Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Yoneko Dozono Interview
Narrator: Yoneko Dozono
Interviewer: Margaret Barton Ross
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: June 7, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-dyoneko-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MR: This is an interview with Yoneko Dozono, a Nisei woman, eighty-eight years old, at her home in Portland, Oregon, on June 7, 2003. The interviewer is Margaret Barton Ross of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center's Oral History Project 2003. Mrs. Dozono, thank you for allowing us to come today. Can we start out by talking about where you were born and when and your family life?

YD: Okay. Well, thank you for coming to interview me. I feel so very much of an honor. I was born here in Portland, Oregon, down by the North Park Blocks, down in North Portland. At that time, it was called Japantown just as it is now called Chinatown. February the 4th, 1915, this is an interesting item that people should know. I know that I was born in February the 4th because I have a little packet that my mother had written stating that I was born on that day with a navel that was dried up. In the olden days, they kept the navel of the children to show that they were born. But on my birth date is actually March the 4th. And I think the reason for that is because in the olden -- I call that the olden days -- many people waited to see if their children were going to live that long. And so at that time, I'm sure that my father was the midwife because he was the one that wrote out my birth certificate, and it was March the 4th. So on my Social Security, it is March the 4th, but I do know that it is February the 4th, and I'm going to have to get that fixed up one of these days.

MR: Where did your family live then, and what work did the parents do?

YD: That's one of the sad things about my not knowing the past history of my parents. But at that time, my father had, I think he had a hotel, but I'm not sure. But I do know through my sisters telling me that I was born at, I think right now it's probably gone, but it used to be Killen Stationery Store down by the Portland, by the North Park Blocks. And I was the fourth daughter of five girls and a brother. And I think probably right after I was born that my parents had the Oak Hotel which is very close to the Benson Hotel before we moved over to the east side. We were one of the first Japanese families to move from Japantown over to the east side, and I think at that time I was four years old.

MR: Did you start school pretty soon after your fifth birthday then?

YD: No. I started in my, when I was six years old. But as with so many other Niseis at that time, we lived just across the street from the Franz Bakery over there in Northeast Everett or Davis. And we had, I know that my parents had a very hard time because the neighborhood people had never seen or known Japanese people. And to this day, my oldest friend is Glen McKee who lives up in the Dalles, and her family, they're very good to us. And on the other side, there was the Mills, and they were very, very cruel to my mother, and we had a hard time. And I remember that they had called us derogatory names, and it was very hard for my family. But of course we, as children, didn't realize what was going on until later years. I can remember that we were Japanese foreigners moving into that neighborhood, and Mr. Franz was, he was the beginning of the Franz Bakery. And he being German, he and my father knew each other very well because sometime before I knew what was going on, I think my father had something to do with the restaurant, and Mr. Franz would come over and talk to my family very often. And at that time, all the workers at the Franz Bakery were Germans, and of course, they came from Germany, and they were also foreigners. And so we, as children, would go over there, and they were very friendly to us. Those are the kind of things I remember. And in one of the stories that I thought and wrote about when I was in Japan was about one of the children of Franz, Franz's son, when I started going to Washington High School, I remember Franz being, we called them later custodians, but he was a janitor. And his father had told my father that he wanted his children to learn the hard way because Mr. Franz was a very successful bakery, baker. He didn't want his children to be known as one of the rich people, and so he was hired as a custodian to Washington High School, and that really struck me as a very good thing for people to know.

MR: You mentioned that your father met Mr. Franz or somehow knew Mr. Franz through the restaurant. What restaurant would that be?

YD: Those again, these are the stories that my sisters used to tell me. But of course, I was not interested in knowing the history of whatever it was. But I do know that my father was one of the pioneers of Portland, and I really wouldn't be able to tell you what he did, but he was one of the founders of the society.

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