Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Azumano Interview
Narrator: George Azumano
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Date: September 20, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-ageorge-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

SG: So on those other days, did you get to play a little bit with your friends or...

GA: Oh, yeah, other days, yes, yes. Yeah, we used to play ball, marbles if you remember marbles. We used to play marbles. And eventually we went to sports like basketball, baseball, of course. I was not able to go out for high school sports because of going to Japanese school. That was another item that we didn't like. We couldn't participate in sports, and I like sports.

SG: So you wish you had been able to play high school sports?

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: What would you have played?

GA: Oh, baseball and basketball.

SG: So when you're, did you play any Japanese sports growing up?

GA: Sports, no.

SG: No judo or kendo?

GA: Oh, yeah. I did go to judo for a while, not too long, but I did. That was all.

SG: Did your parents make you go to judo?

GA: Yes.

SG: Did you enjoy judo?

GA: I didn't. I didn't enjoy it, so I didn't stay too long.

SG: Were there any other Japanese cultural or cultural activities that your parents involved you with?

GA: No, just Japanese school. Every once in a while, a Japanese movie would be brought to Portland and we would go to watch that, but we were not forced to go. We were not asked to go, we just wanted to go, so watched the Japanese movie, the old samurai movies, you know.

SG: Where did they show the movies?

GA: In the theaters. They would rent a theater, oh, and they also used the Japanese schools. Downtown Portland had a bigger Japanese school, and they presented movies at the Japanese school. We did not have the facilities in our Japanese school, so we'd, there was no movie presentations. But I remember some movies at the downtown Japanese school. And then sometimes they would rent small theaters to present the Japanese movies. And in those days, they did not have sound, so these, I forgot what you call these men that came around who would talk for the characters on the screen. It was quite, I would say they were very good at it, you know, men talking women's language and so on. They were very good.

SG: So it sounds like you enjoyed going to the --

GA: Oh, yeah, I did, yeah, although I didn't understand a lot of it, but still interesting, especially the samurai movies.

SG: You mentioned earlier that you had played basketball and baseball. Did you ever, did your Caucasian friends ever invite you over to their homes for dinner or to play or was it mostly outside?

GA: No. I don't recall being invited by Caucasian friends. No, I don't remember that. My baseball and basketball playing was with the Japanese Niseis in those days. Yes, in my high school years, we used to have leagues consisting of Japanese, all Japanese. Oh, and we also participated in city leagues, playing against Caucasians, but it was very, playing basketball against Caucasians was a very difficult thing because of our height.

SG: You wouldn't do too well?

GA: We didn't do very well. But among other Japanese, of course, height was about the same, so we could compete very effectively.

SG: Do you remember the name of the Japanese league?

GA: Japanese league? I can't remember the name of the league. It consisted of teams throughout the Portland area. We had teams from Gresham. The various churches had their basketball teams like the Buddhist church, the Methodist church, and different clubs, all Japanese Americans. And every year -- excuse me -- every year, we would go to Seattle to play in tournaments and that was a thrill for us just to be able to go to Seattle to play basketball and baseball. It was the biggest thrill to be able to go to Seattle.

SG: What was so exciting about Seattle?

GA: Well, first of all, the girls, we used to like to talk to the girls up in Seattle. They seem prettier to us. [Laughs] I remember the first time we went to Seattle, we went to a restaurant and I ordered a dish called, oh, veal cutlets. Veal cutlets, boy, that was the best dish I ever ate. At home, living in the grocery store, you know, we didn't have good meals. We had plenty to eat all right, but not complete meals. So when we got into Seattle and ate something like veal cutlets, boy, it was something. It was a treat with gravy on, potatoes and gravy.

SG: Your parents didn't go with you to Seattle?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: Your parents didn't travel with you to Seattle?

GA: Oh, no, no, just the kids.

SG: So where did you stay when you were in Seattle?

GA: Hotels. I was in Seattle recently and I saw the hotel was still there that we used to stay in. I don't think it's a hotel any longer, but the building is still there. It was this old NP Hotel. I think that's for Northern Pacific, brought back memories.

SG: Are there any specific things you remember about staying there?

GA: I remember they had slot machines. We didn't have slot machines in Oregon, so that was something that was unusual for us, and maybe we're not, we were not supposed to play them, but, at our age, but we did. It was something different.

SG: What part of town was that located in?

GA: It's now called the International District, one block away from Yesler Way, no, Jackson Street, Jackson Street. Jackson is a main, sort of a main street in Seattle. NP Hotel was just half a block away from Jackson Street.

SG: So was there a big Japanese, a large Japanese community in that area before?

GA: Yes, there was, many Japanese businesses.

SG: And that was a Japanese, hotel that catered to Japanese?

GA: I don't know whether they catered to Japanese or not but most likely since there was a Japanese town there, many Japanese restaurants. Of course, there was a Chinese district there too. I think that's King Street, is it? King Street has many Chinese restaurants, used to have, they used to have Chinese restaurants there, too, before the war.

SG: So Mr. Azumano, what positions did you play in basketball and baseball?

GA: Well, basketball I played guard; baseball, outfield. I just want to mention one thing about basketball. We used to have a center whose name was Newton Uyesugi. He obtained his optometry license in Portland. And after the war started, he went to the Midwest and eventually got to Chicago and later invented, he and his partner invented the contact lens. And he also changed his name to Newton Wesley. Instead of Uyesugi, it's now Wesley. He's a multi-millionaire now living in the Chicago area.

SG: You still keep in touch with him?

GA: No, I don't. Unfortunately, we don't keep in touch anymore.

SG: Do you know why he changed his name to Wesley?

GA: I think it's too hard for people to pronounce, U-Y-E-S-U-G-I. It's very difficult for Caucasians to pronounce that name, and so Wesley was sort of a similar version of Uyesugi, so he changed it. That's my guess.

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