Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Joe Saito Interview
Narrator: Joe Saito
Interviewer: Alton Chung
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: December 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-sjoe-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

AC: This is an interview with Joe Saito, a Nisei man, eighty-six years old. This interview's taking place in Ontario, Oregon, on December 3, 2004. The interviewer's Alton W. Chung of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center Oral History Project, 2004. Thanks a lot, Joe, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to come and speak to us. Let's just start off with a real simple, what are the circumstances of your birth and where were you born and when?

JS: I was born in Portland, Oregon, and spent most of my childhood out in Clackamas County, in a little town called Carver. That's where I went, eight years, grade school. And after my grade school I started at Oregon City Junior High School, and I quit school in my freshman year because my dad's health wasn't too good. He had a row, vegetable row crop operation, and times were tough; this was in the early '30s. And so I stayed out of school until, from then, for two years. I even went to Portland Wholesale Market to peddle vegetables. We moved over here in February of 1934 to Ontario. I had, I have two brothers, and they were both in school. One was in grade school, one was in high school at the time we moved over here. We came over to Ontario in a one ton Reo truck and a Model-T Ford, and the trip was about four hundred twenty-five miles in those days, all two lane roads, and it was a very unusual year in that 1934 it didn't snow. So we came over the Blue Mountains in the first week in February and never saw any snow, never had to adjust the clutch on our Model-T. And we arrived here the second week in February and there met a group of Japanese in the area. It was a small Japanese colony in the Ontario area. The reason we got here, we knew some people -- my folks are from Fukushima, and down near Salem, in the Lake Labish area, why, there was quite a settlement of Japanese, and a number of those folks came from Fukushima. They knew a Fukushima family up here in Ontario, and that's how we came up here. My dad had made a trip by train the month before and come home with a couple bags of big sweet Spanish onions, which was kind of impressive, and we had a family conference and came up here. So we've lived here seventy years now, and we've raised our children here in different schools in our communities. Now the kids have all separated and gone their ways. My children are now in, some in Hood River, I have a daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, a son in Birmingham, Alabama. We have granddaughters teaching in high schools, one in Portland and one in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and we have a grandson teaching in the Hood River Valley.

I go back to 1941, when I volunteered for the military at the request of President Roosevelt, who was looking for one-year volunteers because things were getting hot around the world. I anticipated that I would be in service for one year and see how I would fare as a soldier. And that one year enlistment, or volunteer, ended up fifty-one months of military time, so I was in service from before the war 'til after the war was over. I came out in September of 1945. In that time I served as a medic, enlisted man, until July, until February of 1945. My grade at that time was staff sergeant. I was in Camp Shelby with 171st Special Training Battalion. And I went to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as an officer candidate in medical administration. I finished my military time in September of 1945 as a second lieutenant. My last station was Camp Crowder, Missouri. And so I came home in September and I was a reservist for a few years, until the Korean War. I asked to, I said, "Take me off the reserves," because my wife was pregnant was one child and my mother had been in a serious car accident, so that kind of brings me up to the time of, end of the war and my activities as a civilian, postwar. Now, what have I left out? [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AC: You said you had two brothers.

JS: Yeah.

AC: What were their names?

JS: My brother -- what, now we're on, we're going on, or you're just asking me?

Off camera: No, no, we're back on.

JS: My brothers, Abe was two years younger than I, and my brother Paul is five years younger than I. They both finished their high school experiences here. During the war, my brother Abe stayed home and ran the family farm with my dad, and my brother Paul was home until sometime in 1945, I think. He was drafted in and served in the, I think it was Counterintelligence, and spent some time in Japan after he was, he finished his training. And we were a family operation before the war, and we continued our family operation, in either a partnership or corporate farm until 1971. So their operation was up north of Ontario and in Idaho. One of my, my brother Abe just passed on, and my brother Paul and his sons have taken over the business, ownership of the corporation. So that's about all I have to say about that.

AC: You said you had a family farm back in Clackamas County. What kinds of things did you raise there?

JS: In Clackamas County we were just growing up and it was my dad's farm. It was truck gardening. My dad had a reputation of raising gobo, which is cane burdock, and he had, one of his nicknames was Gobo Saito, 'cause we lived on a sandy piece of ground and gobo grew three or four feet long. It was beautiful, a beautiful product. So we grew parsnips, we grew carrots and onions and spinach and lettuce and cauliflower, celery, berries... we grew quite, everything, I think, except tree fruits, at one time or another. We lived on a place on the Clackamas River that got flooded every winter, and some years the floods were quite bad and being, we were harvesting vegetables all the time, when the water gets so high coming off Mount Hood we would flood out. After so many years of that, I think my dad decided he'd had enough of it. We were buying a farm as, and as Issei traditionally did, well, they had to buy a farm through somebody else. One of our friends in Portland was buying the farm for us, in their name. But we gave it up partways through the contract and came to Ontario.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AC: You said you had to, you stopped going to school to help your dad in the farm. Because he had an accident, or why is that?

JS: His health wasn't good. He'd had an accident too. I remember, about the time I was born he had a, he'd been injured by a kick from a horse, I believe it was. He collapsed a lung, and maybe he was one of the Issei that was, sometimes indulged a little bit too heavily and it's hard on their stomachs. [Laughs] Anyway, I never did go back, and one of the things that you think about, how important an education is today, and it was then, as it proved later, it was then. But at the time, young men who went to college couldn't find a job when they got out, with their degree, commensurate to their abilities. So they all had, most of 'em ended up in fruit stands or some kind of service work and in the marketplaces where produce was involved, and very few were able to get into a profession. Only those who could find clientele or customers amongst our own people. So we were well acquainted with a number of the professional people in Portland who were dentists and doctors, and with people who were with the Furuya Company or Teikoku, or those people who were merchants. But each one of those had a limited amount of practice, whether it was someone like Mr. Takioka, who helped people because he had the language, he could somewhat, pretty much could do bilingual work, and the Yasui family in Hood River. We were acquainted with most of those, some parts of most of those families. But after I'd been out of school, when we came to Ontario, I didn't go to school here either. It just seemed like it wasn't that important. However, I did go to business college a couple of winters after we got here, and that was the end of my formal education. Any other formal education has been probably what I did during my military time, and my connection with education since then's been probably in my association with Treasure Valley Community College. I was on the original board that started Treasure Valley Community College in 1962.

AC: So how did you feel when you had to make that decision to leave school, the first time?

JS: Really didn't bother me. I, he asked me, I finished one semester, or term in high school, junior high school, and when my dad asked me if I'd stay out of school and help him, why, it didn't bother me at all. 'Cause it wasn't uncommon to have that kind of think happen back in those days, especially if you were in a rural area, because there was, you were very valuable to your family if you could contribute and keep an operation going, because sometimes even two dollars a day, why, it was hard to pay a hired man. And when you speak of two dollars a day, we came to Ontario and ran into situations where people worked for a dollar a day. This was in the middle of the Depression yet, so we, I recall hay hands that followed the hay gatherers, hay crews around to harvest hay, and they, all they had was a bedroll or a, they didn't have sleeping bags in those days, just a bedroll, and they'd, if the farmers that they happened to be through next had a bunkhouse, they had a bunkhouse. Otherwise, they'd unroll next to a haystack and slept outside. They had one or two meals a day, or they furnished all their meals, depending on what the situation was. If you were out in the hinterlands farther out, why, there wasn't any place to go eat, why, your people that brought you there had to feed you.

Anyway, there was, it was kind of a situation in those days where we didn't have, for instance, imported, transient seasonal labor. The seasonal labor that did come around -- and this goes back to the days of people from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Okies was a common nickname -- we had Okies around here. We had a lot of people coming from the drylands of Nebraska, and not only dry land, irrigated land too, 'cause they were having a tough time in the Depression. Why, the people with the toughest times moved someplace else if they could. We never had people from the mining areas, for instance, come out here, because we don't know the situation that's affected people in the mining areas, in the hill country back in the East. The supposition is that those people were scared to leave 'cause they had no connections outside. But from Oklahoma, they moved into California in heavy droves. So the biggest outdoor, the migrant population in this area at that time, I think, was from Nebraska and the Ozarks. The transient labor that picked fruit -- and this was quite a heavy fruit country in those days -- most of the people were Caucasian people, and they lived just like any transient laborers, in chicken houses or camped along the river and bathed once in a while, whether they needed it or not. And our towns here were cow towns, really, all towns here were year-round livestock and raising the livestock and the shipping and marketing. And Ontario became a rail center here because we had the Oregon Short Line, had a railroad that went over toward Burns, so we had rail transportation between Burns and here. So when it got to Burns from here, then the livestock was transferred off to other parts, shipped to other markets. The vegetable growers in this area were mostly Japanese, and so we lived kind of a different life than the Caucasian people around us. Most of those people had cows to milk, and that was kind of important to their, an important part of their income, was the cream checks every two weeks. So onion and potato growers kind of lived hand to mouth, hoping that you had a, some kind of a profit at the end of the year. Those days, you didn't do, you didn't do it by book work. You looked at the bank account at the end of the year, or what you had buried, and if you had some left, why, you had a good year. Even we had chickens and pigs; we raised a few of those and had somebody, one of our white neighbors, come and help us process the meat. But as far as my education is concerned, I didn't miss it at the time, but I can see where life was maybe a little bit harder to adjust for me because of lack of a social education.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AC: You had mentioned that you had to take vegetables into town to sell at the farmers' market. How was that?

JS: Well, the way our operation went, my dad probably went to -- this was a wholesale market down on Tenth and Belmont, I think it was -- he would take vegetables during season. And then sometimes during the off season, why, some of those people would, down in Lake Labish or somewhere, would have, they'd bring up some vegetables to our place out in Carver, and we repacked 'em and we'd take 'em down to sit in the market. I think the second year that I was out of school, I had to cheat a little bit to get my driver's license, I think, about a year, 'cause I think some record that I, I got my driver's license in 1933 -- it's in my driver's license record, in fact, it's on my driver's license, I think, the first year I got my license, 1933. Well, I wasn't old, quite old enough to be legal then. But I went to market, and I guess it's an indication of how much trust my dad had in me and how tough times were, because the first year I was out of school I stayed home and he went to market. During the season he'd get up at one o'clock in the morning or something, we'd be down at the market and he'd sit around and sometimes he'd sell stuff to some brokers'd buy outside the market, before the market opened. Otherwise you waited 'til you got inside, and we had a stall alongside a number of local growers there. I guess that's how I became acquainted with a number of the Chinese growers and a number of the Japanese growers, the Iidas and the Onos and the Yamaguchis and those folks, from Vancouver, and some of the folks from Columbia Slough and Milwaukie, and some who trucked vegetables from the North Dalles or Dallesport and Hood River into the Portland market. Now this was, this is not, not retail. This was a wholesale, so we sold to retailers, Piggly Wiggly, Pacific Fruit, any, a number of those operations.

So I was exposed to this when I wasn't really ready, you know? Just imagine sending a fourteen or fifteen year old kid today to deal with those sharpies down in the wholesale market. And like my dad used to tell me, "Well now, if it's Pacific Fruit be really careful because you might not get what you thought you were going to get, if you consign for anything. Sell for cash," because sometimes market was so tough that I'd come home with less money in my pocket than I went to town with, because I ate some of it and I didn't sell hardly anything, so I left produce on consignment. But I was always treated fairly. I think the fellows would look at me and felt sorry for me, so I was treated quite good. Anyways, that's how I, that's the marketplace I went to. I was not involved -- I remember as a kid, the Yam Hill market, over on West side, when Fred Meyer's was just a little bakery and meat shop across the street from some of those stalls there on Yam Hill, and... where'd we start this, on my education process? Maybe we better hold off for a while, see where we are and get reorganized.


JS: Yes, the folks from Vancouver that came in, had stalls alongside of me, and from Milwaukie, they had their -- well, from Vancouver they had a lot of vegetable crops, green vegetable crops that they'd bunch. And there were quite a few Chinese in there too, so when the, it was kind of interesting because it was during the period of Japan invading Manchuria. So the Chinese community and the Japanese community really had their problems getting along with each other, but as far as farmers were concerned, well, it didn't seem like it bothered associations. And so the folks that, there were a number of, number of... [phone rings]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AC: So the, so even though there was the, Japan had invaded China, there was no real, amongst the farmers at least --

JS: No animosity.

AC: No animosity? You got along just fine?

JS: The way I recall, well, I can remember my dad talking about it. Course, my dad and his friends used to talk about a lot of things about that because they're all citizens of Japan, unable to get American citizenship. So I, me being the oldest son, I used to be hangin' around him a lot, I suppose, and he'd take me places, so I'd listen, sit there and listen to a couple old men talk. Even when my dad and mom were talking, I suppose, I gathered that there, there wasn't that much animosity down at the truck gardeners' level.

AC: What kinds of things did your dad talk about?

JS: Well, my dad was a kind of leader amongst the Fukushima people in Portland, so our acquaintances were really not too high in society. One of our friends worked for Furuya in Portland, and of course we lived on the Clackamas River, which was a, had some nice picnic area on it, and as long as our landlord tolerated, why, we'd use the beach along the river and Teikoku, Furuya, I don't know how many groups came out there to have their, have a picnic sometimes. So a number of people that we wouldn't, I wouldn't have otherwise known, I knew because of my dad's association with people. So my dad, I've sat and, I've gone with my dad on days he's gone to market, and he might be taking something to Azuma's or Azumano's or Starfish Market or Teikoku and Furuya, he'd deliver gobo and I forget what else. He'd sell some things. I think under his load of vegetables he probably had a jug or two of sake to sell somebody too. I think that wasn't an uncommon thing. Sometimes one load, one or two jugs of sake worth more than the vegetables on the truck. This kind of thing, I don't know, I guess it's safe to repeat anymore because it's a thing of the times. So this, there was, this was a level that if you grew very much vegetables you had to go this route, to the wholesale markets, unless you had a direct connection with Pacific Fruit or one of those, Hudson Duncan or some group like that. And a lot of the people, like in, that grew summer vegetables, why, they wouldn't have a stall in the same line as I was in. They would have a stall over, one stall over, and they were for seasonal. You could just buy, you could buy a daily, you pay so much every day that you went to market, for rental. I paid a monthly rental, I think. This, it was a good marketing system. It was kind of, in a way you got to deal directly with the buyer, instead of having to have a consignee who was your agent selling for you. So it was a nice system.

But I think, when I look back on those years, I think that I had a hard time adjusting into society in general, because I'd be a little too cocky sometimes and not, I suppose I'd be around too many adults and try to act like an adult when I was still a kid yet. And this doesn't go too well sometimes, but you don't realize it didn't go too well until afterwards. But I grew up that way, and I used, when I quit school, we used to go, have to walk up to Carver to catch a school bus to Oregon City, so I, all the kids I went to school with, all of a sudden they were just walkin' by. And I'd wave at 'em; I'd be out in the field working, cultivating behind a horse or something. So I missed that part, several years of my life that way. When I got back, well, when I came to business college in Boise, when I, I was a little backward yet. I guess in that area I never really did catch up. So when I became an adult, why, I probably recognized what had happened. I've always been a little self-conscious, along with being a little adventurous too. See, we grew up out there where it was mostly Caucasian people and this, one of the important things to my life, I suppose, that formed an important part of my background, is the fact that my aspects on a lot of these situations and problems are formed from a different kind of thinking than those of people who grew up in a totally Japanese community. For instance, my wife and I have, she grew up in a society up in Bellevue, Washington, and her way of looking at things is probably different than mine. Of course, after fifty-seven years we've adjusted, but... when you're in a total white community and all, all the people, in those days always white, we were the "Jap people," "Jap neighbors," whatever -- not derogatory, but that's the way it was. So we had to find our own way, and I think in small town America, thousands and thousands of families like ours adjusted to living in that kind of situation. But it was hard on the folks because... we were fortunate that we only lived fifteen miles from Portland and my dad had a lot of associations with people, so we had, we were able to associate with quite a few Japanese people. But if you lived another twenty, thirty miles out where you, it wasn't that easy to get to town, you had to live a life, and it had to be especially hard on a lot of Issei people. Most of our mothers didn't learn to speak English, and a lot of our dads, we don't know how we, how they ever, when you think back about it, you don't know how they ever got by from what little they knew. Because when I think back about the days when I listened to my dad talkin' to Caucasian people, doing business with them, it's a wonder they understood each other, but they seemed to. But in those days, we had groups like what they call tanomoshi, and I don't know whether you've ever heard of tanomoshi, but you ask any, most Nisei know about this. These kind of, you formed your own credit associations. A group of people got together and they put in so much money, just like an investment club, and then each month they would, say somebody wanted to bid on that money, he'd bid the interest. So every month somebody would, most months anyway at least, somebody would be bidding in that money. And I used to see my dad with a whole wad of cash, and I never knew what it, where it came from. But it was money that came out of the system, so if you were, you belonged to the club and you were drawing, there was so much interest being paid, why, there were people who didn't have to borrow, came out ahead all the time. It was just like any other financial group. But I can remember my dad, I think, one time belonged at least three tanomoshi groups. So if you could pay it back, it worked good; you didn't get thrown out then. But you bid your rate of interest you're willing to pay, for whatever term you wanted, I don't know whether it was a month at a time or whether... I forget. I don't know the terms anymore. But that was the only credit, lots of times, that our people could get.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AC: So, again, because you couldn't go through the normal banking system you had to go, you had these tanomoshis which people would borrow money from to finance whatever business ventures or things that they wanted.

JS: Yeah.

AC: You also mentioned that people buried money. Is that how they saved money? They actually buried money in their, in the ground?

JS: Well, I can't prove that, any part of that statement, because that was a story that's been brought down in American society from the day I can remember anything, that people buried, put it in cans and buried it out in their, and then sometimes they'd forget where they buried it or somebody'd die and they hadn't told anybody where they left it. I think this is part of, this is a fact of American life, though. I think people had money stuffed under their sheets or in their beds, and the house'd burn down and they'd lose all that money. These sound like a bunch of stories, but I think in essence there's quite a bit of truth to it. It kept, you didn't have, most people didn't have a bank account if you were out in the country, so if you need some money and you've, if you really were frugal and you wanted to live within your means -- you've seen comedies of this, I suppose, in the movies and things, and heard stories about people bringing it out of a coffee can in the cupboard, right? That was fact. That was fact.

AC: Is that how your parents, where your parents kept their money?

JS: I think, well, my dad, he even started a bank account for me. I had money in the bank in Carver. I don't know how much, but my dad was putting it in for me. And the bank went broke and I don't, he recovered some, but I don't know how much. But that was when Roosevelt shut the banks down, during the '30s. And those were tough times, because if you didn't have any money stowed away somewhere then you didn't have any, you couldn't eat, because people were scared to sell you anything on credit. I don't remember that, a lot of the tough situations that occurred then, but see, that was about the time I dropped out of school. That was part of the reason probably, because gee, you can't hire a man when you don't know whether you're gonna be able to pay him or not. A lot of things happened like that. Even happened today in some ways. But when you're operating on two dollars a day, a family could live comfortably. In those days, if you lived out in the country. And so people moved back and forth between the town and the country. They'd, people who lived in town would move out in the country where they had a little piece of ground they could raise some vegetables on, and then when they started doing well they'd move back to town. But when you can raise your own vegetables and some fruit and berries and milk a cow, slop some hogs and have some chickens, you can live pretty economically. And that was the way it was then. You didn't have to worry about your toilet pluggin' up because you, all you had to do was have a Sears-Roebuck catalog and you were alright. Where were we? You lost me. [Laughs] I got to start over now someplace.

AC: No, no, it's fine.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AC: No, it's... so you never went, so when you're growing up in Carver, you always had food on the table and you had an outhouse in the back, and life was actually pretty good then.

JS: Well, I wouldn't say it was good. Because you never had to go put a piece of cardboard in the bottom of your shoes before you get your soles, shoes resoled. 'Cause most of us out in the country had an outfit -- you could buy 'em from Sears-Roebuck or something -- and all, a little hammer and tacks and everything and have sole, I used to have soled shoes. But some people, well, in fact, my wife never did go barefooted. That's what she said. But going barefoot was a part of life for us, and we, this was, we could walk on a lot of different kinds of rocks and soils, and freshly mowed alfalfa and dried stubs of alfalfa patch, we could walk across it barefooted. Sometimes we had, when I was a kid and I'd, my dad'd be called to town -- one of his friends died or had some, somebody had an emergency, my dad being who he was, he had to help people sometimes. I can remember when he left me with a team of horses to finish plowing or something when I was, that was before I was even a teenager, I can remember unharnessing the horses myself and feeding them. And my dad came home, I told him what I'd done, he was really pleased with me. I used to walk around, we used to walk around horse manure with our bare feet; it was part of life. All you had to do was wash your feet before you come in the house. [Laughs] But we were, I think, I guess we were... in those days, amongst the people I knew, nobody really went hungry, like they claim to go hungry now, with all the food and overproduction we have in this nation and people still claim to go hungry. Well, maybe it's because they live in the city and they don't have access; nobody'll give 'em food because a produce merchant can't go 'round making a living giving this food away. Then if you can't give spoiled, you don't know whether it's spoiled or not, you can't give that away either because you're gonna get sued if anything goes wrong. That's a difference in our society today. But in those days people... for instance, single men, called 'em poor boulder bums in those days, they went around and offered to chop wood or do something if they could have something to eat. And I can remember my mother giving people something to eat. I don't know what, they were Caucasians and we ate Japanese food, so I don't know what she gave them. But she could, she'd make sandwiches and things like that. And they did, and they didn't leave until they felt like they'd given you some work in return. Any place you travel around out here in this part of the West, if you were traveling across country and broke down people would feed you, even put you up, and help you get on your way again. Today we're scared to even pick up a hitchhiker or anybody broken down on the highway. We just get on our phone and call 911 or call somebody if we can and get them help. You don't let them in your house because people will, somebody claims to be broken down along the house, along the highway and they come to your house, you let 'em in the house to use your phone and you get robbed. So these kind of situations are a fact of life around here. So this is, this is several, two, at least two generations away, you know? But that's the way it was. And I don't know whether there's much more to add to that part of my life or not. I think you, unless you're curious.

AC: I am curious.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AC: You said you went to the vegetable market as a fourteen-, fifteen-year-old and you're dealing with all these men, these sharpies, as you called 'em --

JS: I got worse words than that, but...

AC: Yeah. What did you learn from all that experience?

JS: Well, I don't know if I learned anything, really. Well, I'll take that back. I guess I learned more the facts of life of business, so I was ahead of my generation generally, at my age group, in my knowledge of what made the world go around. But I don't know whether that prepared me for life any better than those who went through school. I don't, I really don't think it did. But it was a fact of life; it was a part of, a necessary thing that happened in our lives. And as I've looked around through the years at people my age, most of them were able to finish high school at least, and I think it was, and it was good that they could because that forms a part of your background that somehow, you don't have to know everything, but if you, or you don't have to know a specialty. Up through the years it's been this way, anyway, that if you had a high school education you had enough basic knowledge of what makes society work and how to react to people. As compared to today that, if you don't learn something beyond social studies, why, it's a tough life. Of course, social studies weren't a fact of life much then when we, when I was growing up. ABCs were very important. Course, to an old fellow like me, they're still important, that you ought to learn some basic, have some basic knowledge, and I think our schools are going back to that. It should be to try to include more of that into your social studies. 'Cause my children grew up learning that social studies was a good way to make it through without really having come to any conclusions. [Laughs]

AC: Do you regret not finishing high school?

JS: Pardon me?

AC: Do you regret not finishing high school?

JS: Well, I can't say I regret it. I wish I could have. But I didn't take my GED either, after I came home from service; I could've taken it through the college here. But I served the first twelve years of the community college here, and apparently I was qualified that the professors of the college just gave me an Associate of Science -- I guess it was Associate; they have two, science and art -- Associate of Science to me. I have that. I don't know if it's worth anything; I never tried to use it. But I, in retrospect, I could say that, I could rationalize to say, well, I really haven't lost anything by not having finished school, because I learned how to contribute in other ways, and I've done really very well. I've not done very well financially, probably, but in doing what I wanted in the community I've really accomplished everything I wanted to in life in this respect. That's another area that we're getting into, because that's why, what I've, what has happened to me since I came out of the military is probably the most important, to me is the most important part of my life.

AC: So how do you spell your, your father and mother's names? Just out of curiosity.

JS: Last name?

AC: No, your, the first names, and last names.

JS: How do I spell them?

AC: No, who, what are, what were their names?

JS: My dad's name was Yoshikichi, my mother's name was Hiro Kurotsu. Kurotsu was her maiden name. I don't know much about my folks, really. My wife and I went to Japan once, and we saw some of her people down in Kumamoto, and I, we spent time together up in Fukushima, both on my mother's side and my dad's side. And for some reason I enjoyed it while I was there but I after I came home, why, I just didn't know how to bring those people into my life. And I think my wife would like to go back to Japan again, but she has hardly any relatives left. I have some, I have some relatives left, both on my mother's and my dad's side, but I don't, I don't particularly have a desire... I've always felt like my mission was here at home, and what I can do, like in sister city groups or things like that, I've never become involved in that. My main objective in life, after I came out of service, was use the record of the 442nd and my buddies that gave their all and to improve the situation of our people in this nation.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AC: You had mentioned that your father had a couple jugs of sake sometimes under the vegetables. Did you brew your own sake?

JS: Well yes, I'm sure he did. I used to see some copper tubing and things like that, paraphernalia set up in the upstairs of our house. And sometimes, I don't know, we lived in, when I was child we lived in several different places, but the longest period of time we spent was out at Carver. But I never did, I don't recall some of the things that happened, or I didn't see them. But some of the neighbors talked about my dad gettin' picked up, but I don't recall he ever had to spend time in jail. Maybe he had to pay some fines. There are kind of funny things that happened to our parents when they, especially, they'd get together -- and my folks were involved in quite a few social things -- they'd, it was kind of strange to watch the old men get drunk and act up. But as far as I know, it wasn't, maybe it wasn't as common as the, common as things that went on in this nation back in the East and Southeast, 'cause I've traveled quite a bit in the Southeast and read about the, all the hillbillies and how the hotrod, hotrodding cars started. Those were people outrunning the revenuers, and those were facts of life back there. Apparently there was a certain amount of still going on, 'cause as you travel in the hills of Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, you go through these series of mountains all the time, and every time you go over a hill and down into another valley you can just picture, before transportation became modern, and you read about the people that had to go by horseback or something, back into some of these communities, and you weren't welcome to stay after the sun went down. Why it was so: because every one of those little valleys over there contained a community of people, and whether it had a lot, quite a few people or just one or two families, it was a community. And they were pretty much protected, protective of their own group, and they didn't want to see any strangers after sundown. And because the things they did... making booze was one of 'em, that everybody did. I mean, that probably provided more income for some of those people than any other thing they did. So looking out for revenuers and all this was part of their lives. Although I have never seen a whiskey plant or a still, I'm sure that, in my own mind I'm sure this is the way it was, because they don't make any secrets about it. And when my wife and I have traveled in the South, even in this day, when people will tell you, "Now, you want to be careful when you cross into Alabama because if you're picked up there the police will... cop and jury and everything else." This probably is disappearing, but it could still be factual, once you get off the freeway in those states. And so... probably this has nothing to do with what my dad's experience was, but it was quite common. And the best, what you always would hope for, I would think, with the, those guys makin' their own didn't drink too much of their own before it was ready and then they'd have stomach troubles. Green sake or something, just like drinkin' too much green beer, I suppose. That was... I guess you could put it this way, that he tried everything he could make a dollar at.

So in growing vegetables, he tried something new once in a while. For instance, he was, we had great parsnips. We used to grow parsnips for quite a few years, and I guess he grew more parsnips than most people around there at that time in the early '30s, parsnips were just becoming a popular food. And it'd be, people used to eat things like Brussels sprouts; you don't hardly find people eating Brussels sprouts today, but around the Gresham area, Troutdale, in there, they used to grow lots of, people used to grow lots of Brussels sprouts. But my dad grew parsnips and he did well at it. Parsnips, gobo, those were some of the things he did well at. But other things, growing celery and lettuce and cauliflower, and we grew some berries. I remember we were even starting a currant patch the time we left there. We hadn't harvested any commercially yet, but... so that was, that was about the whole picture as far as I'm concerned, in those days.

AC: Well, you mentioned something that you'd, when you had gone to the farmers' market, you said you were brash, you were, tried, a little smarter than you thought you were. What kinds of stuff were you trying, did you try to do when you were, what kind of deals were you trying to cut with these buyers?

JS: I don't even like to talk about it. Because if I'd have had a handful of cash in my pocket I would've been alright, but I'm trying to, I'm just a kid with just a few bucks in my pocket. And I didn't get in any trouble, but I did some things that some people didn't approve of too highly. It wasn't crooked, it just was bad, bad, dumb things. So I don't, I don't even talk about those to my wife, so I don't want to discuss 'em here either. [Laughs]

AC: [Laughs] It's okay, I was just curious.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AC: So when did your father and mother come to the United States?

JS: Well, I don't recall when my dad first came. He was a soldier in the Japanese army at one time, and he came in, after the Japanese-Russian war was over. He didn't go to Vladivostok or any place up there, but I remember him talking to friends who did go up there and somebody telling him about the suffering they went through, the tough winter up there, the soldier. But my dad, I don't know whether he served out of Japan or not, but he's, I don't know how many years he served. He came here in, well, it must've been around, he came to Hawaii first, around, it must've been 1910 or afterwards. My mother, he went back to Japan and got married, and my mother arrived in Seattle sometime in 1916. And my dad came to Hawaii and then he came to Seattle, and I don't know, I don't have any, we don't have any record. And I have to tell you, that's one thing that my folks didn't talk much about, their experiences getting married or how they did it. We have pictures of them, but none, nothing really significant about how they went through the marriage process and everything. And we have a friend down in Milwaukie today who, she's almost, she's in her nineties, Mrs. Endo, and she comes from the same place -- there's a, what's his name, one Endo who is active in the Nisei Vets in Portland... anyway, it's his mother, and she came from the same place as my mother came from. We learned more about my mother's background from her than we ever did from my mother. My mother didn't like to talk about her background, so there's something that wasn't too pleasant, whether she was married once and ran away or, and came home... I just don't know.

Anyway, my mother is my mother. She raised the three of us. She had her first, she came in 1916, her first child was stillborn, would've been a daughter. Then my youngest brother, Paul, he was a twin and he, his twin died at an early age, six months or something like that, buried in Portland. So we just, we don't have any history of our folks. We know where, at least my wife and I have been to, I think, her family's grave plots and my mother's and my dad's cemeteries where the family members are buried. We tried to inquire when we were in Japan about our grandparents and stuff; nobody, either didn't want to talk about it or didn't have any information. I have a, apparently I had an uncle who went to Peru, and we never saw or heard of him, but we heard once from one of his, who would, somebody who would be my cousin or my nephew, from Peru, and he wrote us a letter and we responded and never heard from him again. And maybe when we went to Japan, maybe I didn't do things right 'cause things kind of died off again, so we haven't had any communication. And my wife's people are, she doesn't hardly have any. So neither one of us have any communication with our... but, now I don't know whether this is wrong or right for us to feel this way, but it doesn't bother us, because if some people want to be associated with their background clear to the pilgrims and Revolutionary War, well that's fine, but we can't because the system in Japan wasn't that good. If you were on the wrong side of a losing team they burned all your records, apparently. That is the way I understand it, and I don't know. You probably know, having lived in Hawaii, probably know about what goes on in that kind of respect than I. As far as I'm concerned with my life, I just feel like whatever my parents or grandparents, they gave me what they gave me, and beyond that, there's no point in me trying to figure out what they did or how many horse thieves or anything, because I will be judged by the Lord on what I've done. And that's why I'm, my life has, since World War II, has been what I've made of it. And so that's why I consider this part the most important. You like to hear about everything that happened... [Laughs]

AC: We're gonna get to it. We're gonna get to it.

JS: Alright, fine.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AC: You mentioned something, though, that piqued my curiosity. What do you feel that your parents gave to you?

JS: Well, that is the same things as probably you'll hear from all Nisei, from practically all Nisei, those things, those words that they use, they'll apply to me and they'll apply to my wife, and we're all different kinds of people, but the, basically, one of the strong things in our, that have kept our families and our people in, in a good place in society, is the things that were taught to us by our parents. You work hard, you're honest, you obey the laws, if you get in trouble in school you're gonna be beat twice as much when you get home... No, white people went through this too, so nothing different there. But when we look at society today and see what, everybody is entitled to their own opinions, they can speak up as much as they want... today's society, even religious groups feel that because of their way of thinking they're above the law, and this is, I don't feel like this, even though I may be a Christian in my fellowship and beliefs. Why, that doesn't mean, really doesn't mean as much to me as it would to a lot of people, because people, when they believe their way of looking at, of getting close to God, or whether you're a Buddhist or whatever, I feel like a lot of people, they're gonna end up in the same place anyway and it's gonna be on your own record, how you're gonna end up. So what I've done, I have no worry about the, about where I'm gonna be in the future, what my spirit, however my spirit and my body gonna separate and go different directions, and how I'm gonna be looked at, that's no concern of mine because my concern is how I'm gonna create the record today. And some of the things I do today I'm not too proud of, but part of what you are.

AC: So how did you feel having to move from Carver all the way to Ontario?

JS: Well, like I say, I was still a kid, you know? And I guess it was kind of an adventure. When you think... I really don't know how it felt, anymore. But we knew what the situation was. It wasn't a good future for us on that farm. The farm was washing away. And my dad was -- this is 1934 -- he was about fifty years old, I imagine, and it's a, you've got three grown kids and very little cash money. You cashed in everything you owned and leave, I don't know how much money he had when he came here, whether he had a hundred and fifty dollars or two hundred dollars or what. I know that we were, he didn't have very much savings. Trying to hold a family together gets kind of tough too, 'cause like me, had a teenager like me to put up with. Why, I just, see, I'd been out of school quite a while, and while the other kids were going to school I was working. And so I'm looking at my future in a different light than they are. I mean, I'm looking like this is, "Gee, I've been out of school for four years, and I haven't got anything. I still don't have a car." And my dad, the Japanese system was that, if you're a farmer especially, the oldest son got everything. Well then, I got, I get to thinking, "Well gee, what's all of nothing?" It's just kind of, probably the frustrations in my younger days. I was twenty-three when I volunteered for service, when Uncle Sam asked for one-year volunteers. And there was a song called "Goodbye Dear, I'll Be Back in a Year." Most people your age have never heard of it, but it was a song then. And so I didn't tell him I was gonna volunteer; I just did. Then he was, he's upset about it, but my brother Abe had graduated from high school, and so it wasn't that bad. And so when the time came, why, then he could tell his neighbors, "My son volunteered for service." It was kind of a good thing in those days, because patriotism was such a part of your lives. Up until the time things were getting hot, why, if you weren't a soldier, you're either too lazy to work or too dumb. That's why you became a soldier, back in the '20s and '30s when times were tough. Some joined, became, joined, enlisted in the services, or else they joined the CCCs, which was a very important part of our society at that time, 'cause that bailed a lot of people out, young people didn't have any place to go. Young men joined the Three C's and they went all over the nation doing government work, but it was good work that they did. And so I guess, in a way, I wasn't just patriotic; this was kind of a way out for me, to see if I could get some exposure to some other ways of life.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AC: What made you decide to choose the military versus the CCC?

JS: I'm sorry?

AC: What made you decide to choose the military instead of joining the Conservation Corps?

JS: I don't think they'd have taken me. And I'm not sure of this, but I don't know. The Conservation Corps was, there wasn't really a future in it, except it gave you a chance, well, first, it gave you a chance to get away from home and earn something so you wouldn't be a load on your family, or maybe you even, I don't know what they got, thirty dollars a month or something like that, but it was, a few dollars meant a lot in people's lives in those days. And if you're young and you're looking for something to do, they would get to go to town on Saturday nights and things like that, with a little, they have a little spending money. And it was mostly outdoor work, so it was a healthy way. And a lot of them were sent a long ways from home. They'd never been away from home. Most young people in those days hadn't been very far away from home. That's the way life was. So I had no interest. Well, in fact, this is an area where people like myself were trying to get somewheres, wanted to be something or get somewheres in American society but didn't know how to get there because our folks were restricted in their activities and because they couldn't even apply for citizenship. Why, naturally they were tied together, so Japanese were always looking for their own people. And so our home life was, we spoke Japanese at home; soon as we got out of the house, why, we're speaking English. And I, my brothers and I, fortunately we had neighbor girls who taught us how to speak English at an early age, so we were confident when we started school. Even in those days, why, even a lot of Caucasian people, depending on where their folks came from, couldn't speak English when they started school. Like we had a friend from down in Salem, he was a Caucasian, came over here and he was in the produce business, but his folks were German, lived in the Ukraine, I think, and he was, when he started first grade he couldn't speak English. So there are all kinds of things like that, that we were brought together through school systems, all groups, and we didn't have to worry about what was gonna be our language. I mean, I knew we were gonna, everyone's gonna speak English. If you want to learn French or Japanese or Spanish or anything else like that, that's another class, but English was our language. And of course, that's why a lot of us feel like that's the way it should be today.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AC: When you came to school, were you like the only Japanese students in school?

JS: Well, generally. At Carver we had, we took eight grades at Carver school. In the recent addition of the Clackamas County Historical Society, they had a book on it, on the old A's. And in that book there's two pictures, and my friend from Milwaukie sent me this copy, there's two pictures of Carver Grade School in there, two classes, and I'm in both those pictures. [Laughs] Four years apart, one was when I was a first grader and one was as a fifth grader. The fifth grade, I was in the big room, they called it. We had two classrooms of four, four classes in each room, then we had a dividing, a sliding, folding door between the two rooms. Then it became an auditorium, when we wanted to have a Christmas program, things like that. Now, I got along with this one problem that I had a habit of mouthin' off. I got, I was the smartest kid in the class all the time, through the eight grades. I think I was. [Laughs] But I never was, some teachers, I never their pet because I used to mouth off and God, I had a, my last teacher, she was a good teacher, but she used to swat me with a ruler sometime, across my hands or slap me across my ears. But she taught me something, that there's a limit to how much you oughta open your mouth. And so I learned, that's kind of the way I grew up in life, I think. I'd have to, I'd even argue in my family and everything, and they put up with me, but I guess, that's, I guess it's not an uncommon thing because maybe your kids inherit a certain amount of that. We have three kids and they're all different. Some of 'em, you could slap 'em all day and you'd do nothing, but the other ones, why, they fight you back and... and fortunately we end up with three kids that love us. They call us every week, now everybody calls us once a week at least, to see if we made it through another week alright. But we have, our family, my family -- and I'm just talking about my own family now -- there's lots of love in the family, and we just are fortunate that way.

But as the only Japanese family in a community, it... and these people are kind of backwards, you know. We only lived fifteen miles from Portland, but there was old-growth timber out there. There were logging trucks, they were logging right around us. I can remember going to bed at night and looking out the window, seeing a big forest fire across the road from us. And we had little logging trucks, Fords and Chevys and stuff like that, haul one log at a time to Milwaukie. And they used to slide 'em down, have, they'd build wooden slides off the hills and slide the logs down to the loading ramp, and everything was loaded by PVs, tools, bars. But it was quite an interesting area that we lived in, on the road to [inaudible]. It was a narrow two-lane road, but it was a good road, and the life was good out there and the people were, the neighbors were just as good as, I think just as good as they could be, being as close as they could get to us, because socially, why, we didn't have any social life with them. But we can get, I mean, we can go there, to some neighbor lady. We'd go to play there with kids, and she'd make us some, she just got some bread out of the oven, make us hot jelly and peanut butter sandwiches and stuff like that, and a glass of milk. We used to just have good times with the kids. But then, the problem in those days was once the kids got out of high school there was no more of this social life together, because then the parents were worried about -- kids fool around socially at that age, right? That was a no-no, even amongst our own people, I think. And then amongst our own people, why, it was kind of a situation where it was kind of rough in a lot of those communities 'cause if you asked a girl for more than one date her parents gonna want to know what you're doing round there. And this is in the Portland area. You go to different parts of Portland, you'll find different situations. But, like the Gresham, Troutdale area, it was one of 'em that was a tough area too. But when we lived out here, gee, if you wanted a date round here I might have to go forty miles to pick up a date, 'cause we didn't, we didn't... interracially. That was, that's why all the, a lot of, my generation of people are not very social, I think, on account of that. They're just amongst their own people. So we have, I got veterans of the 442nd live around here, who don't associate with their Caucasian friends. They live right there and you see 'em in business and maybe some of the women will join the women's clubs or vegetable, garden clubs, things like that, or they'll see their kids, other kids in 4-H projects and something like that. But other than that, they just don't associate. And that, a lot of that is because our people were generally told to keep quiet and listen, our generation was. This is one of the weaknesses of the Japanese people, that there are those of us who mouth off without any problem and those who will never say anything, and they can, they're not able to. They didn't learn how to talk. As opposed to, say, the LDS, man, they teach their kids to talk. And they, but some of 'em may not be as good as the others, but they can all talk. And this is, 'cause a lot of people, we're prejudiced just like any other group, and nobody can ever say that, that we're not prejudiced, because we are. But amongst our people, why, those are who accept things in society the way they are and those who don't accept it. But there you have it. You know, the way our people were pictured too, when war came along, they made all kinds of funny faces and cartoons and everything. I don't know hardly anybody mentions it now, but those days they were talking about Japanese being two-faced. Well, I never realized how true this was, and the manner in which it has to apply, until my wife and I went to Japan. Have you been to Japan?

AC: No, I haven't.

JS: Well, even some parts of Honolulu, where houses are just right close together, some of the housing districts in there that you can spit in each other's windows practically. And you go to Japan, it's all over in these smaller communities, even in substantial, larger communities, they're not very, they're not very, they're not industrial cities, but there're a lot of people living there. And my gosh, my house wall is here and the next house wall is right there, and when I say I can, you can spit in each other's windows, if you had a chaw of tobacco you could. But, and anyway, to live that close to each other and to get along with each other, and everybody keeps everything spic and span, you keep all the weeds cleaned up, no junk laying around in between the homes -- everybody doesn't work on the same level -- but to live that close and see each other 365 days a year, you got to have your, you got to be chewing on your tongue, to keep your, keep from having an argument about this or that. Now, in this country, all that means is trouble, but in Japan they get along easier that way. And when I told my wife, "My gosh, when they say people are two-faced here, I can see what they, it could apply real good," because you're gonna smile at your neighbor, but you're gonna hate what he's not doing or what he is doing. So that's part of life.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AC: So what year did you join the service?

JS: 1941.

AC: So 1941 that you joined.

JS: I picked my time. I went to the recruiter and I said, "I'd like to go in in July." So I went after the Fourth of July. In those days, why, you had to be 1-A, if you're gonna volunteer. I don't know if you were, when you were drafted, whether you could be drafted 1-A or 1-B or something like that. But generally they wanted 1-A, and so I gone under training with a bunch of guys here in Ontario, went to Portland. When my dad told the neighbors, why, we had a bunch of Japanese families here at the city park, had a watermelon feed. And some of those other guys were going [inaudible], you could see what was going on. One of 'em tried to take all my money away from poker, 'cause these Japanese have a habit of giving you an envelope. Darn, first thing I know I'm getting in a little poker game and geez, I'm losing every hand. I can't figure that out. That god dang guy was a card shark. [Laughs] He wanted me to keep playing, and finally I wised up and I decided, this is no good, I won't have any money left. Then we went to Portland, and that's were our reception center was. We, some of the fellows went out on a 2 the next day 'cause they didn't pass, and you get a nice send-off from home and then you don't make it, you got to come home. I was especially worried about that, but I had no trouble passing. I went from, went from Portland to, then we went up to Fort Lewis, Washington, and we were processed out of Fort Lewis to... I don't know what you call it. One of 'em was my reception center, anyway, and the other one, Fort Lewis, we were processed to go someplace. I don't know who, I don't know how they split us up, but I went with a bunch to Camp Grant, Illinois, which is near, that's near Billois, Wisconsin. It's Rockford, Rockford is the place where I went to. And in those days it was four months training, seventeen weeks of training, and it was all, it was all, we all trained together for seventeen weeks. Now the service says you go so many weeks and you learn basic military training, and then you go into specialized areas. In those days you didn't do that. So went, got our twenty-one dollars a month and we survived for four months. And then it was still peacetime, so we were given options of where we wanted to be assigned to. They gave us two choices. You could pick your first two choices, and I don't think they named the post. You had to be familiar with where you wanted to go, I guess. Well, I asked for Gallant Field in Boise, Idaho. It was a small post then, but I came here, and I was here for two months, I think, until right after Thanksgiving. Then I got orders to ship out to go overseas, and so I was with a delegation ship to San Francisco and we were put on Angel Island. I don't know whether you know where Angel Island is or not. Just about there, beyond the prison island. We spent, I think until December 6th.

On December 6th they put us on a ferry, brought us back to shore and took us to, trucked us over to a place called Fort Mason, and that was the embarkation point. And so on the afternoon of December 6th we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, and I remember, I don't know why this figure still sticks in my mind, but it's five o'clock on Saturday afternoon, we're going under the Golden Gate, headed for Manila. Well, our orders were Manila, first go to Hawaii, and it was a three-week trip to Manila, but I forget how many days it was to Hawaii. And we were gonna get off and have some exercises or training, just to keep us occupied maybe. I don't know how much additional training they would've given us there, but we were on a ship, USS President Grant. Anyway, it was a President Line ship, and the army had taken 'em over, and I was on the Grant. And I think we were the slowest ship out on the Pacific, because we were attacked the next day at Pearl Harbor. I think it was about noon the came -- we were out on the ship, and kind of a funny situation too, I'm, only about one or two Japanese on that whole ship, but we weren't, nothing was, nobody was prepared for war, either mentally or physically. I mean, we had two-and-a-halfs tied on deck, roped down, I think they were all two-and-a-halfs, and the ship was then adapted to being a military transport. And we slept down in the, I don't know how close to the bottom was. It was pretty bad; we weren't clear to the bottom 'cause in the, at the bottom there was, the kitchen was down there, and so the smell was constantly coming, the kitchen, from there. But, so on December 7th we were out there wallowing around, and I don't know whether we were doing, going either direction. But the word was, it finally came, I guess, that all the ships were supposed to head for the nearest destination. Monday morning we're back in port in San Francisco. But I remember December 7th. The ocean was rough and the sergeant, they had non-coms in charge of groups, so sergeant wanted me to go, wanted to know if I can go up on a crow's nest, watch for submarines. I don't know if they wanted throw me overboard or what, but I said, "I'm too sick. I can't go up there." But doesn't that sound kind of stupid, though, having guys up there? We didn't even know what a periscope looked like. I'm supposed to try to spot 'em, I guess. Anyway, so our orders read to report to General MacArthur in Manila on a certain date, three weeks from the time we departed. So that was my experience overseas, as far as I ever got.

So we came back into... I think four days' quarantine, tied up in San Francisco. I remember getting even, getting a pass or two while we were tied up there, and one of my friends from Emmet, just a town over here, he had been drafted earlier in the year, so he was in Port, Fort San Francisco. Anyway, he had, I don't know where he, where his first station was, but they started a language school and that first language school was at, in California. There used to be a little airport there, Quonset-type huts there, and they became their quarters, and that was the start of the language school. But I remember meeting him, and we went out a few times, had dates with some of the girls that he'd met. And of course, Japantown was boarded up then, so people didn't know what they were gonna do and it was a pretty tough time. But I've, I listened to the Rose Bowl game -- it was a transplanted. That's the only time a Rose Bowl game hadn't been played in the Rose Bowl. It was, it moved over to Duke, I think, in Durham, North Carolina. Duke and Oregon State played the Rose Bowl that year. So we listened in the day room or something there on Angel Island. Interesting things can happen in a place like that. That's all it was, just a place for guys to live and eat and sleep until they got shipped out. And I was fortunate enough on that Christmas to get a weekend pass, so another fellow and I, a big Caucasian fellow and I, he was a good cook, and anyway, he and I ended up with, billeting with a family who was, this Japanese kid that lived, came from San Francisco, Louie. He was on KP and he couldn't get loose, so we filled in for him, not to see his folks, but to see his Caucasian family, this lady and two daughters. So we spent Christmas with that family, so I had some good times there, despite the fact that it was terrible times for the Japanese civilians.

We came back on the post on, after the, our weekend pass and heard about the food poisoning. Some turkey had gotten contaminated, and all this garrison was was just a place to, like I say, eat and sleep. I don't know how many thousand soldiers were there, but I don't recall whether -- there was east and west garrison -- I don't remember whether it was both garrisons or just one garrison, but they had food poisoning. And I mean, the latrine, that latrine must've been a block long, almost, every one of 'em stopped, plugged, toilets plugged up. And they said you look out there on the beach at night, you can see all the guys lined up on the beach takin' a crap, vomiting or whatever. If you never been food poisoned you don't know how bad it is, but I have, and I know how it is. But we stayed there until the, it was later January or somewhere. I ended up on a troop train going to, back to Fort Lewis, and in Fort Lewis I was assigned to a tank destroyer battalion, as a medic on there. I was given a choice what I wanted to do, even though it was after Pearl Harbor, and I was treated fairly all the time. And everyone, the guys on the post at Fort Lewis, all the Nisei, were taken off duty and they moved over to a tent city somewhere. I don't know whereabouts in Fort Lewis it is, but they, they were doing nothing. But they could get passes to go to Tacoma or wherever.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

JS: I was in a tank destroyer battalion until we, I got pulled off there after a couple of months. Then the whole, they made a troop train of Nisei soldiers, and they sent us all inland. And we ended up in Midwest, various military posts in the Midwest, and I was one of those who ended up at Fort Harrison, Indiana, which is outside of Indianapolis. I was medic in the station hospital. I got some more schooling there. I went to medical technician school. I learned how to take care of, or help take care of medical and surgical, psychiatric patients and everything. So I, and I spent a year and a half there. And then, meanwhile, I'm volunteering all the time, trying to get in a combat unit. This is before the 442nd was being formed. But the guys around me, no Nisei ever got shipped out. I was, they were with a quartermaster. The largest share of the Nisei on that post were quartermaster and service companies, I think. I forget, there were quite a delegation of us in the station hospital. But in 1943 order came that eighty of us who wanted to volunteer for the 442nd could. Twenty-six of us went, left Fort Harrison, most of them from quartermaster or service companies. And I joined that group, and we ended up in Mississippi on the first day of August, I think, or the 31st of July of '43. The regiment, the 442nd had just finished their garrison training, they were ready to go out on field trips, and the temperature was about a hundred degrees and the humidity, I think, was about the same. I almost, I thought I was gonna die the first week I was down there. If you never, you've never experienced what a, what it is to be without water discipline, it's quite an experience, 'cause when, I guess we'd been there about a week and we were going on an overnight bivouac, and not very far out, maybe six, seven miles -- but that's about a, well, I think a two to three hour march -- and I was so thirsty on the, I think on the first break, or by the time the second break came along, I'd drunk all my canteen full of water, and I just couldn't hardly stand it. I got, when we got to our bivouac area, they put up blister bags and treat the water, so you're about an hour before you get any water to drink. And I had drunk all mine up and I'm beggin' for water. You heard of the Masaoka family, Mike Masaoka, who ran the, Mike was one of the people who moved to have the government allow Nisei to serve. But anyway, one of his brothers, Ike, was in the medics, and Ike gave me his water. I just, I think with about two gulps I drank a quart of water down. And I made it, but that is just an example of how bad it can be. Now, after I'd been, I spent a year and a half in this MP and I don't know how many times we'd been on marches, full field packs and twenty-five mile marches, I could make a twenty-five mile march in the summertime without even taking a drink of water, after I'd been there a year.

But that was, that's how I ended up in Mississippi. And that is the most important part of my service time. I think everything, so much of my life kind of builds up to a certain point, and in my, all my military time, that time was the most important, meaningful time I ever had in service. And the guys that came from Hawaii and all the guys that I met in the regiment while we were training, we weren't together very long really, in a matter of how long of your life a period is, and so I, the guys that went overseas, the main combat team, went over, left Camp Shelby in, I think, I believe it was late January. Yeah, something like that, because they went, I went with them to, I think it was Camp Mead, Maryland, as the medic on the troop train. But the training we went through and all the -- and the training in Mississippi is pretty rough, too. It wasn't as bad as Louisiana, but it was pretty rough. And the friends we made, and of course, we're all the same kind of people there. I mean, we're all rice burners, and we could, we'd trade, 69th Division, we'd, the cooks would, they'd trade them big loaves of cheese for bags of rice. They'd give us their rice and give 'em all their cheese and stuff like that. But, and then of course, this was the outfit I lived with and lost friends, made friends and lost friends. And so to this day, I have no, I have no communication with any of the people I trained with in any other time I was in service. I've looked for them after I came out of service and never could find people, Idaho and up in some boonies out in Washington or Oregon, never could find most of 'em. And in the mainland medics, I don't get together with 'em. I get together with some now since I joined the Nisei Vets in Seattle, but most of the medics I get together are from Hawaii, and they're not from the outer islands, they're from Oahu, because they're close enough they can get together. But other islands, you have to look specific people up, and some of 'em are, most of 'em are gone now. Like on Kauai, why, they would get up, land up there at Lihue and, when I first went there in '64 there's no, hardly any motels up there except the real fancy one where they made the movies and stuff like that, but I had one buddy up there. He saved up his coffee hours waitin', so when I got there, why, he's saved all the time, he's accumulated his coffee hours, he just took off from work and spent with me and my family. We went all over Kauai. Kauai wasn't, was kind of primitive yet, and the windward side, why, there wasn't much developed yet. In fact, we didn't even go that way. We went the other way, up on top of the mountain, up to, what's that, the Waimea River, where that grotto is where they sing the wedding song?

AC: Hanalei.

JS: My kids still sing that wedding song. They sing the wedding song at weddings, and... course, my kids all play, are a little bit musical, and so we just have a great time. But anyway, that's all my, that's the big thing in my life in the military.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AC: Do you --

JS: When I -- go ahead.

AC: Do you regret not going to combat?

JS: I did at the time, because your buddies you trained with, you're trained to die, or give your life if necessary, and I suppose the thing you miss is a number of guys did. And various phases, I was, when the regiment went overseas and left the 1st, broke up the 1st Battalion, they were allowed up to twenty percent over strength in any of the units, so all the, except for the handful of people that left their cadre men to form the 171st Special Training Battalion, all the rest of 'em were assigned to other units of the regiment, different battalions or different companies. And then when they got over there, the 100th joined -- the 100th had been overseas for quite a while at that time -- they became the 1st Battalion. Every, every training group that we sent over was another training experience for we cadre men. So if you trained three groups, why, you went through all the basic training and rough times. Medics were trained to be litter bearers, give aid with machine gun bullets flyin' around you. It's, I guess... we'd go on night problems and come back to the hotel and somebody's havin' mochi, and so we'd fix up mochi and have a party. One time even our medic's captain joined us. So we'd have a party and drink beer and have a good time, and one morning I woke up from one of those parties and I couldn't stand up. I had an inner ear problem, middle ear problem or something. I spent in the hospital a week before that, before the regiment was over, I think. But anyway, we got, I guess there's something about training for combat that makes you really close together. Today it's no different. That part of the fellowship of people ready to give their lives for their country is something that, it's just like if you lost somebody in your family. I can't tell you how, I know how you feel. 'Cause I don't know how you feel. Well, that's the way a lot of people have never really tried to understand even, how people in the military feel, the comradeship that you have when you're a part of a group going overseas. Like today, something going on all the time now, you know? So that's why, that's why I guess that period of time became -- it's probably more important to me, when I go to Hawaii to see those guys, than it is for them to see me, because they see each other all the time. Once in a while the mainland guys come along. If they like it, why, you get along good; if they don't, they don't like it, they'll show it. You can go home. But Hawaii guys are really good people. And of course, this is quite an experience for us because it's automatic when we go over there and we go to a hotel, some, the haoles, they don't get treated quite as good as we do. We get the best rooms. And I don't necessarily think that's right, but that's the way it is. When you got a majority of people, somebody's gonna get on the short end.

But anyway, I have, this is the area of my life around which I built a future. So financially I never became the success that I ought to be, 'cause in the first place, I retired, twenty-six years ago I retired. Is it twenty-six? I'm eighty-six. No, twenty-one. I retired at sixty-five. And they were telling us about the time I retired, if you look, you better have a couple hundred thousand or something like that in the bank. Well, I didn't cut my living down enough, so I kept spending into the principal. Well, I got a little bit left. I got a little bit of cash left and a little bit of life, so that's where I am know. But it's been, in this period of time, most of my, I guess I've been motivated, other than my businesses, to see what I could do in public life to make the situation better for our people. That's been, it's been quite successful.

AC: How did you feel being back in the 171 Training Corps and reading about the exploits of the 442nd/100th Battalion in Europe?

JS: Well, you feel, you feel proud, really. You feel bad about losing individuals. Of course, you know they're gonna get killed, 'cause heck, we're, I mean, when you have an outfit like the 442nd, it's a cannon fodder out there. And if you're any good, the more, the better you are, the more you're gonna get used. And that was well proven. They were so successful in carrying out their missions that they were assigned missions that nobody else could carry out. You know, some of the things that happened in Italy, it's hard to believe, really, that those guys could take a, capture something that had been, other units hadn't been able to do in months, that they could do it in just a few days. Boy, you got to be willing to stick your neck out all the way. And some within the command groups, why, there was some, some of the people, the officers of the 442nd were mostly Caucasian, and they resented the fact that they were told by their superiors, "Put that outfit in there," knowing you're gonna lose. Like the Lost Battalion thing, it happens, that, very interesting situation because the 442nd was up there along with that, along with that group, until that Texas group got caught, that one group got caught in that trap. But they were advancing towards the same target as a group together. So it's, part of one group has to help, bail the other group out kind of situation. So that's about, you asked me how I felt and several of these questions, I don't know if I answered very many of 'em, but that's about all I can tell you right, without stopping for air.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AC: So what you made decide to go and train to become a medic, or decide to specialize in medicine?

JS: We didn't have any choices. They, Uncle Sam just took, whether you were a truck driver or whatever you were, he'd decide to go put you in the medics, why, you went in the medics. And other people went, became riflemen. They might've been musicians, but they, if that's the way you got sent, well that's what you did. And it wasn't until probably after the war started, then things had to be determined on a practical manner, where an individual was needed and where would they, they would fit the best, that they changed the training program. So that's why, as I mentioned earlier, we went in, everybody went in and trained for four months, whatever branch you were, or training area you were sent into, that's how you trained for, and you didn't get out of that until your period was over. You didn't have any chance, unless you -- well, maybe, like in those days, if you had had two years of college you could apply for officer candidate school, which I think a lot of people did. But that was about one of the only, that was a qualification you had to have, at least a couple years of college before you could apply for OCS, and that was a way out. But then, as the war progressed, various opportunities and needs opened up, so that you could move to, apply for different places. A lot of times they were looking for people, even had you not applied. So that's why I ended up as a medic trainee. And not knowing what else I could do, I figured, well, I could drive a truck, I could do something like that. But being, it was kind of an interesting area too. I just decided when I was given the opportunity, or asked when I was moved around, what I wanted to do. Well, I especially, I think it became a factor when I, after I came back from the, got off the ship and came to Fort Lewis, Washington, when I was sent to an outfit there. The captain or commander of the unit asked me if I wanted to stay in the medics or whether I wanted to do something else. I said I'd like to stay in the medics 'cause that's what I trained for. So that, I was a medic with a tank destroyer battalion, and we maneuvered out in the Washington Coast for a while, and until I was sent out with that unit back East, why, I was with, I was in an assigned unit. So I had some experience that way, but it was, I didn't learn anything medically during that time, but that's where I was. So that, my first practical experience as a medic was at Fort Harrison, Indiana, when I was at the station hospital and I was there for a year and a half. During that period of time I also went to a specialized school at a general hospital there. On the post was also Billings General Hospital, and I took training in various aspects of hospital practices, amongst those being psychiatric wards and surgery and further medical. I was a medical, pretty much a bedpan commando until that time, and so I advanced some there. And then my, after I went to Camp Shelby, I, that was field medicine, company aid and first echelon medics. So that's where my career pretty much ended. And OCS, it was the same, just in the -- well, of course OCS, I went to, it was the Medical Administrative. In the Medical Administrative commission would be to have people in service who, with officer responsibility, who could do the paperwork for doctors so the doctors out in the field wouldn't have to do, keep the records on patients incoming and outgoing. They could do the work for whichever it's supposed to be. They were training so that the paperwork would be Medical Administrative. That department now is called Medical Service. That's what my commission says, Medical Administrative, but today they're Medical Service. So that's how my career ended.

AC: So you did you do a lot of clinical work in the hospital?

JS: There are different assignments. Some do clinical work. Mine was wasn't clinical work. Mine was mostly ward work in hospitals. Both, well, I worked in surgery too, as... well, I don't know, the highest rank that I got was dirty nurse. That's a person who, you don't, you take the equipment and sterilize it and prepare things for surgery, but actually in surgery the other nurse is the one that takes the gloves and hands 'em to the doctor and assists the doctor in surgery. Maybe the job I mentioned about handing the gloves so the doctor could jam his hands in there, maybe that's the dirty nurse's job, I can't remember. But there are, there was a distinction. You're working around the floor in surgery and do all the things that are not directly connected with surgery. So that's as high as I got. I had a very interesting experience one time preparing a patient for surgery, for, what do you call this stuff, you got, problem you got in the rectum?

AC: Colostomy?

JS: No. No, no, those bumps you get growing in the end of your rectum.

AC: Hemorrhoids?

JS: Hemorrhoids. I was, when we prepared patients for hemorrhoidectomies in those days, we took forceps and clamped a razor blade, Gillette razorblade, and stuck 'em in the forceps and then you kind of trimmed the hair off. And one day I had an anus that was kind of particularly hard to work on, and when we got into surgery, Lieutenant Shaw was gonna do the surgery, he says, "This --" he was getting ready to prep him, I guess, or he was gonna do the surgery, and he said, "This guy doesn't need any surgery 'cause he's already had it." I scarred up the, around the area so badly from the, and I, they never asked me to do one again like that. I didn't want to do one like that anyway. You can just imagine, with a pair of forceps with the blade clipped into it and trying to trim the hair off all the wrinkled area. Not an easy job. I wasn't asked to do it again and I wouldn't have, I would never volunteer. Had I been ordered, I might've refused. I don't know. [Laughs] But that was, that was where I was when I was shipped, when I volunteered to go to Camp Shelby and join the 442nd. So anyway, in the 442nd it was natural that I continue my, in my medical area, as a company aid man, train in company aid. And I enjoyed the work. It was rough, but it, you lived a life of an infantryman, did everything except shoot the guns. And in our outfit, they even, I don't know whether they liked me, they wanted to see what I could do, or... I fired weapons. Some of 'em I could handle pretty good, and I never could handle a BAR worth a, the bullets just flew all over. Everything, hit everything except what I was aiming at. But I went with the infantry, fired a .50 caliber anti-aircraft and various weapons, and got my little badge for being a good marksman and all this stuff. But this was exciting, really. And it was, you felt good when you trained that hard. By golly, when you get overseas, why, the guys around you are good too, most, the best bunch of soldiers I ever was around. Little guys that weighed a hundred and ten, twenty pounds could carry all that weight and last all day. It was just almost unbelievable what little guys can do if they make up their mind to do it, I guess. So that was why I stayed, I was in the medics, stayed in the medics.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AC: So what kind of training did you help, I mean, this is field medicine, so what kind of things did you do to train and to help train other medics?

JS: That's all you do, is kind of train, it's training wounded, wounded soldiers, and training to do everything you can to save the life of wounded soldiers. You learn how to splint when people have a broken limb, or to stop the bleeding of wounds and give 'em first aid, enough to get to a company aid station or back to one of the hospitals. And you have to learn enough to be able to have an idea of what this person is suffering from. They're not all, not all battle wounds either. Out in the field you have psychiatric problems and you have people who have afflictions sometimes. And they, and I've had to dress down a rifle company, non-coms, because they'd lose their heads when they had a patient... I can't even think of the name of the condition now, when they, you see somebody start to wiggle and you have to watch so they don't bite their tongues. These kinds of conditions happened to soldiers, so they're not just all physical, they're mental also. And people, we have to be trained enough so we're not endangering that life, that person's life more than we're helping him. We don't, probably don't, most of us didn't get the, reach this status of people on battleships or navy medics, who under certain conditions maybe even did some surgery, out in emergencies where they didn't have a doctor aboard ship. Naval corpsmen have been known to do surgeries, pretty much by the book or what they've seen. Of course, these things, today you don't know whether a medic would want to do some of the things they did because there are news media following you all over and if you make a mistake you're dead. Not the patient, the person who tried to help the patient. That's a difference, of course, between now and then. I only saw one people killed in an accident, and that was on a firing range. When they were clearing their weapons somebody had a round in his gun yet when he was, when it was supposed to have been cleared, and it fired. I was the senior medic out on the field that day, but it was just a hopeless case. You don't know what a, unless you've seen one of those, it's... a wound from one of those shots entering a person is a kind of a horrible thing to see, because you don't, you see, when a bullet enters a body, all it does is leave a little, like wound mark where it went in, but when it comes out it's, it just tore everything up on its way out. But this is an accident that happened. It shouldn't have happened, but accidents happen. So if you were in actual combat, these things would be going on around you all the time. You expect it. In our day, I don't know what they tell the soldiers now, but in our day, why, you could just practically feel the feeling when you know that maybe half of you weren't gonna come back. But those things happened during World War II and it happened probably in other battles too, but today, with all the news media following you around, it must be tough to be a commander in the field.

AC: How did you feel when you were the, the chief medical person right there on the spot when this accident occurred?

JS: Well, you better, you better not get too numb, 'cause you have to do something, whatever you can. We tried to stop the bleeding, but there's no way to stop a chest wound except just pack, just keep throwing patches at it. When your guts are blown out there just practically nothing you can do. You see these scenes in battle pictures; they're built around fact. Some of the people resent it when they have to see it in the movie anymore, like Saving Private Ryan, but that's the way it is. And the landing on Omaha Beach and things like that, horrible things to see, and to think that our leaders knew that there, when they sent a whole fleet of air ships, ships out to sea, and they knew that a lot of 'em weren't going to come back. I can't say how those guys felt 'cause I wasn't there. I can never say "I know just how you feel" because I wasn't there. But I can imagine. I've seen more on the relatives of those survivors of, family survivors of victims, 'cause I didn't know how the victim felt. You do have an attitude, I think, when you're a combat soldier. You do have this attitude. They may not make it, but goodbye. "If I make it, I'll see you." And I think that's what develops that close fellowship. Even though you don't spend very much time together.

AC: Did you know the boy who was shot?

JS: Pardon me?

AC: Did you know the boy who was shot?

JS: Not very well. He was a lineman, and there, you got several hundred people around there. You can only know so many people. If he wasn't a patient of yours or if you weren't a medic in that particular section, why, no, I didn't know him personally. But I can tell you of an incident that affected me real, pretty closely. One of the, when we were training replacements, of course, I was only responsible for the medical areas, but one of the company, one of the boys in the company just graduated, just come out of Delta, Utah, the camp there. And he finished high school in camp, I think, and I don't know whether he volunteered, whether he was drafted, but he was eighteen years old. He was so serious about his practice. I can, the last scene I can remember of him was out there after dinner, he was out there in the area, rec area, bayonet practicing by himself. And I don't know whether it was his first combat or one of his first times in combat, he got killed. And of course, this one leans in -- I don't like to talk about this one very good. I can't help but talk about it, but it makes me emotional, when I think about this eighteen year old kid, just finished high school in camp and had everything, all the bad things that could happen happened to him. I never did meet his family, but I still, those things, some things affect you more than others. But Bill Nakamura, from Seattle, who was, who got the Congressional Medal recently, I knew him. He was in the 1st Battalion before he shipped, moved over to some other outfit and moved over, to go overseas. But he got killed in one of his early engagements. You try to, you just try to imagine with an outfit the size... you know, Congressional Medals aren't given that easily. And just recently, to have the Congressional Medal given to close to twenty of, men of our unit, is a, is really a tremendous thing to say. Ever since that happened, I've been thinking, by gosh, we're just, we just were being sent to slaughter. Our unit, that's what our unit was, being sent to slaughter. But we asked for it, because we wanted to prove that we could do it. And so if you really get the feel of this, you can make pretty good speeches about it. I've made quite a few talks. I filled the pulpit of a church or two when I came back from service, and held the floor of other groups. I'm alright if I don't get too emotional. But I've had my, a lot of opportunities to do this, and I never feel bashful about it when I'm on projects in my community and I push myself, I push myself through the years to get these things fixed in people's minds, even of our own people. And I've really been successful in this way, that the Japanese people in this area have backed me a hundred percent, I guess, in my pursuit of getting the rest of the community acquainted with what our people did.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AC: What kinds of things do you really say? What kind of things do you tell people when you give talks about this?

JS: Well, I just, I will point out that our, what our boys did, but I'll not make a big issue like they were the only guys in the service. I don't approach it that way. I approach it and I, a lot of my talks have been before small groups. I don't go out looking for big groups to talk to, but I talk about military accomplishment in a kind of a total picture of what our people are and their problems and what they, what we hope to accomplish as a people, as citizens living in a community. And it, I've spoken from adult groups down to middle school groups, and I even, my daughter in, she was an assistant, she worked for the school in a small town called Dufur outside of the Dalles, and she had these kids taking on a study of the 442nd as a project. And it's a small high school. They play eight man football. But so when they scheduled me to come down and speak, well, it was a whole school affair, so I spoke to the whole student body. It was a grade school and high school together, I think, and then they went to their classes and I spoke to individual classes. So I took the whole half a day. And I've had excellent reactions from students. I've had tough reactions from Latino students, and I don't know whether this should be on, for anybody's information or not, but they've, a lot of people who are second language students, they'd, they don't seem to care. They couldn't care less about what's going on. They didn't try to learn anything from it. And the teachers have had to stop and remind those kids that, "We got a guest speaker here and you better listen to him." These kinds of things. The general student population, I've spoken to schools in Ontario and been well-received.

AC: What kinds of things do you, what kind of qualities do you say that you're trying to accomplish or you want to bring out in these talks? What kind of messages do you want these students to walk away from your talks with?

JS: Well, I think, this is kind of, this is kind of a gray area, because I'm not very pointed in my remarks, but I think, in the first place, we have enough of our people in the community that they, our kids and grandkids, they have a quite good... they have proved their qualities, that they're not second or third rate students, and they, maybe they, probably doesn't have to be reminded of why they're that way, about parental, their parental upbringing and their teachings to respect the law and to pay attention to, respect their teachers and all this. So some of these things in area schools around here, we don't have to mention. And we don't, I don't necessarily, like I said, I don't necessarily make up the big point of what the 442nd itself is, but I work it into the conversation, and it's kind of in your everyday living and your organizational work. You just kind of let the word go out from you, with your attitudes about what you think you can do in the community, and you just let it flow off and see what happens. And through the Japanese American Citizens League, in which I was active, very active postwar, and Inter-Mountain District Council, I've been recognized for my work, but it's, try to bring elements of the community together in their activities, in which we've been fairly, pretty successful in this area. I don't, I guess when you ask me that, sometimes I think, "Just what did I say to the public?"

But when I, then I go back and think about it, I rationalize this way. It seems like most of my life, one of my ambitions, kind of inner ambition, that I would be treated just as good as a white person. And this really has been kind of a pushing factor for me, for most of my life, 'cause I, like I said, I grew up in an all-white community from my childhood, and as I got into adulthood I could see the problems that we weren't accepted. And I'll just briefly review when I say we weren't accepted, until the '50s we were not accepted in any club, like Elks or the Masons or the Eagles, and maybe some others. Even, I was, I become a Legionnaire right after I came home from the service 'cause, I had my reasons for doing this. But there was a fun organization of the American Legion called the 40&8, which they tried to form here. And some of my friends, when they found out, I wouldn't, they wouldn't accept me in there. We just never had a 40&8 here, although some of the Legionnaires would've like it, to have a fun group along with the purpose of the American Legion. I joined the American Legion, and these are all the steps I took after I came out of service. During the war I'd heard about this, the Hood River Post of the American Legion had removed the names of Nisei on honor roll, and the national organization threatened to pull the franchise of the Hood River Post, which eventually happened. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I, while I was in Mississippi I was taking, reading the Pacific Citizen pretty regularly, so those stories came out. And things like that made me determined, I was gonna try to join the American Legion when I came home. 'Cause I, you can't, there's no use trying to fight from the outside if you can get in on the inside, so when I came home that's the first body I asked if I could join. And I, most of the Legion posts at that time were run by World War I veterans, so I was one of the early World War II veterans in our post, and I was welcomed into the post here. Wherever I had an opportunity to keep things like that from happening, it never happened again. The Hood River Post has entirely changed. In fact, the Hood River American Legion Club was run by a Nisei for many years. I don't know whether it is now or not. But it's your, American Legion Club is your fun part of your... guys gather. So I've been in that, and I've been to that club. I visited with a guy who ran it.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

JS: So the Hood River, Hood River was so bad after the war that a lot of people, they wouldn't, they didn't want the Japanese trade. So the first people who came back, out of camps, came back to Hood River, went to the Dalles and traded. They used to buy their cars there and they'd go to Dalles to buy their groceries, where they were welcomed. See, what, and one of the really bad things that happened in Hood River was this Reverend Burgoyne of the First Methodist Church really stuck up for the Japanese people and they ran him out of the church, as I understand it. Now, I'm not sure of this. My wife and I were married by Reverend Andrews of Japanese First Baptist Church in Seattle. Reverend Andrews, I don't know if he was with the First Japanese Baptist Church before the war, but evacuation time came, he left Seattle. They went to Twin Falls so they could be near, so he could pastor to the people up at Hunt. Things became so difficult for his wife that they separated, in Twin Falls. They weren't always this good, you know. They were pretty bad, in fact, so all the people in Twin Falls, they didn't want 'em in town. They wanted 'em out in the country to pick potatoes and top sugar beets and things like that. Anyway, this is something that just came out just recently, and I didn't, had I known this was, this man had, his son talked at this reunion up there in SeaTac, and we heard from other folks that went there. One of 'em said it was noisy at that gathering, and oldtimers want to talk to each other, but when Reverend Andrews' son started talking, why, just, you could hear a pin drop, I guess. But, so I'm going into post-war activities now. Is that alright with you? I didn't know where you were trying to lead me. [Laughs]

AC: Just keep goin'.

JS: I came home and joined the American Legion first, and then I also applied to get in the Lions Club. And it was kind of interesting because the president of the Lions Club was a friend of mine. He was a tractor dealer here whom we had dealt with since before the war. And they, he was gonna get me in, but he says, "I'm not, I got to wait 'til, there's certain guys that are going to vote against you." Now, this is not normal policy in the Lions. When the board of directors approves of you, or some committee, you don't have to go have your name bounced around by the whole... as opposed to fraternal organizations where one blackball and you don't make it. But anyway, the same kind of situation was going on in the Lions Club. And so the people on the, they didn't want the board members to vote against me, so they kind of watched it, when he was gonna be out of town, certain board member was gonna be out of town, and they worked it out. I was the first Nisei member of the Lions Club, too, here. And I had a good experience with them. I wasn't involved in leadership -- like in the American Legion, why, I went through chairs and became Commander of the Post -- but Lions Club I deliberately, it was noon hour, noontime organization, hard to get, make all the meetings and activities. A farm boy trying to belong to city organizations has a tough time, 'cause most of the things, the rules of meeting times and everything are governed by the people in town. Now, there's some groups that, because they have enough people who can't make a lunch meeting, they'll have evening meetings. That's up to them, what they want to do. But anyway, I belonged to Lions Club, and that's the one organization where I didn't occupy any chairs. I've served on committees, but... I joined the First Baptist Church while I was in service in Fort Harrison, Indiana, the First Baptist Church in Indianapolis, and so when I came back here, why, I asked to transfer by letter to the First Baptist Church in Ontario. And after my wife and I were married, she went forward and she joined, she joined up. She and I have been members of First Baptist Church most of our married lives.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AC: I want to get back to something you mentioned before. You talked a little bit about your experiences after the war and the prejudices going on there. What was it like in the South, in Mississippi during the war, during this time of segregation, and yet you were neither black nor white?

JS: Okay. Well, I think that for the mainlanders, it wasn't the shock that it was for the boys from Hawaii. 'Cause of course, even the mainlanders, we had grown up with this kind of problems in our lives. I can remember when Mrs. Endo's brother, his name was Taro Nakamura, and when we were growing up we were close friends, our families were close. But Taro, he used to take us kids to movies sometimes, in Portland, and it seemed like one time we went upstairs, maybe more than once. And the only reason you went upstairs, most of the time, in movies in those days, because you were among the second-class citizens, Indians and blacks and Orientals. They didn't want you sitting on the first floor if they could help it, I guess. But we, the other part was that we had, we were not strangers to this. Even though we had not been in the South, we were not strangers to this because we, it was part of our history. And if you were in Hawaii, might be part of your history there too, but Hawaii was a different situation in those days. You weren't a state yet. What do you call it, a protectorate, or territory?

AC: Territory.

JS: You're kind of, a lot of things applied different there. And of course, I reached off and I think, "Well Jesus Christ, those guys in Hawaii, those commanders, they, the Defense Department in Washington or the President held up the message and wouldn't let 'em know that, so they could get their ships out of Pearl Harbor." We, our own government set the trap there so they'd have an excuse so they, they could start the war instead of being blamed for your part in Europe, they got, they could... well, anyway, these kind of situations that, as we look back on them, you kind of rationalize, well, this is why you felt this way and I felt another way. But we were the real victims, here on the mainland, because we're only a small part of the population and our leadership was in their, most of the leadership of our JACL chapters were in their early twenties. Well, in those days we didn't have enough brains to be able to figure anything out, 'cause we weren't exposed to the political system enough because our folks weren't in it. So it wasn't a thing to talk about at home. You never heard anything about how you were supposed to do things or what, how you could do things. So we just, we had to go along with the tide, and we got pushed into, some of the Kibei really got ticked off at the JACL's leadership. Well, the JACL leadership was caught in a terrible bind. When DeWitt and, he convinced members of, the leaders in government that this is the way it is, by gosh, and "we don't want the Japs overtaking," and they were being put, like General DeWitt, and the pressure was coming on from California political leaders, from the growers in California, people, vegetable, fruit, produce business who could see the Japanese taking over the prime land. Well, the Japanese developed these lands, the delta lands in Sacramento Valley or down there in L.A. or anyplace. Why, the airports came in last, you know. Even right here in Ontario, the airport was developed last; all the farms were around it already. And the Japanese want the good land. They don't want to be, they want to be close to town where they don't have to go so far to haul their produce, and they want a nice piece of land, land that they could develop and make it into good land. So we're being blamed for the progress made and then punished for it, in the way of everybody's gonna get off the Coast. They, according to FBI, why, they haven't proved any, haven't had a case against anybody. The ones that they knew were possibilities were, they rounded up all the Issei leaders, took them off first, and then other, especially those who were along the Coast there, had fishing boats and everything. I'm in the middle of that, and I can't figure out where to finish off.

AC: Well, I guess getting back to, so you said that the people from Hawaii, the boys from Hawaii reacted differently from the Japanese on the mainland. Can you describe how, what the differences might've been in the reaction?

JS: Well, you'd never, a thing like what happened in the South had never happened to people from Hawaii. So as, when they, just like what toilets do we use or what drinking fountains do we use, or... well, it's, when you're on the bottom end of a racial thing, and it's a tough, that's one situation. But if you're on the top end, like in Hawaii most were minorities from the Pacific Island groups, or Asian, but the only thing the Asian groups had was a dislike for the Big Five, because they could, they couldn't advance in their jobs. So just on a, for the everyday life of people, why, the way you beat that up, if you'll only get so far in life anyway, you're gonna gang up, protect your positions. Well, there were places in California that did the same thing, but that's the only part in the United States where this gang situation existed, is in California. We, when people came to, came out of camps, well, like in Caldwell, Idaho, down the road here, people came out of, there was a camp there. Well, the only people that had a reputation that I know was, they called 'em Sacto, Sacramento guys that, what do you call those guys that had long haircuts and fancy clothes and everything? They called 'em yogores. [Laughs] But anyway, those guys come in camps and they wanted to take over, just like any, like gang types. So up here in the Northwest, we're not used to that, so we became the victims of our own people sometimes too, that way. But I think the people in the Northwest kind of kept this, the only place that we didn't have any control was over there in Tule Lake. In Tule Lake they eventually rounded up all the anti's, but the people in the Northwest are a different breed of cats than a lot of those in California.

AC: How did you feel when you, when you were down there? You grew up in the Pacific Northwest, you had your own experience and all of a sudden now you're in Mississippi. Was it treated the same, was it different for you?

JS: At the time of the war?

AC: Yeah.

JS: Well, I wasn't here. I was in service all the time, so the people that, what happened here was all I, was what I heard from my, members of my family. And I remember when I came home from furlough one time my dad says, "Don't forget that you're, we're no different than the people who are evacuees, and if our people here can help those people in camp, got to do it." So my dad had a good reputation here too, so he helped quite a few families, and especially he was able to help Endos, 'cause they were old family friends. And so Mrs. Endo's brother worked for us until, I think we wore him out and he decided to go back to Japan. It must be an easier way of life. Well, he earned, got his social security status by that, up in the '50s, and he was fifty-something years old and had high blood pressure, and he had a daughter in Japan. I think that's how it was. And he, Taro, I think he lost his wife in a, like a lightning shock or something. Anyway, so he went back there, and he had, he was well off enough that he, he's kind of an important figure in his community there. When my wife and I went to Japan, he got us located around with my dad's side and my mother's side.

So I, as a soldier, didn't feel like I, people were sometimes indifferent to me, but nobody was ever, that I recall, outright bad to me. But the blacks, I felt for. I can remember getting ready to go back to post one Sunday evening and -- it was Saturday night or, might've been Saturday night -- and there was, Camp Shelby was a big post with lots, a lot of soldiers coming to town on weekends and evenings. And the blacks couldn't, the blacks had no privileges. So one evening I came in, I came back to catch a bus to the post, and here's all these blacks sitting around in the station there, and what happened, they took all the whites first and the blacks had to wait 'til they had room. If they didn't have room on that bus they just waited for the next bus. And this was, this is the way it was. And if you, and this was, during the war you had, everything was the old-fashioned way, and blacks, they were discriminated against pretty badly. A lot of blacks must've had the attitude, "Well, what are we fightin' for?" And the other aspect of it, "Well, when we get back we're gonna demand our rights as full-fledged citizens, because we've fought just like any other citizens," those in service. One of my friends here, well, one of my friends in regimental headquarters, he's not a medic, but he was a soldier -- he is originally a Seattle fellow -- he was in regimental headquarters and he wanted to get married, he was going to get married. So he married a girl right here from Nyssa, Oregon. Her brother was in OSS, I think, which is the CIA now, and working in Washington at that time. He came down by bus, and at some point in Mississippi on the way down to Camp Shelby there was a, they saw a black guy laying in the road, probably hit. He was dead, I guess. Bus driver never even slowed down, just drove around him and just kept on going. So that's the way it was. Mississippi is a pretty bad state when you drive through it now. It looks pretty bad. But when my son got married -- when did he get married, in the '70s? -- he married a white girl from Mississippi, and they were going to William Carey College. This is before my son went... that's another story, how he ended up Williams College, William Carey in the first place, but that's in Hattiesburg, which is Southern Mississippi State now. But one of their fellow students was a black fellow, and he couldn't come to my son's wedding 'cause his wife's, his wife's grandmother would never allow it to happen. She would never come to a wedding if he came.

AC: So you were able to get on the bus with the whites, the Caucasians?

JS: Yeah, oh yeah. In fact, one time one of the guys, I forget whether he was a mainlander, a Seattle guy, one of the Niseiguys and I, we were, we'd been down to New Orleans, I guess, on a weekend. We were coming back and, I don't know how, this Caucasian girl got sitting with us. She was going up to Indiana somewhere, and so we were sitting together and having a nice visit. Well, the three of us sitting together, there's only two seats, so we sat in the back, and I think we got dirty looks from that bus driver all the way up 'til we got off at Hattiesburg, because, well, we weren't supposed to be sitting there. That's the black section in the back. So it was only, if you sit back there, why, if you're in the black section, depending on, if you run out of room, the black guys got to get off. So these things, these things were just an accepted part of life in the South, and you, it never happened in Hawaii. I don't think it did. Wasn't supposed to happen, Hawaii was... but, except in the services, now, the blacks could only, they could go in any branch of service, I think, but menial labor jobs. So you can see how much it's changed. Everything has changed. But it, we, we are now the smallest minority group in this nation. I mean, if you take a bunch, all the Asians, mix 'em up together, you got a lot of people, but one of the problems now, as I see it, is we're all, we're Pacific Americans or, we got so many groups. And everybody isn't the same. You got a lot of Pacific Americans that you wouldn't care to be around too much. Well, I mean, that's just... isn't that right? I know you can't answer, but that's the way it is. And so when we, when they take all the Pacific Americans now and place 'em in one category, you're not doing our people a service at all, because we, they're having so many problems with different groups that their standard, what they consider their worth in life is, it's so much different than ours. So we have to, this is a thing that people like myself, who have worked in the community, try to bring us up to a level, now we have to accommodate a different of group of people, help them and hope that they would hold up their end and conform to the laws without making the big, such a big thing about the right of free speech. This is the trouble with our communities today, so I've, I'm hoping that our young people will continue to take part in our civic activities and our social activities of the community as part of a total group instead, rather than just isolate themselves.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

AC: You had mentioned that recently twenty members of the 442nd had just received Medal of Honors fifty years after the end of the war. What was, why, why the delay?

JS: Well, when the battlefield commanders wouldn't approve of them, they buried them. And their army, military records, and they could develop, they could put them any stage of, category of secrecy they want, can't they? So they bury 'em in the archives. Well, when they, recent legislation that has made it okay, opened the archives up to the public to be able to study those records, now they've been able to get at those records, and those recommendations that were made by field commanders that these guys be, receive, considered for that honor have been brought out in the open. So in, during Clinton's administration, why, you got your senator from Hawaii and your Congressman Akaka -- is he a congressman or a senator?

AC: I think he's a senator now.

JS: Well anyway, he was the leader of, I think, in this, wasn't he? One of the leaders, at least. And that's why these just came out. It kind of looks strange, I'm sure, to some veterans, non-Japanese veterans. It must look strange that all of a sudden, "By God, we're all givin' this many, twenty, twenty-two (Congressional Gold Medals) to a bunch of Orientals or Filipinos and stuff. Jeez." I'm sure there must be some veterans of World War II with a kind of, in their hearts they resent it. But when you place that many people as absolute cannon fodder, those situations open up.

AC: Now, that's the second time you used the term "cannon fodder," they're just thrown at difficult situations. How do you feel about that?

JS: Well, I don't know what I'm supposed to feel. We were trying to prove something and we're a combat outfit, and like I said, the more, the better you do, the more they're gonna use you. I think some of the commanding generals out there, "Jeez, these guys are really hotshots and they want to do it. Let 'em." And in some cases they made 'em do it. That's what was bad too. But you know, they're, at the commander, field general level, why, you got all kinds of things. Like today they said, they're thinking today, "If we let the war go the way General Patton wanted to, we wouldn't had all that trouble in Berlin later on." But these things, second thoughts are just a thing that, if you make too much of this, well, then it's kind of a situation, who's running the war? But we got, I guess we got to put an end to this thing after a while, someplace. My feeling is that, as a person, I am perfectly happy with the situation of our people today. There are those who maintain that our people are not getting enough management, top level management jobs, but we've got, gosh, think what we've got. We've, a lot of people aren't in top management because they choose not to suffer the headaches of top management. They'd rather be in an area, professional field, something. And we haven't gone the limit, but look at what we and the Chinese people have done in American society. Now the Hindus, or the Indian society, there's Koreans, Vietnamese, and people of all, in all areas, ethnic Asian groups are rising up into political fields, professional fields and the business field. Look at the, I mean, business now is being, in a lot of areas, dominated by foreign companies rather than American companies. American companies are being bought up by foreign companies, and the Japanese and Chinese now are, and we're, somebody from India might answer the phone when you want to know, get some information. And these things have got so intertwined now that, I don't think, I don't think our people ought to be hollerin' too much about the lack of opportunity. This is my personal, country boy feeling. I'm not very sophisticated, but I never hear George Azumano complaining about things. People who are there are not complaining, mostly. If they are, I don't hear them.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

JS: But in my JACL work, I met JACL, I met leadership from all over the nation, and I know that during wartime, I got Hawaii guys who just hated Mike Masaoka, the things he said, putting it on that monument on Washington. But the president of the, the president of the Japanese American Citizens League during the wartime was Saburo Kido. He's a Maui boy, isn't he? He's a Hawaii boy, anyway. And he always sounded like somebody a little different, but he was an attorney in San Francisco and a great guy. And I work with all those guys. He's, gee, my buddy from Honolulu wrote me a letter, he went to that vet case in the monument in Washington and he got, there's some guys that's been on, he got on the side and listened to some of those guys that didn't like Mike Masaoka, and he wrote me, he wrote me a terrible letter. My wife said, "What are you gonna do?" "I'm not gonna do anything. I got the letter, I'm just gonna keep the letter." 'Cause he's on the losing side if, he would not find many friends to take his position arguing with putting Mike, some of Mike's statement on the, that monument in Hawaii, because heck, I used some of Mike's statements in my public appearances. I worked with Mike, and so I worked with postwar, JACLers, and I was a district council chairman of Inter-Mountain District Council, chapter president here. And my activity's not just been limited to that. I've served on several boards in Oregon, and I was elected, appointed to the Board of Agriculture in 1958, and I've served on the Board of Health and Economic Development. Some places I wasn't qualified to serve, but I was appointed because they needed some Oriental on there, maybe to kind of balance. But anyway...

AC: How did that make you feel, feeling that you were just appointed just because you were --

JS: I'm sorry?

AC: How did it make you feel to be appointed to some of those boards just because they, you thought, you felt that they needed an Asian there?

JS: Well, I was, I never turned one down. But I consulted with a number of people, especially the first one, where I was, I was one of the early ones that served on the board in Oregon, I think, when, in 1958 I was appointed by Mark Hatfield to the Board of Agriculture, when he was governor. And I asked several people, but I was recommended by Farm Bureau and others, so the reason that from down here we've had a continuous string of Nisei and Sansei board members to the State Board of Agriculture, because we represent a type of agriculture and we represent an area and we represent a minority, so we balance, we throw several things on balance. And fortunately, we've performed, all performed well. And so we're, I'm proud that we people from down here in a little community like this, that a community that has a terrible time during the years past being accepted as part of the State of Oregon, we're out here in the boonies by ourselves, we had a reputation of having more jackrabbits out here than people...

AC: [Laughs] Were you very much involved in the redress movement? I guess, during --

JS: No, I wasn't, 'cause I didn't feel like I was... I was asked to serve, I was asked to serve on this cultural center for developing that, but I decided it's too much. One person can't be involved in everything. He shouldn't. I was involved in enough things, anyway, and in the, in our field of agriculture too, I was one of those who helped start the Onion Growers Association here, and I was on the first board of Treasure Valley College. I served twelve years on there when it opened up, started the campus. So I feel like civically, both in the potatoes and onion field, I've done... well, I've done my share.

AC: I want to get back to another point. I guess, you'd mentioned that this person had written you this, this letter that you said was a really angry letter about using some phrases that this other, that -- Masaoka was his name?

JS: Yeah.

AC: Had used, and you said used, what was his objections to using that, and you said you had used some of these statements in your own work?

JS: Mike and, there were four or five Masaoka brothers in the 442nd, and Mike was the mouth. Very eloquent, I mean eloquent. He was a leader of the University of Utah's debate team, national champions, and Mike worked for the JACL. When he came back from service he worked for the JACL as the national secretary for a while. He resigned that job to become the secretary of the Anti-Discrimination Committee. The Anti-Discrimination Committee was raised so we, was formed so we could raise funds for a tax situation to keep us properly political, or lined up with Internal Revenue. And so, and Mike, so Mike fought for all kinds of things, every problem that we've had as a people, the right to, of citizenship for our parents, the stays of deportation. You talk about illegal immigrants today, our people, who were here before the war, illegally, got the right to stay here permanent... what do you call 'em?

AC: Resident alien?

JS: Yeah, permanent resident alien. Every one of those had to go through with an individual bill through Congress, before they could, before they got cleaned up. And so Mike worked for starvation wages. He and Etsu just lived a very careful life, until he finally resigned from the JACL and took, became a consultant, and then they lived comfortably, I think, after that. But until then, Mike and Etsu just lived on shoestring wages. I just, I don't, never could figure out why he was willing to do it, but Mike was that dedicated. But he was so dedicated that, and he was strong-willed, so those that were against him, there weren't too many, I don't, in JACL there weren't very many against him, but there were certain ones that really felt like he was pushy. He was pushy.

AC: So that was their objection, that he was too pushy?

JS: Yeah. So in each of these areas, I think that I had a mission, a personal mission to fulfill, and I'm satisfied that we got where we wanted to. How things moved from here on out is for a younger generation to take care of. But, like people like George Iseri and I, and those others around who tried to be leaders in our community and keep harmony amongst our own people, I think we've done, we've had wonderful experiences. We've had, things weren't always pleasant for us, but...

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AC: I'm gonna switch gears. How did you meet your wife?

JS: Well, she was an evacuee, and she was, she came out of Minidoka. Her family originally started out -- this is quite a story in itself, too long, but anyway, they started out in Tule Lake, her family did, and her family left Bellevue, Washington, in stages. Her oldest brother had to stay at home and farm because he had crops, and the government said, "You're gonna stay there and take care of crops until we tell you to move." That's the way it was. He couldn't leave until they said he could leave. So part of the family went to camp, meanwhile, Nellie and her sister and her brother, they voluntarily evacuated. They got jobs over in central Washington, working for a food processing outfit, and they worked in, picked asparagus and things like that for that summer. Now, for the family to move out of Tule Lake they had to all be together, so the ones up in Moses Lake went down into camp and joined the family, and then they left the camp and they kind of bummed around. They didn't do, her family didn't do well at all, in camp or out of camp. I mean, they had a group of families, and the oldest brother who was kind of, felt like he was responsible for the goings of the family -- his mother was a widow -- he kind of lost control, because here was a bunch of teenage girls and older, young adults, why, they didn't, I think, I'm sure that... in camp you hear these stories, about how families lost control, parents didn't, because they didn't go by parents' rules then, they went by camp rules. Anyway, my wife eventually, and her sister, older sister, came to Boise and worked in a women's store. And a friend of ours from Portland, she lived out Russellville, the Shiro family, she says, well, I was on my home from Fort Lewis and I stopped in to visit with her. She and I went to a movie or something. And she was engaged and she says, "I know this girl out there in Boise. Why don't you go look her up?" So I went to a dance. YWCA in Boise lent some of their facility for Nisei to be able to have a social time, so I went to this dance one night and I met her. That was about forty, did I meet her in forty, I might've met her in '45 or '46. I don't know. We got married in January of '47, so in January we'll be celebrating our 58th anniversary. And she, like one fellow, my friend down here from the South, he said, "I think you got the best of the litter." And I kind of think so too. I'm very fortunate. She, I asked her, "You wanna go down, be on there?" She doesn't, she doesn't like to talk on camera very much. Not that I do either, but she kind of chokes up and gets lost for words. But she's a wonderful woman.

AC: You had mentioned that the family had to be together to leave Tule Lake.

JS: Well, this is, this is what she tells me. They, I think they just wanted, they didn't want to pull out on a work permit, they just wanted to leave. And I don't know, there's no use for you to ask me anymore than that 'cause I can't tell you. I don't know what the ruling was, or... but they had to get together. And I don't, you got part of the family scattered here and maybe the Reclamation, War Relocation Authority maybe had some rules about these things. It just doesn't sound, make sense to me, but I'm not one to challenge what they were told, 'cause I'm not sure. But families left. Once they were in camp, once they, in camp and WRA had 'em all counted up, I guess, maybe they could leave individually. But somehow they had to, maybe they had to keep track of the people, that they'd forced evacuation from the...

AC: She went from Tule Lake to Minidoka?

JS: No, they went out to, they went to Nevada. Down around Carson City or somewhere. I think her brother, her older brother tried to farm, and when he got in the irrigated country of Mountain West, why, he was out of his element. Up there in Bellevue he had a little truck farm. The whole neighborhood there had truck farms, and they'd been living that way for years and years. They were still surviving that way. But anyway, they ended up, they ended back up there. The family moved, ended up in Ontario for a while. But I met my wife in Boise. Even in those days, why, our folks wanted us to be baishakunin wed. It was a custom. But our generation especially, after the war, broke all that up. It just, some still did, but only because the kids are willing. Some, and some young men have a tough time finding a bride. They didn't court well.

AC: So you got discharged. Did you move back here?

JS: Yes. I had this opportunity in, about in August or September a circular came down, second lieutenants... let's see, unattached... well anyway, I had an opportunity to go to Japan in the army of occupation. And with, maintaining my... see, our commissions were temporary, and I don't know just how this works, but if you're enlisted, you want to stay on, you could, I could've stayed on in army, go into army of occupation as a second lieutenant. But I can't, forget what the, there wasn't, and I don't know, after the war declared, war would be declared over or they didn't need me anymore, they could just say go home. But I could've also reverted to master sergeant with a permanent grade in the regular army. See, the army is made up of a regular army, United States Army, then Army of the U.S. Army of the U.S. consists of reservists. I didn't know this 'cause I, the only reason I know that is 'cause I was asked when I, I went before the board when I was taking my test for OCS and an officer asked me that. I thought I was pretty smart, but I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I was then. They ask you dumb questions. They're not dumb questions, really, but they're questions that, they're kind of sneaky questions in a way, but how you answer them is, makes the one, it's what makes the impression. It isn't whether you know the answer or not; it's how you answer it. Those things I learned in the process.

AC: So what did they ask you?

JS: "You know what they grow in the Philippines? What's the main product of the Philippines?" All I hear, everything from the Philippines, was hemp. I don't know what else, I still don't know what else they grow in the Philippines. So I was wrong. It wasn't the main product. I forget what the main product was. It might be marijuana for all I know. But I remember I didn't have the right answer. I don't think I did. And the other thing was, "What branch of service you in?" I was absolutely wrong there, I guess. I told 'em United States Army. "No, you're, as a volunteer or a draftee, you're in the Army of the United States." Well, I'm still learning things in my old age. [Laughs]

AC: So when you came back here, what was your family doing when you came out of the army?

JS: They were row cropping. When we came to Ontario, ever since we came to Ontario, it hadn't been what we considered, consider truck gardening. We call it row cropping. We were growing, but we were row cropping in potatoes, onions, sugar beets. We grew some peas for canning, for a cannery over here, and corn, and then we grew, plant some grains as a rotation crop. We had, when we first came here we farmed with horses too, so we raised some alfalfa. When we were down in Carver, why, we always raised alfalfa or oat hay 'cause we always farmed with horses there. But we gradually, from 1937, we worked into tractor farming.

AC: And so when you, you came here and your wife was still in Boise? I mean your fiance, I guess, was still in Boise?

JS: When I came home from service?

AC: Right.

JS: That's where I met her.

AC: You came, after the service is when you came and you met her.

JS: Yes.

AC: Okay.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

AC: And when you got married, where did you settle?

JS: Here. She still, she still lives on the same farm where we settled. We built another house, but we lived just out on the, less than a couple miles from here. But we lived in a little house that somebody, somebody had built with FFA, Future Farmers of America, helping 'em, and it didn't have, had running water but it had no toilets. You had to go via lantern, carry a lantern or a flashlight to go out to the toilet. You could walk around there naked and nobody could see you 'cause there's no lights out, way out of town about half a mile. When you got up by the hospital, why, it was pitch dark from there on. So when we bought the place we had a furo, had a Japanese bath until, for about... oh, I know, we had the house remodeled right away, had another bedroom and dinette, a dining area, and bathroom put in. But the first year was kind of rough going. It was alright for a couple of newlyweds, though. [Laughs]

AC: [Laughs] Oh my goodness. And so, I guess you just continued on in farming?

JS: Pardon me?

AC: You just continued on farming with your brothers?

JS: Yes. We farmed, well, we had a family, and after my dad died we formed a partnership, three brothers, and then we formed a corporation. And I split from the family corporation in 1971, and then I formed another corporation, and this corporation is, in name is still in existence, but we haven't done any business for, we're just kind of running out of money gradually. My wife and I are bleeding it to death.

AC: So what, did you notice, did you notice any difference in the way that you were treated before you went to war and when you came back?

JS: Absolutely, absolutely. It was a, I was in a new world when I came back from service. I came back as a second lieutenant, and that's the lowest end of the officer grade, and it's a hard life 'cause you're just like a private when you're a second lieutenant. Mostly you're taking orders from somebody up above all the time, and you have to live, you live like an officer and you spend too much money. But as a civilian, my, it was something else. And I formed, in my activities in American Legion, I made friends that, for instance, over in Payette, Idaho, they have an annual Apple Blossom Festival parade, and a commander, person I met over there, is a Legionnaire and he's a commander, he'd be, he was a commander of the Idaho, State of Idaho, and he asked me if I would put together some Nisei, march in the parade. So one year, I think we just did it one year, we marched in the Payette parade and then we went over to Boise and marched in the May Day parade over there. That's, the May Day parade was to counteract the Russian May Day parade. So we went to march in the parade in Boise, and gee, that's, I've, we had a small platoon. I don't know, we had, I had about a platoon. I got twenty-some or thirty-some people, and the only problem -- and I was their platoon leader and my friend that got married in Mississippi, from Nyssa, he was, he was, was he right guide? Anyway, we had, and we had a guy from Boise who was, he was in the 442nd too, he was an ROTC kid from high school. Anyway, he and, he was, he and several guys were color bearers, and this guy who was the head of the American Legion in Idaho called the department, 442nd people over there in Hawaii, asked 'em, he got it through the American Legion commander in Hawaii and got the colors over here, our regimental colors. I couldn't believe it, but by gosh, they were our colors. And toughest time we had was we couldn't keep up, keep tempo with the high school band. They were too fast. A military band marched at a certain pace, so I counted cadence all the time, but we made it alright, by gosh. And I think we made quite a nice impression. That was the last time all the veterans, a bunch of veterans around here ever got, I mean Nisei veterans, got together.

But this was kind of the start of things. And we had, so we had, despite what the American Legion did in California to our people, we, it's a new thing, a new thing started. And so after the guys came home, the reason they have an organization like Nisei Vets up in Seattle, or Nisei Vets in Portland, is they couldn't, some posts didn't want 'em. They couldn't get in, so they just formed their own post. And I don't know how big the Portland post is, Portland Nisei Vets Committee, but I don't think it's very large, is it? Kay Endo's very active in it. But the Seattle one is a going concern, but now they're having trouble. They're running out, so they're gonna have, they got kids, they got three generations at least in there. They're trying to determine what their future's going to be. And I joined them because they had a nice bulletin, their Nisei Vets bulletin, so I give to them every year, just send 'em a check for, just to get the bulletin. I finally decided, well jeez, there's an opening there, I could join for a hundred and twenty-five dollars or something, get a life membership. I think that's what the price was. So I signed up for a life membership and told 'em my qualifications. I got a big certificate at home. It doesn't mean anything, really, but anyway, so that's how my affiliation with Seattle Nisei Vets, and it so happens that because my wife comes from there she knows a lot of the people up there, and so we have a pretty good thing going. Now, the Portland Nisei Vets, I guess, I'd know a large share of them. I probably know most of them. If I, you know how you talk for fifteen minutes, "Oh yeah, yeah."

AC: Was there a Japanese American League active here in Ontario when you...

JS: Yeah, Snake River Chapter is here. The Boise Valley Chapter is not very active. They don't, I don't even know, they kind of run through the formalities of having a board and everything, but our chapter here is mostly board work. But they raise funds for scholarships and we have socials that kind of bring everybody together, like crab feed, and we honor high school graduates. So it doesn't make much noise, but it's a nice group, all Sansei.

AC: Was it active when you came back from the war?

JS: Yeah, well, it was a new chapter. A fellow by the name of Joe Okamoto, who's passed on since, was the president. I came back and I was the second president. And I've followed, my activity in there, by going through the chairs of district council, and I ended up, I forget, about 1950, I was the chairman of the district council. I think our national convention that year was in Chicago, but we were going to, I think my wife and I have been going to, we've been to a number of national conventions. We don't anymore, but it's quite a bit of work and responsibility too, to keep a chapter going healthy. And so that's part of our back history.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AC: Well, looking back over all of your experience you've had all your entire life, what lessons have you learned about America?

JS: Well, I suppose America is, to me is a land of opportunity for everyone. If he's just willing to use his talents, like I'm, I'm kind of a lazy sort, so I'm probably better at leadership 'cause I'm, I found out long time ago that leadership involves everybody in your organization, and the more people you involve in your work, the more participation you have. So you, when you cut down to activities, say, you keep saying, "Well, I'll take care of this and I'll take care of that," or "You take care of this and you take care of that," and all the rest of the people say, "Well, let 'em take care of it, then." That is the general attitude of any group. That's the primary, one of the requirements of leadership as I've seen it, is of course having the agenda, and when you make an agenda try to stick with it, and then when you assign work, let people have a chance to do the work instead of interfering with what they're, just because you think you're the leader you're not smarter than anybody else. You're really not. You may have more opinions, but you, that doesn't mean, you can't run an organization that way. And so I've had excellent treatment, not just amongst our people, but in the industry level, the growers and shippers, I've been on good terms, as a grower I've been on good terms with the shippers and people in trade. Nellie and I have traveled around the nation from Boston to Orlando to, not much on Pacific Coast, but we've been to a lot of conventions and we've been, I think we've enjoyed the goodwill of the people in our industry that we represent and the people that we've presented ourselves to. So I felt good. I've watched people that followed behind, and we started out alright. We got everything started. We have federal marketing orders in onions and potatoes, and I've been involved as chairman of those groups. So, and I've had lots of fun being emcees of organizations, not just amongst Japanese people, but amongst the industry, the shippers association here and people that I really didn't belong amongst, but we just have good fellowship.

AC: What do you think is the greatest contribution that the Nisei men and women have given to future generations?

JS: Say that again.

AC: What kind of things do you think that you want to pass, that you as the Nisei generation have accomplished that you could pass on to future generations? What are the greatest accomplishment you think you've done?

JS: Well, I suppose one of the, one of the, I don't know whether it's the greatest, but one of the things, that we've complied with the rules that've been laid out to us as people. So we may have our own prejudices, but we recognize that all people have a right to their beliefs. And I, this may be a personal thing with me, like I've said before, I don't care what you believe in. That doesn't make you any different or less, of any less quality than I who have my beliefs, and I, whether you're Muslim or Buddhist or Christian or Jewish or, it doesn't make any difference. Everyone has a way to approach their God and their savior, and how they approach the end of their lives is up to them, as long as you comply with the rules of man, the common sense rules, whether you, and you have the rules as a Christian, the rules as a Buddhist. I don't know about a Muslim. But from what I've seen, you could either way and you're gonna end up in the same place, and it could be a wonderful life or a terrible life, depends on what you want to make of it.

AC: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment in your life?

JS: Pardon me?

AC: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment in your life?

JS: Acceptance of myself and my people in the community. And I've done it, I think, with maybe not total, but almost total support of my own people, and that has been very important to me, that I've been able to lead people, lead our people into acceptance in our community without dissention in the ranks.

AC: So what kind of future do you see for your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren?

JS: I see a wonderful future, because the big, we have the rules established and if they just follow the rules, and they have wonderful opportunities. It may be a terrible society we live in, on the other hand it's the most, there are more opportunities if people would train themselves and work at it, than there ever were. We think we lived in the most wonderful century in history, and may be right, it may be not, but so far we, I'm sure it has been the most wonderful time in history. And we've seen advances of racial and ethnic acceptance by others, but now with what's going on, when you start turmoil in the Middle East one never knows what's going to happen because that, we're fighting a tradition that's been going on for thousands of years, since history began. There are groups of people that never, haven't got along with these things. So this has to be just played out to the end. I, who am I to predict what I, what's in the future? [Laughs]

AC: If your father was alive today and he were standing here looking, and he's seeing your entire life, what do you think he'd say?

JS: Oh, I don't know. I really don't know. I think inside he would feel good about what we've accomplished. On the other hand, if he looked too far forward, then he'd get sad again. But that's not for anybody to judge, what's ahead. You and I can look ahead and all we're doing is suggesting what we think, compromising our thinking. You're asking me a question that, it only becomes an opinion, and I'm not too confident some of the opinions I have had. [Laughs]

AC: Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you'd like to go and talk about?

JS: No, I think not. I think I've generally expressed everything I, everything, all the thoughts that I have. I, like I say, I'm at the age where people are dying around me constantly, younger ones and older ones, and I've, I'm at peace with the Lord, and so I feel like when we go to, just like we went to a breakfast this morning, why, I think my wife and I were the oldest people there. Most of the old people just kind of drop out of things. We have the, we take the position, if we drop out of things nobody's gonna know us anymore. And I can say another thing off the record; I'm not gonna say it on the record, though. [Laughs] You got enough?

AC: Well, I guess, is there anything else that we've talked about that you want to add to, anything like that? [JS shakes his head] Well, I guess I got one last question, then we can go off the record. [Laughs] I guess, what advice would you give --

JS: I'm sorry?

AC: Do you have any advice that you would want to give to your great-grandchildren, anything like that, future generations?

JS: I don't think so. The tradition of our people of getting the best education they can get, or the parents can help their kids get, is about the best thing you can do, and people with a good education, with good, have listened to people who have had lots of experience, I don't know if there's anything better that our people of this generation can have to prepare themselves. And the matter of what, as a matter of what goes on in public life today and all the publicity, if the news media doesn't make all the decisions for us, well, I think we'll be alright. [Laughs]

AC: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time and speaking with us.

JS: I appreciate the opportunity to be here. I didn't know it was gonna be this good, but... [Laughs]

AC: It's been fabulous. Thank you so very much.

JS: Thank you.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.