Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Iseri Interview
Narrator: George Iseri
Interviewer: Alton Chung
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: December 5, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-igeorge_2-01

[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 George Iseri, a Nisei man eighty-four years old, and this interview is happening in Ontario, Oregon, on December 5, 2004. The interviewer is Alton Chung for the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center's Oral History Project 2004. I want to thank you for taking the time in speaking with us today and all your wonderful hospitality. I just want to start off very simply saying, where were you born and when were you born?

GI: A place called Thomas, Washington, between Kent and Auburn, which is near Seattle, on April the 23, 1920.

AC: And what was, how many brothers and sisters did you have?

GI: I'm about in the middle of twelve kids.

AC: What were the names of these kids?

GI: What's that?

AC: You were in the middle so how many sons, how many daughters?

GI: Six above me and five below me.

AC: And what were the names of your parents?

GI: What was that?

AC: What were the names of your parents?

GI: My dad's name was Matahichi, and my mother's maiden name was Okuna. Her first name was Kisa.

AC: What were the names of all your siblings?

GI: Oldest is Tadamitsu, and his English name was Tom, Thomas. Next was Mitsuo, and his name was Mike. The next one was Manabu; no English name, but he was known as Mun all his life. Masato only has Japanese name. Next was sister Yoneko; her name was Alice. I have a sister living yet that's name is Sadako, and her name is Mae. Then I come in there. I have no middle name. Then Daniel, Daisuke, next to me, younger than me. And Kengo, his name was William. Akiyo was next, and he's been known all his life as Oscar. Kiyoharu, his name is Carl, and my youngest brother's name was Suehiro, William.

AC: So you had both Japanese names and some of them had English names. In the family, you referred to each other as with the Japanese names or a mixture of both?

GI: Yes, even many Sanseis today have Japanese names. In fact, my children, two of them have anyway, and that's about that time it disappeared. They don't use it any, Japanese names anymore.

AC: So is it your parents, your parents had gave them the English names or were they nicknames or --

GI: Most of them, no. I won't say most of them because in our case, it's a little different. But among the Japanese, most of them only had Japanese names, and they picked up nicknames. You know, they shortened their Japanese names, things like that. Our family, I think that Tom, Tadamitsu got his name, I think in his birth certificate is Tadamitsu, and I think my next brother Mitsuo is only Japanese name on his birth certificate. But they picked it up by hakujin friends and English speaking people. It's kind of hard to say some of those names, you know. But mine is unusual in that in Japanese, I go by Jyoji. And actually, that's the way they would pronounce George, so I never have used it as a middle name. And every family had a George. I knew a couple of families had two Georges because I guess they expected a lot out of that child to be another George Washington.

AC: So did you have to legally change, when they had the English names, did you legally change the names?

GI: I don't think they did. I think that, to my knowledge, they got through with their, just changing the names to what they were known by all their lives. And we've had a number of occasions when we help people get their passports, and we told them to, even if it's not the legal name on your pass, birth certificate, we're going to put it on your passport. We made it a lot easier for you, so we included their English names on the passports, and that never caused us any problem. It helped matters, in fact.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

AC: When did your dad arrive in the United States?

GI: 1900.

AC: And what did he, what was, why did he come here and what did he do?

GI: Why did he come and what he did? You know, this is a sad thing because I, there were so many things I want to talk to Mother and Dad about that it was too late when I realized that, boy, I missed my opportunity. But Dad apparently, he was sixteen years old when he came to the country, and his older step, half brothers I think had been here and maybe returned once, and my dad decided that he wanted to come to America. Apparently at that time in Japan, there was just real tough times, and Dad just had enough "gumption." I use that word. I don't think it's in the dictionary, is it? To get away from there, from Japan, and go and make his own life which he did, you know. He learned to speak English, and he could sit here with us today and joke and tell, jokes with each other, tell jokes himself, and he really got along well with the Caucasian and the Nisei as we all grew up. But you know, his life changed considerably when he and my mother got married in 1907, and there was one kid after another, and I don't think Dad had much time to really try to learn, get educated professionally or anything, so he didn't do that. But he worked in the community, acted in the community as a liaison between the Japanese and the Caucasian folks all his life.

AC: So he taught himself English?

GI: Yes. He went to night school. And amazingly, his handwriting was so good that he would ask the principal of our school, "Why is George's handwriting so lousy?" because my dad's handwriting was much, much better. He was an immigrant from Japan, and Dad mentioned to him and maybe it's because after he hurt his hand sometime. But the principal said, "Oh, no. That has nothing to do with it." In fact, I think he was, told my dad that, "George could do better if he tried."

AC: And could you?

GI: Yeah. But that's the way I've been all my life. I could do better if I tried.

AC: So what kind of, what kind of, how would you describe your dad?

GI: My dad? Well, I think probably the first thing I remember about that side of the story is why I don't know because we don't have any of us children that are that way, but Dad must have been about forty inches or so around the waist. As I recall him, he slimmed down considerably after the war and as he aged, but that's the thing I remembered about him. He was so big around the middle. But I guess family wise what I remember the most was that he and Mother always got along good. Of course, my mother was a marvel when it came to that ability because she wouldn't open herself to an argument. She handled it very nicely, and she respected Dad, and Dad was the boss. In other words, you know what Dad says, and so we listened to what Mother said. And Dad was a very serious person most of the time. But when he relaxed and met with his friends and had some sake or beer or something, that's the time we used to ask him if we could have a dime to go see a movie because he'd dig out everything out of his pocket, that's fine. But if he was sober, we didn't ask him. About that time, my older brothers would give us a dime to go to the movies. But Dad was always helping other people, it seemed like, sort of like my youngest son, Mike. And the way I went through life is, I was taught that I've got to help other people and that Dad went out to help people all the time. In fact, it was a wonder that he had time to do any work. I guess that's what I remember most about him was he was envy of a lot of families because he could speak the language, and the parents of the Nisei kids would come to my dad all the time to ask for help. So that alone I think was invaluable to the community and to us, too, because he was widely known, and I've gone through life and every one of us kids that have survived have gone through life hearing from others, especially Isseis, "Oh, your dad is Matahichi Iseri of, Iseri of Thomas, Washington." "Yeah." "Well, come in." Dad and Mother opened the doors to us, thousands and thousands of doors, as we've gone through life especially in business because several of us had been in business most of our lives. And so certainly, I don't feel that Dad wasted any of his time in his life. He just was working all the time and especially helping people.

AC: What kinds of things did your dad do to, or how did he help other Issei, Nisei?

GI: Well, you can imagine let's say an immigrant comes from, there was five hundred immigrants come to Ontario from Japan and perhaps one or two out of the whole bunch spoke English. There you are right there. Dad worked with all of them and until the kids grew up old enough to handle things. But even at that, Dad had part of a lot of experience on what was going on in America and understand the English language that he helped many of them until the very end. He kind of gave up when they picked him up on the night of December the 7th, and they interned him for six months, and that was, there's a time of life, and it just shattered him. After camp, he came out. He didn't want to get involved in community activities. Even in our Japanese community, he just held back the rest of his life.

AC: How would you describe your mom?

GI: Well, as I mentioned before, Mother lived to one hundred and three. The night before she passed away, she was living here at the apartment that I just constructed. And perhaps thirty years, almost thirty years in a way and almost every single day that was available, she would have all the friends around the commons, they'd all play Hana, the Japanese game. And there were ladies in the group who didn't know the first thing about playing Hana. Somebody had to practically hold the cards for them and play the cards for them. But my mother's group was just compassionate enough to let that person play, and everybody still had a wonderful time. My mother was good with getting along with people, and she just wanted to do something for other people, and I really admire her for that that, around thirty or forty years that she, well, and Dad both too, while Dad was living too, they used to have friends come over all the time. But after Dad died, that's when my mother started playing Hana, learn how to play Hana. And she loved to garden. We built a new house for her over here after Dad died and had a garden there for her, and she'd be out there in the garden and all. And we'd all tell her, "Well Mom, it's too hot for you to be out here, this hot sun." And to make a long story short, she just told us, "Leave me alone." She says, "If it gets too hot, I'll go inside. I'll take care of myself. Don't worry about me." So we let her be. And she was out there in the garden. She could raise anything including even marijuana. And at age one hundred, all of a sudden, she quit. She didn't tell us she's going to quit or anything. She just didn't go out to the garden no more. But if you, she were here living here today, she'd be thinking, "Well, what can I send home would these gentlemen?" She'd be getting some sort of canned jam or canned vegetables or tsukemono or something for you to take home. She just couldn't let you go home without having something. Maybe she might have given you a box of Cracker Jack. She did that all her life, Cracker Jack for the kids. But she was a wonderful mother like most mothers, and she was just good at handling all of us. You can just imagine twelve kids, and the oldest one was twenty-six years old than the youngest. As the cars came home at night, Mother used to say, "I can tell which one came home." "When I hear all the doors on the cars close, then I could sleep," she used to say. And so she was worried about all of us all that time, and she probably had good reason to be because there's a bunch of boys and friends of a bunch of other Caucasian boys in the community. She had something to worry about, because us Niseis didn't get to do things that the Caucasian boys got to do, you know. She was a wonderful mother.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

AC: So what kinds of things would the Caucasian boys do that you couldn't do?

GI: Well, I don't know whether my brothers were involved in it or not just to give you an idea that one morning after Halloween, why we were shocked to see a buggy on top of our grade school. Okay. Dating hakujin girls, that was taboo. We just, we could have a shotgun in our, pointed in our backs if we did something like that perhaps. Drink and smoke, my older brother by the way never drank or smoke. But then they worked, any Japanese boy hardly, my brother, older three brothers their age because now my oldest brother would be ninety-seven today if he were living. So there's a lot about what they did perhaps that I couldn't tell you. But they were, their best friends were the Caucasian boys and girls.

AC: So there's twelve kids in this house in Thomasville. Describe your house and how it was living in there with all these people.

GI: Well, our house that I was born at, let's see, we had one, two, three, four, five bedrooms, so it wasn't too bad. I'm not sure right at the moment, we all lived there at one time. Maybe there was only about eight or ten there at the most at any time because the older ones grew up and went away on a job and things like that. Younger ones weren't born. We were unfortunate that we lost two brothers and a sister about 1930, so that made a difference. And by the way, my mother outlived five of her children, five of us siblings, so that seemed to regulate the, even out the occupants, you know. But we had a big home. It's an old home, but it was quite modern for the times. And as we grew up, we were coming and going, so there wasn't much condition, but the thing was that my mother welcomed guests any time. So I remember my brothers were older, well, they had their friends. Like I say, mostly just Caucasian friends come by the dozens, and my mother used to love hosting them and entertaining them. So we had a, had a good home. But Dad, looking at the history here the other day, Dad worked as a clerk in a feed store at Thomas where we were born and raised. Then in 1924 or '5, he went on his own and established his own store in a garage in home. And then very shortly thereafter, he built a new store and then headed, expanded it before the war and sold general merchandise, and he covered the area from, oh, as far away as Renton, South Park. People from the Northwest would remember those places, places like O'Brien, Orillia, Tacoma, not as far Tacoma but Puyallup, Sumner, Algona Pacific city, that whole area. And for a few years, I went with Dad as he went out to take orders and then deliver the groceries, and I remember so well. It was in the Depression years, and it was pretty tough going, but Dad was in that business until probably about 1939 or so. He slacked off because of the tough times and inability to collect from some customers and went back on the farm. About that time, then my older brother started a service station, wholesale gasoline business delivery to farmers, and I think by then we had radios, appliances, and things like that that we sold from the store. And I started working in there from about age sixteen, and I guess probably that's the reason I'm still in business today because of the business background that we all had.

AC: So growing up in this large household in Thomas, Washington, what did you do for fun?

GI: I didn't have much time for fun because like I said at sixteen, I was in the business already and greasing cars and filling up gas tanks and things like that which I loved to do. I like people. And for fun, I suppose there was, in our off-work time I should say, our Buddhist temple, I've been active in the Buddhist church ever since I can remember, school activities. I never was much at sports. I remember hitting a 105 for eighteen, I mean for nine holes, first I went out to golf. I hit about a 65 in a bowling league game one time, and needless to say, that was about time I decided I wasn't for any of that. I was asked by some guys to pinch hit baseball, my older brothers. I couldn't hit a ball. I just wasn't a good sport. I took judo and things like that. I was kept busy all right with all the other things I had to do, but I just wasn't no good at sports except elbow bending. We did that for a few years.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

AC: So how was, can you tell me a little bit about going to school when you were a kid?

GI: Well, that was no problem when I was going to grade school and junior high school. But when I got to high school, I see what the other kids are doing and did anything I could do to make it easier for me and have more time off like I used to drive the football field with a truck before they have a game and things like that. I used to help a friend of mine and do some painting on the stage at the high school. He got me out of classes so that I could help him. And so consequently, I used to have to run home sometime when I knew the pink slips were coming out warning that I may not make it if I didn't study a little more, get home, pick it up before my dad got it, you know. But I made it through. I think it, there were many, many other scholars who really, conscientious Nisei students, but I wasn't one of them. But there were a share of, one of my very good friends was a valedictorian of our high school class, and he's still living today. By the way, he's a Buddhist minister, retired, really made a name for himself. But I never, books wasn't for me, studying wasn't for me.

AC: Do you remember any of your teachers?

GI: Any what?

AC: Do you remember any of your teachers?

GI: Yes, I remember quite a few of the teachers. Do you want some of the names?

AC: Any that made an impression on you?

GI: Well, we had a neighbor who was a principal of our school. He was also a teacher of eighth grade, fellow named RH Fergin. I had a teacher in the sixth grade. His name was Bectal. I remember a Miss Oki of first year, first grade teacher, a Miss Cronin. And as I went into high school, there was Miss Arthur, McDonald, bookkeeping, Mr. Oakley was our principal, Miss Garner. That's about all I can remember right off the cuff.

AC: What made them memorable?

GI: Well, I don't imagine any of you gentlemen were ornery kids like we were at my age, but I remember causing our Spanish teacher to shed tears many times. And she was so good to us that I guess we just couldn't help but give her a bad time, not maliciously, but doing things that maybe she didn't tell us to do or we shouldn't do. And the ones that were good sports, I guess, that would tolerate us and bring us through high school were part of the reason that I remember them. I remember this grade school, I think it happened to me maybe once or twice, but we used to get slapped on the wrist with the ruler. We used to have to stand in the corner, that type of thing, and that's true. It's, those teachers remained in my mind a lot longer. But they were all good to us. And I think after we got out of school, we were so thankful to them for the discipline and the good teachings of manners and things they taught us.

AC: So what did you do to the Spanish teacher?

GI: What's that?

AC: What did you do to your Spanish teacher to make her cry?

GI: I don't know. I think we were just heckling her, just playing amongst ourselves in class, not paying attention to her when we should have been, doing whatever, you know. I can still speak enough Spanish to get by. I've been to Peru and to Argentina and to Spain, and I've had a lot of vocation to speak Spanish to the local Spanish people. I remember one time I was, my real estate business, I was selling a restaurant over here between Caldwell and Nampa, and the fellow that came to prospect, he was Chinese, and he had come from Central America. All he could speak was Chinese and Spanish. I closed the deal. So I have this Miss Arthur, that's her. I hope she's still living, and she was a very young teacher, maybe that was the reason too, another reason. She was a young redhead, fiery type of a gal, you know. But probably, her personality caused us to kind of give her a bad time. She was a, I think we gave her the worst time of any teacher we've had, but not beating her or not saying bad things to her, just misbehaving.

And we were that way with, I should bring this out because we might overlook it otherwise. We have other teachers to be so thankful for, and that are the teachers of our Nihongakkou, Japanese school. We couldn't understand why we had to go to Japanese school two hours after our Caucasian friends went home for the day. Every day, we had to walk. We thought it was about a mile to walk to go to Japanese school. In the recent years, I've gone back there and walked to it. It's about two blocks. [Laughs] I guess our feet were smaller and it just seemed like a lot farther than it was. But anyway, at that time, one of them just passed away. His name was Reverend Kyoshi Matsukuma. He became a minister later on. But there's a whole bunch of Japanese students, Japanese students from Japan, attending primarily University of Washington in Seattle. And from there, we had several Japanese school teachers. And it would be one or two hours every day after ordinary school, and they taught us Nihongo. And like I said, most of us griped to go to Japanese school because we tell our parents, "Why do we have to learn Japanese for? We need to learn more English." And the answer was, "Don't ask any questions. You go to Japanese school." Okay. And then so thankful for that. And for myself, it's just been terrific because I have been, all the lives of the Isseis in our community during their lives, I was able to help them in many, many ways like I said my dad did for them. And not only that but the highlights of my ability to speak and write Nihongo as I can and understand it and to read and write not kanji so much but other, katakana, hiragana, that I've made over hundred trips to Japan now since 1957.

By the way, this Oregon Legacy Center, I've got to mention, my good friend that got me started in the travel business is George Azumano of Portland. And I'll have to say that George also got me involved in a few other, other things that's cost me a few bucks through the years, but I really appreciate George. He's been like a big brother to me, and we got along great. We've traveled together at times, and I had a good time. But anyway, getting back to the Japanese language, I couldn't be doing my job. I'm still taking groups to Japan, and I have people from all over the country that I've booked, for instance, City of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I took seventy-five people from there. My wife and I escorted them to their sister city Sasebo in Japan about five or six years ago. I've had sister cities affiliation from Idaho Falls in Idaho. I've taken several of their groups. I've taken from Madras, Oregon. Remember the show, Japanese show, "Love from Oregon," well, I was aware of that. That's how they got acquainted with the Japanese more than anyway. And I have a good friend there that used to work in the credit union that was in the basement of our office many years ago, and he got a hold of me, and I've taken a group from Madras to their sister city, Kitamakimura, in Japan. I couldn't have done any of this and done a good job without being able to speak and understand the language, so I have to be so thankful to those senseis, who I don't know any of them who are alive today now, the last one passed away recently, for teaching us Japanese. And I'm telling you, we gave them a bad time. I can remember... you gentleman wouldn't remember to, the days when the Model T Ford had coils in them. The wooden boxes was, I think it was four of them that had coils in them, the real thin wire on the coil, and that's, they can call that a magneto, I think, and anyway, to eliminate the need of electricity, I think, to keep the car running. Anyway, we used to get those things out, and I didn't do all of it, but to tie worms hung on the corridor, maybe a frog or something, then you went to Japanese school. Oh, he used to make the teacher so mad. [Laughs] Again, we didn't do anything to hurt them or anything, but the ornery things that we did, I consider that all a part of growing up and learning what was right and wrong. I got to appreciate them for that. And of course, it goes as far then I have to appreciate our parents for coming to this country in the first place and for their need to understand the English. Their lack of ability to understand English made us learn Japanese. And so you know, it goes way back that we can thank our generation that are behind us now for the things that we've learned.

AC: So how many years of Japanese school did you go?

GI: I think I went to five or six. I don't know why I quit at that time because I think my sister and my wife went longer than that. But you know, the sad part of it is by not using it, my wife has lost a lot of it. I make it a, I've made it a kind of a practice to use Nihongo quite often, and that has helped me retain it. See, my wife learned a lot more kanji and things, but she hadn't retained it. So anyway, that's kind of a rundown on education and how I behaved in school.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

AC: So did you, you said you began starting to work at sixteen. Did you finish high school or did you stop going to school at that time?

GI: Well, when I was about sixteen or seventeen, I graduated when I was seventeen, high school. But my older brother Mun, he's called Manabu, we had the service station and we hadn't started the wholesale gasoline business yet, but he needed some help there, and he said, well, rather than hiring other help, it would save him five or ten dollars a week to hire some help, so we could do it for nothing, you see, for spending money. And so it was a good opportunity to negotiate with our schoolteachers and all, and so I probably had two classes a day that I didn't have to attend a certain day, so I would go and run the service station. But I used to work in the grocery store besides going out with my dad and taking orders when I was probably twelve years old, ten or twelve years old and wait on customers. I can maybe barely reach the cash register, but I learned to operate the cash register about as quick as I learned anything in school almost. I remember when I was about twelve years old, I remember the fellow's name. His name was F.A. Richardson. I guess he talked to my dad or my brothers, and he thought maybe I could do a job for him selling fire dust, fire extinguishing dust. It's a can about that long, about the size of a baseball bat, the big part. And he had a Model T, two, Model A, two-door Ford and had a trailer behind, and he had a kind of a shelf that he carried in the trailer and would go to a Japanese home, and he'd douse it with gas, and he'd start the structure out in the fire, then he'd take this fire dust and put out the fire. So I was an interpreter when I was about twelve years old helping him sell fire extinguishers. Lots of things like that.

One of the things I remember that I really appreciated, a bunch of us kids did, the butcher that came around once a week or so, his name was Ernie Gallagan, Butch Gallagan, and he used to give us a wiener every time he can. So we were talking and learning business from people like that. But I've also worked on the farm. My dad taught me how to harness the horse, a swayback horse. The thing about it now, must have been ready for the glue factory, but we still use that horse, and Dad used to get pretty disgusted with me because I had an awful time putting the harness on the horse. But you know, at twelve years old or so trying to harness a big horse, that's quite a job. But I remember doing a little plowing, quite a bit of cultivating, and I used to enjoy hitching it onto a sled because I didn't have to walk then. The horse would pull the sled around. Later on, while, one of our customers had a tractor, bought a brand new Ford tractor, so I started using that, borrowing that to do some of the farm work and all. I didn't like to work out in the field. You see, when we had twelve kids, my mother had time to still work out in the field, and I remember especially the blackberry field. It was all bushes, and she'd tell us, "When you get home from school today, you go out and clean the bathtub and put new water in it and build a fire under it," so the hot baths would be ready for the family at night. Now this brings up another story that maybe you do or don't have, but you heard about it if you haven't seen it or haven't experienced it. A wooden bathtub, it was about two by, it seemed like that there was one piece, the size about one piece about 2 by 24 and built square and then there was a tin bottom. And if we got into the tub, it was probably, the water would go up to our shoulders. And there was a piece of, slats of wood that's nailed together and would fit in the tub so that we would get on that pad and then it would go down to the bottom, so we wouldn't have our feet on the hot floor, hot tin. But anyway, the whole family took a bath in one bath water each day. And you washed outside. Boy, you didn't dare get in the tub and use soap because you'd be disowned if you did that. But you washed outside and scrubbed each other's backs and soaked in the tub. But that was our first chore of the day. But before then, my mother would probably have a cookie or two on the table, which we really enjoyed, went out to bathtub. And if there's dishes to wash and things like that, maybe we had to help with that. But then we went out to the field. Mother had one of our siblings on her back probably. One was probably in a basket on the ground, and so it was our job to kind of make sure that the kids would be happy. We take care the kids while Mom is out there trimming the berries or picking berries or whatever might be. So I've had experience like that. And I remember unloading rotten eggs on our field that we used for fertilizer. I remember spreading manure on the fields. You can imagine, I was twelve, thirteen years old on the field for fertilizer and things. So I had a lot of nice things that I maybe played around as a kid, but there was a lot of things that I did and I've been busy all my life.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

AC: Your parents tell you very much about how it was living in Japan?

GI: Never talked about it. Never talked about it except one that I remember very plainly, and this was quite a coincidence, that she used to talk about playing as a kid. Let's see, she was about eighteen when she got married, I think, and she never learned other than katakana, the simplest Japanese character. So we asked her several times about, "Mom, how come, didn't you go to school and how come you didn't learn any more Nihongo, reading and writing." She used to just laugh about it. "Well, my family, my folks, your grandparents, said, 'A woman doesn't need to learn anything, out of books. You just learn to be a good mother, a good daughter, good mother, and raise a family.'" But anyway, about that time, why, she remembered playing in the yard of her home where I visit quite frequently, and every couple three years, I'll go to the home place of my mother's and my dad's too in Kumamoto, Japan. And she used to talk about playing out in the garden and this and that. We had an acquaintance come by one time, and this is in the last ten or fifteen years. He said, you know, boiling it all down, he realized he was from the same place as where my brother was born. And we got to talking with my mother, and my mother, she said, "I used to play in the yard under a certain tree with your mother when we were teenagers, little kids," and my mother had never met him before but knew his mother, and he was very well acquainted with it because he had lived there during the, part of the war. Later, he became, had his citizenship reinstated, was working for the U.S. government. But she and he talked about that, and it was just so clear to me, and I got to thinking about her last night. Dad being sixteen, I don't remember him saying anything about before he came to this country. He did mention, now, my mother mentioned this, that Dad's half brother was in Seattle, and he was a big shot. He was a poor big shot. He learned to get to know the big officials from I guess the consul and things like from Japan and things, and he wanted to be a big shot. But anyway, I guess he wasn't much of a... my mother and dad think he was causing more problem than they thought, so they suggested he go back to Japan which he did, and he took a bunch of, or took or had shipped a bunch of American fruit and vegetables, plants and seeds and things and went back to Kobe there to establish them in Kobe where he had his family assistance, half brother now. And in recent years, we've come across a little pamphlet that he had made to sell vegetables and fruits, American vegetables and fruits to the Americans that were in Japan. Kobe was kind of a center of, I guess that's where probably the embassy was, U.S. Embassy was right along there. But I think Uncle might have done fairly well there. But that's about all I knew. I knew my aunt, my dad's youngest sister. I met her the first time I went, and that's almost fifty years ago, but that's about all. I have one cousin, first cousin on my dad's side left in Japan. I have probably seven or eight first cousins on my mother's side left over there. But I'm sure sorry I didn't get the story from Dad. My sister knows more about it, but I'd like to have had the story from Dad just telling us about why he came to America and what life was like before he came, although I know it was real tough.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

AC: Speaking of tough times, you said that you were, your father had a general store --

GI: Yes.

AC: -- general merchandise. And during the depression, he'd go out and make his rounds, take orders and fill the orders. Can you tell me a little bit about those days and what kinds of hardships that you experienced or you watched other people experience?

GI: Well, you know, some of the things I remember and I remember quite clearly, you take like a box of lettuce, I don't remember exactly, but I think they got as low as about ten cents a crate of lettuce before they decided well, it just wasn't worth harvesting, so they wouldn't even harvest it. But the history was that kind of no prices on lettuce, where they could make a living. It might have gone up to a couple of dollars a crate which was terrific, but about that time, the slime and things would ruin the lettuce. Then in California, the produce was quite easily obtained and things like that, so they just had an awful time with lettuce. Peas was the same way. Peas however in later years, they had the canneries that would buy peas, so you could make a little bit of living. Blackberries, things like that, it was just barely enough to get by. And I remember the Depression was so bad that one lady who's still living, her name is Sophie, maiden name was Sophie Portnum, Portman. And later years, she and her husband ran a hardware store in Vashon Island which I tried to find the other day when I was there, but I couldn't find it. But she was a high school student and there was blackberries growing along the road, but the dandelion, the, I don't know what you call it, the floss or whatever were flying around and would get on these blackberries along the road and all, but she used to go pick those and maybe have a flat of twelve cups. They wouldn't have, they might have been pints, but I would guess maybe half pints it took up. She'd bring them down to my dad because we had a contract to sell our blackberries, and she'd get maybe two bits for the whole flat. But when she'd bring those, the floss or whatever you call it from the dandelions got in there, and my dad used to have a hard time getting the canneries to take them because they said, "No, you got too much junk in there." You can't do anything with them. But he did the best he can to help this family out and give them two bits or four bits a whole flat, you know.

Our tough times, a five cent hamburger, boy, that was a real treat. My older brothers used to take us uptown to buy us a five cent hamburger. By golly, that was just really great. We really looked forward to it. We'd go to the movies, twelve cents or ten cents to go to the movies. I remember going to the movies, and it was just some, some kid told us about the nuts and bolts on the seats, and boy, those sure are handy to have so taught us how to get the nuts and bolts and take them off the seats, almost fall apart, but we had a whole bunch of nuts and bolts, you know. But at the high school, you used to go to get a Coke and an orange bar, a pastry, five cents for the pastry and five cents for the Coke. It was just, today, unbelievable to think of how much that penny or nickel meant to us. There were penny Babe Ruth bars, penny Butterfingers, penny Milky Ways, and those are pennies, and a lot of kids couldn't afford to have those. And that reminds me of a story. The fellow's still living in Nampa. His name is A.B. Ellis. He's a little older than I am. He retired from the paint manufacturing business. He started a factory in Boise and turned it over to his son. But anyway, he came to visit me one time here about twenty-five years ago, and he introduced himself. And I didn't remember him specifically, but I remember all the kids. We had a nursing home, I mean an orphan home in our community. It was called the Jeff Orphan Home. Jeff was a name of an American Indian who accumulated some money, and that money had somehow built this Jeff's Home, and there was, oh, twenty to thirty kids there. It was about 1930, no, 1926 I think it was, something like that because when they came, they had so many kids come to school that they elevated us one grade those of us that qualified, elevated us one grade so to make room for the kids not because we were smart. But there's a lot of kids that didn't get elevated too because a lot of kids were having trouble because they were in homes that still spoke Japanese, and they come to first grade and they had to learn English which they didn't know. I was fortunate because I had, my oldest brother was thirteen years older than I. My dad spoke English, and so I was lucky to be able to do okay in grade school. And anyway, he mentioned, now telling you this story. He says, George, says, and he wanted to meet my mother, and he really thanked my mother. He said, "You know, I remember when I was a little kid and I was at the orphan home, we'd walk by your store and going to school every day, and Mrs. Iseri, you would give us a little penny candy bar or you would give us this and that." And he said, "I really appreciate that." He just remembered it so clearly. Like I said, that man is a retired paint manufacturer, and he's now in his old age. He's older than I am by a year or two. But that kind of goes back. I don't remember where we were at, what question I was trying to, filling in there for, but that's another sidelight story. I can tell you another about the store. My mother, she told this story all her life because every once in a while, we'd hear about it especially if we see a member of the Miyoshi family that were our neighbors, and the kids used to, we were real close friends. They used to go out by our store. And one time, she says that Jimmy, he was the same age I was, came by, and my mother said that she saw he had one brown socks and one black socks, and my mother felt sorry for him, so she remembered putting on a pair of socks that matched for him. But little things like that that, she mentioned few things significant but kind of give you an idea of what kind of people my mother was. Well, there's lots of other things that I can understand we have, at our age, we have enough to tell for hours and hours, and I'll not. [Laughs]

AC: Please do.

GI: I'll tell you an experience I had. The other day, I was, where was I? Anyway, I saw some cans about like that, little cans like that. There was a convenient store I think in, I said, "What's in that round package there?" I said, "Is that 'Snoot'?" And I said, "I bet you don't know what 'Snoot' is." No, he says, "I don't." He went down like that. Oh, you mean "snuff"? And that was a great item in our grocery store that we sold, Copenhagen snuff. And these guys that would eat it, just open the can up and dip into it, put it under their tongue then spit it out, and they would spit and keep chewing away. Then maybe after a while, they'd put some more in. And I said, "Is that good?" "Oh, that's really good." And so now one day, I'd try it. So when I was alone in the store, I opened up a can of snuff and put a chunk in my mouth, and oh, that tasted terrible, so I ran out to the front of the store. I spit it all out, and I turned the water on, took a drink of water. Hell, I was drunker than a lard. I'll never forget that. That was a first experience with anything like that, alcohol or anything like that. That would knock you over practically. And then I realized that these people that used it were, become so accustomed to it, so there was no problem. But we used to sell a lot of that Copenhagen snuff.

I'm trying to think of a lot of the other things. But one thing I'm thankful for is that I learned that I can talk among people who never heard of such words, among the Issei would know, but the Japanese stuff like we used to have kampyo and we used to have ika and we used to have tsurume. We have somen. We have of course udon we all know, takuan, umeboshi, tsukudani, all this kind. I learned all that as a kid working with my dad, you know. And so that's how me in visiting Japan like going into some of the stores or department stores and talking with people, lots of words come back to me in recognize conversation because I know what they were. And so there's lots of things like that that I learned as a kid that I'm so thankful for that I even forgot about knowing those words. Food of course, we learned to eat Japanese food all our lives. And even today, once or twice a day, we always have chawan and chopsticks, and that's something that I'm glad that we still do. About almost twenty years ago now, we took three older grandchildren to Japan, and they're hapas, and they don't show too much Japanese in their features. But as we traveled through Japan, those little kids would eat with chopsticks and chawan and even eat natto, and the people in Japan would just get such a kick out of seeing them. hakujin kids, they figured doing things like that, so we were able to pass those things on to our kids. And we still today, our grandchildren and great grandchildren have learned to use chopsticks and chawan because of that. I've got this Japanese style eight tatami room here that I was kind of watched the, oversee the building of one friend of mine, Yone Kariya, built it for me. That has helped me teach other people what it is. You know, they can't imagine sleeping and eating and entertaining on the same area, and you put your bed away every night, things like that.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

AC: I want to know more about what it was like to go out and deliveries and taking orders with your dad, driving around in a car? Was it all these Japanese families that you visited?

GI: The oldest car I remember that my dad had was a 1926 Chevrolet with a Ferry body. The company of the, that built the body is named Ferry I guess, and it was a box that was put on a Chevrolet chassis. My dad drove that thing for I don't know how many years, but I remember at the very end that half of the front right fender was gone, and you know, couldn't afford to buy another delivery wagon. Then later on in 1929 or so, we took the body off of that '26 Chevy and put it on a chassis. We made a chassis of a '28 Chevy and put the body on a '28 Chevy. That's how tough the times were as far as delivery went. And another thing too that I recall during the time of that '26 Chevy deal was a 30 by three and a half tires that were on the car, and they were what you call clincher tires. By clincher tires, you know that the wheels today have, your tires come in and just fit down here like this. Those days, the clincher tire bead went around a hook here so to keep the tire on the rim. Well, the manufacturers couldn't build those tires good enough so that the rim wouldn't cut the tire. So we used to have so many tires that the rims would ruin the tires, and we're having flats all the time. I just felt so bad for Dad when that type of thing happened. But of course, we didn't know any better because everybody else had the clincher tires. But then in the next two or three years, then they came out with the standard tire with tubes in them. Now we don't have tubes, but we used to have tubes in them, and still, we used to have a lot of flat tires because of it. Gasoline those days were probably about fifteen cents a gallon. When the war started, we were wholesaling our gasoline, the regular grade for seventeen cents a gallon. We paid fifteen cents a gallon for it, the regular gas. We used to sell the diesel oil for four and a quarter cents a gallon. We used to pay three and three quarter cents for it. Oh, stove oil, we'd sell for seven and a quarter cents a gallon. That just gives you an idea of comparison to what it is today. The fuel, of course, is much different today, but diesel, it sells for two dollars and something a gallon I think now.

We used to make, I don't remember the groceries cost and things so much, but it seemed like we used mark about twenty up on groceries. But the gasoline, we had two cents a gallon if we sold it wholesale, and our truck would hold a thousand gallons. So if we sold a thousand gallons in one day, we were really making money. If we could do that every day, it would be great, but it was only about a couple times a week. Art Hamanishi, who lives here in Ontario, used to drive truck for us. I think he got the top pay while we were in the gasoline business. He got twenty-five dollars a week, room and board. But going back a little further in the service station, talk about tough times, we had one fellow just passed away. His name is Johnny Peterson, lived in Algona near Auburn there. He used to work in our service station. I think he started out at five dollars a week. And then finally, I think about time he quit, we were paying him ten dollars a week. Boeing was paying five dollars a day. We couldn't figure out how anybody could pay five dollars a day for somebody working eight hours a day or maybe nine hours. That's when just before the war came along, few years before the war came along, and then things started looking up a little bit. But today, now I suppose they're getting a hundred dollars a day. But the automobiles I remember in 1937, I think we gave around 550 dollars for a new Chevrolet pickup. When the war broke out, I had a new Chevrolet special deluxe coupe with a price of 1011 dollars. I got a new, not new, but fairly new Chevy coupe right now. It costs me $22,000.

But getting back to the store and the tough times, just to tell you how tough times were, I recall maybe two or three times and I know there were a few more times that my dad just couldn't pay the wholesaler for what he owed, and he would hang on as long as he could. And finally, he would always call my oldest brother Tom, and Tom would come and bail my dad out. And you know, I recall telling Dad, "Dad, we just have a little grocery here, but you didn't collect any money." But he had a few drinks of sake there, was feeling good. Then he said, "Oh George, those people are having a tough time. They haven't got the money, and I just got to take care of them if I can." He said, "They'll pay it. They'll pay one of these days." And I kept thinking about, my mother never talked about that, but until after the war, but why we didn't hear more about it, discussion about it between Dad and Mom about that because I knew that Dad was having an awful tough time. There were times when we didn't have change enough in the cash register to change, give change for a dollar. That's how tough times got. And yet, where this, one of the fellows that chew snoots, he used to come across the street. He was a retired railroad man and pay us with ten dollar gold pieces. He was a wealthy man. He's in a pension payment. But he was a very rare person.

And by the way, you might think that, because I never mentioned this, a good portion of our customers were Caucasian folks, and so we were in a community there that, as I think about it, these Caucasian people were just wonderful people, and I'm jumping many years here. But you know, I've thought many times about why didn't those people speak up for us so we could hear them, so other people could hear them, before and after we were evacuated. And I've come to a realization now that one of the most outspoken men in our community was a big dairyman that had about ten tenant farmers on it, Japanese, and he used to probably furnish fifty percent of the milk that was being distributed throughout the valley there, but he became the president of the Remember Pearl Harbor League. I won't mention his name because we discovered that his children were not a part of that. There are some of them about our age, but they were in the same position I'm going to tell you about here. He was so vocal and he got so many prominent businessmen to back him up, and we could see in the newspapers and our friends who communicated with us would tell us which merchant. And the story was, the main picture of the story was they don't want us ever to come back there. That's one reason I didn't go back, but that wasn't the only reason. Okay. Part of the story there that I wanted to mention was that I put myself in the position that these other people were in. America was at war with Japan and hundreds and hundreds of, thousands of our youth of our country, our friends, some of our friends too were being killed and injured in the war. And when these, as far as I'm concerned, they were bullies to get up and take advantage of us when we had nothing to do with it. It wasn't our country, it was our parents' country and gave us a bad time as they did. They were so loud that the other folks, our friends, were just petrified. They would, they would like to have really made an issue of it I know, but they just couldn't find leadership enough to do such a thing. And so I've come to appreciate our friends back there now for what they went through for us, and they've proven themselves to us after the war. Many, many of our families have moved back to the area where we're from, and they've done quite well, and they've been, get along fine. There's still discrimination now. I guess we'll never erase that totally anywhere. But we've done so much in our country like your organization, and the Nikkei organization, the 442nd, and the, we can't overlook the other units that the Niseis fought in as well as the soldiers, American Japanese soldiers who've served since the war and are serving today. They've done so much to make it good for us today. And with the help of these friends who couldn't speak up for us, we've really got a nice place today.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

GI: I don't know whether you get this story or not, but how bad it was is a person could get an engineering degree at a university. A very good friend of mine, he's about the same age as my oldest brother, died here a couple years ago, but he had a degree in engineering and there was no use for him to go knock on doors for a job. He knew he couldn't get a job. Sales people like my brother Tom, he graduated at a business college, and he got a job with the Lilly Seed Company which is quite an accomplishment to get a job with a Caucasian company like that. But of course, you see, they were selling seed to the Japanese people, so they could use him. The doctors, some of them did okay. I know pharmacists. Joe Okamoto here was a pharmacist, he passed away here several years ago, but he's in the produce business here. He couldn't find the opportunity to get into his profession and make it where he could make a living, and so he diversified in something else. There were so many stories of thes Nikkeis or Niseis that got an education and couldn't get their jobs. Today, look what we got. If you got a Japanese name, I think you got a foot in the door already, and I think it's probably the same with the other Asian groups but especially the Japanese Americans and Sansei. We've got Sanseis retiring today. I had a whole bunch of them in Japan with me in October from the Seattle area and San Francisco and Los Angeles area just barely sixty years old and they've retired already, the Sanseis. And here us Niseis, many of us, we don't have retirement benefits because we couldn't get jobs that had retirement benefits. We had to make our own way, and those guys are better off than we are. So it's the tireless work that your organization have been doing has just been great, and I just can't imagine looking back sixty years wondering what was going to happen to us to be able to have the kind of life we have.

By that, I think I should include that I served on the city council here for nine years. And when my term expired, I was appointed and then I served two years, got unanimous, majority votes. When I ran for mayor, I got whipped by a lady who was, had been a schoolteacher here for thirty some years. She knew a lot more people than I did, so that took care of that. The same year that I came up with cancer and couldn't perform my job anyway. I was accepted into the Lion's Club. It's been fifty-six years I've been in the Lion's Club, the oldest and the longest member in our home club here which Joe Saito, by the way, was a Lion's Club member when I joined. Tommy was also a member, but neither of them were able to stay with it. Did I mention the nursing home here? I served thirty-four years on the board there. The point I'm getting at is that I've lived in an era here where the respect for us Nikkei has come to a point that we don't have to be ashamed of being a Nikkei in any way; although, that's not what the story was, way back.

When we came here, we had some tough times. But we were very lucky here that the mayor in Ontario, named Elmo Smith, opened his arms and got the city, the community people to do the same, the majority of them, and welcome us to the community, thank us for coming. And granted now, there were some who were sorry to see us come and wished the hell we get out of here. But the majority of them that went with Mayor Elmo Smith, he was the first one to hire a Japanese housegirl, a relative of mine. And so Ontario was pretty good, and the rest of the cities pretty much had to fall in because Ontario's economy was pretty darn good because of our business here. And so the other communities are a little rougher than Ontario was, but it wasn't long before they joined the fold. And we've had some wonderful days when we lived in Weiser as well as when we lived in Payette, Idaho. Our children grew up in Payette, Idaho. Two of them went through, all the way through school there. But you see, I was still involved in business in Ontario, so this is my place of business although my home is across the river for a while. But Mayor Smith become president of the Senate of Oregon and later was elevated to governor when I think the Governor McKay, I think it was, and five state officials or plus four state official was killed in a plane wreck in Southern Oregon I think it was. Anyway, we had that type of backing. By the way, probably this was covered before. The Japanese people here by the way had built, of Treasure Valley had built a community hall out here and perhaps the story been covered and I don't know the details of it. But they deeded the property to the city and Mayor Elmo Smith was mayor and the city leased it out or loaned it out or whatever to the, for a naval air station during the war, and it was returned to the Japanese Nikkeijinkai after the war. So the Nikkei here along that line had a lot to offer the community. But then at the same token, Ontario treated us well because I know throughout the country there were, the history of some prominent American organizations that wouldn't give the property back to the Japanese after they had deeded it to them, so it was taken care of during the war you see. So we had an excellent community here. We had a little tough times in Idaho because of the governor. I won't mention his name but was very, very outwardly hated us. But today, we are invited, we have been for two, three years now. The Remembrance Day, February 19th I believe it is, Governor Ken Thorne invites us over to come on over, and he gives us a day to remember that day that we were ordered to camps.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

GI: I don't know, maybe I should tell you, I may be one of the few especially from here that went to camps but I think it was about May the 22nd, 1942. We were, we had about a ten-day notice to move to, well, we, yes, we did find out where we're going. We're going to Pinedale, California. And they had separated the Seattle metropolitan area down to around Renton, Washington, to South Park Boeing aircraft area, the old aircraft area, and the city of Seattle were evacuated about three weeks I think before we were. And the Seattle group went by on buses past our place to go to the Puyallup Valley Washington Fairground, Western Washington Fairground. They kept us in the dark pretty much of what's going to happen to us, and even rumors had it that they might force us to live people where we live that they might leave us there. Well, that was about the time that they came to the river just near us, what they call the Green River, and we lived on the Kent side of the river. My wife and I had just got married in November of '41, and we lived in an area that got the notice one morning to pack our bags and get ready to go. About that time, I got up that morning and knock on the door. My oldest brother and a couple of our friends came and said, my brother said, "If you want to evacuate, we don't know where we're going. But if you want to evacuate with the rest of the family, you better pack and get out of here right now because this river is the line." They got their notice this morning they're going to be shipped out on such and such a day. But if you move across the river, you're going to have some extra time maybe or maybe won't have to go. Well, all we did was packed our suitcases and took our clothes what we could and moved across the line where my folks lived, and we lived in the old grocery store. We had a couple of bedrooms there where our hired help lived. So we didn't have to go that time.

But my good friend George Hori and his wife went to Pinedale near Fresno which was a hundred-some degrees in the shade and no shade. But anyway, we got a letter from this George. It says, and his wife said, "Oh, we hear you're coming our way. If you are, we got part of our apartment saved for you," and it's a wonder they could do that. But anyway, it was about two or three weeks later that we got the notice that we were going to go to Pinedale. And you saw that part of the barrack there. It's a very poor example because our barrack didn't look near that good. It wasn't that finished. There was no ceiling in our barracks, and there was no rafter or what you called it between units. And there was on one side, there was a whole family and the son-in-law living probably six or eight people. We can hear everything going on there. The other side, I don't remember, because it must have been pretty quiet. But all we had was just like the blanket there in that mock up over there. That's the only division we had, partition we had between two newlyweds, two pair of newlyweds. And you know, we were real close friends, so I think it might have been easier. It might have been easier if we didn't know each other, I don't know. But anyway, you could just imagine couple of newlyweds, with just a blanket between them day in and day out. There's no furniture. There was no cooling system. We went as far as to raise the beds on bricks or blocks of wood if we could, and I put newspaper underneath the beds and sprinkled it with water so that we could cool a little to sleep. We had to go a little ways away to take a shower, well, to take a shower. The showers by the way, there was many of us sitting out in this doorway of our rooms and we could see a show every night. There was no partition or nothing for the ladies. So people come, go out of the building, well, you got an open and shut show all night. The toilets there were what we call them, I think, eight passenger coupes. They were, they had the screen maybe just above eye level screens up there for outside, and there was just like a, well, you can imagine a, what you would do is put few boards across like that and four different holes here, no partition. So of course, the men and the women were separate, but that's what we had for supposedly private. Our outhouse was much more private than that at home.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

GI: Then when we went to Tule Lake, Pinedale was extremely hot. And when we went to Pinedale, it was still quite warm and all of this dust when we got there. But the wintertime was very cold, and the tough part of it was when my wife was pregnant with our oldest son and the night that he was born, there was, oh, about a foot of snow I guess, but I was fortunate that the packing house where I was the office manager, our field man had to, had a car, couple cars, so I didn't have to walk very often. But the hospital, well, my wife was there about seventy hours I think before she gave birth to our son. And there's other stories that entered into this. You know, the Doctor Togasaki, lady doctor, was, delivered our son. And by the way, the doctors, their top salary was nineteen dollars a month, and they did a tremendous job there, and it's a wonder that they had such good cooperation, but they did and took good care of our people no matter what was the job they needed treatment for.

But... by the way, he, it was five weeks old when we brought him out here. I think the date was about February 28, I think, from Tule Lake. We came on a, I believe it was a Greyhound bus, and we came into the icy cold. But the reason we came out just at that time, we should have waited until about springtime when there's work in the fields, but there was no work in the fields then, and I never did go, because I didn't know anything about it, and I didn't particularly wanted to go at that time anyway. We had a baby but was pruning trees at sixty-five cents an hour which wasn't bad, you know. Sixty-five cents an hour was more than we were paying people to work for us in the service station.

But we were able to... no. I want to give you this part of the story first. You've heard about the "no-no" boys in camp. People who weren't in the camp there didn't know what we were up against, and I know it's hard for them to imagine what it must have been like when those questions, one was something to do with "would you swear your allegiance to the United States of America?" and so and so was in there. Another question was "would you serve if called for the armed service of the United States?" Well, the uprising in Tule Lake at that time was, "Hell, no, we're not going. We're not going to even sign those papers." That's consensus of the group. So there's, people start agitating there. Well I don't know why, but I guess really the majority of us felt like I did after we talked amongst ourselves and that is no matter what we do, if we say we're not going to sign these affidavits, questionnaires, what are we going to gain from it? If we signed "no-no" or refuse to sign them, the government can say, "Okay. We'll put you into solitary confinement or whatever." And so I said, "I'm going to sign 'yes-yes.' I'll be a hypocrite. I'm going to get the hell out of here." So a whole bunch of us did that. And at that time, the antis were after us guys and called us dogs. Dog wasn't, maybe it's the same today, but calling us a dog wasn't a very complimentary remark. And the people were getting beat over the head and things in the camp amongst the California group. I'm very glad that it didn't happen, none of that happened among the Washington group, I don't believe at that time anyway.

So my brother was in Weiser, Idaho, and I'll make it another story, but then he was able to get us a contract here to get us out here. And so many of us came out here as well as other places to avoid violence in the Tule Lake camp which later became the segregation camp, and they took the people who affirmed their allegiance and their acceptance to serving in the military if called, and many of us left there. Those, there were still those, some caught there that maybe old folks with young kids who said, "Well, where would we go? What are we going to do? We can't take these little kids out there and go out in the farm in this kind of weather, and it's that cold time of the year." So they were kind of stuck. But at that time, there was enough agitation in the other camps, same way, that they let the group out who said "yes-yes" and shipped them to other camps like Minidoka and Wyoming, and they took the bad ones from those camps and filled up Tule Lake again. You see what I mean? They shifted us around, and that's what happened then.

Well, I came out here and lived in Weiser in a one bedroom, not a one bedroom but a one room cabin with a small kitchen, no bathroom, and my wife had two hot plates, I mean, two burner hot plates. One of them didn't work. Eventually, she got so that she was cooking for seven or eight of us because I had a contract to farm. I had workers come to camp to live, so my wife cooked for seven or eight of us. And some other people didn't, bachelors were there, so not one burner hot plate and no place to eat it. They had to eat in, I don't remember where we ate now, but that type of a deal. And then the local laundry in Weiser said, "George," he said, "Well, by golly, you know, you folks are hardworking people and how about recruiting some more help for me from Tule Lake?" And he said, "I'll drive you down there. You go with me. We'll go down there and recruit." And I said, "Well, okay." So we went down and recruited more labor to come out here to Weiser to work which panned out quite well. But these guys that were in camp that had give us trouble, enough time had elapsed, he said, he's coming on, "George, well, we heard you're having a tough time out there." "Oh yeah, it's tough," I says. "Hell, we get to go uptown and buy whiskey if we want, and we'd go to any grocery store we want, and we do this and that. Yeah, it's awful tough out there." Oh, it's like that, you know. You see, they were envious of what they had passed up. They couldn't leave now. They were all tied there.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

GI: But to tell you the story, I want to tell you the story about my brother Tom because he has a, he had a different kind of a story. My brother Tom married a German American girl about 1935. When times were tough and my older brothers were out chasing around with the hakujin male friends and hakujin girlfriends and things like that, it was a no, no, no deal. In fact, my older brother had a reputation of doing something bad, and that was dating hakujin girls. Okay. But he, my brother Tom, I had mentioned that he did not drink or smoke, and he was the conscientious one, really conscientious, and he lived at home at the time, and he became friends with this Winona Meerbaum, and became quite serious. And he brought her home to our home and presented her and asked my folks if they would object to them getting married. And guess what? My mother and dad said, "Tom, if she's your choice and vice versa, you have our blessing." It was an unheard of situation because I'll bet you nine out of ten similar marriages, it broke up the whole family. They even got to a point where they wouldn't speak to each other. But my folks were wise enough I guess to foresee the future and probably the idea that my dad had become fluent in English. My dad had a lot of association with Caucasian people. My brothers had a lot of association with Caucasian people just as well as we did, and that must have made things that different. See, the war wasn't on or anything yet. Anyway, most of the marriages like that broke up the family. My brother and his wife just became, just, I think, that much stronger for the whole family that, well, it was a great deal. People couldn't talk bad about my brother Tom because he was specimen of a good man, you see.

Well anyway, when evacuation time came along, my brother woke me up. Tom came and woke me up to get my wife and I to move across the river, and same side my brother Tom and them lived, he lived in Auburn at the time. So my brother Tom, they didn't have any children yet. My brother Tom negotiated with the authorities and got permission to go to the Puyallup Assembly Center where the Seattle bunch went when we were going to go to Pinedale which is 800 miles away, and they accepted that. So my brother Tom who goes into Pinedale Assembly Center, I mean the Puyallup Assembly Center, and we used to go visit with him because it was open for us yet you see. There's a camp right in our backyard, but we were allowed to go to that camp, and we visit outside of the gates and we'd go up there and make an appointment or something. I don't know how we did it, but we had an appointment to see my brother Tom at the fence. Well, his wife stayed out of camp because she didn't have to go, and she started taking care of all the details of my brothers and the rest of our family and the other brothers and everything. And so she was driving the truck and everything else doing all these things. So that was a very unusual situation there because many, many Caucasian wives went to camp and lived with their husbands in the camps. There were several in the Puyallup Camp. And, but Tom's wife stayed out of camp even after we were shipped out, and so she was all alone then because Tom was in the camp in Puyallup and we were all down in California. And she, thank goodness, she stayed there and took care of everything that she could.

But at that time, evacuation time, my brother Mike who had volunteered for the service, I got a deferment. I didn't ask for it. They gave me a deferment because my brother Mike was designated as a head of the family because my dad was interned on the night of December the 7th. Anyway, my brother Mike was in Arkansas I think in Camp Robinson, and he called me one time, at that time. "George," he says, "go to the Red Cross and get me an emergency furlough." He says, "I got to come home and help clean things up," and even after you're gone, that was what he was after to help with things after I'm gone. So I said, "Well yeah, I'll do it." And he thought sure he would do it. Well, I went to the Red Cross and nothing doing. "Your brother's in uniform. Whether he's in uniform or not, he comes here, he's going to have to leave the same time the rest of you leave. That wasn't, that didn't make sense, but that's, you may not have an incident like that in any other reason, so he never got to come home. Here's another reason of my bitterness of not wanting to volunteer to serve, and I'd have gone if they had called me, but they never called me.


GI: Well, as I talked about my brother Mike, in February, I think it was, 1942, because my father was interned on the night of December 7, 1941, my brother Mike, who was single, was deferred by the draft board as a head of the family, and that really didn't mean much because he probably wouldn't have had to go anyway because of his age. He was thirty-three, thirty-three years old then, so I don't know particularly what the situation was then. But anyway, when he volunteered for the services, he tried everyone; the marine, the navy, the coast guard, air force, everything, and they wouldn't even talk to him, but they would take him in the army. So he went to the army. But I told him at the time that, "Mike, my number was up." They were ready to call me. And so the draft board wouldn't budge, but they told him, "Well, you go, and if you get accepted in the service, then we'll use that as a consideration for what we'd do with George," in which case they deferred me so that my wife and I were married a month before the war, and we were right there anyway, so we could look after the family even though my father wasn't there.

Then another thing that happened as far as my brother Mike is concerned that upset me and upset him, too, of course, and a lot of us, was that he was at I think it was Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and had attained the rank of I think they call it T-4. It was a technical sergeant. So you would think that if he were transferred to the infantry or wherever it was, that didn't make sense for us anyway because he was able to do this clerical work which was valuable to the government as well. But that if they should take him to any other department that he would retain his rank. But when he got transferred to Fort McClellan I think it was for training, they busted him. They took his rank away from him, so he became a buck private, and you know, that really, really got us to thinking that that didn't make sense. And then he came home on furlough, and we talked about it. He wrote us letters and said that he's quite sure that his disability in his knee or something would keep him from going to infantry, so he's hoping that he doesn't have to go to battle. Bang, bang, bang, he was gone. They shipped him overseas, and I don't, I think that was the first battle he was in was the Battle of the Lost Battalion, the Bruyeres/Biffontaine area. And he was probably, we have a couple of letters from him. And from the letters we received, he probably was out there two or three days before he got hit. We have his medical records. I've got it in my file, and he was just shattered in his guts. But here's the thing that, another thing that bothered us was that his wife got a, she was here, got a telegram stating that he was injured in, "slightly wounded in action" on October the 29th. Then we had hopes that, well, we hoped that he doesn't have something that's so simple he's got to get back out there and get on the lines again. Oh, about thirty days -- I think my sister-in-law still has that telegram -- about thirty days after, a telegram came saying that "we regret to inform you that he died from wounds on November the 4th." Well, "slightly wounded" and thirty days later they come back and tell us that he died after we thought he was still living. That didn't make us feel good. And so that's my story of my brother after he was there. He was buried in the Epinal American Cemetery in France nearby Biffontaine and Bruyeres and later moved to, brought here, then the final burial was in Washelli Cemetery in Seattle. I got to collect my thoughts here. Well, I can't think of it right now. But anyway, so that was it. I remained deferred.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

GI: At that time, I was sharecropping in 1943 or '44, sharecropping with a fellow named Charlie Joseph up here in Oregon Slope just this side of Weiser, and I wasn't a big farmer. Our farms back in Washington was maybe somebody had 10 acres or 15 acres of land. And here well, it was a matter of 100 or 500 acres. Today, it's more than that. But anyway, farm was very good to me, and our contract with them was that we, this is very near Paul Saito's place by the way, that we furnish the labor for growing the crops. All of the machine work would be done by the landowner. And so they had tractors and they did all of their, surprise me was I don't know that jackass or a donkey or a what, but they had a Caucasian fellow named Carl Wompler did all of that cultivating and stuff that year. The following year, I did it. But anyway, that's how I learned to put up hay. That's something new for me. When we were kids, our neighbor used to put up hay into the barn, and what I knew about it was we'd go there and play. We go on the haystack and here comes a load of hay and they drop it on us and we'd have a ball, you know. But here, I had to have, after the hay is harvested, to put them in stacks. So I learned words like a Jackson fork and things. A Jackson fork would pick up four barrels of hay at four times in the four barrels of hay. They would lift it up and somebody would go on the top of the stack and stack the hay way up for the winter. And I learned how to run the Caterpillar diesel tractor which we told what we called a slip. They called it a sled. It was a slip. I guess a sled would have had two rails on it, but this slip had nothing underneath. It's just boards and pulled across the land. We put potatoes in cellars or put onions in cellars. These cellars by the way were built into the ground or the hole dug in the ground. And then on top of that, there were rafters and things put up, and it was covered with dirt and straw and things like that to keep it from leaking, and that was the storages of the old days.

We raised, oh, the crop of onions that we raised, I remember the day very clearly because of June the 14th, 1943. By that time, my folks, I had them come out and they were living on the farm, living on little knolls so you can see the field from their house. On June the 14th, a storm came up, and so I ran up to my folks' house, and I was watching out the kitchen window, and I watched, the onion must have been about that tall, June the 14th. I watched the storm come, and this hailstorm came and clipped every one of the tops of those onions off to the ground, just about to the ground. It just ruined the crop. As soon as the storm was over, I drove back out there and I looked, and the odor of the, what you call it in the air just, what onions would do to you. Well, that's the way it hit me, and the air was just full of onion smell. The corrugation where we ran the water was all full of hail. You know, there had been rain with it, so the hail came and come clear down to, covered the whole field, but a lot of it came down in the field, and oh, that made me feel sick. So I got a hold of one of the landlords there. He said, well, he said, "George, that's sure too bad." And he said, "I think the crop will recover. I think we will get a crop all right, so let's take good care of it and we'll see what happens." This is one of the lesson I learned that there's angles to a lot of things that you do in life. After a while, he determined, he said, "George," he says, "there's something wrong with these onions. They're growing okay, but they're not, they don't look like the yellow sweet Spanish onions that I planted." He said that they look like a different variety. Now I don't know whether he was kidding me or not. But anyway, he said, "I'll tell you what, let's go talk to Hank Ankin." He was the boss of the company's farm department. So I went with him and we sat there and we convinced him that they had sold us the wrong seed. But that variety of onion was worth many times more than the right seed onions were. So when the crop was harvested, we had a higher price for them onions than we would have if the crop of a yellow sweet Spanish came up. That proved to me one thing, it taught me one thing, I used that later during that period too. But the Simplot Company who you work for, they had a deal with the government something like we'll pay you cost plus ten percent. The more they paid out, the more they made. Okay? So I don't know. Today, they wouldn't allow a thing like that to go on, but that's how Jack Simplot, the second wealthiest billionaire in the world or something like that, made a lot of his money. About the same time, I was, I had a couple of trucks in hauling onions here, cull onion here, when they sort the onions out, hauling cull onions out to dump here. I go and ask him they want me to do the hauling. I said, "Well, what are you going to pay me?" "Well George, what do you charge? Just remember this, the more you charge, the more we make," so I got the benefit of that too.

So anyway, my farming experience from that two years wasn't too good except that I learned a lot about farming and then about how to grow crops, marketing as well. And we, the following year, we had a beautiful ten acres of russet potatoes. I guess they were russets, and they look great. And so my landlord said, "Okay George. We're ready to sell them now." I told him I'd like to sell them to my brother's outfit, said, okay. In the meantime, I had become well acquainted with these produce inspectors here, got to be pretty good drinking buddies, so it really helped me out, be able to tip elbows with them and stuff, and they're real good to me and to a lot of us. But the question of hollow heart potatoes come up when I was at the packing jet when my potatoes were coming in, and I found out the hollow heart is a disease, I guess, that, maybe it's not a, it's a malformation I would think. If you cut potatoes open, you might see potatoes that are hollow inside, and oh, I said, "Is that right?" So I'm over talking to him, and god dang it, I made a mistake of saying, "Well, how do you, how can you tell from the outside if it's hollow or not?" He picked up a potato out of my field, he chopped it in half and guess what? It was hollow. And the whole ten acres went was sold for cattle feed, so I got practically nothing for it. But I learned a couple lessons there on that potato deal and onion deal. It cost us ten percent, and when you're selling something, be careful. [Laughs] I don't know what would have happened if they packed them and never found out they were hollow. My brother's company might have taken a strike, and I don't know. But anyway, we wouldn't taken such a liking there.

But that and we had sugar beets. And one of our friends that came out at the time still living here, I recruited, went to Minidoka, the camp near Twin Falls and recruit workers for my sugar beet harvest, and so I got five or six of the Niseis in the camp to come out here and topped the sugar beets. You know those days, we had to cut the tops off and throw the sugar beets into the truck. That day, I accidentally, sugar beet knife, you got a hook on it like a treacherous looking hook, and boy, I hit my knee with it. And so my crew, it wasn't that bad. I just had to get out of the field and get it bandaged up, and they accused me of doing that to get out of work, you know. But anyway, we harvest the crops and all. But during the season, these guys would eat dinner. My wife was among the ones that my wife cooked dinner for, meals for, and I'd get them in a, well, I'd get all of us in a poker game or something. I was pretty lucky, so they always accuse me of taking all their pay back after payday, but we just had a lot of fun. About that time, I'll tell you a little bit about elbow bending. We had to ration books given us during the war. They had ration for certain groceries, for shoes, for gasoline, tires, things like that, you see. Liquor, that's one I'm going to talk about right now.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

GI: You know, although liquor was rationed, all of us guys who drank any booze, we were learning at the time how to drink booze because what are you going to do to pass the time. You know, it's a pass time. So I had probably about that thick of liquor permit that I carried with me, maybe about twenty of them, something like that. Well, among those were my five weeks old son had one thinking we can get a liquor permit for anybody that had a regular ration permit, so we never ran short of liquor. Okay. We go to liquor store and deal them out like a deck of cards and find the good one. You know the liquor store, all they want to do is sell liquor, so they didn't care where it came from. If I had a liquor permit, they'd sell us liquor. So my five week old son had a liquor permit. Gasoline was rationed and we had evacuee not, well, primary permanent residence here is like, like the Wadas and Saitos were, never had a binge. We had more gas than we can use. My brother built extra gas tanks to put in the cars and things. And we'd go to some farmer's place, fill the gas tanks up. [Laughs] Oh, we had no problem there. Ration-wise, I can't remember having a bad time. But thinking back to those days, my wife had to walk a couple of blocks to the grocery store, little grocery store in Weiser. And during the war, we didn't have buggies, like, there must have been another name for a buggy, for toddlers to ride in. They didn't have strollers I don't think, at that time. But anyway, the buggies that you could buy were primarily made out of wood and canvas, and that wood, the friction of it, you tighten up a bolt with a wing nut, and that's what kept the thing in and kept it in place, you know. Then you loosen it up to fold it up and put it away. Well, our son was a year old, he weighed thirty pounds. Every time my wife went in a pothole, the damn thing would collapse. And the fact of the matter was my wife wasn't strong enough to tighten that thing up. But then again, our son was so damn heavy that it would just collapse.

We had old, we bought old cars. We couldn't, we had to sell all our cars because we had payments to make on the thing. Several of the evacuees that came out here were able to store their cars or trucks and bring them out here and use them out here, but they were obviously paid for. Talking about that, I think I ought to mention that to correct the one statement that I hear, every now and then I hear it, and I'm sure that I'm correct in that none of us lost property to the government because of evacuation. Nobody had property just taken away from them by the government. There was only one example I know of, I've heard about others. But the one example I know of is a cousin of mine. His parents and his family owned a beautiful dairy up in the Olympic peninsula. He just died the other day I found out. But anyway, I, this dairy barn which was built about 1935, because when I visited there, 1935, it was being built I think at that time before the war, and it's an opera house now. It was that good a building that they use it, it's a very prominent popular opera house up on the peninsula. Well, my cousin told me four or five years ago, he said, we got talking about it. He said, yeah George, he says, "We're still fighting that trying to get that property back." Well, what happened was that his dad was very adamant about things and he said, told his whole family, he said, "We're going back to Japan." This is when we were in camp, and this "no-no" type deal came up. We're going back to Japan, whole family. Well, my cousin said that he couldn't argue with his dad because he called the shots. So I think there was, three of them were about twenty-one years old, they went back to Japan, and they eventually came back except the father died there. And after he died, they came back. And apparently, see, they denounce their citizenship, but got their citizenship back. But the son, here's the thing that they lost the property to the government. I think the government got it. So that's the only incident that I know of that the government might have taken the property, but it was because they renounced their citizenship and went back to Japan. Now, there were many, many cases of where I don't know any in our area, but I've heard about them in California, many cases where evacuees signed the property over to a friend or a company or whatever, and they never got it back, but the government didn't take that. These friends stole it is what happened. So that I want to clear that because I don't want the government be blamed for something that they didn't do. However, I could be wrong, and if anybody has information or I'm wrong, I'd like to hear about it. As far as we were concerned, we had to sell everything.

You know, another good point on this thing was being in a service station business and a wholesale tire business. We accumulated a whole pile of tires in back of our service station wondering what to do with it. They were worthless, you know. When the war came along, we took probably ninety percent of those tires unless they were completely shredded, and were able to, if they were wore out, that's smooth, we had a tire grooving machine. That was popular those days, and we groove the tires, and we'd sell that tires, get good price for them. So it's something else that helped us out quite a bit, rounded up 400, 500 bucks for them, and that was a lot of money those days. Talking about 4 or 500 dollars, I'll give you a comparison on that. When my wife and I got married, my brother told me and they checked up on it for me and said, "We're all ready to go on it." Five hundred dollars for a one bedroom house material, five hundred dollars, toilet and everything without the property also. That's what we could have built a new house for 1941. So I tell that story because when people, when people compare, they think we got a lot of money when we got twenty thousand dollars. A house would cost twenty thousand. You know at that time one bedroom house, you could maybe build one for twenty thousand dollars. So that twenty thousand dollars we got was the equivalent to five hundred dollars roughly at the time that we were put in the camps. That kind of helps people, one of our new city councilmen, when we got that twenty thousand dollars, he had a big sign on his truck saying that we didn't, I don't know the exact words, but he claimed that we weren't entitled to it, that we never lost anything, so on and so forth, you know. And I don't think the voters of Ontario knew that, what kind of guy he was, but they voted him in. And that's one of the first things that he did in the news the other day I read where he said, "We got a crisis in the finances in the city right now." So he says, "One of the things is I wonder about the cultural center, whether we need to put all that money in the cultural center." So we're going to have problem with that guy I guess if he, but he's kind of, I think he's such a timid guy. He's not going to affect us too much, and I think he's going to realize that he better keep his mouth shut because he's a politician. If he wants to get reelected or thought nice of, well, he's got to use his head a little bit. We got the twenty thousand dollars, so what? Worth five hundred of what we have put if we got it at that time, when they evacuated us. So now --

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

<Begin Segment 15>

AC: Well, I'd like to go back to when, you know, to where were you and how did you learn about Pearl Harbor?

GI: Oh, okay. I remember that very, very clearly. Pearl Harbor, my story on that goes back to about 1938 I think it was. A fellow named Williams, I forgot his first name, but I remember the kind of car he had. He had a Hudson Terraplane, and he had a flat tire, so he called and wanted us, it was Jack Williams, called us to come and fix his flat tire for him, put a spare on or whatever. There's about three or four blocks away. I went there. And before I went there, I was listening on the radio to the Orson Welles presentation. I don't know what the title to it was, but it was a story about invasion of the United States from outer space.

AC: War of the Worlds.

GI: Okay. And on that broadcast, I listened, intently because I said, "Boy, this can't be true and it will be proven when we get the, every fifteen minute station break," see. No break came at least I didn't hear one, didn't hear one for the whole program. And I don't know who they referred that there was a station break or not, but I didn't hear one. And when I was fixing that, working on the guy's tire, I kept looking up, like this. I wondered if the invasion going to come to where I was and got down and then found out when the program was over that it was a false, just a presentation of a program. I was relieved, but boy, that was realistic, you see. Well, about December, that was December the 7th. My wife and I was married November the 5th, so we went on our honeymoon to Southern California, and I had a '41 Chevrolet. About that day, I was just getting back to greasing and lubricating the car and changing oil and checking it all up, and I headed up on our service station hoist, had the radio on full blast, no. I didn't have the radio on yet. A neighbor, fellow named Earl Harden, and he's still living yet, good friend of ours and been a lifelong neighbor, and he says, "George," he says, he was just white, you know. "George," he says, "Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines." I said, "What do you mean?" "Yeah, they bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the Philippines." I don't think I ever heard of Pearl Harbor before but I found out. And I said, "Oh, Earl." I says, "That's another one of program like Orson Welles program." "No, George, turn your radio on." I turned the radio on, and oh, my god. It just shattered me. I didn't know what to think, what the hell? You know, it can't be, but it's on the news. And it wasn't long before army trucks start going by our place which is the main Valley Highway going back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle. And all that realize well, it must be true.

And that evening, an army truck stopped across the street and I thought, oh boy, bunch of servicemen coming running over to the gas station. They just came over to buy some pop or something, you know. And I kept thinking one of the guys could see that we were, what's the word? The service station work, really nervous, you know. And one guy said, "Hey, don't worry you guys. We're not here to cause any trouble or anything like that. We just wanted this or whatever. In the first place, it isn't you guys in Japan had caused the war. It's the goddamn Englishmen," he said. I never really understood what he meant by that unless he was going back to the Revolutionary War. But politically, there must have been something going on, that he admitted. I didn't really find out what it was for. The barrage balloons, they started putting them up, and what they were for I guess is to detract bombs or aircrafts or anything they could do. They started putting up tents, and the servicemen, they were coming in and living in the tents, you know. And they never bothered us a bit.

About the time that they put the curfew on, they said, okay, we can't leave our homes from 8 o'clock in the morning, 8 o'clock in the evening to 6 o'clock in the morning. Well, we had the service station here, and my, one of my employees is Art Imanishi. He lives here. I think we lived across the, we were in the old store I think in the bedroom back there in the old store building, and so we didn't worry too much about it. We went back and forth there, took chances there because they would be, after all, we're working here and we're going home to bed, you know. So sometimes we broke the curfew. But the surprising thing was is that we came to know some of the GIs, the MP's real well. They used to drop by the service station and visit with us and talk with us, this and that. During curfew, they say, "Hey, you guys want to go for a ride to town, see what's going on?" Yeah, sure. So they put us in their car and take us uptown, Kent and Auburn, and show us around. They were that good to us, and we never got caught or nobody gave us any trouble. We weren't causing them any trouble.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

AC: So you had mentioned that your father was picked up on the evening of December 7th?

GI: Yes.

AC: Tell me more about that.

GI: We were living in Kent across the river, and I guess just Dad was just at home. But a fellow that was either a chief of police or he was a deputy sheriff, his name was Imoff. I can't think of his first name right now offhand. But anyway, he came with the FBI agents I understand to, they never searched for anything that I know of. They just arrested, not arrest, they didn't arrest him. So I imagine if Dad wanted to or we wanted to, we could say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You got to arrest him or something. You can't just pick him up and take him," but they did. And kind of a humorous part of the thing was that Dad, I'm told, my sister was there, they Imhoff, he was either chief or deputy sheriff at the time, he says, "Imhoff, you know you've been coming to my house as a little kid playing here. You come here, we give you candy and stuff. You played here." And you know, he was about the age of my older brothers and all, and my dad just gave him hell. And the guy, he was just speechless I guess, and he said, "Dammit, I just can't." The FBI's with him and he's got these orders. They had to take him. And we thought that they would release him in a short while. The reason they picked him up they said was because, primarily because he had just returned from Japan. In October of 1940, he and my mother went to Japan the first time that either one of them had been back to Japan. And they were going as a, well, a big doing in Japan, that was 2600th year of the Japanese history, government history, not the history of Japan, but the historical figures of Japan. And they were there about two or three months. And according to the, by the way, I have that here. There's several different interviews made by the government, the FBI with my dad and several other people. But they tried to pin him down, my dad down as an official representative to Japan for the government celebration over there. And it's, it seemed kind of silly to me because hell, it's a celebration. He went to the celebration, and so why does that automatically tie him into being a subversive person? But anyway, my dad answered the question several times and he said, "No." He said, "I was there in no official way." But in a way, he was because he was the president of the Japanese Association at the time. But the Japanese Association had no tie with the emperor's office or the Japanese government just like the Japanese Association was just disbanded in Ontario just recently, and the one in Portland, the Japanese Association still exists throughout the country. But they're there to help, kind of be a liaison between the Japanese government and what you call, not representing the Japanese government. It's an American association. So I guess that's the reason that they made, didn't make too much of a case out of that. But actually, I didn't see any of this in there, but my parents and anybody that went over there at that time could see that there was problems, that Japan was well equipped as well as they could do with aircraft supposedly hidden and fuel and stuff hidden away and this and that. But the fact of whether they were tied in with that or not is... they couldn't make a case of it.

But let's go back a little further to this deal on my mother's deal, and my dad's being picked up. And when my wife and I got married, we went to California and back and Pearl Harbor happened. Before, my mother didn't, my dad came home on Lincoln's Birthday I think, February 2nd 1941, okay. My mother got home in April of 1941, April 22nd. I think it was 22nd. It was right around my birthday, but day before my brother Mun got married, Manabu got married, so I remembered distinctly the day, I remember those days. And we were on our honeymoon in November 4th, okay. Well then my mother got held back in Japan because her papers weren't in order. That's one thing. Her immigration papers, her visitor's permit and stuff wasn't in order. And then another thing was she became ill about that time, so we were worried that she wasn't going to get home. We knew that, we knew then that there were serious problems with Japan. We didn't know the details, but the ships quit traveling between Japan and the United States in June. Had my mother been held up there until after June, chances are she wouldn't had made it back to America. After all, she was a Japanese national. But she got home in April. The ships... trade was totally stopped at least in June, maybe before, but maybe they're transporting some people back and forth I don't know. But anyway, that happened. So here's Japan sitting there. I'm not pro-Japan, but I'm pro getting the true story. They talk about the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and we'll get to that part too. But there was a reason for that, and to me and most of us, when you stop to think about it, if you, people who are young yet today who are twenty-one or so at that time can easily understand that here in Japan we got a kumishime, getting strangled, okay. They're running out of food. They're running out of everything. You get in a fight with somebody, and there's some guys all trying to beat you up. You're going to kick him anywhere. You can get him off your back, and you might kick him where it hurts which in this case Pearl Harbor was a very bad deal. So we knew damn well it was coming.

Except in November, while we're on our honeymoon, this Saburo Kurusu, I think that's what was his name was, onward from Japan, landed in San Francisco, and I don't remember whether he was on a plane or what now, the ship or, yeah, ships [inaudible], but he was on his way to Washington, D.C. And the news of us, his comments was, "I'm going to Washington DC, and I'm hoping for a diplomatic touchdown." That's the very words I think he used. So naturally, that's a pretty smart deal as far as Japan was concerned getting everybody all caught off-guard over here too. They're already having a tough time in Japan. And if you've ever traveled on the Pearl Harbor cruise in Hawaii, you'll get, the last time I was on that cruise, they still had the correct story. It told about how the, how the day before, radar screens showed airplanes and things coming in, and they said that, oh, they must be on our planes coming in and stuff like that. That night before the Pearl Harbor attack, thousands of the servicemen were at a party, okay. What an opportune time to be making a strike, and golly sake, we should have known, in ten minutes, the thing should have been all over it. But on that Pearl Harbor cruise, it leads up to a point where it makes us realize that, I can't tell you exactly how it is because how I think it is it might not be correct in that I might be criticized for it, but it looks like and it sounds like the "big wheels" in Washington, including our President, was encouraging or antagonizing Japan to have a war to bring prosperity to our country. Now that comes out in public records and that's a damn, that's the reason I'm a Republican today. You guys are, it's obvious to me that most Asians in the Pacific Coast are Democrats. We were Democrats and my brother Mun was old enough now and you know and know about politics and stuff. Boy, he got a hell of a bunch of us to Republicans after the war. But you see, that gives you that story I think in that it might help, there might be a lot of Nikkeis who feel real bad about it. I feel real bad about it. It shouldn't have happened, but we, the American, should have been more on the ball when that came. But then if it was intended to be that, how in the hell can you fight that?

AC: So how did your parents and your family react to your father being picked up?

GI: Well, they're marvels about our parents. You know, our parents, I would say that ninety-nine percent of them felt so bad that the war started that they didn't know what to think, but they, it was hard for them to blame Tojo or Hirohito. I think they tried to keep that out of their mind and just think it's a bad thing happened, what's going to happen to us Japanese, we don't know. You kids are Americans, we're Japanese. We all got to be good and do the best we can to survive this thing. I've heard some people say that their parents cussed the United States, favored Tojo and all, but very few who obviously we had some of that type of feeling because if it wasn't for that, we wouldn't have had the repatriates who went back to Japan. But my dad of course was gone then. But my mother, she's always been the strongest one in the family, and she encouraged us, encouraged us all the way through life to make the best of what's happened and things overcome, and I think that's the way the Isseis were. And that's one of the important things that carried us through to today where we're respected as well as anybody.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

AC: So how long was your dad interned?

GI: Six months.

AC: Six months. And in that time, the entire family was moved down to Pinedale, the relocation center, and then you were moved to Tule Lake. When did your father, when was your father reunited with your family?

GI: In June of 1943.

AC: When you were down in Tule Lakes?

GI: Pinedale.

AC: You're in Pinedale. So how was it, can you describe what was it like being in Tule Lakes?

GI: Oh, I don't know. It's a kind of a funny feeling because we, I was an office manager for the packing shed. We shipped vegetables and fruit out to all the other camps, and the other camps would send us food and stuff that we didn't have. We grew some wonderful, they had rutabagas that, rutabagas and turnips that big. They hollowed them out and used them for hats for the farm festival in the fall. I didn't get to see that, but that's what they told me. We were allowed to go out of camp because our farm, camp farm was down the road seven, eight miles. So we had a car to, not to my private disposal, but my boss and field men had the cars and all. We got to do things like... because one thing they didn't allow was liquor in the camps. And because they wouldn't allow it, we, well, wanted to get them, drink, because what the hell, we got nothing else to do, you know. And we had friends working in the post office. And somebody that went out on a contract would say, "Hey, you guys want a bottle of whiskey? I'll send you a bottle of whiskey." "Yeah, sure, send us a bottle of whiskey." So I got friends in the post office. There'd be whiskey bottles come in in a carton marked "candy," and our friends in the post office knew right away what it was, and it was whiskey. So they just clear it through and give us the whiskey. That was as far as alcohol is concerned.

I had a good friend that his name was Tomio Itabashi. His sister Frances Nishimura lives here in Ontario yet today. He's the guy that when we were in high school, he's a couple years older than I was, he was quite an artist, and so he got me released from studies to help him paint the murals and things and the stage. But anyway, he became a block manager of the next block where my wife and I lived, see. Each block had about twenty or twenty barracks and then there was a block manager for each block kind, that kind of took care of supplies and problems in the block and things like that. Well, he was one of them. One day, we went to his apartment. He told me, he told us, "Okay, come on over and visit me. I want to show you something." So you know in our barracks, the main thing we had were beds there see and mostly army cots. He said, "Come here." So he went and sat on his army cot, and he reached under the bed, pulled out a chamber pot, took the lid off and gave us a cup and said, "Here, have a drink." [Laughs] And of course, just like you guys right now, whoa, wait a minute. You can imagine what it looked like, too. And he said, "Wait." He said, "Oh, you okay." He says, "You okay." About time I tell you, make you guys feel better. These are brand new pots. He says, "That's what I use to give out, they came in cartons, and I know they're new so don't worry about it." So we had a drink of wine out of this chamber pots. That about took the cake as far as experience and stuff like that.

But we didn't feel so locked up. I don't feel like we were in prison so much until you just stop to think of it, to think about it. We got together in the evenings and we'd play poker. The lights would go out once in a while. Well, we pass the flashlight around to play poker. We used to, in our area, the packing shed was, lots of lumber came in, and I don't know why. I don't know what they used the lumber for. They had some about 2 by 24, big thick ones like that, and we knew where they were, and there's other lumber there, well, we'll just go borrow some of that. So we'd get one of our farm trucks, and we'd load up some lumber, take it out to the barracks. And my brother got some too, and he made furniture out of it, and I made some furniture out of it too. That is not much, but a stand and things like that. But you know, a little bit dishonest maybe, but hell, it's a camp. It's our camp. What the hell? Let's use the stuff, you know. There was an awful lot of things like that that I think that the government really was lax over. We just got a feeling, well, it's ours. Hell, we'll just take one of those home, whatever it was, wasn't stealing nothing. We didn't hide it from anybody, and it was too bad, but that type of, it wasn't good, but I suppose it's just like a guy works in a restaurant, you know. If you got some leftover food, it's probably going to get thrown out. Well, there's nothing wrong. One of the airplane companies, United or TWA here a while back, some stewardesses were taking some leftover cookies or something, they got raked over the coals over that. But those were some of the experiences that we went through, and we use quite of an expanse of building and things, you know. If I had to walk to work, I would imagine I'd walk a mile to go to work.

The one side of the camp story that perhaps people don't think about, especially people who are in camps, were not in camps, wouldn't have known unless they heard about it. But you take like my brother Carl who's ten years younger than I and then there was three brothers about that age, it was a picnic for them. They had no more chores to do to speak of. They didn't have to help cook or wash dishes or anything. All they just do is play. So when you get some kid, like my brother who is ten years younger than I was, their story wasn't so bad. We had a good time, you know. It could possibly be their answer. Now, remember I was talking about the going and delivering groceries and taking orders and things like that, there were some families who I know had some real tough times that used to be our customers. They finally, being in camp, they got some relief, no more bills to pay, and that was welcome relief to them, so, and I know they were very thankful. But of course, that still didn't justify being inprisoned like that. So there's some, what would you say, lighter sides to the story too. There's some dark sides to it.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

GI: In Tule Lake, obviously that was a totally lake bottom, that whole area was. That lake itself that was existing there about the time we were there was so fertile with goose manure and stuff that raise those crops without putting anymore fertilizer on. I went out there in the field once with my shed manager, and he said, "George, I want to show you something." So we drove out to the field, and we headed across that lake bed that had the geese on it, going twenty, thirty miles an hour right through it. It's just like a blanket was being lifted, lifted off the field. It was that thick with geese. But being a lake bed right there by the packing shed, ladies of the camp, well, I'd say the older ladies, not our wife's age but my mother's age, started digging through the dirt, and they found all kinds of shells, sea shells, and thought they were getting some good ones, and they started making, like they did a lot of other things, making nice kind of costume jewelry and stuff. You know, pretty strange making necklaces and things like that. And the sad part of it was that there were a few lives lost when they dug too far and the thing came down on them, you know. We had a few things like that happen. But along that line, I wish I could have saved some. One of the favorite things I think they made was... what do they call that? New growth or old growth wood. When they made lumber, the pieces toward the outside with the bark on it, well, some of those pieces they threw away and used for firewood. And the one that's got bark on it and some wood on the inside, some of the inmates, the residents there, they took those and made turtles out of them. The bark would become the shell, and underneath it was white. Okay, then they carved the legs of the, legs and the head for the turtle and made beautiful looking turtles. They went there to the, they call it greasewood. I guess it's the sage brush. I'm not sure. But all twisted up sticks, good, they'd make canes out of them, polish them up, varnish them, beautiful job. And they made so many things like that out of waste material. There was some furniture and things that I made, little night stands and things. That came out of piles of firewood that was brought from the lumber mills, the scrap that they would dump in our block. Oh, there was lots of things. Tom Itami here that lived here most of his life had, there's a person in Tule Lake called "Alaska," cross the canal or a ditch or slough there, and he had the most beautiful porch. He had built a beautiful porch on his end unit. And again, that's, he just borrowed some of the lumber from where we were and made a beautiful porch there.

As far as camp life is concerned, they give us pretty much our own government. By the way, the people that worked there, the project director and them, people that worked in the camps were exceptionally good to us; in fact, maybe too good to us. But I know some children who took names of the camp director or other people there got their names of the kids from people that worked there for the government in the camps. I've had occasion to go back to Tule Lake a couple of times. I've never been to a reunion yet, but I was disappointed that about fifteen years ago, I think I had my kids with us. No, it was longer than that. That must have been my grandkids. It wasn't my little grand, my kids maybe, and we went there, and one of the old buildings that was at the entrance way was converted into a store, so we went in there and visited. We asked them about buildings that were left at camp. They knew damn little about the camps, people that's right there now. And since then, I think they've changed it a lot. They've had a lot of pilgrimages there and monument. They've learned, but disappointing that the people that lived right there didn't know anything about, hardly anything about the camp. About a year or so ago, I went there to the camp because I wanted to see what was there again, and I heard that the post office, the interior of the post office there was for sale in Klamath Falls. So our local convention and visitor's bureau appropriated some money for us, and so I volunteered go down take a look at it. And then while I was at it, I went down to the city of Tulelake which I'd never been to before. It's a nice little community and had a little museum about the camp, and I was pleased to see that. But we located the part of the so-called post office and made an arrangement to go after it, and I thought, well, I'm using $3500 of the city's money here now, dollar city money, I'd better find out about it. And so I called back there and I asked them to give me something to authenticate that because it didn't have a name or anything on it, and it could be from anywhere. And they couldn't provide me anything, so we never did go get it. But imagine, my feeling that it probably wasn't from the camp, and I wasn't about to spend 3500 dollars of our money, local money here to get something like that. Whatever else...

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

<Begin Segment 19>

AC: Where was your father interned?

GI: That's, I'll give you the other side of the story, too. He was interned at Fort Missoula. It was an army camp years ago, and I think they had Germans and Italians and Japanese in the camp. I went up there to see it, and my sister has been there since, and she wasn't able to identify the exact building that they were in, and I wasn't either. But I do want to tell you a little side story on that. About seven or eight years ago, I was contacted to and hired to, retained to take a group of Japanese from, one fellow was from Yamagata-ken and one was from Yamanashi-ken and the other, husband and wife and daughter were from Okinawa, to Missoula to see, to visit graves of their ancestors up there. And in Missoula, I found a very well kept cemetery with the Japanese section in it with some hundred and some graves in it. And you know, I made a speech there and I mentioned that there wasn't anybody else there but us and the minister from Seattle and one from here and a few officials from the State of Montana. And I thought it was really nice. It's well kept and all. And the fighter planes were, the training center is nearby, flying over the area. Trains going through there, you know. And what an appropriate place, I said, for, to lay to rest the Japanese people who worked on the railroads and probably the mines in the community. And while we were there... oh, by the way, Montana is the sister state of Kumamoto, Japan, Kumamoto, Japan, and so I met a delegation from Kumamoto at the Missoula airport as they come in to visit. And there's a Mansfield. Mansfield was the ambassador to Japan one time, and so they have quite an extensive program in Japanese, in Japanese language, and they have professors from Japan there and all. It's quite a, it's quite a, a good thing I think. It's a public relation between Japan and the United States, and they really treated us great. But since I was there, I told my wife, "Let's go to a couple of other places to visit cemeteries." Oh, by the way, most of those cemeteries were prewar. In Missoula, there were some after war but very few. So there's a hundred or more prewar cemetery, graves there. We went to Deer Lodge, and I didn't take time to count them very closely, but there's some current grave markers there, but there's also quite a bunch of them was there prewar. So if somebody would like to get some histories of prewar days, immigrants days, there's lots of history up there. I went to see in Ashley, Idaho. This fellow from Yamagata told me, he said, "You know, we got letters from his father and it came from Ashley, Montana." I think it was Ashley, Montana. And so a year or so later, I went up there to take a look at Ashley, and it was a very, very important roundhouse I would call it, junction for a train, and hot springs there. And so that was interesting that these people from Montana went up to places like that to enjoy the hot springs and things. You stop and think about those people, and by the way, there were where a lot of the people were from that came down into this area, Montana area, and Katie Hashitani's father-in-law and them probably worked out on the railroads and things. A bunch of them ended up here in a place called Emmett and filtered down in through here. And then a bunch of them came from the Idaho Falls area; some came from the Utah area.

AC: So after being in Tule Lake for a little while, you had the opportunity, the "loyalty oath" came down, the questions 27 and 28, and you answered "yes-yes" to get your pregnant wife and yourself out of the camp. Did your whole family go with you?

GI: To what?

AC: To leaving Tule Lake to come out here?

GI: No, no. We came out, me and two other brothers came out here first, and then we came out in February, March. Then family came out in June, I think, June of '40. Yeah, must have been about June of, no, must have, maybe a little earlier because they worked on the farm two years, so they must have been out there about March or April.

AC: And simply just to get out of the camp and to work?

GI: Yes.

AC: Sharecropping and --

GI: Yes. We felt very secure because my brother was here, see, and rightfully so because he, by the time we got here, he knew so many people and was involved with so many people that hired a lot of evacuees. They grew celery out here when we came here. Of course, they don't raise celery. They don't raise celery or lettuce here anymore because it's too far from the market. Now they could raise stuff right close to like lots of onions grow right in New York. Of course, it's a little different than celery and stuff. But celery is grown, Northwest and California along there. So the market couldn't compete with the freight rates and everything.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

AC: So you, how did you feel, your family feel at the end of the war when the war ended?

GI: Well, I remember the day that, VJ Day. Three of us were working for the Chevrolet garage here, and I only worked there in the wintertime, and so this must have been August I suppose. But I happened to be at the Chevrolet garage at that time, and there's one of the mechanics that worked with us there. He's a fireman, and he had a '38 Chevrolet sedan with a siren on the thing, so he, "Come on George, let's go." You come through. You got in the car with him, and he turned his siren on. We went all over the town here, just celebrating that the war was over. But we were all very happy. That shock of the atomic bomb, though, it was really sad. I lost a soldier, cousin, first cousin of mine that was there, stationed there, and a lot of people from here lost relatives there. That was a real big shock. But the fact that the war was over, that part of it I was happy. We were all very happy.

AC: And you know you said that your father was changed after the war, that he wasn't as outspoken as he was before or didn't want to do much with the community. What other changes did you notice in your parents?

GI: Well, that was the biggest change. He just... he just, other than when we have a party. We had a lot of parties, and I'm glad that he enjoyed them, you know. We had a family clan of about, oh, eight or ten couples, and we'd get together every holiday and a lot of Sundays and other days there. But Dad, when it came to social gathering like that, he really likes to have a good time. But he never ventured out to, to get involved in the community affairs. Of course by that time, we were all able to. So my brother Mun had reestablished his insurance business, and in 1950, I went to work with him, and my, one of my biggest duties was to help the Isseis. And among those, the most important thing that I think that I helped them with was Social Security. If you know the history of Social Security, the farmers were not covered in Social Security until the 1950s, something like that. And what happened was that the Issei farmers, see, they were in their fifties or about that age, and they didn't have their citizenship, so they couldn't lease land or own land here. They'd just been through hell living in the camps and things because they were Japanese. Because they were aliens, there's a lot of other restrictions too. They wanted to start farming here, and fortunately, they had children. Most of them had children who were of age, so the children could take care of everything for them legally. So they turned everything over to the kids, everything. All the farm operations is pretty much a good percentage of them the kids run them. The parents had no legal tie-in with it. Here comes the Social Security benefits for the farmers. Egad, the Issei farmers, the poor farmers, they work on farms all their lives. They're involved in the farming, was family wide, no benefits. Well, one of my elbow bending friends became representative of the Social Security Administration, and it ended up to, George, I'll tell you what, I told him the story. I said, "Most of these farmers, the Isseis on a farm are partners, so-called partners, with their children or one child or whatever. They run the farm. They give the know-how to the kids how to run the farm." But legality, legally, they had to have somebody to lease. The farmer had to be a citizen. So rather than going through the trouble of making a partnership with an alien citizen and stuff, they just let the kids run the farm. They should get Social Security benefits if they qualify for it. And they told me, says, "George, I'll tell you what, let's give this thing a whirl. You get a hold of these farmers. Any one of them you know and you file a partnership return form if they're a partnership, redo their tax return if after, for the past, we'll see what we can do for them." I think I helped perhaps fifty, at least, Issei farmers to get Social Security benefits that way, and I have the Caucasian Social Security men to thank for that. That put thousands of dollars into our community because I was able to, they let me do the form. So the work like that, I had to be able to speak the language, and I was able to do that, so my dad didn't have to do any of that. Even my dad's deal with Social Security, well, I helped him get the benefit. He had, well, he was short one quarter or something to get Social Security benefits because, oh yeah, he was working at that time. He was working for a laborer for my brother's packing shed. When it came time and he had a stroke, sorry, but you can't work for your child and get Social Security benefits. Okay. Then so I got my Social Security, we found out that my brother was a partner to a non-relative person. We got Social Security benefits for Dad, and the work he did at my brother's place barely qualified him for Social Security benefits. It wasn't much, but he got it all his life and so did my mother get her benefits. But that leads to another story which I'm very thankful for. My mother got seventy-five dollars a month from November 1943 until January 2003 from the government for dependent's allotment for my brother, seventy-five a month. That's nine hundred dollars a year for sixty years. I got to be thankful for that. You know, that's, I got to pat the government on the back for making that type of thing possible. So no matter what you say, this is the greatest country in the world, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

AC: Were you very active in the JACL?

GI: I'm a past president.

AC: What was it like after the war?

GI: Yes. We had, we were part of the Inter-Mountain District Council that includes all of Idaho, Southern Idaho and Ontario and Utah, and I never became, might have been a treasurer for Inter-Mountain. I don't remember. But I was president here in the local club. I made lots of friends because of that through Idaho here. And by the way, that's provided me a whole bunch of customers for my travel business through the years. Another thing that I should mention. I think the main reason I mentioned this is, as you know, we had the Buddhist temple here. I've been a Buddhist all my life. I've gone to Christian church though as a kid. When I went, used to go to Christian Sunday school as well at that time. But our temple here was built in 1959 with volunteer labor. We just hired one carpenter and brick layer, things like that. But we built that temple and completely without going in debt even a nickel. Our shrine inside is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, just the shrine alone. I was the first Nisei president. My son is running it now. And I became, we have what we call the Buddhist Churches of America. Herb Osaki, he's now in Portland, he was a national, president of the National Hongwanji after me, three, four years after I was president of National Hongwanji for one year. And we've done a lot to, we got a lot more to do but a lot to entice non-Japanese people to become members. We got a few.

AC: How did you feel when the talk about redress started bubbling up?

GI: Very frankly, I felt a little sheepish about it. By that I mean I, they can't undo a wrong by money or anything. But then I got to thinking about some speeches and some reasons. And perhaps the biggest reason that I felt that it was okay is because of penalties. You know, there's, at that time, we hear about million dollar settlements with somebody that was abused by police, job discriminations, so on and so forth, and if there's money, substantial money tied into it, that's a kind of a bite that they don't forget, and surely it did that. Surely even today, like this guy that's a councilman in our city council here today, it made him speak up. It made more people aware of what happened to us and the reason for getting the redress. And perhaps as a good seed with a good seed for having what we're doing today is getting the story out to prevent such a thing from happening again. I have friends that I know that were against it, getting it, when we were applying for it, some of them who didn't qualify for it and a few who did qualify for it, but I'm sure that every single one of them accepted the check. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 22>

AC: So how many children do you have now and where are they?

GI: I have three children. Fortunately, they're here. Eldest son and my youngest son manage our travel agency here, and co-manage our insurance agency and real estate business. And my daughter works for Hewlett-Packard about twenty years now in Boise, and so she's right here all the time. And I have all my grandchildren and great grandchildren are here except one who, she's a professional student. She finally got her PhD, and she's working for the Bureau of Land Management in a Washington, D.C. office. But she spent the whole summer here this year working for BLM, and she got married here in October, and she had the wedding here. And she told us, she said, well, she's got one year out of the way already, and it seems so fast. Her contract is for two years if she stays in Washington. And she says, "I think I can get assigned over here after the two years is up." But between then and now, she thinks she can have few months to be assigned on jobs over here in these offices in this area, so she'll be home for Christmas. It isn't as if she moved away yet and it looks like we might have her back. But unlike the other Nisei, most of them, the kids grow up here, leave, go to college, and we never see them again. Maybe their families do, but there's many, many of these kids, we never see again. It's such a shame. However, we're getting a lot of them that now that moving into here from other places whose family maybe Los Angeles, someplace else working in Boise. HP got several of them. So by the way, my son Mike started at HP, after he graduated Oregon State in Corvallis, and I gave him an opportunity to come back here. I gave him a figure. "Mike, look them over, see how we're doing, and let me tell you what the possibilities are, and you can see what it's done for us and you decide." Well, he came home, and he said, "Dad, I don't see how I can beat that," and so he came home here to stay. I'm going to let the phone ring.

So anyway, by the way, my son Mike, I got to tell you this story. For kids who failed to go to college maybe or are having a rough time going through college, he came home and worked in our business when he could. He went to TVCC during the time he was here. And when he got through college, he graduated, in eighteen months, he graduated Oregon State University. When he got home, I says, Mike, I said, "How much cash and investments have you got right now?" after he graduated from college. He says, "Well about ten thousand dollars." He went through college without any financial help and had ten thousand dollars in the bank when he got through college. And if he could do that, there must be a lot of other kids that if they set their mind to it... admittedly, I paid him good wages but not fabulous wages, but he earned it all, and he worked like hell when he was at home, you know. And I keep telling my grandkids that, that they can get their college education too. And I think my grandkids, my daughter got a GI Bill, government loan, and she was older, so I paid that off for her. And our son Jan, I helped him a little bit. He didn't quite make the graduation, but he worked for most of his money. But it's just a message for the young kids. Tuition is up so high now, I can see it's not as easy as it used to be. But where there's a will, there's a way, and there's no shame in borrowing money from the government to do that as long as you don't expect it to be a gift. Pay it back and go on your way. But I've seen as far as kids are concerned, we're going to see a big change. Yesterday at the, this is a little different story. But yesterday at the, when I got through showing the kids through the museum, and this young lady, blond gal, she says, "I'm part Japanese." She's proud of it, you know. That's great, patted her on the back. "Well, my grandma, I think she was born in Hawaii. My grandma is Japanese." Great. There were days when if you're part Japanese, back when we were kids or our children days, this is a little tough on them. But now, proud of it, you're part Japanese.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

AC: Looking back on all your experiences your entire life, what kind of lessons have you learned about living here in America?

GI: Well, I don't know how I would compare it with let's say Japan, but I'll tell you, I think I mentioned this before when we were just having conversation, but I'm a little different guy when it comes to, some people say I'm a success. Well, maybe I got a good family and all. I got no money, but I like things, you know. I've always driven a new car up until a few years ago. Now I drive one, four or five years maybe. In fact, I think it's probably my last car now. But I always, when I bought a new car, I never had one paid for for about twenty, thirty years, but I always wanted a new car. I could, when the new car hits the floor from about 1950 until about 1965, '70, '75, I could hardly wait 'til the new car hits the floor, showroom. And if they had, somebody at the dealer had the one I wanted, well, I told them I want that car. I wonder how the economy would have paid for it. I work like hell and pay for it. I want this and that, pay for it. Buy a piece of property, if I do this or that, yeah, I can do this or that property. I can rent it, sell it, whatever. I didn't have the money then. I made it after I got myself into debt. I doubt there's that kind of a life is available anyplace else and where you would, might have the chance to gamble like that. In America, there's a lot of things we can do if we're capable of it, but you got to be careful. You don't want to cut your throat. And I've cut my throat a couple of times, made bad investments a couple times. I've taught my kids this, look, they might have a car for sale, a piece of property for sale, Dad, I can't get the price for it. I keep telling them, sell it for what you can get for it, move on the way, keep those dollars moving. You can have some good days. I haven't been able to get them going. But if you make a bad deal, forget it. Just do the best you can and forget it and go on to the next deal. The average deals have been fair for me, so, well, we own this property, free and clear, and there's a few hundred thousand dollars in it, and I can use this property here for things like this that don't make me any money so to speak. Maybe it is, I don't know, but you see what I mean. I wanted to do this for the community. In fact, building this apartment, I still have in mind I hope that I can help the Nikkei, I have already some elderly have lived here. But there are some people today who can't afford to go to the two thousand dollars a month assisted care. There's hardly any of us who can afford to go to the nursing home at four to five thousand dollars a month. I want to help them by having something here. If they belong to the Methodist church, it's just one block away. One block away here is the Buddhist church, and we can have activities here. Some of the things like the Nikkei have done in Portland especially in Seattle to help the Nikkei, we're going to have them, people who didn't end up, a lot of the Nisei farmers, they retire on the farm or become widows or widows on the farm, even moved out because of they're getting up in age. They come and build a two hundred thousand dollar home. [Laughs] But when I say two hundred thousand dollar home, that's a half a million dollar home in Portland. So there haven't been the need like I think that there will be, and I'm hoping that, because I live in this country, because of the opportunities, I'll be able to help somebody else. I don't know.

AC: If your dad were here right now and he's just listened to our conversation --

GI: What?

AC: If your dad were here right now and he's listened to our entire conversation, learned about your life, your kids, your grandkids, what do you think he'd say?

GI: You know, I'll tell you what Dad told me one time, I don't remember if any of the other siblings were there or not. He said he would really like to help in the Buddhist church. He said, "I hope at least one of you will end up and help your church, help them." You know, I never forgot that, but he didn't have to tell me that because I've been active in the church from the word go, not so much during the war because our older children, because we didn't have a Buddhist temple, they went to the Christian church which welcomed them. Another thing that I have a tape somewhere where Dad, I had a regular appliance store here right after the war and among the things I had is the factory name was the Wilcox-Gay Recording Machine. It was a disc recorder, and it cut the grooves in, and I made a lot of recordings that I haven't played back for years now, but I played one back, and I put it on tape. I hope I can find it, and then Dad said, I guess he meant for this to be, to go to my relatives in Japan, and I don't think I ever sent a copy, but this is at least fifty years ago. He said, "One regret that I have is that I wasn't able to do anything for my kids," and I didn't hear that until after Dad was gone. I didn't pay any attention to it. But Dad I think wanted to, he wished he could like some of the other Isseis make lots of money on the farm or something and have, maybe buy us a home or I don't know what he had in mind. But you know, what our parents gave us, you can't put a dollar sign on it, no way can you put a dollar sign on it. What they taught us is... here's the thing is I take that Dad today would say, he'd looked around here and he look at the Buddhist temple because that's what he was talking about. He was real active in the Buddhist temple. And what I'm thinking about doing, when I told my mother what I planned to do, she gave me her twenty thousand dollars. She said, "George, you're going to do that, you use it. For whatever you think, you use it." My mother got to live here before she died. I think they might say, "Well, yoyate kureta," you know, "you did all right." I'm not a wealthy guy, but I got things that I couldn't buy for money.

And you know, I took care of my wife and I took care of my mother. She got hurt. Thirteen months before she died, she fell off a doctor's, as she got off a doctor's examining table, she collapsed. My brother was standing right next to her, doctor was there, nurse there, so it's just one of those things. She, her leg is weak, collapsed, and broke her hip. Thirteen months, I never, never dreamt that I ever see her in pain like she was, and that was tough now I'm telling you. Taking care of her was tough. The toughest part was to see her suffer. We took care of her the last thirteen months. My brother helped me. And that's, to me, a lot of guys tell me, before she got hurt, I'd take her to church every Sunday just two of us in service the last few years of her life. The guys say, "George, you're doing a lot for your mother." I said, "That's my mother. I got to take care of her. There's no ifs ands or buts." We took care of her the last thirteen months all the way. And taking care of somebody, if somebody knew what I as a man did for my mother a hundred years, hundred three years old, I think about it and I wonder how in the heck could I have done it, but I didn't worry about that. I had to take care of Mother. Dad wasn't here no more. When Dad died, my mother said, we told her, "Well, Mom, thanks a lot for taking care of Dad." She said, "Well, I had to take care of Dad." This is also after she had a colon cancer. We thought it was fatal, but she lived through it for forty years afterward. "What would you guys have done, you kids have done if I died? I had to take care of Dad." So anyway, I think most of them would say we had a bunch of good kids and all. You guys did all right. I don't think they would mention the story that we didn't leave you a lot of money. And they needed, I feel sorry for people who inherent a lot of money. So I had to tell my kids I'm going spend your inheritance. Well, I can't spend the businesses, right? So they got that. But the rest of it, I'm going to spend it. I'm going to leave you a lot of cash. The heck of it is, what do we do when we think about going to a nursing home for five years at five thousand dollars a month. There's none left. And you know, I've been worrying about that. My mind is changing a little. If I spend all the kids' inheritance, give the kids the businesses and there's nothing left, you kids don't have to worry. I paid taxes all my life. You kids are paying taxes. We'll let whoever's going to take care of us take care of us. Why should I try to leave half a million dollars to take care of, maybe I might go to the nursing home. I think that's what I paid taxes for. If it comes to that, the government want to take care of me, I'm not going to worry about it. I don't want the kids to worry about it, no shame. As long as I could stay independent, I am. I don't want a handout for something not nothing.

AC: Is there anything that we've talked about, that we haven't covered that you'd like to go and talk about?

GI: Oh, there's so much. I think that I might sound like a broken record to a lot of people that I've known through my life, but you know, it's a sad thing and I realize that now, today. I'm eighty-four, my wife is about the same age, and we don't need any help yet. We're able to take care of ourselves. But the day that we need help might be tomorrow, who knows? If we die quick, well, so be it. That's our own. But there's so much we can do, the young people can do for the elderly people that I hope, I just hope they don't forget that somebody raised them from being a baby until adulthood, and we should do the natural thing and help the elderly people or anybody else that need help. And I'm just, next week I think it is where I do very little of the job, but we have a Helping the Hope program which delivers food all over the valley here to people who maybe are in a need. We hope they're the ones that need are getting it. But I take a couple of hours to help with that and all. But I hope that the Nikkeis, all the Asian people won't forget what our background is. All of us Asian people are, was been the history is the youngers take care of the elderly, and it's changing so much. I'd like to hope that the younger people will look after the older folks. There's so much more to tell. But right off the cuff, I've covered pretty much.

AC: Thank you. Thank you for taking so much time with us and telling us your story. I really appreciate it.

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