Densho Digital Archive
Whitworth College - North by Northwest Collection
Title: Fred Shiosaki Interview
Narrator: Fred Shiosaki
Interviewer: Andrea Dilley
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: 2003-2004
Densho ID: denshovh-sfred-02-0001

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FS: I'm Fred Shiosaki, spelled S-H-I-O-S-A-K-I.

AD: Tell us first, before we even start about the war, tell us about growing up in the Hillyard area.

FS: Hillyard, during the -- and of course, this was around the late, late '20s and early '30s. Hillyard was a, Hillyard was a workingman's area. The Great Northern Railroad had major shops there, the roundhouse and the car shop and the ice packing plant and the tie plant. And so the area was, even in the hardest times, there were people working. So it, it was not as tough as many other places, economically. And it was, there were quite a mixture of people. There were a lot of Italian immigrants in and around Hillyard, and there were also, as I recall, I had German immigrant families close by. And as I recall, there were a few English, English families. I remember one guy we used to call "Limey." But that's what Hillyard was like. It was quite a mixture of people, it was a workingman's area. And it was a separate little town, or tended to be separate. Market Street had, had grocery stores and clothing stores and furniture stores and stuff, and it was very comfortable place to grow up.

AD: What was it like to be Japanese American?

FS: Well, you know, other than knowing that I was, and when I went home from playing in the street I spoke Japanese, I don't recall very many acts of overt, overt prejudice. I recognized that we were Japanese, that... I guess thinking back on it, other than playing with your friends and being invited into their homes, there was no social intercourse between my family and those other families. My family sought out other Japanese families from, who lived in downtown Spokane or even some of the people who lived at the railroad camp across the tracks. There was no, there was no social relationship with anybody else.

AD: What about -- let me start here. What about after Pearl Harbor? Did you feel any kind of shift in the way that people treated you?

FS: Well, my... of course, I was seventeen or so, and yes, the first thing that of course happened is that my father's laundry business just went down the tubes for a while. People just stopped coming in and it was, it was pretty skinny pickings for a while.

AD: So I'm going to have you say that again, and just put at the beginning "after Pearl Harbor" so people can...

FS: Okay. Oh, certainly. Well, after Pearl Harbor, the first thing that happened is that, of course, my father's laundry business just went, went down the tubes. He just, they, people just stopped coming in and I, for a while there, I know my dad was worried. He thought, geez, we're gonna, they're gonna starve us out of here. Then I think that he, he washed the industrial clothing, the work clothes for those guys, and there was just nobody else around who could handle that stuff, he had the equipment and stuff to do that. So they started drifting back. My favorite story about the laundry, though, and the aftermath... my father had a fellow who, who used as a mentor somebody to help him out through the bureaucracy. His name was Will Simpson, and he was a very ardent Democrat. And after Roosevelt was elected, he was appointed postmaster for the city of Spokane. He also ran a print shop behind us, job shop behind us, and so they were good friends, and my dad depended on him for help. The thing that my dad did in turn was he, he would, he would go drive up to his house on Monday, pick up his shirts to launder, and then when they were done, he would take them back, and it was just something added that my dad did for him. The day the war started, the Monday after the war started, he drove up to his house to pick up his shirts, and he said, he said Mr. Simpson unrolled the paper with this big, big black headline about the war, and he said, "Hey, Kay, what do you think of this?" And my dad says, "Oh, it won't last long, it's a stupid thing," and so on. And so Mr. Simpson said, "Well, I'm sorry, I just cannot do business with you anymore." And I think, I thought, when my dad came back and told us that story, I thought he was going to cry because this guy had been a friend for twenty-five or thirty years. What the outcome, of course, was that things were busier and busier at the laundry, and of course Mr. Simpson discovered that he couldn't find somebody to do his shirts. And so he came in some time later, and he asked him, "Well, say, would you do my shirts for me again?" And my dad said, "Geez, I'm really sorry, but I'm too busy." And so what goes around comes around.


FS: Well, when Pearl Harbor started, of course, it was in the morning in Washington. And as I recall, it must have been close to seven, I don't know for sure. But it was just, we were having breakfast or going to have breakfast and the news, came over the news. And of course it was just, just constant description of what is taking, is taking place or has taken place in Hawaii. I guess it was just, it was just a disbelief. We really couldn't believe that that was going on. But the news kept getting worse and worse, and I think at some point, I think we all understood what was going on. I know my mother -- or my mother and dad were really shaken, and I just, I think I was too young and dumb to really understand what, what the magnitude of this thing.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.