Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: June Takahashi Interview
Narrator: June Takahashi
Interviewers: Beth Kawahara (primary), Larry Hashima (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 17, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-tjune-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

BT: Do you remember much about your life in Petersburg, growing up in Petersburg?

JT: Oh yes, well, I remember it was very carefree. We worked from an early age because I could work in the canneries, and I think I was working on the -- I don't know what they call the machine, but it's the machine that pops the cans open in the fish cannery -- so I was able to do that, work that machine. And I was, I think, thirteen at the time, so I was (hired) to do that. And we could also, we could work in the shrimp cannery almost anytime since our folks were there, we would just, we would just go in and help them out when we weren't in school, summer vacations and things like that. But, I thought it was great working in the fish cannery because I didn't have to mess around with the shrimp. [Laughs] They were, you'd get those little stickers in your fingers and you'd have little infections and you'd have to wait to get those cleared up and it was really kind of very tedious job. But it was a lot of fun at the same time. We enjoyed that we could mess around, play and somebody would start singing and it'd be round robin kind of singing, so it was fun for us. Work for them but fun for us. And then, of course, we started school there and went through -- until the war came -- we went through school. I was a freshman, I guess, I finished the freshman year, and then we came down.

BK: But prior to that, where did you live in Petersburg?

JT: Okay. Petersburg is a small town. I think the population at that time was like 1,500, and when I went up to visit it in 1946, it was still 1,500. [Laughs] And they just, it's just such a small town and you have to reach it by ship. You can go by airplane, too, but most of the time the Alaska Steamship Company traveled from Seattle to Petersburg and other towns along the way. So we traveled -- which I never did in my life until everything happened -- but they traveled by ship and it's located on the island so we're all surrounded by sea. And at that time when we wanted to go anywhere, we couldn't go all around the island -- you could ride a car but we never owned a car -- but you couldn't ride all around, clean around the island, because it was not, there was no road all the way around. But we were located on, near a pier that led to the cannery and on, the house was on pilings and it was on the beach. So the tide would come in and go out and when the tide was in, of course, we were up on top of the water and then when the tide went out, the beach was exposed so we did a lot of exploring on the beach, dirty though it was. [Laughs] It was not, there was not totally a complete sewer for people who lived along the beach, so I'm sure all the refuse was right into the water.

BK: But your particular place, and your particular, can you describe your actual living quarters?

JT: Oh, yes. Let me see... my folks had a hand laundry and my dad was a photographer. So the front part of the building faced, fronted on the street side where the water would come up to there, but was, and the house totally was on pilings and we could hear the water lapping underneath. But the street was on, was on the actual island part of it, on the mainland, a part of it. So the front part of the house fronted the land area and the back part of the house was over the water and the beach. So we had both. And the, our house had a tin roof -- I guess you call it tin -- because of snowfall. And when we were younger, we had a lot of snow and great deal fell. As we got older and when we came down here, it's just the weather is very much like Seattle now, I understand, and very little snowfall. But when we were little, we used to have great fun because the snow fell and the snowplow would come and pile the snow all in the middle of the street and we'd do all our sledding on the hills and try to avoid the street. But there wasn't that much traffic in those days anyway, so it was pretty safe. But we played King of the Hill on top of where they piled all the snow up and that was, that was one of our pastimes when it was snowing in the wintertime. And so I do remember that. And I even remember sliding down a hill one day and I hit a car, well, a car hit me -- it just grazed my hand. I don't know, for some reason it hit me on the arm but I didn't ever tell my folks about it 'cause I knew I'd be in big trouble and I really wasn't hurt. Scared me pretty good, so, but I wasn't hurt.

And then the front part of our house was dedicated to the business area and in the front part was, there were laundry equipment, like a big ironing table, two of them in the front and a mangle. And my job was to mangle, do the towels and do the sheets, and I'd put them through the mangle. And then my mother and dad did the hand ironing. And that was the front part of the house and we had a counter also across one of the ironing areas, and whenever customers came in for, to develop films, they'd just fill out all the information there and my dad would take the film. And as we went back further along into the house, there were... I should also say that upstairs of our business area we had little sleeping rooms, and they were rented out, I think there were about four of them. And we had fishermen who would live there or just people who came into town would live there, new people that didn't have any housings that they wanted to buy would live there and then they'd just go out and eat. Because we didn't have a cooking area, it was just strictly sleeping areas. And downstairs behind where we did the ironing and the other part where Mom and Pop did the ironing, we had a shower, two showers, and two baths which were open to the public and also family used, too. So the people upstairs would come down and bathe and there was a toilet facility upstairs but it was like a half-bath, there was no shower, just a basin and toilet bowl. So they were okay in that respect and then they come downstairs to take showers and then leave their laundry if they didn't want to do their own laundry. And then beyond that -- oh, and then on one side of the area where the folks washed their clothes, the floor was laid, cement floors, so that they could scrub that down. And on the other side was a nice warm room with a lot of lines in it where they hung the clothes up. And everything was strictly hand laundry.

And then behind, and then further back we had just our living quarters, which was basically just a sitting room and kitchen and a little pantry area. And the bedroom was upstairs beyond the rooms where, (where) the boarders lived, and that was one large bedroom where we all kind of stretched out the beds, ranch-style, you know. And then, and then on half of that area also was my dad's photo studio. And so that's where he took pictures and that was, I'd sit up there and kind of watch, peek and see what was going on up there. But that was pretty exciting, because when you wanted to come downstairs to the living area, they had a drop down door. You push it up when you go upstairs to get up there and when we came down we always had to hold it to bring it down and close it and that became part of the floor. So that was kind of a good hiding place for us. [Laughs]

BK: There was a lot of activity going on.

JT: A lot of activity, yes.

BK: You said that your job was to mangle. Then that means you helped out with the family business.

JT: Well, yeah, in just my little way 'cause I was probably just going into the teens about that time. And I didn't do any of the laundry, actual washing, because it was pretty heavy work and so I didn't have to do that and I was going to school and so they, I had an excuse to get out of that. But I did the mangling of towels and running the sheets through that and that was not difficult, just a matter of getting it in there and letting it go on its own. And then Mom and I would fold the sheets together and then they'd wrap them up there and had shelves and everybody's laundry was up there, I remember, stacked on the shelves and all had names on them as to who they belonged to. So, it worked out pretty well.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.