Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tad Sato Interview
Narrator: Tad Sato
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 15, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-stad-01

<Begin Segment 1>

SF: Okay. Today is -- what is today? Today is August 14th, and we're with Tad Sato. He's the narrator, and I'm Steve Fugita, the interviewer. And this is a Densho interview. Tad, I'd like to begin by just having you tell us a little bit about where you were born, when you came to Nihonmachi in Seattle, that sort of stuff, some background information.

TS: Okay. Well, I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1922. And somewhere -- sometime shortly after that, before school age, the family split. My father and I came up to Seattle, and my sister and mother stayed in Portland and we were raised separately. I remember seeing my mother and (sister) once in my school years, I think, through high school, before the war. That's the way...

SF: But that was pretty unusual for Isseis...

TS: The...

SF: ...Isseis -- the Japanese to split.

TS: For Japanese, yeah. Divorce was almost out of the question, most cases.

SF: So did you experience, I don't know, much stigma, or kind of being hassled by the community, or...

TS: No, people were nice. Didn't have any problem with -- of course, Japanese. They were not known for gossiping and saying bad things about people. So those things just didn't happen. It might be different today, now that we're Americanized.

SF: Yeah. So you came to -- you and your dad came to Nihonmachi in...?

TS: (Pre-school year, around 1925.) Yeah.

SF: What did your dad do?

TS: Well, my dad, when he first came, I don't know. He might've had some other jobs, but then he went into the Public Market, and I think he purchased his produce from the produce shops down on Western Avenue, and then -- you know, he washed 'em and then sold them, the way people do, even today. I remember there was a big barrel. Had a big stick and I'd go down there, and I was a little kid, but -- and I'd help him wash -- I remember carrots.

SF: So were the, like the people who provided the produce that he always bought the stuff from, were they other Japanese, or...?

TS: I really don't know what to say about that 'cause I never had any contact with 'em. All I knew was when I went to the market, why...

SF: Then the customers were mostly...?

TS: The customers, I would say, almost all white.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

SF: In terms of the market in general, what percentage would you guess were Japanese, at the time?

TS: Well, all the, the bakeries, the eating places, those were all white. And the Japanese were strictly in the vegetable selling end of it. There might have been one Japanese selling fish after a while. I think the Yokoyamas or somebody got started afterwards. But it was basically mostly selling vegetables.

SF: How many of the stalls were like your dad, who was an independent retailer who bought his stuff from someone else, versus a farmer who might live in Bellevue or wherever, or probably more locally...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...who'd sell the stuff directly to the customers in a stall? What would you guess would be the, the proportion or, of operations?

TS: You mean sales? I would say the Public Market would do a greater volume of business, simply because there's more choices for the consumer or the purchaser, customer.

SF: So, but in terms of, like the people who had the stall, how many -- I mean, were most of them farmers who grew their own stuff, or were they more like your dad who bought the stuff from someplace else and...?

TS: I don't know what the percentages... I think -- really have no idea how that split out. I think there were a lot of farmers there, obviously. That way, at least they make the money that the middleman would normally make.

SF: Were there other ethnic groups involved in the market at that time?

TS: I can't recall it.

SF: So Japanese were mostly in vegetables and maybe a few fish people. How 'bout flowers, things of that sort? Much of that...

TS: Golly, I really don't recall flowers at that time, but there must have been people selling flowers, too, but not like it is today.

SF: So your dad worked in the market until when?

TS: Well, I don't know the exact date. I've got some records at home on it that somebody else gave me, but -- maybe four, five years, I think. That was pretty tough work.

SF: You remembered it being lucrative, or very day-to-day and very difficult to make a buck, basically?

TS: I don't think it was a place where you'd get rich. I mean, I think -- but the bottom end, sort of, in income. You had no control.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

SF: So after your dad was in the market for a while, then where did he go?

TS: Well, then he started a secondhand store right on Main Street, just right above Sixth Avenue South.

SF: And that's kind of like in the heart of Nihonmachi in those days?

TS: Yeah. Yeah, basically, yeah.

SF: Where did he get his materials and who did he serve, basically?

TS: Well, you mean the things he sold?

SF: Yeah.

TS: Well that's kind of interesting. He used to leave the shop early in the morning, and he'd go to Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul. They were -- they have all that kinda stuff. And then he'd come home with a whole bunch of junk, and go through it and put 'em out for sale. And then, if the rent was due, or some, for some reason if you needed money, and he didn't have enough, why he would go through the jewelry, and he'd -- he had the black stone and some kinda acid, I think nitric acid or something. And he'd scrape the black stone with this thing and rub this metal on it. And if the metal didn't melt or whatever, then it was gold. And he'd put that aside and he'd sell it by the pound, or by the ounce to the people that bought gold.

SF: And the jewelry was stuff that people had hawked or sold to him earlier?

TS: No. I don't think they sold to him directly. But he somehow got 'em through the Saint -- well, maybe he got some of that stuff, because he had a lot of watches and stuff, too.

SF: So did the -- did all the other Japanese, when they hit hard times too, come to your dad and say, "Hey, I got this whatever it is, and can you give me X number of dollars and..."

TS: I really don't know if he got so much that way. But all I remember is that he left the shop and went downtown during the week to St. Vincent, Salvation Army, and... in fact, at home, I have a piece of paper that gave him permission to ride on buses after the war started -- before he got picked up -- saying that it was all right for him to do that. It had his picture on it. Because I guess maybe they were limited in going around town, the Isseis?

SF: So his customers were like new immigrants who were coming over who needed furnishings, or were they Isseis? Or would they, might be older Niseis?

TS: Oh, it was a pretty good mix of people. He had a lot -- not a lot, but quite a few white customers, too. Plus, I don't know, I can't recall too many Isseis, but some of the older Niseis I remember coming...

SF: Was the relationship between the customers and your dad such that he would put a price on the article or -- was it a fixed-price deal, or was it one of these, kinda barter or negotiations kind of thing?

TS: I think he probably had fixed prices. But whether they bartered or not, I really don't know. I imagine they tried to, and I don't know how that worked 'cause I stayed in the back and never got involved in the sales part of it.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

SF: So Joe's Secondhand Store continued up to evacuation? Is that right? Or did...

TS: Yeah, well, it stayed open until the FBI picked him up. And then a government agency put everything in boxes and stored it over the, during the war.

SF: Now did he choose to do that, or did they tell him...

TS: No, I mean, oh, he, there's no choice in the matter. He got picked up. I mean, they went there and grabbed him, and took him to Missoula. Then, in the interim, then somebody came in and boxed up all his stuff and they stored it someplace.

SF: And so you were how old when you were watching this happen?

TS: Well, I wasn't home then. I was working...

SF: On the railroad.

TS: ...on the railroad, yeah.

SF: So he was alone, basically, at that time, right?

TS: Yeah. And when he -- when they picked him up, I guess that was it. [Chuckles] Nobody around. Maybe, I think they locked the door, obviously.

SF: So no one, no family -- or...

TS: No.

SF: ...friends or something tried to intervene.

TS: Yeah. I didn't know until after he got picked up. We used to come back from the railroad and visit our families.

SF: So when the war ended, was he able to get back most of his stuff that the government had picked up?

TS: Yeah. After the war ended. Yeah. He got outta camp, and when the time came where they could come back to Seattle, then, I don't know, somehow they brought the goods back in boxes. And by then he moved across the street to the Panama Hotel site, right above where the drug store is now?

SF: Right.

TS: Yeah. That's where he was. He had the two places. Started up there. And he was a good buyer, so I don't think he got into a lot of that old stuff. He kept going out, buying more stuff. So he's a better buyer than a seller, I think.

SF: So when you heard your dad was being picked up by the FBI, how did you feel about that, or what did you -- what ran through your mind? Here he was, all alone, and you were off someplace else, and they picked him up.

TS: I -- yeah. Well, I heard about it, but I can't recall what my feelings were at that time. You know, the war was on and...

SF: Did you expect that he would be picked up because he was a businessperson or acted in the community or...

TS: I had no idea. I don't think anybody knew.

SF: So there was no...?

TS: There was no word. I mean, they just went and picked up certain people.

SF: So it was -- it was a surprise when he was -- when you found out that he was picked up...

TS: Oh, yeah. Somehow -- I asked around the community several years ago. I said, "How the heck," you know, "they get ..." says -- some older Nisei I asked, he said, "Don't you know?" I says, "No. How'd they get the names?" He -- they said, "Inu." I said, "What do you mean by that, inu? Inu is a dog." He says, "That's what they was." That's what they call stool pigeons -- inu. So there's somebody in the Japanese community that provided the names of people that were in organizations.

SF: What kind of organizations did your dad belong to that might have been suspect or, do you know?

TS: Well, Hinomarukai, which was a Japanese military group here; people that were in the Japanese Army. My dad was in the army, just like he got drafted for a year or something back there. He was a cavalry, cavalryman. That's it. And he belonged to a Japanese Chamber of Commerce. But I don't think -- he was not active. He was not active in the Japanese Chamber of Commerce. He joined because, I guess it was expected. And he joined Hinomarukai because it was expected. And I think maybe went to one meeting or something. But...

SF: So, like with this Japanese veterans group, he didn't -- he wasn't really that active, and he went to...

TS: No, he wasn't. But I guess he was a member of it 'cause FBI had, had all the information.

SF: He never went to these things where the Japanese ships would come into harbor and they would host the crew and things of that sort?

TS: I don't know if he did or not. I do remember, myself, I don't know why I remember this, but from -- God, that was what, pre-school days. Am I supposed to remember things way back?

SF: Sure.

TS: Well, anyway I kinda sort of remember going to a Japanese ship in Portland. And I don't know what the occasion was, but, just kinda, something in the back of my mind.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

SF: I want to go back to those kinds of early days for you in Nihonmachi. Where did you go to elementary school and high school?

TS: Well, after we came to Seattle, and shortly after that, I started grade school, and went to Bailey Gatzert School, which is a school up on Twelfth and -- between Weller and Lane. And that was a grade school that was made up, almost 100 percent of Japanese. I remember there was one white girl in one, in the school. And I think there's couple of Chinese.

SF: Everybody else was...

TS: Half a dozen.

SF: Everybody else was Japanese?

TS: Japanese, yeah. That's the way the neighborhood was made up. That was a fairly new school at that time, Bailey Gatzert. Prior to that, there was a Seattle school down on Sixth and between Main and Jackson, you know where -- I don't know what's there. Used to be a Chinese restaurant up there. That used to be the old Seattle School. But that's before my time. But I remember it being there.

SF: At Bailey Gatzert, there was this famous white principal, right? Was Ida Mahone, is that...

TS: Ada Mahon...

SF: Mahon.

TS: M-A-H-O-N.

SF: What do you remember about, about her?

TS: Oh, she was a super person. I mean, very fair, and the kids were well under control. You don't have the things happening that you have today. But I think probably didn't happen in other schools, either. But she was a nice person. And I think even after the war, she kept in contact, during the war and after war, with some of the people that she knew, you know, more intimately.

SF: So she never showed any kind of prejudice?

TS: No prejudice, no. She was really, truly a fair person. I can't... recall one time, she had all the boys meet in the basement. And she stood up in front of all of us, and she shook her finger, says, "One thing you don't, you don't wanna do in this school," she says, "Don't point your middle finger, 'cause that's a bad thing to do." [Laughs] Well, of course, we didn't know what it was. So we learned what sticking up your middle finger was there.

SF: Principal, huh?

TS: Yeah. We, we listened to everything she said. And, I think, I don't know if other boys... I recall going there and getting a ruler on my hand. Hey, that changed my whole life.

SF: What were the relations like among the kids? I mean, you had all these Japanese kids running around together. And, I mean, what -- how do you remember those days? As fun times and...

TS: Oh, there were, yeah. Mostly fun times, yeah. And at that time, there was not much fraternizing outside of your own grade level. In other words, you're a second-grader, your friends are all second-grader. When you were in the third, fourth, fifth -- it just continued all the way through high school. You just, I don't know why that is. But that's the way it was then. We organized our own sports teams and things like that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

SF: You were mentioning sports. That must have been a favorite activity of kids. So how did the kids get organized for baseball? Where did they play and all that?

TS: Well, before we were too organized, the neighborhoods had their own teams. The Main Street bunch -- we organized our own teams, and played with teams our age level from, say, Washington Street. And then we'd play up at -- it used to be -- what used to be called the old Dugdale field on -- what is that street there -- ? Yesler, between Twelfth and Thirteenth. At one time, that used to be the old Seattle professional field, as I understand. But by the time we were old enough, why, it was just an empty lot, and we used to play, uh, football there and some baseball.

SF: How old were the kids when they got organized into these kinds of neighborhood teams?

TS: Well, I would say starting from grade school sometime. I can't recall the exact age.

SF: How would they arrange a particular game? Say, the Main Street group wanted to play a game, and...

TS: I don't know, somehow. [Laughs] We meet someplace and -- or maybe met at school and say, "Well, we'll play at Dugdale. How about next Saturday at 10 a.m.?" And we'd show up. And there was no referees or anything. So somehow, if there are older kids around there, they, they'd become the officials, I guess. But I can't recall that. And then we also played at Liberty Field, which was farther north, close to where Pacific School used to be. Then I went -- from Bailey Gatzert, I went to Central School, which was a middle school. And then from there, I went to Broadway High for four years. That's the way we went from the primary to the central, middle school and then to high school for four years.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

SF: So when you went to middle school, was that all Japanese, too, or mixed?

TS: No. That one was more mixed, I think. Yeah.

SF: What was the sort of percentage or ratio of different ethnic groups in middle school?

TS: Yeah, I'd say, I don't really know. But I'd say -- I went to Central and I would say, maybe, 1/4 Japanese. There was another school, Washington School, which was north of us, and I could, we could've gone there, but I chose to go to Central. And I think there were more Japanese up at Washington School, which is not too far from here, up the street.

SF: Right.

TS: You know where Wonder Bread is?

SF: Right.

TS: That area. That was Washington School. Then I went to Broadway High. And there was 2,000 students in four grades, freshman through senior. And there was roughly 500 Nisei out of 2,000, that school.

SF: What was the relationship between the different kind of students in those days, like in middle school, did you have a lot of hakujin, or white friends or Chinese friends or...

TS: No, not -- well, I can't speak for other Nisei. I think if you lived in a neighborhood where it's more mixed, then it's probably -- it's likely that you had other friends. But where I lived, right on Main Street, it was almost all Japanese, 100 percent. Well, it was 100 percent. So all my friends were Nisei. Just the way it was.

SF: So, I mean, did people pick on each other occasionally, or were there kind of racial, some racial animosity at a low level, or...?

TS: There might, but there wasn't too much that I can recall. I don't think anybody ever called me a "Jap" or anything like that. You kinda steered clear of them, and they kinda stayed away from you, and you weren't basically allowed in a lotta places. And probably not written down on paper, but -- for example, for hiring, there's no employment at Sears or Penney's or Bons or Fred -- any of those places, except possibly in the back some -- I guess, maybe unloading merchandise or something.

SF: Were any of those Japanese who were hired for those mainstream companies, were they ever selected because they were, they dealt with Japanese goods or because the company needed someone to attract or deal with, say, Issei or other Japanese? I think that...

TS: It -- probably the latter, I think, to take care of the Japanese customers.

SF: So for the most...

TS: I never went in there, so I don't know. Couldn't afford to go to any of those places.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

SF: So for a person like yourself, most of your whole life was Nihonmachi, basically, even for -- bought your clothes...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ... ate, went to school. Do you remember any kind of interesting incidents when you went out to the larger society and had some kind of reaction or...?

TS: No, not really. I used to go to -- used to have a professional baseball team, the Seattle Indians -- and used to go there. No problem. It's mostly whites.

SF: What about restaurants? You were mentioning that there was kind of like a Gentlemen's Agreement, where people sort of knew where their place was, in a sense. And there wasn't much conflict because people just went to where they were, quote, "supposed to go." So, I mean, did you go to any restaurants in white neighborhoods, or -- and didn't wanna go, would like to have gone, except that you thought maybe there would be -- they wouldn't serve you, or anything, something like that?

TS: I think, basically, we never made a big deal out of it, try to force our way into someplace, and say, "Hey, we have a right." First of all, we were poor to start with. [Laughs] We didn't have that kinda money. We went to hamburger joints. That was pre-McDonald's -- what they call it -- Triple X? That used to be a chain. But most of us did most of our eating at home 'cause we didn't have money to go buy even hamburgers, usually. I don't know much about -- except what I've heard.

SF: So when you went to high school, and maybe a quarter of the kids were Japanese and the rest were white and Chinese and probably some Filipinos, how was the relationship among the groups at that time? Did folks ever -- did, say, did any of the Japanese kids date white girls or any of that kinda thing?

TS: I can't recall that happening. The Japanese went to, well, Japanese had their -- the Nisei had their own dances at Washington Hall, and I don't know, a couple other places. I remember that. Of course, I was pretty young and real bashful and no guts to talk to girls, so I didn't know what, too much about it.

SF: Did you ever sort of -- would have like to have started up a relationship with a, say, a white girl with, that was, you kinda thought about it in your mind, and that was just not in the cards or something like that?

TS: Well, had no thoughts like that in my mind. Maybe some other guys did.

SF: Did you have that thought about Japanese girls and just were too shy or whatever?

TS: Well, I was shy, I was poor. So taking girls out was not one of the things I did.

SF: Well, was there any other way to kind of mix it up with the girls in some sort of more kinda organized way, so it would take the heat off of you as an individual? Like churches might sponsor a beach party or something like that, where there'd be a bunch of guys and a bunch of girls?

TS: Well, I think there were things like that, but I, I wasn't involved in it, so I really can't say much, personally.

SF: So in high school, what were your main kinda social activities?

TS: In high school, social activities, the only thing I'd go see the senior play and things, but I didn't take a girl. Another guy and I, buddy and I would go or something.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

SF: So in terms of, say, sports, did you play baseball, basketball, or...?

TS: Yeah, but I wasn't good enough, so I never tried out for any high school teams or anything. But later on, a lot, some of the Niseis started getting into, and they did pretty well in athletics in high school. But I, I just played within the community. We had our own team and...

SF: Mentioning your own teams, when did the Courier Leagues get cranked up in Seattle? You remem -- was it Jimmy Sakamoto, I guess, someone like that?

TS: Yeah. Well, I really don't know what to say about that. See, it must've been I guess the beginning of my school. I, it was -- started with, I think, Nisei that were maybe couple years older than I. They started it up, and they started a league. And pretty soon, by the time I got involved, there was -- for the men, that is -- there was four, there was a double-A league for the, the older and the better players, and then there was an A and a B and a C. So there was four leagues, and each had maybe eight teams or so. I don't know how many; eight or ten teams.

SF: And you played in the Courier Leagues?

TS: Yeah. You competed within your league.

SF: How were the teams organized? Were they neighborhood-based or just...

TS: Well, some of 'em were neighborhood-based like ours, but then there were others that were group-based, like Waseda and Lotus, which was basically the Buddhist church group, Lotus. And then Waseda, I don't know. I think maybe, I don't know. Somehow, people that lived uptown there.

SF: So as long as you could organize a group of Japanese, then you could sort of apply, become part of a league and...

TS: Yeah. You had to pay. And you had to, they have certain, requirements. I don't know if -- you had to have uniforms. So we'd have to raise our own funds stuff. 'Course, parents didn't have any money.

SF: So how'd you raise your own money for uniforms?

TS: Well, when it came time where we had to have -- well then we had skating parties. Have you heard of them? Well, you'd rent a -- I don't know how, how you call it. You'd have a skating party at a particular skating rink, and you'd go to the Japanese printer and have tickets printed. You'd reserve the place, and then you'd go around selling tickets to, somehow, to as many people as you can.

SF: Who would come to these skating parties, all Niseis?

TS: It was almost all Nisei, yeah. Hundred percent. Dances were the same thing. We'd rent Washington Hall, for example, and arrange with the orchestra. And then we'd do the same, sell tickets. We had the splash party at the YMCA, where, did the same thing.

SF: With the dances, were the bands Japanese, or were they generally white? The bands. Were they...

TS: The bands -- there was one Japanese band, and there was a white band that was a good band, Mad Hatters or whatever. I can't remember. And of course, all the ones that were dancing were Nisei, and mostly the older ones. We were younger. We sponsored the dance but we didn't know how to dance so we'd watch. "Oh, and look at such-and-such dancing with such-and-such."

SF: With regard to the Courier Leagues and the baseball games, did the Issei -- were they interested in those things?

TS: I don't think the Isseis were involved, period. It seems to me, I remember going to, I think it was a Takayoshi, was older Nisei, maybe ten years older than we were, and he's sort of like the commissioner of the thing. And each league would have a meeting. I don't know how they set up the schedule and had to reserve... I remember going up to the park board and reserving fields where -- and the basketball places to play basketball.

SF: So the Courier Leagues were basically a Nisei operation.

TS: Period. Yeah. I don't think the Isseis were involved that I know of. Perhaps they were, but I was not aware of it. All I know is our neighborhood. Isseis were too busy working. And most of 'em had no knowledge of baseball or basketball.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

SF: So when did you graduate high school?

TS: 1940.

SF: Okay. And then you went to work right after that?

TS: Yeah, shortly after that, in '41.

SF: Did you expect to go to college or want to go to college, or had ruled that out, or couldn't go to college, because the financial, your financial situation, or...?

TS: Well, for myself, I could say that I sort of didn't see much of a future when I was in high school because in my senior year, I must've cut thirty days or...

SF: Wow. That was sort of un-Japanese or whatever, right?

TS: Well, some of, lot of us did that about then. See, my age group among Nisei is the largest group.

SF: And why did you guys cut so many classes?

TS: I don't know. It's just that, we just -- maybe it's, somewhere in our minds we figured there's no future. I used to see the older Niseis that had even graduated college with degrees in aeronautical engineering and can't -- no job here. So they'd go to Japan. Or they'd have a degree in accounting, or this and this and that, and you see 'em working in Public Market or in the grocery store. And perhaps that had some effect. I don't know.

SF: So it's a good possibility that you and a lot of other folks, in that period anyways, could see that there was no real opportunity, and so you were kinda, what you might call alienated or kind of discouraged or [Inaudible]...

TS: Well, that could -- well, whatever it is, I don't think anybody was bitter about it or anything. It's just a fact of life. I mean, it's different like today, you're thinking today would be different. Those days, you just -- you played the game and I think for a lot of people my age, just couldn't see going on to college. It cost $25 a quarter or something. Of course, that's nothing now, but...

SF: So you didn't want to go college. So what did you do after you graduated college -- high school?

TS: High school?

SF: Yeah.

TS: I went to -- what do they call -- ? PG, post-graduate, because there's no jobs. And then, did that for roughly a year, I guess. And then, all of a sudden, I don't know why, this Eddie Sano and I decided we'd go to work on the railroads. So we... [Laughs]

SF: And your dad still owned Joe's Secondhand Store...

TS: Yeah.

SF: that time, right? Did you ever think about taking over your dad's business or...?

TS: No. I had no interest in that at all. I know he -- I knew that he wasn't making, barely gettin' by, so I just didn't see any future in it.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

SF: So Eddie and you decided to work on the railroad, or how did you get into the railroad?

TS: I really don't know. Somehow we decided -- I don't know. I can't -- we went to that hiring place (the Issei contract office on 6th & Main), and we signed up. And like I say, they gave us pass, and we took a train -- the first train trip in our lives, I think -- and went from Seattle all the way to, eastern Montana.

SF: Those hiring places you mentioned, now this was a Japanese...

TS: Contractor.

SF: ...employer?

TS: Employment hall.

SF: And he handled lots of different kinds of jobs, or just railroad kinds of jobs?

TS: I think he did other kinda jobs but all, all I know is the railroad job. And I think we had to pay -- out of our pay -- a dollar a month for medical insurance or something.

SF: So you got -- you and Eddie got hired on and, for which railroad...?

TS: Mil -- Milwaukee.

SF: And you went out to which area?

TS: Well, eastern Montana. Close to, well, Three Forks, in that area.

SF: Was this job mostly Japanese, with a Japanese gang, or [Inaudible]...?

TS: Yeah, it was a Japanese foreman, and all the people that were running the gangs, supervisory capacities, why they were all Japanese. There were three Issei, and then one was a Nisei, older Nisei.

SF: So the Issei, how old were they? I mean, that's kinda tough work, working on a railroad gang.

TS: The Isseis -- the ones that were bosses -- it wasn't tough work. One was a foreman, and he told everybody, basically. And then there was assistant foreman, that was another Issei, and he's another one that all he had to do is tell people what to do. And then there was a machine operator, and all he sat by the machine there and tinkered with it.

SF: And these guys were approximately what age?

TS: God, they were old then. And they -- we had some older ones working on the gang, too. And God...

SF: Could they sort of do the work, or did...?

TS: Well, they, yeah. They could do it, but not like the Nisei. There were a lotta Nisei there, and it was a race. I mean, how Nisei -- they were very competitive, so you're running from this, from -- you're working, why, you're moving fast. But that's the way -- I don't know why that is, but Nisei tend to be competitive, and...

SF: You think the Issei guys were actually doing the track-laying that, I mean -- did they feel bad about not being able to really put out, or did...?

TS: You mean the older ones?

SF: Yeah.

TS: Well, they did their best, but I think the foreman kinda watched out for 'em and made sure they didn't get too tough a job. That's why they had us young guys there. Which was all right with us.

SF: So you guys had sort of a, kind of a, what you might call kind of a positive, paternalistic attitude toward these guys? These guys were old, older, and sort of protective attitude toward them as a...

TS: Well, I don't know if we ever discussed it, but we, we knew what the situation was. Guys, hardly walking, so you can't expect them to, but then those days, there's no retirement or anything. So I don't know.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SF: So you worked on the Milwaukee for how long? And then...

TS: Oh, roughly, oh, from April to November. Then the snows came, so they laid off the whole gang, and came back to Seattle. And then I went out to the Great Northern.

SF: And the Great Northern was, again, a racially segregated unit?

TS: Basically, yeah. It was, this was out of the same contracting hall. It was a Japanese foreman and all the supervisory people were Nis -- Issei. But then, there was a few Filipinos and Mexicans in the work force.

SF: And so you were working on the Great Northern in what? 1941?

TS: One, yeah, from November '41, right before the war started.

SF: What happened when Pearl Harbor...?

TS: Well, the gang I was on was on the move from north of Wenatchee going towards the coast, north of Everett. And when we went into Wenatchee and somewhere, we were waiting for a train or something. Well, somehow, somebody came and gave us the news about the war starting, that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

SF: How did you react to that?

TS: I really don't know. I don't really -- well, kinda expect it in a ways 'cause some of the Isseis said, "There's a war gonna start." And that was back months ago because, I guess the U.S. shut off gas supply or something in the Orient? So Japan couldn't get any gas. And then some of the Isseis -- or oil. Why then, the Isseis said, "Well, that's gonna start a war." But, we didn't think anything of it. That was way above our, you know. All we want, to work.

SF: So you guys didn't think much about political things...

TS: No.

SF: those days? Yeah.

TS: Just survival.

SF: So what happened after that in terms of your -- where you could work and...?

TS: Well, then what happened is that, like I say, we were on our way west towards the coast. So they stopped us at a point called Skykomish, which is up on Stevens Pass there. And we spent a couple days there working. And then they sent us to the coastline where we spent, I don't know, week or some days there. And then we came back to Everett. And when that happened, why they -- there were two other gangs that had Japanese, people of Japanese ancestry on. And they combined and put all the Japanese into the gang that I was on, the Harry Nambu's gang. And then put all the whites and Mexicans, Filipinos into the other two gangs. And then they shipped the gangs with all the people of Japanese ancestry, and moved them back up north of Wenatchee, north of Wenatchee, yeah. And fortunately, that was outta the, the zone on the Coast where you'd be evacuated.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SF: So a lot of other railroads, I understand that they fired a lot of the workers after Pearl Harbor, or soon after Pearl Harbor.

TS: Yeah.

SF: So the Great Northern was the only railroad that didn't fire the Japanese. Is that right?

TS: That's right, yeah. There were some that were evacuated. The people -- they were foremen and other people that were working on the Coast that they didn't have jobs for inlanders or whatever reason if -- so they had to go to camp. But a couple of 'em came back out to the railroad from camp in a couple years.

SF: Why do you think that the Great Northern was different than the other railroads; the way they treated the Japanese after Pearl Harbor?

TS: Well, I had the same question in my mind. So after the war, or -- I can't remember when it was, '43, '44, '45, somewhere -- and I have the letter at home I wrote to the president of the Great Northern and mentioned, "Why the Great Northern kept us working?" Expected a reply saying that we trusted you and had blah-blah-blah. But as it turned out, it was very pragmatic. He says, "Hey, we knew we were gonna be short on labor, so we're planning on you people working to maintain the railroad." So that's what happened.

SF: They probably knew that -- as the railroad management, Great Northern -- that people were gonna be evacuated from the Coast.

TS: I really don't know if they knew that. They probably, the bigshots probably knew it. Yeah, 'cause I don't know how -- what the news was then, after Pearl Harbor. Lot of that were publicized in papers or... I can remember that after the war and then before going Wenat -- we had the Sears Roebuck catalog. I ordered a radio, a long-wave radio with a big battery, (as) you didn't have to have electricity. And Sears sent me out a short-wave radio. And that scared us all to the dickens. The FBI's gonna come pick us up. So I sent it right back to Sears. Told 'em that was the wrong radio. [Laughs] I wanted one (long-wave).

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

SF: So here you are, after Pearl Harbor and after the beginning of '42, where most of the folks that you knew who lived in Seattle and all on the Coast...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...were put into camps? Assembly center first and then the WRA camps. But you were out of all of that because of what the Great Northern...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...did to the folks. So what was life like for you guys who were not in camp? But you knew that the war was going on. Your former friends and everybody was in, was in camp, but you guys were out? How was that?

TS: Well, I would say that we were happy not to be in camp. But other than that, I don't think, I don't think we thought about it that much.

SF: Did you experience any hostility from folks -- and you were in western -- I mean, I'm sorry, eastern Washington. Then when you went into town to get a meal or buy something, did -- was it always kinda tense or not tense?

TS: Well, some of the towns were happy to have us come in because that means we'd -- and a lotta young guys on the gang -- we'd buy -- go into town, and we spend bucks for all sorts of... and we'd buy cans of chili, because we didn't... and potato chips and, you know, what'd you buy. Whereas other towns would not allow us in. For example, north of Spokane, there was a town called Colville. And I was supposed to -- my age group was supposed to sign up for the draft. They wouldn't allow us into Colville to sign for the draft.

SF: How did you find out you weren't allowed into this town?

TS: 'Cause they wouldn't let us in.

SF: How -- tell us some about that I mean, did they, did the police chief come out and say, "You guys can't come into town," or...?

TS: Well, no, there was something out. I don't know how we found out. Anyway, as it turned out, somehow the word got, somebody, maybe the foreman, someone told, told them up in Colville. And they -- somebody came down to the gang in the boxcars where you lived in. Signed us up for the... and that was, we're in a place called Arden, which is north of Spokane. The people there were nice. It was small. All they had was one small store. Met the people there, and they were really nice.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

SF: Did you have any other incidences where people were obviously prejudicial to you or to the other folks on the railroad crew?

TS: Well, there were other towns. I remember in -- where was that? In Wenatchee. Oroville, I think they wouldn't let us in. And the foreman said, "The heck with 'em." So he put us on the motorcar -- payday. We got checks, gotta cash the checks. You can buy stuff for ourselves. We were fed by a common cook and so forth -- but all the, the little goodies. So he'd take us on a motorcar, and we'd go all the way down to a town called Tonasket, I think it was. And they were happy to see us. We'd come in there and we'd spend money. More money than they'd make otherwise -- I mean, double what they'd get from the people around there, 'cause there -- it's kinda farm country, and people weren't -- there weren't rich people there, so it's good for the business in town. Omak was nice. We used to go in there and go bowling -- even a bowling alley. And one time -- well, Dick Yamane and I were good friends, so we were kind of spearheading the thing. We'd go there and go bowling. We'd play pop games with a couple of the white guys there in the bowling alley, and then stop and eat someplace and go home. And the other guys would go to movies and stuff. And eventually, somewhere down the line, word got back that a couple white males chased out -- chased a, a few of the guys out of the town, Omak. So the guys came back to camp, and all the Niseis, we had kind of a gab session on it, and say, "What are you gonna do about it," and this and that? And as it turned out, why, Dick Yamane and I, we were selected to go back into town and see what we could, find out what -- they don't want us or what? And we went back, and the townspeople were for us. Well, we spent money there, in the bowling -- and the people we met were all for us. There were just a couple hoodlums in the area. And said, "We'll take care of that." And we went -- start going back, and no problem. I don't know what they did with the guys.

SF: So when you were discussing the options, or the gang was discussing the options, what kinds of things did people kick around? I mean, did people say, "Well, we'll go in there and take out a few guys," or was that an option, or...?

TS: No that was not an option. Nobody, nobody mentioned that. Mainly the idea was that, I think for us it was good that we could go into town and get away from the railroad; go see a movie, eat someplace, do those things, little things. And that was basically all there was to it.

SF: You two guys were kind of selected because you were good talkers and had good skills with dealing with folk, or...?

TS: I don't know. It seemed like we got, as we used to say, "We got sucked into it."

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

SF: Now, while this was all happening to you, your dad was picked up by the FBI, right? And...

TS: Yeah.

SF: What happened to him during this period?

TS: Well, first of all, he went to Missoula. And there he was kept until they had some sort of a trial where they talked to him and blah-blah-blah. And they weren't satisfied with his answers, so they, they released some of 'em, and sent him to Camp Livingston, which is in Louisiana, I think. Yeah.

SF: What -- did you ever find out what your dad might have said or why he was not let go with some of the other guys or...?

TS: Well, yeah. I've got that. He, he didn't come right out and say, "I'm a totally American -- and of -- if there's, Japanese come I'd go in and beat 'em over the head and kill 'em." He didn't say things like that, I guess. And, little ambiguous in his answers. He was for America, but he wouldn't come right out and -- I guess, those smart, smarter ones knew how to answer in order to get out.

SF: Did you ever talk to your dad about that?

TS: No. It's something that was just, went under the bed and almost forgotten. Then he got out eventually. And I've got some of the papers. I should've brought it and showed it to you.

SF: So after Livingston, what happened to him?

TS: Well, then he eventually was -- they asked people to come work up in Kooskia on a road. And he volunteered for that. And then he went up to Idaho. And that's where he stayed and worked.

SF: How did, why did he volunteer to do something like working on a railroad? I, you'd think that would be kinda hard work.

TS: Well, he wasn't working on a railroad. Working on highway road. He, I guess, maybe he just want to get outta the camp.

SF: So Kooskia was a more un-camp like environment than...

TS: Well, it was camp-like, 'cause I went and visited there and they lived -- had a great, big, like a barracks and had cots. And I kinda think I saw double beds in a big room. And they had their own cooks 'cause I remember eating, I think it was dinner there. It was better food than we had on the railroad, I remember.

SF: How long is it, had it been since you had last seen your dad?

TS: At that time?

SF: At that time, when you went into Kooskia?

TS: Well, a couple, three years. I can't remember the exact date.

SF: So how -- what were your thoughts when you got to see your dad in this environment after two or three years?

TS: Well, I was happy to see he was healthy and surviving. He wasn't the kind to be bitter, so mentally he was fine.

SF: So you stayed and visited him, what, couple days or something like that?

TS: Beg your pardon?

SF: You visited him a couple of days in Kooskia?

TS: No, it was just one day.

SF: Was it a big deal to kind of get clearance to...?

TS: I can't remember all the details of it. That's -- I got, I did get permission 'cause I went there and I wouldn't go there without getting permission.

SF: After -- you were kind of relieved, then, that he was fine physically and mentally?

TS: Yeah.

SF: When did you see your dad next after...?

TS: Well, he eventually was allowed freedom out of Kooskia. So he came up where I was working on the railroad. And maybe after couple, three days, too hard work. So he went into Spokane, and he got a job in a fancy hotel in the kitchen where he cut vegetables or something. And he did that until he went back to Seattle.

SF: So your dad got released from Kooskia before the war ended, right? This was probably '44 or...?

TS: Yeah, I kinda think that, yeah. I've got the dates at home someplace.

SF: So he must've somehow convinced the authorities that he was, quotes, "trustworthy" or whatever.

TS: Well, yeah. I guess they knew based on being locked up that long. Why, you know, to go to Kooskia you had to be allowed, 'cause there was a lot more freedom there than the other camps.

SF: What, can you describe what Kooskia looked like?

TS: Well, I really can't say much. Like I remember one big room where the beds and stuff were. And I remember there was a dining place, 'cause I remember having one meal. But other than that, not too much. There was, it was in a very isolated part of Idaho, on the Clearwater River. That was, I think it was east of Grangeville, I think it was.

SF: So it was no fence, or there were no sentries or anything like that?

TS: I don't recall that, but there must have been, though.

SF: So your dad, after he got out of Kooskia, came back to Seattle?

TS: No, he...

SF: [Inaudible]...

TS: He went on the railroad gang. We were north of Spokane there someplace. And he lasted couple, three days, a week. And then, like I say, the work was too hard. So he went into Spokane and got us room in a old Japanese, what we used to call skid row hotel. Yeah.

SF: And when did he go -- get back to Seattle?

TS: Oh, golly, probably after the war sometime.

SF: Then he started up his secondhand store business again...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...across the street.

TS: Yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

SF: I want to go back a little bit and talk about what it was like for you working on this railroad gang, and on the Great Northern. You guys used to live in boxcars. Is that right?

TS: Yeah. Boxcars that were not suitable for merchandise. Of course, they were painted, and windows were put in.

SF: Well, so, so what was the equipment inside of these homes, as they were?

TS: Well, they were just single beds. And some of the cars had double beds, one above the other, I think. And then, in the center of the car, there was a, what we used to call a caboose stove; a short stove, where you can build a fire to keep warm.

SF: So the johns were like outhouses?

TS: Outhouses, yeah. When we moved from one place to another, you'd dig a hole and put the outhouse there.

SF: What were the, like the bathing facilities like? I mean, how did you keep yourself clean?

TS: Well, the bathing was, for the Japanese guys, was very unique, I would say. Right after you came in from your job site every day, the first thing you'd see is all of the men grabbing a stick with a, with the wires on it, and then two 5-gallon buckets, and going over to what we call the water car. And fill those full of water and carry the bucket back to each one of the boxcars. And in front of each boxcar, we had washtubs set above a little deal, like a stove. And we'd put wood underneath and start the fire. And then, boil the -- make hot water there. That's what we did before supper. And then, when the ding-ding-ding, the dinner bell -- then we'd go to dinner. Then after we come back, we'd complete that. And then people would take turns and take baths inside the car. We'd carry the bucket...

SF: Oh, you'd get, you'd dip the water...

TS: Hot water out, the outside and take it inside. And we had another tub inside, and pour the water into the tub, put cold water. And we'd each wash up, wash our bodies. And then on the back side of the boxcar, there's another door, and that's a side that nobody's ever at, so we just flipped the water over on that side. And...

SF: Next guy would come up and...

TS: Do the, yeah.

SF: Same thing.

TS: Kinda clean the tub a little bit, and...


SF: Okay. Tad, you were talking a little bit about how the Japanese crews would take a shower, or take a -- clean themselves up at the end of the day. And the procedure strikes me as being kind of Japanese-based, right? With the carrying of the water...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...and then heating it up outside, and sort of washing oneself inside the car. What did the other crews do? I mean, there were white crews and...

TS: Well, I'm speaking of those days, okay. This is early '40s? And whenever you're in a boxcar and then -- or you're in a train, passenger, and you look out, you see a bunch of boxcars that (housed) gangs. And you could tell the Japanese gang simply because they had these hot water-making things right outside the boxcar. And they had lines where they'd have clothes hanging, or a place where they could put their clothes. And when you went by a white gang, there was nothing. So -- then, they just didn't take baths or wash themselves, even the foreman I guess. And later on, I got a job as a timekeeper for a gang that was made up of white laborers. And these were white laborers that, that I guess took the most menial jobs. Anyway, they worked on the railroad and they just didn't take baths.

SF: These white gangs, were they mostly folks that quotes we would call "winos," or...

TS: Yeah. They were basically what you call winos, yeah.

SF: So how would you describe their work patterns? I mean, if the Japanese, Niseis in particular, were competitive and probably wanted to lay a lot of track just to show that they were good or something like that...

TS: Yeah.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

SF: How would you describe how the white crews...?

TS: They worked just enough not to get fired, I think. [Laughs] They didn't have that competitive -- you know how Nisei, my God, you start puttin' in ties and then you're racing all the time. But, it made the job fun, I think.

SF: Did they ever -- did you ever have kind of a competition between different crews, like just happened to be that a Japanese crew would be pitted -- would be laying track alongside a white crew or something, or the boss...?

TS: Yeah, we would...

SF: ...would tell you...

TS: Yeah, we've done -- where they combined two gangs on the bigger job. I recall one time puttin' in ties. And the ties are put in by pairs of laborers, two guys puttin' in one tie in pairs. And we were mixed up with a white gang. And the way we worked, the Nisei and the Issei, soon as you completed your job and done, why we -- you'd move ahead to set up another, put in another tie up ahead the rest -- just keep moving. But we noticed that, with the white gangs, why they would move in turns until the last (pair) put in (their) tie -- if you happened to put in a tie ahead of him, those two guys would just stand there, or the three pairs, and wait for the (pair) at the very end to put his tie in and move ahead. Then they'd all move. So when we were put together, hell, we put a quarter mile gap, I think, the way we did. You know there was holes. Be one white guy, a pair at work putting in ties, and be two or three rail lines about 40, 50 feet, and then another one of those guys, and then another one. And then bunch, bunch of, up ahead, all the Niseis were just puttin' in ties and gettin' done moving ahead. That's just the pattern of work. You can't blame 'em, because that's the way they are.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

SF: So what other racial groups were there working as railroad crew people at that time?

TS: There was Filipinos, and they were good workers, but not as competitive as the Nisei. But they, they worked hard. And the Mexicans were the same way. They worked hard.

SF: And these Filipinos and Mexicans, they were integrated with other crews, or they were -- had their own racially segregated...

TS: No, no. They weren't segregated because there wasn't enough of 'em to make up a crew. Well, I don't -- timekeeper for a gang that was -- had about maybe 50 percent Mexican. But that was, I don't know, there for -- I guess maybe there was a shortage of labor, so they went to Mexico and recruited. So that was for about four, five months. One of 'em, one of the guys was a policeman and made more money on the railroad as a laborer than he did as a policeman in wherever he was from Mexico. Cases like that. But they're all nice guys. And somehow, I don't know how that was arranged, they tended to be, like -- well, maybe they're away from home or whatever, they needed a woman. So I don't know how they arranged that -- they had some gal, or two gal -- one or two gals come up to the gang and take care of all of the men. I don't know how much they -- money the gals made, but...

SF: So that was the way that the -- they handled the woman issue, they -- somebody would arrange -- who'd arrange for...

TS: I have no idea.

SF: But this one, one or two or three gals would service the whole...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...the whole crew, huh?

TS: And being the timekeeper, I just didn't wanna know.

SF: Right.

TS: If somebody should ask me, then, so... I kept my nose out of it.

SF: Well, did the Japanese crews...

TS: Never did that.

SF: that? They never did that?

TS: Yeah. (They serviced their individual needs when they had time off and went to a large city -- like Spokane.)

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

SF: Well, you described this kind of competitiveness that the Japanese, and particularly, I guess, the Niseis had. Was that kind of like what you would call racial pride? I mean, how would you describe what, I mean how they thought of -- how these Niseis, and Isseis, thought about themselves in the kind of racial hierarchy of the times.

TS: I don't know. I really don't know. I don't know the background why. But I remember the first time we went out on a gang, that's when we noticed it. And I -- they'd run with their jacks, then brrrrrrrrr, stick it in, click-click-click-click. And they'd raise the track, and then you're tamping away. And it's sort of a -- I think it makes the day go faster, too.

SF: Well, did they feel that they were superior to other groups, or I mean...

TS: No.

SF: ...would the people say...?

TS: No. I don't think there's any sense of feeling a superiority. It's just the matter that, just the way we're raised, I guess. I guess maybe if you're on a farm, it's, trying to see who bags the most potatoes or...

SF: So you had these white crews who were made up of poor folks, a lot of them alcoholics?

TS: Yeah.

SF: And then you had the white bosses who were above, as it were...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...the Japanese crews. So was there kind of a class distinction? I mean, did people say, "Ah, those winos were" -- they didn't -- they indicated some negativity toward them because they didn't take baths every day and, or were dirtier?

TS: No. We didn't make any negative -- well, (possibly) we did. "Winos," we'd call 'em. But it was just a pattern of their life, and it wasn't reflective of the white race or population. It just -- the real poor whites that -- and most of 'em were alcoholics. And they'd go least two weeks without drinking. So they'd earn some money, so go back into town and -- kinda felt sorry for 'em, really. But that's just the way they were.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

SF: What did you guys eat for food? I mean, did you have all Japanese stuff, or -- what kinda -- what were your typical dinner and...?

TS: Well, when I first went out to Montana -- this was a Japanese gang, Koga's gang. He had a Japanese cook. And the people that worked in the kitchen were Japanese. And we had rice plus whatever else that they gave us. Can't remember exactly what we had. Breakfast -- every other breakfast was miso shiru, which even for me, we didn't do that in -- my dad and I, we never had miso shiru in the morning. But that's just one they did every other day. And I didn't particularly like that because when we had breakfast American-style, that meant that -- usually you had bread on the table. So I could pick up a couple slice of bread and butter or -- put jam on it, slap it together, [slaps hands together] and I'd stick in the, my overall, you know that little thing here? And I was young, eighteen. So I'd go out to work, and about 10 o'clock, when we'd take a little break, oh, hey, I got something to eat, which was nice. But with miso shiru and rice, what can you do with it? [Laughs]

SF: Right, right.

TS: That was a difference. And then after the war started, when I was on the Great Northern, then there was a company called Addison Miller, which was the commissary for the railroad. They had a kitchen and served the food.

SF: So how...

TS: It was all American food then.

SF: So they would bring the food out to you guys and then...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...someone would ring the bell...?

TS: The table, yeah. We had a big, long table in a coach car.

SF: Well that must've been kinda tough, though, right? I mean here you're raised in Seattle and you have rice probably for dinner anyways, right?

TS: Yeah.

SF: And then did you guys get any rice anytime?

TS: No. But I mean you had to accept it. War -- and, you know, you knew that. And after a while, when I became a timekeeper for this Filipino foreman, he was a rice eater. And as a timekeeper, I didn't go out on the job. I was doing the paperwork. So about 3 o'clock I'd go in the kitchen, I'd get a pot, and get the rice, and I'd go back to the water car, and I'd wash the rice and put the right amount of water in it, and then take it to the kitchen. And then, why then, I'd tell the cook how to cook the rice. Then we'd have rice for dinner, this Filipino foreman and I. So that was -- and after that, when I got on different crews, I just, you just didn't have it. So...

SF: So did you ever get a chance to buy any Japanese stuff like tofu or any, any tsukemono?

TS: Not when I was on the railroad 'cause at that time we had no cars. Later on, after I got outta the army, I had a car. Why, then, even then I don't think we were way out in the sticks, so there was no place where you can buy this stuff.

SF: Sort of just accepted it as fact of life during the war, huh.

TS: Yeah.

SF: That you couldn't get it.

TS: Huh?

SF: Yeah, that you couldn't get it. So...

TS: Well, I think if you went into Spokane, you could, or like if you're close to Seattle. But today, I guess you can buy tofu at any -- lotta stores.

SF: Safeway.

TS: Yeah.

SF: Yeah.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

SF: So after you worked on the Great Northern, then you got drafted. Is that right? Into the army?

TS: Yeah. I got drafted, yeah.

SF: When did you get drafted?

TS: '45? I think it was after the war.

SF: So in -- then you took basic training and then...

TS: Yeah, I -- I got, yeah. That was a disappointment. I was in Spokane. And in my whole life, I had been to Portland, Oregon, raised there, and I visited there. But I had never left the state of Washington, except to Portland. And here, now I'm going in the army and maybe I'll see someplace. So I go to Fort Lewis, and we -- at the beginning -- and they have a formation in the morning and they tell you one morning. And I says, "Oh, I'm gonna go to Fort Meade, Maryland, for basic training." And I was so happy. But the other white guys that came from Spokane with me -- some of 'em were also set for Fort Meade -- and they were really sad because they had to leave home. But I was so happy because finally, I'm gonna see something besides state of Washington! [Laughs] But the following morning, the orders got changed. I was gonna take my basic training in Fort Lewis. So I was still a stick in the mud. So I stayed there for a year until they had a general demobilization or something.

SF: So after you took basic at Lewis, then you just kinda hung around post and did menial jobs or...?

TS: Well, they stuck me in the, in the medics. I worked in the, first in the -- what do they -- the body thing? What do you call it?

SF: Mortuary, or...?

TS: Oh, no, no, no, no. I mean, where they...

SF: Oh.

TS: Fix bad backs, and make...

SF: (Orthopedic) Clinic?

TS: So I, I got no training, okay? I go into this clinic, and they say, "Well, blah-blah-blah, you work with this guy." And he was looking at feet. He'd have people sitting on, [slaps chair, raises hands] high above you, and they'd take, have the shoes off, and they'd look at their feet. And then you'd mark on a piece that you got pes planus, which means...

SF: Flat...

TS: ...flatfeet, blah-blah. And some of 'em were bad, I guess. And he says, not suitable for hikes or -- what do you call -- ? Marching, and some had very little -- so you'd distinguish between 'em -- says, I mean, those you don't say anything much. Then you have -- what's the other thing -- ? Some would have growths and stuff on, athlete's foot and stuff.

SF: So you worked in this clinic, basically, as a kind of a record keeper, a clerk, or...?

TS: Well, I don't know what you'd call it. All I know is that when I -- I got pulled outta basic after about ten days, got stuck in the medics, and I'm looking at guys' feet first. And pretty soon I'm in the eye, ear and nose, throat, and I'm working on the -- when they do the sinus thing. And looking at all their goop that comes, operating on their tonsils and stuff. And I was like, God bless it, I hope I never get sick in the army and have guys like me lookin' at, who don't know a damn thing. I'm not kidding. That's awful.

SF: Yeah. That's amazing, 'cause don't they send the medics to get training at Fort Sam Houston?

TS: Yeah, or someplace. Yeah. But I guess maybe there was a shortage or something. But I just, I was glad I never got sick.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

SF: So then after doing this, then they had this general demobilization, and then you got outta the army. And then, what did you do next?

TS: Well, I went back to railroad.

SF: So did you work in the, as -- on a crew again or...?

TS: Yeah. I was, this, one guy named Mr. Ferryman, he was the boss. And he says, when I left, he says, "Well, be sure and come back after you get out." I got back, went back, and I went into the office, and there was a guy above him by the name of Mitguard. He was the boss above the boss I knew. And I had to see him first. I go there, see, and the guy was kind of a dour, old Norwegian guy, and -- "We've got no job for you, boy." And I, I could just feel myself getting angered, ready to spout off. And I could see my boss over there. He (signals), "Ssh." And he points at the door. So I kept quiet, and I walked out the door. And pretty soon, he comes out, and says, "We'll put you right back on." So -- and then, I went to, out to the gang, and I kept time for the gang. And pretty soon, he got promoted to be the division (roadmaster) for a new section of railroad (with) headquarters in Seattle. And he says, "Well, you come over to Seattle, I'll have a job for you." Invite -- yeah, so I went to Seattle. And he had a job for me.

SF: What kinda job did you get in Seattle?

TS: Paper shuffling. Carried as a timekeeper a while, then I got other jobs as I went along.

SF: And, so you made a steady progression up management over the years, huh?

TS: Yeah.

SF: A whole career.

TS: I was a timekeeper, and then worked as a road master's clerk. And then -- I couldn't get certain job,

because there's still a kind of a -- what do you call -- ? Prejudice. In fact, when they passed that one law, the federal law or whatever...

SF: Civil rights?

TS: Yeah, whatever. About jobs, equal employment. He had me represent him at a meeting of, everybody in the Seattle area. And oh, God, I heard some awful things in there. I was the only non-white in the room.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

SF: So before the civil rights or equal opportunity thing came, I guess in the, probably around the Johnson Era, right?

TS: Yeah, Johnson was the one that pushed it.

SF: What -- I mean, do you recall any incidences of where you think that there was a glass ceiling for you, or there was prejudice or...?

TS: Oh, I knew it, yeah.

SF: How -- what were some of those probable incidences that...?

TS: Well, one of the things is I wanted to get into personnel work, 'cause I knew how to -- well, I knew I could deal with people. And the department I was working for was the operating department. But someone told me, "Hey, there's no room for you in the (personnel) department." That on the whole railroad.

SF: They just, and, by telling you there's no room for you, that was, it was real clear what that meant?

TS: Yeah. Well, I knew what it meant. And then, I wrote like the personnel department because I knew how to do all the paperwork, and I, I got along well with people, basically. But there's no hope. But eventually, I, I got a shot at gettin' in the accounting department. So I went into accounting. There it just went fast. I got a job as -- ? Traveling auditor for... and then I used to travel to -- well, we went to Frisco on the Southern Pacific, audit their books, where they billed the Great Northern. So we make -- or the -- so they didn't cheat us. And they did the same thing to us. And then, went to Nebraska for the Union Pacific, then audited the Great Northern books in St. Paul, and certain portions of it. So went from there. And then, somehow, I don't know, I got a job as a, as an examiner for, with the payroll accounting, and worked in Seattle. That was a nice job, too. And, that was auditing in the local area. Not that much -- not too much traveling. Other one was tough because you were gone for two weeks away from home. Omaha -- for any -- because you can't, except in, when I went to Whitefish, they were good enough. I could fly back every week, so I got home every weekend from Whitefish. And then, eventually, from there I went to the payroll accounting. And I got examiner job and then assistant manager, assistant manager in Portland for -- where I met another nice boss by the name of Jim Boyd. And he really trained me well. So when he retired, I got his job as the manager of the Portland office. And then this guy in Seattle got promoted back to St. Paul, and so they sent me up to Seattle, and I, as a senior manager, which means I had the Seattle office plus authority over the Portland office. But then, Portland got a guy that I knew that, well, hell, he knew ten times more than I did 'cause that's all he did his whole railroad career is accounting. So Portland, I didn't have to even think about.

Then time came -- what was it -- ? An eighty-day -- started this offering money for retiring? And I thought for a second, and well, for a little longer than that, I thought, "Egads, my next move, if I get promoted, I'd have to go to St. Paul, Galesburg, Illinois, or a better job, I'd have to go to Fort Worth, Dallas." And I said, I thought, "Ah, do I wanna do that? Is it worth the money?" I mean, you get a nice raise. And when they move it's no problem because they send a moving crew and they pack everything up for you, they load up. It's easy. But I thought, "God, that means probably my kids'll be on the Coast and I'll be someplace else." So I thought, "Well -- "and then a thing came up, they just, and needed me -- I says, "I'd be willing to accept that," blah-blah. I went back to Saint Paul, and then couple bosses says, "Why do you wanna leave?" And I just said, "Well, I guess I just wanna take life a little easier." 'Cause being Buddhahead, I was always the first on the job, last one out.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

SF: When you went back to the Great Northern originally...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...and you faced this discrimination because that's just the way the system was...

TS: Yeah.

SF: that time, what was your attitude towards where -- when you knew that you were qualified for the job, but people were putting these roadblocks in front of you?

TS: Well, it was disappointing. But then, based on the situation at the time, there is nothing much you could

do. So you just accept it and did the best you can. And hopefully, as time goes, you got, things got better. And by God, they did get better.

SF: That sort of strategy of, of sort of bucking up under it and -- but then thinking about the long-term, was what a lot of Niseis probably did...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...under the circumstances, right? Do you think in retrospect that that was the best strategy? I mean, did that work out the best for most people, or...?

TS: Well, for the time it was. Today, you'd what? You'd sue the company for a million dollars or something? I don't know if I'd even wanna do that today. I'd just as soon get what -- get something -- what I'm worth Get a job that make, that I can use, that I can do and learn from. The tough part was not getting into personnel because geez, that was something I liked to do. And there's no hope. Yeah, I knew that, V.P. Holmquist, and he was, he'd never say it, but I knew he was really, really biased. What can you do? I remember going to a, the vice president's meeting in Seattle. I was still in Seattle at that time and I was working as examiner for this Bob Anderson, who was a manager of the Seattle accounting office. Well, he had some other meeting, and his assistant had to run the office, so I was sent as examiner up to (Regional Vice President, Dick Beulke's) meeting upstairs. And I sat there and he had people from every department -- there. And then at the conclusion of the meeting, he did something I've never experienced before or after, and that is, he went to each person at the table, "Is there anything else that you'd like to bring up?" And went down, ten people on that side, and came up this side and came up to me. I don't know what made me do it, but I stood up and I says, "And one of things that we mentioned at beginning is -- on personnel, that the Burlington Northern is doing their best, is doing this thing about women and minorities into positions." And I said, "Here we got the top people of this area here, and I don't see -- there isn't one woman -- and the only minority is -- I am. I'm here because my boss can't make it and his assistant can't make it, so I'm here."

And the vice president was a guy named Beulke, and oh, he was sharp, and good mind, and gave me a real nice answer. Of course, he didn't say anything, nothing -- really what -- anyway, they closed the meeting, and then left the room and walking down the hall, this one -- McGuire, Irishman, he -- we're walking down the hall, he says, "You had no business saying what you..." I says, "What?" "Oh, that -- what you said at the end, about, about no women or minorities at the table." I said, "Was that a falsehood?" And he says, "I didn't say it was a falsehood, but you had no business saying it." I said, "Well, I didn't -- I don't think we need to discuss here in the hall." And I turned around, I said, "Let's go back and talk to Mr. Beulke." He's the V.P. you know. And he wouldn't -- he wouldn't go. He just kept walking. [Laughs]

SF: What do you...

TS: There are people that are biased there.

SF: What year did that happen?

TS: Oh, gee. That must've been, I don't know. It was after all this equal opportunity thing. But the railroad just hadn't moved up enough on it. There was one black guy back East, and I was there too; salary, but not up there.

SF: So for Japanese Americans in the Great Northern, or I guess for any minority, the -- you really didn't see much movement, positive movement, until the equal opportunity...

TS: Basically, yeah.

SF: ...civil rights kinda thing?

TS: Basically, yeah.

SF: Wow.

TS: If it wasn't for that, I don't think, like I would've moved up, either.

SF: So it's real clear, and at least in that particular situation that we, Japanese Americans, were clearly the -- were positively impacted by that...

TS: Oh, yeah.

SF: ...that whole...

TS. I think so, yeah.

SF: Yeah.

TS: And I think, especially bad, because most Japanese Americans did work hard, weren't boozers, didn't get into trouble, but yet, didn't get anywhere. It wasn't fair. But today, it's different, so that's kinda nice. Every -- you keep reading in the papers, and Japanese name here and there.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

SF: Okay, I wanna move ahead a little bit, and talk about something that's related, and that is the redress movement and the railroad workers'...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...part in that. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about how you got involved in, in the redress movement for railroad workers, and how that got started, and what the issues were.

TS: Well, redress came out and -- first of all, initially, I didn't go to camp. I got paid -- I was working all the time I was paid. So I -- we really didn't expect it. But then, as time goes on, why, it turned out that Eddie, my friend, and Bob Bunya, another guy I worked with, they both sent in the redress form and they got their checks. So I think, "Oh, something I wrote was wrong." So I studied the thing, and wrote down -- I didn't want to put anything down that was a lie, that'd put me in jail or anything. But I really addressed the issue and looked at what was expected, then I sent mine back in. And kicked back and kicked -- wrote to Reno and sent -- what do you call -- ? Registered mail to Janet Reno, and couple, three time. Pretty soon, a check comes. So that was all there was to it.

SF: Now, did railroad workers who were -- they were, most of them were originally fired, I understand, after Pearl Harbor. Is that right?

TS: Ah, most -- yeah. Most of 'em that worked on other railroads were. Yeah.

SF: And...

TS: I think they -- most of 'em musta got it by now.

SF: But they didn't... they didn't get it originally. Right? They got it later.

TS: I don't, I really don't know. The ones that went to camp obviously got it. And the other ones -- of course a lot of 'em died.

SF: And...

TS: I really don't know because by the time I got mine, I must've been, what, sixty or something, or sixty, sixty, yeah.

SF: What year did you receive your apology and the redress check?

TS: God, I can't remember now, but it wasn't too long ago, I think. There was a guy that I worked with, a Harry Kato -- he was on the Coast and worked on the gang with me -- and he didn't get his. He lives in Chicago, or has since he got out of the army. He, he didn't get it. So he asked me to write something in support. So I wrote a letter, and couched it in certain terms and sent it to 'em, and now he's got his.

SF: And this was just recently in the last -- what -- ? Couple years?

TS: Yeah, last couple months.

SF: Oh. Wow. So the redress -- I'm sorry, the railroad workers got their redress apology and check, not based upon the fact that they -- obviously weren't in the camps -- I mean, like the Great Northern people, at least...

TS: Yeah.

SF: ...but because their freedom of movement or...?

TS: Yeah, basically, yeah. Gee, I had home address in Seattle, so -- my dad's place, so... of course, I have nothing else to put on any of my forms. I signed up to work for the railroad, and your home address, why that's all I had. I had no -- nothing else. So that was probably one of things that happened.

SF: So just kind of looking back, as kind of a last question, how, how do you look back at your whole wartime experience, and, with -- how do you feel about it and think about it?

TS: Well, I don't have any bitterness. I think things happened that weren't too good, but a lotta things happened. And I know I've heard of people that are real bitter about lotta things, but all it does, it just hurts yourself, I think. I mean, let the past be the past, and you learn from it and keep going.

SF: Right, right. All right. I think I've asked my questions.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.