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_4-01-0004

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TI: Now, you mentioned Bessie, so Mr. McDonald was married to Bessie McDonald?

GY: Elizabeth, yeah.

TI: Yeah, Elizabeth McDonald. So tell me a little bit about her now.

GY: She, that encounter in Woodside is the only time I ever saw her. She was, she worked for the city or the county here in San Jose, and well, because of that, because of what she knew and they trusted her, was one of the reasons my grandfather and his fellow farmers in this company decided to evacuate, 'cause she told them that it was gonna happen. Most people couldn't believe it, it's America. Why would you be sent to camps from your home? Didn't do anything wrong.

TI: Oh, so she had some kind of early warning or sense that the Japanese were gonna be removed from the area, so passed the information on to your family so that they would, could leave during that voluntary period.

GY: Yes, that's what... yeah, that's what I was told.

TI: Got it, okay. So tell me a little bit more. So she's a social worker in San Jose...

GY: Yeah, and how my grandfather met a lot of people in San Jose is anytime that she needed to talk to a family, a Japanese family, she'd ask him to come along to interpret. And he wasn't very good at English either, but he could communicate. So that's how he got to know a lot of people and probably how he got into farming with other, other Japanese. 'Cause in those days, as I understand it, the Japanese sort of hung out among themselves and, secondly, with people from their own prefecture. So the people from Hiroshima would be together, the people from Kumamoto would be together, Miye people sort of did things together. And Ehime, there weren't too many people. And I think how he got to know these other groups and work with them is through Mrs. McDonald.

TI: So I'm curious, so she's going out and talking to different families. Do you know what capacity? Was it around social services?

GY: I would think so. I would think social services.

TI: And do you have a sense of what kind of issues that she might be dealing with with these families?

GY: No, I wish I knew. I wish I would have asked. But that's one of the things that's just passed because all those people are gone. No, I don't. At the time, I just heard, "What'd she do?" "Oh, she was a social worker," or she worked for the, either the county or the city, and I've heard both.

TI: Yeah, that'd be fascinating, because in places like Seattle, you hear so much about kind of the community taking care of themselves, and it'd be interesting to have understood what she was doing and how she was trying to help.

GY: That would be interesting. What problems were being encountered, where she had to go out there and talk.

TI: The story you mentioned of your grandmother hugging this woman, so what was the relationship between your grandmother and her? I mean, did they do things together?

GY: Yes. My grandmother came over in 1913. And so from 1913 on, she was there at the McDonald farm. And yeah, I really don't know too much about that period, but it was like one family.

TI: So possibly she was doing maybe some domestic help, that kind of, maybe, relationship?

GY: Oh, no, my grandmother was helping out in, yeah, could have been. Could have been domestic, and also out on the farms, too, doing things. Because in a seed company, there's some tedious work as well, pollinating and things like that.

TI: Now, so you mentioned, so Mr. McDonald is running the operations of the farm in Stockton.

GY: That's later on. That's in the 1920s. Before, it was all in Milpitas.

TI: Okay, 1920s.

GY: Right.

TI: Okay... good, okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.