3, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-osue-01

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AI: Well, now, tell me what happened in December, in 1941, when Pearl Harbor was -- ?

SO: Oh, Pearl Harbor Day?

AI: Yeah.

SO: December 7th?

AI: What were you doing?

SO: My sister, Michi, and I went to Portland with the Mikados of Swing, which was a band led by Koichi Hayashi, Art Hayashi, to perform at a Japanese community program down there for two days, Saturday, Sunday. And that was the day the war came. And I don't know exactly what happened, but we couldn't cross the border without -- they asked, I believe, for citizenship papers. And nobody had even a birth certificate. I had never seen mine. The band stayed at Yuki Sato, who is now Yuki Lee, she lives in Los Angeles. Her mother was odori no oshousan. And a lot of the band members, according to Yuki, stayed at their house. We went to a, a distant relative named Nimi, who lived in Portland. And I have no recollection how it finally became possible for us to come back home, but we did within a short time, a day or two. But I do remember that day because we were in, all in Portland performing.

AI: Did you have any sense of what was happening or...

SO: Oh, no.

AI: ...what was going on?

SO: No, none at all, until we got back.

AI: And, and then what did you find out?

SO: Then our grocery customers, the store customers, the Reinharts, who used to help us a lot, he was a judge. And she used to, she was musically trained. She gave me a lot of her old songs to learn. Which I did.

AI: Mrs. Reinhart?

SO: Uh-huh. And Martha -- they decided not to favor us with their business. And there were others, but there were still some like Betty Taylor, I remember, and others who did stay with us. It was, it was touch-and-go there. The business did suffer, I believe.

AI: So even at your age, you could see what was happening?

SO: Oh, yeah. Even among my friends. There were a couple that I used to be very close to who suddenly didn't speak to you anymore. And then there were others like Ruby Bright, who would come by every day. And she never did before. So yeah, you definitely knew. It was almost like choosing up sides. It was rather sad. It was rather sad because I saw my -- the disappointment in my parents' eyes you know, customers they had thought were friends suddenly becoming unavailable.

AI: What about for you, treatment from teachers or --

SO: At Broadway, I didn't notice that much. As I said, we had just entered in February, so and then we were -- January? January. I can't remember the semester change. We were mid-term. And then the evacuation came so...

AI: Tell me about how you found out you were going to be evacuated out?

SO: My dad just told us that we had to get rid of everything. So he stored a lot of things in the basement. And we were told, being girls, that we could only take what we could carry. So my mom decided on what should be taken, and she wanted to take her sewing machine. So that took care of my dad carrying one. And then we had to all carry whatever else we could manage.

AI: Do you remember anything about that process, deciding what to take?

SO: The only thing I remember is that we seldom wore slacks, and suddenly Mom bought slacks for us and T-shirts.

AI: So for the first time you were not wearing dresses?

SO: Uh-huh. That I remember.

AI: Right.

SO: Because that was out of the ordinary for us, 'cause we had no idea actually where we were going.

AI: How was that like for you, that not knowing what was happening?

SO: Actually, for me personally, I didn't think much about it. I just worried more about where my friends or the people I knew might go. I think we tend to be a little selfish at that age. I know my sister, Michi, who is four and a half years older than I am, was very disillusioned. As I said, she was sixteen, going -- just starting University of Washington. And she, she was very disillusioned. She and my dad had some argument. And I know my dad said, "What do you think of your gov -- wonderful government now?" I remember that. Michi still remembers that. That's one of the things we agree on.

AI: I see.

SO: Our recollection is the same.

AI: So your father was very disappointed in the government...

SO: Yes. Yes.

AI: ...and Michi was also. And then your -- did you say that your oldest sister Kay was returned from Los Angeles?

SO: She came back from Los Angeles.

AI: So your whole family was together?

SO: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.