Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masako Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Masako Yoshida
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Monterey Park, California
Date: August 14, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ymasako-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

KL: Tell us about, you said your husband was drafted?

MY: Uh-huh.

KL: How did he leave Poston and did he come to Detroit?

MY: Well, no, he was in Colorado and then my old boyfriend from Manzanar came, so my husband came immediately. I mean, not to brag or anything, but he wanted to not have this other friend be my boyfriend again, so he came right away. He was on the farm doing sugar beeting, and that was horrible, but he broke that contract and he came to Detroit, and he worked horribly hard in a place where they had to shovel asphalt into a fire. We did all the menial jobs that no one else would do. Because everybody went to work in the army factories where they made money. You know, the army factories, you know, working in bomb factories and stuff, they all made money more than these other small jobs that we had. So that's where my husband came and then we got engaged almost immediately after. And just before he went overseas we got married, because in those days you don't live together until you're married. So he was going to go overseas but he didn't want to go to... he had a chance of going to visit his parents in Poston or come to Chicago. By then I was living in Chicago. Yeah, I think that's when I got married. I was in Chicago already when I got married.

KL: So did he come to Chicago or Detroit?

MY: Well, he came to Detroit, I think we got... no, when we got married I was in Chicago already, and I went to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to get married. And you're either white or black, on my marriage certificate it says "white." And he had them put down "Japanese" in parentheses because you're not anything but white or black in those days. It was kind of a learning experience for me. You get off the bus and you say, "Where are we supposed to go to the restroom, white or black?" They said, "Well, you're not black, so you go to the 'white.'" It was a terrible experience but they really liked the Japanese. I think there were only about twenty, maybe fifteen Japanese boys who went to the South Carolina Camp Croft, most of them went to Mississippi. But they had these boys, the few boys traveled by themselves to another, to camp Croft to see how they would be accepted. And when they first went there, it says, "Japs invade Camp Croft." They didn't know what to do with those boys because they had to KP duty and they thought they were Japanese prisoners of war. Then they found out, oh, they're Americans, and they were the real bright ones there, their IQ was very high. And a lot of the people down south couldn't even write their own name. So he became a sergeant.


MY: You know, it was interesting in South Carolina, they all treated us well.

KL: They did, uh-huh. Did you live on the base?

MY: No, I was just there... I didn't live there, we just got married there, and I went back to Chicago to work. And I stayed in a hotel room first of all that the sergeant let my husband have. You know, rooms were very scarce. And then we lived with a family, they opened up their homes. So I lived with a family.

KL: Was that in South Carolina?

MY: Uh-huh, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

KL: What were your husband's feelings about being drafted into the army?

MY: What can you do? You have to go. But they were lucky because they didn't have to go to that Mississippi camp where all the Japanese were sent. Because their IQs were real, you know how they have to take IQ tests? And so this one group, their IQs were high, therefore they were sent by themselves to Camp Croft and they all became like first sergeants or something like that. And they had to teach the Caucasian boys in Camp Croft how to even sign their names. Did you know that a lot of the kids down there, eighteen years, could not sign their names before the war?

KL: Did he ever interact with black soldiers, or was it all Caucasians?

MY: No blacks, never. Just all hakujins, uh-huh. And then when you go overseas, it's all Japanese, right?

KL: How was it instructing those Caucasian soldiers? Did he have troubles with them?

MY: No, no. They got along very well, and they got along well in camp because when they went out of camp to eat, those boys were generous, and of course, they're from the city, they're used to tipping the kid, so they loved them. Because they're more used to the city life, whereas the ones in Camp Croft were all from the hills, Kentucky. So in those days it was really... you know, the lower people that did not have much education you would say.

KL: Did any more Japanese American soldiers ever come to Camp Croft?

MY: No.

KL: It just was kind of those ten and then they all went to Europe?

MY: Because when they went overseas they had to join the all-Japanese group.

KL: Did he talk about what that was like, to be deployed and part of the 442?

MY: No. It's just, it was something they had to do and they went. They couldn't complain. No use complaining, right?

KL: When did he return to the U.S.?

MY: September of... let's see. Ronald was born in '47, so '46, September of '46, I guess, I would say.

KL: And where were you?

MY: I was in Chicago, and I got pregnant so I had to come back, then I came back to L.A. I was not going to have children in Chicago, because it was so cold in the winter you can't go out. Kids roller skating upstairs in the hallways, and then I wanted to come be near my parents, so we came back to L.A.

KL: Tell us a little bit just about your time in Chicago. You said you were, where you lived, what your work was?

MY: I lived on 4800 Winthrop in Chicago, that's the north side. And I think I worked at McClurg's all the time, where they hired all the Japanese people because we used to work hard for really cheap wages, minimum wages, and we didn't know any better, but we worked hard. No days off. So I think I worked at McClurg's all the time. I can't remember too much, what else I did.

KL: What was your job at McClurg?

MY: Filling book orders. Yeah, I think that's all I did in Chicago. In Detroit I worked in the office as a bookkeeper and order taker and all that. You learn that while you're working. You get smarter and smarter and they like you because you work hard. But in Chicago I think I didn't work too long in Chicago because I became pregnant, and I was really, really sick. Okay, in the daytime, my friend was an artist, and we used to paint light globes, hand-painted light globes, and I would do the leaves and she would do the pretty flowers and that was home work. We used to do a lot of work in the homes for a few dollars.

KL: Decorating work or what kind of work?

MY: Yeah, it was these lamps, you know those global lamps? I don't think they have them anymore, I don't see them. Global lamps, and she'd do the stem and the flowers, and the leaves were easy, you don't have to be an artist. So that's what I did at home because I used to throw up morning, noon and night.

KL: While you were pregnant?

MY: Uh-huh. There was no morning sickness, it was all the time.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.