Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shigeko Sese Uno Interview
Narrator: Shigeko Sese Uno
Interviewers: Beth Kawahara (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 18, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-ushigeko-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

SU: But, another thing, when I was pregnant, still continuing that business before we were put into camp, all of our company books were seized, because they happened to be in our attorney's office. And, of course, the attorney was a Japanese man, all-American citizen, who was picked up the first day, too, right after Pearl Harbor. So when I went to the government office and said, "I'd like to have my books back, because I need 'em." Well, you've got to go to the jail get an okay from your attorney. Well, here I am, big as ever. He took one look at me and says, "Oh, we'll get it for you." [Laughs] So I just waited at the office while they got it for me. So they were kind people.

AI: Well, speaking of that time when you had to get those books, and there came a time, we're backing up a little bit, before the evacuation, if you could say a little bit about how you had to prepare in the closing down of your business.

SU: That's right. Well, in the first place, my sister's, my sister, who was not an American citizen, had all her bank assets frozen. So she didn't have any money. But somehow, from the dairy, we were able to give her, and then there was a period where she was able to leave Seattle, because they had that voluntary evacuation -- I mean, where you could leave. So she left. She had one daughter with her, and she left for New York City. So that left me with all the disposal of the property. Luckily, we knew this big firm called Arden Farms, who tried to take some of the things that they could use. But Alpine Dairy, which happened to be in Issaquah, said that they could take over the whole plant, trucks and everything. So he said he would.

But when we were in camp, I got a letter from him saying that he had to close up the place, because the government did not allow him to increase his business. They were only allowed so much butter fat to the, each dairy, what they had had prior to Pearl Harbor. So he couldn't expand, because see, milk and all, butter and all, taken over by the government. They didn't want the individual dairies to get rich on it. So there we were, without any tenant, so we lost our income there. We gave away practically everything. We had bought new equipment. Because business was really getting very good toward, right after Pearl Harbor and up to evacuation time, that announcement came out. Because I understand that the customers of our restaurants and the grocery stores kept telling the owners, "Don't worry, we're going to keep on being with you." So our business really jumped up. And then Seattle was filling up with outsiders, workers and all.

BK: So when you, you had leased the business to Issaquah, before you had actually left for camp. And then once you got to camp, it seemed as though that you got another letter saying that, "Can't do it."

SU: No.

BK: And so at that point, then, they just closed the doors --

SU: That's right.

BK: For the time being?

SU: Closed everything at a loss. But, which we never recovered from, really. But...

BK: Right. Eventually, what did happen to that business, to the White River? Was it temporarily closed when the Issaquah Alpine Dairy couldn't make a go of it? And then...

SU: Then, I guess we were out of camp by then. I got a letter from our attorney -- our attorney took care of everything -- said, "There's a good buyer, a refugee from Europe, who's got cash and would like to buy your building, building and land. But for $10,000." Well, do you know that the same land now is occupied by a great big building, and the person who developed the project had to pay $350,000 for what we sold for $10,000.

BK: For $10,000.

SU: So I told Wah Eng, who bought the place, I said, "Oh, you got cheated." [Laughs] He laughed. He said he was offered $375,000 anyway for the place, but we sold for only $10,000.

BK: Right. Right.

SU: Because when we see the letter, we didn't know whether we could come home or anything. Nobody knew what our future was. We thought we could never be back here. So $10,000's better than nothing.

BK: Right. And there was a lot of uncertainty at that time.

SU: Oh, yes.

BK: I mean, like you say, you just took what you could then at that time.

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