Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grayce Uyehara Interview
Narrator: Grayce Uyehara
Interviewer: Larry Hashima
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 13, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ugrayce-01-0001

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LH: This is a Densho interview with Grayce Uyehara. Interviewer is Larry Hashima on Saturday, September 13, 1997 in Los Angeles, California. Thank you very much for agreeing to speak with us, Ms. Uyehara. I want to begin with some background questions. A lot of people got involved in redress because they had personal experiences during the wartime that made them feel compelled to do the redress movement. Was that the case for you?

GU: Yes, I think if one considers the fact that I was born on July (4), 1919. I was by that time a college student, a senior at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. And before the actual graduation ceremony I was called into the college president's office and I saw some military officers there and got a little concerned, but actually they were there because in Stockton they have a Quartermaster base and air force, and they needed someone to teach Japanese and I guess the college president was vouching for me. And also, I was recommended by some other people. Interesting part is that I am -- was not a good student of the Japanese language because as a music major, most of my time was spent practicing the piano, so I never followed through with going to Japanese school. And therefore, I said to these officers that there are many other people who can teach the Japanese language at the Quartermaster base. They replied that the lesson was all prepared and because I'm of Japanese ancestry they were certain that my pronunciation was correct. And so I agreed to do that so I felt that I was doing my patriotic bit.

Then the order came and that upset the whole community. And again, being the oldest daughter, though I had an older brother, I had a sense that I had to look after the family. And I also saw the upset. I was old enough to know the impact of the order on the whole community. Also from the standpoint of within (our) family, a family with seven children struggled and I had the kind of parents who wanted all their kids to go to college, so all of us worked, father, mother, and the kids earning money for tuition and all. In fact, because I worked my way through college by peeling tomatoes in the tomato cannery, my piano teacher cries whenever he saw me come back, because the other students were from wealthier families and come back with hands all ready to start working. But my hands were generally ruined when I went back to school. So with that background, and then going to the Stockton Assembly Center, the other impact was that neither did my soldiers students understand what was happening in America at that time. Because I'm a very friendly and outgoing individual, and I taught and cared about them, and they sensed my concern that they were going to the South Pacific, so they came to the fence of the Stockton Assembly Center with a box of chocolate candy and a bouquet of flowers. And blond young soldiers, who were about my age, actually shed tears that I was on the other side of the fence, so I knew that there was a dichotomy here in the United States with Executive Order 9066.

And I think many people have spoken about the camp life, the difficulty of it and how many of the families broke down as a consequence, because we no longer had the structure of our community. So again, being the oldest daughter... and the middle son graduated from high school in the Rohwer relocation center, he went out to Philadelphia, to Temple University, and the arrangement was made through the National Student Relocation Program, a program that was set up by the American Friends Service Committee, who really wanted to help all of the people who were behind barbed wires to find their freedom and to resume their education. And I think that was one of the programs that really made a difference in the lives of our people. And I think we laud the American Friends Service Committee, because today many of the people who are doing quite well benefited from that particular service.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.