Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rudy Tokiwa Interview II
Narrator: Rudy Tokiwa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Judy Niizawa (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2 & 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trudy-02-0015

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TI: What was it like at school? 'Cause after Pearl Harbor, you went back to school.

RT: Well, yeah.

TI: What was it like there?

RT: Well, day after Pearl Harbor, we went back to school. And my dad said, "Why don't you take the car, 'cause we don't know what's gonna happen." So we took the car. We went into Salinas High School. Got off the car, and there was, well, I shouldn't call 'em, I'll say, there were some of the Oklahomans that came from Oklahoma during that hard times they were having. And there was a whole mess of 'em settled in, right outside of Salinas and Alisal. So they were all coming to Salinas High School. So my brother and I, we got outta the car, and we started walkin' towards the school. And these Oklahomans started, they said, "Aw them dirty Japs, let's beat the shit out of 'em." Excuse my French, but it's English. And so I looked at my brother, and he looks at me, and he says, "Aw, just a bunch of Okies. We can handle 'em." Then it was funny, because all of a sudden from in back of us, we heard some guys saying, "All right, you Tokiwa brothers, step aside. This is our fight. We'll handle it." And it was the football team, 'cause we both played football.

TI: That's interesting.

RT: Yeah. They, so they said, "We'll handle it." And they really knocked the hell outta these guys. So my brother and I got called into the principal's office, and we were the troublemakers.

TI: Although you didn't participate in the fight.

RT: No.

TI: The football team protected you.

RT: Yeah. And we were (called) the troublemakers, and (the principal) sent us home. So at that time, what really went through my mind real strong was the fact that this country was really racist.

TI: And yet, though, the football team, I imagine the players, your teammates, were Caucasian or white and...

RT: Yeah, they were all Caucasians. But we were buddies, see. Well, these Oklahomans, we didn't know them, but these guys were buddies. In fact, twelve of 'em, I went through grammar school with 'em. And so, but it really aggravated me when the principal branded us as troublemakers. And I'm glad today, because that principal, (my American older sister told me), he had to go to jail for embezzlement.

But, so after that, then we, all this ruling came out that you can't travel more than 14 miles from your house and all that, but we did go to Sacramento during that time. [Laughs] And it was, to me, at the start, I felt that the handwriting was on the wall, and I was pretty discouraged in this country. And so then when the orders came out that we were to be evacuated, and we were supposed to report to the armory, and we were to take only what we can carry. Well, we were pretty fortunate, because in the area where we lived was mostly Swiss-Italians. And so they were real good. And my dad and mom are real nice people to these people. In fact, the Puzzi brothers, when their mom and dad died, they were gonna lose -- they had a dairy there. And they were gonna lose the dairy. So my mom and dad went to talk to them and told 'em, "You can't make enough money in the dairy to keep payments on this place. Turn it into a farm." So the two brothers said, "We don't know nothing about farming." So my dad said, "We teach you how to farm." So he, they turned it, immediately turned it into a farm. And so these two brothers were real thankful. And they turned around, when we had to evacuate, they said, "You store everything in our place." And so my oldest brother said to them, "Are you sure you wanna do that? You may get in trouble." And they said, "No, no. You people are like family to us. You store your car and everything here. We will jack it up so the tires don't rot, and we'll come in and start it every so often." So they took care of us real good. And in fact, when we were in the Salinas Assembly Center, they used to come and see us.

And I was, I was real, I felt real good, because this kid, I grew up with him. And we were in the same grade and everything, and some grammar school we went through together and everything. And one day, after we're in Salinas Assembly Center, I was standin' out there by Highway 101, and he was on the bus going to the high school. And when he saw me standing, waved and everything. And it didn't matter to him that I was in, that we were Japs. So the following, that following weekend, he came to see if he can come in to see us. Well, he couldn't come into the camp, but then we were able to go into one of the barracks. And we talked with him and everything. And he started saying, "Well, I'm gonna tell the football team that I came to see you guys." And after that, we had, the football people would come out to see us. I felt real good about it.

TI: What kind of things would they say? I mean, because here, these were boys that you grew up with...

RT: Yeah, well...

TI: And there was...?

RT: Their thoughts were, too, like this Billy says to us, he says to me, "How come they're putting you in a concentration camp, while, and they're gonna lock all you guys up someplace, when I'm a Swiss-Italian, and the Italians are fightin', fightin' the, in Europe against everybody else with Germany? How come we don't get locked up, and you guys are locked up?"

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