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

<Begin Segment 1>

JS: So today is Tuesday, December 8, 2009, and we're in the home of Jean and Jane Itogawa in Sacramento. And I am interviewing Betty Fujimoto Kashiwagi. My name is Jill Shiraki, and Tom Ikeda is assisting with the interview, and Dana Hoshide is helping with the technical and filming. Okay, that was just introduction. Can you hear me okay now?

BK: Yeah.

JS: Okay. So I'm gonna just start from the beginning and ask you where and when you were born, and I want you to talk a little bit about your family. So if you could just tell me where you were born.

BK: Well, I was born in Isleton, California, and I was born at home by a midwife. And I have, I had five brothers and (two) sisters, and now I have two brothers and two sisters. And just growing up in Isleton, my mother was very, wanted to keep up with the Japanese culture. So lot of things when we were kids, like New Year's, (the girls) couldn't go outside until noon. And we had to, like, sweep out the floor so the house would be clean for the following year, and we had to do some kind of sewing, so our clothes will be mended. And we went to regular school, and I didn't know what segregation was. And so, and it really didn't bother us because Japantown, we had our grocery stores, we had our dry goods store, we had laundry, we had, I mean, everything, we had a theater and everything we needed. So we never went to the other side. Even into Chinatown, the only time we went to Chinatown was to get snacks before we went to the Japanese movies.

JS: Okay. So, Betty, Isleton was a pretty self-contained community.

BK: Yeah.

JS: And I'm going to ask you about different aspects of the community and ask you to describe, but can I ask you to tell me about your parents and when they came to Isleton?

BK: I really don't know.

JS: Approximately?

BK: All I know is, yeah, my mom kind of ran the rooms and the store, and, 'cause my dad didn't like staying in, so he used to go out and farm for, work for other farmers, so that's what they did.

JS: So tell me the names of your parents.

BK: Tokuhei was my dad's name, and Tama was my mom's name. And then I had, the oldest brother's name was Norman Masao. And then my brother Tsugio is here in Sacramento now in assisted living place at Greenhaven Estates. And then my sister Elsie lives in Berkeley, and she has lots of bad luck. She had breast cancer and she had stroke, and so I tried to talk to her about a lot of things, and she can't remember.

JS: Okay, so is that, was Norman the oldest brother?

BK: The oldest, yeah. And Tsugio came next, and then Elsie, and then my brother Yoshio, he passed away in Oregon a few years ago. And then my brother Mitsuo, and he passed away a few years ago. And then I came, and then, according to my name, Sueme means "last girl," but I'm not. I have a younger sister named Fujiye, Rosie, and I have a younger brother named Don in Colorado.

JS: Okay, great.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

JS: So can you describe the Fujimoto boarding house and business and what it was like?

BK: Well, I mean, the only thing I know is we didn't have too many chores to do because we had an older sister. And my chore was going (...) upstairs to empty the wastebaskets, and that was about it.

JS: How many boarders did you have?

BK: I think she had, we had twelve rooms. Yeah, we didn't have number thirteen, we had twelve rooms. And then downstairs, I remember Mom telling me... and to this day, I like shoes, and my mom used to say I used to wait for the shoe salesman to come, and I would get a new pair of shoes.

JS: So was the business a shoe store?

BK: It's a, it was a shoe store. And I think she sold a lot of work boots, and then, yeah, and then she had the rooms to take care of.

JS: Was it also a shoe repair, or just shoe sales?

BK: No, just selling shoes, yeah.

JS: Selling shoes. And so would your mother also provide meals for the boarders?

BK: (No, she just rented the rooms). And then only time that I know that she went to work outside the house was during cannery season and after we grew up.

JS: I see. So, so did she have to cook for the people that lived there as well?

BK: No, no.

JS: No. So it was just a boarding house.

BK: It's just a rooming house, yeah.

JS: Rooming house, okay. And then was there a bathhouse in town that you would go to, or did you have a shower and bath?

BK: No, we had a furo.

JS: Furo?

BK: Yeah. And then upstairs for the people that rented rooms, they had showers. Not individual showers, but, you know, community shower.

JS: I see.

BK: And we had regular running toilet, so I didn't know what an outhouse was.

JS: Oh, so very modern.

BK: 'Cause, yeah, 'cause I have friends that, you know, lot of 'em lived out in the country and they talk about outhouses, and I said, "Well, what is that?" And he said, "Well, that's where we go to the bathroom." I said, "Outside?" [Laughs]

JS: So who were the boarders who stayed? Were they...

BK: Mostly people that worked in the canneries. And then farm workers, and I remember -- and then they had a different entrance to go upstairs. My mom wouldn't let them in the front door, but we had an extra door that they had to use. And at certain time, she would lock it, so she won't get any...

JS: So did you interact with any of the boarders?

BK: No.

JS: You never saw them much?

BK: No.

JS: Okay.

BK: It's, yeah, it's like... 'cause Japantown was Japantown, so we kind of stuck to ourselves. And we didn't even, after school, I mean, we didn't even talk to the Chinese people. And we didn't know where the whites were.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

JS: So can you describe like a typical day in Isleton's Japantown?

BK: Huh?

JS: Can you describe how you would spend the day in town?

BK: Well, when we were kids, I mean, most of us went swimming, and we couldn't... well, our family, my mom wouldn't let us go until after Fourth of July. And we roller skated, we all had roller skates. We didn't have bicycles, but we had roller skates. And since we had such a big community backyard, we had a basketball court and a baseball diamond. And when the grass grew high enough, we used to knock those down and play "house." So we, yeah. I think most of us that didn't have businesses that needed help, yeah, we just played together, but never went into Chinatown or to the white town.

JS: So you would play mostly in the back area, backyard area, outside?

BK: Yeah, or we were at the river during the summer.

JS: And why wouldn't your mom let you swim before July? Too cold?

BK: Too cold, yeah. And then, you know, after the summer was over, then she would let us go fishing. And to us, I mean, Dad used to make our fishing pole with just bamboo and a safety pin for a hook.

JS: What kind, what would you use for bait?

BK: He used to keep the heta of the bread and make panko like.

JS: And what would you catch?

BK: Mostly catfish, or a small bass. I mean, it was illegal. I didn't know it was illegal then, I mean, now it is. But at that time, it didn't matter what you, you know.

JS: So who did you spend time with? Your sister or...

BK: Yeah, I spent a lot of time with my best girlfriend Lillian, and she passed away a few years ago. And I don't, when I think back, I don't know if I spent more time with her because she couldn't go swimming, 'cause they had a big restaurant.

JS: What was her restaurant? What kind of food?

BK: Regular American food.

JS: American food.

BK: Yeah, and Chinese food. And they all, the kids all have to help at the restaurant. And she had to man the cashier and so I don't know, because she couldn't go swimming or she couldn't go play on the railroad tracks or, I mean, she just couldn't do what I did. And so I used to go and visit, like the shoe repair shop, and talk to Mr. Washizu. And then I used to go over across the street to the tofu-ya and watch Mr. Shusho make tofu. I mean, I've always been, I was curious. So I've been to almost everybody's house. And when I talk to my girlfriends now, you know, 'cause we meet about, oh, once every three months for lunch. And when we talk about old times, most of 'em had to help with the business or they were farmer's kids, so they had to work out in the field. And they keep saying how lucky I was.

JS: So you had more free time than the rest of them.

BK: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. 'Cause we even got to go to the World's Fair at Treasure Island.

JS: Do you remember that? What do you remember about that?

BK: Yeah, I remember we went on the train, and Mom packed us a lunch, and my girlfriend got carsick. [Laughs] And after we got there, I remember this kid telling us he lost all his money. So I said, "Did you play the games and lose all your money?" And he said, no, he got on one of those rides, and all the change came out of his pocket. [Laughs]

JS: How old were you during the World's Fair?

BK: Oh, gee, I don't know, maybe ten.

JS: Ten?

BK: Yeah.

JS: Okay, that was 1939? Yeah. But, you know, we were able to go, and then sometimes I wonder if my parents, I mean, how can they afford that?

JS: Who took you to the World's Fair? You went with a friend?

BK: I think it was the school that sponsored it.

JS: Oh, the school did?

BK: Yeah. So a lot of kids didn't get to go because they couldn't afford it. And the ones that, like us, the ones that were lucky enough to go, I mean, we weren't rich by any means, but my parents found the money someplace. So a lot of things other kids never got to do, I got to do. But I like going to, you know, to visit the elderly. Like I used to go to Mr. and Mrs. Kito's house, they don't have any kids, and they used to have a pool hall. So she showed me how to rack up the balls. And yeah, she said, "The only thing you can't help with is serve the customers beer." And I says, "Why?" And underage didn't mean anything.

JS: So you would just go to the different business and visit with neighbors and help out where you could. Did you have any part-time jobs? You were too young.

BK: Uh-huh. I was young yet, so, yeah. 'Cause I was fourteen when I went to, just turned fourteen when I went to camp.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

JS: So can you describe the school that you went to?

BK: Well, like the school, too, you know, because it was migrant workers' kids, or, and then the Chinese. And so when we went to school, only time we spoke English was when we have to talk to the teacher or to the other nationality kids. But like, come recess, all the Japanese got together and spoke Japanese.

JS: So you went to the Isleton Union grammar school?

BK: Union elementary school, yeah.

JS: And it was a segregated school. And what grade was it? From kindergarten?

BK: They didn't have kindergarten. From first grade.

JS: From first grade until you were fourteen, until about seventh grade.

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: And what else do you remember about the school?

BK: School was fine, 'cause there was a teacher named Mrs. Clendenning that kind of favored the Japanese. And, you know, it was like when we went to Walerga, our first camp, she would come and visit us every Saturday. But it was a good school as schools go, I guess. Because we had to go to Japanese school after that one hour. And I hated my Japanese teacher. [Laughs]

JS: Why was that?

BK: It was, well, Mr. Yoshida taught the older class, and then Mrs. Yoshida taught the lower class, and we just didn't get along.

JS: So you would go directly from grammar school to the Japanese school after school?

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: Every day.

BK: Every day, or five days a week.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

JS: And what other activities were you involved in? Were you involved with church?

BK: We went to church every Sunday.

JS: And where was, what church was that?

BK: I went to the Buddhist church.

JS: The Buddhist church. And what other activities did the Buddhist church have besides Sunday service?

BK: I really don't remember, other than just going to church. They didn't, other than Obon time, they would close up most of Japantown street, and we would have Bon Odori. And all those kimonos we left behind, so they're gone.

JS: What other festivities would happen in town, other events?

BK: We had, we used to have the asparagus festival.

JS: And the Japanese would participate?

BK: Yeah, well, and the whole community took part, yeah. And then the Japanese part, you know, like my dad was a sumo man, he liked to teach and referee sumo, so we used to go watch sumo. And then we also had basketball tournament. It's all outside during the summer. And then we had, like baseball tournaments so other people from out of town would come. And then the biggest thing was going to Mr. Shusho's tofu stores, they used to sell snow cones. So that's the first thing you do, go buy your snow cone, and then you go on the bleachers and watch the game.

JS: So did your brothers participate in the sports?

BK: My oldest did, yeah. But then the others were kind of young.

JS: Still young?

BK: Yeah.

JS: I see. So can you describe a little bit about the sumo? Because your father was instrumental in starting that?

BK: Yeah. Well, all I know is he used to try those things on us. And I said, "You know, we're not boys, and you're not gonna let us do it." But he used to, when they got new ones, I guess it's stiff, so he used to try it on us. And then I remember when the FBI came to the house to search us, my dad got a medal from Japan that was shaped like a sumo fan, referee's fan. And they thought it was a medal of some kind, and, you know, they took it away from us. But he just lived and breathed sumo.

JS: Where did he become, when did he become interested in sumo?

BK: I don't know. From things that I've been reading, you know, like he picked it up in Hawaii. I knew he was in Hawaii for a few years before he came to Sacramento or Isleton. But, yeah, so my brothers all did it. So I told Dad I wanted to do it, and he said, "No, girls don't do things like that." [Laughs]

JS: What other community activities were your parents involved in?

BK: My parents weren't that active in the community because they were busy raising eight of us and feeding us and cooking and all that. I remember Dad helping us with our Japanese school homework.

JS: So who would help you with Japanese school homework?

BK: My dad did. And then English, regular school, my older brothers and sisters, they helped.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Let me, I want to go back to your father. And can you tell me where he was born and what his family did in Japan?

BK: You know, it's really funny, because we know a lot about my mother's side, where Mom came from and where her family lived and all that. But we really don't know too much about Dad's side. It's the same with the Kashiwagis, we know a lot about my mother's side, but we don't know anything about Dad.

TI: But you know that he, at some point, he went from Japan to Hawaii first.

BK: Well, my folks, my father did. But then my mother came from Japan straight to Isleton. I don't think she was, she wasn't a "picture bride."

TI: But was it the case that your father came first to Isleton, then your mother joined him?

BK: Yeah.

TI: But I'm curious, do you know about what time your father went from Hawaii to California?

BK: No.

JS: When were your parents married, do you know the year?

BK: I have no idea.

TI: Well, then you mentioned your mother. So tell me about your mother's family. Where from Japan was she from?

BK: They're from Kumamoto, too, yeah. And my mother had a sister in Hawaii, and so when my half-brother, I had a half-brother. So when he was in the service and when he got (wounded), he was stationed at the hospital in Hawaii. And so he looked (them) up, so that's when we found out that we have relatives in Hawaii.

TI: So half-brother, this was on your mother's...

BK: My mother's side. My mother was married before.

TI: And how did your half brother get to Hawaii, because she was in Japan when she was married?

BK: No, he was in the service. Because he kind of left the family. He wasn't part of the family anymore.

TI: Your half-brother.

BK: Yeah.

TI: And so where was your half-brother born?

BK: He was born in Japan.

TI: In Japan?

BK: Yeah.

TI: And then from Japan, he made his way to Hawaii.

BK: And then, yeah, and then I think lived in San Francisco. And we didn't know that he existed either.

TI: And do you know what happened to your mother's first wedding, or first marriage, I mean?

BK: No. I think when you're kids, you don't talk about things like that. [Laughs] I think you people as Sanseis or something... 'cause even among our four kids, the oldest doesn't seem to care that I was in camp. And then our oldest son, he doesn't seem to care. I talk about it. And then my third, which is a girl, and she's very, very interested. So she knows a lot about the camps I went to, what I did, and then my youngest son, he's interested also. So it's funny how...

JS: The older ones are not.

BK: Yeah. Well, even among our friends, I said, "Don't you talk about, you know, when you were in camp?" And they said, "What for? It's gone." And I said, "Here I'm thinking about writing a book, how they sent me to four concentration camps."

JS: Do you share your memories of Isleton with your children?

BK: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, when they got old enough, there's a cemetery in Rio Vista for Asians, and so we used to take them every year. First we would go over there to the cemetery and then we would go Mickey Grove Park and... yeah. And then even now with just the two of us, we try to go Memorial Day weekend.

JS: So you would go to Mickey Grove Park, but would also go to the town of Isleton as part of the pilgrimage?

BK: No.

JS: No. Just to Rio Vista.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So, Betty, I have another question. Earlier you mentioned, as a child, you were very curious, and you would go to, like the tofu-ya shop and just watch. Can you describe to me what you would see? I'm curious what, how they made tofu and how things, what you saw.

BK: It kind of, yeah, the only thing I remember is how he used to squeeze the beans in a gauze, and then I remember after it gelled into tofu, he would float it on this, like a little raft, and then it kind of reminded me of our furo. Because our furo had metal bottom, so, to heat up the water, Dad would cut wood and burn it from the outside, so it had a metal bottom. And then on top of that, it had this little wooden rack so we wouldn't get burned. And then so when I used to watch Mr. Shusho make tofu, I said it's just like us taking the tofu, that's taking a bath. [Laughs]

TI: And so do you remember ever eating the fresh tofu as it was warm?

BK: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And how would that compare to tofu today that you'd get? What was the difference?

BK: I don't think you can compare it. I have a friend that still makes the tofu. She lived out in the farm, and then they moved into town a few years ago. And I said, you know, "The store's right there in your backyard," and she said the kids got, growing up, ate what she made. So she still makes it. But it's interesting because all my girlfriends, I said, "Don't you go talk to," you know, like my girlfriend's father was a shoe repairman, I said, "don't you talk to him?" And they said, "No," and I said, gee, I used to go and just sit and talk to him and watch how he fix shoes and put taps on our shoes so it won't wear out so fast.

JS: What was the name of the shoe repair?

BK: Mr. Washizu.

JS: Washizu?

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: And what would you talk about?

BK: He used to talk about his gambling, which his wife didn't like. And it was funny 'cause one time I was sitting on the counter talking to him, and some hakujin came in to pick up their shoes. And then I guess she thought I was a needy child or something, 'cause she gave me a nickel, and she said to go buy some ice cream. But I met different kinds of people and I didn't know who they were.

JS: So he had customers that weren't just Japanese.

BK: Everybody.

JS: Townspeople would come.

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: So was there much interaction like that for the townspeople to come to the Japanese section?

BK: No.

JS: No. Just at the shoe repair.

BK: Yeah. Because, like I said, in Japantown, we had from a volunteer fire department to furoya. 'Cause I didn't know people didn't have showers or bath. I thought everybody in town had it like we did. So, for me, it was interesting to find out who had. And if I had to go a friend's house and had to go to the bathroom, I didn't want to use the outhouse, so I would come home. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 8>

JS: Okay, Betty, so we're going to continue with the interview. And I wanted to ask you to describe some of the festivities that happened in Isleton. And you told us a little bit about the Obon festival. Can you describe that and what that was like?

BK: All I know is we marched into town with our hats, gold hats, and different kind of kimono. But service-wise, I don't know what it was all about.

JS: So you marched from the Buddhist church into town?

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: And how many people would participate?

BK: Oh, gee, the whole Japantown, we were all Buddhists, so, yeah, there was quite a bit. So like even Obon time, they shut down the whole street for us.

JS: And then you would have Bon Odori?

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: In the streets? And do you remember some of the dances? Would you practice the dances before?

BK: Oh, gosh, I've been a Christian for so long. [Laughs] And I used to take my kids, but when they got older, they said, "You know, we're not Buddhist. Why are we doing this?" 'Cause it is a religious thing, it's not a cultural thing.

JS: So everyone in Isleton, so there was the Buddhist church, but there wasn't a Christian church in town, was there?

BK: My girlfriend next door, the Washizus, they were Christians, and I don't know what church they went to. I don't think it was all Japanese, 'cause there weren't that many Japanese Christians.

JS: So what do you remember about the Chinatown side? Did you ever go there?

BK: Yeah, when I was younger, I was scared because if you walked down Main Street, the first two houses on both side of the street was a gambling den, and then the men would be sitting outside and try to grab you. And so we used to walk in the middle of the street. And then when you go from the back, then the Wongs had this, their chickens and ducks and stuff in the back. And then, so we had to pass that. And then when you see a man come with a butcher knife, I mean, he's not gonna hurt us, but he's going in there to kill the chickens. And that scared me the most.

JS: Would your parents warn you about going on Chinatown side or did they say anything?

BK: My mother had a real good friend that was Chinese. And then, because she was in the rooming business, she spoke English, enough English that she can communicate with other nationalities.

JS: So her friend was Chinese. Did she run another business there, her friend?

BK: Yeah, she had a, like a little snack shop.

JS: And then for you, going to the Oriental School, were you friends with the Chinese students?

BK: The Chinese students, yeah. And Filipinos and Mexicans.

JS: So at, like, lunchtime, everybody interacted? Or did you...

BK: No. We still... yeah.

JS: So you still were with the Japanese and spoke Japanese.

BK: Yeah. And I think, you know, I think as I grew older and, like, I was a stay at home mom. So I was very active in the PTAs, and every time I went to any conference or anything, I told the lady there, I said, "How come you guys just stick together and not, why aren't you mingling with other people? And they said they don't have anything in common. I said, "Education is the main thing, our kids, that's why we belong to the PTA." But to this day, you notice that they kind of... oh, even like we go to our senior luncheon on Wednesday, and it was very, very cliquish. 'Cause when I started it, I said maybe once a month, everybody sit where they want to sit. But no, they have to stay with their little group. So when new people come and they're by themselves, they quit coming.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

JS: So can you tell me a little bit about mochitsuki and New Year's Day celebrations in Isleton?

BK: Oh, yeah, yeah. We did it in our garage, and maybe twelve families. And then we liked it when it was the Washizus' turn, 'cause they're Aichi-ken, and they don't make little patties like we do. Theirs, all you had to do was put in the pan. And I said, "Don't you make it into little patties?" And she said, "No, you put it in the pan, and then when it gets just right, then they just cut it." And I said, I told my mom, I said, "Why don't we do that instead of making those little patties?" And I guess in Japan, too, they have different kens doing different things. It's just like when I got married, I said, "God, they, like Kumamoto eat everything salty." Then you marry into a Wakayama, and they eat everything sweet. [Laughs]

JS: So in Isleton, where were most of the people from? Were there a lot of people from Kumamoto?

BK: There were a lot of people from Kumamoto and Hiroshima.

JS: Hiroshima.

BK: Yeah. Not too many from other places.

JS: So do you think that's why the Fujimoto family came to Isleton?

BK: I don't know how they heard about it or...

JS: Not sure?

BK: Yeah. I tried to talk to my brother, but his, he'll be ninety next April, and he can't remember a lot of things, either. He has Parkinson's. But I just went and talked to everybody and anybody, and went to the stores and see what they did. And then like I remember when my brother was making a boat out of those fish crates, and somebody accidently knocked a gallon of tar, hot tar on his feet, and so I don't know why but I went to this place where he got the box and gave 'em hell for giving him the box.

JS: So he was making a boat to float in the river?

BK: Yeah, uh-huh.

JS: Oh. But he got tar on his feet, so he was injured. Did he ever complete that boat?

BK: Yes. They all, the guys all helped make him so he can ride in it. But he got discharged from the army because they couldn't fit shoes. Because his toes are... yeah. But you know, like in Isleton, I used to tell my friends, I said, "Go to the garage shop and see what they do, how they change tires." So I guess I was, I guess I wanted to know, and I guess I was curious so I know.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

JS: So earlier, you were talking a little bit about your mother and how she was very traditional, and on New Year's, you had certain things that you had to do. Describe your mother a little bit more and other things that you learned from her.

BK: Oh, I had the best mother in the world. And she sewed most of our clothes. And it's funny because my kid sister doesn't remember anything other than being spanked. And I said, "I never got spanked." So I don't know why she got spanked and I didn't, 'cause I wasn't a perfect child.

JS: But you had a close relationship with your mother?

BK: Yeah, we used to talk a lot. And, like, especially like New Year's tradition, she said, "This is what I want you to do or not do." I would just go ahead and do or not do. As for my kid sister, she could care less. Well, she was younger, too, so, you know...

JS: How many years younger is the youngest?

BK: Three. And my oldest sister is five years older than I am.

JS: So would your, your older sister would help at the shoe store and boarding house?

BK: Well, she would start doing the cooking and things like that to help Mom. But nobody helped in the store. But I remember going with Dad to the farm and help knock out sunflower seeds. So we know how the sunflower seed gets in the bag, 'cause we knocked 'em out. [Laughs]

JS: So you would help out on the farm sometimes, with your father.

BK: Yeah. Well, it was more for fun than helping. And then like he would take us to a tomato ranch, and he would tell us that, "When you get all that green stuff from the tomato, if you rub it with the tomato, it'll come off."

JS: So your brothers were older. Did they have work that they did in town, or did they go work in the fields?

BK: They worked, I think... I remember my oldest brother working for a farm family. I don't remember too much about my second brother other than he went into the service to kind of take place of my older brother, 'cause my older brother had to get the family ready to move.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

JS: So what do you remember about that, about the evacuation and Pearl Harbor, the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

BK: You know, when you're that young, you really don't think about it. And I, again, I would go to Mom and ask why we're leaving, and she would try to explain. And then I'd ask my kid sister, I says, "Aren't you excited? I mean, we're finally leaving town." We'd never left Isleton other than to go to the doctor in Courtland. So I said, "We get to go on a bus and we get to go out of town." But it didn't bother her one way or the other. And then like I said, being younger than I am, maybe...

JS: So what do you remember, like how was the store taken care of during the evacuation? Did you have to sell all the things, did somebody --

BK: Yeah. I remember my brothers boarding up the front windows. And so I asked, "Why are you boarding up the front windows? Nobody can see inside anymore." And he said, "To protect it from vandalism." And then, well, by that time, the shoe store was gone, so she just had the rooms.

JS: And so the property, you were leasing the property from somebody?

BK: We were paying mortgage.

JS: You were paying mortgage?

BK: Yeah. I didn't know what a mortgage was until my mother said, when we were in camp, and they only made sixteen dollars a month, I mean, how do you pay a mortgage? And so we lost everything.

JS: Oh, I see.

BK: We lost our new car, we lost our new refrigerator, we lost everything. I think the thing that hurt the most was when we were in Rohwer, Arkansas, Mr. Wilson, the janitor, was taking care of our belongings at the Japanese school. We stored everything at the Japanese school. And he said he can no longer take care of it because of too much vandalism. And then he sent us this black trunk that my dad made, and that's where we had all our Nihongi and obis and stuff. And then when he came all the way to Arkansas, there was a dirty Kotex. [Laughs]

JS: Oh, it was empty?

BK: Even empty.

JS: So do you remember the evacuation and where we had to meet?

TI: Excuse me, Jill, can we go back? I just want to... so the trunk was, everything was stolen, is that what you were saying?

BK: Yeah.

TI: So it was all stolen, and what was left was this dirty Kotex.

BK: Yeah.

TI: Do you recall what it, the reaction of your parents when they saw that?

BK: My mother always said you have to be thankful that you're healthy, you have to be thankful that they give us a roof over our heads. And she never said gaman, but she just said, "Be thankful for what you have, and you make the best of it." So even in camp, when I went to camp, I took dancing lessons, I took craft lessons, and I told my friends, I says, "How come you guys don't do this?" And I don't know if they were mad because they got sent to camp, or they weren't interested. I don't know. But even to this day, they really don't want to talk about it.

TI: How about your reaction? When you saw what they had stolen? Did you have a reaction?

BK: I didn't know what a Kotex was. [Laughs]

TI: But then you knew that it was stolen, though, all that materials were stolen.

BK: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember how you felt about that? Were you surprised?

BK: No. My mom said, "It's gone," yeah. She never made anything... never taught us to feel bad about things. Not to me, anyway. I'm sure she had a lot of bad days. So you know, like in camp, she grew a vegetable garden, and she ordered material from Montgomery Ward, I think, and made our clothes. But... and I didn't realize when she passed away, she was only seventy. And then I look at myself now and then I says, "Gosh, she was young." But at that time, I guess, you don't see the age difference. But other things that she taught me, I tried to teach my kids. Like I said, our second daughter, we never had those Girl's Day dolls, so we had little kokeshi dolls. Then she would put those out on the piano and then we would put senbei. So even to this day, if she's home -- she lives in Canada -- and if she comes home and if it's Girl's Day, she put the dolls out, and then she always bows and asks if it's okay. So I tried to teach her the things my mother taught me. And you do with what you have.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

JS: So earlier you were saying that you've been to four? You were interned at four different places during the war?

BK: Uh-huh.


JS: So during camp, or after the evacuation, and you said that you're going to write a book and that you were at four different places, can you describe that a little bit? Where you went?

BK: Well, the first... to me, it's still a concentration camp. The first camp was in Walerga, which is in North Sacramento. And then from there, we were sent to Tule Lake, and we were there for, I think, about a year or a little over a year. And then we got sent, during the segregated camp stuff, we got sent to Jerome. And then after Jerome, because we heard that Jerome was gonna close, we moved to Rohwer. And by that time, you know, my brothers were in the service, my sister and my older brother, they were in Chicago, so I was the oldest and had to take care of all these things, and I don't know how I did it. And my mother said, "You do the best you can and we'll try to help." And being that, you know, she spoke enough English, that made it a little easier.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

JS: So you were the oldest child who came back to California with your parents?

BK: No, me and my...

JS: Your brother?

BK: Me and my younger sister and (two brothers).

JS: Sister and brother?

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: Okay. And you were only, oh, you were in high school at the time?

BK: Huh?

JS: You, in camp, you were in middle school, junior high school?

BK: Yeah, uh-huh.

JS: And then when you came back...

BK: I was in high school.

JS: You were in high school. And you went to high school... where did you go to high school?

BK: I... when I came out, I went to high school and I moved to San Francisco as a schoolgirl. So my junior year I spent in San Francisco, and I didn't like the school. Or the students, they all looked like teachers. I mean, I didn't know what nylon was. [Laughs] In camp, we just had zoris or bobby socks. And then, so I came back and graduated from Rio Vista high school.

JS: So after camp, your family, your parents, came back to Isleton?

BK: Yeah, because we didn't have anyplace to go. So my brother that was in the service took his furlough and found us a, I guess he heard about Isleton, the canneries were busy and they needed workers. So when we got there, we were the first ones there, so we got a great big four-bedroom regular house. And then the people that came after us, some of 'em were from Isleton, some were from Sacramento, some were from different parts of California, and they all came, but they had to work in the cannery. And like I was still going to school, but then like summer vacation or during holidays, they made you go to work in the cannery. So that was the stipulation that, "You want to live in this house? You work in the cannery." Anybody that can.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

JS: So your younger sister and brother, they were living there and going to school, but you went to San Francisco to live as a schoolgirl and came back?

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: That was your junior year when you came back to Isleton?

BK: Yeah.

JS: So you finished school in Rio Vista.

BK: Rio Vista.

JS: And what do you remember about going to school in Rio Vista?

BK: Well, when I first went back there and the principal called us in for assembly, all the Japanese, and told us to behave, something made me get up and tell him to go to hell.

JS: What made you get up?

BK: I mean, why is he telling us to behave? He should be telling the whole school to behave, and that we're not aliens, we're normal people of different color.

JS: Do you remember people, when you were in camp, ready to leave camp, did they give you messages about what to do when you had a transition back?

BK: No, uh-uh.

TI: So, Betty, I'm curious, when you told the principal to go to hell...

BK: Huh?

TI: When you told the principal to go to hell, what was his reaction?

BK: Nothing. Nothing.

TI: What about the other Japanese students? What did they, or how did they react? Did they say anything to you after that?

BK: I don't think they cared... I don't know if it's caring or what, but like my girlfriend was in the different stall in gym, and this girl, she was from a German family, and she would tie her shoelaces or open the shower curtain and tell everybody to come and see what a "yellow Jap" looked like. And I said, "Why are you standing there just crying? Why don't you go after her?" So I went after her with no clothes on. And I don't know where I got all this, being assertive.

JS: So it was mostly after camp when you found yourself responding to racism or injustice.

BK: Yeah.

JS: But when you went to camp, before, when you left, were you aware of, sort of, the racism or, in terms of the segregation?

BK: No. Because, like I say, in Isleton, I mean, Japantown was Japantown, and Chinatown was Chinatown, and the whites were over there someplace. So, I mean, you know, we weren't all mixed together.

JS: So there wasn't much interaction.

BK: No, uh-uh.

JS: And you didn't face that.

BK: No.

JS: So the only thing that was negative in terms of your interaction was walking down the street in Chinatown near the gambling houses.

BK: Yeah.

JS: So how did you, so did you understand why you were sent away? 'Cause earlier you said, oh, you were excited, because the first time you're gonna get to leave Isleton. When did it hit you that the Japanese were being removed, why the Japanese were being removed?

BK: I don't think it ever does.

JS: You didn't realize?

BK: Yeah. 'Cause when I see certain things, like I took our youngest son on, I think it was our centennial to Tule Lake pilgrimage, and realized then that I was in camp here. And my son said, "Why?" He's the one that's interested in my writing my book. [Laughs] So I don't think... because young as I was, I didn't, I just did things when it came to me, like telling the principal to go to hell.

JS: So you were surprised yourself of that response and where that came from.

BK: Yeah. Well, even with other nationality kids like the Filipinos, my girlfriend said, "How come you're hanging around with Filipinos? They're bad people." Well, because in Isleton, they were more like pimping and the crimes were against most of the Filipinos.

JS: Because at the time, they were mostly bachelors. There wasn't too many families.

BK: Yeah.

JS: But you did have a few friends that were Filipino from school?

BK: Yeah. One of 'em, I got reacquainted after we came out of camp, she was living in Stockton and went to her fiftieth birthday.

JS: How about any of the fellow Chinese classmates? Were you friends with them after?

BK: It was real funny because I went to our fiftieth high school graduation reunion, and all us Japanese sat in one... all the whites sat in another place, then all the Chinese sat in the other place. And I said, "Why are we doing this?" I don't know. I mean, you don't need security, so why are we doing this? And yet, you didn't feel like you're welcome, because one lady, Chinese lady, she came from San Francisco, and she talked to me, but none of the other classmates did. Because we never communicated anyway when we were growing up. I mean, we went to the same school, and that was about it. And even in school, you're just in the same class. I mean, you don't talk about social things, you don't talk about fun things, you just went to school.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

JS: So the people in Isleton that you were, you socialized with were mostly Japanese, and did most of the people from Isleton go to Tule Lake?

BK: Yes.

JS: And then to Jerome if they... segregation, do you know?

BK: No. After Tule Lake, I didn't know where most of my friends went to. Some went to Amache, some went to Jerome. And then from Jerome, I think a lot of my friends went to Seabrook Farms.

JS: To work there?

BK: To work, yeah.

JS: So when... but now, do you keep in touch with some of the Isleton friends, you reconnected?

BK: Yeah. There's about, yeah, thirteen of us that meet for lunch. Well, see, like last time, I said, "Let's have lunch." We better hurry up because one of our group persons, she has cancer that's inoperable. And so I said we should have one before she gets worse. And, see, if I don't do it, nobody does. And I haven't been that well either, so it's been kind of hard.

JS: So you've been planning these luncheons with your friends, but you also had a reunion that you planned, the Isleton people from the Japanese side?

BK: The reunions were good because they came from all over. I mean, I was surprised when people from Chicago came, Florida... yeah. And then when I said it was the last one, we had people from Ohio. But you know, when you don't see each other for fifty years or sixty years, you don't know what they're like. I mean, there's not too much to talk about.

JS: So how many of those large reunions have you had? Would you meet every year or...

BK: We used to meet every year until... when was the last one? [Laughs]

JS: You said the first one was 1979, and then you would meet every year...

BK: For twenty-five years.

JS: And you would meet, where would you meet, have the reunions?

BK: Huh?

JS: You would have them in different places, in different towns?

BK: Well, we used to have it here in Sacramento, 'cause it's kind of, more people live in Sacramento area than anyplace else. We've had it in Los Angeles, we've had it in Benicia, we've had it in San Jose. So we just said, I just said, "I don't have to do this every year." I said, "If you want to have it, you have it in your town." So I don't have to, all I can do is be a guest. [Laughs]

JS: And so the people from Isleton would come and their spouses.

BK: Yeah.

JS: Did you ever have a, would you invite your family, too, your kids?

BK: Yeah, but then the kids don't want to come. (Narr. note: One year my second daughter and one of my nephew and niece came.)

JS: What would you do at the reunion? You would have a --

BK: Just talk (and entertainment by the Isseis and Niseis).

JS: Talk?

BK: Yeah, just talk. Because some of 'em haven't seen each other, oh, even once a year, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

JS: So how many people came back to Isleton? Your family went to the cannery for about a year, huh?

BK: Yeah. I don't know, but quite a few of my friends' families came back, and they worked in the canneries. And after I graduated, my family moved to San Jose. So I stayed with the family as a caregiver.

JS: And your family moved to San Jose to work...

BK: Driscoll Farms.

JS: Strawberries?

BK: Yeah, strawberries.

JS: And the farm.

BK: Uh-huh.

JS: So your brother had found work there, and...

BK: Oh, my brothers worked out. Farming was secondary. So my brothers, yeah. And my sister, yeah, got married.

JS: And so when did you move to Sacramento? You moved to Sacramento after that?

BK: Oh, gee, we've been married fifty-nine years. It's been that long.

JS: Okay, let's see. What do you hope that your children and future generations, other people, will know about Isleton's Japantown? What do you want people to know about Isleton?

BK: That it was a close-knit community, and very friendly whether you were Kumamoto or Hiroshima or whatever. 'Cause I didn't know about a lot of things about the Japanese from Japan. Now I know.

JS: So the town itself, the Japantown in Isleton, did any of the merchants come back? Or when people came back, they just came to the cannery.

BK: The only housing, yeah. I think most of them lost their place of business. And so, yeah, so the cannery was the only place of employment. And to work in the cannery, you lived in these little cabins. And so if they had a bigger family, then you would get two little cabins. And that didn't have, you know, private bathroom or anything, it was just two rooms. And then so they come to me and says, "How come you guys got a regular house?" And I said, "Because my brother came looking for it and this happened to be open."

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So, Betty, we're going to start the third segment.

BK: Huh?

TI: We're going to start the third segment.

BK: Oh, okay.

TI: And I'm going to lead the questions for a while. And so I wanted to go back to December 7, 1941. And when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, do you remember that day?

BK: Yeah. We came home from church, changed our clothes, and I was playing marbles in the alley. Then my mother called us in for lunch, and then she said, "I have something to tell you." So I said, "Okay." So we were all listening, and then she said, "Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." I don't know where Japan is, and I don't know where Pearl Harbor is. So my older brother, you know, said, "Why?" And she couldn't give us an answer as to why, but that's where I was when I first heard it.

TI: And what kind of reaction did your mother have? Was it matter of fact, or was she scared?

BK: No. Since I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was or where Japan was, it didn't bother me one way or the other. I mean, I think it hit us when the FBI came and searched our house, and I was gonna say something and my sister said, "Don't, they're FBI." And I said, "So?" They're people, I mean, they have no business dumping drawers of clothes. What are they looking for? Dad wasn't into anything other than sumo.

TI: So what were you going to say to the FBI? What did your sister stop you from saying?

BK: 'Cause then she thought I might get arrested.

TI: So you were going to say something harsh or bad to the FBI?

BK: No. I was going to tell them, I mean, "Why do you have to dump drawers of clothes?" And I said, you know, my only thing my dad was interested, not in the Japanese organizations or anything like that. He was a member of the Buddhist church, and he was into sumo, but sumo is a sport.

TI: And so you and your sister were there, were any of your other brothers there when the FBI came?

BK: Yes.

TI: And so all of you just sort of stood there and just watched all this happening?

BK: [Nods]

TI: Did they take your father away?

BK: No. I mean, if they were going to, I would have said something, because he had nothing to do, and he didn't belong to any of the associations or anything like that, he just was into sumo.

TI: How about other families in Isleton? Did the FBI pick up any men?

BK: Yeah, mostly like the schoolteachers. And it's funny, they take the men, but they didn't take the women. And you know, I always wondered why. They were both schoolteachers, nothing more.

TI: And then although you were young, I mean, did you think about anything? That here, the FBI comes, they take away some of the men from the community, did you think anything?

BK: No.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So during that time after Pearl Harbor and before you left, you talked about boarding up the windows to the store.

BK: Yeah.

TI: Now, was there any attempt to, at that time, sell some of your things like the car?

BK: No. I mean, there was a rumor going around that, you know, they were gonna bomb all the Japanese stores, and we were a store. And then if we're, we had a curfew of eight o'clock, and if we're found outside, they said it was more to protect us, just like sending us to camp was for protection.

TI: And when they said that, who said that it was for your protection? Do you recall, was that a rumor or did you actually hear someone who actually said that?

BK: I think I just heard it in this conversation.

TI: How about the Chinese or the whites? Did they start treating Japanese any differently after December 7th?

BK: Yeah, I mean, they called us "Japs." And said, you know, so it's a shortcut to "Japanese, what's the big deal?"

TI: So you tried to not let that bother you.

BK: No, uh-uh.

TI: Now, did anyone say that directly to you? They used that term "Japs" directly to you?

BK: Yeah, they... you know, I think a few of my friends got rocks thrown at them, but I wasn't one of 'em.

TI: And who was doing that? Who was throwing the rocks and saying things like "Japs"?

BK: The kids.

TI: Was it both the Chinese and the whites, or just the whites?

BK: We never saw the whites, to tell you the truth. Because they were...

TI: So would this be, then, Chinese that would throw the rocks?

BK: Yeah.

TI: And how did that make you feel? Because before December 7th, it changed so much. I mean, did you think about that at all?

BK: Yeah, well, I just used to, you know, "They're ignorant and they don't know anything," and so I said, "Just ignore it." And if it's something that you need to go home and tell your parents, that they're throwing rocks at us. But I don't think they would have done anything either.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about leaving Isleton to go to Walerga. How did you go from Isleton?

BK: On the bus.

TI: And describe that day. What was it like?

BK: I think Walerga was worst of all camps. It was the crudest, it was... I've never had to go use an outhouse with twelve other people. And my mother kept saying, "When you go to the bathroom," she said, "either wear a skirt or take a magazine." And I said, "Why?" [Laughs] And, you know, if the people that were in charge had at least somebody come and give us a tour of what to expect, I don't think it would have been such a shock. And then like one time when we were taking a shower, because you don't have knobs, and my girlfriend who was on the shy side, I said, "Hey, Nancy, that guy's looking at you through his peephole." Because we had a boilerman that adjusted the temperature of the water.

TI: So he could look through a little hole...

BK: I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: I see. So you were playing a joke on your, on your friend. But, you know, going back to the toilets, so it was like an outhouse with twelve, were there partitions?

BK: No, nothing. Nothing, absolutely nothing.

TI: So that's why your mother said, "Wear a skirt or bring a magazine," to try to get a little privacy.

BK: Yeah.

TI: And the same thing with the shower stalls? There were not partitions?

BK: Yeah, no, just an empty room with the showerhead. And you know, so it was the worst of all the camps that I went to.

TI: How about things like food?

BK: Food was, I think, okay in that we were so used to Japanese food. And then when you go to camp, you get regular American food or spaghetti and stuff, which was very new to us. So that was okay. But then the family got torn apart. We always ate as ten of us, and then all of a sudden there's only me and my sister at one table, my oldest sister someplace else, my brothers different places.

TI: So was that hard on your parents that all of a sudden the kids were eating at different tables?

BK: Yeah. Well, she tried, you know, my parents tried real hard to at least sit at the table at the same time.

TI: And do you know what your parents did at Walerga? I mean, how did they occupy their time?

BK: Well, at Walerga they really didn't have to do anything because I guess they knew that they're gonna move us. So there weren't jobs to speak of.

TI: And how about kids like you? What would you do to occupy your time?

BK: In Walerga, I think we just stayed in groups of yancha kozo. [Laughs] We used to tease each other a lot, or like when we got our tetanus shot, the guys would come and hit us. So in Walerga it was, yeah, on the quiet side.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about now going from Walerga to Tule Lake.

BK: Oh, Tule Lake was an adventure for me. I went to Castle Rock almost every weekend, and my girlfriend and two other friends, we snuck out and went to Abalone Mountain and came across the sentry in a jeep, but we made it. [Laughs]

TI: So do you remember, so when the MP comes up, the sentry comes up in a jeep and sees you and your friends, what happened?

BK: I don't know. I mean, see, those are... I don't know.

TI: Earlier you talked about while you were in camp, you learned about the fact that your family had to pay mortgage to keep the house or the business, the car, and eventually you lost it all.

BK: Yeah.

TI: Was that wearing on your parents? They must have been worried about all those things happening.

BK: They must have been worried, but you know, they never showed it to us. My mom still made our clothes.

TI: So they pretty much shielded that from the kids, they didn't really let you know that, what was happening with the family property.

BK: Yeah. So she just said that, you know, "When we go home, we probably won't have anything to go home to."

TI: What other memories at Tule Lake? You mentioned going on these adventures to Castle Rock and Abalone Mountain. What other memories do you have?

BK: Oh, I remember my tap dancing teacher go through the, we used to skate on the sewer pond, and she fell through and I laughed my head off. [Laughs]

TI: So you have to describe this. So this was during the winter, you're talking about ice skating on the frozen sewer.

BK: Uh-huh, sewer pond.

TI: And your, and who fell through?

BK: My tap dancing teacher. And my, you know Yukio Shimoda?

TI: No, I don't know...

BK: You don't know Yukio Shimoda? Oh, he was an actor, but he was my modern dance teacher. And do you know Judge Sakuma?

TI: No, I don't.

BK: Oh. I guess if (you didn't) live here, you (wouldn't) know him. He used to be a judge here, and his wife, Pearl, was my ballet teacher. So I used to take different kind of dancing lessons. And I had fun, and then I used to help with passing out the baby bottles to mothers. So I did some community work, kind of. Not paid, but on a volunteer basis.

TI: So going back to the dance, I'm wondering, were you able to get, in some cases, more exposure to things like modern dance, tap and ballet at Tule Lake than you would have at Isleton?

BK: Well, like in Isleton, once a year we used to have a talent show, so I was used to tap dancing and hula and ballet and all that. So when I went to camp and found out through the recreation department they were giving all these classes, so I told my girlfriend, "Let's go and sign up." And she didn't want to, so I went. And I still remember we did it in one of the firebreaks in camp. And I remember doing ballet with the Yoshida sisters, and I remember Yukio Shimoda embarrassing the hell out of me.

TI: How did he do that?

BK: Because we were supposed to be leaned over in a conga line, and my nose itched, so I went and scratched my nose. And he just happened to catch me, and, you know, so he said, "Why are you picking on your nose when you're supposed to be standing at attention?" And so I said, "If you don't like it, I'm not gonna stay," and I just left.

TI: Did he ever apologize, or did you ever go back?

BK: No. I went back, 'cause I wanted to dance.

TI: So you were just upset, you went back, but later on you came back, I see.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Earlier you mentioned how your family left Tule Lake to go to Arkansas, and that was right after the registration or the "loyalty questionnaire."

BK: Yeah.

TI: Can you describe that? I mean, what was it like for your family to answer those questions?

BK: They didn't talk about it, so I don't know. All I know is that my mom said we have to move.

TI: Do you recall, because you had older brothers, was it difficult for them to go through and answer those questions?

BK: They never talked about it either.

TI: Did you ever sense a tension, though, about these questions within the camp?

BK: No.

TI: So the first time you really kind of really thought about it was when your mother said, "We're gonna have to move to a new place."

BK: And then when I read about it now.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so when you, when your family decided to go from Tule Lake to someplace else, when you went to Jerome, were you one of the first families to leave, or had other families already left?

BK: I think there were quite a few, but then being that Jerome was already settled, and so they put us, not together, but all different blocks. So that was kind of sad, and then we were only there, I think, six weeks.

TI: Okay, so you went to Jerome. But before we move on to Rohwer, what was Jerome like? What was your first impression of Jerome?

BK: That there was a cute guy named Roy. [Laughs]

TI: And so who was Roy? Where did you see Roy?

BK: He was in our block. But there was only, we were only there for about six weeks, because my brother said he heard that Jerome was gonna close. So we moved on to Rohwer, 'cause Rohwer was gonna stay open 'til the very end.

TI: Now, so Jerome and Rohwer were pretty close to each other.

BK: Uh-huh, about maybe ten miles.

TI: Yeah, were there very many differences between Jerome and Rohwer when you went to one versus the other?

BK: I don't know too much about Jerome other than what I was telling my friend about, you know, being driven in a truck and all this dust coming up from the back. And then he said, "I might have been the driver." [Laughs]

TI: So you were just, maybe driving a little bit too fast and kicking up the dust.

BK: Yeah.

TI: How about the weather in Arkansas versus Tule Lake?

BK: Oh, it's a different kind of weather. It's like sleet, it's rain and ice, it was real, real cold weather.

TI: And so how long were you in Arkansas? You were, what, you said six months, or six weeks in Jerome?

BK: Six weeks in Jerome, and until the camp closed in September, I think.

TI: So about how long would that have been?

BK: I don't know.

TI: Okay. But were you there long enough for a whole year or was it less than a year?

BK: Yeah, I went to school in Rohwer. And towards the end, when people started leaving, I was the church secretary, I mean, the camp, block secretary for a while, and I even taught third grade school. And I said, "I'm not even a teacher, I'm only fifteen." I was fifteen or sixteen at the time. But then since everybody was leaving, they needed somebody to teach summer school.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And when you were in Arkansas, did you ever have any interactions with people outside of camp, either blacks or whites from Arkansas?

BK: Yeah, well, I didn't know that blacks were segregated from whites, not to the point where you can't sit next to each other. Because one time we were able to go to town and I got on the bus and went in the back where there was a seat open, and it was next to this black guy. And he got all excited and started perspiring, and he said, "You can't sit here, you can't sit here." And I said, "Well, I don't see any other seat open." And he said, "Did you know you're white and I'm black?" So I didn't know anything about discrimination at that point.

TI: Now, how did it feel for you to be called "white"? Because in Isleton, you went to a segregated school where the whites were over here and you were in the Oriental School. Now, in Arkansas, he's calling you "white."

BK: No, I corrected him and I said, "I'm yellow." [Laughs]

TI: And do you recall what he said? Did he say anything back?

BK: He just said, "I never heard of yellow." But he still kept saying I can't sit here, I can't sit here. So he finally moved. I don't know where he went to on the bus, but he finally moved.

TI: That's interesting, because he was just so nervous or unsettled by having you sit there next to him.

BK: Yeah.

TI: And so what did you think about that? I mean, did you think about that whole experience?

BK: No, because in Isleton, we only had one black family, and they worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. So I just knew Charlie, and he got to go to the white school. [Laughs]

TI: Boy, everything is just so interesting how mixed up it is.

BK: Yeah.

TI: So you had a black family who sent their child to the white school.

BK: Yeah.

TI: You had the Oriental School, but then when you went to Arkansas, you were considered white. And then the blacks thought you were white. It's just very mixed up.

BK: So, you know, there's a lot to be learned yet.

TI: Well, you were a very curious person. So when all these little things happened, how did you make sense of it? I mean, what would you think?

BK: I just thought it was dumb. And my mother just said, "You do the best you can." And then she said, "There must have been a reason why he didn't want you to sit next to me.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: It sounds like you and your mother had a pretty close relationship.

BK: Oh, yeah.

TI: That you were able to...

BK: I talked to her a lot.

TI: Yeah, which is, in some cases, unusual. You don't get as much of that communication sometimes between Niseis and Issei.

BK: Well, even after I took Sam home to meet my family, and I told my mom he was from Wakayama, and he's not Buddhist, he's Christian. And then the following month when we went to visit her, she had a picture of Jesus Christ. [Laughs]

TI: And what did that say to you that your mother would do that?

BK: That everybody's the same. So even when I, you know, talked about church and stuff, my mother said, "As long as you raise your kids in some kind of church," she didn't care. She didn't say I have to be a Buddhist or marry a Buddhist.

TI: Now, how would you describe her personality? What was she like in terms of her personality?

BK: I think she was very outgoing and very understanding. Not just for the Japanese, but for everybody. I mean, even when I asked her, I said, "How come we're in Japantown and then the Chinese are in Chinatown and then the whites are beyond the parks and the post office and stuff?" And she said, "Well, that's how this town is, so you just make the best of it." And she said, "You have everything you need in Japantown, so you don't have to go. And if you want to go, go pick up the mail. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so Betty, so I want to ask, so it sounds like your mother said all these things in terms of, "Sometimes this is just the way it is." But then earlier you talked about how when the principal had that assembly and you told him to go to hell, when that other girl made a comment about "come see the Jap girl" and you got mad. So you weren't the type to just say, "Well, that's the way it is," and to be quiet about it. You actually were very outspoken.

BK: I don't know when I became... I think it kind of started in Rohwer. When we were leaving, my girlfriend's mother had appendicitis. And I guess they didn't get to her, to the hospital in time, so she lost a lot of weight. And then my friend was the only child, and then that's when I went to the block manager and I said, "Who's gonna take care of her?" I mean, I wasn't thinking about her coming with us, 'cause her mother was still in the hospital. But I said, "Who's gonna take care of her?" She didn't have a dad.

TI: And so you felt like, it seems like you decided that you had to speak out, especially for those who didn't speak out for themselves, you needed to somehow voice these things.

BK: Yeah. That's why my kids always say, "You worry and want to take care of everybody." I know I worry about other people.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So I want to now go from Jerome and back to Isleton. When you first went back to Isleton, how much had it changed? Because you had a picture of Isleton before the war, and then everyone, the Japanese left, and then you went back. How had Isleton changed?

BK: Oh, well, we didn't go into town that much because we lived in this camp, another camp. So as far as change goes, I remember my kid brother, they didn't know where to put him because he was Asian and there were no other... so I said, "Well, just put him in with the rest of the students." And I think that's when they...

TI: They integrated the schools?

BK: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: But when you think about the stores, before, the stores were being run by, the stores that were being run by the Japanese. When you would walk in town, who would be running the stores afterward?

BK: Mostly, most of 'em were boarded up. And the stores that were open were like Filipino. And I think there was a Chinese restaurant.

TI: So it was a combination of some still boarded up and a few of them run by either Chinese or Filipino.

BK: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Okay, I'm glad we got that. I just wanted to kind of go through that whole area when you left Isleton and then when you came back. The other thing I wanted to just touch upon are sort of... when you think of future generations, earlier you were asking, well, you don't think the Sanseis and Yonseis are that interested. Tell me why Yonseis and Sanseis and Goseis should be interested in the lives of the Isseis and Niseis. What's important that we can learn from...

BK: Well, I think for me, it's important that my kids know that there was a war and I was in, you know, in camp and all that. But I think intermarriages are... I mean, I think there's more Japanese and others than Chinese and others or Filipino and others. It's mostly Japanese and others. 'Cause all my kids... yeah, they're all married or going around with, living with hakujin.

TI: So Japanese have a high interracial marriage...

BK: Yeah, I think so.

TI: And so how do you feel about that?

BK: I feel fine. I feel fine. I mean, like my second daughter said, "If you can find me a Japanese guy," says, "you better go bake me one in the oven."

TI: But then so thinking about, so future generations of Japanese Americans will, you're right, it's starting to get mixed in terms of the racial component. But in terms of values, you don't need to be necessarily all Japanese to understand some of the values that you've, that the Isseis and Niseis had growing up. Which ones are the important ones? What would be important for your, say, great-grandchildren to have in terms of...

BK: Well, I want to know, them to know that they're Japanese.

TI: And what does that mean, to be Japanese, to you?

BK: I don't know. Look like us. My... even speaking Japanese, my second daughter knows a lot more Japanese than any of the others.

TI: So let's talk about values in terms of work. What would be important, what would be Japanese about work, for instance?

BK: It doesn't matter. I think if they're capable of doing something, I mean, go for it.

TI: How about community? What would be Japanese about community?

BK: Like I said, like in Sacramento, like the Florin JACL we used to belong to. I mean, the Japanese community know about it. I said, "Why don't you put some things in the Bee so other people will know what the Japanese are doing?" I mean, you have an Asian Pacific newspaper that's all about Pacific Islanders and Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese. But who's reaching out to the majority of the people? Or not for long, because, you know, they're gonna take over. [Laughs]

TI: So you think it's important for the general population to know more about the Japanese experience.

BK: I think so. I mean, yeah, because we know about it, but then they don't. Because, like when I went to talk in Isleton a few years ago, and this guy stood up and called me a "Jap." And so things haven't changed in Isleton.

TI: And how long ago was this when this happened?

JS: Maybe about three years ago.

TI: Three years ago?

BK: Uh-huh.

TI: And I'm, and what was the reaction of the people at that meeting, or what happened?

BK: I talked to one lady and she said she was shocked. And I told my group what had happened, 'cause some of 'em were outside and they weren't all sitting down listening. So, and then I just looked at the guy and said, "What did you say?" and that was it. I didn't know who he was.

TI: And why do you think he used that term? Why did he call you...

BK: I don't know. I couldn't talk to him after that and tell him that it's a derogatory comment. And so I figured when I talked to this lady, I said, you know, "I guess Isleton really hasn't changed as far as segregation goes, or being biased," I said, "if people can go around calling me a 'Jap' yet in Isleton."

TI: So you've seen a lot of prejudice in your life in terms of, at Isleton, you saw it when you were in Arkansas with blacks. What is it going to take for people to be less prejudiced about other races? What's going to have to happen?

BK: Like I said, I think if we publicize what we're doing and make them aware that we're here.

TI: So education.

BK: You know, we're not going away. That's why like at the PTA meetings, you know, I said, "Don't just stand among yourselves, I mean, mingle. They're all people like us."

TI: Oh, so in some ways, Isleton, what I'm kind of understanding is Isleton may still be like this, in some ways, because of its history of being a segregated place. I mean, people... it still impacts it today because of that segregation, because people still kind of keep to their own groups, they're not used to mingling as much.

BK: Yeah.

TI: Interesting, that's good.

BK: And I told my kids, well, because my kids all have hakujin husbands or live in... I said, "Okay, so you don't marry a Japanese, but don't forget that you are Japanese. I don't want you to forget that you're Japanese."

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

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Okay, I'm going to switch gears a little bit, because I just wanted to have you talk a little bit about your family. So how did you meet your husband?

BK: Through a friend.

TI: And when was this and where did you meet?

BK: We've been married fifty-nine years, sixty years.

TI: And so sixty years ago, this is 2010, so about 1950, early '50s?

BK: We got married in 1950.

TI: And how many children do you have?

BK: Four.

TI: And can you tell me the names of your children?

BK: Mary Ann is...

TI: Oh, you don't have to worry about the age, you could just tell me the names.

BK: Mary Ann is the oldest, then David and Sandy and Wesley.

TI: Good. Because you've talked about your children and everything, I just wanted to make sure we got that. And so before I ask Jill if she has any more questions, I just wanted to ask you, is there anything else that we've left out? Is there a question or something that you'd like to answer, anything else that we should ask?

BK: Most places I go or to groups that I belong to, I just say, I mean, "Why aren't we spreading the word that we're here?" It bothers me that... you know, like we tell our friends that, "If you want to know about your mother-in-law's oral history, all you have to do is go to the Sac State library." And they don't even know about it. So we need to, you know, when we do projects like this, I mean, everybody should know, not just the Japanese. And that bothers me a lot.

TI: And so I'm going to see if Jill has any other questions.

JS: No, but you talked about, when we took a break, you were talking about that you have now great-grandchildren.

BK: Yeah.

JS: And what do you hope that your great-grandchildren will know about their family history?

BK: I hope as they grow older, that they would take little bit more interest in my heritage, my... because our oldest great-granddaughter is fourteen, and she doesn't know... well, my daughter doesn't know too much either so maybe, you know. So one day, yeah, to my great-granddaughter, when you get name tags with pictures on, I cut out all the pictures and I sent it to her, and I told her -- 'cause she likes to do crafts and stuff -- I said, "Grandma's sending you these so you can make a collage of your last name." So she'll know what her last name looks like in Japanese. And so as she grows older, because I give her things Japanese, I give her t-shirts with Japanese.

JS: And this is the grand-, great-granddaughter that lives in Colorado Springs?

BK: No, she lives, she lives here.

JS: Oh, okay.

BK: Yeah. And my nieces and nephews lived in Colorado Springs, so they get, if I send them t-shirts or anything, they get things written in Japanese. To let them know that their grandparents or their parents aren't telling you because their parents are, Yuriko is half-Japanese and half-white, and her husband is black. But I said, "You're still part of Japanese, so you need to..." so I send her those kind of things.

JS: So tell me more about the book that your son wants you to write and that you'd like to write.

BK: I told my kids that I've been wanting to write this book for over forty years, and mostly about my life in camp. So I said, "I'm gonna title it, 'Four Concentration Camps.'" And the second daughter says, "Oh, that's great," because she understands a little bit more because she's interested. But my older daughter, she could care less. She said, "I'll edit it for you," because she's an English major.

JS: Good. So do you like to write? Have you started?

BK: Not really. Oh, I used to like to write essays in Japanese at Japanese school. [Laughs] But I just feel that it's something that I should do even if it just reaches my family. 'Cause a lot of people don't know how camp was. And see, that's why I'm here. I have a real good friend who's, I always call her "half-Japanese" because she takes Japanese school classes, she takes ikebana and things Japanese, she takes in exchange students from Japan. And so we talk a lot. And she said, "I know about it because I'm interested. But you guys don't let anybody else know." I mean, you people as Sansei, do you think we tell enough people about what's going on?

TI: I think we have to do a much better job of telling more people. So I think that's part of why we're collecting these stories, so that we can share these with many more people. So I think, and that's why we're so thankful that you're willing to spend the time talking with us and being videotaped. So thank you so much.

BK: Oh, you're welcome.

JS: Thank you.

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