Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Midori Suzuki - Sanzui A. Takaha Interview
Narrators: Midori Suzuki, Sanzui A. Takaha
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Millbrae, California
Date: July 13, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-smidori_g-01

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: This is... let's see, it's July the 13th in 2015. July the 15th... 14th...

MS: Thirteenth.

KL: July the 13th, 2015. I'm Kristen Luetkemeier, a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site. I'm here for an interview in, outside of San Mateo, California, in our hotel room. We're gonna be talking today with Midori Suzuki and Sat Takaha, is that right? Okay. And Larisa Proulx from the Tule Lake unit is also here operating the camera. And we'll be talking about their experiences in Topaz as well as their lives before and after that in Half Moon Bay, California, and then after the war and their adult lives. And before we go any further, I just want to confirm on the tape that I have your permission to be talking with you today and recording the conversation and to make that available to the public.

MS: Yes.

ST: Too late. [Laughs]

KL: You're in, for better or for worse. Well, thank you for doing that. Let me ask you guys first to just talk some about your parents. Let's start with your father. What was his name and where was he born?

ST: His name is Zenichi, Z-E-N-I-C-H-I. Where was he born? Aichi-ken?

MS: Yeah, they were both from Aichi-ken, which is one of the prefectures in Japan.

KL: What year was he born?

ST: Who?

KL: What year was he born?

ST: Was it 1882?

KL: Around 1882?

ST: Something like that. I wasn't around, so I don't know. [Laughs]

KL: Yeah, that would be kind of miraculous. Did he ever talk to you about his life or his family in Aichi-ken?

ST: Very little. Always with my mother.

MS: Yeah, that was very typical of all the Issei parents, it was the mother that interacted with the kids and kind of ran the whole show, and the father kind of just sat back and let her do it. [Laughs]

KL: Do you know anything about what that family did for work, or about his education?

MS: I guess his mother also did embroidery work in Japan, did she not?

ST: I'm not sure.

MS: I believe that's how they learned the embroidery business.

ST: All I know is my mother came from a farm, farm family.

KL: And what was her name?

ST: Tome...

MS: Aoki, her last name is.

ST: Yeah. What was her middle name?

MS: It's Sueno, Tome Sueno Aoki.

KL: What did she say about the farm that she grew up on?

ST: Not much.

KL: Where was it in Japan?

MS: That was also in Aichi-ken. I know she... apparently her grandfather was some kind of a lord of the village or whatever, because she did talk about the great famine and apparently he had saved a lot of rice and had it stored away, so he distributed the rice to all the families in the village, so they managed to not starve. And she herself didn't... she didn't do much work or anything. She said that she didn't even know how to boil water to make tea when she got married.

ST: She sure learned someplace.

KL: She was a good cook?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: Well, she had to learn all that. And she was the one that did more than... yeah, 'cause Dad was more of a... he was a creative artist and everything, so his mind was somewhere else most of the time. And I remember seeing them out in the field, and Dad would go down one row very meticulously, and then he'd stop and have his cigarette, the old Bull Durham, he'd sit there and roll it up, and sit there and have his cigarette. So while he was doing that, Mom's done a couple rows already, and he's just sitting there. So I think even the farm would not have done so well if Mom wasn't there, 'cause then she'd have to run in and do the housework and cleaning and everything. So she was quite a dynamo.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: And then they had ten kids in between.

KL: Yeah, yeah, that's a lot of responsibility.

MS: So we didn't have to hire any help, we had plenty of help.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: It struck me when I was reading your narrative, that you know a little bit about your dad's immigration experience. What can you tell us about his decision to come to the United States and what it was like when he first arrived and how he got here, because that's pretty interesting, too.

MS: Yeah, well, he came with two of his brothers, and apparently they booked passage to San Francisco, but they got duped and they ended up getting dumped in Mexico. And not speaking either English or Spanish, they apparently would just point, ask people, they'd just say "San Francisco" and people would point them north. So they had no choice but to walk. And it took them two years to finally get to San Francisco. But apparently the natives also felt sorry for them, and they did feed them, give them some food. And quite a few of their meals, I'm sure, it was because of the natives taking pity on them. When they finally got to San Francisco, it was right after the earthquake, yeah, the 1906 earthquake.

KL: Did he give you ever a description of what San Francisco, what his impressions of San Francisco right after the earthquake were?

MS: Not to my knowledge. As I said, he was not very verbal with us. [Laughs]

KL: I was surprised to read that he came with his older brother, too, because oftentimes you hear that the oldest son often stayed in Japan. Do you know why all three brothers came together?

MS: We have no idea.

ST: Where'd you hear that? I thought he came by himself first.

MS: The three brothers.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah, that's according to Chick, so I assumed he got the information from Mom. Tsumasaburo, I guess, was two years older than Dad, and then the other brother, I forget his name, was two years younger. I think Dad was like twenty-two when they came, and the older brother was twenty-four, and then the other one was nineteen.

ST: And where does Uncle Dick fit in?

MS: Oh, that was much later. He came much later, because he was the youngest... I think there was another brother somewhere also. I'm not quite sure how many kids there were. [Laughs]

KL: It sounds like you've mentioned five, at least five brothers.

MS: I think there were about five brothers, and I think there was a sister or two in there somewhere also. It's too bad we didn't really find out more about our ancestry from our parents when they were alive, and I'm sure that's what most people say now, you know. And here we are now, we're trying to document things we're not really quite sure of.

KL: Did you know those two uncles that came with your father? Did they stay in the U.S.?

MS: I wouldn't know, because one of 'em went back to Japan, and the older brother died, I think, in 1932 in an auto accident on the road going down to Half Moon Bay.

ST: Who was the shoemaker?

MS: I don't know. You're talking about something I don't know, because I didn't know we had a shoemaker in the family.

ST: Yeah. We had all his equipment, that's why I learned how to repair shoes.

MS: Oh, maybe that was him then, the one that passed away.

KL: It was one of your dad's brothers who was a shoemaker?

ST: Yeah, yeah.

MS: See, I'm learning things now I didn't know.

KL: Yeah, I know, it's great.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KL: So your dad came very early in the 1900s to the U.S.

MS: Yeah. So they started an embroidery studio, and I guess embroidery was very popular in those days, especially for the wealthier... because apparently all the men always had their shirts monogrammed, and then the ladies liked little fancy doodads. So apparently the business thrived well enough to open a shop downtown on Geary, and it's where the Geary Theater is now. From what I remember my mother saying, it was primarily because a lot of the clients were people that would come to stay at places like the St. Francis Hotel, so it was more convenient for Dad to meet with them to find out what they wanted done. And he was the artist of the family, so he did all the design work for the monograms and any of the fancier designs that the ladies would want on their clothes.

KL: Do you know where he learned to do that?

ST: I think someone said that his parents, or his father had a business in Japan doing embroidery work, so I'm assuming that's why they learned how to do that.

KL: And can you say anything more about his clients? Were they visitors to San Francisco or residents?

MS: Most of 'em I assume were residents, but then there were also the business customers, and I guess they knew about him well enough to bring their shirts and things and leave them with him to be embroidered.

ST: The military, you know, the stripes and all, used to embroider all that. So he was a pretty busy man.

MS: I think I remember Mom saying that he was also commissioned at one time to embroider the state flag or something, do you remember that?

ST: No, not really.

MS: I mean, that had to be a special one to have embroidered.

ST: Was it for some special occasion?

MS: I have no... I remember her mentioning something like that. But he did all the most, you know, the very intricate embroidery work, and all the design work. But then his father came to visit to see how the business was going, and apparently he decided that our dad should try his hand at farming and leave the business to the other two brothers.

ST: That's not quite the way I heard it.

KL: How did you hear it?

ST: Well, my mother was the bookkeeper, and they were making, that was a good business, but they saw very little of the money, and she found out the others were skimming, you know. And she approached the father, complained about it, and he retaliated by sending his son out to the farm circuit.

MS: Oh, I didn't know that. I'm find out more family dirt here. [Laughs]

KL: So was your grandfather living in San Francisco for a while?

MS: No, apparently he just came for a visit.

ST: But my father was the mainstay of the business, so after he was gone, they lost the business.

MS: She also told us the funny story about the pool hall. In Japanese, tama means "ball," and I didn't know what she was talking about then, but I made the connection later. But apparently he was quite a pool shark. And for some reason, he played against the owner of the pool hall and he ended up owning the pool hall. And he had no use to be running it, so he let the younger brother take it over. And from what Mom said, the younger brother was not worth much of anything, and he lost the pool hall also. Do you remember that? She told us that.

ST: So your dad was good at pool?

MS: Apparently. We never saw him play, but that was all the stories that we heard were from our mother.

ST: But he was no farmer. My mother was the farmer.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: Well, let's talk a little bit more about her. How did they decide to marry and how...

MS: Oh, that's typical of the old Japan, you know, you had to marry within your class and all this, so it was all prearranged. Well, they were, she didn't even meet him, she didn't even know him before they got married, because it was arranged when she was still a teenager. So she came in 1915. And she told us that the only thing she kept hoping was that he would be taller than her, because she was five feet three, and for a Japanese female at that time, that was tall. And so here he comes and he's only five feet one. [Laughs] So the only thing she wished for didn't happen. Yeah, she had a lot of funny stories to tell us.

KL: Yeah, what did she say about the trip? Did she ever talk about...

MS: Not really. I don't recall any discussion about... and I guess she was at Angel Island also, but I don't recall her ever mentioning anything.

ST: Never talked about it, no.

MS: All the picture brides. [Laughs]

KL: Did anyone else from her family come to the U.S.?

ST: Yeah. Her brother was in Mexico.

MS: Yeah, the Banditos got him. She talked about her brother that was in Mexico. Was it in Chihuahua?

ST: Well, I'm not sure where, but he disappeared.

MS: Yeah, she said the last time she heard from him, she said he had written, he found silver, and that was the last she heard. So they figured that he was killed for the silver. So I think that was the only brother that came this way, right?

ST: Yeah.

KL: Yeah, I need to do some reading, because I would love to better, have more knowledge of early twentieth century Mexican history, because it is closely tied, I didn't realize before I started working in Manzanar even, how closely tied to Japanese immigration Mexico is.

MS: Oh, really?

KL: Yeah, like your dad who came through there, and then that uncle. It was dangerous times, I think, in the Mexican countryside at that time.

MS: Oh, our father didn't intend to go there.

KL: But your mom came through Angel Island, and did she help in the embroidery shop?

MS: Oh, yeah. But they started having children right away because Mari was born, I think, about nine or ten months after she got here. So didn't wait.

KL: Oh, yeah, you had a funny story about her, about Mari and the embroidery shop. Would you tell that?

MS: Yeah. There was, I guess, a fancy dress that some lady brought in to have some embroidery work done, and it had, Mom called them diamond buttons, so I assume they were rhinestone buttons. But she had to remove them to do the embroidery work, and she had them put away. And when it came time to put the buttons back on, there was one missing. And I guess they looked all over for days and couldn't find it, and they didn't know what to do to replace it, because it would have to match the other buttons. So in the meantime she noticed that Mari was having some kind of problem with her nose, and so one day she finally took her and she looked in, went like that, and out came the missing diamond button. [Laughs] They probably didn't tell the lady that it was stored up her nose all that time. Yeah, Mom had all kinds of funny stories.

KL: Yeah, are there other stories about your parents' lives in San Francisco that stand out in your memory? That pool hall one is a great story.

MS: The one about the eggs, going shopping for eggs?

ST: The what?

MS: The egg story. Remember Mom told us about... I think it was one of the sisters-in-law, she wanted eggs, and not being able to speak English, they went to a non-Japanese store and she couldn't find the eggs. And I guess she went to the clerk and she tried to explain what she wanted, and he didn't understand. So Mom said it was so hilarious because she went through this whole routine. And in Japanese, it's not called "cluck, cluck," it's more like "ka ka ka ka." And she said she squatted down and she was going like this and making this noise, and then she'd go, "uh-uh-uh," like this, like she's catching an egg. And she said it was so funny to watch her. But apparently the guy caught on, I'm sure he was laughing, but he found her the eggs. You remember any other stories she told?

ST: Not really.

MS: Oh, you remember that one.

ST: Now that you mention it, yeah.

MS: She was pretty good at telling stories.

KL: Where did they live in San Francisco?

ST: Otsego street.

MS: Yeah. It's where Balboa High School is right now, so it's in the south end of town, just below the Mission district, also very close to City College. But prior to that, after they left the embroidery business, they first went to Isleton, which is up in the river country.

KL: Let me actually ask, Larisa knows San Francisco and the Bay Area history more than I do. Did you have any questions about their time in San Francisco?

LP: Did either of your parents ever talk about why San Francisco in particular is where they wanted to go, like what caused them to want to come over and immigrate?

MS: I imagine that's...

ST: Because of his business.

MS: ...primary reason, place that most of them were coming to. And I remember Mom saying that they heard stories that the streets were lined with gold, and in her mind she actually pictured that they really were lined with real gold. So I guess in Japan that sounded like the place to go, the opportunity to make a living was good. When they started their farming, they first went to Isleton, and is that where Nij was born?

ST: Yeah.

MS: Because Mari and then Kazuichi. Kazuichi was the second born, and he died as an infant, so then it was Nij, so I think he was in Isleton. And then shortly after that they moved to Mandeville Island, and that was where Ack was born, my brother Ack was born.

ST: Everybody was born different times.

KL: Yeah. Say that brother's name again who was born there?

MS: The first one, well, it's Nij, but his actual name was Yoneji.

KL: And you called him Nij?

MS: Yeah. We all had nicknames. [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: I have one more question about San Francisco actually before we move on to the kids. I wondered if you have a sense of how racially or culturally integrated your parents' lives were, if they, you know, you had that chicken story of being in a store that was run by someone who was not Japanese, and then it sounds like their customers, some were navy, some were wealthy people. Do you have a sense for if your parents moved pretty easily kind of between groups of people, or if they were mostly around Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants?

MS: I would imagine mostly with the Japanese immigrants. Because of the clientele he had, they had to, they felt it was better to move the shop downtown. So I don't think they really had any problems.

ST: Never spoke of any.

MS: But do you know Dad's ear problem, that was early on.

ST: That was when they went to the market.

MS: Somebody threw an apple at him and broke his eardrum. So he always had ear problems. To the very end he had that ear problem, because he never had it fixed.

KL: Did he say why they threw the apple at him?

MS: No. I thought Mom said that at that time there were some gangs running around.

ST: Yeah, they had some kind of a strike at that time.

KL: Did you have anything else?

LP: I used to work at Angel Island State Park for about four years, and I was curious, since you mentioned your mom's connection to Angel Island, have you been back there just to visit or to see sort of what the immigration facility looked like or anything?

MS: I've been there.

ST: Yeah.

MS: You know, with Jeanie's parents, because they came to there also. But we didn't go in the building or anything. It's open now, right, that you can actually go into the buildings. But when we went, we weren't allowed to go into any of the buildings.

LP: Did you visit that site knowing at the time that your mother had been held there?

MS: Yeah, I knew. But I went with our daughter-in-law's parents, and they're Chinese. And he was, it was very nostalgic for him because he actually stayed in some of those buildings and everything, and he showed us where he stayed and they played baseball here and there and stuff like that. So it was more his story that we got, because I had no information about what my mother did there.

LP: Did your father ever talk about his first impressions of your mother? It sounded like earlier you talked more about your mother's...

MS: Not really.

ST: Never talked hardly ever to my father.

MS: And yet, you know, he did care about us, and we knew, but it was kind of funny because I know when we were little, we knew that we were getting too rambunctious and he was getting annoyed because he would go... [clears throat], and that meant we better shut up. [Laughs] Right? Mom was always the buffer. It was just like when Ack broke his leg, remember? I guess they were playing basketball, he was sitting up on the stand there, and he jumped down and he ended up breaking his leg. And I guess they were supposed to be home helping with the farm, so Mom didn't tell him that the kids were out having fun. So here he comes home with his leg in a cast, and with crutches, she kind of had him hidden in the bedroom, but he finally had to come out at dinner time. But he didn't say anything, here he came out with crutches and everything, and looked at him, but he never said anything. He probably said something to Mom later, "What happened to him?" [Laughs]

KL: Farm accident.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LP: Did you get a sense of your parents and their family backgrounds? Were they relatively similar or did they come, it sounded like earlier there was, like, social economic backgrounds, but were the families, did they get along, were they similar, different?

MS: I imagine. I think the parents knew each other way back, because they're from the same village and everything. And she was thirteen years younger than our father, so there was no interaction between them. And it wasn't that unusual for them to have a big gap in age, marriages. But kind of interesting, too, also, the grandfather, actually his last name was Honda, but he married a Takaha, and the Takahas didn't have a male to carry on the family name. And apparently this was pretty common in those days also, so he took the Takaha name when they married, to carry on the lineage of the Takaha family. And from what my mother said Takaha is a one and only name, so if you run across another Takaha, it's a relative. And I've Googled Takaha on the internet, and I find all these strange names that come up, and I think, oh, wow. I find there's a Takaha that has a wine business in Japan.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah. [Laughs] So it's kind of interesting.

ST: I've got cousins here in the United States, but I don't know where they are or what they're doing or anything.

MS: Yeah. It's gotten to where the kids have had kids, and the kids have had kids, and we've kind of lost track of a lot of them.

KL: You were saying earlier that your mom was a, turned out to be a pretty good farmer?

ST: Oh, she was the farmer. She ran the farm.

MS: Yeah.

KL: And you were kind of going through where your different siblings were born, and I think I left off with Yoneji or Nij. Where was he born?

MS: He was born in... Isleton, and then Ack or Akira was born on Mandeville Island. And then that's where the other story comes in about the potatoes. With all the rich silt that comes down the river, Mom said that our father thought it would probably be good to plant things, so he tried, got some of it and he planted potatoes, and he ended up apparently with these humongous potatoes. And Nij said it's recorded somewhere, and I didn't quite pay attention. He said there's a record of it somewhere, that he had grown these huge potatoes. But there is a little town, or an area up there that I noticed when we went riding up there, and there's an area called "potato slough." So I figured that might have something to do with Dad. And I've seen pictures of other people holding up these huge potatoes.

KL: What did your mom tell you about what Mandeville Island was like, besides being good for growing potatoes? Did she say anything about the community there or who their neighbors were or what it was like for them?

MS: Not really. I think it was probably difficult because it was an island, and you're not free to just go get off the island to go get things if you needed it. But they weren't there very long either. From there I think they moved to Stockton. Let's see, Chick was born in Stockton?

ST: I don't know anything. [Laughs]

MS: And Tsuki, I think.

LP: Where is Mandeville Island? I wasn't familiar with that place.

MS: That's also up in the sloughs, near Isleton. So it's kind of like between Isleton and Stockton. But it is out in the sloughs. I'm pretty sure it's there yet. And I don't know why they moved from one place to the other.

ST: Oh, it was with the crops, you know. It depended on what they were planting and growing and harvesting.

MS: So they probably did, not really farming then, but helping with the harvesting and things for other farmers, I guess. So then from there, they finally moved to San Francisco, and they went there, too, that's where Sat was born. And then they moved to Half Moon Bay, and then the last three sisters, Hatsune and Mitsuko and me, we were all born in Half Moon Bay.

KL: Sat, what was your given name? What's your formal first name?

ST: Sanzui. Actually, it's Sanzy, but they can't pronounce "zy," it came out "zui." So I went to school, "What's your name?" "Sanzui," so they spelled it S-A-N-Z-U-I, in school. But on my birth certificate, it's S-A-N-Z-Y.

MS: I didn't know that. [Laughs]

ST: Yeah.

KL: Does it have a particular meaning?

MS: Undoubtedly.

ST: Yeah. San for San Francisco, and zy for my father's initial.

KL: That's... so they made up a name for you.

ST: Yeah.

KL: Oh, how cool.

ST: I guess they ran out of names. [Laughs]

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: Do you know why they came back to San Francisco? That's kind of interesting that that's where they first settled, and then that's where you were born.

MS: It's hard to know.

ST: San Francisco?

MS: Yeah, you were born in San Francisco.

ST: Oh, yeah. Well, they had little farm there, too.

MS: I guess they just moved wherever they thought they might be able to...

KL: Where was the farm? Was it in the same part of San Francisco they had lived before?

MS: No, no. This is way out on the south end. So it's actually right on the, at that time it was probably on the very fringe, if they were farming. There's no farms out there anymore. [Laughs] As I said, that's where Balboa High School is.

KL: Do you know if they moved, if they had a group of people that they moved with, or if they just went on their own?

MS: On their own. Well, you can't say "on their own" with all these kids. [Laughs] It had to have been a very tough life for them.

KL: And then Half Moon Bay is where you were born. Is there a significance to Midori as a name?

MS: No. "Midori" actually means "green," it's a tree green. All the names have a specific meaning, and I'm sure they were picked... the naming of the children is quite a process. They always go through all these different names to come up with the proper names.

ST: Except for me.

MS: Well, it was, "Oh boy, we're back in San Francisco," maybe, you know.

KL: What is the process? I know names are really important to some people, but I've never heard anyone talk about the process of how someone chooses names. How was that in your family?

MS: Oh, I'm sure they discussed it together.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: To come up with the proper name, a lot of them were also based on first, second third child and their name according to the pecking order, so to speak. I'm sure they went through this whole process with each child, to come up with what they thought was the proper name.

KL: So what are some of each of your earliest memories?

MS: Working on the farm.

KL: Tell us about it.

MS: Well, we did play a lot, too, and he was the one that used to take the three sisters, the youngest ones. And he used to make slingshots, take us, show us how to use it and go bird shooting and stuff like that. And we had a creek right near us, so we used to go down there and go fishing for trout and things like that.

ST: I built a little boat, go boating at the dam.

MS: Was it after I almost drowned?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: Yeah, the fishing was quite good, the trout fishing was quite good. Generally we only caught one trout, and that would be Dad's dinner, remember? Our dad always had to have his little glass of wine with his lunch and dinner, and I'm sure it was something cheap like Gallo or whatever, because it was in a gallon jug.

ST: It was homemade wine.

MS: Was she making? Oh, okay. That's when Mickie got drunk. [Laughs] That's another story.

KL: If you're willing to tell it, we'd love to hear it.

MS: Well, Mickie was the sister above me, and she was a hardhead, she never liked to lose an argument. And the neighbors next door were Italian, and they had great big vats of wine that they made in what looked like a barn.

KL: Oh, yeah.

MS: But anyway, then she and this, what was her name? Anita?

ST: Yeah, Anita.

MS: Anita, they were pretty close in age, and they got into an argument about something. And they were going back and forth about yes it is, no it's not, so the older brother Nini said, "Okay, we'll settle this." He says, "come with me," and they took us out to the barn. And he opens up the spigot and pours out two glasses of wine, and he says, "Okay, whoever drinks the most wine wins the argument." Let's see, I must have been about... I think I was about four or five, but I do remember it.

ST: Yeah, at the most.

MS: So she would have been about seven or eight. Well, she won the argument okay. But and then Anita, being Italian, they...

ST: They drink wine all the time.

MS: They drank a little wine with their meals and stuff, so she probably was also used to having a little wine. And Mickie started to get kind of drowsy and weak in the legs. And my sister Hattie was, she's the older one, and it's kind of like, uh-oh, she's in trouble because she should have been looking after us. And so anyway, she and Anita are holding Mickie on each side and making her walk back home. It was about a half a mile to our place. And they finally got her up to our property line, and Chick, Chikara, I saw him working in the field, he was doing, I don't know, pulling weeds or whatever. Hattie and Anita put Mickie down in the ditch and left her there with me. Hattie was afraid she was gonna be in trouble, so I went and called Chick, and he came over and picked her up and carried her home. And I remember my mother put her to bed, and she was just totally passed out. And all of a sudden her eyes opened up wide, and here came this stream of wine. [Laughs] And then she went back to sleep. You know, she was a teetotaler after that, even in her adult life she did not drink. She learned her lesson. Poor thing. But even so, she still never liked to lose an argument.

KL: So those neighbors were friends of yours, Anita and her family?

MS: Oh, yeah.

ST: Neighbors. Our closest neighbor, half a mile away.

KL: Did you guys grow grapes?

ST: Grapes? No. They didn't grow grapes either but they bought the grapes and then made the wine.

KL: Yeah, that's a great story. What else do you remember about that community or about other people who were in it or other stories like that?

MS: What was his name? Buzz, he used to come with this plane?

ST: Who?

MS: The guy that used to come with his private plane, and he used to... wasn't his name Buzz or something like that?

ST: I forget.

MS: Let us know he was there, by kind of buzzing us and then flying off. Oh, and then the Aldriches, Mr. and Mrs. Aldrich, they lived further up the canyon from us, and it was, I guess they were trying to save gas, you remember? They would come down the hill, and they would just coast down the hill, I guess to save gas. And then once they got to our place, then they would start up their car and take off. And on the other side of the hill was the Wolf family, and Galen Wolf was a well-known painter. And he was a super nice guy.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: And he and his mother would come and get our mother once in a while and make her go and have tea at their place. Because his mother said she works too hard, "she comes up here to have tea with me, she has to rest for a while." [Laughs] So they were very nice people. And Galen did come to visit us when we were in Tanforan.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah. He was a very nice man.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: What can you tell me about the schools that you guys attended growing up? What was its name, the elementary school?

ST: Half Moon Bay elementary school.

MS: The one and only.

KL: Are there any teachers or friends who stand out that you remember from school?

ST: Yeah, my first grade teacher. I really liked her.

MS: What was her name?

ST: Miss Angelini.

MS: Oh, okay.

ST: I used to dream about her. [Laughs]

MS: I didn't know that.

KL: Why did you like her?

ST: Oh, she was nice and pretty and young.

MS: Were they, it was part of the store owners, the Angelini grocery store?

ST: Yeah, yeah.

MS: See? I finally got all things...

KL: Yeah, was that the grocery store you usually went to?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: I think there was only two grocery stores in town, huh?

ST: Angelini and Cunha.

MS: Speaking of school, that reminds of the other story about Mickie.

ST: What's that?

MS: When we walked to school, that was again an argument with Anita, our neighbor. She wasn't in school yet, so she had to be... because we didn't have kindergarten, and Half Moon Bay started at six. So she must have been like five, five and a half. That makes me like three and a half. And we had gone down again to visit Anita and play, and then Mickie started in with, "We're gonna go to school today." And Anita says, "No, you can't go to school yet, 'cause you're too young." "Yes, I can," "No, you can't." "Yes, I can." Stubborn Mickie says, "Well, we're going," and she takes my hand, she says, "Come on, we're going to go to school." Well, school is, like, okay, one mile down to the highway.

ST: Over three miles from our home.

MS: Was it that far?

ST: Yeah.

MS: And then another mile and a half to school?

ST: What? I said to school was about three miles altogether. We used to walk it.

MS: Yeah, I'm talking about when we were three and five here. [Laughs] And stubborn Mickie, so she grabs my hand and we did walk. And we made one stop at this other girl's house on the way, and that was almost in town. And they had a ditch in front of their house, and then they had a walkway over. And clumsy me, I fell into the ditch, and it was wet, and so here I am all muddy. And after we got done visiting there, Mickie makes me get up and go with her again, and we ended up going to the school. This is when they had the old school, the two story. And she knew where the first grade class was. So here I am all muddy, and we're up at the window looking in like this. And I could still see Hattie's face, she saw us and she goes like this, you know. She went up and talked to the teacher, and the teacher sent someone upstairs to find Tsuki. And Tsuki comes down and says, "What are you doing here?" [Laughs] There we were. And Mickie won the argument, because we did go to school.

KL: Yeah, did Anita give up ever, trying to win?

MS: Well, she won the... well, I guess she did win both the contests, didn't she? I don't remember how we got home. I guess Tsuki must have called one of the boys and had us...

ST: Well, back then, they didn't have a car, you know.

MS: Well, I don't know how we got home, then.

ST: Walked.

MS: I don't remember walking back home again. They must have someone arranged to get someone to take us home.

KL: That was your first grade orientation, huh?

MS: Yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

KL: So we're back. This is tape two of an interview with Midori Suzuki and Sat Takaha. And we left off talking your visit to school. And yeah, I do want to ask Midori, when you did start school as a student, are there any teachers that you remember especially, or experiences you had there that stood out?

MS: Not really. I really don't remember too much about, I remember more about Mickie and her incidents. Obviously she was the colorful one of the family.


KL: Well, I know one of the people that comes up later in your story is the high school principal. When did you start high school?

ST: I started in the camp.

KL: Oh, you didn't attend high school in Half Moon Bay?

ST: No.

KL: Oh, okay. Did you guys know their principal, Nick Carter there at all?

ST: He was my principal in grade school.

KL: In grade school?

ST: He was the grade school, yeah.

KL: What do you remember about him?

ST: Well, he took the whole class to Lake Tahoe, '41.

MS: He was a very nice man.

ST: Oh, yeah. He's the one that bought our station wagon.

MS: Apparently Tsuki said it was one of the Dutras that bought the station wagon. I thought it was him but she said it was one of the Dutras. See, who has conflicting... because I thought so, too, but she said no.

KL: He was a nice man, you said?

MS: Oh, yeah.

KL: What was the trip to Lake Tahoe like?

ST: Well, for me, never been up there, you know. We spent at least a week, maybe two weeks up there.

MS: I didn't know that.

KL: Who were your friends in school?

ST: Oh, Eugene Tolomei.

MS: He used to kind of keep us entertained on the farm because he used to run the sled. The equipment in those days were a lot more... what would you say? Not like it is today. He used to have to run the sled, so he'd have the horse in front, and the horse pulls the sled to even out all the clumps in the dirt. So he used to let the three of us ride in the back of the sled while he ran the horse up and down.

ST: And when I finished, I'd hop on the horse and go for a ride.

KL: What was the horse's name?

ST: Mary?

MS: That was the first horse.

KL: Where did you go on your rides?

ST: Oh, around the hills, you know.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KL: Do you have questions about Half Moon Bay?

LP: Well, sort of in comparing, since you've been in the Bay Area for quite a while, what are the major changes that you noticed between Half Moon Bay as a child and Half Moon Bay now?

ST: When we left, the population was 982 or something like that. I don't know what it is now. It was all farmland.

MS: So when we left, the population dropped quite a bit then. [Laughs] It's about four Japanese families?

ST: I only know two... three. Satos, Kakimotos, and us.

MS: Katos.

ST: Huh?

MS: The Katos.

ST: They were in Montara or someplace.

MS: Oh, yeah, well, they were in the area.

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: You said the Satos and the Kakimotos?

MS: Kakimoto, yes. Mr. and Mrs. Kakimoto, they...

ST: They had a nursery downtown. That's where my brothers worked.

MS: They had no children and they wanted to adopt Chick, since we had so many in the family, but Mom said no. [Laughs] She wanted to keep all of her kids.

KL: What about the Satos? What was their family like?

MS: Well, they were farmers just like everybody else. They grew more flowers, didn't they? We had vegetables, but they had a lot of flowers, too, didn't they?

ST: I don't know. I remember their having celery.

KL: What did you guys grow? I guess I didn't ask.

ST: Everything, vegetables. Anything you can think of.

MS: I guess they called it truck farming. So you have carrots and beans and peas and everything. They also, our parents also grew some of the crops for the Japanese people, which was a little bit different, because what do you call gobo? What do you call gobo?

ST: Black root. Gobo is black root.

MS: Yeah, but there an English name for gobo, I forget what it is.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah. Anyway...

Off camera: Gourd?

KL: A gourd?

MS: No, it's not a gourd, it's a different name for it. But anyway, there were several things that they grew just for the Japanese market.

KL: Who were the customers?

ST: Half Moon Bay grocery store, Takahashi, couple of stores in the city.

MS: Yeah, I guess Dad used to make the deliveries on those.

ST: And the leftovers went to the market.

MS: But later on they converted almost all to strawberries, so that's when they started making a little more money.

ST: What's that?

MS: The strawberries. Because the strawberries were a lot more... it's much more labor intensive, but they were able to --

ST: It had a lot of labor.

MS: Yeah.

KL: You. Did they ever hire laborers?

MS: No. In fact, the boys worked for other people to keep the family going a lot of times.

KL: So they switched to strawberries sometime in the '30s before the war?

MS: Just before the war, yeah. Because originally we only had a couple...

ST: Didn't switch, but they raised quite a bit of strawberry.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

KL: Did you guys have any Japanese or Japanese American cultural activities, or like a Buddhist church or a language school or anything that you were part of?

ST: No, we were too isolated out there.

MS: For anything like that, we would have had to come to San Mateo, and that was a long drive in those days.

KL: Did you grow up with a religious tradition in your family?

ST: Not really.

MS: Well, our parents were Buddhist, so basically, like Mom, huh, she practiced it on her own. So, yeah...

KL: What was her practice? What did she do?

MS: Well, she was Buddhist. And in her later years, I guess she was very happy to be able to go to church. And when she passed... she used to keep a daily diary, and apparently she had a lot of very nice thoughts that she wrote down. And the minister at that time asked to read her diaries, because he said she had so many nice things written in it. And I think he used a lot of her thoughts for his sermons.

KL: You've, I already have kind of pictures of your parents in my mind from what you've said, but I wonder if you would just tell us what was important to them and what were their personalities like.

MS: We already said Dad was very quiet, and didn't really interact with us. But I saw him cry twice. Once was, I guess it was Saturdays that we used to go fishing down at the pier. And there was a friend there that lived by the hotel there, and they had swings. And we would go there, Hattie, Mickie and I would go there, and we'd play on the swings. And this one Saturday, it was just the three of us and our dad, and he was fishing and we were playing, and when he got done, he came to get us. And I could see him, he was standing by the road watching us, and he was smiling. And I saw him, so I went to run to him, and Hattie was coming up with the swing at that time, and I ran right in front of her and I got knocked out. And the next thing I know, I woke up and he was over me, and I guess he figured I'd died, 'cause he had tears in his eyes and he was crying. And the other time that I saw that he was very emotional was when I left. And I think he knew that it would probably be the last time that we would see each other, because I was leaving to join my husband. He asked me to cut his toenails for him, which was kind of a weird thing. But it was, I think, just for me to do something for him personally, 'cause he kind of, he was kind of sobbing when he even asked me to do it. So it's kind of a strange way of showing that he cared, but I know it was his way of doing something personal with me. So those are the only two times that I saw him actually cry. So he had a heart. [Laughs]

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: What do you remember?

ST: Well, I used to go to the market with him early in the morning. Then we'd stop by Taketoshi?

MS: Oh, in San Francisco?

ST: Yeah. And one time he took me to a movie on Broadway. There was two movie houses, and there was one that showed, you know, a cowboy movie, took me in there. After the feature ended, the lights went on, here comes these girls taking their clothes off. It was a burlesque show. [Laughs]

KL: How old were you?

ST: Oh, ten or twelve, I don't know.

MS: He got you out of there pretty quick then, didn't he?

ST: Oh, no, we sat through it.

MS: You kidding?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: [Laughs] I bet Mom didn't know about that. That's all you remember?

KL: That would make an impression.

MS: Next question.

KL: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: Well, I guess I wondered if your parents kept in touch with current events in Japan or with their families in Japan when you were growing up?

ST: My mother did, yeah. Yeah, she used to write quite a bit.

KL: Were they worried about the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Japan?

ST: Yeah.

MS: Yeah? I don't remember. She was very political, she kept in touch. Remember? She used to send care packages to them, the things that they had difficulty buying.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: She used to send them things, the basic things like soaps and things like that. I don't remember exactly what, but I know it was very, some were very basic things.

KL: Did she ever say anything about what she thought might happen?

MS: No. But after the Pearl Harbor incident, then she didn't really believe that it was a sneak attack and all that. And she was very tuned in politically, and she seemed to be very aware. And after the Pearl Harbor incident, we were all told that we couldn't leave the house after, what, eight o'clock at night or whatever. And I remember one night, she and my dad, for some reason she took me also, but we got in the car and Dad drove us down to this neighbor. I think he was a bachelor, a Portuguese neighbor, and he lived by Satos. But anyway, he had a shortwave radio, and Dad drove with the lights off so we wouldn't be seen leaving the property and all that. And who's gonna see us, we're out in the middle of nowhere, but he drove with the lights off. And I remember her sitting there listening to the shortwave radio broadcast.

KL: What did she think had happened?

MS: I have no idea. But I know her idea of what happened was not the same as what we were hearing over here. She was always, she always seemed to be very much up on what was happening.

KL: When you went to the neighbor's, she was listening to Japanese radio?

MS: Yeah.

KL: Do you have any idea what she heard? Do you remember, could you understand enough to...

MS: I know she said she knew something about some ambassadors having gone to Washington. And apparently they didn't get seen or whatever, and I know she... that's about all I remember. Because I was, what, seven, so I don't really remember too much, but I do remember the sneaky trip down in the car. [Laughs]

KL: What did the neighbors think?

MS: Well, I guess, they didn't... thought much of anything at that time. Nobody was ever mean to us or anything. I remember there was only one person...

ST: Steve Ponce.

MS: Yeah, apparently he had a gas station and it was way on the other side, so it didn't bother us. But apparently he had a sign up that said "No Japs," or something like that.

ST: We used to do a lot of business with them.

MS: Oh, yeah?

ST: Oh, yeah. Our equipment, he used to weld it and repair it.

MS: I didn't know that.

KL: How did that feel then, when you heard he put that sign up?

ST: Well, kind of strange. Never ran into anything like that, you know.

MS: Everybody else, they were so nice to us, you know. Nobody was mean to us or anything. The Monday after the World War II incident, I went to school, and everybody's talking about the "Japs" and this and that. And I didn't know I was a "Jap." [Laughs] And I don't think anybody in my class, 'cause it was, what, the third grade? I don't think they knew I was a "Jap," you know, that they were all talking about, the bombing and this and that. And the day that we had to, the last day at school, we had to leave early for some reason. I'm thinking we probably had to go to Satos for more shots or whatever. But I know we had to leave class early, and when I went out in the hall, there was this guy who... he was maybe a year or two older than me. And he came over to me and he shook my hand and he said, "Good luck to you." And it was something I remembered, because it was... obviously he had... I mean, I didn't even know what was going on yet, you know. I knew we were leaving, but I didn't know why. I thought it was just very touching that he took the time to come and say that to me. I don't even remember his name, but he was kind of a chunky kid. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: What are your memories of those... of hearing about Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entering into the war and weeks afterwards?

ST: Unbelievable, I guess. [Laughs] And it disrupted my life. I was very happy on the farm, I had everything I ever wanted.

MS: I remember something you did.

ST: What's that?

MS: There were all the rumors about, oh, you're gonna get arrested and this and that, and then confiscate any weapons and all that. He had, what is it, a .22 rifle?

ST: .22 rifle.

MS: That he cut down and made it into a pistol. And he was afraid he was gonna get arrested, and he threw it in the creek. [Laughs]

ST: That's probably still there.

MS: Could be. Except Mickie and I found it once after that.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah, we were wading around in the creek and we found it. We said, oh, that's his pistol, we dropped it back down. So it wasn't very deep.

ST: No, there was very little water in that creek.

KL: Can you just describe for us the sequence of events of how you learned that you were gonna be forced out and how you prepared to leave?

MS: I don't know, somehow the information was given to our parents. And anything to do with the evacuation, they had everybody go to the Satos' residence, they had a pretty big house, and I guess it was kind of centrally located for everyone. So we had to go there for our shots and everything else, and that was where they came to pick us up finally, by bus, when we left.

ST: All they told us you can take, only what you can carry, including your bedding. Little kids...

MS: One bag each. And with a family of eleven, of course, we didn't have enough suitcases for all that. So I remember Mother would be up late every night sewing, and she used to make those patchwork quilts and things all the time also, so she had material, and she started making these little duffel bags for us. So she'd be up late every night. When we went to camp we all had those pretty little duffel bags. And then we had to get those, the metal dish and utensils and cup for everybody, because we were told that we had to bring that, which we found out we had, when we got to Tanforan, yeah, you got to stand in line with your cups and your utensils to get food. [Laughs] Yeah, it was interesting.

KL: Had of the kids left home already, or were all of your siblings still living together? So you all left the Satos' together?

MS: Well, Mari was out of the house for several years. She had, she didn't get to finish high school, and she helped the family by going to work for the Folletts, so she only went through her sophomore year.

ST: Yeah, I know.

MS: But then she had to come home when war broke out. But she's the only one that was gone for any length of time before that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: Was it a commercial bus that picked you up at the Satos?

ST: Yeah, I guess so.

KL: Would you describe that scene? How did you feel, what were people doing as the bus came to get you and as you drove to Tanforan? What were people's demeanors?

MS: No idea.

ST: Kind of in a haze, you know. "What's going on?"

KL: Had you guys been to the Tanforan race track before?

ST: Oh, no.

MS: Never even heard of it.

ST: No.

KL: What were your first impressions on arriving there?

MS: Interesting, huh? Like we say, I think we were lucky that we had such a large family, because at least we got to live in...

ST: Barracks.

MS: ...a barrack, whereas a lot of the small families, they had to live in the stables. Those poor people, they couldn't even wash the floors and things because the smell would come up through the boards. And also they gave us those bags to go fill with hay, which was our mattresses. And our sister Tsuki, she came down with an allergy attack. So I don't know what she ended up sleeping on, but she couldn't sleep on that hay, because boy, did she get a bad hay fever attack. [Laughs] We were only there for about, what, four and a half months.

KL: What was a typical day at Tanforan?

MS: Kind of goofing off. We weren't really having to do much. We went to school.

ST: Gathered your utensils, go to the...

MS: Mess hall.

ST: Mess hall.

MS: Yeah, there wasn't too much to do at that time. People would come to visit, which was nice. Have to go to the grandstand to visit with them.

KL: So they could come inside when you had visitors?

ST: Yeah.

MS: Yeah.

ST: To the grandstand, you know.

KL: Who came to see you?

ST: Classmates.

MS: I think I mentioned before, Galen Wolf, the painter, he also came to visit, which was really nice of him. And Manuel Sousa, he used to be the scoutmaster, and Akira and Chick were in the Scouts for a long time, and he came to visit them. One of Chick's good friends came. Chick was the president of his class, and he was in his senior year. And we went to camp in, what was it, beginning of May, I think it was. So he didn't get to finish his high school. But one of his friends came and brought him his diploma, and his girlfriend and this other girl came with him, and they were Tsuki's good friends, so at least they got to visit. So that was nice. I don't remember anybody else.

ST: Hmm?

MS: I don't remember anyone else coming. In the short duration that we were there, that was pretty nice that they did come to visit.

KL: Did you have any contact with Chiura Obata or his art school at Tanforan?

ST: He might have been my art teacher.

KL: You took art classes?

ST: I think it was his name. [Laughs]

KL: What can you tell us about the art classes?

ST: Well, we used egg yolk or something like that, you know, and made the paint real shiny. And he displayed one of my paintings when we had a reunion one time.

KL: A Tanforan reunion?

ST: Yeah.

KL: Where were the classes held?

ST: In the barracks.

KL: Did you always have the same teacher?

ST: Oh, different teachers for different classes, you know. Chemistry class was strictly out of the books, no equipment of any kind.

MS: This is in Tanforan, or Topaz?

ST: Topaz.

MS: Oh, yeah?

ST: Oh, you're talking about Tanforan yet?

KL: Uh-huh.

ST: Oh. We didn't go to school in Tanforan.

MS: I did.

ST: Huh?

MS: I did.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah. Just for a short while. That's my first experience with a class with nothing but Japanese, and I thought the boys were the meanest. Yeah, because my first day there, they were throwing rocks at me. That's why Mom finally let me stay home.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah.

MS: I only went to school for a couple of weeks and then for the rest of the time, she let me stay home.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: How did your parents react to Tanforan?

MS: There's not much they could do about it.

ST: No.

MS: Dad occupied himself by making that little pond. You know, every place we lived, we always had a pond. Even at Tanforan, we knew we were gonna only be there for a short time, but he dug this little pond out in front. And I don't know where he got all those twigs and things, but he made a little bridge to go over the pond and then he carved a little guy with a fishing pole sitting up on the bridge. [Laughs] That probably took up most of his four and a half months.

ST: He was very artistic. He'd find a little driftwood or whatever, he sees something in it, and magic.

MS: Yeah, in Tanforan he did go and cut some of the, they call it, you know, off the trees, he'd see a, probably where they had cut a branch off, and it made a funny lump on the tree, and I don't know where he got the saw. Maybe they let him borrow it from somewhere. And I think there was one that he had that he cut off of a tree. Because he saw some kind of a shape in it that he thought was interesting. And sometimes he'd take it and kind of embellish it to make it look more like what he sees.

KL: And he had done that at home, too? Do you remember him doing that before the war?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: That pond sounds amazing, with the figure and the bridge.

MS: It was just a little one, but then, you know... I don't think we even had water in it, did we? Did he put water in it? I don't think so.

KL: Did your parents, either of them, ever say anything to you or to friends about their feelings about being stuck in Tanforan, or were they pretty quiet?

ST: I don't recall them saying anything.

KL: Did their demeanors or their behavior change at all around you guys?

MS: No. I don't recall.

ST: Actually, it was kind of a relief to them. No more farming, you know?

MS: Yeah, all the hard work that they put in.

KL: Yeah, that had never really been their choice, it sounds like.

ST: Oh, no.

MS: That must have been quite a transition for them to not have a routine, you know, to have to do, to do anything.

KL: [Addressing LP]: Did you want to ask anything about Tanforan?

LP: I was actually curious, when you were talking about the Italian family, Anita's family and everything, were you aware of or looking back at that time, do you think that when people were being removed and all of this was going on, as an Italian family, were they worried about Italians being profiled in that way?

MS: I don't think so.

ST: Slightly. They were restricted in where they can move, you know. Like the bakery.

MS: Oh, really?

ST: Yeah, it was on the west side of the street, and the owner wasn't allowed to go in his own bakery. You know, they made a limit line where they can go.

MS: I don't know anything about that. Whose bakery was that?

ST: Half Moon Bay Bakery. [Laughs]

LP: And then also I was thinking, I kind of lived in Pacifica for a while, and when I look back at that time in my life, I think of the beach and the ocean. And you mentioned your dad fishing, but as a family, or as youth, did you get the opportunity just to go down to the ocean and play at the beach, or do you have any memories of just being on the ocean or the water?

MS: That was where we spent most of our Saturdays, yeah. We all got to go fish, and at low tides, we always went to get abalone.

ST: At Pillar Point.

MS: That's where Maverick's is now, where they have all that. But we used to climb up and over, there's that big radar station up there now. But we used to climb over that hill and go down to the other side. And then there was a very rocky beach down there, and that's where we used to go to get abalone when they had minus tides.

ST: Abalone and octopus.

MS: Yeah.

ST: Mussels.

MS: My mother was good at catching octopus.

KL: How do you catch an octopus?

ST: Ask my mother.

MS: She grabbed it with her hands. She saw it at the low tide, I guess it got caught in the, in between the rocks there, and she saw it and she just reached in. And I guess the thing wrapped around her. She was fearless. [Laughs]

ST: And she put it in a sack and had quite a nice meal.

LP: Did we get the exact location of where the farm was in Half Moon Bay? Do you...

MS: It's now...

ST: We used to call it Gumtree Lane.

MS: Gumtree Lane.

ST: But there's no more gum trees now, so they call it... what?

MS: Do you remember the name of the... gosh. Frenchmans Creek? That's what it's called, Frenchmans Creek Road.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: Yeah, that's right.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LP: So then in Tanforan, I guess, my main questions were, just for entertainment or just besides playing with your siblings, do you recall anything at Tanforan?

MS: They had a rec. hall and...

ST: Goro Suzuki, right?

MS: They used to have a talent show, and they would have it at the grandstands. Everybody used to go for that.

ST: What's that show he was in later on?

MS: He was in that TV show for quite a while.

ST: Yeah.

MS: I forget. He used to go, he was a professional singer before the war broke out, but then he went by Jack Soo. And he was in a TV comedy for a long time.

ST: Sitcom.

MS: But he was also in the Flower Drum Song, he was in the movie version.

KL: Did you remember him from Tanforan?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: He was also dating our sister Tsuki... she was very popular, and he was one of her dates, one of her many dates. [Laughs] And they did keep in touch for quite a while.

KL: What did people do to date in Tanforan? When Tsuki would go out with people, what would they do, where would they go?

MS: I don't know if they had time for much dating or anything in Tanforan. They must have had dances, though, didn't they? Even in that short time?

ST: Don't remember.

MS: You were too young, too.

ST: What do you mean? I was fifteen years old.

MS: Did they have dances?

ST: Huh?

MS: Did they have dances in Tanforan?

ST: Possibly.

KL: Did you go on dates in Tanforan?

ST: No.

MS: He was too shy. [Laughs]

KL: That's like me. So Fred Korematsu was sent to Tanforan after he was released from jail for resisting aspects of Japanese American removal and control. Do you remember hearing Fred Korematsu's name or people talking about that at all?

ST: No.

MS: I don't.

KL: Are there things about Tanforan that you think it's important to record that Larisa or I didn't know to ask about? Anything else that stands out from that time?

MS: I can't think of anything.

ST: There was people living in horse stables.

KL: Were you in any of the horse stables ever?

ST: Well, I visited people.

KL: Yeah, that's what I mean. Would you... we should probably ask you to describe that visit or those visits. What were the horse stalls like?

MS: Very, very tiny. [Laughs]

ST: The smell.

MS: Yeah, the smell was terrible. There was a story about a ghost, remember that?

ST: Ghost?

MS: Yeah, it's by the horse stables. And I guess in Japanese lore there's something about, it's seen as a ball of white? Yeah, they called it a hinotama. There was a story about, they would see it at night, and I guess they decided it was some kind of a ghost, a ghostly image that they were seeing.

ST: Kind of friendly. [Laughs]

MS: Yeah. I don't know if they ever figured out what it was, so I think they did decide it was some kind of a ghostly thing. Or maybe somebody started that just to cause some excitement. I do remember the guys playing baseball out on the racetrack.

ST: Oh, yeah. Well, I used to run around the track.

MS: Yeah, he was always the health freak. He used to make us eat oatmeal when we were little and everything because it was healthy.

KL: Were you involved in organized sports, team sports?

ST: Not really.

KL: But you were a runner?

ST: Oh, yeah. I used to get off the bus on the highway, and it was one mile to the house, and I used to run home.

KL: Yeah, and you were the horse rider, too.

ST: Yeah.

KL: What happened to the horse when you had to leave?

ST: You know, I don't know what happened to it.

MS: I don't know who took the horse.

KL: Did you miss that?

MS: Oh, yeah.

ST: Oh, our farm equipment. What happened to the tractor and everything? I think we just abandoned it. They gave us, what, two weeks to pack up and go.

MS: The cats and dogs, I guess it was the, like the SPCA that did it, right? Because I remember they had the cages on the back of the truck. There was that one cat that we called Blackie, that she used to have babies all the time. And our father tried to get rid of her. And once he took her down near Pacifica area and dumped her off, and she came home. And then the next time, he took her up on Highway 92 and dumped her off, and she came home. And she was a real smart cat. So she'd go up in the hills and she'd bring home little baby rabbits just like it was her own baby, and that's how we had those rabbits in the cage, because she would bring home these baby rabbits. And then once she brought home an adult rabbit, but that one she did kill first. And we could see her coming across the field dragging this rabbit. But she would never eat anything unless she was told she could eat it.

ST: She would eat off the head and leave the body on the doorstep.

KL: How thoughtful.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: But after we came out of camp, we made a trip back to kind of look at the farm, and there was a cat that came running down the hill. And she was a calico, and I'm sure it wasn't her, but this cat was a calico and it looked just like her. So I think wherever she was taken, she must have come back again and probably had more babies, because it looked just like her. She was a really smart cat.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KL: When you were in Tanforan, what did you think would happen next?

MS: Well, we knew that was temporary, that we would be going somewhere else, but we didn't know where. And then the day came and we did have to go.

LP: Tell us about that.

ST: Long train ride.

MS: Yeah, they escorted us out the back, and it was kind of convenient, because all they'd do is put us out the gate, and the trains were there. For some reason we were told not to lift the shades, remember?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: So we had to get in the train and it was all dark inside, and we'd kind of peek out and see if we could tell where we were going. I don't know why we had to keep the shades down. I kind of thought it was like they didn't want us to know where we were going.

ST: Or they didn't want other people to see what was going on.

MS: Probably more reasonable. They would panic if they saw a train full of "Japs."

KL: Sat, you said everything you wanted was on the farm, and then you had those friends from school come visit in Tanforan. How did you feel headed toward Topaz?

ST: Well, all I can say is loved that life on the farm, and they took it away from me. So I guess I was bitter.

KL: When you were fifteen, what were your expectations or your hopes for adult life? What did you think your life would be like before the war?

ST: On the farm, well, I thought I'd be a farmer. I loved that life.

MS: Well, you didn't end up being a farmer.

ST: No.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

KL: When you got to Topaz, what did you see? What was your experience right at the arrival?

ST: A vast desert.

MS: Like the heat.

ST: Huh?

MS: The heat and the dust storm. Don't you remember the first day? We had a terrific dust storm, and you'd look out the window and you couldn't see the next building. And the bottom of the barracks were open, they were kind of like on stilts. And the floorboards had like an eighth of an inch of a crack in between the floorboards, so all the dust was blowing underneath, and it was coming into the apartment unit. God, it was a mess. It was quite a greeting we got. So it was kind of like, wow, this is what life is gonna be like here with all these dust storms. But fortunately, they didn't happen every day.

KL: Who was, what can you tell us about your living quarters in Topaz? Who was with you? When I walk in the door, what would I see?

MS: Again, we had two adjoining units, so they made an opening in between the two units. In the beginning, Mari, the oldest sister, she had come earlier because she was working with the hospital crew. But anyway, they made a partition, so Mari had one little corner. The boys took their cots and made them into bunkbeds, so the four boys were on one side and Mari was in the little corner by herself. And then the rest of us were in the second unit. And somehow they made partitions with cloth or whatever, so we had like a walkway, and we slept on both sides. Then about a year or so later, there was a young couple that lived in the small unit next to us. And when they had their second child, they were given a bigger unit, so Mari and Tsuki were able to move in and take that unit. So it made it a little less crowded. [Laughs]

KL: What was your address in Topaz?

ST: 30-3-D-E-F.

KL: Do you remember any of your neighbors?

MS: The Hananouchis lived in on the corner.

ST: Yeah, Hananouchi on the end.

MS: Minamis across...

ST: Minami, yeah, yeah.

MS: ...across from us.

KL: Where were those families from?

ST: Who knows?

KL: I mean, you guys knew very few people, right, if it was just those three Japanese families in Half Moon Bay. What was that like, to be meeting so many new people and surrounded by Japanese Americans?

ST: [Laughs] Different.

MS: Yeah, to say the least.

KL: How was it different?

ST: Wasn't used to so many.

MS: So many "Japs"? [Laughs] Terrible, huh? I think everybody settled in pretty quickly though, you know, we all started making friends.

KL: Do you remember, I mean, in Manzanar, there were people from downtown Los Angeles living with farming families from the central valley. Were there ever any tensions in Topaz or any differences that you noticed between people?

MS: I don't think so. I think they all pretty well worked together. I think you pretty much have to in that kind of a situation. Once we got to Topaz, of course, everybody were assigned jobs and things. So that kept everybody pretty busy.


KL: So let's see, when we left off, we were talking about the barracks in Topaz and first arrivals. And you had mentioned that everybody got jobs and started working pretty quickly. And your siblings and your folks had kind of some interesting jobs, so would you just tell us where people started working and that they were, what their duties were?

ST: I was pot washer at the mess hall.

MS: That was what Chick did also.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah, at first, and then apparently later he was assigned to the fire department.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah.

KL: Was that the Block 33 mess hall?

MS: Thirty.

ST: Thirty.

MS: Block 30.

KL: But you lived in 33, right?

MS: No. Thirty, building 3.

KL: Oh, I see, okay.

MS: Thirty, building 3, D-E-F.

KL: Gotcha, okay. So you worked in the mess hall there in Block 30.

MS: And my mom worked in the kitchen.

ST: Yeah, worked side by side.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MS: And Dad in the beginning, he was on some kind of a work crew. I know he was going out of camp, outside the camp, and again, he would bring back all those rocks to build the pond. So again, he built a great big pond in the front. And I don't know how he managed, but he brought those huge boulders back.

KL: How big were they?

MS: Big ones. They had to be awfully heavy. But he built a huge pond because we had the three units, and he built it, down the front of all three units, and it went underneath the stairwell to go on the other side of the small unit. And he got carps somewhere, I guess there was little irrigation ditches that had carps in it. And I guess he got to go fishing because he would bring, I think he had about three or four carps in there, great big things. They weren't very pretty, but we had fish in our fish pond. Then he'd find little sagebrush type things and he would plant those to make it look like a garden. It wasn't very pretty, but it was something.

KL: Did it have water in it? Did he build a pond?

MS: Yeah, he did.

KL: Was it concrete lined or was it dirt?

MS: No, no. It looked like clay.

TS: Yeah, probably.

MS: I don't know where he got that either, but he lined the whole thing with a, like a clay type material. So it was pretty innovative for him to find all that stuff to do.

KL: I got so excited when I read that last night, that he had a pond and a garden. Do you know if it's still visible at Topaz?

MS: It was the last time that we went there. We went to one of the reunions... the first time we went there, we couldn't really figure out the layout. The last time we went, it was for one of the reunions, and they had it kind of visibly marked so that you could figure out where it was. And we found the remains of the of the pond, the boulders that he had put up there.

KL: Did he line the edge of the pond with rocks, too?

MS: Yeah, well, that's what he kind of used with the big rocks. And then they were kind of placed so that they were attractive looking. So that was why we were able to find the pond.

KL: And you said part of it went kind of under the stairs? What was the shape of the pond?

MS: Well, it was just kind of a meandering thing.

KL: Yeah, I'll have to look and see if I can find pictures of it or anything. Did he make any carvings for that pond like at Tanforan?

MS: I don't remember. I think it was mostly just like a rock garden.

KL: I had a question actually, Sat, about working in the mess hall. Mess halls sometimes were pretty political places, they were gathering place sometimes, and like at Manzanar there was a worker's union of mess hall workers, because sugar --

ST: Oh, I wouldn't know about anything like that. [Laughs]

KL: You had no...

ST: Too busy.

KL: Did you hear of anything political about mess halls?

ST: No.

KL: No, it was just a place to eat?

MS: Well, it was. That's where they had all their meetings, though, after the questionnaire thing came out. That's when the draft became a reality. That's when our mother got very, very vocal.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

KL: I want to hear more about that, but first, tell me where else people in your family, what other jobs people had?

MS: Well, I already mentioned, Mari was working in the hospital, she was a nurse.

KL: What did she say about the condition of the hospital as it got set up, as people were arriving at Tanforan?

MS: I don't recall any conversation.

ST: I was never in there, so I don't know.

MS: I mean, she was like a baby nurse for the Folletts, that was basically her training. And yet, I remember her talking about sitting in on surgery and finding it very interesting. Apparently she was helping during the surgeries and stuff.

KL: Did she talk about the other staff, her questions of the doctors or the administrators?

MS: Not that I recall. And Tsuki, after she graduated from high school, also went to work at the hospital as a, doing secretarial work. And Hattie said that at one time she also helped out.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah, in the diet kitchen. So we had three of 'em working there.

KL: Did anyone in your family require medical attention in Topaz or ever go to the hospital?

ST: I don't think so.

MS: I don't recall.

KL: There was a doctor, actually two doctors, a husband and wife, who were first confined in Manzanar, and then in early 1943 they were moved to Topaz, Dr. Goto, James Goto, and Dr. Kusayanagi. Do you remember hearing their names?

MS: I remember the names.

ST: Goto I remember.

MS: I remember hearing both names.

KL: What did you hear about them? What was their reputation?

MS: I have no idea. The names are familiar, that's all.

KL: Yeah, I was telling Larisa, it's interesting, I mean, they're pretty famous. Like a lot of people like you guys have heard of them, and I'm curious about why. Just because they were such excellent doctors, or they were really outspoken?

ST: Because they were doctors. [Laughs]

KL: So then were there other jobs that people held in your family?

ST: Every summer I went out to farms or orchards and worked.

MS: All the boys did that, huh?

ST: Yeah.

KL: Were you still living at Topaz?

MS: And our brother Ack, Akira, he worked for the Topaz Times.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah, he and Fudgie worked at the Topaz Times.

KL: Yeah, I made a note to ask about that. What did he think of his job there? Did he like working for the...

MS: I have no idea. I think he liked working there because that's where his girlfriend was. And they did eventually get married, so I think that was why he was there. And I don't even know what he did there.

KL: What's his wife's name?

MS: Fudgie.

KL: What was her maiden name?

MS: Last name was Matsuzaki.

KL: Did other people like your neighbors or friends have an opinion about him working for the Topaz Times, or did your parents?

MS: No. Covered all the brothers, huh? Oh, well, Yoneji worked at the motor pool. I don't exactly know what that meant, driving a truck around for whenever needed.

KL: What were your tasks in the orchard?

ST: Picking fruit.

KL: What kind of fruit grew there?

ST: Peaches and pears and cherries. Then I worked on the farm, I worked in the beet field.

MS: Where did you go?

ST: I forget the names of... right in Utah.

MS: Oh, I didn't know that.

ST: I remember sending a box of peaches to a girl in Topaz, to Cherry Tamura, and she mistook my name for another Sat, so I never got thanked. [Laughs] Well, she thanked me later, but...

KL: Were you still living at Topaz in the barracks?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: Were those fruit trees that, they were older trees, right?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: So were they like private farms, or were they...

ST: Oh, yeah. I mean, all their sons were in the army, so they needed help. So they let us go out there and pick the fruit.

KL: What were your interactions like with the farm owners?

ST: Like at home.

MS: They needed you.

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: How did the wages compare to what you could have made at home?

ST: I forget how we got paid on the farms.

MS: Was it handled by the farmer, or was it handled still by the government?

ST: Might have been the government.

MS: I suspect it was all controlled, so they get paid from the farmer. So basically you probably got the same camp pay, which was sixteen dollars a month. [Laughs]

ST: That much?

MS: Sixteen dollars a month.

ST: I think I made seven dollars a month.

MS: Well, then you got gypped. [Laughs]

KL: Sometimes visitors to Manzanar ask how people dealt with money. Did you have a bank account in Topaz, or did you just get cash?

MS: It wasn't very much cash.

ST: Didn't need money, actually. We were fed by the, you know, mess hall, and didn't pay rent.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

KL: You said you started high school in Topaz. What can you tell us, how did school compare in Topaz to school in Half Moon Bay?

ST: Well, never going to school in, high school in Half Moon Bay, I don't know. [Laughs]

KL: Right.

ST: I had some good teachers there.

KL: In Topaz?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: Who stands out? What were the teachers that you remember?

ST: I forgot their names already.

MS: Many of the teachers, they weren't even credentialed teachers, but they were good in their field. I think most of the people that came out of school, when they got into regular schools, found that they were way ahead.

KL: Oh, really?

MS: Yeah. So I think the education was pretty good, even though they might have been a little bit thrown together.

KL: As a high school student in Topaz, how did your thoughts change or what did you start to consider as far as your options for adult life and for career? Do you remember?

ST: Really didn't think too much about it.

MS: I think most of the boys were already thinking about the draft and all that, so they probably didn't think too much towards what they were going to do as a career. The draft issue was hanging over them for a number of years before they actually started to enforce the draft.

KL: What were your thoughts about that, about potentially being drafted?

ST: Didn't think much of it anyway.

MS: He was pretty young yet then.

ST: Yeah. I turned eighteen in camp.

MS: They didn't even let you finish high school, either.

ST: No.

KL: Oh, so you didn't graduate from Topaz High.

ST: No.

MS: Well, he's born in December, so he's kind of on the...

KL: Yeah, yeah.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KL: So when did you turn eighteen? Did you have to answer the questionnaire in early 1943?

ST: Probably.

KL: Yeah. So I would like for you guys to just talk about your memories. I know your mom had opinions about the draft, and your folks had to answer the questionnaire. Would you just tell us what you remember about that whole question of military service for Japanese Americans and the questionnaire and how your family dealt with that?

MS: I didn't really understand it all, but I know I heard a lot of the "yes-yes" "no-no" discussions, that's all you kept hearing about was "yes-yes," "no-no."

ST: By the time I was drafted, it was all settled, so didn't have to think about it.

MS: Yeah. But the other three brothers had to do it all. And they all answered "yes-yes." But then the draft itself didn't take place immediately. Then it was when Chick and Nij were in Caldwell, Idaho, that they started actually drafting, and that's when the meetings started, and that's when our mother got very vocal about it, and she had somebody write her a letter to the President protesting it. When the boys came back to camp, she told them she didn't want them to go and all this, and I remember she made a little snack for Nij and he was sitting at that little table. I even remember what she made. I don't know where she got it, but she had a green pepper, and she toasted it on the potbelly stove. And Japanese, you know, rice with tea on it is a treat, okay? So he had rice with tea on it and she had this little green pepper that she had cooked with soy sauce, and he's sitting there eating this and she was talking to him. And he basically said, well, he doesn't know anything about Japan, and this is the only country he knows, and he didn't want to go to Japan. I could tell by her face that she was very disheartened, but there was nothing she could do. And he basically said, "We all feel the same way," so he was kind of the spokesperson for the other brothers. So after that, she didn't go to any more meetings. But apparently she did get a reply from Washington. Did you ever read the letter?

ST: No.

MS: See? None of us read it for some reason. We never thought to read it. Well, I'm sure it was kind of like a letter of rejection, but I know she kept it for a long time.

KL: So this conversation that happened with her and your brother, was that during all the broader conversations about the questionnaire, or had they already answered?

MS: This is, they had already answered it. But they came back because they had to report for the draft. So it was... I mean, it had to be devastating for her, because now she's losing all her boys, and of course, by then, also, our father had had several strokes, so she was busy taking care of him. So I'm thinking she's thinking ahead, you know, with the boys gone, what's gonna happen to us?

KL: Did the strokes start in Topaz?

MS: I think he had one before camp.

ST: Yeah?

MS: One light one. Then he had bad ones in camp.

KL: Do you know how your parents answered those two questions on the questionnaire?

ST: Never asked, was never told.

MS: I thought that was only for the...

KL: Draft eligible?

ST: Yeah, yeah.

KL: No, Issei had to answer it, too, it was a different questionnaire for people who were draft eligible than for everyone else.

MS: Okay.

KL: But there were, it was still very controversial and very confusing.

MS: Okay. I didn't know they had to answer it also. I thought it was only for the Japanese Americans.

KL: These meetings in the mess hall, your mom would speak at them?

MS: Oh, yeah.

KL: Was that unusual as a woman, an Issei woman?

MS: Well, it was like we said, she was always very political, and she spoke up. [Laughs]

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: So apparently she was kind of like the ringleader saying, "Hey." So it really took the wind out of her sails when the boys came home and said that they were going. I'm sure she was saying, "We should make them, all convince them to not go."

KL: How did other people respond, like other neighbors, other Issei, respond to her outspokenness?

MS: I think they probably pretty much agreed with her, but then it doesn't matter if the kids don't. I don't think any of the Isseis would have argued against her on that.

KL: Did your dad have a strong opinion?

ST: Nope. [Laughs]

KL: Not that you knew about, anyway.

ST: Anything that he felt or thought, he talked with her. But he was the silent partner, so to speak. [Laughs]

KL: Did it cause any trouble between her and the administration? Did she ever have visits from any...

MS: No, no.

KL: So your older brothers were actually, it sounds like they were on a work furlough, they were in Idaho at the time?

MS: Yes, yes.

KL: And then they came back and said they were gonna volunteer or were okay with being drafted?

MS: No, I guess they got their notices, so they had to.

KL: I see. What was their military experience? Where were they sent, what did they do when they were deployed?

MS: Well, the oldest brother, Yoneji, went to Germany.

ST: Germany. Chick went to Japan, and little brother went to Germany after the war.

KL: After the war?

ST: I was in training when the war ended.

KL: You were in military training?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: So you, were you drafted then in Topaz?

ST: Yeah.

KL: How did you feel about that?

ST: Yeah. Why not? Everybody else was going.

KL: Did it affect your relationship with your mother?

MS: No, he didn't have to do the fight because the brothers already did it.

KL: It was a done deal, yeah. And then what about the third brother? There was a third brother who...

MS: Yeah, he had nephritis. That's when he found out that he had kidney failure.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

KL: Did you have questions about the questionnaire or the draft issue?

LP: Yeah. So we talked more about 27, I think, than 28. So was there any conversation or controversy that you're aware of with the whole question of renouncing loyalty to Japan and the emperor? Was that for both parents, immigrating, and a, kind of, open dialogue, or any conversation about what that meant, confusion?

MS: Well, I would imagine that was all discussed at the meetings.

ST: It was all settled by the time I was called, so I didn't hear anything about that.

LP: Do you, were you aware of other families that were in close proximity to where your barrack was, other people and how they were answering, or any kind of...

MS: no, not really. I don't recall...

ST: We heard something about it, but it didn't bother me.

MS: I know the younger generation, they heard of people that were answering "no-no," instead of "yes-yes." And I think the younger generation kind of looked upon them as being traitors. They couldn't understand why they would answer that way. They did get sent to Tule Lake. But much later in life, you look back at it and say, well, they were pretty brave to do what they did, you know, to say "no-no."

KL: Did you guys have friends who went to Tule Lake?

MS: We have one relative, the Sako family.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah, our sister-in-law's... they actually lived in our block, but their family did go to Tule Lake, and they went to Japan. But they had no boys in the family.

KL: What were goodbyes like as they left for Tule Lake? Did you mark the occasion in any way?

MS: No. We weren't close enough to know. I kind of found out after the fact that they had gone to Japan. So they're the only ones that I know.

KL: Did you have any classmates that... or do you remember anyone leaving for Tule Lake?

ST: Like I say, I was a little too young. It was all settled before I got up there.

KL: Yeah, and no friends who left or anything, so that didn't really affect you.

LP: Were there any riots or protesting or anything at Topaz about the questionnaire?

ST: I heard about it in, I guess, Tule Lake, but I don't recall anything in Topaz.

LP: Was there confusion over what was, what the questionnaire was going to be used for besides for recruiting for the service?

MS: Undoubtedly, yeah. See, all those things were discussed at those meetings that we didn't attend.

ST: No.

MS: And they must have had quite a few thoughts about it, because they had quite a few meetings, you know.

LP: Did your dad go to the meetings?

MS: No. And I think part of that was because he was partially deaf also.

ST: Oh, yeah.

LP: I was actually gonna ask, too, so earlier you mentioned the strokes that your father had. What was the impact on his health after that? Just thinking, you know, some people have trouble speaking or different things after the stroke. So what was the impact on him after that, the real bad one?

MS: He went through phases where he was partially paralyzed, and he couldn't speak.

ST: But my mother brought him back to health, got him walking again and talking again.

MS: She had this Japanese medical reference book, and she'd go through that and come up with all these things. And one of the treatments in Japan is, they call it yaito, they put this little thing on and --

ST: Well, she knew acupuncture. I don't know how she learned all these things.

MS: Yeah, well, see, that's the same pressure points. You put these little things on, and you light it, and you actually let it burn. But then she would consult her medical book, and he knew where to place these things. [Laughs]

ST: And she would massage... oh, yeah, for a long time.

KL: Did she treat other people with yaito or anything?

MS: No.

ST: The family.

LP: What was the scenario of that one major stroke? Did someone find him, or do you know in what situation the stroke occurred?

MS: I'm not sure, I don't remember. We probably weren't home enough to know.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: Later on the strokes were a lot more severe, so he couldn't walk.

LP: Earlier you mentioned working in the mess hall, and I was just curious, one of the things that I hear about at Tule Lake sometimes is food missing or people kind of giving other people food in exchange for things. And I was just curious if --

ST: I never heard of such a thing.

LP: Oh, okay. Figured I'd ask. And it sounds like you don't, there's no copy of the letter to Roosevelt in your family's collection anymore, right?

MS: No. Tracey said that Andrew gave her some of the...

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah.

KL: If you ever find any of that, or if you ever do write to the National Archives and you want to share what they send to you, that would be really wonderful to have a copy of. It's absolutely your decision, of course, but it could be really helpful to the Topaz Museum, too, as they're trying to address some of what people's lives were like and the issues they grappled with in that time.

MS: Have you heard of anybody else having written to the President?

KL: One lady I talked to wrote to Secretary of the Interior, her mom did, yeah, Harold Ickes. And I think she got a response, too, and I don't think Irene has it. But that person, that same person, her file at the National Archives is pretty thick, and there was communication about her trying to regain property after they left. They were in Minidoka, so there's a lot about a sewing machine that she needed back for income, and there was actually a lot in it, so it could be revealing. You mentioned in that conversation between your mom and the brother who was kind of the spokesperson for the others, that he said he didn't... there was nothing for him in Japan, he had no experience with Japan. And it made me wonder if your parents or your mother had an interest in returning to Japan, if that was part of their thinking at all, or what you perceived or what you know about that.

MS: I don't think so. I have no idea.

ST: I kind of kick myself for not taking her back, though.

MS: Yeah, you know, I thought of that, too, why didn't we, when she was able to, let her go back and see her?

KL: So neither of them ever visited?

MS: No. Yeah, that's kind of a shame that we didn't do that.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

KL: Something else that happened around the same time as all the debates about the questionnaire was that there was a man who was shot in Topaz. His name was James Wakasa. Do you remember hearing about it?

ST: Was that the one that was too close to the fence?

MS: Yeah.

KL: There were a lot, actually, there were several times where the MPs fired close to people who were too close to the fence or whatever. What did you hear about that?

MS: We know only about the one that got killed.

ST: Well, he was pretty deaf, you know. Probably didn't even hear the sentry, and they shot him.

MS: Okay, the story that I heard, it was that they had an internal, a Japanese team that went out to check the area, and they said that it appeared that he had been shot inside, and they could see drag marks.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah. And they thought that the guy panicked and shot him, and then dragged him over to the fence, because he said that he was trying to escape. But apparently he was walking his dog at the time. That, again, was what I heard Mom say.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah. They apparently had a committee go out to check the area, so they had Japanese CSIs out there checking it out. [Laughs]

KL: What did you guys think when you heard about that?

MS: Don't go by the fence. [Laughs]

KL: That's reasonable. What about you, Sat?

ST: I didn't think too much about anything.

KL: Did you ever get any warnings about the fence or about the guard towers? Was it part of your daily thinking at Topaz, or was it just off in the periphery?

ST: Never even thought about it, you know.

MS: We knew they were there.

ST: Yeah.

MS: There were no instructions about not going too close to the fence or anything. So there was no one against it that I... I don't think we even thought about the fence issue.

KL: When you heard about the shooting?

MS: Yeah.

KL: Related to the military question, I read that Ben Kuroki came to visit Topaz. Did you see him or what do you remember about conversation about his visit?

MS: Well, I knew it was kind of like a PR visit, like, hey, look at me, you guys can join me. That was kind of my feeling.

KL: What did you think, what was your impression of Ben Kuroki as a teenage girl?

MS: I was just... not much of anything other than I figured it was just a PR visit.

KL: I guess you weren't quite a teenager either, sorry, you were a little younger. What did you think, Sat? Did you hear about him coming or seeing him?

ST: I heard some things about it, but didn't think much of him.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: What else about Topaz stands out in your memory? Those are kind of my questions, but I'd love to hear specific memories of people you have or places that you spent time, or special events, holidays, school parties.

ST: I went topaz hunting up in the mountains.

KL: Was that a big thing to do?

ST: Well, got out of the camp. By then we can get out. So I went up to the mountains and looked for Topaz. Never found anything.

MS: You didn't find anything?

KL: Did you see anything else interesting?

MS: Well, I have a trilobite fossil that Dad found.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: And as usual, anything he finds, he has to embellish, so he's got this trilobite fossil and he carved around it and he put like a little floral design on the side of it. So he probably ruined it for... so I still have that at home. I didn't go out of camp other than, I went to Delta once. Other than that, I didn't go out of camp.

KL: What was the purpose of your visit to Delta?

MS: It was just a trip to go to the soda fountain and have a soda, I think, was about all that we did.

KL: How were you received in the soda shop?

MS: They were all very civil to us. There was never any problem that I recall. Of course, I only made the one trip, so I don't know of anybody else having problems. But I never heard of any problems.

KL: What did you guys do for fun?

ST: Ice skate.

MS: Yeah, that was something new for us.

ST: Yeah.

MS: Quite a few of the blocks, they made their own skating rink. In our block, we also did it on one end, then they all kind of dug a little trench and they filled it with water. So that was... I don't even know where the skates came from.

ST: Yeah, I had a pair of skates.

MS: Huh?

ST: I had a pair.

MS: How would you have a pair of skates?

ST: I don't know.

MS: I know I borrowed from a gal that lived in the next block.

KL: Did you go to dances?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: What were they like? What kind of music did you like?

ST: Well, in those days, what did we have? Boogie Woogie. I actually learned how to jitterbug.

MS: I can't imagine you jitterbugging. [Laughs] Tsuki, the sister above him, was the social butterfly, and she did all the dancing and all this, and she was the cheerleader. Voted the most popular girl.

KL: Who taught you to dance?

ST: My sister.

ST: I don't know where she learned all that.

KL: Did you have favorite partners?

ST: Yeah, sort of.

KL: Who was the DJ?

MS: Huh?

KL: Who was the DJ?

ST: Anna.

MS: I don't even remember. Who played the records?

ST: Oh, the DJ? Oh, anybody that had records. Yeah, one guy had a bunch of records. I forget his name.

KL: Where were the dances?

MS: Must have been at the high school, high school gym?

ST: Well, they converted some of the barracks to, like a rec. hall.

KL: One of the things that sometimes, not that often, but sometimes I hear from visitors at Manzanar, actually recently a lady said that her mother had always told her that the reason Japanese American people were put into the camps was for their own protection.

MS: That was what we were told.

KL: What's your response to that? If you were talking to her, what would you tell her?

ST: Our own protection? That's what they told us. They were afraid of, what, espionage? [Laughs]

MS: I know there were stories of Chinese people walking around with signs saying, "Me Chinese." They didn't want to get mistaken for... but then by the same token, then what about all the Germans and Italians?

KL: I know those people who came to visit you in the assembly center and were, you know, wished you goodbye, farewell, in your community. Yeah, as that person was leaving, she said that she realized that it was a much more complicated story than she had ever heard from her mother and that there was a lot more going on. But it is something that I hear occasionally and think it's important to have people's responses to that, sort of, recorded.

MS: Well, of course, in the cities, there was a lot of problems.

ST: Yeah?

MS: Yeah.

KL: It was different from place to place.

MS: Yeah. But I think in a place like Half Moon Bay, it was different.

KL: I asked you if you ever had any contact with Chiura Obata in Tanforan, and I wondered if you ever encountered Chiura Obata in Topaz?


MS: Yeah, I think Mari also took an art class with him. My only run-in with him was with the youth group in San Mateo. He came to one of our conferences, and he did a little demonstration. It's quite amazing to watch him, because it's just a few strokes, you know, and you have a picture.

KL: That was after Topaz?

MS: Yeah. But I knew of him because of camp.

ST: Was he a teacher in Topaz?

KL: Yeah, he had an art school.

ST: Well, then, he was my teacher.

KL: Did those classes, you took them in school, like as part of your high school curriculum?

ST: Oh, yeah, yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

KL: Do you have questions about Topaz?

LP: Yeah. I was actually curious about any presence of, like, native people that was obvious at Topaz. Like fossils and different things were found, but like at Tule Lake, there's evidence of projectile points and arrowheads and different things. And so I was just curious if, when you were there, if you noticed, kind of, anything that was tribal that people that maybe had occupied that space before?

MS: That was one of the other things that they were all hunting for, was arrowheads and pieces. I have that great big black, you know what the arrowheads are made out of.

ST: Flint?

LP: Obsidian?

MS: Obsidian. it's a big piece, and that's one that Dad also found and brought home. I've also got that yet. And also his father found quite a few pieces of arrowheads, mostly old broken pieces, but yeah, there were quite a few of those. It was another hobby, I guess. They probably found those, because remember the people used to go digging for shells, because we used the shells to make jewelry and stuff. And I imagine when they were digging around for things like that, they probably found a lot of arrowheads and other interesting things.

SP: Earlier we were talking about that man who was shot. You mentioned a dog, and so I was curious, did people have, it sounds like people had pets at Topaz. How did people get dogs and...

MS: I have no idea. They did have animals. In fact, we were the, my mother and father and Tsuki and I were the last to leave, and the dogs all ended up in our block. They would be fed until then, so I guess they had to just abandon them. So we had about a dozen dogs that came, and my mother would feed them. So I don't know what happened to them after we left; hopefully they picked them up and took them somewhere. Yeah, it's amazing, there were quite a few dogs running around.

LP: There's a few photos at Tule Lake of, like, dogs, and there's dog shows and these things, and it's just really bizarre. We've been trying to figure out how people got dogs, if they were just wild dogs that were domesticated, or if somebody was bringing, if it was like an administration thing.

MS: I have no idea how they got that.

LP: Huh, okay. And then was there like a cemetery or was there, for that one person that got shot, people probably had different ways that they wanted their remains to be handled.

MS: I have no idea.

ST: I don't know what happened to all those.

MS: I have no idea. I guess because we had no use for it. I don't know.

ST: They probably cremated all those.

MS: Huh?

ST: Probably cremated 'em and put 'em in an urn and took it with them.

MS: Oh, yeah, they could just take them home, take 'em with them. That would make sense.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

LP: And then somebody I had interviewed actually lives in Richmond now, but lived in San Mateo as a kid and went by train to Topaz, and has all these kind of distinct memories of that. He mentioned, he remembered, like, the military presence on the train, so I was curious if... because the shades were drawn and all those details came out if you remembered any of the military presence in particular in going to Topaz or at Topaz, if there are any personalities of people that you interacted with that weren't being confined in camp, but were military or anything like that?

MS: The only non-military that I can recall are the teachers. I had a, one of the students in my class also who was the daughter of one of the personnel that worked there. So that's the only one that I remember. She was one of the Bells.

ST: Huh?

MS: She was one of the Bells, the Bell family, they had the two brothers that were in high school that were very well-known. They were really nice kids.

KL: So she made friends and she was just part of the gang?

MS: She was just like part of our class, you know. It must have been strange for her, you know, she was blond and blue-eyed, and here she is with nothing but Japanese. Yeah, she was... I kind of kept up with her also. I heard from her about five years ago, so I know she's living up north.

LP: And then that same person I interviewed that I mentioned, some little random things that he remembers as a kid, he remembers catching seagulls and putting like a little piece of fishing line or something around a leg and watching it fly up and playing with it. And so I'm just curious if you remember any antics or any, just troublemakers or kids that were just, you know, being kids, and just sort of, more the youth environment, and how people were... outside of your family maybe, any good stories.

MS: I heard about an incident of a couple being found in the back of an ambulance. [Laughs]

ST: Yeah?

MS: Uh-huh. I won't mention any names. Does that qualify as an incident?

KL: It was actually a concern that a lot of older people had about, you know, these circumstances where, yeah, where teenagers could kind of, in some ways, be more removed from their parents, yeah. So that definitely, for some people was a concern. Yeah, I guess I asked that specifically about dances and what he did for fun, but I didn't ask you what you and your friends did for fun.

MS: Well, I was too young for any of that stuff, but I did take Japanese dancing classes, and other than that, well, we'd get together and play baseball or whatever. Plus the skating in the winter.

KL: Did you like the dance classes?

MS: Yeah. I got to where I would perform on stage and all this kind of stuff. Did you come and watch me? No. [Laughs]

ST: I don't think so.

MS: He was probably busy at his dances.

LP: Who was your teacher?

MS: I don't remember. And then the tap dancing classes and stuff like that, I don't even remember how I got involved in it. So we found ways to entertain ourselves.

KL: How did school compare for you to school in Half Moon Bay?

MS: I can't remember whether there was much of any transition. In grade school, I don't think you would be noticed too much.

KL: Were there any ghost stories in Topaz?

MS: What?

KL: Were there any ghost stories from Topaz?

MS: I don't recall any in Topaz.

ST: Ghost. [Laughs]

MS: Just the one in Tanforan.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

KL: Well, I think we probably have a couple minutes to continue, and I'll ask you, you were drafted out of Topaz. So when did you leave?

ST: To the army?

KL: Yeah.

ST: June of '45.

KL: Where did you go? What was the process of entering the army?

ST: Oh, I went to Texas for basic training. When that was finished I was in New York, and they came up with this idea of if you volunteered to reenlist for a certain period of time, you'd be sure to get out then, so I enlisted for one year. So I was drafted in December and I was discharged on Christmas Day in '46. And I had a one-year vacation in Germany. [Laughs]

KL: In between time, huh?

ST: Yeah.

KL: So did you enter a segregated unit, or were you part of a regular army unit?

MS: It was regular, wasn't it?

ST: I think we were all Japanese.

MS: Even then?

ST: Yeah.

KL: Yeah, I'm not sure of, how it worked that late in the war. But you remember only Japanese Americans?

ST: I wasn't segregated. I was with the 9th Infantry Division.

KL: What did you think of military life?

ST: For me it was all right.

KL: What kind of stuff did you do in basic training, what was a typical day?

ST: Well, out in the rifle range and marching.

MS: Some things never change.

KL: My dad was in the air force and he still folds his socks very carefully because of that training.

MS: Is that where my husband got it? I get so sick and tired of having to fold his socks all the time.

KL: Yeah, my mom's style is different than my dad's. So what did you see in Germany right after the war had ended?

ST: Devastation. I went to Munich and it was just flattened out, you know?

KL: Did you meet any civilians?

ST: Yeah, met a girl there.

KL: What did she say about her wartime experiences?

ST: Well, she was too young, I guess. Must have been about fifteen maybe. Elizabeth Ziegler.

KL: Did she speak English?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: Did you talk to her about your farm or Topaz or Tanforan?

ST: Maybe.

KL: How did you meet?

ST: Her mother was my laundry, did my laundry, you know.

MS: You didn't do your own laundry?

ST: Yeah. I had all kinds of cigarettes, that's what we used for money since I wasn't a smoker and they issued cigarettes.

MS: Didn't know you had a girlfriend in Germany.

KL: Did you talk to any of your fellow soldiers about your background and being incarcerated in Topaz?

ST: No.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

KL: One of the things I think -- oh, this is tape three, I think, four, tape four, we're continuing an interview with Sat Takaha and Midori Suzuki. And one of the things I think is really useful also about these oral history interviews is that people who've never been in a war zone can have something of an understanding of what it's like. So I wonder if you wanted to say anything more about things you saw in Germany during that time.

ST: Well, all I saw was complete devastation. You know, in Munich it was really hard hit.

MS: Where else did you go?

ST: And I remember people living in these apartments with no wall, you know.

KL: Where were you stationed? Where did you live?

ST: Munich and Augsburg.

KL: What's Augsburg like? What did you see there?

ST: I guess a typical German town.

KL: Was it equally devastated to Munich?

ST: I don't think, no, not quite as much.

KL: What was your job in the army?

ST: Post office.

KL: That's an important one. I meant to ask if you guys kept in touch with your older brothers, if they wrote to you while they were at war.

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: What did they tell you about their experiences?

ST: I know one brother went to Japan and met our grandmother.

KL: Tell us about that.

ST: Well, he's the only one that ever, that she ever saw, of the family.

MS: She's the one that said that, with all the boys in the family, she figured one of 'em would at least be able to come to Japan, so she told them she couldn't die until then. So she was happy when he showed up. And apparently she did pass away not too long after that. That was our, the maternal grandmother. Apparently he did meet the other grandmother also.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: Yeah, but I never heard him say anything about it.

ST: When me made out the family tree, didn't he put that down?

MS: No, he didn't. It was Tsuki that said that, that he met both grandmothers.

KL: Those are such interesting circumstances for him to meet her as a U.S. soldier at the end of war. Did that color their meeting at all?

MS: I don't think so. And he's the only one that got to meet some of the cousins and other relatives. And it was kind of interesting, when the congressional medal issue came up recently, he didn't want to go because he felt that he had the privilege of getting to go to Japan, which he thought he would never be able to do if he hadn't been drafted. So he didn't feel that it was... because he didn't see combat, that he should be entitled to the congressional medal. So his daughter talked to him and made him go, and I think he was happy he did. He's very proud of his medal now.

KL: So they went to Washington?

MS: No, no, they did it locally. You know, they went to different locations. I'm sure he has it with him at the assisted living place so he can look at it.

KL: So he was there during the occupation?

MS: Yes, yes.

KL: What about the brother in Europe? Did you two have any overlapping locations, was he still...

ST: Well, we visited each other a couple of times.

KL: So he was still in the army when you got there?

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: Yeah, he was the career army man, stayed in for... he was going for thirty years, but I think he got out.

KL: Which of your brothers was it who was in Europe?

MS: That's the oldest, Yoneji.

KL: Okay. And he was the person who was kind of the spokesperson with your mom, too, right? He's the one who had a career...

MS: The big brother.

ST: He was the disciplinarian of the family, too.

MS: Yeah, he was.

ST: Took over from our father.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

KL: Well, what about the rest of you who were still in Topaz? Can you describe the departure from Topaz?

MS: It was just... it was towards the end that the boys were taken, so it didn't change things too much. Mickie and Hattie, we knew that everybody was leaving camp when we were supposed to leave, and there's a couple in Hillsborough that our sister Mari used to work for before the war as a baby nurse. She found them live-in jobs in Hillsborough, for a couple of Hillsborough families, and they called them schoolgirls at that time, so you live in with them and you help with chores around the house and all that. And so they came out with our brother Akira. She also found him a job in Hillsborough, and then I guess he was kind of like a handyman chauffeur type for another Hillsborough family. So he came out with the two sisters, so that left Tsuki and me with our parents.

And we did stay 'til the very, we were the last to leave. The only one who was there to see us off was Sam Sato, because he had come back, and he waved us off at the gate, because he was leaving to go back east a little later. But yeah, we did basically close the gates and got on that train. And it was kind of interesting because there was a troop train next to us, and Tsuki was the one that was always attracting all the guys. Here comes a sailor and then George, there was a Japanese guy who was coming home from the army. And then the marine, so there were these three guys that were vying for her attention all the time. And finally the marine won out, and he got to sit with her for most of the trip. But there was a lady that was sitting on the other side that was further up, and she had this funny little hat on. And she would glare at us, she'd turn around and glare at us, and this marine would start making fun of her, saying, "Look she's got a chicken on her head," and he started clucking at her and everything, and she'd turn around and glare at us some more.

Our father, of course, he really missed his drinks, although Mom did make him some raisin wine in camp. But he asked me to get him something, a soda to drink, so I went up to the stand to get him something, and they had Dr. Pepper, so I got the Dr. Pepper. Well, the marine saw me, and he comes up behind me and he waves at the attendant that he was going to take care of it. So they pour him, pour the Dr. Pepper. And I didn't know what he was doing, but he had a flask in his sock, and he took it out and he spiked the Dr. Pepper. And then he gave it to me and said, "Okay, give it to your dad." So I take it to my dad, and my dad takes a sip, and his eyes light up. And he takes another sip, you know. He's in heaven. So he was really happy. Well, that afternoon, later in the afternoon, he tells me to go get him another Dr. Pepper. The marine is gone, and I didn't know, you know, what he had done. So here I go and get him another Dr. Pepper, and I catch hell because I got him the wrong drink. "You got the wrong thing," he tells me. [Laughs] Yeah, that was kind of, makes up for the times that Dad cried for me, because he sure was angry that I got him in the wrong drink.

KL: Disappointed, yeah. Were all three of those military that Tsuki was talking with, were they Japanese American or were they Caucasian?

MS: Just one. And actually, the one Japanese fellow, although he didn't get to sit with her or anything, he found out where we were gonna be. And he lived out in... where is it where Art's from?

ST: Turlock.

MS: Turlock, yeah. And he came to visit when we were in Hunter's Point. But he brought his buddy with him. This is his buddy that he knew from childhood, they were farmers and everything, and they knew each other real well. And his name was Art Peterson. Well, Art took a fancy to our sister, and the next time he came, he came to visit without his friend George. And they ended up getting married. [Laughs]

KL: Which sister?

MS: This is Tsuki.

KL: Oh, wow.

MS: She's sitting out on a farm out in Colorado now. Her husband passed away two years ago now, year and a half ago.

KL: What made her so attractive?

MS: She was very vivacious, she was very outgoing.

ST: She was smart, too.

MS: Nah, she wasn't. None of us were. [Laughs] But yeah, she was always very popular.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

KL: So where did you go, what was at the end of the train ride for you?

MS: Well, we ended up in Oakland and then we took the ferry over to San Francisco. And then Ack met us, and he drove us over to Hunter's Point. And they had assigned us to dormitories, and then we found out there was a whole bunch of other Japanese, displaced families that were living there. So it was kind of like a camp community again for us, all over again. That's where I met my husband. [Laughs]

KL: At Hunter's Point?

MS: Uh-huh.

KL: What were conditions like there? What was that community like?

MS: Well, it was kind of weird in the beginning because it was a dormitory. So my parents were way on one end, because they had a double room, and Tsuki and I had single rooms way on the other end. But the Japanese community, kids just kind of all stuck together. That was the first time anybody called me a "Jap," but it was a little black boy. And he didn't say it in a bad way, that's the only word that he knew, and he had never seen one before. He must have been about five or so, and he looks at me and he says, "Is you a Jap?" So he called me a "Jap," but he didn't mean it in a bad way, because that was such a common terminology in those days.

KL: Had you been around black people before?

MS: I only remember one before.

ST: One student, yeah, in Half Moon Bay.

MS: Oh, that was just before the war broke out, just after it broke out. So, yeah, but then, of course, we'd go to Hunter's Point, and then there was a lot of black people there. But in those days they were very nice to us, there was no problems. In fact, they befriended us.

KL: And how old were you when you went into Hunter's Point?

MS: I was twelve.

KL: How long did your family stay there?

MS: I was thinking maybe, what, two years? Close to two years before we moved to Candlestick Cove.

ST: I don't know, I got there and...

MS: When did you come back?

ST: '46. Christmas of '46.

MS: Oh. So by then we were in Candlestick. Although you were in Southgate also.

ST: Yeah, for a little while.

MS: That's right. So we were there for at least a couple years and then they moved us into another project. Candlestick Cove was where the, near the stadium that just got torn down.

KL: How did you and your husband meet? Who I should say, I guess, is in the room. Yas Suzuki is also here in the background.

MS: He was one of the ones that I saw walking around in the dormitories. And it was kind of funny because in camp, he was in my sister Mickie's class, and apparently he was a holy terror. And when Mickie and Hattie came to visit us one day, she saw him walking down the street, and she says, "Do you know that Suzuki boy?" And by then he was kind of my boyfriend, but I didn't want to say, so I said, "Kind of." And she says, "Well, don't get to know him, because he's a bad boy." So I married him. [Laughs]

KL: She probably couldn't win arguments with him maybe, or something. She continued to be...

MS: Well, see, when he was in camp, he was very short yet, and he didn't get his six feet tall, height yet. And she was already like five feet three, so he had to look up to her, so he didn't fool with her. But apparently he pulled some cute little tricks, like he and his friend built a moat around the stairwell of the class and filled it with water so the other kids couldn't get out, and neither could the teacher. And I think there was also an incident where he found a scorpion and picked it up and put it in one of the girls' books and slammed it shut, so that when she came in, of course, it opened up where the dead scorpion was, and she had a fit. [Laughs] And let's see, what else? Sticking somebody's pigtails into the inkwell. I guess that's enough. [Laughs]

KL: No, it's not enough. If there are more, we'd love to hear it.

MS: Anyway, that was her basis for telling me that I shouldn't get to know him well because he was a bad boy. He's reformed somewhat by now.

KL: I don't believe it. [Laughs]

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

KL: Sat, what did you do with your time when you came out of the army and back to California?

ST: Oh, I went to school, went back to school.

KL: What did you study?

ST: Huh?

KL: What did you study?

ST: I don't know. Trigonometry and physics. I forget. By then, my older siblings were all getting married, so I had to quit school and get a job to look after my parents.

KL: What was your job?

ST: Simmons Company, furniture. My brother was working there, he got me a job there.

MS: I thought you went directly to the post office. You didn't?

ST: No.

MS: Oh, I didn't know you went to Simmons.

KL: What was your job at Simmons?

ST: In the wood shop, made frames for box springs and things like that. And I was also a handyman's helper, and he'd just go around fixing things, and I helped him. So it was pretty nice.

MS: He's talking about Akira, the other brother, the one that was 4-F, because he went to Simmons after.

KL: Who helped find the job? Yeah. Was it tough to find work?

ST: Oh, yeah, at that time. Got laid off a couple times. Oh, so I was at the post office, oh, nationwide, you know, to replace all the women that took over the men's job. So there was a lot of openings. So I took the exam and got a job. And I stayed there for thirty-eight years.

KL: Did you like your work at the post office, or what did you think of it?

ST: Yeah, it was all right.

KL: Those women who were leaving the jobs...

ST: Oh, a lot of them stayed. They take the exam, too, and they passed it. So yeah, quite a few women.

KL: Did they ever talk to you about what it was like to enter the career world during World War II?

ST: Not that I can recall, no.

KL: They were just colleagues. So you had a career with the post office. What did the rest of your family end up doing, all of you guys who were siblings were kind of young adults or just coming into...

ST: They're still in school, you know, my sisters.

MS: Then Hattie got out of school after she got out of City College, and she got a job working at the San Francisco, the UC San Francisco hospital, which is where she met her husband, who was a dental student. And Mickie, she went to work for J. Barth & Company, and it was, you know, the people in Hillsborough. Mr. Keyston, who used to be the president of the San Francisco stock exchange, and J. Barth & Company was a stock company. So I think he got her the job at J. Barth. So until then the boys were sending allotment home to our parents for them to have money. I think all three of you were sending allotment money. So when he came home... well, Tsuki was helping support them. And then he came home, and he kind of took over our parents' care, because by then the brothers were all getting married. And then he and Mickie and Hattie were supporting them until they got married and went away. And then he got married and she was taking care of my kids, too. Then she lived with us.

KL: Your mother?

MS: Yeah. Our father passed away when we were still in Candlestick. Then the oldest brother Yoneji came home. He was, I think, in the service for something like twenty-five years or so. But when he came home, then she moved in with him. Then she passed away when she was living with him.

KL: Was it difficult finding housing in those years in the late '40s?

MS: Yes. There were a lot of areas where the Japanese couldn't buy yet, also.

ST: I bought my first house in '54, mostly for my mother.

MS: But I know you looked out in the Westlake area and you weren't allowed to buy yet in that area.

KL: How did you find out that Westlake was a closed area?

ST: Oh, the realtors wouldn't show you anything there anyway.

KL: Why were you considering living there? What drew you to Westlake?

ST: Consider Westlake? I don't think so.

MS: Yeah, early on, I think you just saw...

ST: Yeah, there was a lot of building going on.

MS: I know there was, I think you inquired, and somehow they told you that you weren't allowed. So there was still areas that you couldn't buy.

ST: Even Shoreview.

MS: Hmm?

ST: Even Shoreview.

MS: Really?

ST: Yeah.

MS: Oh, I didn't know that.

KL: Where did you end up buying the house?

ST: In San Mateo, where she's living now.

MS: He sold me his house.

KL: Oh, wow.

MS: With my mother in it. [Laughs] Well, she was helping take care of my kids anyway, so it worked out well.

KL: How long did she live?

ST: '75, 1975. Eighty.

MS: Just short of eighty.

KL: Did she ever pursue U.S. citizenship once that became available?

ST: I don't think so.

KL: I meant to ask you earlier and then got sidetracked, why your family was the last to leave Topaz besides that other person. Can you tell us how and why that happened?

MS: Well, mainly because with the boys gone, I'm sure my mother was thinking, "How are we gonna live?" Because Father was pretty ill by then, and she had to take care of him. So there was no visible means of income for her. So she figured, "They put me here, they've got to take care of me, so we'll just stay as long as we can." So that's what we did. And I think Tsuki kind of stayed back just to kind of help look after them. And I was the baby, and so I got to stay, too, with Mommy. [Laughs]

KL: And then what convinced her to finally leave?

MS: Because we were told we had to leave, that we couldn't stay anymore. And I'm sure it was difficult for the boys, because they arranged for the allotment to go to her, so that left them with very little spending money for their own needs also, right? Must have been pretty slim.

ST: We didn't need anything in the army. You were fed and clothed.

MS: And housed.

KL: It's kind of interesting. You were working in the post office in the army, and then continued that as a career, and that some of your sisters who worked in the hospital in Topaz, your sister continued working in the medical field, in the hospital in San Francisco.

MS: She was just a teenager when she worked in the hospital in camp. And she was doing secretarial work at the hospital.

KL: It was a different thing.

MS: And she eventually went back to school, and she was a schoolteacher.

KL: Did you have a career?

MS: I had a husband. [Laughs] No, I worked at various jobs, too. When we were in Hunter's Point, I also did schoolgirl jobs to kind of help with the finances, and then I did secretarial work, various secretarial work. And that's it.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

KL: Do you guys have children?

ST: Yeah, two.

KL: Do you, either of you, have you talked to your kids about your World War II experiences at all?

ST: Not really.

KL: Have they asked you really, or do they know about it?

MS: Our son did when he was in high school, because he had to write a report for his history class. And he interviewed us and wrote his report, and I guess... I think I have his report somewhere, but it was kind of interesting because I saw the report, and the teacher had written a note on the top, "See me." And apparently she was shocked to find out, because he didn't have his reference information as to where he got his information. And she asked him where he got all this information, and he says, "From my parents. I interviewed them." So that was when I first found out that there was no written history anywhere about what happened. So he was the one that kind of started it with us. I go, "What do you mean there's nothing written anywhere?"

KL: Yeah, what was his reaction to hearing your stories?

MS: He kind of heard us talk. He knew how we met and everything, so he kind of knew. He had kind of an inkling, and we didn't talk to him in detail, but he knew that we had been in camps and stuff like that. So it was not too long after that that all the redress stuff came up. And the first young man that talked to us about it, I was kind of surprised, like, "What do you care? It wasn't you that it happened to." Like it was something that happened to us, not to you. But he was kind of indignant that it happened. And from there, it really started to snowball.

KL: Who was "he"? Who was that young man?

MS: It was just a friend of someone that we knew. We had gone out for the evening, and this other couple came and he was one of the other couples. And he was apparently very much involved with the movement at that time.

KL: With redress?

MS: Yeah. And that was very early.

KL: Why did he tell you he was interested in redress? You said you were surprised because he was not Japanese American.

MS: No, he was Japanese American, but then he was, he was much younger. I think he might have been born in camp, so he didn't really have any background on it. He was very indignant about it all, and that was when we found out that they were starting to make waves about what had happened.

KL: Do you remember his name?

MS: No, I don't. I don't.

KL: What did you think of the redress movement?

ST: Not much. [Laughs]

MS: Our generation didn't have much to say, we kind of just... but it really was the younger generation that made all the noise about it and brought it out.

KL: When you got the letter with the presidential apology or the check, what did you think?

MS: I thought too bad, it was... it was our parents that really should have gotten it.

ST: Oh, yeah.

MS: Because they lost everything.

KL: Sat, did you think the same? What were your thoughts when you got those things in the mail?

ST: The what?

KL: When you got the letter and stuff in the mail, what were your thoughts?

ST: About the apology? [Laughs] Well, it happened. Don't think much of anything.

MS: It's like we can't do anything about it. It happened.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

KL: What became of the area where you were farming in Half Moon Bay, and I believe you stored some things before going to Topaz? What happened to your life from before the war?

MS: It disappeared.

ST: Disappeared.

MS: Yeah, 'cause someone broke into the shed. I guess things were just kind of scattered around. But the only thing that really bothered our mother was the ashes from Kazuichi, because that was in there also. And it really bothered her that it was missing, because I don't know what they did with it. But when we bought plots up at Skylawn, up above the hill, it kind of looks down on Half Moon Bay, which is kind of nice. But the guy sold her two plots, and we didn't discover until we had our father's ashes put in, that all she needed was the one plot. So we had a plaque made for Kazuichi, and so we had that next to her plot, and that kind of soothed her to have something for him there. Because it really did bother her that those ashes were gone. And whoever did it probably didn't know what it was, because it wasn't marked or anything, it was just an urn. So they probably didn't know it was human ashes. It was a long journey for Mom and Pop, and they had a tough life.

KL: Yeah, they saw a lot in their lives.

MS: Overall, I think we all came out of it pretty well.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

KL: Do you have questions? I just have one kind of wrap up one and then want to give Midori and Sat their chance to add...

LP: Yeah, I had a question about, when you were talking about Germany and the devastation and everything just being in Munich totally obliterated, what information if anything at all was being given about what was going on in Europe to people that were in camp? Did it line up with what you envisioned, like when you got to Munich, was it just utterly surprising that things looked that way, or what information?

ST: There was no information disseminated about the, you know, about Germany.

MS: You wrote us letters, but you never said anything about how bad it looked or anything. Just what you did and who you, what you saw and everything.

LP: Was there ever any information about, like, the death camps or any, what the Jewish population had been going through.

ST: Not really. I passed one of those camps going back and forth from Augsburg to Munich, but never saw it.

LP: How did you know that it was one of those camps?

ST: We were told.

LP: And my last question is actually about the post office. So I just assumed that the post office was sorting mail and whatever, but when you were in the service, what did working for the post office mean? What were you tasked with?

ST: Well, I was in charge of a little post office at headquarters, and I had two employees and ran a little post office. And most of our business was writing money orders. They all sent in, sent money home. We traded cigarettes for money.

LP: Was there any censoring of mail that had to be done or anything like that that you're aware of?

ST: Any what?

LP: Censoring? Like mail at that time just totally open and people could do whatever? Okay.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

KL: Did I leave things out? Are there other things you guys wanted to report about any aspect of your lives or your folks' lives?

MS: I don't think so. I think you pretty much covered everything. I think you got more than you should have gotten. [Laughs]

KL: I really would like to come back tomorrow and ask you more about, you know, like what you and your friends did in Topaz, and who you liked to dance with and stuff.

MS: I don't really remember too much. The social aspect would have been Tsuki. She was the social butterfly.

ST: I spent a lot of time on the horizontal bar.

KL: You did?

ST: Yeah, I was pretty good at it.

KL: Did you help build it?

ST: No, it was there behind one of the barracks.

MS: I told you he was always the health freak.

LP: You did gymnastics, is that what your...

ST: Yeah.

KL: Where was it, the bar?

ST: Alongside one of the barracks.

KL: Close to yours?

ST: Oh, yeah.

KL: We keep asking these specific questions because at Manzanar, we just finished having a big volunteer project where one of the things they did was reconstruct a basketball court in Block 14. So I kind of have in my mind maybe in twenty years at Topaz, someone will be reconstructing the bar that you did gymnastics on, or trying to stabilize the garden that your dad built. Are there any other gardens that you remember at Topaz, or any other gymnastics equipment or playgrounds or anything? What do you remember?

MS: There was also a large garden that they made alongside the mess hall. That was kind of a community project, you remember?

KL: In Block 30?

MS: Yeah. I'm sure other people had gardens made, too.

KL: Do you know who designed or built the mess hall garden?

MS: No. I think they all just kind of got together and talked it over, because they didn't have a pond or anything there, they just had the rocks and they had kind of mounded with plants around. I imagine the professional gardeners had something to do with that.

ST: Could be.

MS: Put their two bits worth in. Yeah, I don't think the gardens were that unusual.

KL: They're very special, though, I think.

MS: Yeah, well, Dad's was very special to me, it was very nostalgic when I saw those things, the rocks and things that he had put in.

KL: When did he spend time out there? Was it all day long, or did he go out in the evenings?

MS: Well, I recall his work schedule was kind of sporadic, he'd be gone part of the day and then he'd come back and putter around. I imagine all of you helped him dig that pond, though.

ST: Huh?

MS: I would imagine all of you helped him to dig that pond, that was a pretty big pond.

ST: I don't remember doing anything with it. [Laughs]

MS: Oh, yeah? Gee, because we were at school, too, so we didn't know what he was doing during the day, but it's what he dug up is what he mounded over to make the little rows.

KL: Did he putter around with it the whole time you were in Topaz, or did he make it and then leave it?

MS: Pretty much make it and leave it.

KL: Do you guys remember basements in Topaz?

MS: Basements?

KL: Did people ever dig out cellars?

MS: No, no.

KL: Do you remember some? Well, I guess the last sort of big question that I had is what... I mentioned that in Topaz in twenty years they might be doing a restoration project. There is a museum there, as you know, and people are working on creating exhibits and stuff. What do you guys hope in fifty years, you know, when visitors are going to Topaz, what do you hope they will learn there, or what kind of experience do you want them to have? What do you want them to understand about Topaz?

ST: That it returns to a desert and forget about it. [Laughs]

MS: If anything, that it shouldn't happen again. It's kind of a bad mark on history for the United States, I'm afraid.

KL: That's a question I have sometimes about the past. Do you really think it would be better to try to forget it, to bury it, or do you think it's important to remember Topaz and to talk about it?

MS: I don't think we even have to talk about it anymore, because I think all of you have done such a great job of reconstituting a lot of the past for us, you know?

KL: Well, we couldn't do it without these oral histories. That's what I tell visitors when they come to Manzanar, is stories people have told me as well as what's documented from the '40s.

MS: Well, time is running out, because we're all getting there. [Laughs]

KL: What do you think, Sat? Do you think it's important to remember and to have these museums, or do you think it would be better to let it lie?

ST: I've forgotten all about it myself, so... something that happened that shouldn't have.

MS: Yeah, but if the museums aren't there, then people won't know about it. I think it's kind of interesting that they just started this, the one in Hawaii. The people that we know from Hawaii didn't even know, and they were there at the time, and they didn't know about it. So they're just starting their history project.

LP: Is that Honouliuli that you're talking about?

MS: Yeah. It's a part of history that shouldn't be forgotten, I think.

KL: Well, thank you guys very much for coming, and it's 12:41, so you've spent a lot of hours of a special day, actually, with us. So thank you very much.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.