Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Matsue Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Matsue Watanabe
Interviewer: Debra Grindeland
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: October 7, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-wmatsue-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

DG: Okay, Matsue, if you can just, we're just going to start off, if you can just tell me about your family and their occupations, of especially your parents, back in 1942, right before the war.

MW: Okay, my dad was a strawberry farmer. And, but he, besides strawberries, he had peas. And in the wintertime he had rhubarb because, you know, when you have a large family, you have to supplement. So they started doing all that. And, and that was the main occupation that he had. And, because our place was five acres -- which, you know, you can't do a lot of strawberries on five acres, or peas -- so he leased other lands. He probably leased about, farmed about 40 acres in all. So it just kept my older sisters and brother busy, but I was the one designated to take care of the house and go to the post office, go to the grocery store and take care of my little sister.

DG: And what were the ages of your siblings, back then or approximately?

MW: Back then?

DG: Yeah, around the war.

MW: Oh, probably, Tyke was probably in his early twenties, and then Massie would be two years younger. And they're, we're each about two-and-a-half years apart, so, we come all the way down to my little sister who was nine. But -- was nine -- but there's five years between she and myself. So, yeah, she was so... my brother must have been twenty-five then. Fifteen, fifteen... he was, so they're fifteen years apart, so he was just that age. He's ten years older than me, so he must have been twenty-four, okay. That's a good way.

DG: And what other sort of things did you, you were fourteen, and what sort of things did you do as a young girl on Bainbridge Island, other than the things you just talked about?

MW: Oh, I used to bike a lot. And we used to bike to the roller rink and, and roller skate and bike back. And visit my neighbors and play with, play with the other friends there. And besides going to school and helping, and swimming in the bay. So we did swim in the bay, which was pretty clean then. But, I guess we wouldn't do that anymore. And, and my mother used to like to go pick seaweed, so we used to do that. And then she used to grind it up and my dad made those forms, so, which, you know, you make makizushi. And so she never bought any nori because she always got it out of the sea and they fixed it up themselves.

DG: So, what do you remember of your childhood in, on Bainbridge Island? Can you tell me, describe it to me, in general?

MW: Well, I feel that it was very comfortable. I didn't, I don't feel that I had any real big problems because we played a lot and being the younger, younger daughter, that I had older sisters and my brother that, you know, led the way for me. And so, I would say I would have been real thankful that they were older and I was one of the younger ones. I just remember also receiving a bicycle for a birthday, which was, you know, really something then, because we weren't rich family. So, to me, it was real special. And that's why we did do so much bicycling around the island. We bicycled a lot, with my friends. And other than that, we went to school and had many different friends that we just played with and did the activities with.

DG: And were your friends primarily Japanese, or were they also Caucasian, or...

MW: No, they were both. We, we didn't... I felt that we didn't segregate ourselves, anything like that. We played with, we all, I think, practically everybody on the island, you know, they were integrated with all, all groups. So, it worked out fine. But you did have certain activities that you had at the Japanese Hall. And that would be like, just programs and eating and things like that. I can remember tap dancing for a program and things like that. I taught other girls to do that, too, so we would do it together, and it worked out fine.

DG: Very nice.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: Now we're going to jump ahead, beyond childhood, about maybe, to the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. And I'd like you to try to think back to that day. Tell me about where you were, what you remember, feelings, even things you remember your family was going through, your parents and your older siblings. That sort of thing.

MW: Well, what I remember about that day is... 'course, I told you that I had older sisters -- and so we had visitors there that day that were soldiers from Fort Lewis. And it just so happened that they were there and then of course we heard on the radio what had happened and, and I don't think we were ever thinking that anything like that would happen. And I think we were just shocked. And so, you know, you don't do anything but listen to the radio for quite a long time, just listening to everything that they're telling us. And never thought that anything else would, would bother us as far as having to move out or anything like that. I don't think we gave that a second thought, at least I didn't. Maybe they did, but I didn't. 'Cause I was younger and they probably were more serious about everything like that.

DG: And I'm curious about the soldiers. Why were the soldiers, were they visiting as friends? Or...

MW: They were just visiting, yeah. Because my sisters used to go into Seattle and they'd be, you know, go to different parties and things like that and they probably talked to people who said there were people like that, that would like to come and visit. So, so they had come to visit that day. It was different for them to come to the island, I guess, than being in Seattle. Anytime you have older sisters, that's what would happen.

DG: And do you recall, was there any tension after you all received the news of the bombing, between the soldiers and your family? Or...

MW: No, I think that they were told that they had to go back right away. And, and I think they, they were joking around and saying, "Well, we were stuck way out in the country so maybe we won't be able to get back." [Laughs] But, that's the only thing that I can remember. And hopefully that... my memory is good for that. But I wouldn't swear by it, but I think that's the way, that's what I remember. And so we just go from there.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

DG: So, it's, you know, Pearl Harbor has been bombed and the news has come and you're by the radio and you're listening, and for days this kind of sinks in. And now, we move ahead to the FBI roundups. And I'd like to know what you remember from that time about the roundups and how it affected your family and emotions you remember, your parents and again, you yourself and your siblings, went through.

MW: I do remember, I do remember a black car coming into the driveway. And then we found out that they were the FBI. Because, I'm sure we didn't have any notice ahead of time regarding them coming. And, and so I remember them coming into the house and, and my sister, my oldest sister was corresponding with a sailor in Hawaii from, who was her classmate. And so, you know, you don't throw all those letters away. So, I can remember them reading the letters. And I'm sure they were looking for whatever they might find because it was, he was in Hawaii, and, but he wasn't of Asian descent. And then, and then of course later they took my dad away because my dad was saying that he thought he had some dynamite left from after he cleared land, but he couldn't find it at the time. And so they did take him away with them. And my brother, of course, was a, what do you call it, a ham-like, ham operator. He had crystal sets and things like that. So, they looked at that real well, too, because, I guess they figured he might be gettin' in touch with people. But that was just something that he grew up doing and his bedroom... large table was always full of radio equipment. But, so, so after they took my dad, of course, that was a very big shock to us, because he is not the type of person that... he was just a hard-working man who always did what he could to keep the family alive and active.

DG: And can you tell us about the feelings that you remember you experiencing as you witnessed your house being searched and your father being taken?

MW: Oh, well, we were very, very scared. 'Cause we'd never had anything like that come before us before. And, of course, then having your dad taken away when you're a young girl -- I suppose it'd be any age -- it's, it would be very frightening, not knowing what would happen to him or to us. So, that was a very hard time for us, and after that we were allowed to go visit him at the immigration building in Seattle, which we see all the time now 'cause every time we go into Seattle we go, "Oh, there's the immigration building." And, but when we went there I wasn't able to talk him. He was behind bars, of course. And of course all I could do was, I just cried because I'd see my dad behind bars, and the only people who were supposed to be behind bars were bad people and criminals. And so I knew that he wasn't a criminal or anything like that. So, I really didn't get to talk to him; I just cried and nothing would come out of my mouth, you know. So that was it, and... but I do remember the guard saying, "Oh, little girl, that's not so bad," or something like that. Which I, which I thought was pretty insensitive.

DG: Let's, so... when did you get to see your dad again? When did he, when was he able to leave?

MW: Never did see him until he came, after we were interned, in, in the camps. He was, came back to, he came into Manzanar, he was released and came into Manzanar on my birthday. And that was June 27th, 194-... must have been '43?

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

<Begin Segment 4>

DG: So, now your mom is, is the head of the family now, because your dad is...

MW: Yes.

DG: locked away, and the exclusion order comes out. And so I'd like you, again, to think back to that day and the memories you have and the things your family went through and the feelings...

MW: Well, I, I do remember we had to go down to the Anderson Hardware and sign up for, for our numbers and, as a family. And, so we did do that. And there's, of course a big sign up, up there telling us that that's what we're supposed to do. And, and I suppose we came home with those little tags that we were to wear when we were taken away. But I just remember that building. And of course I'm accustomed to that building 'cause the grocery store was right next to it. And we used to go into both the grocery store and Anderson Hardware and also the dry goods store which was across the street from there. So, that whole area is very familiar to me because I was the one that had to do the grocery shopping.

DG: And your whole family went down together to, to register. Were you interviewed at that time?

MW: I don't remember being interviewed, but they could have been. And, you know, being that I was not the oldest one in the family... for my mother, it was, it helped because my brother was older and my sister was, my sisters were older, so it probably helped her, if they did interview. But the main thing was, I think, getting your age and your birthdays and things like that so that they could record it.

DG: And do remember hearing discussions that the older siblings and your mom might have had at that time about what was going on?

MW: Well, I do remember my mother worrying about us having to go thinking that we shouldn't have to go, and being interned because we were citizens. And she said, "I can understand them wanting to take us," because -- meaning her -- because she was not a citizen. But that was not by her choice, it was because they weren't allowed to become citizens. And, and then later, when she was, she went to English school in camp and everything, and later when they did allow them to become citizens, she did become a citizen. But in those days, in 1942, she just thought it was very wrong for us to have to go to a camp also.

DG: All right, but I guess you were headed anyways.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

DG: And so what do you remember of that period when you were preparing to leave and you realized you had to start getting ready?

MW: Well, I think preparing to leave was probably the hardest thing for, for my mother especially because she had to, she had to help with my brother, of course, and my sisters. She had to move things out. We had good friends by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Hyde who my dad leased land from, to plant his strawberries. And they had a big barn so they said that you can bring a lot of your goods over and put 'em in the barn, like, you know, my mother's sewing machine, which was one of the mainstays in the house 'cause she always sewed our clothes. And, and I suppose, I don't know whether they took the refrigerator and things like that which were awful large items to take. But they took things that, that she felt were very important to have back. And I'm sure they were very busy doing that while we were gone to school. 'Cause I didn't see all of it going at all. And, I guess that's, that's just one of those things that we were lucky to have a friend like that that would take everything that you wanted to, to leave behind.

DG: And what do, what was it like for you to be going to school knowing you were leaving soon?

MW: I felt, I felt a little strange thinking, wondering what our friends in the class were thinking about it. And, because we felt quite humiliated that we would have to leave when we didn't do anything. And, but it was... and of course, Bainbridge being the first groups to go, it was a very new experience for everyone. And, so leaving school was very difficult because you were worried about what the other students thought about you. And I guess that's the main thing that was foremost in my mind, that we hope that they didn't think we were bad people. Whereas we were placed to look like bad people.

DG: And do you remember how you were treated by your classmates?

MW: We were treated the same. They never said anything derogatory to me or anything like that, because I think we had good friends. We were all... we all got along very well. So, I would say there was, I don't remember anybody really saying anything to me that was, that was very bad.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: And I guess... can you tell me what sort of things, you, as a young ninth grade girl, took with you to camp?

MW: [Laughs] Well, that's, I think I, we only took what we had to take, 'cause we only had one suitcase that we can take. And, of course, in that suitcase you're trying to put maybe a sheet or so, that you can have for sleeping. And the rest is your clothes and your shoes. And so you're not taking any toys or anything like that. You might -- and I don't recall if I put any books in there. Like, it would be only schoolbooks that you would put in there if you did take any books because one suitcase for the rest of your life, that we thought, isn't a lot of space to put things. And that's the way we traveled, and with a tag on the suitcase and a tag on our body. And of course everybody wore their best clothes because they didn't want to put it in their suitcase. And I remember, you know, my girlfriend, one of my girlfriends now, she sees the pictures of my sister and us walking down the dock and she could see that they're dressed up and they have hats on and everything. And she says, "Why did you dress up to go to camp?" And I said, "Well, we had no place else to put it except on our body, because you had one suitcase to carry." So, the good clothes you wore.

DG: That makes sense.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

DG: So, let's go ahead and move to that day. And if you could take me, and just remember back to the day you had to leave, and take me through what you went through in the morning all the way to traveling to the dock and getting on the ferry and so forth.

MW: Well, we had to wait for the, the big army trucks to come, and they came to pick us up. And I don't recall whether there was another family on there or not. But, they, we have, you know, quite a number in our family. There were of course seven of us, because my dad was gone. And so they had to put us there, in there with suitcases. And, and I just remember going to the dock and at the time I didn't realize it was the dock across from the Winslow dock, because you just know you're going to the ferry boat. And so we went over there and of course then you have all the rest of the Japanese people there, and, and all their luggage. And so we just piled there with everybody else, and then waiting to go on the ferry. And, of course, I should say we were -- when the trucks came by, of course, it's all soldiers, and so they came by with their guns and they stand there at attention while we're doing that. And so that was another, I guess, scary moment for us because we're standing there with all the military around us as if that we had really done something bad, and so they were gonna take us away.

DG: And what emotions do you remember feeling personally as a young girl?

MW: Well, I didn't want to look at... I didn't want to look at anybody I knew there. Because I felt ashamed to be having to go away and then, of course, when the ferry dock went off and we landed in Seattle, we were marched over to the train, trains that were on the tracks right there. And I just recall seeing all those people hanging over the viaduct looking at us, and I felt like we were strange animals because they were all there just to see you leave. And of course, no place, nobody else had ever left for a camp. So, it was a, a very scary experience for us, not knowing when we would, if and when we would be back at all, and where we were going. We didn't know where we were going. And just that there were all the military there to load us on and, and that's where we went. And we went all the way, of course, to Mojave, I believe. I thought it's either Mojave or Bishop in California and out in the Mojave Desert. And then they just made us go on the, right onto the busses and we just drove for, I don't know how long, on the bus, and landed up in camp.

DG: Can you describe more that, the trips on the, from what you remember of the train and the bus?

MW: On the train, I, I think it was after we, after we got to know the military. 'Cause they weren't, I think they were just as scared as we were, because they were young military. And then when everybody started just to play cards and things like that on the, on the train just to kill time, well, they would be there to watch and they got to know the people better. So, and they were from New York, so they had the Brooklyn accent, which was very interesting. And, but in the end they became, we all became good friends. Because they knew that we were just ordinary people like they were. And they didn't know what to expect themselves, being that they were, they came to take people away to be put into a camp. And so in the end, they were as sad as we were when we left them. But going down, at least we had sleeping quarters, so that was good for us. And of course that was my first train ride, so that was something different. And, but not knowing where we were going was, again, something that we were very afraid of. And not being able to look out to see the scenery, too, would be, was something that, you know, we just figured we just have to look inside and not worry about what's outside.

DG: And tell me why you couldn't see, why were you not allowed to look out?

MW: Well, they pulled the shades and I, and I suppose it's for both ways, for our goods and for whomever's on the outside, not knowing what the feeling was on the outside, to see all the people of Japanese ancestry on a, on a train.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

DG: And now you, the train arrives and you get on a bus, and can you tell me... at this point you must, oh, again, at this point on the journey, what are you thinking and feeling?

MW: Yeah, so then, well, we're just on a bus, so we just know it's, it's another portion of the travel. And then we come into this barren, oh, all you see is desert down there, because we were in the Mojave Desert. And then when we arrived in camp, the workers that were there -- we were the first family groups to arrive -- so the workers that were there were there standing to gawk at us and we looked out at them and we went, "Oh my gosh." And some of 'em had, they were all, to me, we called them bachelors at the time because they didn't have their families there. They were people that they had recruited in California to help build the camps, and at the time we didn't know that. But we looked out and we'd see people that had Mohican haircuts and dressed, you know, because it's very hot weather and we weren't accustomed to that. So, here we're all wearing our suits and everything like that. And so, we just thought, "Oh, this is very strange." But, we, we just got off and went to... I suppose we just went to our barracks that they assigned us to.

And I can remember going, they told us to go for lunch. And so they, we had to go across a firebreak to lunch. And we went in for lunch, and the first thing I saw was these tin, tin pans and the tin great big cups, and all they smelled of was Clorox because they'd have to wash it in Clorox to get the bacteria out, I suppose, and so our first lunch was those little canned wieners. And I don't remember whether there was sauerkraut with it or not, but I remember I couldn't eat it. And all we did was... and it was because it was the smell from the pan. And, and actually it's, the pans were what you would use if you were camping at scout, nowadays. But that's, that's what we were using at that time, and I guess that was army, army gear, right?

DG: And can you describe more of your first impressions of camp, of where you lived, and again more of the men you saw there?

MW: Okay, we lived... they were black, black tar-papered barracks, and they had 'em divided into -- it was about fifteen by a hundred, and they had 'em divided into four quarters. And so each family would have one of those quarters, which would be only be about fifteen by twenty at that time, right? And, and they had a little, a little oil stove in there for our heat. There's no sink or running water. And we had to go and put ticking in, in a bag for our mattresses and bring it back to put on the cots. And so we would line, we lined up our cots, because there were seven us, that we had to line up four on one side and three on the other. And there were no closets or anything, so, eventually we put a bedspread up for closet space so that you could at least dress in privacy. And you had to, I remember, I remember outhouses. And they had two outhouses in between two barracks, so that's where you'd go for your bathroom. And actually, no running water. I don't know what we did, whether we, they had the laundry room running water or not. But, eventually they had the latrines and the, and the laundry rooms fixed up, and the shower. But the latrines, after they fixed them up, or course, we didn't have any dividers in them, so it was all open. And that was an experience. Because you didn't have any privacy at all. And neither did you have when you were taking a shower, because it was one room with, let me see, I think it had four showerheads coming out of there. So, if there were four people in there, well then you'd have to wait your turn and take your shower after that. And you would get quite dirty and dusty there because the desert is very sandy and the wind blows and your, your hair is always full of sand and so is your apartment. Because your apartments have, weren't sealed so that the dust would, would not come in. As a matter of fact, they used to come up through the floors.

DG: And I know I keep asking you about your feelings and emotions, but if you could describe to me what, what sort of emotions you were, were feeling when you first arrived and as you got used to living there.

MW: Well, like when I first arrived I, you know, you just, you're just in shock because you had never lived like that before. And, but when you're there... because you know that you have to get along and do the best you can, well, you just adapt yourself to the conditions that you're in. And they're not pleasant conditions, but there isn't anything else you can do except to do that. And I think it's because of the way we were raised, because we weren't, we weren't ever a rich family so you always were in a... able to adapt yourself to whatever conditions you had.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: And then so you started living in the camp, what sort of things did you do as a young child? How did you occupy your time?

MW: In camp?

DG: In camp.

MW: Well, we did a lot of walking and watching other people come in because we were the first family groups coming in. And, and seeing the other blocks -- we were all in blocks -- and seeing the other different areas being prepared for the incoming people. And of course we always went, had to go to the mess hall for breakfast lunch and dinner or else you would starve because there wasn't anything else for you to eat. And, and we were there with people that we knew, you know, all the people from Bainbridge Island, so you would just talk and play games with them. And, and we didn't do a lot of organized games but then also, because we had -- like my sister was a senior, too, that year in Bainbridge Island, and there were quite a number of, I don't remember how many, but there were quite a number of the Japanese students who were seniors. So they kinda took over and they corralled us young people and tried to make us study because we didn't finish our school year. Because that was, you know, March yet. And you have March, April, May, June... April, May, at least two more months. So they tried to make us study and learn from the books that they had or didn't have. So that was, I can remember them doing that, and I thought that was... when I think back I think that was really something for them to take it into their own hands to take care of us that way.

DG: So before there was any formal school set up...

MW: That's right, that's right. They did that before there was any formal school set up. And the formal school didn't come probably until the next September. And we had to go down to Block, I think it was Block Two. And there was nothing there for us except we sat on the floor because there was no furniture and there weren't any books. But they did bring in some, some teachers. And so they did the best they could also without the supplies. And I don't know what we learned, but that's the way it started. So that's the way our schooling in Manzanar started.

DG: And was schooling year-round or did you take summers off?

MW: No, schooling wasn't year-round because they didn't have schooling in the summer, that I can remember. And I don't know whether they had anything else... they did start, later on, all these baseball, baseball games started. And when I look back... I was looking back at one of our annuals, which is a good couple years later, and I thought all I did was play baseball and walk around the camp, but I saw myself playing basketball and, and of course we did a lot of singing with those... in those days we had music sheets, and you could buy 'em in the stores. So I suppose that we bought them in the canteens and so we'd all get together and just sing. Because what else better was there to do than to hear our own voices that weren't very adapt to singing. But we had fun doing that. And then of course we had, they eventually had dances, so we were able to do that. And, but most of the time it was, it was sports games. Until they really went into more of that in a more organized fashion.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

DG: And what were your parents and your older siblings doing at this time?

MW: My, my mother... and my mother and dad -- well, my dad wasn't there at the time -- but my mother was working in the kitchen. So she got a job working in the kitchen. And in those days I think they paid those help like sixteen dollars. And the help, the professional help got nineteen dollars. And you can't imagine how the doctors and dentists felt getting nineteen dollars a month, but that's what they were allowed. Anything, anyone that were called professionals were given that and all the rest of the people were non-professionals, so they were given sixteen dollars, just three dollars' difference. That's, that's very degrading, I would say. And, but eventually when I got little older... oh, I do remember working in the camouflage net. And we'd weave those camouflage... what do they do, just strips of material and you'd weave those. It's gunny sacks; that's why it's very dusty, dusty job. And eventually I quit that. I only did that for about two weeks. And then I went and, because my girlfriend told me that the teacher, our teacher, our English teacher said that we could have a job cleaning their barracks, their apartments, and that was the professional people that came in. So, I had a job, the job of cleaning the apartment of the director of, of accounting there for the government. So I cleaned his house once a week. And, and I remember my girlfriend cleaning her, the English teacher's house once a week. And you really would have to clean because it was so dusty. But that was a better job than, for us fourteen-, fifteen-year-olds, fifteen-year-old people. Well, I guess I probably had to wait 'til I was sixteen to do that. But it was a better job than working otherwise.

DG: So, you were cleaning houses of... were these Caucasian people who came in to teach?

MW: Yes, yes, uh-huh.

DG: Okay. And they were outside of the camp or inside?

MW: They, well, they came from outside of the camp but they lived in the camp. And they probably, maybe went out on the weekends. But, I don't know. But they came in, they, they had apartments in camp, and they looked different than ours. They weren't tar-papered barracks. They were, they looked... they were cream-colored, so they looked much nicer. So you could tell the difference.

DG: And what sort of relationships did people have with them? Was it strictly professional or did they...

MW: Yes, yes it was, they were good. And they were... some of the teachers were, I was told, were, of course, Quakers. And so they would be more than happy to come in and help. And I don't know where they all came from. They all probably came from the California area. And then the professionals in the administration, they probably came from that area, too. I never did ask to find out where they came from. But the man that I had, that, the apartment that I cleaned, eventually he told me to come and work in his office, so I did. So I worked in the cost counting office and I operated a typewriter that had a carriage that long. And what I did was I put in a sheet of paper that was that long, that was government at that time. And you'd have these little squares all across the paper and all the way down, and what I did was I typed numbers in there, five carbon paper numbers. And so if I made a mistake I would have to go back five carbon papers and correct it. But I learned how to do numbers very well. [Laughs]

DG: And was this in Minidoka by now?

MW: No, that was Manzanar. I never did, we never did go to Minidoka. Whereas the rest of the Bainbridge people did, there were five families that didn't, Takemotos was one of 'em. And Hayashis was another one. And of course Sumiko Koura stayed behind. She was married to Shig Furuta at the time and I think she stayed behind because she was going to have a baby. And so she stayed behind but went back, went later to Minidoka. And, let's see, I can't remember all, but there were, there were five families that, Bainbridge families that stayed. Because my dad had by that time come back from Missoula, Montana, and when the Bainbridge people were leaving, he says, "I am not going to another camp," which was understandable. He had been to one camp, and then he was transferred to our camp. And so he says, "I'm not going to another camp." So, that was okay, so we didn't go.

DG: And what did your dad tell you about being in, in the Missoula?

MW: Missoula? He didn't tell us much. I don't, you know, I don't think that, they didn't talk about things that were really bad and so I still don't know much about it. Except that when we went there, my sister and I drove up there to see the camp one day. And of course by that time -- that's Missoula -- and by that time, oh, that's a detention camp for immigrants, immigration. And at that time, all the barracks were gone. And so they're telling us, "This is where the barracks were, and this is where your people were. And this is where the Italians were." And this is, and those, those were the people who they took off the ships, where there was a, I understand there was an Italian ship that came in and of course when the war was in full bloom like that, they took 'em and put 'em in that camp. So I guess it is a retention camp for foreigners. And, but he, he never said anything about how they were treated or anything like that. He just was glad to come home and be with the family. So that's what he did. And he, he's a very quiet spoken person anyway. He doesn't whoop and holler and talk about all the bad things that are going on.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: Okay, I guess, if I can hear, I'd like to hear a little more about things, everyday things that went on in camp. I understand that that two of your siblings got married while you, during the war. Can you tell about their weddings and their marriages?

MW: Oh, well we, we didn't get to see anything like that. Because when Massie, when Massie got married, it was shortly after a riot that they had there, and so you weren't able to bring groups together for any kind of occasion. So, we didn't see anything at all. We weren't able to go to... and so they just got married in front of the priest and, and I suppose his wife was probably a witness. But that's all that we knew about.

DG: And your brother, did he leave camp?

MW: Well, yes, he, my brother, my brother officially got married in Chicago, and he, he was out there. And my sister Massie went out, and Kiyo went out, and Sue went out. And Sue went to Evanston. And she was working as a domestic in Evanston. And then when she left and went to Chicago, they called me out so I could finish high school in Evanston, Illinois. So I went to Evanston township high school. And I felt like a little pea in a, in a great big barrel because it was a high school with four thousand students. And, and so being there and not knowing anybody, like I didn't think I knew anybody, I was very, very afraid, and I was two weeks late anyway getting there. And so I was behind schools getting there, and then getting there and finding out that it was one of the high, high academic schools in the nation. I think that scared me more. But, but luckily I was, I was down getting my locker and my oldest sister, Massie, was with me 'cause she's the one that took care of me, and there was one person walking down the hall. And I looked at him and I went, "Oh, my gosh," and I knew him from camp. And I think that's what helped me a lot. Because I, I knew that I at least knew one person in the whole school. And, but it didn't take long to get to know others, especially you get to know people in just study hall. Which study hall, you have about a hundred, hundred students in there because it's great big room. But, and the people around you were very friendly, so it worked out fine.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: And can you tell me the process your family went through to make the decision for some of you to leave camp before the end of the war, and some to stay behind?

MW: Well, so long as you have a sponsor. And after they said that you could go out to do that, well then, of course my older brother, my brother and my older sisters all, all prepared for that. And so they had sponsors. And when you're, when you're, the first part of your family goes out, then it makes it little easier for the next part. So they can help get sponsors for you. And so by the time it was my turn and they decided that I should come out, well, I just took Sue's place in her home. And I went to school and worked as a schoolgirl. And she paid me, she, because all she wanted me to do was to cook and wash dishes. And, so she paid me for doing that and I didn't have anything else to do there because she had a housecleaner, she had a, a person that came in to wash clothes, and a person that came in to iron. And, so there wasn't anything for me to do, so I kept up her sterling silver on her big dresser. And so I don't think that it's, I just cleaned it all the time. And they were just a wonderful family. He was the head of the English department at Northwestern University and she was a stay-at-home mother, and they had two boys, and very, a very wonderful family. And so I, I just went to school and worked there. And then on the weekend I would go visit my sisters in Chicago.

DG: And how old were you?

MW: Well, by that time I was a senior. And another thing that I did do when I was a senior, I, I got an appendix attack. So, I ended up in the hospital and had my appendix out. And which, which was a very scary thing for me because I knew that my parents weren't there. I knew that I didn't have money to pay for it, and I just worried that it would be, I was a big burden to my sister and my brother. And so, I think when they came to see me, all I did was cry 'cause I worried about that so much. And especially because they're all out there trying to make a living and working at the same time. So, most of 'em worked domestic and went out to work also. Otherwise, 'cause you had to have a sponsor, and so that's the way they, they arranged it. And so then I thought, "And then I had to have appendicitis and make it worse." But, but -- and in those days they kept you in for five days. But, it worked out all right, and I went, and when I went back to school, I had this chemistry teacher who was an older lady. And she knew that I had just come from an appendectomy and I went right back to school 'cause I didn't want to miss anymore because it would be just so terribly hard for me to catch up. And she says, "You do not come in here and do any experiments because you just came out of the hospital and I want you to go back and go sit in your chair..." and it's because she was an older lady. So, in those days, they made you be very careful. Nowadays they just get you out of the hospital right now.

DG: And by sponsor, were... these were people who were willing to take you in, but you didn't, did you, did people have to work for them like you did, or...

MW: Yeah, most of the times, yes. You would, you would work as a domestic for them to earn your room and board. But, like, and she paid, they usually pay you some extra. Like most of my friends that were, came out from camp and worked also in Evanston... there, I met a lot of people there. They were working like for three dollars a week, and they would have to baby-sit quite a, quite late at night and then do their studies after that. And, and talking to other people that I know currently, they, they said they did the same things. And they had gone to Ohio, they had lived in Ohio and other places. But I was very fortunate because I had a family that didn't make me baby-sit, and she paid me ten dollars a week. So I was a rich lady.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

DG: And I'm, I'd like to kind of go backwards a little bit because you mentioned earlier a riot in Manzanar, preventing you from being able to gather after that. Do you remember anything from the riot? What happened...

MW: All I remember is this one friend of my sister that, in one of, one of the people that she used to go out with, his, his brother got killed. And they're, it's because they're standing there, watch, everybody goes just to watch. And so they, of course, I wasn't allowed to go down and look. And, and then the sentry in the tower shot into the crowd, and I guess he was one of those that got killed. And he was a young boy, like sixteen. But they're all there as, just looking to see what's happening, you know. And so I don't recall what started it or anything like that. But I probably should have read something about it, but I don't recall what it was now. And, so we just stayed in our homes. And I, I think that was in the summertime so we weren't going to school then.

DG: And how did that affect the atmosphere in the camp and...

MW: Oh, it was, it was, I think everybody was very leery and worried about what would happen to them. And they, you know, kind of stayed away from the edges of the fences because they would worry that they may get shot also. And I think everybody felt as worried about it as, as the next person, not knowing what was going to happen, if, if they did anything that they felt was out of place.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

DG: Can you remember any other instances that were sort of, that changed things in camp or that or that stuck out in your memory?

MW: You mean good or bad?

DG: Good or bad.

MW: That's, that's the only thing that I remember that was really bad, because most of us would stay in our own area, we didn't go wandering around the camp. And, and then, of course, I made a lot of friends in camp because by that time, all the Bainbridge people had left. So, I had friends that I went to school with, and that we still correspond. We still e-mail, nowadays. And the next, next, the week after next I'm going back to another Manzanar reunion because I figure that, you know, at our age we should do that, otherwise we won't see them anymore. But the good things are because we were able to play organized sports and have a school and, and have dances and music, music festivals, and movies that they brought in. And we would sit on, in the sand and watch the movie after dark. And, oh, we also, there was a little creek up there that called Bear Creek. And we were able to have a wiener roasts up there. So we would have a little, you know, at night, and you'd build a little fire and have wiener roasts. And that was a big treat, because it was something else to do. And other than that, you would have dances in the mess halls, and, and like I said, the movies. And just, oh and we, we also organized clubs, so we had many clubs. They had many girls' clubs and boys' clubs and what they would do is organize their dances and invite other clubs to the dances and things like that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

DG: All right so, yeah, you can tell me about life in Chicago then, after you've left the, Manzanar.

MW: Okay, I was lucky enough to have my sisters there, and my brother, and of course I went to school in Evanston. And after I graduated from Evanston... oh, and graduation with a thousand students and when you go up and get your, they call your name and you go up and get your diploma, all you do is get an empty diploma because they don't know whether you're gonna get the right diploma. No, it's not an empty diploma, it's a diploma with a name in it, but it's not yours. So then you have to go to a room and look for the person who has your diploma, and that took quite a while. But, anyway, that's what happens when you're in a large school and they hadn't organized it any better than that. And so then after I graduated, I moved into Chicago and went to work, and business school at night. So I worked during the day in a business office, and I went to business school at night because I couldn't afford to go to any other school. And so I learned how to become a court reporter. And so I went to stenograph, stenotype school. And so I worked that my whole life, until I quit, until I retired. And, and I worked, I lived at several places in Chicago, and was fortunate because I could go to see my sisters also. And I met some friends that were there from before so I had a very good time there. Until... and then my parents came out in 1945. So, went to meet them and they lived with my sister for a while, Massie, because she had a home. And we, and so I got an apartment with them in the south end of Chicago. And we left that apartment in about two weeks because we could hear these rats running all over the place. And I couldn't sleep all night long, worrying that, that they'd be coming and biting you or something like that, but, you know, you couldn't afford a real nice place, so you'd get these apartments. And then eventually we moved to north Chicago, by Wrigley Field because that's where my brother and his wife lived. And we got an apartment there which was much better. It was one, one-room apartment, so we had a Murphy bed that came down at night. And my dad worked at night, so it worked out fine because he would go off to work and the rest of us would go to sleep, and then he would sleep during the day when we were gone.

And then when my parents left to come back to Bainbridge, they came back with my sister, Sue. And so I don't know what our home condition was like because she was the one that had helped to get it in order so it would be livable. And I know that she did a lot of work and had to re-paint and clean. Because they had, I, I think she said they had animals and chickens, whoever lived there, and so she really had to clean the place. And, and, one of the Moritani boys helped her. And they lived right next door to us... next door is five, five acres, and then the next five acres, you know how that is in the country. But at least she had his help, and so she cleaned up everything. And then my brother came back later because Janice was born, so they, he couldn't come back with them right away. And he came back and got the big truck and, I don't know when he did that, and I don't recall at all, but he took the truck back and he loaded their things up on our big truck that we had for the farm, and they came back. So, I, when I think about it I think Tyke and Chiz both came back to Bainbridge Island with a child in the seat next to them. And all you have is three seats there, so I'm sure that was not easy. And, 'course he would have to drive the truck all the way back. So, that's a long journey. And when I think of those kind of things, I went, "I sure hand it to you for having to do all that." But, you go through all these hardships, and, and you do what you can. So... there isn't anything else you can do, if you, and you can't afford to really have somebody, have a moving van bring you back and take the plane and the train or anything like that. So, I remember that, they came back.

And then I didn't come back... and then Sue came back to Chicago after she got the parents settled, and, and she worked. And then she eventually got married to Robert Yonimitsu. And I made her a wedding gown because by that time she, you know, had spent a lot of money just getting the, the house cleaned up and everything like that on Bainbridge. And then my sister in Minnesota -- and she doesn't remember this, but I remind her -- my sister Kiyo was in Minnesota. And so she sent down the material for me to make the gown. And so Sue says, "Will you please make me my wedding gown?" And I went, "Me?" So we rented a, rented a sewing machine and I made her wedding dress. And, so that's how she got married. And then she, they moved into the apartment that I was in, and that was a one-bedroom apartment, so I slept in the kitchen on a cot. And that's what you did in those days because you couldn't do anything else. And we all went out, we all went out and worked. Bob worked and Sue worked and I worked. And, so that's the way it was. And it was a decent apartment, but small. Except you don't have a bathroom in your apartment, so you, you have a bathroom that you use with three other apartments. So every time you go you clean it well with Clorox and Comet and then you take your bath or your shower or whatever you're gonna do. But that's the way we lived, out in the city. And then, of course, when I came back -- oh, I think I came back about two or three years after my folks had come back, and then I went to work in Seattle and continued going to business school. So, it must have been a couple years, and commuted back and forth.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

DG: Now I remember you had said that your family was able to store some things like the sewing machine in the, in the, was it in the Hydes' farm?

MW: Uh-huh. Yes.

DG: Were they able to retrieve all of those items?

MW: Yes, I think we, they got those and I... course, you know, my brother and my older sister took care of all this. So I don't remember all of those details, but they did have them sent out to them. And, so how it came to them, I don't know. But, you know, they all used the sewing machine and things like that. And so that was one of those things that, a sewing machine was a must for a family and my mother always sewed, and she... 'course, my older sisters always took, she made sure that they took lessons learning how to sew. So, they were able to go to Seattle and take lessons and they learned how to sew.

DG: So, those things were sent to you while you were in Manzanar, the things that were stored at the Hydes'?

MW: No, they were sent to them in Chicago, uh-huh.

DG: Oh, in Chicago.

MW: That's why my brother had to bring all those things back. Yeah.

DG: And was the Hyde family still here on Bainbridge Island farming?

MW: Yes, they were still here. They were just an older couple. And Mrs. Hyde was, I think she was officially blind. And, and when I had Dale -- he was born in 1954 -- she made me a baby quilt that was appliqued with animals and it was so precious because I just thought, "She could hardly see and she did this." And so I kept it and so when, when -- I kept it for his baby -- so when Tana was born I had it for her. And, and, but I didn't send it to their home. And what I did was I baby-, we babysat her and she stayed overnight at our place a lot. So I put it up on the wall and so that when she woke up in the morning she would always be talkin' to the animals. So, it was just one of those things that I thought was so precious. 'Cause by that time, I'm sure that by the time Tana was born, the Hydes were gone. And they were such, such special people that I just thought I had to keep this. And then I know that I've, I've had it not so long ago and it went to one of the other kids.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

DG: Can you tell me more about how the community of Bainbridge Island... what the community was like when you returned?

MW: Well, I returned later, so, you know, everything had fallen into place already as far as the other people are concerned. And they're, and so as far as the community, it was just, I was just another person coming in and they probably didn't even know that I had come back because all the rest of the families that went back into farming or whatever they were doing were already here or, and or were at the grocery store like the Nakatas. And so of course they paved the way, and, which I'm very thankful for. And, and then I just came and joined the group and went to work in Seattle and went to school in Seattle and, and got back, commuted with some of my classmates that I hadn't seen for many years.

DG: So how did your family feel about being able to return to Bainbridge Island and return to their land?

MW: Well, my dad was very anxious to come back. He just, he didn't like Chicago and he didn't like the weather back there 'cause it was very, very cold. And he was a very skinny man so he was always cold anyway. And he was very anxious to come back to Bainbridge. And I think that because of what they had done in their years prior, prior to even having a family, and the, the way that they had to work, that they're, they're ready and willing to do anything to keep going and to make their life better. So, my dad wasn't one that complained. He just kept working and doing the best that he could to make the whole lifestyle better.

DG: And so how would you describe it was for him when he did return back? It was...

MW: Oh, I think, well, I'm sure there was hard work, but I wasn't here so, I think Sue would probably be able to tell you better. Or my younger sister would be able to tell you better because she was with them. And I wasn't with them for quite a number of years. Even before because I left earlier and then they came out later. And then even coming back, well, my sister Sue came back with them, with my mom and dad, and Shima. And so she would be able to tell you more how my dad felt. But my dad was just a hard worker so he would just dig in and start working. And I can remember when he was in his eighties, I went out and -- you know, I would think that he didn't have to do this -- but he'd be out digging and doing more drainage work out in the field. And, with the type of tools that he had. And I remember telling my husband, "Help him. Look what he's doing." And he just said, "I can't help him with the kind of tools that he's using." And so you know that our folks really worked hard with what they had. They didn't go out and buy new equipment, they, they just worked with what they had. And so, you know, you have more respect for what they did, and what they had gone through.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

DG: Wow, I know we've covered a lot. I'd like to just kind of move to the present now. We're building this memorial to the Japanese Americans who lived on Bainbridge Island during the war. And can you tell me your thoughts now after looking back on... what, how, how do you feel about the memorial being built?

MW: Well, I think it's, it's really, really great that they even thought about doing that. And it's meaningful because we were the first group to be evacuated to go to a camp. And so that, and the rest of the people didn't actually start out 'til a number of months later. And so being that we were a good test case, that's what I would call us, we were a test case, to go to a camp. And although they planned for all the rest of the people to go to camp, and they were building all these camps in the deserts, that the memorial would mean... it means a lot to remember what had happened so that, you know, we won't forget things like that. And by that time we'll be gone. But, so our, our relatives, children, and their children, will know what that's for. And, and all the other communities, too. Because they're connecting it to Minidoka because that's the closest other camp.

But I should say that Manzanar is well ahead in what they've done to create their camp like it was. And if you go there -- I went there not last year, the year before, when they had the pilgrimage -- and they have it so they do have one, one tarpaper barrack there to show what we lived in. And they have all the blocks numbered and then we have one block and somebody asked me, "What is the Children's Village?" And I said, "That's the... we're the only camp that had orphans." And they had orphans like even two, two weeks old over there, that had any type of Japanese ancestry. And I think hers was like an eighth or something like that. But they had, they had brought all the children from the California orphanages into Manzanar, and so that's where they raised those children. And, and then of course the monument for the deceased is still there. And the little baby ones, they have just the rocks that they picked up and they have it like that. And some of the bodies are gone, of course, have been buried in the homes that they live in now, in the areas, I should say. But they have quite a pilgrimage there. And then they have the large, it used to be the gym, and they have remodeled that with a ramp and so anybody with wheelchairs or handicap can get up it. And they have that remodeled so, with the whole history in there. And so they have lots of Bainbridge people in there, because we were the first ones there. And so it's, if anybody wanted to know history, that would be a very good place to go, and, it tells a lot, and it's very, it's very significant because it's all done. A lot of the places are thinking about it, but it's not done yet. But there's, but they started back twenty-five... they finally were able to get an okay and it took them twenty-five years, because they'd have to go through much legislation. And then the fellow who, one of the instigators, which was really hard on everybody else because he died just before the big opening. And so one of the, one of the reunions in Las Vegas that we had let the, his family had a nice video of him. And so it was the young people who did it and tried to do his history. Which was very good, but very sad for most of us.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

DG: And what was it like for you to return to Manzanar when you made that trip?

MW: Well, that was the second time I went there, and, but because I knew it was much better organized then. Because before when I went it was just the guard gate and nothing else there except the monument at the other end, right by the mountain. But the year before when I went there, I looked up at the Sierra Nevadas, it was the most beautiful sight. And I don't ever remember seeing it as a beautiful sight when I lived in camp. But, but because it was how many years after, that we looked at the mountain and we said, "We didn't we lived in this beautiful country right there." And so that was, that was one of the main things that we all noticed, is how pretty the mountain was. And, I guess in those days it wasn't pretty to us. And, and I think more so because we had so many dust storms. And luckily, that day we didn't have a dust storm. It was just a beautiful day, but hot, because the Mojave Desert is very hot.

DG: Did that bring back certain feelings and emotions to have returned?

MW: Well, because the last time I went I, I took my daughter, Naomi, she's the middle child, and we drove from L.A. and we drove up. So, I showed her the way, and then we stayed there a night, you know, because we knew we couldn't make it the whole way, and we went there. And so that was, I think, probably more emotional for her. And as we were walking around the camp, we had this, these other young people walking with us. And I would explain what the different, different places were, and then we'd come across these concrete slabs and so they said, "Well, how come this is here?" And I'd say, "Well, this is the laundry room." So you'd see this slab. And the next one, next slab was the women's bathroom -- actually, they call it women's latrine because it has the bath, the toilets, and also the shower. And he says, "Well, look at the mark of the toilets" And I says, yes. I says, "Well, that's where they were." And he says, "Well, the other one's right over there." And I says, "Yes, there was only a thin wall between the two rows." And so, you know, they were, I think they were as amazed as anybody. And then I said, "And then the next building was the one for the men." And, and he had a camera that, as I was talking, he would, he would keep... he says, "I have to do this because," he says, "I'm dyslexic, so I have, this is the way I learn." And I went, okay, that's fine. So we just kept going, and we talked and we walked all the way back like that. And I thought, well, that was really neat that we were able to at least talk to some other people. And there were lots of busses that came in, so lots of schoolchildren came in. And I understand that they have many busses that come there now because it is a learning area. And the park department does a wonderful job of that. And so they all come in there and they, and, you know, you have to go quite a distance for the children to come in there, because it's way out in the desert. And so I think it's very good that the school districts allow them to do that.

DG: And so what would you like an experience for visitors to the memorial, here on Bainbridge Island, what do you envision that would be like for them?

MW: Well, if, for the visitors?

DG: Yes, what would you like the memorial here to be? The purpose and...

MW: Well, I think it would be good to have the story of why we were sent away. And, because of hysteria and actually prejudice. And then why we were allowed to come back. Because they found out that it didn't do us any good, didn't do them any good to have us in camp like that. And we were a good working force that, that contributed to the economy. And anything that would help the people and the students know that we were sent away for no good reason and that we don't do that to, to different people who are born of different nationalities. I think that's the only thing that we could, we could hope for.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.