Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Jean Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: Jean Matsumoto
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 10, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-mjean-01

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: And let me just say first that I'm Kristen Luetkemeier, park ranger from Manzanar National Historic Site, and I'm here with Jean Matsumoto. It is July the 10th, 2012, and we are recording an oral history interview. With us in the room also are Tomiko Takeuchi, Denver Kessler, Dennis Chapel, and Steve Kammeyer, and they're all assisting with recording and various technical aspects. And, Jean, I wanted to ask you, do I have your permission to conduct this interview and to record it and make it available to the public?

JM: Yes.

KL: Thank you, thanks for being here. I wanted to talk first about the family that you grew up in, your parents, and a little bit about their background. So let's start with your father. What was your father's name?

JM: My father was Kametaro Matsumoto. I think they called him George... my father was a hotel manager, and he leased the hotel we lived in because he wasn't allowed to purchase property. So he leased his job where he could collect the money and keep the hallways clean, and clean the bathrooms, and change the sheets, that sort of thing, in a hotel down on First and Pine here in Portland. Sixty-nine Southwest Pine Street. It was outside of Nihonmachi, but we were pretty close to the Japanese community.

KL: You said he came to the United States as a pretty young man?

JM: Yes, he came at the age of eighteen in 1900. And I just can't comprehend how he could do that. He was the oldest of the family, so was supposed to stay in Japan and take care of his younger brothers and sisters, and, of course, inherit the property. But like I said, I think he was trying to avoid the draft, I think it's the Sino, between the Sino and the Russo-Japan War. He came over with a buddy of his, and he had a younger brother who was just days old, or weeks old. And when Dad and I went back to Japan, it was pretty emotional. And we were told to look for someone that, they sent us this picture, the picture was twenty years old, and that was when I realized we all looked alike. [Laughs] Because we went into the airport and I thought, "Oh, there they are," and said, "No, that's not them. There they are." And then we saw this man that looked just like my dad holding up a sign that said "Matsumoto," and that's the only Japanese characters that I could read, and I knew that that was the two brothers, two younger brothers, and his sister had sent their son to meet us. And so the younger brother said he's finally meeting his big brother, and so I assume there's eighteen or nineteen years' difference between the two of them. But he also looked just like my father except he was taller. And then the brother that was next youngest was there. And then in the meantime, or maybe the one next to my father had passed away, but I think there were two sisters and at least three brothers in Japan. So anyway, but it just... and the things my father did, he worked in the sugar beets in Idaho, he worked in canneries in Canada. And he stayed unmarried for a long time. And he worked as a bellhop at the Benson Hotel, but certainly... and I don't know exactly, but he said he learned to read and write from a Native American.

KL: Where did he come in to this country, through Seattle, or do you know?

JM: I think in... I was thinking it was Vancouver, Washington, area. But he didn't, definitely never knew exactly where... oh, recently we got the list of where people arrived, and I don't know whether, on which ship they came to the United States. And I think there might be something that, I looked it up once, but I can't remember exactly where it was. And he was active here in the Oregon Buddhist Church as early as 1925, but he still wasn't married yet. But he learned that my grandparents who were his peers in Japan, were farming up in Bainbridge Island.

KL: [Sneezes] Excuse me.

JM: So he went up there to visit them. And my mother, who was twenty-two, my father was forty-six, and I made up the story that my grandparents twisted his arm, begged him to marry her and take her off the farm, because she hated it. She had come over when she was sixteen, and she hated the strawberry picking, the hoeing, the weeding, the planting, and she had done that from the time she came. I think she might have been pampered when she was left back in Japan when my grandparents came over first, and when she came over she had two younger sisters here. And my mother and her younger brother were left in Japan, and they probably were pampered by grandparents and aunts and uncles in Japan until she was sixteen. And then she comes over to America, and she just hated, it sounded like she worked forever on the farm, but I figured she was twenty-two and sixteen was only six years. But he did save her, and he brought her to Portland eventually and really made a city gal out of her.

KL: Where was she from in Japan?

JM: Same place in Japan, Hidaka-cho, Wakayama-ken. So when...

KL: Is it pretty rural, too?

JM: Yes, it was all rice farming, and I think that's what my relatives there did. Dad and I went back, I always have to look up the visa because I can't remember what year it was. But we went back with a church group from Ontario, the Idaho-Oregon, Buddhist temple minister took a group back to Japan. And we went with them, and just the transportation back and forth, we went with a group. Oh, in fact, we came back on our own, but we went with them. And once we got there, we were able to go our own way, so the two brothers and the nephew met us at the airport. And so once we finally got (there), we went from Tokyo, we landed in Tokyo and went to Kyoto, I think, for a few days, Kyoto, and then to Osaka, because that's where one of the brothers lived, and then to his home place. And the house that the brother lived in was on the same property where he was born, but it was a newer house. And my dad led the way to the cemetery to pay respects to his parents. So in all those years... because he was in his eighties when we went, and that was his first time.

KL: And that was the first time he had been back.

JM: Then I don't know if you know the story of Urashima Taro, but it's about somebody who goes back after, or it's sort of like he slept for a number of years and goes back, but that's what they called him. But he knew the way to the cemetery. Of course, then my mother worked with my dad in the hotel business, she helped him with the...

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: Did they come here right after Bainbridge Island?

JM: I think they worked in fish canneries up in Canada. I think my mother did. But they eventually, they settled in the hotel business.

KL: Did she have trouble learning English?

JM: Yes, she did, and she really didn't have to learn English, because I can remember that the two department stores, one was Furuya and one was Teikoku, run by Matsushimas here in Portland. They used to have people that went out every week and took your orders for the following week, and so every week you got... and they all spoke Japanese. When she went to the Buddhist church, they all spoke Japanese, so even if she lived here, and she was ninety-three when she passed away, she could get by with English, because when she was in the nursing home, she did get by with enough English. And she understood probably a lot more. But we spoke half and half, this broken Japanese, and as much English as we thought she knew. And people would hear me on the phone at work talking this half-Japanese and half English. They used to tease me about that. She understood a lot more, but she didn't really learn how to speak English.

KL: Did your dad tell you how he met this Native American person who tutored him?

JM: No. He worked somewhere, maybe in Canada, and oh, he had another interesting job. He told me that he worked for Governor Meier, and his job was staying on a little island on, I'm assuming, the Columbia River. And he fed the ducks and geese all week, and then Governor Meier would bring his friends on the weekends for shooting, and my father used to make breakfast for them. And that was one of his interesting jobs. That was before he got married.

KL: Do you know -- oh, go ahead.

JM: I was just going to say, I don't know when the Benson Hotel was built, but...

KL: Was that his hotel, the Benson?

JM: No.

KL: No, that's where he worked.

JM: He was working as the bellhop. Oh, and he worked for the railroad, and I remember because of this small stature, he was given the job of just keeping in touch with Japan and bringing workers over. He didn't have to go on those rails and kind of stuff, so he had a pretty easy job.

KL: Keeping in touch with people who were in Japan? Did he write letters or how did he recruit people?

JM: Yeah, in Japanese, I guess. They wrote letters and so that the railroad workers... 'cause he said he never had to do the heavy work. Those were some of the things I remember him telling, and wishing I had taped him back then. So then... and that's where we lived until we went to camp.

KL: What took them to Portland, do you think?

JM: I don't know, but I'm sure glad he did. [Laughs]

KL: Did he have other jobs before he owned the hotel?

JM: No, just, I think after he was married, let's see, they got married in '27, I think, I figured it out, and so I think shortly thereafter they went into the hotel business, the two of them.

KL: Your mom was probably happy, too. [Laughs] "Get me into the city." So were you born in Portland, then?

JM: Yes, I was born in Portland. My sister's two years older. My mother had a stillborn child.

KL: What is your mother's name?

JM: Oh, her name was Mikiye, Mikiye Matsushita before she was married.

KL: Would you spell it?

JM: M-A-T-S-U-S-H-I-T-A. And they had, they farmed right up, even after they got, they came back from camp. I think they might have gone to Tule Lake first, through Puyallup, and then they were moved to Minidoka to Block 44, which was mostly the Bainbridge people. So eventually they were all there, too. My aunt and uncle with three little boys were farming Hillsboro, and they all went to Minidoka, too.

KL: Were your mom's two younger sisters, they were born in Washington, in Bainbridge Island?

JM: Yes.

KL: Did she ever talk about what it was like to come meet them for the first time?

JM: She just said she knew she had these two young, much younger sisters. And my uncle, I think, was always envious of their American citizenship. He sort of had a chip on his shoulder, had a harder time adjusting to having two younger sisters, and I think he always resented the fact that they had American citizenship and he had to wait 'til he became a naturalized citizen. So, yeah, I was going through some old papers to find their wedding certificate, 'cause I knew that I'd seen one. Because Robbie Tsuboi's grandfather was a witness to their marriage. And so somewhere up in Washington is where they got married. And I made a copy for her and then I didn't put the marriage license back where it was supposed to go. I was really hunting around for it. So I knew there was one.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KL: So it was you and you said you have just a sister, a younger sister?

JM: I have one sister, yes. So my mother must have had the miscarriage before 1930. My sister was born in '33, and my mother had had a stillborn child first, and then a miscarriage, and then my sister. And my mother always told me my father made a funny face when I was born, because that meant four girls, and he wanted a boy. [Laughs]

KL: What year were you born?

JM: '34.

KL: Okay.

JM: And Dr. Tanaka delivered me at the old Portland Sanitarium, which was now a rehab place on Belmont... is it Belmont and Fifty-Seventh, yeah, somewhere around Sixtieth.

KL: Who was Dr. Tanaka?

JM: Well, he delivered probably almost all of the children in Portland, and I think... I don't know what he did. I don't remember him being in camp. I remember Dr. Kinoshita and Dr. Shiomi being in camp, but I don't know... oh, he may have gone to Ontario, because that's where his son, when he became a doctor, was practicing also. But he's the one that my mother loved the name Mary, she wanted to name me Mary, and he said, "No, there's too many Marys," because he probably delivered Mary Nakata first, and so then he said, "Name her Jean, so I was named Jean." And where they ever came up with the name Alice for my sister, because they could barely pronounce it, it was always "Arisu," and it just surprised me that my sister's name was Alice, because like I said, you would have thought May or some other easy name like Jean.

KL: Did you guys have Japanese names, too?

JM: Yes, uh-huh. My sister's name is Midori, which means "green," and my name is Akiko because I was born in September and that's "fall," or "autumn."

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: What was the name -- oh, go ahead.

JM: I was going to say, I had a very interesting childhood in that the Sisters of the Holy Name decided to start a school for the children of Japanese parents. And it was supposed to be a school for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and to start the school, they needed seven students. And when they knew of my sister who was five, going on six, they came to our house and they said, "If you would send the younger sister, we could start our school immediately." And so I went to school at the age of four, and claimed to be the only one who ever flunked kindergarten, because I had to take it two years before I could go to kindergarten in order to go to first grade. But the two, the nun that was the kindergarten teacher is still at Mary's Woods, she'll be ninety-five next year, and I've been arranging little mini reunions with her for the last twenty years that I located that. The first grade, first and second grade teacher died a couple years ago at the age of ninety-three, and they, we just had so much fun with them. Of course, they wore the habits, and we were fascinated by what was under the long, black robe, and cross that clanked. And there were quite a few of us that went to that school, so there are still a few of us left in Portland, so we get together. George Nakata, Mary Jean Takashima. When... there's two from California, whenever they come to Portland, we get together with them.

KL: What were those two teachers' names?

JM: Well, one started out being the name that I thought was the most beautiful name in the world, which was Sister Mary Madelava. I thought that was just the loveliest name. And she... oh, I have to say that when, oh, and the other one was Sister Marilyn. And when we came back, we found that they had taken their original names back and were not longer... oh, this was about at least a dozen, twenty years after we came back that I connected with them again. So Sister Gertrude comes up in beige pants and the brightest red sweater, and her name is Sister Gertrude Schaeffers.

KL: What was her Catholic name?

JM: Sister Mary Madelava. And Sister Marilyn is Sister Marilyn Harris, so she was just Sister Marilyn Harris. And Sister Gertrude, whom I thought was, you know, six feet tall, was just a little bit taller than me. [Laughs] And so anyway, it was just a... and to hear them talk, they went on to teach schools all over the Northwest and after the... oh, the school started in 1938 and closed in 1942 when we all went to camp. And they used to come out to the International Livestock and had services out there for the Catholic people. But the other thing was that my parents were Buddhists, and they sent us to this Catholic school to learn English. Because as two and three and four year olds, even Alice at five probably spoke more Japanese than she did English. And so we got sent to this school to learn English. And so every Sunday my father took us to the Buddhist church. [Laughs]

KL: Did that go over okay with the school?

JM: And the nuns, it certainly didn't make any difference to the Buddhist church. And then they didn't think anything of it. Except there were certain occasions, like Easter Sunday, when my father bought us these lovely new clothes and Easter bonnets and everything, and they forgot to pick us up, because they thought we'd be going to the Buddhist church. And so my father was pretty upset over that. But it was a wonderful little school, it started out in a storefront on Second Avenue on about Ankeny, and moved into a big house by Sixteenth Avenue, close to where the cathedral is in Portland. We used to walk over to there. It was a wonderful experience, and it was all Japanese students, so it was a pretty close-knit group.

KL: How many students were there by 1942, do you think?

JM: Oh, by the time, there must have been at least thirty. And we've lost track of a lot of them, but those who came back to Portland and those we stayed in contact through camp also.

KL: Do you know anything about the Sisters of the Holy Name's history?

JM: No, nothing except that these were wonderful women, and to listen to them talk, those three or four years that they taught us were the most important in their lives. [Laughs] They just always remembered everything, they remembered those who went by their Japanese names, and they always asked them, but we've lost track of some people, because some went back to Japan. For instance, I think the consul general, her name was Miyo Oka, and I don't know what year her father was here as the consul.

KL: Was it a group from the United States, the Sisters of the Holy Name?

JM: Yeah, it's here, Marylhurst College now, and Mary's Woods, it's over in Lake Oswego area. And Mary's Woods is a beautiful place, and the nuns said, "Whatever happened to our vows of poverty?" It's beautiful. And we met Father Thielen, who was the twenty-five year old principal of our school, we went to see him when he was ninety-six, and I'll never forget that, he said, he didn't think it was going to take so long to get into heaven. [Laughs] But he died about a year later. But he remembered us. He remembered us, too, amazing. So that was really a funny experience.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: But you grew up in the hotel that was your family's home?

JM: Yes, yes.

KL: What was the hotel's name?

JM: It's called the Kamm Apartments, it was in an old, old building that might have been a bank at one time because on the main floor, it had either post office or cubbyholes like they were mailboxes for a lot of people. And it had this huge staircase up to the second floor, and then the hotel was on the second, third and fourth floors. And we could go up to the roof, too. And I think all the rooms had marble fireplaces, so it must have been big business. I mean, it was a small hotel, it was right on the corner of First and Pine. And that hotel is now a floor-level parking lot. And I remember when the building next door burned down, I remember feeling the walls of our apartment, and they were hot. So that was very scary and very... must have been a big fire. But we lived right by the fire station, and my sister and I were always running to Mom because the fire engines used to scare us when we were kids. That's how Alice got a black eye. We were running into the kitchen, and the kitchen had doors that opened out with the doorknobs kind of like glass doorknobs. And Alice ran and didn't get the door open, and I came up behind her and gave her a black eye. So anyway, we had a lot of fun growing up.

KL: Did you become friendly with any of the people who stayed at the hotel, were they long term?

JM: Yes, oh, yeah, there were some... there was a Connie Conwell when we came back. And I think some of these people stored our things for us, because my sister's complete set of Japanese dolls for (Girl's Day) were intact when we came back. So I think my father boxed everything up and left it with them. Although I heard that there was, what do you call, storage, one of the buildings was used as storage for people that had to go to camp.

KL: He was already part of the Buddhist Temple, you said, right?

JM: Uh-huh, very active there.

KL: Sometimes temples or churches arranged for that.

JM: Pardon?

KL: Sometimes temples or churches would arrange to...

JM: Yeah. Our temple was left pretty intact. I don't know who looked after it, but because it was called church, well, about 1994, we went to Oregon Buddhist Temple, so that's what it's called now.

KL: But it was Oregon Buddhist Church in the '20s?

JM: Church before then. And because it was church, I think people respected it, and didn't do anything vandalism to it. It's on Tenth Avenue and Everett, and it is still there as a historical building. I think it's been a photography shop on the main floor, and also I thought attorneys were going to move into it, but I don't know who wants it now. But it is a historical... and it might be for lease or rent again. But they built a huge, highrise loft, and they had to build it in a sort of an L-shape I think, because that corner is a church and the building next door. One time, might have been some prostitutes living in the upstairs over the hotel. And the reason is because one of our minister's wives from Japan said, "Somebody came looking for girls." [Laughs] So that was the story we have of the old temple.

KL: Connie Conway was somebody you remembered well from your...

JM: Yes, he lived in our hotel, and there was a Mr. Meek, Marcus Meek, I think, and they were just really good to us.

KL: Were they just single people who needed a place to live?

JM: Yes, uh-huh, mostly single men living, I don't remember any families living there.

KL: It'd be nice to have two fun kids around, I think, if you were just a single person.

JM: Oh, they used to, they were so good to us.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KL: What was your, did your family have an apartment, then, within the hotel?

JM: Yes. So that way we had a place to stay, and by taking care of... I think they, my father got paid a little bit of money for collecting the rent every month. I don't know how they heated those apartments before the war, but after the war, he came back and was able to find another apartment to lease again, and we lived there for ten years. But I knew with that one, we used to stack the wood down in the room in the basement of the hotel, which was the first floor, and he used to put it in sacks and carry it up to the room, so the rooms were heated with wood stoves in each room. And fortunately, nobody set anything on fire, which was good. And then he used to send the laundry out each week, and they used to, Mom and Dad used to make the beds, and I had to do that one year when Mom and Alice went berry picking one summer, and so Alice was in high school, she went berry picking with my mother, and I was still in high school. So I stayed home with Dad. And I don't remember vacuum cleaners, I just remember what we called hokeys to clean the hallways. I learned about bedbugs, because Dad used to have this thing you had to spray, and I used to have to hold open the mattresses when we changed the sheets. We never had bedbugs in our apartment, but in some of those apartments there would be bedbugs.

KL: Do you know who owned the hotel?

JM: No, never knew who owned it. But in return for taking care of the hotel, changing the lightbulbs and all that, he got paid a little. And Ted Hachiya, who was older than twenty-one, when we came back, or even before, they may have bought, he may have bought that hotel in his name. It's on Front and Columbia. And so after the war, he's the one that told me that there was this hotel organization like a club of hotel owners, and those that had, were able to collect money, like Mr. Ebihara had a hotel on about third and Madison, and he had someone that his daughter and I called Goofy Gus. Goofy Gus took over the management of the hotel while the Ebiharas went to camp, and he collected the rent and put the money away for them somehow. And so there might have been a few others that had that kind of thing. So there were some people who had money, and they could loan money to people who wanted to buy hotels after the war but didn't have any savings. And he told me that... well, he always told me my dad was part of that group, and also part of the, what they called the Japanese Ancestral Society now, it was called Nikkeijinkai back then. That whenever he saw my dad, my dad was very conservative. He always was, you don't buy anything unless you have money in the bank, and so Ted said my father was that kind of a guy. And then, but he said he did the taxes for the managers.

KL: That your father did the taxes?

JM: No, that Ted did the taxes. And he said most of them didn't earn enough money to fill out a tax form. And so they weren't earning a lot of money, but it was a roof over our heads. And my father saved enough money in nine years to buy a first house for ten thousand dollars cash, and that must have taken an incredible amount of saving. But we never felt we were poor, we always said, "Oh, here's the excellent cook." And so Mom just had to make rice, and Dad always made dinner.

KL: Did you have friends in your neighborhood? Were there other kids around?

JM: All of the hotels along First Avenue from as far away as Market in Southwest Portland down to Gleason, all of First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Avenue, if there was a hotel, they were all owned by Japanese. And each place was a safe house, so we were running around even after dark and going to visit our friends in other hotels. And my mother always said, "You can always outrun a drunk." Because we didn't have any problems with drugs at that time. She said you can always outrun a drunk, and you just walk on the outside of the sidewalk. And we felt perfectly safe. And in fact, even before the war, I remember, with my sister, and Mary Nakata and George Nakata and one other gal, I think her name was Ruth Yamamoto. We used to go... and the oldest of us would have been six or seven, eight maybe. Mary Nakata might have been the oldest, and she might have been eight years old. We used to go downtown at Christmastime and hit Meier & Frank's, Lipman's, and Olds, Wortman & King, and visit Santa Claus to get candy canes. And we did it with five of us, with the oldest person being under the age of ten. It just surprises me. And I can remember walking from First and Pine to Maletis on Third and Couch to buy a loaf of bread all by myself. Past Third and Burnside. Nowadays I drive it with my car doors locked. [Laughs] So anyway.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: What was the Japanese Ancestral Society that your dad was part of?

JM: Oh, it's been around a long, long time, and they... someone with a very, I don't know, it's just, talk about long term planning, back in the early 1900s, certainly before 1915, bought a huge plot of property out at the Rose City Cemetery for the Japanese community. And you can still, there's still a little bit of space left there. And this piece of property is owned by the... he gave it over to the Japanese, what's called the Ancestral Society, and so they, you purchase your plot from them. And our first minister who died in 1915 is buried there, so we know it goes back beyond then. And then there's a lot of little babies that were buried there back long before we went to camp.

KL: Do you remember who the minister, the name of the minister when you were growing up?

JM: Oh, yeah, of the Oregon Buddhist Temple? It was Wakabayashi. It might be something like Shozui, S-H-O-Z-U-I, I think. But a wonderful story about him was that the members of our, the Buddhist community decided they needed a minister, so they asked to have one sent from Japan. And he came in 1903, and nine years ago we had our hundredth anniversary. But he came, and then he went back to Japan, and they talked him into coming back again. And he didn't know that his wife was expecting a child, but then he got an ear infection, and because there was nothing like penicillin, he died from the ear infection. And so he's buried out at the Rose City Cemetery. And for our, I can't remember if it was our temple's seventy-fifth anniversary or something, we invited his son, and he was able to go to the cemetery. He somehow or other is... later on, his daughter married one of Etsu Osaki's minister relatives down in California. So we still have ties with that family.

KL: Did you have, were you part of activities or groups within the church aside from...

JM: Yes, growing up, yeah. Part of a youth group called the Young Buddhists Association, and I was still active, I was on the board for many years. I taught Sunday school for... which is now called Dharma School, I think about forty years or something. It took until 1996, and I served on the board since, oh, gosh, when Mrs. Tamura had her stroke, and that was back in 1960-something. I used to go representing the Sunday school, and so I've been going there for about thirty years. And now they've had quite a few young, younger members as temple presidents. And the temple is quite diverse, probably about one-third of our congregation is non-Japanese. And the children who come to temple are just wonderful. They have names like Pawlowski and Smith and Yarne and Saiget, which are Chinese last names. And the last year I taught, I had ten students, and I think the one that had, there were two that had Japanese last names, and one was, the mother was Caucasian and the father was Japanese. And the only child that had both parents Japanese was Alex Koyama. Yeah, everybody else had a Chinese father, a Japanese mother. It's been wonderful watching the diversity.

KL: Are there things from your childhood that I haven't asked about that you wanted to mention?

JM: Oh, goodness gracious. Well, some of the things I answered in there. I was born with a dislocated hip, which nobody knew about 'til I was six years old. And my father said why couldn't I run and keep up with the rest of the kids in races. And so one of the men in our hotel, Connie or Mr. Meek, said, well, there's Shriner's Hospital. So somehow or other, I was in Shriner's hospital in December of 1941. I'm sure after the 7th, it was right around... I don't know whether it was before or after, but somewhere around there, very close to it. And I said I don't remember much about December 7th because we didn't have a radio, or I don't remember ever owning a radio, or listening to the radio. But anyway, I was in the hospital. And then the doctor got sick, and whatever they were going to do, which is just probably going to put me in a cast, you know, got postponed until the doctor went on his Christmas vacation. But anyway, he got sick when they were going to do it, and then by then it was after February. And by February, the executive order was out. And so they, my mother didn't want to leave me in Shriner's Hospital while they were sent somewhere, and they didn't know where, and so I went on to Minidoka. And so I think when I was about nine, I remember going to Children's St. Luke's hospital in Boise and spending three months there where they did what was a shelving procedure, and I was in traction for three months in the hospital there. And then they did surgery, and they put the, I guess it's not the femur, but anyway, the socket, they made me a socket, because the socket was so shallow. And it's called a shelving procedure. And so then they sent me back to camp for three months in a cast from the waist down, one side of the leg. And all I can say, it was a hot summer. [Laughs] I used to have one of those back scratchers that I used to stick down. But anyway, I came out, then they took me back to Boise because the cast fell off, and no physical therapy after that, which would have probably helped. but I don't know, everything went well, and I have survived on that socket now, I'm seventy-seven, and I may never have to have... oh, and then all of a sudden it quit hurting. When I was sixty-five, this hip started to hurt, and we figured out that I wore this socket out, and so they were able to replace it, 'cause it's normal. This one's so misshapen that they can't possibly, it would be major reconstructive surgery. But for some reason, this one quit hurting. And so I may never have surgery on this hip, but I had an absolutely pain-free hip replacement of my right hip. And since I started using the walker, I had to use a cane and then I used a walker, so now I'm pretty much able to do... as long as I can get in my car and get anywhere I want to go, I'm happy.

KL: Do you know how your folks or the doctors in Minidoka were able to arrange for your stay in Children's Hospital?

JM: I don't know how they arranged it, but somehow... yeah, all I know is one day I was in a car with Betty Sakurai, and they were taking her for a checkup, too. And that's how I got to know... and then Lily was my fifth-grade teacher, (Tomiko's) her cousin. It's funny, we had Caucasian teachers for our main teachers, but like Lily said, she was just out of high school, and they put her in as sort of an assistant.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: Let me say first that this is tape two of a continuing interview with Jean Matsumoto, and I keep forgetting to say on the first tape, we're in Portland, Oregon, in the Doubletree Hotel for these interviews. And we left off, we were kind of back and forth with your hospital stay, but I wanted to ask about how your family, what your recollections of learning about the orders to leave your home and assemble.

JM: All I know is one day we were all packed up, and the great thing was evidently my mother was cooking dinner, because we got taken out to a Chinese restaurant which was really a treat. And yeah, it wasn't Hung Far Low, but it was another one downtown, a little bit closer to the fire station. And it was up a flight of stairs, and that was our last meal, dinner the last night. And I don't know even how we got from First and Pine to the Livestock. And then I remember going to school there.

KL: Do you remember arriving there?

JM: Pardon?

KL: Do you remember arriving there or a first impression of it?

JM: My first impression was walking into the mess hall. And they had these, well, these bowls that really aren't too big, but they're white, and they were filled with what I called mush, because I'm sure it was very good oatmeal for us, but it was mush. And that just turned us off completely. [Laughs] But I just remember that instead of regular cereal, but we weren't used to eating oatmeal. And it was just so unappetizing when you get this whole big bowl of something that you're not... and oatmeal's good for you and I eat it all the time now, but back then, it was not. But I remember that, and I remember the set tubs in the laundry room was where my three boys cousins were, took their baths. But the barracks, I mean, not the barracks, but the way the whole layout, I don't know how we ever found our way home once we left because every one section looked alike. And there was only canvas doors, and you could hear everything because it was all open on top and we could reach the cubicles, squares built so that the family could have their army cots, I guess. I don't remember straw mattresses or anything, but that's how they talk about it.

KL: Your family was in one of these cubicles together?

JM: Yeah, just in the square, and then there was nothing. At least when we went to Minidoka in the barracks, there was one lightbulb in the center of the room, there was the potbellied stove. We had, for a family of four, we had four army cots.

KL: Did you have an address or anything for when you were in the assembly center?

JM: Yeah, and I think they had that at the Legacy Center, it tells you which area. And I talked about these two children's chairs, they're real sturdy, and my sister and I used to sit at them. And in our kitchen we had a high table where my mom and dad's set, and right next to it we had a child's table and these two children's chairs, and my sister and I sat at that. And I can remember my dad turning the two over, tying them together, and I swear, they went to camp with us. Because I remember they were in our apartment, in our barrack in camp, and they had 15137 on the bottom. And so I can't believe my dad took these chairs with us. But I can remember my dad shaving in camp in the barrack, sitting in that chair in our room. So those two chairs went, and I think my sister still has them. They're real sturdy chairs, and my sister, I think, still has them. I hope she does, because eventually, well, maybe Lucas will be sitting in them someday. So I knew he took that up, but I don't know what else, I don't remember carrying anything.

KL: Your parents just took care of it?

JM: Yeah, my mother and dad. Like I said, how can you carry these two chairs, but he did. And I don't, and I can't remember how we got from the hotel to the assembly center. I do remember the train ride to Minidoka.

KL: You were starting to stay something about school at the assembly center, too, I think.

JM: School in the assembly center? Yeah. It was set up in the arena, and each group or each class had classes clear around the arena. And I don't know how we did it, because it must have been noisy, but they did have school. I think Lury Sato was responsible for a lot of that too. And the woman who was in charge of the parks, Dorothy Lynch, I remember knowing that she's... I don't know whether I learned it afterwards by reading it at Legacy Center, but she did supply the basketballs and baseballs and stuff like that for us to play with. But we all played jacks in the arena, too, on the cement floors. And I remember playing jacks.

KL: Was that a gathering place after school, too?

JM: Yeah, uh-huh, and it was cool, 'cause it had the cement. Everybody tells the story of the day somebody had the brilliant idea that if they watered everything down, it would cool off. Well, the boards that were our floor weren't watertight, the water went right down, and evidently they had built our living quarters right over where the animals had been. And the smell came up, and so they have it illustrated at the Legacy Center with all these flypaper. And the smell, I mean, I can remember the smell, and so I was told what they did, but it wasn't a very bright idea. [Laughs] I mean, on the cement, it might have cooled us off, but the arena seemed cool, always cooler. That was a hot summer.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JM: And then in September, I think it was, we somehow got on a train, and with the shades closed, and somebody gave me a Hershey bar, which I held in my tight little fists. And when I decided to eat it, it was, of course, all melted. And then I was terribly carsick the rest of the way. [Laughs] Then I don't remember how we got from... but I think we went in convoys, those army convoys, from the train station or whatever, and to Minidoka.

The first days were, I remember a sandstorm once, and my aunt by marriage's mother and sister had just moved into camp, so we went to visit them. I don't know how we found our way to their block and back, because there was so much dust, and I can remember the tumbleweeds just hitting my legs, and it really hurt. I've never... you know, it was really the first day I really remembered. And then I also remember keeping warm by standing around bonfires. I also remember the men went out to get snakes. That must have been within the barbed wire fence, and they would go out in the morning, and they would come home Japanese-style with a long stick, with a bamboo stick that they carried on their shoulders, and there would be these rattlesnakes hanging from it. And I think every block the men went out and got rattlesnakes.

KL: What for?

JM: Cleaning up the area.

KL: Oh.

JM: So those were some of the first memories. I don't know whether we ate it or not, but anyway, it seemed like everybody had the rattles, which were supposed to be kind of good luck. And then...

KL: What was your center, what was your address in Minidoka?

JM: 37-8-C. And I went back on a pilgrimage about three or four years ago, and it was very nostalgic. We went on a charter bus from Portland, and I just looked at the beautiful Columbia, and I got angry that we got deprived of looking out at the beautiful scenery, even if we were being taken to camp. You know, when you're kids, it'd have been so exciting if we'd been allowed to look out and see what the scenery was out there. And the scenery looked even more beautiful than all the times I've driven to Eastern Oregon, Spokane, or Ontario. And they deprived us of that, and I just thought... and then we went into the camp the next day, and went into a barrack, and we went into, of course, there's just one barrack, but they were all the same, and so we went into what would have been Apartment C, walked in, and sure it was, one lightbulb, one black potbellied stove, and four army cots, four blankets. And the first thing I looked up was no insulation whatsoever. So no wonder my mother was always sweeping out the stuff. And I'm sure the windows were coated with ice in the winters. But, you know, when you're seven, eight, nine and ten... I guess I was ten, you really don't remember that. I don't remember ever being really cold, I don't remember being really hot, I remember the thunder and lightning, which Portland doesn't have very much of. And so that was pretty amazing.

KL: What did you think of it?

JM: Well, I was always frightened of thunder and lightning. I used to always go under the bed in Portland, whenever we had thunder and lightning, fall asleep under the bed, and I'd wake up, and I'd find myself in bed. [Laughs] My mother pulled me out and put me in the bed. But couldn't do that in Minidoka. And so...

KL: It sounds like your parents were pretty protective of you. Do you think that's accurate?

JM: Oh, I don't know. My father being an older... he was already pretty old when we went to camp. Because my sister and I were born when he was fifty. Because he didn't work in camp because there was no jobs, so he spent a lot of time whittling, and he made beautiful canes out of... I always forget the kind of wood that he used, it's the kind that twists around and it's not sagebrush.

KL: They talked about greasewood at the Nikkei Legacy Center.

JM: Greasewood, that's it, greasewood, yeah. He did a lot of, made some beautiful canes. He polished it to a, just where it's so shiny and then he shellacked it somehow. And he made a beautiful screen to separate, quote, the "bedrooms" from the "living room," and it was all put together with no nails. And we had that, and I gave it to the Legacy Center. And my mother sewed cloth, and it had a top that he had a professional artist draw a pine tree, the moon, and a crane flying, and it's just beautiful. And then my mother made a curtain that went on the two bars above and below. It's not that big, but it did separate, quote, the living quarters. Because at least their part of the bed, because they put two beds together, and then my sister and I had two separate beds. And then he made me jewelry, he carved a heart, and he made a ring out of a peach pit. And when you see the book The Art of Gaman, I don't know why, but that heart that he made me that was on the chain, he put a nail in and bent the nail over it. There's one in the book just like it. I just was amazed how close they made it. And there are very few things from Minidoka in the book, but then we had, the Legacy Center had an exhibit and people brought in things they made, and my goodness, it was just amazing. And my father made a puzzle which went to the Smithsonian for sixth months with the exhibit of The Art of Gaman, because Delphine came to Portland, and I had a copy of the book already, somebody gave it to me. And I went to have it autographed, and she asked for, if anybody had made toys. I told her about my dad's puzzle, and so she asked if they could borrow it for the Smithsonian. And then it's making its way to several places around the United States and then it's going to Japan. So I haven't seen it for about two years. And he painted the faces about a little square, and it has a maiden on the big major square at the top, and it has two long bars on the side, and one has the father and one has the mother. And then there's something that's like, supposed to be a guard, and then there's four small squares with young men's faces on it, and then a yard man and a maid. And the object is to get the young woman down here with the two on each side of the young men, and have all of the parents and the yard man and the maid up above without taking it out of the block. And it just moves so smoothly, so he must have just done a beautiful job of just... but he was sort of a perfectionist when it came to making things, because he made the family shrine, or we have the Buddhist shrine. The things in the shrine are purchased, but the frame and everything, he made before we went to camp. I have that in my room. So I don't know who kept that, but somebody kept our things, because my sister's dolls were in perfect shape until she put 'em up in the attic of her house and the mice got to it.

KL: Did your mother work in the...

JM: My mother worked in the mess hall for sixteen dollars a month. Seemed like everybody got sixteen dollars a month, whatever job you had.

KL: Was she a cook?

JM: No, she's just a waitress. So all three meals, before and after she was... and Dad ate with the men, and we ate with our friends, I guess. And each block had its gang of young teenage boys, and you certainly didn't have dinner every night with your family. That was one thing that was destroyed during those three years.

KL: A lot of the leadership in Manzanar, internal leadership, was connected to mess halls. Do you think that was true in Minidoka as well, did your mom ever talk about...

JM: I think we had our... we called them our "blockheads," but they were block managers. And everything that was, that seemed that the blocks did. But another interesting thing was that, you know, they pounded mochi for New Year's. And again, Ted Hachiya told me drove, he was allowed to drive from Minidoka to Salt Lake and pick up the special rice for making mochi. But every block, I think, had their own group of people to... and I remember the young men pounding, and I always said it was the littlest, oldest lady in the block who stuck her hand in and turned the rice over. But I don't know how many usually did it, but I do remember at least one year when we had mochi for New Year's, it was such a cultural, you know, event, that we had mochi. And Ted told us how he got the rice, so pretty amazing.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KL: How long were you in Minidoka?

JM: Three years. And anyway, as kids, school was great fun with all my Japanese friends. And then I got to school the first four years of my life, second grade, with all Japanese. So coming back to Portland was my first time with non-Japanese. And outside of my close friends my age that came back, also from camp, my best friend was this... she seemed like she was four feet six. I mean, I was... yeah, she was four feet six now, how could that be? Anyway, she was almost a head taller than me in the sixth grade, and tall, skinny, blond, blue-eyed gal from Indianapolis, Indiana, who had never been around Asian people. And we were friends right up until she passed away last year. And she was just the loveliest person, and we just hit it off. We were the Mutt & Jeff of Shattuck grade school.

KL: What were the, what were the school facilities like in Minidoka?

JM: In a barrack. Yeah, we had barracks, and instead of the... they must have knocked down some of the walls, because they were pretty big-sized room with all the desks. We had a beautiful blond teacher named Miss Ricola for my third grade, and I think a Miss Schmidt in my fifth grade, but I can't remember who the fourth grade teacher was. And Lily was a Sakurai, and Shig Ishikawa were the assistants. Although Shig used to teach P.E., too, he was in charge of sports for our classes.

KL: Was school difficult or fun?

JM: No, it was just fun. And the things we did, I mean, my friend Kumi used to have the red ginger, don't ask me where she got it, but she, we'd have that red ginger that you put usually for, on top as...

KL: A spice?

JM: Yeah, the one that they chop up like with the eggs and put it on top of rice. We used to suck on it all afternoon in school, stuff like that. And oh, we used to go up, and oh, there's these stories about... oh, some round ball that floats around, ghost stories.

KL: What were the ghost stories?

JM: Oh, if somebody died, then there'd be, these kids used to stay up late, sit up in the haystacks and tell stories, swear they saw this round, red ball floating over the barracks and all sorts of that kind of stuff, scary stuff.

KL: Did they talk about earlier people who had lived there?

JM: Yeah, I think then... but usually if there was a death in the barrack or something like that, if someone died in the block, they would say they'd come back as ghosts. I remember the night, young (teenagers) who chased me when I went trick-or-treating and took all my candy away, and I never went trick-or-treating again. [Laughs]

KL: That was in Minidoka, you trick-or-treated? Where did you, did you make your Halloween costumes?

JM: No, we didn't... I don't think we had costumes, but we did go trick-or-treating from apartment to apartment, and so we got a lot of candy. They used to supply us candy -- or not candies, but all sorts of treats that were supposed to last a week, like dried fruits and crackers that we called hardtack. They weren't graham crackers, they were really hard, like rye crisps, and different things, it was called oyatsu, and you got a whole bag full once a week. Supposed to be snacks for the whole week. We went to the movies in, I'm pretty sure Block 34 was with the barrack that was not only the church on Sundays, but the movies. And we used to eat pine nuts, which we would get a whole bagful for next to nothing. And now, pine nuts cost a lot of money. [Laughs] And we used to crack them and eat them, throw the shells on the floor. But we didn't have popcorn, we had pine nuts.

KL: Sounds good. [Laughs] Although popcorn's good, too.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JM: You started to ask me something?

KL: Oh, I was going to ask if you ever left the camp while you were...

JM: No, but my sister went out once to... I don't know if it was Twin Falls. She belonged to Girl Scouts, and a Girl Scout group from Twin Falls or something came in, and she made friends with the daughter of the editor of the, I believe the Twin Falls Times. And after camp, I remember they came and visited us in Portland, and I remember going to the New Tokyo restaurant with them, yeah. Westerfeld or something. So that was interesting. But my sister got to go out of camp. Of course, I went out when I went to Boise, and that was where I think I had my only experience with discrimination. Because Dad took me to a Chinese restaurant for lunch before I was admitted to the hospital, and I know it was a long, hot drive from Minidoka to Boise.

KL: Your dad drove you?

JM: No, somebody drove us in a pretty nice-sized car, because there was (Tomiko's) cousin Betty and whoever was with Betty, me and my dad, the driver, and I don't know if there was one other person. But anyway, so he took me to a Chinese restaurant, and right on the front door, it said, "No Japs Allowed," and I knew that was me. And so that's the one time that I knew about. And when...

KL: What was your dad's reaction to that?

JM: Well, he just didn't react at all, he said, "We'll go to Woolworth's or Newberry's and have hamburger and strawberry milkshake." So that was my last meal before going into the hospital. My dad left me there and it was the first time I'd ever been left alone, and I didn't realize it was going to be three months, but I can remember crying for a couple days. [Laughs]

KL: You were little.

JM: But before we went into camp, we used to play a lot under the Burnside Bridge, my sister and I, and Dick Uyesugi and Frank Migaki, and we played cops and robbers. And Alice and Frank were the older two, and so they got to be the cops. Dick and I were always the robbers, but we used to play under the bridge a lot, the Burnside Bridge, in that area. And I can remember people asking me, "Are you a Jap or are you a Chink?" And would say, "We're neither, we're Americans." And I can really remember distinctly saying that. But that was the only thing I knew about...

KL: Do you think they were people who lived nearby, or who would ask you?

JM: People that would also be down walking along the waterfront. They also had cars that used to stop and say they'd give us candy if we'd go for a ride, but we were all trained to say, "No, thank you," and run in the opposite direction.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: I wanted to... you said you were involved in the Buddhist Fellowship in Minidoka, also. Was that pretty much...

JM: No, no. That was in, after I was in high school age, after.

KL: Were you part of a Buddhist church in Minidoka, or congregation?

JM: Yes, and we had a different, there were different sects of Buddhism, so we had a different Buddhist minister each Sunday. I think there were four, and they just took turns and, but it didn't matter, because even if they're a different sect, they're pretty basically similar enough that it really didn't matter.

KL: So everyone met together, but then their leadership --

JM: Yeah, so it was everybody, I mean, that was the largest group. I don't know, because Epworth Methodist was going on before the war, too, but they were even older than the Oregon Buddhist Temple. So they must have been meeting with, you know, the Seattle Methodist group, and the, what else, Tacoma.

KL: Where did you meet?

JM: In a barrack.

KL: It was pretty full.

JM: Oh, yeah. And sometimes, I think Hanamatsuri was outside. Is was just a whole bunch of folding chairs outside, if I remember correctly. But yes, there had to have been two, because Seattle group just alone would be just humongous.

KL: Was it a different barrack each week, or the same place?

JM: No, the same barrack. But I think that we went to the one on Block 34, and I'm sure it's the same barrack that we went to the movies on Saturdays. So those barracks must have held quite a few kids. Or they might have had one service for children and a service for adults.

KL: Either the leaders, these four people who would rotate leading the services or any of the other members of the congregation, did they speak about the removal or the incarceration?

JM: No. We just had Buddhist... and not... well, see, this must have been after some of the ministers were let out, because almost all ministers got taken by the FBI right after. And like Reverend Ichikawa never got reunited with his family until they took them off to Crystal City or something like that. But, so we did have Reverend Terakawa and Reverend Henjyoji at the time that I remember. And I think Reverend Terao that I know. Probably Reverend Sugimoto, because he's the one that came back to Portland.

KL: Do you remember their absence in Portland? This is jumping back a little bit, but after the Pearl Harbor attack, do you remember your minister being gone?

JM: Being gone?

KL: Or were you too little?

JM: No, I don't. I don't remember. But it was Reverend Terakawa. And his family went to Minidoka, so I don't know why he... except that he spoke English, whereas I think a lot of the other ministers spoke only Japanese. But I think he was from Japan, but he did speak English.

KL: You may have been too little to notice this, but did you notice tensions in Minidoka between, you brought up people speaking Japanese or speaking English? You were just... Do you remember anything at all about the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" that people had to reply to?

JM: No, I don't. I don't remember anything about it, whether my parents had to sign or not.

KL: I want to hear about your recollections of leaving Minidoka, but is there anything about the camp that you wanted to talk about that I haven't asked?

JM: Gee, no. I'm that generation of kids who said it was a fun experience. Except afterwards, when we were the age that I really got more emotional about it, when I was the age of my mother, who I think was about... oh, gosh, must have been maybe late thirties. I was born when she was thirty, so if I was seven, eight, when I was in camp, she was only about thirty-eight. I think it was hard on anybody that was, certainly college-age students who had plans to go to college. Fortunately there were the schools in the Midwest that would sponsor students to go to school, to get out.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: So you were there for three years, and then did you... I'm trying to do math, which is always a bad idea. You came back to Portland from the camp?

JM: Uh-huh, 1945. Dad left about three months early, and evidently he was able to arrange to get this lease on this hotel, which is at 1405 Southwest First, but it's First and Columbia. And it used to belong to the Hongos before the war, and it had a storefront down below. But he came back to get us, and he brought my sister and I these nice herringbone tweed aqua coats with matching hats. So we came home in style. I don't know how we got home, or got back to the hotel, but we did. And years later, I'm looking at pictures from Japan, and there are my cousins' wives, or are they my cousins? Anyway, there's a whole bunch of Matsumoto family in the pictures, and there's two of 'em, young women wearing our coats. So we must have worn 'em out pretty much and then sent them to Japan, and they were so grateful. And so I remember that.

KL: Did your parents write letters with their family in Japan? Were they in touch?

JM: I think they did, but I don't know. My friend Etsu Osaki, her father was the Buddhist minister in Seattle, and he wrote English. And he used to send letters to the family from wherever the camp that he went to right after, when the FBI took him. And his letters were where they crossed off...

KL: Censored.

JM: Censored, yeah. And they still have those letters, I saw them.

KL: Did any of the teachers from your elementary school in Portland write to you? You said they came to the assembly center, but...

JM: I think some people did if they were older. I (think) Sato Hashizume may have had somebody, because she wrote a lot about coming home and the things that she remembered. She's maybe three or four years older than me. And my friend Etsu's older brother, I think, Sat Ichikawa, wrote this book for middle school kids, and when I read that, it reminds me more of the camp that I remember. But he has to be about four or five years older than me, and it's a... he did it for the vets up in Seattle. And so the Nisei Vets of Seattle are getting the benefit of the sale of these books. And I bought one to give to my grandnephew, because it really tells the story as close to how I remember camp. It's a wonderful little book. He wrote two, and I think the other one's about Crystal City, and that's on sale at Legacy Center, but I don't know why the first one on Minidoka isn't on sale there.

KL: You said you don't have a lot of memories of the trip back, but do you remember being back in Portland again? What did you think, were things familiar?

JM: Not really. My friends all... I didn't play so much, when I lived on First and Pine, I played mostly with people who lived over towards Burnside. And then after we were down southwest, closer to Market, so then I played with my friends who went to Shattuck grade school. And that's when I remember walking to the hotels that they lived at.

KL: And Shattuck elementary, it was Shattuck elementary, right? And you said that was ethnically more diverse, obviously, because you had been with all Japanese Americans before?

JM: Yeah. There weren't very many black people until after the Vanport Flood, and then they bussed people who lived in North Portland to Lincoln, and it became very, that was about the same time that we came back, or that I was in high school, which would have been at least three or four years after. I can't remember exactly when that Vanport Flood was, but that's when... and the clubs at Lincoln were people lived in Lake Oswego, came to Lincoln, and the clubs were, had black members and Japanese Americans.

KL: So that was the other large group of people? It became then a mostly black and Japanese American schools?

JM: Yeah, there was an, much more mixture after they did bus these, the black people who lived in Vanport.

KL: And you had your blond friend from Indianapolis?

JM: Yes, and I had my blond friend who, when we graduated, she was, I think she was 5'10", and I'm still 4'10". [Laughs] I used to be 4'11", but I'm now 4'10".

KL: What were relations like between the groups? Was everybody pretty much an individual?

JM: Very... we mingled pretty well and pretty easily, except I think I was, like, shyer. Because somebody at the 50th reunion says, "I don't remember you ever speaking up." [Laughs] I said, "I didn't."

KL: I didn't either, for sure.

JM: So, "What happened to you?" and I think I said, "I think I grew up." [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: What did you do after high school?

JM: Oh, I took shorthand and typing in high school, took a civil service exam and went to work for the State of Oregon Welfare Office. And my dad said that we didn't have to pay him anything for living at home until we had a thousand dollars in our bank account. And we could have gone on to college, but I was having too much fun working and saving my money, and not studying. So from then I went on to, I went and worked at the medical school, decided I liked being a medical secretary. And I also lived in Hawaii for a year, and was a medical secretary there, came back and got another job as a medical secretary and worked for twenty-eight years in the Heart Research Lab at OHSU. And my boss is going to be ninety in August, and I'm having a reunion at the Heart Research Lab. My invitation list is about seventy email addresses, and because of where I live, have this facility for throwing big parties, I'm taking advantage of it, it's going to be in the penthouse of Holladay Park Plaza where I live, which is a life of luxury. [Laughs] Who would have thought that... but as I said, once you've lived in the camp, everything is a luxury, and just that experience of having lived in the camp, everything else is just, certainly life is just really great.

KL: When did you and your dad take that trip back to Japan?

JM: I can't remember. The only thing I remember, I took back with me, John Kennedy (half) dollars, was it dollar coins? As a "omiyage," because it could be easily passed out to the children. I remember doing that. So I can't remember if that was after he was assassinated, but all I know is he was pretty close to ninety, and there was a question of him being able to travel, but he was really in good health. And the only thing is he had to have his smallpox vaccination, and for some reason, he scratched his arm and scratched his eye, and for a minute I thought were weren't going to be able to go, because... but it didn't get in his eye, so it just got swollen above his eye. Thought he was going to have to take him, but they said we could take the patch off before we went. I think he was pretty close to ninety.

KL: Did your sister go as well?

JM: Pardon?

KL: Did your sister go with you as well?

JM: No, just I was able to take him. And we had a very, I mean, I think the airfare round trip was around six hundred dollars round trip. But the hotels were pretty expensive once we got to Japan. But I don't know whether I told you that he made breakfast for my mother the morning he died at ninety-nine and a half.

KL: No, you didn't.

JM: [Laughs] So he lived another good ten years, I think, after our trip to Japan.

KL: How long did he manage the hotel?

JM: From... let's see. We came back, and I think we were in the hotel business for nine years, and so I'm trying to figure out, but I think he was close to sixty when we went to camp. So if he managed the hotel for another ten years, he was pretty, he was about seventy-five when he retired. And I can remember him being up on a plank with, between two ladders. And walking up there with the wallpaper and wallpapering the ceiling, and they were high ceilings in all the hotels back then. And I could hardly stand to watch him. And I remember when he was in his nineties, he wouldn't let us call Roto-Rooter, he had to clean the gutters themselves, so it's raining, and I'm holding on to the ladder with my eyes closed and an umbrella over my head, and holding onto the ladder, and he's up there cleaning the gutters, and his knees are shaking. And also he used to paint the altar at our temple, and he painted it with a special gold that he had to make a mixture of gold dust. And everybody, the ministers always commented on, "The gold in your altar is different than any other thing that comes from, store-bought from Japan." And it's because that altar was built when the World's Fair was held in Portland back in 1910 or something like that. The carvers came from Japan for the World's Fair, and proceeded to carve our altar for us. So we have a very special Buddhist altar with Mount Hood, or Mt. Fujiyama at the base of it.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: This is tape three, continuing with Jean Matsumoto. And I just wanted to ask you a little bit about, you said you had been back to Minidoka on one of the pilgrimages? What was that like?

JM: Well, besides the ride being a beautiful, it was a beautiful day and driving along in a charter bus along the Columbia.

KL: Was it a group from the temple that you went with?

JM: No. The annual group... I don't know who, if it's part of JACL or what, but Dr. Connie Masuoka always heads the group. And some people drive themselves, some people fly to Boise, and that particular year, they took the Minidoka Swing Band, which Robbie Tsuboi established here in Portland. And so they play all that nostalgic music of the '40s. So they were going to take them, and there was room for about... they and young people that danced with a group. And there were, was enough space for about a dozen people to go, and for I think a hundred dollars (round trip) you could go on the bus, and that's the easiest way for me to go, is with the charter. And so my sister and I went. We realized how far out, 'cause even from Twin Falls, it's quite a drive, and right now there's not much there except there's a few remnants of buildings that they had to tell us what this was and what that was. But it really was... and I think right now there's a lot more foliage growing in the area, but it was, when you think it was really all deserty. And there was a dust storm when we were there, too, and so it's still having dust storms. It was very nostalgic going back into the little apartment that we, was the one we lived in.

KL: Where was that?

JM: That was... the barrack, the one barrack that they have set up, and as you know, the barracks were set up for three people on the ends, and six people, families, next to that, and the two center ones were always for four, four-people family. And if you had a large family like the Muramatsus, you've got both apartments, so that you could have up to nine people living in there. But it really was very much like the barrack was back then. I noticed, the first thing I noticed was no insulation, but you know, I wouldn't have paid attention to whether there was insulation when I was in camp.

KL: You said you first started to think differently about this event when you were around your mom's age, maybe late 1960s?

JM: Yes, about how hard life must have been for them. Because we had no running water in the units, and someone had said we were, everyone carries some kind of psychological scar from the experience, and I said, "Who, me?" [Laughs] I just had a ball; it was fun. And then one day, somebody was talking about the bathroom facilities and the shower facilities, and I said, "I don't think I ever took a shower or went to the bathroom, because I can't remember one thing about it." And then some fellow said, "I remember what the women's bathrooms were like." They evidently had bored a hole through the... and they used to peek into it. So he said, "I know what the bathroom facilities and the showering facilities for the women were." But it must have been so, I don't know. I think it's because I was the age where you just realize, your body. And so like I said, to this day, I cannot remember. I remember the laundry room... no recollection. I think I blocked that out.

KL: Do you think it was that person's comment that got you thinking again about the trauma or the scars?

JM: Yeah. I don't think I ever even thought about it, then all of a sudden I realized one day when I went back, I think we were talking about the camp experience at Legacy Center in a group. And I thought, oh my gosh, I can't remember anything about what it was like.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

KL: Did your parents talk about it after coming back?

JM: Never talked to my parents about it. They just accepted what was, was, and I have a few friends who were pretty bitter about the experience, because when they came back, they were so poor and things were really rough on that family. But Mom and Dad never mentioned any bitterness (after camp). And we had good food to eat. A little bit warmer, I think we used to heat the hotel rooms with something in the middle of the room that kind of smelled when I was... I don't know what they burned for heat, but there was no central heating in the hotel, which was called St. George's Hotel, which was very appropriate since Dad was still called George. And then when we lived at the Kamm Apartment also, it was K-A-M-M, and there was a prominent family in Portland, the Kamm.

KL: Oh, I spelled it C-A-M when I wrote it.

JM: Oh, no, it's K-A-M-M, and I believe there's a Kamm House or something, there was something. And I just said, "Oh, no, that stands for Kametaro and Mikiye Matsumoto. How appropriate was that?

KL: When you started thinking about it more again and having these conversations, did it change the way you thought about this country or about yourself?

JM: No, no. I talked to a group of children at a school once, and they asked, one little boy asked me, "Were you scared?" And I said, "Never scared. I had Mom and Dad were there, once I got camp, my grandparents were there, and some cousins were there. I was never scared, never frightened about anything." And the other question I got asked and I had to think about was, "How come most of the Japanese Americans are Democrats when it was a Democratic president that put you into...?" And I said, oh, I finally figured out, nobody voted in those days. I don't think our parents could have voted, so...

KL: They weren't citizens.

JM: So they didn't know the difference between Republican and Democrats. That made sense to me, but I've had a few questions like that. But I really had to think about, you know, I really never was... and we weren't really rich, but, you know, we had everything we needed. Not all the cashmere sweaters that some of my friends had going to high school.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KL: Were you involved in redress at all?

JM: Well, I was a member of, active as a secretary for the Japanese American Citizens League at the time that we got sent. And if it was the time when Dr. Jim Tsujimura was president, and he was very active here in Portland with the redress program, if I remember correctly.

KL: So you were kind of keeping up with those developments?

JM: So I knew it was going on, but again, I knew there were some people who didn't want redress brought up because they would bring up bad feelings about... I guess I knew there were some families that might have been, that might have lost, you know, young men in the war in the Southeast, and some that I heard of, horrible stories of having been in the service.

KL: Who were, like, in the 442nd, you mean?

JM: No, the Caucasians who fought in the area of, like, what was it, they had the march, Bataan? And Iwo Jima and that area, and you know, I worked with them. And they never, ever... I didn't feel like they treated me any differently because I was Japanese. I think even where I live now, there's a whole bunch of veterans, World War II.

KL: What were your thoughts about redress?

JM: Oh, well, I think I wrote that I was grateful to be getting twenty thousand dollars, that was something we wanted. I wonder if I was making twenty thousand dollars a year at the time. So to be given that was, I was grateful for the money, but my main thing was it was too late for my dad. And if anybody deserved it, it was Dad. Mom was still alive, so she got it, but Dad could have really used it.

KL: Did your mom say anything to you when she got the letter?

JM: No, she was just grateful that she got it, but I don't think she really understood what it was for, except it was for, because of the three years in camp.

KL: That was telling the others, that question about whether it's good to bring up old wounds or to have that conversation, I think, is an important one.

JM: And I think people still hate to talk about it for fear of somebody, it might trigger somebody who is real bitter about having lost children. But then, when you figure that most of the... we have hardly, I don't think there's any Isseis of that generation, the ones that went to camp, alive anymore, and the Niseis are all ninety years old. And so I guess they're not that afraid. There were a few people even in Oregon that evidently someone in southern Oregon, a woman that used to always, quite anti-Japanese after. But you just never know when you trigger something like that. So I think we were all, people who were a little bit older were, didn't want to bring up the subject, didn't care if they got redress or not. And I think there's a little bit of shame of, for having been put in the camp, being in a camp, as if it was like an imprisonment, that you want to hide the fact that you were in prison, even if it was unconstitutional. And I think it was the third generation that went on to become... because a few, like Min Yasui was already a lawyer when he went against the curfew.

KL: Did you have any interactions with him ever, over the course of his life?

JM: I heard him speak, and I know his younger brother Homer, who is just a treasure, wealth of information, he's knowledgeable about a lot of things. So he's still active around Portland, but he has, he's been quite a historian for the Japanese community. George Katagiri was, but, and I think Hank Sakamoto, they're both quite knowledgeable. George Nakata even, for someone from my, is just a year (older), we were about the same age. He's really studied all about...

KL: Do you think there's value or things to be gained by people telling their stories or being public?

JM: Oh, yeah, it has to, because, you know, the main thing is "never again," is there any possibility... even when, I can't remember if it was from the Iranians or even the Iraq, you know. One time I heard they were, I think it was when the Iranians took the hostages, that emotions got fired up against them, and then, of course, against the Iraqis or Muslims.

KL: This is a segue, and this is the last question I'll ask before seeing if there's anything else you want to add, but over the... we're gonna keep this recording, you know, and people will watch it in the future, and I wonder if there's any lessons that you feel like, or any insight you feel like you've gained because of your experience?

JM: I think it's made me more... well, I've learned a lot more after I was out of high school, and more involved in the community. But I think the whole experience would make anybody a stronger person as far as having gone through it, because people ask you about, people always ask me, "Were your parents in camp?" and I say, "I was, too." And people apologize to me as if they were responsible, and I don't feel that they were. It was just the circumstances, and I think I understand more about what the word gaman, which Japanese are notorious for being able to survive experiences. I think it's just, from the time you're told, when you're little, you have to gaman about everything from shots to, you know, harder things that happened in life. But I think it's something that's... something good about the Japanese culture.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.