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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

EG: You were living in the Japanese town area of Seattle?

PT: I was living at, I remember the exact address -- it was 1214 Washington Street. Where the current Bailey Gatzert School stands. And it was a private house, but it used to be... the Miya-san Gakkou they called it. It was, I believe some kind of school for Japanese youngsters. But after the school moved out, then this man named Mr. Ikeda rented the house, and then he in turn rented a portion of the house to my family. So we occupied the main floor, of this house.

EG: Just two families in the house?

PT: There were actually three families. Mr. Ikeda was a bachelor, so he occupied one room upstairs. And then there was another family, the father and the son, they occupied the rest of the upstairs floor; and then the main floor my family occupied.

EG: What was it like for you as a youngster growing up here in Seattle? What things do you remember?

PT: Well, I just remember that all of the Japanese American families lived fairly close to each other, because we were not accepted in many parts of the city. And so, naturally we all lived in just about the same area. And so we, all the Japanese American kids went to the same schools. And every day we saw each other. And on the weekends we would play, go to church together. And so we formed some very strong friendships that have lasted over the years.

EG: And the common language among you all was Japanese?

PT: No, no. After we all started grade school then, of course, we picked up the English language very, very rapidly. And so our common language was English.

EG: After school started?

PT: Yes.

EG: Prior to that, you were all speaking Japanese to each other?

PT: Not necessarily. Some of the, my friends who had older siblings, they were all ready speaking English. But I was an only child. And having been raised by this, Grandmother, I would call her my Grandmother, and my mother not being able to speak English, Japanese was the spoken language in the home.

EG: Okay. How about school now. How did school go?

PT: As I recall, school was fine. I think the majority of the students, at Bailey Gatzert at that time, were Japanese Americans. We got along fine. And the teachers were all very wonderful.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

EG: And not particularly eventful during that time until the war was approaching. As a youngster you would have been what? Nine years old?

PT: Yes, I was the nine years old.

EG: As those times were approaching, what kind of an impact did they make on you as a nine year old?

PT: Well actually I... it really didn't make that much of an impact on me.

EG: Yeah, of course.

PT: I just heard that there was some kind of problem at Pearl Harbor, and my mother just mentioned to me, "Oh, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." That's all I remember, but she said maybe this might mean some different experiences for us. I mean, that's about all I remember.

EG: And then, events began to happen around you.

PT: Yes.

EG: How did that register with you?

PT: I guess as a child, I mean, you just sort of accept things as they happen and just go along with what goes on.

EG: And what did happen?

PT: I remember we had to get immunizations, before we went to camp. And so, I remember in grade school, we could not participate in PE because our arms were so sore from all the shots. [Laughs] And then, I remember the posters on the telephone poles with some kind of notice to all persons of Japanese ancestry. Those are some of the things that I remember. And I remember just before going into camp, that there were many people coming over to the house to buy some of our furniture, and my toys, our personal possessions.

(Narr. note: Also, my father decided to destroy "things Japanese" so he burned photos of relatives in Japan, my mother's biwa (short-handled lute) which was custom crafted in Kyoto, and my complete set of Girl's Day dolls and accessories. I recall each doll was signed by the doll maker and came in its own cedar box. I'm sure that if I still had those dolls today, they would be very precious and valuable.)

EG: How did you understand what was happening here, that these things were going on? What did your parents say to you?

PT: I remember my mother telling me that, well, because we're of Japanese descent or you are of Japanese descent and I am from Japan, she was from Japan, the government has decided that we must go to camp.

EG: What did camp mean to you as a ten year old?

PT: It didn't mean much, it just meant moving somewhere else. [Laughs]

EG: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

EG: And then came the day that you moved. How did that go?

PT: I remember that we were allowed just one duffel bag or one suitcase to carry with us. And so we carried our duffel bag or suitcase, and we walked up to, what is near the Wisteria parking lot up on, I think, it's around (16th) and Main. And I remember the buses lined up there, and the soldiers who helped us onto the buses. And my mother and I sat on one of those side benches, and it was years later when I met a neighbor of mine, she said, "Gosh, Ayako," -- which happens to be my Japanese name -- "I remember your mother just sobbing on the bus, when we were taken to Puyallup." And you know it was then, that that memory came back to me of my mother really crying on the bus. I didn't really think about it until my friend told me.

EG: You don't remember being involved with your mother while that was going on in terms of seeking to find out, "What's wrong Mother?"

PT: No. I just sat there and I remember just looking at her, but I didn't ask her.

EG: Do you remember the feelings? Were you scared or... confused or...

PT: I really don't remember... about how I felt.

EG: I can imagine it could be frightening.

PT: Yes.

EG: But I don't know. Different people...

PT: But to me, I mean, my mother was there, all the other Japanese Americans were there. It was just moving. That's the way I felt.

EG: Yeah. It had never happened to you before, so you didn't have any pattern for how to react to, just...

PT: No.

EG: ...just have to go through it.

PT: And I really wasn't angry or afraid or anything.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

EG: And where were you being taken?

PT: We were taken to Puyallup. And there (were) four camps there: areas A, B, C, and D; and they were located in various areas of the Puyallup fairgrounds. And we happened to settle in Area C, and I still remember my address, which was C1-55. And I also remember, the number that was assigned to our family, which was 11423.

EG: Did that number stay with you throughout whole internment or just...?

PT: Yes, yes, yes it did.

EG: ...Throughout the whole time?

PT: Yes, but for some reason, I remember those numbers.

EG: I know my Army serial number so something similar, but not the same.

PT: Yes, right.

EG: What were your quarters like?

PT: When we got to camp, it was just a bare room, and I remember some steel frames in the room. There were three of them. And there were some bags on top of the steel frames. And what my parents had to do was open -- they were actually mattress covers -- and they had to fill those mattress covers with (straw). I still remember my dad and mother scrambling around for lumber also, so they could somehow maybe make some shelves in the room. And I think they were looking for some apple carts, or crates rather, to make some makeshift tables and chairs, for our family. And I remember, there was about a two foot opening at the top of the partition, between the rooms, so that we could hear the conversation that was going on with our neighbors. There really wasn't much privacy. And we all had to share a common bathroom. And there was a mess hall I remember. I don't remember if there was a recreation hall at Puyallup, but I do remember the mess hall.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

EG: Did you have any contact with other people who were not a part of internment? Did you have any friends outside of the Japanese group that expressed concern for you, or asked about you?

PT: Oh, yes. Oh yes. We had some very, very kind friends. I remember Miss Ada Mahon, who was the principal at Bailey Gatzert School. She visited us at camp. So did... Reverend Andrews of the Baptist Church. And I had a black friend who lived in an apartment house right behind the house where I lived before being evacuated, and her name was Antonia. And Antonia and her mother and her uncle, who happened to be in the United States Navy, came to visit us, and he was in his Navy uniform. And I really appreciate all these non-Japanese, who were sympathetic to what was happening to us. And I feel that it took a great deal of courage on their part to show this.

EG: They would be kind of special people, wouldn't they? My understanding was that, of course, the prejudice was so very strong because of Pearl Harbor --

PT: Yes.

EG: -- worries and suspicions and so on. So that my guess would be, that for people to act like you were describing would be very exceptional.

PT: Oh, very definitely. And I still -- I think I mentioned to you at a previous interview -- but I still remember before we were evacuated. My mother and a friend, a very close friend of ours, they went shopping to look for basic things that they would have to take to camp. And so, I went along with them on their shopping trip. And I was interested in a pair of white wooden clogs, which my neighbor had, and so I asked my mother before we went on that shopping trip, "Are you going to buy me a pair of clogs before we go to camp?" and she said, "Yes, I will." So, of course, they had to do their shopping for the important things first, but I kept tugging at her sleeves and asking her, "Mom, when are you going to get those clogs for me?" So finally she said, "Well, I think we are ready to get your clogs now." But Nordstrom happened to be on the west side of 5th Avenue and all persons of Japanese ancestry could not cross 5th Avenue to go to the west side. Fortunately, there was a small shoe store located across the street from Nordstrom on 5th Avenue, on the east side, and so my mother and my friend took me in there, and the salesman was so kind. He took my foot measurement and he said, "You know, I don't carry the kind of clogs that you're describing to me, but I'll run, run across the street to Nordstrom and see if I can get a pair for you." And so he brought back these wonderful white clogs, and they fit me perfectly. And I was the happiest little girl, but that was an act of kindness. You know, it's these little acts of kindness that I remember.

EG: I don't understand the drawing the line down the street, that Japanese Americans weren't able to cross over the line. How was this enforced?

PT: That was getting close to the water you see...

EG: Ah.

PT: ...And so they felt that there was a lot of spying activity going on. And so, they didn't want any persons of Japanese ancestry going any closer to the water, than beyond 5th Avenue.

EG: How did they enforce that?

PT: I really don't know how they enforced it.

EG: If they caught someone across the line, they arrested him.

PT: Oh yes, yes definitely. That's what happened.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

EG: Okay. And now you're living at Puyallup fairgrounds. Do you have any special recollections of things happening there, important to you as a youngster?

PT: I just remember the shock of seeing the bathroom facility. It was just holes cut into a plank, and there were no stalls to speak of. So, if we had to sit for any period of time especially in the evening when it was dark, we would say, "Oh, can we turn off the light?" [Laughs] But we were fortunate enough to be able to get a huge cardboard box from the mess hall. And so what we did was cut off the top and the bottom and cut off one side of it, and so we had our little portable partition, so we would carry that to the bathroom. But, of course, there were many creative, resourceful carpenters among the Japanese Americans. So they got very, very busy and got scrap lumber, and built stalls for everyone there. And that was very helpful.

EG: Did you have school at Puyallup?

PT: I don't remember attending school in Puyallup because I think that was just a temporary camp for us, while facilities at Minidoka, Idaho, were being completed. So it was within a matter of several months, I think, that we were transferred to Hunt, Idaho, or Minidoka.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

EG: Nothing special happened to you at Puyallup?

PT: No. I don't remember anything special.

EG: I recall before, when we talked, that you told me a story of having a birthday at that time.

PT: Oh, yes. One month after we went to Puyallup, I celebrated my 10th birthday. And so, our camp was located in a parking lot. And beyond the barbed wire, we noticed a little mom and pop grocery store on the corner. And there would be an armed guard walking back and forth outside the barbed wire fence. And my mother gave him some money, and asked him if he would kindly run across the street to the mom and pop grocery store, and pick up any kind of pastry. Which he did. That again was an act of kindness.

EG: An active military guard...

PT: Yes.

EG: ...running errands for a Japanese family.

PT: Yes, right.

EG: Wonderful. Wonderful.

PT: But anyway, we sat across this apple crate table, and she opened up this package of cinnamon rolls for me, and she said, "Ayako, this is your birthday cake this year." and she wished me a happy birthday.

EG: So there was a special day in Puyallup.

PT: Yes. Yes, it was special.

EG: Wonderful.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

EG: How did it go for you, getting organized and moving out of Puyallup to permanent camp?

PT: We didn't have too many possessions actually to pack. I really don't remember the details of being moved over to Hunt, Idaho. But I just remember that when we got to Hunt, Idaho, all of the barracks for the internees were not constructed. And so many families had to live in the recreation halls, that were a part of each block or each unit. And so we were -- our family, since we had only three in our family -- we were assigned to live in a recreation room, to share that hall with about seven other families. But one of my mother's closest friends was already assigned a small unit, and so she was very kind enough to have us join them in this very small room. And her family consisted of just herself and her husband, and so the three of us moved into her unit.

EG: Now, what would a unit consist of?

PT: It was just one room. It was just one room. I don't remember how big it was, but...and there again, we put rope or something across the middle of the room, and we hung sheets so that there would be some kind of privacy.

EG: This was at Minidoka?

PT: Yes, this was at Minidoka.

EG: What kind of routine life developed for you and your family at that Minidoka school, and work and so on?

PT: I think my mother helped out in the mess hall, and my father -- I don't remember what he was helping with there, but I remember attending school for about, maybe four to six months, because my family had signed up to be repatriated to Japan. Because my mother had never returned to Japan to visit her mother, ever since arriving here when she was around twenty-three years old. And so because she wanted to see her mother again, we signed up for repatriation. And so after about six months or so, we were then transferred to Tule Lake, California.

EG: Why, why Tule Lake?

PT: Tule Lake was a camp for so-called disloyal Japanese Americans, disloyal to the United States, or for people who requested repatriation. They were considered, I imagine, disloyal. So we were all sent to that camp. And internees who were at Tule Lake who did not express an interest in going back to Japan, they were sent to places like Hunt, Idaho, or Jerome, Arkansas, some other camps. Whereas the so-called disloyals, were sent from those camps to Tule Lake.

EG: Did you notice much difference between Minidoka and Tule Lake?

PT: Yes, even on the way going to Tule Lake. We were on this train. We were not allowed to open the windows. There were armed guards on the train. We happened to pass a train that carried the internees from Tule Lake to Hunt, Idaho. Their windows were open. And perhaps they didn't have as many armed guards on the train as we had on ours.

EG: And then life in camp, how was that different?

PT: When we first arrived there, we were just horrified because the room had been left so filthy from the people who had been living there. And there was one pot bellied black stove in the center of the room that was just filled with trash. And I just took one look at that room and I was very, very unhappy. I was very unhappy anyway to leave all my friends in Hunt, Idaho, friends that I had grown up with, and I was not looking forward to going to Japan. Because it would be something totally different for me. And so, I remember arriving at that room in Tule Lake. It was close to noontime, and my parents went to the mess hall for lunch, but I just sat in the corner of the room and cried. I didn't feel like going to lunch.

(Narr. note: I want to mention that my mother would never have been able to see her mother even if we had repatriated to Japan. After returning to Seattle from Tule Lake, she contacted the International Red Cross to locate members of her family. I think it was some time in 1948, when she finally received a letter from her oldest brother. This was the saddest news she ever received. Her mother had immigrated to Korea with her oldest son and his family. At the end of the war when Japanese nationals were repatriated to Japan, her mother, who was bedridden and too ill to be moved, had to be left behind under the care of a Korean housemaid. Rioting broke out in the neighborhood where the Japanese had lived, and my grandmother was killed. Upon reading the sad news, my mother buried her face in her hands and sobbed for the longest time. She never again talked of wanting to return to Japan.)


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

<Begin Segment 10>

EG: How did you spend your days at Tule Lake? Let's see, you were eleven now, are you?

PT: Yes. Yes, I was around eleven.

EG: What was school like and what did you do outside of school?

PT: Actually, my parents felt that since they were planning to take me to Japan, that I had better know how to speak and write the Japanese language. So, for the majority of the time that we were at Tule Lake, I did not attend the American school, but I attended a Japanese school instead. This school was taught by very qualified instructors and school was just like school in Japan, I'm assuming. We met in the playfield every morning before school started and had calisthenics, and then we went into the classroom. And when the teacher arrived in the classroom, all the students were expected to stand and bow, and then we would sit and start our lessons. We were taught all the subject matters in Japanese, which included geography of Japan, the language, good manners, arithmetic, all the subject areas. And we were expected to take turns cleaning up the classroom. That was just like Japan, I imagine. All the girls had short bob haircuts or, I had two braids. I elected to do that. And then the boys all had very short haircuts. And there was also a youth group that I belonged to for just a very short while, but what we would do is get up early in the morning and meet. And before the sun would rise, as the sun was rising, we would sit on the ground and we would bow toward the sun. This was very Japanese to me.

EG: Who was running this school? This wasn't the relocation authority, was it?

PT: I don't believe so. I don't believe so, but it was allowed. And I think it was just a group of people who felt that these young Japanese Americans who were going to be taken to Japan had better know the language, otherwise they won't be able to function over there. And also, if they had to enter school, they would receive a tremendous amount of discrimination from the Japanese. And outside of school, oh, we played volleyball and did things like that. And I remember when Japan had surrendered, my father learned about it. And he said, "Oh, if Japan surrendered, we are under no circumstances returning to Japan." He said, "The people there are having a very difficult time. And we would just be a burden if we went over there. We would be most unwelcome by our relatives." And so, my mother was not accepting of this. She had a very difficult time, but we decided to stay in the United States. And so when that decision was made, then my parents decided that I should go to the American school, continue again. So I was perhaps half a year or a full year behind in class, but I continued again.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

EG: When you were very young, in your family, Japanese was your language?

PT: Yes, it was.

EG: Did you forget it or lose it. You were saying when you went to Tule Lake, the Japanese school, you were learning the language.

PT: Well, actually when we were attending grade school in Seattle, after school was over we would attend a Japanese language school. But I had only completed perhaps grade one when we entered camp. You know, the formal training. And, of course, the training at Japanese school was only in the language itself. But, I needed more education than just the first grade education, to go to Japan and function there. So I started from about the second grade level, I believe, in Tule Lake. And I was able to progress up to the sixth grade.

EG: Partly, of course, because you had some basic familiarity with Japanese from childhood.

PT: Yes.

EG: You weren't starting from zero.

PT: Oh no. No, I wasn't. I wasn't. And, of course, I spoke Japanese with my mother all the time. And I somehow loved the language, so I think I applied myself when I was attending school there. So I would say that was one of the advantages that I had, when I did go to Tule Lake.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

EG: I understand that Tule Lake, when it became the segregation center...

PT: Yes.

EG: ...that a group, a large group as I understand it, of the internees there pretty much organized the camp and pretty much ran it. Especially for those who were planning to return to Japan. They were acculturating the folks...

PT: Right.

EG: ...that were going to go back to Japan. And pretty much dominated the camp, including and especially the training, for return to Japan. Must have been very different from what it was before, I would think.

PT: Well, it was different. But again, being young, I was able to just accept it. And just go along with it like everything else with this experience.

EG: Also, you have a high motivation because as far as you knew, you were going to Japan...

PT: Yes.

EG: ...and this was preparation for going to Japan.

PT: Yes, oh yes, yes. And I loved to study anyway. [Laughs] So I really enjoyed my classes. But I remember that when I did transfer over to an American school, my teacher planned a field trip outside of camp, climbing Castle Rock, which was a mountain close to our camp. And so I remember some men approaching my father and telling him that he should not allow me to take this field trip, and they also encouraged him to have me -- oh, I can't think of the word right now. My citizenship, you know, to...

EG: Renounce?

PT: Yes, to renounce my citizenship. Thank you. I couldn't think of the word. But he put his foot down. He said, "No, Ayako was born in the United States and the citizenship is her right," and he will never ever renounce, have me renounce my citizenship. And he just told the men, "She is going on this field trip."

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

<Begin Segment 13>

EG: Had your father renounced his citizenship?

PT: No. No.

EG: He did not either?

PT: No, he had not.

EG: Of course, your mother...

PT: She never had her citizenship.

EG: She never could have had it.

PT: She never could have had it, until after the war.

EG: Right. So you were a divided family in that way, of necessity. You didn't have any choice in that.

PT: No, we didn't.

EG: But you had a choice and your dad.

PT: Yes.

EG: That's a very different family from most. The thing that you hear most is, I'm wrong. Your father is Issei...

PT: No, no, he's Nisei.

EG: Your father is Nisei, and your mother is Issei.

PT: Yes.

EG: Yeah, that's right. That's more common than the other way around, isn't it? Where the woman...

PT: I think it depends though. There are some Issei men who married Nisei woman.

EG: Sure. It would go both ways.

PT: It would.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

EG: Okay. I got lost in that mire and worked my way out again. Okay. Now, let's work your way out of Tule Lake. Now, how did things come about and getting out and moving on. How were those arrangements made?

PT: My father decided that he should return to Seattle to look for housing for the family before we all moved out. So he was able to get a ride from a very close family friend. They owned a car, and so he took a ride with them to Seattle. And he was going to look for housing, however, he became very ill and so he had to return to camp. And when he returned to camp, he found out that my mother and I (were) also very ill. I think there must have been some kind of virus going around at that time. He missed his opportunity to look for adequate housing. But a couple of months later we did have to move out. And this friend that he had returned to Seattle with initially, he was able to find housing for us at the Japanese Language School, because this family that we moved in with happened to be his in-laws. That's how it all came about.

EG: Yeah. That would be a hard time, wouldn't it? Having no resources, no property, nothing left over --

PT: Exactly.

EG: -- from before the war and to drop into the city and say now, start over.

PT: Right, right. I think my father was given only $14 at the time, to leave camp. And so I remember boarding a bus, and we got to this bus terminal -- I think it was on Second Avenue somewhere -- and so from there my parents and I carried our suitcase and walked up Jackson Street to the Japanese Language School. And we met the Kinoshita family for the very first time. But they were very, very gracious people and welcomed us.

EG: So you were sharing space with another family again, just like you had started out in camp.

PT: Yes, exactly.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

EG: What was it like in the Japanese Language School? The whole school was taken over for residents. Isn't that the case?

PT: Yes, yes. I believe Mr. Genji Mihara, who was a community leader, made arrangements to convert the Japanese Language School to a hostel for the returning evacuees, and that helped a great deal.

EG: How many... do you know approximately how many people were living in the school?

PT: I really don't remember that much, but I think at the Japanese Language School reunion that number was mentioned.

EG: Must have been an awful lot.

PT: Yes.

EG: Because of the tight quarters that people were living in.

PT: Yes. That's right.

EG: You must have been using up all the available space.

PT: Very definitely. Yes.

EG: What was it like living in those crowded conditions, under those circumstances?

PT: Well, as one of the residents mentioned, it was almost like an extension of camp. So, I guess we really were used to the lack of privacy, and so we were able to accept it.

EG: The school wasn't built for a lot of families to live in. So, like, I mean, you didn't have many bathrooms, many kitchens, and so on. So how was it worked out for all these families to do things that families do?

PT: There was one large kitchen that had to be shared by all the families. And there was no schedule, but somehow, the mothers got the meals cooked and everything went fairly smoothly.

EG: No common dining room?

PT: No. No. There was no common dining room, and so the meals were prepared in the kitchen, and then taken up to the rooms.

EG: That was different from camp. In camp you had common dining rooms.

PT: Yes. That's right. That's right. And I believe in the women's bathroom there was one shower for all of the tenants there so that created some hardship, I imagine, but people just waited in line very patiently and we managed somehow.

EG: Do you suppose that's a cultural trait?

PT: It could be partially that.

EG: Sounds like it could.

PT: Yes. It's just the act of being gracious and kind to your friends. I think this is sort of a Meiji era trait, that the Issei have carried over to this country.

EG: There's a lot of that from stories from camps too, about things that the people voluntarily got together, cooperated, and made life better for each other...

PT: Ah, yes, yes.

EG: ...and everybody.

PT: Yes. That's right. Mm hmm.

EG: This is kind of a continuation of that too, isn't it?

PT: And it's even the idea of the Issei not going against the United States government. And just saying, "All right. We will accept what your decision is for us." And they went to camp.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

EG: So how did you find Seattle and school, back in public American school system?

PT: Well, it felt somewhat strange to me to be going back to school. It was kind of a scary experience for me.

EG: How so?

PT: Well, because I guess I had been away from a regular classroom for such a long time. But somehow I guess I just managed.

EG: Who were the people in the school? Again, like earlier when you were in American school, you were, the students were mostly or largely Japanese American. How about now, when the school first established again?

PT: I think maybe, there were students of all nationalities really, when I went back to school in Seattle.

EG: Let's see. How old are you now? About -- I mean at that time you would have been...

PT: Around twelve or thirteen I imagine, somewhere around there.

EG: So you were just kind of going to school like kids that age do, with not a clear picture of purpose for school, or did you have some idea of what you wanted to be when you grew up?

PT: No, I really didn't. And I think when we were growing up, professions or occupations were more or less limited. We didn't have the -- we felt that we never had the opportunities to venture forth into different types of occupations or professions like the people today. I think women were just expected to become secretaries or nurses, or maybe do housework. And... I don't know. The men were just expected to be accountants or whatever.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

EG: How did your parents make out? What did they do, on coming back to Seattle?

PT: My father took whatever jobs he could get. And, of course, he never did go to college, and so he just had his high school education.

(Narr. note: My father's jobs included working as a cook at a nursing home and also outdoor maintenance for the Seattle Housing Authority. However, these jobs didn't pay too well. Therefore, he was constantly searching in the newspapers for a job opening for which he might qualify. One day, he came across an ad for a meat cutter at Bar-S. When he went to apply, he was told he was too small for the job. But being determined, he asked to work for one week without pay. At the end of the week, he did get the job and with pay. The company made a special platform for him to stand on so he could keep up with his co-workers in reaching up for the carcasses as they came down the assembly line. I know this was exhausting work, but he persevered for about five years to enable him to save some money toward his retirement. I recall his mentioning that he was perhaps the only Japanese American who worked in a meat cutting plant. One reason, other than the average smaller physical stature, was that in Japan only those considered outcasts known as the eta or burakumin worked as meat cutters. After leaving the meat cutting job, he worked as a building maintenance man until his retirement.

As for my mother, she resumed work at the Seattle Glove Factory sewing fabric and leather work gloves at piece work wages with no benefits. About four years before she retired, the Boss Manufacturing Company bought the Seattle Glove Factory. For the first time, my mother and her long-time co-workers received union wages and health and retirement benefits. But her thirty-three-year work record was not transferable to the new company. Therefore, with a four-year work record with the new firm, she retired with monthly benefits of only ten dollars. But she was still grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Davis, owners of the Seattle Glove Factory, saying that they provided employment to Japanese American Issei women who could not speak English and could not get other jobs.)

PT: And there was still a certain amount of discrimination in the community.

EG: What did you find along those lines?

PT: My experience was that I had a very close Filipino girlfriend from before the war, but after I returned, she was very unfriendly toward me. And I thought that was a sad thing to happen, but I imagine that possibly her relatives experienced unfortunate experiences when the Japanese soldiers were on the Philippine Islands, and I think maybe this influenced the way in which she reacted toward me. But I know that while we were living at the Japanese Language School, we wanted to find other quarters as soon as possible since we were sharing this classroom with the Kinoshita family. And so, housing was very difficult to find in those days. And, of course, the Japanese Americans still were not welcome in all areas of the city. And so we went to, my mother and I, in the evenings would walk around to the various hotels or apartments that were managed by Japanese Americans, to see if we could somehow find a vacancy. But that was very difficult.

EG: How long were you in the Japanese Language School, until you found other housing?

PT: Actually, I think it was less than six months because fortunately we were able to find a studio apartment, located just about a block from the Japanese Language School. And it was a studio apartment with, we did not have our own bathroom facility, but we were used to that. From there we moved to another apartment house that had one bedroom, and then from there we moved to another one. [Laughs] We just sort of kept moving around.

EG: Always in the same general area, though, always in Japantown?

PT: Yeah, always in the same general area, because I think my parents were more comfortable in this area.

EG: Japanese Town reestablished itself after the internment, pretty much.

PT: It did to a certain extent, but not to the same extent that it was established before the war. It was different.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

EG: Let's go on just very quickly and very briefly and what happened to you after all this. You were describing the limitations of your parents.

PT: Yes.

EG: Now, for you things were more open, weren't they?

PT: Well, somewhat, but then I think I was influenced a great deal by what they would tell me. And so my mother didn't think that I needed to go to college, but I felt that I wanted to go to college.

EG: Why? How, where did you get this motivation?

PT: I always enjoyed studying as I mentioned earlier, and I thought, "Well, even if Mom says I shouldn't go, I still want to go very badly." So after high school, I worked for about two years doing secretarial and typing jobs and earned my tuition to go to college. And I enrolled at the University of Washington. And I got my degree in teaching. So I taught for nine years, and during that time I wanted another side profession, I guess, so I was attending evening classes and attended university classes in the summer months, and I was able to get my master's degree in Library Science. So for nine years, I was a classroom teacher in Business Ed and two years, I was the head librarian at Lincoln High School. And then when I started my family, I retired from teaching.

EG: I would imagine as these things developed, your parents must have been very proud.

PT: My father was very proud of me, but I think my mother had sort of, second thoughts.

EG: Why is that?

PT: She thought that a girl should just get married and have a family, and that there was no need to pursue an education.

EG: Was she working at getting you married?

PT: Well, I don't know if she was or not. I was an only child so I think she wanted to keep me close to her as long as possible. [Laughs]

EG: She wasn't looking for prospects or having her friends look for prospects?

PT: Well, she did, yes. That's another story. [Laughs]

EG: How did you work that out, though, if I may pry a little?

PT: I would just tell her I was not interested.

EG: And how did you finally get married? Without her help?

PT: No, I'm afraid it was with her insistence. Yes.

EG: And the education, she didn't think that was necessary for a girl, but...

PT: No, she didn't, but I don't regret it at all.

EG: You were very American, weren't you?

PT: Yes, I am.

EG: In that way.

PT: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

EG: Is there anything else we ought to know, that people might some day wonder about, that you know now?

PT: Actually perhaps it was because of my age, but I do not feel any bitterness toward the United States government for what happened to us. Because I just feel that war does terrible things to the common people wherever they are, and we're not the only ones who suffered. You know, there were the Jews who suffered, there were the people in the combat zones, private citizens who were in the combat zones, in various parts of the world, the people who suffered the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were the common people who suffered. And so, I just take it as an experience and feel grateful that we are alive to be able to talk about this experience and share it with others.

EG: I appreciate it very much that you shared it with me.

PT: Well, thank you very much.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

PT: I do remember one traumatic experience that happened to my family. My neighbor, who was working in the mess hall, happened to be asked to quit her job without any good reason, and my father felt that this was very unreasonable. So what he did was, he got up during one of the dinner times, and he spoke about this incident, what happened to my neighbor. He felt it was very unfair, and he felt that she should have been given notice and adequate reasons for her being dismissed from her job. Well, anyway the following morning he was promptly arrested by an MP and taken to the stockade, where he stayed for about perhaps three months or so. I remember my mother and I going over as close as we could get to the stockade, and visiting him. So we do know that there were radical internees in Tule Lake who were so-called informants, or as they were called in Japanese, inu, meaning dogs. That's it.

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