Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Kay Ikeda Interview
Narrator: Kay Ikeda
Interviewers: Jill Shiraki (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Fresno, California
Date: March 10, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ikay-01

<Begin Segment 1>

JS: Today is March 10, 2010, and we are in Fresno interviewing Kay Ikeda. And my name is Jill Shiraki, and I'm interviewing with Tom Ikeda, and behind the camera is Dana Hoshide. So can you state your name and tell us when and where you were born?

KI: I was born in Fresno, California, 1922.

JS: 1922. And what was your family name?

KI: Arase, A-R-A-S-E. That's a very uncommon Japanese name. 'Cause people will say "A-race" instead of Arase.

JS: So can you tell us about your father first and when he came to the United States?

KI: Well, he came from Japan, he came from Kumamoto-ken, Kamachiki-gun, Kosamachi. That's where he was. And he came to Seattle and entered United States then.

JS: Approximately what year?

KI: I don't know the year.

JS: You're not sure? So how long was he in Seattle?

KI: Not very long, because he had to find a job. I think he came down to Fresno.

JS: So what did he do when he first came to Fresno?

KI: Well, when he first came, and then when he had a wife, they had a tofu company in Del Rey. And then when my mother passed away, my dad moved to Fresno. And he moved into 614 F Street, and that's where we lived until I got married and I left Fresno.

JS: Okay. So tell us about your mother, what her name was, and when did she come to the United States?

KI: Her name is Ura Honda, and I don't know the year she came, 'cause I never did know that part.

JS: So she must have came when she got married, perhaps.

KI: No, my dad said he went to Kumamoto, Kosamachi, to look for the best-looking girl in the village. And he said that's what he did, and he brought her back to the United States. So I don't know what year it was, but I heard that story from my dad.

TI: Oh, that's a good story.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: What was your dad like? He seems like a pretty gregarious person.

KI: Oh, my dad? Well, my mom and dad ran a tofu place, and then when my mother passed away, he came to live in Fresno. And then his location changed. He became a fish peddler for Central Fish. He used to get the fresh fish, and then he had a trunk where there's ice and fish. And he went from one camp to another out in the country, camps, and that's how he made his living.

JS: So your family was first living... where was the tofu-ya, tell me again?

KI: Oh, Del Rey.

JS: Del Rey.

KI: Yeah. I don't know about that, 'cause...

JS: You were so young.

KI: Yeah.

JS: So you have a couple of brothers.

KI: Yes, I have Tamotsu, Kiyoshi, and Hiroshi. And then the twins is Matsue and Takeo.

JS: So were you born in Del Rey, then?

KI: I was... my birth certificate thing says Fresno.

JS: Okay. So what do you remember about your mother? Do you have any memories?

KI: I don't remember. Just the fact that when we walked one block from where 614 F is, there was a grocery store, Mrs. Taketomo. And then the next door was laundry, Japanese-run laundry place. But I used to go to Taketomo to read the newspaper, these things, and maybe take a sucker of Brachs candy that they used to have in the old days. That's all I could afford to buy, but that was the sweets I used to eat when I was little.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JS: So what happened when the twins were born? So you have two younger sisters.

KI: The twins went to live in San Francisco's Salvation Army, I told you.

JS: But you didn't tell us for the interview. So can you tell that story again? What happened? Your mother was pregnant.

KI: My mom gave birth to the twins, and she passed away, losing a lot of blood, and it was one of those midwives that, you know, performed the birth. And so I heard that after this happened, this midwife went back to Japan, 'cause she was kind of afraid when people passed away giving birth, that she's responsible. So that was the story I heard. And so I don't know what a mother's love is, because I never had a mom.

JS: So were you aware, do you remember your sisters being born at all? Do you remember that time?

KI: No, I don't.

JS: You were quite young.

KI: I know that my mom told me go play at a certain place a block away from where the midwife gave, my mom gave birth. And I went to that place and played. And then I just forgot all about my mom, 'cause I knew she passed away.

JS: So what happened at home then? Who came to help take care of all the children?

KI: No one came. When I was nine years old, I used to have to get up at four o'clock and cook rice, 'cause my dad liked rice and he would eat sardines for lunch because that was more convenient for me not to have to cook or anything. So my poor dad ate rice and sardines, which I couldn't do for a lunch meal. But he went out in the country to be a laborer, and that's how he supported the family, by what he got paid.

JS: So after, when your mom passed away...

KI: When he was peddling, my dad had a trunk, and he had peddled fish out in the country camps, like Sanger, Reedley, and Paller or somewhere, different camps.

JS: So you moved from Del Rey to Fresno, and then he became the fish peddler, and he was doing that.

KI: Fish work, yeah. When he would go peddling fish to the camps.

JS: But then after your mother died, then he went to work out in the fields on the farms? Or he was still peddling fish?

KI: No. When my mother died, Dad moved to Fresno and my mother was gone. And so I was living in 614 F Street, and that's where I've been until I got married. [Laughs]

JS: So what happened to the twins?

KI: Oh, the church people said they're so little, you know, just born, the church people suggested having the twins go to San Francisco's Salvation Army, so they took them. And when I was nine years old, I told my dad, "Why can't the twins come live with us? Because that makes the family whole, and I'm nine years old, and I could take care of 'em." So I became big sister then.

JS: So you always knew that you had --

KI: The twins.

JS: -- the twins.

KI: Yeah, because my dad would go see them once in a while, and a couple of years, he would take off from work and just go and see how the twins are getting along.

JS: Did you ever go with him to San Francisco?

KI: No, he never took me.

JS: Okay. But you knew about...

KI: I knew about the twins being there.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JS: So what about your... Dale had mentioned the Ozawa family, that they were good family friends?

KI: Well, yeah, they were good family friends because our backyard, there was a fence. We made it a gate, so, you know, she didn't have any children, and she would say, "Oyatsu aru kara kinasai," you know, "There's some kind of refreshment at my house, will you come? I'll give you some refreshments." So I became friends with that lady, 'cause she didn't have any children. And so I would go and weed her garden, because she doesn't do a very good job of taking care of the yard, so I would do that. And I didn't expect pay, but I just did that to help her. And then she would have a stack of dishes in her sink and I'd wash all the dishes and clean it up, and help her that way. So she was looking after me. And then there was a family, Murotani, which I used to go and visit and play with that family. And my, Mrs. Ozawa said, "That's bad influence," you know, "they're too fast girls." She didn't want me to go over there anymore.

JS: So you listened to her.

KI: Sure, I listened to her, because she was like a mom to me.

JS: She was like a mom to you. And so you, what about your brothers? Did they have a relationship with Mrs...

KI: Ozawa?

JS: ...Ozawa, too?

KI: Yes, because my oldest brother, the Ozawas had a home drugstore. So they hired my oldest brother to work behind the counter to sell drug and help them out, Ozawas. So that's how my three brothers became a pharmacist, because being, selling drugs, my oldest brother selling drugs, well, they figured they might as well... they didn't want to be a farmer, so they said, "I think we'll become druggists." So they went to school in Berkeley to become a drug, you know, professional druggist.

JS: So all three brothers did that? Wow. So they, did they remain, did your family remain close to the Ozawas?

KI: Yes. Well, with no mom, I was lonely, so I would go and help her do whatever she needs to have done. So she would treat me like a daughter.

JS: That's nice.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JS: So what do you remember about when you were nine and you asked your father if the twins could come back?

KI: He obeyed and brought 'em. And I was happy because I was lonely, too.

JS: So what did he say to you at first? Was he open to the idea?

KI: He was open to the idea, because this would make the family together. And then I took, I went to Edison High School and I took homemaking. I learned to work with patterns, so when they joined me, I was -- oh, my mom had one of those pedal, Singer sewing machines that you use like that, not machine, electric part. But I made the twins' clothes.

JS: You did?

KI: Yes. And they were so proud, and they go showing it off, I said, "Don't do that." I said, "You don't have to show off your clothes." But they were happy to have a new clothes. So they'd walk down the street in their new clothes and go see Mrs. Taketomo, the store lady, and show off the dress that I made for them.

JS: So how old were you when you learned to sew, when you went to the sewing school?

KI: No, at Edison High I learned. I took homemaking, so that's where I learned to sew.

JS: I see. Oh, at Edison High?

KI: With the draft and patterns and things.

JS: Okay, great.

TI: Did the twins ever talk about the orphanage and what it was like there? Did they ever share that with you?

KI: No, they don't. They live in Chicago now, but they didn't talk about being orphans.

JS: Away from the family?

KI: Yeah.

TI: Did you ever have a sense about it, though? Did they talk about it in fond terms or in sad terms? Do you have any sense of what it was like?

KI: Let's see. You know, evacuation came. Well, we all had to go to camp. We were in Jerome and Rohwer, and then that separated my twin sisters, 'cause the twin sisters went to Chicago figuring they'll find a better life in Chicago, and I was stuck with my husband Hi. So I came back to Fresno after, you know, they released us from camp, I came back to Fresno.

TI: But back to the twins, so when they came to Fresno, were they happy to be back with the family?

KI: Oh, yes, they were. I would scold them and kind of shake them, you know, and when Takeo's head hit the window, and she claimed that I hurt her, but I didn't really hurt her, I was trying to discipline her and I shook her like that. And they learned to mind me, because I tried to be big sister to them and a mom.

JS: So they went to school, did you have to make their lunch and take them to school?

KI: No, we all walked to school.

JS: You walked together?

KI: Yeah, Lincoln school and Edison school.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JS: So what else do you remember about your younger days growing up in Chinatown?

KI: Oh, after American school, we went to Japanese school, 'cause my dad wanted me to, us to learn Japanese. 'Cause he thought once he became rich enough, he was gonna take the whole family back to Japan. But he never made enough money to take us all back home to Japan. So we went to Japanese school, and I went up to eighth grade in Japanese school, but don't tell me how much I remember, 'cause those kanji and kana and things, I just... when you don't use the language and things, you just forget it all.

JS: So which Japanese school did you go to? Where was that?

KI: I went to the Christian Japanese school. It was a two-story building on F Street. It was only about three blocks from my house. And so after American school, we'd go Japanese school for one hour, then go home.

JS: So can you describe the... this was the Congregational church?

KI: Well, that's how... see, my mom was a Buddhist, but I got involved in the Christian church. So I went to Christian church. And my brother said, "You got to go to church," and he made sure that I went to church every Sunday, and I went. I went to the Christian church.

JS: Did your brother go to the Christian church, too?

KI: No, no, just me. They thought I should get educated in church.

TI: Oh, wait a second. So it's like a double standard. So the boys didn't go to church, but they made you go to church?

KI: Yeah, 'cause I don't remember them coming to church. But yeah, that's a double standard. [Laughs]

JS: So how did you decide to go to the Christian church? Did you have friends going there?

KI: Well, I had a girlfriend that... when I'd go Japanese school, she lived right there, and we became good friends. And so she's the Mrs. Tsuyu Hiura of San Francisco, she was my best friend.

JS: Oh, yes. So you went to Japanese school together, and you went to church together?

KI: Yeah.

JS: And then when your sisters came to...

KI: Live with me when I was nine...

JS: You took them?

KI: Well, we were still friends. I still have her as a good friend.

JS: Good. And you took your sisters to church, is that right? With you?

KI: Yeah.

JS: Did you participate in other activities at the church?

KI: Not very much. I mean, not become a leader or anything like that.

JS: Did you participate in the youth activities?

KI: Yeah.

JS: And then what about... so your father now, he was working out on the farms now? He was not doing tofu?

KI: Yeah, he was doing labor work.

JS: Labor work.

KI: But don't ask me when he passed away, 'cause he went to work in Sanger, because there was work for male Japanese to work out in the farm. And I didn't see him very much, you know. I did drive a car and go out there to see my dad, but I don't know when he passed away. I have to go to the grave site to see what year that was.

TI: Do you know about how old you were when that happened?

KI: Oh, I don't even know how old he was, see, because we weren't that close. I was living in Fresno, he was living in camp, so I don't know.

TI: But this was before the war?

KI: This was before I was even married.

JS: Oh, before you were married?

KI: Yeah.

JS: Wow.

KI: So I don't know what the years were.

JS: Huh. So you and your siblings were living in Fresno, but your father had gone out to the labor camp and was living there.

KI: And was doing work, and that way he could give me money to buy things, you know, I mean, food.

JS: And was your older brother working at that time? He was working at the drugstore, you said. So he had a part-time job. What do you remember about going to school? Do you remember anything about Lincoln school?

KI: Yes, I went to Lincoln school, Edison school. And I didn't go to... a lot of Japanese people transferred to Fresno High, 'cause it was more prestigious to be going to Fresno high than Edison. But I couldn't afford to take the... there was a streetcar that could take you to Fresno High, but I couldn't afford to have the money to go like the other people, I just had graduated from Edison High.

JS: And so you graduated from Edison High...

KI: Yeah, 1941.

JS: 1941. And then did you take classes at the junior college?

KI: No, I took... there was a Mademoiselle sewing school. And that time, all the girls were sort of learning to, how to sew. So I went to Terry Emoto's sewing school, and that's where I learned to sew.

JS: So you learned to sew, and, but you had already learned to sew at Edison, so you had an interest in sewing.

KI: Yes, uh-huh.

JS: Okay.

KI: And so when I was in camp, I used to sew girl's clothes, and then they would sell it at the commissary.

JS: Uh-huh, at the store? Oh, great.

KI: So again, when you have a job in camp, they paid you sixteen dollar a month. Even doctors got sixteen dollar a month in those days. You know, Dr. Taira and whoever doctors were. Yeah, that was very cheap.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JS: So you met your husband Hi?

KI: Hi, yes.

JS: And so tell us about that. How did you meet your husband?

KI: Well, my cousin married a mechanic. Shizue-san married a mechanic. And so I used to go see my cousin, and they had a repairing cars thing. And Hi would have his car from the Clovis -- he was a Clovis boy -- bring his car and get it fixed. And that's how I met him, sort of. And then, in those days, they used to have skating parties. So that's where I became more closer to him, you know. He would pick me up, we'd go skating. In those days, that was the fun thing to do.

JS: So what did you think of him when you first met him?

KI: Oh, I liked him and my dad liked him. He said, you know, when it rains and the farmers can't work out in the field? My dad used to say, " Hi ga kuru yo." "He's gonna come and see you." And so he didn't, he didn't reject to my courtship. And so I married him.

JS: So you would go roller skating, what else would you do when you dated?

KI: Oh, we took dance lessons, you know, the waltz and all the different steps. And we used to go to Riverland Kingsburg and dance over there, have dinner and dance and go home. We did fun things.

JS: So when did you get married?

KI: I don't know.

JS: You don't remember? But it was right before the war?

KI: I was married before camp.

JS: Before camp, couple years?

KI: Yeah. So that's all I remember, but I don't know the year.

JS: You don't know the year.

KI: But I got married with a Japanese pastor. We went to him and said, "Could you marry us?" And he did. And don't ask me what the pastor's name was anymore, it's too long ago.

JS: Did you get married because of the evacuation? I mean, did that prompt things so you would stay together?

KI: Yeah.

JS: Do you remember that?

KI: Uh-huh, otherwise we'd be separated.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: I'm thinking about, you said earlier that your father died before the war? But he also... I'm trying to get this clear, because you said, was he there at the wedding when you and Hi were married, or had he died already?

KI: He wasn't there.

TI: Okay. So I'm wondering how the family supported itself without a father and a mother. It's just the older brothers and you.

KI: Oh, because harvest time, there used to be a man that took all the workers that want to work out in the field, he would have a truck where, like, I would sit on a bench, a bench inside of the truck, you know. And he would take us to the farms to work. And then, like, if you did one tray of grape, you have a pan. When it's full, you lay a brown sheet of paper, and then you do it, that's like two cents or three cents at that time, a tray. And then at the end of the day, you count how many trays they did, and you get paid for how many trays you did for the day.

TI: So it sounds like you and your brothers worked out in the fields and made enough money to...

KI: My brothers didn't work in the field, I did. [Laughs]

TI: They worked at the store, the pharmacy.

KI: Yeah, they went to school to become a pharmacist, whereas I, I had no talent of anything.

TI: Do you recall, after your father died, do you recall the community, the Japanese community helping out in any way?

KI: Yeah, the church people, 'cause I was a Christian, and Christian reverends would come and say, you know, kind of help out my dad. And then when I was nine, I said, "Well, I could take care of the twins. They're five years old now."

TI: But now I'm wondering, after your father had died, did the church help out then?

KI: No. I don't remember.

TI: So you guys were pretty much on your own.

KI: He just went and got them.

TI: You mentioned how your father, especially as you got older, you didn't see him that much, because he was out in the camp and you were in Fresno. Talk about your relationship with your brothers. Did you have a good relationship with your three older brothers? Because it seemed like the four of you had to kind of take care of each other in many ways.

KI: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So talk about, like, how your brothers looked out after you. I mean, when you started dating, did they say anything to you?

KI: I don't remember that. But they were older than me, the three brothers, so they looked after me. And they decided they would rather become a pharmacist than be a farm work. So they went off to school. I think they did, because how can you become a pharmacist without an education in a university?

TI: Right.

KI: So they went to Berkeley.

TI: Right. Did they ever talk about, like, when you were going to school, did they ever, like, look at your grades or anything or tell you to study hard?

KI: No, they didn't.

TI: So where did that come from? Where did you learn how to, like, study and do your homework? Did anyone tell you?

KI: No, there was no one to tell me what to do. You just knew what you got to do.

TI: Earlier you talked about not having a mother's love, and especially as you become a young woman, things like dating or sex or things like that, how did you, did anyone teach you about those things or talk about that? Whether it's your father, your brother, or another woman? How did you, without a mother, how did you learn those things?

KI: You know, when I started my menstruation, I was really scared. No one told me about menstruation. And my girlfriend didn't tell me, and my girlfriend was one year older than I was, her name was Tsuyu Hiura. But she didn't tell me about what's gonna happen to my life, and I thought, "Ooh, lot of blood, I'm losing a lot of blood." And I told my dad, and my dad said -- no, I told my uncle, and he said, "Go see the doctor." So I went to Dr. Taira and he told me about menstruation. And it was only one block on F Street where he had his office and I had my home. So I learned about menstruation through somebody else. No one told me about that.

TI: Well, and then so later on when you started dating, did anyone -- like you mentioned Mrs. Ozawa, and she said she didn't want you hanging around with this other family because their girls were "too fast"?

KI: Yeah, that was the...

TI: So who taught you about those, like, the shoulds and should-nots?

KI: Because she, I guess my neighbor, since she was my neighbor and she didn't have children, she said, "I don't want you to associate with them," she said. So I had to stop my going there to play, even. She just put a stop to that. But this girl Tsuyu, she had lost her mom, so we became real good friends, Tsuyu. Tsuyu, she's a Hiura in San Francisco. They have an optical business in San Francisco. But she was my best friend until she got married, and I lost my best friend.

JS: She moved to San Francisco.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So, Kay, I want to go to December 7, 1941. So it's the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, do you remember that day?

KI: Yes, I was very mad, sort of. Because I said, "Why did Japan do that now?" It's gonna, we're gonna be treated differently, I figured, you know, discrimination. And I was mad about that.

TI: And where were you when you heard about it?

KI: I was in school. I was supposed to graduate 1941 in June, but I wanted to get out of school fast, so I took enough courses where I could get out in January.

TI: Oh, so it was like an accelerated graduation? So by taking extra courses, you can graduate?

KI: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay, so that's why you were graduating in 1942.

KI: No, I didn't... '41. I'm the class of '41.

TI: '41, but in January? So January of '41 or January of '42?

KI: Oh, I don't know if they had... I guess I must have, when they have their June graduation, I must have gone to the graduation exercise, 'cause they don't have January class graduation.

TI: Okay, so I see. And so going back to December 7, 1941, so the days after, do you have any memories of, like, the days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Any conversations or any other events?

KI: Well, you know, I was living... the Galianos, Italian, and Hi had a, kind of a... oh, I know. They built a kind of a house for us, you know, the Galianos, so we lived there. So we were protected. No one shot any bullets into our house or anything. The Galianos were very nice Italian people, let us stay there. They even built a house, one big room house for us, and that's where we stayed until he was able to make money to build us a house.

TI: And this is, you're talking about Hi? He was able to...

KI: Yeah.

TI: So let's talk about Hi a little bit. So what was he doing when the war started, when December 7th, what kind of work was Hi doing?

KI: That's a good question. [Laughs]

JS: Was he working out on the farm? Did they have a farm then, the Ikedas?

KI: The Ikedas lived out in the country. I remember they had a house. I used to go visit. Hmm, they must have had to... well, pick the grapes, I guess the farmer, the hakujin farmer must have had grapes and some peaches maybe? I don't know. I don't remember those, what he had to do.

TI: In my notes I mentioned that he liked judo.

KI: Oh, yes.

TI: So talk about that. What kind of, what did he do with judo?

KI: Well, Sensei seemed to like Hi to teach the other young ones what the other judo throws are and things, you know. He helped the judo sensei with teaching judo to new members.

TI: Okay, good. And personality-wise, what was it about Hi that made you interested in him?

KI: Well, he never argued with me, I know. [Laughs] I couldn't remember ever arguing with him. I guess our minds were pretty well set.

TI: So pretty compatible, the two of you, that you guys shared a lot of common ideas.

KI: Yeah.

TI: Now, when you married Hi, what happened to the twins? I mean, who took care of the twins when you got married to Hi?

KI: Let's see. Who took care of the twins? Well, the twins had grown, you know, and I remember in camp... oh, my brothers -- oh, my pharmacist brothers took off for Chicago, and the twins went with them.

TI: Oh, so the twins ---

KI: So the twins made friends at church or somewhere and met their future husband. So they didn't stay in camp like I did.

TI: Okay, so the twins didn't even, they didn't go to camp at all? They went to Chicago?

KI: How did it go? That's their life. I don't remember too well.

TI: And what about your brothers? Do you remember your brothers going to camp?

KI: Oh, they followed my brother, that's what they did. They stayed with them, and then in Chicago they met people and they got married there.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's talk about going to the Fresno Assembly Center. Do you have memories of Fresno and what that was like?

KI: Yes, I do. I was surprised that they had a soldier up there with a gun watching that we don't escape from that camp, you know, barbed wire camp. And I thought, "My goodness, why would anybody want to leave?" You know, when we're forced into camp in Fresno? No one left. But you had to have a permission if you wanted to go see a doctor or something, you know. And you had to sign a release and come back. I don't think there was any trouble.

TI: Now, do you recall any, like, visitors when you were at the Fresno Assembly Center? Did you have any...

KI: Oh, that Italian, Galianos came to see me, I remember. But they came to see me once because they wanted to see that I was all right. That was nice of them.

TI: Now, did you ever have any conversations with the Galianos? Here they're Italian Americans, the United States was at war with Italy as well as Japan. Did they ever, you ever talk to them why you had to go to a camp and they didn't have to?

KI: No, we didn't talk about those things, no.

TI: When you were at the Fresno Assembly Center, did you and Hi have jobs?

KI: Hi was a, working from mess hall, taking food to different locations, different camps, say 14 or... I was in 14 so I remember 14. But they used to take the food that comes into the camp to distribute to every mess hall. It was about thirty-six blocks, I think, maybe more. Maybe forty or something in Fresno. It was all in blocks. I was in Block 14.

TI: Uh-huh. And how about you? Did you have a job?

KI: No, I didn't have a job. I didn't work in...

TI: And so what did you do with your time when you were at Fresno? How did you spend the day at Fresno?

KI: I remember getting sixteen dollar, but... I must have sewed children's dresses, and what I sold, they put in the store where they could sell things. So I did get sixteen dollar, I mean, I remember that. I don't know how long I worked there, 'cause I had a sewing machine to be able to, and then they had materials in the commissary, you know, you could buy it and sew up a dress.

TI: Yeah, so that was my question. So you brought your sewing machine to camp?

KI: Yeah.

TI: So that was one of your possessions that you carried into camp?

KI: Oh, let's see. That was... you're right, we were only supposed to carry one luggage. How did the sewing machine get there? Hmm, I don't recall.

TI: Yeah, maybe someone carried it for you or something? Because it was probably really heavy, right?

KI: I know. You got me. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so you have to go back and... let's... yeah, any other memories from Fresno, Fresno Assembly Center? You talked about the guards, you talked about sewing...

JS: Did you remember the dances, when they had it on the street?

KI: Except I was married, so I couldn't go to dances. [Laughs]

JS: Oh, that's right.

TI: Any other memories like sporting events you saw or anything like that?

KI: Well, judo and sumo and stuff like that, they had in camp. My husband used to go to sumo or wrestle or something. I didn't follow him around to see that, 'cause I had a child by then, you know.

JS: Oh, at the Fresno Assembly Center?

KI: Yeah, I think I had George then.

TI: Oh, let's talk about that. So you're pregnant and then you have a child inside camp?

KI: Yeah.

TI: Was this at Fresno or at Jerome?

KI: Well, actually, my first son was born, has an Arkansas... what is it? Birth certificate. So he was born in Arkansas.

TI: Okay. Before we go to Arkansas, any other memories or thoughts about the Fresno Assembly Center?

KI: I could just mention the mess hall, you know, a big mess hall, we all had to go and eat at a certain time. And we were fortunate that there was a cook that liked to bake. Our Block 14 was fortunate to get some pastry made that he would put on the table, yeah.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So let's talk about, now, going to Arkansas. Do you remember the train ride from Fresno to Jerome, Arkansas?

KI: I remember that it took seven days to get to Arkansas, because we, our train had to side track and then let the real train that has to use the track go first. So they put us aside. It took us seven days to get to Arkansas.

TI: So it must have been uncomfortable being in a train for so long.

KI: I know. I remember there was a Caucasian man, and I was pregnant at that time, and I didn't have a seat, so he left his seat and didn't come back, so he gave me the seat, which I thought that was very nice of the soldier to do that for me.

TI: And so even though you were pregnant, there weren't enough seats for even you to sit down?

KI: Yeah. I was sitting on my suitcase.

TI: Any other memories on that, on that trip across?

KI: No, no. But I thought that big Caucasian man was very sweet.

TI: Yeah, it was a kindness that he didn't have to do, but he gave you a seat. When you got to Jerome, Arkansas, what were some of your first memories when you got to Jerome?

KI: Well, we were all assigned a room, because they had block manager. So Arkansas is cold. They had a wood-burning stove in the room, every room had a wood-burning stove, and... well, we didn't have very many luxury in my room because, you know, you weren't allowed to take anything but what you could carry, huh, at that time.

TI: So when you have a wood-burning, when it's cold and you have a wood-burning stove, where did the wood come from?

KI: From the forest that they had to go, the men had to go and cut down the forest, the wood, and bring the wood to the camp. And that's how they got the wood, I presume.

TI: So the people in camp had to go get their own wood, their own fuel to stay warm?

KI: Yeah, and I heard that there was swamps, you know, water, swamp, not a clean river or something. I had heard about that. So I don't know. 'Cause I didn't go to that part, the place.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: And you mentioned your first son, George, was born in Arkansas.

KI: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you remember delivering George, and what kind of conditions there were?

KI: Well, I was taken to the hospital, they had a hospital. So he's an Arkie. The only son that is an Arkie. [Laughs]

TI: Now, in terms of the medical personnel, do you remember anything in terms of who the doctor was or nurses?

KI: I think Dr. Taira.

TI: So the same doctor that explained menstruation to you was also the doctor who delivered?

KI: Yeah, because he also was getting paid sixteen dollars. Everybody, professional or what, got paid sixteen dollars from the government.

TI: Any memories of delivering George or afterwards?

KI: Yes. I remember the doctor let me stay six more days than the average, because it was winter, he was born in January, January 30, and he said, "Oh, we'll keep you here a little longer," for me to get more stronger. So that was nice of him.

TI: Oh, because he realized that if you went back to your apartment, it'd be cold and be harder for you to keep the apartment warm?

KI: And then the baby, you know. So that was nice.

TI: Oh, that was.

JS: So did your husband come when you gave birth to George, did he come to the hospital?

KI: He must have, you know. I don't remember those things.

JS: But if you stayed a long time, he probably had to go back, huh?

KI: Yeah. I think they kept me in the hospital for two weeks.

JS: Wow.

KI: Maternity case, I guess they don't keep you that long.

TI: But eventually you had to go back to the apartment with a newborn baby.

KI: Yeah.

TI: So what's it like having a newborn baby at Jerome, Arkansas?

KI: Oh. Well, it's like all mothers, you know, you have to experience making the milk and stuff, and feeding them and changing diapers. Kept you busy, you know.

TI: Now, were there any other women there that gave you advice as you, as a new mother in terms of how to care for a baby? 'Cause there were lots of other, maybe, Issei women or others? Did anyone kind of share information?

KI: No. I think... I don't remember anyone giving me any advice, but then I enjoyed talking to the next barrack people that was close to me, just conversation, and such as that.

TI: How about, like, things like babysitters? Did anyone help you with babysitting anytime?

KI: Well, the twins were nearby, so next barrack. So they used to like to, you know, play with George and carry him and stuff, because he was cute, you know. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so the twins were, so the twins went to, followed you with, so they were at Fresno and then at Jerome during these early days?

KI: Yeah.

TI: Oh, that's good. Yeah... so that must have been, for the twins, a fond memory for them to have a baby to play with, take care of, and it was probably nice for you, too, because it's like an extra couple set of hands.

KI: Uh-huh.

TI: In thinking about your twin sisters, was that unusual in the community to have twins? Were there very many other twins?

KI: I don't know any other twins.

TI: Yeah, I haven't heard of many, so I'm curious, how did people react when they saw them together? They're identical twins, right?

KI: Yeah. People kind of couldn't, didn't know which name belonged to which one.

TI: Yeah, I'm wondering, in terms of Japanese culture, is there anything about twins that Japanese think? I'm just curious if there's anything, that people said anything.

KI: I don't know.

TI: Okay, yeah, I was just curious. So at Jerome, what kind of job did Hi have?

KI: He used to be on the truck delivering commissary. Isn't that what they call it? Commissary?

TI: Right, right, okay. Yeah, so I know he did that, you mentioned, in Fresno. So he did that in Jerome, okay. Okay, so he drove around, delivered goods.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: You mentioned earlier how, I guess, your brother, one of your brother's went to Chicago, and then the twins followed?

KI: Yes.

TI: And so talk about that. Why did you think it was better for the twins to go with your brother to Chicago and not stay in camp?

KI: I don't know. They wanted to go where my older brothers were, I'm sure. 'Cause I was already married then, they weren't. You know, they were single girls, so they just followed them, the brothers.

TI: Did they ever ask you, or ask you like an older sister, for advice about sort of -- again, so they don't have a mother right now, so did you ever give them advice about growing up? About dating or boys or anything?

KI: No, they never asked me anything. Of course, there's two to talk between each other, so I don't know.

TI: Yeah, that's true, because they can always ask each other and try to figure things out. Tell me a little bit about the twins in terms of... even though they're identical in the way they looked, how about personality? Were they different in personality?

KI: I'm sure there is a little difference. But you know, for strangers, they wouldn't know which one, what name belonged to which girl, you know, because they think they look so much alike.

TI: And how could you tell them apart? Could you just look at them and tell them apart?

KI: Yeah.

TI: And if you, if they're both in the room and you closed your eyes, could you tell who was talking between the two?

KI: I never tested myself on that. [Laughs]

TI: But were they, were there differences in how they talked or what they would say that you could tell the difference between the two of them?

KI: I don't know. I remember shaking one of the twins 'cause they weren't minding me, and then her head hit the window, you know, and they were surprised that I lost my temper. [Laughs] But I don't remember anything, no. We got along pretty good.

TI: Okay. Any other memories about Jerome? Before we go to Chicago, I wanted to ask, anything else about Jerome that you remember?

KI: Well, I remember they had dances, you know, but I was married, so I didn't go to those dances. But other people got to enjoy themselves, going to dances.

TI: So did you sort of feel like, a little left out because other young women your age were out there dancing, going to parties, and you had to be at home with...

KI: No, I didn't mind. No, I didn't mind. I've never gone to see the people dancing, so I always stayed home.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Now, how long were you at Jerome before you went to Chicago, do you remember about how long?

KI: I didn't go to Chicago.

TI: Oh, you didn't? I thought, for some reason --

KI: Oh, my, the twins went to Chicago.

TI: Twins went to Chicago.

KI: I came back to California.

TI: Oh, so you stayed in Jerome all the way...

KI: Yeah, when they said we could go back to California, that's when I came back to Fresno.

TI: Okay.

JS: Well, when did Hi, he was MIS, right? So when did he go into training? Do you remember that?

KI: You know, MIS was Minnesota?

JS: Right.

KI: He was there, he had, I have pictures of him and his clothing.

JS: So George is still pretty young there.

TI: So when Hi went to go train in Minneapolis, did you ever consider going to live in Minneapolis to be close to him?

KI: No.

TI: So it'd be easier to take care of George in Jerome and stay there?

KI: Yeah. I don't remember going to join in.

TI: Yeah. So when Hi had left to go to training, what was it like for you? Now you're like a single mother.

KI: Oh, yeah. I remember. My neighbor was a single man, and he knew that my husband was gone, and he did approach me, but I said, "No, I have no interest." So that ended that. [Laughs]

TI: So there were other men that were interested in you, but in terms of just taking care of George, it was just, it was kind of the same? You're probably so focused on doing that.

KI: Yeah.

TI: How did you and Hi communicate back and forth when Hi was in Minneapolis? Did the two of you write letters back and forth?

KI: I think so. I probably did.

TI: By any chance did you keep any of his letters or your letters?

KI: I used to have, I used to keep 'em, but one day I said, "Why am I keeping these letters?" So I burned it up.

TI: Oh. Yeah, I always like when people keep those letters, because they're just interesting to see day by day what people were interested in and sharing. So when the war ended and they opened up the West Coast, you were able to go from Jerome back to Fresno. Where was Hi when you were gonna go back to Fresno? Do you know where he was?

KI: He was in the military, and he took a furlough and brought me back to Fresno.

TI: Oh, so he helped you get back to Fresno. So he was probably still training in Minneapolis, and then helped you to do that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So when you came back to Fresno, where did you go?

KI: That's another question. Oh, do you know?

JS: Hmm. Were you with the Ikeda family? 'Cause... did they go back to farming?

KI: I was... let's see. I have to ask Fumio what I did. Gee, this is...

JS: What happened with the Ozawas? Did the Ozawas go to camp, too?

KI: No, they moved to, they went back to Japan.

JS: Oh, before the war they went back to Japan?

KI: Yeah, they went back.

TI: Okay, so this is in the notes, I just realized. So in our notes, we have that your father went to Chicago to live with your older brother Tom? And Chicago is where he died. So this was probably during the war, he died.

KI: Ooh. You have those kind of notations?

JS: Well, that's what you told me before, but we can check and make sure it's correct, yeah, when we met last week, week and a half ago.

TI: Okay, but we can, but that's not important, I just saw that in my notes. So when you got back to Fresno, so you're not sure where you stayed, but do you remember any other memories of Fresno when you returned, what it was like?

KI: Hmm. After the war... after the war I was married, so... where did we go?

TI: Did you go back to --

KI: Oh, we went to the country in Clovis, yeah. That's where we went.

TI: Okay, so probably the Ikeda farm?

KI: We were living on the... Bigleoni, was it? Bigleoni? Hi worked for a Italian person, and they had two freight cars made into housing with a living room made. We stayed there. And then I went to... I was so ashamed when the reverend came to visit me that I was living in such a place, I decided I should get a job and get a salary so I could build myself a house in Clovis. So I saved thirty-six thousand dollars and built this house just the way, how, I drew my blueprint how I wanted my house. The garage on the sunny side, a two-car garage, and then when you enter, that's a hallway to a closet for pantry, I mean, pantry, and a bathroom and a washroom. And then this way, when you go this way, it's the kitchen, and then the oven, two oven, and the sink, and an open area going to the, a sliding door to the back of the house. And I, from the kitchen, there's the front entrance to the house from the front, and then I had a living room, and then I had three bedrooms, and then I had a bathroom on that end. And I was able to pay thirty-six thousand dollar to Leo Wilson to build my house and he built it for me.

TI: So you had it all planned out, and you knew what you wanted, the layout, how many rooms, where the rooms were.

KI: Uh-huh... and then...

TI: That's amazing.

KI: And then overhead where the sunlight comes in, you know, what do they call that?

JS: Skylight.

KI: Skylight, yeah.

TI: And when he built it, did it, did it look like what it looked like in your mind? Did you get exactly what you wanted?

KI: Yeah.

TI: And how long did you live in this house?

KI: Let's see. When my daughter became a nurse. I sent my daughter to become a nurse, she was the youngest daughter, she became a nurse. And then she took a, she got a job in Sacramento, so she left me. And I was lonely, and I did have a car so I could go shopping and things and cook for myself. I missed... I missed being alone, and so I decided, I'm going to go and live with my daughter Sherry that moved away from me. And so I lived with her for a couple of years, and my house, I rented it out. And so I still get rent from that house.

TI: Oh, so you still own the house? So that's, like, over sixty years, probably.

KI: Yeah.

TI: Fifty sixty years, yeah. Wow. So it was really a family, the family house, then.

KI: Yeah, family.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: When you think about Fresno, how had, you know, the Chinatown area, how had it changed when you came back after the war? Before the war and then after the war, what were the changes?

KI: Well, I haven't been to Chinatown, you know, 'cause I was in Sacramento for a long time, two or three years.

TI: No, but right after the war. Yeah, right after the war when you returned to the area, if you would go into Chinatown, how was that different?

KI: Oh, it hadn't changed that much. But there was an Aki Shoten hardware store on the corner, and they had anything you wanted, you know, like, hardware and things for the house. And then there was Komoto manju place on F Street, and then there was a Nino restaurant nearby, and then there was a bank further down, but I didn't bank over there. But I do remember some things the Japanese had opened up after they came back.

TI: Okay, so, and those were pretty much the same stores that were there before the war?

KI: Yeah. And then Toshiyuki, the drugstore, they had it in the corner of Kern and F Street. And then...

TI: And so your family, you and Hi returned to the area. How about your brothers and your sisters?

KI: They went to Chicago.

TI: And so they stayed there? They stayed in the Chicago area?

KI: Yeah.

TI: And do they ever come back to Fresno and look at the old place?

KI: No.

JS: Didn't one of your brothers move to Los Angeles?

KI: Let's see, who was it that went to Los Angeles. He married a Marie, a Sanger girl, I think, and lived in North Hollywood, one of my brothers. I went to see them one time, but that's the one time I... long time ago.

JS: But the Ikedas, after Hi was done serving and he came home, they had Ikeda Brothers Farm? They started farming together, is that right? In Clovis, your husband?

KI: Gee, you have to ask Fumio, my brother-in-law.

JS: Oh, your brother-in-law?

KI: Yeah. He's there.

JS: He's still farming?

KI: Yeah, he's still there. He's still living in that house.

JS: He still lives there?

KI: And my house is a whole, kind of, two acres away from his house, 'cause the wife said, "Don't you build a house close to us," you know, so I made it so we won't be knocking heads. She talked like that, and I keep my distance. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, it's probably good for family relations sometimes not to be too close.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Kay, when you think about your life, your life has been so interesting. You lost your mother when you were young, you had to help raise twins, you went through these camp experiences. When you think about your life, what are the important things to you? What's important when you think about life and what's important, how would you answer that?

KI: I figure I did the best I could do. I think I was a good daughter, you know, I think my dad should be proud of me.

TI: And so being a good daughter means a lot to you.

KI: It does.

TI: And if you were to give advice to, say, your children, what would be important to say to them? What's important that should be important to them?

KI: Oh, I would say education is very important. And so I think every child, when they are grown up should go to college, get an education. That would be the best thing.

TI: And when you think about even future generations, your grandchildren, education is important, but what else would you say to them? Is there anything else?

KI: I don't know. Sometimes they like to talk about how I live my life, you know, they talk about when they were growing up, how Grandma did this and this and this. But no, I think they're smart. The children are smart nowadays. They know what they want, and... whose child is it? Is it Dale's child wanted to become a pharmacist? And I was surprised she wanted to be a pharmacist. Where'd she get that? [Laughs]


TI: I have one other thing. So we talked about your first son, George, can you talk about your other children? Besides George, I know there's Dale...

KI: And Gerald.

TI: And Gerald. So you have three sons.

JS: And a daughter.

KI: And I have two daughters.

TI: Two daughters, that's right.

KI: Sherry and Irene.

TI: Okay, so there are five, five children. Okay, yeah, I just wanted to establish that. [Interruption] Well, Kay, thank you so much for doing this interview. This was, again, I learned so much by hearing stories from different people, and yours in particular. Because I think it's really hard, or I think it's interesting having twin sisters and then also raising a child through all this. So thank you so much.

KI: Oh, well, thank you.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.