Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Victor Ikeda Interview
Narrator: Victor Ikeda
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 6, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-ivictor-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: What did your dad do for a living when he first came to America?

VI: Well, he worked on various jobs. He worked at the fish cannery... we had a very -- I don't know if you are familiar with the state of Washington, we have the San Juan Islands? And there was a cannery in Friday Harbor. And summertime, he and my mom, they'd go up there. He worked in the cannery, she helped cook and all that and bring the family up there. So we'd spend our summers in Friday Harbor.

RP: Now, was that just off the coast of Washington or near Seattle?

VI: Well, no, that's up in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Canada and Washington. It's a beautiful place. And being about five, six or seven, we'd play on the beach all day long while they worked. When he came back afterwards, they leased a hotel and they ran the hotel, and they had about thirty rooms, I think. And then part time, he worked as kind of a handyman at a restaurant in the Pioneer Square area because they used that to support the family. And the funny part about this hotel -- you say you're not familiar with Seattle, but Seattle is built on hills. And they have this one hill up Yesler Way, which is right on top of the city, and the hotel sat right there. Except during those years, you never thought about scenery or view property. All we know is it's a hell of a long ways to walk up the hill, you know, if you had to go downtown. Now, if you bought -- and that was, they were replaced by a housing project, the whole area, so now they have a housing project there. I think eventually they will become all condominiums 'cause that's right on top of the city of Seattle. But the interesting thing about Seattle is before the World War II, I think the statistics were about 90 percent of all the hotels were run by Japanese. And they had leased all these hotels; and most of 'em were downtown, and they were smaller hotels. Of course, the other 10 percent were the luxury hotels downtown. So you had lots and lots of Japanese families leasing and running hotels. And after they took the hotel for the housing project, we moved up town a little bit, and he had an apartment that we had until we left for camp.

RP: Just to go back a little bit, the summers that you spent --

VI: Friday Harbor.

RP: -- at Friday Harbor. How many years did you do that? Was that --

VI: I think we did it three years, three summers.

RP: How young were you?

VI: I think I was six. My sisters went to school there for a while, and I hadn't quite gotten to kindergarten yet, so five, six, around there.

RP: So do you remember playing on the beach?

VI: And the thing I remember very distinctly was the Puget Sound has very low tides. And then that area of Puget Sound is known for octopus. So what happens is when you get a very low tide, you get these holes, you know, in the little caves. And the men used to go out there with lye, and they'd pour the lye down the hole which irritates the octopus to come out. And then they would grab it and turn it around, and right inside the octopus they have this beak, the mouth. And once you cut that, they just kind of die. So it was, you know, we'd watch 'em. It'd be late at night, but we'd go down and watch 'em sometimes do that. And I remember that distinctly. [Laughs]

RP: This is something that would happen at night.

VI: Oh, usually you'd get a low tide or something.

RP: And so was the octopus used for food?

VI: You eat it, yeah.

RP: Did you eat it?

VI: Oh, yeah. Octopus is a little tough but, you know, chewy. [Laughs]

RP: How would it be prepared? I mean, would your mom cook it up?

VI: Well, you could make sashimi out of octopus or you can put it in vinegar. But those were pretty nice days.

RP: Where did you live on the island? Was there company housing?

VI: Yeah, they had company housing. The cannery had company housing.

RP: Do you remember what that was like?

VI: No, I don't. [Laughs] Yeah, I'm sure it wasn't very permanent because a lot of the men came from Seattle and worked the summer and went back.

RP: Can you describe the island to us? Was it very lush?

VI: Oh, yeah. If I say San Juan Islands, most of the people that's been around... in fact, I had a friend from Philadelphia that I worked with for a long time, and he came over here, and we took him up to the World's Fair up in Vancouver 1962. And I took him through the, coming home, through the San Juan Islands. There's about five islands there, and you go through the islands with a ferry boat 'cause you dock. And he kept on saying, "Is this part of the United States?" because it was so beautiful, and you didn't have people living all over the place. The San Juans are really -- now they're getting to the point where I think they're getting overcrowded 'cause everybody's buying into the property up there.

RP: So you would take a ferry boat to get to the islands?

VI: Right. Right.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.