Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Grace K. Seto Interview
Narrator: Grace K. Seto
Interviewer: Erin Brasfield
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: March 16, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-sgrace-01

<Begin Segment 1>

EB: -- Thursday, March 16, 2006. We are at the West Los Angeles (United) Methodist Church in Santa Monica, California. The interview is with Grace Seto, a former internee at Manzanar. We will be discussing her experiences as an internee during World War II. This interview is being conducted for the oral history program at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California, and will be archived in the site library. Do I have your permission to record the interview?

GS: Yes, you do.

EB: Thank you. I'd like to start out with a few questions about your family history. Where was your family from in Japan?

GN: My father is from Aichi-ken, Nagoya, Japan. He came here as a youth, he was about seventeen years old, all by himself. He came here because his father was already here in California, and wanted him to come and help him with his farming. My mother is a Nisei. She is American-born. She was born in Florin, California, which is today incorporated into Sacramento. Her parents, my grandparents, both of the Uchidas were from Hiroshima, Japan.

EB: And when did they come to the United States?

GN: My grandfather came here in the early 1900s as a young man. I think he was about seventeen years old, and he entered North America by way of Canada, and he worked up there, and then entered the United States by way of Seattle. Evidently he was put on a boat and I think smuggled into the United States. Then from Seattle after he landed there, then he went on to Montana and worked on the, building the railroad. And eventually he made his way down into California with the aid of his uncle, and settled in northern California where he worked moving from farm to farm. And eventually he... there was an arranged marriage with a cousin, so my grandmother came here as a "picture bride" by way of Seattle, and he brought her down to Florin, California, where by that time he was doing some farming. And he had a forty-acre ranch, whereby he did both strawberry farming and grape farming. And, of course, with the evacuation, they lost all of that. But on that farm, all eleven of his children were born, with the aid of a midwife, except for the last baby who was born in, was to be born in a hospital, but he didn't quite make it.

And so my mother basically grew up on the ranch helping there. And being the second eldest, she had a lot of responsibility. She had to learn from an early age to do work on the ranch and also helping my grandmother with housework and cooking and such.

EB: How did your grandparents on your father's side meet?

GS: I don't know. And I really regret that we did not have the interest to find out, and unfortunately my father died when he was very young, he was only fifty-seven years old. So by the time when I really became interested in knowing about his life as a youth and about his family, it was too late. And the other regrettable part is my mother also did not really know very much about my dad. So there is a huge void there, we just unfortunately don't know.

EB: So how did your parents meet, and can you tell me their names, or tell me their names again?

GS: My father's name is Fred Chokichi Nakano. And as I had mentioned earlier, he was from Aichi, Nagoya, Japan. And my mother is Ruby Kimie Uchida. This also was an arranged marriage like my grandparents. My father came to the United States at the request of his father. Unfortunately, the two men did not get along well. They really didn't know each other. His father had come here years before, and basically my dad was raised by his mother until the age of ten, and then she passed away, so then my father was then sent on to the family of an older brother. And my father's personality is such that from what I have heard, it was probably similar to his father, and the two men were very strong-willed. And my dad finally realized that the two of them just could not live together.

So he left Florin and he went to, he went to... no, I think he left Lodi and went to Florin where there was another family friend from Japan who was living there. And so he stayed there with him for a while, but he eventually -- and here, too, we don't know why all this happened, but he eventually went to San Francisco. And this is where he finished high school and then attended Heald's Business College for a while in San Francisco and then got a job. And one of the things that his father requested of this friend in Florin was to please find a wife for my dad. So this friend, Mr. Ishigaki, knew about my mother and my mother's family. And so it was through Mr. Ishigaki that my parents met. And I have no idea how things happened way back then, but obviously the courtship was very, very short, if at all. Because from some of the information that I was able to find amongst my mother's things after she passed away, there was just a little correspondence of just a few weeks, and it was maybe a matter of four to six weeks and they were married.

So that's... and I asked my mother about this years later, "Was this agreeable with you? I mean, you know, did you just do it because Grandma and Grandpa said there's this man?" But she says, "No, I was able to meet him, there was this arrangement whereby he came to the house. And the first time," she said, "I never even had a chance to talk to him." This conversation was mainly between my grandparents and this Mr. Ishigaki, the go-between. So when my grandfather asked my mother, "Well, what do you think of this man?" my mother said, "Well, I don't know. I guess if he's a good man, it's okay." But she said, "I really would like to get to know him a little bit and get a chance to talk to him." So to make a long story short, there was an arrangement made whereby my dad came again from San Francisco all the way to Florin. And in those days, it was not just a two-hour ride on the car. So he came on a Sunday and he took her to the Sacramento County Fair. So they did get to spend that time together. And then, here again, when she came home, my grandfather's asking about, "How was it?" And she said, "Well, he seems like a nice man. He seems polite. So if you and Grandma think it's okay, then it's okay with me." And she agreed to the marriage. So I have, I have asked her about this several times, but I think in those years things were a whole lot different than it is today. And when there was an arranged marriage, I think the women said very little, of that generation. You know, it was generally the men who made decisions and did the talking and all. I think the women more or less went along with their parents, and this is what my mother did. So despite the fact that it was an arranged marriage, I must say they didn't really verbalize, "I love you," like the young generation does today, but I could see it by their actions that there was love and respect between the two of them.

EB: And what was the, what's the date of their marriage?

GS: They were married October... either the 21st or the 23rd, 1933, in Sacramento.

EB: All right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

EB: And so what is your birthday and where were you born?

GS: My birthday is September 23, 1935, and I was born in San Francisco, California.

EB: And tell me about your brothers and sisters.

GS: I have, I'm the eldest of four, and my brother is next. He's Walter, eighteen months younger than I. And then I have a sister, Eleanor, who was born in 1940, and then Carolyn, the youngest, who was born in 1943 in Manzanar. And we all live here in the Los Angeles area, so we still see each other often.

EB: Good, good. So what type of work did your father do while you were growing up, and what did your mother do?

GS: My mother basically was a housewife. She took care of us, she was at home. She told me she did a little housework before I was born, I think. And then I know she also did a little of this in the early 1950s after we moved back here from New Jersey. But my father had a background in bookkeeping, so he, before the war he was working as a bookkeeper and then later on, he was an assistant manager for North American Mercantile Company in Los Angeles, and also working as the bookkeeper. It was a small import/export company, but that's what was he was doing basically before the war. Then in camp... do you also want to know about this?

EB: Sure.

GN: In camp, he became the, in Manzanar, after we evacuated to Manzanar, he was block manager for, I'm assuming from the dates, probably couple years. And then he left to go outside of the camp on furlough to do sugar beet harvesting work. Then when he returned to camp, he no longer was the block manager, but instead he worked in administration using his bilingual skills as interpreter/translator for all the interviews which were (taking) place for people as they were leaving camp.

Then (when) we relocated from camp, we went out to Berlin, Maryland, and he worked on the farm. He had no experience as a farmer, but he was willing to do anything to get started again. And we were in Maryland about nine months. Unfortunately, things did not work out as he had anticipated and what he was told in camp. So in order to survive, he just couldn't continue in Maryland. So he moved our family to New Jersey, to Seabrook Farms, which at that time was a huge, huge frozen food processing plant, and they were looking for to people to work there. In fact, Seabrook came out to the camps to recruit people to work. And we lived there for three years, and at that time he was not able to use his office skills. He got a job instead working in the company garage, mainly taking care of inventory of transportation and such.

And then after we moved back to California in 1950, he was not able to find a job. I really don't know what he was doing at that point. But because he was not able to find a job to support the family, he decided to go into business for himself. But in order to do that, he had to borrow a lot of money from my grandfather and uncles to get started, because my father had no collateral and the bank would not give him a loan. So he bought this mom and pop business in southeast, no, south central Los Angeles, near the Watts area, and he operated the market for eleven or twelve years until he died. He died very young at the age of fifty-seven. That's what he did.

EB: Okay, and so where were you raised?

GS: Well, my parents were married in Florin, California, but my father was living in San Francisco. So after the marriage, he had an apartment ready for my mom, and I was born in San Francisco. But when he was transferred to Los Angeles, then naturally the family moved down here. And we lived in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles until evacuation. Then we went to Manzanar, and we were there for almost three years. Then when we relocated we went out to Berlin, Maryland, where we lived there nine or ten months, and then went on to Seabrook for three years, and then came to Los Angeles. And I basically have lived here in L.A. ever since, other than the several years that I lived in Germany.

EB: I'll ask you about that a bit later, I think. So can you describe your childhood in Boyle Heights?

GS: I was very young at that time, but I remember we lived in this duplex, and we had some nice neighbors. And I don't really remember having a lot of children to play with, but we did have neighbors to play with. And I recall with fondness taking the streetcar on East First Street going downtown. I used to go with my mother when she used to go down there to pick up some beads that she would bring home to do work at home, so I assume this must have been piecework or something, whereby she could earn a little money at home. I do recall that. We did not have a car, so everywhere we went it was by public transportation, using the streetcar, and occasionally there was a family friend who had a car, and then we would get a ride with the family friend. I don't know where we were going, but wherever it was that we were going.

EB: Okay. And could you describe your home life and the kind of upbringing your parents provided you?

GS: You mean before the war years?

EB: Before the war. Were they strict or not?

GS: I can't say that they were really strict. Being that I was the (oldest) one, I knew from early on that I had certain responsibilities, and whatever I did I knew that the others would copy or follow. My parents spoke both English and Japanese at home. In fact, I spoke all Japanese until I started school, kindergarten. And I don't recall this, my mother has told me repeatedly when I started school, I was the only one in the class who did not know how to speak English, and so she felt that she had done me a disfavor by speaking mainly Japanese at home with us when we were growing up. But she said that I had no problems picking up the language once I started school, so it wasn't too long before I was speaking English. But even as I was growing up in my youth and even as an adult, my parents always spoke both English and Japanese, so there was a mixture of both. And perhaps because I learned Japanese first, I mean, it was the first language the I learned, maybe because of that, I have been told by people that I do not speak Japanese with an accent, whereas my siblings have been told, "You speak with an English accent with your Japanese." I don't know whether that's true or not, but anyway, that's what I've been told. And my parents were always, they were always cognizant of the fact that they wanted to bring us up as American kids, but they still wanted us really truly to maintain Japanese customs and culture, and our meals consisted of a lot of Japanese foods. I really don't recall as a child having things like hotdogs or hamburgers. We had mainly economical Japanese dishes, not like sukiyaki or tempura, but it was just what we call okazu, a mixture of a little bit meat and a lot of veggies with rice. But... and my father really was the disciplinarian in the family. My mother also, but it was really my father. And when my father said something, I mean, we had to listen. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EB: So did you celebrate the Japanese cultural holidays?

GS: We did, and we, I think I can honestly say that all of us, we enjoyed it. We enjoyed things like Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving, but we also truly looked forward to New Year's. We rarely ever celebrated any birthdays, but we knew it was a birthday, but there was nothing big like a birthday party. And back then I don't think my parents could financially afford to do that anyway. But all of us enjoyed the special foods that we had, especially for New Year's.

EB: Can you tell me more about that?

GS: About the foods?

EB: The food. Did you help out making?

GS: As I became older, yes, I did. During the years that we were living in South Central L.A. and we had the business, my mother rarely did the cooking at home because she worked in the market helping my dad. And so it was basically left up to (me and) my sister Eleanor to do the cooking. And we had to. Our menus were more or less dictated by what did not sell in the store. So my dad would say, "Tonight we should have some liver because the liver's not selling." Or, "You better fix something with rabbit because the rabbit needs to be eaten." And so I never knew what we were going to be eating for dinner. It was whatever was available there.

But I really looked forward to New Year's. My grandmother used to make, just everything, all the symbolic foods, not just the sushi, but she would fix a variety of sushi, but in addition to that, she would fix the... there's a vegetable dish that a lot of people don't care for, it's called umani, but it has the usual carrots and Japanese potatoes, and burdock, the gobo, takenoko, the bamboo, which were all symbolic foods. She used to make oysters, raw oysters. And the thing that I really enjoyed about New Year's was eating the mochi, the pounded rice toasted with soy sauce and sugar. And then the other things, too, like the chicken teriyaki, the beef teriyaki and shrimp. My grandmother used to have the symbolic, the whole fish, the carp, which represented... I don't know if that's longevity or what now. And then we used to have the beans, which is also symbolic, the sweet beans, which we liked. And then the really yummy, what I call mochi, it's the Japanese confectionary made with rice, with beans in the inside, or lima beans in the inside.

And then at other times during the year, generally with most of our meals, even though we had American food, rather than rolls or bread, we always had rice. So, and I always enjoyed the pickled vegetables that we ate. Even to this day, we enjoy it, and I guess it's a big carryover, because even my grandchildren like certain things that I like today. And it's probably because I had emphasized that I liked it, and I fed it to my kids. Then in turn, my daughter has then fed it to her children. We still eat a lot of Japanese food, and I think with age I find that I prefer Japanese food to the American food.

EB: I can understand that. Were there any communication problems between your parents and your brothers and sisters?


GS: There really wasn't a communication problem, I don't think, because if what was said in Japanese was not understood by my siblings, my parents would then say it in English. But I think because Japanese was their first language, especially in a moment of anger or excitement, it's the Japanese that came out automatically first. So if my siblings didn't understand it, then my parents then would repeat it in English. So I don't think there was any communication problem. As we got older, I think there were more moments of perhaps differences, which, especially with my brother. There were moments where there were arguments, I guess, which was to be expected. And I can definitely recall things that I was not able to do growing up as a, in my youth and as a teenager, just became an accepted thing by the time my younger sister reached the same age. I think my parents' attitudes probably relaxed more by then, and they had become more accepting of things. Whereas at that same age, for me, they expected certain things, and I did it. But by the time my younger sister was, say, ten or twelve, what was not permitted for me was accepted for my younger sister. And perhaps this was bound to happen with changing attitudes. My younger sister really was of a different generation, because she was nine years younger than I.

EB: What was your family's religious background?

GS: The family, we have always been Methodists. My father was raised... I don't know how much he went to church in Japan. All I know is he was raised as a Buddhist. But once he was here in America, he became a Christian, and so he brought us up in the Methodist church. But one thing that I've always been intrigued with is that he still maintains some of the Buddhist customs. On New Year's we had to... there's a two-tiered mochi, I don't know how you explain this. It's called hotokesama or something, and then you put the tangerine on top of the two mochi, and you place it in front of the... well, my father placed it in front of a picture of his father. But I've seen it in other homes where, in Buddhist homes, they actually have a shrine sort of a thing, and they place it there. So my dad used to do that, and it's not a Christian custom, it's Buddhist. And also he used to, he had a picture set up on a dresser in the bedroom, and on certain particular, I don't even remember what days or what, but it must have been symbolic for something because he would put flowers there in front of the picture.

EB: Did your family attend church on a regular basis, and where?

GS: When we were, as a child when we were living in Boyle Heights, we used to go to the Evergreen Baptist Church. And even though we were Methodist, perhaps we did this because it was the closest church, I don't know. And I never questioned it. But basically, yes, my parents encouraged us to go to church on Sundays, Sunday school, and then church as we got older. And then as adults, it was really, they didn't say, "You must go to church," they really left it up to us. And I have always just continued to go to church. It's been important to me in my life. Whereas I have two siblings who don't go. And this, I think my mother would have preferred that all of her children went to church, but she gave them the choice.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

GS: We didn't... my siblings nor I, none of us attended formal Japanese school like some of my friends did every day after school. And I don't know why we never did it. Obviously my parents did not think it was that important. My only knowledge of, with a formal class is when I took Japanese at UCLA for one year. [Laughs]

EB: All right. Did you ever take any dance classes or anything else that...

GS: Japanese dance? No, no Japanese dance.

EB: Okay. Could you describe your family's social life and community activities before the war?

GS: I don't know that I could say we had a social life. I know we visited with friends. But back then I was so young, I really don't remember. Because when I went to camp I was not quite, I was only six years old. So I remember us having a picnic like on a Sunday at the park, but this was family, and it was not that often. So as far as social activities, I really can't remember, I don't recall.

EB: Okay. Did you or your family make any return trips to Japan before the war?

GS: Before the war? No. You mean with my parents?

EB: You and your parents, or your parents themselves?

GS: No.

EB: Okay, so your father never went back to Japan after he left, then.

GS: Not before the war. He finally did make one journey back to Japan in 1960. This is something he had been wanting to do for many, many years, because he still had a brother and a sister living there. But he did that in 1960, and that was the only time he went back. And we as a family really wanted him to go back because we knew that his health was such that we didn't know how much longer he would be living. And we were fortunate that his health was well enough following his cancer surgery that he could go back and visit. That's the only time that he returned.

EB: What kind of impact did that trip have on him?

GS: I think he was very happy he was able to go back. I read in a letter of his that he wrote to my mother while he was still in Japan, they had a memorial service for his mother. This, too, I think is something to do with the Buddhist religion, x-number of years or something. And they advanced it forward one year because my father was there. It should have been the following year, but because my father was there in Japan at that time, his brother and sister decided to have this memorial service or whatever it was. And I distinctly remember my dad writing to my mother saying that "it really brought back memories of my mother and when I was young." But that's all he said. He did not elaborate what the memories were, but it must have been very strong for him when they had that service.

EB: Do you know the kind of education he had in Japan?

GS: As far as I know, my father went through the usual grammar school, but I do not think he had graduated high school. I don't think he had finished.

EB: All right. And what schools did you attend growing up, before the war? You were quite young.

GS: I was quite young, yes, I know. And I was trying to find an old report card because I know we still have it. My mother kept all these things, but I looked for it and I could not find it. I went to grammar school somewhere in East L.A., in that Boyle Heights area. And I recall something about East First Street school, whether that was the name of the school? I mean, I'm sorry, I really don't know.

EB: That's all right.

GS: And then we went to camp, so we were in Manzanar. And I was there through second and third grade, and I finished third grade in Maryland. Then I was, I started fourth grade, but I finished fourth grade -- because we moved again -- so I finished fourth grade in Seabrook, New Jersey, then I went to fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth grade in New Jersey, and I was in my freshman year, ninth grade, in high school, when we moved back to Los Angeles. Then I graduated high school here in Los Angeles at Fremont High School.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

EB: All right, let's move on to Pearl Harbor. And at the time of Pearl Harbor, you were attending... wait, I think we just talked about that.

GS: East First Street School or something.

EB: East First Street School, okay, and were you in first grade by that time?

GS: By that time I think I was in first grade. I had finished kindergarten, and I think I was in first grade.

EB: Okay. And do you remember hearing about the attack and what kind of reaction your parents might have had?

GS: I know nothing about that. I don't even, I don't remember. Because I do not recall my parents saying anything about it, they probably talked about it amongst themselves, but there was, nothing was said to me about this is what has happened, or that my father had no job anymore. I wasn't aware of any of that.

EB: Okay, but did he lose his job?

GS: He lost his job immediately. The office was closed immediately, so he had no job. And since my father was here by himself with no family, and not knowing what the situation was going to be like, and from what rumors that were circulating at that time, they assumed we would all be sent to a camp. And my mother's family lived in Florin, California, which is near Sacramento. So my dad, I was not aware of this, but I was told of this years later. My dad thought it would be better if we as a family moved to Florin to be closer to my mother's family. So that if in fact an evacuation did come about, at least where we were sent to, we would go together. And so it must have been about March or April of 1942 that my father moved us to Florin to live together with my grandparents and the family.

EB: Was it difficult to travel at that time?

GS: I really don't know.

EB: Okay, all right. Did the FBI ever visit your house?

GS: Not to my knowledge, no.

EB: Okay. Do you recall any keepsakes or mementos from Japan that your parents may have destroyed or did they hide them or anything like that?

GS: Not that I'm aware of, no.

EB: Okay. All right. And so when you were living in Florin at the time... well, after the Executive Order came out, you said you moved there in maybe April?

GS: March or April or something like that.

EB: 1942.

GS: Yes.

EB: What do you remember about getting ready for relocation and evacuation?

GS: Gee, I don't even know that.

EB: Okay.

GS: I don't know. All I know is that years later, yes, I learned that we could take only what we could carry, which was like one suitcase. And from some of the information that I found amongst my mother's things after her death, I learned what time and place and date they were supposed to meet for this evacuation. But I'm sorry, I don't know. [Laughs]

EB: No, that's absolutely fine. You were young, it's very... when I was a young kid there were things that I didn't pick up on myself.

GS: And it probably wasn't that important that they had to share this with us. Perhaps if it was something, a happy event, maybe they may have said something. But on something like this, I rather doubt it.

EB: Okay, all right. Did you ever, did you go to an assembly center first before you went to Manzanar?

GS: No, we went directly to Manzanar.

EB: Okay.

GS: And that little Florin community was divided into four. So as small as the community was, people were split four ways. And most of the people who had... most of them were farmers in that area. So the ones who had farms and ranches in my grandfather's area, we were more or less all together, and we went to Manzanar together.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EB: Do you remember anything about that, the trip there on the bus, or perhaps a train?

GS: I don't even remember that.

EB: Okay. Do you remember anything about arrival at camp?

GS: When we got there it was... I remember we had to kind of stand in line, but I don't remember how long or for what. And then I remember going to this barrack which was to be our home. Beyond that, I don't know.

EB: Okay. And can you tell me your block address and a little bit about the block where you lived at Manzanar?

GS: We lived in Block 30, Building 8, Apartment 1. And the barrack had four apartments, so we were in the front. And next door to us lived my grandparents in the second apartment. In fact, I think they had maybe 2 and 3 because it was a big family. So there must have been nine or ten of them. I'm sorry, what was the rest of the question?

EB: I was asking about life in Block 30. And so your extended family all lived in the same barrack, or several apartments in that one barrack then.

GS: Yes, right.

EB: Okay, and your particular apartment, it was your immediate family. Was there anyone outside your immediate family with you?

GS: No, it was just the immediate family.

EB: So your mother, father and siblings.

GS: That's right.

EB: Okay.

GS: And then my grandparents lived next door with my aunts, and then my uncles must have been next door to that or something like that.

EB: Okay. So everyone was together.

GS: We were together, I guess, which was a good thing. And I also remember some of the friends from Florin, that same area, they ended up in Block 30. And, in fact, one family was in the next barrack, and another family was over maybe two or three barracks. And so I was too young to even understand something like this, but I think when I look back on this, I think for my parents, it probably gave them some sense of... well, at least they didn't have this feeling of just being left alone. There were other people that they knew there, it wasn't just going someplace where they were total strangers.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EB: And we were talking earlier, your father was a block manager at Block 30. Can you tell me a little bit about his job and whether you knew this as a child when you were at Manzanar, or maybe he shared this with you later on.

GS: My father was block manager, and I did not know fully his role as a block manager nor his responsibilities at that time. But I knew he was somebody important, because people used to come to him. And he, I guess it was his office, was in Barrack 1, which was just across the way. And I had been there, and I saw the setup, and it was this important looking room, which was obviously his office. But more than that, like I said, I felt that he was important because he made announcements in the mess hall to inform the block residents of what was, I guess what they had to know and what was going on. But more than that, I used to see people come to him and speak to him. And the type of conversation that went on, even as young as I was, to me it was, it sounded very important. That it wasn't just, "Hello, how are you?" sort of thing. It was more than that. And also the way they treated him, I thought it was with great respect. Whenever they greeted him it was always, not so much Mr. Nakano, because they used to address him as Nakano-san. But just by their demeanor, as a child, I was able to pick up that he obviously had some important job. But how he got that job or why, I don't know. But that's what he did.

EB: Did he... do you know how much money he earned each month? He was a volunteer...

GS: Well, at the time I did not know. I was to learn years later, yes, I think he got the top, which was what, thirty dollars a month or something?

EB: Nineteen.

GS: Wait a minute, not thirty. That's right, you're right, thirty was something else. You're right, the top pay or whatever, because I think there were three...

EB: Yeah, twelve, sixteen and nineteen.

GS: Nineteen, something like that.

EB: Later on it bumped up a bit. Did your mother work?

GS: My mother did not work, no. She stayed at home and she took care of us. And then, of course, then she had my younger sister who was born, so all the more...

EB: So your sister was born in the hospital then at Manzanar.

GS: Yes.

EB: Do you remember going up to the hospital and visiting them?

GS: No.

EB: Or did your mother ever tell you what it was like to have a child in camp?

GS: My mother, no, she didn't. I don't even remember when she went to have the baby. All I know is the baby came home. And, but I do remember that she had to go to Block 25, which was the next block over, because they had, they must have had a special meal service for the infants and the younger children.

EB: Yeah, they did.

GS: So they used to go there, she used to go there, and that's where she met some of the other mothers with their infants and babies. I don't know if this was done... was this done because there was no special food for the little ones at the mess halls? I don't know.

EB: Yes, and there was a dietitian, I know Nancy Shimotsu, who we interviewed yesterday, for a while she served as a dietician for the babies at the hospital, the newborns, and even up to a certain age, and so she did make special foods for the babies at the hospital is what she told us yesterday. So she might have done that for your sister.

GS: Could be, I don't know.

EB: Could be. [Laughs] Have to compare dates. So did... I know your family was fairly close physically when you arrived at camp, your extended family living in the same apartments. Did it bring your family closer together in another way as well, or not?

GS: You know, I really don't know whether it brought us closer together. My mother is the second oldest, but my mother has, throughout her life has always been very close with my grandparents, probably more so than her other siblings. And perhaps that was the reason why, all the more, my dad wanted to move us up to Florin before evacuation knowing that that was imminent. And then when we relocated together with my grandparents to Maryland, even though my father knew nothing about farming. My grandfather is the one who was the farmer. But my parents have always said that they wanted to be as close as possible to my grandparents. I do recall in camp that I used to go next door to visit and see my grandmother.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

EB: And you were school age when you were at Manzanar, we talked a little bit about that earlier, I looked at some of your report cards and some school pictures. Could you tell me a little bit about school at Manzanar, maybe like where, what block your classes were in, and a bit about your classes and teachers?

GS: Originally the way I remember my second grade class was in the next block. And then... and, oh, I remember this teacher, Mrs. Atwood, had such a terrible time learning the names of the students, because so many of them had Japanese names, and it was very difficult for her to pronounce those names. My name, I have both an English and Japanese name, my middle name is Japanese, but throughout my life I've used my English name in school. So she didn't have problems with pronunciation of my name, but she had terrible problems with many of the other children. And I recall, usually things are done alphabetically for names, but by last name. She did not do it that way. She listed the children alphabetically by first names, and this was probably more than enough that she could manage at that time, now that I, when I thought about it years later. But to me, she was no different than the teacher that I had in Los Angeles before we went to camp. And then my third grade was also part of the time in... I don't know whether that was two blocks over or where. Then eventually we were moved over to... I don't remember what block it was, we had to walk some distance.

EB: Block 16? That was the elementary school block. Here, take a look at the map.

GS: Okay, so we must have had to walk way up to here, because by that time then, I remember there were three... there must have been three or four classes of fourth graders. And from what little I remember, I think we were divided up according to... for lack of a nicer way to say, according to, I guess, our scholastic ability.

EB: Oh, okay.

GS: That's the impression I got. Whether it was so or not, I don't know. Because I used to hear the other kids, when we were out for recess, they would say things like, "Oh, you're in the smart class." I don't know, I mean, this is what I was, this is what I have heard. And I felt that the classes, when we were finally moved over to Block 16, we had regular desks and chairs and seemed to be more organized, whereas the classes in second and third grade in the next block were not, as I felt, not as organized. This may have been just a child's view, I don't know. Although I remember the third grade teacher, she played piano. And I had always wanted to play piano, so I really enjoyed whenever we had music. And she had music in the class quite often, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But I don't remember... in second and third grade, I do recall recess, playing outdoors. But I don't recall anything really organized, sports or games or anything like that. And I don't even recall this, when we moved over to Block 16. We must have had it, but I don't remember.

EB: It might have been more prominent with the older students.

GS: Could have been.

EB: Possibly, yeah. Is there anything else related to school that you'd like to share?

GS: No, not really.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EB: Who were your friends at camp? Were these friends that you knew before you came to Manzanar?

GS: There was... there was really no one that I knew before we went to camp. There were some people in our block who came from Florin. But I did not know about these children when I was in Florin just prior to going to camp. But I guess I gravitated more towards them because, simply because my mother knew this girl's mother from Florin, you know, they had grown up together. Or because there was a girl in the next barrack whose family was from Florin, so you know how that kind of goes, families knowing each other. And then I did develop friendships with some other girls also. But I never went off to the next block or anything to play with other girls, even when I started going to school in Block 16. I know some of my friends did go off to the other blocks further away to play with friends, but for whatever reason, I never did that.

EB: Were your parents insistent that you stay close by?

GS: I think that was partly it. I think they wanted us close by, not meandering off far away. Because even at mealtimes, they were quite strict about us having our meals together as a family. And I couldn't go and sit with a friend to have dinner or lunch like some of my friends did.

EB: So speaking of the mess halls, what impressions did those have on you?

GS: I thought it was awful originally. I mean, it just seemed like, first of all, we had to wait in long lines to get into the mess hall. And sometimes it was so hot, but that was a fact of life, I mean, we had to do that. And once we got in there it was more lines. And I really don't remember what we ate, but obviously the food was not that bad to me at that time. Because I have heard other people say, "Oh, the food in camp was so terrible." But I don't remember that. And if the food were so terrible, I think it would have made an impression on me. But it was new to me because prior to going into camp, we rarely... I can't ever remember a time we went to the restaurant to eat. Our meals were always at home, so I really didn't know anything about a restaurant. And then now to have to face meal service three times a day with all this mass of humanity. In the beginning it was somewhat... it was kind of scary and very different. But gradually I got used to it. And it became such that I think we're creatures of habit. We all started having our little niches as to where we were going to be sitting, so that I knew when I got my food I was supposed to go and sit at such and such a table, and then gradually my parents would get there, too.

EB: Well, that's very, very unique, because so many people, like you said, your friends who ended up eating with their friends and not with their families, and in a sense it was to the detriment of the family unit, so you're very lucky.

GS: The cohesiveness of a family unit was really broken, I mean, it was just lost. At the time, as a young child, I didn't realize that, but as an adult, I could really see that now.

EB: Is there a particular person or event or holiday perhaps that stands out in your mind from your time at Manzanar? Whether it was a neighbor or teacher...

GS: Not really.

EB: Okay. Did you ever get sick at camp and need medical attention?

GS: No. I don't recall ever having to go to the hospital or the doctor. I can't even remember having dental work done.

EB: You mentioned your sister was born there, and you were also, we were talking earlier that your uncle was...

GS: An ambulance driver.

EB: At Manzanar? Did he ever, even later after the camp time, tell you about that at all?

GS: He never talked about it, and unfortunately I never asked him.

EB: Okay. It never hurts to ask. [Laughs] Did you participate in any activities at camp, or were you in any girl's clubs?

GS: No girl's clubs. We did go to church, Sunday school.

EB: The Methodist church?

GS: Well, I think it was known as the Christian church in camp. That's how I remember, Christian, and there was a Buddhist church and a Catholic. But as far as girls, Girl Scouts or girl's club or something like that, no, I was not a part of it. And I wasn't in any sports, I wasn't even interested in any sports at that point. But I did have to take violin lessons, which I did not like. [Laughs]

EB: Oh, so who did you take violin lessons from?

GS: Well, I guess this man was a violin teacher. He lived in our block, and he must have been a bachelor because he lived alone. And obviously my father knew of him. And how or where my dad purchased this violin, I have no idea. But anyway, my parents wanted me to take violin lessons, and I really had no interest in taking violin lessons, but they wanted me to have this opportunity.


GS: So I went for violin lessons, it must have been every week. And to this day, I really... I like listening to the violin, but I have no interest in playing on it. And the instrument that my father purchased, I have no idea how he purchased it, perhaps it was through the violin teacher, but I don't know. And how he was able to purchase it is another thing I've always wondered about with the little salary that he was earning. But obviously he and my mother must have liked that instrument for wanting me to learn how to play it. I would have preferred to learn the piano, and I did years later. But while in Manzanar I took lessons, and I don't remember how long I took it. That instrument we still have to this day.

EB: Really?

GS: What happened is my daughter, my daughter took piano lessons as a child. And then because that violin was at home, she just on her own, simply on her own, learned to play it at school. And then because she was so interested, we thought, well, we better have her take some formal lessons. So she learned to play the violin. And to this day, she still enjoys it, in addition to the piano. But so, of course, my daughter can't understand why I didn't like it. Well, I enjoy listening to the music, but I don't, I really don't like playing it. And now my granddaughter is learning violin.

EB: Do you remember the gentleman's name who gave you lessons?

GS: Yes. The name was either Mr. Tanaka or... I think it was Mr. Tanabe, I think, was the teacher's name.

EB: And do you remember his first name?

GS: No, but he lived in our block. And he lived somewhere near, let's see. It's... one, two, three, four... maybe it was about Barrack 5, because it was somewhere near the restroom.

EB: Okay.

GS: Four or five.

EB: Yeah. Do you know how much the lessons cost?

GS: No, but I vaguely recall my mother giving me coins when I went for the lesson, so obviously I was paying him, but I don't know how much.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EB: So what kind of impression did the latrines have on you, or at all? Okay, yes, they did. [Laughs]

GS: As young as I was, they were awful; they were really bad. In the beginning, of course, you know, that there were no partitions, they just had the open stalls. Absolutely no privacy. And even the... let's see, there were a row of latrine toilets, and then there were another row of toilets facing the other way. Eventually they put in a wall between the two, and then eventually they put in the side walls and so at least there was some privacy. But I always made sure I went around to the back side, so that at least you're not seen by people as they walk in the door. And you know, as young as I was, that really, really bothered me. And the other thing I hated was the showers. I never took a shower in my life before I went to camp, it was always a bath. So I didn't know anything about a shower. And then to get in this room with lots of other people at the same time, I had never had to do... I mean, I was never exposed to any time of nudity or anything in front of a group of people. It was just my own family. And even at that, usually I took a bath by myself, or I'm sure when I was young my mother probably had both of us, my brother and me in the tub at the same time, and that I don't remember. But even when, living in Los Angeles, I remember taking a bath by myself. And then when we went to camp and had all these people, I mean, there was absolutely no privacy, and I just, I really did not like that. But what were we to do? We were all in that same situation.

EB: How did that affect your mother, being older?

GS:I don't know. I never asked her. But my mother is the kind of person who really will bear with anything, even though she doesn't like it, or even... and no matter how embarrassing the situation is, she just kind of, the word in Japanese is gaman, you know, you just kind of hold it and you just bear with it, and there isn't much you can do about it. And that was part of what she tried to instill in us as we were growing. But I never did ask her. I did ask her a few other things as an adult, and one of them was when we were living in Maryland after the, after we had relocated, our life was just so bad. I asked her, "Do you wish you were back in camp?" Because it was better in camp than in Maryland, but she said, "No." "No, I don't want to go back there even though our life here in Maryland is not good." She said, "I don't want to be back there behind the barbed wire fence."

EB: Okay. Were you shy or mischievous or happy or quiet while you were at camp? What was your personality like?

GS: I don't think I was really mischievous. I just knew, I was taught from an early age what's right and what's wrong, and if I wasn't supposed to do something, I didn't do it. And perhaps that was a lot of naivete on my part, too, but I was just brought up that way. What's wrong is wrong, and what's right is right. Whereas my brother, he was different. If there was something he wanted to do, even though he knew it was wrong, he did it. And by nature I think throughout my life I've been more on the quiet, reticent side rather than being more talkative and outgoing as my younger sister. Even to this day, I think I'm much more introverted than my brother who was much more extroverted, and certainly than my sister, my younger sister, the third one. But there are certain things even today... several years ago if you had asked me to do this interview, I probably would have said no. But today I feel a little bit more differently about it, and I feel that I can be more open and speak about certain things. But if it were several years ago, I probably would have said no. Even though I had the interest to do it, I think I would have been to reticent to do it. So I don't know whether this is older age. [Laughs]

EB: Were you ever aware of the Manzanar Free Press growing up? Or while you were in Manzanar, did you ever read any of it or get one for your parents or anything like that?

GS: When I was growing up, I knew nothing about that. I only became aware of it as an adult, and of course, I was, anything to do with the Free Press, if at any time I saw anything or it was made available to me, yes, I was very interested, and I still am today. And my uncle was the editor of the Free Press.

EB: And his name again?

GS: Roy Takeno. He left, after he left camp he went to Denver and worked on I don't know what paper it was, but some newspaper company. And he... after his, I don't know how long he worked with that job, but eventually he went to, went on with other jobs. And then when, later in life, then he worked for a Japanese American newspaper.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

EB: Did you ever do anything to support the war effort during camp?

GS: No.

EB: Do you remember anything about recycling, or did your parents ever buy war bonds?

GS: Not in camp, but I remember buying those stamps every week at school in New Jersey. I remember buying... yes, we did that.

EB: Did your parents bring any money or savings with them to camp?

GS: Gosh, I don't know. And I don't know how much, or... I don't think my father had much... so he was renting an apartment, we did not own a house. He did not have a car.

EB: What did you do with your property, your furniture, other belongings, before you went to camp?

GS: The duplex that we were living in, I remember we had bedroom furniture, nothing extravagant, but we had furniture, and we had some things in the living room like a sofa and a few other things. But obviously they were... I don't know how they, if they were able to take it to camp or what, but all I know is when we were living in Maryland, they did have the bed transported there. So obviously it's the bed from before the war, I don't know.

EB: So they must have stored it somewhere.

GS: I guess, I don't know.

EB: Okay. Did you use any mail-order catalogs when you were at Manzanar, or did your parents?

GS: My mother did. I remember my mother, yes, buying from the Sears and they used to call it Montgomery Ward, they used to call it "Monkey Ward" or something. [Laughs] Yes.

EB: Did she buy clothing or some other items?

GS: It must have been clothing, I don't know. There was a, what they called a canteen, and I do recall going there and seeing some things that were sold there. But to begin with, we didn't have all that much clothing anyway when we were in camp, just the basic essentials. And then whatever was given to us by the government. But I do recall my mother, yes, ordering from the catalogs.

EB: Did you ever go to the canteen yourself and purchase any items?

GS: Not by myself, no. If I went, it was usually with my mother, and I don't even know what we bought. All I know is I saw things that I would have liked to have had, like popsicle and ice cream, which we never got. [Laughs]

EB: Were any of your extended family members involved in camp industry or agriculture? Do you recall the types of jobs they might have held at Manzanar, like your aunts and uncles?

GS: Well, that one uncle worked as an ambulance driver, an aunt worked as a nurse's aide.

EB: And what was her name?

GS: Sumi Uchida Takeno. And my grandfather worked in the kitchen, in the mess hall, and I think my grandmother also for a short while worked in the mess hall in our block is the way I heard. And I had another uncle, I don't know what he was... maybe he was out on the farm, I don't remember. I vaguely recall that, something about, he was working on the farm. And then I had an aunt and uncle and (another) uncle still in high school.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

EB: So you did, your family did relocate, can you tell me about relocation and where you went and why?

GS: Well, we relocated to Berlin, Maryland. And being so young, I had no say in this. My father says we're going, we went. But I learned from my parents years later, yes, we went there because this was, quote, where the "opportunity" was supposed to be. And as you're probably aware, people in camp were told you can go here or there or there's a job here for this or a job there and such and that. And my father had never done any farming, but because my grandfather did farming before the war, my dad thought, well, okay, I'll go and I'll try, learn some of this and do it, that we have to get some, we've got to do something. And also I think another important factor was that he really wanted to stay together with my mother's family.

So we did go to Berlin, Maryland, to a little community, a little farming, excuse me, a little farming community in southern Maryland just off the bay. And there was supposed to be sharecropping, but once my father and grandfather arrived there, they learned that was not to be; they were jut common laborers working this huge farm. The owner was a gentleman, really a gentleman farmer who did business in Washington, D.C.. He had a big hardware business in Washington, D.C., and so this was his weekend home. He had acreage amounting to several hundred acres, must have been like seven hundred acres as such. And basically it was tomato and potato growing, and some, there was a chicken farm and a little bit cattle. So my father ended up planting and harvesting tomatoes and potatoes, and it was not sharecropping, and so they soon realized we can't stay here very long.

And it was this small rural community that had never seen Japanese before, and they associated us with the Japanese of Japan, with which the United States was at war. So here we are coming into this community where the people knew nothing about it except that they associated us with the enemy. And we had never experienced integration. That was our first experience with integration. We didn't know if we were supposed to go to the "black" school or the "white" school. And ultimately we were placed in the "white" school. So we went there, and here, even in school, with both the teachers and the students, we were accepted by some and not accepted by others. But the other thing is I think I was really too young to really fully understand discrimination at that point. If somebody didn't play with me on the school grounds, well, so she didn't play with me.

But there... I really didn't think about this until years later, but there was a boy who was sitting in the seat in front of me in class, and back then we used to actually have to have penmanship. It's not like today, we actually had a penmanship class, with a pen, not like ballpoint. But he used to turn around, stick his pen into the inkwell, and then squirt it at me and on my clothes. And so I told the teacher about it and the teacher just ignored it; she wouldn't do anything about it. And I really sensed, as young as I was, I could sense she didn't like me. She probably didn't even want me in her classroom, but she was stuck with me. And no matter how hard I tried to do my lessons, and I felt on certain things I was pretty good in the subjects, I never received good grades from her. But what can you do? I mean, you had to go to school. So it was really a hurtful experience for me. And I used to tell my parents, but there was not much that could be done.

But anyway, my father and my grandfather decided financially there's no way that we could survive there. So we left after about ten, we must have been there about ten months, that we lived there. And because I was so young, there were other experiences that were really enjoyable to me. I mean, I liked the fact that we had the... I really enjoyed the four seasons that we had, which we didn't have in California. The first time I had experienced snow was in Manzanar. But then we did have snow in Maryland, so much snow that there were days that we couldn't go to school. But our life in Maryland was hard, too, because we had no electricity in the house, no running water. We had to use the outhouse outdoors, and we had no bath facilities. We used to take a bath in a galvanized tub for several months until my grandfather built a Japanese bath, ofuro. And we had, even though as young as we were, we had to help my mother and grandmother start a vegetable garden. But in order to do that, we had to do a lot of digging of the soil, which had a lot of clamshells. So we had to clean all that out. But it was kind of an adventure for us, 'cause we'd never done it before. But there were other things about life there that were difficult, and we had no support from the community. We didn't really have friends. My dad wanted to get his driver's license and perhaps buy a car, because we were located way out of town. We couldn't even go into town, there was no bus service out to our place. So it was really basically my mother who went into town once a week with the farm foreman, who took her on the truck, and she did the marketing and post office business and banking and any other things that had to be done. None of us ever went to a movie in town. I mean, we had no means of transportation to go there. It was difficult.

EB: Yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

EB: So when you left, where did you go and why did you...

GS: Because it was so financially (difficult), my father said, "This is no way to start life anew again, we just can't." But he did not have the financial means to bring us back to California, so we, he took us to a little community in New Jersey called Seabrook Farms. It was a frozen food processing plant, and it was a community that was hiring a lot of people because of the big plant there, that they contracted out to the U.S. government. And they had business, work pretty much all year round. So my dad moved us there, and my grandparents moved back to Los Angeles, not quite knowing what the situation was going to be like, but anyway, they did come back to Los Angeles. And then we went to New Jersey, and we lived there probably about four years. And then ultimately we came back to Los Angeles, because our parents really wanted to come back here to California when they were able to.

EB: Was it ever hard to find housing in any of those places?

GS: In New Jersey it was not, and that was another reason why my dad (decided) to move us there, because he was, he went to scout out the area, and he found that he could get a job. Even my mother could get a job in the plant. It's not the best, but I mean, at least there would be a job. And then there was a child care center there for the children. At least Mr. Seabrook, the man who started this place, had the foresight to have a child care center built and staffed with very good teachers. So knowing that he could get a job, my mother could get a job, there would be housing, not the best, but at least a place to live. So that's where we moved to. And then when we moved there, we found out we were back in barracks again like camp, with communal toilets and a cafeteria, and basically, what happened was there was so many people moving there at that time that Seabrook proper, that little village, had no more housing available. So then Mr. Seabrook had to contract with this former prisoner of war camp, and that's where we were placed. That's where we lived for several months. And then when housing became available in Seabrook proper, then we moved there. And again we were put in barracks, but at least we had running water and a stove and a refrigerator. But we still had communal bathroom facilities. And then there was another move after that, when we finally moved over into an apartment, which was a little better.

EB: Yeah. And so your mother worked there, too?

GS: So my mother worked, yes. And the four of us were put into the child care center during the day.

EB: And that was her first job outside the home then?

GS: Basically yes, right.

EB: Did you ever receive any support from community or religious associations after you left camp, whether it was here in California or New Jersey or Maryland?

GS: Maryland, nothing. My mother went to see the social worker after we arrived there, and somehow the social worker knew there was a family coming into town, which I guess she didn't know when or who or what. So she just asked my mother, "Do you have enough pots and pans for cooking? Do you have blankets for sleeping? Do you have a bed?" And then that was the only time that my mother saw her. But my mother went to see the social worker because she wanted to get us into school. Because the owner of the farm where we went, where we moved to, he had said no, the kids don't have to go to school. They can start in September. But we went there in April, and so my parents felt, gee, there's still several more months of school until June. So my dad is the one who told my mother, "You better go see the social worker, talk to her and see if we can get the kids to school right way." So she did. But that was the only time we got any help at all. And for whatever reason, why my parents never sought out any other help, I don't know. It could be partly cultural, you know, the Japanese don't go looking for help. They're really proud people, and most people tried to do it on their own.

And when we went to Seabrook, there was a lot of community support, because most of the people who had gone there were like us, you know, either directly from camp or coming from somewhere else to Seabrook, not having anything. And so even the fact that we had no relatives there, the neighbors really gradually became very close, and it was just a big supportive community. So my parents got very comfortable there. And, of course, there was the church, there was a lot of support from the church. But to actually get support from a social agency, no, we didn't do any of that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

EB: And what was it like once you came back to California?

GS: Well, we left Seabrook. I think we would have stayed longer, but my mother was not working any of the winters because the plant was closed, and the busy season was in the summer. And she applied for and got unemployment during the winter months, but then... and what had happened with my dad finally, he was able to work winters for several years, but then in the winter of '49, I think it was, he was laid off, and he had to collect unemployment. So then he just, he decided, "I think we better go back to California." And so very, really very suddenly, he decided we would move back here. So we came into West L.A., stayed with my grandparents for a while, and he had hoped eventually to get work. I don't know what kind of work, but since he couldn't find any work, then he decided he's going to go into business for himself, and that's what he did.

EB: And that's when he started the store?

GS: That's when he started the store.

EB: Did your mother help him out with the store?

GS: Oh, yes, my mother had to. It was really a family-run business, my mother and dad full time, and then they expected us kids to help out. So even my youngest sister, she had to help. There were things that little kids could do, and so we all had to help out. There was no way that my dad could hire help, because that's where all the profits would go, to the hired help.

EB: Did your parents ever talk about camp once they left?

GS: Do you mean to sit down and talk about it?

EB: Or if it just came up in conversation, how did that refer to that time?

GS: If it came up, it wasn't... I can't really remember a time when it really came up. I think, if we had questions, they answered it. I cannot, I can't see that they hesitated. They spoke about it freely, but I regret now that I did not ask more questions back then, growing up as an adolescent, and even into my adulthood.


GS: When the subject of camp did come up, they spoke about it freely, but there was never a time when they sat us down and said, "Look, this is what happened," sort of thing. It was only if we had asked. But I don't think I had the foresight at that point in my life to ask more questions, to find out more. It was only much later, many, many years later, that I wondered, oh, how was this, how was that, what happened here, what happened there. By that time, unfortunately, my father had passed away. And my mother did remember certain things, but other things, too, she didn't remember. Because one Christmas I was asking her, "What did we do at Christmastime in camp?" and she couldn't remember what we had done. And yet I vividly remember this tree in the mess hall at Christmastime. But I thought isn't that kind of interesting that Mom, as old as she was, couldn't remember some of those things.

EB: How did camp affect you and your character and sense of goals in life? Did you ever do things... did you never do things because of your camp experience?

GS: Here again I think I was too young to really have an effect on my adult life, or to have any goals. I think I was just really too young.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

EB: So tell me about your family, your husband and children, how did you and your husband meet? Was he in camp with you?

GS: Yes, he was. But he was in camp for only... it was a very short period of time. He was in Tule Lake, but he left early to go out to do sugar beet work, and he never returned to camp. He was in the camp just months. And he went out, he went to Montana and he never went back, and then he kept working his way east because he had a brother in Chicago or Milwaukee or somewhere around there. And he... I remember him telling me, his father gave him twenty dollars when he left camp, and that was it, and he had to manage on his own. And he did. So he took any kind of job that he was able to get, busboy or garage or driving a truck or whatever it was. And then he went to school, and back then, as you probably know, the Big Ten schools did not admit Japanese Americans. So he went to a small Lutheran school for a while, and then later he transferred over to Minnesota and then to Wisconsin. But then he came back, he moved to California. And when he came to the church here is when I met him. That's how we met.

EB: Okay, and his first name?

GS: My husband's name is Joseph, Joseph Seto. And he was really born and raised in Tacoma, Washington.

EB: Okay.

GS: So I met him here, we were married here in the church, and both of our kids were born here and baptized here in the church. My daughter was married here in the church, so there was a history here in the church for our family.

EB: You've always been fairly active, I guess, in church activities?

GS: Yes, yes. My father was very community-orientated, and perhaps that's one of the reasons why he was block manager, I don't know. Here, too, this is another question I never was able to ask him. But perhaps from him -- and my mother, too, my mother was active in the church, and she felt that we should give to the community, but I think my father even more so. And perhaps some of this comes from him, you know, it rubbed off on us. When I say "us," my sister and me, because my other two siblings, they don't have any interest. Yeah, the church has been a big part of my life, and I feel it's important.

EB: Did you ever talk about your experience with your children, and did your husband?

GS: Oh, yes, we have, quite often. And they're very interested, my son especially. So through the years, he... anything that's to do with ethnicity, he's always been interested. When Manzanar had the dedication two years ago of the interpretive center, he came down from... at that time he was living in Portland, so he came down for the weekend, because he wanted to go to the dedication. And then when the Japanese American National Museum had a... they did something at Ellis Island in New York some years ago, I don't remember if it was a special exhibit or what it was, but at that time my son was living in New York working there, so he went to that also. But things that are Japanese American, he's very interested, as is my daughter, but he more so. He went on a student exchange while he was at UCLA, he went to Japan for a year, and he speaks far better Japanese than I now. [Laughs] But there, we have all kinds of books at home, and both of the kids have always been interested in it. And I don't make a point of sitting them down and saying, "Now, listen, you have to learn this," or, "we've got to talk about this," but whenever the subject comes up, it's very easily discussed in our family. They are interested.

EB: Good.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

EB: So have you returned to Manzanar in the past, and what kind of response did that trigger and how did you feel?

GS: The first time we went... when I say "we," the family, and our kids were very young, they must have been in grade school. So we made our own family pilgrimage in the wintertime, and that was way, way back when it was even difficult to find that road to go up to the cemetery, because nothing was really marked off or anything. But we found our way up there, and the kids were, I mean, they couldn't believe that there was something like that there. And then we did kind of walked around here and there. We found, I think we found one of the... must be the base for the watchtower, the foundation, yeah, I think that's what it was. I mean, things like that that we saw. Then when we have gone to Mammoth on Boy Scout trips for the summer, we used to drive past there naturally and we'd point out, "That's Manzanar," they know that's Manzanar. And then I went there for the dedication two years ago, that was the last time I was there. And I must say, you've done a beautiful job with that interpretive center.

EB: Thank you.

GS: Very nice, very good. I have written about this in my emeritus writing class, and many people in there are immigrants from Europe, some of them are, have even been prisoners in the death camps, so they've been very surprised to hear about our camps here. They knew nothing like this existed. And so I have had a couple of my classmates who have actually gone to Manzanar to see what it's like. So these are all retirees, older people.

EB: So when you went back for the grand opening two years ago, how did that make you feel to go back and see that something was there, share your experience with other people?

GS: I mean, I was really happy to see what was accomplished, and I really felt this was very, very important, that we need this. And it's really a learning experience, not just for those of us who have been there, because I was so young, but for anyone, everyone, they should know this happened and what it was like. And you have the blocks all marked off, so we took that driving tour. But in addition to that, my son actually wanted to go to Block 30. He says, "I want to go see where you live." I said, "Well, we passed it." He said, "Yeah, but I want to see it," and I said, "Steve, it's like this in here." But no, we had to walk down there. And since I lived right off the road there, I could tell him, well, the road is there 'cause you could still see the road there. And I said, "The building must have been about here," where the barrack is. And I remember a tree that was right in front of our barrack, so I don't know whether it's one of those trees that is all grown today, I mean, I don't know. But he really wanted to see what it was like, and he was really intrigued with the foundation of the restrooms that are still there, and the laundry room, all of that is still there. So you can kind of get a picture of what it was like, the placement of the buildings and such.

EB: I tell visitors they need to use their imagination, 'cause it's really there, you just have to look closer and you can see the foundations.

GS: And I'm glad you're putting together that one block where you brought in that building. At that time it was all cordoned off, but still, my son was able to get a really good idea of how big the building was, and how it stood. It's one thing to talk about it, but to actually see it, even though only part of it was there, gave him a better idea of what it was like. So it was very good.

EB: Good. Did you have any political involvement in attaining redress? Did you ever donate money or attend rallies?

GS: We did not attend rallies. I regret that I did not attend the hearings. I wasn't able to. But yes, we did get the redress.

EB: And once you received an apology letter, how did you react to that?

GS: I was grateful we received it. If we did not get it, I would not have regretted it. But more important to me was the fact that the U.S. government recognized and admitted that it was a mistake. And I really wanted this to be more of a learning experience for the general public, so that this would not happen again to other groups of people. That was my concern.

EB: And once you received the check that came with it, what did you do with the money?

GS: What did we do with the money? Well, we put it in the bank. [Laughs] But just about that time, or shortly thereafter -- and my husband and I had kind of talked about this -- we said, "If this does come about, if we do get the money, what shall we do with it?" And I knew people were going to be using it, I had heard others say they were going to travel, this and that. But just about the time that we did receive our checks -- my husband got it before I did -- my daughter was in the process of purchasing a condo, and she needed some help financially. So my husband and I had kind of talked about this, and we said, okay, I don't know what the others are going to do, but for us, we'll give the money to both of the kids. So that's what we did, for Susan to purchase her condo, and then when my son bought a place in New York, we helped him also. And I'm glad we did.

EB: Yeah. So the few other people we've interviewed this weekend did similar things. They used it to help pay for college or for their children. So did you ever attend any Manzanar pilgrimages before the one for the grand opening?

GS: No, just that time when we went as a family, but not the group ones that are being held.

EB: Okay.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

EB: If you were giving advice to young people today, what would you tell them?

GS: Advice about...

EB: About your life experience or your experience in camp and that of your family?

GS: Well, one thing, despite the faults of our country and our politicians, I still feel that we do live in a great country. I wouldn't trade it to go elsewheres. Because no matter where we go, there are going to be faults. Nothing is ever perfect anywhere. And I just feel personally that whatever opportunities come into our life, we have to take it at that time. And even though things don't go right sometimes the way we want it, we still have to continue. We can't give up, and I think this is something that I really learned from what my parents, how they felt when they were in Manzanar was that they really did not give up hope. They did not know what was going to happen to them, but at least they did not give up hope, and I think they kind of instilled that in us, in me, and I hope I've instilled this in my children. Because when we were living in Germany, that's when I truly felt that I was safe living in America. I had heard some experiences from our German friends who had escaped from Poland and the former East, and at the time of the invasion of... I think it was Afghanistan, one of our German friends who had escaped from Poland had a job opportunity in the States. And he was seriously considering moving here, because he said, "Then I will never, never have to worry about somebody coming after me." Until he discussed this with us, it didn't sink in with me what kind of really free life we lead here in the United States. So I think we just have to live for... I don't think it could be any better than what we have here, despite its faults, like I said. There are going to be hardships at times, but nonetheless... some people have asked me, "Wouldn't you want to go live in Japan?" I said, "No, I have no desire to go live there." I'll visit, but I have no desire to live there.

EB: And you said you were living in Germany. Why were you living in Germany?

GS: We were in Germany on four separate occasions, each time for one year, because my husband spent his sabbatical there. He used to teach at Cal State Los Angeles. He's now retired. But every seven years they're eligible for a sabbatical, and so he took it. And the first year my mother said, "Why are you going to a country where you can't speak the language, you don't know the people, and you're taking these two little kids with you?" But you know, I was young, and to me it was an adventure. And I knew, yes, I couldn't speak the language, but I thought, "Okay, I'll learn a few words." And I don't know what the people are like, but that's okay, I'll get to learn what they're like. And really, in all honesty, I must say, I really felt comfortable there, and I really enjoyed it. And so when my husband's second sabbatical came up, I went willingly. The first time I didn't quite know what to expect, but the second time I kind of had an idea of what it's going to be like. And my only fear was I didn't want the kids to get behind in school, and I didn't know what the school system was going to be like. But even that, my husband and I felt, okay, so they do get behind one year in school. They will have gained so much more in other ways. So since we both agreed on that... I didn't know how the kids would accept it, though, to come back and know that they have to repeat a grade. But I thought, okay, we'll do that. And fortunately, everything worked out in school for the children, they weren't held back, and in fact, they learned the language far better than I did. And so then on the second sabbatical they were in grade school, the third sabbatical, my daughter was at the university and my son was in high school. And then the fourth sabbatical, both kids were working, and so they stayed here and just the two of us went. But it was very nice.

EB: What an amazing experience, opportunity.

GS: Very much so.

EB: And what was he teaching, or what did he teach?

GS: He teaches virology, viruses, and electron microscopy. And during the time he was there on sabbatical, there was no teaching, it was all strictly research. So for him, it was wonderful. No students, no teaching, no telephone, no readings, just his experiments. So he was able to get a lot done. Whereas here he had to squeeze in his research in between teaching, because teaching was the major job. So we've been fortunate.

EB: Yeah. Well, is there anything else you'd like to share with me that I haven't asked you and that you think is important to the interview today?

GS: Gosh, no, I don't think so. You've been quite thorough.

EB: Okay. Well, thank you, it never hurts to ask. Well, I'd like to thank you for joining me, and on behalf of the National Park Service for giving us this interview. It's a great addition to our collection at Manzanar.

GS: Well, you're very welcome, it's been a privilege for me to be interviewed like this, and I'm glad that I can share my experiences. Thank you.

EB: Thank you.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2006 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.