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-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

KL: What happened to the rest of your family while you were in Detroit and Chicago?

MY: Well, my brother was drafted and then my parents came back to Los Angeles right when they had to come out. And they were at the Fellowship House, I don't know if you have, have you ever heard of the Fellowship House? That's the Friends Society, and they were the greatest help to the Japanese Americans, you know, that... I think we call it, like, Quakers? Is that what they called them?

KL: Some people do.

MY: Uh-huh. But anyway, they helped the Japanese people open up the Fellowship House, and they were, my mother used to work in the kitchen and clean and my father was a handyman for the whole place. With the church, my father was still very, very religious. And Dr... we used to call him...

KL: You told me Reverend Nicholson was involved in...

MY: Okay, yeah. Okay, he started up this house. It was at an old Japanese school before, and they took over that place on Evergreen, and I think, 506 North Evergreen, I think was the address. The building is still there, and my father used to do the gardening and anything that needed fixing, he would do it. He worked in the kitchen, and so that's where all the single people who did not... you know how everybody came out of camp, and the people who did not have families would stay there until they found a place, and they would go out and play and they would go... I think my sister was still in junior high school or high school at the time. I know that she was in high school when I had my son, because I was real pregnant when I went to her graduation.

KL: Where did she graduate from?

MY: Roosevelt High School.

KL: Do you think Roosevelt was different by the time she was there?

MY: I guess so. Maybe so because... well, it was different, but the fact is that she got to go to UCLA and I didn't. And I'm the only one who didn't get go to college. My brother went to Cal in Berkeley, and because of the fact that the GI Bill let the guys all go to college. My sister went because they went, I think they were kind of like schoolgirls, and they all... well, to my parents, college was very important, so I think maybe she had... by then maybe the guys had a car so she got to go. In our days Westwood was way out there. We didn't even own a car, but I guess the richer people, the ones who lived on the west side went to UCLA, but we went to LACC. And the boys had to drive us, and there were very few from our class that went to Roosevelt High, from Roosevelt to LACC, very, very few.

KL: What about Reverend Abe and Tommy, Isamu?

MY: Well, they just... they were old already, and Mr. Miyake was already in Philadelphia, my cousin was gone, so they just lived in little tiny rooms of people who had rooms to rent in those days, and my mother took care of them. I think they were on welfare, too, because my aunt used to say she hated it when this lady would come up and talk to them in a real, I guess the welfare lady. And in those days the ministers didn't get any pay. Now they get retirement fund and a home and all that, but not in those days. They were almost charity cases, so I know it was difficult for them, but they lived 'til my uncle died. My mother would be their caregiver all the time.

KL: Were they here in East L.A.?

MY: Uh-huh, they were in Boyle Heights, yes.

KL: And you made a donation to Manzanar of a piece of furniture that was your uncle's. Would you tell us what that is and what you know about it?

MY: Well, it was made out of scrap wood from Manzanar. It was very well-made, I thought, very well-done. And I had to help them move wherever they moved. After my aunt died, it was in my garage for a long, long time. But it was made in Manzanar and I thought, well, I'm getting older now and I have to get rid of my stuff. And I thought, well, maybe they could use it now that Manzanar did have a big retirement, I mean, a memorial thing now. So I thought maybe they could use it so I called them and they said they would pick it up. So after a few years, they finally came to pick it up, and it was, by then it was dusty, I know. But it was made from scraps of wood, and it was so well-done. I wish I knew who made it, but I don't know. But it was made in Manzanar out of scrap wood.

KL: You mentioned that one family, the Nodas. I wonder...

MY: I'm sure they're gone, too, by now, because our parents are all gone. Because I'm ninety now, so they're all in their hundreds.

KL: Yeah, yeah. Well, we really appreciate that gift. I'll have to take a picture of it. Right now it's in storage, but wherever it ends up, I'll have to take a picture to send you so you can see it.

MY: No, it's okay, I remember it, but I didn't want to just throw it out because it's historical. Many of the Japanese don't care anymore or they don't want to remember it, but I thought, well, now they have this memorial thing... gee, they have a barrack there now, so I think that they should have it to know that people were very talented, you know, out of scrap wood, they would make it, and these glass knobs, I don't know where they found it. It was coming apart, too, 'cause it was so old. I think the handles were coming off, but I thought it was very important that they have it. I didn't want to just throw it out.

KL: Well, we appreciate it. When did the Fellowship House close?

MY: Gosh... well, they used to have services there, I can't say when.

KL: So it stayed around after 1946 or so, it wasn't just kind of a one-year thing?

MY: Oh, no, not one year. They were open for a long time. No, not a year, it was there for quite a long time.

KL: So it was a meeting house as well as a hostel?

MY: It started, and the Union Church, the Japanese Union Church meetings were held there at the very beginning, because the one in J-Town was being used for a black church. And finally the Presbyterian... well, I think they made enough... well, it was just kind of like, they used to call it the hostel, Fellowship House hostel, and from that... you know, I think it's right here.

KL: Oh, we can look later.

MY: Okay, it's in that bag right there, and there's a picture of how the meetings used to be held there before the church, you know, before the church was reopened to the Japanese.

KL: You mentioned that there was a black congregation meeting in the old church building. I know there were a lot of black people who moved into Little Tokyo. What was it like for Japanese Americans to come back? Did your family have any adjustments?

MY: No, not that I knew of, not that I knew of. See, by the time we came back, my husband and I came back, it was already Little Tokyo. And they're having a historical society right now, so I don't know how it's going, but they are having a historical society.

KL: How did you like being back in Los Angeles?

MY: I like it because the weather is nice. You know, Chicago is nice, it was fun when you're young, but I wouldn't want to raise a family there. I'm glad I'm back.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.