Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Lucy Kirihara Interview
Narrator: Lucy Kirihara
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-klucy-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

SO: So the camps were about to close, and you didn't know what you were going to do. What happened after that?

LK: Okay, so then our two sisters were so happy, they said, "Oh you could come out here to Minnesota, there's no sense going back to Portland. We don't have anything there. And the way the people sort of treated us during after the war started, it was silly to go back there." She said the people in Minnesota are so nice and we'll have to go out there. And my sister said she'd look for an apartment and she said they went to over ninety apartment places and every time in the paper would say it was open, vacant, and when they'd go over there they would say, "Oh no, it's taken." They got so discouraged. So finally Eunice said, "Well, maybe we should just lie and say we're not Japanese," or something. But so finally they went to this place, it was on top of a barbershop, and this man, his name was Mr. Munson, they both went and said we want an apartment for five of us and so he said, "Are you Japanese?" And Eunice at that point said they were both thought, "Oh, well, let's walk away," and they were going to walk away. And he said, "No, no, wait, wait." He said, "My son was in the war in the Philippines, and he was nursed back to health by a Japanese American nurse," and he says, "This is one way I could pay that kindness." And so he rented us the upstairs of this barbershop, it was on Snelling Avenue. And my two sisters went to the Salvation Army and they spent fifty dollars on a round oak table, six chairs, I don't know how many beds, overstuffed ugly sofa and chairs and an icebox. And so they furnished this whole apartment and it was so nice, and he was so nice. And the rent must not have been that high. And then Eunice and Esther both dropped out of school for a while so they could help support us. And then she got my mother a job in a cleaners and she was the alterationist. And then she got my father a job as a dishwasher at Macalester College, and he's old now, how old would he be? So he's pretty old but he still had to work. But that was good that he worked at Macalester College, because then he got a little bit of Social Security that he built that up, and then Esther worked at this publishing house and she was a secretary there. So she got me a job there, being a file person for thirty-five cents an hour, while I was in high school. She got my father a job there as a custodian and he emptied out the wastebaskets. And she got her husband, who was going to school at the U at that time, he was out of the service, and got him a job as a shipping guy, 'cause it was a bookstore. So she employed all of us, which was sort of nice.

SO: And you were going to high school?

LK: Right. I started as a freshman at high school. The girls were so nice to me, I just can't really believe how nice they were. Their fathers were professors at Hamline University and Marilyn Bracewell's, he was head of Physics, and Isabel Rife, her father was head of the History Department and they went to school with me, they had me over for dinner, another girl would stay overnight. And to this day we're still best friends, and fortunately there are spouses and significant others, too. The five of us, after we got married and the children were little, we'd go camping and then we went to all the children's weddings and so forth, and once they were gone then we started to go up north every year and stay in a condo. So they're still my very good friends. I just went to my sixtieth class reunion, and that was fun. And so we all went together and reminisced about high school. I went my freshman, sophomore and junior year. And then my sister was getting older, Eunice, and she was helping the family. And she sort of wanted to get married, and so then it was sort of urgent for me to hurry and get out of high school and get into college and get out of there. So I didn't go my senior year. I had enough credits because I never took study hall and think I went to summer school and just took, I don't know, social studies or civics and English course, and then I enrolled at the University of Minnesota.

SO: In high school, what was that like? What was the racial background of students?

LK: Oh, I was the only Japanese in that school and I don't think there were any African Americans or Hispanic. So I was the only minority in that school, Wilson, in St. Paul. And they were very nice to me. It was good. Well, I was a good student, and just a few episodes with teachers, but you know, they always wanted me to be president of this or president of that or else they pick a Girls State when you're a junior and I think the teachers pick that and so I was chosen.

SO: What was that?

LK: Girls State. They have a Boys State and a Girls State and you go to the...

SO: What is that?

LK: It's to learn more about government and every high school has a representative and then you go there for a week during the summer. And then you learn all about, even that someone runs for governor and all that kind of stuff. But I declined to go because I wasn't going to go back my senior year, and I think it was to sort of develop leadership in you and I didn't think it was fair to the school to send me to that and then not going back, because I was going to go to the university. So the girl that was runner-up got to, Joanne Bloomdahl got to be that, and so she was very happy. She says, "Lucy, hate to see you go," but she was the representative. So that worked out all right.

SO: What was... outside of school, what was the reaction of people because you were Japanese American?

LK: I guess I didn't encounter too much during high school, as I recall. In college I don't remember because you're in an academic setting, but it's after we got married that, when we get to that, then we had a little bit more problems of buying a house and so forth. But during school, it wasn't that...

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.