Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Yoshimi Matsuura Interview
Narrator: Yoshimi Matsuura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-myoshimi-01-0021

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TI: Now you mentioned earlier that you were, you called yourself almost the daddy of the group, the oldest in the group. And so after this announcement was done and you guys have a chance to talk, did people, what did people do?

YM: They all, they all decided, well, okay, we'll find a place. And I told them that I was going to go into Minneapolis, I don't know why. I didn't know one city from another, but I did know that Minneapolis had a WRA office in Minneapolis. So I figured, I'll go into Minneapolis and I'll get some help there somehow. So I told some of the people there that I'm going into Minneapolis to look around. And a lot of them, many of them I don't think even tried. I think they went directly to the lodging over at Medicine Lake because they were in no mood to make any decision. So James Katayama, who was from my hometown, he was only eighteen years old, he was the youngster. And he says, "Yosh," he says, "I'm going to go with you." Well, I'd known him ever since he was a little child. Matter of fact, he lost his father in a farm accident when he was about ten years old. So he's been more or less (...) the big man of the family. So we went into Minneapolis (...). They dropped us off on Nicolette Avenue right downtown, Sixth and Nicolette. Got on a streetcar, I showed one lady, one young lady the address, WRA office address, and said, "Where is this?" And she said, "Next block." [Laughs] "Get off on the next block." She was very good, she told me how to get there, walk over two blocks and stay on Marqute Avenue. Or one block I guess it was. So we found the WRA office. There was a person by the name of Clement White that was running the office, very nice person, and he had a Nisei, he had a Nisei secretary there. I don't remember, I think her name was Kato, but I don't remember the rest of it.

TI: And what was their reaction when they heard what happened to you and the others?

YM: They had already heard about it, they were expecting us. At least, I gathered that. And so we used their phone, looked through the newspaper, and found all the listings there, all kinds of listing. Room for rent, room for rent, room and board for rent. So I started calling.

TI: But then when room and board for rent, I mean, you mentioned earlier how you really didn't have any money and this was a way to get out and perhaps get trained. And so what would you do for...

YM: Uh-huh, right. Well, I had a little pocket money, enough to carry me for a while. I don't know about James, but I figured I can get by for a while. But we made phone calls, I made phone calls. And I told them exactly who I was because I didn't want to make a trip over somewhere, taking a streetcar, not knowing the city, and being refused. Because I was half expecting to be, get refusals. And good thing I did, because the phone calls that I made, they weren't receptive. Some of them said, "Oh, yes, we have a nice room to rent," and so forth, but as the story went on, as I told 'em who I was, they said, "Well, I'd have to check with my husband and my husband is working." Or some of them would say, "Well, I think my husband has just rented it," or something like that. Which was good, instead of running over there.

TI: And do you have a sense, like if you made, like, five phone calls...

YM: I made about, I made about... yes, I made about five phone calls. On the fifth one, on the fifth one, I happened to call a north Minneapolis address. And she says, "Oh, yes, we have a room." I told her who I was, she says, "Come right over." And she told me exactly how to get there, what streetcar to take and so forth. I found out later that she was a French lady with a German husband. And this German husband of hers happened to be a streetcar conductor, so they knew the streetcar routes and so forth, ins and outs of that. So she gave me the direction to get there, and that's where we found a room.

TI: And so you went there with James?

YM: James. And Howard Ogawa went along with us. He wanted to know if he can tag along, I said, "Sure," but I said, "They have room for two, but I don't know about you." But he went along. And yes, we got a room. She was very cordial. And Howard says, "Well, you have anybody else around here that would rent to me?" And she said, "Well, I have an attic space, attic room. Elderly retired person had a bed up there, you can go up and see." Howard, of course, went up, one look, "Yeah, I'll stay." [Laughs] So he took the room. So we, all three of us stayed there.

TI: Now, the three of you -- and I'm not sure exactly when it happened -- are featured in a newspaper article.

YM: Oh, yes.

TI: And so how did that come about?

YM: Well, we were there for about a week. And all of a sudden we have, we find out that the newspaper people are coming over here. Newspaper people, we haven't done anything. But then we found out that they wanted an article on us, and that's when they interviewed us. And at the same time, they sent photographers over at Medicine Lake to get some story over there, the rest of the people who were staying there. And this is when they come out with that article, "Turned Loose Here." [Laughs] The three of us, turned loose here. Which was not a very... type of introduction I would like to have in the city, "turned loose here."

TI: And what was the reaction to that newspaper article? Did anything happen because of the publicity?

YM: I think more of the people in the neighborhood found out who was living there. But no, north Minneapolis at the time was a Jewish community. And I think because of the Jewish community, it was much easier for us to move in. So we had no problem, at least nothing towards us that we can... I'm sure everybody knew who we were. And matter of fact, we had one lady who came often who belonged to an organization called "Navy Mothers." She had a son in the navy, but she was really nice, nice as can be. There were quite a few people. I met the people who were members of Presbyterian church in that area. We had no problem.

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