Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya Interview
Narrator: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-thelen-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: So today is June 16, 2009, and I'm here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'll be interviewing Helen Tsuchiya today. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. So, Helen, thank you for coming and doing this interview with us. I wanted to start by asking where you were born.

HT: I was born in the farmhouse in Selma, California.

MA: And when were you born?

HT: December 25, 1924.

MA: Christmas.

HT: Christmas baby.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

HT: Masami Tanigawa.

MA: And I wanted to talk a little bit about your parents.

HT: Yeah.

MA: Oh, I'm sorry. Your mother, in particular. What was her name and where was she from in Japan?

HT: Her name was Kazu Kireto before she became Tanigawa and she's from Hiroshima. And my father was the same. He was from Hiroshima. Heishiro Tanigawa. And he had one sister. They had a little store in Hiroshima and that's all the relatives he had. And my mother had several boys, but the two boys, two brothers I should say, were killed in the atomic bomb. So I, when I do, give talks I always tell them it was bad for both sides. When I tell them, Hiroshima, it's, "Oh, no." Kids are just shocked to hear that, but, you know, it's just one of those things.

MA: So how did your father come to the United States? What was that story?

HT: Well, all the young boys, I think he was seventeen when he came, all the young fellows, they said they heard about they could go and make a lot of money in the United States. And that's what he wanted to do, come and make some money and go back to Japan. But, when he came, there was no jobs, there was a lot of, I would say, they were against Japanese and Chinese, I believe, and so he got like a houseboy, or work in the farm. That's about all. And they didn't get money at all. My mother was a "picture bride." You know, when I tell that to the people, "I can't believe it." I say, yeah, they were married for over fifty years. "How can they do that?" I said, well my mother was quite a woman. I just loved her. She was really something else.

MA: What was she like? Can you tell me a little bit about her personality?

HT: She was, she was so good to us. She didn't want us, she didn't learn Japanese, I mean, English, and my dad learned a lot of English but they were not very nice English. You know how the guys would teach him certain bad things. One time my (sister) was, when we were in grade school, she went up there and did a little Japanese dance with an umbrella and a little music. And we were watching her and said, "How does she know? Nobody taught her anything." So after a while the parents came up and said, "That was so nice." And my mother said, "Of course." And I say, "Mom, you shouldn't say, 'of course.'" She just knew just a few words and we laughed. So that means, "of course," that doesn't sound very good. And we laughed about it. She wanted to learn but as long as we were speaking Japanese that was good enough for us also.

MA: And what about your father? What kind of person was he?

HT: He was very nice. He was, he could have been an actor. He knew all the Japanese stories, samurai stories or whatever. Every night we would all lay in bed and he would tell us a story. And we'd listen and listen and then he'd say, "Oh, time to go to bed. Continue tomorrow." And he'd say that in Japanese. "Oh no." And then we'd go to bed. But then the next night he'd continue. He was very, very good in doing that stories and he would, we thought he could have been an actor, but we still talk about... I have just one sibling left, my younger sister. But he was always so good. He worked so hard, too.

MA: What type of work was he doing around the time you were born?

HT: Well, it was farming. And it was grapes. And I think at that time we were out in a different area near Selma. And I think he was out in the farm. He would prune the grapes, the grape vine and then nourish it, and then have, he used to have irrigation pipes that he would plant. He was very good and farming was just a beautiful work that he did. Because in those days you have pipes, you have to bury those and get the water. Water would come from a ditch, it would come. The neighbor would use it first and they would close it, then they'll come to us, so everybody had to be nice to each other. That's the way, we didn't have pumps or anything at that time.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And, so you were born in Selma, but you told me that you moved from Selma --

HT: To Parlier.

MA: How old were you when you made that move?

HT: I think we started grade school at that time.

MA: Do you remember anything about Selma, then?

HT: No, not too much. Not too much. I think we came to Parlier, that's when Mr. Hayashi and his wife, I don't know how they owned it, but he was the boss of that farm that we worked on.

MA: In Parlier?

HT: Yes, uh-huh. It was in, towards the country.

MA: So this was an Issei man, Mr. Hayashi?

HT: Yes, yes.

MA: And he operated...

HT: I don't know if he owned it or what. I'm sure he didn't own it, but he was sort of like a boss. He probably was hired by the hakujin people. And, but he was really nice to us.

MA: And your family moved to Parlier, then, to work for him?

HT: Yeah.

MA: And did you...

HT: And my mother, my mother was, she used to go out and work. I started school -- I always tell this to my sister -- I started school one year late because I had to babysit my sister. And in those days, right now you got to go in September or something, but you don't do that in those days. So I babysat and we had a whole bunch of kids and then we had some Mexican family that stayed there. Can I tell you a little story that happened?

MA: Sure.

HT: I used to act like I was a teacher. I always wanted to be a teacher or a nurse when I was growing up. And I always had a lot of, bunch of kids and we would do school. And my sister was, we were playing and all the guys were coming and she stuck up a little, stuck up her nose, I think it was a bean or whatever, and she couldn't breathe. And I didn't know what to do so I ran over to the Mexican lady and she took her upside down and went "bang" and it came out. I said, I'll never forget that, I told her. But she was a very smart little girl. Like that picture I showed you, she was valedictorian of the class and I always tell her family. She continued, she became a nurse when she, when we came to Minnesota. She became a nurse and then worked for the hospital and then the doctors saw her potential and at that time there was no nurse practitioners and they wanted her to continue her education and she did, and was one of the first nurse practitioners in Minnesota, one of the groups that was...

MA: And this is your younger sister?

HT: Yes, yes.

MA: And what is her name?

HT: Lillian. Lillian Hiroko... what is it? She's right now, now, see, my mind goes.

MA: Oh, that's okay.

HT: Tanaka. It's Tanaka.

MA: Tanaka?

HT: Uh-huh.

MA: And how many children were there in your family?

HT: My oldest sister, she was married with a boy and a girl. And my next one is a girl, and she married John Fujiki in camp. And then my brother, and Lil and me. So there were four girls and one boy.

MA: So five total.

HT: Uh-huh. Five.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about the farm in Parlier. Did you work on the farm after school?

HT: Yes, we picked, actually my sister and I were cooks. We made the supper and then the bath water we had to carry it, you had to pump it and carry it all the way and we put it in and then burn it underneath and we used to cook the rice outside. And we were that way, but then when the grape season came, we picked grapes and then put it in the tray. There was Thompson grapes and we made it into raisins. And I don't know how we ever did it. They put it in trays and the sun would brown it, then we would get two trays and turn it over and then get the other side to brown it. And my father would, we had sweat boxes of raisins, and he used to carry those. I cannot believe how strong they were. And we had horses, one horses and a mule. And then he would take it out in the farm and then he would disconnect them and, "bang" like that and they would walk back to the barn. And then we used to ride at home once and a while. But everything, we had no running water. We had to pump everything. So in those days it was pretty, pretty sad.

MA: And what about your house? What did your house look like?

HT: Our house was, we had pump and everything, we had ice cubes to make, it was non refrigerator, we had those old style... we had a little kitchen and then we had a bedroom and we called it a parlor, but then we were all sleeping in the floors like that. That's all. And we had one dog that was supposed to take care of the farm when we were out in the farm. That's about it. It was a small place.

MA: And how large was your farm and...

HT: 40 acres. The last one was 40 acres. And we wanted to buy it, but he couldn't buy it so he rented it. And then there was a, I think, my brother was in college. He didn't want to be a farmer. He wanted to go to school. So then, I don't know how they even paid his tuition. In those days it was cheap, I'm sure. He went to Fresno State College and he graduated from that and he was in business. And then he became twenty-one and he was able to buy the farm in his name. And so we just bought it, and then, making payments and all that, and then this happened.

MA: Pearl Harbor, right?

HT: Yeah. Pearl Harbor happened. And we couldn't make payments. And then the neighbor, I think the person that took us, I think he bought it. And then in 1950, my husband and I went back to see everything and the house was still there. They had it all fixed up. The barn was still there, but they had taken all the grapes out and they had peach trees up. And, but, it was just a sad situation, but we just bought a new refrigerator and new stove. We were just beginning to see that we were so poor in those days. And then now we had to try to sell everything because we just had just a few weeks to get rid of everything. But I think we sold the refrigerator and stuff for two dollars or something like that. They just came. Everybody came and I always say, it was just like, in those days, all those people from the southern states, they would come in their little broken down cars and their furniture on top and they would come and park close to all the Japanese people because they knew we were going to leave. I said, "How do they know that?" But, see, we didn't have radios in those days. And so they came to school and everything, but we had to have, not a, like a garage sale. We had it all out and some of the people that had real nice Japanese dishes, they couldn't get anything for it, so they would throw it down on the ground and break it because they didn't want to sell it for pennies or whatever it was. So just before we left, well, we did sell the stove and refrigerator and then my mother said, "Okay," she says, she had a great big wedding picture. It was real, like this, both of them. It was in the parlor room and she said, "You know, I'm going to leave that and some pictures. The war is not going to end. They'll will protect our home. We'll come back." That's the way she was. She was so believing, and so I said, "No, I want to take those pictures." See, I was a hoarding type of person. And she says, "No, we're going to do this." So I said, "Okay, then we'll do that." So we took the picture and then we left. Next day my sister and her husband and two kids just came to check the house. Everything was gone. We had an upright piano, nobody wanted to buy it, so they pulled that out. Everything, even dishes, and little things. The pictures were gone. And we didn't know what to tell my mother 'cause she was such a woman. She just believed in what she wanted to see. She was truly a Buddhist, I'm not kidding. And finally, we told her and it just broke her heart. It really did because she just wanted to protect the place and to come back. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be crying, but it just fills me up, just thinking about what they went through. They really went through a lot to give us education.

And my, one of my middle sisters, she got married in camp, but, she was the one that said, "You got to study hard and go to college." And we said, "Why should we go to college?" There are a lot of people that went to college, they're working out on the farm, they couldn't get jobs in those days. So, one of the girls that I know real well, she went into business. She learned to type and all that. So that's what I went into. I learned typing and everything. And to this day, I was a medical secretary and I was a business, took care of that doctor's office. And I think that helped me. Because I always wanted to be a schoolteacher, but with talking to the kids, it's brought me -- all the teachers say, "You are a teacher. You don't have to have education. You're talking to them, teaching them." Even like I told you, that one boy said, "All the things she lost she still had the courage to come to tell us about what she went through." And everybody said, well, you get 20,000 dollars. That's nothing when we took it. But my father and mother were dead. They're the ones that wanted to get it.

MA: Right, the Isseis were the ones who really...

HT: Yeah, they suffered a lot. And it was just sad.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: Well, I was wondering if I could ask you some more questions about your childhood, and Parlier. Can you tell me a little bit about the town of Parlier? Was it mainly a farming town?

HT: It's a little tiny store. I mean, you could go peep and then you would pass the store. There was a little, the first store was my real good friend. She had a candy store and all kinds of...we used to buy, pennies, and buy a big bag of candy. And then they used to have card in the back and they used to play, what do you call that? The balls that you put in the hole or whatever. They had that and then they had a, some, next door was Ogami and they used to have a little grocery store. And then a whole bunch of Chinese people in the back of that. And that's about it. And then Parlier, other people, they had, the Caucasians, they had stores and everything.

MA: What about, like, were there Filipinos living there at the time?

HT: Yes, there were some Filipinos. But that was the strangest thing because when I came to Minnesota, I had real good Filipino friends, and they looked like us exactly. But I said, "How come the Filipinos in California look like they were blacks?" And they said, "they come from different sections of Philippines." So when I came here I have a real good friend that the doctor that I worked for was a Filipino. He looked just like a Japanese and I didn't realize that. There was another incident that happened, I was on the streetcar going to, I was working at the University of Minnesota and this man said, "Oh you must be..." in those days we wore real thick wool clothes because it was so cold in the snow. And this man said, "Oh you must be used to this. Aren't you from Alaska?" [Laughs] I thought I'm not from Alaska. And I came home and looked in an encyclopedia and sure enough, they look like us. It's really funny to have all those incidents happening.

MA: Well what about, how were the sort of race relations when you were growing up in Parlier, between the whites and the Asians and the Mexicans?

HT: See, we were kids and there was nothing for us. I don't know if my parents were that way. But all our neighbors were Caucasians and we all got along real good. And we used to ride the bus to school and everything. I don't think there was, at least to me, I never felt it. I don't think my father and mother, they didn't talk about it.

MA: And the workers on the farms, were there workers that helped you?

HT: No, we did our own farming. And then most of them would be like Mexicans and stuff like that. They used to come. And we did have a family that worked in the, we had a little house out there and, yeah, they did work there a little bit. But I don't know how, I don't think they got paid very much, but just to get something. I don't think I ran into prejudice, even if I came here. It was really a strange thing because all my... when we first came here they couldn't believe we were here, so I had to tell them because they didn't read it in their books. They didn't have it in the books in those days. Just one sentence.

MA: The textbooks, you mean.

HT: Yeah. So they didn't know about us, so they said, "You have to talk to the kids nowadays."

MA: And growing up, can you tell me a little bit about your elementary school?

HT: Yeah, we used to have a country school, we used to have a 3 room - it was a 2 room school. And I felt sorry for the teachers. We were first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade. And then one teacher would be teaching one, would say, "Okay, we'll do this today. And then you read." And you would go to the next class, the next class like that. And they went up to seventh, ninth grade, I think, no eighth grade. Went up to ninth...I can't remember now. But it was a three room school and it was really something. I could still remember the teachers, Miss Wash and Miss Bertleson. They were really good teachers. And then naturally whatever we did we would mind, there was nobody that talked bad or anything. In those days it was good to be teachers. I don't know about now but...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: And then you also attended Japanese language school.

HT: Yeah, Saturday and Sunday and then we would, Sunday after one hour of Japanese school we had church.

MA: And which church did you attend?

HT: The Buddhist church.

MA: The Buddhist church.

HT: Uh-huh.

MA: Do you remember the name of that church? Was it --

HT: Just Jodo Shinshu. No, it wasn't Jodo Shinshu, it was the other one. Right now we're in Jodo Shinshu. I can't remember now.

MA: So it was a church for the Parlier Japanese Buddhist community?

HT: Yeah, Japanese. There were one or two that were Christians that came to Japanese school, but that was very unusual in those days because everybody was bukkyou, Buddhist. And it was pretty nice. It was big, they rented, and they built it up and it was an old garage. It was an automobile garage or something and then they made it into...and I have pictures of that, they took pictures of that. And then the Japanese school and the teachers were really good. I learned a lot, I really did. The teachers made us do haiku and then Japanese, see how much we could write and all that. So, it was nice. We had, and then we used to go over to Fresno for, I don't know if you know what sakubun taikai. You write a story and then they had a contest and I won a little medal on that. It was about my first bicycle. I used to buck my sister to school and I wrote that and they put it in the paper. That's what that picture was.

MA: Did you go to Fresno often? Was that --

HT: That's a big trip, every time there was a big deal we would go to Fresno and then they, whenever they had a big party or not, big get together, then we would all go to Fresno. The whole county would go in. And my mother-in-law was a schoolteacher in Manmoth and she saw my picture of the sakubun. She says, "You were there?" And I said, "Yes, I was there." She said one of her students won. And I told my husband, I said, "I met you mother-in-law before I met you." I didn't meet her or anything, but she said she couldn't remember me either.

MA: But you were at the same place at the same time.

HT: Yeah, same place. She told me which child that won. She was a school -- she was a, I learned a lot from her. My mother had only a third grade education, but she was, I couldn't ask for a better mother. But after I got married, when I would say certain things, she said, "That's not right." She would teach me the correct way because she graduated from college in Japan.

MA: And then she was a language teacher? A Japanese language teacher?

HT: Yeah, here in California. That's how they made, because they had a farm also and they couldn't make money, but she got a little bit of money from teaching.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: What was a typical day like for you when you were in elementary school?

HT: Well, first we'd go, I'd go, finally we got a bicycle, so the rest of us we'd go and I would buck her to school. And then we would come home and the first thing we did after school, first thing we do is I have to cook the rice, and then we have a lot of vegetables. And my best one was cooking eggplants and make okazu, you know? And my sister was in charge of bringing the water into the bathtub and she'd burn the, do the bath. And we would clean the house a little bit, but then we had supper waiting for everybody. That's about our routine. And then we'd do whatever homework we had, but I don't think we had too many homework. We could do that in school.

MA: And was your mother working?

HT: Yeah, she worked with my father.

MA: With your father.

HT: Yeah. And then every once and a while in the summertime, there's a Japanese people that used to have peaches and apricots and we used to cut 'em, cut the apricots. I was very good, take the pit out and you put it on the tray and then put it in the sulfur in the smoke house. And I used to get sick. it was just smelling that. And then we used to get three cents and they used to punch it, big lug box like this full of things. We got three cents after you do that. But it helped. And then my mother used to climb up on the peach tree to pick up the peaches. She was a strong lady. Just to work out when my dad was out at home working on the farm.

MA: And you said earlier that you made raisins and you would sell the raisins. But you also had another, you would sell the grapes to the wineries?

HT: The wineries, yes. We had the Malaga. The Malaga is those white ones and then muscat, you got muscat wine. And then they used to come, we used pick it and put the boxes out and then the truck would come and they would just have to put it in there. And then that's, so we had Malaga, muscat, and Thompson grapes.

MA: And who would you sell the raisins to?

HT: They used to put it in the sweatboxes and then my father would take it to wherever, I think it was towards Fresno someplace, and just sell it. But you don't get too much. The sweatboxes were huge. But we used to walk to school before, and they used to have cherry trees and everything and the grapes. And we, the teacher would come, I mean, the owner would come and say, "Tell the kids they cannot pick those things." "Oh, we were picking them off the ground." [Laughs] You would see those free things growing on the road. I don't think we were stealing, but we didn't pick it, we just got it from the ground. The teacher said, "Don't do that."

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: And so then tell me about your high school and your high school experiences.

HT: My high school was really fun. We took the bus and went. And my freshman, sophomore, I took three years of Spanish. I could speak a little bit, but that's about it. And then in the junior year I became, the teacher selected me as the athletic director. And then I used to cut the, get released from each class to go to the PE department to get teams. They would really work hard to see if I would choose them. It was fun. And then you'd form, and then they used to have tournaments and stuff. It was really, really fun. A fun time for me.

MA: And you were involved in sports yourself?

HT: Yes, I was. I just loved it. And then in those days nobody had cars. There was one guy that had a car. But he couldn't drive it there. And that's about it. But it was a fun time in high school, it really was. Everybody was friendly and the time that Pearl Harbor came, that it happened on a Sunday and I didn't want to go to school. My dad and mom said, "You have to go to school." So we went. The first day was, they had, everybody was in the auditorium listening to President Roosevelt, "Day of Infamy." And then the next class was my social studies class and I could still remember his name was Mr. Woodcock. And we went in, and he said, "Today we are not going to study. We are going to talk about what happened. And I don't want anybody to talk bad about Helen. She is an American citizen and she has nothing to do with this." And I just, just had tears in my eyes and everybody was nice to me. We were, we all got along real well. Whether they talked bad about me around somebody else... but we did talk about that and I thought to myself, "What a thing to say." Because everybody was against us. They thought we had something to do with it. We did not.

MA: But you felt that in your high school people understood.

HT: They understood and they were really good. They had me running for next year. They wanted to have me as secretary and everything, but I couldn't do it because we were evacuated and sent to camp.

MA: So how many -- I'm trying to understand your high school -- and how many Niseis were there? How many white students?

HT: There were quite a few Niseis there. And then they were quite smart. In fact, some of them were valedictorians or whatever. And then there was, we all got along real good. I don't know what it, what was it. There weren't any other, there weren't any blacks, I remember, I don't think there was any blacks.

MA: But there were like Mexicans?

HT: There were some Mexicans, yeah. And I had a, yeah, two of my real good friends were Mexican, the Villanovas. And then they had a real, they had a sort of like a reunion and they invited me to come later on. And I couldn't go because my husband had a stroke that time it was so hard. And then I told the person, she was my real pal in school and I said, "Be sure to tell these people, if they come, tell them that I said hello to them." They were really, we all got along good. We did.

MA: And at the time, when you were in high school, what were your, what were you thinking about the future? And what were your goals, your dreams for the future?

HT: Well, I wanted to be in business. I wanted to be... because I took shorthand, I took, all ready to go because I knew we couldn't afford to go to college. And then I thought to myself, why go to college when you graduate? You're not going to get a job. In those days, they had college degrees and they were working as a gardener or whatever. It isn't like today. But my sister was the one. Her real good friend went into that and she was earning good money. So that's, that's the way I learned it.

MA: But when you were younger it seems like...

HT: I wanted to be a teacher. I really wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. And my sister, to this day, she said, "Helen, I don't think you are going to be a teacher. You would be taking all the stuff for the kids that can't afford it or you would bring all the sick people home." [Laughs] She knows how I felt. I certainly would have done that. She was a nurse. She has a different personality. You have to have that kind of personality, she said. She was a very good nurse. But she said if you felt sorry for every one of them, you're not going to survive. But probably I don't think I could have done it, come to think of it. 'Cause I'm always so sad.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: And so we were talking earlier about Pearl Harbor and you, at the time, at the day, December 7, 1941, you were a junior in high school?

HT: Yeah.

MA: Okay, so you were in high school. And can you tell me, like, what you were thinking when you first heard the news about Pearl Harbor?

HT: We were watching the movie at the church that night and then we were watching war pictures and stuff. And then, these people came out, they said, we just heard that, so then we left and then went home right away. That happened, I think it was, no, it was Sunday morning isn't it? And so then I thought to myself, at that time, I thought, "Oh, what am I going to do?" I really felt, I don't know if I'm... I'm really proud of my heritage and I didn't feel that I was, I didn't know anything about Japan at that time. I'd never visited or anything. I'm an American citizen. I've considered myself in the United States. But I had mixed feelings, I guess. I felt sorry for my parents and they never said anything about going back or anything like that. It was just, I don't know, it's just, it was a very sad time for me. 'Cause I was wondering how other people would feel. And I shouldn't have been, I shouldn't have said that because I really should have thought to myself, "I am an American citizen." But it's very difficult.

MA: What, what did your parents... what were your parents' reactions about Pearl Harbor?

HT: I don't know. They didn't say too much. They were just...I don't remember. They don't say too much about it or anything. So they just felt sorry for their relatives out there. Especially when they found out two of her brothers were killed during the atomic bomb. Because the rest of the family were out in the mountains. They must have known something was going to happen because later on I went twice to Japan -- we took a baseball team to Japan. That's the time that... but the second time around we went to visit my relatives. We were given a three week full vacation paid from his work. So that's when we went back to see, this is where it happened and all kinds of stuff.

MA: And it sounds like in your high school people were pretty supportive of you, at least.

HT: Yes, they didn't talk bad about it or anything to me.

MA: What about the town of Parlier? Did you feel the same way or were people a little bit more...

HT: Well, we were with the Japanese part, so we weren't actually out there that much. Not that I know of. See, the American section was out, the Japanese section was just a little area.

MA: Oh, I see. So you had your own community.

HT: Yeah, right next to the Japanese school and the church. And so that's about it. But, other than that it was, I don't know. I didn't feel any.

MA: What about, like, with your friends? Do you remember talking about Pearl Harbor or hearing rumors about any type of...

HT: Isn't that funny? We never talked about it. I think they were trying not to say too much and they didn't want to say anything too much, I didn't want to say anything either. We rode on the bus, everybody was on the same bus. But I don't know. It was just, I guess I was a kid yet. It makes a big difference. I'm sure the adults were, the older people were probably, there were a lot of older people that owned a lot of -- in Sanger there were a lot of farms and stuff that they owned because the children were much older. But it was sad.

MA: Well, and your, you had a story about your sister who was valedictorian and she wasn't able to attend graduation.

HT: Yeah, she wrote her, she says... it was a small school and she was valedictorian and she wrote her poem, and she wrote a story and she was rehearsing it and rehearsing it. And the sheriff came by and since the graduation's always held outside and there was a, what do you call it, you can't go out before sundown.

MA: Curfew.

HT: Curfew. That's... I couldn't think of the word. Anyway, so the neighbors said, "We'll take her." "No," he said, "there's war hysteria right now, you could be shot and I cannot take that," the sheriff said. So, so another boy read her, read her speech. She was very sad about it, but she was a smart kid. So, but, it was just one of those things that, you just never know how people would react. There was nothing that, nobody came and did anything bad to our house or anything in that time. Grapes of Wrath, I was trying to think of... have you ever read the story, Grapes of Wrath? That reminded me of when all these people came. That reminded me of that. 'Cause they were all coming by to do that. I know, I'm almost positive who took everything because were living so close.

MA: And they would come and wait...

HT; Yeah, they would come and take it. But how did they carry that piano out, it was upright piano. It was my older sister played it and everything.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: And when President Roosevelt issued that Executive Order 9066, and people started going, being removed to camp, you actually weren't, you and your family weren't initially...

HT: Yeah, because, yeah, it was Highway 99 was the separation of east and west of California. So we were on the west side, no.

MA: The east side.

HT: The east side. So we didn't even have to go into assembly center. So lot of people from the west side came, came this way so that they didn't have to go moving. They could move into this area. Then they decided the whole California should go. In fact, I didn't even know part of Arizona was part of it, too. I didn't know that until we went visiting and talked to a lot of them. And, but, it was a very scary thought.

MA: So initially you were...

HT: We were happy.

MA: Right, because you thought that you wouldn't have to go to camp.

HT: Yes, and then not only that, but we had our farm. And my father was so happy,. He took care of that farm so... it was unbelievable how he took care of it. He was very neat. He was a good farmer. Nowadays you have tractors and... [coughs] I need a drink of water. But all our neighbors were nice. A couple of Japanese had farmers out.

MA: And then, how did you then hear about having to go to camp, to Gila?

HT: Yeah, they had that big sign up all over the place.


MA: Okay, so you were talking about when you saw the signs and...

HT: It was written all over the place. And we had to go and get our shots and all that. And the teacher that I talked to said, they had a little synopsis of, a small story about that, they were all smiling, they had to go and register. They were all smiling. Why is that? I said, "If you were out there and had all these people with guns, all these people with guns all over the place watching you, you'd smile, too." I mean, you'd be so scared. They had them all over. They said, "Oh, we didn't know that." They says, how can you do that when you lose all your things, and, but, I don't know. It was our last picture, so the picture that we took.

MA: The picture of you and your family.

HT: Yeah, we were all smiling. It's our last picture, we smile. So, it was, they couldn't understand it, well, if they were, if you were at that part, even when we got on the train to go to Arizona it was, there would be police and soldiers with guns. Every time we pass a town, they would say, "Pull the shades down or you are going to get shot." So, there was no bathroom or anything on this broken down train. And we stopped at little place and we all ran out to the bathroom. But it was, it was a scary time because they would walk up and down with guns. What would we do? We didn't have anything and we certainly couldn't jump on them or anything. But it was a very scary time. But you have to be there, I tell them. You have to be there in order to feel how scared you are. You don't dare say anything because you would be shot.

MA: Right, I mean, there's soldiers, armed soldiers, and you just had to vacate your house, your farm, leave everything behind.

HT: They would, they had guns right there. They could shoot you. So it was, I don't know, they, somebody asked me, "When you were in camp, did they bother you?" I say, it wasn't like the Holocaust unless you're trying to escape through the barbed wire, I don't think there was any. Maybe there was. But not me, I was at the school all the time.

MA: And so when you were going on the train, did you know where you were headed? Or was it...

HT: They said Arizona.

MA: But you knew you were going into camp somewhere?

HT: Yeah, uh-huh.

MA: It was so funny because when they first mentioned it, they said, we're going to go to Arizona. They said we're going to be going to Arizona. Okay. So they said there's a lot of rattlesnakes and all kinds of stuff. So we were all buying boots and all kinds of stuff. And we got there, there's no rattlesnakes. It's on the other side of this ditch, you know. But they were just scaring you to buy everything, but we wanted to be prepared. And then we bought jeans, and so I had never worn jeans but we had to. And it's going to be hot and all this. But the, I think what we tried to make the best of everything. When I got in there a lot of people had nervous breakdowns and stuff. But I just didn't want to be one of them. I just wanted to be myself and then try to help myself and not be like that. So I think the school really helped me.

MA: So who, who would have nervous breakdowns? Was it people your age or older?

HT: No, the older people. They had nothing to do. They were just sitting there, so they died. They, a lot of them, well, a lot of them were, they felt sorry for themselves also because they're Isseis, you know? And then they had clubs and all kinds of stuff. The women would get together and sew and all kinds of stuff. But there were quite a few that got sick. In fact, my mother had eye troubles so she went in and the pays and the doctors and stuff, they were helpful, but the real doctors were, they just got paid nineteen bucks for all that. So it was a sad thing, but tried our best, anyway.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: Can you tell me about that first day at Gila and what you were thinking and what...

HT: Yeah, first when we got off the train, there was a bus there. And as we were approaching the barbed wire area, you could see the sentry post up there. And there were a whole bunch of guns laying there. And we drove in and went to the administration building, and they'll tell us just exactly where we're going to go and everything. They had us all... and we were in to 23-7-B, which is Block 23 and the 7, there was four rooms and we were the second room. And then the fourth room is always a couple or it's a smaller one. And so we finally got our place. And at that time, we said, "Oh my gosh." It's just a straw bed with, they had that. And then just a pot-bellied stove and then everything else, just a bed. And I thought, "My gosh." All of us are sleeping in there. So then we started bringing out our sheets and separate a little bit. And then as the Arizona sun was hot, and they used green wood, they did not wait until it dried, so the Arizona sun would beat down on us and the wood would shrink. And they would be slats open like this and they used to have -- Arizona was, it's a desert -- so they used to have dust storms and it would come up from that. And my mother would go out to the bathroom and get water, and we used to put our face in the water. It was so bad there for a while and then my brother was, he was chosen to be one of the leaders in our block, assistant manager, whatever. So we told him that something's going wrong, so then they started finding a few things out and then try to put, cover that. But the bathroom was the worst. They had stools like this, just stools. And then the shower was just like, and no partition or nothing. And the, some of the girls wore swimming suit to take a bath. You know, we're teenagers. Why should we all take our clothes off? So a lot of time, we just used to take a bath in the house. We used to bring water in and wash ourselves. But the main part that I was really surprised was when we had our period, what are you going to do? So we told my brother, I said, "You have to help us. At least find something. that we could put at the last stall and then we will watch." So he looked around and he found a cardboard. And he put it up the last one and then every time anyone was like that we said, "Go in there. We will watch you." And that really helped. That really helped. Otherwise it was just gruesome.

MA: No privacy at all.

HT: No privacy at all. And then the guys were in the next one. Guys, they don't care anyway. But finally toward the end we got used to it, just take a shower. But at first, I even was shy, real shy. So my mother realized that so she used to get water and just rinse ourselves. But it was really bad.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: And you were also attending high school.

HT: Yeah, that was the first class and the teachers came from Arizona. And they were all, it's amazing. I think they felt sorry for us or something. They were all good teachers. They were very compassionate teachers and I got to know them real well. And then my brother got a job. He was a bookkeeping teacher. And then I was taking bookkeeping from this other teacher, but I was transferred over to him... and said, "Oh, Helen, you're going to get 'A' for sure." And I said, "Are you kidding? I work so hard." I even told him before he passed away, I said, "You know, George," I said, "You were so mean to me." He said, "I had to be. They thought I was going to give you an 'A' for sure." I got a straight A and it's written in, I kept the report card. "You kept it?" I said, "Yes, I kept it." I worked so hard. I'm not kidding. I worked twice as hard in this class. And the other teacher, she went to New Mexico later, I went to visit her, and she said, "Yeah, George was real, real bad. But he said he had to do that." You know, give me double work and all that. But rest of the teachers were so good. And I helped them out and when I graduated I worked one month in a motor pool just to get a job and the principal came and said, "What are you doing here? You're going to work for me." So he brought me back and all the teachers really appreciated what I did because I helped them out doing all kinds of stuff. And they said, "You really helped me out. Anytime you want me to do anything for you." Every one of them in the picture, they wrote.

MA: And so you ended up working for this principal of the Canal High School?

HT: High school.

MA: What type of work did you do?

HT: I was a secretary. And I did, there were two other girls. And we did, took care of the, of the attendance, and all the report cards, and all kinds of stuff. But I was a secretary and then he showed me some work that other secretaries had, "See, she never put the year down. How do I know this, what year is this?" So I remember doing that. Then when we were doing that, he had to have surgery.

MA: The principal did?

HT: Yeah, his wife and his daughter was in the school. And he said he had to go to this veterans hospital in Phoenix. And he said he's going to be gone for a month and he wanted us to take care of it. And we took care of everything. We did everything. Helped out the teachers and get the test papers and everything. And he said that when he came back, he said that, "I want to treat you." He got, even the manager, the head of the camp, he used to brag about me. He says, "Best secretary that you ever had." Even the project director wrote a note to me, he says, "We were all jealous of Mr. McVey." They got permission for us to go to Phoenix and everybody said, "How can you go to Phoenix?" Well, I don't know, he said, he just wanted to treat us because out there and he just left us for the day. And they said that, well, what did the people do? No, they probably thought we were Indians from the reservation. And we saw "Since You Went Away" and "Going My Way." It just came at that time.

MA: These were films you saw?

HT: Yeah, two movies we saw. And then at nighttime we went to them. And they took us to Phoenix, one of the high-tone restaurants and we ate and then they brought us back. And then do you know what Senior Ditch Day is?

MA: Why don't you explain what it is?

HT: [Laughs] People nowadays don't know. Senior Ditch Day is when the seniors, when they're good and everything, they have one day that they can take off. So, they said that, "We'll let you go to this little town called Sacaton." It's in the reservation, but you're out of the, out of the barbed wire. And Tets Santo, this other teacher and I, it was about, it must have been about 10 miles maybe. And in those days I was young and I was real frisky, I could walk it. And then there were a bunch of us, we went. Oh, they were so happy. We went to this store and they bought little cans of pop and the candy and all kinds of stuff. And we spent a little time out in the, it looked like a little, little place that they could play and everything. And they were so happy just to be out of the barbed wire. So we came back and we had special permission to do that.

MA: You took the seniors?

HT: Yeah, and we went in there. And then just Tets Santo and I, that's all. And they, if we did that today, they would be running all over the place. But they were so good. They were so thankful to go. And we came back and everybody said, "How did you do that?" And I said, "Well, we got special permission to go." Because they knew. So, another job that they came back, but another job I got was I saved all the teachers, they would open up the gym at night, give me the key, and then, if they ever had a meeting I'd take 'em to a certain place and then they would have their meeting. And they had all kinds of stuff out of, after the school was over. So I saved them a lot of time, so the teachers were real happy about that. They were in the place, what am I thinking about? They were in the, they have a little place that they stayed in the camp and, but they were, they had plays, they did plays. And they did all kinds of things. And they were so happy that I was able to do that. And the kids were, oh, they were good. They really minded. And so they're coming in, they wanted advice. And I was little Abby. Abby, you know that advice column?

MA: Dear Abby?

HT: I was Dear Abby. I was one of those. I can't give you a good, good thing, but they just, we just had a ball. And I went to one reunion and the kids came up to me and he said, "Boy," he said, "we really had fun going up because you used to tell us some jokes and stuff like that." I just wanted them to be themselves. And not to be like this. So it was really fun. They had proms and they had -- nobody went out on dates like seniors, a bunch of the girls and a bunch of the guys went. It was really a lot of fun. And they had the little stores there.

MA: In Gila? In camp?

HT: Yeah, they had little stores there where, if you want to buy a few things you could go in there and buy it. So my little check that I got -- I think I earned sixteen dollars a month and the twelve dollars were the janitors and whatever. And the teachers and the doctors got nineteen dollars. So they came and had, it was Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward was the main one that we used to send out for.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: And, so Gila was on a reservation, you said. Did you ever come into contact with the Native American people living there?

HT: Well, there was one incident that happened was there was this 3 year old little girl, Indian girl, used to go up to the, ride her pony with her grandpa, and come up to the barbed wire. And then all the little kids would go over there and then they'd try to touch the pony and they had a real good time. And that girl became a nurse and she wanted to meet somebody that was in camp when she was three years old. And that's what I have in there, picture. So we went and says, "Okay, I'll go." Because my kids, my son said he'll take me because he wanted to see where I had lived, the dentist son, and his wife and my grandson. So I have a whole bunch of pictures of that. And she was so happy to see me, even if I wasn't the little person. And she's a nurse on the Indian reservation now. She says she'll never forget that.

So the girl that took us there, she had a grant to write (Stories from Both Sides of the Barbed Wire Fence). So she wrote a book and I bought that book here to talk about the Indian reservation. And we visited the Indian reservation, they were so nice to us. So I got to know them. But I didn't know at the time. In fact, I didn't even know we were on an Indian reservation until later on. We thought when we left the, left the barbed wire I thought we were someplace else, but still it was Indian reservation.

MA: So when you describe talking about going to that small town with the seniors on skip day, was that a reservation town?

HT: It was still a reservation town. I think it was part of a reservation, I think, Sacaton.

MA: So do you remember the people there and interactions with them?

HT: Yeah, we saw some. They were running around all over. But it was, I'm sure it was on the reservation, that's the way I think, but it's Sacaton. In fact, some of the teachers, they went out there in Minnesota, they went out there and they, I looked at some of the pictures and then it said Sacaton on that. I said, "You were there? I was there." So, right now, whether it's still reservation, I really don't know. But I thought it was at that time. But they, when we went visiting there they had all kinds of stuff there. It's really grown. And I went to see the railroad station. And it was, all those pictures, you have to see it. It's really taken, and we took a picture of all the, the Japanese people that made all kinds of holes under their, to store things, under their, I took all those pictures.

MA: And that's all still there?

HT: Yeah, they're all... I took some pictures and there's some names. I said, it would be fun for the person that saw that. But the Indian reservation people do not want people to come in. They have to have special permission to go in. 'Cause there are some people that come in, just sneak in and vandalize. There's nothing to vandalize, but they want to smoke and all kinds of stuff. But I know exactly where my barrack was. And I knew where the administration building, where the school was. It's just a blocks. There isn't that much stuff. But it was good, it was sort of like a closure for me.

MA: And when did you take this trip back to Gila River?

HT: That was in, when my grandson was three, three and a half and he's thirteen, so ten years ago. And it was really, my son said the same thing, he said it was so good that, "Now I know what you went through." Yeah, he wanted to come yesterday, but he had a ball game. And I was already sleeping at 9:30, he calls me up and says, "Oh, did I wake you?" I says, "yes." And then he says, "Kyle went 3-for-3." He's a very good athlete, that little boy.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So one thing I wanted to talk to you about is the photos from Gila River. Can you talk a little bit about how you had access to the photos and your principal's role in taking the photos?

HT: Yeah. When I first went to school and then he had the only camera and he was taking pictures and he told me that, you know me, I'm so talkative. I said that, "Boy, you're lucky that you have the camera." He says, "Oh, yeah." And then he said that they're gonna, he's gonna take all kinds of pictures and he's going to make a yearbook. And he made a yearbook, three yearbook, '43, '44, '45. And then he said that, "When I can't take it, I want you to drive the car and take it." And here I am the only one driving a car. They said, "How come you're driving a car?" I said, "I'm just..." And it was not a box camera. It was one of those real expensive cameras that you have to adjust it and do all kinds of stuff. And me, I'm not very good when it comes to stuff like that, but the pictures came out good. It was, it really did. I couldn't believe it.

MA: And these were some of the only photos that were taken in Gila?

HT: In camp, in Gila at the time.

MA: At the time.

HT: Later on the soldiers started coming in. Then they brought their camera in and they started taking pictures, so there'll be a lot. They, the ones that he took for the school, he took our senior picture. And it came out pretty good. And then he sent it to Phoenix and then he can get it developed. But, so then they had a committee for the annual, I called it an annual, but you call it yearbook now I think. After they, they set it up which picture goes where, which picture goes there. And then they set it up and then they send it in, and then the annual would come out. But he said that, "All these pictures, they're extras. You could keep them, Helen." I said, "Oh, boy." I said, "Great. I'll make a book out of them." So he, I think he sold some, too, but, there might be others, but not that I know of, that I think I'm the only one that has 'em right now. There might be others that would, might say something. They'd say, "Hey, I think I brought some, too." He might have done it too, but I can't remember. But most of 'em are real. And, in fact, when I was showing it to the kids, the teacher said, "These are real pictures." I said, "They are. They're not reprints, they're not something else. It's real, real pictures." In fact, one was a funeral of a friend of mine, like I was talking to Tom... David Masumoto is, is an art, he's an editor, he wrote a book about camp. And when his brother -- not his brother, his uncle, passed away in the war, it appeared in a book and says, "photographer unknown." And I talked to him myself, Mr. McVey took it because I have the original. So someday I'd like to send it to him, but...

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So how, how long were in Gila? How many years?

HT: Three years.

MA: There years.

HT: Yeah

MA: And you eventually left by yourself, right?

HT: Yeah. I cried all the time I was out there. I went to, I got a civil service job in Indianapolis, Indiana.

MA: And why did you decide to leave?

HT: I, well, everybody else was going here or there. And I thought, "Oh, maybe I should go." And then my brother was in Minneapolis already and I thought, if I could get a job in Minneapolis, it would be neat. But then I thought, Indianapolis, I got a pretty good job. It was a transportation department where the people would come in to get gas tickets. And I just typed them up, but I didn't know. If I had to say which person gets this, I wouldn't have known, but I was secretary. And I slept in the YWCA and I thought to myself, I'm going to cry every night. Why did I come here? I was lonesome. It was the first time I left my family.

MA: And your family was still in Gila? Except your brother.

HT: Yeah. And then I, later on I, this lady, her, she's a, one of her sons went to Canada -- she's one of those religious person -- so I stayed with her for a little bit. And my family was coming out so then I thought, wait, I'm going to go to meet them in Minnesota. So when they first came out they were in Chaska, Ches-mar farm. My father was a farmer so they thought he would be a good farmer. But he couldn't do it. His hands weren't that good. So, we stayed there for maybe a month or so and then we moved into town, into hostel. And then my brother got us, we rented a place near Washburn High School.

MA: So a little bit more about Indianapolis and the YWCA you stayed in. Was this all for Nisei girls?

HT: No, I just happened to, I talked to, they had a, they had something there that we could go talk to... it was Japanese, I can't remember...

MA: Like a resettlement office?

HT: Yeah, a resettlement thing. And they said, "Go to the YWCA." So I did. I stayed there for a little bit. And it was right downtown so it was easy for me to go to work.

MA: Were there any other Japanese Americans there?

HT: No, I don't think so. Uh-uh. There were quite a few because, like I said there was the army camp close by. 'Cause I've seen, when I go on a bus, I could see soldiers, there's some, a lot of Japanese girls that relocated out there, too, I think. But it was just not even a month or so that I stayed, so I don't remember too much. But I remember they were having some kind of a celebration. I don't know if the war... I think the war ended or something. She wouldn't let me go downtown because they thought I might be... it was, I think it was, they were having some kind of celebration of the war ending or whatever. See, I can't remember too much of it because it was such a long time ago and I was, I didn't keep any pictures or anything. 'Cause that was the saddest part of my life.

MA: When you were all alone it sounds like, away from your family and you didn't know anyone.

HT: It was the first time I ever left. And I thought to myself, "Why did I come here?" I was so happy to meet the rest of the family that came here.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So then, okay, so you were in Indianapolis for about a month and then that's when your parents came out.

HT: Yeah, with my sister.

MA: With your sister.

HT: Uh-huh. And they came to Minneapolis at the hostel. It was on Clifton Road someplace. And then that's where I met them and then we rented a place out close to where my sister graduated, Washburn High School. That was a ritzy area at that time. I had to laugh because we had to get a formal for graduation. [Laughs].

MA: And, so, your brother is what brought you to Minneapolis? Is that right? He was working as an engineer?

HT: Yes. First he was in the army at Fort Snelling. And then the war ended -- he was learning Japanese, and, in fact, one of the books we have that he learned. He went to Japanese school but they didn't know too much. They had to learn all that. And they, he almost going to go to Japan area, but then the war ended. So then he found this job (at the Vern G. Ellen Co.) and this family was a life saver. He was so good to him. He treated him like their own son. And then they, he even built a house close by. And one thing that happened was everybody was nice to him and everything, but they had a petition going. They didn't want him to build a house close by. And it came to one of the person that works the same place as my brother. He tore it up and that was it. There was no prejudice after that. He just tore up that petition.

MA: So the people who were behind the petition were people from the neighborhood?

HT: Whoever it was they didn't know. He didn't know. He didn't know, either, they were passing it around. They didn't want him in the neighborhood. You know, it's maybe they had a brother or somebody that died or whatever. It's just war hysteria. So, but then that was the only prejudice that he ran into. But the other one was when we were at the hostel, my father went to, to a place where he could buy wine. And he went in there and they said, "You Indian. Get out." They thought he was an Indian. And that, that's still was law in those days when we first came in 1946.

MA: What was law?

HT: That you can't sell any liquor to Indians. That was the law a long time ago. They don't do that anymore. He said, "They didn't sell it to me because they thought I was Indian." He said, he was shocked.

MA: That's interesting, then, the prejudice came because people thought you were --

HT: Indian.

MA: Yeah.

HT: Well, that was just the law for the wine -- the bar or whatever, where they sell the wine. And I think that was, they were just thought he was an Indian so it wasn't a prejudice or anything. I think that was just the law. And that was it. And after a while that was fine.

MA: And the hostel was for people who were resettling?

HT: Yeah.

MA: So Japanese American families who were coming to...

HT: Uh-huh. There was the person that was in charge was Mrs. Akard. And I can't remember, she was really nice. She had all of us and then we had meals there and everything. And we just slept upstairs. We had a place to stay until we find someplace that we could move out to.

MA: And the families in the hostels, were they from all over?

HT: Yeah.

MA: So all the camps, all over?

HT: Yeah, I really don't know. Some of them, yeah, I think because I've never known them. They just happened to come in and they just couldn't find anything right away so then they, until they got resettled we stayed there. She was very nice, yeah. I could just sort of, we couldn't stay too long. Then we went and rented a little house in South Minneapolis.

MA: And what were --

HT: And soon thereafter, my brother bought a house for us.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: And what were your impressions of Minnesota when you first arrived?

HT: Well, I, they said that you might run into prejudice and a lot of people didn't want to, they couldn't get an apartment because they were Japanese and stuff like that. But we didn't run into that. And it was really strange because they said that, "Did you run into any prejudice?" I don't think I did. Because right away we were in the, like golf and all our friends, they were all Caucasians. They were really nice. And they were asking us how we came here and all that. And in fact one teacher, she was a teacher now, but she says she couldn't -- she was way up Roosevelt High School -- she says she couldn't figure out how so many, there were a lot of Japanese that came. And she couldn't figure out how, what happened. Then she learned, too. See, there was nothing in the books in those days, textbooks.


MA: And so at the time, your family planned on settling in Minnesota permanently? There was no talk of moving back to California?

HT: No, no. Because there was nothing there. We would never have gone back to California. But later on they did. My brother moved out there because, oh, he married a Seattle girl, Osaka. Asaka-Osaka. [Laughs] Anyway, so, they moved out there. The whole family was here but he moved out there because he found another engineering job out there. And the some of the kids were born here but then they moved out there.

MA: But your parents were settled in Minneapolis.

HT: Here, yeah.

MA: What did they do? What type of work did they get involved in?

HT: My father got a job at Donaldson department store. It's not there anymore. And he was janitor. And his, my father-in-law and he both got a job. That's how I met my husband. And my husband didn't have a job so then he worked with my brother. He just got a job as a truck driver and stuff like that. So, it's just a small world. And then they worked night, and it helped my father.

MA: So your father worked for the department store.

HT: Yeah, janitor at night time.

MA: As a janitor. What did your mother do?

HT: My mother was always home.

MA: She was home.

HT: Yeah. She, she was staying home and cooked and stuff like that. And then I married and then I lived with their family. Everybody stuck together.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: Was there a, like a Japantown in Minneapolis?

HT: No Japantown but then we had a, like JACL. We had a, the Buddhist Church and all kinds of stuff. First of all we, they settled on 2200 Blaisdell. It was a big house and they used to have a minister, Christian minster who was Japanese. And he stayed there and then we always used to have wedding receptions or church gatherings or anything we used to, that, we used to meet there. I wish we had bought that place, but we never did.

MA: Oh, this was the Buddhist gathering place?

HT: Yeah, Buddhist. And not only that, but Christian, and they had young people and they called it the, this colored person. They called it, it was all colored mix up. I don't know, I can't remember the name of it. They all used to meet together there. Just a meeting place and we had our church services there. And later on we had to go someplace else because they sold it. Somebody else bought it.

MA: So it seems like that place was like the hub of the community at the time.

HT: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, that's right.

MA: What about race in Minneapolis, the race relations? I'm just curious also about the demographics -- there was white, Japanese who moved from the camps. What other races? Were there Chinese people here?

HT: Yeah, there were some Chinese people and we have some real good Chinese friends that are, were restaurant, they were all restaurant owners. And right now he lives in St. Louis Park someplace. But then he comes over every once and a while. And the time I was sick he brought dinner over. He's not, he doesn't have a restaurant or anything like that, but he still remembers, he used to sponsor our bowling group. We got along real well. Long time ago they didn't get along too well.

MA: You mean Japanese Chinese?

HT: Yeah.

MA: And this was before the war maybe?

HT: I don't know what it is. We did. But then the adults sort of said, "No, don't go there, now." But kids were nothing. We didn't... but as far as racial things. I don't think there was anything like that for us. I don't think. The kids understood each other, I think, when we were kids. The adults are sort of, they sort of maybe ran into that, but I don't think we did. Yeah. And being on a farm makes a big difference too.

MA: Being on the farm, how?

HT: Well, they were all in a separate place and then, we had a whole bunch of Caucasians living across. We all had the same thing. And then the kids, we got along real well. We used to go play at each other's place and stuff. I think if we were living in town maybe it might be different. I don't know.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: And so what type of work did you find after the war and after moving to Minneapolis?

HT: Well, when I first came here, I didn't know what to do. I was trying to find a secretarial service. And then I went to the, I thought to myself, "I wonder if there's a civil service or something?" There wasn't any. So I went to the University Hospital and then I went to apply for a job and they gave it to me right away. And then work in the stenographic office. And I transcribed all dictation and they had it on a tape, on cylinder tape. I don't think you've seen it. And then it would fall and break. It was just terrible. That's where I met my doctor. He was sort of like an intern there. So I've known him for many, many years.

MA: And this is the doctor you ended up working for so many years.

HT: So many years. What he did was he would come in and he'd say, "Helen, would you do this for me?" And I'd say, "Okay." So I never took a lunch hour while I worked at the U. I would work, finish his work and then do it, and then I don't think he ever knew that. And then he'd bring, started to bring more work at my house. He used to work at Mt. Sinai and that's where all the Jewish doctors worked. And then I lived, my home was close to Mt. Sinai, so he would stop by, drop my work off, then come by and pick my work up. That was second. That's when I first, I quit my job when Frank, my Frank was born, 'cause my husband said, "You can't, I don't want you to work. Watch the baby." So when we first, we moved out of that house and came to St. Louis Park and I talked to all my doctors that I were before because they were all interns and when they get a job. So I worked for Dr. Lannin who is, who was the, the sports of University Hospital. He was orthopedic surgeon. And then the pediatrics, and then Dr. Shapiro and there's a whole bunch of others that... I didn't earn much, I was just charging a dollar an hour or whatever just to get it started. They said, "Wow, you got a business." I said, "Yes, I know, but I didn't earn that much." But it was just I was able to save with my -- although my mother-in-law stayed with us. I took care of her for fifty years. Everybody thought it was my mother. "How can you take care of your mother-in-law?" I said, "Are you kidding? We got along real well." There are some times something happened when you just don't say much, didn't say anything. We really got along real well.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: Well, tell me about meeting your husband. You said your parents, your fathers knew each other from working in the department store.

HT: Yeah. We lived only 10 miles apart in California. I never knew him. We came here and I met him and then he got a job working at my, my brother's place. He was a truck driver and stuff like that. And then yesterday I was talking about -- he kept going and going and he became like an engineer, I mean, he didn't go to college, but he knew more than the people that came from college. Because he learned all that stuff that they were doing at that work that he had. So it was really quite a thing that this fellow that was sitting next to me, he's from Fowler, which was the home town of the Tsuchiyas. They knew each other but he didn't know that -- they were kids. But he said that when he came to Minnesota he worked at a company and then one time Frank went, he was setting up something, putting up... and everybody said, "Who is that?" And they says, "Look at him. He's really strong. You need three men to put that thing up and he's doing it by himself." They said that, "Helen, he's a good worker." I said, "He was. He really worked hard." And it's too bad that he couldn't get a college degree. He wanted to be a schoolteacher. He wanted to be a baseball coach. But the war stopped it, so, but other than that he was, he really worked there for a long time.

MA: And do you remember meeting him for the first time?

HT: Yeah. I met him when I was his older brother got married here. He was a lieutenant and he was at Camp Savage in the army and he met this girl from San Francisco and then you know, well, you're not from California. And they got married here, and then they said that they just wanted to do a service and then I didn't even know both of 'em but then they wanted me to stand up for her. That's how I met him because Frank stood up for his brother and I stood up for her. [Laughs] That's how we met. It makes me laugh because here I'm standing up for this woman I didn't even know her. It's just... but that's how I met him. And then he was coming to see my brother, but pretty soon he started coming to see me. Yeah, he was, he's such a nice, he's really a nice guy.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: And in Minneapolis, it seems like a lot of Japanese moved here after the war.

HT: Yes.

MA: Did you notice the community sort of getting smaller? Did a lot of people return to the West Coast?

HT: They did. They did return to the West Coast. A lot of them. But a lot of them stayed here because of that, camp, the...

MA: The language school?

HT: Yeah, the language school. And then they moved it over to San Francisco, I think, Presidio or whatever it is. And so quite a few were returning to California. We, we didn't because there were no place for us to go. But a lot of them did go back after the, they didn't have that school anymore. And then a lot of 'em didn't, just returned. Some of them weren't remarried and they just left.

MA: What about the community here in Minneapolis, sort of compared with the West Coast communities? Do you notice a difference?

HT: Oh yeah, there's a lot of difference.

MA: What do you...

HT: West Coast is more Japanesey, I think. They have all kinds of get togethers. We have just certain ones that we could do, but it's hard. It's, we used to have Bon Odori, you know Bon Odori, we used to do that when my husband was head of the church here. And then Todd has now taken over since my husband passed away. He was so, now there's they've finally changed the president to something else, but Todd was the president for the longest time. He knew a lot and he just -- I told him he should have been a minister. He said, "No." [Laughs] But it was, I don't know, it was, my husband was really, you know, we had the Normandale College. I don't know, did you go see the Japanese garden? They have a Japanese garden there. Anyway, they have the, they had the Bon Odori there. And we had the Chicago people come and they all had their nihongi on, and we had Bon Odori there. And there are a lot of that we did in those days when we had that little place to go. We had Halloween party and everybody'd dress -- kids were all small then. Now we're all grown. And a lot of them have gone into the Christian, they're not all Buddhists anymore. Our group is, the minister that comes from Chicago, he said that, "You're group is bigger than the Chicago because everybody else have gone out." So, but it's hanging on there. We have a small group, but we have church six times a year and then there are other small gatherings that happens.

MA: When did that, that center that you were talking about, it was like a community center, when did that sort of disappear?

HT: Well, that was quite a while back because that was when Reverend (Kitagawa and Reverend Otani), there were two reverends. That was, I can't even remember, that was a long time ago. That's when we were all young and all the kids were young. Oh, that was a good place to get together. We used to have wedding receptions, all kinds of stuff. In fact, my sister got married there. And it was really nice because they had a stairway upstairs and she walked down the stairway coming down. It was really beautiful. Because whenever we have a funeral or anything we don't have church per se. So we always go to the mortuary, I mean the, where they have the mausoleum or whatever, they have the funeral there.

MA: The cemetery?

HT: Yeah -- not the cemetery. It's called (individual funeral home).

MA: (Individual funeral home)?

HT: Yeah, where we have the gathering there. We just had one last Friday at this place out in Bloomington. And then we meet at the YWCA, our church.

MA: This is your Buddhist church?

HT: Yeah, yeah. We meet and they say, "Oh sure you could meet here." As long as we pay them rent and then... and then one of the head girls, she was a, one of the head person at the Y and she retired, but they said, "That's okay, you could still use it."

MA: How many members does your church have?

HT: We have about thirty-something. It's a small group but we're all together. And then the newer ones come. And then the kids are still learning it. Later on, you just never know. Doesn't matter to me if they want to do whatever they want.

MA: Is there also Japanese Christian church?

HT: I think so, there is. There is, they used to be, when the Isseis were here there used to be one. And then they dissolved because most of them were gone. And then a lot of them, I don't think there's a Japanese one, they go to their individual church. And then when they disbanded, they, they gave all the money to the JACL scholarship. We have a scholarship for my daughter Susan. Doing it for twenty odd years, twenty-nine years. And Sally was the one that started it. She was in Japan and when my daughter died, she said, "We're going to start, you should start it at JACL." I told her that, she didn't know that I started it because of her. Every year we give out scholarship. And they try to pick out a girl that's almost similar to whatever she had. And it's usually musical and smartness and community and all that. So it's really nice. And my doctor that I work for, he used to contribute toward it. And he was always giving me a bonus when he comes back from Arizona because I took care of the office while he was gone for six months that he spent out there. And I said, "Oh this comes in handy." I said, "I could put it to my..." "What?" He said, "This is for you. I'm going to give it." So he's been giving it every year. And then when I retired end of last month, he said, "Helen, as long as I'm living, I'm still going to be contributing to Susie." He knew her. Everybody loved her. Someday... I know you're not Buddhist, so, someday you have to meet David. He's coming in July, but he's speaks everywhere. He, the people from here that was from Hawaii went back to Hawaii and he spoke there and so she sent me a tape.

MA: And this is David...

HT: David Matsumoto.

MA: Matsumoto. Who is...

HT: Yo's son.

MA: And your daughter's...

HT: Ex-husband.

MA: Ex-husband, okay.

HT: And he's married now, and she's just a lovely lady. When he was in Japan he met her there. And, but that little boy is, I think sixteen by now.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: Well, let's talk about your children, then.

HT: I have a son that you met who is Frank.

MA: Frank.

HT: And he, that's, he works for Donaldson Incorporated doing filters and stuff. He goes all over. And that was his first job when he was a student at the university. He got a job as a part-timer. And they wanted, they hired him. That's his first job. He said that's the first job. And then he was married and they adopted a Korean boy. And then she left him, they had an amicable divorce. And she moved to California and then she married an Englishman out there. And then my grandson is over there in the summertime working. And he's, he's got, he's got another year or so.

MA: And then you have another son.

HT: Todd. Todd is a dentist and he married a girl from Chicago. When he was there he met her and the father over there said, "I cannot believe it. Have a Japanese husband." She's, they're Japanese. Usually it's mixture right now. So she, they have one boy and he was a miracle boy. And he's thirteen right now. He's very athletic and just loves it. So...

MA: And then your daughter.

HT: Yeah, Susie wasn't married but, sort of glad she didn't have any child, but she had Hodgkins. And in those days they didn't have chemo, so they did radiation. And I think the doctors said five years, she's going to be okay. And they found a spot and I think they missed it. If it was chemo it would have been all right, and then they were on from there, on and on and on. And I think toward the end it was breast, I think. I'm not sure. But she wouldn't tell me too much after that. And then the doctor said, "Come in. I'll tell you." Because I knew the doctor for a long time. But they were married for two years, David knew she had cancer and everything, but he said he's going to marry her. And that was really so good for her, too. They were so much in love and they bought a house and everything. She was teaching and he was a lawyer at that time. So now he's a Buddhist minister. And he's a good speaker, but oh, it was a sad thing.

MA: Yeah.

HT: Your daughter or your kid do not go first. Your parents go, that's understandable. But not your child. And she was, it broke my husband's heart. They were so close. We were all close, but she was more so to my husband. It almost killed him. He had a heart attack at that time, too. But he survived that. It was just one of those things. But the day he went, I came home from golf and I found him in bed. I said, "Are you still sleeping?" He was gone. And the doctor and the coroner told me, "He didn't suffer, so don't worry." Because usually they're doing that kind of stuff. He was just laying there. "So he had another heart attack, so be happy that he did not suffer." I said, "But yeah, but that was terrible. I didn't have the chance to say goodbye to him. I would have taken care of him." But it was just two, two great, bad things that happened. I hate, I hate May. That's when he died and she died.

MA: Oh, they both... in May.

HT: But I think I'm going to survive.

MA: You're doing great.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MA: Well, I wanted to ask you about, you speak to a lot of students about your experiences during World War II, and...

HT: Well, this first started, I have a teacher that's was my friend in golf. (Her name is Mary Buhrt.) She got hold of me and said, "Helen, you have to tell them about this. Because they're just learning it." I said, "No, I'm not going to." "Well, tell them, will you come and talk to the teachers first?" I said, "Okay." So that's when it started. Then the fifth grade teacher said, "You're going to come." And I sort of didn't want to, said, "Well, you're on." They were taping it. That's what I wanted to show you the song but I didn't have that tape here. I don't think you have a tape here. Anyway, they, I started, I say, "Okay." Then it started, every word. And I said I'm just going to do it for my grandchildren. Then the two grandchildren I finished, and everybody else. But this last one was something that I'll never forget. Sixth grade honors students, they were sixth graders, and the (teacher's family) was in Poland. They were almost going to be in the Holocaust, the whole family, and they were rescued by soldiers. And then the mother would never talk about it and (she lives in Montana now. Her daughter is the present teacher). And she told me that she could not see my book. She saw this book, she saw everything, everything. I said, you can't compare it with the Holocaust. We weren't mistreated, we were, we lost everything, but we weren't killed or anything like that. But she said that, 'You have given me, my mother will not talk about it and she's really down. And so she said that she's going to go back to Poland and try to gather up a lot of stuff and put it in a booklet like I did." And she said that, "You have made my life come to." So it solved so much and the kids, they were, I just could not believe. My grandson is the same age and I had him read some of what the kids wrote. "You mean, they're same age as me?" I said, "Yeah." "They sound like college." I said, "College would you say, I mean, Kyle, would you say that?" He said, "I don't think so." But...

MA: What were some of the things that they wrote to you?

HT: They wrote, I should have brought it. They says that, the one that really, they said that the, the boy that really got me, when I went visiting back I made 'em all flapping crane. Do you know how to make the flapping crane? They all stood around -- I should have brought the picture -- they all stood by me, "See, look at the picture. They just love you." And this boy said, "What really impressed me was this lady who came, lost, her whole family lost everything, including herself. But she still had good side inside to come and tell us her story. And it really hit me, at the age eighty-five." I said, "Well, I'm not really eighty-five yet." [Laughs] And then so I asked the teacher, I said, "Where is Connor?" "He's sitting right in front of you." And he shook my hand. "I just have to give you a hug." And I gave him a hug. And they, every one of the kids wrote a whole bunch of stuff like that.

MA: It seems like you're making an impact.

HT: This was what the teacher said, "You really made something out of them. You watch, they're going to be great people." And there's another class, the same thing. And this girl, they had sort of like a, like a get-together at the end. And then the, this songwriter sang my song that the students after I said the speech they all wrote notes and then they wrote the song together. And then the mothers came, and they came and they said, "I have to tell you, my children have changed so much just listening to you." And one of them came up and said, said that, "I wished your mother had retrieved the pictures." You know, they remember every little thing. And, oh, that was so neat. And then it was (Mr. Larry Long) that wrote this song, he had a, when he was little he had a coach that was Mr. Maeda. And he was the one that wanted, wanted him to write a song about the Japanese internment. So he couldn't get at him because he died. He was on his deathbed in California. So, then he tried to reach somebody else and then this girl said that, "I know somebody in St. Louis Park, Helen Tsuchiya." So he got a hold of me, and then we started talking and he said, "That was the best." So we're really close. He played soccer -- he went to the same school as Frank. They played soccer together. It's a small world we're just knit together. But it was, it's, I think that why I said that at first, I said, I don't want to talk to kids. I don't want to say this, I don't want to say this, but now I'm thinking back, I think it's a good thing I did because it has impacted the kids and they are learning, and they're understanding what we went through. It's no, it's not really their fault, his fault, this fault. And I think they're really learning instead of, this is what the teacher said, "It was so good for you to come and talk because it was better than just reading a couple of lines. They heard it from somebody who survived." And one of my main thing that I tell them is, remember the CBS show, Survivor? And I said, "Do you know what the last person, the survivor got?" "A million bucks." I said, "I know. I didn't get a million bucks. They referred to me as a survivor. But I got my freedom, my, they didn't take my citizenship away, but at least I was able to be free and do what I can." And they all looked at me, they said, "You're right." So that was one of my sayings that I said, which I think it, I think they thought, that was a pretty good saying. I came, I was showing the kids, I said, "Hey don't you think that was pretty good?" "Yeah, I think it was pretty good, Mom." [Laughs]

MA: Well, yeah, it sounds like you're having a real influence, which is so important.

HT: Well, I hope so. Right now I'm sort of tired, but that's okay. I'm so glad I met you girls.

MA: Well, is there anything else you would like to share before we finish up?

HT: No, I'm fine. I really appreciate this.

MA: Well, thank you. I appreciate you coming in and sharing your story.

HT: Well, I hope it's okay.

MA: Yeah, it's great. So, thank you.

HT: Okay.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.