Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Peggy Tanemura Interview
Narrator: Peggy Tanemura
Interviewer: Elmer Good
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 20, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-tpeggy-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

Elmer Good: Okay. Let's begin at the beginning, and tell me how your family got to live in Seattle.

Peggy T.: All right. My father was born in Aiea, Hawaii. And I believe his parents immigrated to Hawaii, under contract, as sugar cane workers. But life was so harsh on the plantation. And, my father had an uncle who lived in California, who was doing farming there. And so he urged my parents to move to California where living conditions might be, somewhat more comfortable and favorable than living on the plantation, the sugar cane plantation. So, when my dad was still very young -- he was born in Aiea, Hawaii -- when he was still very young, probably just several months old, he and his family moved to California, I believe near the Fresno area. Where they farmed for several years. And when my father was ten years old, he was sent to Japan to receive his education there. And he went through, I believe, part of grammar school and high school. And when he graduated he was called back to Fresno, California, because his mother had become very ill, and she could not help her husband do work around the farm. So he returned to the United States, and he took over helping with the farm business. Unfortunately, his mother passed away, and so his father took his youngest son -- there was quite an age difference between my father and his youngest brother -- and he, the father, took the youngest brother back to Japan. And so, my father and a younger brother named George were left with the farm business. But I think life got too difficult. So, I don't know for what reason, but my dad moved to the Seattle area. I believe that when he was still in California, my mother came over as a picture bride, and married my father.

EG: How did that get arranged? Do you know, or...?

PT: I have no idea because they never talked about it. They never told me.

EG: You don't know if your father had any connection with your mother's family, and that it was arranged by relatives or anything like that? It was simply arranged?

PT: I really have no idea, except that my father's family was from Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu Island, and my mother was from Fukuoka Prefecture. And the two prefectures are neighboring, on the island of Kyushu. So I don't know, they might have had mutual friends or relatives who arranged this marriage, but they never, ever talked about it to me so I just don't know. And anyway, they settled in Seattle, Washington. And in 1932, I was born. My father did odd jobs. He did waitering, bussing, dishwashing, whatever job he could get, because of the discrimination at that time. His dream was to become an electrical engineer. So he went through night school at the YMCA and received his high school diploma. And then he took odd jobs during the days and in the evenings he was operating elevators. And he was trying to save up enough money to go to college to earn his degree. But in 1932 when I was born and, of course, the Depression came along, he could not fulfill his goal of going to college.

EG: Then did your mother work?

PT: Oh, yes. My mother had to work. She worked in a glove factory. It was the Seattle Glove Factory, which hired many, many Issei women at that time. They did piece work, but she worked there for thirty-seven years. So she worked before the war, and then after the internment, she worked there again, until her retirement.

EG: Who did you stay with, when both of your parents were working? Who was taking care of you?

PT: There was a wonderful older Issei woman, who took care of me, and she was like my grandmother. And so she spoke all Japanese to me. That was the only language I knew before I started grade school.

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