Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yano Interview
Narrator: George Yano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_4-01-0012

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TI: Okay. So I'm going to shift gears a little bit and now talk about your -- 'cause this is when you come into the picture. You were born in Fort Lupton, spent a few years there, and then you now return with the family back to the Milpitas area.

GY: Right.

TI: So let's kind of pick up your life. I mean, something you said earlier when we were talking about your name, how as a child, you spoke Japanese, you communicated in Japanese. And so what are some of your early childhood memories?

GY: Well, they came back, my grandfather had built two houses on Overfelt's land, and one of the houses was still available. And I don't think my grandfather would mind my saying this, but... and he had intended to release the Overfelt land. But by the time he got back, someone else who returned earlier had already signed up with Overfelt, so he lost that land, or the ability to rent that land. And I remember being in those houses, I was about four, maybe four or five. And it was a typical, probably a typical Japanese farmhouse. As you enter, it was, I think it was either still dirt or concrete or something, bottom, and you had to step up and remove your shoes to do that. My grandfather was playing go, and when his friends came, that's what they did. I remember that. And I think a lot of people my age also remember these other things of that era, the tins of potato chips. People would buy potato chips in round tins. They'd hold 'em for a long time, so they were almost rancid by the time you eat them. And I didn't think they were very good, but if someone came, they brought out the tin, opened it, put it back in there, and left it for a long time. And then we moved to -- my mom and dad and my brother and I -- were moved to Takeda Farms back in the 1940s sometime in Milpitas. And we were there close to the Oyamas and a lot of other families that were returning from these evacuations. And those were things that I used to... Richard, who's my age, and I used to always get in trouble because we'd be playing in the sandboxes, which were really made for cuttings, we'd be disturbing that. But it's just little bits and pieces. I don't remember too much. I remember ice cream, 'cause my grandfather used to come to Japantown from Milpitas. And at Butcher's Corner there in Milipitas, it's the corner of, I think, Main and... right there, the main intersection, there was a bar. And my grandfather would go in there, and I guess they had ice cream there, and he'd come out with ice cream cones. And it was very rare when that happened, but every time we went by that, we'd look and hope that he would stop. [Laughs]

TI: So let's talk about starting school, because you had talked about how, up until school age, you spoke Japanese. What was it like going to school?

GY: Oh. I can't remember all the details, but it must have been tough. Because I went right into first grade. My brother was a year younger, he went into kindergarten. And when I went to first grade, everybody knew the alphabet, the Pledge of Allegiance, how to speak English. And so I think it was pretty tough for my brother and I, but I can't remember. I mean, I can't remember any suffering. I remember going to school, my teacher, Mrs. Grecko, was a very strict teacher, kept all the bullies at bay. And I couldn't read. I couldn't read until I was in the second grade sometime, and so it's one of those, like an immigrant family. And my parents are farming so they weren't able to -- like other farming families -- able to spend a lot of time with the kids and teach them ABCs or the Pledge of Allegiance or songs and things. But that was tough, because I couldn't understand how these people knew how to do the Pledge of Allegiance right away. And alphabet, that was so foreign. And they all knew each other from kindergarten, small school, McKinley school in Sunnyvale. It went from kindergarten all the way to eighth grade. But it was, that was afterwards, after the second grade and I got to know people, it was a good experience growing up in Sunnyvale.

TI: But how was it before the second grade, or before you could really speak English well, how did your classmates treat you?

GY: Not bad at all. I was never bullied, I was never picked on. Mrs. Grecko treated me like everybody else. It was just that I couldn't do what they could do. They could read, they could do all the things that kids learn in kindergarten. But yeah, it wasn't a bad experience. I don't remember it as a bad experience, it's just that I didn't know what was happening.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.