Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Blocher Smeltzer Interview
Narrator: Mary Blocher Smeltzer
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: La Verne, California
Date: July 17, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-smary-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. And this afternoon we're talking with Mary Smeltzer. Mary lives at 2622 Mountain View in the city of La Verne, California. Date of our interview is July 17, 2008. The interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson. And this interview will be archived in the library at the Manzanar National Historic Site. We'll be talking with Mary about her brief experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center and most importantly, the creation of a hostel in Chicago with her husband Ralph, and later a hostel created in Brooklyn for internees coming out of the Manzanar camp.

MS: All the camps.

RP: All the camps, right. Mary, do I have your permission to record our interview?

MS: Yes, you do.

RP: It's great seeing you again. You're looking really good. And so we're gonna start with some of your early family history.

MS: All right.

RP: And first of all, can you tell us where you were born and what year?

MS: Yeah, I was born in 1915 between Portland and Taft in Texas. And it's actually very close to the, I guess it's Corpus Christi Bay, between Corpus Christi and... well, it was just a bay. But we had to go across a bridge, I know, to get there. But that's where I was born, and it was on a cotton field; we grew cotton.

RP: Yeah, tell us a little bit about your family background.

MS: Well, I had two brothers and a sister, and I, older brother and an older sister, and then I came next, and then a younger brother.

RP: What were their names, Mary?

MS: Well, my sister, my brother Paul was the oldest, my sister was Ruth, and then I'm next, and then my brother Henry was next, and he's still alive, and he lives here, close to me.

RP: Right here in this complex?

MS: Yeah, he lives in Hillcrest, too. This is a retirement community that the Church of the Brethren started. And we have almost four hundred people here, and I've been here twenty-three years.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: How about your, your father and mother? Tell us a little bit about them. Where did they come from before --

MS: Well, they came from Kansas, and they grew up, I think, in the Church of the Brethren, too. And they were married, I think, in 1901, I've got a picture of their wedding in there. And they met at an annual conference. Our church has what they call an annual conference. It's just a big family meeting, they just finished one right now in Richmond, Virginia. And my son and my oldest daughter have been there, and they've got my grandchildren there, too. Anyway, we have these every year, and that's where my parents met, at one in Kansas. And well, somehow they had two children, and people were starting to farm and grow cotton in Texas, and I had an uncle that was down there, too, in fact, two uncles, I think. But my parents moved to Texas before I was born, and they bought some land, and my brother told me that my dad picked out the land that had the biggest brush on it, because he figured it was the best land. And so they bought, I think, 160 acres. And also, some relatives had 80 acres, and in later years, we had this 160 and the 80. And, well, actually, I'm not sure how many years they were there, but we left Texas. They didn't have a high school, and my older brother and sister needed to go to high school. And so our church had a, they called them academy in North Manchester, Indiana, so we went there one winter. And I was five, and my younger brother had been born, and he was a tiny baby. And we lived in North Manchester, but during that time, my grandpa died out here in Whittier, California. And so I guess my dad came on the train out here for a memorial service for my, for his father. And at that time, he knew a man and a woman called Laura and Ben Haugh that taught at the La Verne College, and it had an academy, too, a high school. So Dad came over here and he bought us a house right on Lincoln Avenue then, now it's White. But he bought us a very nice house. It had two stories and four bedrooms upstairs, big rooms, they were as big as this, bigger than this room. And we had a living room and dining room and a big kitchen, and a family room. We called it a den. Anyhow, he bought it and our family went from Manchester back to Texas. And I had a grandparent, my mother's mother was in Kansas so we stopped. And the year I was five, I went from Texas to Indiana, and then at Christmas we went to visit cousins in Ohio, and then we went back to Kansas to see my grandma, and then we went back to Texas, and then we drove to California all the year I was five.

RP: [Laughs] Whoa.

MS: I couldn't believe it.

RP: Do you remember any of that?

MS: Well, I remember coming in that car. Well, I think at my grandma's, I was swinging in a swing and I got, swung out and hit the door to the cellar, and I cracked my collarbone. I think I remember that a little. And then as we were coming out here, we were camping along the way, and one night, a ranger came by and said there was a mountain lion someplace around. And it was someplace between El Paso and San Diego. And so I think my parents, one of 'em, I think, stayed awake all night and kept a fire. And I think my baby brother and I slept in the car, but I think we had army cots outside, and that's where the rest of 'em slept. But I know coming, we had a little car trouble. And in San Diego, somebody bumped the car, and my mother and my baby brother fell out on the street. Didn't hurt 'em much. But I know we drove, we got here to La Verne on a Sunday night, and my dad had a cousin here. And she lived in a house that's right over on D Street, and that's where we slept the first night. But it was, I remember...

RP: You remember quite a bit.

MS: Some of it.

RP: So, the house that you moved into was still around?

MS: Yeah. But it had a beautiful porch on two sides of the house, and after we sold it, they glassed that all in. It's not pretty at all now. Not nice like when we lived in it.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: What do you remember about growing up here in La Verne?

MS: Well, I went to grammar school in La Verne, and I walked to school. And it was like... one, two, three, four, about ten blocks, something like that. It was a good walk. But I know walking home, there was a very famous woman who worked with the Mexicans and had Sunday school and stuff, and she had a lemon tree in front of her house, and we walked by it. I would pick up a lemon, and we'd kind of play catch with this lemon. And then we got to the Methodist church, and they had a fountain out in front. And I'd wash this lemon and then I'd eat it. I loved sour stuff. [Laughs] And then we had a, the girlfriend that lived a half a, well, half a block from me, and it was just a big pepper tree and a vacant lot between our houses. And she had red hair, and she was my best friend. And she didn't go to our church, but we went to the Church of Brethren and there was a bunch of kids there. And I was always the go-between between Nadine and these other kids that were in our church. I remember that's what I grew up doing, being a go-between. But well...

RP: What about the, you said there was a Church of the Brethren here in La Verne?

MS: Uh-huh, it had been here. The Church of the Brethren in La Verne and the college got started about in the 1890s. So it was here going.

RP: Pretty established.

MS: And it was a big frame building, the church was then.

RP: Can you give us a little brief background on the Church of the Brethren?

MS: Well, it's one of the historic peace churches, and it's celebrating the 300th anniversary this year.

RP: In the United States?

MS: Yeah. No, I imagine it's from when it started in Germany. It started in a town called Schwarzenau, and they baptized people in the Eder River. And I think it was kind of against the law because I think there was some kind of a national church. I think there was both Catholic and Protestant at that time. But I know they baptized... did I say baptized? They baptized people in the Eder River, and that was the beginning of our church, and that was three hundred years ago now. Well, I visited there. I lived in Europe, I lived in Austria, my husband did relief work there. So we visited Schwarzenau, and I went by somebody's house, and I admired a little candleholder that was in her china cabinet or something and she just opened the door and she hauled out and gave me one, and I've got it right over here. Anyway... what was I, where was I?

RP: We were talking a little bit about the history of the church.

MS: Oh, yeah. Well, it's always been a peace church, and one of the things they wouldn't do was to fight in the army. And some of the, what do you call it, the noblemen or the people that were higher class, they let us, I think they... I suppose we lived on some of their land or something, but we went from Germany, I think, up to Holland or somewhere like that, and then they came across to the United States. And they came to, I think it was called Germantown, it was a suburb of Philadelphia, and I can't tell you that year. I don't know what year that was. I ought to know it, but I don't. Anyway, that's where our church started, and right now, my son and his wife have churches in Pennsylvania, and they're of Church of the Brethren, too. And there's many more of Brethren back there and in Virginia. Virginia and Pennsylvania have many more Church of the Brethren people. Then there are some in Indiana, and some in Ohio, and a few in Iowa, and a few down in... well, Missouri, I guess. But then about in the 1890s, people started coming to California. And so our church started out here in 1890, and that's when the college started here, too.

RP: Is this the only Church of the Brethren in southern California area at that time?

MS: Oh, no, no. We've got one in Pomona, we've got one in Glendora. We used to have one in Covina, and they have some up north. We've got a good-sized church in Modesto. And there's a little town called Empire and Waterford and Lindsay, they all have Churches of the Brethren. But it's a very small denomination and we're not thick out here like big churches are all back east. There are some in Maryland and Virginia and Pennsylvania. I don't know what else you want...

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Tell us a little bit about some of the, were there special activities that you were involved with, with the church? I mean, how active did you become as you were growing up at the church?

MS: Well, I could play the piano a little bit, and we have, on Sunday night we used to meet when I was growing up. I guess they called it Christian Endeavor or something like that. It was just a Sunday evening thing. Of course you have Sunday school, and I've just always been active in the church. And some of our family is, and actually, all my children belong to the church. And where my oldest daughter lives, there is no Church of the Brethren so she's going to Unitarian. She says we're (as close) to be Unitarian and not be Unitarian as you could be. So we're not a... well, and we have all kinds in our church, too, back east, especially. Out here, we don't have so many, but we have from conservatives to liberals. And they have, I think it's Brethren Revival Fellowship that are the conservatives. And we have a group called Voices of an Open Spirit, and I helped start the women's caucus in our church, which is left. And, well, my children would... my son has got a little church, it's supposed to be a conservative one. His wife has what we call and "open and affirming," one that will include gays and lesbians. So Bonnie has a pretty-good sized church, but Ken, they used to have a church together in Modesto, but they don't have a church together now. So Ken got a small church and a conservative church. And I said, "What are you doing there?" "Well, Mom, I'm interpreting scriptures." And so he's a good storyteller, and he's a good people person, so he's getting along okay. He's been there a couple of years in this conservative little church. And so, as I say, we have all kinds. And when we have these annual meetings once a year, they're usually over the Fourth of July, this time it's a little later. And well, we have very much difference of opinion. I mean, they don't all see the same. And there's a new group called Voices of an Open Spirit that my son's working with, and they're having, like, a special meeting in November in Indianapolis. And I won't be going to it, but Ken will, and a lot of my friends will be there.

RP: I wanted to ask you about, were you involved in any, as a youngster, a teenager, or your parents, the church is founded a lot on social activism. And were you at a young age involved in helping other groups out?

MS: Well, when I went to college, I went to Pomona Junior College and then, because it was cheaper. We didn't have much money. And my dad had gone back to Texas, and my mom had traded the house in La Verne for one in Pomona where she could rent out rooms. They had a paper mill, it was on the west side of town, and she was trying to make a living renting out rooms. And we went to church, we had to walk a good mile. Our church was downtown in Pomona, and we lived way out west. Finally, Mom sold that place, or I think we let it go. I think it was a time when FDR was president, and I think we owed six thousand dollars on it, and it got, the value went down and it wasn't worth it, so we just let it go. So Mom bought a new place for eighteen hundred up close to the middle of town by the YMCA. And that's where we moved. And I was living in this little house when, by 1940 when I got married. And well, yeah, I started to tell you that when I was in college, we had kind of groups that went around to the churches and told about what was going on in the world. And I had to represent Mussolini from Italy, and I always told that story. But we also had an International Relations Club, and I was in that in the beginning. That was when I was in college. I'm trying to remember, the Quakers have Whittier College, and I know one summer I went to a thing there. It was a... I can't think of the name of the group that had some kind of meeting down there and I know I went down there with my teacher, Miss Muir. She was a very good teacher, and she was at the university, La Verne College, then she went to Manchester, then she came back, and she was out here again. And we went down there for a week and I washed dishes or something to pay for my meals. And I worked all the time because we didn't have the money, and I got some scholarship when I went to La Verne. And, of course, junior college is cheap. But I've always been an outgoing person, and I always have been able to make speeches. So I've done it around in the churches on various things. And, of course, after I was in Manzanar, then I talked about Manzanar and showed these pictures I have. I've just always been an outgoing person.

RP: You got a degree in math?

MS: Yeah.

RP: And then you got a teaching credential after that?

MS: Uh-huh, at the same time.

RP: And that was from La Verne College?

MS: No. At the time I finished college in 1937, and La Verne didn't have a graduate program. So I had to go to Pomona. And we had a relationship, we could go to Pomona and take courses, and we could even go to their, they had a concert series in Bridges Hall over there, in Bridges Auditorium, the auditorium's the big one. And we had a relationship, we could go to those musicals. It was the time of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald and all those people. But anyway, so I took courses at Pomona College while I was going to La Verne. And at that time, the red cars were going, and you could go from, you could go from La Verne to Pomona or you could go from La Verne to Claremont, or you could go from Pomona to Claremont. And I went on those. And then I got a car, my brother bought me a car. And you know, then you could get a car for thirty-five dollars. And so the second year, I went to La Verne, I brought other people from Pomona to college at La Verne. And then even for the graduate year, well, one summer I got a job (with) a family in Claremont, I made fifteen dollars a week. And they were very educated people, and they had an aunt and uncle living with them. I know I made fifteen dollars a week, and I saved it up and I got a, I bought a typewriter and a car. I think I paid thirty-five dollars for the car, and you know, I don't know what the typewriter cost.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Tell us about your first teaching job.

MS: Well, a man came down from up north, and he was looking for a bunch of teachers. And he got several right from Claremont because there was a Connie Lyon, and I got a job the first year at Westwood. And Westwood was up north by Mount Lassen, and it was six hundred miles from here. And then there were two... I don't know if the first year there was another woman, well, she lived down here, I don't think she went to Pomona, I don't know where she went. But she got a job up there. Anyhow, we used to come down here for the weekend, and we'd get out of school, like, at two o'clock on Friday, and we borrowed a car from the science teacher. And we could -- you know what 395 is, goes east side of the Sierra?


MS: We could leave up there at two o'clock in the afternoon, we'd get here at two o'clock in the night, twelve hours. It was six hundred miles, and you could go on this 395, there wasn't much traffic. And we'd stay down here, then, all day Saturday, and then we'd leave here at two o'clock on Sunday afternoon and go back up, and we'd get there at two o'clock in the night.

RP: You did that every, you did that every weekend?

MS: Oh, no.

RP: I hope not.

MS: We did it about four or five times during the winter.

RP: So that was the first time you actually saw the... oh, and during the winter?

MS: Huh?

RP: You did that during the winter?

MS: Yeah. Well, there was no snow on that 395. You had to get over the mountain, and it came on, we'd come in on Cajon Pass, there wasn't usually snow there.

RP: So that was the first, your first time in the Eastern Sierra, you saw the Owens Valley driving through. And you'd be up there...

MS: I taught up there two years, and then I knew Ralph.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: How did you meet Ralph?

MS: Well, he was in our church, and I guess I first met him at a Sunday school party. But I was one year ahead of him in college, and he also went to the graduate school at Pomona. But he took one semester off and went down to UCLA, but he finished at La Verne and then he was in science, he was a biology --

RP: Biology teacher.

MS: Yeah. And so he got a master's in... well, I guess it was biology. 'Cause I know I spent one summer, we spent one summer down at the beach, and he was studying his sea animals and he was recording the color of them, and that's what his thesis was all about. (...) But I had to do a master's, too, and mine was on probability. And I had a teacher at Pomona who was, it was the first year he was teaching. And to get a master's, you had to have an oral examination, and they brought a teacher out from UCLA. And I know Hugh Hamilton, this guy's name. He happened to be gay, but I didn't know it. But he was scared; he was more worried than I was. Because if I made a mistake and I didn't do very well, it would reflect on him. But I guess I did okay, I got it anyway.

RP: So Ralph was in your, member of your church, and you were working up at, in Westwood, and you got to know each other a little bit.

MS: Well, we'd known each other before I went up there. And actually, we got engaged, I guess the second year I was up there, because he had another girlfriend when I first knew him. But she married somebody else, and so he cried on my shoulder and we got together. And, of course, Ralph and I had the same attitude toward doing social justice stuff. And so we felt the same about that.


RP: You guys were married, where?

MS: Well, we were married, you know, I told you about this Congressman Voorhis, were we talking about that --

RP: Right.

MS: -- since you've been doing this or before?

RP: We talked about it before, you said he was --

MS: Well, Voorhis had a school down by San Dimas, and they had a nice chapel. And there was a big window that you could see the mountains, and I know we set our wedding time at sunset. 'Cause at that time, you could look (out of) this chapel and you could see the mountains, and the sunset on the mountains was pretty. Well, the chapel is still there, but they let a whole bunch of trees grow up and you can't even see the mountains anymore. But we got married in Voorhis chapel, and Ralph's father was the minister, and he performed the ceremony. And we lived at this little house in Pomona that my mom bought for eighteen hundred dollars. We had a reception out in the backyard, we had a big grass backyard.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Ralph eventually got ordained as a minister?

MS: Uh-huh. (The) job he got when he was out of college was down in L.A. at... I think it was called Riis High School.

RP: Jacob Riis.

MS: Yeah. And it was Riis High School, and it was for, I think they were problem kids. And Ralph got hired because in La Verne, you know, you were taught character education and everything. But you know what happened, it was, he started at Riis High School in September of '41. Well, Pearl Harbor came on December 7th, and so he, after that, he told them that he couldn't sell defense stamps in the school. And they didn't know what to do with him because he was a conscientious objector, really. And what he, the job he had in L.A. was what they called a long-term substitute job. Well, when he wouldn't sell the defense stamps, they took it away from him. He lost that job, and so what he had to do was keep subbing in L.A. And at that time, it was good to sub in L.A. You wanted to get in L.A. It's different now, but so he'd be here two weeks and then he'd be there two weeks, and then he'd be here a week, and that's what he did the rest of the year. And so we were living in the east side of L.A. in what's called Boyle Heights. And I, that year, I started subbing around. And one job I had was in Long Beach Community College, I think it was. And I know I was teaching some stuff that I didn't, hadn't had before, spherical trig or something. But I was subbing, and I'd be there a while, 'til the person came back. And I, if I couldn't do the problem, I'd just say, "You just ask the teacher when (he comes) back." [Laughs] But I finally got a long-term substitute job in, well, it was Norwalk, Excelsior High School, I think it was. But I was teaching history. I had a minor in history, and I was teaching U.S. History. Well, you know, I knew it, but I didn't like it. But I did it the second semester, anyway. And then when, when they interned the Japanese after the war started, we decided that we could go teach with them. And they set up these War Relocation Centers, like Manzanar was about the first one, I think. Anyway, they interviewed us, and we got hired on civil service. Wasn't anything to do with the teaching business. And I know a woman came to L.A. and interviewed us, and we got this job at Manzanar. And so I think that, I think we went to Manzanar in September.

RP: '42.

MS: Uh-huh, and then we taught there until March, I taught there until March.

RP: Mary, something I wanted to bring up, when I was reading your husband's biography, you mentioned that in March of 1942, you attached to your, to your tax returns a letter protesting that the use of these, this money for war purposes.

MS: Yeah.

RP: Yeah, do you remember that?

MS: Oh, yeah, we did that a long time.

RP: You do that every year while the war was on?

MS: Well, yeah, we did it a long time.

RP: Is that something that you, you independently decided to do, or was that something that the church counseled you to do?

MS: Oh, no, no. We just decided to do it. And we just told 'em we didn't like our money being used for war, and wanted it to be used for peaceful purpose. But didn't make any difference.

RP: Since that was a time of a great deal of fear and war hysteria, did that attract the attention of the FBI to you?

MS: Oh, yeah, I think so. And you know, they'd go talk to our neighbors, and shoot, our neighbors didn't know anything about what we thought. When we lived in L.A., we lived right in Boyle Heights. But the FBI wasn't very smart. They didn't know how to find out really what people thought and did and knew. And I know that, I know they investigated us several times, different times, different places. But we never, they never... whoever they talked to always said that we were religiously motivated and that we weren't against the government or anything.

RP: You weren't trying to undermine the war effort.

MS: Yeah, right.

RP: Did the, did you actually have a, were you actually interviewed by the FBI?

MS: Oh, I can't remember. My brother was a conscientious objector, too, and he was, they had what they called a Civilian Public, CPS camps, Civilian Public Service camps.

RP: And he went to a camp?

MS: Yeah, my brother did.

RP: Where was that?

MS: Well, he went to one in, it was on the Columbia River. I've been there, too. Well, anyway, he... I can't remember the name of it right now. Anyway, he was at one on the Columbia River, and then he got a, they put him in a state hospital. I don't know what you call it, but they got farmed out. And he had charge of doing pictures and working in photography at the state hospital, and that's where he met his wife. And I know we're gonna talk at our church this year about what all the conscientious objectors did, but Ralph had, when we lived in L.A., we went to a church on the west side and Ralph got ordained into the ministry, and you didn't have to be trained. And so he was a minister in the Church of the Brethren. And then after we were in Manzanar, we started this hostel, and he was hired by the church. And so there was a man in New York, I think his name was Quniter Miller, he went to bat for Ralph and got him, I guess, out of the, didn't have to go in the military because he was a minister and he was working for the church, even if (he wasn't) a pastor. We were resettling the Japanese. We were hired by the church, I don't think we got paid much. But you know, we got our board and room and a hundred dollars or something a month, I don't know. I don't remember about all that.

RP: Right.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: Do you recall being involved with the evacuation of the Japanese Americans from Terminal Island?

MS: Well, yeah. That was where they started. They took 'em out first. And Ralph took off that day and didn't go teach.

RP: Oh, he didn't?

MS: And he went down there. I didn't go down there, but they were moving them out. And I know they, we lived close to a (school), it was called Euclid Heights, it was close to Whittier Boulevard on the east side of L.A. And this school was vacant, and I think the Quakers must have rented it or something, and they moved a bunch of stuff from the people in... what do you call it?

RP: Terminal Island?

MS: Terminal Island, yeah. And they put their stuff in this place, and I think even some of the Japanese might have stayed in this school. It was just a block from where we lived in the east side of L.A. And Ralph said that they were... I think the soldiers were going up and down as they were moving out, but there were people in the alley that were kind of stealing stuff, too.

RP: Looting things?

MS: Yeah, looting, uh-huh. But anyway, it was a very bad thing. And, you know, that year, we were going to meetings on Saturday once a month with the Quakers, American Friends Service Committee. And we, we were doing our social justice stuff with the Quakers that winter.

RP: Do you remember any particular Quakers that were in charge of... Virginia Swanson, do you remember her?

MS: No. There was a man that...

RP: Were you involved at all with Reverend Herbert Nicholson?

MS: Yeah, yeah, we knew him. And there were several others that had worked in Japan as missionaries. I can't think of the other name, but we knew him.

RP: What type of activities were you... what other ways of supporting Japanese Americans were you discussing and what did you... what else did you try to assist them with?

MS: Well, 'course, they started picking 'em up... I think Manzanar started in March, and a few people went there and helped them, a few Japanese helped them get it going. But we got there in September, and as I already said, I don't know if I said it since you've been recording, from the time we got there, we tried to figure out how to help 'em get out. And so we worked with the church, and we got the church to sponsor the hostel. And so it was from September to March, and then I went on the bus to Reno, and then the train to Chicago, and I had four men and a woman with me. And we went on the train, and we got to Chicago. One man ditched me in Reno, I think. Boy, he finally came to the hostel, and he brought us a five-pound box of chocolate covered nuts, and I never had such a big box of candy in my life 'til he brought it. But Ralph came out in the car, and he visited quite a few of the relocation centers, 'cause there were ten of 'em. But he didn't go to all of 'em, but he went to the ones in Poston --

RP: Gila?

MS: Gila River, and yeah. He went to the ones in Arizona. And he drove the car, and he had a couple of Japanese men with him, and they drove from Manzanar to Arizona to Chicago.

RP: And he was trying to encourage...

MS: Well, he was trying to set up a network of people. You see, the older people were kind of afraid for their children to come out, 'cause they didn't know how they'd get treated. But when we had the hostel, they were more willing to let their kids come out because they knew that we would help 'em when they got there. And actually, in Chicago, the government pretty soon set up an office. And actually, they took care of getting jobs. And like in Chicago, they were working for Curtiss Candy Company, and Kuneo Press. But I mostly found places for 'em to live (...) and the government helped 'em get jobs. And as I said to you earlier, we weren't even thirty yet. And when we helped a thousand (come) to Chicago, we didn't want to have another Little Tokyo in Chicago. So we closed the hostel and went to Brooklyn, and the Baptists would help us back there. But where we rented this frat house in Brooklyn, it was right close to the water, there was ten blocks maybe. And there was a dentist across the street, and they didn't want any "Japs." And, well, they stood up there and shook their fist at us and didn't want us to bring (them). And I know the government told us that we didn't have to open that hostel. But we said we weren't worried, and the Baptists were helping us, too. They were paying some of the money. And so the Japanese came and the government had a, or Brooklyn had a policeman right there on the corner, and he stayed there a while, and then nothing happened. So then he started walking around the block. And then it got so that he'd come to the hostel, and we'd just tell him the names of the people that were coming and going. And, you know, they were very nice people, and we never had any trouble. And then there's a person that lives here that told me that he and his wife were in Brooklyn, and they needed a place to stay. And somebody said, "Well, just go stay at the hostel," and so they did. They came and stayed with us. I don't even remember it at all.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Mary, I want to just backtrack a little bit back to Manzanar.

MS: Okay.

RP: That's great. So you come in in September, and the camp's pretty much all set up. And there was a little bit of an issue about, that you were expected to stay with the Caucasians in the...

MS: Well, we did, we stayed with them. They were all down here at the corner, and so we lived there. But we didn't like it. And so we said, "We'd like to live out with Japanese." And so, of course, when you say "Japanese," it's Americans of Japanese descent, but I don't say that all the time. Well, there was a Mrs. D'ille...

RP: Oh, Margaret D'ille.

MS: Yeah. And she was a social worker or something. Well, anyway, she found out about this bunch of Kibei boys, Kibei men, young men, and they were in this last block. And somehow, they wanted somebody to kind of be a house parent there. So she got us permission to... we had this whole barrack. And you know, those boys had, they had a better living situation than lot of the families. 'Cause what they did, the end of the barrack, they blocked it off and that's where our house was, our room, we just had a room. And then they had a hall down the middle of the barrack, and these boys had little spaces down there. Well, you know, we lived in Block 36, yeah. We had to go out to the middle of the block where they had a restroom, they had one for men, one for women, and they had a place you could wash your clothes and you could iron. They had an ironing room, I couldn't believe it, an ironing room. [Laughs] But we just used this facility with the rest of 'em. And then next to our barrack was the mess hall. And we still ate with the Caucasians, but every Saturday night, we ate with them in this mess hall next to our barrack. And you know, we ran around, we were about a mile, pretty near a mile, from our place to where we taught. And we had this Model A Ford, and we just ran around in that Ford. Went back and forth to teach, and...

RP: Were you teaching high school or elementary school?

MS: Yeah, we both taught high school.

RP: High school. So it was quite a ways, yeah.

MS: Yeah. And, well, I don't remember if they had a barrack here for the grammar school, and then a barrack over here for the high school or just how that was.

RP: Yeah, they had a whole block for the high school.

MS: Yeah, we did, I guess.

RP: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Give us your impressions of teaching at Manzanar, about the kids, about the...

MS: Well, I remember the first day, you had a bare room, nothing. So we had newspapers, and the kids sat on the floor with their back up to the wall, and that's how you started. But we didn't stay that way. I mean, I don't remember how long it was 'til we got some desks and stuff. But by the time six months were up, and we were ready to go to start the hostel in Chicago, a Japanese man took my, he taught the classes I'd been teaching. And, of course, Ralph had his science classes. But I never had easier teaching. They were very attentive, and you didn't have discipline problems. And somehow, I think it's the Asian culture that is just very much into education. And also, they're very, you know, polite and kind to each other and stuff, and it's a society that's... what do you call it? Very civilized and doesn't have... I don't think they had very many problems. But like the problem in Manzanar was between the Issei and the Nisei. The Nisei is the second generation, and they had the Japanese American Citizens League, JACL. And like while we were still there, the JACL got permission to meet in Salt Lake, and a bunch of the younger ones got to go out to a meeting. And they came back, and the Issei were mad, they didn't like it. And there was a man called Togo Tanaka that lived two barracks from us. Anyway, they were after Togo, and he was hiding at his brother's house, and his wife came over and asked Ralph to go get him and take him out of camp. And so Ralph found him at his brother's place, and I guess he had a sword or a knife or something, Ralph made him leave it there. And he got in the car and Ralph had him get down behind the front seat and he drove out to the guard tower and he just went sliding across like that to get Togo out there to the guard. And they said, "Boy, we weren't watching or we'd have shot at you," but they weren't paying attention. So he got Togo out.

And then, you know, the problem was between the first generation and second generation, the Issei and the Nisei. And they had, on Sunday, I think it was, kind of a big mass meeting. And as they were leaving this meeting, some of the soldiers shot a couple of Japanese boys in the back, at least one, maybe two, I don't know. But it caused quite a problem. And I know I was reading in this letter, they kind of shut things down for a while and nothing happened. Then I think it tells about it in this letter better than I can say it, 'cause I don't remember all the details. But they, we didn't teach for a while. And they said if you stayed there, you could get paid. But you could go on home if you wanted, but you didn't get paid. We stayed there. And, of course, we worked with the church. They had, they had a Protestant church and Catholic church, and they had Buddhist, too. And so we worked with the Protestants and we stayed there, and they started up the school together. You could read the letter I gave you, it tells all about this, more than I can remember all the detail. But we never felt afraid; we were never in any, any trouble.


RP: Mary, tell us a little bit about these, these Kibei boys that you kind of were parents to, actually. How did you get along language-wise with them? Because most of them --

MS: Well, they were, actually, Kibei means they're born in the United States but they were educated in Japan, and they were very Japanesey. They were more Japanesey than they were American. And I think there was some variation, but we had this one artist fellow that painted all these watercolors and gave us copies. But we had, I know in this letter Ralph wrote, we had a party, and they had it in our room where we were and they furnished the food and stuff. And they invited their friends from the block or from anyplace. And well, you know, the Japanese weren't mad at being there, they just figured they had to accept it. And so when they got there, they decided they might as well have as normal a life as they could in there. And they just kind of made the best of it. And, well, these Kibei, we didn't have a lot to do with 'em. I mean, we were there, and they were there, and we ate with 'em once a week, but we didn't, we didn't do things with 'em all the time. Of course, we were busy teaching, too, and I imagine I had to work at night on lesson plans and stuff. I don't remember.

RP: You left, we always wondered what happened to George, George Yano.

MS: Yeah, I haven't...

RP: Nobody really knows whatever happened to him.

MS: I know. I found something out and I sent it to him. I forget what that was.

RP: You mentioned Margaret D'ille, or...

MS: D'ille.

RP: D'ille, I don't know which way to go with that name. Were there other administrators that you, I know you were there just a short time, but did you develop a rapport with...

MS: Well, yeah, there was a Thomas Temple, and he actually was Jewish, I think. And before... I think before I left, I think he left and went to Chicago. And he had about a dozen boys staying with him on the south side of Chicago. And, of course, they got jobs easy, could get jobs. They didn't pay a lot. I know Thomas Temple, he must not have lived too long because I think we were still in Chicago when he died. And I know I went to his memorial service and somebody asked me if I was of the faith, and they meant, was I Jewish. And, of course, I wasn't Jewish, and I told 'em that. But he wanted to help them get out, too, and so I can't remember what he did in Manzanar, but he worked there first.

RP: Right, he did. I think he was involved with relocation.

MS: Did he, from the beginning?

RP: Yeah, from really early on.

MS: Well, he might have been. Of course, you know, the government, when they got all this, how many they figure was, how many thousands all together?

RP: In the camps?

MS: Yeah. I think we had ten thousand at Manzanar, didn't we?

RP: Roughly 120,000.

MS: Yeah, right. Well, it was costing them a lot. And I think they, they figured it was a good thing to get 'em out. And actually, in the end, you know, there were some like... how was it? I was in the airport, and I know some of these, the Japanese felt like they were being protected in there. Some of 'em, the older ones, I don't think the younger ones felt like that, but I think the older ones did.

RP: Older ones, right, the Isseis.

MS: Yeah.

RP: Yeah, they felt secure there.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: Do you have any other remembrances of your time at Manzanar, things, a vivid memory or sight or sound or smell of the camp that sticks in your mind?

MS: No, I don't have too much. I mean, I know we went to church, and it was in a barrack.

RP: Did you, did you on occasion go outside of the camp to Lone Pine or Independence?

MS: Well, we did. I mean, they couldn't but we could.

RP: Right.

MS: I know one time we went to, in the fall, we went over to... well, I guess it was Modesto or Empire, to a Church of the Brethren district conference. And I think we just crossed over the mountains 'cause it was fall, and we could. But I know something happened to the car, and it seemed like the wheel came off or something, and Ralph just got out and pushed the wheel back on and we went on back to Manzanar. [Laughs] Really strange. But I know one weekend, we went over to Modesto and I know we had to go across the mountains to get back to Manzanar.

RP: Mary, why did you choose to establish this hostel in Chicago instead of Milwaukee or...

MS: Well, we had a seminary there. And at that time, they didn't have too many seminary students. I think the war, they were going off to war, and of course, some of 'em would have been conscientious objectors, and they would have been in CPS camps, and so they had room. And also, they had what they called a dining club there. And some of the single students were cooking the meals together and eating together, and so we could eat with them. And Bethany had a big building, and then they had a little building over here, and the dining club was in the basement at this little building. And I know we, we ate with them, and well, we helped cook and stuff, too, do the dishes and so on. But they had room for us. But then, you see, we went... I got there in March, Ralph got there about in May, but by the fall, they decided they didn't have room for us for the next year. And so somehow, I don't know how we found this big mansion up on the, it was almost to Evanston, it was 6118 North Sheridan Road, and it was close to the lake, too, but we rented it. I think they'd had a... I think they had kind of like a rest home in it before. I know that it was like a three-story place, and there was a big ballroom on top. And I know we put a bunch of cots up there, and that's where the men all slept. We even got comforters from Indiana and someplace for, to have covers for 'em. I suppose we bought sheets and stuff, I don't remember about it. But then on the (second) floor, there were about four or five bedrooms. And Ralph and I had one, and then there were about three more that families could be in, and the women. And I think just the men were up there in that big ballroom. And we had a big dining room, and like there's pictures, I don't know where I've got these pictures, but they have 'em at the Bancroft or something in Berkeley.

RP: Berkeley?

MS: Yeah, they have a lot of pictures.

RP: Pictures of this, of this mansion.

MS: Yeah. They have, they have even pictures of us in the hostel in Brooklyn in there.

RP: I'll have to look for those.

MS: So anyway, well, I've seen pictures of us in the dining room. We had a big, long table. And this was a very nice mansion, it was a big house, and it was a very nice place.

RP: You guys rented that?

MS: Rented it, yeah.

RP: Did the church pay for the rent?

MS: Well, (yes), and I think somebody thought... we charged these people a little bit to come and stay at the hostel.

RP: Oh, you did.

MS: I think they had to pay a dollar or two a day or something. You know, it's funny, it happened so long ago, I just can't remember the details. And, of course, I know, I know we helped more than a thousand come to Chicago. And as I said, we were young and idealistic, and we didn't want to help make a Little Tokyo there, so we shut it, and that's when we went to Brooklyn. And somehow we knew somebody in the Baptist church, and they were willing to help us in Brooklyn. And I don't know how we found this vacant frathouse, fraternity house, but it was right down, close to downtown Brooklyn. And people were worried about the Japanese coming there, but...

RP: It worked out.

MS: We started... I know they told us we didn't have to go through there 'cause the neighbors didn't want 'em at all, especially one dentist, he didn't want 'em. But we only were there from May to August. And then there was an M.R. Zigler who was the executive for the Brethren Service Commission, and he wanted Ralph to come and work for him in Elgin, that's where our headquarters for the Church of the Brethren was, I guess it still is. Anyway, he wanted Ralph to come and work for him, and I always said Ralph was just his flunkie. [Laughs] Anyway, so they got somebody else to come.

RP: And work the hostel?

MS: Uh-huh. I'm trying to think of her name. I used to know it, but I can't say it right now. She took over, and it went for another year or so. I don't know how long it went, quite a while. But we moved to Elgin. And by the time we were going to Elgin, I was pregnant. And I was expecting the child in October, so I know I didn't want to ride in the car from New York to Elgin, which is halfway across the United States, you know, from New York to Illinois. So I got on a boat and went up the Hudson, and then I got on a train from there to Chicago, and then Ralph came in the car.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Mary, can you share with us a little bit, a little bit more information about other hostels in the Chicago area?

MS: Uh-huh. I know that the Quakers, Friends, American Friends Service Committee had one on the north side, ours was the west side. And then different denominations had hostels in other towns, other cities, too. And I don't know for sure which ones, maybe Minneapolis or Cleveland or Cincinnati, I can't remember.

RP: But this is, yours was the only one that was actually sponsored by the Church of the Brethren?

MS: Yeah.

RP: And what other support did they give you? What other support did you get from the church in running the hostel?

MS: Well, they paid for all the expenses.

RP: They paid for all the bills, everything?

MS: Oh, yeah, they did, uh-huh. And, 'course, we managed it, and we, we handled it all. And I don't, Elgin must have some record someplace to say what we got paid, I don't even know that.

RP: I wanted to get a little more of a picture of how the Bethany Seminary was set up as the hostel. Did, did people have individual rooms or did they...

MS: Well, they, they had to stay on the floors where the single women or the men were. And they had apartments around there for the family, but they didn't stay there. They had to stay with the single men and the single women, like it was one floor for the women and one floor for the men. We had an apartment on the first floor. And we just, we had a little office there, we had room for an office. And we had, Virginia Morimitsu was our secretary, and she kind of ran the office and took care of correspondence, and people had to apply to get there, you know, from camps.

RP: Right, right, you had to fill out an application and be cleared to come.

MS: Yeah.

RP: How about, can you give us a little insight into the, the feelings of people when they arrived in Chicago? Were they nervous, were they anxious?

MS: Yeah, I think they were scared. And as I think I said since we were talking, the parents were more worried, and we started out with the young single people. And, of course, eventually, we had families.

RP: Parents were coming out.

MS: Yeah. And then there was Oshimas, I think they had two or three children. And then there (were the Yatabes), I think it was (Yatabe), that they had one boy, young man, I think he became... or maybe the father was a dentist, I can't remember all the details either. But we had, when we were at Bethany, there was a house a few blocks away where I think some of them got to stay. And...

RP: What would you say the average time of stay at the hostel was? Several weeks?

MS: I can't remember, I really don't know. I think a week or two, though. But it'd take 'em a while to get a job and to find a place to live. I think a week or ten days. And you know, there was one man came there, I remember, and he got sick. And this man was half German and half Japanese or something. And I think his name is Mr. Minowa. And I took him down in our car to the big hospital, and boy, they just looked daggers at him. And they didn't want somebody that was half German and half Japanese, but they took him, and he got all right. But he was a very nice fellow, too. But I know it was quite a little...

RP: An issue for a while?

MS: Yeah, kind of, a little. Didn't know for sure what to do.

RP: You said earlier that you would, that you would try to attempt to locate a place to stay for these people?

MS: Yeah. We helped them find apartments. The government finally set up an office in Chicago.

RP: The WRA.

MS: Yeah. And they, they helped them get jobs. And I remember, you know, I can't remember what we said before you started recording. Anyway, a lot of 'em worked at the Kuneo Press, and a lot of 'em worked at Curtiss Candy Company. But I don't think jobs was a problem. It was really more of a problem to find apartments and a place to live.

RP: And so how did you go about doing that?

MS: Well, we just started out from when we were at Bethany, around that area. And then when we got up north, when we moved up to that big mansion, I remember walking around up there, too, in that area.

RP: Just knocking on doors?

MS: Well, I just can't remember, really. You know, it's so long ago, and it didn't last so long either. And by the time we got to Brooklyn... in Brooklyn there was a, J. Henry Carpenter, I think his name was, and he was in the Brooklyn Council of Churches. And funny, I don't remember walking around at Brooklyn finding places for them to live much. I just remember running the hostel. And we weren't there very long either, May to August isn't that long.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Then your, I think it's, Ralph got sent to Austria for a while after, after the war was over?

MS: Yeah.

RP: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

MS: Well, let's see now. When we finished with the hostel, we moved to Elgin, and Ralph worked for the Brethren Service Commission, and he was working for M.R. Zigler. And when our first child was born in Elgin, well, there, we rented a house from somebody that had gone to Florida for the winter. And when they came back, we had to get out, so we found another house that we rented. And I know Ralph walked from there to the Brethren offices. [Interruption] We finally, then, they were gonna send five people to Japan, and Ralph decided he would like to go with them. It was an interdenominational group. And so we decided I didn't want to live back in Chicago, and we already had Janny, that was our oldest child. So we came back out here, and I stayed with my sister I think, we did. But then they chose the people to go to Japan, and they just chose five, and Ralph was number six, so he didn't get to go to Japan. So M.R. Zigler told him, well, he guessed he'd better just go to Europe, and he could start, help resettle people after the war over there. So my mom lived in Pomona, and my sister lived in Claremont. And we were at my mom's first, and our second child was born, I think while we were still living at my mom's. But, so Ralph decided he'd go to Europe. And you know, I've thought about this lately, and I couldn't understand how Ralph could go off and leave me here with two kids. But I think the reason he could is because there were people in the army that were gone, and there were many women left with the children, and their husbands were gone. So Ralph went, he went to Europe, and he started the work for the Brethren in Austria. And he was over there, like, I think it was... I don't know, it was twenty months or thirteen months without us, and we were right in Pomona. And we were gonna buy a house in Pomona, but at first I think we were just gonna pay so much and then so much a month. But they decided they wanted all cash or something, and we didn't have the cash, but my sister and brother-in-law did, so they bought the house, and so I moved into it. And we fixed this house, into two apartments, and my brother-in-law's brother (...) and his wife were in front, and the girls and I were in the back. And so we were there, I think it was... I don't know how many months, I think it was twenty.

And then Ralph got permission for us to come to Austria. And, of course, some of the people here thought we were crazy, for me taking two kids and going to Austria. And I said, "Well, the government wouldn't let us do it if it wasn't okay." And so finally, I took the two girls and we went to Austria. We had a kind of hard time finding a place to live over there. At first we lived with a man in a little apartment, and then in the Eighteen Bitzurk or something like that, we got an apartment. And we had, like a big bedroom and living room and kitchen, and it was part of somebody else's house. But they had a backyard, and it was on the street. But somehow I had to go shopping, and the government had a place where I could buy things. (It was) for the servicepeople that were over there. But I couldn't take the girls with me, and so I had to hire somebody to help me. And I had a little hard time finding somebody because, well, they had to speak some English and you couldn't find anybody. But the landlady where we had our apartment helped me find a nice young woman that, I guess spoke English. But I had a little trouble. I remember I had this one girl, and I must have raised my voice with her. "Don't cry me," she said. [Laughs]

RP: What kind of work was Ralph doing in Austria? Who was he working with?

MS: Well, he was working with the Protestants, and a man named Traar. Well, I'm trying to... I think that they were what they called the Volks Deutsch. They were really the German people that had been over in the Russian area, and they had to get out. So they were coming West, actually, into Austria. So I think they were finding places for them to live, and they also had... (to care for) the children somehow. They were working with the Volks Deutsch, that's what they called it, Volks Deutsch, but that (means) the German people, (they) had to get out of the Russian area. Of course, you know there were four powers over there, and they used to say there was Americans... I guess British, Russian... there was four, what's the four? French? No... they were riding around together in a jeep or something. Well, they had the Russian zone, and they had the, I guess, I started to say the British zone, but I guess it was American zone, I don't know.

RP: There was a British zone.

MS: I think they had the four powers, though, what was the fourth one? British, American, Russian...

RP: British, American, and French.

MS: Well, I guess so. You know, all that was so long ago, too. Because Marty was born in '46. So I think I was over there '48 and '49, something like that. Then Ralph decided that (as) he was already (an) ordained minister, (...) he had to get a theological education. So we came back to Bethany, and he was going to school there. So we got an apartment that time, up on the fourth floor, remember. No elevator, you walked up. And we lived there with Janny and Marty, we just had the two girls. And well, then what happened, we came out here for the summer or something, and we'd gone to the beach. I had a brother that lived down in Anaheim, and we'd all been to the beach. And our two families were split up, (riding) in different cars, and on the way home we had an accident and somebody ran into the car my brother was driving, and I was in it with Janny and Marty. And our oldest child was Janny, and she got thrown against the window in the car and she had a concussion and she never regained consciousness and she died. She was nine. It was kind of a very sad whole thing. But I think by that time... that must have been, it's funny, I think we already had Kenny, and he was born in, I think, '51. Oh, I can't remember all those years, I don't know just how that was. But anyway, we lost our nine-year-old child in an accident when we were out here. And I'd have to read my autobiography to tell you. I've got it all written down, but I can't come up with it right now.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: In the early '60s, Ralph got involved in another major issue, the Civil Rights movement, particularly Selma, Alabama.

MS: Yeah, right. And I guess that's when we were living in Elgin.

RP: Oh, you were in Elgin?

MS: I think we lived there for... I think we were there eighteen years, something like that. And, yeah, he... actually, he went down there. He was working for the Brethren Service Commission, and he was doing social justice stuff. And so he traveled around down in the South to see what kind of projects the Brethren Service Committee ought to be doing. Well, in Selma, I think some of them got out of work because I think they registered to vote or something, and so they lost their jobs, something like that. And so I know Ralph would go by Atlanta and he'd talk to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the ones that I guess Martin Luther King was working with. And he'd go over to Selma and he'd tell 'em what the blacks were going to do (to protest). And then he'd tell the white people what they could do if they didn't want 'em to come (and demonstrate). But they never could get the blacks and the whites and in the same room to talk. And Ralph tried to, but he couldn't. And so, you know, then they had the big march, wasn't it, through Selma to Montgomery or something. And some people got killed and stuff. But Ralph, when he was down there, he never took sides, he was a middle, mediator-like. And he, I think he stayed with a couple usually when he went down there. I don't know if he could have stayed in a hotel or not. But there were certain people down there that he, he knew, 'cause I went to Selma with him afterwards, and I met a couple of these families. But he picked out Selma to work in before Martin Luther King started there. But I think they sent sewing machines, too, someplace down there in Selma, maybe, and the women could make things and sell 'em, and make a living, kind of. I can't recall all those details either, anymore.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: You mentioned earlier that you helped set up, in the Church of the Brethren, this Womaen's Caucus?

MS: Yes.

RP: What motivated you to do that?

MS: Well, that was in the '70s, and we were still... we stayed in Elgin. Ralph finally got the job to be the Washington representative, and he moved, we moved to Washington, D.C. in '71, and we lived there from '71 to '76. Well, I guess it was after we lived in Washington, D.C., that we started working on the caucus. There was a woman called Mary Kline Detrick, and she and her husband were pastors of a church up by Baltimore, and we were living in Washington, D.C. And Mary Kline Detrick and I got together, and we decided that we ought to work with the church and try to have 'em get women hired more. And I don't know if we had any women pastors yet much or not, but I know we had an annual conference at Fresno, and we had a, what we call an insight session every night for the women. And we had a lot of people coming, and we started the Womaen's Caucus about '71 or '72, I don't know just exactly which year. I've got a thing in the bedroom, I think it says '72. But we just started to help the women get represented on the board, or to get hired in executive positions. And Mary Kline Detrick and I started it, and it's still going. They still have what they call the Womaen's Caucus. And we spell it "womaen," we don't spell it just like "women," we have A-E, (...) A for one woman, and E for more than one woman. We call it Womaen's Caucus and we spell it that way. And we hire a caucus worker, we still do. And the woman that's now working for the caucus lives in Portland, Oregon, and I was just reading some of the stuff last night. We get out a paper called "Femailings," and we send it to certain (people) that want it.


RP: So was your Womaen's Caucus successful in getting women into higher-ranking positions in the church?

MS: Oh, yeah, we've had a moderator. I mean, last year, we had a black woman who was the... well, I think they call it the moderator. I think she's the head of the church as far as the laypeople go. But she was a minister, too, but she hadn't been trained, really. But I was reading something she wrote just last night, too. And just, I think, yesterday was the last, we have a shorter annual conference now, we used to have longer. And our church (staff) kind of split up, they had caring ministries and then they had others that ran the annual conference and then they had others that had the general offices in Elgin. We built new ones, they had a new big office in Elgin. But it changed; it doesn't stay the same. Now they're gonna put 'em back in together again. Of course, I thought they were cuckoo to divide 'em all up like that.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Mary, were you involved at all with the effort on the part of Japanese Americans to get an apology and a redress from the government?

MS: No, I wasn't. I wasn't involved.

RP: But you were aware of that effort?

MS: Yeah, I was.

RP: And what was your opinion of that process?

MS: Well, they finally gave twenty thousand dollars, didn't they, to everybody that was alive. And well, some of 'em didn't need it, so some of 'em just gave it to us, some of 'em gave it to the church, a couple.

RP: Oh, they did? That leads me to another question. Were there a number of Japanese Americans who came out of the camp that stayed at your hostel who eventually converted or...

MS: Became Brethren?

RP: ...became members of the Brethren?

MS: Just a few, not many.

RP: A few?

MS: We had this one... oh, what was his name? He was a, I think it was Togasaki, they lived in Berkeley. He had a bunch of sisters that were doctors. But this man, he was on our board in our church, too. He joined our church, and his family. I'm trying to remember some more.

RP: How much representation do you have in the church now in terms of Asian groups?

MS: Not many.

RP: Not very many?

MS: No, not many. We have a few, though. There's a Barbara Date, her mother's a, I think maybe in this Portland church. And no, there's not many. We're trying to have a, they have an intercultural thing. We have some Mexicans or Hispanics in L.A., and we're trying to have more, you know, different groups like that, but it's hard to do. We're pretty much... like right here, we have one black couple, they come to our church. But they're just as "white" as the rest of us, I mean, they act like the rest of us. And then we have another black woman who was Methodist, and she got together with a white man. But it's not much, not much mix.

RP: Ethnically.

MS: It's very, it's very hard to do.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Based on, you know, the pacifism of the Brethren church, what kind of... I imagine they've taken a similar position towards the Iraqi war and the treatment of Muslims in this country.

MS: Yeah.

RP: Has the church been active in promoting social justice for...

MS: We had one couple start to come to our church just because we were opposed to the Iraq war. And I don't know if they had a little... no, I don't know what, they're not Hispanic. They had a kind of strange name, and he isn't well now, so I haven't seen him lately. But they started coming to our church because they knew we opposed the war in Iraq. And you know, there's this church over in Pasadena that's had problems.

RP: Oh, can you tell us about that?

MS: Well, the thing is, we don't have any problems 'cause we're always against war. I mean, they don't ever think anything of the Brethren. But that church, I guess it's... I can't even remember the man's name, you may know it. Oh, no, you're from up north, aren't you? Well, this man preached a sermon, and he got in trouble for it. And they didn't want this church to get, you know, church don't have to pay taxes or something, but I think they finally let him off the hook. But it was a mess for quite a while. And I thought it was kind of strange, but it's because they didn't have a position from a long time back, and we did. So they don't think anything of it, our church. But you know, we don't have many people in our church in this area. This is a little church, actually, and it's the biggest one out here. The Modesto church and our church are the biggest Brethren, Church of the Brethren, on the West Coast. But there's a small one in Pomona, and there's a smaller one in Glendora. There used to be one in Pasadena, but I think it's shut. I don't think it's going anymore. And up in your area -- oh, no, there's nobody over there.

RP: [Laughs]

MS: No, no Brethren. No Brethren over there at all.

RP: Well, we're all brothers, but we're not Brethren.

MS: You're over the hill.

RP: I think Modesto is the closest to our area.

MS: And it's a good church. And then there's one in Empire, and I think there's still one in Lindsay.

RP: Well, when a couple of years ago, you were recognized for your efforts at Manzanar, teaching and also establishing the hostel. The Japanese American National Museum honored you as well as twenty-nine, I think twenty-nine other teachers were there.

MS: Yes, right. Twenty-something.

RP: So what, what kind of feelings does that bring up for you?

MS: Well, I think you get honored because you do something different, that's all. And well, that's why I told 'em us being in Manzanar didn't make much difference. But what we did was helping 'em get out. It was much more important. And they recognized that, too, that that was much more important.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Are there, are there any other stories about your life and your commitment to the church that you'd like to share with us?

MS: Oh, my. Well...

RP: Probably a lot.

MS: I can't, I don't know. I didn't think up anything, but, 'course, I did, you know, this Hillcrest place was started by the Church of the Brethren, and they, they've been having a time financially here. We built a whole bunch of new buildings, and we had to borrow a bunch of money. And somebody wasn't too smart because they're having trouble. And so they got in touch, there's what they call a Pacific Retirement Services, and they have a complex, a home, I don't call it a home, but they have one in Davis where my oldest daughter lives, but they have some in Oregon. And so our group here has been looking with them, but they, we need some help to handle our finances here. Somebody hasn't been -- with the finances. And we're not gonna go with the Pacific Retirement people, 'cause I think they just want us to give our place over to them and we're not gonna do it. Like what they have in Davis, they have a three-story building, but they don't have any campus. We have a beautiful campus here, and we have an east and west. And it's nice to walk around in, and people like it. So I understand my, I talked to my sister-in-law, she was at some meeting that I wasn't at, and they're talking with somebody else. But I think we need some help to take care of the money that we borrowed. And of course, Chuck thinks it's partly because, you know, the housing problem they've had, and people aren't moving here as fast. But there's also some buildings we started that we haven't finished. And I think the reason we haven't finished it is 'cause we don't have the money. And I think we would have people that would move into 'em if they got finished, but they haven't. So, you know, we're having a little problem, too. But at my age, I just decided, let 'em worry about it. I'm not worrying about it. And I don't think this place is going to go bankrupt, and I don't think it's going to go under, and I've been here twenty-three years, and I think it'll be okay. And, of course, I don't know how many more years I've got, but I might not have even five. But, you know, Chuck and I are getting along fine, and it's nice to have a partner. And I have a bunch that celebrates birthdays together, and there's only one other woman that's got a partner, and she's married. And then they spend half a year in Minnesota and a half a year here. Well, Chuck and I, we just were here.

But anyway, I think our generation, mine, and even my daughter's generation, my oldest child, is sixty-two, she was born in '46. Well, she's (...) doing very well. But somehow, the next generation, I think they're going to have more trouble than Marty's generation or my generation. And, of course, I think that the president, president we've had for eight years has helped us really go downhill, and it's being very hard. And the gap between the rich and the poor is huge. And you know, when Clinton and Obama are running for president, they're both millionaires. And the reason they're millionaires, they've both written books, and the books have been bringing 'em in a big income. 'Cause Obama, he wouldn't be that rich if he hadn't done those two books. And Hilary, she's done I don't know how many books. And, of course, McCain, his wife is the one that's got all the money. But anyway, it's a, it's a mixed up situation now.

RP: There's still a lot of social issues out there that haven't been confronted.

MS: Right. And, of course, the Democrats have had a really hard time getting good leadership. And to do what they believe in doing, and the Republicans just worry about the corporations and the rich people, and they don't worry about the common ordinary people. And I'm really prejudiced, of course, but they told Chuck when he was getting together with me, "Well, you know she's a Democrat." Well, most of 'em around here are probably Republican. They're not all, though, now there's, I've even got a brother-in-law that I was surprised he's a Democrat now, too. [Laughs]

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Mary, I was gonna ask you if you had ever been back to Manzanar since you left.

MS: Yeah. Chuck and I were, a few years ago, but they didn't have the visitor center going yet. And this Sue that is the librarian in Bishop, took us back there, and we were there. You know, the last April, the last Saturday in April every year, a bunch of 'em go up there. So Chuck's daughter, Sue, took us there a few years ago, two or three years ago. And they have, like... (...) it's five thousand come? They have quite a few come for this last Saturday in April, and they do it every year.

RP: The pilgrimage, right?

MS: Uh-huh.

RP: The pilgrimage, yeah. So you went up to one of these pilgrimages...

MS: One of 'em, yeah.

RP: And how, what was that like for you?

MS: Well, it's, there's nothing there like when we were there, at all. So it's just nice to see everybody, and I don't know many of them either. But I think it's a good thing to do. And they're doing it in some of the other centers, too, now. But it seems like Manzanar was close to L.A., you know. And there's probably more Japanese Americans in L.A. than a lot of places. So I think it's been a good thing. And of course, I feel like we all need to be working together and not separated. And not separated in Mexican or Spanish or... and the Spanish language, I was just reading today that McCain tried to do something in Spanish language and he got a bunch of things wrong. [Laughs] They said they were wrong. Anyway, you can tell I'm kind of way over on the left, but then, that's how it is.

RP: Yeah. If that's where you are, that's where you are.

MS: Yeah.

RP: So do you have any advice to impart to young people about social justice or activism in this era?

MS: Well, sure. I think that we need to be concerned about other people, and helping the poor. We ought to, our church isn't working with the poor very well, but we ought to be doing better. I mean, we need to help the income of people get closer together. I mean, I think it's terrible, these big executives getting millions and millions and millions, and then the people working for 'em, the proportion is awful and it's getting worse, and hasn't started to get better yet. But if we get a democratic president, it might change. I mean, Obama, he'll start working, but it can't happen quick, it'll take a long time. And the gap between the rich and the poor is, I think, is getting worse around the world. But I think we're worse here than Europe, probably. I think Europe is kind of a between, and they've always had some of the socialist things and some of the capitalist things in a better proportion than we do, and I wish we'd do it more like they do, but we don't. Americans are terrible about thinking they have to, you know, the gun business, thinking they have to have the guns. We need to get rid of a lot of those guns, and we need to have more, more regulation about who has them and how they, where they have them and stuff. I belong to, you know, Brady, wasn't he the one that got hurt once. I belong to (that). And I think it's... if we got rid of some of the guns, we couldn't have near as many people getting killed in L.A. And even this one member of our church was, happened to be gay, but I don't think anybody knew it. But he was walking to church one day and a bunch of guys came along in a car, and they rolled the window down, and they pointed a gun at him. They didn't shoot him, but he went in and called the police and told them. You know, it doesn't happen out here, but it sure happens in L.A., and they get killed every day. I read about it in the paper and it's terrible. And we need to do something about it, too, but we don't. And you know, I'm at the place that I can't do it anymore. So I'm watching the rest of 'em do it, or not do it. [Laughs]

RP: Or hoping they'll do it. Okay, well, thank you so much, Mary, for sharing your story.

MS: Well, I'm glad to talk to you. I hope this stuff makes sense.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.