<Begin Segment 1>
MN: We are at the Lomita residence of the Kageyamas', we will be interviewing Keiko Kawahara Kageyama. We have Tani Ikeda on video and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. So Keiko-san, let's start with your father's name.
KK: Oh, my father's name is Kosa Kawahara.
MN: And what prefecture was he from?
KK: He's from Saga-ken, Shiota-machi, but I don't know the rest. [Laughs]
MN: Can you share a little bit about what you know about your father's early life?
KK: His what life?
MN: Early life.
KK: Early life? Oh, all I know is he went to school in Japan. And he was the, I think he was the youngest of all the Kawaharas, and he has... how many? I don't know how many brothers and sisters, but he had around three brothers, I think, that I know of. And I don't know how many sisters he had, but we went to visit them in Japan when I was about eighteen.
MN: Okay, I'll ask you about that later, but do you know when your father came to the United States?
KK: I don't know the year.
MN: Do you know what he was doing in the United States?
KK: Well, he was doing various things as far as I know. He worked on the, in the fields, he learned how to raise a pig. [Laughs] That's one of the things that he learned, and he tried his hand at raising pigs. But it wasn't profitable, so he quit. But I don't know too much about his life except that he got together with friends and he did whatever they were doing.
MN: Okay, let me ask you about your mother then. What was your mother's name?
KK: My mother's name was Nobu Kamichika. Very unusual Japanese name, but she lived about a block away from where my father used to live. And she used to see him going to school. And they would tell her, "Oh, he's going to school, you better get up," and all this.
MN: So they knew each other when they were young.
KK: Not too well, but they knew of each other. They knew, most people knew each other in the neighborhood. I don't know if they, I don't think they played together or anything like that, but they knew of each other.
MN: And then, so your parents got married, and then by the time they started to have children, do you know what they were doing in the United States, what kind of job?
KK: Well, they were farming. By that time my father had learned to farm, and he decided to marry my mother when he found a place to... you know, a house for her and everything. But the early part of their life I don't know too much about, because they never told me.
MN: So your parents, how many children did they have altogether?
KK: They had four.
MN: And where are you in the...
KK: I'm the top one of the four. So I had a sister right after me, about two years younger. And then after that, my brother came about five years later, and another five years later my youngest brother came.
MN: What year were you born?
KK: I was born in 1920.
MN: Where were you born?
KK: I was born in a farm, and I had a sambasan, Mrs. Harada, as my midwife. She delivered. So, anyway, my mother had gone to a nursing school in Japan, in Fukuoka, so she and this nurse, I mean, midwife, became good friends. So they knew each other. I mean, you know, most of the Japanese kind of stuck together during that time. Whenever they knew you were Japanese, and so they got together and talked about this and that. So my mother knew lots of people, even though she was from a foreign country, she knew lots of Japanese over here from different place. But mostly when her, people from her ken, Saga-ken, came together, they had newspaper around that time, so they congregated and had picnics and everything. So they knew, began to learn.
<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 2>
MN: Okay, so you said your mother went to nursing school. So did she do any sambasan duties here?
KK: No, because he had no way of getting to anyplace. So she got her certificate to be a nurse, but she never practiced.
MN: And then before we go on, I wanted to ask you, which city were you born in?
KK: Monebello, or Monterey Park, I don't know which it is. It's down in, I think it's down in Monterey Park.
MN: Okay. They're kind of close to each other.
MN: And what is your birth name? The name you were given at birth?
MN: Now, a lot of Niseis in your generation later adopted an English name. Did you ever adopt an English name?
KK: Yeah, Kay, K-A-Y.
MN: Oh, so you just shortened Keiko.
KK: I just, Keiko, shortening Keiko to Kay, 'cause it was easier.
MN: What is the first language that you learned?
KK: Japanese. [Laughs] So you know how hard it was for me to learn English, being the only child and away from people. I didn't know nothing. I was way behind.
MN: So how was it when you started kindergarten?
KK: I don't know. [Laughs]
MN: Well, did you have a hard time?
KK: I must have.
MN: But you must have started learning English pretty fast in kindergarten?
KK: Well, I guess so, I don't know. That I can't tell you, because I really don't know.
MN: Do you remember which kindergarten you started when you were living in Monterey Park?
KK: I don't know. I don't even remember the name of the school anymore.
MN: Do you remember what the ethnic makeup of the school was?
KK: Oh, they were all hakujin, and a few Japanese, because there were Japanese living around there.
MN: How did the hakujin students and teachers treat you?
KK: Now, that I don't know, because they treat you like a human being. They weren't any different. I didn't feel that I was, you know, segregated or anything like that at that time. So I guess they treated me okay.
MN: Were you able to make a lot of friends with the hakujin kids?
KK: No, I kind of stuck to myself, I think.
MN: Can you describe the home that you lived in in Monterey Park? Do you have memories of that home?
KK: Yeah, it was like the... you know the Manzanar homes that we stayed in? They were built like that, more or less. And so when we went to Manzanar, it didn't make it that much different. [Laughs]
MN: So it was a wooden structure?
KK: It was a wooden structure.
MN: Ofuro outside?
KK: Yeah, ofuro outside, and the privy outside, too. [Laughs]
MN: What did you use for toilet paper?
KK: Newspapers and toilet paper, I guess, whichever was handy.
MN: What kind of newspapers did you use?
KK: Oh, Rafu Shimpo. [Laughs]
MN: So your family subscribed to the Rafu Shimpo.
MN: How about like the Kashu Mainichi?
KK: Well, I don't know which they took, Kashu Mainichi or Rafu Shimpo. But which one was the Fujii-san?
MN: Kashu Mainichi.
KK: Well, then they took the Kashu Mainichi, not the Rafu Shimpo.
<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 3>
MN: When you were living in that area, did you start Japanese school?
KK: No. They didn't have any Japanese school around that time, I think, or not convenient for us to go to. There were a few Japanese families, but then they were all spread far and wide.
MN: When did you start going to Japanese school?
KK: Let's see. When I moved to Downey, I mean, moved to Hynes. It's called Hynes, but then everybody got together and they had a school in Downey that we all went to.
MN: So that was later in your life.
KK: Yeah, that was later. They sort of built the school, the parents.
MN: The Japanese school in Downey? They got together and built the Japanese school in Downey?
KK: Downey, uh-huh.
MN: So when you started to go to Japanese school, did you go every day or just Saturdays?
KK: No, just on Saturdays.
MN: Did you go all day or just half a day?
KK: Well, it's sort of this all-day thing. Take our lunch, and we all got together. So I met quite a few people, different people that lived in, around Downey and Norwalk. I think Norwalk has a Japanese school, too, but that was further away. And the one in Downey was the closest one.
MN: How strict was the Japanese school?
KK: Well, pretty strict. But then we were more interested in getting together and playing and all that, instead of studying.
MN: So when you went to Japanese school, did you have to line up and then bow to the emperor's picture?
KK: I don't remember doing that.
MN: Did you have to learn the Kimigayo?
KK: Well, sort of. But I don't know if it was... we just learned, that's all. They didn't say we had to or anything like that.
MN: Now, you said you went there to play with your friends. What kind of games did you play?
KK: Oh, jacks and jump ropes and stuff like that, baseball. The great American pastime. [Laughs]
MN: Was it at Japanese school that you learned how to play baseball?
KK: More or less.
MN: Was it all girls or mixed?
KK: Mixed. We usually play mixed. There weren't enough girls of the same age or enough boys of the same age. Because there were girls and boys of different ages going to Japanese school.
MN: So were you like a tomboy?
KK: Yeah, I was more or less like a tomboy.
MN: Now during lunch, what kind of lunch did you bring to Japanese school?
KK: Well, I wasn't one of these nigiri eaters. We just made sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich or lunchmeat sandwich. Very simple.
MN: So was that the same kind of lunch you brought to regular school?
MN: How often did your parents take you to see Japanese movies?
KK: Oh, whenever they had it at the Japanese school. They would rent a movie and show it. That's about the only time we got to see it, because they couldn't afford to take us all downtown to see a Japanese movie. So they would have... oh, they used to have a benshi, you know, somebody to act out the Japanese movie that we saw, which was fun. [Laughs]
MN: What kind of movies did they show?
KK: All different kinds, samurai and some love stories, some tear-jerkers.
MN: Did you understand the movies?
KK: Well, more or less.
<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 4>
MN: Okay, now, so you were born in probably Monterey Park area, but then your family had to move out.
MN: Do you remember why you had to move out?
MN: Then from Monterey Park I think you said you went to South L.A., does that sound right? That's where the big forest was.
KK: Oh... I think we moved to South Park, someplace in South Park first before we moved to Monterey Park. I think that's it. I think we... because I was still small then. I was a toddler, and I just started to go to school from there. And I remember walking through the forest to get to the school, and there wasn't any Japanese there. So I think I was kind of lonesome, and when they moved to this other place in Monterey Park, I think I was happier because there were more people there.
MN: So this was, and so when you moved back into the Monterey Park area, was this when you grew sweet peas?
MN: Is this when your family grew sweet peas?
KK: No, this was before. I mean, growing sweet pea was afterwards. On Atlantic Boulevard we rented a house and grew sweet peas along the street. But that was way later.
MN: But that was before Hynes-Clearwater, right?
KK: No... I don't think so. I think it was afterwards. I think we were living... no, how come? I don't remember.
MN: Because you, when you went to Hynes-Clearwater you went to your grammar school?
MN: And junior high school and high school. And I think you said the sweet pea area, you were only there about a year?
KK: Yeah, that's right. I think it was a transition when we moved from, I think we moved from Hynes where we were, 'cause our lease was up. And we went to grow sweet peas on the street and sell. And after we did that, I think we found another place by Compton Boulevard.
MN: Is this when you were farming under the wire, the line, electrical lines?
KK: Yeah, we were farming under the electrical wire at that time. That was later years. But, because I was going, I was going there when I went to Compton, I think.
MN: I know it's confusing because your family moved around so much.
KK: Yeah, they moved from Hynes to Montebello and back to Compton, I mean, Compton Avenue, but in Hynes.
MN: It was in Compton Avenue in Hynes, and that was when the Edison lines...
KK: Yeah, we farmed underneath the Edison line.
MN: Let me ask you about your move to the Hynes-Clearwater area. I think you thought it was around 1933, because the earthquake happened in 1933.
KK: Yeah, 1933. Yeah, that was something else. The earthquake happened and I was in the house with a pot of noodle, and that thing fell. We had electricity by the way at that time. And so the house, those houses were made on a foundation of one of these four by four... what do you call it, foundation. So one of 'em broke, I mean, slipped, and so the whole one end of the house went down. So they had to get somebody to come and push it back, but they had to use one of those, I don't know what you call those things. Anyway, we lifted it up and pushed the house back. But I could see my father coming home with his horse, and I could see them swaying like a drunkard, really swaying. It was something to see. But they came home okay. But that was an earthquake that I'll never forget.
MN: So your foundation went off of one end, did you sleep in your house that night?
KK: Oh, yeah. Nothing happened except that it just went down on one end, so they got some people to help, and they came and they got one of these hydraulic lifters and they pushed it back on its foundation.
MN: I want to ask you a little bit about Hynes-Clearwater. What is the area called now?
KK: Oh, it's called Paramount, and it's been Paramount ever since.
MN: And when your family moved in to do farming there, was your family the only Japanese American --
KK: No, there were, let's see, one, two, three, three other people that farmed in that area. Two right by the street, and then one in the middle. We were way in. We had a narrow dirt road that went to our farm area. And then you could see the railroad track going to L.A. from our end of the farm.
MN: So there were four Japanese American families?
KK: Right there, right in that area.
MN: How many acres did your family farm?
KK: Oh, let's see. We all had about twenty acres each, I guess.
MN: And you mentioned earlier that your farm had electricity.
KK: Yes, uh-huh. The owner of the property that we were renting, he had electricity pulled all the way to our place. So if you're the owner, I guess you can do that.
MN: So you had an electric stove?
KK: We had an electric refrigerator.
MN: So you didn't have an icebox, you had a refrigerator?
KK: Yeah, we had when we were living other places, but by that time we had an electric stove and an electric refrigerator.
MN: How about a washer?
KK: Oh, yeah, we had an electric washer, too. One of those first kind that we had was... let's see. Washer, big washer, and a small tub. And the small tub, it was connected to each other. So it would wring it out, and you'd take it out and then rinse it and then you put it back in there and put there through again. But it whirled. But before that, we had one of those cranking kind, a washing machine, too.
MN: So the washing machine that you had is very different from what we know today.
KK: Yeah, because it had a big tub to wash, and you put the wash into that little round thing, and then it would spin out the water. And then you change the water in the washing machine and you rinse it, and then you put it through the wringer again. I mean, it was, spin dry it. Before that, we had the washing machine, and dryer, we had to hand crank it to get the water out, and rinse it again, and put it through the wringer. But I don't know when that new one came in, but we did have it when we were living over in Hynes. But we had two kinds, but we had electricity.
MN: It was very unusual for a farm to have electricity.
<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 5>
MN: Now your family is farming about twenty acres. Did your parents have to hire outside help?
KK: Yeah. During the, when there was nothing to do, just the two of them did all the farming. Maybe it was fifteen acres, I'm not sure. But anyway, it wasn't that big of a farm, but it was called truck farming. And we had somebody come and pick up the finished product, and he would take it to market for us.
MN: So truck farming produce like lettuce, carrots...
KK: String beans, tomatoes, seasonal things. Spinach, green onions, corn.
MN: Now where did your parents sell these produce?
KK: We had, at the Ninth Street Market. We had somebody come and pick it up, pick up the finished product, then he would take it for us. So we had broccoli and carrots, parsnips. We used to grow parsnip, and not too many people know about parsnips. It was not too well-known, because you don't see parsnips in the market nowadays, not too many. But that's one thing that's hard to do. It looks like carrot, and you pick it, you take a stick and you have to, you know, a stick that's made like a cross, and you have to stick the parsnip in there and you have to wash it. It's too hard to wash, just wash it, so we just stick in a great big tub of water, and we used to get on top of the tub and swish it around to wash the parsnip. That was one of our jobs. [Laughs]
MN: And you said not many people grew parsnips.
KK: Even now, I see that they don't use too many parsnips, because I don't see them in the market.
MN: There aren't too many ways to eat, I mean, I think of like tsukemono, but that's the only thing I would think of to cook parsnip or eat parsnips. How did your family eat parsnips?
KK: Oh, they used to cook it, that's all. Eat it like carrots. There isn't much ways to eat parsnip, you know, not too many people like it.
MN: Now how young were you when you started to help out on the farm?
KK: When I was going to school I'd come home from school and help. And then I'd come in and then help my mother, help get dinner, and study a little bit, and then go to bed. Not much.
MN: So you helped out, like, after school, not before school?
MN: Did you help out on the weekends also?
MN: What did you do on the farm?
KK: Well, we'd go help weed, that's one thing we could always do. Thin carrots, you know, the carrots are all coming out, go around thinning it. So all these sorts of things. Easy things. Not always.
MN: Now, you're the oldest also, so did you have to do a lot of the housework?
MN: What kind of things did you do around the house?
KK: Well, sweep the floor, stuff like that. I'm not a good housekeeper anyway. Never was. [Laughs]
MN: Did you have to cook the food because your parents were working out in the fields?
KK: Yeah, if they're still working out there, I'd come home and at least cook the rice.
MN: Now did your parents have a separate garden, a smaller one where they raised Japanese vegetables for home use?
KK: Well, they used the closer part for nappa and stuff like that. But otherwise... yeah, once in a while they had daikon and make tsukemono.
MN: How about chickens? Did your farm have chickens?
KK: Yeah. We had chicken roaming around. But I didn't do the... I never cooked the chicken, cut its head off or anything like that. Never did in my life.
MN: So I guess your father probably killed the chickens?
MN: Plucked them.
KK: Between my mother and father, they used to do that, plucked the chicken and cut the head off.
MN: How often did you eat chicken?
KK: I don't know. I think most of the time we had chicken or fish. Oh, we had a fish man come around, so we had fish quite often. Fish and tofu and stuff like that.
MN: How often did the sakanayasan come?
KK: Once a week. So we had tofu and stuff like that, kamaboko, anything you want, he'd have.
MN: So he didn't only sell fish, he sold tofu, kamaboko...
KK: Yeah, other stuff too.
MN: A lot of the perishable stuff then, huh?
KK: Yeah, perishable. And then he had, he would carry pumpkins, like kabocha and daikon and stuff like that, too. So it helped.
MN: What sort of fish did you grow up eating?
KK: Saba, sashimi.
MN: Sashimi, would you use maguro?
KK: Yeah, mostly maguro.
MN: At home, what kind of food did your mother cook?
KK: Okazu. [Laughs] Chicken with vegetables, vegetables and tofu with soy sauce.
MN: Now, you had the sakanayasan come over, but if you had to get, you know, sacks of rice or things like that, shoyu, where did you go and purchase that?
KK: I think, I don't know where we got those things. But then I think my parents went to Japanese Town to buy those.
MN: Did they take you to Japanese Town?
MN: Did your parents take you to Japanese town when they went to go buy things?
KK: Well, most of the time they didn't. We stayed home most of the time. Just my father went to buy stuff.
MN: Now, you're growing up during the Great Depression. Did that affect your family farm at all?
KK: Oh, yeah. Carrots were selling for five cents a crate. That was lots of bunches. It was just like giving it away. So we had to eat a lot of carrots and vegetables because we were growing vegetables. We didn't have to suffer that much. We didn't have to go and buy stuff. So we had enough to eat. We'd just eat vegetables if we couldn't buy meat.
MN: Now I know the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, used to bring some of the city people to the farms. Did they ever bus?
KK: No, we never had anybody like that working at our place.
<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 6>
MN: Let me ask you a little bit about your education now. When you moved to the Clearwater-Hynes area, do you remember which grammar school you went to?
KK: Well, we went to Lincoln grammar school. What was the junior high school called? I forgot what the junior high school was called.
MN: Was there a Clearwater junior high?
KK: Oh, yeah, it was called Clearwater junior high school. And then Compton college.
MN: High school. Compton High School.
KK: High school.
MN: How did you get to your schools? How did you get to Lincoln High School? I mean, Lincoln grammar school?
KK: Lincoln grammar school. Oh, we had to walk about three, four miles to school. But we walked it all the time. No car, no nothing. So we walked it, rain or shine.
MN: How about the Clearwater junior high?
KK: Oh, that was closer, and we walked that, too. Only time when we had bus transportation was when we went to Compton High School for two years and junior college for two years.
MN: Oh, so high school was only two years? Compton High School? And then you went to Compton junior college?
KK: Uh-huh, for two years.
MN: Now, you were very athletic. Let me ask you about some of your sports activities at Compton High School. Can you share with us that archery class you took?
KK: Oh, yeah. They had an archery class, so I took archery, learned how to, you know, pull a bow up to your thing and let go, things like that. And it was a lot of fun.
MN: Was this an all-girls or a mixed class?
KK: Oh, yeah, this was all girls, well, the ones when I took lessons, it was all girls.
MN: Now, did you have to buy your own bow and arrow?
KK: No, they had it at school. I don't know if they even offered that anymore at school. But they did.
MN: And then what did you shoot it at?
KK: Oh, haystack. They had haystack on the other end with a big bullseye thing pasted to it. Can't miss it. You either make it or don't make it. [Laughs]
MN: How good were you?
KK: Not too bad, but not that good.
MN: You were involved in other sports activities. What other sports did you play at Compton?
KK: Let's see. We played baseball, soccer, hockey with a stick. I guess that's... and volleyball. But that was about it. They didn't have any swimming.
MN: Did you ever get injured? 'Cause you're so active.
MN: You never broke anything?
KK: No, never got injured.
MN: Now when you were growing up, did they have, like, Girl Scouts?
KK: I don't remember if they had Girl Scouts, but I never participated.
<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 7>
MN: Let me ask you now about some of the activities you did with your parents. Before the war, did you go to, like, the Saga Kenjinkai picnics?
KK: Yeah, we went to Saga kenjin picnics. They had it at Arroyo Seco Park, usually, and that's when I got to see other children my age or older or younger. My mother's friends, we became friends with everybody. Well, it's harder for the children to get to know the other kids that age, but then I knew a few. But I think it was mostly for older people, my mother's age, because she didn't have that many friends here, so those were the only friends that she had, the ones that came to the picnic.
MN: What kind of obento did your mother make for the picnics?
KK: Oh, they made nishime, rice balls, some people made fancy sushi and chicken, teriyaki chicken and beef. Almost like Oshogatsu food. But my mother wasn't that good of a cook. So she usually went, we were offered other people's bento that were better. [Laughs] And we really enjoyed it.
MN: What kind of games do you remember playing at the picnics?
KK: Oh, you know, they had sack race, three-legged race, and spoon with egg race. Does that sound familiar? All those different kind of races. They always had good prizes for the kids to enjoy. And we used to love to go, because they had good prizes.
MN: What kind of prizes did they give out?
KK: Oh, bags of senbei, pencils, games, small games, yo-yos, things like that. So anyway, it was fun.
MN: How about like holidays? Did your parents observe Christmas?
MN: Christmas. What was your Christmas like?
KK: Well, we got one thing. Everybody got one thing for Christmas; that was it.
MN: Is there a memorable Christmas you remember from before the war?
KK: Nothing like the Christmas we have now. It's, everything was sparse. If you got one thing, you were lucky. Because my parents weren't that rich.
MN: Let me ask you about Oshogatsu then. What did your family do for Oshogatsu?
KK: Oh, they had mochitsuki, you know, the people that lived around us, they all got together and had a mochitsuki. And we went to each other's house. But some people cooked a lot better than others. [Laughs]
MN: Did your father like to drink a lot during the holidays?
KK: No, he never drank. But, you know, my mother used to make sake. She'd get kouji and make sake, and the man that came to pick up our vegetables, he loved to drink. So my mother would always give him some. [Laughs] He made it a point to come over and have some.
MN: How about like Brighton Beach? Did you go to Brighton Beach or White Point?
KK: Yeah, we used to go to White Point. Not very often, but that's where all the Japanese went for picnics, and other people had picnics there, White Point and Brighton Beach. And I know we went a few years, but I don't know too much about Brighton Beach.
MN: When you went to White Point, did your parents go into the hot springs?
KK: To the where?
MN: The hot springs at White Point? Did your parents...
KK: No, I didn't even know about it.
MN: So usually you just swam in the waters?
KK: Oh, yeah.
MN: How about like I know when you were growing up, I always hear a lot of the teenagers liked to go skating at the shrine. Did you do that?
KK: No, never went skating. I never learned to skate, I still don't know how to skate. [Laughs] I never learned to swim and I still don't know how to swim. But my two daughters, I sent them to swimming school over here in Narbonne, and they were good swimmers, so they competed in swimming and all that.
MN: Your schedule is like you're going to school every day, then you help out on the farm. Saturdays you usually went to Japanese school, and then Sundays, what did you do? Did you go to church?
KK: No, we didn't even go to church.
MN: What did you do on Sundays?
KK: Play. [Laughs] Play or help. There was no Saturday, Sunday.
MN: Let me ask you about your first driving experience.
KK: Oh, that is some experience, I'm telling you. I was learning to drive, I was doing fine, and then I went out in the street, I was coming back, and I didn't step on the brake enough. I made a turn and I landed right between the telephone poles and the guideline. I didn't have a scratch, but it scared the dickens out of the driver who was teaching me and myself. [Laughs]
MN: Now, what kind of car were you learning to drive on?
KK: A Model A. And that has a lot of pedals and things that you have to work. And when I first started out, I was going do-do-do. [Laughs] Jerk-jerk-jerk. But nowadays, it's so easy, you just make, you can just drive. But during those times, you had to use your feet and your hand. It was hard to coordinate.
MN: It's amazing that you didn't crash into anything.
KK: I didn't crash into anything, but that really scared the dickens out of me.
<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 8>
MN: Now around 1937, you visited Japan. Can you share with us why you went to Japan?
KK: Oh, my mother was having problems, female trouble, and she was bleeding a lot. And so she wanted to be seen by a doctor in Japan, so I took her. She had treatments at Japan, and she got better. So I brought her back home.
MN: Let me ask you about that trip. Which port did you leave from?
MN: Which port did you leave from?
KK: Oh. That's right, we went on a boat, huh? During that time there wasn't any plane, so we went on a boat. I think it was called the Chichibu Maru, and we landed in Yokohama, I think.
MN: Did the boat stop in Hawaii at all?
MN: Did you get seasick?
KK: Oh, did I get seasick at first. For the first few days I had a hard time walking, getting around, but I got there. [Laughs] I got used to it.
MN: And then you mentioned that you landed in Yokohama?
MN: What was your first impression of Japan?
KK: Oh, I thought, gee, it was small and it was... I thought, "Oh, my gosh." I think during that time they didn't have a earthquake yet in Yokohama. It was afterwards they had that big earthquake. So it was nice. I forgot what, it must have been in the summer that we went. Otherwise I'd be, I think it was real hot. And I remember being hot in Japan, too. Very humid hot. And I was just perspiring. But we got to Japan and got on a train. I guess they had shinkansen then. I'm pretty sure they had shinkansen. But everything was old. They had furo in Japan, but I was used to the furo anyway.
MN: While your mother was in the hospital, what did you do in Japan?
KK: I stayed at her home, her brother's home. And there wasn't anything to do, so I just sat and walked around the neighborhood. And there was no way I could talk that well to these people, I had a hard time communicating with them. So I kind of sat around. I should have gone around and looked at everything a little bit more, but I was scared to.
MN: Did the neighbors tease you for being an Amerikajin?
KK: No. The neighbors are, they kind of keep to themselves. They don't come snooping around. [Laughs] Well, they didn't at that time.
MN: And were you able to go visit your mother at the hospital?
MN: How long were you there?
KK: About a week. I think my mother was there for so many days in the hospital, maybe five days, and then she came home. And she couldn't do much after she came home, so we just stayed around, she talked, and I just watched. [Laughs]
MN: Did you understand most of what your mother was saying in Japanese?
KK: Yeah, more or less. I knew just about what they were saying, but I can't understand all the Japanese words, technical words I don't know. So just conversation, okay.
MN: So you said your mother was in the hospital for about five days, then she had to recuperate. So were you there about two weeks in Japan?
KK: Well, she was able to walk around, so as soon as she was able to walk around... so we were there about a week, I think. We weren't there that long. So I didn't get to see much of anything.
MN: What memories do you have of coming back, the boat trip back to America? Did you get seasick again?
KK: It wasn't that bad this time.
MN: When you were going out from Yokohama, did you see Fujisan?
KK: No. You can't see Fujisan all the time. It's cloudy, there's clouds there all the time. Even when I go on the shinkansen, can't see it.
<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 9>
MN: Okay. We're coming back from Japan now. Now, when you came back, and you probably went during the summertime, when you came back, you went to Compton High School, and I think you graduated from Compton High School. Now, what year did you graduate?
KK: I have a picture of my graduation, but I forgot what year I graduated.
MN: Does '38 sound about right?
KK: I guess so, something like that.
MN: Do you remember what your graduation was like?
KK: That's so long ago, all I know is I had my cap and gown on and we marched down to the bleachers. It was outside. I don't even know who the main speaker was. I don't remember.
MN: When you were going to Compton High, what was the demographics? I mean, what was the ethnic makeup of the students?
KK: Oh, the ethnic makeup? Let's see. There were a few Japanese, a few Mexicans, a few kurombos, and mostly hakujin. Mostly kurombo and hakujin, even then.
MN: Now, what did you do after you graduated from Compton High School?
MN: What did you do after you graduated from Compton High School?
KK: Let's see. I couldn't find a job, couldn't do anything, so the place where my sister was staying in South Pasadena, this lady said she wanted help, so I went to help her.
MN: But your sister below you was doing schoolgirl work?
KK: Yes, she was going to school from Mrs. Porter's place.
MN: And then you went to go help Mrs. Porter's friend's place.
KK: Yeah, uh-huh.
MN: And by this time, were your two brothers helping out on the farm?
KK: Oh, they were always helping out on the farm ever since they were little.
<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 10>
MN: So now we're getting close to the war, so let's get into the war years. What were you doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?
KK: I was at this lady's house. And there was some whispering going on, and I said, "Oh, that's funny." And then I heard about the war and I said, "Oh, my god, what am I going to do now?" So I went home, and my parents were all wondering what to do and everything, they were looking at the newspaper all the time, and she was talking to all her neighbors. One of the neighbors that we knew, they said, "You could sign up to go to Manzanar." Then you don't have to go to Arkansas or other places. So we signed up to go to Manzanar, that's how come we went to Manzanar.
MN: Before you went into camp, do you remember your parents burning Japanese books?
KK: Reading Japanese books?
MN: No, burning Japanese books, burning them?
KK: I don't know. We didn't have that many Japanese books around.
MN: What did your family do with the electric stove and the refrigerators?
KK: Oh, the electric stove and the refrigerator, I think we left the stove. Refrigerator, we had it stored at my sister's, Mrs. Porter's place. She had extra room, so she let us use the one room to store our bookcase and our books and refrigerator. Not the stove, we left the stove. We left the beds and everything. We tried to sell most of the stuff. My parents sold their... we had a Mexican family man working for us, so he bought the house with whatever there, so he can move his family in, and we left everything for him.
MN: Do you remember what day or month you left for Manzanar?
KK: It was in the spring. It must have been around this time. It must have been around April. It wasn't that cold, but it wasn't that hot either. It must have been around springtime that we went to Manzanar.
MN: Do you remember how you got to Manzanar?
KK: Yeah. I don't know how we got to where we were, but we all... I think we all went to Union Station and got on a train, special train, and went to Manzanar on the train. We didn't go on a bus.
MN: Once you got to the train stop, probably near Lone Pine area, did you get on a bus to get into Manzanar?
KK: Yeah, I think so, uh-huh.
<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 11>
MN: What was your first impression of Manzanar?
KK: Desolate. I thought, oh boy, just like no-man's land. Nothing there, just barracks. We weren't the first ones there, but close to the first ones. Because people came in after us. But anyway, they didn't even have a hospital then. That came later. Because when we signed up to work in the hospital, then we were assigned to Block 29.
MN: What was the first block that you lived in?
KK: The first block we lived in was Block 11, I think it was.
MN: Block 11? Was that near the Terminal Islanders?
KK: Yeah, not too far from the Terminal Islanders, next to the Terminal Islanders, I guess.
MN: Did you get along with the Terminal Islanders?
KK: Yeah. I mean, we didn't have any problems.
MN: What were some of the first things that you did when you got, walked into Manzanar?
KK: When I walked into Manzanar, our room, assigned room? Oh... I don't know.
MN: What did your room look like?
KK: Our room looked like... just like the houses that we used to live. But then it had, it was all open, you could see the cracks. Because they didn't have tarpapers and stuff yet at that time. And all, and the winds come blowing in, all the dust came in. Oh, it was really terrible. It was so dusty. Everything was dusty.
MN: Was it hard to breathe when there was a sandstorm?
KK: Well, we had to have handkerchiefs around our mouth all the time to keep the, to be able to breathe. But then it got better.
MN: Did it get better because people started to plant things?
KK: Yeah, uh-huh.
MN: Well, when you were first there, like even at night when you slept, did you have to have a towel over your face?
KK: No, no. It wasn't that bad by that time. After the first few days, we kind of put things around so that it wouldn't get so dusty. And as the weeks went by, they start to tarpaper the outside, so it wasn't so bad.
MN: How about the floors? Did they have linoleum from the beginning?
KK: No, they didn't have anything. So the dust would come from below, too, as well as side. [Laughs]
MN: When you first arrived, did they issue you coats and things, clothes?
KK: Yeah, uh-huh. They gave us a blanket, army blanket, one army blanket and a peacoat. I guess that was it.
MN: Did you have to get shots?
KK: Yeah, we all had to go get our immunization. I forgot what it was for, but it was two shots we got.
MN: I know some people got sick from the shots. Did you get sick?
KK: No, I didn't get sick.
MN: When you arrived in your barrack, did you have to also make your own mattresses?
KK: No, it was there already. Mine was there already.
MN: So someone had already put...
MN: ...the straw in your mattress for you?
MN: Was the mess hall finished?
MN: Was the mess hall finished?
KK: I think so, yeah, more or less. So we got to eat.
MN: What did you eat those first few days?
KK: [Laughs] I don't know what I ate for the first few days. I don't remember what we ate.
MN: Were you eating the same food as the army, army men, like the K rations?
KK: No, we didn't have any K ration. 'Cause I don't remember eating any.
MN: What do you remember of the food at Manzanar?
KK: Well, it was like a slop. [Laughs] Depends on the cook. Some people went for one, different ones because they knew that their cook was better. But I didn't go around.
MN: Like what did they give you for breakfast?
KK: Well, mostly cornflakes, I think it was.
MN: How about for lunch?
MN: What kind of sandwiches?
KK: Bologna sandwich, jelly sandwich. They weren't too inventive. [Laughs]
MN: What about dinnertime?
KK: Dinnertime was spaghetti or stew or okazu, whatever they made us. I don't remember too much about what kind of food we had.
MN: Let me ask you about the latrine, then. Was the latrine finished by the time you got in?
KK: Yeah, it was finished, as far as I know it was finished. But there was no partition. I think they put partition in later. But when we first went in, they had no partition. They had showerheads, and that was it.
MN: Now you're a young lady. How did you feel about that?
KK: I went when nobody else was in it. [Laughs] Nobody else was taking a shower.
MN: So when were those times?
KK: Well, during the day when nobody's there. Or late at night when nobody goes.
MN: I thought everybody waited until late at night.
KK: Well, go as late as possible.
MN: Like midnight?
KK: Yeah, past midnight.
MN: So they had hot water that late?
KK: Yeah. I think the later you went, the more hot water you got. Otherwise, if you go too early, most of the water's used.
<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 12>
MN: Now, at Manzanar, what was your first job?
KK: Well, I signed up for clerical work, and that was my job.
MN: Where was the clerical work at?
KK: At the hospital, keeping records of all the shots that everybody... they had a card, and then we went our card, and then when they got their shots, it was put down. So we had a record of everybody.
MN: So you were there before a lot of people came in to camp.
KK: Yeah, uh-huh.
MN: So when people came into camp, were you one of the clerical people?
KK: Yeah, writing down the things.
MN: And you were there before the hospital was built. So when you were doing this clerical work for the hospital, where was the temporary hospital?
KK: I don't know. When I moved, the hospital was already built and ready when we moved to 29. So I don't know where they were storing all the stuff.
MN: How about when you were helping people come, you know, the new people come in and you had to take their records, where was that done?
KK: In one of the buildings in the front as you go in. As they would come in, they would have them come to the building there. I don't know what building it was, but one of the first buildings there. They processed everybody through there first.
MN: And that was not a temporary hospital building.
MN: What did your mother do in camp?
KK: Oh, she signed up for nurse's aide, and she worked as a nurse's aide, too.
MN: What about your father?
KK: Oh, he signed up for farmwork. He worked on the guayule.
MN: So did your father know your future husband?
KK: Not then.
MN: So they weren't working together on the same place?
KK: Oh... well, they were working on the same project, but not in the same place.
MN: How long did you live in Block 11?
KK: Gee, I don't know, about three months or so, I think. Because most of my time was spent in Block 29.
MN: And that's where you moved to?
MN: The people who were living in Block 29, where did they mostly come from?
KK: From all over.
MN: So it was a mixed block.
KK: It was really a mixed block.
MN: So Block 29 is very close to the hospital.
KK: Yeah. And most people that were in Block 29 worked for the hospital in one capacity or another, or somebody worked there.
MN: Is that why you were moved to Block 29, or did you request Block 29?
KK: No. They moved us because we were, I was working at the hospital.
MN: When you were working at the hospital, did you go home to eat lunch, or did you just eat at the hospital?
KK: No, I ate at the hospital.
MN: What was the food like at the hospital compared to the mess hall?
KK: They were given the same, same type of a meal, so most of it was same. Depending on the chef, you know, on how they, whether they make stew or meatloaf or whatever, or hamburgers, depending on this.
MN: So your job at the hospital, did it keep you pretty busy?
KK: Yeah, more or less. We talked a lot, though; we had a lot of fun. [Laughs] I got acquainted with a lot of different people, and I'm still friends with them, a lot of them.
MN: What did you talk about?
KK: Everything. Nothing in particular. About people, about things that's going on.
MN: Now in December 1942, Manzanar had a riot. Do you --
KK: Oh, I don't know too much about the riot because I was way up there, and all I know is that somebody was, I think it was Tayama-san they were after. And he came to the hospital, and so they hid him in one of the rooms.
MN: Were you there when this --
KK: Well, I was there, but I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know that they hid 'em. And so... all I know is there was a riot.
MN: And you were not near where the people got shot.
KK: No. Nowhere near.
MN: Now in 1943, the government passed out the "loyalty questionnaire." Was that an issue in your family?
KK: Well, I don't know. But I don't think so.
MN: Your parents never talked about going back to Japan?
MN: And for yourself, you never...
KK: No, I didn't even think about going back to Japan.
<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 13>
MN: Let me ask you a little bit about how you met your future husband. How did you meet Akira Frank Kageyama?
KK: Well, let's see. He lives on the other end, so I see him go by. He didn't say hello to anybody. He goes right past. And then his sister worked in the hospital, you know, Mae was working as a steno there. So I knew of him. He was working on the guayule, and my father worked in the same guayule but he was more or less on the farm side. And I had a brother working there, too, and he was doing what my father was doing, taking care of the plants outside. Akira was doing something more technical. I mean, he was making cuttings and stuff like that and counting chromosomes. And then he got to know the, Dr. Emerson who was heading the project. He's the one that got all the plants and everything. He's the one that got Frank interested in counting chromosomes to see which ones would make a better plant, guayule plants. They were culling... what do you say? Differentiating the difference in the grade of the plant, how well it produces rubber and things like that. So he got to know Dr. Emerson quite well. He'd come and visit Manzanar every now and then, see how the plants are doing. There was another fellow that was a graduate of Berkeley, and he knows quite a bit about plants, too, because his father used to have the Nishimura Nursery. So he knows quite a bit of plants. So Dr. Emerson got him because he knows how to do things. Knows how to... what do you say? Well, anyway, he got to know these two people real well. In fact, Shimpei was his best man, yeah, my husband's best man for the wedding after the war, after we came back. But he was the brain, and Dr. Emerson knew about him. So between the two of them, they started on the rubber project, and they made the best rubber plant and things like that.
MN: Going back to you, though, I want to ask you, when did you first start talking to Akira, when did you start going, spending time with Akira?
KK: That was toward the end of our stay. [Laughs] That's when he went out to beet topping, that's where he got my, made enough money to get me my engagement ring.
MN: Is that the ring he bought you?
KK: Yeah, this is the ring he bought me.
MN: You still wear it?
KK: Yeah, I still wear it every day. I've had it on for sixty-something years. [Laughs]
MN: So did you know that he was gonna go and buy you a ring?
KK: Oh, no. He asked, you know, his sister left Manzanar. Some people start going out of Manzanar to get jobs outside. Well, his sister and her husband left Manzanar earlier than us. But anyway, they were out. So he gave her the money to buy the ring, so she bought it for him.
MN: Do you remember how he proposed to you?
KK: [Laughs] Kind of came as a surprise.
MN: You know, before he proposed to you, you spent a lot of time with him, but where do young, what do young couples do in camp?
KK: Well, they went to... they had block parties, and they had dances. So we went to a few dances, and we went to a few movies together. That's about all you can do.
MN: You were also sharing how you played tennis?
KK: Oh, yeah. And we had a tennis court right close by, right between the blocks. So we played tennis there. About all we could do.
MN: What kind of tennis court was this?
KK: You know, like clay. It was hard, hard packed, so it bounces. You get the sand out and you water it down and it becomes solid. So anyway, we played tennis.
MN: Now, like for privacy, did you go to, like, Merritt Park?
KK: Yeah, we went to Merritt Park, spent time there. We went pear picking. [Laughs] There were some pears right by us, so we picked some pears. Nice Bartletts. We picked our own apples close by, or raided somebody else's. [Laughs]
MN: Now, did your parents ever try to set you up with somebody else?
KK: Oh, yeah, she tried. But he was a Kibei, and very quiet, short. [Laughs] I said, "No, no thank you."
MN: Now the Children's Village is right next to Block 29. Did you have any interaction with the children?
KK: No, I didn't. Because I was working at the hospital. But his youngest sister, she used to play with the people from the orphanage because she was more or less left an orphan, too, because she's the youngest of all the sisters and brothers. And she never had a mother or father to look after her, just like the Children's Hospital, I mean, Children's Village. So she kind of felt like them. So she used to play with them, some of the children there. So she knew a lot of them.
MN: Now, Akira left Manzanar with a special permission to work at Cal Tech in 1944. Were you worried when he went out by himself?
KK: No. He was staying with Dr. Emerson, he was staying at their house and working from their house. So I had nothing to worry about.
MN: Did he propose to you before he left?
KK: Yeah, I think so. We were going together around that time.
MN: So how did you tell your parents that you were getting married to Akira?
KK: Well, they kind of suspected. [Laughs]
<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 14>
MN: Now, were you still in Manzanar when the war ended in August 1945?
MN: How did you hear about the news?
KK: Well, I was happy about it. How did I hear? Well, I guess when it came out, everybody knew about it. Radio...
MN: I mean, were people in Manzanar, the camp, were they celebrating?
KK: Oh, yeah, I guess we were all happy that was ended. But we don't know what was going to happen.
MN: Do you remember what month you left Manzanar?
KK: Gee, when was it the war ended?
KK: August. So we must have left right after in the fall.
MN: Now, Akira's younger sister Mary got married before you did.
KK: One week before.
MN: Did you go to her wedding?
MN: What was that like?
KK: Oh, nice. She got married at the Quaker... let's see. I think it was the Quaker home that the, it was the gathering place of people of Quaker faith that were helping the Japanese people. So they had people staying at their place until they found a place to go or something like that. So they had a pretty big house, so she had the wedding there.
MN: Where did you and Akira get married?
KK: Oh, we got married at the home where my sister stayed, Mrs. Porter's house. She said it was okay for us to get married there. So we had Reverend Nicholson, remember him, you met him? No? But you've heard of him. Well, he officiated at our wedding.
MN: Now, this is right after the war. Were you able to afford a wedding dress?
KK: Yeah, a cheap one. [Laughs] But I was able to.
MN: Where did you get your wedding dress?
KK: Gee, I don't know whether it was Sears, Montgomery, one of those places.
MN: Who took care of the wedding reception?
MN: The wedding reception.
KK: Oh, we kind of had it over at Mrs. Porter's. She arranged everything for us.
MN: What did Mrs. Porter give you as a wedding present?
KK: Oh, she gave us a sterling silver set. It was, at that time, of course, about two hundred dollars or more. But now, I think it's worth more, I'm not sure.
MN: Were you able to have a honeymoon?
KK: Yeah. We went on a honeymoon to her sister's place in Hermosa Beach. The sister let us use her home in Hermosa Beach as our wedding present.
MN: How did you get to Hermosa Beach? Did you have a car?
KK: Yeah. You know, before the war broke out, Frank left his car at one place where he worked. And this Mr. Tannos, he's Syrian, he told Frank he could leave his car and he would take it out to drive every now and then and keep it in shape. So he left it there. So when he came back, it was all ready to, he was ready to drive it and everything. So he got his license and started driving right away. So he was lucky that way. Well, he had some things stored at a Japanese community center in Venice someplace. And his mother's koto was stolen, and some other things were stolen, too. Shamisen was stolen.
MN: But all your items that you left --
KK: Left with Mrs. Porter was there. So we were, my mother was able to get everything; she was lucky.
<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 15>
MN: Now, once you returned from the honeymoon, where did you live?
KK: We lived in, on the corner of Mary Street, right between where my mother's house is on Kensington, and the Quaker place that Mary got married, that place. A little further down is Mary Street. Anyway, Kensington ends at Mary, and we lived right in the corner house. It was for rent, so we rented it.
MN: So you were still in Pasadena.
KK: Yeah, this was in Pasadena.
MN: And was Akira still working for Dr. Emerson?
KK: Yeah, uh-huh.
MN: When he decided to quit Cal Tech, did he discuss this with you?
MN: When he decided to quit Cal Tech, did Akira discuss this with you?
KK: Yeah. He says, "They're making more gardening than I do working for Dr. Emerson for the Cal Tech on this guayule." So he decided he can't support a wife and get things just doing the work that he's doing right now, so he decided to quit and go to gardening, 'cause they were making more money. Everybody else was making more money.
MN: Did Akira have a hard time starting up the gardening business?
KK: Well, yeah, because we were living in Pasadena and we were living... and then he decided to go to L.A., put an ad in the paper and start it up again. So it was kind of hard for him to start.
MN: So you just mentioned, from Pasadena you moved to Los Angeles. Did you share the house with other family members?
KK: Yeah, when they decided to move to L.A., his sister Fumi from Chicago wanted to come back. So we got together and decided to buy a home in the Adams district, right by Adams and what are the... well, anyway, right around there.
MN: Now while you were living there, you had your twins.
KK: Yes, uh-huh. I had my twins, and Fumi was there and my husband was there, so I had plenty of friends, people to help me with the twins.
MN: Now how did Mrs. Porter help you?
KK: Oh, she helped me by giving me one year's supply of baby diaper service, diaper service. That helped a lot.
MN: Share with us what is a diaper service?
KK: I don't know about now, but diaper service then, the cloth diaper that they have, they supply the diapers and they supply the gowns and things that go with it, and you pay a certain amount of money for the service.
MN: So you didn't have to wash the diapers at all.
KK: I didn't have to wash the diapers at all. So when they did poop and everything, I just rinsed it and put it in the bag, and the diaper service came and took it. So I had it easy the first year. [Laughs]
MN: Now, I know your husband liked to raise vegetables before the war. Did he continue to do that after the war?
KK: Yeah. We always had a garden.
MN: Now, did he carry the guayule cuttings from Manzanar, and did he carry it from house to house?
KK: Yeah. Well, we had it in a pot, so we just kept raising it in a pot, and when we got settled different places we relocated them. When we lived on Adams, by Adams, he planted it over there, too. He just uprooted it and brought it back to, over here. We had it in our backyard over here, then when we moved here, we put it in the backyard over here. So we've had these guayule plants for a long, long time that came from Manzanar. And we have shared it with a lot of people because when he was younger, he was making cuttings. And he'd grow it and then we gave the cuttings to different people. After we'd grow it so big, then we'd give it to people, give it away, and they have it. So there was quite a few people that have gotten our guayule that he started.
MN: Are these people other researchers?
KK: No, mostly people whose parents worked with Akira, like (Hirosawa)-san's daughter Julia, she has it. I forgot what her last name was. She lives in Huntington Beach now. But we gave her some, gave different people some.
MN: How about the people at the Manzanar National Historic Site?
KK: Oh, yeah, we gave them something, them, too. In fact, we gave them lots. And Sue Embrey's son came over and he brought a friend, and she took some home. I don't know whether her cutting took or not, but the first batch we gave her, she said she went someplace and she killed it off. [Laughs] So she came for her second batch and she got some more. So I don't know whether it took or not. She was going to take it to Manzanar this weekend, but I don't know if she got all those cuttings started or not. [Laughs] Poor thing.
MN: You know, Manzanar now is a National Historic Park. How do you feel about that?
KK: Oh, I think it's nice that they have it as a National Park so people can see what kind of place we live. But then if you see it from their point right now, it doesn't look that bad. But when we first went there, it was really bad. It was so stormy and sandy. It was quite an unbearable place to live.
<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 16>
MN: I've asked all my questions. Is there anything else you want to add?
KK: Well, after I moved over here and my children were old enough, well, my husband was working up in Rolling Hills as a gardener. And one of the persons he worked for was a pilot for United Airlines. And so he said they're looking for some people to hire at United, and he knew we had two boys that were still going to school, but could work during the summer. So he says, "Why don't you try and see if they could work during the summer?" So I took 'em over there for an interview, and while I was there, they said, oh, they were going on a strike, and so they couldn't hire my two sons for the summer. But they wanted some steady workers, and so they asked me if I wanted to work. So I said, I filled out a questionnaire, and so I got the job. [Laughs] And I thought, "Oh, I got the job," and they didn't call my sons because they couldn't use 'em for the summer, for temporary work. And so I got the job. So I started working. So I started working in their kitchen, and all the flights that come in and out, they had these great big units that they push into the airplane. Well, they bring those back, they have trays and trays that you have to clear off and put it on a dish machine to wash. You put dishes upside down and put the trash away, and feed the machine to wash dishes.
Well, I was doing that for a while, and then they told me there was an opening in the pantry. And I thought, oh, I'd love to work in the pantry, that's where you do the cooking. So I thought, oh, I'll see if I can get in there. So anyway, after working in the kitchen for a while, I got to work in the pantry. So I got promoted, sort of. And I enjoyed working in the kitchen because you make salads and stuff like that. And then you turn over dishes. They come already frozen, dishes, to put on the flight. And the coach, they used to feed the coach, too. And they had first class. But anyway, you put it on a dish and you get it ready for the flight, and then you make salad. And for the first class, you cut, slice tomatoes, leaf on the plate, and you store in trays, and they put it on the unit. But I learned a lot at United, how to set up dishes, how to get it ready for a flight to go out, put all the paper cups and things in, and first class dishes, everything is different. First class is different from coach. But anyway, I did all those things. Filled the unit with sodas and all that stuff.
But anyway, after working in that pantry, you make fancy stuff like we catered to Air France, and they want certain hors d'oeuvre, we used to make fancy hors d'oeuvre, yeah, for first class. I enjoyed the work at United and our kitchen.
MN: How long were you there?
KK: I was there for twenty years and ten months. I remember that. [Laughs] And I've been retired for over fifteen years now, maybe more. I don't know what year. I forgot what year I quit.
MN: It might have been a good time, because they don't make those kind of foods.
KK: No, they don't have anything anymore. After I quit, it was about five, six years later, they closed the kitchen, and now United caters lunchboxes that they bring in from different places. Lousy. [Laughs] It's crackers. Cheese and crackers and whatever, if you want to buy it. You either have to eat before or after.
MN: So you retired at a good time.
KK: I retired at a good time, yes. Now there are, they have Continental Airlines, they went together, they came together so now Continental is with United, they're merged. So I don't know how their setup is, so I haven't traveled since they merged. But you know, before they, before I retired, when I first started working for United, the first or second year after I worked for them, I got one of these pass travel, you know, you get a certain amount of privilege for flying. Well, I took my whole family to Washington, D.C. and took a tour of Washington. And then at that time they already had cherry blossoms, just planted I think it was, or was it after? Anyway, I took my whole family, all the kids. They were still going to school, but during the summer I took them. That was the first thing, I took 'em to New York and Washington., D.C.
MN: Your husband made mochitsuki usu at the house here after the war.
MN: Mochitsuki, the usu? Can you share with us how you made the usu, the pounding...
KK: Oh, Frank made -- did you turn it off? -- Frank made the usu out of cement. You know how they used to have the tin washtub, a round tub? Well, he got one of those small ones about this size, poured cement, and made an usu. And he made a fire and steamed the rice. He made the seiro and got the bamboo and we wove it and put that there. Anyway, we made a fire and we made our own steamed rice. And we pounded mochi for years. And we finally gave up when the new mochitsuku thing came in. And that was so much easier, so much faster, that we decided we'd do that. So we still do that with an automatic... and it's so easy. That thing, just take a little thing and it just flips it around, steams it, flips it around, and you have mochi. Only time you have to take it out is take it out and then work it, make your mochi. But otherwise, we have it down to a science that we can make our own mochi, so we still do every year. I said, "I'm not going to make any mochi," but we still do. [Laughs]
MN: Anything else you want to share?
KK: No, I think that's it.
<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.