Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Lily Kajiwara Interview
Narrator: Lily Kajiwara
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-klily-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Tell us about... the rest of the family returned to Troutdale. And what type of response did they receive when they got there?

LK: My parents owned a home in Troutdale, home, and took more than twenty acres of land. But when my dad went back to see about the house and the land, one of the neighbors came out and told him that he didn't want to have them come back. So when my dad and my brother discussed it, and they decided that, well... and my brothers really didn't want to be farmers, they were all into academic life, so they wouldn't have been able to help my dad. But anyhow, because of this man saying they didn't want him back, and the condition of the house and he had nothing, so he decided to sell it. So they sold it to all the neighbors and then settled in Portland instead, and my dad became a gardener and worked in Portland, then my brothers went on to college.

RP: Did your family receive any support or assistance from any organizations?

LK: Yes, I do think the Methodist church was very helpful. I think at one time they even housed some people that came back, you know, the best they could. But I remember they helped, and the bank, First National Bank, Mr. McNaughton, was very helpful with my dad, helped him buy a truck, and just generally was a wonderful help to the Japanese community. So the two, I think those two things, I think, helped. Because when he came back, they had nothing. I don't know if they had any money, they had no car or place to live. So the church, I think, the Methodist church, I think, was really helpful to the Japanese community, and I think my dad and mom got help from them.

RP: And what was resettling back into the community like for you?

LK: Well, settling back into the community was, I never went back to my original community. We lived in Vanport, which is the housing project. And so it's not resettling, it's starting over, is what it is. So it was different from a farm to Minidoka to a housing project, it's all different, very different. And soon as I came back, I started business school, and when I finished business school, I got a job. So it was a complete city life. It was a hundred percent different from farm life. But I had the camp in between where I met a lot of Japanese people, so it was not a hundred percent different. But city life was so much different than country life.

RP: And you got married along the way?

LK: Yes, I got married and had a child. I was working for Hulman, which was a transport company. And then I started back to school, college, and when my daughter was born, instead of going back to work, I decided to go back to school. And my husband was a hundred percent okay with that.

RP: And did your husband also have a camp experience, too?

LK: No. My husband was born and raised in Colorado. They didn't go to camp, but he was in the service. He was drafted, and he served in Italy with the 442nd, but he was a replacement person, he was not in the original group, he was younger than that. But he was in Italy and served with the 442nd, the Japanese infantry group.

RP: He came out of the war unscathed as far as...

LK: Excuse me?

RP: He came out of the war unscathed?

LK: Yeah, he didn't see any action. Because he was there after the main action was all over.

RP: Can you share the story about... that you basically worked to put all your brothers and sisters through college.

LK: Yes. It was always important to my folks, family, that the boys go to college. And so I worked very hard to help my brothers Dick and George, the next two in line, go to college. And I lived at home and worked really hard, tried to save as much money as we can. My brother Dick went to Reed College, which was expensive, my brother George became a doctor and he went to medical school. And so I feel that it's important that they have a profession, and my mother and dad felt the same way, and I went right along with it.

RP: That was one of the values that you shared early on in the interview that all the family members help each other out.

LK: Uh-huh, that's true.

RP: Then your younger brother helped you out.

LK: My younger brother, when he finished school, he said, "It's your turn." So he paid my tuition and my books, and so I went back to school and graduated in 1975. And I was in my late '40s.

RP: And you graduated in what major?

LK: I got a degree in anthropology, because I wanted a degree with multiple disciplines. So I took classes in almost everything I could think of, from music to art to mathematics, psychology, and ended up with a degree in anthropology.

RP: You also were involved, you took some library science classes?

LK: Yes, I took library science classes because I was always interested in libraries. But Oregon doesn't have a graduate library program, but they do have, for elementary teachers they have library classes. So I took classes at Portland State in library, so yes.

RP: And you were fortunate enough to sit by a woman on a bus that changed your life.

LK: Yes. It was in the early part of my last year in school. I happened to be writing the bus and I sat next to a lady and she noticed I was carrying some books, so she said -- and I was in my late '40s. She said, "Are you a student at Portland State?" And I said yes. I said, "Well, I'm about to graduate this spring." And she said, "Well, what are you going to do when you graduate?" and I said, "I might like to work in a library." And it so happened that she was a librarian at Portland State. Asked me if I wanted to work at Portland State Library, and I said, "Of course." She told me to go take a test with the state, which I did, and got on the list. She happened to have an opening, and so when I went to interview with her, I got the job. So I worked in her... she was head of acquisitions, so I worked in acquisitions for a year and a half, then I transferred to the science library and got the opportunity to work with the public, and worked in the reference, and also was head of the student employees, so I trained students to work in the library. I thoroughly enjoyed my job there.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.