Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rae Takekawa Interview
Narrator: Rae Takekawa
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Vancouver, Washington
Date: May 8, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trae-01

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is May 8, 1998, and we're speaking with Rae Takekawa. My name is Alice Ito, the interviewer. We're in Vancouver, Washington. Matt Emery is the videographer. And Rae, I just wanted to start off our interview from the very beginnings, and ask a little bit about your parents. And maybe you could just start by telling us your mother's and father's name, and where they grew up, where they came from.

RT: Okay. My dad, of course, is Tom Takeo Matsuoka and he was born in Hawaii, but was raised in Japan; and he was born in 1903. He's still alive. My mother, on the other hand, was born in Bellevue. She was probably one of the first Nisei to be born in Bellevue, and she was born in 1908. She was raised in Bellevue, she went to high school in Bellevue, and lived a short time in Seattle after getting married, but actually she was one of the pioneers, I would say, among the Nisei in Bellevue. They lived in Bellevue 'til evacuation.

AI: And, excuse me. What was your mom's name?

RT: Oh, my mother's name is Kazue and her last name was Hirotaka. And they spent quite a big portion of their lives after evacuation in Montana, and my mother died in Montana in 1986. And...

AI: Now, when was it that they got married?

RT: They were married in 1926 in Seattle at the courthouse, and they had a big party afterwards, but they had a very simple wedding.

AI: And when were you born?

RT: And I was born in 1927, in August.

AI: So as far as you know, what were your parents doing and where were they living at that time when you were born?

RT: My father was working for a furniture factory in Seattle. My mother was probably -- by this time she had quit work; she had been working in Seattle. And I think that shortly after they were married, they moved back to Bellevue, and they were living with my grandma -- our "baachan," as we called her -- and the rest of my mother's family. And we all lived together in one farmhouse, which, of course, no longer exists. And the farm itself no longer exists, because it is now the City of Bellevue, rather than the small town or hamlet of Bellevue, which was what it was when I was growing up.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Can you describe a little bit what it looked like, from your memories of when you were a very young child, a little bit about what the house looked like, what the farm looked like around the house?

RT: Well, it was... the farmhouse that I remember had a living room, a kitchen, and there was a annex to the living room, which you could close off with curtains, I believe; and that's where we, our family -- my mother, my father, my brother, and myself, and probably the third child, the second brother, also, were sort of the squeezed into this little annex. And the rest of the family, which included my grandma, and my two aunties, and my Uncle Tok, all slept upstairs. Now, Uncle Tok had a room to himself, and the women had to share one room; and the upstairs was really not very tall, the second floor was not that high as far as ceilings go. So we all were in this one house. And then, they built an addition to the house, which became our bedroom. And that means our whole family, I remember, slept in this one room, my two brothers, my folks and myself. And it was close quarters as far as a bedroom is concerned, but you know, you don't spend a lot of time in the bedroom.

The farm was, I'm not sure, but I think it was about five acres. Anyway, was bordered on one side by what is now 116th Street, I think, or Avenue. I don't know which it is. But, on the other side there was a small woods, and that was for us a great place to explore. We just thought it was a huge territory, and it wasn't until I came back after the war just briefly to visit, and I found out what a teeny tiny woods it was; but when we were kids, we really thought we were in a huge area. But it was a very nice woods with a lot of wildflowers, and the farm was adjacent to that woods, so it was very easy for us to go exploring in that wood. We were in, at the bottom of a slope, and the farm sloped up a little ways. And then, the neighbors above us were Sakaguchis, and they lived up on top of the hill, and then across the street was the Yamaguchi farm. Now, I'm not sure, I'm sure it was another farmer that lived there before, but when I was growing up it was the Yamaguchis. And of course, we had a fairly good size yard. My mother always grew flowers and had some nice trees, and there was also an orchard. And the ironic thing is, is that this orchard, which was quite large, had plums, pears, cherries, apples -- and we never ate any of it. We picked a few off the tree and ate it, but never realized how much we would be paying later on in life for these same things that we took for granted. It was just another area to play, for us. We used to build treehouses in the trees. It was another place for us to wander around quite freely.

AI: Well, and can you tell me a little bit about this photo?

RT: Oh, this is me when I was, I would guess that I am about eighteen months. I don't think I'm two. And this is standing in front of the farmhouse on what is now 116th. And in back of us is -- in back of me -- is the Yamaguchi house. And in back of that, is the railroad track. So this is taken, I would guess, in 1928 or '29, something like that.

AI: Thanks. And then you mentioned that you had two younger brothers. What years were they born, and what were their names?

RT: Oh, all right. The brother next to me, Tats, was born in 1928. The third child was Ty and he was born in July of 1930. The other two children came later. Now, my sister was born in Kirkland, at the hospital. She was the first one that was born in a hospital. The rest of us were born through the services of a midwife. And she was born in 1938. And then I have a brother who was born in Montana, the Montana boy, and he was born in 1943.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Well, now can you tell me a little bit about some of your earliest memories? For example, maybe when you started school?

RT: I know that we went to kindergarten and it was in downtown Bellevue, which wasn't very large; and the building, I think, used to be the high school at one time. Anyway, it was an old building and it housed the kindergarten and the first grade. And we were students there. And when we went to second grade, then we went to the regular elementary school, in Bellevue. And I remember that those teachers that we had, in kindergarten and first grade, taught all of us. In other words, the top three, the oldest three. We had probably one class of kindergarteners and the same when we were in first grade. That was about the population of the Bellevue schools, about one class of each, each grade.

AI: And do you remember, were there very many other Japanese American kids in your class?

RT: Not in my class. I don't recall that there were too many. The ones that I grew up with -- there was one boy, Tom Hayashi, who used to, who lived not too far away from us, and there're probably half a dozen girls that were in the same class as I. This continued through elementary school. Once you get to high school, then, of course, the population increases 'cause they come from outlying areas. And, so there were more kids and also then more Japanese American kids.

AI: Were there any other racial minorities that you recall in your school?

RT: I don't think that we considered them minorities and maybe they didn't either, but there were some Syrian kids. They were a first-generation, first-generation. and the second generation -- they would be Nisei, too -- kids were in the school. In fact, the one family that I remember lived just two farms down, very small farms so that, you know, within walking distance, and they were quite a large family. And some of the older members of that family, the older children, went to school with my mother and uncle and my aunts, whereas the youngest of the family were in my class. So you can see that it was quite a large family and quite extended age range in that family.

AI: Right.

RT: As far as African Americans, they were something we heard about, read about, but never saw at that time. And I believe that, probably when we were in the upper elementary school, I believe that one African American kid came into school, and it was almost an oddity. It was something to, that we had never experienced before. But aside from that, there were no minorities. We were probably the minority.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, then what do you recall from your youngest days when you first realized that you were different from the hakujin classmates?

RT: See, I don't think I realized I was different. My situation was a little different from the other Japanese Americans because my mother was a Nisei. And of course, we were raised in a family where both languages were spoken, but we were raised with English being spoken all the time. And when we went to school, we just considered ourselves as American. And we didn't differentiate, I didn't differentiate between myself and a Caucasian classmate. I guess I realized fairly soon that I wasn't exactly Caucasian, and of course, we found out for sure when the war broke out. But before that I am sure that someplace along the way you get exposed to attitudes, and of course, prejudices. And you learn from that. So we absorbed that, but on the whole I was more friendly, more close, to some of the Caucasian kids. Well, girls would hang out together and I was more friendly with the Caucasian girls than with the Japanese American girls. And I don't know if it was because of the cultural difference: simply because the Japanese American kids were coming from families where their parents were the Issei, and in my case, my mother especially was a quite outgoing Nisei. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, now, I think you had mentioned to me that around age nine or ten that your family moved?

RT: Yes, we...

AI: What happened?

RT: Well, there was a family that lived up north -- not north, up above Midlakes. I really am not sure about the direction, but above Midlakes. And I think they wanted to go back to Japan -- there were two brothers, the Mashiyamas, and they wanted to sell their farm. And I guess my father had enough to buy this farm, and that means that we moved from where we had all lived together as an extended family. And that was in, I guess it was about '37. And, it wasn't far because after all, the community was quite small, but nevertheless, we did live in a separate house that... we lived far enough away that we had to, we could walk, but it was a little hike to walk down to our grandma's house. That house, they added on a living room, and it was quite a nice house, because when they added on the living room, they also added an upstairs portion, which was, oh, comparable to... almost a loft I suppose you could say, but it was very roomy and it was used for sleeping. It was a bedroom, basically. And as I say, I think that it was a, quite a nice addition that they put onto the house, and it certainly gave us a lot more room. Yeah, we really could spread out.

AI: Now, how did things change for you and your responsibilities and your roles when you moved to this house of your own with your family?

RT: Well, I was old enough then -- as I say I was, like, ten, and when we moved, then of course, no longer do we have the aunties for support. We didn't have somebody that did the cooking for us, and took care of us. By that time, they thought that I should learn to cook, because my mother did most of the running of the farm since my father was working in the packing house. And so everybody had to struggle through my cooking. We had a wood fire, wood stove, and of course, you have to start the rice early enough so it'll be cooked by noon; and many, many times I would not get it started, and everybody would have to be sitting there eating this half-raw rice. [Laughs] I know, I remember that one of the first things I learned to cook was fried cabbage, and that was a learning experience for everybody. We all had to suffer through my attempts at cooking. And my sister was born, and since there are eleven years that separate us, and so I was the so-called babysitter, and that was part of my job. To take care of her and, sort of make sure that she was okay. She had pretty much free rein and she took it, so you really had to keep an eye out for her because she'd be wandering around.

But yes, indeed, my responsibilities did change. And they never, my parents, never once assumed that I couldn't do it. This was your job and this is what you have to do. My brothers, who were -- by this time I would say I was around eleven, so Tats was, like, ten, and he was running the business. I mean, he would run the tractor at ten and he was very good. He and Ty would, when they had strawberry pickers, they would take care of the business of keeping track of how many trays the pickers picked, etcetera. They were in charge out there. So we learned early on. And one of the things is that, we never questioned that this is something that we couldn't, or shouldn't, so of course we did. And I think this carried out all the way through, and especially when we went to Montana, it was already there.

AI: So it was really a family operation. You all had your own responsibilities and jobs.

RT: Absolutely, yes.

AI: Now, as you were growing up about this age, do you recall your parents, your mother or your father, ever having kind of a discussion with you or talking about such things as prejudice, or discrimination, or giving you any kinds of lessons, or understanding, about your situation in the larger community? Anything like that?

RT: They weren't much for, let's say, sitting down and discussing this kind of thing. I think they knew that we would face it, and they also knew that we would handle it. I'm pretty sure that that was the way it was. I don't believe that we ever had anything very outwardly evil as far as prejudice; however, we knew it was there. I think that as a minority, you become sensitized to folks who speak ill and of course, there are always those who like to point out the differences, shall we say. But, I don't know that they made a big thing of it, and I think in a way that was because, like my mother especially, she grew up in that community. She knew these people, and of course, she herself knew that there was such a thing as prejudice. But I don't think that they ever emphasized it. They never stressed it. They assumed that we would able to cope with it. And so they never sat us down to tell us that, "This is what you're going to face." No, we just faced it when it did come up.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, what kinds of things were important to your parents and your family as far as any kinds of holidays or celebrations or Japanese cultural things? Like, did you celebrate Girl's Day or Boy's Day, that type of thing?

RT: I think the biggest thing was New Year's. That was a biggie, and there was, during the summer there would be a community picnic. That was another big event. Christmas, we had Christmas. We weren't too well-off, but I know there were a lot of families that were in worse straits, but even when I was very small, I remember that -- I don't know how they did it, because everybody was poor. And since everybody was poor, nobody noticed that we were all poor, I guess. And we always got something for Christmas. I mean, it was a major event. I'm sure it was my mother, my dad, too, and as economic conditions got a little bit better and sometimes the presents would get to be pretty big. I mean, I think I remember my brother got a bike one Christmas. I know I got a Shirley Temple doll that was quite an expensive gift, I'm sure.

But yeah, Christmas was there, but New Year's was the big thing. And of course, I remember that the men of the community would make the rounds, and of course, they made the rounds to have a little drink, and then everybody had a big spread, buffet, that you were supposed to eat off of, the people that came visiting. But it was always the men that came around. The women didn't because they had to stay home and cook, and set the table I guess, now that I think of it. But that was something that was expected. And the picnics, which were held over by the community hall, the kokaido, they were very large, and it was a lot of fun. We -- of course, picnics, you had to always have food. I think our lives sort of revolved around food, as far as these events go; you had to make these big, lavish lunches that you took on the picnics. But those were the kinds of things that we all participated in.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: So around the year there were a number of community gatherings and get-togethers. And I was wondering, did you participate in any young people's activities? I guess your dad was active in starting up the Seinenkai, and there was a Japanese school. Were you active in any of these kinds of things?

RT: Well, my dad started that -- well, my dad and mother really -- started the Seinenkai, and we were too young. I mean, he started that when we were, probably before I was ten, so of course we didn't, we weren't involved. This was for the... compared to them, they were the younger Nisei, but right now I would guess you would call them the older Nisei in the community.

AI: Who would have been teenagers at the time.

RT: Yes, exactly. They would have been teenagers at that time and maybe into their early twenties possibly. As far as the Japanese language school, we never went, not one day. I often wondered about that, but because we were in a family where English was the main language, I guess my, my folks thought that it wasn't really vital that we learn the Japanese language. But I remember once that my father said that, "If you really want to learn Japanese, then you should go to Japan." And he said that, "If you really wanted to learn Japanese, then you would have to travel to Japan and live there." He says, "That would be the only way to really learn the language." We went to the Congregational church, and we walked up the hill to the Congregational church. And I do believe we participated in the youth groups there as we got a little bit older, probably when we were maybe upper elementary, middle school, like sixth, seventh, eighth grade. And the other social thing that I remember vividly, from the time we were little, we would go to baseball games. That was the weekend activity during the summer. My dad played and so, of course, we had to go see my dad play ball, and the whole family would go all dressed to the nines. I guess that's just the way it was in those days. That if you went out, that you dressed up. And my mother was very conscious of dressing us up. And we always, I remember she, we always used to have very nice outfits. Some of them she sewed. She sewed a lot. And she was a very good seamstress, so she sewed outfits for us, I think. But here we are, all dressed so nice and clean, and we'd go out to the ballfields, and we would have ice cream and dribble stuff all over, but it was really a great time for the whole community really, that took part.

AI: Really, really community activity.

RT: Yeah. Although I must say that now I think about it, it's more the Nisei. And, I don't recall there're too many Issei that came out for the games. But it was mostly the Niseis, and the women, too, would -- the young Nisei gals -- would come out for some of these games. But we had to go to all of 'em.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

c AI: Well, now you had mentioned going to the Congregational church. Do you know how that came to be? Were your parents raising you as Christians, or how did that happen?

RT: Well, my father is a very strong Buddhist. I mean, he was raised as a Buddhist in Japan. My mother, on the other hand, had gone to that Congregational church when she was growing up, and she decided that we should go to that church. And I guess... now, she didn't go. I think she did go when she was younger, but she didn't go as an adult. But I think she wanted us to have the experience of being Christian, and learning the music, and the Bible as taught in the church. And so we did go when we were, I would say when we were still living together, so that must be until I was about ten, eleven, that we would... we were pretty regular church-goers at that time. For a few years, anyway.

AI: And then what about your father's Buddhism, did that influence you at all? Did he pass on to you anything of his religious values or any sense of that?

RT: I don't know that he separated the religious values from his own values. I think they're all integrated. He did have this little shrine in the house. It's a Buddhist shrine; I'm sure you're familiar with these little shrines that people keep in their houses. And he did have that in our house. And of course, you're supposed to put this little, the first scoop of rice goes up there on the shrine. And that kind of thing, we knew that we were supposed to do and we did that. But as far as the teachings of the church, we didn't really get taught that at all. He didn't insist on our following any of the beliefs of the church, except those that he had already assimilated into his own sense of values. And we didn't separate the religious from the day-to-day way that he lived.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: What kinds of things do you remember either your father or your mother emphasizing as important ways to be, important ways to live, the values and the principles that you grew up with?

RT: Oh, yes. Well, I think one of the main things was that you just didn't do anything to dishonor the family name. I think that was probably one of the main points, and we learned that quickly. You don't do things that will be a black mark on the family name, and, of course, we never dared. They were, we thought, quite strict. They just... there were, there were things that they just told us we couldn't do, period. I mean, there was no discussion, or explanation. No, this is, "You can't do this," and that was it. And we certainly accepted that. I suppose that is part of the way that we were raised. And of course, both my mother and my father, they had "the look." You know, a parent has "the look," and they give you "the look," and you know that this is not what you're supposed to be doing or saying. I'm sure that almost everybody knows what I mean by "the look" because they both had it, and we really minded that. We could sense immediately if we were doing something that was not acceptable, especially my father. My mother, of course, was more verbal. She was not shy about expressing herself. And we were told, by her especially.

AI: So that stereotype of the quiet Nisei lady wasn't very close to reality for your mom.

RT: Nope, she sure wasn't. She was her own person. And she certainly expressed herself whenever she felt like it. And so even my kids, they still talk about grandma. And, "What did Grandma say?" or "What would Grandma say?" or "What did Grandma say?" I mean, she is immortal as far as they're concerned, because they remember her so well. And no, she was not shy and she was not the typical self-effacing Japanese American Nisei.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: Well, now as you were getting to be a teenager and going to high school, what were some of the things that you were thinking of? You were, you'd, I think just were beginning high school. What were some of your hopes, or dreams, or plans for, as you were getting older?

RT: Well, now when I started high school -- I started Bellevue High School as a freshman, and I don't know that my parents ever preached to us that, that we had to do this, or had to do that, as we grew up. In other words, they didn't proscribe anything. And at the same time, they did not insist that we do certain things, either; in other words, that you had to be a teacher, or you had to be a farmer. No, I think they were very willing to let us decide for ourselves. And I must say that, I started as a freshman at Bellevue High School and I really didn't have any big burning desire to be anything, except have a good time, I guess. I enjoyed high school, and it was a little bit broadening simply because it was a bigger school, you saw a lot more kids and the subjects were a little different, and it was, it was quite fun. And of course, no sooner had I started than, of course, the war broke out.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Can you tell me about that, what your memories are of Pearl Harbor Day?

RT: Oh, yes, I do remember that. Because December 7th, of course, was on a Sunday. And it was around noon, and I did have the radio on, and it dawned on me what was being broadcast on the radio because, of course, they interrupted regular programming. And it took a couple times for the facts to be announced before I realized what they were talking about. And it was around noon, and my dad was working outside. He was covering up this Japanese plant -- it's called udo, I remember that -- and I went running out to tell him. I don't know where my mother was. She probably was visiting someplace because it was Sunday. And I went out to tell him, and he wasn't overly surprised that this had happened. I think because he had gone to Japan and he saw what was going on, that he probably realized that they were preparing for something. However, I remember very much that, of course, the next day in school. And they broadcast President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech. And that, I know, I thought, "Oh, I'm Japanese." You felt that. You sort of felt that, that this was something that really concerned you. Because the whole school listened to this speech. And I felt a little self-conscious about the fact that I was Japanese and not completely American.

AI: And before that you hadn't really felt that?

RT: No, I went along my way, and I felt I was just as American as anybody else. But from that event, I think I realized more that, in fact, I was not the same as my friends.

AI: Now, you mentioned that your dad didn't seem that surprised, and he had probably been aware. How about you? Were you surprised when you heard this thing on the radio?

RT: Well, I was stunned. I had no idea. And, of course, I thought at first that it was not real. I just thought it was, when the very first time that I heard it, but they kept repeating it, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RT: And I didn't realize the enormity until much later, but I soon found out what it meant for all of us because they came for my dad that night, early in the morning of December 8th. And...

AI: What happened?

RT: They picked him up. Well, I was sleeping in a bedroom on the main floor, which was fairly close to my folks' room -- in other words, not quite adjacent. But I was awakened by this commotion. Now, I don't know about my brothers. I've never talked to them about it, but they were sleeping upstairs, in that -- remember I told you that they had built this two-story addition -- and they were sleeping in the bedroom up there. Oh, my, my mother. I told you she's very outspoken. And she is the one that I heard. I did not hear my father say anything, but my mother went on a rampage. I mean, she didn't care if they were FBI men or not, and she was proclaiming to them that she was an American citizen, and she "had the rights of an American citizen, and how dare they come breaking into my house?" [Laughs] And oh, yes, I heard her. And I wasn't sure what was going on. I really didn't know that they were going to take my dad. I just thought that it was a little -- it must be a very wild event for my mother, for sure, because she was really carrying on, but that didn't matter to them.

But I know that they... you know, one of the things I know that they took from his desk was his diary. He kept a diary. And do you know that they took his diary, and after they took that diary, he did not keep a diary for years. He gave up keeping a diary, and I suppose in his mind he just felt that that was something that did him in, maybe, or it was incriminating. Although, of course, his diary was just a record of the day-to-day events. But I know that that was one of the things that was taken. And it took him a long time. He keeps a diary now; in fact, he keeps a five-year diary. [Laughs]


AI: Well, so that night you were hearing this commotion going on. Did you go out to see what was happening?

RT: No. I don't recall that I did. I was just lying there, rather frightened, I think, and wondering what was going on. But I must have sensed that it was not the time for me to go running out there, and I don't even know if I went out after they left. But as I say, it was early in the morning, probably 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, and I would think that, probably after they left, that I must have gotten up to ask my mother what had happened. But I will never forget her screaming and yelling at the authorities, and insisting on her rights.

AI: But it didn't do any good, because they took him.

RT: No, no, it didn't change a thing.

AI: So at that point then, when you did get up and he was gone, did you know where they had taken him?

RT: No, I didn't know anything, all I knew was that he was gone. I don't even know if they had told her. I don't know how she handled it, but she did. And she certainly didn't convey any of that fear to us. She was that kind of individual. She was not going to fall apart, and she didn't. She, she just carried on.

AI: So the next day, she was conducting the business of the farm and you went to school.

RT: Oh, yes.

AI: Your brothers went to school.

RT: Yes, indeed. We just carried on with our life and, of course, that's why I say, Monday, you go to school, your father's been picked up and you don't know where he is, then you hear this speech, and all of a sudden you realize that, hey, you're different.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: What kind of reactions did you get from your Caucasian classmates? Any kind of a...

RT: A few of them distanced themselves. I think I could sense that. But on the whole, after all, we had grown up together, and we were still friends, we were still... I don't know if it was exactly the same for them, but I felt it was the same. And as I say, there were a few that distanced themselves, but they weren't the ones that were most close.

AI: So your close friends stayed close.

RT: Yes. Yes, and treated me just as they'd always treated me.

AI: Any change in treatment from your teachers, other adults?

RT: Not really, not that I could sense. There wasn't any pointing out the Japanese American kids. After all, this is a community where these kids had grown up, and I think that did make a difference. We were members of the community, and good members of the community. So we were not singled out at all in Bellevue, as far as could I tell, in the schools.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Well, now when did you find out what, what had happened to your father and where he was?

RT: Oh, I'm sure my mother must have found out soon. In other words, she may have found out the next day where he was. And I'm sure that she had made contact with... probably the lawyer, Thomas Williams, that my father talks about, possibly some other members of the community that were, that were more aware of where they were and what had gone on, yeah. But we knew he was still in Seattle. And we kept thinking he was coming home any day, "Oh, they couldn't keep him. Well, he must be coming home." And of course, this is December, and the farm had a lot of things to be taken care of, so we kept waiting. We just assumed that he would be home any time now. Well, the days stretched into weeks, and then it was getting close to Christmas. Now, my mother, I don't know how she arranged it, or whether she did have to arrange it. All I know is that she took us, all of us, she took us to see my dad. And we went to this... well, I understand now that it's immigration office. It was actually a jail, I think, where they held them. It was like that.

And we all filed into a room, and they brought him in so that we could talk. And I was, let me see, fourteen, I guess. Yeah. I was fourteen, and you just don't know what to say. So you sit there in a row, all of us kids, my mother, and you say the most inane things; and I know I said some really stupid thing. But you just can't believe how it felt to be in this room with your father, who you hadn't seen, and realize that it was, it was rather precarious situation, 'cause you just didn't know what was going to happen. And I know that it was like a jail. It must have been that they put us into a room by ourselves where he, they could bring him. And I don't know if there were bars or not. Could have been. But I do know it was very frightening. It was a situation that was sad. It was sad. Yeah.

So that was the last time we saw him. It was the only time we saw him as far as I know, that I remember, after they picked him up, as the only time we saw him in Seattle before they shipped him over to Missoula. So this was shortly before Christmas. I know it was before Christmas because my stupid comment was about Christmas and I know that. And then right after Christmas, well, then they moved him.

AI: And you knew where they were going to take him after that?

RT: I think so. I think my mother knew, yeah. Well, Missoula sounded like the end of the world. We probably didn't exactly know where it was, but even Montana sounded far. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Can you tell me about this picture?

RT: Oh, yes. This is a picture of our family. Now, my mother had this picture taken. It's a formal family portrait. Had this picture taken so that she could send it to my father. She communicated, she wrote letters to him. I don't know if he wrote back, but she wrote regularly. And this picture shows our family as it was then, for him, and you can see that my mother and my two brothers, and this is me, and this is my little sister. And I assume that this is what he had when he was in Missoula as a family remembrance, so to speak, because we had no idea when he was going to come back.

AI: Right. So you really don't know what was going to happen to him.

RT: No, not at all. Not at all. Nobody could tell us. After all, he went in at the end of the December, and we understand that they didn't -- they just held them. There was no procedure that was being followed, as far as hearings, when he first moved to, well, when he was moved to Missoula. So we had no idea. And in the meantime, the farm had to go on, and she had lots of things that had to be taken care of. But she had Uncle Tok, and there were a lot of good friends that helped out, so... because it was physical work that had to be done, she couldn't do it by herself. She probably would have if she had to, but there were friends that would come and help out. And in the wintertime, it isn't quite the pressure, the farm work, so that was one thing, she could manage. But I remember her standing by the living room heater. There was a... I think it was oil, but anyway, she would be standing there, and so determined to keep going. And she never showed it to us, never, the despair that she must have felt at times because after all, she had to make all these decisions by herself.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RT: And also things, the rumors started to fly about, oh, they were going to be moving all of us out, and the disbelief, "They can't do that." And so in our family, they figured that our grandma would be moved. She was an alien.

AI: Your mother's mother.

RT: Yeah. Our grandma, my mother's mother, and they were --


AI: You were saying that rumors were flying about people being taken away and, or possibly having to leave, and you were thinking about what would happen to your grandmother.

RT: Well, that was in the family, you see. The family assumed that it would be just my grandmother that would be moved. And so the big discussion was, who would go with her? She can't go by herself, and, of course, they had already decided that it had to be one of the aunties. And I'm not sure which one they had picked, but lo and behold... now, that was a new word for us: evacuation. That order came out and we found out, "Oh, it's not just Grandma that's going to go, we're all going to go."

AI: When... do you remember when that came out, about when that was?

RT: Well, it was February 19th that the order came out, in 1942.

AI: And how you, do you remember how you first found out about it?

RT: Well, I'm sure that my mother and my Uncle Tok and the whole community found out when the order was, became official. And up until that time I think that they just couldn't believe that this was going to happen, but once the order came out and it was official, even then there was some disbelief, "Well, this couldn't be happening." But it did. So, I would say that we all found out about the same time. Probably by the end of February we all realized that we were going to be moved.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: What kind of preparations did you go through, your family and yourself?

RT: Well, the family, we had a farm, so the family -- meaning the heads of the family -- had to take care of the disposition of the crops, the buildings, any equipment, and that was my mother, had to do it for our farm. There was a person that came around, I believe, that bought the crops. In other words, out of the ground, because we were going to be moved in May so there was a strawberry crop, and I know that she had to take care of that.

Now, I don't know. I believe that a lot of the equipment, the tools, were sold probably to the same person or concern. He may have represented some kind of a corporation. And dirt cheap, of course, because after all, he was handling all the farms, I think, and they had to take care of it.

The house, my mother arranged to rent the house out and we stored all our personal belongings in the, sort of the attic of the house, which was the other end from where the new addition was, there was a little attic. And I think they probably put everything, including all of our memorabilia, our pictures, and our souvenirs, and probably she had some nice dishes and the lacquer boxes for picnics -- she had wonderful sets, the juubako sets -- and all of these things probably went into the attic to be stored. And of course, we had to pack our own personal belongings. We could only take so much, and so that had to be taken care of, too.

AI: Do you remember what kinds of things you took?

RT: Clothes. Primarily clothes. We could -- I think it was one suitcase per person. I believe that's what it was. And, well, you couldn't take any bulky things, so I would assume that what we took was clothes, mostly clothes, and that was it.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: Do you remember anything about any kind of reactions, or did anyone, your friends, any of your Caucasian classmates have any reaction, or say anything about you having to go?

RT: Some of them were sad. I don't think that they were necessarily alarmed, and I don't believe that they had that sense of it being an injustice. Not at all. However, because we were friends, I think that they did feel bad that we were all going to have to leave, and I think I remember that they even had a little farewell thing for just this little circle of women, girls at that time, that I ran around with. And, I don't recall that anybody said that, "This is wrong." I mean, they didn't come up and say, "Well, this is wrong." They felt that they would miss us, I guess maybe, but that was about the extent of it. At the other hand, on the other hand, they didn't gloat over us or anything like that. They didn't have that kind of reaction. No. It was just a parting, I guess you might call it. And none of the underlying ramifications were at all there.

AI: But that was something that it sounds like you were very conscious of, the injustice, the unfairness.

RT: I don't even know that I was. I think older, older Japanese Americans probably felt that. It's only as I've grown older, as I have had all these experiences since, and realized what had happened, that it was indeed an injustice. At that time, it was something that happened -- and that's a funny thing, 'cause we all accepted it. And I know, with all my heart, my kids would never, never have stood for it so I guess there's that progress. It would never happen to them. Yeah. But we all were very accepting, very cooperative, and of course, it's, "We will cooperate for the welfare of the country." I guess that was sort of the attitude that washed over us, and even as young as I was, it never, never felt that we should do anything against it. Of course, my mother always talked about it, but my mother was my mother, and she felt it was a wrong. I know she did. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: Well, you were saying about preparing, getting ready to leave. Do you recall very much about the actual day when you left? What happened that day?

RT: I know it was in May, and for some reason I had always connected it with my sister's birthday, which was May 16th. I'm told from more recent research that it was about the 20th, but someplace within that time, that we left.

And the one thing I recall about that day is that we left by train. We didn't go to Puyallup, we went to California. And they brought these old cars in on a siding. I'm not exactly sure where that siding was, maybe toward Kirkland. But at any rate, there we were, we all went to this siding where the train was, and we all got marched up into these cars. And they, of course, had to pull the shades on all the windows so, of course, we couldn't see anything. I don't know how many cars it took for our community, that they moved all of us. I'm pretty sure they had guards in the train. I don't know where they thought we were going to go, but I think they did.

Anyway, we did get on the train from that siding and I remember very clearly that the principal of the high school was there. And I don't know if anybody else from the school was there, but the principal of the high school was there, and he was, had been principal and my mother's algebra teacher. And he was so pleased because I was in his algebra class, and he was still principal, and he came to the train siding to see us off. And there were some kids, but not the good kids, but some of the kids that didn't mind skipping school and they were down there. I suppose, well, they were friends with a lot of the kids, and they were the ones that came out. And I know the principal saw them. I don't know if he was going to do anything about it. I'm sure that maybe he told them, but they were skipping school.

So it must have been during the middle of the day, and it must have been during a school day that they shipped us out. And we went down to California, to Fresno, which is really, I would say, south central California, and went to this little place called Pinedale. And that was the so-called "reception center." I think that's the euphemism that they used for these camps that they took us to.

AI: Had you known that you were going to be going all that way down there?

RT: Yeah, I think we did. I believe that they probably told the people where they were going to go, and I think that we also knew where, for instance, the Seattle people were going to go. Yes, I do believe that we were at least informed of where we were going to go.

AI: And what was your first impression when you got there?

RT: Oh, well, now, that's entirely different type of country down there. And the thing is, even in May, it was warm, and they put these camps, all of the camps were in out-of-the-way places and Pinedale was no exception. It was like a desert-type place. In other words, there was a lot of sand. I remember that. There was sand. It blew, the wind would blow and the sand would blow and, of course, we were assigned to barracks to live, and there was no place for a family to eat together. They had it all organized around the block plan, a mess hall for the block. I think there was a bathroom facility, showers, and the bathrooms in one building. It was a little different for us and, again, we were still fairly young. It was sort of like going to some outrageous camp. It was a camp experience all right, but since it was new, it was not -- we didn't realize that they were going to keep people in these camps for so long. We just got there and thought this was a big, not a party exactly, but you get to run around all over with people, with friends, and it was... it took a little while.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: Well, you didn't have any school. Is that right?

RT: Oh, no. This was in the summer, actually, because we were evacuated in May, toward the end of May, so there was no school activity at all.

AI: What did you do all day?

RT: Fool around, I guess. That was the thing. It was... they tried to organize, I believe. Now, my mother got involved with the recreation department. They organized the community and this included other outlying communities. For instance, Hood River, and I think... I'm not sure about Portland, but there were several of these rural-like communities that were all evacuated to Pinedale and very soon they organized activities and they organized departments. I don't, I think they just took it upon themselves, the older people, to organize into groups so that they could have some organized activities, particularly for the young people. So like the recreation department, they would try and have, I think they set up so you could have teams playing ball again, and that kind of thing. But what did we do all day? I don't know. I sorta have blanked out in my mind what did we do all day. I think we, we just sort of hung out with whoever we wanted to.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: What were the worst parts of that, of Pinedale for you? What was the most difficult part of being there?

RT: Oh, I think the things that I remember were, of course, my father wasn't there for most of that experience, so our family was a little fractured there.

AI: And you still didn't know when you would see him.

RT: No, not at all. Not at all. I'm sure that my mother kept writing to him. And one of the things I remember the most, being from the Pacific Northwest, was the heat. It was very, very hot down there, especially as we moved into June and July. And I do, as I said, remember that sand. Tule Lake wasn't much better. That was also very dusty and sandy. I think it was just such an aimless type of existence. We didn't realize it as kids that, I guess we thought that this was all vacation fun time. I mean, no farm to take care of, no chores to do, no responsibilities, and at that age I suppose we thought that this was great, but we weren't there long enough, our family. We didn't stay in camp long enough for this type of existence to pall.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Now, while you were in Pinedale, then, your father did reunite with you.

RT: Yes, sometime after the Fourth of July, I believe. All I know is that the poor man came into camp with winter clothes. And it was so hot, but that's all he had. But he did come back to our family, and it was in July, and I would guess that it was probably after the 4th, maybe toward the middle of July. He doesn't remember the exact date either. All I know is that it was almost unbelievable to see him come back. It was quite an event for him to return. Yeah.

AI: Did he say very much about what he'd been through?

RT: No. No. He maybe told my mother. He may have, but I don't know.

AI: But not to you, the kids?

RT: No, he did not say much of anything about what he had gone through. It was only much later that we found out the kind of life that he had to lead, and we didn't even know about the hearings that he had to go through, this hearing, in order for him to be released. And I think it's many, many years since that we have heard and learned what his existence was.

AI: Did he seem changed to you after he came back?

RT: Well, now, I think he was the same as far as his basic character. He might have been a little quiet when he first came in, but he was still our dad. He made sure we... [Laughs] And I think he was just a little appalled at the kind of existence we had in the camp. I'm almost sure that between the days that he had in Pinedale and then when we moved to Tule Lake, and he saw what was going on, and the fact that we no longer really were a family unit that... like meals, we ate with our friends. We wouldn't sit down as a family really. And I think that must have been part of what swayed my mother and father to decide that this was no way to raise a family.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: Now, do you recall about when it was that you left Pinedale and were taken?

RT: Yes, it was about the end of July, someplace toward the end of July, and I don't even remember how we got shipped up to -- I think it was trains -- up to Tule Lake and that must have been... yeah, toward the end of July, first part of August, that we got moved. I'm sure there are dates that could be looked up, and we'd find out for sure, but that I know is during the summer. Yeah, of '42.

AI: And then in Tule Lake, what kind of living condition did you have there?

RT: Well, it was just another camp. There were barracks upon barracks. The only difference was it was much larger, because they brought in from other camps besides Pinedale. So, it was quite a big camp. And for us, as Bellevue people, we got stuck way out on the little... it was sort of a separated block, and I think we used to call it Little Alaska or something like that, because it was separated and it was, we, more or less, many of our community members were all in one block. But the only difference was that in Pinedale, the sand was light-colored and in Tule Lake the sand was dark. [Laughs] I remember that. And that's because, of course, Tule Lake is volcanic, volcanic sand, and that was the main difference. But otherwise it was camp. Yeah, just bigger.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: So then what, what did your parents decide? How did you find out that you were going to be leaving camp?

RT: Well, he was contacted. They were actively recruiting laborers to help with the crops because, of course, they weren't getting the laborers that they usually did. And he was, my dad was recruited by -- I think Lefty was there -- Lefty Sasaki came down and then this, the man that owned the farm, Mr. Blatter, I think he came down, too. Anyway, he, my dad, of course, was told that he had to have a crew if he were going to sign up. And how audacious. His crew, one able-bodied adult male, his wife, who was pregnant -- pretty sure she was by that time -- and myself, my two younger brothers, and to make up the sixth member, my Auntie Kik. And of course, my little sister was only, like, four, so of course, I guess he couldn't put her on the crew. Yeah. But that's how we went out. He signed us up to be a sugar beet harvesting crew. And we didn't know. We didn't know we were going to be a sugar beet harvesting crew, all we knew was that we were going to leave camp. And we did.

AI: When was that?

RT: I'm sorry?

AI: When was that?

RT: This is in September of 1942. I'd say someplace in the middle of September. I do believe we got to Chinook, Montana, about the 20th or 25th, someplace in there, so that is when we left. And again, we traveled by train. I would guess we must have gone on the Great Northern. And they put us in another old car by ourselves, our six-man crew, plus my brother tells me that there was another couple. I don't recall that. All I remember is that there were just us in this big car and again, with all the shades drawn; and we traveled that way. I don't even know how we, they must have given us lunches or something, but we traveled that way to Chinook. And we got to Chinook, got off the train, and the first thing I noticed was that it was snowing. Couldn't believe it, all these little snowflakes flying. It was probably early snow that didn't really last, but coming from the Pacific Northwest, snow is an event. And all I could think of was, "Where have we come to, that it's snowing like this?"

AI: And where is Chinook located?

RT: Well, it's about 30 miles south of the Canadian border in the middle of the state of Montana. And it is about 20 miles east of the town of Havre, which is the largest town closest to Chinook. Quite a bit east, probably a couple hundred miles east of Glacier Park. But it is not in the mountains anymore, it's out on the high plains, about 4,000 feet up, although you just don't notice it. It's just all flat. So it is... there is a whole string of little towns up there, but it is very close to the Canadian border.

AI: So you got off the train and it was snowing. It was flat.

RT: Yeah, not heavy. Not heavy, but still it was snow. I remember that. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: And where did you go? Where did you live?

RT: Well, I guess Mr. Blatter must have been there to haul us to our new home, which was a regular labor house. And, of course, to me it was rather unbelievable. I often think now, "What did my mother think?" I mean, here she had finally gotten a fairly nice house that she could call her own, and we went to the labor house. And they are much like the labor houses as they are now, just a place to sleep and eat, two rooms for the six-man crew. One room was the kitchen eating area and the other room was for the beds. And of course, we had my little sister, so we had three beds. I slept with my aunt, my two brothers slept together, my mother and dad, and then we did have, I believe, a crib for my sister, all in this one room. And the only source of heat was the kitchen stove. The outhouse was out back like it always is, but I'm sure, in retrospect, that the Blatters probably thought that this was adequate, that this was the regular type of housing that laborers got. Yeah. So that's what we were: laborers.

AI: So then what was it, what was your life like? What was a typical day like then after you got there?

RT: We worked. Now, this is in the fall and our job was to top beets. Now, sugar beets are, they range in size, of course, and Montana, in Montana the shorter growing season, you don't get as large a beet, but nevertheless, they, they weigh in the pounds. And they are harvested by, number one, the farmer goes along and digs them up and then the labor crew has to come along and cut off the tops of the beets, because they save the tops to feed the livestock in the field. And the beets get taken to the factory where they convert them to sugar.

Well, a typical day, we get up at dawn and we would get out to the fields -- I don't even know how we got there, 'cause we didn't have a vehicle of any kind, probably we got a ride from Mr. Blatter in his truck. We would all go out to the field and it would be very cold and chilly, not uncomfortably cold, but nevertheless, it was cool, and we would start the job of topping beets. We used a machete-like like knife, and on the end of the knife is a hook, a steel hook, and you stab the beet with the hook and then you chop it off with the, with the machete knife. And then you throw the beets into a little pile, because we would each take two rows. And then we would pile the beets into the center of these four rows, so two of us would be more or less lined up, and we would take four rows at a time, two apiece. And then the truck would come through, in between these rows of beets, and three people on a side -- and I can see now why you had to have six -- would throw the beets into the truck. You had to be careful you didn't throw too hard. Yeah, sometimes get a little rambunctious. But that was the harvesting of beets. And we did it from early morning until, because of the days being shorter, yeah, from, from the time that you could see, and finish when it started getting dusk.

We had a little addendum there because my little sister was not able to go out and work beets, so, what are you going to do with your little sister? Well, she was carted off to the field and she would just be stuck on the end of a, on the edge of the field someplace, and they would, I guess, put some stuff for her to play with and then she would, they would more or less keep an eye on her. Eventually, Mrs. Blatter had the fore-, the good-heartedness to ask her to come and play with her kids who were about the same age. She was the young wife of Mr. Blatter. He had a grown-up family, and then he had this second family with the younger wife, and so my sister ended up staying, during the day, very often she would be with the Blatter kids, and she would play with them. So, that helped out.

AI: But for you, it was a very long day, it sounds like.

RT: Oh, yeah. That's a farmer's day.

AI: You're bending, you're stabbing, you're chopping, you're throwing.

RT: Yeah. Yeah. You always have a little mishap. You stab yourself, or you throw the beet and hit somebody on the head, and that kind of thing. There was another crew that worked for Mr. Blatter and that was a legitimate crew: a mother and father and four sons. And they were... the youngest son was older than I. He must have been in his teens. He was probably three or four years older than I. So four men plus the parents. And I, I don't know what they must have thought when they saw us come out and start working as a crew. I mean, these kids and these women, and just this one man, but oh, we managed. Oh, yes, we worked. And we were good. We got good.

AI: Did you see very many of the other crews that had come out from camp?

RT: No, we didn't. We pretty much were limited to staying on the farm. We had no way of gettin' around. And I understand there were several crews at that time that had come out from the camps, many crews. Mostly young guys that made up a crew and then came out and got assigned to a farm and worked it. Yeah. But we worked in all kinds of weather. It was nice sometimes, nice fall weather, and other times it would rain. And oh, some of that land was Montana gumbo. It was pretty tough.

AI: And how long did this beet harvest last?

RT: At least a month. Usually it would start toward the end of September, and you would try to get it all done by the end of October. Yeah. So I would say like four or five weeks, maybe six at most. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: Well, then what happened after the harvest was done? What did your family decide to do?

RT: Well, we were out there for the long haul. I'm sure that's what he intended. And of course, we had, we had not started school. School started out there in August sometime, toward the end of August, and we started school in November. So those kids that were in the high school, well, in the school, were already in class for over two months. So when the harvest was done, then we went to school.

AI: And were you starting over again your freshman year in high school?

RT: No. No, I was in there as a sophomore, yeah. And my brother, Tats, was a freshman and Ty was in junior high.

AI: What was that like for you coming in after class had already started and a town where you didn't know anybody?

RT: Well, it was hard, because of course, they didn't make any concessions for us coming in late, but we did have to catch up, and fortunately we were all able to do the work. We didn't -- and some of the teachers were not very helpful, but I don't think they were helpful to the other students, either. They were just not very good teachers. And I know that I didn't have too much conflict with anybody. I know that there were some girls that right away befriended me, and they were just very kind about, you know, "My name is Hazel," and coming to greet me and making sure that I was okay, which was really very, very nice.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

RT: My brother got a little bit more of the... let's say, it wasn't very pleasant in some classes. Sometimes it was the teacher that made it a little unpleasant, and I'm sure she was smart enough. It was deliberate. And it was sort of -- at that time, maybe she just was not being deliberately cruel, but certainly was not very kind. And later on, of course, she became a champion for us. And I guess she just found out that we worked hard, and we were respectful no matter what she did. And she was a music teacher and we took lessons, I did, and then my sister took lessons and really excelled with this same woman who was... she just singled out my brother in front of the whole class. It was just one of those things that was not called for.

AI: So in the beginning, there were some hard times and some difficult treatment.

RT: Oh, in this school, some. And of course, there were quite a few Japanese Americans in that school at that time because there were a lot of people that had come out for the beets, and some that stayed. The town was, was even worse, I must say. I'd never... well, the word "Jap" was very derogatory and we didn't hear that much in Bellevue, but in... now Chinook, I mean, this is a sort of, not a wild west town, but of course, it's different. And there were signs and of course, we would have to walk through the town. I know I did because I would have to wait for my brothers. This was probably later on and you would walk down the main street and a lot of the, not a lot, but several establishments, "No Japs allowed," and that was... I don't know. They must pick up on it from each other. They feed on each other, and that lasted all through the war years. Yeah.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: So now as time went on, what kind of work was your father doing?

RT: Well, we worked in the beets.

AI: You continued on?

RT: Fall and spring. And the wintertime, he took care of... he was hired as, I think, for sheep, to take care of the sheep. That's feeding them. And I'm sure there was a great number, and so it was a full-time job. So he did have that job to feed us through the winter. And of course, we went in the fall, and my parents are good gardeners, but you don't have a garden when you get there in September. So I know that first winter was, not that we went hungry or anything because they're very resourceful people, but we had to eat some things that we had never eaten before, like rutabagas. We had never known rutabagas and they even tried to make tsukemono out of rutabagas. It wasn't very successful, but yeah, we got introduced to rutabagas and the reason being, of course, that they're quite cheap. Yeah.

So, but as long as we had rice, I guess they thought we could make it through the winter, but I think it was very hard for my mother especially, because she was scrubbing, cleaning and have to wash clothes in the washtub all by hand on the scrub board, and hang it out to freeze. It would dry, but it would be frozen. Oh, yeah.

And it was cold. That winter was very cold. I remember that one day, one morning, I think we were going to get a ride to school from the Blatters. I think we, that's how we got to school, but I know it was 50 (degrees) below, and we were standing out there and that's when the snow makes a sound. It makes a very creaky sound, it's so cold. Yeah. But she tried to keep the house clean, and it was cold enough that we would wake up every morning with this layer of ice all the way around the bedroom because, of course, we were all exuding our, our moisture and it would freeze on the walls, but, oh, we kept warm. Yeah, we made it.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: Well, now as time went on, and you were progressing through high school, it sounds like you did have some friends.

RT: Oh, yes. Yes, uh-huh.

AI: And at that time of going through high school age, that's a time when a lot of kids want to fit in, want to be part of what everyone else is doing.

RT: Yes, of course.

AI: But that must have been hard because the war was still going on.

RT: Oh, yes.

AI: What was that like for you?

RT: Well, thank goodness there were some classmates who were very kind. Maybe they were just being themselves and they, they got over, I think, the shock of having -- after all, we were a new experience for them, and they were very accepting, and we got along quite well. And my brothers turned out for sports, and in those days, of course, girls didn't have sports, but they had the sports and they would stay after school.

Now, we moved from Blatters' to a farm which was about 7 miles west of Chinook. And that meant that we had to get our own transportation, so my brother would drive a pickup, and the three of us would ride in this pickup to school. And it meant that I would have to wait for them while they turned out for the sports because they decided that they wanted to try out for teams. And what I did was walk down from the high school -- and this is when I would walk through town, you see -- and pick up things for, like, taking out to the farm. Then I'd go to the library, and I would wait for them at the public library. So I spent a lot of time at the public library, and it was okay. I liked to read, and the librarian, Mrs. O'Brian, was very nice, and I could spend my waiting time there and it worked out just fine. But we would make that haul into school and back out to the farm.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: Did you -- it sounds like Chinook was a very small town, so I imagine there weren't a lot of social activities at school or...

RT: Oh, they did have their social activities. I think primarily dances, but we never went. Yeah. Well, for one thing I couldn't imagine my father ever letting me go, but there wasn't... well, as far as I was concerned, I wasn't particularly interested in, in trying to go. We just didn't go.

AI: And you weren't dating, or you weren't allowed to date or...

RT: No, we, I never, never even thought about dating, and, I don't know. I bet my father wouldn't have let me go out at that time. Yeah. He was quite strict about that, yeah. Now, my brothers on the other hand, as they got older, I think they did. They didn't date, but they would go into, sometimes. Especially Tats, I think; but not me. The social activities at most might be like a school play or something, and possibly I might go in for that. They would have to drive me.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

AI: Well, it sounds like you spent so much time at the library. You were very studious. What kinds of... had you started thinking about plans for after graduation, what you would be doing or possibly college?

RT: I think that we were all expected to go. I think that they thought that we were all capable, and so I think my parents just had that expectation that we should go to college.

AI: And that somehow financially they would make it possible.

RT: Yeah. I don't know how in the world they ever did it, considering the situation that they were in. But in my case, my two aunties -- they keep cropping up in the picture, don't they? But my two aunties had moved to Minneapolis, and they had a place there. And so, my parents decided that I could go live with them and go to school in Minneapolis. And that's how I ended up at the University of Minnesota.

AI: So in your senior year, you had applied for college to go there?

RT: Uh-huh, yes. I guess so. I ended up there. And I don't know if it was that much of a hassle. It could be I applied after I got there. All I know is that I was going to go there.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

AI: Excuse me a minute. Before, before you went, you were in your senior year.

RT: Right.

AI: And tell me about what happened. Your grades were excellent, you were at the top of your class, and what happened at graduation time?

RT: Well, it was before graduation, and I guess they always pick out the valedictorian, salutatorian, and the superintendent... now, the superintendent, it's a small system so the superintendent is the authority, the highest authority of the school system. And he called me in, and he told me that, "You should be valedictorian, but you're not going to be," because they decided, they -- and I think this is the school board now. My father thinks that there were a lot of teachers involved, I don't know. But I believe it's the school board that made the decision. And they decided that I could not be valedictorian because I had not been there four full years. I had been there from my sophomore year and they decided that the valedictorian had to be somebody that had been there four full years. And that was it. That was the rationale that they gave, and that was the way it was. Yeah.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: What were you thinking when he told you that?

RT: I was absolutely speechless. I'm not my mother, I guess, because I couldn't think of anything to say. So here I am, standing here -- yeah, I was standing; I don't think he told me to sit down -- and listening to the man telling me. I don't know why he even bothered to tell me, to be honest with you, but he did. And I guess he thought he was doing me a favor. I don't know. So what did I do? I said, "Thank you," and left the room. I mean, that was the way, the behavior, that you expected.

AI: So he gave you that rationale?

RT: Yes.

AI: But you felt that it was because...

RT: Well, I thought it was a little weak and I know my father was outraged, but it wasn't anything that you did do at that time. This is 1945. The war was not over yet. I graduated in May, again May, of '45. And one of the things that made it a little more acceptable was that the valedictorian was my very, very good friend. She was one of the first ones that came to me when I entered as a sophomore and introduced herself, and we were just really good friends. And so she was the valedictorian. So I guess that was... but I felt a little funny sitting on the stage -- I think we sat on the stage as seniors -- and knowing that I should have been there, that kind of, but not for long. I didn't let that eat me up, that kind of thing. But that was, that was the tenor of the times, as an example that the school board must have really wracked their brains to prevent this, this happening. "One of these people are going to be our valedictorian? No, no, no." So that's the way it went. Yeah.

AI: So you graduated in '45.

RT: Yes, in Chinook. Yup, in '45, and went to Minnesota in, again, I think it was September. Yeah, because I know the university, they're on a quarter system and their school does not start until first of October, end of September, someplace in there. So I left home. And I found out once you leave home like that for college, you don't really come back. And I realized that with my own kids, too. You leave home and you don't come back. Yeah, in most cases.

AI: So you arrived there and your two aunties were there in Minneapolis.

RT: Yes. Yes, and they took me in and I'm sure that they, of course, they had the apartment and they fed me.

AI: Is that where you lived? Did you live with them at the apartment?

RT: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I lived with them, yeah. That's probably partly why they could, my parents could afford to send me to college.

AI: Because you didn't have to pay for on-campus living.

RT: That's right. I didn't have to pay for room and board. My aunts took care of it. They paid for the rent, and I'm sure that they... all the food. They paid for the food, too. Now, I don't know if they ever sent money, my folks, but probably the two women were working and they managed fine.

AI: So you were going to school full-time then?

RT: Oh, yes.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

AI: And what was it like for you to come on to, to go to college, to be in this new city, and to go onto campus?

RT: Well, coming from a small town, you go to a big city and then the campus of the university is quite large. And you really had to find your own way. You don't have people holding you by the hand and leading you around, so you really had to, to try and be on your own, yeah. Again, maybe it was because they exposed us to being on our own for so long that it wasn't quite as bad. I just knew that we had to, that I had to do it. Yeah, it was, it's a big school, and of course, we come from a town that doesn't even have 2,000 people, and you come to a campus that has... at that time it wasn't that big, probably maybe 15,000, but the GIs come back and see, I was -- that was 1945. And the GIs starting coming back in '46. And before I finished, I believe the university had grown to about 30 to 40,000. So, huge for somebody that came from a school where the graduating class was thirty-two or something like that. Yeah.

AI: And how did you decide what to go into?

RT: Well, first I wanted to go into pre-med., and I did take a lot of science courses. I like science, and so I was taking a lot of science courses. And as I said, a lot of GIs came back and they were, it was very difficult at that time to find a slot. Well, they wouldn't accept me and probably if I had stayed on and taken another year -- 'cause this was after three years I applied -- possibly I would have gotten into a medical school, but I think that it would have meant another four years for my parents, too, not only me, but my parents. And I thought with the education that I did have, that I could convert it to a teaching degree, so I did. I got a liberal arts degree in three years, which was not worth very much, and then finished up in education.

And let's see, 1948 I got my liberal arts and then in '49 I got my BS in education. And I didn't find out 'til much later, that... I had gone home. And after I had left home to go back to college, 'cause I tried to get home during the summer, and... that I had received an acceptance, a telegram, from a medical school, but in those days they didn't have a phone, no e-mail for sure, and so I never did know. But evidently, University of Chicago had accepted me. But I never knew that, and in a way that's fate, because then it would be a dilemma as to would I be able to go.

So, anyway, I graduated in education. And I went out to teach in a little town in western Minnesota called Herman, and that was my first year of teaching, and I taught one year before I got married. Yeah. And I took a break because we had four kids very close together, and after ten years, then I went back to teaching.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

AI: Well, now, I wanted to ask you a little bit about after the war, and then the GIs had come back and you were going through school, finishing school, and then getting your degree and your teaching certification and then beginning your career. During this time, what was your impression of people there in this Midwestern area, as far as how they regarded you and other Japanese Americans who were, as I understand, more were starting to come to relocate around in that area. Did they have any sense at all of what you had been through in the camps? Did they know anything about that, or did they have much of a reaction to you as far as being Japanese Americans?

RT: Well, people in the Midwest are, on the whole -- you don't want to be stereotyping it, but nevertheless, I think I thought, and I still think, people in the Midwest on the whole are very fair, and open, and accepting. I can't recall that there were very active antagonisms in the Midwest. I'm sure that... let's say that in the employment picture, I'm not sure because I didn't work except for little part-time jobs, and I never had any bad experiences with the part-time job thing.

AI: So when you started teaching in that small town, you didn't face anything, any particular problem, because you were Japanese American and here you were coming in as a teacher, to...

RT: Yeah, you know, I, come to think of it, I really didn't think of myself as being different or an oddity, but I bet I was. I mean, this is a little town and probably the first person of any color to be in that town, and, "Here she is, she's gonna teach." But I stayed in a rooming house, just really nice, nice people. And I think it was the superintendent who really was the one responsible for bringing me out there to teach, and I had a good time teaching out there. I enjoyed my work and I learned a lot, but as I say, I don't, I didn't have any major difficulties, really. And partly maybe because it was a small town, I'm used to small towns. And there possibly were people that weren't too happy with my being there, but they never, never expressed outwardly.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

AI: Now, sometime along here you met your husband-to-be. How did that happen? How did you meet him?

RT: [Laughs] My "husband-to-be." Well, I didn't meet him out in the beet fields even though we had to clean up his beets.

AI: Can you tell about that?

RT: Oh, that. Yes, yes. This is his "claim to fame" thing. He was with a six-man crew. I mean, man. They were all athletes and gung-ho types, I guess. Anyway, he was out in Chinook for heaven's sakes, in 1942. And we didn't know this for, until after we were married, probably many years, but he was in Chinook as part of a beet-topping crew at the same time we were. And at the time, he was topping at this farm, and they decided to pull up stakes and to go back to camp because the weather had turned -- meaning it was snowing again -- and the crop was so poor.

Now, beets, you expect them to be like the size of a loaf of bread, but very heavy, of course. These were like carrots. And my brother and I have decided that there's no way that those beets should have been topped. They should have just left them. But they went back to camp, and because our employer, Mr. Blatter, was somehow related to Mr. Wadsworth, he had us go and clean up this field that this six-man crew left. And lo and behold, he was on that crew. Of course, he didn't know that we had to clean up his beets, and we did. And I remember that field was so bad, and not only that, but it was I think about October 30th or 31st, and it had snowed, so the field was snow-covered, and we had to go grubbing around for those beets.

Anyway, so I didn't meet my husband until 19... I would say '48 maybe. I was in school and there were quite a few Japanese American kids, and they would have socials. Well, since I didn't have any parents to say "no," I met him at a dance, and there he was. Of course, I didn't know him from Adam except, of course, he had this connection to Bellevue because his mother had taught school in Bellevue, and eventually you get to know these things. So eventually we found out about that beet field, yeah. But I met him at a dance. Yeah. He was not going to school then, but he started school at the age of twenty-eight. He was having trouble finding a job, and of course, they had the GI bill, and so he started school. So, that would make it '49 that he started school. And by that time I had gone out to teach, in 1949.

AI: And then when did you get married?

RT: We got married in 1950, a real good year to remember. You know what I mean. [Laughs] He can't make an excuse that he doesn't know what year we got married. Anyway, we got married in 1950 in August at my folks' farm.

AI: Out in Chinook.

RT: Out in Chinook, yeah. We got married there. And he, his mother, and his second brother all came out, and one of my friends came out to be my maid of honor. So that's where we got married, and my mother had a reception right there in the house. Now, by this time, of course, they had bought the Lundeen farm and so they were living in the house that the Lundeens had, which was a nice house.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

AI: So by that time, they had decided to settle there in Chinook and stay there, rather than return back out to Bellevue.

RT: Yes, that decision had been made. After the war had ended, I'm sure they went through a lot of discussion as to what should happen. And by that time, they had bought the farm, I think. I mean, in the process of buying the farm.

AI: And then where did you and your husband decide to live?

RT: Oh, well, we lived in Minneapolis because this is where he was going to school. His mother and his younger brother were both there. And, so he's the oldest in the family, no father, and so, of course, it's his responsibility. The family is his responsibility. So his mother and his younger brother and Dutch and I all lived together in an apartment in Minneapolis. That's how we started out. Yeah.

AI: Now, tell me about your children.

RT: Oh, we have four, and as I say, we had the first one, Anne, in '51, and Beth in '53, Jean in '54, and John came around '57. So I know that we had four kids within the space of five and a half years. So they're all close in age and also close, they are very close to each other. They grew up together, that's what it is. But they were all raised in Minneapolis, and I think it's a very, very good place to raise a family. It's a, the quality of life, as they say, they're willing to pay for it, and I think we were fortunate that we were there.

AI: And I think you mentioned also that during the summers you would go back.

RT: Oh, yes. Well, that was our vacation. Every summer we would take our children, and we would go back to Montana. We would, actually, we would go camping, because that was what we could afford, to go take a vacation by camping. And in those days, they didn't charge the fees that they do nowadays. You know, campgrounds even are getting higher. But in those days you could camp free in a lot of these places, and we had this big, big Montgomery Ward tent that was heavy. Anyway, we did enjoy that, and to this day, the kids all like camping. But part of the vacation, usually at the end, we would go to Chinook and visit my folks because they stayed in Montana. And in fact, my father lived in Montana the longest of any of the places that he lived. And we would go to Montana and our kids would enjoy the farm life. Yeah, it was something that they still remember very fondly.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

AI: Well, as your kids were growing up, did you have any concerns for them about any prejudices that they might face?

RT: See, I think the Midwest is a good, good place. They, you don't have the high-tempered peoples, I guess. Maybe I shouldn't say that that way, but I know in certain areas of the country you have people who, who are very prone to picking out the different people in the community, but that isn't the way it was. And sure, you worry about your kids getting persecuted, but I think that on the whole, our kids took care of themselves. There were always the bullies, but they weren't, they... the bullies pick on the kids that they think will be able to, that they can bully. And I know, like, Anne, she was a little thing and she probably looked like a pushover, and this one guy kept picking on her, sort of. And I know she knows his name to this day, and I guess one day she just hauled off and let him have it. I don't know what happened, but he never picked on her after that. And the same way, Beth never, I don't think Beth ever got picked on. I don't know about, I don't think, well, my youngest, our youngest son -- our youngest was a boy -- they were all in school same time. He was in kindergarten, the three older girls were all in the same school, and of course, I got daily reports on what John had done. And I guess if they saw a pile of kids in the playground fighting and sprawling around, they knew who would be at the bottom. And he was. But yeah, he survived it. But it wasn't any, it wasn't any racial type of hatred. Not then, no.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

AI: Did you and your husband ever talk to your kids about what had happened during the war? Anything about the camps or anything that had, about what had happened to your dad?

RT: Yeah, probably. We must have. My husband more than I, because he was older when evacuation happened, and I believe that the older Nisei -- well, he's a Nisei. He was twenty, twenty-one, and they, I think, I keep telling my husband that he has maintained a certain bitterness, and he claims it's not bitterness, it's just anger. And I think that's true. Whereas I was fourteen, fifteen, and just that age gap, I think, made the experience far different for him than for me. But we did... our kids knew about it. Now, one thing I must say, you know, I taught in Minneapolis -- eventually I got back to teaching -- and I was team teaching with a history teacher in high school. We were teaching an ecology course. It was new then. Anyway, one day I was in my lab and he came roaring in -- and he's a history teacher, not only history but American history -- he says, "I've got to talk to you." He says, "I heard that Americans of Japanese ancestry were put into camps during World War II." Now, this is in the '60s. And the poor guy graduated an American History major and he didn't know about it. He had never heard of it. He couldn't believe it. I said, "Yeah, that's right, Warren. This is exactly what happened to us. Yeah, we were stuck in camp." And he just sat down and he says, "I can't believe it. How come I don't know about it?" And so here he is, a young man, graduated from college, teaching American history, and he didn't know a thing about it. Yeah. But yeah, we talked to our kids about it, but not a great deal.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

AI: I wanted to ask you to do a little reflecting now, thinking back. And, when you think back on the war years, what do you think are some of the worst of the long term effects of what happened in those times?

RT: The worst?

AI: For you.

RT: Well, it's also the worst and the best, I think... and that is the fact that it happened. I think about it, getting older, and you have a different perspective on things as you get older, and to me it is just amazing that it happened.

And the other thing is, that you realize that since it happened, that we should realize that it should never happen again. I think that is one of the things that I realized later on. The fact that it was a major, major error that it should happen in the first place, but also that we should remember that since it did happen, that we should make sure that enough people realize that it did, so that it will never happen again, not in this country. It just appalls me. Because there are not a lot of people, especially the younger and younger ones, who know about it. They don't realize. Even, even people, the Japanese -- kids with Japanese heritage, they aren't aware of what it means. I think, however, it's coming around. I know in my own case the, my kids all are very much aware, very much interested in the history and also in the fact that it is being disseminated. And, unfortunately, we only have one grandchild, but then from him I can also learn. He is learning it. I mean, he knows about it from, of course, his parents. And I'm glad for that.

But, yeah, just doing this interview has made me think about the fact that this was a major experience for the Americans of any nationality, really. Because it is an illustration of what can happen, and I think that way we learn that it shouldn't happen again. That's the major point that I get from this.

AI: So it was a very, very bad situation. It was a major error for the country, but in a sense, there is some positive aspect because of the education.

RT: Yes, of course. We must learn. We must learn from these mistakes. Yeah, definitely.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

AI: Well, now when, when the redress effort was going on, had you, did you hear much about that or what did you think about that?

RT: Well, you get a little bit, information comes in bits and pieces, and I was a little cynical. I thought, "Oh, this will never happen, $20,000, ha, ha, ha." Well, my mother, oh, she was so sure; "When I get my $20,000..." I mean, she was sure that it was gonna happen. And the rest of us, "Well, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't." But she was the one who looked forward to it most, and then she died the year that, that redress was finally passed. And it's just a really sad thing for me that she never, she never got to see that because she would have really enjoyed it, the fact that there was some justice after all. Because here is this woman who was yelling about constitutional rights in 1941, and she waited all these years, but she knew it was coming. But it was maybe the following fall or something, but anyway, she passed away before it could finally be given to her.

AI: What about your own reaction when you actually got yours in the mail?

RT: Yeah. Well, that's, that's... I thought that all the money couldn't repay what so many had suffered. Because I knew that there were so many families there were absolutely, not ruined, but they were shattered and had to start all over again afterwards. And for some of them, I don't know that they always attained what they had had before. For myself personally, I was pleased. Yeah, I was definitely pleased that this had come about. But as I said, I regretted my mother had left. Of course, one of my colleagues told me, she says, "When you got that money," she says, "take that money and run." And that was just about the attitude I had... that I would accept this money, and I would enjoy. Yeah.

AI: Well, around that time of redress, I know that that was a time when the general public became more aware because it was in the news, and also for some of the younger folks, the younger Japanese Americans were becoming more aware. Did you get any questions around that time either from your own family or the younger relatives? I was just wondering what kind of questions people might have asked, either about your past experiences --

RT: What year was that? Do you know exactly what year that the redress came about?

AI: Well, I think it was '88 when the legislation passed, but then, of course, the payments weren't made until -- did it begin in 1990, I think?

RT: '90 or so, wasn't it?

AI: For the oldest.

RT: Well, I wasn't asked a lot of questions because my kids were older, and they knew. They had, they were old enough and they had involved themselves enough so, they knew what was going on and what had happened. As far as the younger relatives, I don't think they ever asked me questions, but they had their own parents. So I wasn't questioned too much. I think when it first started becoming known that this was in the works, because there was a lot of debate, I think I was still working, and I know that my colleagues were quite interested in what was going on, so they, they did ask questions. They couldn't believe that I had been in a camp. This was something new to some of them, yes. So that happened, the beginnings of redress, I think, brought a whole new awareness to a lot of folks, that wasn't there before.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

AI: Well, looking back on everything, is there anything else that you'd like to pass on? Anything else that you think that future generations should know about, or think about, remember about discrimination, about what happened?

RT: Oh, that's a pretty big topic, isn't it? It was, like I say, the event itself is a milestone as far as I'm concerned, and it's just too bad because, of course, it's not considered that, I don't believe. I don't even know if they have any remarks on that, any sections on that, in the history books today, even. Well, what can I pass on? Discrimination. I think that it's, I think it's difficult for any person when he suffers discrimination, but I think if you can raise your families, if you can give them the character, the strength of character, so that they can withstand discrimination -- and I think that that is what you have to do, is try to keep -- don't slough it off, but I think make them aware that this is discrimination. And more and more, people are becoming a little more aggressive about fighting discrimination, and that I think is good. It's unfortunate that it still exists, but it does. And I think that the kids, as you raise them, especially since most of us are the ones that suffer it, we don't, we don't actually do the discriminating, although I'm sure there is some of that. But nevertheless, I guess that you have to try and improve things. Yeah. That's the main thrust, I guess, as far as discrimination goes. It's amazing. I do believe that it works sometimes in strange ways. Because you find discrimination in many areas. And it's just trying to be aware that it is indeed discrimination. Yeah.

AI: Any other thoughts, anything else that you'd like to add?

RT: Oh, gee. Well, I think we've been, we've been really lucky. Our family has been lucky, and that may be strange to say considering what we've all discussed here, but we have been lucky. We've been able to live through it, and we've stayed strong as a family, and we, I think, have, we've all learned. We've all learned, to some extent, what, what we went through. 'Cause at the time you don't realize it. It's only after examination that you realize what did happen. And so I would say that we're all, we're all okay as a family, and I think we have tried to learn from our experiences. That's for sure. I just hope that future generations will learn, too, and know that you can get through things like this.

AI: Well, thanks very much for sharing your experiences. We really appreciated it.

RT: You're welcome. Well, you're welcome. Glad to do it.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.