Densho Digital Archive
Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL Collection
Title: Chiyoko Yagi Interview
Narrator: Chiyoko Yagi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Watsonville, California
Date: July 28, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ychiyoko-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is July 28, 2008, and I'm here with Chiyoko Yagi. We're in the Kizuka Hall of the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL in Watsonville, California. So thank you so much for doing this interview. I'm really excited. So I just wanted to start with a few basic questions. So when were you born?

CY: July 25, 1920, and I was born in San Juan Bautista, California.

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

CY: The name of (Chiyoko).

MA: The name that your parents gave you.

CY: Chiyoko Matsumoto.

MA: And a little bit about your, your father and your mother. So what was your father's name?

CY: Isaku, I-S-A-K-U (Matsumoto).

MA: Matsumoto.

CY: (Yes).

MA: Isaku Matsumoto. And where was he from in Japan?

CY: Yamaguchi-ken, Takamori-mura.

MA: Do you know what his family did in Japan, what occupation?

CY: I have no idea. I wished I asked. [Laughs]

MA: And where did he, sort of, settle when he first came over to the U.S.?

CY: He came to Hawaii in 1903. And he worked a few years to come to America. And he came to America during the earthquake, so he couldn't land in San Francisco, he landed in Oakland.

MA: So he was in Oakland for a few years and then...

CY: No, he came to Watsonville. See, they all seem to have come to Watsonville. It seemed like they, either their friends are here or something, they all came to Watsonville.

MA: And then a little bit about your mother. How did he meet your mother?

CY: I think it's "picture bride," but she's from Yamaguchi-ken, too, and her maiden name is Shio Kuramoto.

MA: So they, she came over to the U.S. to marry your father?

CY: She came in 1911. The day she came, they got married. I have the passport and the marriage license. I finally gave it to my sister because I'm getting old and I want to make sure somebody has it in the family. So I just mailed it to her. [Laughs]

MA: Did they get married in Watsonville?

CY: San Francisco. Got married in San Francisco.

MA: Do you know how old she was when she came over?

CY: Gee, that's... she was the eldest in the family, and she didn't get married sooner because they had no son. And just before she got married, they had a son, so she has a brother that was quite a bit younger.

MA: And what, I'm just curious about your mother and father and what they were like, what their personalities are like, what they were like as people?

CY: Oh, they're very strict. [Laughs] (And hardworking).

MA: They were strict with the kids growing up?

CY: Yeah, uh-huh.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: So you said you were born in San Juan Bautista. What were your folks doing in San Juan Bautista?

CY: They were farming, strawberry farming, and I think they had garlic, too. But I don't remember much of San Juan, 'cause I left, they came to Watsonville when I was about four years old. So most of my life is here.

MA: And do you know why they moved to Watsonville from San Juan Bautista?

CY: I guess for strawberry farming. First, I think they did sharecropping on the Travers' Ranch on Riverside Road, that's the first farm. But later on, he started farming on his own, and then he moved around. Because those days, the berry farmers, they had to have new land each time they farmed. So they'd farm one land, and then they'd change to another land.

MA: How many years would they stay on one plot of land?

CY: Oh, well, usually they'd rent one place where they have a large area where they could change. So a few years, maybe five, six years.

MA: So they would rent a large area and then farm, like, smaller plots in there?

CY: Yes. They didn't have fumigation like they do now, you know, to sterilize the land. In those days, they used to, strawberry, they used to plant one year, and they, they keep it for about three years. But nowadays, they plant each year. So it's different kind of farming, you know.

MA: So you said your father sharecropped for a while, and then after a few years had his own place.

CY: Yes, uh-huh.

MA: So can you describe your house that you lived in and the farm?

CY: (Narr. note: It was a large house built by my father. He was a carpenter also. When he came to Hawaii, that was his work.) Well, when he started farming on his own, he used to have Filipinos for help. Because they didn't have Mexican labor those days. I remember they, one time the Filipino laborers went on a strike, they wanted wages raised, which were twenty-five cents an hour it was, those days. And they wanted a raise.

MA: They were striking on your farm?

CY: Yes, they wouldn't come to work. They all, they all wouldn't come in, and they wanted a raise.

MA: What did your father do?

CY: I guess they gave 'em a raise. [Laughs]

MA: So the, yeah, so the strike worked, I guess.

CY: Yeah. There were no other laborers, you know. Either it'd be Japanese people or Filipino.

MA: So back before the war there were no Mexican people --

CY: No Mexicans, uh-huh.

MA: -- in Watsonville, really.

CY: Yeah. This is way before the war.

MA: And what about the house that you lived in growing up? What was that like? How big was it?

CY: Well, you know, my father was a carpenters, so he used to build houses, too. So he made it livable, you know.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

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

CY: There were my older sister, my brother, five of us (living), but there were three that died, when they were small, during the influenza. In those days, they didn't have, they don't have the medicine they do now, no aspirin or anything like that. And in fact, my older brother, he had pneumonia, and they gave him an enema of coffee, you know, something warm to make the temperature go down, I guess, and then mustard plaster and stuff like that. It was real primitive.

MA: Would doctors come to your house when you got sick?

CY: I doubt there were house calls in those days.

MA: So then there were five children but three of them passed away when they were real young.

CY: Yeah, when they were young. Some died before I was born.

MA: So then there was two of you that, that grew up...

CY: There's only two left now.

MA: And were you the older one?

CY: My younger sister. Yeah, she's about nine years younger than I.

MA: And what's her name?

CY: Natsuko Matsushige, and she lives in Los Angeles.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So I'm curious about the strawberry farming. And in Watsonville during that time, was it pretty, how many people owned their, or operated their own farms like your father versus sharecropping?

CY: Most, lot of people were sharecropping, and a few independent like my father, so they could sell the berries anyplace. Like if you're sharecropping, they go to a certain, you know, company they have to sell. Like my brother used to sell it to all the stores in town. So they'd have fresh cash, it'd be all cash. So my father didn't go to the bank, he used to have it in a coffee can. [Laughs] Hidden around the house. So it was different days.

MA: So your father had more independence over what he could do.

CY: Uh-huh, yes.

MA: What was the name of your farm? Was there a name?

CY: There was no name, just, he just ran on his own, no particular name.

MA: And so the process was he would go around and sell strawberries to...

CY: To grocery stores. That's what my brother used to do it, sell it to the grocery stores.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: And where did you attend grade school or grammar school?

CY: Where'd I go grammar school? Oh, my first one was in, it was a schoolhouse on Riverside Road, (called Railroad School).

MA: Oh, that's okay.

CY: And then the next one was in Hill, they call Hill School, and that was way out in the country where we had to walk about five miles to go. Because there were no buses those days, we have to either walk, or you can't go, somebody would have to take us. But we used to all walk together. And the next was, I came into town, I mean, we lived outskirt of Watsonville, so we went to school, they called (Watsonville grammar school). It's in town. I did the, I went to grammar school there, and then Watsonville High School.

MA: So you went to three different grammar schools before...

CY: Three, three grammar school and then Watsonville High School, yes. I graduated class of '38.

MA: So I'm curious about the grammar schools like the Hill School and the one on Riverside. What were the facilities like?

CY: Well, the one I remember, Hill School, it was like one school with one teacher that had eight classes, all the classes from first grade through eighth grade, and she took care of everybody. And so when I went, came to Watsonville, it was about sixth grade, I was behind. I didn't know a lot of fraction because they didn't teach at the other school. So it was kind of hard for me until I caught on. (Narr. note: Railroad School I don't remember too much because I was there only in the first grade.)

MA: And how many, at Hill School, for example, how many students were in your class?

CY: Gee...

MA: Was it like ten?

CY: Maybe about thirty.

MA: Thirty?

CY: I'm not sure. That's a long time ago. [Laughs]

MA: And who was this teacher? Was she a Caucasian lady?

CY: Yeah, Caucasian lady, uh-huh. Can't even remember her name.

MA: It's okay. [Laughs] The area where you grew up, who were your neighbors and what was that area like? Were they mostly Japanese American?

CY: No, they were, Hill School had all nationality, but it's only Caucasian and Japanese. Because I never knew there were Mexicans in those days. They're all Caucasian, they're all people that live out in the country, you know.

MA: Doing farming?

CY: Mostly, yeah, farm family. But when I came into town, they were from, people that lived in town and the country, like, I had to walk to come into town because I live in the outskirt of Watsonville.

MA: How long would that take you, to walk into town?

CY: Thirty minutes, I guess.

MA: So did you help out on the farm at all when you were growing up?

CY: (Yes, but very little. I was a baby sitter for my brother and sister.)

MA: Did you help out on the farm or help your dad?

CY: Yes, uh-huh. We had to work in the farm.

MA: So what types of things did you do?

CY: Pick berries, I think, yeah, when we were little, (watch the irrigation).

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: And I wanted to ask you about Japanese language school, and if you attended language school?

CY: Oh, yes. We went, when I, I used to go to the Japanese school on some nights. I remember, I know the teacher's name was Mr. Kuroiwa, but he used to teach, we learned katakana, and next hiragana, but I forgot how... 'cause I don't use it, I forgot. I could speak it, I can't write it or read it. I could read some, but not very well. I can't read the kanji at all.

MA: It's pretty difficult.

CY: Yes, it is.

MA: So did you speak Japanese or English in your home, or both?

CY: Both. Because my parents spoke Japanese, and then you go to school, you speak English to the playmates, so we learned both language...

MA: And what religion did your family practice?

CY: Buddhist. But when we lived out in the country, I wasn't able to go to church very much. But when we moved closer to town, when we farmed close to the town, then I was able to go to Sunday school.

MA: And when did you move, make that move closer to town?

CY: Oh, gee. Gosh, when I was about sixth grade, that's when I, we moved to town and, closer to town, farmed closer to town. It's already, where we were farming, it's all homes and schools there now, you know, but when we were there, it was just open land.

MA: And so can you describe the Buddhist temple that you went to, what it was like and what Sunday school was like?

CY: Well, the Buddhist temple is, it's not the temple that we have now, it was the old temple, and it was on Union, Union Street there, and it was a temple that looked like a temple. You had to climb a, I don't know how many stairs, but, to go to the front door, you know. And that was our temple, and that's where I got married. In fact, my, my wedding was the last one before the war, because I got married November 30, 1941, and the war broke out a week later.

MA: So can you talk about the Japanese American community in Watsonville and the types of activities that you would do, and festivals or celebrations?

CY: Oh, I used to go to the YBA meeting and go to conference. Like we'd have a district conference and we'd go with a group. We never go, we don't go like we do now, usually with a group.

MA: And YBA is Young Buddhists Association?

CY: Yes.

MA: So where would you go for your conferences?

CY: We, we usually go either, I remember going San Jose and then Salinas. Those, before I was married, those are the highlights. [Laughs]

MA: And you would meet other people from around California?

CY: Oh, yes, uh-huh.

MA: So what were the conferences like? What would you, what types of things would you do?

CY: You know, I can't remember. [Laughs] Those days, we would usually go there to meet people.

MA: So it was like a social...

CY: Social, yes.

MA: ...activities.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: And you mentioned that you attended Watsonville High School?

CY: Yes.

MA: And how many -- I'm just curious how many Japanese American students were in your class, roughly, how many were in the school.

CY: Well, you know, my class is, wasn't as large as the class of '39. I think '39 had a big Japanese class. So they had a picture taken of their own class, but like mine, there weren't that many, probably maybe about twenty or... I think the class of '39, they had close to, gee, forty Japanese students.

MA: And in general, how did the Nisei students fit in with the overall student body in terms of social activities and student leadership, and how did the Nisei students kind of fit into that?

CY: (A few did and joined clubs.)

MA: How did the Nisei students, sort of, how were they treated by the others?

CY: They were very, they kind of stayed to themselves, like. They were more quiet, and then they hang around with the Japanese kids. They didn't mingle like the kids, like my children did. They were more open, but we were quiet.

MA: And what types of things did you do for social time or on the weekends with your friends?

CY: Gee, we didn't do things like they do now. 'Cause there was no TV or just radio. And most of the activities were church-related or community-related, like they would have those picnic they used to have once a year. (Families get together).

MA: So tell me about the, the picnics. Was that a whole Japanese American community picnic?

CY: Yes, uh-huh. That was the big thing in those days. Then you see people from all over, yes. It wasn't like right now, the JACL has a picnic, but before, it used to be the community picnic, and they would have kendo and all kind of other activities besides racing, you know.

MA: And was that once a year?

CY: Once a year, uh-huh.

MA: So you said you graduated in the class of 1938 from Watsonville High School.

CY: We had a seventy-year reunion this year, but I didn't go because it was the day of our, one-day trip to Chuckahansi, I think.

MA: Seventy years, that's, that's great.

CY: Yes, uh-huh. I don't think there are very many left, 'cause I don't see much people around that I knew, you know. They're all gone.

MA: So what did you do after high school, after you graduated? Did you work?

CY: Yes, I, I helped the farm, I worked on the farm. But I got married soon after, so... let's see. I got engaged when I was twenty, and I was engaged for almost a year, and I got married when I was twenty-one.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So how did you meet your husband, is it Harry?

CY: It's Harry, yeah. It was baishakunin.

MA: Arranged...

CY: Arranged marriage, yes.

MA: Did you know who he was before?

CY: Oh, yes, I knew who he was, but since it was arranged, I didn't want to get married right away. So we took a year, almost a year before I got married.

MA: And tell me about your wedding. You said it was in the Buddhist Temple in Watsonville?

CY: (Yes.)

MA: Your wedding was in the temple?

CY: Yes, uh-huh, it was in the Buddhist Temple. It was, those days, we'd have a wedding at the temple and they'd have a reception in the hall. And that, at the time, we had a, for the older people, the reception was in the hall, and I think it was Mas Hashimoto's parents that did the reception, 'cause they were kind of doing catering business, Japanese catering. And then the, for the young people, they had a dance at a hotel, and that's where the younger people went. So it as quite a big affair, and the last one, since the war started a week later.

MA: Right, November 30th was your wedding.

CY: November 30th. And when the war started, you couldn't, you can't get together more than twenty people or ten people, something like that, and you can't go far away, and you've gotta be home by nine o'clock. There were a lot of restriction.

MA: So yours was really the last big celebration wedding, then, before the war.

CY: Oh, yes. (...)

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: So can you tell me a little bit about Harry and his family, what work they did?

CY: Well, Harry used to be a bookkeeper for M.L. Kalich packing shed, and that's what, that's when I got married to him, he was bookkeeper there. And they're the people that helped us when we went to internment camp, for storing their property and things like that. And their son-in-law took care of the, our property while we were away.

MA: And what was their name?

CY: The man that took care of the property? L.A. Beckis, Louis Beckis.

MA: And they ran a...

CY: He was a real estate man, and so he took care of our property.

MA: So Harry was bookkeeping, what did his folks do, what type of work?

CY: Father and mother both were barbers, and they used to have a, they had, he started barbering in Pajaro, that's where (he started the shop in) 1910, and he had a pool hall and a barber shop. And my mother-in-law used to run the pool hall, and the father was a barber. But later on, she was barbering, too, because those days, you know, you didn't have to go through what they have to go now, they have to go school and have to have, work under a licensed barber for six months to get the license and all that. But those days, you just barber. [Laughs]

MA: And you mentioned you, that was on the Pajaro side.

CY: Yes, uh-huh, (it's Monterey County).

MA: What were the, was there a big Japanese American community on that side?

CY: There used to be quite a few Japanese in Pajaro, uh-huh. But later on, they bought the property where I am now, and they built their own shop. They built it in 1940, so when the war broke out, they had to make payments on the (building) yet. But the property was theirs, but the new building that they built for the barber shop and the tackle shop, they didn't have the pool hall anymore.

MA: So did they have the property in Harry's name?

CY: It's at Harry's name.

MA: Oh, okay, so they actually owned the property.

CY: Oh, yes, uh-huh. 'Cause the father can't have, couldn't have it under his name.

MA: Right, right.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So let's talk about December 7, 1941, the day that Japan, you know, bombed Pearl Harbor. And you were actually out of Watsonville at that time. Can you talk about where you were and what you were doing?

CY: Well, we had one week before Pearl Harbor, so we, we went down south and went to Catalina Island and then we went as far as Mexicali. And then we were working our way back up, and we were in either Florin, around there, Harry had a friend, so we went to their house, and we were there having lunch when the father of the boy that we were, Harry's friend's father came and said that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And we didn't know where Pearl Harbor was, and we didn't think much about it until we, we left that place, then we went to San Francisco to check in at a Japanese hotel, and that's when we met, we were met with the FBI at the door. And they separated us and told my husband, go and have to show is ID and want to know why we were there, what we were doing. And they released him and they didn't do nothing to me, and we came straight home. And the parents were glad to see us because they didn't know where we were. Because we were down as far as Mexicali, it was the last, they knew of. And after that, let's see, maybe a week later, they took my father-in-law in because he was president of the Japanese Association and he was, I think he was the treasurer for the Buddhist temple. And they just came, two men came and told my father he has to come with them. So he went, and we didn't know if, we thought maybe just a hearing or something, but, "You have to stay overnight," so we took his toothbrush and change of clothes, but we never saw him again until two years later, maybe two and a half years later in camp when they released him.

MA: So they took him away.

CY: Yeah, they took him, they took him, the next day they took him to San Francisco, and from there they went to North Dakota. So we were separated from the father-in-law. And so, let's see, that was right away, and then about a month later, I guess, the FBI came to our house again and they told us all to go into the shop and stayed there, and they told me to open the safe. And I opened it and they said, told me to stay in the barbershop. So we stayed there for oh, maybe two or three hours. And the FBI went through the whole house and took, according to my father-in-law, we had some money, cash in there, and the FBI took and they were never traced back. So when he mentioned it when he was interned, they gave him a hard time because we didn't have no proof. 'Cause he was also a Sumitomo Bank agent, so he used to have, get money from other people to send to banks, so they think he was kind of a, some kind of other things besides banking. So he had to, had a hard time trying to convince that he was nothing but an ordinary person, you know, doing his job.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So when you came back from your travels after Pearl Harbor, did you notice a change in the way that people in Watsonville treated the Japanese Americans?

CY: We didn't think nothing. Nothing happened to us then. We stored our stuff, and then our friends were friends, you know, and so, but then in order to go into the camp, we had to clear out the house so that we could rent it out while we're away to pay for our property tax and fire insurance and liability insurance, all that. And so I had to clean it out to make it rentable, you know. And between that time, I think, let's see, my mother-in-law had to be moved out of the house, 'cause she was an alien, and anybody that's an alien couldn't stay west side of Highway 1. And the house, where our house is located, in front of the house is Highway 1, and across the street my brother-in-law had a gas station, they called it Flying A Associated gas station, and he was running that. So my mother-in-law moved to my sister-in-law's house, they lived on the other side, so they were fine, they didn't have to move. But she stayed there, and, but she'd come to the gas station to tell me what to move and where everything is. 'Cause I was just a bride of three months when this, we had to start moving, you know. My father-in-law's gone, my mother-in-law is gone. So we had to pack all the stuff and put it in the garage, and the better things we'd send to the friends' house, in Corralitos, where they stored it for us.

MA: So Highway 1, you said, divided, so the government said any --

CY: West side.

MA: -- aliens living on the West side had to just move?

CY: Had to move, uh-huh, yes.

MA: So what about your, your parents?

CY: My parents had farm on the west side, so they had to move into town and rent a house for a few months before we, they went into an assembly center. And my brother had, they had a big farm, and the berries were ready to be picked. Because when we moved into the assembly center, it was around April, and that's just about the time when the berries would start coming out. And so they have to sell all that farm, and it wasn't their land so they can't leave anything there, they were renting, so it was hard.

MA: So they lost, I'm sure, a lot of money and then they had to move not only to assembly center, but they had to move before that. So two times.

CY: Yeah, they had to move twice, you know.

MA: So you mentioned that you, you were in charge of a lot of the preparations to move.

CY: Oh, yes.

MA: Because your father-in-law was gone.

CY: My mother-in-law was gone, and then all the shop things were there, so I had to just pack up everything and put it in the garage. Because we have a three-car garage in the back, and we had one, one storage room. And one, one garage was just, we kept to store things, but then our friends started bringing things in, 'cause they didn't know where to store their things. So we put it in, but after we came back, lot of the stuff were gone because they broke in. Seemed like just certain things were missing, but not everything. Like if it was now, they'd probably clean us out. In those days, they were that, that bad, but still, things were gone.

MA: And did you have to find, like, a renter for your house?

CY: Well, the real estate man did that, he did it for us. He found renters, a renter for the shop, and we had a granny quarter, and then the house, and then we had a rental in the back. And it seemed like they put, those days, I think they had some Mexican workers or something, some big company rented the back house. Because it was, used to be a pool hall and living quarters, and that was all made into, kind of like farm labor camp, like.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So can you talk about the day that you left Watsonville and...

CY: The date we left Watsonville? (Narr. note: I can't remember the date, but we left by bus to Salinas Assembly Center.)

MA: Uh-huh, what that was like and what you were thinking at the time?

CY: (Narr. note: We just did what we were told we had to do.) Well, we were just able to bring a suitcase, so we packed what we thought -- we didn't know where we were going, we knew we were going assembly, but from there, we didn't know where we were going. So we just, just took what we had, what we could carry, and we had to leave the dog behind. The dog, we left it to a man that rented our place, one of the granny quarter. So he took care of the dog until later on we sent for the dog, and we got it in camp, and we brought him back again, yeah.

MA: So you were able to have your dog with you?

CY: It was a poodle, uh-huh, (about a year later).

MA: So can you talk about the, the journey to Salinas, and did you take a bus down to Salinas?

CY: (Yes, by bus. We all gathered at the Veterans Hall Building.)

MA: Did you take a bus, or how did you get down to...

CY: (I still can't remember how we got to the Veterans Hall Building. We must have gotten a ride there because we lived far away.)

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: And can you talk about when you first arrived at Salinas and what you were thinking?

CY: Oh, yes. (...) They gave us a bag and they told us to stuff it with straw, and that was our mattress. And that was the first thing that shocked us. And we were about the last one to go into the Salinas Assembly Center, Monterey and Salinas people were already there. So all the good jobs were taken, so we had to, (...) work in the kitchen as a waitress. And I think we were paid twelve dollars a month, and so when we went to assembly center in Poston, Camp 1 was the big camp that most of the people that went earlier were there. And Camp 2 was a new camp, and we just started filling up. So I grabbed the job that was easier and got a job as a canteen worker. I was cashier at the canteen for sixteen dollars a month.

MA: Which was easier work than...

CY: Easier work, yes. (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.)

MA: ...than the waitressing that you were doing.

CY: Yes, (waitressing. You have to go three times a day to work, for each meal.)

MA: So going back a little bit to Salinas, so it was you and Harry...

CY: My mother-in-law.

MA: Mother-in-law.

CY: Brother-in-law and sister-in-law. So we all moved into one barrack.

MA: And what were the, what was the barrack, what did it look like in Salinas?

CY: Just the empty barrack with the cot with a straw mattress on there, that's all. And what suitcase we brought. And it was, the dining hall, there'd be a dining hall that, one dining hall for one block, and one, like, latrine, they call it, where the shower and bathroom, and I think there was a washroom there, too, I'm not sure. (Narr. note: The shower and washroom didn't have partitions.)

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So you mentioned that you went to Poston. Did you go there by train?

CY: Yes, by train.

MA: And what was that journey like? How many days did it take?

CY: Well, it was getting hotter and hotter as we went. We couldn't see where we were going, 'cause it's all, shades were drawn. But then we know it was getting hotter, and then just before we got there, we could tell that we were in a desert. 'Cause I think the train landed in Parker, Arizona, and from there, we got on the, those covered army truck with benches, and good thing we were young those days, we could climb the, climb on the thing. And then we had a dusty ride to our camp, which was about, quite a ways, maybe five or six miles away.

MA: When you arrived at Poston, what were, what did it look like? I mean, what, I imagine it was pretty barren.

CY: Oh, it was, it was very barren, and it was hot, real hot. 'Cause we came from Salinas Assembly Center, which is cool, about sixty or seventy, to about hundred and twenty. And an empty barrack with, we had a cot and a mattress, a thin mattress, army mattress, and we got an army blanket, and that's about it, one room (for a family of five).

MA: And were your parents also in Poston?

CY: Yes, uh-huh, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law and Harry and I, so there were five of us. 'Cause my father-in-law was still in North Dakota.

MA: And your actual parents were also...

CY: My parents? They were in the next barrack.

MA: So you were able to stay kind of close to them, too.

CY: Oh, yeah, they were next barrack.

MA: And you mentioned that you worked in the canteen in Poston.

CY: Yes, uh-huh. It was nice because, you know, when things come in, people would be lined up, and you know, I should have kept those diary, I had diary, but how much, the price those things were, but I can't remember now. But I know we used to sell soap and toothbrush and combs. And then cookies and candies would come in certain days, there'd be a line outside. And ice cream, and I guess they used to have, we didn't have refrigeration, so they had ice, they'd put sodas in there, you know, in a big barrel with ice in there. So it's very primitive, but everybody craving for something from the outside, you know. And if you want to get anything like your shoes, later on they had a main, canteen had clothing and other things. But my canteen was mostly just food and, you know, like, minor necessities, soaps and all kind of, you know, like for everyday things, you know. Nothing luxury, no luxury item, yeah.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So Poston was pretty large, one of the larger camps?

CY: Yes, there's three camps. Camp 1 was the largest, Camp 2 was medium, and then Camp 3 was smaller. But then Camp 1 was mostly people from all over, like our, like where we were, Sacramento people were in there with us.

MA: And you were in camp...

CY: Camp 2.

MA: Two. Is that where most Watsonville people were?

CY: Most of the Watsonville people, yeah. So people that went earlier, they were put in Camp 1, they moved to Camp 2. They wanted to come where people they know, 'cause the other camp had mostly the all over, people from all over.

MA: How did people get along in camp? Like Niseis from different areas of California. I mean, how did the Sacramento people and the Watsonville people get along?

CY: Oh, we all got along fine, uh-huh. We made friends, you know. But when you, you wanted to live close to your relatives and friends, so we kind of, like, I was in 209, I think 209, 208, 211, they were all Watsonville people, and 214, 219.

MA: So in Camp 2, I'm just trying to get a sense of how big it was. How long would it take you to, like, walk from Camp 2 to Camp 1?

CY: You can't walk, it's miles. You can't walk from one camp to the other. Probably about three miles, maybe around three miles, I don't know, but I know you can't, I don't think you can walk.

MA: Oh, so it was really, each, Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3 were really their own separate camps.

CY: Yeah, own, uh-huh.

MA: Oh, I didn't know that.

CY: Yeah.

MA: Was there, did Camp 2 have its own, like, medical hospital?

CY: (No), there's a clinic-like.

MA: Clinic?

CY: But not a hospital. So when I had my daughter, I had to go to Camp 1 to have the baby. No hospital there. But for, just for a checkup, we used to go to a clinic.

MA: And around, like, Camp 1, Camp 2 and Camp 3, was there, like, barbed wire around each camp and guards and stuff?

CY: Well, you know, we're middle of the desert, there, middle of the desert, I think there were... I don't remember barbed wire.

MA: So if you wanted to, I mean, it was too far, but you could kind of go from camp to camp.

CY: Yeah, you had to, you had to go on a bus, I mean, an army truck or something, like, to go to another camp. 'Cause there was no bus system, you had to, I don't know, there must be a certain time that you could go. 'Cause I never did go Camp 1 until I had the baby.

MA: And what was the hospital like there?

CY: Gee, I just can't remember. I know the lady that was watching me was a colored lady, yeah, the nurse that was watching me.

MA: Oh, interesting. So the employees at the hospital were also non-Japanese American? So there was Caucasian people and...

CY: I think there were, I think mostly Japanese workers there, either nurse's aide or... but the doctor was a Japanese, I think.

MA: You had your -- when was your daughter born? What year?

CY: March 6, 1945.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So your father-in-law was in North Dakota for, you said, two years. When did he come back? Was he released, or, I guess he wasn't really released, but did he come to Poston?

CY: He was able to come back to Poston about, let's see, about 1944. Because he was there when the, my daughter was born, so it must have been late '44. 'Cause she was born in March, so he was there then.

MA: And did he talk about, at all, his time in North Dakota or what had happened to him?

CY: I guess he talked about the interview about saying that he complained about the cash being missing, and they tried to say that it wasn't, it wasn't taken, that he's telling it's all his thinking. But he knew 'cause we had a store, so we had cash. And besides, he was doing the banking, too, so yeah.

MA: Had he changed at all from the time he was taken away to when he came back to Poston, I mean, physically or...

CY: Well, I didn't really know him too well because I just got married. And, 'course, I lived... not very long, he was taken. And I guess I knew him, after he came back, we lived together again. But he died soon after we came back from camp, you know, he had a heart attack. I guess it was too much for him, because being separated from the family. Because we came back '45, around August, and he came back about, maybe end of the year. Because he died in ('47), February, February 19th, ('47).

MA: So right after, right after the war.

CY: Yeah, right after he came back, yeah. 'Cause one of his, that's one of the first funerals they had in Watsonville. But I know it was soon after, 'cause he died in ('47), February.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: So your husband Harry, what type of work did he do in Poston?

CY: Harry?

MA: Yeah, in Poston.

CY: He was a relocation officer, so he got nineteen dollars a month.

MA: And he worked with, for the WRA?

CY: Yes, uh-huh.

MA: What did he do as a relocation officer?

CY: I guess to get people that wanted to go out of the camp to relocate and find places for him. So he used to get, able to get out of the camp. I know he went to Gila one time, Gila internment camp, and he was able to come back to Watsonville to check on the houses. And before we came out, he wanted to have a, there was a WRA office in Watsonville, so he was able to come back.

MA: So he helped people kind of find housing after, or during and after the war?

CY: Yes.

MA: How did he get that job, do you know?

CY: I don't know. He, he's, I guess 'cause he's always worked with Caucasian, that he was able to talk himself in there.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: So is there anything else that you would like to share about your time in Poston? Any memories about Poston that come to mind?

CY: Well, we kind of got used to living there, after things, when we first went, it was barren, but then after the internees started coming back, they planted all kind of things around the barrack, it cut down the dust, too, and it got prettier. And they had trees planted, and so it was livable. But we did get dust storms once in a while, but not as bad.

MA: Seems like people made the best of what they had at the time.

CY: Yeah, they, like one time, we had, friends from Watsonville came to see us in camp, and we were ready to sit down to dinner at the mess hall, and the dust storm came, and everything just turned all white with dust. They saw what we lived through, you know, 'cause it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen once in a while. And when it does, it's really bad. You can't see the barrack across the street, across the way, which is twenty feet away.

MA: And these were Caucasian friends from Watsonville?

CY: Uh-huh, uh-huh. My husband's boss, and they came to see him and they came to see other people, too.

MA: And these were the people whose son took care of your property?

CY: (Yes).

MA: Were you able to get, like, rent, monthly rent from the people who rented out your property? Did they send you money?

CY: (Narr. note: No, it was put in an account where all the bills were paid.) We had to give 'em the power of attorney. But later on, he couldn't take care of us, so we had the bank take over, a man at the bank. Because it's getting kind of hard, you had to pick up the rent, and then make sure the place is okay. So at the end, we had a bank. Of course, we were there three years in camp.

MA: And so just to clarify, so you had the, the shop, the barber shop?

CY: (We had the home, granny quarter, and large rental building in the back and the Main Street Property.)

MA: And also your own home?

CY: (Yes). And I had a, we have a granny quarter.

MA: The granny quarter, (a one-bedroom apartment).

CY: Uh-huh, then we have a rental in the back, and we had another property in Main Street, which was rented out, too.

MA: Main Street in Watsonville?

CY: Main Street in Watsonville side, (Santa Cruz County).

MA: Watsonville side.

CY: Uh-huh. But then at the end, we, before we came out, we sold that property to pay off the mortgage on that (...) shop that was just built in 1940.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: So you told me about in Poston you would go to the river?

CY: Yeah. Sometimes on a Sunday, we would go walking to the Colorado River, and it's about five miles of desert land. And we'd go there and it's a stream, I guess it's not the main river, but the stream. And I know some people used to go fishing there, but we used to just wade in the cold water.

MA: And that was five miles?

CY: Yeah, I think so. Five miles up, five miles back in the hot sun.

MA: How long were you in Poston? How many, how many years?

CY: We went in July of '42 and went out August of '45. Because my sister-in-law wanted to start school, and we wanted to get her back in time for school, high school. But my father-in-law couldn't come back because he wasn't free, he wasn't cleared for California. They had some kind of, that he couldn't come back to California. So he had to wait until they got the clearance, and by the time he left, there were Indians moving into the barracks around him.

MA: Really?

CY: Yes, uh-huh. He said they were one of the last ones to leave, my father-in-law and my mother-in-law.

MA: And there was, 'cause I know there was a Native American tribe around that area.

CY: I guess there were, because they started moving in, he said.

MA: To the, into the barracks?

CY: Yes, uh-huh, empty barracks.

MA: That's interesting.

CY: Yes.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: And you said that Harry had moved back to Watsonville earlier.

CY: He came out to see once, yes. And everything, I think that was about, maybe a month before we came back. But when we came back, my sister-in-law, my daughter, myself and my husband came back. And I remember coming back by train, and we landed in Los Angeles. And we have to change train there, so we have to carry all our luggage, and I had to carry my daughter, she was about five months old, and run for the next train. [Laughs] It would look like, it looked pretty bad, I guess, now, thinking of it, running with all our luggage and catch the next train. And I don't know when we got back, I don't know who met us or how we got to... we couldn't go in our house because our house was still occupied. So had to give the notice so we stayed into a church kitchen, we set up beds in there. And we stayed there for about a month. And later on, that church was like a hostel for the people that didn't have homes.

MA: For Japanese Americans coming back?

CY: Yes, uh-huh. 'Cause a lot of people came back, but they had no home, and lot of people wouldn't rent to Japanese. So we had one, one rental which was like a hall, you know. It's just a big hall with a living quarter in the back. And my father-in-law said he'll rent to this Japanese family that had children, they had about four or five children.

MA: And so we rented to them, but then two other families moved in there, 'cause they had no place to go, friends of that family. They were there for a short time, but then three families in one house, which is a pretty large house. It was more like a pool hall, the front part was just like a hall, and the kitchen and living quarters in the back.

MA: In general, how did the whites in Watsonville feel about the Japanese Americans coming back?

CY: Well, when we first came back, they broke our front window, plate glass window from our shop. And that was the only bad thing happened to us. But other than that, we didn't feel anything. Although they say that the Watsonville council voted to ban Japanese Americans from coming back, you know. But we didn't feel that, I didn't feel that. Some people did, but I know some people couldn't find a place to stay or buy grocery and stuff like that. But we didn't feel no discrimination. 'Cause where I live is, there's Chinese people, too, you know. They lived, they were always friends and they were friends when we came back.

MA: How did the Chinese people, after Pearl Harbor, react to you and to the Japanese?

CY: The friends were friends, uh-huh. Yes, they were all right. Even, even Caucasian friends, you know, old friends were friends. They were fine.

MA: Did, did your husband, Harry, work for the WRA for a while after the war until it closed?

CY: Yes, just for a while. But then his job, which was a bookkeeper for the company, they had another bookkeeper, so he couldn't get the job back. So he had to work as a gardener, and he didn't like that at all because he never did work with his hands. He was a, he became a barber much later. So after being a gardener for about a year or two, I think, then he went to school and got his barber license, and then he worked under my mother-in-law as a, to become a full-fledged barber. You had to work under somebody six months, and then get the license.

MA: And this was on the Pajaro side, in that same building?

CY: Yes, uh-huh.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: And he, so they ran a barber shop, then, for a long time, right? Or Harry (and Tom).

CY: Oh, yes, uh-huh, 'til ('89). See, my mother-in-law was running it, because my father-in-law and mother-in-law ran the shop for a while, and he died, and then she ran it by herself. And then my brother-in-law became a barber first, because he was a single man, you know. And then after, well, my husband became a barber. He had, you know, you had to go to school six months and pass a test, then be a, to be a real barber you'd have to work under a licensed barber, and he did it under my mother-in-law. But during the war, we had that shop all rented out, and they, they had some kind of place that sell artichokes. And he was able to rent everything out, but very little. Twenty-five dollars a month rent. I think that granny quarter was fifteen dollars. [Laughs]

MA: When you came back, though, the property was still there.

CY: Oh, yes. It was, the property was still there, but we had everybody and moved out by then.

MA: So you mentioned living in the church kitchen for a while.

CY: Uh-huh.

MA: Which church was that?

CY: That's the old church, the Buddhist church. That Buddhist church had a big temple in the front, and that was where the chapel was. And downstairs was a big hall, and in the back, and the separate building there was a kitchen area, and that's where we stayed in there. And then the storeroom, there's another family staying in the storeroom, in the kitchen area. So I just wondered, I was thinking, "How do you ever get all the beds in the little kitchen?" but we managed.

MA: And then you moved back to your place after your renters moved out?

CY: Yes, uh-huh, yes. So after we moved back to our house a lot of people started coming back much later, and they (turned) the church hall into a hostel, and lot of people came back and they, they all moved in there until they found a place to go.

MA: Did most of the families who went to Poston from Watsonville, did they eventually return back home?

CY: Not all. I think some never came back. But most of the old-timers, they all, they came back, yeah. And people that had homes.

MA: And did most people resume what they were doing before, farming or their business?

CY: Well, after they came back, even my father-in-law, before he could open his shop, he went to work in a cannery in Monterey. Even my, my father-in-law went, and a dentist, used to be a dentist's friend, they all went to work in a cannery. Any job they could find, 'cause we were only given fifty dollars apiece or something, and that was all. There was no welfare, no nothing, so you have to stand on your own right away.

MA: And it probably took a couple years to build up enough money to start something again. What about your, your parents?

CY: My parents (...) they had to go back into sharecropping, so they went to sharecropping for about a few years and then they bought their own place, and they did, farmed on their own, yes.

MA: And that was in Watsonville?

CY: No, they went to Morgan Hill.

MA: Is that nearby?

CY: That's, it's the other side of the hill, anyway, it's near Gilroy, past, do you know where Gilroy is? Past Gilroy is, is San Martin and Morgan Hill. Lot of people went over there, they had the, I think it was the Driscoll company or something, wanted sharecroppers, so that's where they went.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MA: So Harry was doing, was working in barber shop, and you eventually opened, or you worked in a tackle shop?

CY: I was working in the tackle shop, I was running a tackle shop. Because my father-in-law was there for just a few months, and he showed me what to do, you know. And then after that, I had to learn on my own, and I did all the buying and most of the selling. And the customer would tell you what they want, you know, so that's, so I ran it for fifty-seven years. I retired when I was eighty-four, 2004, June, June 2004.

MA: And who were your customers? Were they mostly Japanese American at the tackle shop?

CY: No, they were all, all races. Lot of Mexican people and Caucasian, and you know, these sportsmen, once they know you've got the things, they'll come around. So after I closed, I think a lot of people were lost because I was the only tackle shop in town that carried things that other stores don't carry, the big stores like Longs or, they used to, K-mart, places like that would have stuff, but they wouldn't have the things that they need. And I would have all the, all that stuff. So when I closed the shop, I think lot of people were lost, although fishing now is not that well. Because they have too many restriction. I think I got out at the right time, because Monterey Bay has, you can't fish for lot of things, they have so many, they cut the season off and things like that.

MA: Seems like you did a good business, though, in the time that you were working.

CY: Oh, it was, it was fine, yes. But it was getting too much for me 'cause I had my sister-in-law, too. She was helping me, too, but then I did most of the work and I was getting exhausted and getting high blood pressure, and I had to quit. And I'm glad I did, 'cause it was about time for me to quit. [Laughs]

MA: So your husband's barber shop...

CY: Uh-huh, next door is the tackle shop.

MA: Okay, so next door was the tackle shop, barber shop. Who were his customers at his barber shop?

CY: He had all races, and he had customers that come for years, two generation. Father come, the son and the grandson, yes, we had, we had a good customers. But then Harry died in '89, and Tommy died in 2003, I think.

MA: Was that his brother?

CY: Yeah, Tommy, his brother. But I ran the tackle shop one year after he died, and then I finally decided to close. Because you know, when you have a shop by yourself and you're there alone, it's kind of scary. But I never did have any problem all the time I had, I'd been there. But it was time to quit. I need a rest. [Laughs] 'Cause you get tied down, you know, when you have a shop you have to open nine to five because people expect you to be open. And I used to open seven days, we cut it down to five days because it was getting so hard. And then hours, we kept hours nine to five.

MA: And it was two of you? You and your sister-in-law who worked?

CY: Yes, but my sister-in-law lived another place, so she had to come over. So she'd be there only a few days a week.

MA: And your home where you lived, was it still in the back of the...

CY: Yes, it's same place. That's the reason why I don't rent the shop, they're open, because it's too close to my house and I don't want people, you know, coming in my yard. So people ask for the, to rent the place, but I never... it seemed like when I first closed, there used to be a lot of people. But even now, I have people coming in who want to rent the place, the barber shop or the tackle shop.

MA: So I'm curious about the changes that you've seen in the Japanese American community over the years in Watsonville, if you can tell me about that, what your thoughts are.

CY: Well, you know, all I go is to the senior center, and I go to, I help at the church, I got to church a lot. And so that keeps me occupied. So I don't know if, I know when I go to church, I see a lot of people that I don't know because they're from younger generation, and their children. But if they're older generation, I know 'em all because I've been here eighty-four years. [Laughs]

MA: The church, are most of the people that still go Japanese American?

CY: Yes, uh-huh. If they're Buddhist, they go to that church. But we have two church in town, so they have the Presbyterian and the Buddhist.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MA: So tell me about your children. So you had one daughter in camp.

CY: I had, yes, she was born in camp.

MA: And what was her name?

CY: Sharon. And she married a Caucasian. When I, when I had two girls, I told 'em, "You gotta marry a Japanese and you gotta marry a Buddhist." They never married, they married, both married Caucasians. [Laughs] And they're not Buddhist. But she got married at a Buddhist temple. He's a Jewish boy from New York, yes. And she met him -- 'cause she used to be a social worker before, and after he got out of, he went to Harvard and Yale, and he got his law degree from Harvard. He worked one year for California Legal, I guess, to help the, help people that can't help themselves. That's when he met my daughter, 'cause she was working as a social worker and he was working for California Rural Legal Association.

MA: And so you have two daughters?

CY: Two daughters.

MA: So Sharon, and who's the other one?

CY: Sharon and Gail. Gail is a nurse, and she's a psychiatric nurse, and I have one son.

MA: And what's his name?

CY: Randall, we call him Randy. And he's, he got his... he was, when he graduated high school, he joined the army with, he wanted to join the army, he wanted us to sign for him. And we wanted him to go to college, but no, he wanted to see the world. So he signed up and he went to Germany. He wasn't eighteen yet, but he graduated from high school. But after he came back, he earned his... from San Jose State here, his bachelor in economics. And he works for the, he worked for the bus company for twenty years. Then he retired from there, 'cause he didn't want to work anymore for the bus company, and he's a health fitness person at Club One, which is private club. And he's, he didn't want to work full-time, but now he's working full-time. So he's not married, so that's the reason why he can do whatever he wants. [Laughs]

MA: Sounds like a, a wonderful family you have.

CY: [Laughs] My daughter, Sharon, she's a teacher now. She teaches kindergarten. They call it special education, it's for, it's advanced kindergarten, so they, she teaches stuff that even a second or third grades, they don't even learn, you know. It's a, it's like a, the parents have to pay to go to that kindergarten class. And that's what she's been doing for about twenty years.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MA: So are there any messages that you want to share with people who will be watching this interview and learning from your story?

CY: Send the kids to school. [Laughs] Yeah, so they all got their education and they're doing well. They're all doing well. And well, let's see...

MA: Any thoughts about the future of the Japanese American community here in Watsonville?

CY: Well, I hope they continue. I think our Buddhist temple is pretty good. I mean, we have enough members to keep it going. But like Westview, their membership has been down, so I think it's hard. But so every church, I think you lose membership because the kids go out of town to work, you know, 'cause there aren't, what do you call it, mostly farming jobs around here, and not too many, you know, good jobs where educated kids could go. But I think Watsonville temple is, is, so far, it seems to be good. 'Cause I think our temple is San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz combined.

MA: And in general, have you noticed the Sansei generation sort of moving out of Watsonville?

CY: Yes. Yeah, there are quite a few Sansei with their children, but I noticed that church, Sunday schools is much smaller than when my kids were going. I guess there aren't that many around.

MA: So anything else you'd like to share?

CY: Well -- oh, I have two grandsons, and they're both lawyers. They just got their, one just got a law degree this, last year. The younger one wanted to go law after he graduated from UC Santa Cruz, but my older one, he went to Wesleyan college in Connecticut, and he wanted to work in New York, he did their work in New York, but you know, lawyer makes better money. [Laughs] He decided to go law school, so he just got his law degree last year and he worked one year under a judge. And that way he has a better chance of getting a good job. And he has a job already, so they're both working. So everything's okay now, waiting for my grandson to get married. [Laughs] They all had, they both had girlfriends that's law students too, so they're lawyers, too, so I have a house full of lawyers. [Laughs]

MA: Well, it sounds like a wonderful family.

CY: Yeah.

MA: Great. Well, thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it, it was a wonderful story.

CY: Oh, thank you.

MA: Thank you.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Watsonville - Santa Cruz JACL. All Rights Reserved.