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-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

BK: Well, the war was over in 1945?

SU: Yes.

BK: But you stayed on, on the East Coast until 1947, you said. Why did you stay so long before returning to Seattle?

SU: Because my husband thought it was dangerous.

BK: Thought Seattle was dangerous?

SU: Oh, yes. And there were some cases up on Beacon Hill that, where there were signs all over the barber and the hardware store, "No Japs Welcome." And so anyway, if you know my husband, he's such a handsome, tall, athletic, but in heart, I think he didn't have the gumption like I did. But I've always wanted to come home. I've always, I said, "Oh, I want to go home." Because we had bought this house on Beacon Hill, and had it, rented it out. And knew I had a home to come to. Well, many of my friends who had just rented a house, couldn't, there wasn't anything to come back to. But I had this real nice house. It was only about two years old. Let's see, bought it in '36, so anyway.

BK: So was it your decision, or your desire, to come back to Seattle? Now, how did all that happen?

SU: Why did I want to come back?

BK: No. How did that all happen? I mean, you're saying that your husband wanted to stay there, but you wanted to come back. Was it hard for you to, again, make that initial move to come back and leave him there?

SU: No, no. I was convinced he's gonna follow us later. [Laughs]

BK: I see. So the pattern has --

SU: So that -- my mother, in the meantime, had gotten married to my husband's father. See, he was a widower and she was a widow. And when he came out of camp, out of Crystal City, Texas, he had a moustache like that, like Hitler. What was it? Like Tojo. Really. And he loved to just go like this. [Pretends to stroke mustache] Had it in a point. And when we met him at the depot, my husband says, "Dad, you've gotta take that moustache off." Oh, he was so proud of it. He wouldn't do it. No matter how many times, until my husband's sister came. And then his sister, oh, she put the law down, and had it taken off.

But my mother and he got together, and they got married. So they had their own home in Boston. And so that's why I was able to leave with just my two daughters -- no, my three, by then, three daughters. But we were, I had been living at our house with another army family. This girlfriend -- oh, her oldest sister was the one that was at BMTS when I was a freshman and she was a senior, in connection. So her husband was stationed at Fort Devens. That's in Massachusetts. And she wanted to know if she could join us, and she had just one baby. So we took her in, gave her a bedroom. And we had lots of fun together.

BK: Oh, that's wonderful. So you had some old family friends, anyway, there in Boston while you were there?

SU: And when my third daughter was born, one day she came out with all the red spots all over her body and face. And I didn't know what to do. New city, I didn't know any doctors or anything. I ran down to the nearest drug store, and explained the situation to the druggist. And, my goodness, he sent a young doctor, a Jewish doctor, who came, took, looked at her and says, "These are just -- "what do you call that? Heat.

BK: Heat rash.

SU: Yes. From the heat. Because I had the room too warm.

BK: Steam heat.

SU: And so I asked him how much I should pay him. He says, "Nothing." He came all the way to our house to look after the baby, and he wouldn't accept anything. So I thought, "What a kind man." See, they help you. Those are some of the things I learned is: You don't live by yourself. You have to have people around you, even strangers, who do help, given the chance. They are so kind. And that doctor was example. And the people that gave us all those furnitures.

BK: Right. Right.

SU: And they're all hakujin friends. That really helped us get used to another life. Talking about that, my daughter came home from school, Sheila, she says, "Mom, why is it everybody in our family has black hair?" I said, "Well, Japanese people all have black hair." Because her friends, they were all different colored hairs. Well, one day I had been out, and she excitedly told me, "You're gonna have a friend come to see you this evening. He came this afternoon, but he left, saying he's coming back. And he's got black hair, so he must be Japanese." Well, I waited for this Japanese person to come. Turned out to be our insurance agent, only he was a white person with black hair. [Laughs] So I told him the story. And he just laughed. He said, "Oh." But, so Sheila went up to that school. She was the only Japanese, and yet, think she got along all right.

BK: So really, in retrospect, your experience in Boston was positive?

SU: Oh, yes. So many people kind to us, really. And yet I wanted to come home.

BK: Well --

SU: Because you have to get used to that. In the church, people sit in the same place for generations. And, I mean, things like that, sort of, we're not used to it.

BK: Assigned seating, yes. Right.

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