Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Grace F. Oshita Interview
Narrator: Grace F. Oshita
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ograce-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So you mentioned your father was picked up by the FBI. Can you talk about that day or that evening that that happened?

GO: That wasn't the first day, the day of Pearl Harbor. The day of Pearl Harbor, we were so happy because he and his business friends went to the mountains, the Sierra Nevada mountains to trout fish, trout fishing. And so they enjoyed the whole day and came home. And the only time that they realized something was wrong was when they were stopped at the, before the Bay Bridge, and I guess talked to, or anyway... the police talked to them, and then they were released to drive home over the bridge.

MA: And that was the day of Pearl Harbor?

GO: Yes. But so many Japanese fathers, heads of families, also community leaders had been arrested from the first day, day of Pearl Harbor, and so forth and so on, through months, it just continued. And so my father had a suitcase packed and ready, and it was... I think I remembered it as either Lincoln's birthday, it was February -- or Washington's birthday, one of those Sundays that they came. And very... respectful, soft spoken. And like I say, he was ready, but my grandmother was so nervous because, see, my mom would take over most of the chores, but still, she was... she realized that it was going to be on her shoulders to run the miso company. So she went, I think, to learn and so forth. So she took over and closed the company just in time. And they drove up, a car salesman and she drove up in a fairly new car, and that's when she came to Kimon Hall to register for evacuation that day, May first.

MA: And this was your, your grandmother or your mother?

GO: Yes, my grandmother was -- no, my grandmother didn't speak English. Well, she had to empty, pack and empty the whole house, flat, because it was rented. Those who owned their own home could, went through the same thing by locking one room or a basement, so that they won't have to store it anywhere else, which meant that they lost everything. So many just helped themselves, 'cause there was no one to bother them. So we've heard about those incidents.

MA: So when your father was taken away by the FBI, did they communicate to you where he was going, or were you kind of left in the dark about where he was?

GO: No. Apparently, there was some communication among the wives, we called them "evacuation widows" or whatever, however it was called, let's see. It wasn't "evacuation," it was more... well, "enemy alien," I guess, widows, or something like that. And telephone calls were coming from all over and telling us that the next day, they were going to be shipped out somewhere, and so go early to the immigration office down in south San Francisco. And we did, my mother drove us out, and there were a lot of buses, and they were, most of, some of them were already moving on, and we just yelled from where we saw a bus full of men, and then went on to look for my dad, but we missed him. And then another bus came along, and there was this Mr. Yamashita, a very good friend from Salinas, and he pointed back, no, forward, yeah, forward, "You're dad's gone already." So we missed seeing him. And the first letter my father wrote to us, he did say -- it was at a Japanese language class that this teacher says, "You know, you are all Japanese, and you should call your mother and father okaasan and otousan," so I said, "Well, Otousan, I'm gonna call you Otousan from today." And so nobody called their father otousan, you know, "Papa," "Mama" and so forth, and later on, "Daddy." But I decided to call him Otousan, and I was the only one yelling, "Otousan," and he said, "I heard your voice, Grace, I heard you." But he had already been on a bus ahead, moving on, so we missed him. And we didn't hear from them until they were able to write letters. There was a backlog, so I think it took longer than usual. Missing a letter was, or correspondence -- letters were the only communication, only news that you really want to read and want to know about family, want to know what the community is doing and so forth, and so they lived for letters.

And so my mother was busy operating the business during the day, and late at night she was writing long letters to him in detail. But she was always a person who spoke her mind. If she wanted something done, a favor, she'll ask. And I thought, "Gee, that's the way to do it, she has the right way." We were fortunate to have a mom like her. But it was hard on my grandmother because she had to get everything ready to be warehoused, actually. And you can't just leave it in the drawers, either, you had to box it or whatever. And she had that chore of... and throwing old utensils away, our cooking equipment, pots and pans, some of the old ones, and she cried one day and started throwing it into a big garbage can, saying, "I can't take it any longer." When my mother came home, she soothed her and says, "What do you think I'm doing? I'm taking care of the whole miso company and trying to close it in time for the evacuation, that's why I can't help you. I'll send some fellows here to do some packing for you," so that's what she used to do, was send a couple of the boys and help her.

And she would, until it was maybe a couple of weeks, when we found out we were going to be moved out on May 1, '42. May 1st, I remember May 1st. Other days I forgot, but anyway, I remembered two girlfriends coming to see me off, and that was one Chinese girl and one Caucasian girl. And it was a pretty sad day to think that maybe we'll never see San Francisco again, is the feeling I got. What would I do, what would we do if they shipped us... well, quote, "back to Japan"? But my father just kept telling us, "Don't worry, you will be treated fairly."

MA: Was that something that people thought at the time, was that you were gonna go back to Japan, possibly?

GO: Well, there was that fear, 'cause we had no word in what we could do or what we wanted to do. It was either, "You do it or else." That was the feeling we had. But in order to go anywhere, I mean, we wouldn't want to go without my father. In other words, wherever he was being sent, that's where we would go, was our intentions. We always said that we have to be back in one family.

MA: So at that point, you were a senior in high school?

GO: Uh-huh.

MA: And what was, I mean, being forced to leave school and all of that, how was that and what was your feeling at the time?

GO: When we were sent to Tanforan, we were so, up to that point we were so busy, there was so much to take care of, and then poor Grandma, but she was one of those who, a hard worker, and she would keep going. And she said, "You continue your education, your school, until you can't go anymore. And so that's what we did. I think, I might have quit school two weeks before. Our date of evacuation was -- and "evacuation" is the wrong word -- I wasn't hurt... and we're being sent to somewhere "safer." Anyway, that's what, I guess, kept us going, my dad's last words of, "Don't worry, don't worry, this is America." It was true, nobody was really mistreated, very few, except those who caused the problem.

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