Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Tsugawa Interview
Narrator: George Tsugawa
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Woodland, Washington
Date: December 19, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-tgeorge-01

<Begin Segment 1>

LT: Good morning, George. Can you give us your full name at birth?

GT: George Kinya Tsugawa.

LT: Okay. Was there any significance to your name?

GT: Not that I know of. Kinya, I don't know what that means, but I don't use that anymore because it seemed so odd, so I just use George and I forget the Kinya part.

LT: Okay.

GT: A lot of times I just tell people I don't have a middle name, but maybe I shouldn't do that.

LT: What about George? Was there a reason that your parents named you George?

GT: You know what I think, though? I don't know what the reason was, but you know, at that time, there was like, there was a lot of important George, especially George Washington, and I just wondered if that didn't come from that. There are some other important Georges, but I think it was mostly, I think, from George Washington. It could have been Abe Lincoln, too, but it's George Washington. I think that's why they called me George.

LT: Okay. You could have been Abe Tsugawa, huh?

GT: Yeah. But you look at the Japanese Niseis, there was a lot of Georges. At least my friends, there were a lot of Georges. They're gone now, but there was a lot of Georges in the Niseis.

LT: Interesting. So when were you born and where were you born?

GT: I was born June the 20th, 1921. It would be in the Everett area, that's where they're making a lot of airplanes. Boeing's out there now. But I would be in the Everett, as far as I know, there was a little town, and I don't think it exists anymore, name was Home Acre. And that's all I can remember. I don't know, it must have been a tiny town, because I think it's gone. You don't hear of Home Acre, Washington, but at that time it was called Home Acre.

LT: And your father, your father and mother, can you tell me about your father, his name, and where he came from?

GT: Yeah, just looking that up here recently. His Japanese name was Masaichiro, Masaichiro Tsugawa, I don't if there was any more to it, But he was born in Tokushima-ken, I guess. That's about it. Tokushima, that's all I know about it.

LT: Okay, okay. And where is Tokushima?

GT: Well, I think it's a little island across the bay from Osaka, I've been told. I'm not even sure if Tokushima is an island or if it's just land. But I keep thinking of it as an island.

LT: Do you know how your father and his family decided to come to the United States and what they did as soon as they came?

GT: You know, why they came, I'm sure they came over to find a better life. I really never did talk to Dad about that. So I'm sure they were like any other immigrants that come over to find a better life. As far as I know, I think that's why they all came over here.

LT: Okay. And what about your mother? What was her name and where was she from?

GT: My mother was in that same area. Let's see, her name was Kazuno, Kazuno Ishii. And far as I know, she was born in that same area.

LT: Okay. How did your mother and father meet?

GT: [Laughs] There again, I don't know. I was wondering if that was a "picture bride" type of wedding, but that, I don't even know about that, if that was a "picture bride" or not, if you'd call it that. But how they met, I don't know.

LT: Okay, okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LT: When your mother and your father came to Washington, what did they do?

GT: Well, let's see. As far as I know, the history was that he was a farmer. Or he took, I don't think he knew much about farming, but he took the farming at that time. And his wife, my mother, I'm sure she didn't have any idea about farming in her background. But being the wife, and probably started out farming, and I just think about he knew so little about farming. But they did raise potatoes during the wartime, and I guess potatoes were pretty good price there while they were raising it. And a few years after they got to raising it, the market collapsed and there was just no more market for potatoes, and high priced potatoes were all gone after the war. I think they made some pretty good money at one time, and I think they lost it all raising potatoes. So they made a living, but I don't think... at one time they made some money, and I think they made some bad investments and things like that, and they lost it all.

LT: When you were two or three years old, your parents and you moved from Home Acre in Washington to Hillsboro. Can you tell about why you think you moved, and what happened in Hillsboro?

GT: That's a good question. Why they moved to that area, I have no idea, because... well, I should have a little bit. Because in that area, there were other Japanese who were farming strawberries, and I think probably my folks felt kind of at home being around other Japanese at that time. They were Hillsboro, and there was a little community called Banks, and Mountaindale, I think they still exist, and they had Japanese berry farmers all around there, and that's how they made their living. And I think Mother and Dad probably felt more comfortable being with other Japanese families. So that's why I think they moved to that area.

LT: Okay. Did they become farmers? What did they do?

GT: No, they never did become farmers. That's the amazing part, that they were mostly in retail. When I say retail, I'm talking about produce. They did potatoes and tomatoes, peaches. And at that time, cabbage was very popular because people made their own sauerkraut, and that was quite the thing in those days. They'd buy whole sacks of cabbage and make sauerkraut, and I just don't understand it. But that was one of the big things that they used to do, but you don't see that done anymore. And then peaches were very popular, apples, pears, tomatoes, those were the things that they sold, and mostly while it's in season, of course. And then they had potatoes year-round, practically.

LT: So if your family didn't grow the produce, how did they acquire them for your market?

GT: Well, there was other farmers, Caucasians, that had peaches and those kind of things that we were interested in, and they sold it to my dad. And there was the one time when there was little plots of tomatoes, potatoes, stuff like that, they just didn't seem to get around to harvesting, so we as kids, my dad would buy the whole orchard or whatever it was, and we as kids would go out and pick 'em, bring 'em back and sell 'em at the market. And there was a lot of... a lot of Caucasians did have their own method of getting them to us, so we bought them from them, too. So it was a two-way. Either we picked them ourselves, or we bought 'em from a farmer that already had 'em picked.

LT: What about during the winter when you didn't have a lot of produce?

GT: That's the thing. I notice that wintertime, it seemed like everything was gone except potatoes. Dad kept potatoes, he had 'em stacked up in that market there, but to keep 'em from freezing, I remember we had big stoves, had wood stoves at those times and kept the thing going so the air wouldn't freeze there in the wintertime. But I do know that it was... the winters then seemed like they were more severe than they are now. I can still remember the ice and snow and stuff like that, was pretty regular stuff. And if we didn't keep those fires going, I know that it would freeze and we'd lose everything. So that was quite a battle, just to keep them from freezing during the wintertime.

LT: So you kept the fire going twenty-four hours a day, then?

GT: That's just about right, especially at night, though, but that was the coldest time. But in those days, the winters were much more severe than they are now. I remember the one year that even the Columbia River, the Willamette River, started forming ice cubes, ice bergs and stuff like that, they were even forming. That's how cold it was, but you don't see that anymore. Yeah, it was, some of those... I remember the lake, some of the lakes would freeze over, I remember we used to go ice skating, but you don't see that anymore either because it doesn't get that cold.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LT: George, your father was an Issei. Many, if not most of his customers were Caucasian. How did they communicate?

GT: Well, you know, this is fantastic and I can't even explain it. My dad, being Issei from Japan, could write English and read English. I can't explain how that happened, because most of the Isseis that were farming around there, they could just barely speak any English. Of course, they were good in Japanese, but their English was not very good. Then, I don't know where he learned that from, to be able to read and write that. In fact, he had this talent to do these things. The berry growers in that area, when I say the area, Banks, Mountaindale, all those around there, they had berry fields everywhere. They asked him to be kind of the leader or the president of the association. And here he is, he had no idea what a berry field was like, but he was their president because he could read and write English. And so that's what they elected him to be, the one to take care of the business for them.

LT: And about what time was that, and do you know what responsibilities he had?

GT: Well, let's see. About that time... I've lost time. I don't even remember what year that was when they moved from Washington to Hillsboro area. But it wasn't very long after he got settled in there that they elected him president of the association.

LT: I believe he moved in 1923 or '24?

GT: Well, that'd be about then, and that's about the time they asked him to be the president. And there were a lot of Japanese berry growers in that area at that time. And to show you just how the economy was at that time, I can still remember yet, to this day, these Japanese farmers had many acres, then they had nobody to pick 'em during the recession time. So what they did was it was all Caucasian berry pickers. They pitched camp, tents, and picked for the Japanese farmers. And everywhere you went, you saw these big camps of tents, and they were all Caucasian berry pickers. That's how bad the recession was at that time. I can't imagine them picking berries now, my gosh, you can't even get kids to pick 'em. But at that time, it was all families, Mom and Dad and their kids, and everybody moved out there during the summer months, lock stock and barrel, everything, they moved out there for the duration of the berry harvest. When that was over, they went back to Portland or wherever they came from.

LT: Thanks for that memory. Your father was busy with the produce market. What was your mother's role as you were growing up?

GT: Yeah, Mother's role was as a mother. She just could not hardly even speak English or even write English, but she could not hardly even speak it. So she had an awful time trying to wait on the Caucasian customers. So I think she was mostly in the background, as a mother would do for cooking and sewing and all the clothes and stuff. But that was her main goal just to keep the family going. There was a lot of us, too, at that time.

LT: Getting back to your father and his role in the market, do you remember watching him work with his customers? How did he interact with them? What did you see?

GT: I don't know if I was watching anything. Somehow he communicated with them, he sold things to them. I really don't know how he... but he must have been pretty nice to the Caucasians, because he had a pretty good following. But it took him time to get there, but he had quite a following of customers. But it must have been just polite, being polite to the Caucasians and everything, I guess that's how he was, done it. But otherwise, I'm not sure if he had a method or what, but don't know.

LT: I'm just wondering, how did he add the sales? Did he use an abacus or a cash resister?

GT: Hey, now, that's a good question. He did have an abacus there, and to this day, I don't know how you ever figure with those things, but I do remember Mom used it, too, but Dad had one all the time right by his side, that's right. I completely forgot about that. So that's what he must have used to do some figuring with. [Laughs]

LT: When you think about your father, what was he like? What was his personality like?

GT: Well, Dad, to me, his personality, as to us, to us kids, anyway, I think he was come up in the military style because he had a little bit of -- not a little bit, had had quite a bit of military in him yet. So he could have been very strict and rigid, very strict at times. I think he brought us up under the military system, because he used it on us.

LT: Can you give an example?

GT: Well, let's see, an example. No, he wouldn't stand for any goofing around. He was very military-style, and what he said, that's it. It's like that's the law, and there's no other way. And I do know that the time we were growing, I don't see much where we had much of a relationship with Dad. It was all military-style, "Just do as I say, don't question me," or that type of an attitude.

LT: What about your mother? How would you characterize her?

GT: See, now, Mother was the complete opposite. She was a very sweet person, very tender, she was just the complete opposite of Dad. So I guess between the two of them, it made it bearable to live there, but Mom was the back more as far as bringing up kids and tenderness and love. She had it all, where Dad had none.

LT: Can you give an example of your mother's tenderness?

GT: Well, gosh, I just can't give example. It's just the way she handled us kids, talked to us, and how we communicated is always tenderness and love there all the time. So that was probably the best I could tell you.

LT: What do you remember about the relationship between your mother and your father?

GT: It isn't like the American style, I can see that... I couldn't see any love there at all, like you would see in the American, the Caucasians. But there again, I guess he was the boss, and, "You do what I say," and we'd get along pretty good, then. But I think that's the only way, because there was no really a relationship like you would think for a married couple. Yeah, I think it was all military style.

LT: Can you think of any difficult situations they faced and how they might have addressed it together?

GT: Oh, boy. Gosh, no, I don't. No, I don't see any incident like that.

LT: Okay, that's okay.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LT: You have six brothers and sisters?

GT: At that time... see, I get them mixed up with my present family. No, there were seven of us. Yeah, there were seven of us kids.

LT: Okay. And where were you in the family mix?

GT: I was one, two... a third one. Yeah, the third one.

LT: Were there special family times that you remember with your six brothers and sisters and your mother and your father as you were growing up?

GT: I do remember one thing. There is one thing that entertained Dad. He liked... it was my sister, my older sister Toshiko, she was a little younger than I, I mean, she was older than I. I was about a year younger, but at that time, seemed like the girls matured faster, they got bigger quicker. My dad's entertainment at night, when there wasn't anything else going, he wanted us to wrestle. That's it, he would call that wrestling. And my sister and I would always be the ones in the main entertainment. And my sister, just a year older than I was, much bigger at that time, and I ended up, it seemed like I always ended up crying. [Laughs] And she didn't want to do that, but he insisted that we do that for entertainment, so he'd have a little entertainment. That's what he called entertainment. So you can kind of figure where his mind was going, kind of military style again.

LT: So you had a large family, two parents and seven children. Where did you live? What do you remember about your home?

GT: The first thing that I can remember is that he built this market for retail, and he added on, just, there was no planning, just added on a shed here or a shed there as the kids, you know, as they kept getting born, he'd add another. But there was no, there was no system, so he'd just add a shed here and shed here to the back of that market, and that's where we lived. And somehow there was enough room for all of us, but I do know there was not much planning in there because I knew the roof leaked, every rain that house would leak all over. Very poor planning, but in those days there was no architect or anything like that. He just added on. And there was no building code at the time, so you could build it as you wish. There was no system at all, it was just a shack out there. One just added on to another just to make room for the kids. I do know that as he added on, I don't know what kind of wood he used, but floors, some of that stuff rotted out. And just in no time that all those floors were so bad of material that they would rot out, and we could never replace them because we didn't have enough money to replace those wood floors, so a lot of times we had dirt floors that were part of the house. And I can't even remember putting enough money together to make regular floors out of them because he didn't have the money to do it. So we had, the house had wood floor, dirt floor, that was about the way it was.

LT: Did you share a bedroom with your brothers?

GT: Oh, I think we were all shoved into one bedroom, one or two. It seemed like there was beds everywhere. I'm sure we shared a room, but I don't know what order it was, but we were really jammed together.

LT: What about bathrooms?

GT: The bathroom, okay, we had the old fashioned Nihonburo, they call it, I believe. Either would be made out of the tin on the sides, but we had the wood flooring because there was heat under, wood heat underneath the stove, I mean, under the bathtub to keep it warm. And you had to have something wood to sit on, otherwise you'd sit right on metal and it was too hot, so you'd have wood floors in the bathtub, you sit on that. Yeah, that's the way it went because they heated the water with wood stove underneath, and it seemed like they really did believe in baths. I know they used to have baths every night, but that was a chore to keep that water hot. It isn't like today's day, turn the tap on, hot water. But those days you had to earn that water. You had to have the wood, it's the wood underneath there every night to keep that water hot. But you also had to have that plank underneath there, so that's all you sat on.

LT: What about toilets?

GT: Well, that was really something. We had a... well, I guess we had a twin, we had a two-seater out in the back, but that was, these were all outdoor toilets. We'd dig a hole out there, and put, usually the families ended up with one, but we were elaborate, we had two toilets out there side by side. And that was bad, too, because at nighttime, you try to find your way out there and it was a bad deal. But worse yet, I can remember to this day that it was infested with rats, and that was a miserable sight to see those big rats running in and around those toilets, especially at night. You didn't know if you're going to step on one or what. But as I can remember, nobody was ever bitten. Boy, we sure did put up with the rats. We had that for amusement, too, we used to shoot 'em from the house there. It must have been like, oh, maybe thirty, forty feet away, maybe fifty feet. We used to shoot the rats with a .22 gun, and we called that our sport. It's amazing we didn't kill each other because it was crazy. [Laughs]

LT: And your house was connected to your market?

GT: Yes, that's right. You could open the door and you're in the market, and you'd close the door and you're back in your home there, so that's the way it was. But it was a pretty rough go at that time.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LT: Well, in 1934, your father died. How old were you and what was the impact on your family?

GT: Okay, I was born in '21. I was about thirteen, fourteen years old. I was just maybe about eighth grade in the grade school or about ready to go into high school I think. But yes, it was a tough time because Mom had to take over the business, seven kids, she could not speak, or very little of the English, and she had an awful, awful time. We got to the point one time that one time when I was, I was thirteen, fourteen years old, I used to drive her into Portland to pick up produce for the store. And that was quite an experience, being only thirteen, fourteen years old, driving this pickup. But Mom always convinced me that as long as she was sitting beside me, it's completely all right. "Police cannot touch you," she said. And she had me believing that. I did that for many years, probably until I was about sixteen and I finally got my license. But up to that point it was either myself or my older brothers, we used to drive her in without legal license. But we did that quite a bit, that was the only way she can get around. But she always convinced us that as long as Mom's sitting here, they can't touch you. Everything's legal. [Laughs] She had me believing that sometimes.

LT: What a challenge. Because your mother, as you say, didn't speak English, your customers spoke English, you were in school. How did your family survive? What kinds of sacrifices did you make?

GT: Well, let's see. When Dad died I was about thirteen, fourteen. First of all, I had an older sister, she was about fifteen and my older brother about sixteen then. They helped out an awful lot there. I do know that it interfered with the schooling, everything, but they did help out a lot. But Mom in a few years did pick up that language pretty darn fast, and how to buy things and stuff like this. So she did learn fast, but I have to hand it to her, I don't know how she did it, but I do know that going into Portland like that, stuff like that, she was pretty good at buying things, and how to barter. I could just see her. Especially if we went to the fish market, I don't know why it was there, but I remember about twenty-five cents worth of fish could feed the whole family. That's after she got through bartering with the owner. Yeah, so I'm sure it was my sister and my older brother and myself, that the three of us helped out an awful lot to help her with that store. We had to work there quite a bit.

LT: It definitely sounds like that. Let's talk about school. Your parents spoke mostly Japanese at home. When you went to grade school, what language did you speak?

GT: You know, let's see. Well, of course, I started right from the, probably the first grade right there. That's right, I did, I started right from first grade there in Hillsboro, and I can still remember the name of the school was David Douglas was the name of the school, and I'm sure that's where I learned English. But I do remember there was a time when my older brother, who had no knowledge of everything, all we heard was he himself, being in the first, second grade, he could even hardly speak English, I do remember that. Because he had an awful time to learn that because it was all Japanese. And then when he got into grade school, he didn't hardly know any English, but he learned fast. But there was a time when he had an awful time, I don't see how he passed his grades, but he did it.

LT: So did he teach you?

GT: Well, I think I learned most of 'em at school, though, yeah, I think so.

LT: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LT: How did you like school?

GT: Well, you know something, I had no idea if I liked it or not, but I knew it was something you had to do. I can't say I really liked it, or I didn't disagree with it, it's just part of life. But I don't remember it being a fun place. No, I don't remember it being a fun place. In fact, I think I was in the second or third grade, I was fooling around with some Caucasian boy and I broke my leg. That was a bad time because I know they took me into Portland for medical thing, instead of a doctor, they took me into Portland and I lived with some people there that I don't know how they got... it seemed like they did all the doctoring, because I remember them pulling my leg and this and that, and gee, those are times that it was really hurting. But I got cured there. I thought I'd be a cripple, but I did come out all right.

LT: So what do you remember about your classmates and the racial makeup of your class?

GT: Yeah. You know, at that time... well, you know, I don't know if it was much racial, but I do remember that there was a lot of, the word "Jap" was used a lot, it seemed like that was part of the language. Everything was "Jap" this and "Jap" that, but they used it quite readily. And at the time I didn't do anything about it, but as time went on, it started to be, become very annoying to hear that word "Jap." But as I went on to school, I seemed like I got along with all the kids real well. I don't remember ever getting gin a fight or anything about that. That's from the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, I got along real well with all the kids. Yeah, I'd say everything was all right.

LT: Did you have any other Japanese classmates?

GT: Later on in high school some more did enter, but a lot of these were left over from the berry farmers. But there was, when I was in high school there was a Inahara, Iwasaki, and I think there was another family of Kaga, K-A-G-A, Inagaki, there were some of those that did come to school, but at that time I didn't know any of them. I didn't associate with them or anything like that except Arthur. Even Dr. Inahara, all he did was study. All he did was study, and look what he turned out to be, a doctor. That'll serve him right. [Laughs] But Dr. Inahara really became a famous doctor with the St. Vincent Hospital. He went on to become quite a doctor. I remember one time it was told that he practically ran the whole sixth floor of the St. Vincent because those were all his patients. And I remember at that time, anybody smoked, we could never, ever be a patient of his because he detested smoking. He knew that it was no good for you and they still say the same thing today, only more so. But I do know that if you smoked, he didn't want to be, he didn't want you to come to him for any help because he didn't want touch you because you smoked. Except my wife. I can't believe it, but Dr. Inahara did take care of my wife. I'm trying to figure out what she was treated for, but he knew that she smoked, but I think she was the only one he exempted from being his patient. And she smoked, and she told me one time, she said, "I'm never going to quit, so don't try to tell me to stop smoking because I'm never going to quit." And Dr. Inahara knew this, too, so I think being friends, I think took us all, took her on, too. But yeah, I think she was the only patient he ever had that smoked that he took care of.

LT: You talked about how with your Caucasian classmates, there were times when you would hear the word "Jap." Do you remember how it was used, and I'm wondering if there were other incidents where you felt some challenges in terms of your being Japanese American and being very much the minority in your class?

GT: All my friends and the people I knew, they had never used that word. It would be those that parents were people that I didn't even know that didn't like Japanese, and they probably used it at home and the kids used that at home, and then they... but my friends, I've never heard that use that word towards me, never. And I had quite a few friends, become friends with my... let's see, I go back to, well, like we played sports together, I had a lot of friends that played sports, but it was always never, ever heard the word "Jap." They respected me and didn't, I didn't differ from anybody else to them.

LT: In fact, when you were in high school, you received an honor.

GT: That was for basketball. And when I think about basketball, I think back to the size of our, as a team. You know, you got kids in the fourth grade about that big now. I have a granddaughter who teaches kids, and she's not very tall, but she's got students that are taller than she is, and that's the fourth grade, you know. And I get a kick out of it because a lot of times they don't know which one's a teacher and who's a student, my granddaughters tell me about it, so funny. But when I was playing basketball, I was about 5'4", I think that's the tallest I got. And I guess he was about 5'6", and then the back court was about 5'7", couple 5'7" boys, and then we had a boy that was about 5'10", we thought he was pretty darn big until the senior year. A kid moved in there and he was six-foot tall, played center for us. But we thought he was a giant. We'd never seen a kid that big that came to Hillsboro. [Laughs] So he fit right in, and that year, I think it was my junior year, no, my senior year, there was awards given out for sports, this and that, they gave it to me, I guess, because they must have felt sorry for me. Because the other kids all won their trophies, but I'm the only one that hadn't had one yet, so they probably gave it to me. It's just the respect for me, and because it seemed like all my friends all had their trophies, and I hadn't had one yet, so they probably gave it to me, and I think that's the reason.

LT: But you were also selected for a club.

GT: Oh, it was an exclusive club called the Senate Club. And there was two from each class, and you had to be voted in unanimously. And I think in my junior year or sophomore year, I was voted in, and I felt myself quite a guy, because just to join that club, you had to be quite the guy. [Laughs]

LT: So two out of your class were selected, out of a class of a hundred, and you were selected for the Senate Club?

GT: Yes, that's what they called it.

LT: That's an honor.

GT: Yeah, it was an honor at that time because it was an exclusive club. Just anybody couldn't join that, you had to be voted in. I remember one, the highlight of our year was we had a, we'd go to some country club, and that was quite the thing because I had find a shirt and a tie, I think. I didn't even know how to wear one in those days. But I do remember that one year that I had no way of getting there. And I borrowed a car, and it was a brand-new car, and there was a girl, she was in the sophomore age, and their folks run the country club as the golf club out there. So that was probably the first date I ever had, was I took her out to the Senate thing. We went to the, out there in the Columbia River right now, I don't know what they call it, but there was quite an exclusive nightclub out there. But that was quite the thing.

LT: Congratulations.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LT: George, after your father died and when you were in high school, you were busy with school work. You also were helping at your family's produce market. How did you juggle school and work?

GT: That is true, what I was just telling you, I don't even know myself. But I do know that when Dad passed away, we had to find something to bring income, but one of them was that we sold bedding plants. We still do, but it's vegetable, flower, and I used to sell that in town, Hillsboro stores or feed stores like that. And not much, but a few crates of this, few crates of that, I do remember that. And I would do that every morning as long as the plant season was on, but it interfered with my schooling, which was the first, maybe my second class in the day, I think maybe the second class. But anyway, it was geometry. And when you say geometry, it just seemed like to me it's so tough, but for some reason, it fell in so easy for me. But on top of that, also, the teacher that taught us geometry was my basketball coach. I can remember to this day his name was Happy Hawthorne. We used to call him Happy, I don't know why, I guess he was happy all the time. But he would excuse me, I do know I missed about, oh, I'm going to say probably thirty, forty classes, all of it or part of it. But when it come to test time, I didn't even have to take the test because he said, "George, you don't need to take the test. You know enough." So maybe he's trying to help me out, but he always passed me, and I didn't ever, didn't have to study for it. One thing, it just came so easy to me, I don't know why. But if you asked me now about geometry, I'd probably fail. And at that time, it sure, everything seemed like it came easy. But also, being my basketball coach, it helped a lot, too.

LT: How did your mother help you to juggle your responsibilities?

GT: Well, you know, Mom, she knew that she couldn't do it all by herself, so she made me, my older brother Henry, to help her out at all times. In fact, it interfered with our athletics because my brother Henry was older than me, two years older. But he was about... oh, I'm going to guess he was probably about 5'6" at the most, and he probably weighed about two hundred, weighed around two ten, two hundred twenty pounds. But he was built, he was built tough. So even though he played the line, which is up on the line, whenever they needed a couple, two yards, they'd give the ball to him and he'd bull through there, and he'd get those two yards, and he'd go back to the line. But he was no backfield man because he couldn't run very fast, but he could go straight ahead and make those extra two, three yards they needed. But that's what they used him for. So that was his time to play football, and I got to play basketball, so we didn't ever mix it. We would respect each other. If he had to be, if I was playing basketball, he'd be home helping Mom out. So I think that's the way we did it, but I don't know how many years I did that plant thing. I don't think I had too many years, probably another year or so, but we used to buy our plants way out in East Portland, those people's name right now is, I think the name was Funatake. There was another Funatake in the news the other day, they were married to one of them. But anyway, that's how this all started. We used to get our bedding plants from there and we sold it in Hillsboro and the outlying areas, and that was one of my chores. I'd do that every morning until the season was over, probably about summertime was all over. But I did it during the school time.

LT: What about Japanese language school?

GT: Yes, we did. On top of the, I was going to the Caucasian school like we're supposed to, we got one more thrown at us on a Sunday. It was clear out in the little town of Banks, it's not so small anymore. But we had to drive out there. I used to ride with a family of Iwasakis, they were down the road from us about a mile. I do know that he always furnished the transportation. But I resented that because it seemed like you go to school five days a week, then throw another one on there, it just didn't seem fair, so I resented that very much. Now I look back on it, I wished I had, because I wished I would learn the Japanese language. It would have been so helpful right now, because right now I'm trying to learn that stuff and trying to mix it up, and I wished I had learned then instead of fighting it as I did. I remember sitting in one of the teachers, my classroom, if you could open up the window or right beside me, open up the window and just step outside, which I did quite often. Because our sensei, as we called him, Mr. Tsutsui, I think his name was, sensei, he didn't care. He was just easygoing, he'd say, "You want to run around the town of Banks, go ahead. If you want to learn something, you stay with me." But I used to remember that I used to step out that window, it was about that height that I could just step out of it and I'm outside on the street already. And I used to bum around the town of Banks, and then I'd come back in. I'd go in and out, but I never did study like I should have. I'm sorry now that I didn't do a better job.

LT: Speaking about Japanese language and culture, were there cultural events that you and your family participated in?

GT: Let's see. Now too much, you know. There was a lot of stuff going on in the Portland area, but in our area, we didn't have too much, except they had that one year annual picnic, all the berry farmers would gather someplace north of Forest Grove, and there was swimming. I do remember we'd look forward to that because you can get all the soda pop you want to drink and ice cream you want to eat, but that was one of those days that we thought it was great. But that's the only thing I can think of, except maybe when it comes to New Year's Day, I know we did something. I do know Mom and Dad used to make us mochi, mochitsuki, you call that... yeah. I do remember we'd get together with some family, I remember them pounding, and how they'd reach their hand in there and those sticks would come down. I don't know how those ladies did it, but they'd sit there and turn it over, I guess, that mix in there, and they'd turn it over and then somebody would come down and beat on it. But I don't think anybody ever lost their hand, but I don't see how they did it. Then there was a tradition that you should eat one anyway. I had an awful time getting one down. I thought that was the darndest thing to eat I've ever seen. It's all the flour-like thing. I do remember that Mom and Dad insist that we all eat one, anyway. So like I say, I had an awful time getting one down. It was with something else, it was some kind of a soup type of a thing, what do they call that?

LT: Ozoni?

GT: Ozoni, that's the word. How could I ever forget that, because that was... ozoni, that's right. We had to have one down. Most of my family had an awful time except for Mom and Dad.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LT: Let's transition and talk about relations between the United States and Japan. Did your family talk about the Japanese-United States relationship?

GT: Well, you know, I suppose if Dad was alive, we would have, but Dad passed in 1934, the war came on in '41, so it was, after Dad died, the war came on, and I know my mom never talked about it. And as far as we were concerned, we couldn't believe that they would do that.

LT: You're talking about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

GT: Yes, excuse me.

LT: Can you talk about where you were, how you found out about the bombing and what happened?

GT: Well, at that time, I think it came over the radio. Yeah, the minute it happened, it came over the radio, and my mom never talked about it. I think she was just about devastated as we were that she couldn't believe what she was hearing. And I myself felt too that it was a sneaky thing to do. I think there was lots of, there was much hatred as to the way the war started. I think if the war started like a normal thing where you'd go after each other, do this to each other, then it gets a little more serious, but this is overnight. Attacked Pearl Harbor, and the devastation they caused and the people that died in there, it was hard to believe. But I myself, I had no feeling for Japan at that time, I just thought that they were traitors and that we were, they pulled a sneak attack on us. I felt just like a Caucasian would, just devastated. But Mom never talked about it.

LT: Were there repercussions for your family?

GT: Yes, there was, there was quite a bit. I do know that we didn't talk about it, but I do know that the market across from the Hillsboro, Mom moved to Portland, right across from where Montgomery Ward is, or was. I think it's owned by the Naito brothers right now, but we had a market there. And it was no, we weren't getting rich there, but we at least survived it. When the war came on, the business just absolutely come to a screeching halt, just absolutely, we lost everything. I mean, there was no more trade with the Caucasians, they avoided us like the plague, which it should have been. But that's where it hurt the most. But after the war (started), there was a lot of other restrictions, other things we had to do. So we didn't worry about the business, the market, because we were all rounded up, taken to assembly centers, so we didn't think much about losing the market because we had so many people doing other things that were worse than what we had to go through.

LT: So you talked about the restrictions. Can you be specific about how you were restricted after Pearl Harbor?

GT: Yeah, right after the war started, they put restrictions on it real quick. I do remember you had to be in by eight o'clock at night, and you could not be more than, I think it was eight miles from your residence, not to be, ever be farther than eight miles from your residence. Those two I do know, and be in by eight o'clock. And I do remember those are the two toughest ones, about took care of most everything.

LT: You mentioned that customers avoided your market. What about personal interactions? How did they treat you?

GT: Well, being the Japanese, they didn't come out, but we were... I don't know if they just come right out and show it, but they sure didn't love us, I'll tell you that, because they looked at us very suspicious-like, for anything we did. I do know that we had to go into town, get registered, do this and do that, they would give us a number. They acted really quick to get it done just as fast as possible. [Interruption] But we were there for, we had to be to sign up, get registered, and get ready to be moved out as quick as possible. So that's where all these restrictions come into play, that, "Be in by eight o'clock, don't get too far away from home," and they were working as fast as they possibly could.

LT: Do you remember specifically going to register, and where did you go, and what do you remember about the process?

GT: I do know that it was right downtown of Portland. I can't remember whereabouts, but it would be in the very busiest part of town, could have been on Broadway or something like that, but I do know that that's where we had to register. I don't know exactly the location, but I do know it was a very busy part of town.


LT: You said that you lost your market. Did you own your market?

GT: No. The lot, everything was leased, rented, and the building itself, there wasn't hardly much of a building, it was kind of a stand-like thing. So there was not much there to be lost. And everything was rented out, so there was nothing that we owned.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LT: So how did you learn that you and your family would be leaving Portland, or would be leaving your home and your market?

GT: Well, it pretty much is in the paper, or it's in the regular every day, telling us what we got to be doing, where we should be. Oh, yeah, they pretty well planned it out. Every day there was something about the Japanese to do this, do that, to get ready to go. Sure kept reminding us that we were subject to go anytime. And we ended up at the... I think they call it the Pacific Livestock Pavilion on North Portland. It's a big, big place now as well, it's a nice-looking place. But then, those days, they put us in a place called... it's where they gathered the livestock, where they slaughtered them, and sold on the market, but it was owned by the Swift company, S-W-I-F-T, Swift. Swift at that time was big in the meats and stuff like that, but they took those little, took those pens... oh, gee, they could have been about twelve by twelve pens, and they put plywood up in there so they couldn't look into it, but that's the home for one family. There could be six, eight, ten people, they were thrown into these little places. Until they were getting Minidoka ready, so that was what they called assembly center, so that's where they at least rounded up everybody so that they can keep an eye on the Japanese. And that was miserable living there. I don't know how long we were there, but we were there a few months.

My goodness, it was terrible where they put us, because you could still have that smell, the livestock in there. There might have been pigs in there, cows in there, but they were all slaughtered there. But for us, they cleaned everything else, swept, hosed it out, and put up plywood as they went up, but no ceiling, but just up the side with plywood all around. And that was our living quarter. But I could see that that was... seemed like everybody in the place had diarrhea. All the toilets, the restrooms, they just could not hold everybody, so people used outside the toilets, they were no shame to that. They just had to have a place to go, and that's about the whole thing. It seemed like it was one big restroom, and everybody it seemed like had diarrhea. It was miserable. But we survived while they were fixing up Minidoka. I'm trying to think what time of the year they shipped us out. It seemed like it was in, it seemed like it was the summertime that they finally got ready to ship us out.

LT: Before we move on to Minidoka, can you talk about your living accommodations and the food that you had at Portland Assembly Center?

GT: Oh, it was bad. I don't know where they found the food, but you can just imagine, so everything had to be done so quick. I'm not sure where they got this food, but we were fed a lot of fish, and I remember rice. Fish and rice, I think that was our main menu. And then a lot of stuff, I don't know where they found it, but it was food. And that's where a lot of the diarrhea came from, the kind of food they gave us. But I do remember, though, that it was mostly rice and fish, different kinds of fish. But it was not very well prepared, because everybody seemed like getting diarrhea from it, the situation.

LT: What about your living quarters?

GT: You mean in the assembly center? Well, there wasn't hardly anything. I don't know how they did it, but like I said, they had these pens. Oh, I'm going to make a guess like maybe twelve by twelve pens. And they must have had cots in there, because I don't even remember what kind of beds we had. But the whole family was thrown in one of these little pens, they called them.

LT: All six of you?

GT: Yeah, all of us, one pen per family, that's it, figure it out. So they must have had cots in there, double deckers, or whatever. But that was it. That was our living quarters.

LT: What was it like, you're an American citizen, you spoke English, you didn't have a lot of connection with Japan, the country of your parents has bombed Pearl Harbor, and you're in the middle and you're moved from your home and from your work. What kind of feelings did you have? What were you thinking?

GT: You know, Linda, when you're that young yet, I don't think there was any feeling, you just do what you're told. You're just like puppets or something like that, you just do as you're told. Because we do know that we were there for a very serious reason, but we didn't ask questions, we didn't... we just did as we were told. I don't know if we had feelings or not, but all I know is that... we had no feelings, I guess. We just do as we were told. And that's all I can tell you, because we didn't go around griping because there was no use. That's about the best I can tell you on that one.

LT: So at the assembly center, there were others your age, and you had your sisters and brothers. What kinds of things did you talk about, or what questions did you ask?

GT: Gosh, you know, that's sure funny, isn't it, I can't even remember. But I do know that that's where I did meet a lot of the Portland people. Otherwise I'd have probably never got the -- well, I'd met them in Minidoka, too, but I do remember a lot of Portland people that I've become good friends with. I don't know what we talked about, the normal stuff, I guess, that teenagers talk about. But I do know that we've become a lot of friends in there, acquaintance that... to this day, most of them are gone now, but to this day, that they were real good friends, become lifelong friends for many years.

LT: So coming from experiences where you spent more of your time with Caucasian friends and neighbors, you were now living with all Japanese Americans, so that was a switch.

GT: Oh, yes, it really was.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LT: So after Minidoka was completed in Twin Falls, Idaho, you and your family moved there. Was that in the fall of 1942?

GT: I guess that's about right, early fall, I think that's about right, because I do know that some of the guys still went out and helped harvest some things... or was that the next year? But anyway, I know it was right around the fall.

LT: So how did you get from Pinedale to Minidoka?

GT: Well, see, I never did go to Pinedale.

LT: Oh, excuse me, Portland Assembly Center.

GT: Oh, how did we get there? By train. Yeah, I don't remember how, but they loaded us in the train just like sardines. And they've had the curtains on 'em, they pulled the curtains down so they don't, so you couldn't tell where you were, but they never raised the curtains 'til we got to Minidoka, our final destination. Then they raised the curtains up for us to see where we're at, and just as far as your eyes can see, it was sagebrush, everywhere it was sagebrush. These big army trucks would come out and load 'em up, take 'em to Minidoka as fast as they can get 'em off the train to Minidoka. And that, again, I don't know how many miles there were, but we didn't know what to expect. When we got there, we were greeted by machine guns, about four towers there. Yeah, I think there was about four of 'em, and that was the way we were greeted. It was kind of a threatening thing there, but as far as I know, there was no, there was nothing ever done that the guards could ever talk about, because I think everybody was well-behaved. There were some other camps that they ran into some trouble, there were some Japanese from California area that resented the whole thing, and they... let's see, they had a name for those guys. I can't even think of it right now. Anyway, they --

LT: The "no-no boys"?

GT: Huh?

LT: The "no-no boys"?

GT: (The yogores), something like that, yeah. But, you know, I got to hand it to 'em, because they resented that. They had a right to be resentful of the whole thing, and I think there were, a lot of 'em were Kibeis, you know, those that, they had probably a lot of respect for Japan, so those are the ones that gave them a little bit of trouble. There were incidents where they had riots in the camp, this and that. Not many, but there were just enough to be concerned about. But in our camp, I never did hear of anything bad going on in our camp. Yeah, I think most of our kids, everybody in our area respected what they told us to do.

LT: What is it like to come to a new place that you know is going to be your home, and to see military and guard towers and guns?

GT: You mean what is my feeling? Well, gee, how do you describe that? They sure let you know you were prisoners. There again, you know, I think... I don't know if there was any feeling, there was a lot of fear, a lot of feel of fear at first. But why they needed those machine guns and everything, but there was a lot of fear in everybody when they saw these towers with machine guns mounted all over. But as far as anything else, I think you were just so wrapped up in that, you were washed into it, brainwashed everything, that you were a prisoner, you'd better act like a prisoner. But later on, they lifted some of that restriction on us, when they found out that the Niseis weren't going to blow up the camp or blow up the country. After they got to know us, they become much relaxed and very, more cooperative. But the first feeling was, my gosh, you wondered where you were. You feel like you were part of Hitler's group or something like that. But as time went by, we proved that we were not going to blow up the country and that we were good citizens, so we got along pretty good.

LT: Just going back, I'm wondering, does it change how you feel or what you think or how you act when you see those kinds of precautions?

GT: No. You know that you're a prisoner, you're not going to do anything, you're there for however long it's going to take, and you just accept that. And that's just the feeling I had, that there was... well, you might say there was no hope, I guess, you'd better forget about it. You just stick it out or whatever the, however the war turns out. There was, sure, there was a lot of fear. "When this war ends, where are we going, what are we going to do?" there was a lot of that feeling, lot of that. As far as the war itself, well, we wonder, who's going to win the war? So we just didn't know what kind of feeling they have. It was sure mixed emotions on that. I think, when I talked about we proved their, the Niseis provide that they were good citizens, good people, because I think the following year, the United States asked for volunteers to join the United States Army. If you can imagine asking that after you're a prisoner of them, then they all of a sudden they ask you if you want to join up the United States Army, so you could see the turnaround there. And not just our camp, but you total all the ten camps, I believe, there were thousands of Nisei that went, they joined up, and here their parents locked up still behind barbed wires, but they went. And that, I just can't give those guys enough credit for what they did with their mom and dad behind barbed wires, they went on, joined the army, probably a lot of them didn't ever come back. But my gosh, you got to give those guys... and that was where the 442nd was born, from those guys. And they went on to become, made a real name for themselves, what they did over there, especially in Italy, things like that. A lot of my good friends did go, but I had, my brother and sister... at that time, my mother was ailing, too, so I was more or less the breadwinner, you might say. The rest of the kids were in the service.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LT: So Minidoka, in the fall of 1942, your new home, with you and your mother and your five brothers and sisters. Can you tell us, what did Minidoka look like in terms of how it was arranged as a camp?

GT: You know, I never gave that a thought. I don't even know how it was arranged, but I'm sure there were some good engineers there, because they had a lot of land to work with. But I think they made it army-style, they had a block, they called it a block, and in the block was barracks all around the block, and in the center was your mess hall, laundry room, shower room, stuff like that. But I think it was, copied that from an army barrack. I'm assuming that's the way it would have it, would have the, mess hall would be right in the center, and all around it would be these barracks, and the barracks there was so many homes. I think there was about six homes per barrack, I think. But anyway, I do know that they housed roughly two hundred to two hundred fifty people per block. And this, I'm sure, set up, an engineer must have set that up the best possible. It's like one great big street, like a great big town itself, just the one main street through there, just kept going up, kept going and going. I think there was about... I'm not sure how many blocks there was, but it seemed like, I've heard there were like sixty blocks, maybe it was in the fifties, but something like sixty blocks, and they get bigger. Two hundred or two hundred fifty people per block, that's a lot of Japanese in there. Somebody made the statement that Minidoka overnight became the second largest city in Idaho, so that makes... the second largest city would be around twelve thousand to fifteen thousand people. Must be just second to Boise then. But it just grew up overnight, that's how big the palace was.

So our block was Block 30. I guess we were practically right in the middle of all these barracks or all these blocks. And right across the street was 32, seemed like all of us, the even numbers were on one side and the uneven were on the other side, because I do know there was Block 31, Block 29, and we were Block 30. Each block was like a little town itself, they had a manager, we called him the mayor or the manager. They wanted everybody to have a job when you got there. They didn't care what you did, you could be a cook, a laundry, janitor, anything, but they just wanted you to be, do something to keep occupied. But they paid you for it, I think it something like, started at eight dollars a month, way up to like twelve dollars a month, depending on your position. So my job was... or not, we just formed our own, the four of us friends that we took out a jeep every morning and we went to all these mess halls, picked up the cans that were emptied out with food, and it could be any kind of food. And one side would be open where they took the food out, but these had a bottom, too, that was our job, was to cut the bottom out and step on 'em or smash 'em so they'd become flat. Then they were recycled again, and that's the way they did it, was the canned stuff. And our job was to go out and pick up these cans from all these mess halls and take 'em way out there to the edge of nowhere and we'd put up our little work area, and there was four of us, all good friends. And they weren't that strict because they knew what we were kind of doing, but we had four of us, three in the tent itself playing pinochle, and the other one on the watch for trucks coming by to see what we're doing. And this one guy would be out there busy cutting the bottoms out, and the other three in the tent playing pinochle. That's where I learned to play pinochle. [Laughs] So we had a pretty good time. And we were never reprimanded for that. I'm sure the guards knew what we were doing, but they never said anything. So in the evening, we'd put all the cans together that we four should have done, put 'em in the jeep, cans, then drop them off at some central location and they smash it. No, maybe we'd smash it. Yeah, once you take the bottom out, there's nothing to smashing those cans. And then they recycled them again. So I guess what I'm saying, just showed how much they eased up on us because I know they knew what we were doing. But they never did come look around, they just drive around to see if you were working. I guess we did cut a few cans, but not as much as we should have cut the bottoms out. But anyway, it was for a good cause, and in the evening we'd pick up our stuff and drop them off and tell 'em how much we did and that was it. And give 'em back our jeep, and that was my job. I'm not sure what they paid us for that, maybe eight dollars a month, and that was it for us.

LT: How was life different at Minidoka from the Portland Assembly Center?

GT: Okay. Well, Minidoka, it was more organized. It had more, better living quarters. As bad as it was, it was still better than anything we had in the assembly center, because it was set up a little better. They had... it was a coal stove, burnt coal in there. Used a lot of coal, I don't ever see any wood being burned, but we had these potbelly stoves, and there was bunk beds, so one stacked on another, but it was much more livable than the assembly center. It had to be, because this was kind of a permanent thing. It was set up better, mess hall, shower room, and laundry room, shower room, so it was set up more like army style. It was a much better combination, even though it really wasn't much, but it was much better than what we, our assembly center.

LT: What do you remember about eating at the mess hall?

GT: Oh, I would say that the food improved. I'm not sure just what they did to improve, but it improved a little better. But we still got our rice. I think that was the main thing at every meal. But it was better.

LT: Can you identify a typical meal?

GT: Gee, I wish I could. All I can remember is rice and something, maybe soy sauce or shoyu on it, but I do know they made some okazu, but I can't even remember what it was. A lot of it was Japanese food or the Japanese-style food that we got to eat. But it was much better than what we got in the assembly center. But I'm not sure just how, what they did with, what they served, but it was a little better food.

LT: And your barracks, the living quarters for your family, you were still in one room?

GT: Yes, still one room, not two rooms, but one, but it was a bigger room with a stove in it, your own heating system. Yeah, it was much better put together.

LT: What did you do with your family to make it more livable?

GT: What we did?

LT: At Portland Assembly Center, you were for several months. You knew it was temporary. When you moved to Minidoka, although you didn't know how long you would be there, you did know you would be living there for some time. I'm wondering if there were changes that you made to make your life there a little bit more pleasant?

GT: Gosh, I'm not sure. I do know one thing they did, especially for the young guys, but every night there was a dance someplace. One of the blocks had a dance and put up posters here, they'll say, "Dance Block 39," or Block 31. They'd always advertise that. But that's where all the studs would gather, women on one side, men on the other side, looking each other over. [Laughs] I think that's one thing the younger kids looked forward to, meeting with the other sex and other friends. Mothers and stuff, I'm not sure what they did, if they had their own club or what, but I don't know what they did to make it any different. But it was not that restriction there, it was more open, especially when you have dances and stuff like that. Had other things going. So it gave a little more freedom.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LT: Do you know how your mother spent her day?

GT: No, I don't. I wished I did, but I'm sure she must have met some other ladies that talked about their own things, but I'm not sure. But like I said before, Mom was ill when she went in there. I think from the time we went to camp, she did have the start of cancer, and it steadily got worse the longer we stayed there. I think we got to move out in 1943 to Boise, because they said they could give us better attention for medical problems. But they knew that it was a losing battle, so they just, they gave us discharge to go out into the city life of Boise.

LT: And your mother died in Boise in 1943?

GT: I think that's right, uh-huh, '43. I think it was late '43.

LT: After your mother died, you and your family stayed in Boise?

GT: Yeah, we did for a while. Not too long, because about that time, though, I know she was ill there for quite a while. When I say quite a while, probably maybe a few, several months there before she was slowly dying in Boise there. But by that time, though, my brother came back from the service, they were already released. They were discharged, so it must be toward the end of the war, too, so it must have been, she must have... I kept thinking the war ended about 1944 or so, I'm trying to put the two together. Because I do know after she died, my brothers came back, and we looked at each other, and we got to asking the question, "So now what do we do?" that's about the question. Nobody knows what the heck we were going to do, nobody had any money, very little of anything. And then we know we couldn't stay there Boise. They had a little house, there was a house that was rented a house to us from Reverend Johnson, who was a very nice person, very accommodating to us. But I do know that it must have been... when they were released, discharged, we come back to Beaverton area. Everything we had, we could, it wasn't much, but that's where we do. We came back to the Beaverton area, north of Beaverton.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

LT: Before we come back to Beaverton, let's talk a little bit more about your camp experience. Because you spent several years living with your family in one room, and you spent your days with other Japanese Americans. How was that a change for you and your family?

GT: Let's see. Will you state that again?

LT: Yes. Living in camp, at Minidoka, with Japanese Americans, whereas you had gone to school with Caucasian classmates, your neighbors were typically Caucasian, the customers at your store were Caucasian. This was a change for you living and working with Japanese Americans.

GT: You know, somehow we did stick together, even after the... yeah, our friends, they did stay together though, even though they weren't maybe in the service or army, but they stayed together. Of course, I should take that back, too, because I'm not sure. But we did stick with a lot of our own Japanese friends, but then on the other hand, we'll say that when they were released, these Japanese people that were in camp, they went to all corners of the United States. They had no other place to go, maybe they had a friend over there, or relatives in the state of, you could say New York, a lot of people went to New York. Wherever their relatives or friends were, it seemed like that was the one way the Japanese population did get spread out all over the United States, so people could understand and get to know the Japanese. And I think that was one of the good things. It broke up the families of Japanese, that's right. Back in Portland, they all live right close, like little ghettos. All the restaurants were, they had restaurants and they had hotels, but they're all right together. So all the relatives would live close together. But when the war broke out and they're all released, most of 'em didn't have no place to go back to, so they picked some place in the United States, and that's where they moved. And they just... all parts of the United States. And that way the other Caucasians could get to know the Japanese people. So I think in that way, it was a good thing.

LT: There were positive consequences from the war. What would you say would be the most difficult consequences from being in camp?

GT: Let's see now, how am I going to answer that? I think I've got to ask you one more time. What did you say?

LT: You've talked about the positives from being camp. What would you say would be the biggest difficulties?

GT: Oh, when we were out on our own? Yes, we did meet a lot of resistance here and there because of Japanese, the war just ended, there was a lot of animosity there. And some, they were real nice about it, but there was a lot of animosity. They didn't come around and tell you, but you could kind of feel it. Especially I know that one time when I was coming back from the service, I was with a couple of my boys, a couple of graduates from Hillsboro High School, they were in the service, we were traveling someplace together. And we go into a restaurant, but right out in the front there it says, "No Japs Allowed." And they resented that, so they said, "Well, let's get the heck out of here, let's go find someplace else." We can always look for someplace that didn't have that sign. But you did run into a lot of that. Or if you got onto a bus, I myself had a driver tell me, "To the back, please," or something like that. And if you don't go right back, they just got a little bit, they just practically forced you back there. Said, "Get to the back of the bus, you Japs." That's about what they meant. I've seen that a few times, that you were not equal, "You can't be sitting up here with the white people, you go in the back with the other people." So in those ways, we could feel that kind of a feeling. Of course, it was just right after the war, there was a lot of animosity. There was a lot of people that were killed by the Japanese or the war over there, so there was a lot of hard feelings yet.

LT: When you face someone who challenges you to go to the back, or tells you that you can't become a patron of a store or a restaurant, what does it do to you? Is there ever a point where you think you want to say...

GT: You feel like it, but I never did. I just, I guess I didn't want to cause any problems. So I'd listen to them. You didn't like it, you didn't like it at all, but at that time, even the war was over, you just wanted to say something, you don't do it. Something like, you have some of those heroes now that we have are the ones that are, like, was it Rosa Parks? She was the one that didn't like that, and she spoke her piece. You wonder now, at that time, maybe that's what I should have done. But you didn't know whether you were going to get hit over the head or get beat up or what. But that was a kind of a feeling right after the service. And it didn't go right together easy because there was a lot of that hard feeling still left out there. And some of those you can't blame because they were maybe prisoner of war, or they ran into some Japanese and fought the Japanese or got killed by them or something. But there was a lot of that feeling left yet. It took a long time for it to ever, like right now, I think that's all gone, at that time, it was a pretty tough feeling.

LT: Were there those who stepped forward to support you in ways that you didn't expect?

GT: No, I didn't ever see that, except when those, I was with those GIs, those kids I went to high school with, they kind of spoke up their piece, but that was the only time that they were supporting us.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

LT: So you moved to Beaverton, and you and your brothers and sisters raised strawberries.

GT: Yeah, we did, because that's the last thing my oldest brother, he was just staring to raise some strawberries when the war came on and we were all, he was drafted. And he had to leave the berry field and practically just gave it away. But at least he said, "I know that's one thing we can do," that's what we did. But it was no fun, I'll tell you.

LT: So did you purchase property, did you lease property?

GT: Leased. We just rented. We didn't buy anything, we had no... when we started farming, I think our whole inventory of equipment was about four hoes, you know, H-O-E-S. That's about what we owned, that was our total equipment that we owned, that we could afford to buy. And at that time there was not much mechanical equipment either at that time. So by having those four hoes, we felt that we were pretty darn well-off.

LT: So were your employees and your customers Japanese, Caucasian?

GT: Customers...

LT: Your employees, your workers?

GT: This is what time of the year now?

LT: After the war.

GT: See, after the war, we were farming at that time, so we weren't retailing anything. Mostly farming.

LT: But did you pick the strawberries yourselves, or did you have employees?

GT: We had employees for that, yes.

LT: And were they Japanese?

GT: No, they were all Caucasians.

LT: So after the war, when you were raising strawberries and you needed workers, and the Caucasians workers came, was it difficult to find those who would come and pick your strawberries?

GT: Yeah, they weren't that plentiful, but we usually managed to always find enough to pick our berries. But yeah, they weren't out there flocking to try to get in there, I'm sure of that. The tension was starting to ease off, and there was kids want to work, and so we were always able to get 'em picked, anyway.

LT: Did you have to take any measures to get workers?

GT: Well, like again, that's how we started these buses, to go get 'em, and when we started using the buses, then they would come out. As long as they had a way of getting there. That's where we got the bus started on that.

LT: After the war, you went to Portland every once in a while, and you met your wife.

GT: Yeah, we got Sundays off, we took Sundays off, and that's where I met my wife. I think she was working in a Chinese restaurant, I got acquainted with her. And then her folks bought a hotel right down there on skid row. I call it "skid row" now, but it's not that anymore. But it was called the Pomona Hotel at that time. And Mabel's mother, they purchased this hotel and that was their business, and she also worked there. There was a fellow there that knew the owner, and I was a good friend of his, and I'd go with him once in a while to the hotel and that's where I met Mabel, that's where she was staying. And between that and the restaurant is where I got acquainted with her.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

LT: And you married in 1950?

GT: Yes. It's on April Fool's Day. [Laughs] I can still remember that. And I kind of questioned, I said, "Why did you pick that day?" Well, that's the only day we can get a church that would accommodate us. Otherwise we'd have to wait a long time. But then she said also if the wedding didn't work out, we could always say, "April Fool." [Laughs] So there would be no consequence. So that's what she told me.

LT: So you married five years after you returned from the camps, after the war was over. And then eventually, you and your family moved to Washington.

GT: Yeah, let's see now. While I was still in Oregon, though, I was doing something. I was actually selling automobiles, Chevrolets. That's right after we were married, I do know, that's right, I did work for the Chevrolet company for about two, three years, selling Chevrolets, which were pretty hard to get. There were not that many, so many demands for them. It didn't take much selling, you just try to get enough product to sell. Because right after the war, there were not that many plentiful cars. But I do remember, before we moved up to Woodland, I was selling cars.

LT: Were your customers Japanese Americans?

GT: Quite a few, yeah. I'd say at that time, probably the, more than half were Japanese buyers.

LT: Let's stop at this point, because then I want to ask you about moving to Woodland and starting your berry farm.

GT: All right, sure.


LT: So, from selling cars in Portland, you and your family eventually decided to move to Washington.

GT: Right. We, my oldest brother, Henry, got us all started in strawberries, had a friend from Burlington area, his name was Nagatanis, they were good friends. And he keeps suggesting to us, "You guys get in someplace where's there's good land." He said, "Maybe I'll find you something." Somehow, this guy stopped in Woodland, he took some of the soil, he recommended this place for Henry. And so Henry recommended to us, he says, "It's good ground up there and I think that's a good place to be." And so we all said okay and, you're the boss, so we all packed up everything and we came to Woodland. And Henry didn't come. He stayed back, he just wanted us to go on ahead, and he stayed back, and he'd become, he opened up a real estate office there in Cedar Mills, that's north of Beaverton a little bit. And that's how we got into Woodland, is from this recommendation of this one grower, he's a big grower in Burlington, Washington. And sure, somewhere along the line, his wife was, her dad was a friend of my dad, and so one led to another, and that's how we got started in Woodland. And I can still remember to this day, we'd load up everything we had in this old rickety truck, and we just barely made it to Woodland. But I look at that stuff there and I bet you that whole load wouldn't have been worth over fifty dollars, if they could get fifty dollars for it, that's our whole, everything we owned. But we were lucky because we did find a, rented a house here in Woodland, and we stayed there for many, many years before we... then we sold it and we still own part of it. Just to show you the difference at that time, the land that we were farming berries on, we'd lease it for, oh, maybe four or five years, and then it'd come up for sale. And I remember yet to this day, had fifty acres, two homes, irrigation system on it, and the total cost was thirty-three thousand dollars, and there was no takers, really. There was nobody around that had that kind of money. Somehow we put enough together to make a down payment, and we bought the place, my gosh. Thirty-three thousand dollar for fifty-some acres, two homes, and a whole irrigation system on it. And then it was up on the market for a long time, nobody had the money to buy it. So that's how we got started here in Woodland.

LT: And what year was that?

GT: Well, that would have been in about... well, we come up in 1956, we started farming there, but we didn't buy that place for, I'm going to guess, might be five, six years before we had enough money put together to buy that place.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LT: So eventually, from those six hoes that you had, your farm grew. Can you talk about what you did to bring that about?

GT: Gosh. I wished I did know. How did we ever get... it was only four hoes by the way, too, and not six. [Laughs] And at the time, when we started there north of Beaverton, when the brothers came back, we farmed with horses. This fellow that we rented the land from, he had a horse, and that's what he farmed with. That's what, quite a bit was done by horses. That's how far this goes back. And he made a deal with us that he rented his horse to us per day. That poor horse worked night and day. [Laughs] It wasn't quite fair, but he didn't say anything, but that poor horse, he really got worked over. But that horse was so smart, you could be cultivating strawberries, you don't have to do it, you just hang on to the cultivator, and he'd make the turns himself all day long. He turned from one row into another, you don't ever have to guide him, he knows exactly where he's going. And then after a day's work, we'd put him away, feed him something, and that was the equipment we started with. Then as things got better, I remember somebody got the idea... we bought a tractor, don't ask me how we put that together, we did buy a tractor, and it had three hitches behind it. So we took that tractor, pulled three of those cultivators behind the tractor, three guys walking behind instead of walking behind one horse, and we thought we'd really modernize our farming. And we did that for a few years, then, yeah, that's right, we bought a tractor to be able to pull three of those cultivators, a hand cultivator, instead of one horse to pull one cultivator. So we were able to do more acres and really got modernized. Then I guess as times got better we bought a little better equipment, bigger tractors and so forth, and kept getting bigger and bigger. That's how it started.

LT: How large did your farm eventually grow, and how many workers did you hire?

GT: You know, I don't even know how many... we do know that for pickers, we got, like I was telling you, we had to have a lot of pickers. We got so big that it was several hundred acres. And we just could never find enough, so we bussed them all in. And I think we, at one time, at our peak, we had twenty buses. It was an average of about fifty to a bus, and all over Battle Ground, Amboy, Yacolt, all around there. Then up this way, Longview, Kelso, Woodland, Kalama, all those are all put together. And we had several farms rented out in the Battle Ground, Amboy area. We didn't own any except the one in Woodland. That's about what I can tell you there, but that was at the peak of the time, then it started going the other way, started getting smaller and smaller. We had too many acres, and we couldn't manage all of them. We lost a lot of berries by not getting around to them, but we realized we had too many acres, so we kept downsizing.

LT: Well, in 1981, you and your family made another change in your...

GT: Oh, you mean what we're doing now? Yeah, let's see. We were farming pretty good, and my wife was driving around one day and she noticed this one, our present site right now, it was a defunct nursery. It was there for several years, or at least a couple years, seemed like it was on the market, it just sat there and sat there. So she suggested, "Why don't we buy that place?" Then we asked, "What for?" "Well, to start a nursery." But we don't know anything about that. "What's there to know?" she kept saying. But there's a lot to a nursery, my goodness. Her version of a nursery was go have a little shack there, sit around there, and maybe have a few plants and then just wait for the customers to come in. But it just doesn't work that way. I do know that when we first started and she thought this way, there was, I think she sold one geranium, and that was the sale for the whole day. Everybody started realizing this is not the way we're going to make it. So she studied that nursery business, she really put her heart into it. So she left the farm and she went a hundred percent for the nursery, just doing things, buying things, just learning more and more about the nursery. And they kept growing and growing to the size of where it is now. But we were much bigger that one time. Now we're in downsizing the nursery because on account of the last few years have been a recession, no homes are being built, and that's a big part of our business. You landscape these homes, well, there were no homes going up, so it really hurt us. So we had an awful time staying in business. But we're still hanging in there. I give my wife lots of credit for holding that together without getting rid of it or selling or junk it or whatever. That's how it all started, and I have to hand it to her a hundred percent.

LT: It seems that you've made a lot of ventures in different kinds of business and different locations and you were successful. So moving into a new community, you had new neighbors. How did you establish yourself with the community? Because that would seem to be important in gaining customers.

GT: You mean our present location? Yeah, that's a good question, but you just don't grow overnight. We just kept building and building, there was a lot of customers that we made customers out of them.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

LT: So George, in developing your very successful business, Tsugawa Nursery and Gardens, especially after the war, how did you develop relationships in a new community with people you really didn't have connections with?

GT: I know I... it's hard to explain it, but just being good to the customers, you know, you start to build, it took time. It took a lot of time, because we have such good customers now, all over. But I could just say one thing, just treat the customers right, and they'll be back. If they say, "Well, I did this," you don't argue with them, you just say, "Well, absolutely you're right, here. Take this one here, no charge," and you keep doing things like that, and you'll eventually build up a base for a lot of good customers, and that's what we've got right now. Then our employees, gosh, I don't know, we have... well, we just gave out Christmas bonus the other day, and we gave out something, because it wasn't that great a year, but we look at some of those people, and some of those people have been with us twenty, twenty-some years, fifteen, twenty years. And I know they're not getting rich, but it's just a side business when they like it, but I guess they like us because they would never think about going anyplace else, they never question about what they're getting paid, it's amazing. But they're just good employees and good customers, because we have customers that are from all over Oregon, you might say, and, well, not far south, and in Washington, we have a lot of customers just come right down from Seattle area, Olympia, Tacoma. Because they say our product here is a lot less money than up there, and they're very happy with us. So it took lots of time to build up this confidence in the customers, that they're going to get treated right. And anybody that goes away unhappy, we just do things to make 'em happy. Some take advantage of us, I know, but most of them can't believe that we made this good for 'em, and without even arguing very much, we'll say, "You're right, you're right. Here, take this home," or, "take this with you," like that. It takes a long, long time to build up that base there, because we've been here over thirty-something years, and I think that's about, at least take fifteen, twenty years to have a good base of customers.

LT: During those first fifteen, twenty years, was it an issue that you were a Japanese American business?

GT: Well, it was never brought up to us like they were a different nationality, that was never, ever questioned, what nationality we are. But that was never brought up. They do know we're a different nationality, but they never asked us. I guess it was never brought up.

LT: Were there ever any incidents when customers or other business people treated you differently because...

GT: Nationality?

LT: ...of your nationality?

GT: No, I don't think so. I sure never felt it. But then again, I didn't work over there. I mean, I was not a salesman. We were farming and doing other things, but I left that up to my son and everything. They took care of it. My policy all the time is if they don't argue with them, just give it to 'em no matter what it looks like. Just give it to 'em. Some people are so dumbfounded that we didn't even argue, they say, like they started to say something and they'll say, "Aren't you going to argue anymore?" or something like that, they were surprised that they were taken care of without any more argument. And that's just one thing we just didn't want to get involved with, argue with customers that they were right and we were wrong. We always said, "You are absolutely right. Here, take this along or take this with you, and I hope this will make it come out right," or something, but it always pays off in the end.

LT: How did you get involved in the larger community in Woodland?

GT: Larger community?

LT: Were you involved in community organizations, activities?

GT: Not really, not really. I should have, but we were not much joiners, you know. I just got to thinking about, they didn't... I did belong to the Lion's Club for many years, and I think that's the last thing I ever joined in Woodland. My wife was the PTA and stuff like that, but I myself never got really involved and my son didn't either. He should have been part of the Chamber of Commerce, but he wasn't even belonging to that. It's amazing we did what we did without joining up with a lot of things. We should have. But I know I didn't, and I know Brian didn't, he was a manager. He should have been involved in a lot of things, but he didn't ever, never did get involved.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

LT: It sounds like you put all of your energies into your business and to your family. Japanese Americans began to reflect on the war years, and eventually gained redress for incarceration during World War II. Were you involved in those efforts? What did you think of redress and Japanese Americans seeking civil rights for World War II actions?

GT: Yeah, they're getting on... I didn't get really involved in that, Linda. I should have, should have done more. I find myself more now than I ever have before, especially now that this last funeral, that they asked me to be the speaker for this funeral which kind of surprised me. Seems like I'm getting more and more involved with the Japanese and their problems they had. But like Loen Dozono called me up the other day to be honorary member or whatever, pallbearer, and I just told her that, she thought I might find an excuse not to do it, but I said, I told Loen, I said, "I'd be proud to do what you're asking me," and she was so grateful. But I find myself, more and more, getting involved, like where I should have been maybe thirty years ago, but I'm just now getting around to it. Probably too busy doing other things, but I see how important this is, become a member of this, member of that, which I haven't done in the past. I do have a very good friend, Arthur Iwasaki, now, he was a member of everything. He went back to D.C. to get his medal and all that stuff, but there was a good man that joined in all the activities. I know he was involved in so many things, I got to hand it to him. And he was more or less in the same kind of business that I was. He was in the nursery business, and they did very well at it. Arthur is getting up there, about ninety-three years old or so, and he and I and Dr. Inahara, we all three went to Hillsboro High School. Seemed like we're the only grads left from the graduating class. Most of the graduating class, we were all passed on. Nearly all of them are gone, except us three, maybe... I don't know what you say, maybe we eat the right kind of rice, you might say. [Laughs] I don't know. But like Dr. Inahara, he's ninety-three, going on ninety-four, I told him to come out and help yourself to all the berries you want. And he himself will pick 'em himself. He will not have, pick berries, he wants to pick 'em himself. How he can bend over and get those, it's amazing, just amazing. Because Dr. Inahara has been such a lifesaver in our family, just one crisis after another, he pulled us through so many times, a real good friend of ours.

LT: I appreciate your saying that you want to be involved in Japanese American issues and community issues. So what would you like to see happen now?

GT: What happened now, huh? Well, you know, it seemed like JACL, whatever, it seemed they're accomplishing all these things I would like to see, the 442nd, how they're getting the recognition they should have had a long time ago. It seems like everything's getting pretty well taken care of. But I do know there's lots more to go. But it seemed like we did so much to get these things done, especially when they went back to D.C. to pick up those medals that they deserved. I know Arthur was a good friend of mine all through the war and everything, we were going to each other during the service, and he'd write back to me. He was telling me that he was in a foxhole with my first cousin from Garden Grove. He was, they'd become friends, my first cousin, and he said he was in his foxhole, and my cousin got killed, and he said, "But they missed me." So just how lucky he was, he was saying these things. He says my first cousin was killed in the same foxhole that Arthur was in. And I think of all the things they went through, you know, to avoid getting killed. So I've really got to hand it to Arthur and that bunch of guys.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

LT: Well, it's good to hear that you keep in touch with your friends. You also have a wonderful family. Your wife Mabel died in 2011. You have children and grandchildren nearby. How do you spend your time?

GT: You know something, Linda? When Mabel died, at that time, I was still almost ninety years old, and I just thought, I lived my life, I didn't care. If I go now, it'd be fine with me. Not that I'm going to kill myself, but I felt that that's the kind of feeling I had. I had a long life with Mabel. If I went tomorrow, I wouldn't feel a thing. And then I found out that my grandkids, they lost their mother a year ago, they lost their dad to months ago, they lost their grandparents on the mother's side, they were killed in an accident going to see their mother who was in the hospital with cancer. And they both, they got in a wreck and they killed them both at one time. So they lost, everything was practically wiped out at that certain time. So I realize now, I've got to live, I've got to hang around, because they look to me for so much. So I said, "I just got to hang around a few more years." And Lynnell, my oldest of the grandkids, she's the one that teaches school now in... she got her master's so quick, she put all her effort into it, and she got into it. I thought that was amazing how she did it. But she says even with what she teaches over there, it's almost like starvation wages, she says, "We have an awful time making it just with those wages they pay us." But her husband works, too, so between the two of them, they can make a living. But just a teacher alone with a family of any kind, they just don't make enough to make it. So she confers with me quite often about different things, and she's been such a big help to me. She's wise by, way above the age she should be. She's twenty-five now, but she went through so much. So I told those kids, "I'll be around, you guys go ahead." My youngest one is twenty years old now, she says, "Grandpa, I want you to be here 'til, don't go 'til I get married." I said, "Well, yeah, but Tia, if I hang around there, you're going to go and grab some bum off the street, then walk you down the aisle? I don't want it that way. You got to get a good husband." And she reminds me of that, so she's going to Washington State now. I hope she hangs in there. [Laughs]

LT: What do you tell your grandchildren about your life experiences, especially as a Japanese American?

GT: Yeah, I think they're starting to feel all of these things, that they realize they're not white people. I think they are starting to realize that. Oh, yes, I know my oldest granddaughter, Lynnell, she said she stopped by the police or something, for something. She didn't get a ticket, but she was stopped, and the policeman asked her, he said, "Do you speak English?" to my granddaughter who teaches school. She said she was so insulted. [Laughs] She said, "They asked me if I could speak English, this policeman did." And she told him, "Well, I'm a teacher, I should be able to speak English." But she was so insulted by that. So that's just one incident where racial things kind of hit her, that she wasn't all white. But yeah, that was a funny thing, they asked, "Do you speak English?" She was so insulted, yeah. So she's my number one girl, she does everything for me.

LT: So what have you told your family about your life?

GT: You mean the kids? I think... I don't know if I ever told them, they're learning things through this here, but I didn't want to tell her, but she'd always ask me, "How you feeling, Grandpa? You okay today? You don't have any illness, do you?" But I did have something I didn't want to tell them about. I had to have an endoscopy. Before I went in, before I had this doctor at OHSU, he was my doctor, and he'd always call me or tell me when it's time for another endoscopy, about twice a year. Then all of a sudden he got moved up, promoted to Mayo Clinic, well, he was gone. And then there was another doctor come in, Dr. Mumani, I think he's from India. And he could make it, so I had this substitute doctor, he did an endoscopy for me. But these other doctors would always tell me, "Everything turned out okay, we got all the cancer polyps out of your stomach. We got another date set up for you," they always set up a date for me. But this other substitute doctor didn't realize that, and I went a year and a half without a checkup. I do know if they ask it twice a year, there's a reason for it. And I thought, my gosh, I haven't been checked up for over a year and a half, I should have had it. And I think this all happened when my wife died, I just, everything, I just forgot everything. And the substitute doctor didn't realize that that's what they're supposed to do, is give me another date set up. And I had an awful time getting back in OHSU. They just don't hand out free stuff anymore. And being a Medicare patient, there's no money in it for 'em. But I think for me to get back there and get on their schedule, it seemed like it took forever. Before, I would just call, and they'd just say, "All right, come in," certain day, and, "come on in." But this one here, they made me wait and wait and wait to get an appointment. Finally I got one the other day, and the doctor called me just the other day, the doctor that did the procedure on me. It was on a Sunday, calls me up on a Sunday directly, I was in the grocery store shopping. He said, "This is doctor so-and-so," I can't even remember his name, but he says, "Everything turned out okay, George. Everything is fine." I told the girls that and they were so relieved, it was like it was their body. But I told them that, "I'm going to be around, girls. I'm going to be there for you."

LT: I have just a few more questions to ask you. I'm thinking you talked about how you want to be more involved, or even maybe more outspoken about Japanese American issues. And while you've not talked a lot to your grandchildren about your life, what do you want them to know about Japanese Americans, and what they endured, especially during World War II? What would be the takeaway, what would be your message to them?

GT: Golly. You know, my youngest one is teaching, she wants to get into the other part, not teaching but upper, in the upper end, what do you call that?

LT: Higher ed?

GT: Higher ed, or administration. That's where she wants to be, she says, "At least that's where the money is." But I never did question about the money and all that, but all she knows is you've got to make more money to live in this country, because it costs so much money. But she's working to that end. My second girl, who's going to Washington State right now, she don't really know what, she wants to be in administration, too, but she's working for Nordstrom right now. But she said, "With Nordstrom, it's a family affair, and I don't know if I could ever go any farther than I am right now." So she's questioning that. At that funeral the other day there was a girl that, the person that died, his daughter worked for Nordstrom, and she was in the administration part of it, way up there. And she wanted to meet with her but she didn't get to because she was working for Nordstrom and she couldn't get away. But I said, "Well, why don't you talk to her and see what it takes to be up there in administration?" The racial probably has nothing to do with it, because there's one right there, a Japanese girl that made it up into the administration. And just talk with her and see what it takes to get up there." So I always encourage my girls to, at least those two, to get a good education. And there's money out there to be had. Maybe I stress money, but money is a big part of living nowadays, with the cost of living and everything. "You're never going to be happy working for McDonalds or anything like that. I just don't want you guys to do that." I've been knocking that, "I don't want to see you girls pitching hamburgers, I want to see you girls up into where the money is," and I guess maybe I shouldn't be saying that, but I do stress that a lot to them.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

LT: I do have a few more questions about you. And the first is, how did your wartime experiences change your view of yourself as a Japanese American?

GT: Well, you know, I think, being a Japanese American, I'd come to the point, not come to it, but I just want to be a good citizen of this country, I really do. I just want to be a good citizen, do the right things... well, I still think, regardless of what goes on in this country, this is the greatest country in the world to live in. I really feel that, Linda. Others will disagree with me, but all the things go wrong in this country, all the things we, mistakes we make, I still think this is the greatest country in the world. I still believe that, and I always will. I always want to just get along with people, I don't want to get in arguments, things like that. I just want to be a good citizen of this country, and I'd like to raise good kids to be good citizens, especially Tim, that's getting out for, he's coming back tomorrow morning back from Fort Benning, Georgia. And I've been preaching to him, he and I have been writing letters back and forth, and I've been writing the letter about my life from the time I was born until, I think right now I'm at the high school stage, about seven or eight stages. And he says, "Gee, Grandpa, these are great." The kids want them, he's going to make an album on it, some of that stuff we're talking about right now.

LT: Did the wartime experience change you at all as a person?

GT: Yes, I think so. I'll tell you what it did do, it made you a stronger person. Made you a very stronger person, you know that there's nobody going to give you a hand out there, you've got to earn it. And it really made me a stronger person. Everything I did has made me a stronger person, whether it's farming or retail, everything, but I just wanted to be stronger, get involved in more things where the money is. I think that's what made you a stronger person all the way around.


LT: Last question. What's important in life?

GT: What's important in life, huh? I think, for me, it's good health, get along with kids, get along with people, other citizens. It's just to be a good citizen. Don't raise heck out there, don't do things that are not popular. I just want to be a good citizen of this country, whatever it takes to be that, but I would like that to be done that way. (Narr. note: I repeat, this is the greatest country in the world.)

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.