Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Ted Nagata Interview
Narrator: Ted Nagata
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 3, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-nted-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: So today is June 3, 2008, and I'm here with Ted Nagata. And I'm Megan Asaka and the cameraperson today is Dana Hoshide, and we're here in Salt Lake City. So, Ted, thanks so much for doing this interview, I really appreciate it.

TN: My pleasure.

MA: I wanted to start out with asking, when were you born?

TN: I was born in 1935, October (5th). So that would make me seven years old just two months before Pearl Harbor.

MA: Okay. And where were you born?

TN: I was born in Santa Monica, California, and my family moved to Berkeley, California, around 1938.

MA: Okay, so you were pretty much raised in Berkeley.

TN: Uh-huh, right.

MA: What was the name given to you when you were born?

TN: Well, it's a name I'm not fond of, but it was Theodore Genichi -- which was my father's name -- Nagata. And I much prefer just Ted.

MA: I wanted to talk a little bit about your family background, because your parents are actually Nisei, right? Born in the U.S.?

TN: Uh-huh.

MA: So where was your father born?

TN: My father was from a big family of eight, I think there were six children. And he was the firstborn in Hilo, Hawaii. And from what I've been told, he was a boxer and he liked golf a lot.

MA: Do you know what his family was doing in Hilo?

TN: I'm sure they were farming just like everybody else. But it's strange that my father, being the oldest son, came to the mainland fairly soon, but the entire family stayed in Hawaii all the time, even today.

MA: Oh, okay. So do you know, like, how old he was when he came over to the mainland?

TN: I'd be guessing, but I would say maybe twenty-eight or so.

MA: And did he go, then, to Santa Monica at that point? Did he go to southern California?

TN: You know, I'm really not sure how he met my mother and what the circumstances were, but we did live in Santa Monica when I was born, and so was my sister.

MA: And just a little bit about your mother, where was she born?

TN: She was born in Livingston, California, and actually attended U.C. Berkeley for a time. And she was mainly a housewife, I don't believe she worked.

MA: And what type of work did your father do when you were, when you were growing up?

TN: I know he worked in sewing machine sales, and it might have even been his own business that he did, 'cause I know he continued that work in Topaz, actually. And from photographs that I saw, he was a salesperson in import/export in San Francisco. They had a Oriental store there.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: What are sort of some of your earliest memories of Berkeley? You must have been pretty young at that point. Do you have any memories of your childhood?

TN: I sure do. I was, like I say, seven, six, seven years old, and I had a good friend, his name was Walter, same age, and he lived across the street. And Reverend Nishikawa, who also went to Topaz, lived in a big white house right across the street from ours. And our address was 1538 Carlton Street. And I remember our house had a garage that you drove the car underneath the house. And I've been back there in other years, and that house is still standing. I went to Longfellow elementary school, and I believe I was in kindergarten and then, I turned seven, but I was still in kindergarten.

MA: Were most of your friends -- I don't know if you remember -- but were they mostly Japanese American back then?

TN: No, no. In fact, Walter, my Caucasian friend, is the only real friend that I can remember. Oh, and there was a black family that lived around the corner, and we were friendly with them, too.

MA: So can you tell me a little bit about your, your sister, Carol?

TN: Carol is one year older than I am, and she went to Longfellow as well. And I haven't really talked to Carol a lot about the internment, but I know her personality is completely different than mine, and to my knowledge, she's never given an interview about Topaz. But she had a hard time in Topaz. She did tell me that she was lonesome and she didn't have many friends. So Topaz was a very hard experience, whereas for me, I was more outgoing, and I picked up friends fairly easily. As a boy, I could run out, and it was adventurous, and we could go on hikes and things. And so I had a lot of fun, yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So I want to talk about, then, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Do you recall anything about that day or even the, sort of, months following that day?

TN: You know, I can remember Pearl Harbor, and I know it was a time of, sort of, terror in our house. I mean, we didn't, I know something bad happened, and I kept hearing everybody saying, "The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor," and of course I knew what that meant. And my father... I remember, I was only seven at the time, but he seemed a little concerned. He didn't know what was going to happen. I don't think he really fully had an understanding of what was going on, to tell us young kids. And I do remember the days after Pearl Harbor, we went back to school, and there were some names called at me. And I could tell that it wasn't a good time to be a Japanese at that point. And then my friend Walter told me later that he was very sorry to see me going, and I didn't know what he was talking about. He seemed to know a lot more about it that I did. But shortly after that, I understood what was happening.

MA: Right, so then you felt a definite change in the way that people treated you before and after Pearl Harbor?

TN: Yeah, I did. I think there was a little bit of discrimination before Pearl Harbor, but after that, it became pronounced. And I can remember even some Chinese people walking around with a sign, "I am Chinese" just so that they wouldn't take the brunt of this.

MA: Right.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So Executive Order 9066 was issued in February. Do you recall that time, sort of packing up the house and talking about leaving, and what was the atmosphere like in your house?

TN: Well, I know the FBI came and took our cameras and our binoculars and radios and things like that way before the notice went up on the telephone poles. But yeah, there was concern in our house, and I know my mother and father were having some serious discussions that I didn't understand. Yeah, it's hard to remember everything that took place at that age, but I do remember Greyhound buses, we, since we could only take what we could carry, in effect, that means we lost, many people lost their homes, their cars, their business, their furniture, their bank accounts. I mean, some of them sold it for, like, five dollars, I mean, for a hundred dollars' worth of merchandise, you might sell it for five dollars. And so there was a huge amount of personal property loss. And as I was saying, the government told us we could only carry, take what we could carry so we took it on, lined it up on the sidewalk, and there were these Greyhound buses lined up. And some of the Japanese people were not leaving that day, but they were all there saying goodbye, and hugs and kisses. And there were many Caucasian people there, too, and they were giving their condolences. And some of these Caucasians would even store some of the possessions for the Japanese people.

MA: What happened to your possessions and where did you take them?

TN: Right. The government said at the time that they would provide warehouses to store all this stuff, and, but there was one catch and that is you had to assume all the risk of storage, meaning that if they were stolen or damaged, the government cannot be held responsible. And so we put all of our things in the warehouses that the government provided, but after the war, we were notified that we could not come back to pick 'em up, because they were all gone, and where they went, I have no idea. But I think that happened to most of the people that put them in there.

MA: Right, so essentially all of your belongings were gone.

TN: Right, and that's a story about the internment that really isn't too widely known. It was bad enough to lose three and a half years of your life, but to lose all of your family possessions, your property, your car, your businesses and starting over from scratch, that part was just as hard.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: So you, then, remember that day, leaving, and you were headed to Tanforan, is that correct?

TN: Right. They put us on a Greyhound bus, and I can remember sitting on the bus and seeing us go over this bridge, and we were going to San Bruno, which is not too far from Berkeley. And the first place we had to stay -- because all of this took place so quickly that the government didn't have time to prepare a place for us. I mean, ten or twelve thousand people from the Bay Area going into one racetrack, and that's what it was. It was called Tanforan Racetrack. There were some barracks built, but most of them were not, so where did they put us? They put us in the horse stalls. And I can distinctly remember that the floors had hay on 'em, and smelled like a horse had been there recently. And we had straw mattresses, and the smell was quite evident. But thankfully, the government just had us stay there six or eight weeks, and then they moved us to barracks.

MA: You mean they moved you from the horse stalls to barracks?

TN: To barracks they were building. And the barracks were located inside the track, and they were, I don't know, 20x40 feet and maybe four or five families were in each barrack. And there were no walls, I mean, it was just one big room with four or five families, so what we did was we strung up string on the ceilings, and then just hung sheets over the string, and that was our walls. This area was one family, and right through the sheet was the other family. It still didn't provide privacy, but it was better than nothing.

MA: Right. How did you spend your time in Tanforan? What did you occupy yourself with during that time?

TN: Well, as a seven-year-old boy I was just playing. I remember one day I fell down and cut my wrist fairly badly. And I've still got that scar, but it got sewed up. As a young boy -- and we were only there six months, so that was about it.

MA: During that time in Tanforan, what was the atmosphere like in your family? I mean, was it, did your parents talk about what would happen, what they thought was gonna happen? Did they talk about... what sorts of things went on?

TN: Well, one of the bad things about this internment was the government put these signs on telephone poles and said -- oh, I might add, they only gave one week to collect all your items that you were gonna bring. And all of the items that you were gonna leave behind, you had to make provisions for, meaning that you either sold them or put 'em in these storage warehouses. And I mean, how can you sell everything in one week, let alone a year? It'd be hard to do. So anyway, there was a great, great loss there of personal property. And I kind of forgot what I was... my point was.

MA: How were your, just about your parents and how they were in Tanforan specifically, and how they were...

TN: Oh, that's right. Well, you know, I really can't say that I remember that part too clearly. I mean, we just lived in this sheet-filled room, which was probably not much bigger than this area right here, and there was a bed, and we'd just go in there and sit down on the bed and look at the bare walls. And the barracks were similar to the ones in Topaz, tarpaper. I do know my dad had some kind of leadership position, he was a barrack sergeant or something, yeah.

MA: Was there any sort of school set up for the kids, or did you, do you remember going to school at all, having classes in Tanforan?

TN: For six months -- I guess they must have had some kind of school, but I don't recall going to school there.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So then after the six months in Tanforan, then you were sent on to Topaz.

TN: Right. We were put in Tanforan while Topaz and the other ten camps were being built. And so after six months they put us onto a train and told us to keep the blinds down. I think the government didn't want people to know that the Japanese were being transported. But we arrived in Delta and were put into army trucks and taken out sixteen miles straight out into the desert. And that was our first glimpse of Topaz, our home for the next three years.

MA: What were you thinking at that point when you saw Topaz in the desert?

TN: The best way to describe Topaz is it was very barren. It was just flat, and there was sagebrush, and there was high winds and there were dust all over. And temperature was very hot, near a hundred degrees. And we actually didn't see Topaz because the dust was so thick. All we could see out there was just a cloud of dust. As we got closer, we could see the barracks emerge, and there were no nearby mountains, although Topaz was named after Topaz Mountain, but that was about ten miles away. And everybody didn't know what to expect, trying to find out which apartment they should go to. And part of the labor force from Tanforan was put there first to finish the barracks, 'cause they were not finished when we got there. But eventually, everybody got settled.

MA: So what were your living conditions like?

TN: Well, we, the barrack was made out of pine board with tarpaper on the outside and one sheet of sheetrock on the inside. And with temperatures at a hundred degrees in the summer and below zero in the winter, it wasn't much insulation. And for heat we had one potbellied stove in each unit, and I must say, each unit was different size. We had units for families of six and units for families of three, and we even had units for bachelors, for a single occupant. So each block was about the size of Salt Lake City's blocks, they were quite large. There were twelve barracks in each block. The entire block housed about 250 people, and each block had a latrine, a shower and a laundry and a coal pile. And one barrack was reserved for recreation, although it was hardly ever used. And in the middle of the camp there was a block manager's office, and we'd often go in there and play chess and play other card games. And then on that same block manager's office was the mess hall, and in one of those photos, I have a picture of a mess hall that was used on a farm, and you can see the distinct shape of it. And many buildings in Delta are being used as homes and farm storage areas, even today.

MA: That used to be the barracks.

TN: That used to be the barracks, uh-huh. And in fact, some of the barracks went to the University of Utah, and I actually had classes in some of them. All of the buildings were sold or taken, used by somebody, and there are no barracks on the site now, completely flat.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: So you attended elementary school in Topaz.

TN: Right, it was called Desert View elementary. I have a photo of me in the class.

MA: What are some of your memories of that, of school?

TN: They were good memories. We both had Japanese teachers, and they were very good. And even after we came back to Salt Lake, one teacher lived here in Salt Lake, and so we kept in touch for quite a while. But most of the teachers were internees, and we did have some government teachers, and they were nice, too. There was one teacher that even today, many of the internees, the older internees still keep in touch with her. But I never went to high school in camp, so I can't say anything about that. They did have a gymnasium, and athletics was a big part of Topaz because everybody had so much time on their hands. And the young boys played football, baseball and basketball, and they were very good. I know they played Delta High and Hinkley High School, and even some all-stars from, Japanese all-stars from Salt Lake City came down and played the all-stars from Topaz. And by and large, they won most of their games, I'd say eighty percent of the games.

MA: What sports were you involved with in camp?

TN: You know, I didn't play baseball, I didn't play basketball. I guess I was just too young, they didn't have organized leagues for my age.

MA: What about friends that you made in camp? Do you remember making friends?

TN: Right, we lived in the block, it was Block 26, 2-D was our apartment, and right across the street was that gang of kids that I showed you the picture of, and they were good friends. In fact, I was playing a golf tournament in Reno, and this one guy looked familiar, and sure enough, he was one of those kids, and he told me what happened to the rest of 'em, it was quite interesting. But there was no lack of friends in Topaz.

MA: That group of friends you were talking about, were most of them from the same area, from Berkeley and the Bay Area?

TN: Uh-huh. Everybody in Topaz was from the Bay Area. I understand there was a few from Santa Anita in southern Cal., but probably ninety-five percent were from the Bay Area.

MA: What type of work did your father do in camp? What was he involved with?

TN: Well, he was always a mechanical type individual, he was good with his hands. And he did work in some machine shop in Topaz. And the government did pay the Topaz people a small wage, I think it was nineteen dollars a month or something, it wasn't anything large. But he did that, and then as security became less and less, they allowed many men to go outside the camp to work. And I know my father worked in the sugar beet fields in Spanish Fork, and for a short time he worked in the mines in Price.

MA: How long was he usually gone when he would work outside of camp?

TN: He would be gone about two, two-and-a-half months at a time. It wasn't for long periods. But I think the men enjoyed that because it was, boredom was kind of a problem, I think, and just for them to be able to get out and stretch their legs and do some work, I think mentally was good for them.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: And what about your mother? How did she occupy her days?

TN: Well, my mother had a very hard time in Topaz, and the stress of incarceration and being called the enemy, and why was the government doing this? She was a college person, so she knew her rights. It just affected her to the point where she couldn't carry on. She never did recover from that. So my mother was a real casualty of Topaz, and I'm sure there were many others, too.

MA: How did that sort of affect you? I mean, you were a young child at that point.

TN: Right. Well, it made my sister and I grow up fairly fast because without our mother to help us, we had to learn and do many things ourselves, and many things we went without. I mean, like brushing our teeth every day and taking a bath every day, some of those kinds of things we lost out on, because we didn't have people pushing us to do it every day. And even after the war, when we came to Salt Lake, we were, my sister and I were put into an orphanage because my father couldn't quite handle us and finding a job and trying to find a place to live. So we spent a year in St. Anne's orphanage, which by the way is still here, and it's quite a large Catholic church. And my sister and I quite enjoyed that stay there. And when we got out, my father had found this adobe house, this pioneer house that I told you about. It was not much of a house, but we painted it and put a picket fence up and tried to put a lawn in front. It actually looked pretty good from what it was in the beginning, but it was home. It was the only home that we ever had, I mean, except for before the war. And I spent my junior high years there and my high school years, and I had only Caucasian friends. And they were very nice, I mean, some were nicer than others. One time I could, I was standing outside the door and I could hear the mother inside telling his, her son, "See? I told you you shouldn't play with those Japs." But those were far and few between, and we overcame them as kids. You know, kids just judged me for the kid that I am. My growing up days in that adobe house were not unpleasant.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: So going back a little bit to Topaz, any other memories or things you want to share about your time in Topaz, do you recall?

TN: Well, I do recall the security in Topaz was, was very stringent when we got there. The first few months there were barbed wire completely around the area, and there were guard towers and there were guards and guns inside those towers, and security was very tight. Nobody could go outside without a special pass. And in fact one day, Mr. Wakatsu, I believe his name was, was walking by the fence and somebody said he was hard of hearing, and the guard told him to stop and he didn't understand, and the guard shot him and he died. It caused quite a disturbance in the population, there was a big funeral for him. But thankfully, that never happened again.

MA: Was there a lot of anger within the community about, about the guard and about, sort of, the government?

TN: Oh, absolutely. Right, they saw no reason to shoot the man because he wasn't going outside the gate, he was just walking along the fence. But the aftermath of that, though, is quite interesting. I would say after six months, six or eight months after we got there, the security in Topaz was nonexistent. In fact, there were no more guards up there, there were no guns, and nobody was in the guard towers. And as young boys, we could go outside the barbed wire anytime, we just lift it up, step out, and we could go into the desert anytime we wanted.

MA: Why do you think there was such a drastic change?

TN: Well, I think that the U.S. government realized that this whole incarceration just wasn't working out like they thought. I mean, here we were, eight thousand internees in that camp. Were we the enemy? It was pretty apparent that we weren't. Were we espionage agents? Absolutely not. We were just ordinary U.S. citizens, and I think this became quite apparent to the government, and that is the reason that classes could go out on field trips. In fact, we went, as a class we went into Delta and toured the Brooklawn Creamery. And many of the men like my father went outside to work, and many, many students were able to go back east and finish their schooling. So it became evident, I think, to the government that this whole evacuation was a big, major mistake.

MA: You mentioned you would go into Delta. Was there, how was the relationship, or how were you treated, I guess, by the people in Delta? Do you remember any incidents?

TN: Well, as children touring a creamery, of course, there were no incidents there. But I do remember going into Delta after the war, after we were back in Salt Lake and we took a trip down there just to kind of see. And we went into a restaurant, and you could just feel there was a little hostility there, it wasn't quite like perfect, you know. But nothing happened, and we got served.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So you were in Topaz for three and a half years, you said.

TN: We were in Tanforan for six months, and then Topaz for three years. And we were, as far as I can remember, we were the last family to leave Topaz.

MA: What was it like then?

TN: Oh, it was, it was dark, and of course, there were no lights on in the other barracks. And it was dusty, it was like a ghost town. And one of the saddest things was we had this collie dog, and we had to leave the collie dog behind because they wouldn't let us take it, and that was very sad.

MA: So your family went, then, from Delta, from Topaz, to Salt Lake City directly?

TN: Uh-huh. They took us to Delta and put us on a train, and I remember the train went across the salt flats, Great Salt Lake flats, and pulled into the UP Depot. And I can distinctly remember stepping over the tracks and sitting on these long benches inside the depot. And I kind of asked my dad, "Where are we going?" and he had no idea. He only had twenty-five dollars that the government gave us. Eventually we ended up in a tenement room, I mean, it was only ten feet by ten feet, it had a gas stove because I remember my dad would cook chicken noodle soup. And we had a lady that would come in every week and check on us, and later I was to find that she was a social worker and we were a welfare family. And I can remember since -- oh, that tenement house was right where the Salt Palace is, so it wasn't very far from downtown. And I can remember that me and my sister were wanting to go see Santa Claus at the ZCMI Center so bad, and I had a cold. And I waited a day or two and finally I was able to go see Santa Claus, that was a big thrill. And then even in Topaz, one of the big thrills was having a Baby Ruth bar and a bottle of Coca-cola. That was the living end. We didn't have that too often.

MA: So how, how long were you in the, that housing that you were talking about?

TN: The tenement?

MA: Right.

TN: Not very long, because from there, my dad, I remember we took a trip to St. Ann's, which was part of a large Catholic church, and we met with the nuns and the father. And I remember the room was so big and we were small, and the door was so huge to open, and I was kind of flabbergasted.

MA: Is St. Ann's in Salt Lake City?

TN: It's in Salt Lake, uh-huh. It's still there. But my dad did make arrangements for us to be there, and we were there about a year. And we learned the Catholic faith, we had to say our rosary every day and learn to read the Bible, and was taught class by the nuns. And we had to do KP duty in the basement, which was peeling potatoes. And then we'd go upstairs to sleep and there was a big room of about, there must have been forty beds with young people sleeping in 'em, young boys, and the girls had their own sleeping area. I did some artwork in there, and I think that was my first taste of being an artist.

MA: Who were the other children that were there? Did you get to know them pretty well, and what were their backgrounds?

TN: Most of 'em were Caucasians, and some I have even run into after forty years, and they seem to remember me and I remember them. One incident I remember, this boy named Dick Hunsaker, it was Valentine's Day and made a valentine for every children in the class. And I thought that was so nice until I found out that he only got about two valentines for himself. That story has always stayed with me; it's a good lesson in giving, I think.

MA: Were you able to keep in contact with your parents during this time? Did they come visit?

TN: Oh, yes, they would come. They didn't live too far away.

MA: And so it was only a temporary thing that you were staying there? It was, you knew that? You knew that was only a temporary...

TN: Oh, yes, it was just a matter of time, although it was a year's time.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So then you went back to living with your parents right after, after that year.

TN: Uh-huh, after St. Ann's, we, my father found that adobe house in, it was a pioneer house. And we lived in there, and it was kind of a duplex. I mean, you could have another family live on the other side. And we had another Japanese family move in there, and so we were very good friends with them, too.

MA: Was this another family who had been in Topaz and relocated?

TN: You know, I can't remember if they were in Topaz or not. They might have been Utah people.

MA: What work was your father doing at this point? Where was he working?

TN: Well, he was looking for work, and he finally found a job at Cudahy Meat Packing Company as a mechanic there. And like I say, he was always good with his hands. And later on, he, like I said, was doing his sewing machine business on the side. What he would do is take a treadle sewing machine and put a motor on it, so the ladies had converted electric sewing machines. And even today, I talk to many people who said, "Oh, you know, your dad sold me this sewing machine," it must have been fifty years ago. And then he sort of went into selling appliances from his truck. He had a little green panel truck, and I would go with him to help install. And those were the days when TV was just beginning, and I remember crawling up a roof and then onto a tree to try and get this rabbit-ear, or this TV antenna to bring in the signal from, they didn't live in Salt Lake, they were usually out on the farm. Those were the days, Imogene Coca and Lucky Strike programs, I can't remember. So he, he was trying to sell TVs, and he would sell quite a few to people in Dugway, Utah, and they were, many Indian families and some Japanese out there. But that was a good market for him. And I would go out there and sit in the car for maybe an hour while he's in there selling it, and then go back and help him install it.

MA: Why do you think that was such a good market for him, the Indian community?

TN: Well, because I don't think the major appliance stores went out there. And like I said, TV was so new, and anything like that would attract the people out there.

MA: So what school were you attending at that time? Elementary?

TN: I went to -- yeah, I went to Jackson elementary for a year, I believe, and then Jackson junior high, and then I went to West High after that.

MA: And what neighborhood was, this new house, the adobe house, what neighborhood was it in?

TN: That was on the west side. It was probably the poorer part of town, and all the kids in that area went to West High.

MA: Was it mostly Japanese American or was it mixed race?

TN: It was mixed, uh-huh, mostly Caucasian people, with a handful of Japanese. But then being Japanese, I, we all kind of gravitated towards each other. And by the time I was a junior in high school, all of my friends were just Japanese, and we would hang out together. And we would do things like going down to J-town and playing pool all day. And we had a Japanese basketball league, and so all of us took part in that. And we were just learning how to play golf then, none of us even owned equipment, but we'd go down to the driving range and hit a few balls.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: Can you describe Japantown in Salt Lake City and what it was like?

TN: Yeah. Japantown was quite a thriving block. It was, oh, maybe a block and a half on First South, from where our church is, which is right next to the Delta Center. And it extended a block, two blocks to the east, and there were your typical mix of stores, a grocery store, a fish market. There were two pool halls and about three cafes. There was a jewelry store, there was an appliance store and another small grocery store. There were two barbers on the street, and there was a leather saddle shop on the street. And there were Chinese people who ran another restaurant there.

MA: Was there a Chinatown as well?

TN: No, it was Japanese.

MA: The Japanese American community at that point, was it a mix of sort of people who had been there before the war and those who had come, like your family, after?

TN: It was mainly the people there before the war, yeah. And my wife's father ran the fish market, which was a very lucrative business, and everybody from, who was Japanese throughout the state would come to that fish market because that was the only place they could buy Japanese food. And I remember my favorite fish there was barracuda, and you can hardly buy that anymore. And my wife's brothers were quite popular in the basketball area. There was a large group of young boys that were older than I, just a few years older, that played a lot of basketball and a lot of baseball, and they were quite good.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: Did you discuss camp or anything like that with your friends, or was that a topic of discussion at all when you were in junior high and high school?

TN: You know, not many people asked me about the internment when I was in high school. And my Caucasian friends around my house, I don't think they ever asked me about it, although they may have known about it. And I find it kind of ironic that here it is, what is it, sixty years after internment, and there is more interest in the internment sixty, fifty years after it happened than the first twenty-five years after it happened. There's calls for interviews for this, and there's been half a dozen large front page newspaper articles about it.

MA: Why do you think that shift happened?

TN: Well, I think it's hard to believe that people's constitutional rights could just be disregarded in such a blatant manner, and it shows how racism can dictate many things, and hysteria, wartime hysteria. Well, as you know, the government did reimburse the surviving internees with $20,000. I think it happened in 1988, but that was, I don't know, some thirty-five, forty years after it happened, and the people that really needed that money had all passed away.

MA: The Isseis?

TN: Right, and so it was a little bit late, and their families didn't benefit even though they were sons and daughters. But only the people living like myself, and that was not the majority.

MA: Was there ever any -- talking about redress -- was there ever any, I mean, your family, it seemed like, was one of the few that had resettled to Salt Lake City. Was there any talk between the two, sort of, groups within the Japanese American community in Salt Lake City about redress, or any sort of tension or feelings about redress in terms of people in Salt Lake City who lived there before the war experienced discrimination but didn't necessarily get compensated? Did you hear any of that talk?

TN: You mean the ones that did not evacuate?

MA: Right.

TN: No, I can't recall any talk about that, although they were affected, only in a different way than we were. But at least they were able to keep their homes. Although a few of them were deported to Montana, these special camps they had.

MA: Right, the Department of Justice camps?

TN: Right, uh-huh.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So going back a little bit, I wanted to talk a little bit about your high school experience. And at that point, you had mentioned earlier that you developed a sense of, that you really liked art when you were in St. Ann's.

TN: Uh-huh.

MA: When you were in high school, did you pursue art as a hobby?

TN: Well, as far as I can remember back, I guess starting in high school, I did like to draw a lot. And so I always knew in the back of my mind that I was gonna be an artist. And in high school, I did some paintings that they actually hung up on the walls, I took a lot of art classes and did very well in it. So when I got out of high school, there was no questioning what field I was gonna go to.

MA: How did your father feel about you pursuing a career in art or in that field?

TN: Well, my father was not very talkative about my career, but I'm sure he was very pleased that I went to college and that I worked myself through college. He tried to help us as best he could, but he just didn't make that much money. And my sister also went to college, and she became a nurse. It worked out pretty well.

MA: And you attended the University of Utah?

TN: Utah, uh-huh.

MA: So how, what types of jobs did you do to support yourself through college?

TN: Let's see. I did gardening work in the beginning, and that was backbreaking, it was very hard work, I remember that. But later in my college, I got a job at the Hotel Utah parking garage, and that was parking cars for people that came in after midnight. And, of course, there weren't too many, so I could study and work at the same time, and that, that job basically got me through college.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: I wanted to ask you about the Mormon church in Salt Lake City, and what the interactions were like, if there were any, with the Japanese American community and the Mormon community?

TN: Well, actually, I was a, all of my friends were Mormons, the Caucasian friends, and I would, I actually went to their Boy Scout troop meetings, and went to a few Sunday morning worships. And to me, it was, the Mormons were nice people. And as I grew up out of my Caucasian friends and into my Japanese friends, I kind of left the LDS church behind and actually joined the Japanese Church of Christ, which is a Presbyterian church.

MA: Were you actually a member of the LDS church, or just sort of informal?

TN: No, I never actually joined.

MA: Okay.

TN: But I did participate. But I did get baptized into the Presbyterian church.

MA: And that, the Japanese Church of Christ is one of the two Japanese churches in Salt Lake City, right?

TN: Right, the other is the Buddhist temple, and it's right across the street, and that's where my wife went to church. And when we got married, we actually got married in the Buddhist temple, and over the years, we somehow gravitated back to the Presbyterian church, and that's where we go now and my children go also.

MA: Do you know of many Japanese Mormons, or Japanese Americans who became Mormons?

TN: Oh, yes. Right after the war ended, there were very many legislators who were saying, "We don't want the Japanese people in our state. I mean, we'll take 'em for a short time, but we want them to just ship out." But the Mormon church did not take that stance, and they were very friendly to the Japanese internees. And as a result, many of them actually joined the Mormon church. And today, I would say there are more Japanese Mormons than there are Buddhists and Presbyterians combined.

MA: Oh, that's interesting.

TN: And the Mormons are a good group because they're very family-oriented. I may not believe in all their customs, but as a family group, you can't beat 'em.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So we're back from the break, and I wanted to talk with you about your experience in college, the University of Utah. So did you, at that point you were pretty clear that you were going to study art, is that right?

TN: Uh-huh. In fact, I received a scholarship for that.

MA: To, for art?

TN: For art.

MA: What was your specialty that you ended up gravitating towards?

TN: Well, they called it commercial art in those days, but it's known as graphic design now. But that was in 1959, I believe, that I received my BFA, and then I went back a year later and received a graduate degree. And I was told at the time that was the first, I was the first student to receive a graduate degree in commercial art.

MA: It's interesting, I was gonna say it seemed like it's a new, it would have been a new field at that point.

TN: Well, yeah. Well, it wasn't new, but I guess getting a graduate degree was new, yeah.

MA: You mentioned to me earlier that you left for a while to go, and you moved to California?

TN: Uh-huh.

MA: When, at what point did you do that?

TN: That was right after I graduated.

MA: From high school, or college?

TN: No, from college. Well, actually before I graduated I did go to college, I mean, to California as a, you know, a nineteen year old, just looking for fun, and I actually worked in an art job during that time. And I could see that I wouldn't get very far unless I did have a college degree, so I lost a year and a half or so just playing around, and then I came back to Salt Lake and finished my degree. But I the meantime, I had gotten married. So even after I graduated, I left my family here, 'cause I wanted to see what it was like working in California.

MA: Where did you go in California?

TN: To Los Angeles.

MA: What were your impressions of Los Angeles?

TN: You know, I kept saying to myself, "This, this is a great place to work, but it's no place to raise a family. And you know how traffic and smog, and I remember one year, the heat was like 108 degrees with torrid humidity, and the traffic, I mean, every day I went to work was like risking my life. So I said, "No, this is not for me," so after a year I came back and I worked a little bit for somebody else, and then started my own business, Ted Nagata Graphic Design, Inc.

MA: And what year did you start your business?

TN: 1962. And I operated that for forty-one years, and I had some good success at it, never had any problems getting work.

MA: Yeah, I was gonna ask, as a Japanese American, did you ever feel -- especially as a business owner -- like, was there ever any resistance to you or any bad experiences?

TN: Isolated cases, but by and large, I think being Japanese, people have this image that, "Oh, the Japanese people are very artistic," so it worked to my advantage in most cases. But, of course, you had to do good work or that wouldn't last long. And like I say, for forty-one years it was a good business. And my, oh, I have to say my wife put me through college, I mean, she was, she had gone to the university for a short time, and then we got married and she knew I had to keep going to school. And so she gave up her college career so she could work and let me go to school. And after I got out, then we started to have children, and she raised the family. And so I'll always be grateful to her for that.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: How did you meet your wife?

TN: My wife was the sister of one of the Japanese boys that we played around with in basketball. I always noticed her, but I never thought we would get together. But we finally did, and that was in 1958, so it's been fifty years.

MA: And you mentioned that you got married in the Buddhist church.

TN: That's right. We, we actually got married in the Buddhist church, and for some reason, we gravitated towards the Christian church, and she got baptized there, all of our kids go there, although we have many friends at the Buddhist church, and we still attend a lot of their functions. In fact, the two churches work very well together, holding bazaars and things.

MA: How, about how old are both churches? When were they established?

TN: Well, our church is at least eighty years old, and it was a church that was built from scratch, and it was started by Japanese, it wasn't started by any other group. Issei pioneers, and we had all that documented, and the Buddhist church, I think, has a very similar record. In fact, they might even be older than our church. But we've always been across the street from each other, and of course, being a small community, everybody knows each other, and there's a lot of interacting between the two.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: I also wanted to ask you about Japantown and what happened to the businesses and when it started, sort of, declining, I guess.

TN: Yes, I mentioned the Salt Palace which is a huge convention facility. It covers two square blocks, and I think a block in Salt Lake is ten acres, so it's a huge area. Anyway, in 1966, Salt Lake City decided they wanted a convention center, and it just so happened that that was the street where Japantown was located. And we still have pictures of it in the book I gave you.

MA: So the city then, like, bought out all the businesses?

TN: Yes, they just, could have even used eminent domain, but there was some talk about relocating at that time, but it never really got off the ground. And the Salt Palace was built and all of our buildings were destroyed. And ever since then, there has not been a Japantown anywhere in Salt Lake.

MA: Was there, how did the community feel about that back in the '60s? Was there anger against the government, the city government?

TN: Oh, yeah. We had quite a few meetings, and churches got together and proposed possible sites to relocate, but I guess we just weren't organized enough or didn't have the funds to buy the property, and we just never got going, never got it going.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: So you have two daughters.

TN: Uh-huh.

MA: Can you name your daughters and when they were born?

TN: Right, Stephanie, my oldest daughter, our first daughter, was born in 1960, and she also went to West High. And she married another Japanese boy, Stan Nakamura, and he's from Wyoming, and he was born and raised there. He has three brothers and they all married Salt Lake City girls. And I might add that Stan is extremely successful. He has an engineering firm, and the family loves to travel. He's taken the, the entire family -- they have two daughters -- to Japan and to Venice, and then to Amsterdam, and in just a couple of weeks they're going to go to Paris, oh, and also Hawaii, they've been there many times. But, and my daughter Stephanie is a nurse-practitioner, and she went to Long Beach College for her undergraduate degree, and then to Westminster College here in Salt Lake City for her nurse-practitioner. And she did that quite late in life, she's forty-seven, and I believe she did it when she was forty-five. And my granddaughter, Allie, their first child, she's sixteen, and we're very proud of her because she is a 2008 state girls golf individual champion, and she had a playoff with three girls, and the playoff lasted six holes and she prevailed, so we're very happy for her. And she also plays varsity basketball, although she's only 5'2". [Laughs] And my other, Stephanie's other daughter is Sarah, and she's a very beautiful girl, and she's fourteen, and she loves art like her grandpa, and she's a very good cook, and she plays basketball, too. And my other daughter, Susan, is married to Charlie Brown, and he's a fellow who was born in Munich, Germany, in an army family, but his family moved to Tooele, Utah, and they've lived there for thirty years, so he's like a native Utahn. And he's an executive with a mortgage company, and they have one biological son, Koji, who is eight, he just turned eight years old, and he's a very good baseball player, soccer player, and piano player, and our pride and joy. And then we have two girls, Mei Mei, who is six, and La La, who is four, and they both came from the People's Republic of China, and they were adopted in 2004 and 2006, I believe. And so that rounds out our family.

MA: Yeah, that's quite a family.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: I wanted to talk with you about your involvement with the Topaz Museum and how that started, and your experiences with the museum.

TN: Right. I was a founding member of the museum with Jane Beckwith and several others. Actually, Leonard Arrington was on our board at the time, but Jane has devoted a great deal of her life to this project, and she lives in Delta, and usually can greet the internees who come back to Delta to visit, and she can take them out there and show them the site and show them the museum, there's a small museum in town.

MA: Who were the -- I'm sorry, how did, how did the idea originally come about?

TN: Well, I think it was mainly Jane's idea. She got, she came to me, oh, maybe twenty years ago and had this thought about establishing something for the museum, and she had been teaching it to her children -- I mean, her students all along. She is a high school teacher. And as time went on, and as I say, the internment sites became more up in the news, and she got together, oh, a half a dozen people to start the board, and it was called the Topaz Museum. And it has done some very marvelous things. The big thing is it has purchased most of the town site of Topaz... not all of it, but most of it, by and large. And we raised all the money to do that, it wasn't given to us by any means. And we published the Price of Prejudice book, and all those brochures I gave you, we did all that. And the move -- I'm not on the board right now -- but there's a movement to establish a downtown museum for the Topaz Museum, so they have a permanent site. And this museum would have artifacts and things that people can come in and look at.

MA: Would this be in Salt Lake City or Delta?

TN: No, it would be in Delta.

MA: So that's kind of the current project that the museum's working on.

TN: Uh-huh.

MA: And you, there's a monument in Topaz, is that correct?

TN: Oh, yes. In 1976 -- this was before the Topaz Museum -- but the local chapters of the JACL established a bicentennial project with the state, and part of that was to put a marker on the Topaz site as well as a marker in the city of Delta to tell people that there is a site out there that you can go and see, where the Japanese Americans were interned. And unfortunately, the marker that I designed was quite high, and it stood above the sagebrush in Delta, and it did not have an American flag. And so people just started using it as a target practice, because it was something that was tall and out there. I don't, I don't think people really understood what it was for or anything, except a few. There were a few vandals who actually went up there with a crowbar and took the plaques right off, and went up right to it, you know, twenty feet away and just shot bullets at it, and some of them actually just fell on the ground. But they were far and few between, I think most of them were just hunters that were a hundred feet away and just wanted something to shoot at. But at any rate, the marker was vandalized beyond repair, and so as a tri-chapter project, we decided to tear down the old monument and establish a new one, a low, low-lying monument that would not be used as target practice. And then we wanted to put a big American flag nearby so that people understand that we are part of America, we were not representing Japan. And I think that flag helped a lot, because in the five years or six years since we put that up, there has been no vandalism. And then in 2004, there was a lot of people concerned about the veterans, Japanese American veterans who are not honored at Topaz, and so we built a second marker, which is exactly the same size and shape, and put it about fifteen feet away from the other one. And on this marker we have about four hundred Japanese American veterans who at one time lived in Millard County, and most, of course, came from Topaz, listed on the marker, and tells about the history of the 442nd and the 100th battalion. And it's a perfect complement for the other marker.

MA: That's great.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: Can you talk about changes that you've seen in the community in Salt Lake City, the Japanese American community over the years and what your thoughts are about that?

TN: Well, the Japanese are all very successful people. I think they've woven into the culture very well. As I said, many of them are LDS members, many are Buddhist temple members and many are Christian church members. They're a very active group, as I told you, they put out this three-hundred-page history book, and it's called Japanese Americans in Utah, and even though that was done in 1996, quite a few years ago, I keep hearing from people all over that, saying, "You know, we just keep reading that book and it gets more interesting as the years go by." And I'm sure glad that Ray Uno had the foresight to kind of force this project to happen, because it really chronicles all of the Isseis and pioneers, and the way things were in Box Elder County and Utah County, and Davis County and the great baseball games that we used to have in the '50s, and the great basketball tournaments we had in the '50s, and all of that would be forgotten if it weren't chronicled in this book. And there has even been talk that we might even update it for events that have happened in the fifteen years since.

MA: So you're very active, you know, with the museum and with this book, and what motivates you to speak out about your experience during the war?

TN: Well, it's, it's not difficult for me to talk about Topaz, because when I was in there, I was seven to ten and half years old. And that's just old enough to remember everything, but it's also young enough to not bear any heavy memories of what took place. And I was just a little too young to understand that our, our constitutional rights were taken from us, I didn't understand that, but I do today. But because of that, I think it's a lot easier for me to talk about Topaz than it would be somebody who was fifteen or nineteen years old in Topaz. And like my mother, it was a very stressful situation for many people. And I'm just happy that I can tell about my experiences there.

MA: Great, is there anything else you want to share or talk about?

TN: No, I think that's pretty much it.

MA: Okay, great, well, thank you so much for doing this interview. It was wonderful.

TN: Oh, you're welcome.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.