Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Karlene Koketsu
Narrator: Karlene Koketsu
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: San Jose, California
Date: April 15, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-kkarlene-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history interview for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Karlene Koketsu. Karlene lives at 1649 --

KK: 1687.

RP: 1687 Curtner Street --

KK: Avenue.

RP: Avenue in San Jose, California. The date of our interview is April 15th, yes, it is tax day, 2010. Our interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson, and we'll be discussing Karlene's experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center as well as some of her experiences before and after camp as well. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library. And Karlene, do I have permission to go ahead and do our interview?

KK: Yes.

RP: Again.

KK: Again. [Laughs]

RP: Take two. First of all, can you spell your first and last names for us?

KK: Okay, Karlene, K-A-R-L-E-N-E, Koketsu, K-O-K-E-T-S-U.

RP: And your date of birth and where you were born?

KK: Los Angeles, Japantown, or what do they call it, Little Toyko area.

RP: And what was your date of birth?

KK: January 7, 1935.

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

KK: Kaoru, K-A-O-R-U, and my maiden name was Nakanishi.

RP: How did you acquire the name Karlene?

KK: Well, my dad's name was Karl, he had been given that name by a neighbor or something... a German neighbor, Karl with a K. And my mother was named Allene, A-L-L-E-N-E, so my aunt combined the two and came up with Karlene.

RP: Your Japanese name that you just --

KK: Kaoru.

RP: Do you know the meaning behind your name?

KK: According to my dad, it meant some sort of ethereal fragrance of some sort. [Laughs] So that's all I know.

RP: And in your situation, it would normally be the father or mother that would name their kids, both parents?

KK: Well, actually, my father had chosen a name, Katsumi, but at the time he was reading a serial in the newspaper and there was a character named Katsumi and she killed her husband or something like that, and so he changed his mind and named me Kaoru. [Laughs]

RP: And were you born in a hospital or at home?

KK: No, midwife in Little Tokyo, I've forgotten her name now. (Mrs. Hiraga.)

RP: Would she have been Japanese?

KK: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.