Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Taeko Joanne Iritani Interview
Narrator: Taeko Joanne Iritani
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: October 17, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-itaeko-01-0012

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KP: Okay, well, let's talk about, in your family, who was the first person to leave camp in your family?

TI: Who did what?

KP: Who was the first person to leave camp?

TI: To leave camp? Oh, my brother Yoneo. He graduated from high school in Poston in the 1944 class. And he went on the train to Connecticut, University of Connecticut at Storrs, S-T-O-R-R-S, and that's where he went to school. And from what I understand, the governor of Connecticut treated the evacuees as if they were residents. You know how out-of-state tuition is higher than in-state. So they were treated as if they were residents rather than out-of-state people. So there's another good person over there. And then my brother Joe graduated in 1945, and he went to Chicago to work, he had a job. Everybody who left had to already have a place. Place to stay, somebody to vouch for them and have a job, and he had his job. He was just graduated, just graduated from high school, and he was drafted by the U.S. Army. And by then, the war was over, it ended in August of '45. And that's when my sister and I went to, back to Bakersfield. And thanks to this committee that Emma and Reverend Throckmorton had formed, they had set up a program for us, my sister and me, to go to the high school, East Bakersfield High School, and we had Big Sisters. Two girls who were very popular seniors to be our Big Sisters. And so we had an easy time getting into school, too. Everything was arranged for us. The committee members, among the committee members were members of Trinity church who were teachers at East Bakersfield High School. So they had made those arrangements for us.

KP: So going back to Bakersfield, what kind of...

TI: No problem at all for us. My father had talked with Emma Buckmaster and visited with her. She'd have them, people stay in her house all the time. And he went there and made arrangements for us, and then made arrangements for when they were going to come out, he and my mother and my younger brother and my cousins. And that was a wonderful lady, wonderful committee that was so helpful, not just during the evacuation time, but followed through for when we needed them. And people were moving their things out of the church. So the churches, both Buddhist and our Methodist church, became hostels for people to stay in. That's where my parents stayed for a while until they found a place to farm.

KP: How long did it take your parents to find a place to farm?

TI: How long...

KP: How long before your parents found a place to farm?

TI: I don't know. I don't think it was too long. You see, I mentioned all those stocks, well, I think my father still had some of that money, so we were fortunate. One of the things I learned from my brother in interviewing him was that I just assumed that he was getting the scholarship from American Friends Service Committee Nisei scholarship program that they had set up. And he said, "Oh, no, Pop paid for it," for his college. So we were very fortunate that way. So it was not difficult at East Bakersfield High School. In fact, I repeated one of the classes and found out I had a good grade. [Laughs] I assumed I didn't have such great teachers in camp, but we did all right. So I just went one year to high school, at East Bakersfield High School. My, after farming a while, my father found that he couldn't continue, and he decided to start the nursery in Bakersfield. He walked around the area where he wanted to farm and start a nursery, and he got a petition to the neighbors to permit him to start in a residential area. So he knew enough to do that. And so my brother was out of the army after thirteen months, and that's all he served because the war was over. And so he came home, and he and my father worked on the nursery.

KP: When did you, when did you... did you move back in with your parents?

TI: And then I moved in with my parents, and had my senior year at Bakersfield High School which was walking distance for me.

KP: So for your junior year then, who did you live with?

TI: I lived with a family that had been arranged by the committee.

KP: That was the popular girl in school?

TI: And I went to East Bakersfield High School and had the girls' help. And the homes that they arranged for my sister and me were members of the Trinity church. So we helped with the dishwashing and babysitting for just that one year. So it worked out for me.

KP: And how did your father's nursery work out for him?

TI: It was fine. There weren't a lot of nurseries at that time, and he found out more about what kind of plants to put in and where to go to get it. And there were other nurserymen who helped him with that. And so my brother learned, and I understand from my brother Joe that he took some extension classes at UCLA to learn more about Japanese gardens and different things like that. And as I mentioned before, my mother learned all those names. Later on, years later, we took her on our trips, and she'd tell us what the name of that plant is and that plant is. [Laughs] I can't do that.

KP: So after you graduated high school...

TI: I graduated high school in 1947, and in '49, I graduated from Bakersfield junior college, which was right next door to the high school, and then I went to Berkeley. And I was planning to go into library science because during the time I went to junior college, I went to the downtown library in the branches department where we shipped books out to the other branches around the county. And I thought, oh, I might as well be a librarian. But when I got to Cal and I lived in a dorm which was a... well, it's a group called Prytneans, the scholarship group that sponsored this dorm, and it's kind of a co-op where we worked in setting things up and helping to clean and such as that. Anyway, most of the girls were going into teaching, and so I thought, "Oh, I might as well do that. It takes less time, less, fewer years than library science would have. So I changed my major in my junior year and became a teacher eventually, graduated from Berkeley in '51 and stayed for one semester for the teacher training. And went into kindergarten work, and later on, to special ed.

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