Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Nomura Interview
Narrator: Mary Nomura
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 7, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-nmary-01-0001

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JA: Just for, well, first off, just for identification purposes, just tell us your name and where you live now.

MN: My name is Mary Nomura, formerly Kageyama. I live in Huntington Beach, and I've only been there a year and a half, but before that I lived in Garden Grove for forty-three years.

JA: Tell me a little background. Where did your parents originally come from and what brought them to the U.S., and what did they do here prior to the war?

MN: My mother and father both were from Japan, and my father came over illegally. I guess he's an original "wetback," and my mother came, aspiring to become an artist of some sort. She was a dancer, an instrumental player. She played all different sorts of instruments, and being one of those type of kids in Japan, they just couldn't just corral her. So she finally went to, left Japan and came to America, and then she pursued the singing and dancing and teaching and all. And so from that I think is what our family kind of took after her work.

And my father was a carpenter. He made the Japanese big screens and things like that, and he painted them and so that's why they came here. They wanted to pursue that kind of life, which was not available in Japan for what they wanted to do. They just didn't want to be stifled in what, what their talent was, and there was nothing, there was nothing in Japan to, for them to pursue.

JA: Did the idea of the "American dream" ever have a meaning for them?

MN: I don't know. You see, I was so young when they both died. When my father -- I was only four when my father passed away, and my mother, I was eight when my mother passed away. So I really didn't know too much about their dreams or what, what their thoughts were, but all I knew is that they were into the arts and to things like that, that we kind of took after.

JA: So what happened to you after they both passed away?

MN: My brother who was at... he was seventeen, my sister was sixteen. They both quit high school to raise us, and there were five of us... two, three, four... five or six of us. And they went to, they found jobs and they supported us and kept us out of the orphanage. They came after us, came after us from the orphanage because we had no parents, and my brother said no, we're going to stick together, and so we owe a lot to him. I named my first son after him.

JA: Oh, absolutely. Did you, in the prewar years as a Japanese American, experience any kinds of constraints or attitudinal racist experiences?

MN: Until Pearl Harbor, I'd felt nothing like that. We always got along with the neighbors and high school, everything was done ordinarily. After Pearl Harbor is when we started feeling a little bit of prejudice, even from our close neighbors.

JA: Give me some examples.

MN: Oh, well, one thing, the teacher asked me, whenever they were talking about the evacuation already, she asked me point-blank, she says, "When are you leaving? When are you leaving here?" She wanted to get rid of us, and my next-door neighbors, we used to, we used to pal around with, wouldn't even play with us anymore. Of course, I was only, I was sixteen at the time, but there was only one real good friend that stuck by us, and in fact, I named our first, my third daughter after her. But people just weren't friendly any more after, after Pearl Harbor, but before then, oh, we just did sports and musical programs and stuff, and I was always included.

JA: Interesting.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.