Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Joseph Norio Uemura Interview
Narrator: Joseph Norio Uemura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ujoseph-01-0021

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TI: Well, because of Carr's stance, Japanese families could come to Denver.

JU: Exactly.

TI: Your father had connections to places like Spokane and Portland. And so tell me what happened. I mean, did some of these families come to Denver?

JU: Oh, absolutely. They came, and, well, very prominent ones who were incarcerated in various places, I think... well, the lead group was the group that could move for a couple of weeks there before being interned. And that's the group that immediately came to Colorado. And, of course, the Yasuis from Hood River, who were members of Dad's congregation in Portland, and also Dad started the church in Hood River, too. He started the church, Japanese churches in Hood River and Salem on both sides. He'd run up and down the coast.

TI: And so when these families would come to Denver, where would they stay?

JU: [Laughs] Wherever they could. Yeah, for the first few days, it could be a riot. Especially Yasuis had, what, a half dozen kids. And you know, they're marvelous people. And they, I think they found a hotel or something like that to stay in. But, of course, they were in daily contact with us. And Min wound up going, finishing law school at the University of Denver where I was going by that time. And we'd ride the streetcars to the University of Denver. And Homer also started his med school stuff.

TI: And so going back to Min, so Min went to law school, but he had served time for the curfew violation?

JU: Yeah.

TI: He turned himself in. Did you ever talk to him about his case and his stance on these things?

JU: I didn't see him for years, you know, after college. Well, he was in law school and I was in college. We'd talk on the streetcar, and he'd say, of course, "It's all wrong." But anyway, yeah, we had a lot of talk. But since he... well, since I left Denver in '50, I only saw him when he was touring the country trying to get the word out. And he came by here a couple times, so I saw him then. In any case, I think he really got to a certain bit of his energy from being out, when of course he could have been in a long time. Yeah.

TI: So your place, I'm guessing because of your dad's... I mean, his reputation, people knew him, that the church became kind of this passing through place for lots of people who needed to resettle off the West Coast and they would come through Denver. How would that work? I mean, where would they, how would they kind of check in or report?

JU: A lot of the members of the church could be counted on to help. And that, again, when things are bad, people are really good. And they were helping relocate all these guys. And they, we happened to have... and a lot of people that weren't necessarily good members of the church, but they would come in and say, "We got a few beds, send 'em over to our place," you know. They volunteered.

TI: And tell me what kind of volume we're talking about. Is it like dozens or hundreds? I'm trying to think what happened during this time.

JU: There weren't a lot, because a lot of 'em, 'cause a lot of 'em weren't able to move quickly. And so you'd have, you had to have a bank account of good dimensions to take care halfway across the country. And then to make sure you could survive for a few months before you could find a place to live. So, but the members of the church were very solidly behind 'em. And then, as I say, beyond the church, there were a lot of people who, if they knew about it, really came to our rescue. A few telephone calls and they were there.

TI: And I'm guessing that this also happened with other institutions in Denver, whether it's the JACL office, the Buddhist church, did they also have a similar situation where people would come through them?

JU: You know, I don't know that for sure, but I know certain of the Buddhist families certainly helped. And I don't think the... the problem was the ministers in the Buddhist church were not as well-organized, that's all. But that didn't mean their people weren't willing to help. You know, one of the hotels downtown was Buddhist-run, but we could use their rooms and so forth.

TI: Now, what kind of stress did this put on the family, by being kind of this place? Was it hard on you, your mother, your sister?

JU: The families had to, the entire family was involved. But if we lived at the house, we were, I suppose, mostly involved. But Mother cooked a lot of meals that she didn't realize she was supposed to.

TI: Did you ever hear her complain about that, about how much work she had to do?

JU: No. The lady was, knew she'd been trapped in Christian ministry. [Laughs] Not like, not like some of the modern minister's wives, they have a life of their own. But this was a whole ethnic thing, an immigrant thing. Had all the overtones of the basic immigrant's problems.

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