Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Louie Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Louie Watanabe
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Jill Shiraki (secondary)
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: December 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-wlouie-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So I'm going to start the interview by talking about the day and the time. So today is Tuesday, December 8, 2009, we're in Sacramento at Gene and Jane Itogawa's house, which they graciously let us use for this interview. We're here with Louie Watanabe. On camera we have Dana Hoshide, and I'm the primary interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and assisting is Jill Shiraki. So why don't we start just at the very beginning, Louie, and why don't you tell me when and where you were born?

LW: Okay. Start now?

TI: Yeah, so go ahead and start.

LW: Well, I was born in Walnut Grove, California, August 22, 1925.

TI: Good. And when you were born, what was the name given to you at birth?

LW: Oh, you mean the name? Well, my Japanese name was there, but my parents ran the boarding house and the restaurant, and all the customer was Caucasian. So they had a hard time naming Japanese names or remembering. So each of my brother and sister, they all have American names like George, James, Louie, Jack, and Alice. And, in fact, the restaurant that my mother had, they called Mary's Restaurant.

TI: Oh, so this was mostly from the Caucasian customers, the boarders.

LW: Right, it's the business, yeah. Well, it was in Japanese town, but the customers was all Caucasian.

TI: And so how did that work? When you were first born, did you just have a Japanese name?

LW: Japanese name only. And we went to school with Japanese name, but then the people that are living there, at the restaurant, they like, you know, remember your name. So each one of them got a Japanese -- an American name.

TI: Okay, good. That's a good story. So let's start. So why don't you tell me your Japanese name. So 1925, what did your parents name you?

LW: Parents name was... Yosaburo, my father's name.

TI: Oh, not their names, but what did they name you? What was your name?

LW: Oh, Mitsuru.

TI: Yeah, Mitsuru, okay. There's some kind of meaning to it, but I don't remember. You know how all the Japanese names, they got some kind of...

TI: Well, how about "Louie"? Where did "Louie" come from?

LW: "Louie" came from one of the workers that was staying there.

TI: But did he have a reason why he called you...

LW: No, I don't have any idea how they get those American names. So we make it a lot easier when we were going to elementary school, because all the Japanese had all Japanese names, and the teachers had a hard time pronouncing or remembering. (...)

TI: And you said the same thing happened to your brothers and sister. Why don't you tell me your brothers and sister's names in kind of order. Like who was the oldest, what was his name?

LW: The oldest one was George. Let's see. What was his Japanese name? Minoru. And James is my second brother, and his is Akira. And I'm the third, Louie, Mitsuru, and the fourth one is Jack, Mitsugi. And my sister's name was Alice, and Japanese name was Shizuko.

TI: Okay. So you were right in middle. You had two older, two younger.

LW: (Yes).

JS: So "mittsu" is "number three," right? So you're number three son?

LW: Beg your pardon?

JS: "Mitsu" is... hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu. So is that why you were Mitsuru?

LW: Yeah. It seemed like in a Japanese family, they seem like they go Minoru, Mitsuru, Mitsugi and all down the line, yeah. I noticed that a lot of families like that. But I don't recall what it means, though. I was too young, so I never had a chance with my parents, to talk with them.

TI: Now, in terms of difference in age, how much older was George?

LW: Well, George was born in 1922, and my second brother James was 1923, and I'm 1925, and Jack was 1926. Then my sister was... I can't recall. Because she was about ten, fifteen years younger. I don't recall what year it was.

TI: But the first four came right away.

LW: Right away, every, maybe two years, two years apart, yeah.

TI: Just as a side note, your birth order is exactly the same birth order as my family. I have two older brothers, I'm the third, then I have a brother and then a younger sister. So very similar.

LW: So you know what happened, I think, there was four boys, so my, maybe my mother wants one girl in the family, so they were trying. So I guess that's the reason that age difference, maybe six, seven years later.

TI: Yeah, and I remember that my mother wanted a girl, too. So when they had the girl, everyone was so happy to have one girl, finally.

LW: Yeah. Well, I know one friend of mine that, he had all girls, five girls. And he wanted a boy so bad, finally he quit because after five girls, that was enough. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, that's funny.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk about your father first. What was your father's name and where did he come from?

LW: Well, my father's (name was Yosaburo Watanabe, born in Kusahira, Amagua, Aichi-ken, Japan).

TI: Now, where is that located? I'm not sure where that...

LW: Nagoya. Close to Nagoya. Because I've never been to Japan, so I really don't recall. But it's close to Nagoya, they say.

TI: And your father's name?

LW: Is Yosaburo. And my mother's name is Etsu, and both is, the last name is Watanabe, but I don't know how that came out. No relation at the time when they got married.

TI: And going back to your father's family, do you know what kind of work they did in Japan?

LW: In Japan, that I don't recall.

TI: And how about your mother's?

LW: Mother's, I don't recall. Because I know, I was too young to know those things, yeah.

TI: Do you know about when your father came to the United States from Japan?

LW: No, I don't even remember those, what year it was.

TI: Or how about how your mother and father met.

LW: I really, really don't... I think it's more like a fixed marriage, because they live in the same area like, you know... you know how the Japanese people (...). So somebody probably, in the family, probably arranged marriage.

TI: So how about the story about how did they come to Walnut Grove? Do you know where they started from and how they got here?

LW: That, I don't recall anything like that. But I know it's that group from Aichi-ken in Japan, seemed like they all came into part of Walnut Grove. And most of Aichi-ken members, mostly I think it was the businesspeople, you know, Hiroshima and those people, it's a businesspeople.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about your parents and what kind of work they did at Walnut Grove. So can you describe that?

LW: Well, only thing I recall is when I was born, I think they already had a restaurant. And my father did the cooking in the morning, and my mother takes over from the afternoon. Because they can't afford any help, and maybe during the lunch hour, they have this girl working part-time as a waitress, you know, one of those Japanese girls that work, live in Walnut Grove.

TI: Oh, this is interesting. I'm curious, so they switched being cooks. So your father was in the morning, your mother was later in the day. So in the morning, what would your mother do while your father was...

LW: Well, Mother trying to get some sleep, 'cause she stayed up to ten o'clock in the evening, and she had to close up. And besides that, she had to take the kids. So, but only time I guess she gets to sleep is maybe three, four hours in the morning. And my father gets up early in the morning and do all the odds and ends. But in the afternoon, he was probably taking a nap or something like that.

TI: Okay. So it's almost like a shift, they're on different shifts.

LW: They take turns, yeah.

TI: And when you think about your customers, so your father was a cook and your mother was a cook, did they ever talk about who the better cook was?

LW: I say it was my mother, was the better cook, but, well, my father only cooked mostly breakfast so, you know... but never cooked Japanese food at all (...).

TI: So let's talk about your restaurant. So what kind of food did... like if you came to Mary's Restaurant, what would the specialty of the house be? What would people like to eat?

LW: Well, maybe beef stew, and (hamburger steak). You don't see on the menu right now. No steak at all unless customer asked for it. So mostly beef stew and I can't even recall. And most of the time, (we didn't serve) rice because American (customers would rather have bread).

TI: Okay, so you're saying they're American people, so Caucasian, they're white.

LW: And those people that's working for the trucking company (were all white).

TI: And in a typical day, how many customers would the restaurant have?

LW: Maybe twelve or fourteen, something like that, lunch hour. Breakfast (customers) come and go, you know, maybe ten or eleven people. Then in the evening, it's maybe twenty people. Because they all finish work and they have to eat (for dinner).

TI: And describe the restaurant in terms of how it was laid out with, you know, were there tables, a counter?

LW: Well, it's mainly, in the front of the restaurant was a counter, because it's easier for the waitress to (wait on). And we have (tables), other side of the room, it's more like a, quote, "dining room," but we (hardy) used it. (...) And that's where the workers would kind of socialize after they eat. We had a fireplace stove there, so they played cards there. That's about the only recreation they had.

TI: And in addition to food, did your, did the restaurant serve, like, drinks like alcohol?

LW: No, only thing we had was beer, mostly beer. Because, well, we had wine, but hardly any people, they drink mostly beer, no hard liquor.

TI: And so on the main floor, was the restaurant...

LW: And the main restaurant, plus we had a soda fountain in the front, kind of a hole in the wall kind.

TI: Oh, so describe that. Who, as a soda fountain, who ran the soda fountain?

LW: Well, whoever is handy, convenient. I mean, my mother would be going back and forth, you know, she'd be cooking or waiting on the tables. So if the customer wants some ice cream or something like that, she goes up there.

TI: Now for the soda fountain, was that... who were the customers for the soda fountain?

LW: Well, mostly kids.

TI: Some kids in the neighborhood.

LW: Yeah, the kids in the neighborhood that lived there, you know. Ice cream cone, something like that. It (only) cost a nickel or something like that, reasonable.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: And then describe the kitchen. How large was the kitchen, what kind of equipment was in the kitchen?

LW: Just regular stove, and that's it. Maybe four burner and the grill. And in the kitchen, it's everything there, like tables and dishwashing place.

TI: Now, if you were to go back in time and imagine, now I have a pretty good sense of what the layout was. But if you looked at the walls, what kind of things would be on the walls, decorations, paintings, anything like that?

LW: Really simple, nothing there. There were maybe a few pictures, that's about all.

TI: And what would the pictures be of? I mean, if you said a few pictures, what would they be? Photographs or would they be paintings?

LW: Well, no, some of those was advertising pictures. Not the no-family pictures or nothing like that, just advertising, you know.

TI: And so you have, on the main floor -- now, upstairs...

LW: Upstairs was a rooming house, yeah.

TI: So describe that. What was upstairs...

LW: Well, only thing, the upstairs, we had twelve rooms. And four rooms was taken by my family, the rest of 'em were all, mostly were all single people anyway. And they, we had (one shower only) for everybody, but no bath. And a washtub where they wash their faces and laundry, just one.

TI: And so the single rooms, and then there's like a communal bathroom?

LW: No, nothing like that. It's just one bathroom for the whole, whole eight rooms (to share).

TI: And that'd be for the family members, too?

LW: Yeah. (...) Our family went to the bathhouse next door (every night).

TI: And so I'm curious, when you have a bathroom that you have to share with the boarders, were there certain rules for the kids like when you could use it?

LW: No. It's kind of a hallway, we had two bathrooms, one on each end, and that was it. And again, it worked out good, share each other. (Our family bathroom was downstairs).

TI: Okay, so people just respected, they just kind of knew when that happened. So I'm curious in terms of when, for the business, for the boarding house, the restaurant, did the kids have chores that they had to do to help out?

LW: No, we were too little. But only thing I got called was washing dishes, that's about all. And my oldest brother, he was no help. Half of the time, he's in the pool hall. And the second one was studious, all he does is stay in the studies.

TI: So your oldest was the pool hall, the second one was the more studious one, and then you were, how would they describe you? What would they say about the...

LW: Well, when I was about maybe nine or ten...

TI: No, but if they said the older one liked to play pool --

LW: Older one was going to high school, so fourteen, fifteen years old, but no responsibility.

TI: But how would your brothers describe you? If you describe your older brother as kind of, liked to play pool, the second one was studious, what would they say about Louie? What would they say you were like?

LW: No, they didn't say too much. Somebody got to wash the dishes because we didn't have no help, and I'm the middle one. And my other, younger brother was too young to be doing all those things. My sister (was too small).

<End Segment 4> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So let's go back to your parents. I want you to describe, what was your father like in terms of personality? How would you describe him?

LW: Well, my father was kind of a quiet person that didn't say too much. He does his work and that was it. His social life wasn't too much. Only, I remember the only time is during the afternoon, he would go to the movie house to see a movie. American movie, but I think what he does is go there and take a nap or something like that. Because it's only about a block away from where (our) business was.

TI: Same question about your mother. What was your mother like?

LW: Mother's same thing. Whole family, she didn't involve too much, all concentrate on business, cooking, and that was her life. No social life at all, and we were open 365 days of the year, they never took a vacation, work, work, work. So they really had a hard time, yeah. But it's amazing how they could raise the five kids like that with a small income. But somehow they managed. But one thing about that, we never got in trouble.

TI: When you say you didn't get in trouble, I mean, compared to the other kids in the neighborhood, did other kids get in more trouble than...

LW: No, no.

TI: So it was pretty much, it was common that people were...

LW: Yeah, Japanese community, it's kind of a... if you get in trouble, everybody in town knows, and they really respect the elderly people. Yeah, the kids were pretty good.

TI: So I want to get a sense now, so for your family, because yesterday I saw the town and how close all the buildings were. Were there certain families that your family was really close with?

LW: No, (not that) I know. They all know each other from business, and, you know, the kenjinkai, the group that you belong to. But socializing, they didn't do too much. It's mostly work, work, work for them.

TI: Was there ever another family that, if, for instance, there was maybe some kind of emergency, that they would go to for help? Like if someone was sick or something...

LW: No, we didn't have no relative there in the United States, mostly all in Japan. So, oh, you could always ask your neighbor, next door, somebody there. Then with the doctor's office, it's only half a block away, and the dentist and everything, it's convenient, so you don't really need the transportation. But I don't know how they did it when I was born, you know, when you had to go to Sacramento to the hospital.

TI: Yeah, that's what I was wondering, so if they had to go to the hospital, who would watch the other, the other kids?

LW: [Coughs] Excuse me. Because somebody got to take you to the hospital. But I don't see how they did it because they had a doctor's office, but that was it.

TI: Yeah, like I'm thinking when, so when your younger sister was born, she was a little bit, quite a bit younger. So when that happened, your mother was really busy. Was there anyone that kind of came and helped out her?

LW: No. She was pregnant, but she managed somehow. Maybe once in a while someone come (to help).

<End Segment 5> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So let's talk about some of the activities. You mentioned the bathhouse right next door. So describe that, and how often would you go to the bathhouse and what was that like?

LW: Most of the community people, they didn't have bathhouse, bath room. So they all have to go take a bath, so they all went to the bathhouse. So there were two in town, and that kept 'em busy.


TI: So, Louie, we're just starting to talk about the bathhouse, and you mentioned how most families didn't have their own bathroom, and so they would go to the community bathhouse. And there was one that was located really nearby your place. So describe, like, how frequently, how often would you go and take a bath?

LW: Oh, you mean to the bathhouse?

TI: Yeah.

LW: Oh, almost every night. Because you know how Japanese people, they have to take a bath before they go to bed. It's not like they're American style where they take bath when they get up in the morning, they take shower, but we always take bath, no shower at all.

TI: So describe the routine for me. So it's after dinner, about what time would you get ready to go take a bath?

LW: Well, anytime after maybe eight or nine o'clock at night.

TI: And what would you be wearing, describe the whole routine for me. Like walk through taking a bath.

LW: Oh, (going to the) bathhouse... we just wear regular clothes and go up there. We didn't have no pajamas or anything like that to wear. It's right next door anyway. And when we go to the bathhouse, we stayed there about an hour. We do, we used to have more fun in the bathhouse than staying home.

TI: And who would you go with to the bathhouse?

LW: Well, it's the neighborhood, so you always run into some friends there. And next thing you notice, you'll be playing more than you're taking a bath. And there's, the bathhouse was divided within the men and the women, you know, little partition there. But at the partition there's a little opening there, so we used to look into the other side. [Laughs]

TI: But so underwater, underwater you'd have to kind of, the partition? Or is it...

LW: No, the bathtub itself is big enough that we put about six people in there.

TI: I see.

LW: So what they do, they want you to take a shower before you go into the bath, you know.

TI: Now at the time you went into the bathhouse, were there mostly kids your age or were there adults also?

LW: Everybody. Only thing is, like I say, it's divided, the males and females. So we used go there, and you used to run into all the friends. It's more like a community bathhouse anyway.

TI: And you mentioned how it was a lot of fun to see your friends there. So were there times when you and your friends would maybe get a little too noisy, and then the adults would tell you guys to settle down or something like that?

LW: Well, they usually let us know, "Be quiet," or, "behave," or something like that.

TI: And then you mentioned that there was a way to kind of peek into the women's side. If you did that, would guys get in trouble if you got caught?

LW: Yeah, I know. You know how you try to look at, peeping tom, and other side, "What are you doing over there?" [Laughs]

TI: And, okay. So a tub, you said about six people, but you said you were there for a whole hour? I mean, would you be in the tub for an hour or doing other things?

LW: Well, no, we'd just play around. Customers would go in and out. The older people, they come in and they just go right out. But most of the areas around there had a boarding house, and that's the only place where they could take a bath. So they usually take it right after work or something like that.

TI: Now, at this bathhouse, you mentioned how upstairs you had boarders who were Caucasian. Did they ever use the...

LW: No (...).

TI: So it was only Japanese that would come to this bathhouse?

LW: Yeah, they never went to the bathhouse, it's strictly for Japanese.

TI: Now, what about Chinese? Would they ever come in?

LW: No. Well, Chinese had their own, I think. I'm not sure, but like in Chinatown, they stayed on the Chinese side. And the Japanese was in the Japanese community, they were pretty close together.

TI: Okay. So after you finished your bath at the bathhouse, what would you do then? Would you just go back into your clothes and go back, or would you wear something else?

LW: No, we just put our clothes on and go back and go to sleep.

TI: So you didn't have to wear, like, a yukata or anything like that?

LW: No, nothing like that, yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So you have the bathhouse. When you would go to the grocery store, you talked about earlier how sometimes if someone ordered a steak, you would go to the store to pick up a steak.

LW: Yeah, because there were, hardly any customer ordered steak, they couldn't afford that kind of stuff. But we can't carry that kind of inventory, you know. So whenever some special customer come and ask for steak, then I used to run across the street, that's the grocery store, the meat department, (buy the steak) and come back, serve it to the customers.

TI: So which grocery store was that you would go to?

LW: That's the Kuwabara grocery store.

TI: So they had meat and what...

LW: Yeah, they had meat, dry goods, and everything. And it's right across the street from us.

TI: And describe the town in terms of, was that the main grocery store?

LW: No, there was five grocery stores in that little, you know how small it was. But the Kuwabaras and Hayashi was the biggest, the one we went to see. They're about the biggest, rest of 'em are kind of a small mom and pop operation.

TI: Good. You mentioned your older brother who'd like to go to the pool hall. Now, where was that located? Was that in the...

LW: That's, remember I told you about that barber shop there? That's where they had the two pool table there. And they used to get, friends get together after school, couple hours they played.

TI: And so were you ever old enough to go play pool, too?

LW: No, they won't let us there, we're too young yet. They keep it the certain age, high school kids or something. Besides that, we can't afford it anyway.

JS: Who ran the pool hall?

LW: The Koga. Remember Dix Koga?

TI: And so when the older boys got together and played pool, did they also do things like smoking and things like that?

LW: Yeah.

TI: And gambling?

LW: Well, not gambling, but I think the older people smoked, but I don't recall that, because I hardly went in there.

TI: So did your, your parents ever talk about those kind of things like, "Louie, we don't want you to smoke, we don't want you to do this..." did they ever have those conversations?

LW: Well, they mentioned that, but we never spoke anyway. In fact, all this customers that we had, they all smoke and drink. But seemed like they never bothered us. Because I never smoked there at all.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Going back to your, the boarders, did the family ever establish a close relationship with any of the boarders that maybe someone who stayed at the place a lot, that, who became friends?

LW: Well, not really close, but they kind of knew each other. Because it's seasonal workers, but they stay year-round. So we get to know 'em pretty close. That's where I learned how to play cards. Not gambling, but pinochle and (cribbage).

TI: Because they would do their work or whatever, but every night they would be there, so you'd see them?

LW: Right. Because after they eat, they kind of socialize in the next room. Next room was more like a dining room, but where they could relax, you know. Because when they go upstairs, it's only a small bedroom.

TI: And generally, were these bachelor men that were there, the boarders? They were men, primarily?

LW: Yeah.

TI: And so I'm curious, in addition to being in the side room playing cards, what other activities did they do in the town in Walnut Grove?

LW: Oh, recreation-wise?

TI: Yeah.

LW: Only thing we had was, oh, when you get older, you had a basketball program, and baseball they play, and that's about it.

TI: I'm thinking more about the boarders, the seasonal workers to lived upstairs?

LW: Yeah.

TI: What kind of entertainment did they have?

LW: Nothing. Only thing is on the weekend, they usually get drunk, you know. You know how the Caucasian, paycheck to paycheck.

TI: And where would they go drinking?

LW: No, at my restaurant, we served beer.

TI: And were there any other places, whether in Japantown...

LW: Well, they had bars, but I don't recall anything where they could go drink hard liquor because it's expensive. They couldn't afford it.

TI: Like in the Japantown area, was there anyplace like that?

LW: No, Japantown there was no hard liquor, no bars at all. And actually, only place, like our restaurant, and maybe the Japanese restaurant might serve beer or something like that. That's about all.

TI: So where in Walnut Grove could they go for hard liquor if not in Japantown?

LW: Well, you got to go to the American section there.

TI: So let's talk about that --

LW: But, you know, funny thing, you know like that Tony's restaurant in Chinatown that burned down? See, that wasn't there when we were little. That came right after we came back from the camp.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So let's talk about Walnut Grove. We've talked a little about where you were located, which was in the Front, you know, Front Town of Walnut Grove. Let's talk a little bit about the whole town a little bit. So how, so there's a Japan neighborhood, tell me about the other neighborhoods in Walnut Grove.

LW: You mean the Chinatown?

TI: Yeah, just... yeah. You mentioned a white area, a Chinatown?

LW: Yeah, well, like across the street from my restaurant was the Chinatown, the whole block burned down in the fire, then they rebuilt it. But, see, when they rebuilt it, we were in camp most of the time, so we don't really remember. One by one, when I came back to visit Walnut Grove, there's a new building they built. It's kind of an empty lot there most of the places.

TI: So when we talk about the fire, so I'm aware of two different big fires. There was a big fire in 1915 that really burned a lot down.

LW: Yeah, see, I don't recall that.

TI: Yeah, and then, and that kind of moved things around. And then there was another big fire in the 1940s?

LW: Yeah, forty-something like that. That's the one that...

TI: And so that changed a lot of things.

LW: Wiped that whole Chinatown, yeah. In fact, if it wasn't for the wind shift, our whole restaurant would have burned down, too. Because you know how close it was across the street.

TI: But then eventually the restaurant did burn down?

LW: No, no.

TI: Oh, it didn't?

LW: No. I heard, I heard from somebody that, you know, what happened was they had to maybe condemn that building, the foundation was maybe... I don't recall at all.

TI: Oh, so that's why it's an empty lot now, was because it was just run down.

LW: So when I came back -- well, I didn't come back from camp until about ten years later. So actually, I don't really recall most of the things.

TI: Okay. Because I noticed, so it's not there anymore.

LW: And funny part of it, that you ask some people, they said, "Oh, that building's still there." But when I went to see it, that building was not there. They made a park out of it.

TI: So right across the street from your, from your restaurant was the start of Chinatown, so the Chinese area across the street.

LW: Yeah, on the other, southern part, south side.

TI: And when you were growing up, how large was the Chinese part of town compared to the...

LW: That was all the way from that theater up to our section there. They had a nice-sized Chinatown there.

TI: So was it as large as the Japanese area?

LW: About the same.

TI: In that front...

LW: Of the front area, front area.

TI: And so population-wise, there were...

LW: But more Japanese than Chinese. Like I was telling you, the front area is where the business people, and the back was for the residents, and there were quite a few people that lived right there.

TI: And the Chinese were kind of like, similar to the front area in terms of size.

LW: Yeah, that's it, yeah. Not in the back where that school was, you know, the Oriental School, that used to be a farming area. It was wide open there. Then there's Locke, where we had dinner, that's another, what they call another Chinatown.

TI: Which isn't too far away, it's like about a mile or so away.

LW: Yeah. We used to walk up to there, yeah.

TI: But back to Walnut Grove, so would the Chinese population be about, what, a third?

LW: Well, if they combined it'll be more than Japanese.

TI: Oh, with Locke and the...

LW: Yeah, because Locke itself, I think, we didn't get to see, but it goes pretty deep back there. It's mostly residential area, I think, just the front.

TI: So even though the population then were kind of, there were more, let's go to the school then. At the Oriental School, my understanding is there were more Japanese than Chinese? So there was like about seventy percent Japanese and thirty percent Chinese?

LW: Yeah, something like that.

TI: So if the populations were about, or if there were more Chinese, why were there more Japanese children than Chinese children?

LW: Well, only thing I recall is there were a lot of Chinese people. I guess they must have moved around. Because you hear about those Chinese labor camp in Sacramento where they go work out in the railroads, there's not much job for them, right? Whereas in Japanese town, most of the farmers, Japanese were farmers, and then they hired Japanese people to work there.

TI: Well, I was wondering, too, in terms of the family composition, if there's a difference in terms of, did the Japanese community have more family units than the Chinese? I've read that a lot of times, there were a lot more Chinese bachelors than Japan, or did you feel that in Locke and Walnut Grove?

LW: Well, I think Japanese was more closely-knitted family, I think, business-wise and community activities. Because we used to have that hall that was burned down, and that's where they, Japanese people used to have those New Year's parties and the movie house there, and the play, Japanese play, they used to have it in there. But when that burned down, that kind of, take quite a bit out of it. So only thing they have was the Buddhist church and the United Methodist church there.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay. So we talked a little bit about the Chinese and Japanese areas, now you want to talk about the white? Where did the whites live?

LW: Whites lived right like I told you, like across the river, in the mostly residential, and they have this Ford company, Chevrolet company. And they had one grocery store. But they had a bank and a big hotel on the other side of the Chinatown. You remember there's, coming in, it's the back there. And that was run by the white people there.

TI: Now, in terms of population size, how large was the white population compared to the Japanese?

LW: I don't recall, but it's quite a few. Because we didn't go to "White school," so we don't even know, have any idea, see. Because that, "White school's building was pretty big building."

TI: Yeah, that's why I'm trying to get a sense, so were there more whites than Japanese, though?

LW: The time we came in, yeah. But then, see, there was a lot of people that lives in that area, too, that's mostly all whites. It was a business place.

TI: Now, were there any whites that lived on your side of the river in the, on the Japanese and Chinese side?

LW: No, there's hardly any white people living in the Japanese area.

TI: So when you say "hardly," so there were a few?

LW: Yeah, it was strictly white residential and Oriental residential, it was Japanese, or Japanese, Chinese.

TI: So in your memory, there weren't any whites, though.

LW: No. Because that time, I remember anybody that wants to build a home over there or wants to buy a home, they won't let you. You were really restricted.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And when you say... let's talk about the Japanese side. When someone wanted to buy a home, when you were, this is before the war, who owned all that, all those houses and land?

LW: Oh, the front part was Alex Brown. And the back was the Dye family, Dye. They controlled, they owned all the property. So the only thing the Japanese people did was pay rent on the property. But they, Japanese people owned the house, the building, but the land wasn't owned, so you can't sell the house. You can't take the house with you.

TI: And do you know what kind of leases... so if you get the land and you actually build a house, you would want a pretty long-term lease. Because if the lease ran out, then...

LW: Well, they don't give you a long-term lease, but... well, they give you maybe ten years or so, but most of the time, once they get the lease, I think it's pretty permanent.

TI: Oh, so it would just kind of go, like, over and over, they would just renew the lease every ten years?

LW: That was the biggest problem, see. Why should you want to improve your place when you don't own the land? So that's, kind of hold up the progress. But that time, Japanese people had no choice because you can't own the land.

TI: Yeah. 'Cause you're right, I think about that, and it's hard to really invest a lot of time and effort into your house if you're just leasing, and it could be, you might have to move later on. So tell me a little bit about Alex Brown. Who was Alex Brown and...

LW: I don't really know, but he was a wealthy banker. He used to have a big bank in Walnut Grove, and he had a nice big residence across the river. Not on the this side, but on other side of the river. Then the Dye company owned the back.

TI: But the front part of the town was all Alex Brown?

LW: Yeah.

TI: And so did he originally have all those buildings built in Front Town, or was that just the land and then the Japanese built?

LW: Yeah, because... I don't recall, but I heard that way back there it was flooded, the whole Japanese town. That's the reason I think they started building two-story in case of, because it's so close to the river.

JS: Did, who owned the property that Mary's Restaurant is...

LW: We were leasing from Alex Brown.

JS: Oh, you were?

LW: Yeah. We owned the building, but not the land. So when we evacuated to the camp, we had to sell the building, not the land.

JS: Do you remember who you sold to?

LW: No, we had somebody. At the last minute, my parents didn't know whether we were gonna come back or not. This one Portuguese family bought it. We sold it for two thousand dollars. The whole thing, the house, equipment, everything.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So I want to go back, during the time before the war, in other communities, because of the alien land laws, the Isseis weren't allowed to buy property. But later on, when the Niseis got a little bit older, oftentimes they would buy land in the name of their U.S.-born Nisei children. Was that ever an opportunity with, like, Mr. Brown or Mr. Dye, would they allow Japanese to actually buy the land?

LW: See, they didn't want to do that, because they wanted to control everything. And the Japanese people, toward the end, they said, "Why should we improve our homes when we don't own the land?"

TI: And so was there then, because of a migration out of Walnut Grove, that people who actually started making some money, did they move away and actually buy land?

LW: Well, some people did that. So they formed an association. I heard they formed a Japanese Association to fight that. Because they want to take it to court, says, "Why we can't build the land? We can build the house there, and if you don't own the land, there's no value to it."

TI: So was this a fight against, like, Mr. Brown and...

LW: Right, yeah. And there, they got you over the barrel because you have no choice.

TI: And so did you --

LW: I don't know how much my parents were paying for the rental. It wasn't too much, but still, it's whatever you put in, you're not going to get any penny out of it.

TI: So how would you describe the relationship between your parents and Mr. Brown? I mean, how did they, how would you say they...

LW: That I don't recall, but I think it's, you had no choice, I guess. You got to take it, what they offer you. Because the Issei didn't care, but when the Nisei came, they kind of want to do something about it.

TI: So do you ever recall your parent saying anything about Mr. Brown or the Dye family? Was there any, like, any comments made?

LW: In fact, I never met him. I don't know what he looked like.

TI: And was that pretty common, so he never came into the Japantown area, he never walked around or anything like that?

LW: No. So I think after, I don't recall too much because I wasn't there most of the, after I left the camp.

TI: But I was thinking about even before the war, did he live on the other side of the river? Did he have a house on the other side?

LW: Where the whites lived? There was no way you could get in there.

TI: Okay.

LW: That's strictly restricted.

TI: And when you say "restricted," I mean, you couldn't even ride your bike or walk...

LW: Oh, no, you could to there. Because they used to have a Japanese gardener doing the gardening and all that stuff. But they had domestic, you know, housemaids, cleaning lady that used to come in, go other side for work. Because there's no work in Japanese town, but on the other side of the river...

TI: And how would you describe their houses compared to the houses on your side of the river?

LW: Well, you're talking about, most of 'em are big mansion. Because they were wealthy farmers and bankers and all that. So too bad we didn't the chance to see the other side, because the building is still there, it's a big mansion.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And were there ever events or times when the whole town would be together? Chinese, Japanese, and the whites, like maybe Fourth of July or something that everyone would be together?

LW: No, never did. We did our own, Japanese celebrated our own like New Year's, Fourth of July. Then during the Fourth of July, we had a community picnic, you know, where the Oriental School was in the back? That was once a year, they all come in to get together. The whole town and the people that live out in the ranch, whoever wants to come to the picnic, more like a reunion type. And they had a good time.

TI: So what about for the kids? When you were growing up before the war, how much interaction did you have with the white kids?

LW: We didn't have no relation at all, because we don't get to see each other. Only time we get to see each other was we play basketball, baseball against each other.

TI: Now, but later on, in high school, the school there --

LW: High school, we had busses coming in, we went to Courtland High School. And they have busses just strictly for the Japanese people that lives in Walnut Grove. So we had two busses just for Japanese people to go to the Courtland High School. That many kids were going there.

TI: But when they got to this high school, it was integrated. It was whites and...

LW: High school, yeah. That's the only time, so we weren't too close with them.

TI: So I'm curious if you ever went to like a graduation ceremony at the high school. So there you're graduating Japanese, Chinese, and whites. So that would be a case where all the people would be there.

LW: Yeah.

TI: And I'm curious, in those kind of events, if you had whites and Japanese and Chinese, what kind of interaction would you observe? What would you kind of see, do you think, amongst the groups? I mean, did they all sit in different parts?

LW: Yeah, see, what happened, see, they're not really close, so when you to eat in the cafeteria, the white people eat certain area, white, Chinese, Japanese. It's kind of a, more like segregated, too. And the busses, too, same thing, too. We get the leftover busses, you know, the one that's about ready to turn in. They get, the white people get the good busses. And whatever leftovers, we used to get it, give it to the Japanese.

TI: And how would you and your friends feel about that? Were there times where you would know that you would get the leftover busses? Did that ever cause you any kind of concern...

LW: No, because nothing we can do. It's not like the generation now. They could take you to court and all that, but what can we do? We just have to take it, what they give you. It's just like when you play sports, you know. Like we were going Courtland High School, my brother was telling me they only allow so many Oriental players, the team, because they want half of the white people to be on the team. Mostly all trustee kids, they're not, just like the color white and the black, remember in college, same thing like that.

TI: So it's almost like a quota.

LW: Yeah, they only take maybe five or six Japanese kids that's really good, and the rest of it would be all white people. But they get to play because the trustees' kids come from a wealthy family that they got more support, there, see. So there, it was kind of pretty bad when we were going to school there.

TI: And the thinking was, it just couldn't be helped. I mean, that's the way it was, and so you...

LW: Yeah, that's it. It's just like during the wartime, when they got drafted, they draft most all the Japanese, you know how they make the quotas for each district? So all the trustee kids never went to the service unless they, you know, or they drafted more Orientals to fill in the quotas. And that was bad, too, because you know that Koga barber shop? The mother was blind, okay. And he's the only support, he's the only son. So naturally, if they, if he goes to the army, who's going to support the mother and the business, right? So he fought that. So he spent one year in jail, government put him in jail. Because he had a right to get deferred, right? Yeah. So it was pretty bad like that.

TI: But even the local draft board was pretty much controlled by...

LW: Yeah, local board was controlled by the trustees, I mean, the white people. It's all white people on the board. So first thing they do, "Oh, we got these Japanese people, let's fill in the quota with the Japanese." So most of the Japanese people that, Kibei, they all got drafted in the service.

TI: And were there some people in the Japanese community that felt that this wasn't right? I mean, you mentioned earlier that pretty much, this was the way it was and you had to kind of accept it.

LW: Yeah, you know how the Nisei was. That's the way it is, we just get along.

TI: But were there any, like, Isseis who thought that was wrong?

LW: No, they didn't. They mind their own business.

TI: Okay, so let's recap a little bit. So you, we talked about how, in terms of the, the town was pretty segregated. You had a Japanese area, Chinese area, across the river was a white area. We just mentioned the schools and I want to go to that next. Because they actually had segregated schools. You had an Oriental school and you had a white school. And it wasn't just what we call de facto segregation, it was actually kind of set up so that the Japanese and Chinese had to go to the Oriental School, that they couldn't, even if they lived...

LW: No, you couldn't. Even though you live in the area, they won't. So they had busses come in just to take it to the Oriental School, you know. I got farmers that live close by there. They got busses just to bring in to the Oriental School. They can't... they could walk to school if they wanted to, but it was White school, so they won't let you in. It's really...

<End Segment 13> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And so let's talk about, at the Oriental School, the teachers, were they white or Asian?

LW: No, strictly white.

TI: And at the Oriental School, it went from a kindergarten to eighth grade, is that how many grades?

LW: Yeah, from up to eighth grade then, because they didn't have no high school.

TI: And for each class, like your class, how many students were in your class?

LW: In elementary or high school?

TI: In elementary when you were...

LW: Elementary? Oh... I'd say a good twenty.

TI: And you thought maybe about seventy percent, so maybe about fifteen were Japanese and about five Chinese? Is that about the right...

LW: Yeah, something like that. And no other nationality because none of 'em...

TI: And I'm curious in terms of, if you looked at the grades, when you were like in eighth grade, like if you look at kindergarten or first grade, were they about the same number of students all the way through?

LW: Yeah, right. Yeah.

TI: So about twenty.

LW: About enough, yeah. Enough to have classroom for each grade, yeah, from first to eighth. So that many kids were going to that Oriental School.

TI: And in terms of books and supplies and education, when the Japanese eventually got to high school, were they well-prepared to, I guess, to compete academically with the white schools? I'm trying to get a sense of, was the schooling about the same or were there differences in school...

LW: Well, what happened at, during the time, it was mostly Asian people was all top honors, honors students. Well, you can't, a teacher can't discriminate that, you know.

TI: So in high school, the top honors students were all Japanese and Chinese. And even though they had to go to the Oriental School -- because I'm thinking, what I'm trying to get a sense of, when you think of the United States and the South where they had segregated schools with blacks and whites, you read about how the education was inferior at the black schools. In fact, they, they didn't want, in some cases, blacks to be able to read and write too well, because that would give them too much power, too much knowledge. So they intentionally kind of made the education worse in the black schools. And I'm just trying to get a sense of...

LW: Yeah, because in high school, white people control most of the student body. Because they might like to fill in one or two Asian in there to make it look good, but other than that, so, like the junior prom and everything like that, we didn't, I don't think we went, because, you know, it was strictly for the white people. They could afford it; they had nice garden and, you know, tuxedoes, something to wear, where the Asian people, Oriental people can't afford to go.

TI: But in terms of education, it sounds like the Oriental School did a really good job of educating.

LW: Yeah, right.

TI: Because by the time they got to high school, they did well academically.

LW: So most of the honors students are all Asian, maybe eighty percent.

TI: It's funny, it'd be interesting to have been back there as a parent. If I were, I could see a white parent, when you look at the high school graduation, and if the top students are Japanese and Chinese, you'd probably ask the question, well, is the education better at the Oriental School than the white school?

LW: Well, they had the same teacher and everything, so it's up to the students, right? Well, at least, they never caused any problems, Oriental School, you know.

TI: In thinking about the Oriental School, any memories or stories about that school that kind of stand out in terms of how it was run?

LW: No. One thing, though, we never had... see, we were eighth grade, we were the oldest ones, and we were the only ones that had a dance, graduation dance. Up to then, they never had dances like that. But that time, it was strictly pretty, everybody was bashful, anyway. If you hold hands, you were doing good. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, we talked about that. But I'm thinking, okay, so the dance, was there interracial, sort of, dancing and dating between Chinese and Japanese when you were, when you were growing up? I'm thinking...

LW: No, we didn't hardly have any dances at all.

TI: No, but like at the eighth grade dance...

LW: Oh, that's the first one we had. But we didn't, I didn't go dance. Hardly people danced, they didn't know how to dance.

TI: But I guess what I'm trying to understand is, the relationship of the Chinese and Japanese students and how well did they get along?

LW: No, usually they stick to their own nationality, Japanese with Japanese. Not like now. Now generation, it's all mixed marriage. But before, Japanese, you married Japanese or you have a Japanese girlfriend. Chinese were the same way.

TI: Before we started the interview, you showed me a photograph, that you were a class officer in the eighth grade at the elementary school. So you were, I think, the class president. Do you remember that?

LW: I don't recall that. That's why I was surprised when I saw the picture.

TI: And do you recall, to be class president, whether or not the students voted for that or the teacher assigned it, or how they determined who the president was, the vice president?

LW: See, that's... I don't recall anything like that. But it's just the name only that I was the class president, because we never had any social stuff or anything, activities.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So we talked about the elementary school, the regular, you had to go to school during the day. How about Japanese language school?

LW: Oh, we went there after the American school for one hour, see, because it ended about four, four o'clock in the afternoon, then maybe half an hour break there, then we headed for the Japanese school, and we started there for one hour. And most of, all the Japanese community they all went to Japanese school.

TI: So pretty much most of the people at the Oriental School, they would, after a half hour break, they would all then go to the, to the...

LW: Yeah, because I know that, I think the Chinese had a Chinese school, too, probably.

TI: And describe the Japanese language school. What was that like? In an hour, what would you do? Or let's first talk about the classes. Were they similar that your grade would go into the same Japanese class? Would it be kind of by age group in terms of...

LW: Yeah, it goes by, something like, it goes to grade school, high school. You know, if you're fourth grade, you're in the fourth grade class, age-wise, you're in the same.

TI: And so it was more by age, not by your language ability, it was more age.

LW: Yeah. Then after high school, it seemed like everybody dropped out going Japanese school. Up to the eighth grade, they went to school there.

TI: And why do you think people dropped out after eighth grade?

LW: Well, I guess... I don't know, but I guess they got other things to do, maybe. Because we have to go; the parents make you go. That's the difference, I think. When they got older, I think they couldn't control, but we have to go.

TI: And how did you like going to Japanese language school?

LW: Well, just going to school, but then we didn't learn too much. [Laughs] But one thing good about everybody in the community speak Japanese, so it's easy to pick up the language. Now, like my granddaughter, they went to Japanese school, but you don't talk in Japanese at home, you're going to forget, right? So that's the difference. So anytime, I think, the only way you could do it is send them to Japan and live there for one year, they really pick up. It's amazing they could pick it up. But if you don't speak Japanese at home, how you expect kids to?

TI: So in the Japantown during the day, if you ran to the grocery store, to a bathhouse, you would talk Japanese?

LW: Everything in Japanese. Hardly talked English. So we have a, kind of a hard time when we went to high school, because strictly, grammar school wasn't that bad, you could get by.

TI: Well, but in grammar school, the teachers would talk English to you. Let me as you this: when you went to kindergarten, at that point, did you know English, or it was all Japanese?

LW: No. Fluent in English, yeah.

TI: So that was about the time where you had to start learning...

LW: That's the reason more, some of the people got a hard time keeping up the grades. So they hold you back one year when you're small, you know. So instead of kindergarten, they had... they didn't have kindergarten, they had first grade. So most of the people that live in Walnut Grove is one year behind from the other communities.

TI: Now, in the case of your parents, because they worked with Caucasians, did they speak English?

LW: Yeah, well, that's how my mother and father, broken English, they get by. I don't know how they did it, but you know how, broken English, then they get by.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so Louie, we're going to go into the second hour now. And we had talked a lot about the town, the school, the Oriental School, the housing situation. I want to talk a little bit more about, now, back to your personal kind of growing up, your childhood memories. And why don't we talk about... when you're a boy, say maybe twelve years old, what are some of the fun things that you remember doing?

LW: Well, what we did most of the time is that during the summer vacation, during the break, school, we used to go right across that river, Sacramento River, right across, we used to go there swimming almost every day. And friend come over and then we'd play... not, what do you call that game? You put the money on... buy houses? Monopoly?

TI: Monopoly.

LW: Yeah, we used to play that. That's part of the, half a day, we used to spend half a day.

TI: Yeah, so let me go back to the swimming part. So I look at the Sacramento River, I mean, how did you and your friends learn how to swim? It's a big body of water.

LW: There's nobody to teach you, you just go there and just stay in the water and hope you don't drown yourself. It's amazing, all those kids that went swimming there, not even one drowning. And nobody to teach 'em how. And you know, that's, it's, the current sometimes goes fast. And that Sacramento River, they dump everything in that river, because it's not like now, with the sewer going, whatever sewer in town, that goes right out to the front of the river there. And they, the packing shed, the asparagus and all that, trimming, they all dump in the river. And high tide, it goes toward the ocean, then they come back again. And when we're swimming, all that sewer stuff comes in. [Laughs] So between that half an hour, everybody gets out and wait until the tide changed, then when the tide changed, we would go back swimming again. But nobody got sick or anything like that.

TI: Now, in terms of swimming, was there a particular part of the river that you would go swimming, or would you just go anywhere? I mean, was there like a certain beach...

LW: No, that certain part, because we had one of those rope that, you know like the Tarzan, that swing around and goes in the water. Then we could swim across the river, it's not that far across the river. But when the current's fast, it's kind of hard. Then a friend of mine used to dive from that bridge there, you know that bridge there? You're not supposed to, but we used to do that. Then that Ride Hotel, remember that, we used to go over there for a while, because they had a lot of sand there, see.

TI: Okay, so there were certain parts you'd go swimming, one would dive off the bridge, and then you guys would be able to swim across. So you were --

LW: Yeah, if you wanted, certain people would swim across because they couldn't make it.

TI: Yeah, you'd have to be a pretty good swimmer.

LW: Yeah, that's what I mean. Nobody in the swimming pool. It's a different ball game if you're swimming in the river and in the pool. That's why I guess more kids get, drowned. They don't know the currents and the temperature underneath there.

TI: But when you were growing up, there were no drownings or anything, so people...

LW: No. No drownings at all.

TI: So you guys would know enough in terms of what, when people were capable, watched out for each other...

LW: Yeah, they kind of watch each other. The older guys maybe once in a while, but that's where we'd spend most of the summer vacation, in the river.

TI: Now, do you recall some of your friends that you would go swimming with and do these things before the war, some of the people?

LW: Well, there were some, one in town either died or pretty sick, I think. We played, when we were kids, we'd play baseball, pickup games. And you know, during the wintertime, when it rains, you know that, what do you call the stick? I don't know what you call it. You get a couple of those sticks and you hit each other. And when they knock you down... I don't know what you call that game. We used to play that. I don't think nowadays, they don't play. But we used to have that. And marbles, you know, those marbles, we used to play that.

TI: How about things like camping? Did you ever go camping with your friends?

LW: No. Well, can't afford it, to go camping. Well, that older group that had the Boy Scouts once a year, they went camping up in the mountains. But we never went camping.

TI: How about, did you guys ever make, like, little rafts and go on the river?

LW: No, we never make any of those things. Nobody owned a boat, unless the older people that go fishing.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: How about organized, you mentioned baseball, but were there organized sports like judo, kendo?

LW: Yeah, they had judo, kendo, sumo, everything. It's like a club, like. That's for the older people. Sumo was very popular. You know where the church was? On the next, to the left, on the empty lot, that used to be a sumo place there. You know how they build up the mound, they knocked that out. But it used to be, before the war, used to be competitions like baseball, you know. Each town got sumo wrestlers, they're competing each other for prizes, you know. And most of the town, farmers are the one that, they're big and strong, so they used to beat the city folks. But Sacramento had one, and L.A., Walnut Grove, Courtland, they all had one, Lodi, Stockton. That was one of the sport that Nisei had. That's the older group. Not the younger group, but the older group.

TI: And so describe, you mentioned kind of the place where they would do the tournaments. How many people would show up at a tournament?

LW: Well, they got good turnout.

TI: Like...

LW: From, it's, come from all over the country, like Sacramento, Stockton, they all come in for that tournament. They're competing each other.

TI: So would there be, like, over a hundred people?

LW: Oh, yeah. Easy.

TI: And it would be almost like a more festive... would they have, like, food there?

LW: Well, I didn't see no food, but what they... kind of, they don't charge admission, they ask for donation. That way they get more anyway. The Issei was pretty generous when it's come to like that. You know, they pass the hat around and get all the donations, they get prizes for whoever wins. You know, sack of rice or something like that. That was a good sport for the Nisei.

TI: Now, did they, did people gamble? Like, say, "We think my wrestler's going to be better than yours," and they would bet?

LW: No, I don't think... maybe they might, you know, but I don't see any gambling like that. But they brag about, you know, who's the best, what town, just like the baseball. Baseball's a very good sport for the Nisei.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: When I was, I was doing some interviews in Los Angeles earlier, and in Little Tokyo, they would actually have, essentially, I would describe them as gangsters. And one of the things they would do is they would oftentimes go out to the farming communities and do gambling and prostitution and things like that. Did that ever happen in Walnut Grove, where people, like the gangsters from the big cities, would come to...

LW: No, because town itself was so close, that if you do something wrong, you hear about it, or your parents would put the foot down. They were pretty strict about that. Most of the kids pretty, mind their parents pretty good.

TI: But would the, but would the gangsters from the big cities ever try to come to Walnut Grove or the surrounding farming communities?

LW: Never heard anything like that. No crime at all. They hardly carry a gun. Only thing they had was shotgun for hunting, you know, pheasant hunting, duck hunting. But crime itself... but prostitution started after the camp. After they came back, they used to have a lot of those.

TI: In the Walnut Grove area?

LW: Yeah.

TI: And that would be in the Japantown area or the other parts?

LW: Well, like where we had dinner, Locke, across the street and upstairs, there used to be a prostitution place. And kids from Walnut Grove used to walk from there. It's not too far. Then Isleton, the base store, remember the base store there? Then next door was a prostitution place. And Lodi had one.

TI: And was that part of the proximity to the river? I mean, there was that river traffic and people would...

LW: No, this is all Asian. [Laughs] Because whites, if you fool around with the wife, they'd get arrested, you know. Asian, they don't bother you. Because, what it is is because Asian, the wife doesn't complain like the white wife, right? As long as the sheriff's department, if they don't have any complaints, they're not going to bother you. It's just like the Chinatown.

TI: And so this was for, like, a lot of the farmers, too, they would come in.

LW: Right, yeah.

TI: And this was, I guess, just kind of known and accepted in the community? So the women didn't get upset, they just...

LW: Well, especially the Filipino nationality, they're all single, see, not married. So most of the businesses, they're the ones that spent all the money. You can't beat the white girls. [Laughs]

JS: So was the Filipino, like, laborers would come in...

LW: People that live in the camp, on the farm, not in town. But now, there's quite a few Filipino family came in and they're raising the kids. But before, there's no Filipino people in the family, only Japanese and Chinese. But they're all out in the farm there.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Okay, so I want to ask a little bit about other activities before the war, like, things like picnics.

LW: They even had a football team.

TI: Well, football team, but like picnics, did you...

LW: Yeah, picnic once a year, we had a community picnic. Everybody's invited from all out in the country and people in town. It's a big deal, picnic. Then they have races and they have prizes for the kids, so they had, kids had a good time. They spent almost all day out there.

TI: And the picnic was, was that in that field nearby? Was it by the school or by the...

LW: That school is after the camp.

TI: Oh, okay.

LW: But before the camp, there used to be a baseball diamond, they knocked that out. You know, the nice bleacher you see, that's where they used to have all the picnic in there.

TI: And when you say lots of people, so, again, hundreds of people would come?

LW: Oh, yeah. Maybe five hundred people. They'd all bring their, like a potluck, their whole family bring their own food.

JS: What time of year was that? When did they have the picnic?

LW: You mean...

JS: Yeah, when was the community picnic every year? Was that summertime?

LW: Yeah, summertime. Because wintertime, it's raining. This is around Fourth of July, something like that, when the weather's nice.

JS: And did you notice a big change when it was harvest time, when all the workers came?

LW: Yeah, harvest time, there's nothing you can do, because people were all working. But then they have special occasion, like on the weekend, they had parades, they had Boy Scouts, and the Buddhist church, they dress up that... what do you call that? So the Buddhist church had a nice parade, too.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about the churches. So when I took the tours, there was a large Methodist church and a large Buddhist church. So for your family, what, did your family attend one of the churches?

LW: Yeah, the Buddhist church, because from Japan, most of 'em, Japan people was all Buddhist. But the Christian church, I don't know. A certain area from the back area mostly was all Christian. And seemed like the front areas were mostly all Buddhist. Seemed to me that way, the family was, going to church.

TI: That's interesting. Well, in terms of the size of the churches, was the Buddhist church bigger in terms of...

LW: Oh, they're bigger, a lot bigger. A lot bigger.

TI: And was there any, did you ever feel any competition between the Buddhists and the Methodists?

LW: Well, in sports, baseball and basketball, kind of...

JS: So each church would have their own team?

LW: Yeah, each, that's the time, only time they had competition and kind of didn't like each other.

JS: Which sport did you play?

LW: Huh?

JS: Did you play basketball?

LW: Yeah, we played basketball.

JS: And baseball?

LW: Baseball. But baseball, I didn't play the older league. My brothers did, George and James, but I played basketball. And they had a football team, you know. And those days, those football pads, no pad or nothing. You know the helmet and everything. But we had that stored in that Japanese school, you know. And when we came back, somebody broke in and took everything. So that's the reason they don't have that equipment. Same thing with the kendo. They used to have it in the Buddhist church there. And somebody broke in. Those kendo outfits, they're not cheap, they're expensive.

TI: Yeah, they're beautiful.

LW: They had all the sports.

JS: Where would you practice basketball? Where was the basketball?

LW: What's that?

JS: Where did you play basketball?

LW: Oh, all over. We had a Buddhist team. In fact, when Pearl Harbor got bombed, we were coming into Sacramento to play basketball. That's where we heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor got bombed. That's the last time I came to Sacramento because after that, they got restricted, remember? You could only go so many miles from the area.

JS: So when you heard that news, you were with your teammates coming to Sacramento?

LW: Sacramento, that YBA hall there in Sacramento. Well, that time, every town, Japanese town, they had a basketball team. Sports was a big thing, and there were a lot of good players, too..

JS: What do you remember about hearing about Pearl Harbor? Were you worried?

LW: Well, no, I was a --

JS: You were young.

LW: I was a young kid yet, so we just heard this, "Jesus, what are we gonna do?" you know. But we played basketball and went home, but kind of in shock, you know. That was, I could remember that was coming into town to play basketball.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Okay, I'm going to actually go back a little bit more and stay with a few more prewar things before we go into to the wartime. Actually, I wanted to ask about other sort of Japanese sort of holidays or celebrations. In particular, like New Year's...

LW: New Year's was a big thing for Japan.

TI: It was a big thing for Japan. So what happened in Walnut Grove?

LW: Oh, Walnut Grove, what they do, all the family, they cook enough food for one week now. Not one or two days. So when they first start a new year, it seemed like that whole week, nobody worked. Or all you do is eat and drink. And that time, they made food, but they seemed like they don't spoil, they last a long time. Like mochi, they have a mochitsuki, each family have their own group together and tsuku mochi. That was a big thing, too, New Year's.

TI: And so people would make all this food, and so would it be common for you and others to go to other places to...

LW: Well, what happened is, see, everybody make their own, the family, right? And like they do now, you could go there and eat, kind of socialize, start the new year right by go see them. You don't have to get invited. And that time it's one house or another, there is no way you could make a round. You can stay one, two, three places, and that's it.

TI: So for you, were there certain places that were extra special that you always wanted to go on New Year's?

LW: No. Usually it's the custom, I think, that you were supposed to, New Year, you're supposed to go see your friends and wish you a new year. The Issei used to do that.

TI: Now, in the front part, where there's all these businesses, would the businesses do anything special in terms of special treats or anything?

LW: No. Only thing they did was the New Year time, well, like Christmas to New Year, but mainly it's New Year. You know, they exchanged gifts. What I mean is give like a sack of rice or sack of shoyu or something like that. If you're friend that help you...

TI: Or how about the case where, like, say earlier you mentioned how you and your family were big customers of the bathhouse.

LW: Yeah.

TI: Would, like the bathhouse give something for --

LW: Well, bathhouse give you a gift, some kind of a gift. So that's the only time most of the, all the kids go there because they know they get a gift. That's the custom. Anybody, then that day you don't pay anything. It's on the house. They give you a gift, so when we were kids, we looked forward to.

JS: What kind of gift? What did you get?

LW: Well, you know, something, towel, something like that. Nothing really expensive, but still, we look into that, first of the year. That's the custom the bathhouse had: free bath with a gift. That's for the kids, for the gift, but for the public, free bath.

TI: Now, when that happened on New Year's...

LW: New Year's.

TI: ...did you then go to --

LW: New Year's Eve.

TI: Did you go to other bathhouses, too, or just that one?

LW: Just two of 'em, yeah. But most of the time, I go to two of 'em because you know them. But if you don't know them, you can't just go there when it's free.

TI: Yeah, that would be... [laughs].

LW: But that's, that was the custom for the bathhouse, New Year's. New Year's Eve, you're supposed to go to the bathhouse and take a bath and get a gift.

TI: Well, how about your parents' restaurant? Did they do anything special during the holidays?

LW: No, no. We didn't do anything special like holidays. Strictly American restaurant. In fact, my folks, they never made all that stuff like Japanese food and all that. So we used to go to the friends' place and eat.

TI: How about decorations? Did your parents do anything special with...

LW: No decorations. Oh, well, they had that osani? Tasani? You know that mochi and the tangerine on top? They, every house had that. That's the custom.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: How about places like the movie house or theater? Did they have special events or performances?

JS: Well, yeah, they have plays for the New Year's Day. The whole community, dancing and plays. That, older people gets into that, too, you know.

TI: So describe that a little bit. Because we walked by the area, and it was a pretty large area for that...

LW: You know that place, the Oda grocery store is? Well, that's where that hall was, Japanese hall was. That, almost a half a block there. That's the one that burned down. See, after that burned down, the community kind of had no place to go. That's where they had movie house, plays, and in fact, a friend of mine had a service there, funeral service, because he was well-known. And the church can't hold that many people.

TI: And so for something like a play or a movie, how many people could sit there?

LW: That place is, they pack 'em in.

TI: So like a hundred?

LW: No, more than a hundred. That hall is a pretty nice-sized hall. Yeah, two, three hundred I think.

TI: And so when you say movies, would these be American movies or Japanese?

JS: No, Japanese movies. This Japanese company, they go all over Sacramento, cities, show the movies. And so we only get it about maybe once or twice a week or something like that.

TI: And so when you saw movies, were all they all in Japanese?

LW: All Japanese.

TI: No subtitles?

LW: No. No subtitles, nothing. But most of the movie we went to see, samurai movie, more action. Nothing the classical stuff. The funny part of it, like you said, it gets so cold and the building's big, so on the aisle they got charcoal going to keep it warm. But that's no-no now, you know.

TI: Yeah, because you have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. [Laughs]

LW: [Laughs] Then they sell little refreshment.

TI: And how about live performances? Did you have like theater or plays that...

LW: Yeah, they all had plays. Well, the Buddhist church used to have a play over there and the community used to show one. Where Christian church, only thing they celebrated was Christmas. They had play at their own church. And the only reason we used go to there, because they used to, Christians used to give us candy, Christmas candy, so everybody go there just for that.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So one more story I want to talk about. I read someplace where you would play this game hide and seek in the town.

LW: Yeah. That was when I was about maybe seven, eight years old.

TI: So describe that and where you would play hide and seek and how you would play...

LW: Well, lot of time, like I said, you go to that, where the, out front, you know where that porch is? You could swing around and, on top of the roofs.

TI: Okay, so let me describe this a little bit. So in the front town, you would have these buildings, and a lot of times the retail would be on the first floor, and the second floor, there would be more, where people would live.

LW: Yeah. But then they'd have steps on the side there where you could get up there.

TI: Get up there and then oftentimes they would have a porch. And so there would be porches on all these buildings, but the buildings would be separated probably by about four or five feet.

LW: Yeah, but somehow, I don't know, we got together. Like from my house to that bathhouse place, we used to go climb over there. That's quite a...

TI: And no one ever fell or got...

LW: No, nothing like that.

TI: Now, so I'm curious --

LW: Not everybody played hide and seek like that, though. As long as you come home by midnight, the parents are not worried.

TI: So I'm curious, when you were playing this game, which, as a parent, if I saw my kids doing this, I would probably be upset, because it looks a little dangerous to do that. Did anyone ever catch you and get mad at you?

LW: Oh, yeah, you get hell from the people that lived there, I mean, owned buildings. So we just, when they say something like that, we just all take off.

TI: And jump to the next porch? [Laughs]

LW: Yeah, or stay away from there for a while.

TI: That's funny. And so these were, you did this with other boys your age, you would play this game?

LW: Yeah, some groups, you know, friend, two or three people, something like that, something to kill time.

TI: Now, in general, I remember walking through the town, and you had the buildings, but they were connected by this little alley. And it just looked like a great place for people, especially maybe on a hot summer's night, to sit out there to try to cool off. Was there really a -- I'm trying to get a sense of the community, especially maybe in the evening, on a hot day when people are outside, where they sat and how that was, what that was like.

LW: Well, most of the time, those people that, they lived there, they used more like a back, backyard. Then you always run into somebody that you know.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Okay. When you think back to those times, those prewar times, what were some of the things... because I know you're really proud of Walnut Grove, and this sort of small community feeling, but it's really tight, it's really close. What's really fond, what's your, like, fond memories of that? What are some of the things that you hold so dearly?

LW: Well, only thing I know is that people, it's not a family, but everybody in the community is pretty close. They know each other, and you could trust them.

TI: Which was, probably for you, was special, because your parents worked so hard. You said they worked 365 days of the year. So for you to be out there and...

LW: They never, yeah, they never worried. Because, see, in the community, somebody's always watching you, babysitting you.

TI: And so it was common for other adults to, maybe, scold you or whatever because they...

LW: Well, some family are little bit stricter than our family was. But it's community, everybody know each other, so you can't do anything bad, otherwise you hear about it, and they don't like that. You know, the rumors start, something like that. So they really stay away from it. So we didn't have anything to do, anything bad, it's just...

TI: And there's one other thing I wanted to touch on that I had listed. I'm thinking of farmers and kind of the cyclical, their business, harvest time. And so sometimes they'll get paid when the harvest comes in. But then when they're planting and buying fertilizer and all that, a lot of times farmers don't have money. So I'm wondering if there was, in the town, like a credit system. Did the...

LW: Well, what they do is, Japanese people, they trust each other. They don't pay until they got, finished the crop. Because they spend so much money, they don't have the money, so it's just like you go to the bank and loan, borrow some money. So the honor system, they pay it when the crop comes, and they're pretty good at that.

TI: So the stores and things would have kind of this...

LW: Yeah, stores, that's all you do, they charge you.

TI: They would do like IOUs or something, so they would list it...

LW: Yeah. That's mostly for the farmer, not for us.

TI: But in your store, your restaurant, I read about how... it wasn't the same, but how some people would pay with these little cards? Punch cards.

LW: Yeah, well, we used meal card, they call it. That's good for, anytime you eat, you get punched in. They got five, ten, twenty-five cents at the most, I think. And for breakfast, maybe fifteen cents, so you punch five, so you issue the card. And end of the week, they get paid. See, they get paid every, once a week, so when they get paid, then they'll pay the meal tickets and the room and board.

TI: Oh, so this was a way for them to keep track of how much... so it wasn't prepaid, they didn't buy the card.

LW: No, because nobody carried any cash or money. So it's just like a credit card. That's with the grocery, I mean, the rest of the business.

TI: But again, so that was kind of the honor system. So they would come, because they would have all these punches, they wouldn't have to come back and pay for that.

LW: Yeah. Well, I guess you'd take the loss or something. But my father was pretty generous because he would feel sorry for... something like homeless comes in, they give 'em a free meal because they're hungry. That's the reason she never got rich, because she was too generous. Because by the time we went to the camp, and we could have collect all that money that people owes, but how you gonna collect it when we went in the camp?

TI: Good.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So we're now going to go into the war, but before we do this, I wanted to ask Jill if there's anything else prewar Walnut Grove that you wanted to ask about.

JS: Can you talk a little bit about the baseball?

LW: Baseball?

JS: The baseball field and then your brother playing? Describe...

LW: Well, that was before the war, they built that...

JS: Stadium?

LW: Bleacher. It's so nice. Then the land, I guess they'd lease it out from the field. Some family that was farming back there, they made an agreement. And that's a regular ballpark with the fences around and everything. The community had a good baseball team. And during that time, each town, very competitive. They really go out to win. In fact, they really had a lot of, not the players, but the parents, fans is the one that do all the fighting, and they get mad. But they all had uniforms, and whenever they go to the game, they have to pay, they got... then when we were little, we used to shag those baseball, because you got a foul ball, you go over the fence, then we get maybe five ball for a nickel or something, you get paid, see. But that's the only thing I could remember before the war.

JS: Was there a name for the baseball team, the Walnut Grove...

LW: Well, they called... let's see, what were they called? Because they called it Delta, but that's after the, I think after the war. Because, in fact, from Japan, the team came and play over there, from Japan during that time.

JS: Before the war?

LW: Yeah, before the war, see.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So I'm going to move back to December 7, 1941. You mentioned earlier how you were away for basketball. I'm curious, when you got back to Walnut Grove, so people had heard the news, what was Walnut Grove like? What was the reaction, what were people talking about when you got back to Walnut Grove?

LW: Gee, I don't recall anything like that. Because I think we were too young to worry about... not like the older people. Because they have business.

TI: And so do you recall anything your mother or father said about what might happen to the family or anything like that?

LW: No. Only time we had notice was evacuation came. That's the time... we didn't know what to do, the family didn't know what to do, whether to sell the business or take a chance and keep it.


TI: So, Louie, so we're talking about right after the outbreak of war, earlier we had talked about how all the land was owned by the Dye and Brown families, and that the Japanese were just leasing the land, and they had their operations. So when the orders came, that, okay, so people have to leave, what happened in Walnut Grove? I mean, what did all the businesses, people who had houses, what happened?

LW: Well, the first thing, people didn't know what... so they put a sign, "For sale" sign. Not the house, but the merchandise, because they got to get rid of the merchandise within a couple weeks. But like our places, we got nothing to sell except for the restaurant and rooming house. So we were debating whether to lease, lease it to somebody that you know, but we didn't have anybody that could take that over.

TI: Now, in terms of... so your parents, your business was a little bit different in that it catered to a lot of whites. So I'm guessing, during the war, that still could have thrived, I mean, with boarders, with the restaurant.

LW: Someone was... I'm not, recall, but someone was running the place, but I guess it didn't work out. You know, nobody wants to put in that kind of long hours. Not like the Japanese, my parents, I mean, they didn't make any money, but at least they make a living. That's what the difference is now.

TI: 'Cause earlier you mentioned, I think, that you sold the place for two thousand dollars.

LW: Yeah.

TI: Do you have a sense of what that place was worth? If the war had not happened and they wanted to sell it, how much would it have been worth as an ongoing business?

LW: Well, that's what I can't understand, why my parents didn't ask how much, like you say, how much it's worth. What I found out was they say they sold that place. And we were too little, so we didn't worry too much about it. Because they didn't expect to come back.

TI: Now, do you remember people from outside the area coming in to buy things from...

LW: No, not like, I didn't see anything like that. But, see, some of those people, like Joe Ina's place, the Matsuoka family, they give 'em a rent-free stay there to keep the place. So they came out good. It's just like new when they came back. They got a place to stay. But a lot of people, they just boarded up and took a chance, hoping that the building will be still there when they come back. Because we didn't know when we were going to come back.

TI: But in your case, your family decided to sell the place. Now, I'm guessing that you still had more stuff than you could bring.

LW: Yeah.

TI: What did you do with the extra?

LW: We just left it there with whoever bought the place. Everything, the bed, equipment, everything, went with the house. So actually, when you come down to it, really, you know, we got robbed. Two thousand dollars for a business place, no way.

TI: And when this was all happening, what, how did your parents deal with it?

LW: Well, they didn't talk too much about it. Not to us, but I guess they didn't really know what to do with it. Because we didn't have too many relatives in the United States.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Now, were some people using the churches or the language school to store things? Were they storing things...

LW: Yeah. Like Sacramento had that kaikan where they play basketball, lot of people put it in there. Whereas Walnut Grove, they put it in the Buddhist church, in the Japanese school. But when they came back, the people got to have a place to live or sleep. So they had to take all that out. My family moved in to one of those Japanese schools, one of the rooms there. But I wasn't home, so I didn't know what was going on.

TI: But that's good to know, that, so right after the war, even though you weren't here, your family stayed in the language school along with some other families, too. So they stayed there temporarily until they could find...

LW: Yeah. See, so a lot of those people, either they took a chance that, just board it up and hoping they'll come back maybe one or two years. And some of 'em, they have a good neighbor to keep an eye on it for me, something like that.

TI: But business-wise, most of 'em, they just board it up and took off. Like the Hayashis, nobody was there until they came back. But luckily, the building was still there.

TI: Did the people who stayed in Walnut Grove during the war, so whether they were Chinese or white or Filipino or something else, did any of them help watch the properties, the ones that just boarded them up or...

LW: No, I don't think, not too many were that close. Because that one, that Korean dentist that was in there, in Walnut Grove, they're the only ones. They stayed toward the end, too, but I don't know how they survived because all the customer was Japanese.

TI: So I remember that. So there was a dentist, Korean dentist, he had two daughters, I believe. How did the Japanese community accept the Korean, this Korean family into the community? I mean, so they weren't Japanese, they were Korean, and I wonder if there was...

LW: Well, like the two girls, one of 'em was the same age as mine, we went to the same school and we get along. They were more like Japanese than Korean, because they didn't speak Korean language. What happened, the mother left the husband, see. I don't know, she just took off and never came back. So the father raised the girls. But at the same time that... the Kawamura barber shop, there's that daughter that's kind of a, taking care of it that did the housework and take care of the kids and everything like that. Because she was old enough, he was maybe thirty years older, something like that. But they speak nothing but Japanese, even though they're Korean.

TI: Okay. So during this time period before you left Walnut Grove, do you recall any interactions with either the Chinese or the whites, and any, yeah, what that was like? So did the Chinese ever say anything about the Japanese leaving, was there any friction or tension between...

LW: Not that I know of. Only thing, I think benefit more Chinese then. Because after the Japanese left, all the farmers, there's no farming, so they had to take over, and they did real good. And basically they own the, they bought the property. Most of 'em that, Chinese farmers, they all came out good.

TI: Oh, so the Chinese farmers were able, the community, the farmers were able to thrive.

LW: They got bigger.

TI: Okay. And how about any interactions with the whites?

LW: I don't know too much about that.

TI: Were there ever, did you ever hear of any events or incidences of, like, prejudice against Japanese during this time? Like people angry at Japanese Americans for what happened at Pearl Harbor?

LW: Well, see, the trouble is, I was small, and we are limited. You could only go three miles, so really, I didn't have any communication with that. Only thing I know is that we left the school, we didn't finish the school, high school.

JS: So you were at Courtland High School?

LW: Courtland High School for up to, I think it was about April, I think, we got evacuated.

JS: Do you remember any reaction from your classmates about what was happening?

LW: No, because there's more Japanese, so they can't, they gave us a bad time because we have more control.

TI: And when the orders started arriving, that Japanese would be leaving, do you recall if the school did anything in terms of, like an assembly or announcement letting the other students know what was happening?

LW: No, nothing like that. I don't recall at all those things there.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So let's talk about, because in the case of Walnut Grove, the community all didn't go to one place, they actually went to a couple, at least two different places. Do you recall how that happened in terms of, did the first people go to one place first and then the second group went to another place? Or describe...

LW: Well, the only reason I know was the town itself was all going to go to the one location, assembly center, Merced. But then the rumor was started that other assembly center was the better place to go. See, the Merced and Turlock, you had a choice there. So everybody wanted to go to Merced because it was the better, I guess, assembly center or something like that.

TI: So they had, it sounded like they were going to first go to Merced, but then pretty soon they were going to go to Turlock?

LW: Yeah. So what happened is it would be first come, first serve. And they kind of divided from the front, Walnut Grove, and the back.

TI: And so the front pretty much went to Merced and then the back went to Turlock?

LW: Yeah.

TI: Okay. So describe how the front part of town, the Japanese, how they were removed? I mean, were there busses or did you take the train, or how did you go?

LW: No, the train came. You know where that fire station is? Used to be a packing shed, the railroad runs right there, the train came there, and that's where we loaded up. But we couldn't take whatever we, you know, just one suitcase for personal.

TI: And so when you, when the train came, were there other people on the train, or were they empty cars?

LW: No, strictly Walnut Grove people. Because that went strictly right to the Merced.

TI: And on that day when the train came to pick up, pick up your family and the others, describe that. Who else was there, were there people saying goodbye to you? What was that like?

LW: Well, I didn't see too many white people come and say goodbye, maybe very few, but I didn't see no, too many Chinese either. Maybe they were happy that we were getting out. [Laughs]

TI: But then there were still some Japanese left in Back Town? Were they still there, were they there saying goodbye?

LW: You know, to me, I was a teenager, so I really don't know too much about those things.

TI: So can you remember what the train was like?

LW: Well, the train was one of those train that, not the new one, but the old train that you see on those... they had, what, something like four, five cars, though.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: Okay. So from here, so you're picked up by train and you're brought to Merced. And what were your first impressions when you got to Merced? What was your thoughts when you got there? What did you see?

LW: Only thing I saw was that we got to get settled, pick up our luggage and where were we supposed to go. And the food wasn't that good, so my mother used to make rice and, you know, kind of better than what they feed you out there.

TI: And so when they found out that your parents could cook, did they recruit them to work in the mess hall?

LW: Yeah. Well, this is at Colorado.

TI: Okay. So at Merced they didn't...

LW: Merced, they didn't have it. Merced, it wasn't equipped for, like the Amache camp. It wasn't, it's not permanent. It was temporary, so you just got enough to, place to stay maybe one or two months. That's all we stayed, then they shipped it out. Because the other camp wasn't ready. They were building the barracks.

TI: And so when you say Merced was temporary, so for things like food, how would that be arranged in terms of how people were fed?

LW: Well, that's why I think a lot of people, I guess mostly catering and maybe... I don't recall that part there.

TI: So any other memories of Merced? So you're there for not too long.

LW: Oh, lot of people stay at that horse barn, you know, the Merced, just like, what's that, Santa Anita.

TI: And so do you have memories of the smells and things like that at Merced?

LW: No, we used to have lot of fun there because we used to see these young couples go out there, you know, it's out in the open there. And in the evening, see what's going on. [Laughs] That's about the only thing I could remember.

TI: So you would see young couples going out to make out or...

LW: Yeah, make love and everything like that.

TI: But right out in the open?

LW: Well, yeah, they got no privacy unless they got to go way out there, out in the open there. The place was pitch dark. But that's the only thing I could remember.

TI: So the couples thought that they were getting away out there, it was dark, and so they had privacy out there, but yet you could kind of see what was going on. [Laughs]

LW: Yeah. But that's the only thing I could remember. But we didn't... about two months we stayed there, so it was really temporary. But it was, you know, where they have a horse place in the barn, it was really like Santa Anita and all that.

TI: Now, at this point, your family was, there were seven of you? There were your parents and five kids?

LW: In one room. So they had those, one of those folding army cots, you know, those ones the GI uses? That's what we had. Just enough to sleep in.

TI: And do you recall things like the weather, if it was hot?

LW: No, that was in April, so it wasn't too bad.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: So let's move from Merced, you said, Colorado. So the Amache camp.

LW: That took us almost two nights on the train. And you know, the funny part of it, on the train, you can't, you got the shade that you can't see nothing outside, what's going on. They don't want you to see. Then when you take a break, they park you way out in the desert or in the mountain, and the guards, the guards come out and line up with the bayonets. Then we get off and stretch our arm or something like that, then go back in.

TI: And how would you sleep on the train? You were there for two nights...

LW: Well, you just got to manage, just sleep on the chair there.

TI: And for food, how would they feed you?

LW: Well, I don't know. I can't remember those, how we ate. But they must probably have cold sandwich or something like that. Because I don't think it was equipped, dining rooms, like that.

TI: Now, so when you got to Colorado, I've heard both Amache and Granada. So when you got there, what did they call the camp? Do you remember what they...

LW: You mean the camp?

TI: Yeah, the camp.

LW: First they called it Granada, that's the town. That's, the town itself was just one gas station, one grocery store, and one drug store, and that was it. The town, rest of it was all farmers. And train didn't stop there. Only reason they stopped the train because we had so many people to unload. But after we came into the camp, so many people go in and out, that's the reason the train made the stop. Because that, originally, the closest city was two, three miles from the camp.

TI: Oh, I see. But Granada was closer.

LW: Closer to the camp, so we could walk up to the town. But we could go there if you get a pass, but we got to walk down there, about two miles down there.

TI: Okay, so Granada was this little town nearby. So where did the name Amache come from?

LW: Amache come from the Indian name. I guess that area, it's... I think called maybe Amache, I don't know. It's an Indian country.

TI: Now, was that name kind of used when you were there?

LW: No.

TI: It was always called Granada?

LW: Yeah.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: So what were your first impressions of Granada? When you got to the camp, what did you see? What do you remember?

LW: Well, out in the desert. They were still building the barracks, then we run into the dust storm, you know. Never had that kind of experience. That's the first snow I saw when we got there, you know, in the wintertime it snowed, I never saw snow before. Walnut Grove, never snows.

TI: So the desert, so it's hotter in the summer and colder...

LW: Yeah, real hot in the summer with the dust going, blowing, because it's always windy. Then wintertime it's cold, so you got to have those, what do you call those cast iron stoves with the coal. We got to burn that.

TI: And describe the room that your family went to. What was that like?

LW: Only thing we had was the bed, can't, there's no room to put tables or chairs, because there's seven in that one room. You know, like the regular bedrooms right now, there's seven people, so there's no way. If you want to do a study or homework, you got to go to the library, because that's the only place it's nice and quiet.

TI: So how did your family arrange the room for seven of you?

LW: Well, they just got a bed there and, I guess, daytime, they got to fold it up and put it on the side. You know, like Japan do, bring the bed out. Because there's no privacy at all, because... so we spent most of the time in the mess hall or the laundry room. That's about the only place in the wintertime because nice and warm. Summertime, you could stay outside.

TI: Well, I'm guessing, too, your family, you had four boys that were teenage and young adult, and so there must have been lots of...

LW: Yeah, it's kind of rough. But the married couple, they gave 'em one small room right next to it. But still, no privacy at all, so if you have brothers, sisters, it's kind of rough. Where my sister was too young yet, so you could get by. The place was open, so you could hear from neighbors what's going... you could hear whatever they're talking about. You know, it's wide open, the barracks.

TI: Now, in your barracks and block, were there other Walnut Grove people there? Did they keep you together? Or were you with other...

LW: Well, when we got there, it was mixed. I mean, part of Walnut Grover people were there, but maybe next building or next block or something like that.

TI: So in your block, where did the other people come from? Do you remember others...

LW: Mostly from Woodland and Portland, and... let's see, where was that? Can't remember now. But it was pretty separate.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: Okay, so Louie, we're going to start the third segment. And where we left off was we were in Granada, you had just arrived, and so I guess the first question is, when people got to Granada, they quickly were given jobs. And I wanted to first talk about your parents and ask, what kind of jobs did your mother and father get in Granada?

LW: Well, see, what happened that time, the camp people said, "Whoever in the restaurant business like to work in the food business there," so my father got one block, and my mother got, they kind of keep it separate, I don't know why, they didn't work together.

TI: Maybe because they just needed, they didn't have enough, and so they probably spread them out?

LW: Yeah. All those people that know about the restaurant and cooking business, they're all working the cafeteria like that.

TI: And when your, say, mother and father are working in the mess hall, do you recall what kind of hours they had to work? Was it early in the morning?

LW: Yeah, well, they run breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I guess they get break in between, but he was there breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

TI: So it was long hours, hard work.

LW: Well, long hours, but I think they got enough help, and they're kind of a supervisor, see. And that's in the camp there, I used to wash dishes, so we used to wash... so we earned some money.

TI: Well, so, yeah, that's the next question. So you and your brothers, I mean, did you guys have jobs also?

LW: Yeah, everybody had some kind of job, because you got to have money for, to spend. No income unless, you got to work. So everybody was working in camp, or something to do, so you have no problem. Only thing, you don't get paid much. You know, twelve dollars a month, what can you do?

TI: And so your job was working in the mess hall washing dishes?

LW: Mess hall washing dishes, yeah.

TI: And what about your older brothers? What jobs do they have?

LW: George was... Jesus, I can't recall what he was doing. But I know he was working something. I don't recall.

TI: And how about school? Did you attend school?

LW: Yeah, I went to high school there, Amache High School there. But my two brothers was out of school already, he graduated. That year, when he got, left camp, he was a senior, the second one, James was the second one.

TI: And James was the, sort of the studious one.

LW: Yeah. So his ambitions was, he wanted to go to college, be a professional, but that went to, shot.

TI: So he was never able to go to college?

LW: No. Because after camp, then he got married too young, then he had a kid right away. So he had to be the bread and butter. So no way. Then he came to Sacramento, he applied for police, police job. But at that time, they didn't hire Asians. Asian, Japanese policeman, there's no way Japanese policeman. So they had to, kind of, you gotta have, be six feet or whatever height, and so much weight, and everything like that, so he didn't qualify. Because now, they take anything. So that was the excuse that he didn't get the job. Because he took the test, he passed it, but the other part... so they went to work for the government, post office, mailman, that's where he ended up.

TI: Okay, so that was James, and then let's talk a little bit about George, your oldest brother. So, first, what kind of things did he do in camp? Did he have a job?

LW: Well, from the camp, I went out, then he got drafted. Then after that, I lost track of him. Because from the camp, he went to Japan, occupation. I think he stayed there two years. Then when my father died, he had to come back for the service. See, he had a girlfriend, they were going pretty strong, I heard. This I heard, they were going to get married there, see. My parents was kind of opposed because he didn't want to get married to a Japanese girl over there.

TI: So George, by going to Japan, I'm assuming that he was sort of trained in the Military Intelligence Language School and then went to Japan with the occupation to help during that time?

LW: Yeah, because he could speak the language, so it's a lot easier. Funny part of it, see, he didn't drink or he didn't smoke, so the cigarette and liquor was hard to get, it's all black market, so he made money on that.

TI: Oh, so he would get his cigarettes and alcohol, and then sell it --

LW: Yeah, with that money, he's not using himself, he'd sell at the black market. So he had it pretty good. That's what I heard, he had a pretty good thing going. So if he'd have stayed there, maybe he could have made money there. [Laughs]

<End Segment 32> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: So let's go back to you. So when you're in Granada, you are about sixteen, seventeen years old? So you're still going to high school.

LW: High school, yeah.

TI: So let's talk about the schools first. What were the schools like at Granada?

LW: Well, school was mostly all Japanese, so we get along pretty good. But the trouble is, I didn't do any studying. Too much other activities, so homework, I got enough grade to pass. So one time, the teacher put a stop to it and they said, "You better get your grade up there or I'm gonna flunk you." [Laughs] So what we used to do, friend of mine, we used to go to Granada town, get a pass, because we know this lady that gave out free passes there, and play pool there and come back. The parents don't know it, but that's why, the grade in high school, I was pretty bad.

TI: And so did you graduate out of Granada?

LW: No, because I got out before, the camp, before my class graduated. So I didn't get a diploma or graduation thing. I was out of camp already.

TI: You mentioned that you weren't a good student, you had other activities. So going to Granada and playing pool was one thing that you did.

LW: Well, that was one, yeah. In between, because I played basketball for high school team.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: Yeah, so I wanted to ask about other activities. So basketball, what are some other things that you did to...

LW: Well, they had football team, but that was too rough a sport, so I had to play... and baseball, not too much interest, so I used to concentrate mostly basketball. We had a pretty good team, and play against the white people, that small town of Granada.

TI: Oh, so tell me about that. So when you played the Granada team, was that in Granada, the town you played?

LW: Well, we went to their gym, because they didn't want to, kind of scared that they didn't want to come into the Japanese camp. So most of the game we played, we went out of the camp.

TI: And how did the white ball players treat the Japanese? When you guys meet to play...

LW: Well, it's surprising, you know, they were, we treated pretty good because they never saw Japanese before. So they didn't know how to act. Because the town itself was against it when we first came in, because they thought we're from Japan and prisoner of war or something like that. But then, toward the end, they love it because all the businesspeople made money. Yeah, if it wasn't for the Japanese camp, this town of Lamar, it's twelve miles from the camp, they were just struggling until the Japanese people came.

TI: And so maybe initially they were, maybe frightened or didn't know about it or weren't in favor of it. But by the end they really welcomed and got to know maybe some of the Japanese.

LW: When they first came, there were no "Japs" allowed, something like that. But toward the end, they really welcomed you, because they spend the money.

TI: Yeah, so going back to that basketball game, how well did the Japanese teams compete against the white teams in these small towns? I mean, who would win these games?

LW: Well, the only thing is, I remember, is the older people, they play against the town team, and high school was the senior year. Other than that, they didn't have junior varsity or anything like that. So we didn't get to play with the white people down there.

TI: But you mentioned earlier, like the high school team played the high school team?

LW: Yeah. The older, well, the senior, senior did, but we were junior then.

TI: But how did the seniors do against the...

LW: They did real good. Only thing is, you know how Japanese is so short and the white people were so tall. Other than that, they gave good competition.

TI: And they would do similar things with baseball, too? They would play...

LW: No, only baseball that I recall is they play against each other camp in Japanese. Like my brother, older brother, George, he was in the baseball team, and they went to Gila just to play baseball. He didn't play basketball.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: So when you were in camp, you mentioned your brother got drafted. But before that, there was a period where, I think the term was called registration, or the "loyalty questionnaire."

LW: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember when that happened at Granada, when they came through and had people fill those out?

LW: Well, we didn't know what, actually, going on, whether to sign yes or no. Because the question was so tricky. So everybody kind of hesitate, and that's the reason a lot of people didn't volunteer. You get drafted, you have no choice, because were classified as class C or something like that, "alien," so we didn't have to worry about getting drafted. But then they changed the law, so that's the reason I got drafted, too.

TI: But were you drafted when you were at Granada or later?

LW: No, in Granada, my senior year.

TI: So talk about that. So you got drafted when you were in Granada. What happened next?

LW: We went to take a physical in Denver, we had to go to Denver to take a physical, so we took the train, and overnight, and take the physical and come back. But out of my group, there were about fifty of 'em. Maybe I and another guy was the only one that got rejected. I didn't want to argue why I was 4-F, I was glad I was, didn't have to go in the army.

TI: And so why were you disallowed or 4-F? What was the reason, did they tell you?

LW: I just put on the show that I was double-joined ankle and it kind of bothered me. I'll show it to you. See? See the ankle?

TI: Oh, so you...

LW: That was the excuse I made, but I got rejected, so I was happy. I mean, nobody wanted to go then, you know. People that wanted to go, they volunteered earlier, right?

TI: Because at that time you were drafted, it was a little bit later. I guess it was probably, a lot of people were being drafted to be maybe replacement troops for the 442?

LW: Right, yeah.

TI: And so it was probably, people would read about how many casualties, how difficult it was.

LW: Well, no, that time, the first group went overseas, but the time I heard of it, they were still training in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. And that friend of mine, that Matsuoka, he's second brother, he volunteered, and the parents were really mad at him. And the first thing I noticed, he was, got a notice he was prisoner of war. That's the last I heard of him. Then he ended up, after the war, he came out, he came out pretty good.

TI: And how about your parents? How did they feel about...

LW: They didn't say too much, they just left it for us, whether you want to go. They didn't say too much. It's not like, "You can't go." They're not that, really Japanese diehards.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

TI: Any other memories about Granada that you have, just in terms of the day to day life, family life or jobs?

LW: Well, we didn't have too much family life, because we don't see each other. They're working, I'm at school. Only time you might see each other is when you go to sleep, bedtime.

TI: And any stories about experiences with snow? You mentioned how this was the first time you really saw snow and cold weather.

LW: Oh, yeah.

TI: So when that happened, I mean, what did a California boy --

LW: Everybody in my barracks, everybody came out. It was really snowing. But one thing, when we came there, they were still building the barracks, so there were a lot of lumbers laying around. So a lot of people, what they did was, nighttime, they go there and steal the lumber and make benches or table, whatever, furniture. The handy one makes good furniture, but that's what they did, you know. Everybody waited until nighttime and they come in, take the lumber, bring it home. I remember that part.

TI: Okay. And did you, did your family make anything from the lumber that you can remember, like cabinets?

LW: No. Because none of it was that handy. People that's handy, they make nice furniture. They even made beds, too, out of the lumber. See, what they did, most of 'em made a double bunk, you know, so cut the space down. Bunk bed.

TI: Yeah, I've heard about that. So just so they could get more room, more floor space.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

TI: During the break, you mentioned that you left Granada to go to Chicago. So I wanted to ask you, so why did you leave Granada?

LW: Because everybody was leaving camp, and sooner or later, we have to go. So my friend, besides that, a friend of mine said, "Why don't you come over to Chicago to work?" So only thing I didn't like Chicago was that, you ever heard of bedbugs? That's the only thing. Man, I tell you, that was enough for me. We had no choice. We don't have the money, you can't be particular with apartment, right? There are four of us sleeping in one, one room. And the bedbugs was loaded, so I said, "Oh, this is not for me." I worked there about six months, and I got out. I was making those albums, you know, for this company then, photo album.

TI: And do you recall the part of Chicago, the neighborhood in Chicago that...

LW: Well, we were on the north side, and funny part of it, we take that, what do call that train?

TI: The El?

LW: El train, yeah. And funny part of it, everybody, they dressed up, they wore a suit or hat to go to work, and you changed your clothes when you get there. Because that time, everybody had to wear a hat. I noticed that everybody that left camp, they had to buy a hat. You know those dress hat, you don't see 'em anymore, but that time was pretty popular. 'Cause you're going to the big city, you're not out in the country, so everybody had to dress, a suit with a hat on. That's how I remember them.

TI: So for you, you actually would wear a hat and suit just to take the El.

LW: Right.

TI: And then you would change...

LW: Change your clothes.

TI: And then coming back, you would change back into the...

LW: Yeah, right.

TI: And you said pretty much everyone did that?

LW: Well, so far, the one that's working there. And on the trolley, you got to hang on, because so many people were working the same time, so there's no place to sit down. 'Cause you're just hanging on the side.

TI: And at the place you worked, were there lots of other Japanese workers?

LW: No. Well, Chicago's so big, that the only time I ran into, when we get together to go dancing or something like that, on a date, blind date or something like that. And that time was pretty good because, we had a lot of fun because we used to go out after midnight. You know, Chicago was pretty safe then, not like now. No crime or nothing like that, it was pretty safe. We used to go at midnight and go. And there were a lot of places to go after midnight.

TI: And so describe one that you liked to go to. What was that like, where would you go, what would you do?

LW: Well, it's more like a camp dance, because all the people that, we used to go on dates or blind date with the Japanese from other camps.

TI: Do you remember the name of the place or one of the places?

LW: No.

TI: But you would see, maybe, like, twenty, thirty, forty, how many people would be there?

LW: You mean at dance?

TI: At these dances.

LW: Well, no, it's a small one. Something like you go to a nightclub or something like that. Because on a blind date, you maybe, two, three couples goes like that.

JS: Is that how you met your wife?

LW: No, no. Wife got nothing to do -- that's way back.

JS: That's later?

LW: I had three more girlfriends besides that. [Laughs]

TI: So I'm thinking, for you, you grew up in a small town, Walnut Grove, and then you go to a place like Chicago, which is a major city, and you're taking things like the El. How did that feel for you? Was it like culture shock for you to be in such a large place?

LW: Well, only thing I was thinking about, getting a job and settle down. Other than that, it didn't impress me, anything at all.

TI: Did you think about wanting, after seeing a big city, wanting to maybe live in the city versus more of a farming community, did you think about that?

LW: No. Mainly, I was interested in a job. So at least you get a steady job that you like. So from there, friend of mine called and said, "Why don't you come to Kansas City?" Because my second brother was working there in Kansas City making cornstarch. You know Argo cornstarch company? So I went there from Chicago, and I stayed there for one year, and I didn't like that job.

TI: And before we move, so, in Kansas City, were there very many other Japanese?

LW: Well, there's Japanese families that run in the rooming house, and we know that, people there.

TI: And what neighborhood, or what part of town of Kansas City?

LW: It was not a good area. I guess kind of an average area, because certain part of it was slum area. So only transportation we got was take the trolley, I mean, the bus. No car. That's another thing, Kansas City, same thing, too. You dress up and you go there and change your clothes to work clothes, and you take a shower there and put back your suits on and come home.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

TI: So you were there for about a year.

LW: One year.

TI: And you said didn't like that, so you went from...

LW: Then I came back, then I went, a friend of mine was working at this Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, you know, high class hotel, with a, summer resort where the rich people goes.

TI: What was the name of it again?

LW: Broadmoor.

TI: Btroadmoor, okay.

LW: Colorado Springs, yeah. It's more like a tourist town. And all the people from Texas and New York, Jewish, rich Jewish people used to come.

TI: So was this kind of your first close connection with wealthy people, seeing all these wealthy people? Was that different for you?

LW: No. When I got here, that's what I heard, that they just come in during the summertime, three or four months, they stay at the hotel, then they go back to the... so I was working in the dining room and the room service. Well, I start off with busboy, you know, you got to learn the trade.

TI: And how did you get this job?

LW: Well, the friend, friend of mine was working there, and that time, there was a lot of Japanese people from our camp went to work in the golf course, the Isseis. And the job, only thing, job we got at the hotel was the busboy, not a top job, but you work your way up there. So then you could be a waiter, and I was working the room service for a while. Then if I stayed longer, I could have been head maitre 'd or something like that. But that wasn't, no life to it.

TI: And so how long did you do this?

LW: Off and on, about ten years.

TI: At the same place?

LW: Yeah, same place.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

LW: Then what happened was, when I was working there, one of this rich family from Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, they were staying there and they were really nice. They tell me, "Well, why don't you come and work for me?" So I said, "Oh, these are nice people, so I think I'll go there." So I went to Oklahoma City to work there for one year, and they wanted me to be a chauffeur. And I never drove a car, and they want me to... so he said, "No problem." All fixed up with a driver's license and everything, because they know all the connections. And here I'm driving a Cadillac, and never drove a Cadillac before. I was kind of scared, but I got by. And my job was to take the kids to school, that's all, private school. You know how the kids of the rich people get a chauffeur and drop it off? Then after school, they pick 'em up. That was my job, and that was it.

JS: What was the name of the family?

LW: Hmm?

JS: The name of the family?

LW: Gee, I can't... I can't place it right now.

JS: That's okay.

LW: Anyway, see, they have a gardener to take care of the garden, then they had this colored couple to do the cooking. And they got cleaning lady, my job was just chauffeur to take the kids, that was it. So it was real nice. But then there was no life to it. I got free room and board, but on my day off, what can I do? It's nothing but colored and Indians, and... huh?

TI: And so was it, back then, segregated in terms of...

LW: Well, because when I got there, I didn't even know, when I came to the train station from Colorado Springs, I got out, and I want to go to the bathroom. And it says "white only" and "colored only." So I asked somebody there, I said, "Which one am I supposed to take?" "No, you take the white one." Because they thought maybe I was an Indian. They never saw a Japanese there. So really discriminatory, because when I go downtown, I could go to a restaurant and eat, or go to the movie house and eat. But the colored people, if they go to a movie house, they got to stay up in the balcony, and they can't eat in a restaurant. It was really sad the way they discriminate the colored people. They could go shopping downtown, but that's it.

TI: Did you ever talk to blacks or African Americans about that? About the segregation and what that was like?

LW: Oh, you mean the black people?

TI: Yes.

LW: well, I guess they didn't say too much, though, the older people. Not like the younger guys.

TI: 'Cause I was curious if you ever shared with them --

LW: They keep to themselves. Funny part is, one time I went to the football game, and you know, this black couple take me to the football game, so I said, "Okay, I'll go for a ride." I went there, it's the colored's college, and I'm the only one white guy, the rest of it's all blacks. [Laughs] That's a good experience, you know. I was, I didn't know it was like that until I got there. And everyplace you go, it's colored only or white only.

TI: And how would you compare that with the Walnut Grove, where there was segregation there, too, in terms of the housing and schools? And when you see that in the South, I mean, were there similarities, or did it seem a lot different?

LW: Well, I didn't think about, nothing about like that. Because we could go anyplace. Only thing is the school was segregated, that's all. I mean, you could go to movie house, you could sit anyplace, and go restaurant or anything like that. It's just, it's just the school, that's all.

TI: And so down south, in Oklahoma City, it was much worse than...

LW: Oh, yeah. I was surprised at how bad it is, the way they treat them. And when you get on the bus, I said, "Jesus, where am I supposed to sit?" "No, don't go in the back, you sit in the front." They got half of the bus, colored people sit in the back and...

TI: So you said you were there for about a year, and then you left. Why did you want to leave?

LW: You mean the hotel?

TI: Well, Oklahoma City.

LW: Oklahoma City, no, I just had it, too much. No life to it. On the day off, all you do is go see a movie, no recreation. So what I did, go in the morning, I'd see three shows at one day and come home, and that was my life. You got no friends. Well, I ate good because whatever they eat, we used to eat the leftovers. But the colored couple really treated me nice.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

TI: So then what happened after Oklahoma City?

LW: Then I came back to the hotel again. Then I stayed there for a while, the finally, I thought, well, I better settle down and come back, so I came back to Walnut Grove.

TI: Now, why did you decide to go back to Walnut Grove, I mean, to settle down?

LW: Well, all my friends and everybody was there. There was Japanese family, but it's not that close.

TI: So let's talk about, so you returned to Walnut Grove. This is now over ten years after you had -- well, actually, maybe even longer. Maybe like thirteen, fourteen years after you had left before the war. How had Walnut Grove changed? What was it, what looked different when you first got there?

LW: Well, to me, I was a teenager, so it's different ballgame. But when I came back, I got to stop, settle down, or get married or get a job. So that's the reason I just stayed temporarily there, about six months in Walnut Grove. In the meantime, I had to do something, so I was working out in the farm there.

TI: But before we go there, so think about the Front Town. I mean, how had the Front Town changed before, and then when you returned in terms of the businesses, who was there?

LW: Well, the town itself was not the same, because a lot of people moved out. And all the younger went to college and then they didn't come back, or the family. The only time they come back into town is to see the parents, like New Year's, when they come down or something going on in the church like the bazaars or something like that. They used to come down, I used to see them. But other than that, they went to the big city and they got the job there.

TI: So when I think about the stores, like in Front Town, so like the bathhouse, the grocery stores, the barber shops, were those all Japanese-run?

LW: Yeah. When I came back, we're still, they're all, same people was running it.

TI: And were there some that were different, though?

LW: And some of those families that didn't come back, it was empty. The building was empty. A friend of mine that I know that had a store there, a grocery store, they stayed in Denver.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

TI: And what about the population, the number of Japanese in Walnut Grove?

LW: Well, every year it went down because all the kids that go to college, they never come back or working out in Sacramento, they find a house.

TI: And so if you looked at the population of Walnut Grove Japanese before the war...

LW: Before the war, yeah.

TI: was about, what, five hundred or so?

LW: Yeah, easy. I think so. I don't have a right count, but I think it's roughly, because every place you go is all Japanese.

TI: And then when you came back about ten years after the war, so about 1955, '56?

LW: Yeah, something like that.

TI: About how many Japanese would you say were there?

LW: Well, still, it was not bad, the family was still there. Not too many, but it wasn't that bad.

TI: But maybe, what, half or...

LW: Yeah, I figure half, about half.

TI: Okay, about half. And then you're saying that, but every year, it gets smaller and smaller.

LW: Smaller and smaller, yeah.

TI: And why is that? Why did it keep getting smaller?

LW: Because all the family, the younger generation, they all moved out because, one thing was bad was when they came back, I guess they couldn't own the property.

TI: Well, so that's why I'm wondering --

LW: So that's the reason a lot of people didn't build homes out that way.

TI: Yeah, so was part of the reason it got smaller was that some Japanese moved out just to buy property maybe in the surrounding area where they could buy?

LW: And you figured if there's no younger generation, there's no future there, you know what I mean, business-wise and everything. It's nice for the older people, it's seen as a nice place to retire. Nice and quiet, there's no crime and anything. One thing is, you know, impressed me, is they never locked the door, front door. You know, that seven hundred thousand dollar home, that colored lady? I said, "Oh, did anybody dare to let me in?" Said, "No, the front door's open, just go help yourself and take a look." That's how she was.

TI: Yeah, so that small town. Now, like the school, did it remain as a Oriental School after the war?

LW: No, it was, that school was the same as when I was going to that school. Only thing, they changed the name... what was it?

TI: To just the Walnut Grove Elementary School?

LW: Yeah, they took the "Oriental" out. It was, name was Oriental School, so they took the "Oriental" out.

TI: So it just became "the school."

LW: Yeah, now the white people go to it, so everybody go there.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

JS: Can you talk about when your family returned to Walnut Grove and they lived in the Japanese schoolhouse? For how long, and then what business did your parents do at that time?

LW: Well, that bathhouse, they stayed there quite a time until... the kids all moved out, but they stayed there until they could, because they got older and somebody got to watch them, so they sold their business. Not the land, but they sold the business. Must be real cheap, but it was kind of run down, so I don't think they got too much for it.

TI: And Louie, I'm a little, I want to make sure I understand. So what business did they sell? Is this the restaurant again?

LW: Whose? Mine?

TI: No, the one you said that run, got run down.

LW: Oh. Well, whoever wants to buy it, but hardly anybody was buying it. No buyers, because they don't own the land.

TI: Right. No, so when was this? This is after the war?

LW: After the war. It's still, after the war, they still, they couldn't own the land, so...

TI: Okay, but then --

JS: So what did your parents do when they came back after the war?

LW: Well, they didn't do anything. What they did was they rented another house. They moved out of the Japanese school because so small, they rented a house right next to Maeda. And that's where they stayed there until we came to Sacramento. Because my brother and my sister was working Sacramento, so they were commuting. They were commuting from Walnut Grove, but finally, it's too much, so we rented an apartment in Sacramento, and we moved into there.

JS: So when did your father die and what happened?

LW: Well, my father died when he was forty-seven, so right after they came to here. So I didn't get to see him at all, because I was in Colorado then when I found out, so I just came for the service, that's it, and went back again. And same thing with my brother in the service, it was same thing, too, but he didn't go back to Japan, he just stayed. Then he got discharged, and he came to Sacramento to work in the grocery business.

JS: When did your mother work at the Mexican restaurant?

LW: My mother was helping out, but not, somebody that was running the restaurant, I think she was going there, helping out, like an employee. Not the owner, she was just working for somebody there.

JS: And which restaurant was that?

LW: Mary's Restaurant, but I don't know whether they changed the name or not after we left.

JS: Oh. So whoever took over that business..

LW: Yeah, whoever took over might change the name, but I don't remember. The only thing I remember was my mother's name. But pretty well-known, that Mary's Restaurant, because when the Sacramento funeral, George Klump, they used to come down for the service, they used to stay at my mother's place because that's the only place they could have coffee and, you know, 'cause they got to wait for the service at the Buddhist church. They dropped the body off, and they got one or two hour's break, so they used to come to my mother's place and kind of socialize. So my mother get to know 'em real good. So when my mother died, that Klump company, they didn't charge us a penny for the service or whatever you have to pay. I was surprised.

TI: And when did your mother die?

LW: '60... something... she was about seventy-something years old.

JS: So she moved in with one of the kids in Sacramento?

LW: She moved in with my brother, older brother, because he wasn't married, single. James was married, so he had another place. And by then, he had three kids, so I was staying with my brother for a while, just enough to sleep. That's the time I came back and I, Sacramento, started working at the signal depot, but I didn't like that job. So I lasted for about six months, then I moved around, then I went to the grocery business, and that's where I ended up. But the grocery business, I worked for Stop'n'Shop first when I started, that's a chain store. Then I went to work for the independent, the Japanese owner, on Sixteenth and Broadway, over here where the Tower Records is. That was the grocery store there. Now, it's not, but that time there was Safeway store, and we were the Japanese store there. I worked there twenty years, then the land, the owner sold the property, so we had to, they raised the rent, so we had to move it out. Then I went to work for Corti Bros. there for ten years, then kind of semi-retired, then I went to work for this North American Japanese Foods for another part-time, ten years.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

TI: So I want to switch gears here a little bit, so I want to ask, so how did you meet your wife?

LW: Well, I knew her from the camp. And we were, I mean, not close, but I knew her. I knew... that's about all. Maybe she knew me for basketball or something like that. But she's from Riverside in Sacramento, out in the country. So we went on a date, and I proposed and that was it.

TI: So you first met in camp, but when did you start dating?

LW: Oh, after... oh, after ten years, after I came to Sacramento. Because I wasn't home, I was in Walnut Grove. So I used to go see her once a week. Because that town, there was, a family was farming in Florin and they get foggy out there. So if I don't want to go, I make some kind of excuse that I can't make it.

TI: And so you got married in the, what, late '50s then?

LW: Yeah, '58.

TI: 1958. And did you have any children?

LW: Yeah, two daughters.

TI: And what are the names of your daughters?

LW: What?

TI: The names of your daughters?

LW: Joanne Epstein, and she married a Jewish boy, Epstein. And they live in Escondido. Because she went to school in San Diego State, and then they met the husband there, so they settled in. They like San Diego, so they didn't come back. Then they got two granddaughters.

TI: And then your other daughter?

LW: In Hayward. But she moved to Castro Valley in Hayward.

TI: And her name is, the second daughter?

LW: Julie Lefler. That's another Caucasian. L-E-F-L-E-R.

TI: Good.

LW: They got two daughters.

TI: So you have four grandchildren.

LW: Four grand, no sons. Kind of disappointed, you know.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

TI: So one of the things you are known for is you help keep the story of Walnut Grove alive. I mean, people when they want to learn about Walnut Grove, are often referred to you, because you know so much. Not know so much, but you want to keep the story alive, of the Japanese at Walnut Grove. But why is that important to you?

LW: Well, I don't know. I guess I'm the only one living now. I had a great time in Walnut Grove, so the memory, when the younger days. But other than that, there's nothing to look forward to.

TI: When you think of your grandchildren, your granddaughters, I mean, what would be important for them to know about Walnut Grove in terms of what you experienced?

LW: They got no answers. One time I took her down when they had a bazaar, they look at the old house and, "Grandpa, that's like a shack," you know what I mean? They're not used to those things. But they're changing, the culture changing. It's more Americanized than Japanese, so it's kind of hard.

TI: But are there certain things that you grew up with, the culture at Walnut Grove, the Japanese community, that you think is important for your granddaughters to eventually understand and learn?

LW: Yeah, but the couple time I mentioned things, but they're not really interested.

TI: But if, but imagine I'm your granddaughter in a few years, and they say, "Granddad, what..." all of a sudden they're interested. What would you tell them?

LW: It's pretty hard, because, you know, they married a mixed, they didn't marry a Japanese. So, you know, the lifestyle is different. Strictly American style now.

TI: But still, say they all of a sudden become interested --

LW: My daughter is kind of, but not that much. Not that...

TI: But then --

LW: So that's why I think it's, eventually it's gonna die. Because Sansei, Yonsei kids are not really not interested, huh? Only a few.

TI: But if you were to give them kind of a message or a sense of what you think is important about the Japanese culture that you grew up with, what are some of those key things? What are some important things?

LW: Well, one thing about Japanese, when you have friends, they help each other, you could trust them, and they're really, you don't have to be a family, they'll help each other mainly, I think. You could trust them.

TI: So a sense of community that you grew up with that was really important. That even though they're not family, there was a sense of comfort...

LW: Yeah, because the friend that you made in Walnut Grove, kind of different friends from what you're making now. Because they're more close together. That's the difference, I think.

TI: So almost like a clan almost.

LW: Yeah, right. More like a family-like. Because they kind of trust each other and they help each other. "Anytime you want something, just let me know." But it's hard to ask the friends that, you made friends in Sacramento.

TI: So community's important. How about things like work ethic? What did you learn about the Japanese growing up in Walnut Grove about working?

LW: Well, one thing I noticed, that they really are hard workers, and dependable, and honest. That's one thing. Any time you have a Japanese worker, you could really trust them, because they work hard. It's not like the other nationality where you kind of... because when I was in the grocery business, I'd rather hire Asians than white people, because they work for you more. Never complain.

TI: How about culture, Japanese culture? What are some things --

LW: No, none of them are interested. That's the trouble. I think it's gonna die, the culture, Japanese culture. Because even the Japanese dishes and Japanese food, they don't, they're not that interested.

JS: What do you want your grandchildren to know about their great-grandparents?

LW: Well, only thing, they liked the grandmother because the grandmother treated them real nice. When they come, they cook for them, they waited on them, you know. Yeah, that's the only thing about grandmother. Not the grandfather, because I don't cook.

JS: But what do you want them to remember about your parents, about the Issei?

LW: They haven't mentioned anything about my, my folks. So I guess they're not that interested.

JS: Well, they'll have this story, we'll have this story that you can share with them.

LW: Because lot of time, you know, I want to show the camp, what we went through, the album and all that, they're not that interested. It's a shame, I don't know how you could put it together.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

TI: Something else that many younger kids don't understand or appreciate, especially if they grow up in a city, is growing up in a small town like Walnut Grove. What were some of the important things about growing up in a more rural small town feeling?

LW: Well, only thing I know is the family, it's all close together. That's about all, I think. Community is all get together. Anytime you want help or donation or help, community would be helping there in Walnut Grove. But it's hard to say what you remember in Walnut Grove.

JS: You've been really instrumental in bringing people from Sacramento who left Walnut Grove to come back and help. Do you meet with them often?

LW: Yeah, see, like the bazaar, you can't have the bazaar unless the people that used to live there, the parents, kids come out and help. That's with every city in the bazaar. They'll come and help if you ask 'em. But that's the only way the program will go. Like Walnut Grove, there's nobody living there. But the people from out of the country or Sacramento people, they all go there and help. Because I used to go there and help every bazaar every time. And they all, if you ask 'em they all come and help you.

TI: So any other...

LW: Mostly, it's, get-together, it's more like a reunion. That's the only time you get to see each other and talk about the old days. That's about it.

TI: And so, Louie, is there anything else that, maybe that Jill and I haven't asked you that you want to share? Like maybe a topic or a story? Something that you'd like to share?

LW: No. I think I don't remember, or I think I said enough. But to me, I had a good life. I can't complain. Anybody that lives after eighty, you got no business complaining, health-wise and everything.

TI: Well, I learned a lot --

LW: Because my brother, George, when he had a stroke, he was just like a vegetarian. He can't talk... he could see, but he can't talk, he can't eat, he can't move anything. Fourteen years. Fourteen years he was like that, bed-ridden.

TI: Well, so Louie, thank you so much for the time. This was an excellent interview. I learned a lot. I think we've captured a lot about Walnut Grove for the future.

LW: I hope I helped you a lot.

JS: Oh, you did.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.