Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Nelson Takeo Akagi Interview
Narrator: Nelson Takeo Akagi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 3, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-anelson-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Were there other examples of that kind of discrimination in Lindsay, like other, kind of, facilities or...

NA: We couldn't go swimming into the public pool.

TI: Is that Japanese, was that also the Mexicans?

NA: I'm quite sure the Mexicans weren't allowed either, but the Japanese, I know, weren't allowed.

TI: And how would you know that Japanese could not swim there? Did you have a sign, or did you just know?

NA: No, word of mouth. Some other kids that lived only, maybe a hundred yards from the swimming pool, I think they tried to go in and they wouldn't let them. And by word of mouth, we all found out that we couldn't go in. So the Japanese American kids, the Niseis, we used to go in carpools seventeen miles away to a place called Three Rivers to go swimming in the river, and that was our swimming experience.

TI: And so when things like this happened, where the Japanese Niseis weren't allowed in the swimming pool, what would the Nisei say? Would you guys talk about that?

NA: Oh, we just, we were kind of discouraged, but we took it with a grain of salt. And then another thing, we could not join the Boy Scouts. No Japanese American kids could join the Boy Scouts except the boys from the grocery store owner, they lived in town, so they got to join the Boy Scouts, but none of the farmers' kids could join the Boy Scouts.

TI: So was part of it, do you think, the farmers and their children were kind of looked down upon from the city people? Do you think there was some of that going on, too?

NA: I'm quite sure it wasn't looked down upon. Well, I guess they did look down upon, because we didn't know any of the Caucasian boys our age in the town of Lindsay because we didn't go to school there. But the Japanese American family in town, they went to school with the kids that were in the Boy Scouts, so they got invited to probably go join the Boy Scouts. But oh yes, we really liked to have join the Boy Scouts because we heard about them going on camping trips and having meetings and having fun, and we wanted to get into some of that, too. We were kids, we wanted to go camping, so in order to go camping, the older Niseis, they got up their own little group and they went camping up Sequoia or wherever they could go. But they were the older, older Niseis that did that, but us younger ones, we didn't get a chance to go camping. But we did go to just, I can remember just one evening Scout gathering, where, where we had a wiener bake. And the reason we went to that one was because there was a man by the name of Wolfe, and I guess he felt sorry for us, so he says, "Okay, the Boy Scouts are having a party, I'm taking you guys over there to their party." And so he picked us up and, well, I don't know if he picked us up or our, the twins took us. But anyway, we were able to go because of that one fellow by the name of Wolfe. But he couldn't get us to...

TI: And who was, is it Mr. Wolfe, I mean, who was this person? Was he part of the Boy Scout organization?

NA: He must, he must have been a Scout leader.

TI: But it was only that one, one time that you were able to do this?

NA: Just that one time that he said, "You know, you kids should go to this meeting," and we went to that outing.

TI: So, so you weren't able to join the Boy Scouts, you couldn't use the town swimming pool. Any other examples of, sort of, you can remember being discriminated against?

NA: Not when I was growing up. Those are the two things that I really missed. There might have been other restrictions, but -- oh, there was another restriction. A town called Porterville, which was about fifteen miles away from Lindsay, they had a sign on the outskirts of town, "No Japs allowed."

TI: For the whole town? They wouldn't let Japanese...

NA: For the whole town. So the Japanese stayed away from that town.

TI: And what was the name of, it was Porterville?

NA: Porterville.

TI: And what kind of town was it? About the same size as Lindsay, or was it smaller?

NA: It was a little bigger, and it, but it was a farming community just like Lindsay. Yeah, Lindsay is just made up of orange and olive orchards, and when the Japanese Americans were there, we did the row crop farming, so that's what Lindsay was made up of. There was no industry.

TI: And so in Porterville, that's probably farming also.

NA: It was a farming community.

TI: And so were there, like, Japanese maybe outside Porterville?

NA: Oh, yes.

TI: But they couldn't go into town.

NA: But we couldn't go into town.

TI: So for them to do their shopping, would they have to go to Lindsay or some other place?

NA: Lindsay and Strathmore, and I guess those were the two towns. Because I didn't hear of anybody going to Exeter, which are, which was next to Lindsay.

TI: Now, growing up, do you ever recall the rationale for people like at Porterville, why they said, "No Japanese?" What were they worried about? Why didn't they let Japanese in?

NA: That's a good question, "Why?" Whether they thought, well, I guess there must have been some leader in town that says, "We don't want them," that was, I never did find out why.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.