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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: My name is Kristen Luetkemeier, I'm a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site with the Manzanar Oral History Project. I'm here today with Masako Yoshida for an oral history interview about her experiences before and after and during her time at Poston. And we'll also be talking some about her uncle and aunt Seizo and Tami Abe who were at Manzanar. Today is August, 14, 2014, and before we go any farther, I just want to confirm that I have your permission to be talking with you today and to make this interview available to the public.

MY: Yes, you have.

KL: Thank you so much for agreeing to this, I'm glad we get to meet in person and talk more about your family and you. So let's start off actually talking a little bit about your parents. Would you tell us your mother's name and when and where she was born?

MY: Her name was Kiyoka, K-I-Y-O-K-A, Abe, A-B-E. I don't know where she was born, but she was a schoolteacher in Japan before she came to California. No, not to California, to Seattle, Washington, with my uncle, Reverend Seizo Abe, who was called to the Japanese congregational church in Seattle to become the minister.

KL: Did they have other siblings? Do you know anything about the family they grew up in?

MY: No, but I do know that he had two daughters, Ren Miyake who passed away in Manzanar, she had cancer of the stomach, and her name was Ren Miyake, she was married to George Miyake. And they had another sister, Jun, but she went back to Japan and married someone in Japan.

KL: Do you know anything about their parents, Kiyoka and Seizo's parents?

MY: No, I do not. Oh, yes, my mother's mother lived with us, that's her grandmother. That's my, Reverend Abe's mother, she lived with us.

KL: What was her name?

MY: Her name was Jo, J-O A-B-E, Jo Abe, and she was a shamisen teacher.

KL: Oh, tell us about shamisen.

MY: She played the shamisen, you know that Japanese guitar like thing. They never had music to read from, just the words, and they had to memorize everything. But I do know that she liked music also.

KL: Did you say she taught shamisen, too?

MY: Yes, she did. Not to a lot of people, because there weren't too many Japanese-speaking Niseis who cared to take those things, because we were all American music. But she did teach one person at our home in Los Angeles, I forgot her name, but we gave her, we gave this person our shamisen, I mean, my grandmother's shamisen. She lived with us until I guess she was about eighty-three or so.

KL: Was she separate from your grandfather or he died?

MY: I guess he died early. I've never known her to talk about my grandfather. But no, I don't know, but I just know that she lived with us, and she came together with my uncle and my mother, they all came together as a family.

KL: Okay, they all came to the United States at the same time? What brought them?

MY: Because my, as I said before, my uncle was a minister, he was a chaplain at Doshisha, which is a Christian college I think in Kyoto, Japan, I think. And they needed a Japanese-speaking Christian minister at the Seattle Japanese congregational church, and they called him to become their minister. And they also needed an organist, and my mother could play the organ. So actually, it was an arranged marriage between my father, who was twenty years older than my mother, he was a bachelor, very active at the church, and they had to get married. And so that's how my mother stayed, I guess, in America. Because this is before, they didn't let Japanese come to America for a long time.

KL: Yeah. Do you know if your mother's family was Congregationalist or Christian before that generation?

MY: Yes, they were.

KL: Do you know why they were Christian?

MY: No, but I know that my father was a Christian, because his father, my grandfather on his side, I never knew them because they were in Japan. However, a missionary came to their door, and that's how they converted, that's how my father went to a Christian, Aoyama Gakuen in Tokyo which is still a very famous school. And he could speak English before he came to Seattle, Washington. I think he came to Seattle to learn more English.

KL: How do you spell Aoyama?

MY: Aoyama is A-O-Y-A-M-A, and my father went to Doshisha, is D-O-S-H-I-S-H-I, and that was a Christian, it's still in Tokyo right now.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: What was your father's name?

MY: Koji, K-O-J-I, Yoshida, Y-O-S-H-I-D-A.

KL: And where was he from in Japan?

MY: Saitama, S-A-I-T-A-M-A.

KL: And I should have asked, where was your mother's family from in Japan?

MY: I don't know, but I think they were in Hokkaido before, and then I think in Kyoto at the end. I think that's where his school, where he was a chaplain, I think it was Kyoto. I'm not positive.

KL: Do you know what your father, you said a missionary came to your father's family's door in Saitama? Do you know what kind of work his family did or if it was a rural or an urban setting?

MY: It's a rural place, I'm sure. We had pictures of the home and everything, it was a real nice home.

KL: What took him to the United States?

MY: I guess to learn more about America. He was very adventurous, and he spoke English quite well. I think he wanted to learn more about the United States and to speak English fluently. However, jobs were very difficult for Japanese who just came, so he did a lot of job searches. He was even working as a cook in a fraternity house, so he became a very good cook, and he could speak English very well. He could read and write it, too.

KL: Did he say anything about what it was like to be a cook in the fraternity house or any of those jobs?

MY: No, no, my father was quite a silent man. He did instead of talked, and he was a great, to me he was really a great man.

KL: Why was that, or how so?

MY: Well, because he didn't... he never scolded us or anything, he just did everything for the church, and that wasn't his job, but he did everything, cleaned up the church and everything. In those days they had coal to warm up the church, and he would be the one who stoked the fire and get the church warm enough for... and he did everything for the church. However, that wasn't his job.

KL: He just thought it was important?

MY: Uh-huh, it was very important to him.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KL: What was your mother's personality like?

MY: Oh, my mother, well, they were twenty years apart, you know. So there wasn't that much between them I don't think, but she was more on the talkative side being a teacher, she taught school here at Tule, Japanese school, which was all had to go to after our English speaking, our regular school, we all had to attend Japanese school after.

KL: How did you like Japanese school?

MY: I did not like it, I did not like my mother being my teacher either, because she took out her frustration... you know, we all had to go to Japanese school whether we wanted to or not. I wanted to stay for JAA after high school where you could play games and everything, be part of... because I was very athletic. But I had to go to Japanese school so we went. We just went what our parents told us to do, more or less.

KL: What was the name of the school where she taught?

MY: The last one just before the war was at the Methodist church, the Japanese American... I guess it was the Japanese Methodist Church in West Los Angeles, I think it was on Normandie, near Normandie.

KL: There's one on Purdue Street.

MY: Oh, there's lots and of... and the Methodist church is now downtown on Third. See, our church is on Third and San Pedro, their church was on Alameda, I think, on Third Street.

KL: But she taught even in Seattle, she taught Japanese school?

MY: Yes, it was called the Ishii, I-S-H-I-I, I'm sure it's no longer there, Ishii.

KL: What were the subjects in Japanese language school?

MY: Read and write, that was it, read and write Japanese manners, Japanese manners.

KL: Do you remember anything about what manners were important or what ethics were important?

MY: Well, we had to be very polite. And now that people in Japan are not like that, but I think if you went there about fifty years ago, they were very, very polite. And, well, I don't know what you mean by what was it like.

KL: Were there particular stories that you read or did you study history?

MY: No, they had textbooks, and we had to read the textbooks just like American schools. We had to read and write stories also, like English stories, just like American school but not as long, it's just mainly reading and writing.

KL: Did you study Japanese history or were there subjects, did you study anything about the emperor or the political system?

MY: No, it was more reading and writing textbooks. It was to teach us how to read and write and speak correct Japanese. So I could still speak Japanese.

KL: Even now?

MY: Oh, yes, because now I volunteer at the senior lunch nutrition services downtown in Little Tokyo, and so it's necessary for me to speak Japanese because they are more like Japanese people now who speak Japanese, but they came after the war. Many of them are war wives, they have English names, so I speak to them in Japanese and they're real happy about that. So I do use my Japanese. The more I use it, you know, it's good for your mind. So that's why I go to volunteer there every Monday.

KL: Why do you think -- you said it was important to your mother especially maybe that you attended Japanese school. Why was it important to your parents?

MY: To know how to read and write it.

KL: Did your mother learn English at all?

MY: Yeah, she got her citizenship, but at home we had to speak Japanese to her, but we spoke English to my father. And when evacuation came and when we went out of camp, I used to write my letters all in English, because it's much easier to write English. And my father was very fluent in English.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: What year were you born?

MY: 1924, July 14, 1924.

KL: And you've mentioned a couple other siblings. Would you introduce us to your siblings and what year they were born?

MY: Okay, my brother was George Yoshida, he was born in 1922, and he just passed away. We just had a big celebration of his life up in Richmond, California, and he was very active with the northern California Japanese. He taught tai chi, he was a schoolteacher, and he taught tai chi after he retired from the Berkeley school system, and he taught 'til he was ninety-two, very actively, and he had a class of thirty-five people twice a week. I hope you get the video of his, how he was very active, and he still played the drums at the end, too. So I think you'll find that video very interesting. It's about the camp bands, and they covered every single camp band that they had all over. And I think if you speak to Bruce about it, he will know the name of it, because he was in it also in Manzanar.

KL: Yeah, Bruce Kaji. And your sister?

MY: My sister is five and a half years younger than I, so she was quite young when she went to camp. I was seventeen and she was twelve, so her experiences and my experiences were pretty, were quite different. And she was able to go to UCLA after the war, and she was a schoolteacher. But after she got married she became pregnant and she didn't teach after that. She's still living. She was born in 1936. Do you need that? November 30, 1936.

KL: Okay. And she's Toshiko?

MY: Toshiko, uh-huh.

KL: What about growing up? What were the three of you like as a family?

MY: Well, my sister always, I had to take care of my sister, and it was just understood that I would take care of my sister. Well, my brother was just older, and he was my older brother, that was it.

KL: We were talking about, Whitney said earlier that she used to follow her brother around as a kid and she'd always want to play with him and his friends.

MY: Oh, well, I didn't want to play with my brother's friends, but as we got older in high school, he didn't know how to dance but he loved music. And in those days we were jitterbugs, we used to dance the jitterbug dance. And I used to love to dance so I taught him how to dance. And so from then we got to be a little more friendly, but until then we weren't very close. He was just always my older brother, and just the only time we would be friends was that I would teach him how to dance.

KL: This was in Los Angeles?

MY: Yes, this was in Boyle Heights.

KL: Where were the dances?

MY: At the YWCA dormitory or at the International Institute for the High Schools, we all had Japanese clubs at every high school. And we would invite, just before the war, too, we were really, really, in a Japanese clique. Because, you know, the school is, Roosevelt High School was all mixed. We had Mexicans, Russians, and Japanese, and very few Chinese and very few blacks in Boyle Heights in those days. We had, the Jewish people were the very, very smart ones, I thought, and they were musically very good so our orchestra was very good. My brother played, we all loved music, I guess, and I loved the cello, so we used the school instrument and we learned how to play in the orchestra at school. My brother played the saxophone. You know, we had to use the school one because a piano always, but I didn't really want to play the piano. And that's where I had to learn piano lessons, but my brother didn't, and he ended up, he would have been the good piano player, really. But in the end he was a drummer, and he loved drumming, and he was a saxophone player in camp. And at the very end of that DVD you'll see him playing the drums and he's, I think, ninety years old at that... and he adopted four children, and one of the sons is playing the bass guitar in this video.

KL: But he was a drummer even back in high school?

MY: No. This is what he loved, so he would play, hitting the ochawans, the bowls, and at the end he would always hit my head. I would be the cymbal. He used to really get me angry but he... and he joined the Rafu Cho Gakuen Boy Scouts because he wanted to be in the drum and bugle corps. This is what I remember now.

KL: Was that in Los Angeles, too?

MY: Yes. Seattle, we were kids in Seattle, so we didn't do too much.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: I do want to hear a little bit about Seattle, and I guess a good first question is what are some of your very earliest memories?

MY: The school I went to?

KL: Of anything.

MY: Bailey Gatzert grammar school, B-A-I-L-E-Y, Gatzert is G-A-T-Z-E-R-T, I think.

KL: What was it like?

MY: It was all Japanese and a few Chinese. That was our world, you know. We lived in the Japanese area, I guess it was a ghetto, too. And we walked wherever we went, and we used to go swimming, and I think it was about two cents for streetcar fare, and we would go swimming at the Lake Washington ever summer. Everything was free in those days, you know. And I just went to school, and in the summer we went swimming, and there was a playground that we would walk to and play, and life was very easy.

KL: What was the name of your neighborhood in Seattle?

MY: What was the name of it? I don't know. I was just, it was on Twelfth and Main, I remember it was 1043 1/2 Main Street, but it is no longer there. Because when my husband and I went back to Seattle, the street was no longer there. But the school, Bailey Gatzert is still there, because my granddaughter was just there for an opera and she called me from there, and I told her Bailey Gatzert, so she said, "The school is still here." And so I know that the area is still there.

KL: Was your father still very involved in the church or did he have work outside of that?

MY: Yes. He worked as a, he had a vegetable route, vegetable fruit route, and in those days they had, they didn't have all these groceries they had now. So he had a route and he would go around and he would have a certain route to go to sell his vegetables. And I know that this is, I guess they called it the barter system, they would make me, I would go on the streetcar to my piano lesson, and I think they bartered, and he would give this, my piano teacher the produce and I would take lessons from her. And I would go down to the church and practice piano, and I didn't like it because I wasn't very good at it. My brother should have been the one, but see, in those days, the women in my family, the girls had to take piano, and my brother was, had to take kendo. Do you know what kendo is, martial arts?

KL: Tell us about it.

MY: Okay, that's how it was in my family. I don't know, every family is different, but that was my family. And I guess my mother was the one who really ruled what we did. My father was the one who had to go to work and earn the money, and so I do know that my brother had to take kendo, which is the martial arts. And when the war came out, we had to burn everything because they were coming around to the houses to take either their, right after the war they took away a lot of the Isseis, the first generation people. And so they burned all my mother's book, the schoolbooks, and the kendo outfits, you know what they looked like, that's what, they burned it all. Which is a shame because now it's all right to be friends with Japan.

KL: Yeah, that was a very quick change.

MY: Oh, yes.

KL: It's kind of shocking to me always when I think about how fast that happened.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KL: What took your family from Seattle to Los Angeles?

MY: My father went broke in Seattle. And some of his school friends from Japan urged him to come down here because they were doing very well in business. My father was not a good businessman, I guess, I think he was too generous. But anyway, he was not a good businessman, so he went broke in Seattle and we all came by... it was just that they said to come down, and they were our church friends, and we came down here and they helped us to get started down here. And it was a very hard life for my father, but we didn't know it because everybody else was poor, too, in those days. We moved down here in 1936. I know we reached here on my birthday, July 14, 1936, when I turned twelve years old. But it was a great move because I really liked it in L.A.

KL: What part of L.A. did you settle in?

MY: Boyle Heights.

KL: What did you like about Boyle Heights?

MY: Well, we walked to school and everybody was fun at school. I was in junior high, it was very lonely when I first started, but guess I'm friendly to everybody and I became good friends with many of my YWCA people. And so it was great. It's just fun being a teenager, that's all. We had sports from YWCA, we had volleyball, we had baseball and we did those things on Sundays without any coaches, we were part of the Girl Reserves.

KL: What is that?

MY: That was part of the YWCA.

KL: And what was your church in Boyle Heights or in Los Angeles?

MY: We went to Union Church, it's now at Third and San Pedro. It was on North San Pedro, 120 North San Pedro, it's called the Union Church because it was part Congregational and part Presbyterian and another third one. But anyway, my mother was the organist, Japanese-speaking, see, we had Japanese-speaking ministers and English, and my mother was the organist down here, too. And my father had good friends that he went to college with, and they were doing very well, so my father came down here he worked seven days a week. He didn't even get to go to church until after evacuation.

KL: What was his work in L.A.?

MY: Just everything he could do. He actually, in the beginning, he was just a janitor for these men who had these wholesale produce markets. And we used to go clean the offices, and in the daytime he would be working at a crate company, but he just did everything. He just worked from morning 'til night for us. He was very good at fixing everything. He used to, like in Seattle, our swing sets and our teeter totters and everything, he made sandboxes and everything, he made from scratch. We always had a beautiful garden, too, he loved to garden beautiful flowers.

KL: What did he grow?

MY: What?

KL: Did he have favorite flowers? What did he grow?

MY: Chrysanthemums mostly. But our backyard was always nice.

KL: Do you recall the location of the market that he was a janitor for?

MY: Well, the produce markets were on Seventh Street. It's called the Highland, but it's no longer there. But it was off of Seventh and we used to take the streetcar on San Pedro, but it was one block up. That's where all the wholesale markets were and they still are there, but they are not owned by Japanese anymore because during the war they had to lose everything and they had to leave. So I know that the owner, Mr. Watanabe, went to Japan, he owned the Highland produce company. And right next to it was another market and my father used to clean the office at night after the produce market closed. Because I used to go, I wasn't afraid to go down to Seventh. Now you wouldn't want your child to go down there, but I'd go down there on the streetcar and help my father empty the wastebaskets and things like that. And we just did those things, it's just part of life.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: What about at the Union Church? Do you remember any of the ministers' names or any real leaders?

MY: Yes. I still attend right now, and you mean when I was going there?

KL: Uh-huh, like between 1936 and when you left for Poston.

MY: Reverend Toriumi.

KL: Would you spell his name?

MY: T-O-R-I-U-M-I. I have a book, I have some books I could let you see, the church books. Anyway, Reverend Toriumi, we had two there was a Donald Toriumi and a Howard Toriumi. I think before the war it was Donald and Howard was after the war.

KL: Were they related?

MY: Oh, yes, they were brothers.

KL: What do you recall about their leadership style or their personalities, what was important to them?

MY: Well, they were our ministers. And now, the Japanese congregation has really dwindled, because, see, our children do not have to have a Japanese-speaking church. And so they all moved far away, and so now we have a pastor Tien who is Chinese, and he's trying to build... see, there are so many condominiums going up in J-Town, Japanese Little Tokyo that they're trying to build up a church with all those people who don't go to church down there. And so now we have a Japanese-speaking Congregational, an English-speaking Congregational, and we have a Congregational called the Bridge, and that is, we are trying to get more people to join the church from that. Because the Niseis are dying, most of us are way in their eighties, but the Japanese speaking is growing because they do... see, before it was our parents with the Japanese speaking. And then another thing I think my uncle was there too. Anyway, we moved down here for many reasons, but maybe because my father went broke in Seattle.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: Did your uncle come to Los Angeles also?

MY: Yes, he was here before us.

KL: Why did he come here?

MY: I guess he was called... well, he was in Yakima, too, I think, I'm not sure. My cousin Mrs. Miyake was in Yakima, Washington.

KL: That's Ren?

MY: Ren, uh-huh. Jun was a piano teacher in Japan. She went to a college in Washington.

KL: How do you spell Jun?

MY: J-U-N. J-U-N-K-O, I guess, I don't know, it was never -ko, though, I don't know if they were.

KL: What else can you tell us about Seizo and Tami's lives in the '30s and early '40s?

MY: Okay. Well, I don't know too much about them after that because we didn't live together. And then they went to San Diego, he was a minister at San Diego at the Congregational church down there.

KL: So Seattle, maybe Yakima and Los Angeles and San Diego?

MY: Yes. Just before the war he was in San Diego. And then when he retired he went to live in Glendale for a short time with my cousin then, and her husband was Isamu, I guess George I. Miyake was Ren-chan's husband. They had a real cute little Chinese restaurant which they just were starting to really grow on Brand Boulevard because I used to go. The building is still there. In those days, there were all those Japanese and Chinese restaurants and I used to go on Saturdays and Sundays by the red car to be their waitress.

KL: Where was the restaurant?

MY: On Brand Boulevard in Glendale.

KL: You said it was a Chinese restaurant?

MY: Uh-huh, and they made real good shrimps, fried shrimps, they were famous for their shrimps. My cousins, Ren-chan's husband, Mr. Miyake was very talented, but everything he started, it would go broke. But they came from Yakima to be down here to start a new life, too. It was just going good and then the war came, so they had to close everything, they went to Manzanar from Glendale. I don't know how, but I guess there weren't too many Japanese from that area. I know they went to Manzanar.

KL: Did Isamu cook for the restaurant?

MY: I'm sorry?

KL Did Isamu cook for the restaurant?

MY: Yes, he did. He was very good.

KL: How did he learn Chinese cooking?

MY: He was good in everything, I think. And then I used to be the waitress there on Saturdays and Sundays.

KL: Who were the clients?

MY: Caucasians, families, and boy, if I got a twenty-five cent tip, it was really something. Mostly ten cents, but it was good. It wasn't all the Chinese food that's right now, it was American Chinese food. It was very good, but his shrimps were very, very good, so people used to come for that. It was just growing and growing, it was just too bad.

KL: When did Seizo retire?

MY: Well, just, let's see, war came in '41, huh? I would say about '39 or '40 maybe, I'm not positive.

KL: And they retired to Glendale?

MY: Yes, they did, from San Diego.

KL: You gave us really nice kind of personality sketches of your parents. Would you do the same thing for Seizo and Tami and Ren and Isamu?

MY: Okay. Reverend Abe loved to tell us stories, children's stories, and they were very short.

KL: The stories?

MY: Short, the stature. They were very tiny people. And my mother was very tall, but she used to call him Niisan, Niisan, which means "older brother," and that was it. And we used to call him Abe Sensei, and he would tell us stories at Thanksgiving, he would give the longest prayers, and we would just say, oh, gosh. My father was a very good cook, and they always joined us for Thanksgiving. And Ren-chan, she was much older than I, she was my mother's age, my cousin Ren, and very nice. But I know that she had cancer in Manzanar, and they sent her to the county hospital but she didn't want to die there so she asked to go back. And she loved classical music, and I understand she used to play records very, very loudly when the pain got real bad. And she had to give herself shots because there were, I guess Dr. Goto was there, but in those days, they didn't have too much medication for cancer patients, because this was, I guess I have, I could go to the cemetery, they were buried at Evergreen Cemetery, and I know just about when they passed away. I know she passed away in Manzanar. And Mr. Miyake was still alive then, and he went to Japan, and he wanted to become a missionary.

KL: When did he go to Japan?

MY: Oh, after the war. Right after the war he was a houseboy in Philadelphia. We all had to go back east. I went to Detroit and I also went to Chicago at the end.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

KL: Backing up to your life in Los Angeles before the U.S. entered the war, when did you graduate from Roosevelt?

MY: Summer of '41.

KL: And what did you plan to do with your life?

MY: At the time... actually, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I entered L.A., Los Angeles City College, which was the only, UCLA was so far away, we didn't have cars or anything. But LACC we could go to. And actually I didn't really know what I wanted to do because we couldn't become teachers then or anything. There wasn't much that we could become at that time of our lives because I guess more or less just working in an office maybe, but that was about it.

KL: When you say "we," who do you mean?

MY: More the Niseis, my friends. My friends, I would say that. My brother was, I don't know why, but in Poston he became a male nurse, and I don't know what he wanted to be, he was going to LACC also. Because to my parents, college was very important. Many of the Niseis didn't get to go to college.

KL: And did you have another job besides waitressing ever when you were a teenager?

MY: When I was a kid? I went to work as a housegirl, I was terrible. I came home, I think I was about fourteen then, I was terrible, and I came home in one week, I think. Other than that, no, I didn't have any paid jobs when I was a child. I guess not. Oh, I helped my father clean the offices, but that wasn't paid for me.

KL: What did the housegirl job entail?

MY: I was supposed to be a babysitter, plus a cook, plus everything, and I was fourteen, I didn't know how to cook, because I never cooked. And I thought it was just being a schoolgirl, but this woman had several, I guess she was divorced because there was never a man in the house. And she would go off and she would expect me to take care of the kids plus cook, and I could not cook. So I didn't even last one week, I came home and I said, "That's not for me, I'm never going to be..." I've still never become a housekeeper.

KL: Did you live with them for those couple days?

MY: Yes, and I didn't have my own separate room either, I had to live with the kids. And it was just an experience that made me know that I did not want to be a housekeeper. Okay, when we went to Detroit, I went to work for a Johnson Milk company and we had room and board and we worked seven days a week. In those days we had, they came to our store to buy milk, milk and dairy products, it was called the Johnson Milk company. And you know, we did all kinds of... everything, all the menial jobs as a storekeeper.

KL: That was in Detroit?

MY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KL: Let's... I want to hear about that, but I want to ask you first about what your memories are of December 7, 1941, hearing the news that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

MY: Okay, when it happened I remember we had to have blackouts, and we couldn't go far, we couldn't go to school anywhere, because we could only go a mile away or something like that. We couldn't go past a mile away, so naturally our parents could not go to work, and the money they had would be dwindling. But we managed to live, and my father did not want to go 'til the very end, that's why we went to Poston. Other people, my friends all went with their different, to different camps. In fact, most of us all got split up.

KL: Did your parents think there was a chance they might not have to go?

MY: No, but my father was the kind that, well, if we have to go, we have to go, but he's not going to go until the very end when they make us go, and that was our area. They took each section by areas, and we just didn't go until they said it's our turn. And you know what? I don't even remember how we went to the train station, but I remember we went to the train station.

KL: Did you stay in your same house?

MY: Oh, yes. Because where would we go? But I know people from Terminal Island and stuff had, came and stayed in the church and the Japanese school and things like that.

KL: At the Union Church?

MY: No, Baptist Church in Boyle Heights. Union Church is one of the first that had to go. See, they took sections and that was the Little Tokyo section, early, because I remember going to see my best friend who went with her family and her sister who was married. That's what they did, the joined the families together and they left together. And then another friend... see, they cut up Los Angeles a lot. But I remember when they had blackouts, you know, okay, I was sixteen at the time, barely seventeen, and my boyfriend lived close by, we'd go around knocking on windows and saying, "Hey, pull your shades, it's a blackout." It was fun to us, that was funny. But we didn't go anywhere, we just... that was our entertainment I guess. And then he went to Manzanar and so I came, so my parents, my father would not leave 'til the end, that's how we went to Poston.

KL: What was your boyfriend's name?

MY: I'm not going to tell you.

KL: Okay, that's fine.

MY: I did not marry him. But he was my high school... he went to Manzanar. He is now gone, he's died.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

KL: How did your family prepare to go Poston?

MY: Well, to tell you the truth, people would come and buy this and buy that, typewriter for fifty cents, but the piano, I know my mother left it with the neighborhood music school because it was very important to her. But most of the things, the big things, my father had an Italian friend I didn't know that he had, and they kept everything for us that, furniture that we needed in their garage for us. So he had most of our things, big things, furniture. But the little things, they would come into our houses and say, "I'll give you this much for that," so you get rid of it, what you can, because we could only carry two suitcases, and that was our bedding and everything. And the kitchen stuff that we needed, and my brother wanted, you know, my brother, being a musician, took all of his records, and it's in the museum somewhere. And I asked him, "What are you taking that for?" He says, "I'm never going to part with them." They're records from, you know, Glenn Miller, and he was really a musician at heart. So it was in the museum, too, this wooden box with all his records. He didn't care about taking clothes or anything, he wanted to carry the box of records. It was very important to him.

KL: When you say the museum, is that the Japanese American National Museum in L.A.

MY: Uh-huh, but I think it's now in the San Francisco, he was very active up in the north, San Francisco Bay area.

KL: What about you? Was there anything that was very difficult to leave, and what did you choose to take?

MY: Nothing. I just did what my mother told me to take and we just did. Nothing was really important to me, I don't think. I had my school annuals and everything, and I guess my father must have had this Italian family keep everything 'cause I still have them.

KL: How did your father know that friend?

MY: I have no idea, and I don't even know who they were. I was just surprised that he... but I don't know, my father was very friendly and a very giving person, but he wasn't very talkative I really don't know how he met him, but I just know that this Italian family kept our furniture and everything.

KL: Were you able to reclaim it after?

MY: Yes, he did.

KL: What about in LACC? How did your teachers or your classmates react to your having to go?

MY: Nothing, we just didn't. We just couldn't travel anymore so we couldn't go to school anymore. We couldn't go over a mile away, and we just couldn't go, so we just didn't go. And that was just a short period of time that we had to just sit around and do nothing, I guess.

KL: You mentioned having to burn the kendo equipment.

MY: And the schoolbooks, all the books. Because in Los Angeles we had incinerators in the olden days. Everybody had, instead of trash pickup, we just burned everything ever morning until the smog, I guess, got bad and so they quit that. But every home in Los Angeles had an incinerator in the backyard.

KL: What was that like for your mother to burn those books?

MY: I don't know. She never said anything, and they don't complain about anything, they just did what... like now I guess the young Niseis would say, "We're not going to go," or something like that, but in those days, we're just taught to obey. So I don't know how they felt, but they didn't tell us.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: You said you took the train to Poston?

MY: Yes, uh-huh.

KL: Do you remember where you gathered, or what that was like, to get on the train?

MY: I don't know how it was, but I went to see, when my brother went to Manzanar, I went to see him at the old Santa Fe station right there, we used to walk there from Boyle Heights. We used to walk down there, and others who went to Santa Anita went by bus, because I remember walking to, like where the Hongwanji is, the Japanese museum now is. Okay, we'd go there and say goodbye to our friends. We never thought, well, what's going to happen later on, we're too young to even look that far.

KL: You and your friends, you mean?

MY: Uh-huh.

KL: What was the mood like when people were leaving and you were there to say goodbye?

MY: Well, it was sad when my boyfriend left, because he would, on the Santa Fe railroad, but you know, that was it. The kids, we just got split up and that was it. I don't know, I guess we were not to show too much emotion. Do you think that's true?

KL: I hear different... you know, there's a lot of people who I don't know that they have strong memories of departing, and some people do and they, in our film there's someone who says that he remembers, I think it was his sister, pointing to an older lady crying, or it was raining, and his sister or someone said, "Look, even the heavens are crying for us." So I know it was a sad thing for some people, and for little kids it was, like you said, the blackouts were exciting for a teenager. For some people, who were little, if their family was still together it was kind of an novelty. So everybody's different.

MY: Yes. And I don't know that I felt any sadness or anything. We never thought what would the future bring. I don't think you do as a teenager, as your family just stays together, because we were all together.

KL: That reminded me. Your mother taught Japanese language, and a lot of people were arrested who had a connection to Japanese language schools. Did she worry about that, or did any of your friends...

MY: Yes, that's why she burned everything. But they went for the men. My father-in-law, my husband's father, was taken the day after the war started, on December the 8th, because he was a farmer and he had knives to cut the cabbage and everything, and they took him in the very next day. And he had, my father-in-law had to leave his wife who was a complete invalid, and she had arthritis and she was in bed all the time. They had to hire a private ambulance because she could not sit in a train chair unless they wanted to put her into the L.A. County Hospital. And so I know that they hired a private ambulance to go, and she was in the bed all the time. She had, he came from a family of eight brothers and sisters, so the four sisters took care of the mother. And coming back, too, they had to hire a private ambulance on their own. So it was very hard for them because the father was taken to the Tujunga place the next morning. When the kids came home from school, his father was not there.

KL: What is your husband's name?

MY: Mitsuo Yoshida. I have the same last name, same maiden name, and his first name is M-I-T-S-U-O, which means "third son."

KL: And where was he living?

MY: In Orange County.

KL: And they grew cabbage?

MY: They were farmers, they leased some land in Irvine, a ranch. They were not the rich farmers. There were some rich farmers, but his family was poor farmers. But I know that it was bad for them because the father was taken the very next morning to that place in Tujunga. I've never been there but I hear that's where they went. And then from there they went to Bismarck or something, but they finally let them all come home eventually. Not home, but to Poston. I think a lot of mistakes were made by the government in those days, don't think so?

KL: You could call it mistakes, some people would call it something stronger. I know Roger Daniels, who's a historian, he thinks that "mistake" is too weak a word because he thinks that a mistake is accidental, and it wasn't an accident.

MY: Well, the thing is now that it would never happen again.

KL: You don't think so?

MY: It better not. I don't think so because now the minorities are strong, too. See, we were just taught to be so obedient, but the few who said no, they were put in prisons. There were just a few, two or three men who said no, but they won their cases way after, which is nice.

KL: Did you hear about anybody who thought about saying no or trying to refuse to go?

MY: No. Because not at my age, we just did what our parents told us to do.

KL: What is Mitsuo's father's first name?

MY: Rokubei, R-O-K-U-B-E-I.

KL: So you were some of the last Japanese American people to leave L.A.

MY: We were, uh-huh.

KL: What was that like?

MY: Oh, nothing. It was just something we were told to do, and we did it. I guess I didn't have too much of a feeling either way.

KL: Had you heard, what did you know about where you were going?

MY: No, we did not know at all. We went on this train, and I know they gave us sandwiches and milk that was rotten, because it was, you know how hot it was in San Bernardino, that's the train we took. Now I know that that's the train we took to San Bernardino, to Parker, Arizona. From there we took a bus, and it was just horribly dusty and hot, but that's where we went.

KL: How long was the trip?

MY: I really don't know. But when we got there, I know that we were given blocks to go to, and we had to fill our mattresses with straw. Luckily I had some friends there, some boys, and they filled my mattress up with straw for me. And my mother had horrible hay fever, and we all had allergies, so it was kind of rough at the beginning. But at least five of us, we had three and two, my grandmother had died already, so five of us was enough for one whole room. Now, if we had under five, we'd have to have two people one room, where you put a sheet in between, you know that. So that's, I remember it was just very, very dust storms, very bad dust storms that would come... you know, we just cleaned the room. And what I hated was the bathrooms, that we had no stalls to sit in peace, and we would just have to sit in front of everybody, right? And you know, Japanese women, we were never taught to expose ourselves. And taking a shower, we went to showers in high school, so we were better exposed by that. But I know the parents had a real hard time getting used to taking a shower.

KL: How did your mother cope with that?

MY: She had to, right? So a few of her friends, they would go in together late at night when nobody was there.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Masako Yoshida, and it's August 14, 2014. And we were talking about Poston, and you were gonna tell us things that you liked and things that you didn't like about Poston.

MY: Okay, the main thing that I did not like were the bathroom facilities. It's just horrible to try to sit with, I think there were about eight toilet seats in the room.

KL: Would you describe what the bathroom was like? When you walk in the door, walk around and tell us what you would see.

MY: Oh, you walk and the toilets are there, the commodes, and then the shower is you go through another door, and all the showerheads were around the edges. And I think there were about eight or so. I have some diagrams, you must have some diagrams of the thing. And then you know, you just don't feel comfortable sitting in front of everybody. I don't know how we did it. And the bathroom and showers, the older folks, I know, were very, they would just face the wall and it was very difficult for them, because they're not used to exposing themselves. Now you just think nothing of it, I guess, the kids are always exposing themselves. You know, they see those movies stars and everything exposing everything. So I guess to them, now, it's nothing. And then there was a trough or whatever you call it to brush your teeth, because there were no water facilities in any of the cabins, just a faucet at the end of each cabin of four rooms, four family rooms. It just, you just didn't have the facilities that you would have in a home that makes life more comfortable. That's what I did not like about it. And I did not like the sandstorms, but other than that, we started to live a pretty normal life because we had, we became teams of certain areas to play baseball and basketball, and we were always the champs. We were the Hollywood Stars in Poston, and we had the best pitcher in town, so we would win. Then we had camp dances in the mess halls, and other than that, I was only in camp for one year.

KL: What was your address in Poston?

MY: 36-5-A.

KL: Was that in Poston I, II or III?

MY: One.

KL: There was an event in November of 1942, someone who was, who other people thought was an informer was beaten up, and then there was a strike called.

MY: Wasn't that in Manzanar?

KL: Well, similar things happened in Manzanar, but also at Poston there was a beating in November, and then there was a strike for a week in Camp I. So you recall that at all?

MY: Gee, I don't recall that.

KL: It was a big place.

MY: In Poston I? Gee, I don't remember that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: Did you work in Poston?

MY: Yes, I did.

KL: What was your job?

MY: I worked first... I had many jobs. First I was a waitress at the personnel mess hall, so I had very good food, because I was a waitress here in L.A. We had very good food, but the people did not, the other people did not have good food. But we served the Caucasian personnel there, and they were treated like gods, they had good food. So we got good food and we would have to cook for them, too, so I learned how to do a little chopping of vegetables and things like that there.

KL: What was a typical meal there? What was good food in Poston?

MY: The regular food?

KL: For the staff.

MY: For the staff? Whatever you can ask for. Whatever you would ask for in a restaurant, they got it. Good food all the time.

KL: So it was not a cafeteria line, it was kind of a short order like a restaurant?

MY: No, we waited on them. We waited on them one-on-one. And like we'd ask them what they wanted for breakfast, how they wanted their eggs and everything. Well, lunch and everything was more like lunch and dinner they had to eat what was served. But breakfast, and all the staff would do all the cooking, you know, the Japanese, because there were cooks, you know.

KL: Professional cooks.

MY: The reason I got to work there is that one of the girls in my block told me that they needed several waitresses because her father was the cook here, and so he was the cook there, too, for the staff. You know, they picked the best of everything, and so we went there and we would cook and it was fun there. Because we would eat the best meals. In between, we would have a jukebox that the American people had, the white people had, and so we would get to play the jukebox and we'd dance in between the meals. We had a ball.

KL: Can you tell me, did you ever have any conversations with the staffpeople?

MY: Oh, yes.

KL: What were those like? Did you ever talk about your conditions?

MY: Just friendly. No, we didn't. We just, "Hi," and that's it. They never asked us, or we didn't talk about conditions or anything. I guess we were too dumb to talk about those things, or to young. We just thought, well, that's life. I think that was it. And the reason I met my husband was that he was a timekeeper, and he would go around to all the mess halls and he would be the, I guess you'd call it a cashier for the personnel by checking them in so that they could be charged for their meals. And he used to watch us jitterbug, and we used to, in between the meals, after we did all the dishes and preparing for the next one, we used to make the salads and pies and cakes and cookies and everything. And after we finished that we would put the jukebox on and we would dance. And so he asked to be introduced to me and we started dancing together and that's how we met.

KL: He was a dancer, too, he liked that?

MY: He liked to jitterbug, too, uh-huh. And since my boyfriend went to Manzanar, I thought, "Why not?"

KY: You said you had other jobs at Poston?

MY: Yes. After that, everybody in college, who was in college, became a teacher. So being only seventeen, I didn't know how to do it, but I said I would be a PE teacher for a short time. So I was a PE teacher, then right after that they started doing the... oh, I forgot, camouflage nets, and you get paid a little bit more for doing camouflage nets. That's where I worked, in the camouflage factories. We got a little bit more than eight dollars an hour, eight dollars a month or something like that.

KL: At Manzanar, some people viewed the camouflage net factory as kind of political, and some people supported it and other people didn't. Was there any feeling about your work in the camouflage net factory?

MY: No, we just wanted more money, that's all. I don't know. If they did, they didn't tell us. It didn't bother... you know, we just did it to make more, we got more than the eight dollars a month that we were getting. I think that was how much we were getting.

KL: Who were your colleagues there?

MY: Oh, my friends from my block, and the other side were people from the Imperial Valley. You know, we worked together on each side of the net. There was a group from the Imperial Valley, and you know, we would be so stupid, we worked so hard and so fast, we thought, gosh, if you think of it now, we could have really sabotaged those nets by making mistakes. But, see, there was a pattern we had to follow, and the faster we went, nobody's going to beat us. It was that kind of attitude, that's the kind of attitude we had. Not that it was for the army or anything, it was just that we wanted more money, and that's why we did it.

KL: Was it mostly young people?

MY: Oh, yeah, very young. Because it had to be. You know the gunnysack stuff, it would get into your breath, I guess into your lungs and everything, we used to have to wear a mask. They were all young, we were all young. See, I was seventeen so my husband was nineteen, I guess. We were all seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year olds doing that.

KL: What were your students like when you were teaching? How was that?

MY: Well, it was just volleyball, I didn't do that too long. It wasn't like being a teacher we just played and I was the umpire. You know, serve was okay, fine, it was fun. It wasn't like being a teacher. Because now I was working at the Brightwood school across the street, and I haven't done that for thirty years as a teacher's aide after my children kind of grew up, but I still go and volunteer there.

KL: Was that your last job in Poston, the camouflage?

MY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: Were you part of a church community or any, you mentioned sporting team. Was there any classes you took?

MY: You mean...

KL: In Poston, were you part of community life, were you part of a church?

MY: Well, we all went to the church services, but it was not a small community. They just had it outdoors and we all went, that's all. I don't know that they had any Buddhist services, but I know they had Christian services. When they started it we went to worship. I don't know about the Japanese-speaking, but we all went.

KL: And it was a big gathering?

MY: Oh, yeah.

KL: How was church different in Poston than at home?

MY: Oh, you just take your own chairs and that's it. And then the minister speaks, it was outdoors, just like maybe a Billy Graham outdoors, outdoor speech, that's how it was. We went because it was a social gathering more or less, I think.

KL: Was it a similar structure to home?

MY: Uh-huh, the hymns and everything, Bible reading, yes.

KL: Did you ever have any contact with... so Poston is on a tribal reservation, the Colorado River Indian tribe. So did you ever have any contact with tribal members?

MY: Not at all, not at all. But there was a Mr. Moody who was working on the, he was there, and he was an Indian. But you know what I didn't like about him, his son refused, there was one, when the teachers from Hawaii started coming from different areas, they started coming in to teach in Poston, there was one black lady, and they refused to eat with a black person, and they would eat by our trash cans instead. And we never felt that, we never knew about segregation, and we thought, "How odd." But he was Mr. Moody's son would never eat... and he was a half, too. Moody's wife was blond, and then the child was half Indian and half white, I guess you'd call it. So I don't know, we didn't know why he would not eat in a room with blacks. That was our first feeling of the blacks being segregated.

KL: She was Hawaiian?

MY: She was white.

KL: The black person was Hawaiian?

MY: No, the black person was a teacher, I think. I don't know where she came from, but I remember there was a black teacher. Well, by then we didn't go to school because they didn't have any college classes, but they did have, start classes for grammar school.

KL: Did you say there was a group of Hawaiian teachers, or did I hear wrong?

MY: From Hawaii, yes. Because I know one, Mr. Sasnowsky who brought a cello, and so I got to play the cello again. And we had our own symphony orchestra, and were able to play. They were from Hawaii, yes.

KL: It sounds like the teachers were a pretty diverse group.

MY: I would think so, but they all lived by themselves. They didn't mingle with us, and they did not mingle with the staff either, I don't think. The teachers would stay by themselves, and the staff would stay by themselves, and mostly were engineers I would think, building the place. I think that was more of the staff, engineers.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

KL: Were there any big changes in your family's life during camp? Any real significant events, any deaths, any births?

MY: Not in camp, no. Except my cousin died in Manzanar, we knew that by letters.

KL: Yeah, were you able to keep in touch very much with them?

MY: Yes, my parents wrote to the parents, and so we did know when my cousin passed away, and we do know that she suffered so much in Manzanar. She did not want to die at the L.A. County Hospital where they used to send the people who were sick, and so she would not go. And so when the pain became too strong, I know that she would make the radio real loud, the phonograph records real loud of opera music. She loved opera and classical music, and I do know that they used to say that she used to make the music real loud and give herself a shot. And I do know that she passed away in Poston.

KL: In Manzanar?

MY: I mean in Manzanar, yes.

KL: Was she in the hospital at the end of her life, or she was in the barracks?

MY: I think in the barracks. I'm not positive, but I think in her own barracks because otherwise in her hospital, they wouldn't have let her keep a radio or records, would they?

KL: I don't know.

MY: I don't think so, I don't think so. But I do know that she wanted to come home. They did send her to the L.A. County, that's what they did to the very seriously ill people, but she didn't want to stay there, she'd rather die with her family, so she came home.

KL: Was she very close to her parents?

MY: We were close although we didn't see each other that often, we were a close family.

KL: How did her death affect them?

MY: Well, they had no children. Well, I would say that she was the only daughter who died here because the other was in Japan. And they were quite old when they came out, so my mother, who was much younger than my uncle, she had to take of them. I remember my uncle had asthma, and he died. Then after that, we had to take care of his wife, and she lived to be over a hundred. It was very difficult for my mother go over there and wash her clothes, and I remember that I was responsible to take her here and there because I had a car.

KL: Was Reverend Abe part of the Christian church in Manzanar?

MY: I don't know because I wasn't in Manzanar and I really don't know what they did in Manzanar.

KL: Are there any things that stand out that you know about their experience in Manzanar?

MY: No, but there was a Mr. Noda who was very, very close to him.

KL: Close to your uncle?

MY: Uh-huh. And I know that they did a lot for my parents, I mean for Mr. and Mrs. Ervin and Mrs. Abe, because even after the war, they used to come. So I did meet them, but I know they're gone now because I was young yet, and they were already adults.

KL: What did Isamu, or George, how did he leave Manzanar?

MY: Well, I suppose after Ren-san died, but there was a time when we all had to get out of camp.

KL: Yeah, what do you recall, there was a leave questionnaire for women and Issei, and a draft, a modified selective service form for men. Do you remember being issued that questionnaire?

MY: No, because I think I was already out of camp. But my husband was, he was drafted. He did not volunteer for the 442, my brother was also drafted. After many of the soldiers died, they needed these guys. Up 'til then they were 4-Fs or something, but then they became very important to send overseas. So I know my husband was not drafted and neither was my brother, but they all were in the service.

KL: Before... I want to ask you about leaving camp, but before that, are there any people or places or events in Poston that you want to tell us about, other people who stand out?

MY: No. I was just there a year and a few months. I don't know, nothing that I know of.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KL: When you kind of close your eyes and you think back on Poston, is there a particular memory that comes?

MY: Well, I met my husband there, and we had a good time. We used to jitterbug and go to these outdoor movies, and it was okay. It was just a time... we were fed, we didn't have to really work, or we got fed, and we didn't need much clothing because everybody wore the same old clothes. And it wasn't important. So I would say that I had a good time in camp because of the fact that I met my husband there and I was a teenager, not old enough to have to worry about working, and yet old enough to have fun by playing sports and working. I enjoyed my work, whatever I did, I enjoyed, and that was it.

KL: What about your parents? Did they ever talk to you or do you have a sense of what it was like for them?

MY: No, they never complained. They just never complained, they just did what they were supposed to do. I know that was hard for them, I remember we used to eat as a family and we used to pray together, but I know in camp we quit because you eat with your friends. So that's where the family life really broke up for many of the families, because the men would eat with... my father would be one of the early ones to eat, and he would eat with a few of his church friends who were not our friends there, but they became our friends in camp. And my mother would eat with her friends, and the kids would just eat together so we would, it really wrecked our family life because we all used to eat together. And before we ate, we said our prayers and everything, and it really, we really stopped that, definitely.

KL: How did your parents fill their days at Poston? What was a typical day for them? Did they have jobs?

MY: Yes. My father and mother took the worst jobs in camp. They were the, my father cleaned the latrines and my mother cleaned the latrines with another lady and another man, and they were not too proud. They needed the bathrooms clean and my father did it and my mother did it. And so they were the janitors, I know that my father was already quite old. I forgot how old he was. See, 'cause he passed away...

KL: He was born in the 1870s, I think.

MY: Well, he passed away at ninety, and so he must have been about seventy in camp, huh, seventy, close to eighty, maybe.

KL: Did the circumstances at Poston change anything about their relationship to each other? You said your mom kind of ran the household and your dad was out in the public?

MY: No, it just stayed the same, my father would just... my mother would be with her friends. My father was not a chattering person, and you mean at night, did they associate with other people? Not too much.

KL: I just wondered if it changed their roles or the way they reacted to each other.

MY: No, I don't think so. Because, well, for one thing, they were never real close, to me. Because until I learned about sex, I thought, gosh, how did the young people in camp who got married, how did they exist with different people in their rooms? But I don't know, by then my parents, I guess, were so old, it didn't matter that much. They went to, my father went to eat early by himself and my mother went to eat with another group by herself, I think. I never saw them eating together, because the men would eat with the men and the women would eat with the women in our block. I would not say that is true of every block, but that was how it was in our block.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

KL: Sometimes at Manzanar at least, the blocks kind of have defined identities, like people talk about the Terminal Island block, the Bainbridge Island block, the Venice block, whatever, the loud block, the quiet, what was your block like at Poston?

MY: We were the Boyle Heights block, plus the Terminal Islanders who moved to Boyle Heights, because they had to leave Terminal Island the day after, so many of them came to stay at the church, Baptist church, and that's the Terminal Islanders from Baptist church. And I would say our group was like the Baptist church group.

KL: Your group in Poston?

MY: Uh-huh.

KL: Did the Terminal Island people and the Boyle Heights people mesh very much?

MY: Not too much. They would stay on their own, and no, I would say no. We were very cliquish, I think. In fact, when we went to, when we went there, I remember a man, George Fuji came on our bus and said, "You know, you people from L.A. might find this very difficult, but we hope you get along with all of us." They figured that we're, you know, Boyle Heights had a pretty bad reputation, too, because there were some boys who used to get in fights.

KL: In Poston it had a bad reputation?

MY: No, in L.A. L.A. Boyle Heights people had a reputation of getting into fights.

KL: Even in the '40s?

MY: Oh, yeah. Not all of them, but there was one group who they were not from L.A., they were more from Little Tokyo. But because they had fights in Santa Ana, some of them were sent to Poston. They had some big fights in Santa Anita.

KL: And so the administrators tried to separate them in different camps?

MY: Yes, uh-huh.

KL: Did that group have a name? I haven't heard that story.

MY: No, I don't know that they did.

KL: It was young people?

MY: Uh-huh. And they weren't bad, they just were approached and they hit them back. There's always two sides to every story.

KL: At least, right? When did you, was there anything else you wanted to share from Poston?

MY: No. My time there was very short.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

KL: When did you leave?

MY: I left there right after my birthday. I think I had my nineteenth birthday on the train, that's what I did, on the way to Detroit, and I had my nineteenth birthday on the day I left Poston.

KL: So that was summer 1943. You were born in July, is that right?

MY: Yeah, I was born July 14, 1924. I went into camp in 1942, so I left in 1943, I think. I think I went in camp the spring of 1942, I'm not positive. I think my brother has all these papers written down, when we went to camp.

KL: Yeah, it's on those roster pages that I'm going to leave with you, too. So how did you find, why did you decide to leave Poston?

MY: Well, we were able to leave, so I'm the type that, okay, I could get out, I'm gonna get out. And we did, a bunch of us, in fact, there were about ten of us that were going to go to work in Detroit, at the end there were only three of us because the others chickened out. It's a group thing, they say, "Let's go, okay, let's go." Three of us went, and the rest did not go. And we worked at this dairy company, and we had one room to live in with, let's see, there were one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Eight of us in one room, bunk beds, in Detroit, Michigan, and the Johnson Dairy Farms, Johnson Milk Company.

KL: Before we get there, do you remember your birthday on the train or what the train ride was like? Did you have any trouble?

MY: No, we could not get off the train, and when we had to change the train we had to stay right there. No, we didn't have any trouble because you were not allowed to go get off.

KL: Did you have an escort or something?

MY: No, oh no. So you know, we were really young and dumb. When you think of it now, we should have demanded something for leaving, probably more. I think we got fifty dollars or twenty-five dollars, I forgot what it was. But we did get that twenty... I forgot...

KL: Twenty thousand, later, in the 1980s.

MY: Uh-huh, when our parents were the ones who needed it. We did not need it because most of us were already working, and my money went to my children, five thousand apiece for their college, and that's where my money, my twenty thousand went. My husband's also, we went to our... and so we were able to start a college fund for our children and our grandchildren. So when our grandchildren hit twenty-one, we were able to split it. That wasn't much, you know. When you think of it, gee, twenty thousand's a lot, but it really isn't when you have children and you're sending them to college and stuff, so that's where our money went to. But the old folks really, really needed it because they had a hard time when they came out, I'm sure.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

KL: Did you have the job with Johnson Dairy Farms before you left Poston?

MY: Yes, we had to. We had to have a job, and we'd go to where they asked us to go.

KL: You were talking about a dormitory?

MY: Yes.

KL: Tell us more about that.

MY: It was a storeroom, they even had a bathroom. They had a toilet and that bathroom was a washtub and a shower. You know, it was a store made into a dormitory. And so we did our laundry in this tub, washtub, and the shower stall, and you know, we worked seven days a week, no day off. We didn't know any better, that we're supposed to have a day off, but it was, we just did. It was free, freedom, I would say. We weren't in a camp, and it was much nicer being in Detroit than in camp as far as the weather was going, going to go through, and we could eat whatever we wanted to. And I think we did start going to college one time, but we didn't last long because it's too hard.

KL: To work and be in school.

MY: Uh-huh.

KL: Did you stay with those two girls that you came with?

MY: Yes, we all stayed together until I got married.

KL: Who were the other five people?

MY: Okay, the other two, Mary Takahashi, and she's gone, too, now. And Sumi Kawanuma who is gone, too.

KL: And they were your friends from Poston?

MY: Yes.

KL: And were the other five people that you lived with also Japanese American?

MY: Yes, uh-huh, from different camps.

KL: I see. And did you work at Johnson Dairy Farms until you married?

MY: Yes, until, I think until... no, after that I went to work at La Measure Brothers, it was in an office. We were working in an office and it was in Detroit, La Measure Brothers, L-A-M-E-A-S-U-R-E, Brothers. It was a laundry. In those days they had trucks to go around picking up laundry, so we would work in the office where they would call in to have a pickup. And then we would do all the, after that we would have to get the bills ready, you know, a lot of office work. And I guess we did well because it ended up to be all Japanese in the office except for the head lady was Wanda who was a beautiful Polish lady, and she was the boss's, kind of like a mistress. We all knew this, but we did all the work. But it was a learning process.

KL: Did you experience any prejudice or poor treatment in Detroit?

MY: No, not that I know of. Of course we just stayed with our old friends. We went to movies and such and we never had any problems. And we worked hard so they liked us more than anything.

KL: Were you engaged when you left Poston? Did you know that you would marry?

MY: I got engaged in Detroit.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<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.

<Begin Segment 23>

KL: Did you have questions about Chicago?

Off camera: Not specifically Chicago, but I was wondering if you could describe what Detroit was like in the 1940s.

MY: Oh, it was right after the riot. I don't know if you ever heard the Belle Isle Riot, and so it was kind of scary. They said, "You're going to go to Belle Isle?" But when you're young you don't know any better, you're not afraid of anything, you just go. But we were not ostracized, but we didn't go out into the public either. But I know they liked us because they kept moving us up in our jobs from being, just answering the phones to pretty soon we were doing everything in the offices, making the bills and stuff like that.

KL: I'll let you take a drink.

MY: I think so. But I don't know, I never felt any prejudice when we were in Detroit. In Chicago one time I was called a "Jap," but I knew I was smarter than she was. It really hurt, though. But instead of answering back, I started crying. But I really wanted to tell her back.

KL: What did she do when you started crying?

MY: Well, she was a telephone operator at McClurg's where I was working, and she didn't answer the phone, I guess, so I must have clicked her too often, that she didn't like the way I clicked her. I was impatient to talk to this customer or something, I was taking book orders. And so anyway, she knew it was I who did it because it was my extension. So she said, "You damn Jap," so I said... 'cause she thought I was annoying her. So I just said, "Hey, people like you are the people my husband's fighting for overseas." That was my answer to her. But you know, we just dropped it right there. It's no use fighting people like that. I remember her face, though, she was blond, very, very heavy. She was probably from the South, probably didn't have too much in common with minorities. That was the only time I was called a "Jap."

But you know, actually, I'm very proud I'm Japanese, because I think we have a very good reputation of working hard. And whatever we do, we succeed, we might start at the bottom because that's the entry level, but now our children could become whatever they want to. They could become anything, and our grandchildren all, they could become whatever they want to, they all have college education, it's good. It's whatever you want to be, you become, by working hard, that's how I feel. That's where I think the Japanese excel in their lives. The Japanese Americans, I can't say that of all the people, you know, people are different from wherever they come, but the Japanese Americans in my age, I think, feel that way.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

KL: This is tape three, we're finishing up an interview with Masako Yoshida in August 14, 2014. And I was hoping you would, we've talked up 'til about 1947 or so, you were pregnant with your first child, and I wonder if you would tell us just a little bit about highlights and important parts of your life after the late '40s, maybe starting with your daughter.

MY: Okay, when we came back, there was a shortage of apartments because the soldiers were all coming home. Not only the Japanese soldiers, but all the soldiers. And so we would have been homeless unless my sister-in-law, my husband's older sister, let us share, she had two rooms in back of a store, and there was one bathroom that we shared. And it was just, you know, the store is in front, and everybody's so lucky to have anything, a room or anything, that that's where we lived. And she shared one room with us until we were able to rent another house, because rooms were very hard to get for anybody, not only the Japanese, because all the people were coming back into the city, and all the soldiers wanted to stay in California, too, who went through California because of the weather. But this is what we did and we finally rented a place in Boyle Heights in City Terrace until this area opened up for soldiers, and no down payment. And GI loan was very low, so we were able to buy this home. And this was in... my daughter was four years old, and she is now going to be sixty-one, so we moved here fifty-seven years ago, and I still live here. As long as I can, I'm going to stay here.

But when we first came back it was very, very difficult because my husband could not get a job. He was a bookkeeper, and he was a paymaster overseas. But when we came back, they didn't want "Japs" in California, you know how it was. He would go for a job, and, "No Japs, we don't want, we won't hire you." So he started out at a dollar an hour sweeping the floors at a garment factory. And after that he learned how to be a cutter and stuff like that, and in the end, he was a project manager, production manager for Holly Bra of California, which is no longer in business. But that's how life was, it's very difficult.

KL: When he would go for job interviews or call about a job, would they tell him?

MY: "No Japs." They would just say, "No Japs, we're not interested in hiring Japs." That's how it was for many people. This is right after the war.

KL: How did he deal with that?

MY: You got to. You just do, and without the help of my sister-in-law and her husband, we would have been homeless. Because the Fellowship House was not for married people, it's for single people, dormitories, so we couldn't stay there either. It was rough.

KL: So he just kept going forward.

MY: Well, we had to, and so from there, my husband kept, we all went to work on streetcars, and I had a job, too, later on when my son was two years old. We put him in a nursery at Plymouth Congregational Church, because he worked near there and I went to work on the streetcar, too. And from that, we made enough to live together ourselves. We rented houses in City Terrace, which is right above Boyle Heights right near the Fellowship House. And we just managed to live there, and after we came here, my husband's job went up, so he became production manager. So life was easy after that. Three children went, Ronald, he went to Garfield High School, he got a full scholarship.

KL: Your son?

MY: Uh-huh. And he went to University of California at Santa Barbara where he had the Clark Kerr Fellowship, and he had room and board and everything paid for. At first he didn't want to go to Santa Barbara because they weren't very many Japanese there. I think he was one of the first Japanese there. But at the end, when he passed away, he became a teacher there. And he was very well liked, and I have all the clippings from Santa Barbara, and there were lots of people. And the children had a big, big picnic for him, not a sad thing. And it was a nice funeral. We had a small funeral for just the family and then the kids had a big... they live in Montecito where the houses were before the movie stars started buying around there. So they had a big party, a picnic up there, and all the schoolchildren came that had, that knew him, it was very nice. It was nice.

KL: What did he teach?

MY: Grammar school. It was music at first, he was a music teacher at first until they cut that out. He used to go to all the classes, all the schools to teach, you know, how they taught any instrument. And he was... for all the schools in Santa Barbara and then they cut that music school out, so he became a teacher for regular, I forgot what grade it was, but grammar school teacher. Oh, it was nice.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: I know your family's very important to you. Would you tell us who your other children are, too?

MY: Oh, Frances, my middle one, who is just getting married at sixty years old. She's marrying the nicest guy. But she had a job at Northrup in the days when it was called, before it became... I forgot what the name, it was a kind of an airplane... she had a good job where she used to travel all over for the subsidiaries. So she had a very good job, she just retired recently, and she's going to marry this guy who is some big shot at Northrup yet. And we're really fond of him. My middle one lives in San Jose, and she was working until she became pregnant with her second child. She had a very good job, too, as a salesperson, head of sales, so she had to travel all over. I think their company made these, I don't know, these tiny...

KL: A pacemaker?

MY: Yeah, uh-huh, so that's what he was, that's where she worked, and she had to travel all over. And when they became well-off because the company, when they went public, sold, after that, she had another child, so she's at home now. But her husband was a nuclear engineer, so he gave the kids the brains, and she gave them the personality, so the boys are doing very well. The older one just graduated UCLA, she has a very good job. And the next one is graduated and going to UC Santa Barbara, and we're very proud of them both. The younger one just, well, he was a freshman prince, he was the sophomore president, junior president, and he was a senior, not the class president but the whole student body president. And he was voted the most likable boy by the teachers and the students, so we're very proud of him. And then my son's daughter is an opera singer. In fact, I have a DVD that she sang for our Parkinson's support group at our church, I'll let you hear it if you could take it with you, because it's an hour. And my grandson is a pianist in New York, and he's very talented, too. Okay, and this one who's going to come in, lives in Redondo Beach but he works near here, and he's very good in art and everything, but he's going to come and put my things together

And I'm very happy with my family, that's the most precious thing in my life. Things don't mean anything, but it's very important to have a good family that you love and they love you. So I'm looking forward to this, we're going to have this big wedding at the winery in Santa Inez on August the 30th or 31st, and then they're all going to come here and we're all going to go to Knott's Berry Farm Camp Snoopy. And that's my life here now.

I worked at the school as an aide for about thirty years, and now I go as a volunteer on Fridays. Because you have to keep your mental alertness, otherwise you go downhill.

KL: How long were you and your husband together?

MY: Let's see. I got married when he was nineteen... I have it written down. 1942, I think? No.

KL: '44 maybe?

MY: Yeah, 1944. My son was born in '47, that's right, and then he passed away. We went to Mexico to the pyramids, you've heard of the pyramids?

KL: Yeah, I'd love to go there.

MY: Okay. We went there because his sister told him wherever he goes, that's where he should go first. So when he was sixty-five he retired and we went to that... not the beautiful part of Mexico, but the pyramids. And we had a wonderful time. And then when he came back he was so sleepy, he would start talking to me and just fall asleep. And I didn't know what was wrong with him, but finally he went to the bathroom in the wrong corner, and I thought, "Uh-oh, something's wrong with him." So I called up my brother-in-law's cousin who was a doctor and he says, "Get him to emergency right away." And with a spinal tap they found that he had encephalitis, that he got bit by a mosquito carrying this sleeping sickness, so he had encephalitis when he turned sixty-five. So he died at seventy-two, so I took care of him 'til he was seventy-two. When he got married I guess he was nineteen and he lived to be seventy-two right?

KL: Fifty years.

MY: Over fifty years, because fifty years, the kids took us out, but he was barely able to eat. So we were together over fifty years.

KL: Did you ever talk with your family members about your experiences having to leave Los Angeles and being in Poston?

MY: No, they're really not interested in that. I took them all to the museum, though.

KL: In Los Angeles?

MY: Uh-huh.

KL: And what did they think?

MY: Well, I took them with the kids, they didn't say too much and they kids didn't say anything too much. It's just not something you complain about, it's just something that happened, that's how I feel.

KL: Did you have any involvement with the redress movement in the 1970s?

MY: No.

KL: What did you think of it?

MY: Well, I think I was still in Chicago at the time.

KL: Well, this was later, this was in the 1970s and '80s when the $20,000...

MY: You know, I wasn't too involved because my husband was in the Japanese American Optimists group, and they did a lot of work with kids, CYC Youth Council and stuff, sports, things like that. But you know, you just don't complain, you just accept what's there and make the best of it. So we didn't complain, or if somebody complains about it, I said, "You should have been in camp," and we tell them things like that, but the kids never complained too much, either.

KL: And your parents had already died many years before the apology?

MY: Oh, yeah, because that was who should have gotten the $20,000, because they really had a hard time, but they were already gone. But they never complained either.

KL: When did they die, your parents?

MY: Gee, my father was ninety and my mother was eighty-three.

KL: So in the 1950s?

MY: I have it written down.

KL: Have you been back to Poston?

MY: No. My daughter went, though, but I didn't care to go. I'm not interested in... we went to Manzanar because it was on the way to skiing, to Mammoth. But at the time when we went, see, we quit about twenty years ago, there was nothing there except the gate.

KL: What did you do at Manzanar?

MY: Nothing. We just went there and one of our friends who went with us, her mother and father I think met there or something, so she picked up a rock or something to take back to her parents. But you know, it brought nothing to me. It's just something that happened.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

KL: If people look, if somebody watches this in fifty years, a hundred years, what do you hope sticks with them or what do you hope that they will notice about your life or remember about your life?

MY: Well, I would hope that the thing like segregation and nationality and the races would never, ever bother anybody, that we could all get along together. You know, you really hope that it doesn't matter what nationality you are, and whatever happens, you accept it, you don't fight the soldiers or the police or the law. That's how I feel at least. Why fight it? At the time the government thought it was very important, so you did what they did, what they told you to.

KL: Do you think you would react the same way if it happened again?

MY: Uh-huh, because you're taught to obey your parents. I don't know about the kids nowadays, even the little kids at school now, they're really not respectful of adults, so many of them are not. But I think that our nationality, which is getting less and less because of all the cousins, they're all mixed. We are all a mixed family now, and I think they're all taught to be respectful of the government. Maybe if it didn't happen we would still be in our little ghettos, that's what I think. But now I think that it's good that maybe we went there and we were able to get out of the ghettos. Most of us lived in little Japanese ghettos, so I think maybe it was good for us in the extent that we were able to get out to the public. And back east they were very nice to us. Nobody said, "You're a Jap," unless something happened. But as a rule I think most of us showed that we were able to handle ourselves and be respectful of the elders, and respectful of the law and do a good job. Most of us were pretty intelligent, I would think, you know, as far as schools go. So I think that it helped us to learn to get around with other people, otherwise we would have just had to stay with the Japanese.

KL: Would you, that reminded me that I kind of wanted to hear... I mean, Boyle Heights is such an important part of Manzanar's past, would you just tell us what you think defined Boyle Heights in the 1940s and what is Boyle Heights like today?

MY: Well, in our days, Boyle Heights was, our Roosevelt High School was Boyle Heights. There were Russians from Alisal Village area, there were Japanese, and there were Jewish and Mexicans, and we all got along in high school. We never thought, "Oh, gee, he's a Mexican." In fact, we liked to dance with the Mexican boys because they were better dancers than the Japanese boys, to tell you the truth. We never felt, oh, he's this race or that race, that's how Roosevelt High School was. I think we were all poor, nobody was rich. There were a few richer Jewish people, but you know, everybody was poor, we all worked, and I think we all tog along. Now it's just all Mexicans, and I don't know, I think they all get along with themselves, I don't hear bad things.

KL: And then this is another question I have, and you've talked about this some, but in the 1940s you were in Los Angeles, Poston, Detroit, Chicago, and Spartanburg. Would you compare those places? How were they different, how were they similar?

MY: Well, Spartanburg, I was just there to get married. But how would I compare it? It was a different lifestyle everywhere. And in L.A. before the war, Boyle Heights, we were kids, just going to school. And in Poston it was camp life, it was fun for me. Maybe not for others, but for me it was fun, I met my husband there. Chicago and Detroit we were pretty free to do what we wanted to. It wasn't hard work, we all worked, so did everybody else. But we stayed with our own friends in Chicago and Detroit. Spartanburg I just went to get married, but they treated me very well. Then when we came back to L.A. it was very hard for us to get started. It was really, really hard financially, so it was like that for everybody who was just getting started. But now I'm very comfortable. I'm not rich, but I'm comfortable, and my children are doing well and that's all, that's very important to me. They're nice kids and I love the kids, and they love me back. And that's the whole thing in my life.

KL: Well, like I said, I could listen to you for hours and hours more, but I will end the interview unless there's anything else you wanted to include. And I'll just say thank you so much for your donation and for your time today sharing your stories.

MY: Oh, you're very welcome, you're very welcome. I just hope these things will never happen again. I hope prejudice ends anytime, it's so bad.

KL: Yeah, it limits everything. It limits the person who receives it, the person who gives it.

MY: So I think that because we were evacuated, we got out of the little ghettos. I think that. Maybe I'm wrong, but most of the Japanese American Niseis are doing okay now, don't you think so?

KL: A lot of people are. You know, I think everybody's different in that, too, many people have had very successful lives like yours with families or career or homes, and then there are other people who are damaged in some way.

MY: I suppose so.

KL: Everybody's different.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.