Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Alley Watada Interview
Narrator: Alley Watada
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 15, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-walley-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historical Site and the Densho Legacy Project. Today we are talking with Alley Watada. We'll be discussing Alley's experiences growing up as a Japanese American in Colorado with emphasis on the period during World War II. Our interview is taking place at the Marriott Residence Inn in Denver, Colorado. The date of our interview is Thursday, May 15, 2008. The interviewer is Richard Potashin and our videographer is Kirk Peterson. Our interview with Alley today will be archived in the Manzanar National Historic Site library. And, Alley, a pleasure meeting you.

AW: Thanks.

RP: And an honor to be able to, to share stories with you today. First of all, can you give me your name, your given name at birth?

AW: At birth my name was Al and middle name, Japanese name, was Eiji Watada. So it's Al Eiji Watada.

RP: So, and how did you end up with Alley?

AW: Well, I'm making an assumption here. When I went to first grade, my brother took me to school and he introduced me to the teacher. And he probably said, "Al." And middle initial, middle name is Eiji, which starts with E. So he probably said, "This is Al E. Watada." I'm making... and so when I got my first report card, my father and my brother was discussing my name. And it was Ally, A-L-L-Y, and they thought, well, maybe this is part of an extension of Al, but they weren't sure about that. And my second grade teacher spelled it A-L-L-I-E. She said that, "No, you don't spell Alley that way. It's A-L-L-I-E." And my third grade teacher informed me that's a female gender. So it should A-L-L-E-Y. And, of course, those days we took whatever was given to us, I guess. And it wasn't until when I was in the military, I was getting a security clearance, and the fellows that were doing the clearance said that at the court house there is no Alley E. Watada, but there is a Al E. Watada. And so they gave me a choice. I either have to change my records to Al or go to the courthouse and change it to Alley. So, that's what I did. I changed it to Alley.

RP: That's a story in itself.

AW: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: Alley, your birth place and your full birth date?

AW: I was born in Platteville, Colorado, which is about 26 miles north of Denver, maybe 30 miles. Born in July 20, 1930.

RP: Were you born at home?

AW: Yes, yes. I come from family of twelve children and I think six of us were all born at the house.

RP: You had a midwife or doctor who came out?

AW: That I don't know. I don't know.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Let's, let's talk a little bit about your family background. Tell us first, your father's name.

AW: My father's given name is Matajiro Watada. But, at early on, as he came in to start farming he took on the name Arthur. And so when they all got their citizenship, he used the name Arthur Matajiro Watada.

RP: And where did, where did your father come from in Japan?

AW: He came from Fukui-ken, which is on the Japan Sea side and Fukui-ken, it's a prefecture. And he was born in a village called Matsubara.

RP: And do you have any background on him as far as his family life in Japan?

AW: No I don't. I do know that my grandfather came to United States in the, probably early 1900 or somewhere around there. And he had asked my father to learn the English language and to come to United States and join him here. So, probably in about 1914, '13 or '14, he came to United, my father came to the United States and joined my father here in Colorado.

RP: Your grandfather had settled in Colorado?

AW: He came here... I don't know if I would use the settled, word settled. I think at that time many people from Japan came here to make a living and hope to make a lot of money.

RP: Did he have plans to go back to Japan?

AW: I believe they all did, yes. Certainly after my father got married and my grandfather went back to Japan.


RP: We were talking about your, your grandfather, and he went back to Japan...

AW: Yes, he went back to Japan but I don't know what he did for a living back there. This is a story that my father had told us about. That he went back to Japan, and so my father and my mother stayed out here and farmed.

RP: Oh they did.

AW: Uh-huh.

RP: And those were the only members of your father's family to come to the United States?

AW: Of my father's family, that's correct. That's correct. My father had one sister and she remained in Japan. So, yes.

RP: Was your father an only son?

AW: Yes, that's correct. There was a... that's right. There was just two in the family.

RP: Okay. Tell us a little bit about your father. What do you remember the most about him?

AW: Well, I think the thing that my father had always emphasized to us as we grew up was education and helping the society. That... and, as I look back at it, I could see that he himself practiced this very strongly. In terms of education he wanted to make sure that we were doing okay in school and since he didn't speak the English language fluently, he couldn't help with, with the homework. But yet, nevertheless, he made sure that we attended school. And then in terms of helping the society, I do know that he was very active in the Japanese community, the civic activities. And he himself was influential or took a lead in developing organizations for the people of Japanese ancestry. He helped develop the school, the Buddhist temple, and even at the, when I was a youngster at the Platteville school, he, I'm not quite sure what the day was, I mean what the purpose of the day was, but he would made it certain that we had, he had a display of Japanese memorabilia, whether it's dolls, paperwork, things of this nature. He brought it to school as an educational material for other students. So this is back in the '30s, before the war, and so my, my father was, I think, very, felt that this was very important and to try to teach everybody what we, the, his history.

RP: And build a bridge between, between the two communities?

AW: Probably, yes, yes.

RP: Create understanding and eventually tolerance --

AW: That's right.

RP: -- between different cultures.

AW: Uh-huh.

RP: That's extraordinary.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Let's talk about your mother, first of all, her name?

AW: Her name is En, spelled E-N. And her maiden name is Kamo, so it's En Kamo.

RP: And how did she end up coming to America?

AW: Well, she was a, I guess what they call a "mail bride." When my father was here, mother sought single ladies that was available for him. And my father, as I say, is from a little village called Matsubara village and my mother was from the Kabushi village. And the village is only about two or three miles apart. And my, let me see, my grandmother, my grandmother who was in the Matsubara village, found this family who had three girls. They were not married yet, they were marriage age, I mean, they were available. And no my mother was selected from the three for my father. And, so this is how they met. And my mother talks about looking at my father only by a picture, and this is how she recognized him. And I guess my father doesn't say anything but I guess I assuming that they must have sent them a picture of her, to my father.

RP: And sometimes those pictures were taken a lot, many years earlier.

AW: [Laughs] Oh, it could be deceiving.

RP: Right. False advertising.

AW: I suppose the only thing that kind of humors my mother, kept talking about, is that the picture showed him, didn't show how tall he is. And it turned out that she is taller than my father. So, she, I think she was a little bit disappointed in that. I'm not too sure, but she brings that up so I'm assuming that she was a little taken back by that.

RP: And your father went back to marry your mother, or...

AW: Yes, yes. My father, they made some arrangement and they don't talk about that but the photos that we have shows that my father and his sister and the sisters, there were... taking pictures together like that, so yes.

RP: Well, let's talk about your mom in terms of her personality, what you remember about her the most. You told me one thing, one interesting thing about her is that she was, had a very special hobby. She used to write tanka?

AW: Yes, yes. All of her life, ever since I could remember, she would be writing poems and they called this... actually, she doesn't call it poems, she calls it song, the tanka, but this is translated into a Japanese poem. And she had, she was writing that all along, whenever she had time. And of course at the time it occurred more during the winter month than the summer month, because during the summer month she was out in the farm like all of us. But whatever she wrote, she wrote the tanka and she was always looking for new subjects to write. So as soon as -- I shouldn't say "soon" -- but when we grew up and was able to take her around, my brother and others, we would take her to various sites, such places as New York City, Niagara Falls, down in Texas where they have citrus, the Washington, D.C., she wanted to see the cherry blossoms. She would write tanka about all of these events. And her poem, the tankas, was concentrated more on the family activity, family events. And over the years, what she did was she, I don't know how many she had, but she did collect a hundred of them and made a, bound it into a hard-bound book. The tanka is written in Japanese and romaji and then into the English. And so she was able to get that published before she passed away. So this is something that the family has to remember her poems. So, it's a hobby that, that I wish I had that I could pass on, like she did. But, it's very nice because it talks about various family activities, such as on the farm there was a plane accident when it was spraying, so she made a tanka about that. She came out to -- I was getting my PhD in University of California, Davis -- she came out and I explained to her what I'm doing. So she wrote a tanka about my research program. And things of this... so it's a very interesting for the family members.

RP: Kind of a historical account of your family life --

AW: Yes.

RP: -- by poetry.

AW: That's right, yes, it is. And I, I know one tanka poem that's very interesting is she's talking about brother below me, he had to milk the cows. And he, I guess one of the cold days, I guess he didn't want to milk the cows anymore. He said, "The teats are frozen so I can't milk anymore." So she made a poem out of that. And so that's a kind of humorous poem.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Let's get to your siblings. Since there's quite a few of them, that will take a long time. Can you list them by oldest and give us, if you can recall, the date of their birth?

AW: Wow, that's a good one. Well, the oldest one is Albert. He was born in 1924. And he graduated from the Platteville High School and he stayed on the farm shortly and then he was, went into the army, World War II, and he went out to Europe. The second one is Takeshi, his American name is Alfred. And he was born in 1925, November '25. And he too graduated from Platteville High School and then he went into the military and was then sent to the Pacific, ended up in Japan. And then my third brother, which is, who is above me, Andrew, was born in 1927 in Platteville. And he came to Fort Lupton with me where he graduated in Fort Lupton and he joined the, was in the Korean War. And he was killed in the Korean crisis. Then I'm the fourth one. Then a brother below me, Ben, he was born in 1932 and he, he was in the Korean War with me, with... Andrew, Ben, and I were in the Korean, in the military during the Korean War. And he is now, Ben is now retired out in California. And below Ben is my sister Jane, we call her Akemi. Akemi was born in 1935, born in Platteville. Graduated from Fort Lupton and she's married to a farmer here in Brighton, Colorado, Joe Sasaki. So, below Jane is Arthur and he was born in 1937. Arthur... from there the brothers are quite young. I mean several years different so I kind of lose, I don't track 'em as well. And Arthur is in Little Rock, Arkansas. And below Arthur is Bob. And he, Bob graduated from Fort Lupton, joined the Peace Corps, got his college degree, got his, went to Hawaii and got a doctoral in economics back there, married a girl in Hawaii and he's now located in Oregon, retired in Oregon. And below, then comes Everett. Everett, I forgot which university he went to, but now he's, he's in the area. He's a, does income taxes during his winter months and I'm not sure what he does during the summer months. But he's very active in the Buddhist Temple. In fact, he's now the president-elect of the Buddhist Churches of America. So, very active there. And then, then a sister. We have two sisters. Tomiko, her name is Hazel Tomiko and she went to school in Fort Collins and is married to a fellow by name of Bob Taketa who has an engineering firm in south Denver. And below that, it would be Eugene and I know, well, right now he's a State Farm agent in Brighton, Colorado. And then the youngest one is Bill and he's, I think he has his degree in accounting or in business, but he's with the federal government on Department of Transportation or Safety. Is that twelve? Did I miss anyone?

RP: That's twelve.

AW: Okay.

RP: By my count.

AW: Okay

RP: You'll have to practice that every morning just to make sure you get everyone. Wow, a lot of divergent paths...

AW: Oh yes, yes, uh-huh. I think we have three sets of family in the family. I mean, in terms of how society and environment has changed. We all have different views.

RP: So your, your parents had their own child labor force.

AW: Oh, that's right. Yes. There being twelve of us on the farm, and mostly boys, I think that we always thought that he had children to make sure they had laborers on the farm. But it was weeding or, or stacking hay, hauling manure... we were there.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Let's still talk a little bit about your dad's farm. Did he own his own land?

AW: No, no. He started out in Platteville, Colorado, on a... and leased a small acreage there. And then when they finally grew or enlarged, he needed more space, so he moved from Fort Lupton, from Platteville to Fort Lupton. Then he leased a farm there. And it, I don't know how many acres they leased, but they, they used it. And at some point after the war, my two oldest brothers, when they got married, farmed together with my father and so they bought some farm in Fort Lupton.

RP: Yeah. Can you describe to us, sort of the lay of the land where your father's farm was in Platteville? Was it near the river? Was it up on a hill or just...

AW: Well, Platteville's sort of a plateau area, I mean, a flat area. There isn't too much hill. When you say... Platte River was nearby, but we're talking about five or six miles. And the farm, it was a rich agricultural farm.

RP: What did you grow primarily on that farm?

AW: Mostly vegetables. The, the main crops were sugar beets, cabbage, tomatoes. Because it was a small acreage, I don't recall very many things. The only thing I recall is as a youngster we were always out there weeding. But the crops, that I can't remember too well. And then when we moved to Platteville, things expanded. Then we grew, in addition to sugar beets, cabbage, and tomatoes, we had onions and potatoes. And those were the main crops there. And then they had agronomic crops, alfalfa, grain, and this was important for the ground so there would be a rotated.

RP: Renewed.

AW: That's right, sure.

RP: And, you can recall, were fertilizers in those days still sort of manure based?

AW: That's right. Right. We had a feed lot on the farm in Fort Lupton and we used all the manure there and we would spread that out in the farm. So that was... and then the farm was also near a railroad track so I remember them bringing a car or, a rail car, full of manure and we would unload that and spread it around the farm. So, those were the days that the commercial fertilizer was manure.

RP: You mentioned that an airplane accident was, people who were spraying?

AW: Right, uh-huh.

RP: Was, was that something that was done on your farm, too?

AW: Yes. In the... spreading with those airplanes started probably in the '50s, maybe earlier, I don't remember. But this is the way they were spraying, not everything, but probably most of our spraying was done by our own equipment that they had. They had a tank and a sprayer and a boom to spray out the material. But people who had large acreage would have the airplane come on out and spray. And I guess in one of those -- I was not home when it happened, but in one of those instances the airplane did not, there were saying that he tried to miss the power line and then in the process he crashed, and the poem said fortunately he lived.

RP: Did you have mechanized equipment on your farm when you were growing up? Like tractors, or did you rely on the horses still at that time?

AW: We had a tractor ever since I could remember, back in Platteville. But in Platteville it was mostly horses. They used the tractor, I can't -- probably for plowing, but for cultivating, doing the alfalfa, making furrows, I remember the horses. And, and then the horses, we probably had a couple of 'em in Fort Lupton. That's when their farm expanded so they bought more tractors and moved into tractors and then eventually went into mechanical harvesters. I remember that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: Can you lead us through maybe a typical day on the farm for you, say in the summer or spring?

AW: Oh, in the summer?

RP: When things were really busy.

AW: Oh, sure. Well, I don't know if so busy, but I do remember among the people, the Isseis, it was always a competition as to who's going to be out in the farm earliest, I think. And I do know that my parents made sure that we fed the pig or did our chores first thing in the morning, and we were out on the farm by six o'clock in the morning. And the thing that was, once in a while, neighbor farmer would have to go through our yard with a tractor, and it was interesting. I think the neighbor also was trying to compete, because the tractor would come by about 5:30 or 5:45, so my mother would say, "Hurry up, hurry up, get out." [Laughs] So we would go out there and start weeding first thing in the morning. And whether it's weeding or harvesting or whatnot, we would start very early in the morning. And middle of the day, we always had a sandwich about ten o'clock, nine-thirty or ten o'clock we had a sandwich. Then Mother would have lunch ready for all of us. Those days, I think we had dinner for lunch. We didn't have lunch, he had a big meal during dinnertime, at noontime, and then we'd go back out, and then about three or four o'clock, they would have another, they would bring sandwiches out again to give us a break, and we'd work until about six or seven o'clock, and then come home and do our chores.

That was the end of the days when we were weeding, but when we were harvesting, it was a little different. We would have to, depending on who went to the market, they would leave early in the morning, be at the market by six o'clock, and then in the evening, we would be out packing the boxes that would go to the market the following morning.


RP: Alley, we were just talking about where --

AW: Oh, that's right.

RP: -- you shipped your vegetables.

AW: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Did you have a, was there a packing shed?

AW: There was a, yeah that's right, there was a small packing shed in the nearby town. But most of the material, we took it to Denver. And, well, let me back up. For fresh produce, like tomatoes, we would take it to the Denver market, early in the morning. If it was potatoes, they would have a contract that, shed there in, in Fort Lupton that they would deliver to. And then there was a processing company also in Fort Lupton. So they would take things like the beans, the pinto beans, certain things that they could process. So the source, the sites were different, depending on the crop.

RP: Depending on the crop.

AW: Right, uh-huh.

RP: And who, who ran these packing sheds or processing firms? Were Japanese Issei involved in the production and marketing of vegetables in the area, too?

AW: Not to my knowledge. The plants were all owned individually, except the potato was a co-op. And so -- association, I should say, a potato association, so all the farmers got together and they hired someone to run the shed and to sell the potato. But in terms of the processing plant, it was a family-owned business. And so I don't recall anyone of Japanese ancestry running the packing sheds.

RP: But there were cooperatives of Japanese farmers?

AW: They had a co-op of which they used to help inform the Japanese farmers of price of the produce that, price that they could get for the produce at that time. Because at that time they had no ways of knowing what should they ask for. So that's what they did.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Did you, did you go on any of those trips to Denver to, to bring produce?

AW: Oh, yes. Of course, this is, as a youngster, we all wanted to go, mainly because this way we don't have to stay home and weed, I think. [Laughs] And so it was a treat for us to go to Denver. Of course, the consequence of going to Denver is that if they had a truckload of cabbage, for example, it was a lot of work to unload those cabbage one by one, and people on the other end did not help you unload, you had to unload. So we had to do all the unloading, and we put it into bags over there. But eventually, I noticed that after I left, they would do all the bagging there on the farm and they would just haul it by bags. So the procedure had changed since I left the farm.

RP: You, you should have done what Gladys Konishi's dad did. He'd send Gladys, you know, to haul the produce so her being a woman, they naturally would unload the truck for her.

AW: Right, uh-huh. Unfortunately, didn't quite work with us with ten boys and two girls. The girls were spoiled in our family. My sisters don't agree with me on that, but...

RP: So, you're in Denver and you have the opportunity to maybe... sample the, the attractions of the town a little bit?

AW: No, no. We went straight to the packing house or wherever we delivered the cabbage to and about the only thing that we looked forward to was the, the fellows that would have these little carts selling tamales. And so that's what we looked forward to in terms of the Denver cuisine. And then as soon as we did that we were back at home working,

RP: Did you ever visit, was there a Japantown in Denver during the days when you were growing up on the farm?

AW: Well, I know that Delarma Street was the site where a lot of people of Japanese ancestry were in the area, but I knew very little about it. Because, being in the rural area, we didn't come into town.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Do you have any humorous stories you can share about growing up on the farm? In terms of, did you, did you guys... how primitive was the situation for your family? Did you have electricity or indoor plumbing? Did you have to use outhouses?

AW: Oh, no. In Platteville, in Platteville it was outhouses and probably one of the, having outhouses in those days, one of the things that my father always looked forward to was Halloween because that's when they would, fellows would come out and dump, push that toilet over and my father would stay up until late at night but it never, never failed. They came sometime after he went to bed. So, no, we didn't have that. And then the water was, we had to carry our water by buckets from the pump. And 'course as a youngster, it felt like a long ways. But it was a distance. And then we took bath, not in the house, but we had what we called furoba, these are buildings where they have tanks about the size that they use for, to feed the horses. And heat the water from the outside. And we used that for our, to bath, bathe. So we had to haul our water there. And we did the same thing in Fort Lupton. I think that eventually... I know in Platteville, the, we had a small room where we kept the water, buckets of water. And it was cold and we didn't have central heating. So in the morning the water, buckets of water would be frozen. But in Platteville, eventually we had running water. I'm not quite sure how that worked, but when we first moved there, there was a pump outside and we'd bring the water in. But somehow or another they must have updated that pump in there. So we didn't have indoor plumbing when I grew up.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Let's talk a little bit about your education. You started at, went to grammar school in Platteville.

AW: Yes, yes. Uh-huh. I went to... Platteville's a small community. And there I went to seven years or beginning of my eighth year is where I went there. And then I went, we moved to Fort Lupton and I graduated from Fort Lupton. And then I went on to Colorado State University and got my bachelors in horticulture. Well, I got my bachelors and masters in horticulture there. There, for masters work, I concentrated on doing research on how to maintain quality of produce. And then went into military, and then I went to University of California at Davis to get my doctoral. And I continued my research in the same area, how to do, what can be done to maintain quality and nutrition of fresh produce.

RP: That's interesting. And what did, how did you see that happening when you were growing up, in terms of the technology and of preserving produce, particularly in the produce that you were sharing?

AW: Well, I would say that when I was growing up, I'm not sure that I really gave that a thought, in terms of how it should be handled. I think that part of it is that I know in marketing, we used to put poor produce on the bottom and good produce on the top and then package it. And then my brother said that you don't do that. People aren't going to buy it tomorrow if you do that. So, that was the marketing aspect of it. But in terms of maintaining the quality and the nutrition, I really hadn't thought about that when I was growing up. I think that as a youngster it was a matter of survival and ttrying to look for something better to do. And certainly in terms of education, thanks to my mother, she said I should go on to college, mainly because I had a terrible allergy condition so that I, I would not survive on the farm. So through her encouragement I had applied to go to college and I, at that time I knew very little about college. I had no idea what opportunities existed. I think that in those days they didn't have, within the school itself, a program to educate the youngsters what's available out there. And with us not being able to communicate in English to our parents, we had no idea what we could do. Other than to talk about, talk to other people. And one of my friends talked about being a veterinarian. And my mother said, "Oh, veterinarian makes good money. You should go into veterinary science." So, that's where I started. I started as pre-vet when I was in Fort Collins. And interestingly, one of my people that I knew who was in veterinary school, showed me what they did in veterinary school. And when saw what he's doing with his arm to go into the system. I said, "Well, I don't think I want to go with animals." And that's when I switched over to horticulture. And then talking with the other professionals in the agriculture, then I realized what I could do. So this is how I selected my field.

RP: Just to go back, back to the Platteville farming community, were there other ethnic groups that farmed and lived in the Platteville area that you recall?

AW: No, I don't. I think there were very, there were a few people of Japanese ancestry in the area. But outside of... well, there were, when you say ethnic, there were Germans, there were Italians, but in terms of color, no, I don't...

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Did you hire additional labor or was your family enough?

AW: Oh, no, no. We hired, we had a, like I think all vegetable growers, I think, I don't know. Anyway, we had a house for laborers, and these were Hispanic people, they farmed there. And let me see, I remember when the war broke out, I'm not quite sure what happened, but we were short of people in terms of harvesting sugar beets. And this would be 1942, and that's when people moved into Amache camp. And there, my father knew one of his friends were there, so he, this fellow, Mr. Hamamoto, and another fellow came out and moved into the house that we had for the laborers, and they helped us harvest sugar beets. So you had that kind of experience. Then in Fort Lupton, there were more ethnic groups. Well, no, I shouldn't say there were more. Well, I guess there were more people of Japanese ancestry in Fort Lupton area, and there, during the war, labor was short, so I remember bringing prisoners, German prisoners on the farm to help harvest potatoes.

RP Do you remember anything specific about that experience?

AW: Yes, there was a couple of things. One was that we were instructed that we weren't to feed them anything, we weren't to, we're not supposed to be doing anything with them. And my mother felt sorry for them because my mother found out that all they had was a hard roll and something for lunch, my mother said that we need to give them food when we take our break. So as I said, during ten o'clock and three o'clock, we would get a sandwich or something to eat or drink. So she made a point to have a sandwich for each one of the soldiers, baloney sandwich, I remember the baloney sandwich, and if there was, say, twenty-five soldiers, prisoners out there, she would make twenty-five sandwiches. And as I said, we were instructed not to feed them, so my mother made a point to make the sandwiches and asked us to leave it near the field where they knew where it was, and tell 'em it's there, but it was not real visible to outside people. And the soldiers were interesting in terms of, given that they were told that there's a, one sandwich for them, so they would kind of quietly go over and get their sandwich and help themselves at ten o'clock and three o'clock, they did that. So it was an interesting thing in terms of laborers.

RP: Right. You had, you had to utilize whatever resources you had there.

AW: Right. Uh-huh. And the... I used to, at that time, run the potato harvesters. And in the potato harvester there's chains that goes wrapped around and once in a while the chains would break and it's a chore to try to put the chains back together. And those fellows, as soon as the chain broke, they were there helping me put it together and they were fantastic. They had the strength. They were a little older than I was so they had the strength to put the chain together. We would continue harvesting. They were not... let me put it this way, a lot of people when you get laborers like that when you, you would think well, if the chain broke that's his fault. You would just sit back and wait. They took on their initiative to come and help me so that I could continually dig the potatoes.

RP: Great story. Sounds like there were a number of local farmers who utilized the VW labor.

AW: Right, right. Yes. I guess, I don't, I didn't know it at the time, but when you think back about it I imagine that the war took a lot of youngsters that were available for labor so we had to rely on some other source.

RP: The other group that, that was used as a labor force were the quote "newcomers" from the West Coast, Japanese Americans who had been uprooted or had, had to "voluntarily relocate," as the government referred to it, to avoid going to camps. And they showed up in huge numbers in Colorado, principally because Colorado was really their only sanctuary.

AW: Uh-huh. Right, sure.

RP: The governor, Ralph Carr, allowed, you know, sort of opened the doors to them.

AW: Uh-huh.

RP: Do you recall any of those folks coming to work on your farm or neighboring farms in the Platteville/Fort Lupton area?

AW: No, I don't. I did have a classmate, there was a classmate who said that they're helping on the farm. But I was too young to understand the need of labor, using them as the labor. So, no, I don't know that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: I want to go back a little bit into your early education, grammar school. What are your, any vivid memories you have of going to school in Platteville?

AW: I suppose the thing that stuck out the most was when the war came on. Before the war, my friends were Caucasian, and we, I never thought of myself as being different in terms of racial bias situation. But when the war started, there was a young boy who had a knack of getting a group of other boys together, and coming up and said, "Alley's a Jap," and then this would start a fight, physical fight. And I, initially, I fought and then my mother said to ignore them, but that was not possible. This went on almost every day. And so this I remember, that there was no one else that really supported me. And then I think at that time, there were people of Japanese ancestry, but I know that the brother above me, Andrew, and I, had problems with other people. More than teasing, just badgering because we were of different color. So that I do remember as something that went through in the grade school in Platteville.

RP: So there was a really distinct change in the behavior...

AW: Right, right.

RP: Because I think you mentioned how your father coming to class, and did you feel part of the community before the war?

AW: Yes, right. Right. I think my father helping, bringing things to school, and when I think back about it maybe the daughter-in-law of the landlord where we stayed at was a teacher at school. Things of this nature probably helped. So we were well-integrated within the community. So we, we were just part of the community.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Let talk about, while we're on topic of community, how about the Japanese American community in Platteville and Fort Lupton, was it very vibrant, very active, involved group of people getting together and what organizations did people rally around? Was it the Buddhist church or the language school? What brought Japanese Americans together in that?

AW: I would think that, I believe that it was a combination of thing. I think that the first generation had their own organization. They probably called it Japanese Association of Fort Lupton. But as we grew up I think they realized the need that we needed, they wanted us to have, learn the Japanese language. So, Platteville and Fort Lupton got together and at Fort Lupton they had an old public school, I think they must have bought. And we were taught, we went there to learn the language during the summer months and on Saturdays during the winter months. And so we would, everyone would go to school for eight years. And I only went to third year, three years. So, yes, I think that started and I believe that, well, there were both people of, of the Buddhist religion and the Christian religion, of the Japanese ancestry. So, I'm not sure what the people of Japanese ancestry did at the, for Christian religion. But I do know in Fort Lupton they would go to the Methodist church. But in, for the Buddhist church, there were enough of them that before the war, that they were able to get together enough money to build a temple there. And so, it must, it must have been completed around '39, '40, '41. About the time war broke out is when they completed it. And so at that time it was a site of gathering. But going back to the school, this I think was a, more a center point for all of us, both the Christian and the people of Buddhist religion. Because we talk, we talked about history with all of my friends. And they talk about the teachers or the plays that they put together. Plays even where my father... it was not only plays where the students put together, but even the adults. And I remember my father being dressed as a female being in a, in the play. And so I think this is kind of a focal point for all of us. The school, where they taught school, the, the Japanese language there. So, yes, I'm sure that the Buddhist temple brought us together, too, but I would say the focal point I would say more was the school. And of course that, we had to terminate that when the war broke out. So, they, I guess one of the regulation is that we couldn't congregate any at one particular site.

RP: You mentioned that your dad was involved with the Japanese... there was a Japanese Association in Fort Lupton?

AW: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And what type of roles would they fill in the community? What type of services or aid did they offer that you can recall?

AW: Oh, I'm not sure I could... you know, I don't know whether it's Japanese Association of Fort Lupton or whether Japanese Association of Colorado. I know that there's a Japanese Association of Colorado and I don't know whether the Japanese Association of Fort Lupton was part of the Japanese Association of Colorado. But I do know that they had gatherings and I imagine that -- I'm only speculating -- that they had issues that they need to resolve back in those days and that they would get together and discuss that. I don't know.

RP: There was also, Fort Lupton had its own JACL chapter.

AW: Yes. Fort Lupton has its own JACL and that's kind of vivid for me. I know that Denver had a JACL and Fort Lupton had a JACL. And one of the thing that... when the war started, my father had suggested that, that the money that they had in the treasury be given to the Red Cross and that the physical property goes to organization, they formed a organization called JACL, Japanese American Citizens League. And I don't know enough about it. Whether that was an independent organization or whether they felt that since other people had JACL that they will have JACL. That it, it is independent from the fact that the Fort Lupton JACL has their own number, let me say the federal number for tax exemption and whatnot. And many other chapters rely on the national chapter.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: You were busy going, you know, working on the farm and going to Japanese language school. What little time you had for leisure and fun, what, what activities did, did you get involved with as well as the family? Things like baseball, 4-H...

AW: Uh-huh. Well, I did... as a, when I was in Platteville and also in Fort Lupton, I was in 4-H. And, but in terms of real... I guess I was in 4-H because my brothers were in 4-H or FAA and this type of thing. But in terms of hobby or, I don't know if I would call it a hobby, but sports, I guess I wasn't talented. I tried for, I tried baseball and I was not successful in throwing the ball very well. I went out for football and I remember being hit real hard by an end and I figured that I don't like football. And so I tried, I tried baseball, football. Basketball, I knew I couldn't run. So, I, I was not involved in sports. And I guess that sort of indicated the fact that I just have no real interest in sports right now.

RP: How about your brothers? Did they, any of them get involved in, for instance, a Nisei baseball league?

AW: Well my brothers did, yes. My oldest brothers, they were, they were... well, I went out for baseball because they were involved in baseball. But to what extent, I don't remember that. And the brother above me, I know he played football in high school. And this is why I went out. I figured if he, I'll try to do what he could do. But I was not successful like him. So I know very little about... I guess all my youngsters, they went out for baseball, when I think back about it.

RP: Did your father play baseball?

AW: That I don't know. I don't know. I don't know where he had time.


RP: You did have a couple of occasions to, to go to the mountains, though.

AW: Yes. You mean during the summertime? Yes, uh-huh. Yes. My father was, he was very good about that. He would take Sundays off, two, three times a year, if not more, would take us up to the mountain and he would, I remember -- I guess maybe it depended on how energetic, how tired he was -- he would go up there and just lay by a tree and drink his wine, smoke his cigarette, and seemed to enjoy that. And there were other times that he just enjoyed fishing. So he would go out there and we would go out fishing with him.

RP: Was there a special place in the mountains you liked to go?

AW: Yes, he had special places. You know, I kind of forgot those names. But, yes, we would all jump in the car and, you know, I can't imagine how all of us jumped into that one little car and went up there, but he crowded all of us in there and we went up there fishing. And it was not a picnic for my mother because she had to take all the food up there and clean all the fish.

RP: You mentioned your dad would drink a little. A lot of the, a lot of the Issei guys when they were bachelors kind of, you know, were drinkers and smokers and in some cases gamblers. And then, you know, once they settled down, raised their family, they kind of gave that up.

AW: Well, I think for my father, he enjoyed alcohol, 'cause as a youngster, in our outside cellar, we would brew beer. And one of our chores, before going to school, was to cap the beer. And I always wondered, I think back about it now, we must have smelled like beer when we got on the bus and I wonder what the bus driver thought about us. So we did that. And he also had a still, and make sake. And, of course, as time went on, he dropped that but he continued drinking. And he enjoyed beer. He enjoyed just beer a lot. And when my father was in his last few days, the last few weeks, when I was in Maryland I would come home and he would call me. And he says, "Beer." And I thought, "How do I feed this guy beer?" He's laying there. It turned out he wanted beer. By the table, there was a tablespoon there so I gave him beer that way. So when he was buried, they made sure he had a can of beer in the casket.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: One other thing we wanted to talk about your father about was his, his involvement with, with the Buddhist church. And he, he did something very interesting during the year, you told me that he would, he would take ministers to, to rural areas in Wyoming, Nebraska, can you elaborate on that a little bit?

AW: Yes, sure. The ministers here in the temple had -- called the Tri-state Buddhist Temple -- the survival of the temple depended upon, through donations from everyone. And one of the thing that the ministers did was, in those days, would go out and covered three states in those days. Covered Colorado and Nebraska and Wyoming. And now it covers seven states. But the ministers would go out and meet the people of Japanese ancestry on all these locations. And so my father would spend, I know, two weeks every winter in taking him, taking one of the ministers out to visit with all the people there and asking for donations.

RP: You also mentioned that he never really actually participated in, you know, being Buddhist. He never really understood the philosophy or religion, but rather promoted it.

AW: That's right. He, well, more in term of supporting the organization for the benefit of family and the community. And I think that, in terms of really understanding the Buddhist religion, he was not in depth on it. And I say that because when I, in his latter years, I asked him about some of the philosophy that was being, that I came across in the Buddhist religion. I would ask him about that and he said that although he was active in the Buddhist temple, that he was, really did not doctrine, the Buddhist doctrine. So I thought this was interesting for a person who gave up a lot of hours in helping the Buddhist temple, his understanding doctrine was limited. And so... but I think it goes back to his philosophy of helping the society and it's not so much understanding but to make sure that it's helpful to the community.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Kind of along similar lines, we were talking about how your, your father having a still and brewing up sake. And one of the special occasions where you would, you would have, you know, a little nip of sake in New Year's activities. So, maybe you can share a little bit of your memories about celebrating holidays and special, special events with family.

AW: Uh-huh. Well, in our family we had, seemed to have a lot of special events. He made sure we celebrated birthdays, any event that came on. And that tradition just continued even 'til almost the day that he died. There was, anyone that had birthdays or some church activity, temple activity, we'd have some festivities. And in terms of, oh, well, one of the things that we do every year before New Year's Day is have mochitsuki. Are you familiar with mochitsuki? And so there he always had alcohol. And I think that's when I learned to drink, our first drink. I came back after college, he says, "You need to learn how to drink." And his drink was he took this class of beer and he poured whiskey into it and then he gave to me. And I wolfed it and I realized I took too much of it, I got hot. [Laughs] But it's something that he did all his life.

RP: Sounds like he, like other, other Niseis who I've talked to said their parents always wanted, "Let us know that we're Americans and tried to observe American holidays and traditions, but also have an understanding and appreciation of our Japanese festivities."

AW: Right, uh-huh.

RP: Is that the way it worked with your family?

AW: Yes, sure. Sure During the Christmas, obviously, we had a Christmas tree and had... I don't know whether we had gifts but we had small gifts. And then on Easter we had the Easter egg hunts and whatnot. Oh, I can't think of what else.

RP: July Fourth.

AW: Oh yes, sure. That was a big day. That was a big day because we got the day off, I guess, as a youngster in those days. But yes, it was a big day. No, they, they were very, I would say my folks were very open-minded about recognizing all these important events. Whether it's America or Japan.

RP: You convey this experience after the war began about being bullied and taunted about, about your, your ethnicity. Was there any point in time when you felt a sense of shame about being Japanese or had your parents instilled a real, a strong sense of pride about, about your background?

AW: No, that thought did not go through me in terms of being ashamed or who I was, how I felt about it. And fortunately for me, the duration of fight was just probably couple, three months. Because we had moved to Fort Lupton at that time, and in Fort Lupton there were more people of Japanese ancestry in the schools so I must have congregated with them. And I don't recall having any classmate that felt differently to us.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.