Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Brooks Andrews Interview
Narrator: Brooks Andrews
Interviewer: Joyce Nishimura
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: October 7, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-aemery-02

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

JN: I'd like to start by having you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your family and what their occupations were in 1941.

BA: Okay. My name is Brooks Andrews and I was born and raised in Seattle. And during the... prior to and during the second world war, my dad was pastor of the Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle. And my mother didn't work outside the home at that time, but... so all our activities and everything we did was involved with the Japanese Baptist Church.


BA: I have, at that time, had three sisters, older sisters. I was, I'm -- and the only boy. And my, the youngest of my sisters is eight years older than I am. So when I was born, into the church there, I was a big deal. You know, being a son finally to, to a family that had three, three girls. And so there was quite a to-do about that when I was born there.

JN: How was it that your father became the minister of a Japanese Baptist church, and how unusual was that at that time?

BA: I think it very unusual. Dad had taken two degrees, bachelor's degrees from the University of Washington and then moved down to California to continue his seminary education there. And when he graduated from seminary he just started working in the mission churches, storefront churches among the, the Hispanics and I'm not sure about the Chinese, but at least in the Hispanics. And then he moved up to Seattle area. Actually in, Fife area, and he married my mother there and they stayed up here and he started working at Chinese Baptist Church in Seattle. And then that, by about 1929, he was called to be the pastor of Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle. So right from the get-go, Dad and Mom and, all had this, this minority ministry in mind, so it wasn't any big jump for him to become pastor of the Japanese church. But still, it was very unusual. You don't have hakujin, you know, white pastors, at, at Japanese churches.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

JN: We'd like you to talk a little bit more about what, what it was like for your father to, to be a minister of the Japanese community.

BA: I think probably all this ministry started just as part of his seminary work, in, in California. And I think it was just part of his seminary work, he just continued in that area. And when he moved up to Seattle there was a need for mission work among the, the, the Asians, specifically Chinese and the Japanese. And part of the reason probably that he was called to be pastor of Japanese Baptist Church was because there was, there was not, there were not any probably, or very, very few Japanese English-speaking pastors, trained pastors, to pastor a church. And so it was just natural out of Dad's work among the, the Asians in Seattle area that he would be called to be the pastor of Japanese Baptist Church. But not as the Japanese-language pastor, but as the, the English, English-language service. Because we did have a Japanese-language pastor there also, at that time. And, you know, his reception at the church, I think, was welcome, simply again because he has this history of working with the Asians, and also because there was, maybe it was, "Well, there's no Nisei pastor to come to the church, so, well, we might as well have Pastor Andy come and be the English-speaking pastor at the church there."

JN: Did he know Reverend Hirakawa at that time?

BA: Yes, yes. In fact, a little story about Reverend Hirakawa, he was a member of Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle when my dad was there. My dad came in 1929. Hirakawa-Sensei was already there. But he moved, Reverend Hirakawa moved over to Bainbridge area and worked in the lumber mill at Port Blakeley, and there was quite a few Japanese men working in, in that mill. And so the unusual thing about Reverend Hirakawa was that at about age fifty, he, he felt call of God to be a minister. So he left Bainbridge and he went back to William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. And did his work there and then went from there to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, to, to continue his seminary education there. So by the time he came back to this area, to Bainbridge, he was sixty years old. So he started kind of late in the ministry. And when he came here to Bainbridge, he started a church mission with... and with help, I think, from some of the American Baptist denomination at that time. It would be, it's called the American Baptist Home Mission Society at that time. So what Reverend Hirakawa did... in the meantime, before he came back, the mill at which he had worked burned down. And so to build a church mission here in Bainbridge, he and some of his, his co-workers salvaged some lumber from the burned-down mill, and they built the little mission church here on Bainbridge Island. And he said, Reverend Hirakawa said that this church was a lighthouse, and so he called it the Lighthouse Mission. And then we, you know, as a family, we would come over to Bainbridge oftentimes and visit our friends over here. Maybe, I think sometimes have a joint service, worship service. But also, Dad would, would always travel in what was called the "Blue Box." The Blue Box was an old, I think it was a Ford truck body with a, with a, just a box on the back of it, and it looked like a bus. A very square-shaped bus. And it was blue and it was affectionately known as the Blue Box, because everywhere you went, you rode, rode in the Blue Box. You came over here to Bainbridge to pick up some of our friends, especially the young people and go on trips around the area, it was always in the Blue Box. So you talk to anybody in the Seattle area that's a Nisei or maybe even Issei and you say, "Blue Box," and they'll have some story about the Blue Box.

JN: Wow.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JN: All right. Think back to December 7, (1941), Pearl Harbor Day. What do you remember about that day? Where were you, how did you feel? What, how did your family react?

BA: You know, I was very young then. I was born in 1937 so I was about four-and-a-half years old. Oh, about... no, yeah, born in 1937. Right. So I was just about four years old at that time. But I do know that, that the next day after Pearl Harbor, one of, one of the Issei pastors came to our house. And I don't know if it was Reverend Hirakawa, or Reverend Hashimoto from the Japanese Baptist, but this pastor came to our house. And with tears streaming down his face, he apologized to my dad for Pearl Harbor attack. And it was a stunning moment to, to realize now we're at war with Japan. And so what does that mean for our Japanese friends here in Seattle? And it was a time of uncertainty, a time of probably some fright, because we didn't know what was going to be happening here. So that's, that's the impact that it made, it made on the Japanese as well, as on our family, too, to have that pastor come and apologize to, to my dad for Pearl Harbor.


JN: What do you remember about the FBI roundups? How did it affect your family?

BA: You know, actually I have, personally I have no memory of FBI roundups. But I know it did affect our family because immediately, the leaders in the Japanese community were rounded up, really with no suspicion of illegal behavior but simply because they were the leaders in the community. They immediately were suspect in some of the... I think there were a few at our church that were rounded up and taken in for interrogation and so forth. So, and of course Dad was right in the middle of all this. He was there as their advocate, but he couldn't really make any headway as far as stopping some of these interrogations and so forth.

JN: What was your family's reaction to the order that all Japanese Americans had to leave Seattle?

BA: Well, for us it was just probably shock and disbelief. Because, you know, we, we grew up in this community, we know the people and we know them to be loyal American citizens. And so for us it was just a matter of, well, this isn't happening, this can't happen. And it was a gross violation of, of individual rights to take American citizens like that. And so for us it was just... almost like we just stood in disbelief in watching the things that are happening around us at that time.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JN: Let's go back to before the war when your family would come to Bainbridge on weekends. And what was it like, what kind of things did you do?

BA: Well, coming over to Bainbridge was really an adventure. First of all, part of that adventure is, is, riding in the Blue Box. Because it was such a unique bus, everybody in Seattle knew the Blue Box just from driving around. And usually when we came over to Bainbridge, it was oftentimes in a Sunday afternoon after church, or once in a while we'd come over early and maybe have a joint service, worship service, but mostly after church. And so the adventure was, was coming over in the Blue Box. And we'd usually bring friends from Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle. And so when we came over it was, it was a picnic time, it was a fun time to, to be with each other. And we'd just spread our, our goodies out on the lawn and sit down and just enjoy each other's company as well as the food. And then sometimes Dad would take the young people on -- and some of the older guys I assume also -- we'd go on these trips around the peninsula here, in the Blue Box again. Maybe up to Hurricane Ridge or, or Poulsbo or some other place around here. But just made a day of, of eating and excursion and just enjoying each other. It was great fun. And we always looked forward to coming over here and, and all the people on Bainbridge 'cause it was such a small Japanese community at that time, most of them knew when we were coming over so it got to be quite a party over here. We enjoyed that very much.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JN: Okay, well, what... let's go back to when, when the families heard of the Exclusion Order Number One. And how was your family affected by that? How did they help families prepare to leave? What were the kind of impressions that your Dad that shared with you at that time?

BA: It was just a time of, just disbelief in what was going on. And of course, everybody had a very, very short time in which to, to gather their belongings together or dispose of properties if they could, make arrangements to have a caretaker look after a house while they were gonna be gone. And so what Dad did, in the Japanese Baptist Church, in Seattle, there was a gymnasium, and Dad took tape and he marked off the gymnasium floor in ten-foot-square plots. And everybody, as much as they could, stored their belongings in, in the gymnasium in the church. And it, and it stayed there, continued that way all through until they came back after the war. And Dad, when he went, when we moved to Idaho, just outside of the camp Minidoka, he made several trips back to Seattle, in the Blue Box again, to pick up items that were stored in the basement of the gymnasium to bring back to the internees at Minidoka. But his story is that, that every time he came back to retrieve an item, the item that person wanted was always on the bottom of the pile. So he had... it seemed like he always had to un-pile everything to get that item. And I remember walking -- before we moved to Idaho -- walking down the aisles between these stacks and it seemed liked they, they were, went all the way to the ceiling. It was just a horrible time because people had maybe two weeks or maybe a little bit more to, to bring items with them to camp. And that meant they couldn't bring furniture, they couldn't bring really even any toys. The children were allowed to take one toy with them. But everybody else had to pack their belongings as much as they could in suitcases or bags. It had to be something they could carry. They couldn't bring any, any items from, from home or apartments or, or wherever they lived like that. So...

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JN: What made your family decide to move to Idaho?

BA: Well, all our, all our congregation was, was moved to Minidoka. The Bainbridge people went, went straight to Manzanar camp in California, but most of our people went to camp Minidoka, just outside Twin Falls. And Mother's Day 1942 was the first Sunday that our church was completely vacant. And my dad went into the sanctuary there, and he went up to his pulpit chair and he sat down. And he said he just sat there for a, for a long time, and was in his mind seeing the faces of the people that had occupied the pews there before they were sent to Minidoka. And it was a heartbreaking time. And to me, I'm thinking, okay, all my friends are gone. You know, I grew up in this community, and there was nothing unusual to be, have Asian, especially Japanese as, as my best friends, I mean, my playmates. I really didn't have any hakujin or Caucasian playmates. And so to, to have them just all of a sudden uprooted in a very short time, I'm thinking, okay, it's... to me in my eyes, my country is saying these people, my friends, are the enemy. Well, I'm friends with these people. Does that make me one of the enemy also? And so it was a very confusing time.

And most of the people were, well... the army trucks came over to Bainbridge Island, and they, they herded the people down to the docks there, put 'em on trucks and sent them straight down to Manzanar, in California, central California, I think it is. The rest of the Nisei, or the Japanese from the area went to camp Minidoka, outside Twin Falls. And, but before, they didn't go directly to the camp. They were sent to a place called "Camp Harmony." It was a holding area, and "Camp Harmony" is an ironic name for, for the, the area which is the western Washington State Fairgrounds. And going down there, I remember they had barbed wire, high barbed wire fence all around the camp. And the internees were trucked there in army trucks, unloaded there, and they were housed then in what had been the livestock stalls. And these stalls were just not floor-to-ceiling walls, but very low walls. And each family occupied one of these spaces, livestock spaces. And they smelled, they weren't very clean. It was an ugly time. And they were there for, I can't remember how long, but for several days. And we would go down to visit them in the camp, at "Camp Harmony," but we were not allowed to go into the camp. And we would bring gifts or packages with us to give, give to them. We were not allowed to, to... we couldn't hug them like we wanted to. And if we brought packages, the guards would stop and they'd rip open the package and look inside to make sure we weren't trying to pass some contraband material onto them. And then they'd hand it back to us, well, there wasn't much we could do after it had been opened up. But we were able to give it to them through the barbed wire fence, and we could shake hands through the barbed wire fence. And one of my sisters, I think it was Betty Jean, my middle sister, she stood there and she cried. She said, "Oh, my friends, my friends are all gone. I have no friends left home." 'Cause all her friends were behind the barbed wire. And, so we went back home... well, before that I remember the, there was a bridge over the railroad tracks, down there. And I remember seeing the trains lined up on the tracks there. And we watched as our people were loaded onto the trains and sent to Minidoka and the other camp. Yeah. It was... I just could not understand what was happening, 'cause these were, these... I referred to them as "my people," my friends. And here they're being jerked out of the community and sent to a, an, a concentration camp, a place of incarceration. And, the... we were told, "Well, they're being sent to these camps for their, for their protection." And, but when I got to the camp for the first time, and saw again the high barbed wire fence, the guard towers, the guns, machine guns, all the guns were pointing inward. And I thought, "Well, if this is for their protection, then why are the guns pointed inward? Why are they not pointed outward, for protection?" So it was a very confusing time.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JN: At that time when, during the early, early days when "Camp Harmony" and, were, was your family faced with discrimination from other Caucasians? And how did they feel about the people reacting to your friendship with all of the Japanese?

BA: In the Seattle area, we were in, lived in a community that was, was multi-racial and there was more of understanding, I think, of, of the events. So there wasn't so much in our immediate community, any problem with threats or taunts or anything like that. But my dad found that when would go down to immigration or some other, some of the local official offices to try to help our Japanese friends, that's where he found the real discrimination and taunts. And I don't know if there's any threats but maybe implied or veiled statements that certainly communicated to him that he was not loved by anyone there at the office. But I don't know what else to say at this point on that. Actually, well, I can go on to say, we, the discrimination, the threats, and the hard times really didn't occur until we moved to Twin Falls. When we arrived in Twin Falls we rented a house in there, and one day my dad went downtown to eat at a cafe, in downtown Twin Falls. And so he went in the cafe, sat down, and, and he waited and he waited and waited for quite awhile, and nobody came to serve him. And finally the owner of the cafe came out and talked to my dad, and knew that, knew my dad was, and our family was friendly to the Japanese internees. And instead of being served, this cafe owner picked my dad up and threw him out bodily onto the sidewalk. And, it's, that's where we faced real discrimination and taunts. There were, there were threats on the telephone, or there'd be mysteriously occurring flat tires that would happen more often than would necessarily be so. And this same cafe owner would come to stand in front of the house we were renting and he would shout epithets and, and threats and he would call us "traitor" and "turncoat," and, to me, the worst of all was he would call us "Jap lover." And so subsequent to that, he bought the house we were renting and forced, forced us to move. So we moved across the street to another house.

And that second house became the real center of the ministry among the internees there that were in Minidoka, because it became a hostel. It was a place... we had, I remember two young men who lived in the camp would stay with us during the week, in town because they were able to secure a pass because they had some sort of job in Twin Falls. And so they stayed with us during the week. One of the men's names was Jack Kudo, and I can't remember the other name now. But they were able to stay in town at our house, do their job, come home. And then on the weekends they would go back into the camp to their, to their families. And I remember in my dad's writing he said that at that particular house we had as many as 167 people each month coming and going through our house there. And some of those people were, besides having maybe a job in town, some of them were young men who were transitioning into the army to fight with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Others were maybe able to secure a pass or the okay to move out of the area to an area out of the exclusion zone on the West Coast. So we had people coming and going all the time. But to me it was, well, this is business as usual. It's nothing... it's hard to explain and get across to people unless they've lived it, and lived in the environment in which I was brought up in. It's hard to understand how natural it was for, for the events that we had coming and going in our house, to happen. Because we were involved in ministry and this was part of what God had called us to do. So it got to be quite a circus at times, but we always had a great time. I remember we had, we had weddings there, of, usually it was a young soldier who was going into the service and he got married before he went in the service. And we would have... Dad oftentimes would go into camp for maybe a funeral service or sometimes a marriage there. And then the local First Baptist Church in Twin Falls was where we were able to secure the okay to do baptisms there. And the strange thing about this was that for us, for my dad, being that it was an American Baptist church, in Twin Falls, the Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle is an American Baptist church denomination. But we had to get the okay from the leaders of the First Baptist Church in Twin Falls to do baptisms there. And, which I thought was odd. You'd think, okay, this is a sister church, these are people who are being born into the faith, why do we have to go through this paperwork, to get that okay?

One time my dad was, had two Issei men in the backseat of apparently a car that he was driving at that time, and they were in a town in southern Idaho. And I don't know where he's, where he was taking them but he stopped at a gas station for, for gas. And he sat in the car and the station attendant stood by his office there. And he waited and finally he came out and he looked in the back seat there, and he said to my dad, "Are those Japs?" And, my dad said, "Those are, are fathers whose sons are fighting for you and me." But he still didn't give him any gas, so he had to move on to another station. And the puzzling thing to me is, being Second World War, there was gas rationing, tire rationing, but somehow he got the gas to be able to make so many trips from Minidoka back to Seattle, roundtrip to pick up belongs from the, from the church gymnasium. He made about fifty-six round trips. And this was before the days of the freeway. And it, sometimes he went up through Spokane and that way and then west to Seattle. But the average roundtrip was about fifteen hundred miles. So, it's a puzzle to me where he got gasoline to make all these trips, but he did.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

Male voice: I have a question. How did the hierarchy of the church treat your dad? Because, was that, did they...

BA: I know a little bit about that, yeah. The hierarchy of the American Baptist denomination, actually was very difficult in, in being supportive of the evacuation -- I mean of, supportive of the Japanese that were evacuated. And in the local Seattle area, really the only support they, that we had from any of our denomination was from the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Seattle. That was, at that time was Dr. Harold Jensen, and he was very much an advocate for the Japanese in trying to stop this internment situation. So there wasn't much support. The... I know my dad wanted to be the chaplain for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. And his denominational hierarchy turned that down because -- and this is puzzling too -- if they didn't support the internees, why would they say, "Well, you need to stay with your people"? So... but I know it was very much a desire for him to be a chaplain for the 442nd. So we just lived in Idaho and we continued ministry in, in Minidoka there. Usually... I was in school, grade school, so usually I went into the camps on the weekend. But -- and this may sound like a strong statement -- but knowing, remembering the camp, seeing pictures of the camp, if we were to juxtapose a picture of Minidoka next to a picture of a concentration camp maybe in Dachau, Germany, you'd be hard put, hard pressed to see which was which. Because they had the similarity. Row on row of tarpaper shacks, high barbed-wire fence, guards and searchlights, guns, machine guns, all pointed inward. So, I, I call it the, the American concentration.

One thing about the Bainbridge people who went down to Manzanar, I know for, for the Northwesterners, Japanese, Manzanar was a harsh existence, very hot, very dry. It was in the desert. And I know Dad went down there and talked to them down there, to, I assume, some officials down there. And there, I think he was accompanied by some other people, I don't know who they were, but were able to get them moved from Manzanar back up to Minidoka, which was more their climate, but also being with, with friends and people from this area.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JN: So after the war, what did your, what did your family do after the war? I know, I understand your father did a lot for Bainbridge Islanders, afterwards and getting them, getting them back to normal. Can you tell us about...

BA: We... to give a little bit of background, my oldest sister during the war was married. And so she stayed and lived with her husband in our house that we, we owned on Fifteenth Avenue in Seattle. And so for us to come back, we had a house to come to. But for the returning Bainbridge Island people, I know Walt Woodward here on Bainbridge Island was very much an advocate for the Japanese. And he did a great work in, in bringing support for them. But coming back to Bainbridge, to the farms, mostly, they were not taken care of during the war, and so they were overrun probably with weeds and, and just lying fallow because of disuse. And so Dad would come over here and bring a party over and help clean up the farms, cut grass, and open up the fields again. And so there was quite a bit of that type of activity over here. And for those in Seattle, it was a matter of doing the same thing. Very few of them had any place to come back to. Of course, there were, before the war, many farms down in the Auburn-Kent area, and Japanese farmers down there, truck farms, and fruit farms, and so forth. And again, he was, rounded up a crew and would help cut grass, and paint, fix up, paint out especially "No Jap" signs that were around. I remember one A&W in the area had a sign in the window that said "No Japs Allowed." And, so there's a lot of getting integrated back into the community.

And, before the war, the, the Japanese farmers in the valley, Kent and Auburn valley, would truck their produce into Pike Place Market. And after the war there was still a lot of anti-Japanese discrimination going on. And the union boss at that time, Dave Beck, he, he was head of the union, trucker's union that would truck some of the produce into the Seattle area. And he refused to take any produce from the Japanese farmers after they opened up their farms. He would not take it in to be sold at Pike Place Market. So my dad found a Filipino farmer who said, whose name I don't know, I wish I did, but he said he would take the produce in for them, for the farmers. So there's a lot of just reorganization and just trying to get back on track after having to leave everything behind. And I, I know very few that had houses to come back to. In... when we moved back to Seattle, I remember a lot of my friends were living in apartment buildings in the Seattle area, and in the hotels downtown, so...

JN: Was your church secured so you could come home?

BA: You know, it was... Dad had locked everything up. And, surprisingly enough, there was not any graffiti on the walls outside the church, minimal vandalism, mostly broken windows, that type of thing. But I think of all the trips my dad came back to Seattle, of course, he checked on the church and was able to make sure it was secure, so... so we just started emptying the gymnasium as soon as people could find a place to go. But the interesting thing, too, is that the, the American Baptist denomination thought that it would be a good idea to integrate the Japanese into the Caucasian churches in the community. And for, for at least a year after we returned, Japanese Baptist Church didn't open up as Japanese Baptist Church, because the denomination was saying, "Well, we need to integrate these people in the Caucasian churches." But finally, about a year later, after my dad's adamant refusal, we were able to open up the church and again exist as Japanese Baptist Church.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JN: Today, how do you feel about what happened to your family during World War II? How do you feel about the memorial? Could you comment on the parallels with the Islamic community and current events?

BA: I am very passionate about these experiences that we went through. And, but, for many years in my younger years, growing up, I mean, I mean in adulthood, I really kind of compartmentalized that whole era. Didn't visit it in my mind, didn't read anything more about the history or find out stories. For some reason I just, I just wanted to maybe try to erase that. But in, in my later adult years I started engaging in those stories. And so now I'm very passionate about that whole internment story and eager to tell that story, because so many people do not know about it. And, my dad... Dad had died on Memorial Day in 1976. But in February of 1976 he was interviewed by the religion editor from the Seattle Times, Ray Rupert was his name. And my dad was asked the question: Do you think this could happen again? And... I get very emotional at this point. [Pauses] My dad, in what I call a very prophetic voice, said, "No, I don't think it could happen again. Maybe not to the Japanese, but maybe to some other group." And I think those, those words of his that are coming true today, when I think of our Islamic friends in the Muslim community. Because there are parallels between the internment story and, and what possibly could happen to the Muslim community. There's a lot of discrimination. We haven't gone so far as to intern and incarcerate as a, as a whole people, the Muslim community. But I think that if we're not careful, that could happen.

And I think the memorial, any memorial... but over here on Bainbridge I've attended the blessing there at the, at the memorial, and I think it's important that we do memorialize these events. Past is prologue. Whatever happens in the past is part of, or could be part of what happens in the future. We either learn from our past and use it for healing and reconciliation, or we repeat those same lessons from the past again. And to tell the Bainbridge story, the whole internment story, we -- it's not a, it's not a pretty story, it's an ugly story. And I know a lot of the Japanese, especially Issei, did not want to talk about it. But a few years ago when we had the Minidoka Remembered event at the SeaTac airport area, it was really the first time that, that there was a coming together of the community. And looking at displays and listening to each other's stories, reacquainting, getting reacquainted with each other, that that was the beginning of the healing experience, I think, for, for the Japanese community. Because there's power in listening to each other's stories. When we listen to each other, we gain power from, from our, from our stories. And that power enables us to look forward with strength to not repeat what had happened before. And I think that's the beauty of the, of the Bainbridge Island memorial also. As much as there may be some resistance to that, we need to keep this in the front. I think Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and writer, he said something to the effect that, "We remember our lives backwards, but we live our lives forward." And I take that to mean that we look at our past and the events that have shaped us, that has formed us, and when we talk about those events, we find that there's a, there's a thread of... well, I'll put it in preacher's terms: a thread of salvation that goes through that whole, all those stories. And when we, when we look to our past, we realize how much God has really guided us, kept us, and strengthened us through these, through these stories. And, and again, I'm being preacher now at this point, the, the book of Second Corinthians in the, in the Bible, in New Testament, the apostle Paul, Saint Paul, writes to the church at Corinth, and he says, "Thanks be to God who comforts us in all our troubles." And Saint Paul goes on to say in that chapter there, that, that the things that have happened to us we gather strength from God, but we can pass that on. 'Cause we can comfort others with the same comfort that we have received from God. And, and the real kicker to this whole passage for me is that that Saint Paul goes on to say that, "These things happen so that we will not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." And so for, to me, to me, the Minidoka Remembered event at the SeaTac airport was our resurrection.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JN: Anything else you'd could like to, to add? That is a very powerful ending.

BA: Let's see. You know, people would ask me, "Well, when you were in school in, in Twin Falls, Idaho, did... were you taunted by your classmates or anything?" And I don't remember anything like that at all. It came more to our family as a whole in the community. But I wonder -- and the thought just occurred to me -- maybe, maybe my playmates at school had no knowledge of the camp that was close by there. Just like the German people were not told oftentimes about the death camps over there. So I, I had a playmate that, whose father was in the navy, and, but I never heard any rah-rah or unkind word from my playmate about the world war and his dad going to fight the "Japs," and so forth.

JN: And, that's a reflection of the common people there, that they were ashamed of what was in their neighborhood...

BA: It could be, yeah.

JN: And so they didn't want to pass that along to their children, maybe.

BA: And you know, these, these living quarters were just abysmal. They were just terrible places, because they were, they were just a long row of barrack and they were, most of them were often made of green wood that had not been dried. And so when the summer heat came, you had a lot of shrinking of the floorboards, sometimes you would look through the floorboards and you could see snakes resting in the coolness, in the shade under the barrack. And it would shrink around the windows and the doors and then when you had the dust storms, oh, my gosh, you were just, dust would just come in just through every crack in the barrack there. And you'd find along the windowsill dust kinda piled up along the windowsill that had blown in there. And it was just one room. I think they were like, like twenty feet by twenty feet or something like that. And, there's one potbellied stove in the corner, that was... and you had to go outside to, to the coal bin to get your coal to put in, in the, in the stove there. In the wintertime that was, that was a hard chore to go outside in the bitter cold and get coal. And there was central dining halls, each... there were so many barracks in each block, and there was a block of barracks there, and each block had a central dining hall. There's central latrines which was very embarrassing for the Japanese to go to a central latrine and, and really didn't have the privacy that they were used to. And, and I reflect on the, the dining arrangements there. When you went to the dining hall, you, the family would break up. The children would go eat with their, with their friends in the dining hall. And to me, that was the start of the breakdown of the close-knit Japanese family that I experienced before war. And that's kind of a theory that I have, but I've heard some other anecdotal evidence that they feel the same way, so... but I was always looking forward to go to camp, because that's where my friends were, and we just made a day of it. Oftentimes on Saturday we'd go and there was a swimming hole that was dug out of the irrigation, big irrigation ditch that went by there. And we'd have picnics there and we'd have fun in the swimming hole, and we'd try to make life as usual. And, and... that was life, and we made the best of it.

JN: So there was no... anybody could go into the camp at that time?

BA: You had to have a pass to go into the camp. And when we, again, when we drove up to the, to the entrance, the main entrance to the camp, there of course were guards there. They had their guns and their helmets and everything else. And as many times as we had gone to the camp, and the guards knew us when we drove up, they would always stop, stop us. They would check our passes, they would check and see what bags of things we were bringing in. Just again, looking for contraband material and so forth. Another thing I remember, too, is the people in the camp were very inventive, very much able to, to make furniture, make things that they could not bring with them. They could not bring tables and chairs, and I know that they made a lot of things out of leftover lumber that had, that were left after the barracks were, were constructed. And -- oh, I know one story, Yo Ishimitsu, who is, she is the church administrator at Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle, today. And, she was on Bainbridge. And I can't remember her, her Bainbridge name then, but her married name is Ishimitsu. But she was, said, she said they went to Manzanar also. And it was very hot. But she said that the, the beds were just iron, steel beds with the steel springs, which was characteristic of Minidoka also. And the mattress, you went and you got a big sack and you filled it full of hay and that was your mattress. But she said that the bed, her bed down there was full of bedbugs. And so what they did, they'd haul the beds outside in the hot sun, and as the hot sun heated up the bed, iron steel bed, then all the bedbugs left. And so they, she said, "Then we brought the beds back in and they were fine after that." So...

Female voice: I just want to ask a question. Did you remember reactions of your friends, your playmates? I mean, you were just a little boy at this time. Do you remember what they...

BA: In the camp?

Female voice: Yeah. Would they would they complain to you, or...

BA: No, I don't remember any complaints at all. I think all the, all of us kids were very adaptable to the situation. And found our ways to cope, our ways to get around. We played a lot of games. I remember baseball was a big deal in Camp Minidoka. And the different blocks would have their own baseball teams, there'd be competitions there. And so it was, we just adapted to the situation, made the best of it.

Male voice: I have a question. How did it end? Did it, like on, the end of the war, did they open the gates? Or, did it take time after that? Was it, was it with a whimper or with a bang?

BA: I think late -- I don't know hard facts -- but I know toward the end of the war, more of the Japanese were able to, to be let, let go from the camps. And some of them went back to, maybe they had family back east, Midwest. I know there were a lot in the Chicago area, and Boston area. And, so there started this trickle of people coming back to or leaving the camp. And, so by 19'- early 1946, the camp was closed up. And so we, we gathered our belongings together and we, in the Blue Box, and made our trip back to, to Seattle, to start all over again. I have a picture of, of my family. We were standing in front of the main gate to Minidoka. Big red and white sign on the gate that says "camp closed." And I think that's probably the day, the morning that we started our trip back to Seattle. 'Cause I know it was still cold out, still kind of wintry. But, so we made our trip back.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BA: I mentioned that for many years I really compartmentalized or kind of blocked out the internment story in my mind. And part of that, behind the internment story, is a very personal story of the cost to our family. Again, it's very personal. But, I remember my dad telling me one day, when I was young, that he knew, not too long after he married my mother, that, that this marriage was not going to work. But they stayed together for many, many, many years, until they divorced in 1955, my mother divorced my father then. But up until that time, my dad, I don't know, over, maybe it was grief over the failure of his marriage, I'm not sure what. But, the, the personal cost to us a family was that my dad took that energy that maybe he should have put into his marriage and he put it into the Japanese community. My dad, we never had a really close personal relationship. I know my dad loved me. I'm very proud of what he did. He's an important figure in history. But, there... the cost to the family was high, it was pretty high. And... [pauses] I forgot where I was going with this now. Oh, yeah, he put so much energy into the community to the detriment of his family, maybe that was the best he knew how to do it at that time. And maybe he didn't know how to, to bring the family unit back together. And the way I put it is -- speaking for me personally -- my dad, we never had one-on-one conversations or times together. We did a lot of things together, Boy Scouts, trips to California to my uncle's farm, in the summer, other events around the community. And so my dad never really spoke to me one-on-one. But he, as I put it, he spoke to me through the group. In other words, he modeled things about virtue and integrity and leadership through the group as we interacted in that way. So... that's a side that I didn't visit for a long, long time. And, so, it did come at a cost. And it's not unusual for anyone who is in a high-profile position, or high-profile in the community, that the family or the marriage suffers. So, there's many stories of people who, who did not have a family that was well-taken care of, that those were high-profile. But I've made peace with that, and I've reconciled that. So, but out of that story, again is my dad, I'm extremely proud of him.

And my mother was, my mother was... I often muse about this. My mother is very silent in this story. She was not high-profile, she was not one to be up in front in leadership or preaching or talking or teaching. She did teach Sunday school. But I know she was a mentor to many of the young Japanese women and brides in the community. I remember in our house, when we lived on Fifteenth Avenue, that quite often a young woman or young mother or bride would come to our house, and talk to my mother and she would counsel with them and help them. And I think, when I think of my mother, I think of John Milton's poem on his blindness. There's a line in there that says: "they also serve who stand in wait." And I, and I see my mother in that, in that picture. Very quiet, behind the scenes, but very much effective in her own ministry and in her own way, in her own quiet way.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.