Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grace Shinoda Nakamura Interview
Narrator: Grace Shinoda Nakamura
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Whittier, California
Date: January 25, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-ngrace-01

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

<Begin Segment 1>

SY: Today is January 25, 2011. We're talking today to Grace Nakamura, and we're at their home in Whittier, California. My name is Sharon Yamato, and Tani Ikeda is on camera. So, Grace, can we start with you telling us your full name and when and where you were born?

GN: My name is Aiko Grace Shinoda Nakamura. I was born in Los Angeles, originally called Highland Park, it's in northeast Los Angeles. And the natives around there called that area Hermon (named for Mt. Hermon in the Bible).


SY: So Shinoda is your family name.

GN: Shinoda is my family name.

SY: And your parents on your father's side, can you talk a little bit about them?

GN: Yes. My father's name is Kiyoshi Shinoda. He was born in Tottori, Japan, in 1900, and immigrated to the U.S. My grandfather came first and he came with his eldest son, Tomitaka, we called him Uncle Tom. He first came to Hawaii (in 1904) and he worked on (a sugar plantation). My grandfather was a prosperous person in Japan.

SY: What part of Japan?

GN: Tottori (ken, prefecture), Japan, (Mizoguchi mura, town, Hino gun, county). It's to the north and in the middle. It's on the Japan Sea side, and it has sand dunes. It has a lot of sand dunes, and there are a lot of stories about the Shinodas in Tottori. My grandfather did a variety of things. He was kind of an entrepreneur. He grew hops and he made shoyu and tofu. He became a Christian. An English lord from England came over, he was over six feet tall, and I have a picture that someone has borrowed from me and I can't locate it. It's a magnificent picture. It shows my grandfather in the farmhouse and he's gathered people in the village to come and hear this man who was bilingual. He spoke fluent Japanese. He was an English lord. And my grandfather became a Christian.

SY: So he's the one that helped him convert to Christianity?

GN: Yes, he converted to Christianity. Then when he converted to Christianity he felt he no longer could grow hops, which was for beer. [Laughs] The shoyu had to be made fresh every single day, and the tofu had to be made fresh every day because they did not have refrigeration. Well, he didn't feel he should work on the Sabbath, so he decided he needed a new occupation and so he would come to America. Little did he know (the hardships he would endure). I still remember my grandfather saying he left his comfortable home and surroundings and could only bring his older son. And incidentally, that older son went to school (in Tottori) with Mr. and Mrs. Komai who were the founders of the Rafu Shimpo. I just found that out when I went to a talk at the (JANM) museum by this manga (authority, Frederik L. Schodt of U.C. Berkeley), I found out quite a bit about our family. In fact, come to think about it, I'll have to show you this manga (book, The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco 1904-1924) that actually tells the story of my uncle that I heard for the first time at the Japanese American National Museum by this authority on manga. Anyway, they came to the sugar cane fields and he worked in Hawaii. He said it was so terrible. It was flea infested, and they worked long hours for such paltry pay. But he said he'd gaman and he prayed every day. He said prayers and resolved that he would bring his family to America. He saved up enough money that he thought (he should) get over to the mainland and see if it is better. He couldn't bring his family to Hawaii under the conditions (there), so he saved enough money and he got himself over to the mainland and he traveled around. He found a nice place kind of like Tottori. It was in the hills and it was rural. He found a big (two-storied) house in Martinez, California. I've done a little research and I have a picture of the house and the big water tower that they had. We were all aficionados of John Muir and I've read most of his books as did my Grandfather (Watanabe) on my mother's side of the family and my aunt. I just naturally became an environmentalist when I was very little, and my Grandfather Watanabe (nurtured that interest). Anyway, I read all John Muir's books. John Muir was his neighbor, they had similar houses, and the Muir Museum is still in existence and the house is similar. (Narr. note: I have the chronology out of order. From Hawaii my Grandfather Shinoda and son Tomitaka came to East Oakland and the San Jose area. My grandfather was also in the shoyu business. I have a photo of him in front of the business in 1907. He was doing flower growing and shoyu. After that they moved to Martinez, California, and finally to San Lorenzo, California, and purchased land for a nursery business.)

SY: So were they acquainted when he lived in Martinez?

GN: I'm not sure that they were acquainted because by the time I did that research and found out all that information, my Grandfather Shinoda had passed on. But looking at the house, one of our friends who graduated from Berkeley has a longtime (friend who) was actually his roommate who lives in Martinez and knows a lot about the history. He said it had to be a next-door neighbor or very close. He belongs to the Historical Society in Martinez. So we established that he was probably a next-door neighbor because there's a large vacant area next to the Muir House, but it was exactly the same style. (Narr. note: The history of Martinez indicates there were similar style houses in the area, but the Muri house is the only one remaining.)

SY: So when he came to Martinez, did he immediately start...

GN: He had a fruit farm, but he really wanted to grow flowers. There was not enough water and the (soil) conditions weren't right. My father went to (high) school (there and elementary school in East Oakland. I have his high school diploma from Martinez High School).

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: Let's back up a little, because your grandfather ended up in Martinez.

GN: (After five years) my grandfather called the family (and) had saved enough money for passage for my grandmother Matsuno, age 35, my father Kiyoshi, 7 yrs. 10 mos.), and his younger sister Shige, (age 4). (Narr. note: They were admitted to the USA in Seattle, Washington, January 9, 1909.)

SY: So your father's siblings, that was the family in total, then.

GN: At that time. There were two sisters, (an older brother Masamoto), and then there's one brother that had come with the father, Tomitaka, (sister Kimiye), and the next would be my father, Kiyoshi, and then his younger sister Shige, (five children). (Narr. note: In 1912 my father's older brother Masamoto, 17 yrs., and older sister Kimiye, 15 yrs., to the USA from Tottori, Japan, and arrived in San Francisco to join the family. Brother Masamoto went to Napa College in Idaho to study for the ministry.)

SY: And your father was how old when he came?

GN: My father was (seven years, ten months. He probably went to elementary grades through eighth grade in Oakland and entered Martinez High School when they moved there). He has a diploma from Martinez High School.

SY: Do you know if there was, a Japanese American community that had already formed there?

GN: (Probably not in Martinez, but there perhaps was in East Oakland and San Jose for the shoyu factory). My grandfather was an adventurer. On both sides of the family, they are adventurers. There was a well-established big Shinoda clan in Tottori, and some of the stories that you hear when our relatives have gone to Tottori to visit (are fascinating). They said (that) people say, "You must know about the Shinoda Tunnel," and everyone goes to see the tunnel. There was this huge mountain in the middle of the town, and it was a day's journey to go from one side of the mountain to the other, because they had to go (over a treacherous pass over the mountain) all the way (another hazardous road) around the mountain. So the Shinoda family said, "Let's build a tunnel through the mountain," and people said, "That's impossible, all that rock and everything." Well, there was one Shinoda on one side (and another) Shinoda on the other side and they engineered it. They put the tunnel through, the Shinoda Tunnel. And my grandfather had a cousin, Masaburo (Shinoda). He later came to America (from Tottori before my Grandfather Kmuaichiro). At the Japanese American National Museum, you'll see all their names because their families have given to build the Japanese American National Museum. (Narr. note: It was the efforts of Masaburo's grandfather, father, and all of the villagers that the tunnel was completed in one year in 1890.)

SY: So is that tunnel there today?

GN: Oh, the tunnel is there today. I have cousins that have gone there to see the tunnel. (Narr. note: Masaburo Shinoda had immigrated to the USA and founded a prosperous nursery in East Oakland and San Leandro, California. The residents of Tottori asked the Japanese government to enlarge the tunnel. The government said they would need to provide matching funds. They were not able to raise the funds. When Masaburo heard about it, he sent 2 million yen to modernize the tunnel.)

SY: And it's big enough for cars to go through?

GN: Oh, yes, it's big enough for cars to go through.

SY: So it's obviously had work done on it since.

GN: Probably. I don't know how they got through before. My grandfather married my grandmother Shinoda and her name was Masuno (Nakashima). Anyway, she used to tell the story that when she was married to my grandfather, they carried her on a palanquin, and she rode like a princess around (the village). I never asked my grandmother, but there must have been litter-bearers, and they carried the dowry all through the town -- [interruption] -- for people to see. I guess she had some wealth in the family. They may have helped finance their trip to America, I don't know. At that time I wasn't into that kind of finance, so I never asked them. We'd always say, "Oh, Grandma, you were like a princess." [Laughs] My grandmother had a very smiling face. My grandfather and grandmother had very happy dispositions, both of them. I always remember my grandfather and my grandmother with smiles on their faces.

SY: So they really gave up a lot to come to the United States, then.

GN: They gave up a great deal on both sides of my family to come, and they came primarily for religious freedom, just like the pilgrims.

SY: And so when he came to Martinez, do you know that he continued practicing being a Christian? (Narr. note: Martinez was after East Oakland.)

GN: Oh, yes. I have pictures I want to show you later (of the two Christian churches my grandfather built which are still flourishing today). Later on they found out that that land was not suitable for growing flowers. They did sell the apples, it was an orchard, and he hated to destroy an orchard. What he had to buy was greenhouses. And I don't know what background he had in agriculture except that he did grow hops. And I don't know that hops need a sheltered environment like a greenhouse. (He did the floral nursery business and also in) San Jose, got back into the shoyu business because there was quite a number of Japanese in the Bay Area. So he was making the shoyu. (Narr. note: I have a photo of my grandfather in a derby hat and suit standing in front of his store and sign: Shoyu Factory. Since the taping of this interview, I have confirmed information that my grandfather Kumaichiro and his son Tomitaka came from Hawaii to East Oakland where his cousin Masaburo Shinoda had his nursery. They got land nearby and also grew flowers.)

SY: So he was, at this time, though, he must have been leasing the land to do all this farming.

GN: I imagine he was, because there wasn't anyone that was a citizen at that point to own the land, so he might have rented or leased the land. Who knows, he might have rented it from John Muir, I don't know. [Laughs] I never thought about it until right now.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So I guess this might be a good time to go back and talk a little bit about your mother's family.

GN: All right. So we'll leave Grandpa Shinoda. [Laughs]

SY: Yeah, we'll leave him in San Jose and come back to him.

GN: Making shoyu. The family moved (to Martinez, California. Grandfather probably commuted to his shoyu business. My cousin remembers a salesman who sold Grandpa's shoyu and took orders) at that time, and my grandfather learned how to drive a car. He determined he was going to drive a car.


GN: To go back to my mother's family, my mother's father was a scholar and read a great (number) of books. That's what I remember about my grandfather. He had bookcases full of books. He was a master calligrapher, and I used to sit by his side and watch him paint with a (Japanese) paintbrush. He taught me how to do a lot of kanji, all the different brush strokes and where you put the pressure, so forth and so on. I still to this day paint with a fude or Japanese paintbrush. I do watercolors, I pretty much am a plein air artist. I get my ideas right on the spot and paint right on the spot. I have (done) a lot of (plein air) paintings.

SY: So the artist in you came from your mother's side.

GN: Well, my father could draw very well, too. So I think it came from both sides. They were both very gifted people. And there were a lot of gifted people on my father's side of the family. In fact, one of my cousins on my father's side of the family said, "Gosh, I looked up Shinoda on the internet, and your brother (Lawrence) and our cousin Jean take up most of all the Shinodas on the internet." [Laughs] This cousin has a PhD himself. He was a professor of economics and a businessman, and he ended up as vice president of University of Texas in Arlington. That's his comment, my cousin, Philip Shinoda.

SY: And your brother, of course, we'll talk about later.

GN: But to get to my grandfather's side of the family, my grandfather Watanabe, his name was Tomoichi Watanabe and he was born (8/1/1877 in Oyabu machi, town, Gifu ken, prefecture, Japan). And his father was a very distinguished-looking scholar also. His name was Daijiro Watanabe (born 1/25/1844), and this is a picture of Daijiro taken in December 1906. This is my grandfather's album and I think it's interesting that everything is so well-dated and there are excellent notes. He has the family history.

SY: Can you show it toward the camera? Wonderful. So he was very distinguished-looking...

GN: Yes, Daijiro. And he was a scholar, too.

SY: So this was taken in Japan.

GN: This was taken in Japan, yes.

SY: And what part of Japan was your mother's family from?

GN: (My grandmother Masano Takenaka Watanabe was born October 3, 1882, in Ibi machi, town, Gifu ken, prefecture). They came from Gifu, Japan, which is a little bit north, more or less in the central part, but it's in Nagano Prefecture. We have been there to Gifu, and it's in the mountains. It's a very beautiful place, and they have a lot of rushing streams, a trout fisherman's paradise. You see people going up to Nagano Prefecture (adjacent to Gifu) either in the wintertime in their ski boots and in the summertime in their wading boots and their fishing equipment and so forth and so on. Nagano prefecture is in the mountains (like Gifu).

SY: So this would be your great-grandfather then.

GN: This would be my great-grandfather.

SY: And then he had how many children?

GN: I think he had (seven) children, (the first one died at birth). My Grandfather (Tomoichi was the third son) and then there (were two sister) that came to America that I know of, and the others remained in Japan. (Narr. note: The two sisters are Ko Watanabe born 12/21/1885 who married, by arranged marriage, Usaburo Arata who had a restaurant in Seattle, Washington, and Haru, burn 7/23/1888. She by arranged marriage married Frank R. Yamaguchi of Palm Springs, Colorado, an accountant for the railroad.)

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So who was it that actually came to the United States?

GN: Tomoichi Watanabe, that was my (maternal) grandfather.

SY: And do you know why he decided to come?

GN: Well, he also became a Christian through his reading, and he met this Japanese Christian missionary. All of his life he had that photograph of him in his house. I don't know what happened to that picture, his daughter might know. His youngest daughter, (Aunt Teru), kept most of his things. She didn't get married, and she somehow was the keeper of all those things. She was a CPA and she did keep very good records just like my grandfather. My grandfather was a librarian in Japan. He served in the Japanese army, he went to university in Japan, he served in the Russian-Japanese War, and he got a lot of medals and things like that. Beyond the protests of the family, the Japanese American Museum hadn't really been formed yet, was just in its infancy, and she decided she was going to give it to the Smithsonian. But then later on she grew to regret it because they will never see the light of day, I don't think. They're in the vault somewhere hidden in the Smithsonian. But who knows? They don't tell you. They tell you that they're going to tell you when they put the things on display, but you really don't know. Because Yosh (has an etching) in the (Joseph Hirshhorn Museum of the) Smithsonian collection, and they told us that they would tell (us) when the work would be displayed. It's been displayed many times, but they've never notified us one time.

SY: So all of your grandfather's things were very valuable then, and he kept a picture of the man who...

GN: Yes, but that was not donated. That was in his house. My aunt -- we'll tell you what happened to all of this things, because he thought everything through, very, very thoroughly.

SY: Okay, so he came to the United States, you're not quite sure why except that --

GN: I know he came because he became a Christian. He became a Christian through a Japanese person who had become a Russian Orthodox Christian. In fact, my mother was (named) Hide, but she was also baptized Hide (and given a Christian name "Maria" by Orthodox minister N. Shibayama on April 24, 1907, before the family's departure to America).

SY: So he was an Orthodox... did he follow that Russian Orthodox faith?

GN: Well, he was a very good thinker, and I think on his faith journey he came to the realization that there is only one God and people choose different ways to worship God. So he was not a judgmental person saying that only certain Christians believing certain ways would get eternal life or anything like that. I'm sure that was not his belief. I've never had a big philosophical discussion with him because I was too young. But by the way he lived, the books that he read, the way he thought, he was not a judgmental person. He would say that all people have a God that they worship, but they choose different ways to worship God. But there is just one God and different ways to worship whoever that God is. And on my long faith journey, that's the place that I've arrived in life. I'm accepting of anybody's religion, anybody's creed, anybody's nationality, I just accept them for who they are.

SY: That's wonderful. So was he able, do you think, when he came here, having had been a librarian, was he able to practice?

GN: At the library? No, because everything was really closed to people of Japanese descent. I keep really marveling that he continued to read. He used to have long discussions with one of my father's (older Masamoto) brothers who became a (Christian) minister, and they would have long philosophical discussions. He would have discussions with Reverend Nicholson who was a Quaker and was a missionary. In fact, he delivered the sermon for my grandfather when my grandfather passed away.

SY: That's Herbert Nicholson.

GN: Herbert Nicholson.

SY: Who was quite famous for having helped the Japanese during the war.

GN: Yes. And then when my grandfather was (interned) I'll have to tell the story about him (and) what happened during internment.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So let's back up a little, and if you could tell us how he met your grandmother and whether they came together.

GN: Yes, he knew my grandmother. My grandmother grew up in (Gifu too). I'm kind of fuzzy about that, but I'm pretty sure she grew up in Gifu because my uncles and aunts and my brother have gone to visit the family, and I think they visited both sides of the family in Gifu. But then my grandmother used to tell me stories, too, of when she was living in, they called it the city, Tokyo, Yokohama, (Osaka), all that area. Some of her family were pretty wealthy merchants (in the city).

SY: And so they met while they were in Gifu, you think.

GN: I think they met while they were Gifu. It was a baishakunin wedding, it was an arranged marriage. They were different in many ways. She was very practical. My grandfather played the biwa and she said, "That's a waste of time. You have to do other things, more practical." [Laughs] He did (play) the biwa, but (the) biwa is no more. Then he used to like to spend a lot of time playing goh, and he belonged to the goh club in Little Tokyo. He's quite an expert in goh. I think my grandfather could have been anything that he wanted to be, but he chose to be a librarian because he loved literature and books. He loved calligraphy. He won the emperor's poetry contest and he got a lot of medals from that. He could write beautiful poetry and I have samples of his poetry.

SY: That's wonderful. So did they start their family in Japan, then?

GN: Well, actually, my mother (was their) first child, and when she was one year old, they came to America and they didn't come in steerage. You always hear about people coming in steerage, well, they came in first class, (Oriental Steamship Company's Nippon Maru), and I still have the steamer trunk that they brought with their things in it. It's in my garage, I've got to find some home for it one of these days. But life was not easy for them. When they first came, they landed in (San Francisco, California, May 18, 1907). Then my grandfather got an offer from (Sadamatsu Takeda, a relative in America who) started a farm in (Iline, Harris County, Texas). So they went by train, and my grandmother said, oh, they went on the train, and she had this baby. She would tell me how hard it was. My grandfather worked in the fields, they both worked in the fields, and she wasn't used to doing all that kind of hard work, not used to that at all. And neither was he, he's a librarian. [Laughs] He was the librarian actually in Osaka, that's where he was able to get a position.

SY: So they moved from Gifu to Osaka, and was that where your mother was born then, in Osaka?

GN: I think on her passport it says she was born in Gifu. I have her passport papers, too. I have both of their passport papers and they're very interesting to my daughter because my daughter is an immigration and nationality specialist (in the law). So anyway, they came to the U.S. and then they went to Texas, and it was hot. And then my grandmother got malaria, and she was very sick and she almost died. And of course they didn't have antibiotics or anything in those days. My grandmother always said, "I came as close to hell as I've ever been. It was terrible." [Laughs] So then my grandfather left, and he had a friend that got a job on the railway in Pueblo, Colorado. So then they moved to Pueblo, Colorado, and my mother went to elementary school. By that time there was my mother, then later on she had another sister, Aiko, and then they had another sister named Shinko who passed away, and then a brother named Nozomu who passed away. And then they had my Uncle Toshihisa. They call him Dr. Tom Watanabe. He had an x-ray lab right there across the street from JANM, that was his last office before he passed away. Then my youngest aunt, Teru. My two aunts lived for a long, long time, and they died, I think they were both ninety-five when they passed away.

SY: But your mother was the oldest.

GN: My mother was the oldest and she died when she was sixty-seven. Kind of an untimely death. And (her sisters) never married, and I took care of them, too, because they had no one to take care of them.

SY: When they were old. So when your mother was going to school, then she mainly went in Colorado?

GN: Well, she went to elementary school (when) they moved out to Pueblo, Colorado. My mother had a terrible accident when she was there. That's why she always said she'd never let us go barefoot in hot summer days in California, always had to have shoes on. She was running around barefooted in Pueblo, and someone had had a bonfire outside and there were hot ashes. And she had stepped into the hot ashes and it was terrible. My mother had scars where this one foot had fallen into this ash pit and had burned her up to her (knee), and she had scars from that. It was terrible. I always think about Pueblo, I think about how terrible that was for my mother. But when she was, I think, in high school, they moved to Hewitt Street.

SY: Hewitt Street in...

GN: It's down in Little Tokyo area.

SY: It's very close to Little Tokyo (in Los Angeles).

GN: Hewitt Street, and then there's an interesting story. They came with the people that owned Fugetsu-do, originally they came from Japan together. They lived in the same area in Gifu, Kito-san. He has the Fugetsu-do right there on First Street, and Brian (Kito) still runs Fugetsu-do. So I have all kinds of wonderful stories about Kito-san because my grandfather and grandmother were good friends with them, so they went to make mochi there with them. They always made mochi, so we still go there and buy mochi for New Year's. And my grandchild was doing a project on Japan, she's now thirteen, but she was a little girl then. Brian was there, it was between Christmas and New Year's, and she went to buy some things that she wanted to take back (to her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico). I think she was in maybe fourth grade, she wanted to take (goodies) back because she was going to give a report on the Japanese New Year's. So then Brian put his arm around her and said, "Come over here. I want to show you a picture of my dad and my grandpa." He shows the pictures and said, "They were all friends with your (great-great) grandma and your (great-great) grandpa." So it was very nice that Paloma got to meet Brian.

SY: They were just good friends. What did your grandfather end up doing?

GN: My grandfather ended up working for Bullock's. First he was in the custodial department, and then later on he worked for Packard. He retired from Packard and I remember they gave him a gold watch, and I still have the gold watch someplace. So he did that hard manual labor, but he took his lunchbox every day, he never complained. Went on the P car in East L.A. up to his work.

SY: But he continued his interest in reading?

GN: He continued to write and continued to read, he wrote several books (published in Japan).

SY: While he was working at Packard?

GN: Packard, yes, he wrote several books and then he played goh whenever he could. Played the biwa until my grandma did something with the biwa. [Laughs] While they were living in that three story apartment house, a lot of Japanese lived in that apartment house. The Komais had the Rafu Shimpo, because the Rafu Shimpo's over a hundred years old. And one night, Kameyatsu-san -- and Kameyatsu is a big name in Little Tokyo (history). They have longevity. I have a lot of pictures of all these people that lived in Little Tokyo then. He was the press man at the Rafu. When he came out of the Rafu, it was early in the morning. He saw this red glow in the sky. He thought, "It's too early to be dawn. Something's wrong, it must be a fire." So he ran towards the red glow, and then to his horror, he realized that it was the (apartment) house. My grandfather and grandmother lived on the third floor, so he couldn't reach them. He (called), "Watanabe-san, Watanabe-san!" But the fire was crackling and it was up on the roof. There was gravel in the parking lot and he got the gravel and he threw it at the window, then my grandfather heard the stones hitting, and he came to the window and looked and there he was, "Watanabe-san, kaji, kaji." So they came down in their pajamas in the middle of the night, and my aunt said that they prayed and prayed. She said it was like a miracle, the heavens opened up and the rain came pouring down and put out the fire. And there was a big hole in the top of that (apartment) house, but she said nobody perished. So that was one of the exciting stories that she had to tell.

And then another story that she had, my mother and my Aunt (Aiko) went to the YWCA founded by (Miss Bartlet). She was pivotal. She formed a Japanese baseball team, too.

SY: She was very important. I can't think of her name either.

GN: I have it, I have pictures of her.

SY: It was a club that she started for Nisei, right?

GN: Yes, she started this club. And then she started this YWCA Blue Triangle for the women, and my mother was one of the first people to go to Asilomar when it was just tent cabins for a conference. And she has photographs in her photo album. And there was a cypress tree there. So Yosh and I went there on our honeymoon, and we were camping, so it wasn't the best situation, but we went there. That cypress tree was still there. So I've kind of kept an eye on that. I have favorite trees all over the place. Idyllwild I have a favorite tree, too, that I've watched since it was a little tiny seedling growing on the side of this canyon.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So back to Little Tokyo, so your mother was...

GN: My mother and aunt were at the YWCA, and my mother went up to that camp at Asilomar. They went to Union Church, and I have pictures of her in the Union Church (young people's) group and all the doctors and all the important people (in Little Tokyo) went to Union Church. She met and married my father at Union Church in Los Angeles. Although my grandfather built a church in the north where later on he started the world-famous (San Lorenzo) Salon brand Roses, he started that business up there. He built a church up there, too.

SY: And this is in San Jose?

GN: No, that's after the shoyu business. We left off at the shoyu business, and he went back to...

SY: Martinez.

GN: No, no, he didn't go back there. He looked for more property and he bought property. By that time he had children who were American citizens and he bought the property in their names.

SY: And where was that?

GN: San Lorenzo, (California)

SY: Oh, San Lorenzo, it's a town in Northern California.

GN: Northern California.

SY: And he started a nursery.

GN: A very successful nursery. And it was successful until they started importing flowers from South America. But that church that he built there is thriving. It's a huge megalithic church, and it has two and three services. It has all kinds of nationalities that come there, and they have a really great ministry there.

SY: So did it start as a Japanese congregation?

GN: Yes, it started as a Japanese, but now I was talking to my cousin who still goes to that church.

SY: And do you know the name of it?

GN: They called it the San Lorenzo Christian Church.

SY: And he built it, but he wasn't necessarily the minister.

GN: No, no, he built it.

SY: He built it.

GN: And they've had ministers. So then for health reasons, the climate's warmer down here, he came and (built) a house here in Southern California, and then he (built) another church in West Los Angeles, and that church is still flourishing also.

SY: And that church is called?

GN: (West Los Angeles) Holiness Church.

SY: Oh, right. And then one in West L.A. is called?

GN: That's the one called West L.A. Holiness Church.

SY: So he came down here and did the same thing (he) did in San Lorenzo?

GN: And I have the picture of the (West L.A. Church)... I have the picture of the minister, Reverend Kuzuhara, the first minister, and his poem. I have it in another (album). (Reverend Kuzuhara was there) with the church (until he died).

SY: So when they moved to Southern California, they settled in the West L.A. area.

GN: No, they settled in the area where I grew up, Highland Park (Hermon area). Because my father died when I was six and my brother was three, and my mother felt that we should live close to his parents. It was a rural area in those days. We had the hills to play in. And she just thought it would be a better environment, because she was a widow and her folks still lived in East L.A. and she wanted to get us out of that environment. We were really the only Japanese family living in (the Hermon) area.

SY: And your family then consisted of you and...

GN: My brother.

SY: So it was just the two of you.

GN: And my mother.

SY: And your mother.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: And so what are your earliest memories of childhood?

GN: Oh, well, I remember my father very well. So, of course, we missed him a lot. He really (loved) us, and I was so sorry that he wasn't there for my brother. There was really a void in my brother's life. But my father had all these brothers, and they were very fond of my mother because she was kind of modern. One of my uncles (and his wife who) passed away (mentored my brother). My grandfather had four more children that were American citizens that were born here. So it was almost like two different families. He had a family in Japan and a family here. Of course, they were all brothers and sisters and very close.

SY: So he had a total of how many children?

GN: He had nine children.

SY: Four here and five (in Japan). And the ones that were born here were all sons.

GN: The ones who were born here? Yes, they were all sons. There were Joseph, Peter, Paul, and Daniel.

SY: So he gave them all...

GN: Bible names.

SY: Bible names, I see. And how old was your brother when your father died?

GN: My brother was only three.

SY: I see. So it was your nuclear family that lived in Highland Park.

GN: We rented a house. We could just go over the hill and my grandpa's house was on the (other) side. And later on my mother bought the house from my grandfather, their family house, she bought that later on (after both my Shinoda Grandparents had passed away).

SY: That was your father's family, though.

GN: Yes, my father's family. But we used to drive every Sunday (to Union Church and then) over to spend Sunday with my Grandma and Grandpa Watanabe, and my two aunts (who) never did get married. (Also) my uncle, my mother's brother, didn't get married until he was in his forties, (Tom Watanabe, M.D.).

SY: And they still lived in Little Tokyo area.

GN: They lived right behind Roosevelt High School on Eagle Street.

SY: So that's East Los Angeles.

GN: East Los Angeles.

SY: I see. So you really got to see all of Los Angeles, your relatives were spread out.

GN: And we had a car, so my mother took us places. My mother learned how to drive. One of her girlfriends from the Union Church who lived in the neighborhood, her name was Rosemary Matsuno (Sato), brother Bill Matsuno worked in his Grand Central Market, and they all came to Manzanar. They were friends from girlhood, and so they were both pregnant at the same time. She was carrying her first child, Gordon, and my mother with me. So Gordon and I have been almost inseparable since we were babies. He calls me his "sandbox buddy." [Laughs] And so he has become a world-famous... what kind of biologist is he?

SY: A scientist.

GN: What kind of biologist is Gordon, Yosh? A cellular biologist. He's world-famous. Almost all the cancer cures that they have today are based on his research, and he did come up with (the) research. And when we were in Manzanar, we also went to Manzanar (High School) because we evacuated with East L.A. If we had gone with where we lived, we would have gone to Gila River, but my mother wanted to be with her family when we evacuated.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So you were how old when Pearl Harbor happened?

GN: I was fourteen going on fifteen and my brother was twelve.

SY: And you have strong memories of that day?

GN: Oh, yes. On December 7th... in fact, the booklet's out there in the other room. They started a project at Manzanar where they did oral interviews, and they had questions that they asked and we answered those questions. They're still doing that. They're still trying to gather these interviews with people. I've quite a few extra copies, but I don't think I have too many left. One of the questions they ask was, "Where were you and what happened on December 7th?" Do you want to skip over to that right now?

SY: Absolutely. Tell us what you said or what you remember.

GN: On December 7th, we were coming home from Union Church, and my grandfather was sitting in the front seat with my mother. He went to church not on a regular basis, but that Sunday he just felt that he should go to church. He came on the streetcar to Union Church, and my mother drove our car. We had the '32 Chevy my father had left, and Rosemary Sato had taught her how to drive, because she didn't know how to drive. We turned on the car radio as we were going home, and then we heard that Japan had (bombed Pearl Harbor). My grandfather couldn't speak English too well, but he could read and write and understand. And even in his album, it's written in both languages. So they dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor and my grandfather said, "Hide" -- that's my mother's name -- he was sitting in the front seat with her, she was driving. "Hurry up, I got to get home. I got to pack." So I was sitting in the backseat and I said, "Grandpa, where are you going? What trip are you going on?" Then he said, "Well, Japan's dropped bombs, and they're going to declare war on Japan, and I'm not a citizen. I'm a registered 'enemy alien,' I fought in the Japanese-Russian War." I said, "That was a long time ago. What would that have to do with this today?" He said, "Everything. They may think maybe that I'm a subversive." And so he said, "Well, I think I'd better be ready. I think before the end of the day is over, the FBI may come and pick me up." So we hurried on home, and it was lunchtime by then, but he went right to his study and he got a little briefcase out. I think I gave the briefcase to the Japanese American National Museum, it's a leather briefcase, and that's what he had used as a librarian in Japan, and he used it ever since. He put his Bible in there, he put his writing materials in there and he kept a journal. (He packed) underwear, wool socks, (gloves), then he put in long underwear, although we really didn't have too much need for long underwear, but he still had long underwear. In the wintertimes it does get cold. Better be prepared, he had long underwear. All in this little briefcase. Change of clothing, and then he laid out his heavy coat and his hat and his muffler on the bed, and then he came out and we had lunch.

He brought out his little notebooks, and we're all famous to this day, even including my son, always carries a little notebook in his shirt pocket with pen. That's my older son (Daniel), and I always carry around a little notebook. But anyway, he got all those little notebooks out, he had every place where the keys were in the house. Everything is labeled. Every key in the house had a little label on it so you know what it was for in English and in Japanese. So anyway, he said, "Okay, we have to get ready." The family treasures. We had paintings, we had scrolls, we had really wonderful books. He said, "You are not to get rid of any of these (even if people are scared) here. People are going to try to get rid of things. You're to find friends or neighbors to take care of these things for us during the war." I said, "Well, who says we're going anyplace?" He says, "You will." I said, "We'll, we're American citizens." "Doesn't matter." He said, "I think you'll go." He was a very astute man. So we had lunch, then we had supper. I said, "See, Grandpa? Nobody's going to come. You're not going to go away." And just when I was saying that, there was knock on the door. So he said to me, "Go answer the door." So I opened the door and there was this man with an FBI badge, he said, "Is (Tomoichi) Watanabe here?" And I said, "Yes." "Well, I'm here from the FBI." I said, "Where are you going to take him?" He said, "I can't tell you." I said, "He's all ready for you." So he came out, he was fully clothed, and he said goodbye to us. Got his gloves on and (coat and hat) because California winters are cold, and he disappeared into the darkness (carrying his briefcase).

SY: The FBI didn't search your home?

GN: No, just picked him up, and didn't tell us where they were going to take him. And we had neighbors that worked for the LAPD. One was an investigator on one side of us, and the other one was a regular police. And when they heard that they took my grandfather away, they said, "The Japanese are the most law-abiding people." They didn't ever remember booking a Japanese ever in the whole L.A. jail system. Ever. They said, "They're just barking up the wrong tree. Their loyalty is (unquestionable)." So anyway, they took him away. We did not know for six months where they had taken him. Michi Nishiura Weglyn got some pictures from the archives later on. And she sent us a picture and she said, "Is this your grandfather?" Because I had described what he had on when they took him away. There he was, sitting in this boxcar with all these men, some of them had yukatas on and zoris on. And you know where they took them? They took them to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where it was below zero degrees. Just like that, they took them. They were getting ready to take a bath and they're going to go to bed, they didn't give them a chance to take anything. [Interruption] They force-marched them in the snow, and they got frostbitten feet. Some old men, it was just too much for them, they got hypothermia and heart attack. (Narr. note: And then my grandfather even suspected food poisoning when many got violently ill after eating soup.)


SY: And where was this exactly that they were taken?

GN: I have a list somewhere of all the different places. They took him to nine places. They moved him all around the country (and some with) freezing temperatures. Fort Sill, then he went to (Montana), which is even colder, some of the obscure places that we've never heard about. There was one place in Louisiana, and I had my son's (in-laws)... their picture is covered up over there. But my son's in-laws (live in Louisiana and) looked the place up, and he's a really good researcher. He used to be a commander in the U.S. Navy, so Joey went and did some research and said, "(Yes, it was Camp Livingston, L.A., and) it did have Japanese prisoners." He said he never knew that. It was an army base.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: We were talking about your grandfather being taken by the FBI. And he ended up in nine different places you said, but do you know...

GN: Nine different places. Well, I think a total of nine places.


SY: So this journal that he kept, I assume it's all in Japanese?

GN: It's in Japanese.

SY: So it would be valuable to translate it I would think.

GN: It would be (but the Journal is missing and has not been seen since my aunt's death. She was the keeper of the Journal).


SY: So do you know where he eventually ended up? Was he just taken from place to place?


GN: He ended up, before they sent him to Manzanar, in (Santa Fe), New Mexico. And my son lives in (Santa Fe), New Mexico, and so I wanted to know more about this place. I always thought that it was something like Manzanar, but it wasn't. One of my son's friends is an attorney. She and her husband are attorneys. And she was walking her dog up behind her house up on this mesa. And on top of this mesa -- I have pictures of that, too, I can show you -- is this huge granite boulder. And on the granite boulder (on a plaque) it said how many men were incarcerated, many of whom had (sons) and grandsons, citizens, fighting for the United States while their fathers and grandfathers were incarcerated in these camps. And they mention the MIS and the 442nd and it was dated. She was curious about this. She's Chinese American and her husband's Caucasian, but they were both very interested. She had not experienced evacuation or even heard about it because of growing up in Maine. So (my son) said, "Well, my mother's coming to town in a few days, so you could ask her." Anyway, Yosh and I would not have been able to find it. So we met her near her home at a shopping center landmark, and then we followed her car. And (we) went to this very obscure place, I know we could never have found that. We took the car up and went up to a dirt road and went to the top of this mesa, and that's where it is. (Narr. note: This historic marker is in Santa Fe's Frank S. Ortiz Park.)

SY: Is it a plaque, like a monument?

GN: It's a granite boulder, this big plaque is embedded into this granite boulder. I have a photograph of that, I'll show you.

SY: And this is in Santa Fe?

GN: Santa Fe, New Mexico, and that's where he was last interned. A goodly number of men were in there. In fact, I met the state historian. I've had two interviews with him and the assistant state historian. They're all PhDs but they're very, very interested. Now they have built the new Santa Fe museum right in the heart of... Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, a beautiful state museum. [Interruption] And I gave him a Xerox copy of all these records of Daijiro and all that about my grandfather's (family history). And he says that's probably the most complete (family) record they'll have of any prisoner that ended up there in Santa Fe. So anyway, I'm thinking that I will donate some things to that museum there. (Narr. note: I gave a painting symbolizing Santa Fe incarceration.)

And then I did a painting when I came back. From the top of that hill, (we had our son's friend's) dog and her little boy who was the same age as our grandson, (our) grandson's friend, could look across the whole Santa Fe Valley. On the other side of this (valley on the side of the mountain), I could see my son's house, because he has a turquoise roof. I thought, "My grandfather was right in view of Joel's house." My grandfather was a very curious person, and he was always interested in traveling to new places and seeing new things and writing about them. I'm the same way. So anyway, I wrote this little tribute to my grandfather (and painted a picture in honor of my Grandfather Watanabe). Yosh and I had a show, and it's called "Beyond the Barbed Wire (2 Visions)." We had it at the Shannon Center (of Whittier College). (Narr. note: The Santa Fe History Museum is having a symposium April 21 & 22, 2012, on the Santa Fe internment and using my art and considering for their collection.)

SY: An art show.

GN: At Whittier College, and we had (about sixty of) the images. When I was incarcerated I could just barely see the Alabama Hills, and I wanted to see the Alabama Hills. So anyway, that's what the whole show was ("Beyond the Barbed Wire.") Yosh loves rocks, so he did a whole series on the Alabama Hills, and they're very fascinating. Right up against those majestic mountains. Manzanar was the best camp of all because my grandmother said when (she) got there, "Well, we have to live in these terrible little shacks and (endure) a lot of things that are terrible, but we do have this beautiful scenery and we have this good water." We really did have good water.

SY: Let's go back to that because we haven't talked about what happened to you.

GN: So anyway, my grandfather went there, to (Camp Livingston), Louisiana, and finally ended up in Santa Fe. Then finally he came to Manzanar (12/14/1943) just about the time Manzanar was going to close.

SY: And that's where you and your mother and your brother were, right?

GN: My mother and my brother and I had left, and my two aunts had left. My grandmother was the only one there when my grandfather finally came. So it was just the two of them.

SY: They were reunited then. Did she know at all where he had been or where he was during that time you were at Manzanar?

GN: Well, he was able to write letters. He found out where we were and then we were able to write letters.

SY: To write letters back and forth.

GN: Write letters back and forth.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: We ended up (with) him getting arrested by the FBI, but let's talk a little bit about what you remember about what happened to you and your mother and your brother from that point, from that day.

GN: Just like he predicted, "Nobody's going to dare to take us away," (I had said. How wrong I was). Well, there were some really brave guys like the resisters and Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui, I really give them a lot of credit. Because thinking about my own sons today, (if) they tried to do something like that to them, they'd say no. They'd just be like those Occupy Wall Street people. They wouldn't go. And probably if I was of age, that's just what I would have done. (When the City of Whittier) tried to put this big oil pipeline through here, I laid down in the front of the big tractor that was digging the trough. I protested it until the very end. We got the news media out and everything, and they probably would have just crushed me. But Yosh and my son got panic-stricken. When the tractor was that far away from me [indicates one foot] and I wouldn't budge, and I was lying across the path of that ditch-digger, they yanked me out of there. Both of them bodily yanked me out of there.

SY: When was this, Grace?

GN: Oh, I don't know. When was that? Now we're having oil controversies, and we've been involved in that battle. So there are all these files over there. I'm working on a million and one things. And when I heard Bill Watanabe (of Little Tokyo Service Center) talk about how he's a latent hippie; he went over there (to L.A. City Hall) every day to Occupy Wall Street to aid and abet them. [Laughs] "Amen, young man. I'm even older than you." And a lot of my friends did go down there, down to (L.A.) City Hall, and I (would have gone) too, but I'm just too wobbly and feeble, I would have gotten in the way.

SY: But at the time your grandfather was arrested, you were only still how old?

GN: I was fifteen.

SY: And do you remember what your mother had to go through?

GN: Well, it was very difficult. We had just a few weeks. And we were more fortunate than people on Terminal Island who only had forty-eight hours and their husbands were taken away, their boats had been taken away from them.

SY: So you remember being given four weeks.

GN: Well, it wasn't four weeks, but it was probably less than (two) weeks. I remember we had about two weeks, but more than forty-eight hours. I remember that we had a family friend and we just told them to take custody of the house. We kept one bedroom, it was a four-bedroom house. My grandfather built it for (his) family (originally). It had a lock on (the room where we stored our belongings we left behind), and we rolled up all the rugs and I remember putting moth balls in the rugs and rolling them up and sticking them in (that room we could lock). We left a lot of furniture out, but some of the valuables I think we stuck in that room. Then they rented it out and whoever it was didn't break the lock and go in there. We put some things down in the basement. The house was on a slope and it had kind of a little basement. (We) put some things in there and we left.

SY: So you were fortunate you didn't have to sell anything, or did you?

GN: Oh, well, we gave a lot of things away. Now I wish I had my Shirley Temple doll, it would be worth a mint now. My brother's Lionel train, that would be worth a mint. My grandchildren would have enjoyed them a lot. All those things, they just had to go. But my grandfather said, "The family treasures we're not going to get rid of." So my aunt had Christine Janssen as a chemistry teacher at Roosevelt High School. She had kept in contact with her through the years because Christine Janssen always felt that my aunt was the most outstanding chemistry student she ever had had at Roosevelt High School. My aunt was a brilliant woman. I have pictures of the Janssens' old car. That's why I have all those pictures out that I wanted to show you, because it's historic. They were Quakers, and took those things home to their house. They had a full basement in the house in South Pasadena. Dr. Janssen was a professor of chemistry at Cal Tech, and they took all of our valuables and kept them (during) the war. They came to visit us on their (gasoline) ration tickets.

SY: So your grandfather's family, you all were able to stay together with your aunts on your mother's side?

GN: My mother's side. They all were able to stay together, and then the Japanese consulate who was getting really paranoid (and) they put all their books on sale. So what do my aunts do when we were having to go away? They went down on the P car down to Little Tokyo and bought all these books for a penny a pound. They bought all these (wonderful Japanese) books. Well, guess who has them now? I have all these wonderful books on Japanese history and birds of Japan and flowers of Japan.

SY: And you kept those in the basement, or did you keep them in your own house?

GN: The Janssens'.

SY: The Janssens kept all that for you?

GN: My aunts were the ones that bought all that stuff. They're really valuable books. I don't know what we're going to do with all these books. Our kids want some of them but not that many. Because they all have big libraries of their own. My daughter's house, I can't believe all the books she has.

SY: That's amazing. So the Janssens, did they stay in touch with you during the war?

GN: Oh, yes, until they died. And then there were the Youngkens, too. They came to help at Union Church, and Don and Vera Youngken, they lived in Highland Park, that's where my grandfather's house was, and they kept some things, too. So everything was intact.

SY: And they were not Quakers?

GN: They kept the samurai swords. My grandfather comes from a samurai family and he had all those kinds of things. All the samurai swords, all the scrolls, really wonderful, beautiful scrolls, all of his own calligraphy on scrolls, they kept all that.

SY: Were they Quakers as well?

GN: The Youngkins were Christian. They weren't Quakers. But Don and Vera Youngkin, they both came faithfully to help the Union Church and Reverend Nicholson was a Quaker. My son and my daughter Linda is a Quaker also, and she married a Quaker. My daughter-in-law, they're both active in the San Francisco Friends (meeting) Paula and Daniel are responsible for heading the drive. They got something like eighty thousand blankets to Afghanistan (refugees).

SY: Do you think they were influenced by the Quaker friends you had during the war, or was it something they came to on their own?

GN: Well, they believe in that. They practice what they preach, that their religion is in their actions and their doing and their living.

SY: That's wonderful.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So you ended up going directly to Manzanar?

GN: So we went directly to Manzanar. And the two policemen that lived on either side of us, they were fighting over who's going to take us to the Union Station. One of them had a bigger car, because my mother had the wisdom to say, "Suitcases don't hold very much. We've got to buy these giant Boy Scout jamboree duffel bags." So we bought these giant Boy Scout jamboree duffel bags and we packed them! We could hardly stagger out of the place and down all the steps. But anyway, Melvin -- that was the one neighbor that was the police investigator, the other one, Ted -- they came and helped us load the car up.

SY: And you drove directly to Manzanar?

GN: No, they took us to Union Station. Then Melvin was the one that took us, and he was unprepared for what he saw. He saw the (soldiers) with these bayonets shoving people, herding them onto the train. And I saw something I will never forget as long as I will live, and that scene has haunted me all the time I was a parent and every time I see little children I think about that. When they had the testimonies for redress, I told about that. I had completely forgot about it. I told about that and I told about the riot scenes in Manzanar.

SY: So the scene that you saw at the Union (Station) was?

GN: Union Station. (There) was a young couple who had four children. The mother had twins that she was cradling in her arms. (The couple) were both dressed in their Sunday best, and she had a coat on, and there were two toddlers hanging onto her coat. All four babies were crying, and the poor young father had all these diapers strapped on his back, because they were probably all in diapers. He had all these baby bottles strapped on his back, and then he had these two (oversized) suitcases for all six of them. That just bothered me. How could they take enough blankets, enough sheets, enough underwear, enough diapers for all of those kids? They said you (could only bring what you could carry. You don't know) how long you're going to be gone or what the destination. We knew we were going to Manzanar, but a lot of people didn't know where they were going. Anyway, they herded us onto the train. My grandmother had packed a bento. They didn't provide anything for us. And when we got on the train, at lunchtime, I thought about them so that I told my grandmother, "Wait a minute. Let me go see if I could find that family so we can share our bento with them." My grandmother said okay, so my brother and I looked all through the train, we could not find them. But we could not go out of our own (car), so they had probably put them on another (car). I looked for them in Manzanar, when we went to Manzanar. Every time I looked to see what block they (might be) in, but I never did find them. That was just so sad. I was folding diapers myself (when I became a mother) and I thought, "Oh, gee." I always think about that family. (When my two) grandchildren (were born and) when I see little children, that image just haunts me. It was a terrible situation.

When we got there to Manzanar, the trains had stopped in Lone Pine. They took us all off the train and we had to haul all those duffel bags and everything and they put us on a bus. I think it was a school bus, it was a rickety old bus, and it pulled up to Manzanar. And when everyone saw that tarpaper city, it was just silence. People were so disillusioned. We got off, and they didn't offer us any food or anything like that. They gave us a little muslin bag and it was such (loosely woven) muslin, you could see through it, and a little string. And they told us, "Go to that washhouse," it's the laundry room, and there was one naked little light bulb burning, and there's a pile of hay outside. "Go fill that. That's your mattress for the duration." So we were stuffing, and people were glum and silent. We're stuffing, and my brother said, "Hey, Grace, I'm going be like the Baby Jesus" -- [sings] "asleep on the hay." And then everybody started laughing. Young and old, it just broke the ice. The first time there was any smiles on anybody's faces, I guess it tickled their funny bone. [Laughs] So we did sleep on that old hay that night. But it was such loose weave, the straw just came out and it was just a big mess underneath the bed in the morning and dust from it. It was terrible. Anyway, it (got smashed) down so much it's like nothing on top of the springs. No mattresses (at all. We threw it out).

SY: Very uncomfortable.

GN: Very, very uncomfortable. But we were so tired that my brother did sleep. But the next morning we got up, and you could see (our) silhouettes. The dust had blown through the night and come up through the cracks, the big cracks in the floor. There was no linoleum on the floor, nothing to cover the big wide cracks. And it was green lumber so it had shrunk, and all these big cracks, all the dust had come up. We had been enveloped in a dust cloud all night while sleeping and there was a silhouette of our bodies. Our next door neighbor, there was an Ogi family, barrack right to the south of us, this was Block 19. They lived in the first part of the barrack, but there were no partitions. Maybe because my uncle was privileged, (and the camp doctor), he had a partitioned area, so we had a (room) to ourselves. And there were all these bachelors. And (the Ogis) had two teenage daughters, a son that was the same age as my brother and little sister that was about five years old. And Mr. and Mrs. Ogi told my mother they didn't sleep a wink because of all those bachelors peering at their daughters. They had to retain a sentinel there to keep an eye on their daughters with all those bachelors in that barrack right next door. Eventually they did get walls, but it was some time, at least three or four months before they got any kind of partition.

SY: And your family managed, they kept you all together in one unit?

GN: In one room there was my grandmother, my uncle, Dr. Tom Watanabe. He had actually gone earlier with Dr. Morris Little from Reno, and they had opened up the camp and got all the shots ready.

SY: So he worked from the very beginning.

GN: So we knew we were going to Manzanar, but we didn't know where it was. We'd been to Yosemite and all that with my grandfather, but we knew it was on the other side of the mountains (from) Yosemite. So while we were in this barbed wire, I always would look up (Highway) 395 longingly, "Gee, I wonder what's up 395. I wonder what's on the other side of the mountains." My brother had the guts and the curiosity to go fishing outside because he could catch fish with his bare hands. He was kind of a marvel. And my brother and I had a little fish business selling goldfish (when we lived in Hermon). We lived in an area that bordered along the Arroyo Seco River. There was no freeway then, there was just the river going down, and we would go down to play in the river. Bush's Garden was up in South Pasadena, and after a heavy rain, some of the really nice fish would come down, after a big rain would come down and go down into the river, down into this little stream. So we knew where that was and my brother knew how (to catch the fish with his hands). I would be the construction guy, he'd tell me, "You build a dam here," and then he would catch the fish and then we sold the goldfish for a nickel. Kids would buy it, but a nickel was a lot of money. It bought a lot of things. It bought an ice cream cone, it would buy a popsicle, it would buy a candy bar, it would buy a gallon of gasoline. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: And how much younger was your brother?

GN: My brother was three years younger.

SY: Three years younger. So you grew up fairly close then.

GN: Well, we were three years apart, and I always did feel like I was his guardian. And I was little but they used to call me "Mighty." I was kind of the ringleader in the neighborhood. These big kids would do whatever I told them to do. So anyway, he had protection, you might say. And now we have a little granddaughter, and I was watching her in the ballet, and she's so little and all these other kids are just towering over her. And she's saying, "You do this and you do that, okay?" And then these big kids say, "Okay." And I thought to myself, "Oh, my gosh, she's another little me." So then (her father) said, "Gosh, I wonder where Paloma gets all of that." [Laughs] Anyway, we did a lot of things when we were little. It's a good thing my mother moved there. We lived on a hillside, we rented this house, and it was wonderful. In the springtime. There'd be all this tall grass. There were wild animals, coyotes in the hills and there were all kinds of (animals and) rabbits. Wildflowers and oak trees. So we used to play in the hills. We'd dig forts and we'd make these grass bombs, we had these bomb fights with the neighborhood kids, and there were all kinds of fruit trees (in the neighborhood). We have a big loquat tree out here, and that's from our years of going -- we didn't have a loquat tree of our own -- and we'd go to the neighbor's and we'd sit in the loquat trees and eat the loquats. I'm an expert at eating loquats. I showed Gordon Sato how to eat a loquat. And he was looking at our avocados and he said, "Oh, my gosh, what a way to go to have one of those fall on your head." What a way to go. Yosh is safety conscious, so he wears a hard hat when he goes under the avocado tree." But we had trees. Then we got a dog. That was the saddest thing was to have to leave our little dog Spotty (when we had to evacuate).

SY: Where did you leave him?

GN: Well, one of the first jobs my brother did designing was he designed a dog house. And there was a lot of construction going on, and he'd go and salvage the wood. He made this beautiful dog house for our dog. We had this old shed that was kind of leaning over, and there was a loose board and the dog would crawl underneath the loose board and then (to his doghouse in) the shed. My mother made the dog a nice futon and everything. So our dog was pretty spoiled. Now I know, because my son has oodles of dogs, he loves dogs. (One day he ate our) nokori, our leftovers, he ate our gohan, (rice), he ate our okazu, (or vegetables and meat). It didn't seem like he was ailing in any way.

SY: So did someone take care of him when you left him?

GN: A neighbor took care of him, but he died. He had been hit by a car, too, so he was a little crippled.

SY: So you mentioned that your (brother Lawrence) designed this dog house. When did he become interested in cars? Was that something that he...

GN: Well, he became interested in cars when my mother inherited this '32 Chevy. And she said, well, first thing she has to learn is to learn how to drive that car. So Rosemary Sato taught her how to drive the car, and my mother's a quick learn. She drove down to Little Tokyo (to) San Pedro Garage next door to Union Church, Ralph Nakasugi was the proprietor. San Pedro Garage isn't there anymore, 'cause Ralph has passed away a long time ago. But he went to my grandfather's church in West L.A. My mother took the car there, and I can remember my brother (listening when) he was explaining things, (Mother) said, "I'm going to have to lube and oil change the car, too, so you're going to have to (teach) me, because I'm not going to be able to afford a mechanic." And my brother couldn't see because he was only three. So there was a wood Coke crate, they used to have these wooden Coke crates. It was empty and so he pushed the crate over and he stood on top of the crate and he was watching everything that Ralph told my mother, just taking it all in. He has a wonderful memory, visual memory, too. She told him what to do, and then my mother took the car (home). When it was time to lube the car, (my brother) was there (by her side). And he remembered things that my mother hadn't remembered. "You've got to do that first, Mama," he remembered. And so together they took care of that car. And then he wanted to know more about engines. My mother had had physics and all the hard kind of stuff that (she learned) at L.A. High School. She graduated with honors. You should see her chemistry notebook, I have it around someplace. My son has taught chemistry. Well, he said he (never had) students like my mother. So they learned all about cars and engines.

SY: Did (your brother) learn from your mother then?

GN: He had learned everything about cars from my mother. He knew everything about cars.

SY: So by the time you got to camp...

GN: Yes, then he got a job (in high school after camp and Grand Junction). He got a job at City Ford, an after school job at City Ford, and when he was in high school, started working there in the parts department.

SY: This was before camp?

GN: (It was after camp).

SY: He was in high school, so it (was) after camp.

GN: Yes, it was after camp. But anyway, he learned all about engines. Our neighbor across the street became a world famous race driver, Roger Ward, and he was always tinkering around with racecars. He was older. And then my brother ended up building his winning racecars later on. My brother became (a famous) automobile designer.

SY: So this was your neighbor before camp?

GN: Before camp (and after camp).

SY: So he stayed in touch with him?

GN: Oh, my brother stayed in touch with him. I'll show you a picture of Roger Ward. My brother was building and designing his (race cars). He was (also) on his pit crew, he was the head man on his pit crew. My brother is well-known in the racing industry. He's in the racing hall of fame. He's in the Corvette hall of fame, he's in the Mustang hall of fame, he's in the trucking hall of fame. They have these museums all over. So he's well-known in all those.

SY: So his design, and mainly in design, right? Or he raced as well?

GN: He raced as well. In fact, I have a picture, too. I gave one to the museum but I have another picture of my brother on his Chopstick Special. I have a big picture of that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: By the time you got to camp and you had nothing really to work with, your brother had nothing to work with, what did he do to keep...

GN: Well, do you want to see the same diagram that I showed at JANM?

SY: Maybe we could show it at the end of the interview.

GN: All right. The next morning when we got up, we were covered with dust. We kind of shook ourselves off. He said, "I was thinking, Grace, I saw last night when we were going over to the laundry room, I saw some boxes that the commodes were (packed) in. I think that if we get two of them, we can make a really nice reclining (back) chair. I'm pretty sure we can do that." He said, "You carry two and I'll carry two, we should be able to do it." I think in his duffel bag, he had gotten for Christmas a small toolkit from one of my uncles. I think he brought that with him. You weren't supposed to bring in anything (like that). I think it just had nails and maybe it had a hammer. Might have had a little teeny saw. He brought it anyway and nobody took it away. He was a kid dragging that duffel bag, he brought it anyway. He said, "Pick up two rocks, put a rock in your pocket." So then we both liked to wear things with pockets. He always told my mother -- my mother sewed everything for us, our clothes -- "Always put pocket on, Mom," because we like it. I have a quilt that I made when I was twelve, too, that I could show you. I have the sewing machine, too, that my mother made all these things on, and I (sewed the quilt squares together on) the quilt. It shows all of the materials that she used to make our clothes with. She made everything, she made our pajamas. She made everything, all of our clothes except our socks and underwear.

SY: So making things runs in your family, too.

GN: My mother invented all kinds of things for sewing. Later on, there's an adjustable measuring (device when you) put a hem in, you can measure three inches and it will stop right there. Well, she made (this) kind of like a measuring thing. She invented that way before they ever had it on the market. All the tools that she needed for sewing. Then she invented a little thing, you could run this thing and mark and track where you want to put a seam or your hem. (This device hold's tailor's chalk for making the correct measurement). If she didn't have it, she invented it. She's a very creative mind. I think that's why (we're creative). Mother was also very (systematic because she was) a CPA, too. She (was a) graduate (of) Woodbury College, she could have been anything (she aspired to be).

SY: So your brother got all this inventiveness, maybe, from your mother. So you were talking about him making wood boxes.

GN: (And my father's genes. He graduated from UC Berkeley with an Electrical Engineering degree). We didn't have a lot of money because my mother was a widow. She saved stuff for us and we'd make something out of it. We played with those things. We made our own toys, a lot of our toys. Of course, our uncles and aunts gave us things because they felt sorry for us. We didn't have a father, so they gave us a lot of things. But we still made our own toys. My mother read to us every night, and every Saturday we went to the library. I still did that with my kids. We'd go to the library every Saturday and each one of us would get a stack of books. Each one of us was responsible for the books we got, so we never had an overdue or late book. They had transaction cards then. We'd take 'em all out and put a rubber band around them. "This is for you, Joel, this is for you, (Daniel and Linda). You're responsible for getting all those books (back) next Saturday (when we are) going to the library." We never had a library overdue book and neither did any of our kids. That was their job, they had to find that book or we weren't going to the library that day.

SY: Can you finish that story about your...

GN: Yes. So my brother and I played a lot. We had this big wool rug that was patterned, it had border on it. And so we used to play (on it). We used to make our own little cars and we had all kinds of imaginary animals we'd make out of my mother's little scraps of material. We'd stuff them and we'd make little animals and people and all kinds of stuff. We played we were imaginary animals, and we had a big library table, and that became one of our dens and we would hide in the den. We did a lot of creative things. My mother never told us, but just the two of us, we could entertain ourselves for hours. We didn't go to the movies or anything like that. We didn't have television. We used to have our favorite radio programs like The Lone Ranger. [Laughs] Things that we would listen to on the radio (at) certain times.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So in camp, then, by the time you got to camp and you were able to entertain yourselves?

GN: Well, anyway, he saw these (boxes which were possible) chairs. And so early in the morning, as we were going over there towards the washroom to get these (boxes), we met Ralph Lazo. He was the only Mexican American that came to camp. In fact, I have a picture of Ralph and I have the (little passport) booklet that Ralph wrote about his time in camp. I made the first passport as a test case, I made one for myself, and by that time my brother had passed away. I made one posthumously for my brother. (Manzanar uses them) in the educational program all over the U.S. and I (have) received hundreds of letters from kids all over. When I (had an art) show here in Whittier, kids came from Downey and all these different high schools. They wanted to meet me in person.

SY: So you remember that meeting with Ralph?

GN: So anyway, I asked Ralph, "You didn't have to come. You're not Japanese, so why did you come?" So he said, "Well, it's like this." He said, "My best friends were all Japanese and I was helping them move." And I think it was Yosh Shibuya's (family) that he was helping move (because of the evacuation order). (Yosh Shibuya) was in the jazz band that Gordon Sato was in and (also) Bruce Kaji, (the founder of JANM).

SY: Jive Bombers.

GN: Jive Bombers. In fact, I have this book on the Jive Bombers, I'm going to show you also afterwards a book that (Bruce Kaji) wrote, (another book) about Gordon that just came out this year. It's a beautiful children's book about (Gordon Sato's) work in Eritrea. Well, anyway, (Sato) said, "I was so upset, when this man came and bought a brand-new lawnmower, I was helping (Ralph) take the lawnmower to the car and he said, 'Heh, heh, heh, I got this for pennies from those old Japs.'" I never use that word because it enrages me when I hear it, but that's what that guy said. And he said it made Ralph so angry that someone was gloating over somebody else's ill fortune that he decided then and there, "Nobody's standing up for my friends. I'm going to go with them to (Manzanar)," kind of like a protest. And so I said, "How did your parents feel about it?" "Well, it's like this," he said. "My mother had died, and just my father and me and my two older sisters," they were much older than (I). And he said, "Dad, I'm getting to be a teenager and I'd be a lot safer. I'll be locked up. And I'm going to be with good people and they'll take care of me and feed me and you won't have to worry about me running around late at nighttime getting in trouble or anything like that." But he wouldn't have been that kind of person to get in that kind of trouble at all. Because later on I found out from our PTA president, (Lennie Medina), when I was teaching, I gave her some tickets to the Japanese American National Museum and she and her husband went. And she said, "Grace, I went there and I saw a picture of Ralph Lazo." I said, "Do you know Ralph Lazo?" "Yes," she said, "I had a crush on him." And she said, "We were in junior high school, he was student body president of the junior high school, so I was just waiting until I would be old enough so I could go to Manual Arts to see him again. And when I got to Manual Arts, he wasn't there anymore. They said he moved." And she said, "He moved to Manzanar." So that's how I know that story about Ralph Lazo. But anyway, we remained friends with Ralph. And (Lennie Medina) just passed away; I just got a beautiful letter from her two sons just recently.

SY: Did you live in close proximity to Ralph during camp?

GN: (Yes, he lived in the Bachelor's barrack next door in Block 19).

SY: After camp you became friends.

GN: No, I became friends with him in camp. We were both in high school. (Ralph lived with the bachelors and) my friend (Haru) Ogi lived on the other side of the (Bachelor) barrack. She was my maid of honor at my wedding, I was going to show you that picture. So we were all friends. The high school wasn't that big.

SY: Did he live with another Japanese family?

GN: No, he lived in the bachelors' quarters the whole time. The whole time he was there he just lived in the bachelors' quarters. [Laughs]

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So you didn't finish the story about your brother making --

GN: So we got the two (toilet boxes) -- and I have some diagrams, I made quick little sketches (for Manzanar). Because Manzanar really had intended to make (replicas of) these chairs. They could no longer find toilet crates because they pack them in Styrofoam now. But I said similar (boxes) come from China and Japan and we could get that kind of white pine wood and we could make them. Well, the man that was going to do it retired, and then they got involved with building this barrack (replica) which they should never have done because like I say, it's like the Ritz Carlton. I was so disappointed when I saw it. (Narr. note: It has no resemblance to the actual barracks that housed us.)

SY: This is at the Manzanar interpretive center?

GN: Yes, so they never did build it, (my brother's chair). But they have the plans and I just (made) these quick little sketches for them.

SY: And your brother --

GN: So anyway, we put the two boxes together, and I'll show you the diagram. One box was such that you could take the heavy pieces and you could make armrests. Then you could take another whole side of another box and you could lean it back at an angle. So here you had a chair, armrest and a reclining back, perfect for a short person, absolutely perfect. My grandmother and my mother were in seventh heaven. Well, the word spread like wildfire, and I swear, ten thousand people in the camp came to sit on those chairs. (I can still hear) their comments. "Gee, how lucky you are, such a talented grandson." And my grandma said, "Yes, I can sit here and I can enjoy this marvelous view." And she did. She made some zabuton (cushions). We got donations, people gave upholstery fabrics and drapery fabrics and all kinds of stuff they didn't want. And Reverend Nicholson trucked that up, and my mother found some drapery fabrics and she made some cushions. And so many times we said we wish we had brought those chairs out of Manzanar. They said, "There never has been a chair that good," Grandmother , (mother and aunts) said that. Everybody in the family said, "The Manzanar chairs were the best."

SY: So was he making other things in camp while you were there?

GN: Okay, yes. Sakiko Ogi, who was only five years old, tells this story. Many years later, our son, Joel Nakamura, is an artist, and he was having a one-person show in Pasadena at a gallery. And my girlfriend who lived in Gardena heard about it. I wrote to her and said he was showing there, and she said she'd like to come and see his show. So Sakiko Ogi was visiting at (her) house one day and Toshiko said, "Would you like to go see (Joe Nakamura's art) show?" (He's talented like his uncle Lawrence). "Yes," she said, "(Lawrence) was my favorite person in camp." So Toshiko was kind of taken aback because he was a lot older than she was, actually the same age as her brother, Mamoru. So Sakiko came to the show, and afterwards we were having lunch. And so I said, "I'm curious, Sakiko, why Lawrence was your favorite person." She said, "You know, we had no toys or anything. Then Lawrence told all the kids, "Save your milk cartons from lunch and go wash them out in the latrine and then come and sit on the steps of the mess hall, and we're going to do something fun." So they all did that, all the kids in our block. And there were a lot of kids from San Pedro in our block, because Terminal Island came to Manzanar. All these little kids came, sitting on the steps, and then I said, "What did you make?" I said, "I never knew about that." "Of course," she said, "You weren't a little kid." Then she said, "We made cars, and one boy," Shigetomi was his name, he made a fire truck. And they still have that fire truck at Manzanar, right in front of the museum, that's a showpiece. She said, "He made that fire truck with the ladder and everything on it, and he's become a world-famous artist." I said, "Is that right?" "Yeah, he works for one of the studios, Disney or one of those studios, Warner Brothers." And she said, "I saved my car for years." Then she said she had to go take care of in-laws, and she doesn't have her car anymore. But she said that, "He still has his fire truck, and I can get a hold of him if you want me to get a hold of him sometime." So I gave that information to Manzanar and they'll probably get a hold of him.

SY: So were you...

GN: So anyway, he helped them. But the light dawned on me, "Why the mess hall?" Well, (in) the mess hall, they have scissors, they have knives. And my aunt, who is a CPA, said, "When I go to camp, I'm just going to become a bonkoro." That's what she said. "I'm not going to do anything that involves the brain. If they offer any classes, I'm going to take all the classes and do things that I like to do." So she took up embroidery. She said it was kind of a no-good piece. She could really draw, too. She drew her own birds on the cherry blossom tree. I have it in the studio bathroom, I could bring that down and show you. Then I have some things right here. They're just little things right there.

SY: Your mike's on, so you can't get up.

GN: Okay. Well, anyway, we didn't have school. There was no school for a long time, so I went down to this rec. hall that was in the next block below us in amongst the apple trees. There was a lot of scrap lumber around, and I thought, well, I didn't want to make anything from a pattern. And our teacher, I think his name was... I was trying to think of his name the other day when I came across this thing. I'll think of it in a minute. But I decided, well, since we're having our classes in this little apple grove, I'll make an apple, because "Manzanar" is Spanish for manzana, which is "apple." So I drew this little apple. And the teacher said, "Oh, that would be a good, simple project." So I made an apple pin. Then Mother's Day was coming up and so I thought, "Oh, I think I'll make my mother a rose." We're San Lorenzo Salon brand roses (family). I found a piece of (scrap) redwood, and my mother has a knit outfit, but I gave that to the museum. She made a skirt, very beautiful skirt that has a checkered pattern all knitted. She has this coat that has a checkered pattern in the knitting down the front.

SY: So she made this... did she manage to get a sewing machine when she was in camp?

GN: No, she knitted it. She knitted it. But she had that before the war, but it's warm, so she brought it to camp to wear because it was cold in Manzanar. We didn't know what kind of weather it was going to be.

SY: So you all (were) really involved in making things in camp.

GN: My mother had that made before.

SY: But you made a little pin?

GN: It was really too big, actually, for my mother. It was too big, but it was easier to carve, so I made it big.

SY: So you carved it with...

GN: Yes, with carving tools. I don't know how he got those in the camp, but he brought some in his (suitcase) because he was a woodcarver, and he brought (some small) carving (tools). We had a woodcarving set, too, at home, but of course we didn't bring that. We had to leave it at our home. So I was familiar with using those kind of tools.

SY: (So your family, you brother and you in camp, were you as close as you were before camp or did you grow apart?)

GN: (We continued to be close and did things together like growing a vegetable garden next to our barrack in Block 29.)


<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So, you were in high school in camp? Had you graduated from high school before you entered camp?

GN: No. Actually, May 16, 1942, was the day we were evacuated, and they did not have any school ready for us. So school wasn't ready until, oh, I think probably end of September, first part of October.

SY: Were you a senior in high school at the time?

GN: No, I was a sophomore, going to enter the tenth grade. But in the summertime, I took (woodcarving) and then I went over and I took this class with this fellow named Bob Minami. He had been a professional advertising artist.

SY: This was in camp.

GN: In camp.

SY: So this was before they actually started the school.

GN: It was the summer. And he was way up (at the north end of camp). I'd have to walk over there. He was in the top part of the camp, so I would have to go across several firebreaks and I (then) was there. We not only talked about the scenery... but he didn't have a lot of equipment, but he could get old newspapers, so he was very resourceful. He got old newspapers, they have columns, so they have lines. So he said, "Would you like to learn how to letter with a brush?" I said, "Well, I already know how to do sumi-e with a brush." He said, "This is a lettering brush, so I'll teach you everything you could learn." He said, "I do have some lettering brushes," because he'd been in advertising and brought some brushes. And there weren't that many people that wanted to take that class. So I ended up practically being his only student. I don't remember anybody else in the class. So I learned how to do all kinds of letters, Old English, all kinds of lettering. It just came second nature. That was really fun and I learned a lot about design and composition and spacing. I really became very adept at lettering. It came in handy later on because I'm always involved in some kind of protests and I'm always making some kind of protest sign or campaign signs for somebody. Then I taught in a school that didn't have very many funds, so I had to build a curriculum. So I thought, "Well, I bet the kids will like to learn how to do all this kind of exotic lettering, especially Old English. And they did. Oh, everybody wanted to take that class. So I designed a lettering and design class. I taught them design, and we didn't have to have very many materials either, just lettering brushes and black (paint) and newspaper. The kids loved that class. They signed up for that in droves. It was an elective.

SY: So this Bob Minami, was he young?

GN: He was young, yes.

SY: And he got paid to teach when you first got there?

GN: I don't know whether he was paid to teach, but he was just getting bored, I guess, and he just volunteered. He didn't have a lot of brushes and so he couldn't have had a very large class, but he had enough lettering brushes. And you could use any one of his lettering brushes. He had brought all his brushes.

SY: And so when school actually did start, when did school actually start?

GN: It wasn't in September. It was quite a bit after September, and there were no chairs or no tables. It was just the bare floor with all this dust coming up (through the cracks). And we had a study period where we'd just go to this empty room. And it was so boring. I had been in one class and it had changed to another class, and I thought, "Well, I wonder what will happen if I just sit here. I wonder if the teacher would kick me out." Because it was cold and the wind was blowing outside, I thought, "Well, I'd just as soon stay here and I'll just do my homework and whatever I have to do here sitting on the floor." Because sitting in the floor here instead of in another room. And it happened to be a shorthand class and then I got kind of interested in what he was teaching. So I went back to the barrack and I asked my aunts who had secretarial skills, "Do you think that would be a wise thing to do?" My aunt said, "Sure," because who knows? My mother's always very practical, said, "Well, if you want to go to college, I don't know how I'm going to send you to college." So she said, "You could probably get a secretarial job or maybe a part-time job, or maybe even at the college you go to you could work in the office or something. It probably wouldn't hurt to learn that. The more things you know the better equipped you'll be. You could even take notes." So I just sat there, and then I got to thinking, "Why don't I get credit for this?" So then I talked to the teacher, he said, "Well, have you learned enough just from listening that you could take the first test?" He said, "If you can pass the first test, then you can stay. You're not bothering me." So I stayed the whole semester and I took the first test and I got one of the top scores. I could transcribe 120 words a minute, and that was pretty good. I already knew how to type, I had learned that in the ninth grade at Luther Burbank junior high.

SY: So the courses that were not the basic courses, those were the ones that interested you more?

GN: Well, I took that, I took shorthand, I took an art crafts class. And there were some really talented kids in class, but we didn't have any materials to work with to speak of. But I had brought my watercolors and a little notebook, so I did quite a few pictures, watercolor paintings. And I don't know whatever happened to those pictures.

SY: So was school...

GN: But this is the thing that got me. I had to take biology. We had either teachers that were very good or the teachers that probably couldn't get jobs anyplace else. That's what I figured. This biology teacher, his wife taught geometry; she was an excellent geometry teacher. But he taught biology and he didn't believe in evolution. I came home and told my family that and my uncle who was a doctor said, "What kind of biology are you going to learn from that guy?" My (mom) said, "Oh, no, doesn't believe in evolution." "Well, just grin and bear it and read the textbook and do what you can." And then we did have textbooks, more than most of the other camps. Because Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena was also the California State depository for state textbooks. And so Vroman's made sure that all the kids in Manzanar got the state textbooks. So we had California state textbooks. (Other camp schools were not so fortunate). Now, I don't know what they did in lab classes, but I think that maybe because my friend Henry Nakano majored in chemistry at UCLA, and got probably good enough background in chemistry (in Manzanar). But me, I left in my senior year. I had accumulated so many units that I only needed less than a semester to graduate. I had to take senior English, and I only had to go to school half a day.

SY: Is that because you had taken so many extra classes?

GN: I had taken a lot of extra classes at Manzanar.

SY: So how would you rate the education that you got there?

GN: Well, I'd say that it was adequate. I had some very good teachers, and I had some... like this biology teacher (not so good). At least in California, no one would ever hire him. [Laughs] But he was a nice man.

SY: So you had teachers that were...

GN: Exceptionally fine. Like I had Helen Ely Brill. She was an exceptionally fine human being and just an outstanding English teacher. And I really learned to write, but I also had had an excellent English teacher in the ninth grade at Luther Burbank junior high, Etta Sandseth. I still remember her name. We read the Iliad and the Odyssey, and all the nuances of writing like the metaphors, I can still remember all the things. Like the (metaphor) "rosy fingered dawn," the descriptive language, I loved that. And I learned about punctuation. I learned the grammar really well. They say teachers make a big difference. Everybody can look back to a teacher that made a difference in your life. Every one of us can look back. I had some really very fine (teachers).

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: Did you end up graduating from Manzanar High School?

GN: No, I did not. I would have been in the class... in fact, I named the class from Latin. I had a very good Latin teacher, and I still have (three) friends that were in my Latin class. (They) were Henry Nakano, he lives in Fullerton, Kats Odanaka, she lives in Anaheim (and Shigeki in Alameda, California). Mary Jane Kramer's Latin class (was fun and excellent). She was very dedicated. She was young (and) pretty. She came to all of our reunions until she passed away.

SY: So you named the class what?

GN: I named the class the Duces, which means "leaders," but the kids all thought it meant "deuces." "Oh, (they thought) that's a great name." So that became the name of that graduating class of '45.

SY: So how was it that you ended up not graduating?

GN: Well, while I was going there at Manzanar (High School). I also worked for the chief of police at Manzanar, John Gilkey, and he was in charge of fingerprinting all the people that came and went from camp, and they had very accurate records. And so he taught me how to do the fingerprinting, and pretty soon they turned over all the fingerprinting to me. So even when I was in school, I would come and help him do the fingerprints after school.

SY: Everyone at Manzanar had to get fingerprinted?

GN: Fingerprinted.

SY: When they arrived?

GN: When they exited to leave to go to the outside, they had to take the fingerprints. Or if they came in as a visitor they had to take their fingerprints. And so then I was in charge of the fingerprinting. Actually, he showed me how to read the fingerprints and he had an assistant chief, they were both very good, I liked them a lot, and they taught me a lot and I learned how to do all the fingerprinting. And pretty soon they turned it over to me and I read all the fingerprints and did all the classifications. So every time I meet a person... I really like people, and I think that has made my life very enjoyable because everybody I think has something to contribute. And no matter what their station in life is, everyone has something good about them. Because I think every one of us has the spirit of God in us, every single one. There's something in everybody that they have something to give. So life has been very, very interesting. Yosh thinks I'm being nosy and too inquisitive. It's really because I'm interested in them as a person. [Laughs] So Yosh says, "You're just doing your old FBI routine again. Stop it. It's embarrassing for you to be doing your FBI routine."

SY: I don't understand... reading fingerprints? What does it involve?

GN: Oh, yes. There are these little whorls, you have to read the left whorls, you have to read the right whorls, you have to read how many lines there are in the whorl.

SY: And then that identifies the person?

GN: And then every fingerprint is different.

SY: So your job was to take the fingerprints...

GN: You take all the fingerprints and read them on the right hand and the left hand. You had to be very accurate about it, and we had a high magnification (lens to examine the fingerprints). You put this black ink and you have to roll it a certain way so you get all the areas, (even the) tips of your fingers.

SY: And you had to match it to another set of fingerprints of the same person?

GN: No, no. You get the prints and there's a place for each (fingerprint) of your (left and right) hands, and then those are kept by the FBI. (Now) they put them on microfilm. It's still the same procedure when they fingerprint you.

SY: So you were working and you were going to school at the same time?

GN: Yes. Because actually, I started in the summertime. I did fingerprinting, but I also was the secretary. I took shorthand and typed up all the (police reports). There weren't too many people in jail. One of the persons that was a repeat offender was our neighbor. We called him "Anchovy" because he was very (suntanned and) dark, and I don't know why he got the name, but my brother started calling him Anchovy. He said he reminds him of an anchovy. He'd make his own brew. And when he'd make his own brew he'd get loud and noisy and then the Manzanar police would take him down (to the jail) and he'd say, "Oh, there you are Grace-san. Tell my wife next time you come here, bring me this and bring me that." [Laughs] (Narr. note: Anchovy was very good to my brother and me. He helped us put in the garden next to our barrack in Block 29.)

SY: So you actually got to see the people that were arrested.

GN: Oh, yes.

SY: That was part of your job when they were fingerprinted. So there weren't very many people who...

GN: No, no. But we also, when they went out to work in the sugar beet fields or anything like that, we had to fingerprint them. Then any visitors that came to Manzanar. Plus, we didn't have to book that many people because there weren't that many people that violated the law. There were some domestic disputes, and there were some people that became famous for domestic disputes and then there were these fistfights.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So what do you know about the Manzanar riots? Was that something you experienced firsthand?

GN: Well, I was in high school, I was in the tenth grade at that time. And I knew that there had been quite a bit of discontent because my aunt worked drying dishes (in the mess hall) and she just kept that job. She said, "I don't need any other job." They brought books up here from Vroman's (bookstore). There was time for her to read books. She took this dressmaking class, this flower-making class, this (embroidery) class.


SY: So your aunt was the one who did all these creative things during camp?

GN: Yes.

SY: But how did that relate to the, hearing about the riots?

GN: Okay, well anyway, my Aunt (Teru) worked in the kitchen, and the cook was saying, "We're not getting the sugar that we're supposed to get." Japanese like to put tons of sugar in their coffee. And we weren't getting enough sugar and he liked to make cupcakes and other things. He was a very good cook, we were lucky. When we were in high school, the boys used to run around to go to all the mess halls. Certain mess halls got a reputation for good cooks, other ones, not so hot cooks. And they were running around to all these mess halls, and then they got a system where they had a mess checker and you had to have a mess hall card for your block. So it was really a problem when we had to go from our place way up (in Block 29) to the other corner of the camp (in Block 19) to have lunch. It was really a problem. So they said, "Somebody's stealing the sugar that's coming," because they always had a certain allotment for every (mess hall kitchen). "Someone's stealing the coffee." Now there were those government workers, they lived in a separate place. They lived in barracks, real nice ones that were stucco, they had insulation and all that kind of stuff, nice windows. Well, they were taking it. The first rumblings were because things were disappearing and they were not getting it in the kitchen. So we knew there was that discontent. And here they were taking advantage of us, and there were block meetings and people were protesting. And then they got more and more (agitated). They said, "This government locked us up." And then when they had that "no-no" question, my mother became (one of the) interviewers of the "no-no (questionnaire)" because she's bilingual. Well, my aunts are bilingual, too. So they (were interviewers for) the "no-no" questions and some people said, "no-no." And they got really discontented. "Why are they trying to make us serve in the army when they've disenfranchised us?" and all that. And I think there would be tremendous protests now in the Japanese American community. Can you imagine a Yonsei going to camp? No, I don't think so. And then people kept on thinking that these people in the JACL -- because it was just a fledgling organization, that they were traitors because they encouraged us to go, to follow the government (commands) and go.

SY: So there was this rising discontent?

GN: Rising discontent. And then they got organized, and they would have protest meetings.


GN: Toshihisa Tom Watanabe. He's an MD, was my uncle. And he had the Central X-ray Lab. It was on Central Avenue, and then Kusayanagi, who was in our camp and lived in Block (29), built the Kusayanagi building right across from JANM. Then my uncle rented space from him and he had his office there. I have another aunt who's a medical doctor, Dr. Megumi Shinoda, and she had her office right on First Street, and she had the first (medical advice) column in the Rafu. I think (many subscribers) read that column. In the walk of fame there on First Street, there's my aunt's medical bag inscribed in the cement where her office was.

Well, anyway, to get back to the riots, I was in Block (29) and it happened down near the police station. Well, I could run pretty fast because it was all downhill. We heard that there was something fomenting down there, and I'm curious. Everyone says curiosity is going to kill me off. It has (almost a) couple of times. [Laughs] But anyway, I went down there, and it almost killed me off that time, too.


SY: And do you remember what you saw?

GN: Yes, I was standing there and the people were yelling. Then from the guard tower they started shooting bullets and one hit Jimmy Ito, who was my classmate. He was standing right next to me and they just shot him dead. It could have been me, because they were randomly shooting.

SY: You were that close, huh?

GN: Yes, we were right up where the action was. He was just an innocent bystander, too. It turns out, now, that my niece, Donna Nakamura, is married to Johnny Ito. His father was the brother of this Jimmy Ito that died.

SY: And you remember him? You knew him?

GN: Oh, I remember him. I mentioned that in the testimony for the Congressional record, and that appears in JANM right across from the picture of Ralph Lazo up (on the second floor) in that last room (of The Common Ground exhibit) at JANM.


GN: (It's upstairs) in that last room (of The Common Ground permanent exhibit. The Common Ground exhibit starts with the barrack and then it goes kind of around to the last room. John Tateishi was the heads of the Redress Campaign). He was (an English) professor. He's an excellent writer (and) he's written several books. We have a whole library full of books on the evacuation and the 442. And every time a new one comes out, Yosh buys it. I don't know what we're going to do with all of our books.

SY: So when you were actually experiencing this riot, do you remember what the reaction was once they started shooting?

GN: Well, then people started running away.

SY: So you started running?

GN: Yes, so I started running away after (Jimmy Ito) fell over. Then it just kind of simmered down and they (stopped) shooting. I don't know what kind of disciplinary action they (got). I know that (later) they shipped a whole bunch of (the rioters) to Tule Lake.

SY: Was the camp up in arms still after that happened, or did things quiet down?

GN: Oh, yes. People were yelling, people were very upset that this had happened. I could remember discussions that we had at home, "Well, it was bound to happen when (the government was demanding answers to) those stupid questions." They would be people without a country (if they answered some questions). But still, they had the presence of mind to know what the consequences would be. So they would say, "Well, you better say yes." Their teenage sons (were told), "You'd better say yes, you'll go (and serve in the U.S. Army)." Others said, "Well, no, why should you risk your life when they've done this to us?"

SY: So you remember your family talking about it?

GN: Oh, yes.

SY: And did you understand what was going on? Were you old enough to realize?

GN: (Yes). Well, all my life, even when I was little kid, I got into trouble. We got in trouble in school because the teacher was trying to coerce us to do something and I felt that you should have a choice. You shouldn't have to do this or that. So that's the kind of person I am. Yosh says he never speaks for me. "She speaks for herself."

SY: But it must have been difficult because your family was all there at Manzanar. So did they have discussion over whether to stay there?

GN: Well, no, there was no doubt in any of our minds that we would all have to say "yes." Well, I didn't have to because I wasn't eighteen then. But they all said they would bear arms for the U.S.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: And then how was it that you ended up getting out of camp?

GN: Well, they were letting people exit camp to go to school, because some of them were older that had been taken out of school. [Addressing husband] Yosh, what is the name of that professor that started the student relocation movement? The professor from Whittier College? Dr. Robert O'Brien. And that's a very heroic story, Dr. Robert O'Brien's. He was a professor at the University of Washington, and he had all these (Japanese American) students. He taught sociology (at the University of Washington), but he was also a doctorate of religion at the Congregational United Church of Christ. That's what we are, we belong to UCC. He talked to his wife and said, "This is a terrible thing that they are doing to Japanese Americans, interrupting their education. They are very loyal people." And he said she was nine months pregnant and they were walking along the waterfront in Seattle. It was December 7th, and he knew, too. He said, "They're going to come and take my students away or have a curfew on them,(so) I have to reunite them with their families." And here she was ready to have this child, and she said, "No, Robert, you can't go. You've got to be with me when I have the child." And he said, "You'll just have to grit your teeth and just get to the hospital any way you can if the baby starts coming, but I'm going to reunite my students with their parents." So under cover of darkness -- and he could have been arrested because it was against the law (because) there was a curfew. He put a blanket over them and he would drive them over to the other side of the mountains, to Eastern Washington, and he reunited them with their families. (When the Executive Order 9066 was issued for our evacuation from the West Coast, they were united with their families to leave together).

In the meantime she had this baby. It was a very difficult delivery for her first child, and nurses would say, "What an uncaring husband," and all these remarks that went on. Finally he shows up after he has delivered his last student, and he takes her home. But then he says, "I can't let them be in those camps, I've got to get them out and find them colleges out of the Pacific Coast Defense Command." So he went to the Congregational Church and asked them, and they said, "No." And then he went to the Quakers. He went to Philadelphia to the Quakers and asked them, and they said, "Yes, we will help you, we will find homes for the students among the Quakers, we will find universities for qualified students." So then the next big job was going to the camps to try to convince the parents to let their kids go. Because we had been mistreated so badly and they didn't know what it was going to be like on the outside for them, so they were fearful, but some parents, (realized) their kids were in the senior year and everything had been disrupted for them, so they let them go.

SY: So what happened to you? What was your experience? Who actually helped you?

GN: Okay. Well, actually, even though I had gone to Grand Junction to be with my (grandparents), I was still in contact with Helen Ely Brill and with the Quakers (in Philadelphia).

SY: So your parents had already left camp?

GN: My mother and my brother and I had left. The Shinodas (left the West Coast) under the cover of darkness. They were not supposed to travel (but) they escaped. And they have stories to tell, too; how (the police) would stop them while they were trying to leave and they had babies that they had to muffle their voices so that they wouldn't cry. They were hiding in the flower truck inside of the flower boxes.

SY: So this is the Shinoda family, where were they at the time?

GN: They were in Southern California and Northern California, but some of them escaped. They left and went to Colorado. And then they were unprepared (when) the police (stopped them) at the border in Colorado and looked at them and they thought, "Uh-oh, the jig's up." They were just petrified, and then (the policeman) said, "The Governor of Colorado welcomes you." That was (Governor) Ralph Carr. There were some real beacons (of hope) like that in the wilderness. (Governor) Ralph Carr was a Quaker.

SY: And that's how they managed to escape going to camp?

GN: They went to Grand Junction, Colorado. (Others went to Idaho).

SY: And they didn't have a sponsor there, they just left on their own?

GN: They just left on their own. And then another person that went was from Gilroy, the Garlic King, he's a big contributor to JANM, Hirasaki) is the last name. Anyway, the whole research department there (at JANM) was founded (by Manabe and Sumi Hiraski).

SY: Hirasaki.

GN: Hirasaki. They were at Grand Junction, too.

SY: So the reason your family went to Grand Junction is because the Shinodas were already there.

GN: Well, no, my grandfather had a stroke, a very disabling stroke. My uncle, my youngest uncle, Daniel, wanted to go to divinity school, to Boston Theological Seminary, but he really felt that he could not leave my grandfather without a caregiver. So he asked my mother if she would come. He depended on my mother for everything. My mother is a very long-suffering, wonderful woman, so she agreed to go take care of him.

SY: She took you and your brother.

GN: Yes, we went there to Grand Junction.

SY: Do you remember when that was?

GN: That was in... let's see, when was that?

SY: That was just before you graduated from high school then. Toward the end of the war.

GN: Yes, around '44. Summer of '44.

SY: So when you were in Grand Junction, you had been there a very short period of time, but you stayed in contact with this teacher.

GN: Well, we never lost contact. We've had contact until she died, all these years.

SY: And she was the one who encouraged you to go to...

GN: When I was still in camp and I was still a junior, she started the process. And then Robert O'Brien had already started the student relocation program, so they already had me in the pipeline looking for a place where I might go. And then they got the idea that maybe I could be relocated back to California after the war was over. That's when they decided that they would send me as a test case back to California. First they offered me some scholarships like to Black Mountain College, that's the place where Ruth Asawa went to school. Then another (Berea) college they offered me (a scholarship). In fact, (Yosh and I) went to see the crafts there (years later).

SY: So you decided, though, that you wanted to go back. How was it that you decided to come back to the West Coast?

GN: Well, actually, I'm glad that we went to Grand Junction because I had an outstanding English teacher. And we read Beowulf, and she really knew her literature. We read Chaucer, she was a real scholar. But the downside was I had this chemistry class. I probably would have been better off taking that at Manzanar, because all we did, all I can remember is you pour acid into water and it helps with baking certain things (and with) some recipes that I've concocted. (Our chemistry class had) canned tomatoes with the German prisoners of war. They were the same age we were. And that's what we had to do every day, instead of chemistry. The vice principal of the junior high school was our chemistry teacher, Mr. James.

SY: So you actually went to high school in Grand Junction for some time?

GN: The last semester, but I didn't have to take very many units. I took English and I took bookkeeping (and consumer electronics). I didn't really have to take any classes. I could have graduated, but I wanted to take senior English and I'm glad I did. Because when I went to Redlands, nobody had read all of (the literature that was presented to me).

SY: So you actually did not graduate from high school there.

GN: No, they sent me my diploma.

SY: They sent you a diploma from Grand Junction? Because before you graduated you went to Redlands?

GN: Before that, the official graduation, but I had more than completed the units. I had straight-A's.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So how was it that you got from... how did you get from Grand Junction to Redlands?

GN: Okay. The only travel that was available to us that we could afford was by train. There was a train station in Grand Junction and then there was a station in Redlands, and they had found a sponsor for me, Dr. Pratt Spellman. He was a Quaker and he was a world-renowned organist. So Dr. Spellman and his wife were my sponsors.

SY: And what did that entail? That meant you were going to stay with them?

GN: Well, I could have stayed with them or I could stay in the dormitory. The University of Redlands gave me a scholarship and the Quakers raised (other) funds. I worked at the Redlands Congregational Church as a secretary to the Director of Religious Education while I was going to school. And I also worked in the youth program.

SY: So do you remember, as a test case, or one of the first to return to the West Coast, what your reception was?

GN: Well, it was very good. There was the group of students, they were not Quakers, but they believed that what the Quakers were doing was right. They were a disparate kind of group of students. I can remember them all. (Two) of them (were) my roommates. I had two roommates, they were both seniors who wanted to be my roommates. So we were all jammed in this one room. I have pictures of (them) I was going to show you. We still remained friends until they passed away.

SY: So was there any discussions with the people you met about the fact that, what you had just gone through and that you were Japanese?

GN: Well, I gave a lot of talks to the student body and to different young people in the church communities and at the Redlands Congregational Church.

SY: You spoke about your experience in camp?

GN: Oh, yes. They were very interested to know. I had a P-coat that they all loved. They had this kind of recycling center over there at Manzanar, and they brought in all these P-coats that they never issued, probably from an earlier war. And they had World War I, those old ugly-looking khaki (colored uniforms) World War I soldiers wore. But the wool was still good. And so there was a whole battery of women, and I think they had one or two power machines (restyling the uniforms and P-coats).

SY: So was there any negative reception at all, negative comment?

GN: No, not one.

SY: Not one.

GN: Not one.

SY: And you were the only Japanese American in this whole...

GN: There had been Japanese Americans there previous to the war, but at the time that I came... no. Later on, (a Nisei), he had been relocated to (Minot) University in (North) Dakota. Hiromu Nakamura, (who) had been at Manzanar with me. And in the Manzanar newspaper it said that we were the two top students at Manzanar High School, Hiro and I. Hiro's older than I am, but someone was ill in his family so he wanted to be in California so he could be closer to his parents. By that time, the curfew had lifted a little bit.

SY: So he was the second student to come to the university.

GN: He came, but the Quakers (had) already sent him to Minot, North Dakota, to college and then he came to Redlands.

SY: So you had a really good experience there, then.

GN: I had a really wonderful experience there.

SY: And you graduated from the university?

GN: I graduated from University of Redlands.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: And in the meantime, did your mother and brother return to California?

GN: Well, my mother and brother returned, and my mother bought an old '37 Ford, she and my Uncle Peter (drove).


GN: The Hirasakis had come and there were some other families there. One family had a daughter who had volunteered to be a nurse. She'd gone to University of Minnesota and she left her ice skates. They fit me, so they brought them over for me to wear. And I remember the bull got out of the pen and (charged) my brother and (me). (We) city kids didn't know what to do. So in our ice skates and all, we climbed up to the corn crib and we jumped into the corn crib. The bull crashed the corn crib, but didn't hurt us because it was a pretty well-built corn crib, and we survived. We were not meant to be farmers, and neither were any of my relatives meant to be farmers. Especially not dairymen. They had a dairy and they (also) grew sugar beets.

SY: So your uncle became ill.

GN: He got undulant fever from the (infected) dairy (cows) so he came back with my mother to go to General Hospital (in Los Angeles) where they could really give him the kind of the treatment he needed. There was no place around (Grand Junction) that could treat him.

SY: So they resettled in Los Angeles.

GN: So they drove back.

SY: And your brother stayed with your mother?

GN: Yes, and they moved back into the house that my grandfather built in Highland Park that we had lived in before we were evacuated.

SY: And did your brother end up going to college as well?

GN: My brother went to PCC, (Pasadena City College). After school he worked at City Ford parts department.

SY: So he really started working and designing?

GN: At City Ford he knew all the car parts. He was building hot rods, and I'll show you pictures of the hot rods. He was drag racing hot rods. Ron Kusumi tells it really well. He knows all the details about the cars and he's been my brother's friend for a long, long time.

SY: So he started really just designing these things that he built himself?

GN: Yes, he designed cars himself and he had figured out the drag on it. He's very observant and he has a very good memory. We ate a lot of fish, and he used to catch fish. As I said, we had this little goldfish business, we got five cents for the goldfish. He knew how fish are designed, and there's a term for it. But he watched all these animals and the design of the stingray (shark). You go look at a stingray shark, and you can see how the gills are, and he designed the car, getting the idea from the stingray, (which became the Stingray Corvette).

SY: The aerodynamic.

GN: Yes, the aerodynamics. He's designed the Goodyear blimp, anything that moves. Anything that's innovative. I have a whole bunch of books that I was going to show you (telling) when my brother has been the first (to design many innovative cars). He designed the first SUV and the first Jeep Grand Cherokee, and another man took the credit for it all these years. Then he designed ski clothing. He designed skis, ski mobiles, (and) furniture, too. He designed office files, very innovative. And our own three kids, they had a lot of commercial toys, but we didn't buy them a lot of stuff. They could see potential in any kind of refuse that we had. That's why our house is just full of junk, because all of us could see potential. You could do this and this, I could use this for this and this (for tha). I could recycle this.

SY: So while you were in school at University of Redlands, your mother and brother lived in Highland Park.

GN: Yes, and my mother got a job. She worked for a Christmas tree company.

SY: So did they have a hard time getting back?

GN: No, because they were all of our old neighbors that were very indignant that (we forcibly) had to go away. They were all still there.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: And then by the time you graduated, were you planning to move back to Highland Park?

GN: Well, the day after I graduated -- I graduated on a Sunday -- and on Monday I got a job in Pasadena. I was one of the first Japanese Americans to be credentialed in California.

SY: Credentialed teacher?

GN: Credentialed teacher.

SY: So you got your teaching credential...

GN: I got my teaching credential.

SY: ...when you graduated from the University of Redlands.

GN: Yes, the next day I started teaching.

SY: And you had no trouble getting that job?

GN: Well, the person that hired me was a very courageous man. He looked at my character and looked at my references, and his name was Ray Hayworth. Wonderful, wonderful man. Always open, listening to ideas.

SY: Was there a reason Pasadena was chosen? Or they chose you or you chose them?

GN: Well, there was an opening and I applied there. I don't know whether it would have been so easy elsewhere, but I applied there and he was willing to accept me as a teacher. But it was in a segregated school. It was to my advantage in many ways because it was very small. It was my first teaching job and I had less than sixteen students and there were only four teachers in the school. All of them very, very welcoming. They were all much older than I am, three of them have passed away, but one of them is still living. She's older than I am. She's pushing ninety now, but she lives in (Yakima, Washington).

SY: Out of the state?

GN: She lives in the state of Washington.

SY: So where you were... it was segregated?

GN: It was interesting. I think maybe it was segregated because of the neighborhood, but there was a pocket of Mexican Americans, and there was Foothill Boulevard, and it was demographically interesting). As a person with a sociology background, it was very interesting to me. Because on (the south side of Foothill Boulevard) lived all the all the Catholics and the Catholic church. North (of Foothill Boulevard) they were all Protestants and the Protestant Church. But somehow this community, both communities came together and went to this little school. The custodian, Mr. Woodworth, was just like a member of our family and just like a member of their families.

SY: So it was segregated geographically, (it) was all Caucasian or all black?

GN: No, it was all Hispanic.

SY: All Hispanic?

GN: All Hispanic.

SY: Except for the teachers who were not.

GN: The teachers were not. Irving Garrison, he had been a conscientious objector, he was very active in the Methodist church. A wonderful, wonderful human being.

SY: And he was the one that hired you?

GN: No, he was kind of the assistant principal and he was the teacher of the (fifth and) sixth grades. I taught third and fourth. There was an opening for third and fourth. The kids had had a very experienced teacher before me, a wonderful master teacher. And then I had a rough year that first year because I was so stupid. [Laughs] And then they had (a kindergarten teacher and) her name was (Ellaree) Hansen, and Sally Horn, she taught first and second, but they were very wise. They were all excellent pro teachers.

SY: And how long were you at this school?

GN: I was at that school for two or three years, and we had a really fantastic superintendent that came, Willard Gosland of Peabody College in St. Louis. He was a humanitarian. He came into my classroom and I had an old wicker rocking chair, and he said, "This is a good thing. May I sit in this?" So he sat in the rocking chair. Teachers always like to sit in that rocking chair. And he said, "More learning could go on in your class." And I said, "Tell me how." He said, "See that little girl over there? She's very uncomfortable. Her feet do not touch the floor." He said, "If you could go get some boxes, it's all you need." You couldn't lower the table any more. Because I had double grades and I had some big kids and I had some little kids, third and fourth graders. And he said, "Just go get some cardboard boxes, put (one) there so she has some place to rest her feet, and she'll be much more comfortable." And so I did that, it made the world of difference. The kids liked it.

SY: So why was it that you decided to leave that school?

GN: I stayed at that school.

SY: You said a few years.

GN: Because they closed that school, mainly because it was segregated by the neighborhood, but they didn't want it to be that way. They were moving towards desegregation anyway, and they built a beautiful new school up in the Hastings Ranch. And they wanted the teachers that these children knew and the families knew and trusted us. They had a very active PTA and everything and we had leadership there and we wanted them to feel that they could (participate fully). But here were these homes that were really ritzy homes, upper Hastings Ranch, up above Foothill Boulevard.

SY: So you ended up staying in the Pasadena area.

GN: So I moved up with them and I continued to teach. Then they had a second grade opening, so then I taught second grade there.

SY: So you stayed in the primary grade levels until you...

GN: Until I got too pregnant with Linda. Then my principal, Ray Hayworth, said, "Grace, I'm not sure that I could deliver a baby. Maybe you better take a leave of absence until after the baby comes." So anyway, I took a leave of absence and I had Linda. Then I decided that I would stay home with her, so I didn't teach anymore.

SY: You retired for a while.

GN: I retired for quite some time, actually. Then I became involved in the PTA and all that kind of business with Linda, nursery school, and I became more involved with the religious education at our church.

SY: When did you restart your interest in art?

GN: When Linda was born we lived in South (Pasadena). Before Linda was born, when we got married, Yosh had the GI Bill, and so we built a little house in South Pasadena in the Monterey Hills. But then we had to sell it because we didn't have enough money (to build another house when he got a job). Yosh went to place after place and he was the best qualified candidate but they wouldn't hire him because he was Japanese. I said, "Yosh, Herbert Winnerberg who's superintendent in the Whittier Union High School District is on the board at the University of Redlands. He gave me my diploma. Why don't you go try Whittier Union High School District?" He had tried in Bellflower and they said, "You are the best qualified and we really want you, but there's board members (here) that do not want us to hire Japanese."

SY: So that's how you ended up in Whittier, your family?

GN: And Herbert Winnerberg hired him.

SY: And you moved to Whittier then?

GN: We moved to Whittier and sold that house, and we bought property for this house. Yosh and I did a lot of the work on (building) the house.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

GN: Well, after that, I was a mother, and then I had two more children. I had Linda, then there was four years, and then I had Daniel. And then Joel, there was twenty-two months between (Daniel) and (Joel). So I was pretty busy taking care of the family. And when Joel was in the fourth grade, or was he older than that? (Yes), I guess he was older than that. Joel was in about the fourth or fifth grade. I was gardening out in the front yard, pulling weeds, and this man came down the street and was walking his dog. He was very friendly to us, he (lived) over on the next street and his daughter used to come and babysit. But I had never met her father. His daughter (played) and played folk songs. (Daniel said he wanted) to learn how to play the guitar. Linda was taking piano lessons from a professional, and she said, "Oh, he's going to learn guitar. He (should learn) classical guitar, not some of this old folk music stuff." So anyway, we got him a teacher and he studied classical guitar and he's very good at it. I said, "I'm always interested in meeting our babysitter's dad." So I said, "What do you do?" Started my FBI stuff. And he said, well, he's one of the superintendents up in the Roland District. I said, "How interesting." I said, "I used to be a teacher a long time ago." "Really?" he said. "Well, what can you teach?" I said, "Well, I can teach them almost anything. I'm credentialed to teach almost anything. I have a generalized credential and I have a specialized credential. I can teach anything from kindergarten through twelfth grade." He said, "Well, what I have to offer you right now, it's an experimental school, and I think you might like it." He said, "It's a health class. Have you ever taught health?" I said, "I used to teach health and PE at this little school that I used to teach in Pasadena. I taught all the health ed. and PE to the kids, and I guess I could teach health."

So I became the specialist for that school. It was a middle school, and it had a very fantastic principal. The principal makes the school. His name was Philip Fallon and he came from Massachusetts. And it was an integrated curriculum, and I had every kid in the school. They were on a modular system, sometimes they might come two days, they might come three days. They were on different teams, and from the different grade levels. And we'd have a conference period with all the teachers, the teachers that English, the teachers that taught social studies, etcetera. And so when I was teaching about drug prevention or smoking and all that kind of business, deleterious to your health, then the typing teacher would be teaching them how you could write a little essay on that, footnotes and all the kind of research they would have to do. The English teacher was working on it from English. Well, that's the way I think. That's the way I've always taught, complete integration. The art teacher was working on art projects they could work on, and always give your suggestions to the kids. And that's the way the University of Redlands was, an integrated approach like that. And that's the way our whole family thinks, along those lines. They try to integrate everything and try to have integrated lives, too. And so it was very exciting, and the kids did extremely well at that school. It became one of the top schools in the nation.

And then we had a psychologist in the school, and I have a sociology background so I was very interested. We would have these kids from all these different teams come together for discussion groups with the psychologists and we talked about different topics. And one of the topics I still remember was: "Why do kids want to run away from home?" Because there was a lot of running away from home. That was a pretty upscale neighborhood, had all kinds of homes. There was a large Samoan population. None of the Samoan kids, it never entered their minds that they would want to run away from home. Well, in the Samoan culture, and I read (Coming of Age) in Samoa, Margaret Mead's books, they have a huge extended family. They had disagreement with mom or pop, they could go to uncle or aunt or grandma, anyplace, and they would be taken in and be part of the family. They had never had that problem. And it was just really interesting to see how these kids would think. They were interested in finding out about these other kids.

SY: So it was very cultural-based, then, too.

GN: Oh, yes, it was very exciting...

SY: Time in your teaching.

GN: And I probably would have continued to stay there. I'm still impressed with a lot of those people at that school.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So I know that your career really involved into a heavy emphasis on art.

GN: Well, then Yosh got a sabbatical, so then I resigned and we went on a sabbatical to Europe. We were both credentialed teachers, we could teach anything in the whole spectrum, but we were so busy. Yosh said that for his sabbatical that we were going to visit all the cultural institutions and art institutions in this area in Europe that we were going to travel to. So that meant getting up every day, and Yosh said, "Oh, if we get up early we maybe can go to one or two other museums. And the kids would say, "Oh, can we just stay back at the campground or stay back at our apartment?" We lived in Fiesole, in an apartment for a while. "Stay back at the apartment, do our homework? Because we're suffering from 'artritis' and 'art attacks.'" [Laughs] That was really heavy duty.

But in the meantime, while I was a mother at home, I had a really good fine arts background from the University of Redlands, because I had taken art education, and I had all this integrated humanities background that involved all the arts, so I knew a lot of art history really well, both (Eastern and Western) cultures. I had (also) gone to community college and taken all the basic classes that they offered in the arts. And then also I had gone to Whittier College and gotten a master's of arts in teaching with an emphasis in the fine arts.

SY: So you did that after.

GN: Before I went back to teaching again. I went to school at nighttime or in the daytime when they were in school, and when Joel was sick, I'd have to get a babysitter. I did this after our kids were in school. So I ended up getting two master's degrees. I've got a master's degree in fine arts, and I got a master's degree in counseling and guidance. But I took the state examination so I have counseling, and I could teach at any level at the community college, and also I could do counseling at community college. I did my master's thesis on counseling at the community college level.

SY: So when you came back to the United States after the sabbatical --

GN: Just for the summer, I was taking a weaving class (at Rio Hondo Community College). One of the girls in the weaving class was a teacher. "Grace," she said, "in my district there's an opening for art." She said, "You ought to apply." So I went to apply and I found out that the principal had been Yosh's friend when Yosh was teaching at Whittier High School. So he said, "I really want to have you," and so he sent me over to the district. (The) superintendent liked me a lot, so he hired me. So then I went to teach at this junior high school. But it had very, very different kind of teaching conditions and different kind of curriculum. I only had to teach art, but I had huge classes. I had all these thousands of students I've had in my life in my career as an elementary teacher, as a junior high school teacher (and a Gifted Education Director). Anyway, it was the seventh, eighth and ninth grade and I just taught nothing but art. And I taught typing, too, because they needed a typing teacher and I had those kind of skills. So I taught art and I taught typing. In a seven period day I have forty-five kids in (each) class, and I had no prep period. I didn't even have time to go to the bathroom because I had to do hall duty or yard duty or lunch duty. No time to eat lunch. It was the most intolerable conditions really intolerable! So the teachers went on strike, it was the longest strike in the state of California. But I was suffering from so much stress, my doctor said, "I'll write you any kind of letter you could write." My blood pressure was going up and up and up, so he wrote me a letter. And I felt very disloyal. They were all meeting in the park talking about the strike, but I just didn't feel right about striking either, so I did go to school that first day, so I didn't strike. And the next day I took disability leave. I took disability leave, so all during the strike I was on disability. (I would not cross the picket line). But my friends all suffered tremendously at retirement because the strike was the longest strike in the state of California.

But I was involved in that and I could have been put in jail, too, because I had this placard that I was carrying as (one of) the organizer of the AFT, and I'm still a lifetime member of the AFT. And I had the stick with (placard sticking out of the car window and I almost hit a police car). Then we were trying to avoid the police. And so this guy, (the driver of the car), had an apartment in Pico Rivera, so he knew where to hide out. So he was dodging the police, and I almost hit the police car with the placard. So I've had a lot of little escapes like that, too, with the law. [Laughs]

SY: So if you were to describe your life since camp, you would say that you were...

GN: It's been exciting.

SY: You've been an activist?

GN: I've been an activist.

SY: An artist?

GN: An artist, I've been a teacher, I've been a conservationist.

SY: So these are things, how would you --

GN: I got the conservation (enthusiasm) from my Grandfather Watanabe.

SY: Very interesting.

GN: He had compost in his backyard when I was a child. He loved the mountains, he read everything about conservation. And so anyway, (after retirement) I wrote the largest, biggest grant that ever has been given in conservation (by the California State Department of Education. I taught Art at Meller Junior High.) I was appointed to be the coordinator/Director of the Mentally Gifted Minor program, and that was kindergarten through the twelfth grade, and I had free reign of instituting programs (and a) very supporting superintendents. (I was the coordinator of K-12 Gifted Education Programs until I retired in February 1992).

SY: And this was for the City of Whittier?

GN: (No). Pico Rivera. It's largely become a Hispanic community, but we had some really creative, and (intelligent students). I've kept in touch with a lot of them. I have a little poster (telling about my involvement in the Arts), out there when I was honored by the City of Whittier because I've done a lot of things in the City of Whittier (Cultural Arts Foundation, July 14, 2011), and we've done a lot of things in the community to support (Arts). Yosh at that time was Dean of Community Services for Rio Hunter College, and so together we (created) a lot of programs where we can serve the community. We started a GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program, we called it the Gate Program for Young College Learners. The gifted kids could come from (school districts served by) the college. They could get a library card so they could come to college (and use the college library. They could also take college level classes, if they qualified, while still in lower grades. There were classes specially designed for bright kids of all ages and grades. The big telescope was also available).

SY: It sounds as if your life has really been focused on helping kids.

GN: Helping people. I would help the parents (too) so they could tutor them. All my parents, I'd tutor them so they could get jobs. They'd come to my office. I'm supposed to be doing other things, but I'd secretly (tutored) them so they could pass all the English tests. I know grammar really well, so I knew the kind of tests that would be given. I'd help them with their math (too).

SY: So if you were to describe yourself in --

GN: And I was a social worker, too, you know, for a while also. But I didn't like that as much as education.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

SY: So if you were to describe yourself, if you had to describe yourself in one word, would be education, as an educator?

GN: Well, actually I've been involved in sales, too. Because teaching, you've got to really be good (in sales) to teach. That's why I say you have to have different modalities. To be an effective teacher you have to have visual things to see. And I know how long you can talk to keep an audience. Talking heads, that's not going to keep people's attention. That's bunk, it really is. You should be able to have people work things in so they can show things (in your Densho interviews).

SY: Well, we're hoping to show some of your things now, but just as a final little question about your life --

GN: How would I sum it up? Well, okay. I think I'm a very curious person. I enjoy learning, so I've been a continuous learner. The biggest joy in my life has been our family, rearing our children and seeing them develop. They're all good people, they have good values, they help other people.

SY: So how do you think the experience of having gone through what you went through in going to camp, how has that affected your life?

GN: I find among most of my friends that have been in camp, there are just a few exceptions. There has been no real bitterness, they just say, "Shikata ga nai," you've got to do the best we can. Gaman. I only know one person that I can say has dwelt on it, and it's been kind of destructive to his life. So I think that's it's a group of people, like Frank Chuman who is an attorney, who was one of my daughter's mentors, he lived on the other end of the barrack (in Manzanar). He was the hospital administrator (at Manzanar) and he wrote The Bamboo People. It's kind of a landmark book on the Japanese Americans and immigration. He said, "We're the bamboo people. They can push us and push us, we bend but we don't break." And I find that you try to think positively and you try to live positively and you try to live by the Golden Rule and you help others. You'll have a pretty fulfilled life. And there's always something to do. [Laughs] I'm old now, so I don't want another cause. They all kind of blend. You saw the signs (in our) front (yard). Oil watch, the city council voted (for drilling oil in the hills even though it's a wildlife preserve). They gave Yosh an honor for getting the Congressional Gold Medal and Yosh prefaced his remarks by, "We're not here to protest today." [Laughs]

SY: So you're still an activist. And just one last word about your brother, I'm just curious because he had such an incredible career, right? Was he able to enjoy the fruits of all that?

GN: My brother was a very upbeat person. He's very funny. And like Ron Kasumi said, "You didn't cross Larry Shinoda. You'd hear about it." He was a very explosive personality. But he was very creative ever since he was very young. In fact, we had a lot of good times together. Our imaginary world. When we were little, we lived in this rickety (house). I told my little granddaughter, I was trying to explain the house to her. I said, "We grew up in this crooked little house on top of a hill." The floors were crooked and sloped, and we could run our (toy) cars down the slope of the kitchen (floor). But right behind the swinging door going from the kitchen to the dining room, we had a huge chalkboard. My uncles gave that to us for Christmas. We'd divide that chalkboard in half, I'd draw on one half, he'd draw on the other half. Sometimes we combined it and we did something together. But we had so much fun at that chalkboard. That's one thing we just hated to leave (even when we went to Manzanar), even when we were that age. We loved that chalkboard, the two of us. And I still have chalk for my grandchildren. They can draw on the sidewalks, all over our patio, anyplace they want to draw.

SY: So you had creativity there.

GN: My brother was involved in drag racing and he liked speed. But he liked color. I've always liked the color yellow. He liked the color yellow (too). We both liked color. He was a color consultant for Nippon Paints. They make all the enameled goods, baked enamel to come out of Japan. Nippon Paint (makes the colors for) Japanese cars. My brother was the color coordinator for the interior and for the baked enamel (exteriors) of the cars. And like my son said at my brother's memorial service, it was one of the hugest memorial services. People came to pay tribute to him from all over. The place was just packed. My son said, "We're a family of artists, but Uncle Larry has the biggest art show in the world. On every highway and byway (in the world) there's one of Uncle Larry's creative masterpieces, from two wheelers to eighteen wheelers."

SY: It's so nice that you're so proud of him, too. So I think we're going to end now, Grace. Thank you so much.


<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

[Showing artifacts]

GN: She drew the picture on here.

SY: This is your aunt's work.

GN: My aunt's work. She's very interested in animals and birds, flowers. She was a beautiful flower arranger. She had not only bird books about the U.S. but bird books in Japan. And my daughter is one of the top, expert birders. She's led birding tours all over the world. (I'll show you) a picture of Linda (in the Bar Journal caption under the picture), "What do attorneys do in their spare time?" And here's Linda with her scope and binoculars out in the field looking at birds.

Then I had this little apple that I made, I drew it and carved it out, it's a little pin. This little scrap piece of wood. The way you make them is you get a coping saw, and my brother and I are very adept at coping saw, we made all kinds of stuff with a coping saw. My mother showed us how to use it. So anyway, this apple. You wear it like a little pin.

And then I made this rose because the Shinodas were known for the (San Lorenzo) Salon brand roses. That's all that they used at the Rose Parade for years and years and years was the Salon brand roses growing under the hothouses, and they specialized in that until the competition got too great from South America. But anyway, my mother wore this. She had kind of a dark chocolate knit coat and skirt that she made, and she could wear that with this (rose pin). I think she wore this because it was something I made. But it was really too big because she was a petite woman. I shouldn't have made it so big.

Okay, and then my teacher (made this eagle). I've lost the talons on this eagle that he carved (it). It's very intricate. He was an artist, too, he drew this eagle. I'm saving this for my daughter because my daughter's a birder.

Then my aunt. When I was taking care of her things for her, I found this amongst her things. This was (made by) somebody else in camp, (but) maybe my aunt even made that herself. I wouldn't doubt it if she made that herself. She was interested in birds. So my aunt Teru Watanabe might have made that. She probably did.

And she probably made this one, too, this is hers. It's a little maple (leaf). She loved the Japanese maple and she went to (Japan and) Canada to see the maples, too. She loved nature. She had a whole library. When she went to the nursing home, she had a whole room to herself and she (had) the walls covered with (bookcases and her books).

And then she might have even made this as she got better (as a carver). This is a holly leaf pin with berries on it.

SY: And you used all the same tools for these. Everyone used the same tools.

GN: Right.

SY: And it was something that you learned in this woodcarving class?

GN: Uh-huh. Also, I made a set of buttons, and I came across them the other day. My mother was going to use (them) to put on something. I made them for her, but she never got around to it and then I just forgot all about them until I came across them the other day. But I don't know what I've done with them. What I did is I got the branch of a manzanita and I sliced it across the grain. It's beautiful yellow and brown (wood). Then I drilled two little holes to put the thread (through) to attach it. So I made a set of buttons and I attached them to a card like a store-bought (set). So anyway, I'll see if my daughter wants any of these, and if not, I think I'll give them to Manzanar.

And then my grandfather made (this plaque) on the door, I think it was poetry about the scripture.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.