<Begin Segment 1>
KP: This is an oral history being done, and will be archived at Manzanar National Historic Site. We are at 6949 Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento at the Japanese United Methodist Church. We are interviewing Joanne Iritani, and the, I am... the interviewer is Kirk Peterson, myself, and on camera we have Richard Potashin. Now, the first question I need to ask you, Joanne, is do we have your permission to interview you and to use the tape?
TI: Yes. You have my permission.
KP: All right, thank you.
TI: And I want to note that my first name is Taeko, and that's how I sign everything.
KP: Okay. Is it okay if I call you Joanne?
TI: That's fine.
KP: All right. So what we're going to do is kind of just walk through life and try to get a whole picture. So let's start at the beginning for you. Where were you born?
TI: I was born in Bakersfield, California, September 21, 1929. My parents had come from Japan, and do you want their background?
KP: We'll get to that in a minute. And your given name at birth was?
TI: Taeko Ono, O-N-O.
KP: And do you know what those names mean?
TI: My last name meant "O," as in "little." And "no" is a valley or field, so it was, house must have been in a little field.
KP: And do you know what your first name meant?
TI: Taeko, something to do with beautiful. My mother used to say it's, you use the character for myou, which must mean beautiful. [Laughs] I accept that.
<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 2>
KP: And let's do start back with your parents. What were your, what was your father's background? Where did he come from?
TI: Well, he was born in Fukushima, Japan. His father had left Japan while he was still in his mother. Before he was born, probably in 1899, my father was born on January 2, 1900. So it was very easy for us to keep track of how old he was. His father had gone to Hawaii, and then come over to the mainland and worked in Bakersfield at the Santa Fe Depot cleaning cars. And I, while I was doing my church history in Bakersfield, I found in one of the city directories the name Y. Ono. And I assume it was him living at the dormitory for the young men. The year after that, there was no notation about any laborers of Japanese or Chinese descent. The year after that, there was no notation about any laborers of Japanese or Chinese descent. They had just cut them out. So I was lucky to have found him the year before, 1907.
KP: And that was your grandfather?
TI: That was my grandfather. Well, my father came over here in 1918. And his father had called him, at that time we called it yobiyose, when, to call a person who is a family member, and that's the only way they were supposed to be able to come since 1913 law, I believe, prevented others to come. So he came in 1918, he had promised his mother that he would send his father back home. And so he, my father, my mother told me about how he used to get all the extra work around the Santa Fe station cleaning cars and whatever extra, everybody gave him the extra work. He was, after all, very young. And so he was able to send his father home by 1921 or '22, and my mother says -- see, my mother and father were first cousins. And so my mother said that her, her mother, who was my father's aunt, had told her, my mother, that, "Your uncle had come home from America, but he had the Spanish flu." And so he died after that. So my father had sent his father home to Japan, and he died not too long after that. In 1924, my father was told by other young, other men, Japanese men, "You'd better go back to Japan because the Exclusion Act is going to be effective in July of 1924," and he was a twenty-four year old young man. And so by, before April, I'm sure, he had gone back to Japan, and his mother had already decided who he would get married to. And it was his first cousin who he had played with as, they had played together as children. My mother's family home was the actual family home. Last name was Suenaga, S-U-E-N-A-G-A, and my father's family, my father's father had taken his wife's name, because his wife did not have any brothers. And so he became an Ono, which was not his original name. And so my father went home, he is, of course, Ono. And they married in Tokyo, and my mother told me about how that was the first time she had ridden the train to go to Tokyo from Fukushima, which must be a good two hundred miles, I think. It's north of Tokyo, anyway. And so they got married down there, and she took her sister along with her on that trip. So we have that picture of the three of them together. And they landed in Seattle. They didn't come to San Francisco and Angel Island, they went to Seattle. And so from Seattle, they went down to Bakersfield on the train. Well, while they were in Seattle, my father bought my mother a dress, because all she had, of course, was her kimono. And the family was very poor, so she didn't have a lot of kimonos, I'm sure. But anyway, he bought a dress for her, they lived in Bakersfield, remember, and it was a wool dress. [Laughs] And Bakersfield is very, very hot, and so she talked about and laughed about the fact that she was so hot going from Seattle on the train to Bakersfield. And while they were in Bakersfield, they lived in various places. There was, one of the men in our church who told about how he remembered my mother as a bride, and they lived in the little house behind his house. And so they lived in various places, and my brother was born a year later in 1925. And then my second brother was born in 1926.
KP: Your oldest brother's name? Can you give that?
TI: Yoneo Ono.
KP: Could you spell it?
TI: Y-O-N-E-O. And my second brother's name was Minoru, M-I-N-O-R-U, but he was also named Joe. So whether it was Joe Minoru or Minoru Joe, I'm not sure. And so there were the two boys born first, and then followed by my sister Tomi, T-O-M-I, and then me, Taeko. And then three years later, my youngest brother Takashi, T-A-K-A-S-H-I. And we lived, when I was a little girl, we didn't live in Bakersfield any longer, we lived out in a small town called Tupman, T-U-P-M-A-N, outside of Taft. And that was the oil-producing area, and our house, my mother told me, was owned by Standard Oil. My father was the gardener there, and he, before that, he decided he wanted to learn how to be a farmer. And so he had gone out to the farms where the young men lived in dormitories, and they were mostly bachelors, Japanese men came without families. And while he was there, he met Susumu Kuwano, who became his best friend at that time. And his name is important because he was the reason that my father became a Christian. He looked around at the other young men who were laborers, they were all laborers, and he said they were using their money drinking and gambling. And he said, "I knew I couldn't do that, I had a young family started." And so he found the young men who were not doing that to become friends with, and Susumu Kuwano later on became a minister in the Methodist church. And so my father and mother became active in the little Methodist church that had been a mission church, started by the First Methodist Church in Bakersfield. And the Issei always called our church "Misshon," That's the Japanese accented "mission." [Laughs] "Misshon." And they also called it ME Kyokai. "Kyokai" is for a church or organization, and I assumed "ME" was a Japanese word, but it stood for Methodist Episcopal. So...
KP: If we can jump back one question, what did -- it sounds like your mother's family and your father's family kind of came from the same area. What kind of background --
TI: Well, they were cousins.
KP: Yeah. What kind of, what were their backgrounds? What did your family, what did that family do?
TI: Their family, they were farmers. My father's, father's father originally came from that family. He was their, probably, second son. And so the first son takes over the farm, the second son either finds another way to make a living, or you get married, and in his case, he got married and took his wife's name. He was a yoshi, they call it. And his family, his new family actually had a little store. But I'm assuming they didn't do too well, because he was supposed to take over that business, and instead, he came to America where the, perhaps they all saw it as the more lucrative possibility. And so that's why he came over here.
KP: Okay. So your father's desire, you think, to get back into farming had to do with the family tradition?
TI: Well, being in Bakersfield, that's when he saw most of the Issei were farmers. There were a few people who owned stores in Bakersfield, but mostly they had farms that they had to rent. And are you familiar with the alien land law? Well, I found out when my children were doing their biographies, autobiographies in, like, third, fourth grade, that we sat down and they interviewed Grandma, my mother. And that's when I learned that not only could my father not purchase the land or lease the land, he had to rent. And I didn't know that until I was a parent. So we have a lot of learning to do.
<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
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KP: So after your father got married in Tokyo, came back, and went back to Bakersfield, was he still working in the railroad at that time?
TI: No. He, that's when he decided he would go into farming, but he had to learn about it first. And that's why he lived like a bachelor and left his wife and child, maybe both boys already by then. But I remember my mother saying she was so lonely, she says, "What did I come over here for? To be left alone."
TI: How long of a time period was that?
TI: I'm sure it wasn't too long, maybe a couple of years. And then he got the job of gardener, and then he decided to find some land to work himself. And he was a successful farmer. We lived in the east side when I was a little girl, three years old is when we moved to Lamont area, east side of Kern County, fifteen miles east of Bakersfield. And my father farmed forty acres, a wonderful landlord we had there. And he grew sweet potatoes and yams, cantaloupes, cucumbers... well, in addition to cantaloupe, Persian melons and casaba. The casaba I have not seen... it was very fragile. But that was the best-tasting melon I've ever had. Can't find it anymore. And the casaba you see now doesn't taste like that at all.
KP: So what are your, what are your earliest memories of that area?
TI: That area when I was a little girl?
KP: Lamont area.
TI: In Lamont, my father farming. Of course, I didn't start school until I was first grade, six years old. And then we had to walk at least a quarter mile to get to the bus stop. And we went to Bakersfield to our little Japanese Methodist Episcopal mission, which later was called a church. And we had a wonderful, wonderful Caucasian lady who had come to our church in 1927, so before I was born, she was already teaching Sunday school. That was Emma Buckmaster. She was the most wonderful person, Christian person, I've ever known. She... I remember her playing her mandolin, and we had an old pump organ in the little room in the, behind the church, and I learned all my little Christian songs at that time. And even now, when I hear recordings for some of those old hymns played, I think of her. She was just wonderful. And skipping to the time of evacuation, she was the mainstay of our, to help our Japanese community then. But before that, before we get there...
KP: Right, before we get there... so you had older brothers.
TI: My two older brothers.
KP: And an older sister.
TI: And an older sister.
<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 4>
KP: Did the whole family help out with the farm? Do you remember that?
TI: No. Well, we have some pictures of my brothers driving the truck when they were nine, ten. [Laughs] And out on the field, I guess you can do that with a little child. Yeah, my oldest brother was born in 1925, the year after. In fact, he was born on my mother's first birthday in America. She was in heavy labor. And then Joe was born the year after, year and a half or so, and then Tomi was born in 1928, and me in 1929, and Takashi in 1932. Of course, as little children, I guess we didn't do much as far as farming goes. But I remember how in the summer we would be... I learned how to straighten out a nail very well. I could still do that. Because we would be hammering the crates together for the, either the lug boxes or the crates for the melons. And they were all shipped, well, taken by the produce people. They'd come from town and take it down to the farmer's market in L.A. My father would go early in the mornings to the farmer's market down in Bakersfield in town. And I remember as about a fourth-grader, I guess, maybe third, having to listen to the radio. That was one of my jobs, to listen to the radio every morning before I went to school, for the stock quotations. My father had purchased -- and I don't know how he learned about it, but there must have been an Issei or Nisei person who knew about buying stocks. So that's how my, our father had used his extra money. And I listened for Warner Brothers and Trans-America and SP.
KP: Sounds like he kept our connection with the railroad, because of the stock. [Laughs]
TI: Well, but this was SP and not Santa Fe. And another job I had, probably in about fifth grade, was to make the bathwater hot. I don't know if you're familiar with Japanese furo, bath buildings behind the house. There was a tub made of metal, probably galvanized tin or whatever, and with the raft kind of thing in it so we don't burn our feet on the metal. And under it, from the outside, you build your fire and make your hot water hot enough for the father to get in. It had to be hot. And we had yams, which I loved to put into the coals of that, the fire underneath. That was one of my jobs, to keep the bathwater hot. Oh, and also to do the, especially in the summer, to make the rice. I would... and at that time, we didn't have these automatic cookers, we just made our rice in the big pot and put it on the stove and turned it down at the right time. Well, I wasn't too good at that because I was too busy listening to "Amanda of Honeymoon Hill," and some other soap operas. So sometimes I did burn the rice. But my sister helped my mother with the cooking, and I was more apt to help with the dishes later.
KP: Speaking of burning the rice, what was your, what was your relationship with your parents? Were they strong disciplinarians, were they approachable people? What kind of relationship -- what do you remember about your father? What was he like?
TI: Well my father played games with us. I remember playing hopscotch. I remember jacks, and I could beat him in jacks. And we used to have a karuta set. Karuta is a Japanese card game where the cards would have old poems on it, and people who are really familiar with it can have the first part of the poem read, and already know what the second part is and where that card is. Of course, we didn't know that much, but we could read the, the characters because we went to Japanese school on Saturdays. And so we waited for that, and as soon as you spied it, you pointed to it and touched it. That became your card. So they would play games with us like that. And oh, I remember those summers. Probably before 1940, I must have been in fifth and sixth grade, I got to sit in on the game of 500, and I made the "no trump" hand. And I could still envision my being there. And we were playing not just against my parents, but the men who had come to work that summer, Nisei men who had come to work that summer on our farm, and I got that "no trump" hand. [Laughs] Isn't that ridiculous? But anyway, we enjoyed things like that.
KP: So your father wasn't particularly strict or anything that you remember?
TI: Well, he was more strict with my oldest brother, I think, than he was with us. And my mother would scold, but I don't remember any spankings. But then maybe that's what that's for; you forget.
<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 5>
KP: You also mentioned Japanese language school.
TI: Yes, we went every Saturday, and it was generally our minister who was our teacher. One of the mothers had been a teacher in Japan, and she also was teacher of the younger children. I remember the book, they were books from Japan, the Japanese language books. But every time we'd get a new minister, I'd go back to the beginning of Book 4. So I didn't progress from second grade, basically, I think. But when I was at college, I could write to my mother. And she says, "It's better with your Japanese writing and its mistakes than it is to get a letter in English," 'cause then she'd have to have it read.
KP: So your, did your parents have much of an English command?
TI: My father, when he first came as a young man, he was in a class at the elementary school just about across the street. Right on that same Truxtun Avenue from where he was living in the dormitory. And my... I guess it was at my mother's, after my mother's funeral that a man came over to me and told me, "I knew Big George." See, my father had taken the name George. His name was George Yoneshiro Ono, Y-O-N-E-S-H-I-R-O. Anyway, he had attended Franklin elementary school or grammar school it would have been called at that time. And gone through the six grades in a year, I think. So he did pretty well with his English. My mother never was very good, although later on, after the war, when they had their nursery, she could get out there and knew all the names of all the plants, and tell people how to grow them.
KP: So did you speak Japanese at home, or English?
TI: We spoke Japanese together, although my Japanese didn't progress beyond a child's level. Even now, I can talk to some Issei, and it's not very good English, I mean, Japanese.
KP: Back to the Japanese school that you went to, how did you feel about going, taking your Saturdays and going there? We've heard a lot of...
TI: Well, for us, as children, we had other friends who were our age, so that was fun. And out there in the country, you were isolated from other neighbors anyway. No one lived closer than a quarter mile from us.
KP: So it was a social gathering for you as a child?
TI: And also from there we were able to walk downtown to get new shoes. I remember my new shoes when I, my feet were growing so fast. And we could go to the library and get books.
KP: What town was the school?
TI: In Bakersfield. And just walked from the church where we had our Japanese school class, just on Saturday. People who lived downtown, especially the Buddhist children, had Japanese school every day, every day after school. Ours was very limited. But no, we also had a place to play across the street from the church. My father had bought that land using a Nisei man's name, and he needed, he bought it so that we had a place to play. And later on, during the war while we were gone to Poston, then some of the Chinese people asked to purchase that land from him, and they did.
KP: Okay, let's see. So about how large was the Japanese community in Bakersfield?
TI: Bakersfield didn't have a large Japanese community. The stores that I remember, we had two... when evacuation time occurred, we had two fish markets, we had a couple of restaurants. There was one in particular called Asahi, A-S-A-H-I, where we usually, when my parents came into town to go to church, we also usually stopped in there, to the store, and picked up any Japanese foods. And we also picked up some tamales that she made. It was the most delicious... and she always had the non-spicy ones saved for us. They were beautiful, fat tamales, I'll never forget hers. I've never seen any quite like it since.
<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 6>
KP: Also, did you, in and around the Japanese language school or the rest of the community, did you, did your family observe any of the traditional Japanese holidays?
KP: Could you explain a little bit about them?
TI: The... I'm not sure what those holidays were, but I know we went to the movies, the Japanese movies that came to our church as well as to the Buddhist Church. I saw those wartime films, 1937, '38, because Japan was already in China. And I remember all those "banzais that they were yelling.
KP: What did you think about that when you saw these?
TI: Well, I didn't relate to them. And then when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred, that night, our Isseis had a meeting, and we were with our parents. And that's when I realized it may also affect us.
KP: So you considered yourself American.
TI: That was on December 7th, the night of December 7th. And so I really didn't relate to the -- except I enjoyed the movies, the chanbara, we used to call it, the old samurai movies. I enjoyed those. [Laughs]
KP: Did you celebrate Boys Day and Girls Day?
TI: Not at that time. After the war, and we got back -- we went to Japan after World War II was over and my father had died, my mother and I and my cousins went to Japan. Then we picked up some things like the doll set, we didn't have a doll set. We didn't have anything to do with that festival at all. And Boys Day we didn't celebrate prewar, until after. My mother picked up some, some of those kites, you know, the carps, large ones that were flown at my brother's nursery. My father and brother started a nursery after the war.
KP: So let's --
TI: And then New Year's Day also, that was after the war that we celebrated. And every New Year's was at my mother's until it was moved to my house. So yeah, those were good celebrations, family gatherings. But not before the war.
<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 7>
KP: Let's kind of focus in right around December 7, 1941. Kind of set the background already, your father's farming?
TI: My father was farming. And after, well, that night of December 7th, Issei meeting --
KP: How did you, how did you personally hear about it and what were your reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
TI: I don't think we were listening on the radio at that time, although we did have a nice Zenith radio. Because I used to listen to the Lone Ranger back when I was in, like, third, fourth grade. At the time of the bombing, I was in seventh grade. And we went to church, and after church, the Reverend Dillon Throckmorton came. He was from the Trinity Methodist Church, and he came to support us. And that's when I felt, "I wonder how this affects me." I really had no idea. And then the next day at school, a girl in my class whom I had known since first grade, she says, "Why did you bomb Pearl Harbor?" Here I was, seventh grade, and being asked that question, I said, "I didn't have anything to do with Pearl Harbor." And then I realized there would be a connection made by others. I didn't make that connection truly until I heard that question. And so there it was. I don't remember exactly when the curfew and five mile limit, curfew dusk to dawn. And I'm sure while we were going to school, my father must have gone to take the, his one .22 rifle in. It was for jackrabbit killing. And also, I guess he must have taken the radio in to have it so that it cannot any longer produce shortwave stations. And I don't know what all... he was not taken by the FBI.
KP: The FBI would come into your house?
TI: I have no idea. See, we were at school every day, we just took the bus like usual.
KP: Did anything else change noticeably after...
TI: Well, we could not travel back to church any longer, 'cause we had the five-mile limit. And so we had to go to the store in Lamont, which was just a few miles away. And we attended the Sunday school at the Lamont Methodist Church. And then I understand when there was the notice about the evacuation, that's when Emma Buckmaster and Reverend Dillon Throckmorton and Lottie Philips, who was also one of our Sunday school teachers, she taught the older, the youth. And they and some people from Trinity Methodist and First Methodist formed a committee. And that committee was called the Aid to Japanese Methodist Evacuation Committee. And in all my reading, I have not found another local group like that. It was because of Emma Buckmaster. She was just wonderful. She wrote to everybody, and I do mean everybody. We were kids, she wrote to us. My father, who could write some English but not real fluently, she wrote to him. She wrote to every Nisei soldier who left Bakersfield. And there is a man in Bakersfield who still talks about Emma Buckmaster. He was in the Guadalcanal area, interpreter, MIS there. So Emma is, if anybody is a saint, she was. So because of that committee, they stored things in the Japanese Methodist church as well as Buddhist church. Labeled everything, boxed everything. And when people needed something, they wrote to Emma and she shipped it out to them. And I had a card, and I think I've already given it to the Sac State Archives, a postcard that Donald Miyaji, a neighbor, neighbor from Bakersfield who also was a neighbor in Poston, he had received from Emma. And Emma is one of these first grade teachers who writes with a very round, nice cursive writing. And she said, "I'm sorry, Donald, but I cannot find your roller skates." [Laughs] She had looked for his roller skates. So you can see what kind of person she was. She was wonderful.
KP: So when did, when did your family hear about -- what memories do you have of the time of evacuation, hearing about it, how long of a time did you have?
TI: Well, we had been, 'course, reading, I'm sure we must have taken the Rafu Shimpo from L.A., my mother used to take another newspaper from L.A. as well. So they must have had all kinds of stories, first of the people from Terminal Island who had to leave, and people moving more inland, so there were people who moved to be close to their friends assuming Bakersfield would be outside of the line.
KP: And you were on the east side of Bakersfield.
TI: We were on the east side. And people had moved inland to try to avoid the evacuation. Well, all of California was affected. And so I'm sure -- we had a phone, I know that. And people from the, in town probably let us know and let my dad know when he had to go to pick up the tags. Because we, I still, in fact, the original, my original tag or my mother's original tag is at the archives here in Sac State. And so we were told we had to be at the train station, Santa Fe train station, I believe eight o'clock on May 25, 1942. And so we were there, thanks to the... we called him Boss, our landlord. Everything was closed up, I'm sure my father sold everything that he could, or given away. Because we had two mules, a nanny goat, lots of chickens, some guinea hens. I think there were some ducks at that time. So he had to get rid of everything, farm equipment, and things had to be stored.
KP: It's quite ironic that your dad started his work in the United States at the train station, had to go back to the same station...
TI: Same, same train company, yes. So that was my first train ride. And we went across the Tehachapi Mountains. There were lots and lots of tunnels that were fascinating to children. And I'm sure when we got close to the towns we had to pull the shades down. So that's what everybody's experience was on those train rides.
<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 8>
KP: So when did you arrive at Poston? Was it nighttime, daytime?
TI: Well, we arrived that day in Parker, Arizona, there's a Parker Dam on the Colorado River. And the name of Poston is actually the Colorado River relocation center. And we took an army truck, I'm sure it was, from Parker to Poston and saw all those barracks all lined up. Black tarpaper barracks one after another.
KP: What time of day was it, do you remember?
TI: It was daytime. And it was very dusty. Of course, every camp was dusty because they had to scrape that soil in order to make everything, put the new barracks on. So it was very, very dusty. And we were dropped off at a place where we had to register, we were each wearing our tags. I think my family number was 31331, something like that. And we were assigned our barracks, and the first thing we did was to take those long white bags to put our straw into for our mattress. And a few years ago, I was told those were body bags that the army had. I didn't know that until just a few years ago.
KP: I had never heard of that. That makes sense.
TI: But somebody else told us they were. So anyway, our address was Block 19, barrack 9, apartment C. And my cousins, who had a little girl, my cousin is also my mother and father's first cousin. And he and his wife and their little girl lived in the next room. So there were three of them, so my two brothers had their cots taken into their room. And my father or somebody made a little door there so we can go back and forth between the two rooms, and life began again. And, of course, that was in May, so there was no school until the fall.
KP: What did you, what did you do? How did you occupy your time at first?
TI: Well, at the beginning, of course, just getting acquainted with everybody in the block. So seeing who else is there, there were some who were in our Sunday school, there were some who were in the Buddhist church, children my age and younger, and those are the ones I gravitated to, not to the older ones. I wasn't a... I was still age twelve, and I didn't think of myself as a pre-teen like some young girls my age. So I gravitated to the younger set, not to the older girls. And, of course, everyone had a, had to walk to the bathrooms. It's really not a bathroom, it was a shower room and toilet stalls. And at the beginning, there were no doors on those toilet stalls. I was still young enough not to care. For the teens and young women, that was tough, very hard on them. But I was still a callous youth, I guess. [Laughs] Well, anyway...
KP: So it sounds like when you lived outside of Bakersfield, Lamont, in the Lamont area.
TI: The Lamont area.
KP: That going to Bakersfield and kind of seeing a little bit larger Japanese community there, but it was still small. And suddenly you find yourself in Poston where you're with how many other?
TI: Yes, a lot of young people my age. And so we formed a club. We called ourselves Triletts, and I'm not exactly sure how we got that name, but the purpose of our club -- and there were girls, I was twelve at that time, turning thirteen in September. And I think the youngest girl in our group must have been, oh, eleven, ten maybe, going on eleven. And we had, our purpose was to have parties for the little kids in the block. So that made it fun for us, too. And when school started, I played with my friends, I went to school with my friends, I studied with my friends. And it was an eighth grade class that I went to, but it was a single class. It was not like a junior high class where you go to different classes. And you played until you had you had your meals with your friends. My mother worked in the mess hall, so of course we didn't eat with her. And we saw our families at night, at that time.
<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 9>
KP: What did your, did your father work in camp?
TI: My father was a night watchman, so he had to sleep part of the day. So you didn't stay around the, what the government called an "apartment," which is a single room with a light bulb hanging down.
TI: Euphemism, absolutely. But it was called an apartment. And you used your Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs a lot.
KP: Did your older brothers work in camp as well?
TI: Yes. My oldest brother worked, started as a orderly in the hospital. And, see, I interviewed him a few years ago. He was coming, going home from a meeting in Seattle at which time he had given the Yoneo Ono award to a rural volunteer, and that was up in Seattle. So he had worked with a group down in the Fresno, Visalia area where he helped them with their water and sewage and various projects with the rural people. And he was a volunteer, so they named the award for him. And he was going home from that. And so we sat down and I interviewed him. And the number of times during the interview that I'd say, "Oh, really? I didn't know that." My oldest brother. And there were so many things that I was unaware of. But he told me about how he worked as an orderly, cleaned up the hospital before it became a hospital, that whole area, helped with that. And then worked as an orderly, and then worked with the... there was a, I've forgotten the name of the psychologist or sociologist who had come to Poston, he wrote The Governing of Men, Leighton. Anyway, my brother worked under him in that group.
KP: What was he, what was he doing for Leighton?
TI: Well, he was just a young person, and someone got him onto that committee maybe to help with the gofer or whatever. And that's where he learned his philosophy, sociology, psychology. He's the one that used to be the thinker, but I didn't know that. Anyway, he worked there, and my next brother was going into the sophomore year, see, he was a freshman in Bakersfield. And then going into his sophomore year, and probably that summer, they started to build the school, the adobe, made the adobe for the school building. And many years, many, many years later, he told (me) he worked on the adobe. And that may have been fifteen years ago. And then after that, my sister said, "I did, too," and I didn't know that. [Laughs] See, you don't know what your siblings are doing because you have just you and your friends. We were playing. Had our games, we had our Girl Scout troop, I learned how to embroider, to knit, crochet, make paper flowers, such as that. We kept busy. Then, of course, friends, we go to the canteen sometimes. Life was easy for me. I didn't really work until one summer when I worked in the library and got eight dollars a month, that was my pay. My mother's pay probably was twelve dollars a month, regular everyday work. Every day, three meals a day. My father's probably was sixteen. Anyway, that was our life. Of course, my second brother loved it in camp, 'cause he was our athlete. He could pitch, he was the quarterback, backup quarterback, I think, for the high school team. But there are still people, if I meet them, who are from Poston, young men, who would say, "Oh, Block 19, Joe Ono." They remember him as the pitcher.
<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 10>
KP: So what are, what are some of the more memorable times that stand out in your mind about the experiences you had in camp, stories...
TI: There, I remember when we had a funeral, and it was a man who... they had no children, the couple had no children. And I know I worked on the flowers, the paper flowers that we made for his funeral, and it was a cross, a red and white paper cross. It was beautiful. You had to make your own flowers or you didn't have that kind of decoration. The church building was in our block, in our recreation hall, and I was... I don't know whether I was the only one attending from our block, whether our family was the only one or not. For the Issei service, there probably were some others. But among the children for Sunday school, I think I was the only junior church person, because we had a lot more Buddhists in the camp. We went to movies. I remember seeing Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher, and I think there were some girls swooning there, just like everyplace else, for Frank Sinatra.
KP: Where were your movies shown?
TI: There was an outdoor stage and a huge screen, probably, I don't know, probably this, size of this room here, this space.
KP: Like a drive-in.
TI: Like a drive-in. And so it'd be, and you took your own chairs. My father made some little folding chairs for us.
KP: Made them out of...
TI: They made everything out of scrap lumber. And one thing he used to do is to make the birds, carved birds, have you seen those? His were very, very good because he was an artist. None of us got that talent, but he... Emma Buckmaster, of course, knew other teachers in Bakersfield. And the art teacher, I believe she was at Emerson junior high school. She contacted my father and sent him paints. Sent him the kind of oils that you use sticks, stick oil or whatever. And I remember the painting he did of Sallman's head, head of Jesus, he copied that. And we used to have it in our little church in Bakersfield. I don't know what happened to that, we closed the church up. But it was his painting, copy.
KP: What did your dad do with the birds that he made?
TI: Emma, he sent it to Emma, or to that teacher, and they sold it to the people in Bakersfield. I wish I had some of 'em back. I only have one of his birds, and it's a little bluebird, Eastern bluebird, in fact. And I have one of his ironwood pins, that one's lost the pin itself, and one painted heart. And I told, I showed it to the girls when Susanna, our oldest daughter, was there at our house after my husband died. And I showed it to Ken, our son, and he didn't realize I had these. Susanna knew it. It's going to go to the girls and my daughter-in-law. And I gave him the pencil holder that my father had made out of ironwood. It's a lovely piece, and it's his now.
KP: So did your dad ever do this kind of artwork before he went to camp?
TI: No. He was strictly the farmer. Strictly the farmer. And I didn't know he had that artistic talent. And somehow, he conveyed the idea to Emma, who had contacted the art teacher, yeah. And I'm not sure where all the things are.
KP: Yeah, so it sounds like -- and we hear this from some of the other people, too, that for some of the Issei, the camp was a time to explore other aspects of themselves that they wouldn't get to do because they didn't have to work from sunup to sundown.
TI: Yes. For some people, it was a short-term godsend. My mother told me about one Issei lady who told her for the first time, her husband could not beat her. Isn't that sad?
KP: And that was because of the closeness of the community.
TI: And area, in a building that everyone would hear. If there was a baby in our barrack, we would have heard that baby cry. Because above the walls, it was open for the whole barrack. And if you had an argument with your brother or sister, they heard that, too. So as one friend here that I interviewed, she said that her sister was having some problems and the family had to talk together. They went out into the street, which didn't have a lot of cars on it, obviously, that was the only place they could talk. That's how little privacy we had.
KP: I guess you had to learn manners, too.
TI: Yes. And the parents were watching other people's children, too.
KP: All right. We're talking about... this is a continuing interview with Joanne Iritani.
KP: Iritani, okay. And we're talking about her time in Poston and the experiences of her family. And you wanted to talk about your dad's artwork.
TI: The birds... that I had a hand in it. I actually used a coping saw and cut some of them out. [Laughs] Then he did the rest, of course, the carving and the painting. But I helped him a little, not always.
KP: So he started with a, like a rough piece of board, and then made an outline that you...
TI: Yes, he would draw the space that he needed to have cut, and I helped him a little. I was not the artist by any means. But no, he really was an artist, and I wish some of us got a little of that ability. I think it's him down to my daughter.
KP: Good. Glad it's still in the family, though.
<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 11>
TI: So life was easy for me because I was a child. And going to school, I remember my brother in his interview talking about that first year in high school. Because there was no one particular place. See, I went to a single room as an eighth grader. But high school students went from one rec. hall to another rec. hall depending on your English and your history and your math classes. And he said sometimes he'd be too far away to get home to our mess hall to eat lunch. So I'm not sure if he was welcome in somebody else's mess hall, or how those kids managed that. But later on, of course, they built the high school with adobe buildings that are still there, still in Poston.
KP: Another quick question about the way the camp was laid out. Most people who were down in Poston just talked about how hot it was.
TI: Oh, it, you know what was the proof of that? When we had our, the monument dedication in Poston, I don't know if you've seen that lovely monument. But we were there in November, I believe it was, and there were some people who fainted then, November. So what was it like in July and August for us? It was mighty hot, I'm sure.
KP: Well, in comparison, I mean, you were from Bakersfield, which is not known for being cool in the summertime.
TI: But it was not as hot as Poston. That hot desert, yeah. But you know, wherever you are, you accept the temperature. You don't, you can't change it, you accept it.
KP: So any, any other memories come up about the early years in Poston?
TI: The early years in Poston compared to the later when people are leaving?
KP: Yeah, we're gonna be getting to that.
TI: Yeah, because people were leaving. I remember one wedding I went to in Poston, that was lovely. But there were not too many of those occasions for us. Life just went on. I played with my friends, and I didn't have any other job to do. You ate together, and your parents did their work, and we attended classes. And I can't even tell you whose rec. hall we must have gone to to go to those knitting or crocheting classes. But I did, and my mother did her, learned her tailoring. She learned how to do tailoring, and she had that equipment. I've given some of those things to the Japanese American National Museum in L.A. Life was not difficult for me, but I'm sure it was difficult for the parents who had to, well, like one family had to go from Fresno to Jerome on the train with their little children, that had to be hard. And whenever we talked to children here, and we, every year we talked to them at the California State Museum. I don't know if you're familiar with that. In January, February, March, some years we talk to seven thousand children, and they come from all over northern California. And I've mentioned to the children, you know, "At that time, a young mother and her two children could be traveling on the train, and perhaps her husband had been taken by the FBI. And she had all you can carry with her children, and I know families like that." And then I also mention that, "And, you know, we didn't have Pampers and Huggies at that time." "Ooh," the children's reactions. But it's the truth. And if they had to go from Jerome -- I mean, from Fresno to Jerome, Arkansas, that was like five or six days. Because the train would be left on the siding while troop trains went through, and it'd take forever for them to travel. So life was much more difficult for some other people than it was for me.
KP: So do you have any -- kind of shifting gears a little bit here -- do you have any recollections... I know that it didn't really affect you, but the "loyalty questionnaire" that came around, did you know that was happening at all?
TI: I really don't, can't even tell you that I knew about it. I don't remember at all my parents talking about it or my brothers. I don't know if they were old enough. You had to be sixteen, I believe, to be one of the signers, and, of course, I wasn't. I was not avoiding it, I wasn't in on it.
<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 12>
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.
<Begin Segment 13>
KP: You mentioned earlier that your family really didn't practice many of the Japanese traditions until you went back to Japan. When was that? When did that happen?
TI: Well, we went to Japan during the summer of 1954. And my father, right after the war, Japan had put out bonds to help with their recovery, and my father bought some of those bonds. And so when we went to Japan, the bonds were still there for us to use. My mother used all of the money that was there every time she took a trip, it was already there in Japan, luckily. And so anyway, that's when we picked up the dolls, the Girl's Day doll set, and we picked up the big carps. And my brother would fly those carps every Boy's Day, May 5th, at the nursery. He had some long bamboo he can get from different places, you know, and put it up on those, at the nursery in the corner there. And those are the only other celebrations that we did. We did put up those dolls every year for a while, and then as people, children grew up and moved away, we stopped doing that. But we always got together for New Year's Day, first at my mother's place and then at our place. And we have lots of pictures of us in our kimonos, we brought back kimonos to wear. And those were good times for us.
KP: So there's an interesting arc I'm hearing here, and that is before Pearl Harbor, you talk about seeing what was going on in Japan, thinking, "Oh, those are some different people," you didn't really relate with that. And then Pearl Harbor seemed to pull into you, into your mind, at least, a consciousness that, "Oh, I am Japanese." And then after the war, you go back and --
TI: Yes, and then we went to Japan.
KP: Right. And then how did, I mean, how did that all come together inside of you as to how you were related or not related to Japan?
TI: Well, that was the first time I met my cousins, when I went in '54. We knew about them because they had sent pictures. My mother always corresponded with her sister and her brother, and that's when I met my relatives. And then, in addition to my having gone, now my brother Yoneo's daughter went over there. And, well, first it was my brother Joe's son who went as, like a university overseas for one year, he went to Japan. That's where he met his wife. He is now a doctor in Hilo, Hawaii. He's the first one who went, and then Vicky, my, Yoneo's daughter, went to Japan for a year. And then our daughter Susanna went as well. So there are many connections. Not just my mother and I going, but connections with the children now. And my husband Frank always encouraged Ken to take his family to Japan. Well, not in his lifetime. Anyway, there's a connection, and yet, I never made a big deal of it. I've always called myself Japanese American, however. I always kept that connection in Bakersfield as well as up here. And that's why we joined the Florin JACL. And the reason we joined the Centennial church is because when -- I knew the pastor, for one thing, because she had been a pastor at the First Church of Bakersfield. And then when we visited the church, it was so diverse. They have, right now, our church has a group of Fijians and Tongans who meet separately. And on the board, we have Japanese Americans, my son is on the board now. And we have Chinese Americans and African Americans. It is the most diverse Methodist church I think there ever is. So we really like that church. And that's all part of it. I don't have to say I'm proud of Toyota and of Nissan, and all the cameras they make and all. My husband used to. [Laughs] I figure that is them over there doing it, not us over here doing it. But he always took pride in Japanese things, much more so than I ever did.
KP: One more little step backwards, 1953, was it, that they changed the U.S. naturalization law so that people could --
TI: Oh, yes.
KP: Did your parents...
TI: My father died in 1951, so, of course, he couldn't. And he would have, he's one who would have. But my mother found that the people who were older than her could take it in Japanese, but she couldn't. And English was just too hard for her to have to learn to do that. And by then, anyway, my brother was in charge of everything. I had told my, I think I told my children, "I don't think Grandma ever paid for a thing in her life." I think my father took care of everything, and then my brother took care of everything, and then I helped to pay once she was over at the assisted living place. I don't think she ever paid for a thing in her life. [Laughs] Life was easy for her. So no, it was not like the group here in Florin where there's a, we have a beautiful picture of all the people who took and passed the test. And so often with the people that I interviewed, they probably told me about getting the, their citizenship, yes.
<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 14>
RP: Joanne, you and your husband Frank embarked on this photographic odyssey to capture images of all ten camps.
RP: Can you tell us a little bit about the motivation for that?
TI: Okay, all right. Most of it was in 1989. I had retired, I believe, that year. But we had started our trips before that. We went to Poston when we were on our trip to, going to Denver. And going up to Seattle to see his brother, we passed by Tule Lake. We'd go to the places along the way, actually. And we had a motor home, first we went in our large Maxi van, and then we got a motor home. And we went to... what was it? Topaz when my niece lived in Ely, Nevada. So just along the way, you just take a little side trip. And went to different places like that. And even to go into Rohwer and Jerome, we went to a Methodist conference, Asian conference, in Dallas, Texas. Oh, we might as well go over to Arkansas, that's just another couple of states over. And in a motor home, you can do that. And so we went over there. And after we went to all ten camps and had taken pictures and had taken our notes, we wrote little things about the monuments and such along the way. And then Frank said, "I think we should put this into a little booklet." [Laughs] And so we had plenty of pictures, me with my poor posture showing. But anyway, it came together in, like, a mimeographed thing first. It was very, very poorly done. But then it was followed up by some help in Bakersfield, the blueprint service, where they had good equipment and they knew how to make a good map. So it all came together. And my husband was selling the books, and have to report the tax to the Board of Equalization, I think it is. And we also, every place we went, if we were near a college, university, we dropped one off, one of the copies, and gave it to their library. So many, many libraries have one of the older versions of it. And then I said, "Let's give this thing away, so we don't have to worry about that, following up with the Board of Equalization." And so we decided on the Japanese American National Museum in L.A. And they have the rights to it, and that's why they could advertise it in their catalog. And I'm glad we did it like that. I don't need to write any more. But that was a labor of love that worked out. And people still talk about how they went someplace because they had our book. And I'm glad it's being used. And I don't think we ever made any money on it, you know. It's not that kind of effort.
RP: Also, can you tell us how you got involved, or the community got involved in this oral history project?
TI: The oral history? Oh, I'll tell you about coming to Sacramento. See, Ken, our son, lived here. And, of course, we were visiting all the time, and then, let's see, my husband must have retired in '86, three years before me. And I told him, "You retire the way you want to retire. I don't want to be a gofer or 'honey-do,' I should say. I don't want to be a honey-do." And so he did. He volunteered over at the Democratic Central Committee office, go there every day, answer the phone, and then was put onto a committee where they formed a Kern County Human Relations Council, or Committee. And he was happy to do things like that; that was right up his alley. And we also did some voter registration things there, and we, that was all his. And we got together with some other Asian group people, and he decided that we will right the KAPA News, Kern Asian Pacific American newsletter. And, of course, I don't know what happened to that after we left. But then we moved up here, my daughter says we moved in '92. I thought it was '91 of December, but doesn't matter, we're here. Because our son is here, we decided we might as well go where we can help them and they can help us, and that's exactly how it worked out. Our two daughters, Susanna lives in New Hampshire, she is a teacher of, she's a speech therapist, works in school. She's married to Rick Minard, and they have a boy named Alden who is twelve. And then Ken here in Sacramento, married to Lesley. They have Daniel at Santa Clara University, and Kevin at Jesuit High School, and Jacob, twelve, at Country Day School. And then our youngest, Bonita, Bonnie, she's called by family. And she's in North Carolina. Her husband is on the research faculty, Jon Hussey. And she works there for another researcher, and they have a sixteen year old daughter and a six year old son, Alex. Daughter is Marisa. And so the kids are wonderful, and came here and I did my share of babysitting. But it's not an everyday thing, it's as needed. And now the youngest is twelve here.
<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 15>
KP: So we skipped a very important point, and that is, when and how did you meet your husband?
TI: Oh, okay. Yeah, there are stories to tell, simple stories. Frank just died. I don't know if you're familiar with that, he just died in September 30th, and we'll have the memorial service on November 1st. But there was a group, I was coming up to the group that was the Christian Young People's conference, and they'd have times over at Lake Tahoe or over in Asilomar or various places like that where they have a, basically a retreat. And I used to attend those, and I'm sure we met at one of those, I don't know which one. [Laughs] And my husband was a student at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, PSR. He was first assigned way back in the early '50s, when he lived in, or when he was called to help at Centenary church in L.A. And I'm not sure exactly how the connection was, but he was attending Centenary, or Claremont, the school that used to be at USC, University of Southern California. And anyway, he helped at the Centenary church in L.A. when their pastor, young pastor, died of cancer, Sam Takagishi. And so he, I guess, decided to attend PSR, and he was the student pastor at San Jose first, San Jose Wesley church, and then he was assigned to Alameda Buena Vista church. And he was there and finished his program in '55 at PSR, and we were married in '56. And the reason that he came to Bakersfield -- see, I had been teaching in Oakland, and after I went to Japan with my mother I decided I'd go to Bakersfield because I didn't know my nieces and nephews, they were growing without me. And so I went back home and lived and worked... was I teaching? I must have been teaching at that time. And I was helping to transport the Issei to their Issei meetings, because, of course, they didn't drive. And so Emma Buckmaster and I and some other cars would be taking care of the Issei. And there were quite a few still remaining in the '50s. And then I think one of the ministers who had come down told Frank that I was down there. [Laughs] So he came down, and I'm sure he must have spoken to the Issei group, given a little Japanese sermon, and then we took up from there.
TI: And got married in July 7, 1956. And then he was assigned to the Oxnard church, and we were there two years, and then to the Portland church for two years. And then he decided not to be in the parish ministry, but to do some sort of other social work. And he wanted to go into the chaplaincy, but Susanna had been born in Oxnard, and we took the three-month-old child and went up to Portland, and Ken was born in Portland. And so he decided, well, maybe he'd better not pursue that too long. He attended the program, training program at Deuel Vocational Institute, which is a prison. And then he went into social work there in Stockton, where we were living. And then when we moved to Bakersfield, then he did social work for Kern County. So... and then our youngest, Bonita, Bonnie, was born in Bakersfield.
KP: Back one more...
TI: And then I went back to work after some years.
<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 16>
KP: In 1988, there was the redress. How did you, how did that affect you?
TI: Oh, that was another thing about Frank. He was, I don't think it was when he was retired yet, because the thing was signed in '88, right, and he was probably retired in '86. And we went all over our congressional district, because he wanted to get people to sign his petitions. I was the one that was in camp, but I wasn't the one pushing, it was Frank. And so we went over to, the eastern part was in Lancaster. You know gerrymandered a section could be, congressional district. And so we went to Lancaster and met their people over there. I knew some of them because there were some Lancaster people in our block in camp. And we got them together and actually, I think that they were helped by our being there to start a chapter of the JACL there. And the west side, it was not quite to Santa Maria, but in that area, whether it was in Santa Maria County or Monterey County or what, I'm not sure. San Luis Obispo County, perhaps. But there were some people we visited over there. And we went all over Bakersfield not just talking to the Nisei, but to the Caucasian people, too, to the ministers. And he was the one who was focused.
KP: How did Frank avoid camp? Where was he from?
TI: Because he was born in Denver. He lived in Denver, and he... actually, anyone outside of California and the western half of Washington and Oregon, and the southern part of Arizona, everyone else were not to be evacuated. So his family were in Denver, he was born and raised there, and actually, he tells about how he was drafted, and it was after the war began. Not a lot of Nisei had been drafted prewar, and were in the army at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And some of them were jailed in the brigs, some of them were discharged, some of them were treated beautifully by their COs. Each one was different. In fact, there's a famous photo that shows a young man from Florin coming back to, during the time of evacuation, and his mother is picking strawberries. So they were all treated differently. There was not a single way to treat these young men. And Frank says he had his draft notice, went over to selective service, and he was told, "No, we're not going to draft you because you are now 4-C." I think that was the number, letter given. But anyway, he was considered "enemy alien" at that point.
KP: So this would have been early '42 or something like that that he was drafted?
TI: Probably in '42. He was a student at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, and he was told he's not going to be drafted because of his changed status. And then, later on, of course, they wanted the men to join because the 442 was now losing so many men and they had to get some more in. And so he, I believe he volunteered, and he joined -- his sister had joined the WACs. And from what I've read, she's one of the first Nisei to go into the WACs, his sister Frances.
KP: Was it the Auxiliary Air Corps?
KP: The Women's Auxiliary...
TI: Women's Army Corps.
KP: Army Corps, okay.
TI: Yeah. And then so Frank went into the MIS, Military Intelligence Service, and he was at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. And he was sent to the Philippines for a short time, and then to occupation in Japan. So all that was after the war.
<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 17>
RP: Yes, Joanne, I just wanted to return to my original question about the oral history project that I guess the Florin JACL took on?
TI: Oral histories. [Laughs] How I got into it.
TI: Well, we moved up here to Sacramento, and I was told about the Tanoshimi-kai lunch that is held every Wednesday at the Japanese Methodist Church, so I went. I thought, "Oh, that'll be a good time to meet some Nisei." Sat next to Nami King, and I shared where I came from and what I was doing there, that I'm a retired teacher. And that night, I got a call from Mary Tsukamoto, not surprising. And Mary said, "Can you help me with some posters?" See, they had a program where they would put posters up in the Elk Grove school district board room. And then she and some veterans would talk to the children about the internment. And so I said, "All right, so the next morning, 9 a.m., I was at Mary's house. And so that became one of the things that I did for Mary. And I worked on those posters, I'm a retired teacher, I know how to print primary-style, so I made posters for her. And I helped to put them up and then in time, I helped to talk to the children, and we got more people in to do that. And, of course, one of the projects that she had started was the oral history project. And Marion Kanemoto was the leader of that project at that time. And so I was asked to do some transcribing. And I think at that time I had my Brother machine. It was not the computer-computer, but it did have some capabilities of taking a line out or a section out or something. And so, and after that, I think I got the computer. And I transcribed some of the oral history interviews, and then later on, of course, I was doing Mary's interview as well. And I did that at the library archives at the university, and we did that in four sessions, the third session of which I did not check the volume of the machine. [Laughs] So that one didn't go well at all. Anyway, that's how I got into it, and I'm still doing some.
RP: Well, that's really commendable that the community has documented its own stories.
TI: Well, I hope you have some time to look at it. Or if you want the whole collection, we can make copies and bind them up if you want them bound like that, like we have. We can talk to Marion about it. 'Cause I have part of the collection. I got some legacy fund money from the government as part of the public information or whatever program they had, and I asked for money. I didn't know how to write an application. I asked some of our JACL people who do things like that for their work, and Stan Umeda said, "You write very well, but you don't answer the questions." [Laughs] So anyway, I learned from that, and I still got the money, and we formed a committee here with some people from Stockton, French Camp, Lodi, Placer County chapters with our Florin chapter. And every chapter had, in that one year, made at least three, I think, books. So that's my legacy.
KP: That's a great legacy.
<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 18>
KP: One question more, and Richard might have another question or two, but as a result of your experience and your family's experience with camp, if there was one thing you could tell future generations about that experience and what you came out of it with, what would you, what would you tell people about that?
TI: Well, we talked to the children, as I mentioned, and one thing we say, that you, "When you are old enough to vote, you will be a good citizen and vote, and you will be vigilant. If you see something happening that you feel is unfair, you will take the time to say, 'You can't do that, that's not right.'" And that's exactly what happened after 9/11. And our Florin JACL, thanks to Andy Noguchi, who is our civil rights chair, they got together with the Muslims in the area, people who were being, fingers were being pointed, and Andy had a informational press conference type meeting. "Doesn't have to go to that point, it could also be in your fifth grade class. And if you see somebody being mistreated, you could speak up." And that's what we try to tell the children. Never again should one group of people so easily be moved by the government. That's what happened, just one group plucked out, put someplace else, and look how fast those buildings went up. So anyway, thank you very much. Have I done enough here for you?
KP: [Addressing Richard Potashin] Anything else? Okay. On behalf of myself and Richard and Manzanar, thank you very much for sharing your stories and helping us expand our knowledge base.
TI: Well, each one had their own experiences. I'm glad to share mine.
KP: Thank you.
<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.