Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Suzuki Ichino Interview I
Narrator: Mary Suzuki Ichino
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Pasadena, California
Date: July 17, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-imary-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history interview for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Mary Ichino. And Mary lives at 545...

MI: Bellmore --

RP: Bellmore.

MI: -- Way.

RP: In Pasadena.

MI: Pasadena.

RP: In Pasadena, California.

MI: Right.

RP: The date of our interview is July 17, 2008. Our interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson. And Mary will be sharing her recollections of life in the Los Angeles area, growing up in this area. And our discussion will be framed around her experiences and time spent at the Manzanar War Relocation Center as a former internee as well as an employee of the WRA working both in the camp and in Los Angeles for a WRA field office that opened there in 1945. Our interview will be archived in the site library. And Mary, do I have your permission to go ahead and record our interview?

MI: Yes, you do.

RP: Thank you so very much. It's been an honor to, to meet you and to get to know some of your family's stories relative to Manzanar. Our first question this morning is the personal question that always gets asked. And that's when you were born and what year?

MI: I was born in December the 9th, 1924.

RP: Okay. Were you born at home or in a hospital? Do you know?

MI: You know, I have no idea but I'm assuming it might have been at home. In those days I think it was basically midwives. So...

RP: And did we mention where you were born? Did you say?

MI:No. Stockton.

RP: Stockton, California.

MI: California.

RP: Okay. And do you recall your given name at birth?

MI: Yes, Mineko Suzuki.

RP: And some folks have an understanding of what their Japanese names mean...

MI: Mean.

RP: Do you?

MI: Well, when you write the word Mineko in Japanese calligraphy, it comes out "beautiful age." Or they call it, utsukushii itoshii. So I'm, I'm assuming that's the correct translation.

RP: How about your last name, Suzuki?

MI: I don't know, probably the same as Smith.

RP: Japanese Smith?

MI: Japanese Smith. More Smiths than Nakamuras and you could...

RP: And Tanakas.

MI: And Tanaka, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Well, we'd like to get a little better picture of some of your family history. Can you share with us your family background of your father and his family in Japan? Were they landowners? Were they highly educated?

MI: Yes. My father's father, which would be my grandfather, was a land owner. And they're from Hamamatsu.

RP: And where...

MI: Shizuoka.

RP: Oh, Shizuoka.

MI: That's south of Tokyo. And he was one of several brothers. And majority of them are very academic. Well, in fact, they were academics. And I think that's where my dad is such a, has such an interest in academics, reading and furthering education. So there are, I understand, statues in Tokyo and there's another place in, near Mashiko that had another statue in the high school and I understand they're all related to my dad. So that shows that he came from a very academic family. And his purpose in coming to the United States was with his cousin. And his cousin went to Stanford and my dad stayed. And he didn't have the funding to go back.

RP: Your father's cousin returned to Japan?

MI: Yeah. But he got his, I understand that he did get his degree.

RP: At Stanford?

MI: Yeah, and I think I'd like to look that up and see that, whether these informations are a hundred percent correct. You know, when did he get it and what was the major that he got it on. I'm assuming that it might have been on trade.

RP: Can you give us your father's name, Mary?

MI: It was Fukutaro. And then he went by the name of Frank Suzuki.

RP: Do you know much about his educational background in Japan? Did he, did he actually go to college at all, or...

MI: That part is very vague to me, but I'm assuming he did go to at least high school. But my dad didn't speak too much about that so I'm, I can't give you an accurate answer on that. And my mother also was very academically-oriented. But in those days women do not go to school, like high school and things. But she was a high school candidate. But she did pursue her interest in education when she came back to the United States. And might be one of the very few Isseis who graduated from college in costume designing.

RP: Which college was that?

MI: I'm trying... Woodbury. Woodbury College in Los Angeles. That's very... and then she drove a car when a lot of Issei ladies never drove a car. They're a pretty modern couple when you think about it.

RP: Very much so.

MI: Yeah.

RP: Were there any other members... you mentioned that your father came over with a cousin. Were there any other members of the extended family who also came to the United States?

MI: Came to the United States? No, not that I know of. And that's it.

RP: Right.

MI: Yeah.

RP: And your father, you said that he had a number of brothers?

MI: No, he didn't have, but he had a number of uncles.

RP: Uncles.

MI: And I had heard it not too long ago that one of the uncles even went to England, which I find pretty interesting.

RP: For education?

MI: Trading.

RP: Oh. So they were, yeah, a whole different...

MI: So there, it's a whole different...

RP: ...class.

MI: Class, right.

RP: Education, trade, commerce.

MI: Right, right. And...

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

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Do we know where your father came into? Was it San Francisco or...

MI: San Francisco. And I think the reason why he came to San Francisco, as I understand it was because, you know, he converted to Catholicism. In those days, you know, being a Christian was not considered a thing in Japan. But he was very impressed by some man who was a Christian. And my dad says, "That's what I want to be, like him." And that was when he was nineteen I heard.

RP: And he was in the United States?

MI: And then he came to the United States after that and then he was active in, not active, or he joined the parish, Saint Francis church. And that same...

RP: In San Francisco?

MI: In San Francisco. And we visited that church and it's still there. And he knew exactly where it was after all these years. And he died when he was about a hundred and two. Memory was sharp.

RP: So he had converted to Christianity in Japan?

MI: It's either Japan or when he came to Los Angeles, I mean, San Francisco. So we were baptized. The children were all baptized in San Francisco. Yeah, so we go way back.

RP: Tell us a little bit about your father from a personality perspective. Draw us a picture of your dad.

MI: My dad was quite open-minded, very broad-minded, and a man of few words. He judged a man according to what he saw him. He never judged him for his belief or his ethnicity. So none of us kids ever grew up with any prejudice whatsoever. And when I think about that now I go, well, he was way beyond his time.

RP: Right, and also the fact that more than likely, being and Issei Japanese, he was a subject of prejudice.

MI: He was. And the fact that he let his wife, with four children, go and further her education to get a degree, that's very unlike an Issei man. And, and I give him a lot of credit. And how he started this business in the restaurant business, I said how in the world did he start? He's a self-taught man. He taught himself to write his name in English. And he could understand English, he could speak it. And not, maybe as good as some, but at least he could carry on a conversation. And my mother was the same way.

RP: You told me that your mom also spoke Spanish.

MI: Yeah.

RP: And why was that?

MI: Because -- this is really funny -- there was a young man when we were in Glendale and my dad had this produce business. There was this one man, young man, I bet you he was only in his teens, I think his name was Henry, but he would take the four of us kids under his wings and play with us. And he would drive the car and take us to the beach. And my mother picked up Spanish from him, which I think it pretty neat. And so she would speak Spanish, I guess, before English. [Laughs] So that...

RP: You told me that Henry was a young man from a dysfunctional family.

MI: Yeah. I think that's why he clung to my family. 'Cause my mother was one of those that believed in learning everything and anything you can. Not willingly on my part, but now I could see the, you know, reason for that. But yeah, I did a lot of things grudgingly. You know like taking music and piano practice, my God, who in the world wants to piano practice every single day? And, and in camp it was like taking a tea ceremony. Who in the world wants to sit on the floor... I was such a tomboy.

RP: You mentioned flower arranging.

MI: And flower arranging... I never knew what the front and the back of the flower was. And, you know, but these were things that gradually the seed is planted. But I didn't realize that 'til I got older. And I thank my mother for it. 'Cause that made me a more rounded person because of that. But I guess that's true of all children. You don't appreciate what you're being given 'til you became a parent, you know.

RP: So your father, how did he choose to establish himself in Stockton?

MI: You know, I have, I'm not quite certain. It could be he started as a farm laborer, you know, working out in the field to get established. And he's always been a business person, always has been a business person. And my gut feeling is that he probably said, "Well, this is enough for me. I'm gonna get started in my own business." And he learned the restaurant business. And that's how he got started. Remember I told you about the story about Sacramento? That's where he opened up his restaurant.

RP: Right, he started a restaurant in Stockton first?

MI: I'm not sure whether it was Stockton, but I know Sacramento for sure. And then he started one in Los Angeles, couple of them.

RP: And what type of food and clientele did he cater to?

MI: Well this, that's it. It wasn't Japanese food.

RP: It was western food.

MI: It was western food. And he knew his wine, he knew his good meat.

RP: So he had a, he had a sense of quality.

MI: He knew, yeah, he knew. Where he got that, I don't know. [Laughs]

RP: Years of apprenticeship.

MI: Yeah.

RP: Maybe working out with all those grapes out there.

MI: Oh, it could be. Yeah.

RP: So he started a restaurant in Sacramento and did your mom also was part of that operation?

MI: I sort of recall, I'm not sure whether it was Sacramento or Stockton, but I was still a toddler and I remember my mother helping out at the restaurant. And then there was a, she had a sister that came to look after me while the mother worked, my mother worked, and that I remember. And then after that, basically my father just took over and my mother raised the four of us and was a stay at home mother. And made sure that, you know, we did our studying. Took us to places we had to go to for our lessons. So it was kind of a good, good balance. But my dad worked long hours. Very long hours. So today when I hear people say, well, they worked ten hours a day. I go, gee, my dad worked longer than that and I never heard him complain. But he always came home for supper. No matter how busy he was, he always came home for supper and we always ate supper together.

RP: At home?

MI: At home. And holidays we had a tradition. Like Thanksgiving my brother, Joe -- I think you hadn't met that one, that brother -- he would always get the drumstick 'cause he was the oldest son. And I used to always wonder why he gets the drumstick and not the rest of us. But that was a tradition. He says, the first cut was the drumstick and my brother Joe got it. So that was a given.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Since you just mentioned Joe, let's talk about your siblings. You were the oldest.

MI: Yes.

RP: And then, and then Joe came next?

MI: Joe, then Mike, and Angela.

RP: And do you recall your brothers' and sisters' birth dates? How, how much younger...

MI: We were all a year-and-a-half apart.

RP: A year and a half apart.

MI: I can't understand how they did that. I have grandsons that are a year and a half apart. That is enough to drive you nuts you know. When you have four of 'em that's a year and a half apart. But...

RP: Tell us a little something about each one of your siblings.

MI: Joe, Joe was so even-tempered, so kind, so patient, the nuns used to think he should become a priest. And Mike is the more academic in the family. Smart, but a little bit more aggressive than Joe. And my sister, Angie, was the youngest, not much... oh, we just got along, I guess.

RP: Did you gravitate to any one particular sibling?

MI: I was given the responsibility of looking after my siblings at a very, very early age. Because that was actually survival. My mother and dad, you know, they had to keep the house going. My dad had to keep the business going. But in those days times were different. It isn't... you didn't worry about kidnapping and things like that, or children being molested. I mean, we didn't worry about that. So, when I think of it now, it was a heavy responsibility for me. But that went through practically all my life, that they relied on me. And then when there's something that has to be read in English they relied on me to read that, to make sure that they got the picture correct, you know, or they were reading their contract correctly.

RP: Legal documents.

MI: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Have you ever gone back and tried to find the restaurant that your father ran in Sacramento?

MI: We went back to Stockton, but the place has all been rebuilt. But there was a hotel there, and my dad says that is the original hotel. He recognized it. And that's pretty neat. I've gone back to some of the houses that we used to live in, and I could tell you the floor plan of those houses and where we used to hide things, you know and I'd go, "Oh, I wonder if any of those people found some of that stuff that we hid." [Laughs]

RP: What did you hide?

MI: I remember there was a service porch in those days. And you had to buy ice to put in the icebox. And then there was, underneath the icebox was this tray and all the melted ice water would go down in the tray. And I forgot what it was, but that was the only place where the water would leak down to the floor and it was the easiest place to hide anything. Probably like dog bones and things like that or I don't know, what did we hide? In fact, there was a Jewish doctor who lived next door to us, a woman doctor. And that's where we learned about being... her son was such a gentleman. And I remember there was one, of the neighbor's boys came and pushed us while we were skating and he came right over and intervened. It was really, it was a real nice family. So I related to them. But let me see, what was it we used to hide? Oh we used to do all kinds of crazy things. But I remember that house because that's the first time I experienced an earthquake.

RP: That was in Sacramento or Stockton?

MI: No, this was in Los Angeles.

RP: Oh, in Los Angeles.

MI: 3411 East Fourth Street. And then we moved across the street to 3420 East Fourth Street which is a two-story house, much bigger, much roomier. But that's been torn down, made into a condominium.

RP: To go back to your father's business in Sacramento, you had a very powerful story to share about what happened to his business.

MI: Oh, in Sacramento?

RP: Right. Sort of a introduction to the prejudices of the world and...

MI: Right.

RP: The atmosphere that was, that Japanese Americans lived with before the war. Can you share that?

MI: Yeah. My father had a very successful restaurant business, catering to people who were worked for the Hearst paper, the Sacramento Bee. And people would always come and eat their dinner or their lunch or their dinner at my dad's restaurant. And some department head found out about it and said that employees of the Hearst publication was not to go and patronize my dad's restaurant. Why there goes half their, half or more of his business. And so he lost the business, and so there was no more restaurant. But that was the only time -- and I remember I told you about it -- that I ever saw my dad actually weep. After all these years, it must have been so painful. That I never saw my dad ever cry, and he did that day when he told me about it. And he told me it was the Sacramento Bee. And I said well the Sacramento Bee is still in existence. Interesting what... and that's, that's discrimination outright. Had nothing to do with the food. It was that it was run by a Japanese.

RP: As a result of losing his business, is that when the decision was made to move down to Los Angeles?

MI: Right. And I remember, with my siblings, it was late at night. I don't know why I can remember it being real dark when we landed in L.A. And I can't even remember where we stayed that night. 'Cause I remember, remember asking my mother where we were going. Said, "We're gonna have to find a place to stay."

RP: So it was kind of a rather sudden decision to...

MI: I think it was.

RP: ...leave.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: Do you have any other childhood memories of Sacramento?

MI: Not really. Oh, I remember a park. My sister was born and so that means that I was five. And there was a park across the street from our house and we lived in a duplex. And the people living on the other side was a Japanese reverend, and I don't know their name. But I remember that they spoke beautiful Japanese, so we picked that up. So our Japanese speaking was very elegant, I understand. But anyway, we used to go to this park across the street and there was this pond and there was these dragonflies all around the edge of the pond. And we used to get a little, little cord and tie their legs or whatever and walk around with them. That is something that I... kind of a cute memory. But when I came to L.A. we moved to Boyle Avenue, Boyle Heights. And people asked us where we learned to speak such elegant Japanese. Well, it came from this family.

RP: So that was the first, first place that you settled in was Boyle Heights area?

MI: Yeah.

RP: And then you moved to Glendale a little while...

MI: Let's see, how did that go? There's a fly in here. I'm not quite sure whether we moved to... you know where there's a produce market area on San Pedro? We did live in a house there. Maybe that might have been the first place we stopped. And then we went to Glendale, and Glendale we went to L.A. And because it was in that produce area, next door was an Italian family. And they were Catholics and it was Mama and Papa Joe. And they were almost like a surrogate parent because my mother would have to help my dad with his job. And I would take care of the kids but Mama Massa, was the one that oversaw everything for the family. And that was done purely on a voluntary basis, you know, on her side. Which I thought was very generous. So we used to go to Mama Massa's because she used to bake bread, the best bread, I remember. And she would give us pieces of dough and we'd roll it up and it gets almost dark, you know, but it doesn't matter, she says we're gonna bake it anyway, it'll kill all the germs. We used to make these little snakes. And I remember that real fondly. And then Papa Joe got in trouble with my dad because he used to have a still under the house. [Laughs] And he used to make wine.

RP: Your dad loved wine.

MI: My... he didn't care. But you know what? Papa Joe gave it to us. And my dad thought that we were too young to have wine. And Papa Joe says, "Why? Mussolini drank wine." So he didn't think there was anything bad for us to have wine when we were kids. [Laughs] But it's funny, the Massas were one of the most loyal, loyal friends you could ever, ever find. We moved to Glendale, came back down to Los Angeles, and during the evacuation period, they lived in, near San Fernando Road on... not Cazador, something like that. She was the one that would pick up my dad's important papers and hold it for us, because we were on a curfew. We couldn't leave, we couldn't go within a five-mile radius. So she had to come and pick up the papers. And that's really, it's amazing what she did for us.

RP: How long did you stay in touch with the Massas?

MI: Until their daughter passed away, which was not too long ago. That's a long time. They only had one daughter, Mary.


RP: Mary, did they help you in any tangible way during evacuation period? In other words, storing possessions or...

MI: Yeah, they stored... well, you know, they had a dining room set, we had a dining room set, quite a large one, and a buffet. But my parents gave it to them. 'Cause there was no money to give to them, 'cause that was all gone. But, so I remember that when it was time for them to return it, my dad says, "No, it's yours." And they kept in touch all along. And any mail that came, went to the Mama Massas and Papa.

RP: You mentioned a story about, about the father giving you wine.

MI: Which one? Oh, where he diluted it?

RP: Is that what he did?

MI: Yeah, that was the only way we got to drink it.

RP: So how old were you?

MI: Pretty young.

RP: Nine or ten?

MI: No, younger than that.

RP: Younger than that?

MI: But it was funny that my dad should do that but I guess maybe Papa Massa's young wine was pretty good, or whatever. [Laughs]

RP: Get 'em started early?

MI: Yeah. But I always remember that. Isn't that funny how certain things you remember, and why can't you remember other things? But I remember Papa Joe saying, "No, Mussolini drank wine." So... and somebody else says, "Yeah, but look where he ended up though." [Laughs] So, yeah, I have very, very fond memories of that. And Mary Massa, after her parents passed away, was always connected and associated with our family, weddings and things, funerals. Always remembered us at Christmas time. That's what you call a really loyal friend, you know. Never questioned you.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Was your father back in the restaurant business this first --

MI: Yeah.

RP: -- stop in Los Angeles?

MI: He did. But when, when we first came... you know, I was here first. And I suppose they were kind of worried because I was by myself here. My dad came out and he took and found odd jobs. And then he lived at that Hongwanji Buddhist Church. That became a hostel. That was the one across the street from the museum, now the present museum. And that's where he had a place to stay.

RP: This was after...

MI: This was after the war.

RP: After the war.

MI: Yeah. And that's how he gradually got himself built up again. So he was already in his, what, close to sixty?


RP: Mary, when did your mother begin her college work in costume designing?

MI: Let's see, probably 1939.

RP: Oh, a little later on.

MI: And '40... yeah. 'Cause I was still going to Sacred Heart when she used to bring home her assignment. And where she couldn't understand it or read it, generally speak it in the evening, after I did my homework, I was doing her homework. And I, there was kind of a standing joke with my mother. I said, "I know what. Actually, half of that degree belongs to me." Because I did all the interpreting for her. [Laughs] And, but she graduated. But you know when she graduated, they had a graduation picture, and there was two Asian women, my mother and another woman, and their faces were blocked out. Imagine?

RP: Oh.

MI: Isn't that crazy?

RP: That is crazy. Again, another sort of window into the times.

MI: Yeah, it really, really is.

RP: This was just before the war then.

MI: Yeah.

RP: What, 1939, '40?

MI: Yeah, you know that's, when you think of it, that's really troubling, you know. And why... if it happened today there would be an uproar. It's just like those, the students that put different names under their yearbook. Did you read that recently? They're just really making that into a big old thing. Well, you know, here it is, something identical happened.

RP: Did she have any difficulties getting in to the college being an Issei?

MI: I don't, no, it doesn't seem like it. I think, you know what, I think it was a lot easier to get in at that time. I think it, I think when the population increased in Los Angeles and California, is when things got really tough, more selective.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: What prompted your family to move to Glendale? Was it your father's work or...

MI: Yeah, an opportunity to get into this produce business.

RP: That's...

MI: Because there was a living quarters in the back of the market. And I think that was probably one of the reasons why they took that position.

RP: This was in Glendale?

MI: In Glendale, on San Fernando Road.

RP: And you, he worked, was it in an existing supermarket that he managed?

MI: There was a --

RP: A produce market or...

MI: -- there was sections. Supermarket... the produce and then a grocery section, and then the butcher area, whatever, yeah butcher, the meat department. In those days they use a different terminology. And then he, he ran the produce.

RP: Do you remember the store? Market?

MI: No, all I remember was it was on San Fernando Road across the street from the Nishi, or Kishi nursery. 'Cause Glendale was also a very segregated city.

RP: What do you recall about that?

MI: No, at the time I didn't feel... see, my father and mother never told us that, "Oh, you're Japanese so you're different from the white person," or you're different from the Mexicans, or you were different from the blacks. They never made that distinction. So I didn't think anything of it. But I know that like in Glendale, not as, not very long ago, a black person could not walk down Brand Street in Glendale without being stopped. So there were different areas that were like that. Pasadena had its problems, too. 'Cause right after the war when I came down for, to work at the reports office, there were some people that came to Pasadena, and there was a cross burning on somebody's yard that took in a young lady as a boarder.

RP: This was a Japanese American woman?

MI: Girl, yeah. So we had these little incidents, you know. And I know that once when we wanted to buy a house near Eagle Rock, this lady said to me, "Why don't you just stay with your own people?" And I said, "Who's that?" I couldn't figure out what she's talking about because I wasn't brought up in that mentality. But there was one gentleman that I really should mention. And his name is William Carr. C-A-R-R. And has a real estate office, or he did have one. -- he's since passed away -- here in Pasadena. And he was so much for helping the Japanese out. And so I have to really thank him for that.

RP: What did he do?

MI: He was a real estate agent, you know for, so he sold houses and... but he was one of those that liked to introduce people of all nationalities. And he would open up his house every weekend. The swimming pool was open for every nationality in the world to come and swim in that pool.

RP: And you did?

MI: I couldn't swim but my kids went there, you know.

RP: Oh, this was after.

MI: Because even Pasadena, the swimming pool was closed to anybody but Caucasians. And only on the day before when they changed the water was when the blacks were able to, allowed to come. You know, it's so crazy when you think about it.

RP: And what, what time are we talking about here? Is this the late '40s early '50s?

MI: Yeah, early, yeah, '40s. And before the '40s, you couldn't go in.

RP: I've heard similar stories about theaters and other public facilities where either you were not allowed to be there or you were seated in a separate area like, you know, the blacks experienced that in the, in the South.

MI: Yeah, my husband had a same experience when he was in the service. He rode the bus and the back was empty so he sat there. And the driver stopped the bus and he said, "You don't belong there." And it's funny, over in the South he's considered white, then he comes over here and he's not considered white. We humans are kind of mixed up. We don't know what we're thinking. It's almost comical, you know. I can't make up. But I'm just glad that my parents didn't have, or teach us prejudice. I really am glad that they didn't.

RP: I guess both of your parents had a, have a broader perspective on life and culture.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Did you, did you experience a pretty rich social life? Can you tell us a little bit about what, what your family did socially? Specifically how that social life interacted with Little Tokyo.

MI: Well... our social life was really wound around Maryknoll. And Maryknoll was a private school, parochial school. And if there was like festivities, like the Nisei Week, and they would have these dances where we would have to go and practice... we wore our kimonos and we would go, it was just a given. That was one of our social... in other words, culturally you're getting involved in your own ethnicity.

RP: So you went as part of Maryknoll school?

MI: No, we went on our own on that. But like at Maryknoll, we had our picnics, the family picnics.

RP: Tell us about that.

MI: We had our Christmas plays. There was nothing Japanese about that. It was all, you know, it was just good old American. Like Easter egg hunts, that's nothing Japanese. And yet, but we did have like maybe days when we dressed in kimonos. So there was no, what you call it, definite distinction, "this is going to be just us Japanese, and if you weren't Japanese, you weren't allowed." There was nothing like that. So I think that I was pretty sheltered. Because when I went to Sacred Heart, which was more Caucasian, there was cliques. And that's when I found out about what you call cliques, you know. Until then I was pretty naive. And so this clique did not associate with the girls who were -- at the time we used to call them Mexican. Now it's either Hispanics, Chicano, I don't know which one we're supposed to be mentioning anymore. But we used to call them Mexican. And the Mexicans and the, us Japanese girls, we got along real good. We didn't have any problems with each other. It's a happier group, really.

RP: So you... when did first start at Maryknoll? First grade?

MI: Kindergarten.

RP: Kindergarten.

MI: So, let's see, 1930.

RP: You, you were living in Glendale at the time?

MI: No, I was living in L.A. in Boyle Heights, I think it was. And Maryknoll, one of the advantage there was the buses came to pick you up. So there was a safety thing that the parents didn't have to take you to school. And then they took you home. And the brothers are the ones who drove the buses.

RP: The brother did. Which brothers do you remember?

MI: Oh, Brother Theophane. He was like, he used to call me Mariah, all the time. "Oh, here comes Mariah." And so I used to be the one designated to raise the hand signal, you know on the bus, right and left or pause, turn. So that seat was always reserved for me. And then there's oh, what was the name of that brother? There was another brother. It wasn't Alfonso. But he used to always tap his foot. [Makes tapping noise] So we used to always tease him about that. And there was Brother Bernard. Brother Paul was quiet. But, I don't know, Brother Theophane and I, we just got along. [Laughs] Yeah, so I have really fond... and Brother Theophane was the one that was a Boy Scout leader. And I was in the Girl Scouts.

RP: Maryknoll had its own Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop?

MI: Oh yeah, yeah, 145 was really one of the best Boy Scout groups. And then we had two Girl Scout, the younger one and the senior Girl Scouts. And that's, Sister Burkman was running that so we used to go camping.

RP: Where did you go?

MI: Big Bear. We used to do our own cooking. See we, so I feel that I was really, really sheltered. So, some of the things that I experienced... I was wondering who in the heck they were talking about. You know, or why were they doing that? 'Cause I never experienced that before.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: So, Maryknoll school was essentially like a public school with some religious education with it?

MI: Well, it was, yeah, if you didn't want to have the religious education... you didn't have to be Catholics to go there. There were... anybody could go but basically it was Japanese and Korean and a few Chinese. And then there was children of mixed marriages, okay. And it was not a free school. It was tuition.

RP: And the tuition was pretty high? I mean...

MI: Well, compared to today it was cheap. I think it was like three dollars a month. And I thought, you know, considering it's eight hundred dollars for some of the... well gee, my goodness, you can't even afford that anymore. But, no, it was a very well-rounded education. Because some of the leaders in the Japanese community and Little Tokyo, attorneys, judges, you name it, got their education from Maryknoll. It's very interesting how the list goes down. So I guess we really got a good education at Maryknoll.

RP: And the teachers at Maryknoll, were they the nuns?

MI: Oh, yeah.

RP: And who do you remember? Who sticks out in your mind?

MI: Sister Burkman. See, they all had different personalities. Sister Burkman was a tough one, and then she would give you that dirty look, you know, when her class is acting up like that. And so Sister Burkman would be the one that... Sister Denise was a sweet, pretty nun, and always jovial. Sister Jude was serious, a disciplinarian... who was it? Sister Suzanna was Japanese, from Japan. And oh, by the way, they also taught Japanese classes one hour a day.

RP: After school?

MI: During school.

RP: Oh, during school.

MI: And then after you graduated from Maryknoll, if you wanted to continue your Japanese language school, you could come after school and go for an hour or so. Yeah. And so there's Sister Benedict, was there. Who else was there? But there was one thing that they taught us and that was discipline and respect. When anybody came into the classroom, if it was other than a student, we all dropped everything and stood up. And you don't do that anymore today. And then when the person says, "Now you may sit down," then we all sat down. And we, our classes were like, there was nothing like a small class. We had forty in a class and the sisters were able to handle that. Today the teachers are complaining about forty in the class. They want like twenty-five. But how is it that we were able to do it with forty in those days? Question mark. Yeah. So I really think that Maryknoll for me was a very happy time. Very.

RP: Did you meet any of the priests, Father Lavery or Father Stone?

MI: Oh, yeah, Father Lavery married us. Father Lavery was... I consider him a saint, very much of a saint. By example he was good. He really, really fought for the Japanese. Not necessarily in Maryknoll, everybody. And so some of the material I gave you, it tells you some of the histories of what he did, or... so, you know, you'll find out about him. Father Steinbeck was very religious, very academic. And he wanted to, I think basically go back to Japan and do missionary work there. Father Clement was gregarious. He was a fun priest. Who else was there? That's it. Oh, and then a couple of our classmates, we used to call them Watson, and he became a Maryknoll priest. And I said, "Gee, do I call you Father whatever or do I call you Watson?" I said, "I'm used to calling you Watson." And he used to go to dances and everything. And we had George Minamiki who became a Jesuit priest. That's pretty awesome. And Bryce Nishimura, he was at Manzanar.

RP: He was a, I think wasn't he the first Nisei priest?

MI: Yeah, here. No, he wasn't a first Nisei priest. Maybe from the camps he might have been. I think he was in my brother's class. Or he and my brother were in same group. Yeah, and I think he's in Japan now. So it's interesting.

RP: A unique community.

MI: Yeah, and then two of the women who taught catechism became nuns. And they were assigned to Japan. So there was a lot of richness in Maryknoll.

RP: How long, how far did you go with Japanese language at Maryknoll? Did you continue it after you had graduated?

MI: I did. But I kind of quit after that. The homework assignments at Sacred Heart was awesome. Took me probably the whole night just doing homework every single night. And then we had to read a book a day, a book a week and then give a book report. So I got a good education as far as that's concerned, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: What about, you mentioned Nisei Week. What do you recall about going, going down to Little Tokyo and attending that? You said that you danced.

MI: Yeah, they called it ondo.

RP: Ondo dancing?

MI: Ondo, O-N-D-O. It was street dance.

RP: What was that like for you? Right out there, a lot of people.

MI: It was fun. See, those were different times. You know, it's at night that you had to go to practice. And we'd go into this parking lot. We took the streetcar. Today you would never ever think of doing that. You know, taking off in the dark of night to go to a parking lot to practice this street dance. I mean, you'd have to have an escort or you'd go by car. But no, we didn't do that. We were much more carefree then, I think. And of course they had the ondo and then they had the parades. And that was sort of like a social event, you know, for the Japanese community. And part of it was commercial.

RP: In what way?

MI: Well, as the crowd gathered, then the stores, you know, they did business. To elect the queen, if you bought merchandise out of a certain store you got a ticket. And that ticket gave you the right to vote. So it doesn't necessarily have to have been a popularity vote. It was the number of votes you got and the vote was connected to that darn ticket. So my husband's sister, Margaret, she was always in that race for the queen. Somebody would submit her name. But when it came to the really nitty-gritty where you needed the real votes, well that was it. You know, 'cause... so there is some commercialism involved in that. It's interesting. And yet it's funny because a lot of those queens were from Maryknoll. I go, hmm. So, interesting. Well, we did have a Japanese Chamber of Commerce you know.

RP: In Little Tokyo?

MI: Yeah. You didn't know about that?

RP: I think I've heard about that, yeah.

MI: Yeah there is, there was one. But this is how that was all started.

RP: That was probably, the whole Nisei Week was promoted through them.

MI: I'm not sure whether it was through them or they were part of it or something like that. Yeah.

RP: Do you remember other trips down to Little Tokyo, shopping trips or...

MI: Yeah, there was one place called Matsu-no-sushi. And they had the best sushi. It's just like everybody went there on the weekend to get their sushi so that they'd go on a picnic. You never went anywhere else. You go to Matsu-no-sushi. And then Fugetsu-Do, I don't know whether you've read that they're a hundred years old, and they make Japanese pastries. And so we'd go to there.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Mary, tell us about this family from Maryknoll who sent the noodles?

MI: Yeah. They made the best, those real fat homemade noodles. I mean they weren't those little skinny little things. It was, it was made from scratch. And then they would have the best soup base on that thing. And then they would have fried tempura shrimp. So my dad and I, that was our beat together. We didn't go anywhere else but we would always hit that place. Gee, I wish they were open today. That was so good. I could have one now. [Laughs] And let's see, what other place did most people go... oh, and remember the Far East?

RP: People have mentioned that.

MI: Have you heard of the Far East?

RP: I've heard of it.

MI: The Far East is a Chinese restaurant and just about everybody used to go to Far East to eat. And they had these little cubicle like places to sit, go inside and sit and eat. And I think they remodeled it with the same concept. But at that time they had, everybody would order like sweet and sour pork or pork chow mein or fried rice, almond duck. Those were kind of like a standard. Egg foo young. Nothing anything other than that. Like some of these Chinese restaurants today, never had those other kind of stuff. We just had the down home nice homemade food. And so that's a nostalgic place and it's reopened recently. So that's another good memory. And then the photographers would be like Toyo. Everybody went to Toyo. Or Ninomiya, there was another photographer named Ninomiya.

RP: Ninomiya?

MI: Yeah.

RP: Can you spell that for us?

MI: N-I-N-O-M-I-Y-A. Ninomiya Studio.

RP: And so did you have pictures taken in Toyo's when you were growing up?

MI: No, Toyo has my graduation picture, my wedding picture, our family get-together picture. If I have to go back they have it. My grandchildren's picture now. Yup, they're the one. And then we had the, gift store was called the Rafu Bussan. And those are all long established. Everything else in Little Tokyo now is new. So it's, it's sad to lose those places. So I think they're trying to keep that going, and I hope they do. Yeah. Something from the past.

RP: So Sacred Heart high school is a Catholic high school?

MI: Uh-huh. It was called Sacred Heart Academy.

RP: Academy. Where was it located?

MI: It's on Sichel in Los Angeles.

RP: Uh-huh. How far would it be from say Little Tokyo or Maryknoll?

MI: Well it wasn't, it wasn't exactly close. 'Cause I remember we had to... I had to take the, at those days it was a streetcar, the F-car. Then get off at Soto, and then from there we got transferred onto a bus and get off at Sichel and then walk to the school. So it wasn't that, it wasn't that far but neither was it that close. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Was it pretty much a given that you would attend a Catholic high school rather than a public high school?

MI: No, that was my choice.

RP: You decided to do that.

MI: Well, one of the reasons is that we were finding out that when you go to a parochial school, we were way ahead of the public school. We were way ahead.

RP: In terms of the curriculum.

MI: Curriculum and education...

RP: Quality of teachers?

MI: Quality of teachers. We, we were getting real... I know that there were times when kids that came from public school entered Maryknoll, they weren't up to par with us.

RP: It was quite a drop off.

MI: There was a drop off. The only one that we felt were above us was the kids from Japan. And they were learning to speak English and study English. But when it came to math, they were way ahead of us. They were... I don't know, they had already learned everything that we're just starting to learn. Maybe that was the way it was here, as against in Japan.

RP: You say kids from Japan. Are you talking about Kibei kids or...

MI: Yeah, I guess they... well...

RP: Who had gone back...

MI: No, they... see they were people, children, well it could be Kibeis, but they were basically children of employees of Japanese companies.

RP: Okay.

MI: And a lot of them came to Maryknoll. And the shipping company, the NYK line, the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, my closest friend, her father was a manager here. And when she graduated with me from Maryknoll, I went to Sacred Heart but she went to Saint Mary's Academy. So, apparently in Japan, too, they prized the parochial school system of teaching.

RP: What do you remember about your graduation from Maryknoll?

MI: From Maryknoll?

RP: Yeah.

MI: Oh, we wore this long dress, gown that we bought at Bullock's, my first long dress. Not much. Toyo took my graduation picture, that's about it. I'm pretty sure there was a lot of things that went on but, you know.

RP: Sure. Did you have any best girlfriends at the time? People you liked to hang out with?

MI: Yeah. And some of them ended up very sadly. One of them was Aiko Ohmaye. So sad. She went to Sacred Heart with me. Her sister did, too. And then when the war was declared and we had to evacuate, she was the one that called me and said, "Did you know that the next group is going to Manzanar?" And so she says, "Why don't our families sign up together so we'll go together, so we could be..." So I told my parents and they said okay, they signed up. And it turns out that we went to Manzanar and she ended up in Tule Lake. And I'm not sure what happened, but her whole family went back to Japan. Now why, I don't know. And the sad part of it is, she went through all the deprivation of the war and wanted to come back. And she came back on her own, and then we found out that she had advanced case of TB. And I didn't know that and she stayed with me. And Father Lavery is the one that found out, and had her taken as a patient at the Long Beach hospital, army hospital or something, government hospital, so that she could be given some treatment. And she never showed up and then she went to Boston where her sister lived. And then she got killed in an auto accident. And she came from a very high class Japanese family. That was a sad one. That was really, really sad. And then there's some from the PSKs that went back to Japan, got sent back to Japan. And Barbara Dougherty said that she doesn't know how they found her, but she said she did not recognize them. And she said they were in such a bad state and they were asking for her help.

RP: These were students?

MI: No, these were the...

RP: PS...

MI: Part of our PSK.

RP: Group. And they were in Japan.

MI: And they were in Japan.

RP: And they didn't recognize her.

MI: So that was, that's another, that's all part of the war. It doesn't have to do just the fighting. There's a lot of other little things that occur. So I'm not sure what happened to those girls.


RP: Mary, did the rest of your siblings also attend Maryknoll?

MI: Uh-huh. All four of us.

RP: All four of you did.

MI: Yeah.

RP: And your father was able to afford, obviously afford that school?

MI: Yeah.

RP: Was he doing, how was he doing financially?

MI: Apparently he was doing well. But you know at the time, when you're young like that, you don't even think of what your parents are earning or whether they are doing good or are they making sacrifices or...

RP: Later on you realize that.

MI: Then you go, gee, you know, come to think of it, Grandpa never bought a new car. And I remember that we said, "Papa, you need to get a new car. We're getting tired of this old car." And no sooner he bought a New Yorker, then we got evacuated and he had to get rid of it. [Laughs]

RP: God, what a... yeah, the fates.

MI: Yeah. It was the way... what do they say, the cookie crumbles or whatever. But anyway.

RP: Something like that.

MI: I would say that yeah, probably my father did, you know, financially better than most.

RP: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: And then, then your family moves from Glendale back to Los Angeles.

MI: Uh-huh.

RP: And your father starts back into the restaurant business.

MI: Yeah. It's always the restaurant business.

RP: Tell us, tell us where, where did he --

MI: Where he...

RP: -- get started with that in Los Angeles?

MI: You mean how he started into the restaurant?

RP: Well, he had the restaurant background.

MI: Yeah, he the... well, he started, it was in downtown Los Angeles, he opened up a restaurant. And that prospered.

RP: Also...

MI: That was after the war.

RP: Oh, it was after the war.

MI: Or did he do it before the war? Okay, I'm trying to think. Oh, yeah, yeah. Now I know. It was in downtown Los Angeles again. It was right near Little Tokyo, and right near the old cathedral.

RP: Saint...

MI: Do you know the, do know Los Angeles area, Second and Main?

RP: Saint Vibianas?

MI: Saint Vibianas. Yeah, it was only a half a block from Saint Vibianas, he had a restaurant there.

RP: Oh, he had a restaurant there before the war.

MI: He did that, that was very good. It was a good restaurant and he had just remodeled the inside after so many years and put in a bar. Because that was one of the things that people were asking, besides the regular food counter. And then there again, evacuation. And the guy that bought it, bought it for pennies. Bought the darn business for just about nothing, including equipment, food... 'cause I was there taking the inventory. And the reason I remember that man so vividly was it was just, oh, hundreds of items that you had to add up, you know, and calculate how much it was. And then he, he pointed out that I had made a mistake and I had overcharged him a hundred dollars. And I thought, my god, he's getting this business for nothing or, and he's quibbling about a hundred dollars. But you know what, that was the way some of those people were. And I remember I thought, "Oh my god. My dad lost all of that." That was hard.

RP: So you were involved with the inventory of the restaurant. Did you also work there in any other capacity?

MI: No, not really.

RP: You were busy with school.

MI: I was busy with school. Yeah. But, I was going to say something. I was just thinking about something. Well, it will come back to me. But that's the way it was with a lot of people I think, they lost money. And luckily he had some money put away. And you know some, sometimes people would say, "Well, did the government supply your necessities in camp?" And I says, "No, we had to buy our own." "Well, how did you manage that?" Well, everybody had... if they had any money. And not all, a lot of people did. In my dad's case, he had a checking account, so he had some money in there. And from that he could withdraw to pay for necessities like soap and whatever the commissary had. Clothing, the government didn't give us clothing and we had to buy our own.

RP: Do you have any idea at all what he sold the restaurant for, in terms of...

MI: No. You know, I don't think my dad would tell me. See, it's like that story about the Sacramento Bee. If it's a painful story, my dad was a very quiet man, he wouldn't say.

RP: He didn't share any emotion about that --

MI: He would not show it.

RP: -- losing his business.

MI: It, it all stays inside.

RP: Uh-huh, Issei, stoic Issei.

MI: Typical Issei. You know the word gaman.

RP: Suck it up.

MI: My sister and I just the other day we were talking about different things. And said, "You know, that word gaman is a good thing, but you know what? It could sure bring a lot of H, too." [Laughs]

RP: Yeah. Enough gaman.

MI: There's a limit to that G-word, you know.

RP: Yeah, that's enough gaman already.

MI: Come on now. Listen.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: What did your father serve western food in that restaurant, too?

MI: Yeah.

RP: Like steaks and pork chops, and that kind of thing?

MI: Steaks, he used to make the best roast. Oh, so tender. The best stew, you name it. He'd always serve soup, main dish, and salad. And always this little jellied pudding. It had a little sauce on it. So every time I see something like that I go, "My dad used to serve that in the restaurant." But they used to get that as a complete meal. Very, very reasonable. And that was just about getting over the depression hump, you know. And then especially on that Main Street, Second and Main by Saint Vibianas, there was a lot of people who were homeless or couldn't afford it. And I know that my dad used to give people free dinners. If they came to him and asked, you know, they were hungry, my dad would say, "Go ahead. Sit down." But if they sat down without saying anything and they took off, you will see my dad chasing 'em. He would not take that. So I thought, you know, good for old Papa. A generous man, but you have to be up front with him. So those are my good memories about my dad and that restaurant.

RP: Remember any of the customers at all? Anybody that sticks out in your mind?

MI: Well, not per se, but I know that when my dad passed away, several of his customers did come forward to tell us how much my dad helped 'em. We didn't know anything about it. And then we knew that he also helped White Memorial Hospital.

RP: That was considered the Japanese hospital?

MI: No, that was the Seventh Day Adventist.

RP: Oh, Seventh Day Adventist.

MI: Yeah. And then he supported this group or that group. My dad never said anything.

RP: So he was involved in the community?

MI: Yeah. And he just gave. He just, he was a very giving person.

RP: But very modest about it.

MI: Very, never, never took credit for anything. I think that's probably why we try to help people out, you know, when we can. Or, but he was a very good role model for us, let's put it that way.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: So you had your, your education interrupted by the war. And how did you feel about that?

MI: Pretty bad. Well, for one thing, you're kind of an impressionable teenager. And I said, "They would have to have a war just before my prom." I'm looking forward to this prom all these years, you know, and that's, it tells you that when you're a teenager you don't think beyond or deep enough. You're thinking about yourself, what you're missing out. And so then you think, god, that was superficial. You know. But it was. That meant a lot to me to go to a junior prom and I didn't go. But then that soon passed and I thought, yeah. Sacred Heart has since honored me, as not having graduated but I am a graduate. And I thought, I wished they had done that us Sacred Heart students while we were in the camp to remember us, you know. And apparently from some of my classmates, they said nothing was mentioned about the camps.

RP: Oh, during the, the graduation?

MI: So they didn't know anything. But I said, you know what? That can't be true either because I had a couple of girls who wrote to me constantly. So they had to have known. Somebody had to have known.

RP: How many other Japanese American kids were in the...

MI: At Sacred Heart?

RP: At Sacred Heart.

MI: Let's see, in my class there's Pat, Theresa, Mary, Marie, Helen Kim, Aiko Ohmaye, that's six. There was seven or eight in my class. And then the upper class there might have been another I don't know how many, but a little bit more.

RP: You, you talked about kind of coming out of your sheltered life there and learning about these cliques. And how did these cliques operate? Did they run along ethnic lines or did you just hang out with Japanese American kids at Sacred Heart or did you, did you mix with other groups?

MI: Yeah, I think we did. But, the thing was when, when we clicked with the Hispanic group, we didn't care what the other groups thought of. We were just having a great time. I mean, we were having our own fun. We weren't concerned about, oh, well, they were a clique-y group. We knew that they were, but it didn't bother us, which I think was good. Because one of our classmates married the president of Tom McCann Shoes. Not bad. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: So describe to us, did you play a part in the evacuation process?

MI: Yeah.

RP: What were your responsibilities? How much time did you have to prepare to go to Manzanar? Give, lead us through that part of life after Pearl Harbor.

MI: Some of that I'm finding out to be, it's getting to be a little bit vague. I remember doing volunteer work at Maryknoll signing up evacuees, helping them with their property, where to store their furniture and belongings. And Maryknoll came in on that and it was stored in the classrooms. And the brothers. This is again the brothers, stored it in the classroom because there's no more school, schoolwork, you know. And so we had, let's see, the main floor, second floor, and the third floor. So there's three floors of classrooms that was used as storage.

RP: Storage.

MI: Yeah. And so people who needed help then I would help with directing them where you go to fill out the form. And that was about the extent of it. And then there were a lot of speeches, pros and con. "Yes, let's go peacefully." "No, we have our constitutional rights." And all that arguing going on.

RP: This was going on within Maryknoll group?

MI: No, it was the whole community.

RP: The whole community.

MI: The Maryknoll facilities were being used, the auditorium.

RP: Oh, for these discussions.

MI: Yeah.

RP: So you, right, so there was all these different divergent points of view --

MI: Right.

RP: -- being expressed.

MI: Right.

RP: And you were there for this?

MI: Yeah. So I heard a lot of it. But then I was there as a far as assigning of or needing help for their property. And these were the early departure people.

RP: These are people who are going to Manzanar.

MI: Yeah, early.

RP: Uh-huh. And did the church provide vehicles and things that would go and pick up people's goods and bring them...

MI: That I don't know. I, my gut feeling is yeah, they probably did. 'Cause not all Japanese families had a car.

RP: Right. So...

MI: So we basically did, we tried to help each other out.

RP: Right. Were there other, other groups that also collaborated with you? For instance the Quakers or other church groups in --

MI: Oh, to help out?

RP: -- in Los Angeles that were coming and saying, "What can we do to help?"

MI: Oh, no, I don't think so.

RP: It was kind of really centered --

MI: It was pretty centered among the Maryknoll and the Japanese community.

RP: -- just with the Maryknoll. The Japanese community trying to help itself. So that must have been a pretty crazy scene...

MI: It was.

RP: People bringing furniture and everything else. Those rooms must have looked crazy.

MI: Oh, I remember walking into it. Gosh it was just stacked from floor to ceiling. That was awesome. Even in my home, you know when the FBI would come? They would come at night and you could always tell a FBI agent. Always they wore this hat, you know, felt hat. And they wore dark suits and overcoat and they would come in pairs, and...

RP: Did they visit your house?

MI: Yeah, they did. I don't know why that came back to me. But I was wondering why my dad didn't go. 'Cause, see, they were picking up anybody who was active or elders in a church. Well my dad wasn't what you call real active 'cause he had his business. But he donated and helped out at Maryknoll. I think that night... you know, my dad would come home for dinner and he took off back to his restaurant. And that's when this, these two men came over. So I have a feeling that if my dad was home, they would have taken him. But that's only speculation. I don't know. Because Mr. Ogura, whose wife I stayed with when I came back to L.A., you know, for WRA, he got taken and he was one of the elders of the church.

RP: Of the Maryknoll church?

MI: Maryknoll.

RP: Do you know any other folks that did?

MI: Oh, I'm pretty sure there were others, but Mr. Ogura was the one that really stood out because he was so active and I stayed with his wife, you know. Yeah. And he was married to a Polish woman.

RP: Yeah, you mentioned that. That you stayed with her.

MI: Yeah, I stayed with her. And that was the one reason why my mother and dad said yeah, okay, you could go if you stay with them, with her rather.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: So were you, were you fearful that your dad might get picked up? I mean, you saw these... can you describe to us the visit by the FBI people?

MI: Well, I just know that they came at night and it was dark. And there was an awful lot of hysteria. Lots of hysteria. Lots of rumors, founded and unfounded, and some of it exaggerated or whatever. But anytime you had anything that was from Japan you were already a suspect. So I remember my mother... we had some beautiful Japanese artwork that she broke up and buried. And I know where they are buried, too. But there's a condo over that now and I bet you they're wondering, "What is this? Where did this come from?" It was some really nice... there was a poem on a piece of glass and it was written in gold calligraphy. And I used to always love that and gee, we broke that up. So anything that was... see, that's hysteria. The artwork, why should that have to say that, oh that because you have artwork that you're suspect, you know. But that was the time, though. That was the time. So people were getting rid of those things. They were burning 'em up. And, and we were burying it in our fireplace with the house darkened. Yeah. I remember that.

RP: A period of, yeah, fear and...

MI: Yeah hysteria.

RP: Hysteria.

MI: Because what we were hearing was these fathers were being taken by... just say, "Get your toothbrush," and that was it, no extra clothing or anything. 'Cause there is a story about one family where the father was taken and I think, I can't remember, where the mother was in a sanitarium? And there was just one little boy, about ten or twelve. And he had to round up his siblings and he had to get the house in order to get out. That's ridiculous.

RP: Yeah, some of them ended up at the orphanage at Manzanar.

MI: I know. I know.

RP: Did Maryknoll have an orphanage at the time?

MI: Oh yeah. In fact, the one of the articles that I gave you tells you about the orphanage, the Maryknoll orphanage and what they did with the children. So, you know...

RP: I think that they eventually ended up in Manzanar, too.

MI: Yeah, oh yeah.

RP: What about... there was no FBI visits to Maryknoll itself to the school to question any of the priests or anything?

MI: Not that I know of. I never heard anything like that, no. It, it was a real crazy time because there were people who would impersonate, too. And there were people who would come to your door for no reason at all but to buy something cheap or... so you didn't know who anybody was.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: So, where were you living at the time of evacuation? Were you living in Boyle Heights?

MI: Oh, I could tell you the address.

RP: Was it Boyle Heights?

MI: It was Boyle Heights, 3420 East Fourth Street. Fourth and Lorena.

RP: Did you own the home?

MI: No, we rented it. We couldn't because my father was not a citizen. They couldn't, even if they applied they couldn't get a citizenship. See, they didn't get their citizenship 'til afterwards.

RP: Right.

MI: Yeah.

RP: It sounds like your dad would have been...

MI: Yeah. He would have bought --

RP: He would have become a citizen a long...

MI: -- long time. And he would have bought this property and that property. He was into that sort of thing.

RP: Business.

MI: Yeah. Kind of a sad time. Some things are meant to be sometimes, you know.

RP: So you did grow up, you spent a little time in Boyle Heights which was a, you know, a little change of pace from some of these other communities like Glendale. With the prejudice the opposite helped you for... Boyle Heights, everybody seemed to get along from what I've heard.

MI: Boyle Heights was, in retrospect, I think we should have more community like Boyle Heights, like they were before, before the war. There's Jewish synagogue. In fact, I don't know if you know but they're going to rebuild that one on Soto Street. They were a lot of synagogues and there was a lot of Hispanics and Asians and Caucasians. We all got along. There was never any discrimination. There was never like, "Oh, you can't live in this neighborhood or you can't live in that neighborhood." Oh, Russians too, White Russians. It was just one big nice community. You don't find that very often. But now it's different. It's all, you know, no longer all that mix. It's more Hispanics now. More majority is Hispanics. But it was, it was wonderful. But you know it's funny, you don't appreciate that until afterwards, at the time that we were living there, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: You said that you attended, attended this meeting when, where the Japanese American community was trying to sort out its reactions to, you know, evacuation orders. you know, "Should we go to camp willingly or not?" How were you... tell us about what your, where your attitude was at or your opinions about this based on rumors and the opinions that you were hearing. Were you able to form your own ideas about the injustice about this, the unconstitutionality of it? Was that something you were thinking about?

MI: I think I was a little bit naive that way. I didn't I think understand the depth of the, you know, the situation. You just kind of wonder and then you follow along. I think as you mature, and I realize I go, well, I told you about that letter I wrote to General DeWitt? It took me until I got in camp for me to realize what was I doing in this place? And I go, why didn't it hit me before then, is the question.

RP: So your attitude changed.

MI: MY attitude changed because I thought it's sort of like an adventure for a teenager, I guess, when you think about it. You're moving, you're going, you know. But when I started seeing that my dad is losing his business, we're losing all our property. He lost his new car that he worked so darn hard for. What for? I said, "We're not from Japan." You know. Then, then when finally we went to camp is when I realized the injustice of the whole thing. And you're always taught in civics, in high school, that we're all equal under the law and I said, but how can you be equal when you haven't had a hearing as to whether you're guilty or not guilty? And that's when I wrote that letter to General DeWitt.

RP: There was another friend that...

MI: Yeah, Marie Hisamune, she was my classmate at Sacred Heart. And we decided to put our... well, she and I, in order to keep busy, decided to write. First we started writing a murder mystery. And we came to a point where we couldn't figure out how to end this darn thing. And then so the next thing was, you know what, we ought to write to General DeWitt. Says, "You know what? I don't know what we're doing in here." And so Marie and I put our heads together and we wrote and we said we haven't gotten our constitutional hearing before we're declared guilty to be put into this place. Why is it? How is it? And how could it be? And then we wanted an explanation. And we were getting a little bit smarter, you know, at that age. Okay, we'd better send it to General DeWitt. But oh, somebody says, "Oh, they'll throw it out." No, we won't. We're gonna make it registered directly to him. And so he must have gotten it, 'cause we never got the letter back, anything, no answer and...

RP: Never received a reply?

MI: No, never got a reply.

RP: How long had you been in camp before you decided to take this course of action?

MI: Not quite six months, I bet.

RP: Six months.

MI: It dawned on us real quick.

RP: Just looked around and...

MI: Says, oh my god, can't get out of camp, you can't do this. You can't do that. The food is lousy, the physical facility is lousy. What did I do to deserve this? And then it, it turned out to be at that age we were realizing that it was hysteria. We figured that out.

RP: Did you have any second thoughts about writing that letter after you had sent it? Like, are they gonna, you know, are we gonna be put on a blacklist or anything?

MI: Nope.

RP: You felt...

MI: We're fearless.

RP: That's, well what have you got to lose?

MI: We said, hey, we're only sixteen, what are they gonna do with us?

RP: Yeah.

MI: You know. And of course, yeah, I've been told more than once, "Oh, you're probably on the blacklist." I said, "So?" In a way, it's sort of a compliment you know.

RP: Right. Yeah, it took a lot of courage to do that.

MI: It's either courage or you're so darned innocent. If you were worried about what's gonna happen or what would happen to you, you're not gonna do a thing. If you think you're right and you need an explanation, it's as simple as that. Just that was it.

RP: Yeah.

MI: So there was no gaman there. Tell it like it is. [Laughs]

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: Just to kind of associate with what, the story you just shared with us, is the gentleman who wrote a similar letter, Mr. Young, maybe we could bring his story in as well. You can tell us a little bit about the background of Mr. Young, the Quaker? Can you kind of share with us essentially the letter that he wrote?

MI: Bob and Kennie, her, I think her birth name is Asanaith, Asanaith or Asanoth, yeah, are very much into fairness, especially minority. Well, that's the Quaker, but he felt so strongly about this, that we didn't have our hearing as the Constitution allows, and he thought it was so wrong because there was so much more implication. You take one step and then another step and another and step going up. And he could see there's a problem. And that's the reason why he took, he took it upon himself to write. And I thought that he really went beyond, so what some people normally would have done to stand up for what he thought was right for not necessarily just the Japanese, but the U.S. Constitution or any U.S. citizen. He wasn't afraid to stand up and for that I really thank him. And he was, he was not a man who was flamboyant or, you know, one that goes out for oratory or things like that. But if he felt something was wrong, Bob would speak up, and so would his wife, Kennie.

RP: And they wrote this letter to President Roosevelt.

MI: Yeah. And they were saying that it was very interesting the fact that Stimson would always say "we" as against "they." "We" as against "they." Like, "We are the enemy." And you know, or no, "They are the enemy and we are protecting... "They" and "We." And that was the one thing that struck us in that letter. So we thought that was really important. So when she told me about that letter and showed it to me and she says, "Mary, can you do something with this?" I said, "I don't know, but you know what? They're building a museum and I think I'd like to give it to them, or somebody who could use it."

RP: And tell us about how the letter was used in, during the time that the commission hearings were being held.

MI: Oh, okay. There was a comment made by Stimson that was in the editorial section. It almost approved of what he had said. But I remember thinking that, no, that comment isn't correct. And so I went and dug the letter up and sure enough, I said, that isn't the way Stimson was talking. And I thought I need to correct that. Because with the circulation that the L.A. Times gets, you know, either you correct it or it's just gonna go on and on with the misinformation. That's where that came up. And then when the, so Kennie took that letter and we decided to send it to the Times. And then everything broke loose and people started commenting on that letter. They couldn't believe that Stimson had said that. So that was the one good thing that came out of it. And then on the reparation thing, also, I thought that this was very important, that they knew about this letter. And I didn't know whether Washington would know about it or Judge Furutani would know about it. So then I thought well, okay and say, "Are you interested in the letter? If you are, it's available for you to see." And so I got a reply right back saying, "Yes, we are interested." So it was entered in the congressional record. That's how, so it kind of snowballed. So we got a lot of positive response from that letter. So I realized then that when you see something that is not quite right, you can't sit by and do nothing. You've gotta correct it.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.