Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Judy Murakami Interview
Narrator: Judy Murakami
Interviewer: Carolyn Nayamatsu
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mjudy-01-0003

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CN: Okay, so your father and your mother both grew up in Portland?

JM: Yes.

CN: Attended elementary, high school, right? And college as I understand it?

JM: The schooling that my parents had, my mother went through high school. I think she graduated from Grant High School in Portland, Oregon. My father, who was four years older than my mother, actually went through Oregon State College, which is now Oregon State University, and he became a pharmacist. He was the first Japanese American registered pharmacist in Oregon.

CN: And his pharmacy was also in Japantown, the Nomura Drug Store, right?

JM: It was the pharmacy right toward the top, on Northwest Sixth, I think.

CN: Sixth Avenue?

JM: Between...

CN: Riverside and was it Ankeny?

JN: Ankeny Avenue, right. His, at the time... my parents got married in 1935, and at that point my father was working for another person as a pharmacist and then soon after began his own pharmacy which was kind of on the edge of Japantown. It was more on Burnside between... or it was on Northwest Sixth Street... Northwest Sixth Avenue, between Burnside and Ankeny. So he had this pharmacy for a couple years.

CN: So he was a pharmacist at least a few years before the war started?

JM: Yes.

CN: Where did you live? Were you able to purchase homes?

JM: My grandparents on my mother's side had not ever lived much of their lives in a Japanese community, even though they some Japanese friends. They had pretty much lived in a Caucasian neighborhood, and in fact, my mother used to say that she really didn't have any Japanese friends until she was about fifteen years old. So they grew up in kind of an integrated, non-Japanese environment. So when my parents got married they also were going to live in a Caucasian neighborhood. And I think at first they rented a home and then soon after that they were going to purchase a home. I came across an old photo of this house with my mother's note on it that said, "This is a house that we purchased," first. I'm not sure if they actually moved into it, but they had already bought the home, and the neighbors circulated a petition saying that they did not want any Japanese people living in that home or that neighborhood. This was probably about 1938, I would say, or '37. And so my, I think my father may have felt that he wanted to move into it anyway, but my mother refused to move into it, and so this little note, this post-it note that my mother has on this picture of the house says, "We had to sell the house at a loss because we wouldn't move in there." And I remember that at one point my parents said that my mother was still upset with my father because after this petition had gone around, my father went to the neighbors and gave each of them a Japanese doll as kind of a token of goodwill. It was kind of also ironic because he found out that when some of the people had signed this petition, they didn't realize that the family that was moving in was the Nomura family, and one of them was a colleague of my father's before he had a pharmacy, and so he was surprised. And another one told my father that he really didn't want to sign the petition but he himself was Jewish, and he was afraid that if he didn't sign it, he would be the target of some prejudice and discrimination himself. So it was kind of ironic. And the other reason I think why my father wanted to move in there was because he was at that point the president of the Portland JACL, the Japanese American Citizens League, and he felt that it was kind of his duty to be an example and to move in, but my mother didn't want to do that. And so they ended up buying another house, also in a Caucasian neighborhood which ended up being kind of a real blessing because it had wonderful neighbors, and those neighbors were the ones who kind of helped my family when they were forced to relocate, because they helped them with some of the moving and the furniture storing and so forth.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.