Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Mabel Shoji Boggs Interview
Narrator: Mabel Shoji Boggs
Interviewer: Margaret Barton Ross
Location: Philomath, Oregon
Date: April 11, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-bmabel-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MR: This is an interview with Mabel Shoji Boggs, a Nisei woman, eighty-two years old, at the Philomath Public Library in Philomath, Oregon, on April 11, 2003. The interviewer is Margaret Barton Ross of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center's oral history project, 2003. It's nice to be with you today, Mrs. Boggs.

MB: I'm glad to be here and I hope I do all right.

MR: Where were you born and when?

MB: I was born in Multnomah County, Portland, Oregon, in August of 1920.

MR: August what?

MB: August 3.

MR: Okay. And do you have brothers and sisters?

MB: Yes, I do. I have a sister, May, who is the oldest, and a brother, George, and a second sister, Orga. Orga was, there were, people asked me why the name Orga. They'd never heard the name Orga. Well, her name is supposed to be Olga, but the Japanese cannot pronounce the letter L, and it came out Orega. And so when they registered her birth, the lady asked what is the baby's name, Orega, Orega. And so it was put down as O-R-G-A on her birth certificate, and she's been known as Orga ever since.

MR: What about your father and your mother?

MB: Okay. My father was born, both my father and mother were born in Japan. My father was born in 1882, and my mother was born in 1889. My father died in 1925 at the age of forty-one, and my mother was thirty-four at the time, and he left Mama and four children all under the age of ten to support, to raise. Soon after he died, my father died of pneumonia. He was a gandy dancer for the Union Pacific Railroad. And after his death, his older brother wanted to send my mother to Japan because he said she'll need someone to help raise the family, and my mother told him, "No. I came to America to live, and America I'll stay, and I'll raise my family." And my uncle says, "Don't expect me to help you. I have my own family to raise." And my mother says, "Well, I never asked for your help," but, and I couldn't work. I'll raise my family alone, and she did. And after my sister and, older sister and brother graduated from high school, both of them were honor students, my uncle came to apologize to my mother because he told her, "I didn't think that you could raise your family by yourself and raise such outstanding children."

MR: Just to go back to your father, just, could you tell us what a gandy dancer does?

MB: A gandy dancer is a person that works on the railroad. They check to see if the ties are straight, that the rails are on. They keep the railroad free of debris. I mean, their work is just to keep the railroads in working order so the train doesn't slip off. That's as best as I can tell you what a gandy dancer is.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MR: So you were pretty young when your father died. Could you tell us --

MB: I was four. I was four and a half. See, I was born in August, and he died in March, so I was four and a half when he died.

MR: And how did your mother then support the family?

MB: Okay. My mother didn't know enough English to get a job. Our landlady worked for Broadway Bars and Cleaners in Portland, Oregon, and she was able to get a job for my mother mending clothes. And so every Friday afternoon, the Broadway Cleaner van dropped off a huge bundle of clothes. And by starting work at five in the morning and work until midnight every day, my mother mended the clothes all weekend and got most of it done by Monday morning when Mrs. Sunderland went to work. And as Mrs. Sunderland couldn't carry the huge bundle of clothes by herself to the streetcar which was ten blocks away, my oldest sister helped carry the clothes, you know, to the streetcar. And as the streetcar stopped in front of the cleaners, you know, there wasn't any more work for my, for Mrs. Sunderland. And in that way, she earned some money, but it wasn't enough, and so she took in sewing. She sewed dresses for the ladies, the lady's families, and shirts and other clothing for the men. And using the scraps from the leftover, using the leftover material, my mother construct, made dresses for us girls, and there wouldn't be enough material, so she'd visited the Meier and Frank. They have a bargain basement in the Meier and Frank store, and Mama would buy ends of yard goods. And using these along with the scrap, she designed new dresses for us. And my mother had an eye for color, and she created many new styles, and the parents of classmates would copy dresses Mama made for me. So sometimes in school, there'd be five or six of us, girls, all dressed alike. Mom was real good at designing clothes, and so she should have been a dress designer because I know several of the dresses that she designed ended up in the Butterick patterns book several years later.

MR: Did she continue sewing for a living, or was there another line of work for your family?

MB: Well, it didn't bring in much money, and it wasn't continual. She needed a job where she could get paid every day. And so when the farmers needed help, she worked on the farms. And when the family lived in Montavilla... Montavilla back then in the '20s was farming country, and she'd take walks and she'd visit, she'd make friends with a lot of people in Montavilla. And so when this one farmer wanted pickers for his potatoes, Mama got a job from him. Well, from Portland to Montavilla was six miles. Carrying me on her back and going across country, she could walk that six miles in an hour. And once we got to work, she'd set me down, give me something to do, and tell me to stay there, and she could pick potatoes, go about her work. As as she was fast with her hands and could pick two and three times more than her coworkers, her boss paid her two dollars a day and all the potatoes she can use. And around about that time, my sister who has started school, my sister Orga who had started school in the fall before, was kicked out of school. See, Orga was born dead, and wartime substitute lady doctor had spent twelve minutes breathing life into the baby. And as a result, she was very slow in the head and needed constant attention, and so that's been, the teacher couldn't spend all her time with Orga, so she kicked her out of school, so then Mama had two of us kids to take to work with her. And Mrs. Sunderland, our landlady, got a buggy, baby buggy, so Mama could push us to work. But once at the job site, Orga was the same as she was in school. She would disrupt the class, and the teacher couldn't do any teaching, so you know, they kicked her out of school. Well, she was disrupting Mama at work, so Mrs. Sunderland went back to school and pleaded with them to reinstate Orga as a pupil. Answer was no. So then she went to see the superintendent of schools, and answer was the same, no. So Mrs. Sunderland said, "Orga has a younger sister who seems to be bright. If she were to come and stay with Orga, will you accept Orga back into school?" and she was told, "We'll give it a try." Well, I was Orga's constant companion for five and a half years. And when we were in the sixth grade, the school hired a special education teacher to teach a class, and there were seven in the class, five boys and two girls, and Orga was the smartest. She was quick to learn, and whatever she learned, she retained it. And this we found out fifteen, twenty years later, you know, when the family got together for family reunion. The talk, conversation would somehow get to our school years, you know, what we learned and everything, and May, the smartest one, wouldn't remember, George wouldn't remember, and I wouldn't remember, and Orga would say it was this way or that way or whatever. And I can still hear my brother, "Oh, yeah. That's the way it was," and Orga would be so happy. It didn't take much to make her happy. She was always wanting to please people. And Orga was never scolded or reprimanded because she wouldn't have understood, you know, why she was being punished.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MR: Earlier, you had mentioned before this interview began that your mother did raise some vegetables and plants.

MB: Uh-huh.

MR: How did it come to be that your family entered that business?

MB: Okay. Mama couldn't... let's see. Before that, Mama worked for about two and a half years mending these clothes and working on the farms, and, but it wasn't bringing in much, oh, let's see. One day, she got home about 6 o'clock, and she didn't see us kids outside playing. She thought, well, they're in the house, so she went into the house. The door was locked, so she looked for the key, and the key was in its hiding place. Well, they're in the barn, so she went down to the barn and hollered for us, and we weren't there. And then she thought, well, we like to play down by the river, so that's where they went, so she went down on the flat and down to the river and no kids. Wonder where the kids have gone. Oh, I bet they're at the Sunderlands. She's not, they're not supposed to bother the Sunderlands, but that's probably where they are. And so as she was coming up toward the Sunderlands, a farmer that lived by the Columbia River drove in. He had brought us four kids home. We, he knew that we were lost. The reason we were lost was to help Mama earn money, my brother used to go down to River Side Golf Course which was half mile away from our place, as the crow flies, and he'd pick up golf balls. He got ten cents for the real good balls, and ten cents for three of the average balls, and he could make fifteen cents or twenty cents once a week and that helped Mama. And Orga and I used to go with him, and we'd hunt for balls too, and we could make twenty-five cents, you know, thirty cents. And this one particular day, May wanted to go with us, and she didn't think that was any fun crawling under fences and going through people's fields. And she says, "We have to go on the road," and she had a friend that lived down by the river, so she knew how to go down to the friend's place taking the road, and the golf course was just beyond that. And so we went to find the balls and, golf balls, and that day, we earned thirty-five cents, and we were leaving to go home. Well, my sister had never gone beyond her girlfriend's place, and so she didn't know which road to take. My brother couldn't help because he had never gone on the road, and May decided, well, this is the right road, and so they took this road that she thought was okay. It was the wrong road. We ended by the river. And when Mama saw the farmer bring us home, she was real happy, but then and there, she decided that she had to be home when us kids got home from school.

And so she talked to our landlord who had six acres, six-acre places all in orchard. But when my father was still living, he was taking out the older trees that had stopped producing. And by then, he had about four acres cleared, and he told Mama he'll rent Mama the four acres, and so she rented the four acres. So with the house, the barn, and the four acres, the ground cost her fifteen dollars a month, and she earned her living that way. She raised produce that she could sell there by the side of the road. Mrs. Sunderland let Mama use her wash bench to display the produce on, and Mama could leave the produce on the bench by the side of the road, leave a fruit jar next to it, and people coming by would stop, take whatever they wanted, and then leave whatever money they thought, you know, and Mama said that many times she had more money than she thought she should have had. And in this way, we sold tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries and also pears because about half acre of that four acre we rented was in pear orchard. And then when my brother was old enough to drive a car, we rented nine more acres. Oh, your question was how did it come that my mother raised the plants? Well, she couldn't afford to buy the plants, so she started her own. And the surplus plants, she sold to farmers or whoever wanted them, and she got paid fifty cents for a hundred plants. That was real good money, and she thought sometime later she would like to raise plants for a living. But when my brother turned fifteen and could drive a car and he could take the produce to the early morning market to sell, we, Mama rented nine more acres, so we had 13 acres all together, and she raised cabbage, cauliflower, and peas. And every morning, my brother got up at two-thirty in the morning to be at the market by three when it opened, and he sold his produce, and then he'd be home by six. From six to eight, he would study, do his homework. At eight, he'd have breakfast, and then he'd ride his bicycle to school. He'd be back home by three o'clock, and then from three to five, he took a nap. And at five, he went out to the field to help Mama with the work.

Orga and I helped wherever we could like after the plants, tomato plants were growing and they needed irrigation. Mama couldn't irrigate the plants because she couldn't get water rights, I mean Mr. Sunderland couldn't get water rights, and she needed, they needed water, so Mr. Sunderland came up with the idea of digging a hole adjacent to, you know, close to the river. Well, water came from Renny's Lake three quarter, about half a mile away from our place, and it flowed right alongside of our property where it ran into the slough, and Mr. Sunderland had us, he and George dug this hole where the two waters come together. And so later on when other farmers didn't have any water, we had water because we were getting that water that was flowing from the Renny's Lake. Well to pump the water out of the hole that they had dug, at first, Mr. Sunderland pushed the two-inch pipe from the river into the hole so that the water would fill up in the hole. And to get the water out, he got a jet pump, set it up, and then using a Model A Ford for the motor, pumped the water up to the plants. Well, they didn't want to flood the whole field because that took up too much water, so Mama and George with hoes channeled the water so it flowed just around the plants. Well, the water that was coming down from Renny's Lake also brought down debris, and what it would do was clog up the creek so that the pump would stop, quit pumping water, and so it was Orga and my job to make sure that the debris didn't clog up the creek. Well, the creek was about three feet wide at the widest, but the narrowest was only a foot. And besides debris and water, carp also came down the creek, and Orga and I would be so intent on trying to catch a carp that the creek would get clogged up with debris, and the water would spread all around, and nothing went to the well or the hole, and the pump would stop. The next thing we heard was, "Mabel," and then we knew what that meant. Orga and I knew what that meant. We'd forget about the carp, clean up all the debris so the water would go to the hole, and they'd have water again. And later on in the year when the tomatoes were ready to harvest, Orga and I also helped. Mama and George would scatter the boxes, apple boxes, all around the field, and they'd start picking the tomatoes, and Orga and I would follow them with empty pails. And as soon as they finished a pail, we'd give them the empty ones, and we'd carried the filled pails to the boxes that are scattered all about and, you know, transfer the tomatoes to the boxes. Does that answer your question?

MR: I think it does, yes. Did you have to hire help? It sounds like that was quite a lot of acreage for --

MB: No, we did it all by ourselves. All of us working, we didn't have to hire any help. We had the use of the horses that Mr. Sunderland let us use. Oh, it was Orga and my job to see that the horses were fed and watered every day. We'd lead them out to water, and we'd tie them up outside and let them munch on the grass outside. Anyway, once a week, we had to clean out the stalls. And so when we cleaned out the stalls, we just tied the horses outside and let them eat, and we'd clean out the stalls. And after the stalls were cleaned out, we'd lay down fresh straw, and then we put hay in the manger and then lead them back, horses back in. And on days that the horses had worked, we'd feed, we'd give them a half a cup, about a cup full of oats to eat. The horses liked the oats. They didn't think that one cup full was enough, and they'd, you know how horses do, they tried to find the oats and, anyway, that was our job. Jerry was tame and we could ride Jerry. But sometimes, he didn't like for us to ride him, and to tell us to get off, all he had to do was walk under a low limb of a tree, and we'd be knocked off. Horses are smart, I mean, animals are smart.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MR: So at, with all this work that you were doing, you still found time to go to school and work hard there?

MB: Uh-huh, Mama made sure that we had three meals a day. A lot of times, it was just rice or just noodles or fried potatoes, you know, because she was getting fried... well, let's see. Fried potatoes were in the early years when she was working on farms. But now that we raised our own, we didn't have fried potatoes. But we ate a lot of wild greens, and I remember my favorite was dandelion, and Mama would get hog jowls. She couldn't afford bacon because it cost fifteen cents a pound. Hog jowls she could get for ten cents a pound, and she'd buy a half a pound, and that would last us for about a week because she used it for seasoning only, you know, the oil that came out of it in the seasoning. In that way, she cooked dandelions, wild mustard, and snake fern. Snake fern, we didn't much like because it was bitter. Mama would have to peel it, those, the brown ferns, the brown stalks and soak them in water, oh, a day, overnight. And then next day, she could cook it, but it was still kind of bitter, but we had to eat it, so we ate it. Then there was burdock. Since we lived by the river, there was a lot of burdock, and so we had burdock to eat. And those early years in the wintertime when there wasn't any greens that we could get, we had salted salmon. Papa's best friend went up to Alaska, went up to Alaska to work in the salmon cannery. He had a wife and daughter. The wife, his wife had died in childbirth, and the daughter had died soon after, and so then he took off to live up in Canada, or Alaska. I keep saying Canada, but it is Alaska. And that first year he visited, he came back, he brought a 25-pound box of salt salmon for us to eat. And so that first winter and for several winters after that when we didn't have anything else to eat, we had salt salmon to eat with the rice. And I can still remember how good, we had hot tea, rice, and salt salmon to eat, and that 25-pound box lasted about six months because, you know, you don't eat very much salt salmon. The salt salmon was free to the workers. What happened was they box the salmon up in 25-pound boxes to ship, ship out, but sometimes, the box would get broken or maybe some box wouldn't weigh 25 pounds, and so those boxes were set aside to one, you know, to one side, and they were free to the workers, and so that's why our friend, Mr. Otsuta, was his name, used to, he brought the first box. And then after that, he sent them through the mail. And back then, 25-pound box only cost five dollars in postage.

MR: Where did you go to school?

MB: We went to Woodlawn School. The first grade when I started school, the school was at Bryant and Union Avenue, and the distance was about mile and a half. And for our lunches, Mama used to give me five cents, and the five cents could buy a hot dog, and so I'd buy a hot dog. Those first days, I split the hot dog in two, gave Orga half, and I ate the other half, and it went all right for two or three days. And then after that, Orga, I guess Orga got to thinking, that was only half a wiener, a hot dog she got, where is the other half, and so she searched everywhere. She'd search in my pockets and look around all over, and I thought well this won't do. She wants the other half. So after that, after I got the hot dog, I'd take a bite and hand her the rest. Usually all I got was the bun, but at least, you know, she was satisfied with just that one, with that hot dog. Okay. When the rainy season started, we had to stay indoors because we didn't want to get wet, and so we stayed in the lunch room and ate our hot dogs, I mean, Orga ate her hot dog, and I just drank water at the water fountain. The other patrons that were there didn't like seeing us standing there, so they'd make room at the table for us and tell us to sit here at the table. Well, for two or three days, I did sit at the table, but I'd get thirsty, my stomach was hungry, so I'd get up and drink water, and I was jumping in and out. I thought, well, this won't do. I'll just let Orga sit and I'll stand behind her, and so that's the way it went. And after we'd been doing that for about two weeks, the lady that was working at, behind the counter, one of the ladies -- there were three of them working behind the counter -- held up three crackers. She looked at me and then put the cracker on the counter, and I didn't know what she was doing, and so I didn't do anything. And two, three days later, she held up the crackers again, pointed at me, and then put the cracker down. Oh, she was giving me the crackers. So after that, I had crackers to eat. And still later, she held up five crackers when she, and put on the counter. And when I went to get those five crackers, she pushed the condiment tray toward me, and on the tray was ketchup, relish, and mustard. Well, I tried all three of them. The relish I didn't care for, the ketchup I didn't care for, but the mustard tasted real good on the crackers. So I put mustard on four of the crackers, and the fifth cracker I gave to Orga to eat. You know, that extra cracker made her so happy, and that's the way it went all the rest of that year. The next year, since the old Woodlawn School was getting dilapidated, getting run down, they built a new school which was only a mile from our place, and the cafeteria didn't sell hot dogs, so we never got any hot dogs. But I'd like to think that lady that used to give me crackers was my angel. She knew that I was looking after Orga and seeing that she got fed, and so, and she didn't like seeing me starve, so she was giving me crackers to eat, and I never did get to thank that lady. At the new Woodlawn School, I couldn't, the hot dogs were ten cents each, hamburger was ten cents each, and we, and Mama only gave me five cents, so I couldn't buy anything. So after that, Mama gave me, gave each of us a ball of rice to take for our lunch. Well, the other children wanted to eat the rice, so they'd want to swap their sandwiches for our balls of rice, and so we did that. But the other kids wanting rice too would swap their sandwiches with the kid that got the, our ball of rice. So I got the bright idea that if Mama gave us two or three balls of rice, we'd have two or three sandwiches, so I asked Mama to give, make us smaller balls of rice, and she made two balls of rice each for us. In that way, we got two sandwiches apiece. Orga and I would eat three of the sandwiches, and we'd take the fourth sandwich home and gave it to my brother, and he'd say, "Oh, boy," and he'd enjoy his sandwich.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MR: Were there other Japanese children in your school?

MB: Yes. There were quite a few Japanese going to Woodlawn School at the time, and in our class alone, there were six of us; my cousin, Chiseo Shoji and Frank Maeda and Mieko Fujimoto and Yaye Akai besides Orga and myself. And the funny thing is when I was in the second grade, I learned that I was different from other children. The teachers picked on me. Any time something disappeared or some prank was played, the teacher always scolded me. She never asked who did this or who did that. It was always me she punished. And for a long time, I thought, I thought about it, but I was the only one being punished. At first, I thought, well, I'm Japanese, so that's why they were picking on me, but that wasn't the reason because none of the other, they never picked on Orga because she was slow in the head, but the other four were, you know, regular kids, and teachers never picked on them, so it was just me. There were something the matter with me that the teacher picked on me. Well, so I thought, well, it must be because I'm ugly, and it must be because even though Mama kept us clean, we looked, you know, we looked dirty. I mean, she washed our clothes and saw to it that we were dressed neat, but she never took time to iron them, so we looked messy, I guess, and so that's why the teacher picked on me.

MR: So how did that make you feel about school?

MB: Well, in school, I did, funny to say, but I did pretty well in school, and lots of times like when they gave a test, I'd have the highest grade. And I know in the lower grades like the third and fourth grade, the teacher would give stars for the person that got the best grade, I mean, the best grade got a gold star. The next highest grade got a silver star; blue star, green star, and white star. And whenever I won and got the highest grade, the teacher never could find her box of gold stars, or she'd say, "I'm all out of them. When I get them, I'll give you a star," but I never did get a star. And at end of the year, all the stars were counted up, and those who had the most stars, most of the gold stars, most of the silver stars, you know, like that would get a prize, and that used to make me cry, and I'd go home and I'd cry. And Mama always said, "Kamisama knows, God knows. And as long God knows, that's all that matters." But it took me about two years before I stopped crying because it hurt that, you know, the teachers would pick on me, and they'd ostracize me. But later on, it paid off because in later years, teachers wouldn't let me participate in games or participate in whatever the class was doing. And this one teacher, my geography class teacher, when we were studying Arabia brought, passed out dates to all the students. She passed all the dates, and then she was finished passing them out, and she still had one date left in the box, so she asked, "Who didn't get a date?" I raised up my hand. She looked at me and put the date in her mouth. I guess she expected me to cry. I didn't because by then, I realized that people are picking me, picking on me. I'm not going to give them the satisfaction that I hurt. And then I had one best friend, Bonnie London. She always shared her, whatever she got with me. One day, the same teacher had a party the day I was absent, and that day, all the pupils got marshmallows. Well, she saved that marshmallow until the next day so she could share it with me. But by the next day, the marshmallow was hard, and we had a time, you know, cutting it in half. And by the time we got it halved, you know, our hands were sticky, but, oh, how good that marshmallow was. And she shared all her things with us. And in later years after she got married and, her husband, she had married a sailor, and he wasn't a very good provider, and so she raised a lot of her vegetables. Since my folks sold plants, she used to come down to buy plants. And I could remember there were a couple times, two or three times that I had just given her the plants. I had to buy them from my sister, of course, but then I've given to Bonnie. And the last time Bonnie came, my sister said, "No. You're not going to buy any plants for Bonnie. She can buy her own." And so I let my sister win, and I didn't get anything for Bonnie. And the following year, Bonnie was gone. She was dead, and it has bothered me that one last time when Bonnie really needed help, I wasn't there for her. She was so good to me, and here I failed her.

MR: Did you, did you have, was Bonnie your friend through school, and you went all through high school with her?

MB: Uh-huh.

MR: And where did you go to high school?

MB: High school, I went to Jefferson High School. I was the, when I first went to Jefferson High School, I was twelve and the shortest in my gym class, I was the shortest one in my class. Well that summer, I shot up two or three inches. And when I went back in the fall, my sophomore year, I was, instead of being the shortest one in the class, in gym class, I was the thirteenth one about, you know, halfway through the class.

MR: And how did high school, you completed high school at Jefferson?

MB: I completed high school. Teachers in high school picked on me too. One teacher failed me. I failed history five. She'd asked me questions, what she would do was she'd asked me, you know, we had to study our lessons for the next day, but instead of asking us, me questions about what we, I had studied, she'd always me a question for the following day. Of course, I haven't read that, so I couldn't answer that, and that's what she did, and so I finally got to the point where when I went to class, I just sat there. I just, I wasn't going to learn anything from her, so I just sat there, so she failed me that year. And other teachers picked on me. My Latin teacher, I can't think of her name, had both my sister and brother as students, and she'd asked me a question. She did the same thing, asked me questions I couldn't answer. And then she'd say, "May and George were honor students. You don't know anything." And if I couldn't answer a question, she'd make me stay standing, and she'd ask me a question at the beginning of class, so I'd be standing up all the rest of the day. After I graduated from high school, let's see it was in, after I was married, so sometime in the '50s, she came, the Latin teacher came to visit me. She and Dorothy Flagel who was girl's, I mean she was at the school too, she worked with the girls, came with the Latin teacher, and the Latin teacher wanted to, me to forgive her for having treated me badly. She was dying and wanted forgiveness before she went on to her maker. And she remembered how cruelly she treated me, and it wasn't the right thing to do, but I was angry. My mother was angry at me, my sister was angry at me that I wouldn't forgive the teacher, but I never did forgive her. I heard later that when she died with her dying breath, the last thing she said was, "I'm sorry Mabel." But she remembered how cruelly she had treated me. I wasn't a very good student in high school. After I came back from Japan, since I wasn't finished with my senior year, I went back to finish it. But after having been in Japan, I learned how to study. No one had taught me how to study here in America. But back in Japan, they teach you. And so whatever you study, you learn it. And so my last year, I was an honor student.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MR: So you mentioned that you went to Japan, and when did you go, and what was the reason?

MB: When I was sixteen years old -- oh, because I am homely. My mother, when I was still young, my mother said, "No man is going to want to marry you because you're ugly, you're homely," and she says, "You won't have any happiness. I will give you, I'll make you happy and give you all your happiness now," so she took me places, you know, to visit, and then she also let me learn how to play the piano, and then there was a Mrs. Sato who taught Japanese dancing. She let me take lessons from Mrs. Sato. And of course, I excelled in everything I did, and it was the envy of other mothers, you know, whose daughters didn't do as well, and so the mothers used to pick on me. But then my mother let me learn different things. Oh, I danced for the Queen of Rosaria twice, and some of the Japanese didn't like that. And I know one lady after I came off the stage said in a loud voice, she says, "You with makeup cleverly applied, you're still not pretty." And she not only made me feel bad, but she also lost a lot of her friends. In fact, she lost all of her friends for making that statement. Now, I forgot what your question was.

MR: So how did you go to Japan?

MB: Oh, I was a good dancer, and I had, at school, they were putting on a play, and, a program, and I was to dance on stage, and I collapsed, and they took me down to the nurse's station, I'd had a heart attack, and so Mama took me to the, Doctor Robert Shiomi who was a doctor then and he had a heart specialist come to see me, and the heart specialist said, "You won't live to see your nineteenth birthday." I was sixteen at the or, yeah, sixteen at the time so that he was giving me two years to live. And so Mama took me to Japan because she couldn't take care of a sick child and raise a family, and so she took me to Japan to die, and she left in me Japan, and that's how come I landed, went to Japan. And in Japan, I never knew it why, never knew why. My classmates, oh, when I started Japanese school, here I was a seventeen-year old going in class with six and seven-year-olds, you know, but those kids taught me. I didn't know Japanese, and they taught me, learn, and they stuck with me all the time so I'd be up with their class. And when I graduated, I was one of the top students. And when you go to school in Japan, to go to high school, you pick the school you want to go to, and they give you exams. It's a three-day exam, and they ask you different questions. And if you pass... I mean, three tests. And if you pass all the tests, they'll accept you in the school. If you fail that high school, these exams are staggered. The highest academic school has the first test. If you fail that first test, you could take a test for the next high academic classes. And you can go to school that way, I mean, that's the way they chose the students. And once in school, if anything happened or anything, I was the one always selected to represent the school. I never wondered why. I even questioned that, I'd say, "Why me? I'm from America. I don't know Japanese or the Japanese ways. I don't know what to do. I'm not very bright. I'm not pretty, why me?" but they always chose me.

When, back then, it was the Showa Period. The Emperor Hirohito was, he was emperor. And at that time, he had a daughter who was sixteen years old that particular year, and she was touring all of Japan, and she was going by trains, by train, and she stopped at the capital city of each prefecture and visit with the students. And so whatever city she stopped at, she'd, they'd pick a delegate, there were four boy schools and four girl high schools, and I was the delegate for my school, and I know, I didn't know the custom, the Japanese custom. You're not supposed to speak unless you're spoken to. Well, this I didn't know that, you know, having come from America, and so I just rattled off, jabber, jabber, jabber, and I said a lot of things, and I was entertaining to the princess. She would ask me all kinds of questions. She was supposed to ask questions of, a question to each of the students, but after she, one boy, she never asked any question to because she was asking me all the questions. And usually, she just met with the students for one hour. She spent two and a half hours with me because she didn't want me to quit talking, and the men that were with her would tell her it's time for the students to leave. "No, no," you know, and she'd keep on talking. And then finally, the men came in said, "Well, you have to be rested up because remember, you're going to meet with the city people," and so we were led off the train. And anyway, after that happened and about a week later, after the tour was finished, she visited thirty-three cities. And after the tour was finished, it came out in the newspaper, she listed all the cities that she enjoyed, top one and so on. Number one city that she liked the most was the city that had changed the name of the city like if it was Philomath, Oregon, they changed it to her name, whatever her name was, and so that was her favorite city. The second favorite city was in Shikoku, and that's the island that has four prefectures in it. And what they did was they toured the whole, outside the island by boat, and so she enjoyed that, number two. Number three city she enjoyed the most was "where that girl from America was." And I know after that, the city folks, one or another of the city people had me have dinner with them every night. So for about two weeks every night, I'd have to go have dinner with them. And then someone decided at that time we were, the whole school was invited. They'd take us down to the coast, and so we rode the train and went to the coast. And for many of the people, the school had never been to the coast, and they would probably never go there again, and they had a lot of fun playing on the beach. And for their lunch, everyone enjoyed a box lunch, and a box lunch in Japan is real good, you know. I would have liked to have a box lunch, but no, I had to go eat with the dignitaries of the city. And it wasn't until 1983 that I found out why I was always chosen as a delegate from the school instead of some other smart student. Back in Japan, they have what is, they used to have the caste system. The emperor sits top, number two is nobility, then the warriors, commoners, serfs. I was a nobility, and that was why they chose me. This I didn't know that, and now I know why the kids here in America shunned me. They never played with me. They couldn't. They weren't, but if they were in Japan, they couldn't play with me, so they didn't, and that's why I was real lonely as a child because no one would play, well, no one would play with us, you know, and I thought it was me. I mean they shouldn't let, they should tell kids why, but I was never told, and so I thought I was a nobody.

MR: That must have helped to find out.

MB: And it wasn't till 1983. We went to this one restaurant in Beaverton, Oregon. It was called Shoji, and since our name was Shoji, we went to the restaurant, and we've been going there for about three years. And one day we went there, it was, the lunch hour was almost through and very few patrons were left in the restaurant, and Mr. Shoji came to our table to talk with us. And after we were talking for some time, my sister asked, "Oh, how do you write Shoji?" So he wrote Shoji and showed us, and then he wanted to know how we wrote Shoji, so my sister wrote. And after he saw what my sister wrote, he bowed, he bowed, bowed again and he left. We finished our meal, and the waitress never brought our ticket, and so I went up to the counter to pay for my meal. "You don't owe anything." "What do you mean you don't owe, I don't owe anything?" "You don't owe anything." Mr. Shoji said, "You didn't owe anything." I says, "Well, you, I do owe something," and I figured out how much worth we ate, and I slapped some money on the counter and left. Two weeks later, we went there again -- we went to Shoji restaurant quite often -- and that time, they wouldn't let us into the main dining room. They took us to this one room that had plants all around the room, you know, so all the tables were secluded and tablecloth the tables and everything. I said I didn't want to go there, and my sister said, "We don't want to go there. We want to eat in the main dining room," and they said, "Well, this is where you sit." So we sat down, and they brought us all kinds of food, and we had, instead of one waitress per, one waitress per several tables, we had three waitresses all for us. And every time we finished eating something, they'd spoon something else onto our plate. And my sister says, "I could serve myself. You don't have to help me," but they ignored her and served her. And when we were through and ready to leave, they wouldn't charge us anything, and so I was arguing, I was raising my voice. I was getting angry. I was raising my voice. And then the owner's wife came, Mrs. Shoji came, she was a Nisei like I am. Her husband was born in Japan, and he observed the Japanese way, and she told us that, about the caste system, and I told her, "Well, I owe you money," but she wouldn't take any money, so I says, "Well, I'm not coming here again." We never went after that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MR: How many years did you spend in Japan, and when did you come back?

MB: Okay. I went in the fall of '36. I turned seventeen that year, that fall, so I went to Japan in November, my mother couldn't take me sooner because we had the market, and she needed to help in the market. And after in the wintertime when the business is slow, she could be gone, so she took me in November of '37, and I came back in December of '40, 1940, so I was in Japan three years and one month, and I could tell you things about that later.

MR: And then your health must have improved because I see you're still here with us.

MB: Well, yes. The doctor, I knew the name of the heart specialist back then, I've forgotten it now. But you know, I read about his obituary, you know, when he died, and it kind of tickled me. He told me I had two years to, less than two years to live and here I lived, and I'm still living and he died. Yeah, I should have been dead in 1939, 1938, here I am yet.

MR: When you were in Japan and you were in school, it was about the time that Japan was at war with China. Were the students told anything about that war?

MB: No, no. There were many students in my school from Korea, I mean, their parents were Japanese, and they worked in Korea, and their children came to school. And I never could understand it, but the children from Korea were shunned. I mean, they weren't welcomed by the Japanese, and I never understood why, maybe it was during the war, I don't know. I don't know too many things. I was young, but I was still a kid. I never, wasn't interested in history or war or anything. I just enjoyed myself.

MR: So when you came back then to the U.S., then what course did you take? What did you do after you returned?

MB: After I returned, what do you mean by course?

MR: In December 1940 when you returned, did you, you mentioned earlier that you finished school?

MB: Yes. I had, I was taking the college preparatory course. And to graduate that, I had to have thirty-two credits plus two more which made it thirty-four credits. And since I had left in November and I didn't finish my senior year, I went back to finish it. And I found out that I had almost enough credits, I was only two, one or two credits short, and my grades were such that I wouldn't have had to go back to high school, but I didn't know it, so I did go back to high school. And if I had stayed in America and graduated high school back then, I would have been the youngest one in my class.

MR: So then, what year did you graduate from high school?

MB: 1938, yeah 1938. And then from there, I went to college, and I wanted to study nursing. Math was easy for me. I wanted to be an accountant. My mother, our mother thwarted, T-H-W-A-R-T-E-D, thwarted all three of us kids. May wanted to be a lawyer. She graduated number one in her class, and she got a four-year all-tuition paid scholarship to attend Reed College in Portland to study law. Mama said, "No. No daughter of mine is going to shame me and do a man's profession. You will get married." She had a boyfriend who wanted to marry her. "You will get married and give me grandkids." My sister said, "If I can't study law, I'm not going to get married," and she never did. She relented years later, but she had told this to Mama. So as long as Mama was married, she wasn't going to get married, or long as Mama was alive, May wasn't going to get married. Well, she never did get married, but she had a lot of chances because she was smart and pretty, and she had many suitors. George was also smart in his class. And since we had the greenhouse, he thought he would like to go to college to learn horticulture, and my mother said, "No. You're not going to go to college." She says, "Experience is the best teacher. You'll stay here and learn in that way." Well, when having your own greenhouse and working it, you learn, but you don't learn every phase of it, and so he left home since Mama wouldn't go to college, my mama wouldn't let him go to college. He traveled around the country and went to schools to learn like one nursery he worked at raised plants that didn't have flowers, you know, ferns and things. Another greenhouse he worked at raised cut flowers or cactus or whatever, and he learned in this way. And wherever he worked, his employers treated him badly. None of them would pay him more than minimum wage. He, and he knew that he was the best worker in these places. And this one place, he wanted more wage, and he asked his boss to raise his wage, and his boss says, "Well, come next time I raise wages, I'll raise your wages." Every six months, he raised wages, but he never raised my brother's wages. And so the last year he worked, he thought, my brother thought, "Well, I'm going to quit at just the right time." He knew when flowers would be ready to sell. This was a cut flower nursery, and he knew when to dim the lights so the plants would think they were sleeping, and he knew when to give it lights so they could grow or whatever. He knew when to water them. And this green houseman had three college men, and my brother said the college men didn't know anything because they'd come and ask him, "Now what do we do? Now what do we do?" and he'd tell them, and they'd do it. And so when he, so six weeks before he quit, six weeks before he told his boss, "I'm giving you three weeks' notice," and he left so that three weeks was critical before, you know, you cut the flowers, and he didn't want to be there to do whatever needed to be done, and he knew the college men didn't know, and this would hurt the nurseryman the most, so that's what he did. That, the nurseryman was, I didn't know it then, back then, but the nurseryman belonged to a blue book, you know, in the country that lists top grower, second grower, and so forth, and they list, I forgot how many top grower, forty-five top growers or something, and this nurseryman was number... I forgot, fifteen or sixteen when my brother went to work with him, work for him, and my brother was there three years. He went from number sixteen to number five to number three and then to number two. Well that year, the nursery man didn't have any cut flowers. Nothing was ready. He lost his crop, and the men he had didn't know how to take care of plants, and he never even made it into the blue book. And two years after my brother left him and was in another state, his ex-boss came to work for him, begged him to work for him, said, "I'll pay you whatever you want." And my brother said, "You always promised to raise my wages. You never did. What makes you think that I believe you now?" so he never worked for him anymore. I mean, the nurseryman, it took him quite a few years before he even made it into the blue book again, but I hope he learned that you don't treat someone badly just because he's not one of you.


MR: You were talking about, earlier about times being hard, and so you were also mentioning going to the bakery, getting bread?

MB: Well, there were two grocery stores. One grocery store, Yost grocery store, was one block away from us, and this is where we used to go to buy bread or whatever in the early years. But Mrs. Yost would look at Orga and me, and she'd say, "Go home and wash up," and she wouldn't let us back into the store until we were clean or we got tired of being chased out of the store every time. Thompson's grocery store was five blocks away, so we started going to Thompson's. And bread back then was ten cents a loaf, and a double loaf, two loaves of bread baked side by side, was fifteen cents, so Mr. Thompson would separate the loaves of bread and sell us the bread for eight cents. His wife, Mrs. Thompson, would be very angry at him because she said he should sell it for ten cents a loaf, and here he was giving it to us for eight cents. We didn't buy very many things at the grocery store besides bread because Mama just didn't have the money. She sent Orga and I on a lot of errands. And for running these errands, about once a month, she gave us a penny. That penny bought us a, we'd go to Thompson's because Mr. Thompson was real good to us. They had four for a penny, three for a penny, two for a penny, or a one cent candy. We tried all of them at different times and decided that we like the penny sucker the best. And the sucker, the only way I could tell you what it was like is like the Butterfinger bars we have today, that on a stick would be about inch square, you know, and that was a penny. I'd take a lick. I'd hand it to my sister, Orga. She'd take a lick; I'd take a lick; she'd take a lick. And when it was almost gone, I'd hand it back to her, and she would finish it, and that made her real happy.

My sister, Mrs. Sunderland, our landlady, went to many activities and functions, and Mr. Sunderland, a farmer, never went with her. And not wanting to go alone, she took my sister, May, with her, and May and Mrs. Sunderland went different places, and one place they went was to the Oregon Woodlawn, Woodlawn Methodist Church. Orga and I went one Christmas. We thought it would be fun if we went. They never let us into the church, but we thought we'd play around the building until they came out. Well, the stores were two blocks away, so we walked down there. There was the, the Fire Hall was there, hardware store, drug store, and other stores, and then we found the bakery. And when we were peeking in the window at the bakery and looking at all the pretty things in the window, I realized that bread was seven cents a loaf. Thompson's one, eight cents a loaf, and here it was seven cents a loaf, and day old bread was six cents a loaf. So thereafter, we went to Thompson's to buy our bread. All we bought was the bread. And once in a blue moon when Mama had the money, she would let us get day old pastry. My favorite was the tea stick, and it sold for five cents each, six for a quarter. But on sale, it'd be three for ten cents, and so Mama would give me twenty cents to buy six of them because, but that wasn't very often. But every time we went, Mr. Mondeli always had cookies for her, something to give to Orga and I. One day, he didn't have anything, and I guess we looked, didn't look very happy, so he turned on his heels and went into the back room, and I wondered what he was going to do. I watched him, and he went to a rack where donuts had just come out of the oven. He took his fists and, fist and pressed into a doughnut, and then he came out with two halves, one each for my sister and myself. There, everything in the store went down in prices at six o'clock like the seven cents fresh bread at six o'clock dropped off to six cents. And around about five o'clock, all these people would gather in the store either waiting for the price to drop, this one day, it was a little after five, but it was crowding up outside, and Mr. Mondeli came over to me and told me to follow him, so I went with him. We went into the back room, and he got me a loaf of bread, a day old loaf of bread, and then he stuffed the bag with everything, and then we both walked out to the front, and I held out my hand, and he took his six cents for the loaf of bread, and then he pushed us out the door, and he gave me the bag and said, "Run along now, don't let, before it starts to rain," so we ran out of the store. And when we got about two blocks away, we were getting curious to see what was in the bag, so we opened up the bag and looked. There was our loaf of bread that we wanted, and the bag filled up with maple bars, doughnuts, all the stale pastries, and he did this all the time. When I was in the seventh grade, he died. And after that, we never got any more free pastries to eat, but he was also my angel. He knew that Mama couldn't afford much for us. And not wanting to see us, you know, wanting things and never getting, he just gave them to us just like that lady at the lunchroom had given us those crackers. I guess that's it.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MR: Well, let's go back to your time in Japan and in your return to the U.S. which was December 1940, you said.

MB: Yes. I came back in 1940. I went to school, high school, for a little while, got my diploma, and then I went on to Saint Helen's Junior College. I had, math was my easiest subject, and I wanted to become an accountant, and my mother said, "No. You will learn, only way you can go to college if you become a nurse." Well, I didn't care much for nursing. But that was, if that was the only thing she'll let me study to go to college, I'll study it, so I was studying nursing, and that's when the war happened. I mean not the war, the war had already, the war, I was going to college when the war happened, and I went to school until the following year, 1942, April, when they moved us into assembly center in Portland.

MR: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed? Where were you when, what were you doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

MB: I was going to college. I was in school.

MR: And so what were you thinking when that happened?

MB: Well, we had, the market opened, and we couldn't, it was a Sunday morning, and we couldn't figure it out. Here it was 9 o'clock, and we hadn't had a single customer. Usually, the customers started coming at 7 o'clock, and it was a beautiful day. There weren't many cars on the road, and no one, no one, no customers came. And then about, oh, little time after that, one of our neighbors, Japanese fellow came by and said, "The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor," and then we realized that was why we never had any customers. Well, and the rest of that day, people would come by, and they'd throw rocks at us, toward us, bricks, clods of dirt, whatever, and they'd call us "Japs," and I mean they were mean to us. And I was going to college, but even riding the streetcar, the other riders would give me a bad time, so I never, I went to school but not every day, I was afraid.

MR: And so at what time did you learn that you were going to be relocated?

MB: It was, was it in March? February or March they said that they were going to get us off the West Coast, and I think it was about the third or fourth of April, they came and we could leave. Oh, they gave us two weeks' notice to get rid of everything because they were going to put us into camp. Well, what they were doing was send us to the assembly center before they send us to camp. And in that two weeks' time, we had to get rid of everything. We stored most of the furniture in warehouse as did a lot of other people, and we had our plants, and we had the greenhouse and the house, and so we got a friend that, to stay in the house. He was to stay in the house for free if he looked after the plants and everything, took care of the place. When we came back in 1945, I think it was August, my sister had sent him a letter saying that we'll be coming home and to please vacate the house. Well, we came home, and he wouldn't, he was still living there, and my sister says, "Didn't you get my letter?" "What letter?" "The letter saying that we were coming home." He said he never got the letter. And my sister asked him to leave because we wanted to move in, and, "No, I don't have to move. You have to give me sixty days' notice." So she went to her lawyer, see a lawyer, and the lawyer told her send him a registered letter he had to sign for and give him sixty days' notice, so she did that. And even after the sixty days was up, he wouldn't move out. The reason was that he was building himself a new house, and it would be another month before the house was finished. And rather than move someplace else, he just wanted to stay there, so it was another month or three months all together before we could move in. Well, the day we moved in, we opened the front door, no flooring. My mother had oak wood flooring, number one oak wood. She loved that floor. It was a beautiful, you know, number one oak, and she kept it waxed, and it was a real pretty floor. That floor was gone. In the market, the floor of the market, the planks were gone. I mean, we could see ground down there. And what he had done, he took out, took off the doors of our built-in cabinets, used them in his new house. I guess the flooring went into the new house. He was supposed to take care of our dog. We had a dachshund or one of those low slung dogs, and we don't know what he did with the dog. He didn't have it. He said it ran away, but I don't think it ran away. And he was supposed to take care of, since we had the green house, we had a mother plant and then we took cuttings, you know, for different bushes and things like that, and all our choice mother plants were gone, replaced by common everyday stock. And it was, so it was another, oh, about two weeks I guess it was before we finally got settled in because my brother had to put down flooring, and this time, he never put in a real good wood flooring. He just, so we could get by, and then they bought, put a carpet over the floor. But, and the furniture that we had stocked, left in storage, they were broken up. The roof had started to leak, and the owner never did anything, and so, you know, when wood gets the furniture, they break apart. And we got the furniture back, but they're miserable. It wasn't very happy. We had, at least we had a place to go back to because we owned our place. Those people that didn't have any place to go back to relocated elsewhere.

MR: So what relocation center or what assembly center did you go to first?

MB: Okay. The assembly center, it was North Portland International Livestock Building, and they hastily cleaned the stalls, you know, the care building, and put in plywood floors and plywood walls, no ceiling, of course, because the roof for the pavilion was our ceiling, and no doors, no windows. And for privacy, Mama hung up curtains so no one can see in. And the light was a single light bulb they hung down, but I don't remember what time it was, nine o'clock or ten o'clock, lights went out automatically, so you were in the dark. The only thing that I remember about that place is since it was summertime, we had to fight millions of flies and the smell of manure. That was, that was our constant companion, the smell of manure and the million flies, and I know that first two weeks we were there, we all had diarrhea, and we were sick. I lost twelve pounds in those two weeks. My brother lost fourteen pounds, and that was the same with everybody else because they were sick all the time. And the food we ate, we had to eat in shifts because they couldn't feed us all at one time. The first shift, the military police who were guarding us ate; and the second shift, the Japanese ate; the third shift, the Japanese ate. But if you missed out the first shift, no use going to the third shift because there wasn't anything to eat. And as it was, the military police ate, they ate up all the meat. We had leftover broth with some vegetables, always bread. That's something we always had was white bread, and my brother said they had margarine too, only I don't remember margarine because I only remember the bread. Oh, margarine. When I was a kid, margarine was white in color. It look just like lard. And oh, two, three years later, the company with a pound of lard, they gave you a small packed that had some red powder in it, and you poured the powder on the white lard like margarine, and you had to mix it up and make your yellow coloring, and so then we had margarine that was yellow in color. Now you could buy it already yellow.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MR: After the assembly center, what camp were you sent to?

MB: In August, I think it was, it was in the fall of the year or late summer, they would, we were put on the train and sent to Minidoka, Idaho. And that first day in camp after they assigned us our room, and we had, the truck had just unloaded us and put us in the room, and the military police came. Two of them came in the jeep, and they wanted Mabel, Mabel Boggs or Mabel Shoji. "I'm Mabel Shoji." "Well, come with us." They put me in the jeep, and then they took me down to the administration building, and they put me in a room all by myself, and they left me in that room for three and a half hours. There was a door, there was a window, but nothing else, just one chair, and then there was a military police outside guarding my door. I didn't know that until I went outside. After three and a half hours, the military police, a different one came and said for me to follow him, so then the, him and the one that was guarding me followed me and took me to a room where there was a table, and three gentlemen were sitting there, and I can't remember whether they were all in civilian clothes or whether one was in an army uniform. I don't remember. But anyway, they sat me down and interrogated me. After six and a half minutes of interrogating me, they decided I wasn't a spy, and then they took me to another room. And when I entered that room, there were three girls and two boys that I recognized instantly. They and I had returned to America from Japan to Seattle. We had come home on the same ocean liner, the last liner to Seattle, Washington, from Japan, and they, all three, all of us had been in Japan for longer than three years, and they thought that we were spies, and that's why they were questioning us. Anyway, we had a lot of fun talking. And then after that, we separated, and they let us go back.

About, after we'd been in camp for about a year and a half, they decided that we were okay to go to the outside. We could relocate, and a lot of people did. And since I was going to college, I thought, well, I would like to resume my college education, and I applied to Washington University in Saint Louis. That was my number one choice, and I got a letter of rejection. I applied to another school, got rejected from it. Third school, fourth school, I tried fifteen schools, and every one of them rejected me. The reason? We aren't taking any more students," "our quota is filled," "your grades not good enough," various reasons. Well, that kind of bothered me. My best friend in high school left to go to college, and she didn't have, I had better grades than she did. She got accepted, why didn't they accept me? Well, it wasn't the same college, but you know, and that bothered me. So I wrote to my best friend, a white girl, Caucasian girl, that was in my class at Saint Helen's Hall, a junior college, and every school that rejected me, she applied, I mean, every school that wrote and told me that their classes were filled, they weren't taking anymore students, she wrote, she applied to their school, to the same school, and they took her. That was funny. I couldn't understand. So after war ended and in 1986, I retired from work in 1985 because that was the year I turned sixty-five. My husband is younger than I am. He worked another year and retired in 1986. And after he retired, we spent four months just traveling the whole United States and spent six days in Washington, D.C. While we were in Washington, D.C, I visited the National Archives. I wanted to find out why I was ostracized, why I wasn't accepted in this school. And there were three people there, a man and two ladies, and they'd bring me different things to look at but nothing that, they never brought me anything that I wanted to really see because I wasn't finding out why I was being ostracized. And then noontime came, and the man and one lady left. And my husband was there, Monty was with me, but he went off in a different room, and I was in this room by myself looking, going through these magazines and all the papers they had given me, and this lady came in and said, "You were on the blacklist," and that's all she said, and that was the reason, you know, they wouldn't even let me out of camp. They didn't want me out of camp. That's why none of the schools had taken me, and well, that was it. I was ostracized, I mean I was on a blacklist, and I wished I had kept up being friends with all those that came back from Japan on the same ship that I did. I wish I had kept up, you know, with them because then I could ask them if any of them had tried leaving camp. See, they kept me from leaving camp. I wondered if they did that to the others too.

MR: The camp was quite a large place though, and so you lost track of them there?

MB: They had, the place had military, the fence, a military place all around. One side was bounded by the Snake River, and the Snake River is swift. I mean, you can't, if you're in it, you'd be swept downstream as people were that went out to swim in it. And let's see, I guess two people were killed and swept downstream. And where the water didn't flow so fast, there was a fence there. And I don't know why, but these older people, three men, I don't know how they ever got across that swift flowing river, but they'd go out and buy stuff and bring it back into camp. But I know while we were in camp, those early months for about a year I guess, I don't know how long, they came to count heads. There were supposed to be three hundred or thereabouts in each block. Each block had ten barracks; kitchen or dining hall, and then the laundry room, and they came to count heads in the morning and again at night. And the three men that used to go out and come back to camp, what they did was they'd be there when they, they were counted. And then while the military police weren't watching, they'd slip around the block and be counted again, you know, and they got away by doing that. They had... that's it.

MR: What kinds of things would they bring back to camp from these shopping trips they would take?

MB: Oh, okay. What they brought home, brought back was rice, sugar. What they were doing was making sake, the Japanese wine, and we often wondered if they went to the same grocery store because I want you to know a grocery store man would wonder why or what they wanting all this sugar for. But we, those of, the rest of us used to go and try to look to see how they were getting across that swift river. You know, they could throw a rope or chain, something across the river, but there wasn't anything over on the other side of the river they could tie that rope to, and the people couldn't swim it because the river was so swift, you know. We never did find out how they cross, they got across that river, but they made sake.

MR: Did they share the sake?

MB: Well, there was a group of them that drank the sake. And the same group used to eat, they'd go out and hunt for mushrooms, and they'd cooked them. And a lot of them were, some were poisonous. They didn't know the poisonous one from the good one. And what they used to do, they'd throw in a silver dollar into the pot. If the dollar turned black, it was poisonous, so they threw it out. If the silver dollars didn't change color, it was safe to eat.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MR: When you were in camp, how were the living arrangements decided as far as who you stayed with?

MB: Each family had a room. The two on each end, the room was for two people, for a couple. Room, the second room, let's see, there were eight, let's see, one, two, three, six... six rooms per barrack. Rooms one and six was for two people. Two and five were for seven people, seven or eight people. Three and four were for five or six people. That's how we were separated. And in those early years, and then each, there was one door or two doors came out onto a porch. One and two had a porch, three and four had a porch, and five and six had a porch. And those early years, I don't know where people got the seeds. They must have brought them from home. We used to raise gardens between the barracks, and they raised, we raised pretty good food, vegetables. And so after that, they let us farm, and so they had large farms. They even raised their own meat. And they're ingenious, and smart people would, they had schools, and they taught the kids. We got paid, professional people got sixteen dollars a month, and the rest of us got eight dollars a month, and that was our wage. We really didn't need that money, yes, we did. We could buy things, but, because they fed us, and they clothed us. Our clothes was army clothes. They were Navy Seabee, or, you know, yeah. We had woolen pea jackets. We had woolen gloves, and our, we had our blankets. And our food, we didn't much like the food because it was American food. Mama learned to like coffee. She never had coffee before, but she learned to like it, and she drank it strong. She liked it strong, and I learned to like cottage cheese, now I love it. I'd never eaten it before. We never had turnips at home, but they had turnips quite often, and now I love turnips. I mean, we learned to eat a lot of, and we found out that the Americans ate a lot of hotcakes for breakfast because in camp, they had hotcakes for us every morning. And instead of syrup, they gave us watered down prune juice.

MR: You said you earned eight dollars --

MB: Eight dollars a month.

MR: -- a month. What did you do for work?

MB: Okay. I was studying to be a nurse. What do you think I did? I worked as a nurse's aide down at the hospital. And because I was studying to be a nurse, the doctors and registered nurses that were there taught me first. You know, they teach like in school. We'd have to do to learn, and they'd tell us what needed to be done, and then one of us would be picked to help the doctor or do whatever, and I was the one that was always chosen from my group. There'd be five or six in my group, and other girls hated to be in my group because if they were in my group, they never got to do any of these things. And I learned a lot in camp because they went out of their way to teach me. But my regret is I never got to go to the outside and learn and, you know, become a regular nurse. And back then, blood never used to bother me. Now, blood makes me feel bad, makes me sick to see blood.

MR: What kinds of things did they treat at that hospital?

MB: Okay. They had Ward 6, there was 6, 8, 10, 12, 14. Ward 6 was a maternity ward where, you know, babies were born, and you took care of the babies. Ward 8 was for pediatrics ward, children's ward. Ten was surgical ward where people were treated after surgery. Ward 12 was for general older people, you know, not children, but all the other people, and 14 which was way gone from the rest of them was the tuberculosis ward. And I worked in the tuberculosis ward quite a bit because a lot of the girls would not work in the tuberculosis ward. I contracted tuberculosis, and they found out that I had tuberculosis, I had a heart attack, and at the hospital, I was at the hospital. I was helping the doctor in the outpatient ward, and the doctor had left the room, and I was in there with the patient. And my boyfriend at the time... the wards, they just had curtains hung in all cubicles with curtains hung, and he could see me down there on the floor, so he made a comment, and then he went down to the, out to wherever he had to go, and a few minutes later, he came back. He was a pharmacist. He came back, and I was still in the same place, so then he opened the curtain and looked, and I was there on the floor, and so he got me a doctor right away. If the doctor hadn't seen me then, I would have probably died because I had a massive heart attack. And they got me, they put me into the children's ward, Ward 8, put me into a private room, and I was on, when I woke up on the third day, they had this plastic, I was under a plastic dome with about twelve wires. They had wires connected to me all over, and then tubes down my nose, and tubes down my mouth, and you know. And it took me two weeks before I was okay, and I wondered why they wouldn't send me home. Well, when they x-rayed me, they found out I had pleurisy caused by tuberculosis, and so I was in the hospital another six months -- or six weeks. And after being in bed for two months, I couldn't walk. I had to learn to walk all over again, so I used a gurney, you know, push the gurney along and learn to walk that way. And I guess it was about the fourth day that I could push the gurney away, and I could walk. But just like a baby, I had to learn to walk.

MR: Did you work after that then or --

MB: No. I didn't work after that. And soon after that, they, the camp was disbanded, and they sent everybody home. Well, while I was in camp, I mean, they would never let me out of camp. But on the way home, they gave me a stateroom, a room all to myself. It had two beds, and one of the beds, in daytime, you know, you could sit on it. And then there was a bathroom, washroom, you know, all that all in one room, and they let my mother in the room with me. My sister had to travel with the rest of the people in the third class or wherever, the rest of the train, but we used to sneak her in and stay with us. But eating time, she had to leave us because, you know, they never brought the food to her. But they were good to me coming home. I wish they could have been nicer to me when I was in camp.

MR: And while you were there, who stayed in your housing unit?

MB: Who stayed in my housing unit?

MR: What members of your family were there with you?

MB: Okay. All five of us were in there for about, oh, I don't know how long, three or four months, I don't remember. But it was during the war, and all the boys on the outside had gone to war and farmers were short of laborers, and so they came to camp and asked, volunteers, people come out and work on the farms, and so my brother left after, I don't know, four, five months later, I don't know how long. But he was on the outside all during the war, and he'd come in and visit, but you know. But on the outside, although he worked on the farms, he was treated just like he was in camp. All the workers were, had to live behind wired, you know, fence places. At night, they were locked in. When they went out to the fields, they were put in trucks, and they rode to work. And then in the night, they're brought back by truck, and then they were locked in every night. But they could go on living just like everybody else, but they were always watched. And my brother said... at first, I don't know what kind of farm he worked, but later on, he worked at other farms. And at other farms, there were a lot of Mexicans, and Mexicans ate one kind of food, and the Japanese ate another kind of food. And at that camp, the cook was real good. He would cook food for the Japanese and food for the Mexicans. Well, someone during that time decided that they would eat the rice with Mexican chili beans or whatever, and they found, the Mexicans found out that was good. So pretty quick, even though they had, you know, separate kinds of food, they would eat, everybody was eating each other's food.

MR: Were the Mexicans treated differently than the Japanese workers?

MB: I don't know. I don't know if they were or not. If my brother said, I don't remember. But I suppose they were free, you know. They weren't locked up at night. But other than that, I couldn't tell you.

MR: And what were your feelings when you were in camp about --

MB: What were my feelings? Well, other than the fact that they wouldn't let me out, I had no special kind of feeling. I wasn't angry or if that's what you mean. I just lived like everybody else did. I didn't like being stuck in camp, but what could I do, and life was just normal.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MR: Beyond work, some of the camps had activities for people to do. Did you take part in those?

MB: No, I didn't. I lived, I lived and breathed hospital. I don't know why. I must be a good person. A lot of aides' patients didn't like certain aides, and they'd always asked for Mabel, and so I did a lot of work the other aides didn't do. That's why I spent more time at the hospital.

MR: During the time in camp, how are the holidays celebrated, and what were they like?

MB: Same as any. We never observed any holidays. I don't remember if we had turkey for Thanksgiving. We must have, but I don't remember it. I ate most of my meals at the hospital. Why did I eat at the hospital? It was better food. [Laughs]

MR: When you think of camp, are there any other memories that come to mind that I may not have asked about?

MB: No. My mother liked camp for the simple reason that she had other people she could talk to, you know, and she had her friends, and she learned, in camp, they taught various things. She learned to make crepe paper flowers. Later on, she made silk flowers, and she learned to write, I mean she could write, but she could learn, you know, better. And she took in sewing, joined in the various activities the other ladies were doing, and she more or less enjoyed life other than the fact that she was there all the time that she couldn't leave, but she enjoyed herself. I don't, I never joined in on any of the activities because like I said, I lived and breathed hospital. And I spent more time with my friends, most of the people who worked in the hospital were from Washington, and most of my, they were my friends, and they lived in the smaller blocks. When I say smaller blocks, like Blocks 3, 4, 5, you know, those blocks were closer to the hospital, and I spent a lot of time with the friends, so I was very seldom at home. But to get to home, they had two ambulances, and they brought the workers in the morning and took them home whenever their shift ended. We had three shifts at the hospital; seven to three is the day shift, three to ten, three to eleven was the afternoon shift, and the graveyard shift was eleven to seven. And we used to... oh, the hospital staff, we used to party. We had, for fun, you know, they would get together and have different activities, and that's how I met my fiance in camp. I was going with the pharmacist, that, you know, found me when I had a heart attack and we were supposed to go on a date, and he never showed up, eight o'clock, he never showed up, so I thought, well, I got stood up. Around about nine o'clock, ambulance driver came, he wanted to take me down to the hospital. I want to know what for. Well, you'll know when you get there. When we got there, he said for me to go to Ward 10. I went there, and there was my boyfriend, my date. He'd had an appendectomy that afternoon, and that's why he hadn't come there. And his best friend was visiting him, and that's how I met Johnny. And within two months, Johnny and I were engaged to be married, and we made plans. We got invitations written up, everything, or being made, and that's when I had my heart attack, and he dumped me. He dumped me Japanese style. In Japan when a man wants to get rid of his girlfriend, he sends her tofu, you know, soybean, tofu. Well, they didn't have tofu in camp, so he sent me a box of stationery. And his mother visited me every day. His parents liked me. But when Johnny broke our engagement, she'd visited me every day at the hospital. And she told me that Johnny had a bad heart, and I heard later he wanted a nurse for a wife.


MR: When the "loyalty questions" came up, was that an issue in your family?

MB: It was an issue for a lot of people. They talked about how to answer the questions. If I answer it this way, they'll treat us badly. If we answer it that way, we don't really believe this way, but maybe we should answer that way. I mean, it was, they pondered over the questions. We, who were Niseis, it didn't bother us. We just answered them as you would any questionnaire. But after, oh, after they found out that I wasn't a spy and I was free, although they wouldn't let me out of camp, they asked me if I would work for the U.S. Army. They wanted me to work as, since I could read and write Japanese, they wanted me to spy on Japan, read their, decode their letters and see if I could translate them, and things like that, but I couldn't do that. Japan had been real good to me; America had not been good to me. Japan was good to me. I couldn't turn on Japan, so I said "No," so I was stuck in camp. My sister, on the other hand, wanted to get out and she was smart, and so she said she would take the job. And what she did was, well, spied on Japan for America, and she was treated real good. But in doing this, she lost a lot of friends, the Japanese people. I'm glad I didn't, but I just couldn't. Even though I knew the Japanese language real well, I was not about to. Although America was my native country, I wasn't about to turn my back on Japan.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MR: So when you, the end of the war came and you knew when you were going to be going home, how did you feel about leaving camp, going back to Portland?

MB: Well, I never thought anything about it, just happy to be leaving. I was going to miss all my friends, but then I was happy to go home.

MR: And then you mentioned that the person you left in charge of your things haven't done such a good job.

MB: Uh-huh. When we got home, he finally let us in, but he had been a real good friend before, before the war. But after the war, we never associated with him anymore because he had turned his back on us. I mean, he was... well, the way he treated us.

MR: So how long after you returned to your home and your business, how long was it before you could actually make a living at your business again?

MB: Well, it was a while. Let's see, it was in the fall of the year we had to get everything ready. I imagine by the next spring we had plants to sell. And one good thing about our place, we raised our own plants. We steamed our soil. We made our own dirt. How do we make dirt? We used to get dump truck loads of dirt, and we'd get dump truck loads of manure, fresh manure, mix it together, and leave it to steam, put straw on top and let it to steam. And in one winter, the next year, the dirt would be, you know, well rotted together, and we steamed the dirt to, so there wouldn't be any weeds or seeds or bugs, you know, insects in them. And we planted our plants in this good steam soil, and so there were never any weeds in our flats of flowers. And since we raised our own plants and sold directly to the public, we could sell for a little less money. All the other markets that sold plants didn't have a greenhouse of their own, so they had to buy their plants. And when you buy and sell, you have to sell at a certain price. Like say the flats of flowers were $2.50. We could sell for $2.25, and we'd still be making money because we raised our own plants. In time... and then we didn't sell, we didn't raise plants, common everyday plants like all the rest of the nurseries did. My sister studied the seed books. And every year, we'd have two or three new plants, and so we had customers that, all they wanted was the new plants. And because our flats were weed free and because we could sell a little bit less money, we cornered the market, and all the people were complaining, and so we got picketed. The Oregon, Portland Nursery Association picketed us. Pickets came out, the picket came out at eight in the morning. He parked his car out front, put out sandwich, or put up boards on either end of the market, and then with a placard, you know, holding it up, he walked back and forth in front of the market. And of course, no one would cross the picket line, so we didn't have any customers, but that was all right. I mean that wasn't all right. I mean, there was nothing we could do, but we had to keep up our plants and everything. Oh, by the way, my brother always said, sell quality merchandise and put up a beautiful display and everything will sell itself. That was true. Our fruits and vegetables, we charged a little bit more than everybody else did because we sold quality merchandise, and we found out that customers would pass by all the, they'd come, you know, drive pass all the other places and come back to our place. And many of them told us, "The reason why we come here to buy is because we never get any surprises. Other places," they said, "one day it's good; next day, it's no good. And here, quality is always the same," so we had customers that way.

But go back to it, the picket walk back and forth in front of the place, and we had no customers. Twelve o'clock came, and he was supposed to get a relief. They were supposed to picket for four hours at a time, and his relief never came. One o'clock came and no relief. Two o'clock came and no relief. Mama came out of the house with a plate of sandwiches. She had made fried egg sandwich and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Her fried egg sandwich was like, it wasn't just fried eggs. It had onions and celery and different things in it and cooked together, and it was for the picket. And my brother and sister said, "No, you don't take him that. He's the enemy. He's the reason why we don't have any customers." Man says it doesn't matter. A man has to eat, and so she took him the sand, the plate of sandwiches. More than anything, he had to go to the bathroom, so my mother took him to the bathroom. Then he came back and ate his sandwiches, and later he told Mama that was the best sandwich, the egg sandwich was the best sandwich he had eaten. And then about 3 o'clock, his relief picket came. The reason the relief picket was so late, he had a flat tire, and not being familiar with Northeast Portland, he didn't know where to go to get his tire fixed. Well, so he rolled his tire, but he went the wrong way. He went toward where there was no service station. So then he got to a place and used the telephone, and he called up his brother-in-law. It wouldn't do any good to call home because his wife was going shopping that day and she wouldn't be home, but his brother-in-law, he knew where he worked, so he called his brother-in-law, and the brother-in-law says, "Well, I'll come after you at my break." He had called about noontime, but he had just finished his lunch, and he wouldn't get his off period until his break came. So he had to wait until the brother-in-law was on his break, and then the brother-in-law came and took his tire, and they got it fixed, and he got out there. First thing they did after the picket came was the two pickets stood there and talked for about fifteen minutes, then the relief picket got in his car and took off, and I don't know how long he was gone, but he was back pretty quick. Soon as he got up, they picked up the boards, the picket, and loaded everything, and they were gone. The picketing was over, and I think the picketing was over, oh, the picket after lunch picketed half-heartedly. He sat more than he picketed, and I have a reason that they picked up the picket signs and left was because Mama had been good to the picket.

MR: What year was this picketing?

MB: That was about 19, let's see, about 1936.

MR: Oh, before the war then?

MB: Before the war, uh-huh. It was before the war. We had moved, the place across the street from where the Sunderlands lived where Mama had the four acres, the man across the street had a market. It was a grocery store, but it was built like a service station with a roof over the apron of the market. And when we bought it, it had been up for sale for a certain price, and Mama couldn't afford that price. But a year later, it went, it went down in price, a thousand dollars, so Mama bought the place for us kids. And my brother had enlarged the market, put wings on each side, so we'd had one long market... and I forgot what I was going to say.

MR: Do you remember the address of that market?

MB: It was 2746 Northeast Columbia Boulevard.

MR: And what's there now, do you know?

MB: Right now, in 1997, 1999, I sold the place, and right now, it's container, container sales. Do you know what a container is? Like on a train, these boxcars, boxcars without wheels, that's the container, and this lady gets them and she sells them. And the only building standing on the place is my sister's house. It was built in 1952, but in 1997 when I sold it, it still had the original flooring, even the linoleum, original. All the rooms had number one oak flooring, the way Mama wanted it, and the linoleum was real, it was top grade. My sister wanted everything number one and everything number one. So even though the house was fifty years old, it was just like it was new, and I know that realtors came to look at it, and that was their comment. They couldn't believe that everything was the original because they said that many houses, in all that years, they would have had new put in, you know. And that house is the only thing standing, and the lady who bought it uses that house for her office. One room, she has one bedroom, she doesn't live there, but sometimes, she stays there, and she uses that room for herself, but the rest of it's an office for her business.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MR: After the war, the family was still doing gardening, did you continue with that for a long time yourself or --

MB: What do you mean, our former place where we had the farm?

MR: Where you had the farm?

MB: Uh-huh. Well, in 1933, we moved from one side of the boulevard to the other side, and we continued to farm, we had 13 acres of farm then. We continued with the farming for another two years, but we had a greenhouse built, and we were selling these plants. Mama's dream that to sell plants finally, you know, we were selling plants. And it got to the point where the greenhouse and the market was taking all our time, and we couldn't farm also, so we gave up all the farms. And, yeah. Oh, when we lived across the road in 19, oh, when my brother was thirteen years old, he built the first fruit stand on Columbia Boulevard. It was small. It was only six feet wide by eight feet long. And to conserve money, you know, save lumber, he built it in such a way that during the daytime, you could put the walls down, walls down to form a table and display the produce there, and the door was hinged so that it could come off, and you could make another table for displaying produce. And at night, brought the walls up, and you had a closed building. And for electricity, our landlord, Mr. Charles Sunderland, let us run extension cord from his front porch to the market. Oh, something else I should add in there. When my brother was fifteen years old and could drive when we still lived there on that first place, Mama raised in addition to tomatoes and cucumbers and strawberries and pears, she raised cabbage, cauliflower, and peas. Now these are things that have to be sold today. You can't keep them over, and he used to take them to the early morning market. He used to take everything to sell it to early morning market that opened at three in the morning. That meant he had to get up at two-thirty and be there before three, so he could be the first one to get inside the market to get a choice spot. By six o'clock, he'd be home after selling everything. From six to eight, he did his homework, his studies, and then he went to school. He'd be home at three, did I tell this before? Anyway, from three to five, he slept, and then he helped Mama outside and came in at nine, and it would be about ten-thirty before he got to bed, so he was getting six hours rest a night, but he never complained because he knew that it had to be done. And if he didn't do it, no one else would. And not only did he help Mama in that way, he also took over the chore of keeping us kids in line. He'd scold us or spank us or whatever. I mean I would get scolded. My sister Orga was never scolded because she was slow in the head, but he gave a lot. And then he knew that Mama couldn't afford toys for us, and so he made toys for us. The first toy he made was a kite.

Down by the river, willow trees grew, so he used the branches for the spines of the kite, got newspaper from the Sunderlands for the body, and we had lots of twine because we had peas to be strung up, and we could, we'd have the best kite. And since we lived on the side hill and the wind would catch the kite, our kite because it's seen from miles away. Then the yo-yo came, was a fad. We couldn't afford the ten cents for a yo-yo, fifteen cents for a yo-yo, so my brother ransacked my mother's sewing kit. He got two empty spools, and with a pencil whittled just right, he could join the two spools, and we always had twine, and so then we had a yo-yo, and it was our favorite yo-yo. My sister and I, we'd be so glad we took the yo-yo to school, you know, and all the kids would laugh at us because we had this funny yo-yo, but we didn't care. We had a yo-yo. And we had things that other kids, like wintertime. Since we lived on the side hill, they could come and slide down the hill, and they'd have their fancy store bought sleds that could slide down the hill, and my brother and my sister and I, we used lumber, we used different things, but, you know, they don't slide so good, and so he made us a sled. He made a sled. But instead of six inches off the ground like everyone else's, it was only two inches off the ground, and it was wood, you know, and it didn't slide so well. Mr. Sunderland got some metal from someplace, metal stripping, and my brother put that for a runner. We had the best sled. It slid down the hill the fastest, and we had the best sled. And in wintertimes, the fields would puddle up, and it would be ice all over, and people used to come and skate on the ice, and everybody had their skates. We never had skates. We'd slide around on our shoes and didn't do so good, and Mr. Sunderland brought some tin cans. He says, "If you stomp down on the tin can, the can would coil around your shoes, and you could skate that way." So my brother and Orga and I was down there ice skating, and people laughed and laughed at us, our skates. Everybody else had nice, store bought skates, and here we had tin cans. But you know what, you know, before long, everybody was skating around in the tin cans. [Laughs]

MR: It sounds like fun.

MB: Uh-huh. And my brother was real, my brother was just like a father to us. He was real good to us, and I'm sorry that he never got married. If we knew back then what I found out in 1983, my brother would have been married. But my, none of the girls that my brother wanted to marry, Mama thought that she wasn't good enough for him, so he never remarried, I mean he never married, and so he never had children. And because he never had children, the Shoji name would die out. That's why I bought Portland Taiko that drum, that thirty-two-inch taiko. I made a proposition, they wanted a large taiko. I said, "If you would put my brother's name on the outside of the taiko to be left there permanently, I'll buy you a taiko that you want," and they agreed, so that's why the Portland Taiko has that drum or that taiko. And so now, his name will be before the Japanese for as long as that drum is around.

MR: That's a nice gift.

MB: Yes, it is. It carries, I don't know if you could say it carries the family's name but at least people remember the Shoji family.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MR: We're nearing the end of this interview. Is there anything that I haven't asked you about that you would like to tell?

MB: Well, my sister, May, after Papa died, since Mama couldn't understand the English language, she couldn't take care of the family business, and so it fell on her. And our landlady, Mrs. Sunderland, told May what needed to be done, how to do it, what to say, whatever, and with Mrs. Sunderland's help, May took care of everything, and she became, you might say, she was our mother. She wasn't our mother, but she took care of, she was the head of the family, took care of everything. And to help the family since Mama was having a hard time though we were eating three meals a day and getting clothes, you know, we needed more money. So when she was sixteen years old, she got housework, lived in a home of a family, and she was to clean the house, wash the clothes, and help with preparing the meals in exchange for room and board. Well, she went and she was to get fifteen dollars a month, and the contract was for six months. In two weeks, she was home. Why did she come home? "I don't get anything to eat. They eat everything up, and there's nothing left for me to eat," and Mrs. Sunderland said she'll talk to them about that. And Mama told her, she said she didn't want my sister to be a mikkabozu. That's a person that would start a job, but he never finishes it. She taught us that never begin any work if you have no intention of finishing. And as a result, I've been stuck with a lot of work, you know, different organizations and clubs. They get me interested, then they leave, and I'd have to finish it. Anyway, and so she went back to work. Two months later, she came home again. This time, she was gone, skin and bones. She had whiplash marks on her back, and the reason she came home was she was so hungry, they never gave her much to eat. She had very little to eat. The husband, the father had bought a box of apples, and so she helped herself to an apple, and it was so good, she thought she'd eat another apple, and that's when the family came home, and that's when she got another whipping again, and she came home. And after Mrs. Sunderland saw what condition my sister was in, she decided that Orga, or May didn't have to work there anymore, and the people refused to pay the thirty dollars owed for the two months' work. But Mrs. Sunderland went to the police station and reported it because the man was a policeman. The father was a policeman. He lost his job on account of this. But, and he was made to pay my sister thirty dollars for the two months' work, but she stayed home after that.

May was quick learned. She learned a lot of things, and everything she learned was for the better, I mean. And I think that because the way she was treated when she was young made her the mean person she was in later life. She had a real good head for business, you know, to earn money, but she was mean. She never let anyone, you know, she won out on everything, but her life wasn't very happy. I took care of her the last, see from 1995 to 1997, she was in a care home here in Corvallis, in Corvallis, and it took me, I got to the point where I quit doing for her because she wanted this, she wanted that. I wasn't getting any rest. Some nights, I never got any rest because she'd call me up at night and want me to come down there. I rushed her to the hospital six times, nothing the matter with me, nothing the matter with her. The doctor told me all she wants is attention. By going to the hospital, all these people, you know, would do for her, and she'd be the star, and that's all she wanted, and she wasn't letting me any rest. So finally, I got tired, and I never went to see my sister for a year and a half. When she found out I wasn't going to see her, then she started making friends. So then, she didn't need a friend, she had me, and it took the people there in the care home a long time before she would trust people. But in time, she became the kind of person I wanted her to be. Then in January of 1997, I took sick. I was sick for a whole month. While I was sick, I thought I should go see my sister. So as soon as I got well, I went down there. We became friends again. Six weeks later, she was gone, but she was happy. After she was gone, her best friend said to me, she said, "May came to me and said, 'I have a sister again.'" But we went shopping, we went out to dinner, and we just visited, and she was really happy. So at least six, two months of her life, six weeks of her life, she was happy. Well, she was happy longer than that because at the nursing home.

MR: Your family sounds like a strong group of people.

MB: Well, my mother, my mother taught us a lot of things that many people don't follow. Like she said, "Don't be beholden to anyone." I found this out to be a good advice. Any time anybody does for me, I do for them right back, not, maybe not right away, but, you know, repay the kindness, and I found out that some people want me to be beholden to them, so, because Monty said, Mama told me, she says, "The day's going to come when they want you to do something that you don't want to do, but because you owe them, you're going to have to do it." Well, these people want me beholden to them, so they can make me do whatever they want to do, and I've never had to do it because I repay people right away. And she always said that nothing in this world is free. Everything cost somebody something. Always pay your way, and I've always done that. We used to, when we were kids, we used to fight. The people would give us things, and Mama says to don't break up the things, you know, make them last because it cost somebody something. And we said, "No, it was free, it was free," and she says, "Yes, but it cost somebody, buy it to give to us, so it cost somebody something," so we learned to take care of things. And what she taught us was good for my brother and me. We followed all the things that my mother taught us, and we prospered. Well, my sisters did too. My main sister prospered too because she had a good head. And Orga, my slow sister, her husband was like her. He was a child like she was, but he had a brother who was a millionaire, and he was always giving them money. My brother-in-law used to come to me and tell me that I owed him this, and I owed him that, and I said, "No, I don't owe you anything. Why do you think I owe you?" "Because I do so much for Orga," and I says, "I never asked you to do all those things for Orga. I don't owe you." He even wanted me to give him money for his income tax. But his brother always gave him money, the millionaire, and they had a lot of nice things like one time... I shouldn't tell this. I don't think they'll like for me to tell it. Anyway, they survived, you know, because the brother helped. I helped them in other ways. I gave them food. Since we have a farm, I gave them all the fruit they wanted, and we raised a large garden, so I gave them lots of produce. They'd come down and pick whatever. Oh, one time, they came down, and I told them when they came, I says, "Now, you could pick four, five tomatoes, but I don't want you to pick anymore than that because I'm going to can them on Sunday." Well, that was on a Thursday, and I never thought anything about it. Saturday night after work, I work six days a week. Saturday night after work, I washed up all the jars, you know, and everything and got them ready to put my canned tomatoes in on Sunday. Sunday morning, I went down to the garden to pick my tomatoes, and there weren't any. My brother-in-law had picked all of them, and, I mean all the nice ones, and only thing left were the small ones, and there wasn't anything much to can. And about two months later, my sister, Orga, her husband was the one that had took everything. She told me that Takios, her husband's sister-in-law, his brother's wife was having a party, and she was using tomatoes for a salad, you know, stuffing it with tuna fish salad, and she wanted perfect tomatoes, and he took the tomatoes for that after I told him not to pick any tomatoes.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MR: We are nearing the end of the interview, but we're here in this library in Philomath, and I just want to mention that you told me that this was built entirely by volunteer labor.

MB: Yes.

MR: And that you were one of those volunteers. Would you like to talk about that?

MB: They bought the land about 1990. I don't know exactly when, and then they cleared the land, and they decided to build this library. The library that they had already was in the back of the police station, and it wasn't a very, it wasn't really a room for a library. They had made it into a library, and it was getting really crowded, and they need, and someone decide it would be nice if we had a new library, and so all the people got together. They cleaned out, they cleaned the, there was a house on here, I suppose, and brush, bushes, and they cleared all that. And then they, some people couldn't volunteer labor, so they volunteered like cement people that work with cement donated concrete for foundation, and other people bought lumber. Some people gave money for the windows, fixtures, you know, everything, and people volunteered their time building the library. I didn't get in on the building until in 1992, no, 1991. My, one of my neighbors was, he wasn't the contractor for the building, but he was one of the contractors, and I asked him one day how the library building was going, and he said, "I don't know whether it's because they don't want to or because they can't." He says the library is not being built. It wasn't, you know, not because there weren't too many people doing the work. And so I says, well, I asked when did they work and he told me, and I says, "I'll see you on Saturday," and so I started working here. Well, I was already retired, so I could work here. They worked Saturday, and I could work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, whenever. I worked Monday, I was doing volunteer work already. Tuesday and Thursday, I did volunteer work. I worked at the high school. I worked in the office of the high school, and so I could work here Monday and Wednesday, and then I worked here on Saturday. And wintertime, my husband and I spent our winters down south, so we'd be gone from about three months out of the year.

But with all the extra time I could put in, it wound up that I put in, I volunteered the most time in building this library, and so I was honored. And how did they honor me? It was all a secret. They got, my coworkers got together. I was to play basketball with the Portland Trail Blazers. I mean, we're going to form a team, and here I was. Let's see, there was going to be five, ten teams to take, play the Trail Blazers, I mean they were to play ten or fifteen minutes, and then a different team would take over. And here I was the only female and all the men, and so I wouldn't feel lonely or something, they brought in two other women to play too. And what they didn't tell me, I had never played basketball in high school, and so I had to learn. So since I worked at the high school, I asked the coach, and he taught me how to play. And then I rented the high school gymnasium, as they rented, I mean people could use the place for free, but just to be on the safe side, they charged me one dollar, and I got to practice there for two whole months for just one dollar. Anyway, and after I finished working there, I worked two days a week, four or five hours every morning, and then I'd practice in the afternoon or whenever the gymnasium wasn't in use. When they had classes there, I couldn't, but they told me what hours I could play, and so I'd practice there. And during those two months, I had lots of bruises to show it. If you looked at me, I'd be black and, or green and yellow, you know, where I'd fallen. And students and teachers alike would show me. They didn't tell me what needed to be done. They had to get out there and show me what to do, where to stand to get the best shots and everything, and I spent that two months learning how to play the game. After the game, I found out I wouldn't have had to learn the game at all. The game was rigged. The Trail Blazers helped me make the baskets. [Laughs] I was the star of the, you know, playing the basketball, and no one knew that the game was rigged. All these other basketball teams around, you know, Corvallis and other places used to want to play with my team, and of course, I didn't. But whereas I had, if I only had ten friends before the basketball game, I had a hundred friends. Everybody wanted to be my friend. And I told my doctor about this, and he said, "People want to be in the limelight. You're in the limelight. They're your friends now because by associating with you, they'd be in the limelight too." And in that way, I found, because I had a lot of people didn't like me. I was treated badly here in Philomath, and people hated me. They didn't like, they openly snubbed me. And after the basketball game, everybody, all these people that were bad to me were my friends, and that's why the doctor told me that some people were my friends only because of that. But after the ball game, I was real popular. The best thing about it was when I worked at the, when I was working at the high school, my coworkers became my friends, and they remained my friends. Before, if I was out in public, I was just out in public, no one knew me. When I was working at the high school, my coworkers or any of them saw me, they had the time of day to stop and talk with me, and it was same way here at the library. My coworkers, even now, are my friends. If they see me, they'll come over and talk with me. That was what almost ten years ago, eight years ago, and it makes me feel good, they're still my friends.

MR: Well, I think it shows what a good citizen you are to contribute so much to your community, and I want to thank you for contributing to this project as well.

MB: Well, I thank you for asking me, and I hope I didn't make a fool of myself or say things that I wasn't supposed to or whatever, and I think it was an honor that you did ask me. I thank you.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MR: Could you tell me the story about the hobo?

MB: All right. On 27th and the railroad track was a manufacturing plant. They made pianos. It was the Champion Piano Company. And near the Champion Company, the railroad used to pile up their ties that they need for their tracks, and the ditches on each side of the track was very deep, and the ties would be piled over this hole, and it made a dandy place for the hobos to sleep. And Orga and I used to play around the manufacturing plant quite a bit, and we'd walk, we'd used to walk the rails, and we began to see these hobos there. And they'd ask us to go to the store for them, and we'd go to the store for them, and some of them paid us a few cents, most of them did not, but that was all right with us. Then we met this one hobo who was neater than all the others. He always wore clean clothes, and he asked Orga and I if we would go to the store for him. He wanted us to get him a loaf of Underwood's deviled ham and a loaf of bread, and then he gave us a dime for running the errand for him, and Orga and I were real happy. We skipped on home and showed Mama the dime the hobo gave us. She wasn't happy for us. She scolded us. We weren't ever to take anything from anybody. "You go right back and give that hobo the money back," and so we went and gave him the money back. And about two weeks later, he asked us to go to the store again. This time he wanted two cans of deviled ham, one regular size can that like he wanted, and a small, a can, a small one. Small one cost eleven cents, and the bigger one I don't know what it cost. And when we got back he said, "This is for you to take it home to your mother," so we took it home, and my mother let us keep it. That one small can of Underwood's deviled ham, smaller than any of the cans you see here, was enough to spread four slices of bread, so we had, each of us kids had a deviled ham sandwich for lunch, and then our other sandwich would be usually peanut butter. Back then, the peanut, back then, the peanut butter we had was better, a lot better flavored than the peanut butter we have now. The only thing is it stuck in your mouth, and, so you know, you had to chew and chew to get it down. And most of the kids at school never brought peanut butter sandwiches because they said that was poor man's food, but we didn't care. We liked that peanut butter, and we ate our peanut butter sandwiches.

Well, this hobo, most of the hobos were just there one night, one or two nights, and they were gone. This hobo was there a long time. And since our farm where we raised our peas was adjoining the manufacturing company, Mama did see this hobo, this man, and she told him, she watched him, and all he picked was some wild greens. He had a gallon can that he put over a fire, and he cooked in it, and he picked the wild greens and put in it, and so Mama told him to help himself to peas, but he never did. Anyway, the Champion Manufacturing Company had toilets. They had six toilets, outside toilets. They were flush toilets. They were in a long building that, you know, people had to use, and then there was water faucets outside where you could wash your hands and things like that, and so the hobo used the toilets and the water, and we kids did too. And that man was around for a long time, and he told us different stories. He said that he'd been, where he'd been. He'd been on the road a long time and where he'd been, and he said he, as long as he'd been on the road, I guess, he'd been on the road about four years at that time, and he had never gone, seen the ocean. See, what he did was follow the railroad tracks, and the railroad tracks don't go to the ocean, so he had never been, that was his one regret never having gone to the railroad tracks. After about two months, he was gone. We missed him, but he was gone. And then it was another four years, and we got a letter from a lady up in Idaho, I think it was called Weld, Idaho. She said her father who had been a hobo talked about two little girls. And she said that after he died and maybe about a year after he died, they were going through his things, and she came across this book where he had written about us kids, and his visits, you know, through the country, and she wanted to thank us for having been good to her father. And I wrote a letter back, but my sister who was supposed to mail it for me never mailed it, I don't think, because I never got another letter. And then it was another two years or so she came looking for us. She found us, you know. Her father, when that first letter that she had sent, she had written 28th and Columbia Boulevard. She didn't know our name or she didn't know our address, and he had written, oh, he had found out what our last name was, so he had written that and 28th and Columbia Boulevard, and we had gotten the letter, and I guess in the same way, she found us. And I talked to her for a little while, but my sister chased her away. My sister said, "No. They probably want something." She said, "You can't stay," so she chased her away. So I never got to talk to her, but I hope she understands that I would have liked to talk to her, and that's the story of the hobo.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MR: When your mother was beginning to do the farming, what sorts of tools did she need?

MB: Well, the first thing she needed was a hoe and a shovel. And she could use the horses because Mr. Sunderland said we could use the horses if we fed and watered them, but she needed tools, some kind of hand tools. She had farm machinery because he used farm machinery for his orchard, and he had that, but she didn't have a shovel and a hoe, so she gave May some money and told May to go buy the shovel and a hoe, and May went to the hardware store and came home. And about the same time that May got home, Mrs. Sunderland was coming home from work. And seeing the hoe and the shovel, she asked May what she paid. May said she had paid twenty-six cents; twelve cents for the hoe and nineteen cents or, twelve cents for the hoe and let's see... anyway, it was twenty-six cents. And she said it shouldn't have cost you more than nineteen or twenty cents; eleven cents for the shovel and nine cents for the hoe. You take them right back and tell the man at the hardware store that he overcharged you. So my sister went back, took the shovel and told the man, and he ignored her. She kept telling him, but he kept ignoring her. Then a customer walked into the store, a man, and the hardware store man went to talk to the customer, and May kept hounding him, telling him that she owes, or he owes money. "He owes me change. He took advantage of a girl who didn't know anything. He owes me money, but he ignored her. And then a couple came in, a man and a lady, and my sister continued telling him he owed her money," but he ignored her. Well, she knew, since she went to the Woodlawn Methodist Church with Mrs. Sunderland, she knew that this hardware man went to the same church. So in a loud voice, she said, "Next Sunday at church, I'm going to announce that you overcharged me because you thought that I don't know anything and took advantage of me." Well, the man came over and slap some money into my sister's palm. When she got home, she found out that she had got both pieces for less than twenty cents, I don't remember. I don't remember what it was, but she had got more money back than she had paid him. He just wanted to get rid of her, and that's the story of the hoe and the shovel. And at Christmastime, the church had Christmas program. Even though Orga and I didn't belong to church, we thought we would go and maybe go too, but we didn't go into the church, and so we had to stay outside. And while my sister and Mrs. Sunderland were inside, we walked down the street where all the businesses were. There was a fire hall was there, the hardware store, drug store and a bakery; and of course, we were peeking in the window of the bakery to see all the pies and cakes and things. And then we noticed that bread was seven cents a loaf. At Thompson's, we paid eight cents. Here, it was seven cents a loaf, and day old bread was six cents, so we started going to Thompson's. Mr. Mondale gave us, I told you about that, I think.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MR: Just, after Pearl Harbor and before internment, police sometimes searched houses. Did that happen at your house?

MB: Yes. It happened five times. We weren't, us kids weren't always home when the police came. But twice when I was home, they did come, and what they did was walked into the house and trashed everything, pulled out drawers, threw them on the floor, and just went through the house and just made a holy mess out of the house. And this one time, the fifth time they came was the last time they came. Mrs. Sunderland had come home from work and seen the police car at our place. She came down to see what it was about. She walked in the, in the door, and here were everything on the floor, and the police, two policemen walking over the stuff, and she asked them what they were doing. Well, there'd been a burglary in the neighborhood. They came, they knew that we were the culprit, or they wanted to find out if we were the burglars, and they were seeing if they could find things that were stolen, and Mrs. Sunderland said, "Where's your search warrant?" They didn't have a search warrant. So Mrs. Sunderland asked Mama, did they ever give her a paper before? No, they had never given her a paper before. So she went to the local police station, and they didn't know anything about it, and they contacted the main Portland police station. They didn't know anything about it. These two policemen had come on their own just to harass us. And after Mrs. Sunderland told them what happened, they were both suspended.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MR: Let's see. You mentioned that your mother had this fruit stand, or not fruit, produce stand. And were there any examinations people had to take to sell this produce?

MB: Uh-huh. Well, every year, we had to go to the public health nurse to get health exams. Twice a year, we had to go. If we saw the public health nurse, she charged fifty cents, and if we saw the doctor, it was two dollars per person. And what they were examining for was syphilis and gonorrhea. And after the examination, we were given these certificates that we had to display on the wall just like a person, like doctors that display their certificates that they get. And it used to cost us, since we had to go twice a year, five of us, it costs us five dollars a year. And about fifteen years later, fifteen, twenty years later, late in the fall when business was getting slow, my brother thought he would visit Mr. Wilson who had the next stand down the road from us, and they were sitting in Mr. Wilson's office. Well, it wasn't really an office. It was just a little space behind his display counter and where he had a stove and he sat and did his work. And my brother was looking around, and he didn't see any health certificate. We had to display our health certificates on the wall, and there wasn't any, so he asked Mr. Sunderland what, what, Mr. Sunderland didn't know what a health certificate was. What was it for? And so my brother told him, and no, they never had to get a health certificate. Well at that time, there were two other fruit and vegetable markets that sold plants and everything, Caucasians running, so my brother went to talk to them. None of them had ever heard, none of them ever had to get a health certificate. And my brother found out all the Japanese had to get health certificates, but the white man didn't. The City of Portland was treating us badly. They didn't want us to make money. Our license to sell was fifteen dollars. Mr. Wilson's license was ten dollars, and we just got charged more for everything. And every year, the inspector came to inspect what we were selling, and good fruits, tomatoes, whatever, they'd poke holes in the fruit with their finger, and then they'd say it was spoiled, and then he'd pour kerosene over all of them, so we couldn't sell them. And so by the second year when the inspector came, even though we were busy and couldn't spend the time following him, one of us did. And after we followed him around for two, three times, he quit coming, and we weren't bothered after that. But the white man did everything to keep us from earning money or making less, you know, cost more.

MR: What year was it that your brother discovered the difference in the treatment?

MB: Let's see. It must have been about 1950.

MR: So after the war?

MB: Uh-huh, after the war. See, Mr. Wilson didn't start his business until, oh, he started his business during the war when all the Jap-, before then, all the markets were Japanese, run by Japanese people. And during the war or after the war, soon after, a lot of markets sprung up all run by, well, you know, the white man, and farms were the same way. Oh, did you know that during World War II or before World War II, if the farmers didn't have much of a crop, he plowed the field under? You know, if only half the crop grew, half of the land is wasted, so he'd plow everything under and replant. Well, they caught this farmer doing that, the white farmer doing that, and he was arrested for destroying food. I bet you didn't know that. We heard that after we came back. I think two of the farmers were arrested that way; one, after the crop was over, he was just turning the ground over, and the other one because he had a poor crop. He turned it under, and someone reported him that he was plowing under good food.

MR: And is that because things were scarce then?

MB: No. Most of the farmers before World War II were Japanese. There were a few Italians, but not many. I mean there were Italians, but there were more Japanese. And after they put everybody in camp, there wasn't anyone raising vegetables, farms, and a lot of people, the white man got, you know, took over the farms and raised produce. And if you're not very experienced in farming, even if you plant a whole field, nothing's going to come up or, you know, you don't do a very good job. And I guess it was one of these farmers that was plowing his field under, and the law arrested him because instead of helping during the war, wartime, and helping to feed people here, he was plowing his crop under. But he wasn't plowing the crop under for that reason. He was plowing the crop under, a field takes as much work to spray or hoe or whatever, and if you don't get very much money, it's just a waste of time.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.