Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Irene Yamauchi Tatsuta Interview
Narrator: Irene Yamauchi Tatsuta
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: October 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-tirene-01-0006

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KL: And then you've mentioned a couple of siblings. Would you introduce, for the tape, your siblings, where you...

IT: My siblings?

KL: Uh-huh.

IT: My brother's name is Howard, he's two years older than I am. And my sister is two years younger, her name is Jean.

KL: And when you were in Seattle, what was the name of the neighborhood, or do you remember the address of your mom's family's operation? What was your neighborhood like?

IT: You know, I don't know. I just remember that from our back porch or wherever we were, we looked down and there was a little white house. I thought the president lived there because it was a white house. [Laughs] We must've lived, well, I don't know if, the bus could've picked us up for nursery school. There's the Baptist church around there. I don't know if we lived around there. But we weren't wealthy at all. I know we had a car, and of course we had to get rid of it.

KL: Did you live right downtown?

IT: I don't think so, not downtown. I have no idea.

KL: Did you live -- sorry to keep asking you questions about stuff so early in your life.

IT: No, that's fine.

KL: Did you live at the place where your grandparents had the barber shop and the baths?

IT: No, that was way down First Avenue or whatever. It seems like we lived in a residential area, like Fourteenth Avenue. I don't know.

KL: You wrote down the name of your elementary school. I wonder if you'd tell us its name and what, anything you remember.

IT: Bailey Gatzert. All three of us went there. And then during the war of course we weren't there, but when we went back, I was in fifth grade. And then when my sister -- my sister's two years younger, but when she was in the fourth grade they double promoted her, or whatever you call it, not double, I don't know what you call it, half year, half year.

KL: Skipped a grade or two.

IT: And then they decided, no, I guess in fourth grade they decided to put her back, or she could go forward, and it was her choice and she wanted to be back with her friends. So she went back, but it was half year promotion, promotion or something, whatever you call it.

KL: Yeah, I don't know. We just called it skipping.

IT: Then, yeah, then we went to, so I was in fifth grade when I got there and it seems like it was November, but I'm not sure. It had already started.

KL: February, I think.

IT: Okay, then...

KL: What about the Buddhist church that you attended as a kid?

IT: Okay.

KL: Before --

IT: Our Buddhist church had built a new one just before the war, and then when the war came, the military took over and they used the gym for, I guess bunk, there were signs still painted up there, bunk so-and-so, number so-and-so. It was disheartening because it was brand new and of course it wasn't kept that way. But anyway, we went back there and then my mom, after the war my mom found this hotel, it was an apartment hotel, very, half block, I think it's south of the church. And there was a public playground across the street, Collins Playground, so we didn't have anybody taking care of us. We always went to the park, joined all the classes and baked cookies, I remember. And the place that we stayed, you look out the window and you looked down Mount Rainier, I mean Rainier Avenue, and you, on a good day you could see Mount Rainier. I mean, it was just beautiful. But then the place was terrible, had cockroaches and... of course, we couldn't afford anything, so we didn't -- in those days there was no TV, at least for us, and we did our washing with a scrub board in the tub, so we hated washing because, you know [mimes scrubbing clothes]. And of course, we had to help do that. I still remember the, we were on the apartment side, well, the hotel side, one day somebody madly knocked on the door, and this gal was running down and asked us if, my parents weren't home, somebody's after her and they had people with guns, so... [laughs] And then you go downstairs and there's a garbage pail with rats all over. I mean, it was, it was ugly. But I was glad I kind of came out of that level, but after I, when I started teaching, I was looking for a place and all I could afford is rat-infested places. Luckily I had a teacher friend that offered me to rent a place.

KL: What was your church's name, the Buddhist church.

IT: Seattle Buddhist Church. They call it Betsuin now, B-E-T-S-U-I-N, betsuin.

KL: Do you have any... first I guess I should ask, are there any other memories of before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entering the war that you wanted to share, about Seattle, about your parents or anything else? Before I ask you what your memories are...

IT: Yeah, well, I went... before, I don't remember. Well, I'd remember quite a bit, but nothing special happened.

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