Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Jessie Hatsue Akiyama Okazaki Harry Interview
Narrator: Jessie Hatsue Akiyama Okazaki Harry
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: February 24, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-hjessie-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

LT: So, Jessie, you were born on October 24, 1925. Where were you born?

JH: In Parkdale.

LT: And where's Parkdale?

JH: In Hood River County.

LT: Okay. And what was your full name when you were born?

JH: You know, I really don't know whether I had "Jessie" or not, but Hatsue is the name my folks always goes by.

LT: So your parents called you Hatsue.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: And what about your brothers and your sisters and your classmates at school? What did they call you?

JH: Jessie.

LT: Jessie, okay. Which name did you prefer?

JH: Jessie. [Laughs]

LT: Okay, well, it's easier to say. Let's talk about your parents. What was your father's name and where was he born?

JH: I think he was born in Okayama, and his name was Shinsuke.

LT: Shinsuke, okay. And I understand he was born in 1898?

JH: That I don't know.

LT: Okay. So your father was born in Okayama. How did he decide to come to America?

JH: I think his folks were here first, and then he joined them.

LT: Okay. Do you know what kind of work his mother and father did here?

JH: No, I don't.

LT: Do you know what kind of work your father did when he came to the U.S.?

JH: I think he worked for the railroad.

LT: And many Issei did work for the railroad. I understand your father came to America when he was just nineteen years old.

JH: Yeah, I think so.

LT: So he was a young man. Your mother, what was her name and where was she born?

JH: She was in Okayama, and name was Taka Saiki.

LT: Taka Saiki. And I understand that she was born eight years after your father was born.

JH: I believe so.

LT: So they were from the same prefecture in Japan, Okayama. Do you know how your mother and father met?

JH: No, it was one of these marriages that they... gosh, I don't know how. I think it was like a "picture marriage," you know, where they send pictures, 'cause my dad was over here already, and then my mom joined him.

LT: So it's possible that your father was in the United States, your mother was in Okayama. And so in some ways, perhaps their photos were shared?

JH: I think so. And then, of course, and then he went back to Nihon and brought my mom with him then.

LT: Okay. And many of the marriages early in the twentieth century happened that way.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LT: Now, your father and mother came back to the United States. Where did they come?

JH: They came to... my dad came first and then he worked for the railroad, and then my mom came, and then they bought this farm in Parkdale.

LT: Okay. And how did they buy the farm?

JH: It was in my name, because Isseis couldn't purchase land at that time, and so this Don Nunamaker was my... was it my guardian? I don't remember. But anyway, he's the one that got... and the farm was in my name, because my folks couldn't...

LT: Now why was it that the farm could be in your name and not your father's name?

JH: Because being an Issei at that time, they weren't allowed to own any property.

LT: And what about you?

JH: This Don Nunamaker said, "You can put it in my name," and he would, I don't know what he did. He mentioned that it could be... and then he would take care of it as long as it was in my name.

LT: Okay. And you were born as an American citizen.

JH: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

LT: So you had the rights to purchase the property even though you were a kid.

JH: Yes.

LT: So you and Don Nunamaker, then, purchased the property together in your names, he as a trustee. And this must have been after 1923, after the alien land law that prevented Issei from purchasing land?

JH: Yes.

LT: Okay, okay. Now, what did your father and your mother do with the property that they purchased?

JH: It was, they had to clear it, and then they started to raise strawberries, and of course, they planted fruits. But in the meantime, before the fruit beared, they had strawberries and asparagus.

LT: Okay. And then what kind of fruit trees did they plant?

JH: Pears and apples.

LT: Okay. Do you know what kind of, was it difficult work?

JH: I really don't know.

LT: Let's talk about your father a little bit. I understand that he came to Parkdale on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

JH: Yes, he did. [Laughs]

LT: Can you talk about that?

JH: You know, I really don't know too much about it. But I do know that that's what he did, he was on a motorcycle.

LT: Well, as a little girl watching your father work and come home with your mom, what was he like?

JH: You know, way back, I just don't remember a thing.

LT: What kinds of things did he like to do?

JH: Fish and hunt.

LT: And maybe ride his motorcycle?

JH: You know, I don't remember him riding a motorcycle at all.

LT: Okay, okay. Well, when your family had the farm, what was your mother's job?

JH: She hoed around the trees when they were, before they started to bear, and then, of course, worked in the strawberry patch and the asparagus patch.

LT: And then she came home and probably did housework.

JH: Uh-huh, and fixed dinner.

LT: Oh, okay. How would you describe your mother?

JH: She was a very hardworking person.

LT: Okay. What about in terms of, by that time, you were the oldest, and then you had two younger brothers. And what were their names?

JH: Kazuo and Yoshio.

LT: And then they also had American names.

JH: Yes, Charlie and Homer.

LT: Okay. So there were three children in your family. When you played and when you maybe did something that was maybe a little bit mischievous, who disciplined you and how were you disciplined?

JH: Well, you know, I can't remember that at all, because I don't remember my parents disciplining us very much, or even at all.

LT: Okay. Maybe you didn't need to be disciplined. You mentioned at one time that your mother was very thrifty.

JH: Yes.

LT: Can you talk about that, how she saved and why she saved?

JH: Evidently, being brought up that way, because I knew she sold all of my clothes, even my panties. And she'd save every little thing, says, "Don't waste anything."

LT: What about in the kitchen when you had, when you had meals? How did she save there? How did she show that she was thrifty?

JH: "Don't take more on your plate than you can finish," and then what was left you would have it for lunch the next day, whatever.

LT: So as you look at your mother and father as a kid, how would you describe their relationship with each other?

JH: They seemed to be getting along, talk to each other, do things together. And, of course, my mother was kind of, didn't think he should go fishing or hunting as often, but other than that...

LT: Did she ever go with him?

JH: No, no.

LT: Okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LT: Well, let's talk about your childhood, because I understand that you and your family lived in a log cabin.

JH: Uh-huh, yes, we did.

LT: Can you talk about what it looked like outside and inside and what it was like living in one?

JH: You know, the outside, it was done in all logs, but the inside looks just like any other home, because we had a kitchen and then a dining room, living room together, and just one bedroom, one big bedroom. So, of course, we had cabins for the help, so we used one of the cabins as a bedroom for Homer and Charlie to sleep in at night.

LT: And what about you? There was one more bedroom.

JH: I had, there was two beds in that one big bedroom, and I slept on one bed and my parents slept on the other bed.

LT: Okay, okay. Now, as a kid, what did you do at home to help your family?

JH: I helped with cleaning the house. Not the cooking, just cleaning the house, my mother did all the cooking.

LT: So what kinds of jobs did you have in the house?

JH: I would mop the floor, sweep, all that. And my mom did all the laundry 'til we got the washing machine, and then that was, then they, it was done all by machine.

LT: There was at least one time when you'd mopped the floor and one of your brothers got in the way?

JH: Oh, yes, Charlie came in with dirty feet, and I chased him down the street with the mop. [Laughs]

LT: So it sounds like you took your job very seriously. While you worked at home, do you also remember playing games with your brothers?

JH: No, no, I don't. Because we, after we got home from school, we changed our clothes and went right out in the field until it was dark, and then of course Mom would come home earlier and then fix the meal. But I don't remember ever playing with, doing, playing games or anything like that.

LT: So how old were you when you came home from school and changed clothes and went right out to work?

JH: Right after we were in first grade.

LT: So you were six or seven?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Okay. So what did you put on, and what kinds of jobs did you have in the farm?

JH: Like hoeing the strawberries and hoeing around the asparagus, around the tree. We'd change into our jeans and go right out in the field.

LT: Did you work in the asparagus as well?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: What did you do there?

JH: In the morning before we left for school, we'd go out and cut the asparagus until it was time to come home and change clothes and head for school.

LT: How do you cut asparagus?

JH: With a short knife, and you cut at an angle.

LT: Okay. How do you know how long to cut it?

JH: You measure it with a knife. We have a knife, and the length of your knife is where you should cut.

LT: It seems to me as a six-year-old, that some of your classmates at school might be playing games and having fun. Did you ever think, "Wait a minute, I shouldn't be working I should be playing"?

JH: No, you know, that's one thing that never bothered me, but I know my good friend Mieko, her mother used to tell me, she says, Mieko would tell my mom, Mieko would complain that, "Why do I have to change clothes and go out in the field?" And my mom would tell her, "Well, Jessie never did complain. She thought it was her job to just go right out and help." [Laughs]

LT: So you took your job pretty seriously.

JH: Yeah, I really did.

LT: You mopped the floor at home and you worked out on the farm without complaining, and you worked right after school until dark?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Did your other classmates, your Nisei classmates, do the same?

JH: Yes, well, Mieko did, too, but her mom told my mom that she really didn't want to. She'd complain and would go out, but they all helped. Michiko and they helped, too. When you have a farm, and you usually have to go out and hoe around the tree or whatever, strawberries.

LT: You weren't a complainer.

JH: No, no, I figured that was my job. [Laughs]

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LT: Well, let's talk about school, because you were raised in a family where your mother and your father both spoke Japanese at home. So did you speak Japanese with your mother and father and your brothers at home?

JH: I think I did. My dad knew a little English, so it kind of helped.

LT: Okay. And how did your dad learn English?

JH: I don't, I really don't know, but he knew English fairly well.

LT: Okay. So when you went to school, the classes were in English. Did you learn English, did you already know English? What was it like to go to first grade?

JH: It just, it seemed just natural that we would speak English there. And at home we would speak Japanese, but once we left for school, none of us ever spoke Japanese together. When we ate lunch or anything, it was all English.

LT: Okay. Well, how did you like school?

JH: It was fine.

LT: What did you like about it? What were your favorites?

JH: Oh, gosh, I don't know. I don't know one subject that I enjoyed more than the other.

LT: Was there anything that you didn't like?

JH: Not really.

LT: Okay. Now, at school, were there other Japanese Americans? What was the makeup of your class?

JH: There was myself, and then Willie Sato, and Mieko, and Michiko and Rose. There were five of us in our class.

LT: And there were about fifteen all together in your class?

JH: Yes, there was quite a few of them, I think.

LT: Okay, so about one third of the students in your classroom were Japanese Americans, Nisei. What was it like at school to have Japanese American classmates and Caucasian classmates?

JH: It was fine, except we ate, the four or five of us Japanese would eat lunch together 'cause we would all bring onigiri and Japanese type food. So we thought, well, we shouldn't be eating amongst the others, but they'd come by and say, "What are you guys eating?" We'd show it to 'em, and it didn't seem to bother them.

LT: So can you talk about onigiri and what it is, and other items that you ate for lunch?

JH: We'd... usually onigiri, and then we'd have like radish inside of the onigiri, or umeboshi, which is plum. And then we'd take okazu that was left from the night before.

LT: Okay, and okazu is...

JH: Cooked vegetables.

LT: And onigiri is...

JH: Rice balls.

LT: Did you make the rice balls, or did your mom?

JH: Mom, my mom made them.

LT: Okay, okay. So you all ate together because you were eating food that was similar. What about your classmates who were surprised by what you ate? Did you look at what they were eating?

JH: No, uh-uh. They were through eating, and then they'd come by and see what we were eating.

LT: Oh, okay. So you ate separately from your other classmates. Were there other things that you did separately at school?

JH: No, uh-uh.

LT: And then what did you do all together?

JH: We did not do much of anything together because then we'd mix in with our classmates and do different things. Like one of my friends would play tennis, and one was a very good baseball player. And the ones like myself and Mieko, we kind of watched to see what they're doing. We weren't that sport.

LT: Okay, was there ever an issue that there were Japanese Americans and other classmates? Did you ever get treated differently besides asking questions?

JH: No, we sure didn't.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LT: Okay. Now, after school, you went to another school.

JH: Uh-huh, I went to Japanese school.

LT: What was that like? What did you do and how did you learn?

JH: She, Mrs.... let's see, who was our first teacher? Mrs. Tsuji would teach us how to speak Japanese and how to write Japanese. And we were there about an hour after school.

LT: And how did she teach you?

JH: She would write it on the bulletin board, hiragana or kanji, and she would tell us what she was writing.

LT: Okay, and what would you do?

JH: She would make us write it on our pad, notebook, and she'd come by and check to see if it was, how we had written it.

LT: And then did you speak as well? Did you practice speaking?

JH: No, we didn't. Just learned writing, and I don't remember ever. But we did speak Japanese when we were in school, at Japanese school.

LT: So how did you use the writing after you learned how to write in Japanese?

JH: I don't think I ever did. [Laughs]

LT: How did your parents feel about your learning Japanese?

JH: I don't know. They didn't think... they just told us we had to go to Japanese school after school, and then, of course, I lived about a mile from there, and we'd walk home after school. And Mieko lived, walked with us because she was in the same area.

LT: So that was the one day of the week when you weren't going home and changing your clothes and working then?

JH: That's right, uh-huh.

LT: Once a year your family took a trip.

JH: Yeah, we used to, it was in the summertime. My dad would go fishing to Greenpoint, and that happened for two years or three years, and we would camp there. But after that we didn't. And then after that we headed for the beach.

LT: So can you tell us about your camping trip with your family? How did you prepare and what did you take and what did you do when you went camping?

JH: Well, my mom did all the cooking and stuff, and then we slept in our sleeping bag. We didn't have a tent or anything, we just slept out in the open in a sleeping bag. And we thought it was fun until we got a little older, and then that was it. [Laughs]

LT: I have to ask, were there any animals?

JH: No, we didn't see any.

LT: So what did you think about this?

JH: Well, it was fun when you were younger, when you were just a little kid. But once we got older, we didn't do it anymore.

LT: Okay. Now, also when you were a kid, you went to Sunday school by yourself.

JH: Uh-huh. Yeah, I helped at Sunday school. I kind of... let's see, the ones where the parents were at church, then I would keep track of the little ones, they'd come to an area where we had Sunday school, and I would make sure that they were okay. And then parents would come by once the service ended. And I did that for quite a few years, and I really enjoyed it. I know there was a bunch that went to, that were coming into Portland and Charlie Omori was one of them, and she says, "Well, you can miss one," but I said, "No, I can't. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to miss." It's amazing, when I think about it now, my god, did I do that? [Laughs]

LT: You were a dedicated worker.

JH: I was at that time. I didn't miss a Sunday until I was, I don't remember what age I was, but then I gave it up.

LT: But you were the only member of your family to attend this church?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: You went by yourself? How did that happen? It sounds like a pretty independent decision.

JH: I really don't know, because I was the only one. And like all my other Nihonjin friends, they didn't go to Sunday school. But I don't know what got into me, I just did that. And I really enjoyed it. But it was not, I mean, because the little kids were great. And they were very good, I'd keep them quiet while the service was... of course, it was in a different room.

LT: Sounds like it was good practice for becoming a mother.

JH: [Laughs] Yes.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LT: You talked a little bit about food, but let's talk more about the meals that you had at home. Did you have Japanese food or American food? What did you eat at home?

JH: In the morning we would have, my mom would have oatmeal, and I couldn't stand oatmeal, so I would have cream of wheat, which I liked. But for lunch and dinner it was all Japanese food.

LT: Can you talk about the Japanese food that you ate at home, even how it was prepared?

JH: It was usually like okazu where you'd mix some vegetables with a piece or pork or whatever, and that's about it. And then, of course, when the asparagus was in, she'd boil the asparagus, and we'd have boiled asparagus with miso on it.

LT: And then you'd put it on rice?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Okay. And tsukemono, what is that?

JH: It's radish where they... I mean, daikon where they would salt it for a few days and they'd pack it in vinegar and sugar.

LT: The Japanese people?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: And you grew your own Japanese vegetables?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Was that in your garden?

JH: Garden, yes.

LT: And did you eat American food at home, too?

JH: You know, I don't remember ever eating American food. I'm sure we did. We had, in the morning we'd have toast and that type of food. But other than that, I think lunch and dinner was always Japanese food.

LT: So at home, you ate with chopsticks.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: How did you learn to use a fork?

JH: I think it just... I really don't know. Of course, I think every time we had... we'd never gone out to a restaurant, so we never had the chance to use American utensils. It was always hashi, and that was it.

LT: Sure, sure. Well, New Year's was a big celebration. Can you talk about how your family and other Japanese families in the area celebrated New Year's?

JH: It seemed like my mother would cook for hours making okazu, and then chicken, and, of course, we'd have sashimi and sushi.

LT: And what are they?

JH: Pardon?

LT: What is sashimi?

JH: Raw fish. And she'd fix chicken with shoyu. And then we'd go to, there was two, just about three of these families that we'd kind of take turns and go around doing, you know, for New Year's Day.

LT: Okay. And so can you tell us what happened when you celebrated New Year's Day at your home? Who came?

JH: I think it was just a couple of families that we were very close to, my dad did things with them, and then we'd go over there a day or two later and have a meal with them.

LT: Okay, so the entire families joined each other then.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Okay, okay. Did you and other Japanese families in the area celebrate other Japanese events?

JH: I don't think we ever did. I don't recall doing it.

LT: So here you were growing up as the daughter of Issei who came from Japan, who spoke Japanese, who ate Japanese food at home. You're an American citizen. What was it like to almost have one foot in Japan and one foot in America and try to balance both Japanese and American culture?

JH: No, I guess I never gave it a thought. It just came to me. At home we would speak Japanese and then when we went out at school or amongst... when we played with these Japanese friends of ours, we would, we didn't speak Japanese, it was all English.

LT: So it sounds like you adapted to the situations.

JH: Yeah, we sure did.

LT: Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LT: Well, let's move to December 7, 1941. And that was the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Where were you and how did you learn the news?

JH: I was across the street with this family that, it was McIsaac's hired helper. And I knew when I was there, they were very quiet, and I never gave it a thought. And then I heard the radio in the background that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, so then I left and told my folks. And, of course, then we turned our radio on, and that's how they found out. Because, you know, I guess we just didn't have the radio on. Of course, my folks, they didn't understand, my mother, especially, didn't understand English. My dad did, but we never turned the radio on. And so that's how we found out.

LT: Well, you said your neighbors didn't say anything.

JH: No.

LT: What did your father and your mother say once they learned the news?

JH: They didn't think that was very nice of Nihon doing that, but they just figured we'll just have to see what's gonna happen now to us.

LT: What worries did they have? Did they share with you?

JH: They didn't show any. They really didn't show any worries towards us, the kids, I guess they kept it to themselves.

LT: What thoughts went through your mind?

JH: Being at that age, you never gave it, you never registered that. "Oh, well, they bombed the United States. So? Now what?

LT: And at that time, you were just fourteen.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: So you were going to school. After that, how did your, what happened, how did your family carry on? Did you go to school, were there any other cautions in the community?

JH: I don't think so. But no, we went to school as usual, and our friends never mentioned at all, did you know that we were bombed, or anything. So we just carried on like normally.

LT: Did neighbors say anything or do anything?

JH: No, uh-uh.

LT: Okay. And you said no one searched your house?

JH: No.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LT: Well, eventually, in the spring, your family and others in Hood River received notice that you would be leaving your home and your farm for a place whose location you didn't know. How did your family learn the news, and what did you have to do then?

JH: I don't recall any of that, but I know that then my mom, when she found out we were gonna have to leave and that we can only carry one luggage each, she started packing our clothes and things to get ready to leave.

LT: Okay. Now, did you have suitcases?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: So you were a fourteen year old girl, you're still going to school. You know that you're going to be leaving, you don't know where you're going, you don't know what the weather will be like. What did you take?

JH: You know, I don't know. My mother did all the packing of the clothes. So I just don't recall, since I didn't do any of that, it just doesn't, I don't register it.

LT: Okay, okay. In May, you and your family went to the train depot downtown. Do you remember how you got there?

JH: No. Oh, I think our party that was looking after our farm took us, the Waltons.

LT: So you loaded up your luggage and they took you to the train depot. Do you recall who you saw, what you saw?

JH: No.

LT: Okay. Had you been on a train before?

JH: No.

LT: So this was your first train trip.

JH: Uh-huh, trip.

LT: Okay. Do you remember the train ride?

JH: No, I don't. And I don't even remember boarding the train.

LT: And you did, even though you and your family didn't know where you were going, you ended up in Northern California outside Fresno where you were at Pinedale Assembly Center. And then eventually you were transferred to Tule Lake, a camp in Northern California. And, you know, there are many who have gone through the experiences as you have, and don't recall either. I wonder why that is.

JH: I don't know. I don't remember a thing about Pinedale or Tule Lake.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LT: Today is Monday, February 24, 2014. My name is Linda Tamura, and I am interviewing Jessie Harry, a Nisei who lives in Portland, Oregon. We are at the Oregon Buddhist Temple in Northeast Portland. Ian is the videographer, and Betty Jean Harry, daughter of Jessie, is also joining us. So we are continuing part two of our interview of Jessie Harry and her World War II experiences. So, Jessie, you and your mother and father and your two younger brothers had left Hood River. You were at Pinedale Assembly Center and Tule Lake concentration camp in Northern California, and then you and your family moved to Minidoka. And where was the Minidoka camp located?

JH: It was in Twin Falls, out of Twin Falls.

LT: Okay, Twin Falls, Idaho.

JH: Idaho.

LT: And when you first saw Minidoka, what was your overwhelming memory?

JH: How... I know, because it seems like it was barrack after barrack after barrack, no matter where you looked, there were barracks all over. And then a great big building that was a mess hall.

LT: And what surrounded the barracks and the mess hall?

JH: There was no trees at all, it seemed like, except when we entered there were... so it was very dusty.

LT: When you saw this, what did you think?

JH: "Is this where I'm going to be for the rest of my life?" Not knowing that we would eventually be able to return home.

LT: That must have been a tough feeling for a young girl who was probably about fifteen at that time?

JH: Yeah, I think so.

LT: What else did you say and do when you saw that?

JH: I don't think I did much of anything. And the worst part of it was we were in Block 19, we were the only family from Portland, I mean, from Parkdale. The rest of them were way down on Block 30, so all my friends were not with me. So we'd take turns, they'd walk up one day and then I'd walk down one day, and that's how we went to be together.

LT: So you were still keeping in touch with your friends from Parkdale?

JH: Yes, uh-huh.

LT: And you lived in different blocks?

JH: Yes.

LT: What is a block exactly?

JH: It's just... is it three families to each barrack? I think that was, three or four. And then we were in Block 19, and I don't recall how many barracks were in Block 19. And then we had a great big mess hall and a laundry facility.

LT: Okay. So each block then had barracks and a mess hall and laundry facilities?

JH: Yes.

LT: Okay. Can you talk about the mess hall?

JH: It was just a great big mess hall, and we'd line up, I think we lined up and got our food and sat down and ate.

LT: Okay, and what did you eat?

JH: It was usually more like Japanese-type food if I remember.

LT: How was the food?

JH: It wasn't... I didn't think it was very bad. [Laughs]

LT: Okay. And what about the laundry facilities and the restroom?

JH: Restroom and shower was one big area, and I don't really recall much of it at all.

LT: Was there privacy?

JH: No, I don't think there was.

LT: And so when you visited your friends in Block 30, you had to walk a long distance. How far was that?

JH: It was quite a ways, I just don't recall the mileage. But it was quite a ways. Because we were in one end of the camp and they were in the other end of the camp.

LT: And you said sometimes it was really dusty?

JH: Very dusty. The wind was blowing.

LT: Can you talk about what that dust was like and how it affected you, especially when you were walking?

JH: It was fine dust, it blew when the wind would come up. But then I just took it for granted and kept going.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LT: You graduated from high school at Minidoka. So do you recall what school was like? You had gone to school at Parkdale. What was school like at camp? How was it different?

JH: I don't really remember too much about it, because I was there just the year, I think. And then I left as soon as I got out of school for New York.

LT: But you did graduate from Hunt High School.

JH: Yeah, from Hunt High School.

LT: And after you graduated, you also became an assistant.

JH: Uh-huh in home ec.

LT: And how did that happen and what did you do?

JH: I really don't know. I don't know if the teacher asked me to help. I think that's what happened, because I would have never volunteered. [Laughs] I think the teacher asked if I would help with the class, and I did.

LT: So you would actually, that's a follow through from your being invited to help with Sunday school in Parkdale, in church. So you also were invited...

JH: Home ec.

LT: Sounds like you were good with kids. So life in camp, how was it different from life in Parkdale? If you thought about a day that you spent living in Parkdale, Oregon, how was it different from a day that you spent in Minidoka camp?

JH: I think the only difference is we didn't have chores to do, so we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. And other than that, everything else was the same, I thought.

LT: Yeah, at home you would have changed your clothes and gone out to work on the farm.

JH: Yes.

LT: Or you would have gone to Japanese language school. And so you didn't have any chores. After you finished high school, you didn't have a lot of responsibilities. So how did you and your friends spend your time?

JH: I really don't know what we did, we just... one day we'd go to Block 30 and then the next time they'd come to where I lived in 19, and we kind of walked around the block. There wasn't much to do. [Laughs]

LT: So you didn't have jobs or have chores?

JH: No, uh-uh.

LT: One difference is that in Parkdale, at school, there were Japanese Americans and Caucasians. In camp, there were mostly all Japanese Americans except for perhaps a few teachers. So what was it like for you to live in camp with mostly Japanese Americans?

JH: I didn't think much about it, I guess, it came natural. Now that we are in... we were sent to camp, which is all Japanese people, I felt, well, this where I'm going to be 'til whatever they decide to do later, whether to ship us back to home or just keep us there.

LT: Okay. So if you think about your camp life, and you were there about three years. And if you looked at positives and difficulties, can you talk about what might have been positive about being in camp, and then what might have been difficult with camp?

JH: Oh, gosh. I don't think there was any... of course, we knew that the Waltons would take good care of our place while we were gone, and they mentioned to us that, "Whenever you're ready to return, the farm is back in your name. It'll be back to you, we're just here to help you out." Other than that, we couldn't see any difference.

LT: Okay, okay.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LT: Well, you eventually decided not to stay in camp. And you and a friend decided to leave. How did that come about, and where did you go?

JH: I don't know how it came about, but we decided to head for New York. And there was a family back in New York that took care of the Japanese people that relocated to New York, and I think their name was Carpenter. And they lived in Brooklyn, New York, and then he found us a place for us to stay and help with the family. They all had kids. And fortunately, he was able to find a family that was right next to, right next to where we were staying. I would stay in one family, and my girlfriend would stay in the family next, but we were right next door to each other, which was nice, then we would do things together.

LT: Who was your girlfriend?

JH: Chieko, we call her Checkers, Arai. She was from Seattle.

LT: Okay, and so you met Checkers in camp.

JH: Uh-huh, camp.

LT: And was there anything special that you and Checkers needed to do in order to leave camp?

JH: I don't remember if we had anything, you know, I don't remember that at all. And I don't even remember leaving camp. [Laughs]

LT: Okay, okay. You were probably part of the work release program.

JH: I'm sure that's what we were.

LT: Because you and Checkers went to school then.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Can you talk about the school that you attended, why you attended it, and what it was like?

JH: Well, they told us that we, I mean, we had to be either working back in New York or whatever, you need to do something, so we decided we'd just go to school. Not that, like sewing, it was not one of my favorite subjects. But Checkers didn't mind. But that's what we did, we went to sewing school back in New York, which was a nine-month schooling, then we got our diploma.

LT: So did you make your decision about sewing school once you got to New York?

JH: No, at home.

LT: Okay, you made the decision...

JH: Yeah, in camp.

LT: Okay, and that was part of the leave application process then. Let's talk about that sewing school. What did you do, what did you learn, what did you think about it?

JH: We learned to make our own pattern, and then that was not at first, we learned how to sew little things, and then we learned how to make our own pattern to fit us, and then by the time we got through with school, which was a nine-month course, we were supposed to make a coat. Well, when the school ended, I was not through with my coat, so of course I took it home with me and I was not fond of sewing. My mother finished it. [Laughs] My mother finished the coat for me.

LT: Sounds like that might have been a difficult nine months then.

JH: Yes, it was.

LT: Okay. When you lived with the Robbins family in Brooklyn...

JH: I'm not... we went to Brooklyn to this family that was going to put us in the home with, when we were in Manhattan.

LT: You were in Manhattan.

JH: Uh-huh, where we stayed.

LT: Okay, okay. And so you helped take care of the little girls.

JH: Yeah, and they were twins, two girls.

LT: Okay, and you also met the cook.

JH: Yes, she was a black lady, very good. Her meals were just really... and then we went, she wanted us to come visit her in Harlem, and she told us how to, what subway to get on, and she would meet us. And she did, and she said, "Don't worry, when you get on, it'll be all black people, but just stay natural and don't, you know, you'll be fine." And so we went to the subway and went to her place, and she, after we had, we stayed for a while, and then she walked us down to the subway, and then we got on the subway. It was amazing, they didn't seem to look at us or anything. But then when I was back in New York, after we had gone back to camp, they told us, "You don't ever do that now anymore. It's not like when you were here."

LT: For a young girl who was raised in Hood River in a rural community, who has then been uprooted from your home, living with Japanese Americans, and then moving to New York and living in an urban area, and then going to Harlem during the war, when you were the only Japanese Americans, you really had a lot of different experiences.

JH: Yes, we did. But you know, I don't know, my girlfriend and I, it just didn't seem to bother us like going, getting on the subway and heading to Harlem, which was all black people lived there. And we got on the subway and we just sat, and everyone on that subway at that time was all black people, but they didn't seem to stare at us or anything. So then we got off where we were supposed to, and the lady was there to meet us, too, this black lady, and we had dinner at her place and stayed for a while. And she says, "Well, you better head back to home," and she says, "I'll walk you down to the subway," and we headed home. And it was great; we really enjoyed it.

LT: So you were the only Japanese Americans in Harlem. And people didn't seem to notice or treat you differently.

JH: They sure didn't.

LT: What about on the East Coast? Because the reason that Japanese Americans were placed in camp was because of the war and because of concerns about Japanese Americans living close to the western coast. And so Japanese Americans were moved inland, and then you and your friend Checkers were on the East Coast where there were very few Japanese Americans. What was that like?

JH: We never paid any attention. We didn't realize we were the only Japanese on the subway or only Japanese walking down Fifth Avenue or anything. There were a few, but we never ran into 'em.

LT: Did anyone say anything or do anything?

JH: No, uh-uh. They just left us alone.

LT: And you had no worries.

JH: No, no.

LT: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LT: Let's talk about going home. And Hood River, your hometown, had received national publicity for actions that had taken there. What did you know about Hood River?

JH: I didn't know much 'til I got home, and then Ray Sato mentioned that when they got home, he and Sat, they went to get a haircut. And they said, "We don't allow Japs in here." So Ray said, "We just walked out and went home." But that lasted for a few, I don't know how long, but then all of a sudden all that went away, and it was fine, just back to a normal way.

LT: And Ray Sato, who was a neighbor of yours, was one the first three Japanese Americans to return to Hood River in January 1945. So when did you get home?

JH: My parents left us, once they released us from camp, they went home. But I came home a year later, 'cause I was in New York. And then I took the train and came home.

LT: So that was in 1946?

JH: '6, I think.

LT: Okay. And what do you remember about coming home on the train?

JH: No one seemed to say... I mean, the train wasn't full, there was very few people on the train. And they... not one person ever talked to me or looked at me or anything. And, of course, once I got home, my parents were there to meet me.

LT: Okay. And what did your parents tell you?

JH: I don't recall anything that they mentioned, only -- oh, I guess they did mention that when Sat and Ray and they came home, they had little problems, but after that, it didn't last long.

LT: And what problems did you know about in Hood River, not only that Sat, Ray, and Min experienced when they came home, but about Hood River in general? What did people tell you?

JH: They didn't say much to us, if they did, I don't recall.

LT: Well, when you came home to your home and your brothers and your parents were there, and your farm, what did you see? It was your home for four years.

JH: Yeah, it just looked natural. When the time you left, it didn't seem like, there was no change, I don't think.

LT: What about the farm, had it grown?

JH: I don't remember. Of course, the trees were big already, so there wouldn't be much difference.

LT: And you mentioned your family had an expectation from the Waltons that your farm would be cared for. Did that work out?

JH: Yes, it really did, 'cause we had heard that some farms were just burned down, and they weren't willing to give it up. I don't remember what farm, who it was, maybe someone from Dee, I don't recall. But no, Waltons did, it was just fine.

LT: And what kinds of things did the Waltons do to take care of your farm when you were gone?

JH: The normal, whatever we would have done, I mean, they harvested the crop and kept the weeds down.

LT: Okay. So in 1946, most Japanese Americans had been home for almost a year. And so you came home, were there any experiences that you had with neighbors that you recall that were either negative or positive?

JH: No, uh-uh.

LT: No one said or did anything?

JH: No, they didn't.

LT: Now, I do understand that your brother Charlie had been a basketball player?

JH: I don't remember that. He was in Chicago. After leaving camp, he went to Chicago. But I don't remember if he came, I don't recall whether he came... I'm sure he was home before I was.

LT: Okay. Did you learn about any racism that he experienced when he was a basketball player?

JH: No.

LT: So were there any adjustments that you needed to make when you came home, because you'd been gone for four years? You'd been to New York, you'd been to different communities, and now you're back at home.

JH: No, I didn't...

LT: What kinds of adjustments did you have to make?

JH: I don't think I had much of an adjustment. Getting back to the routine that we left when we left for camp, back to helping on the farm.

LT: Oh, okay. So whereas in camp, you didn't have a job, now you're back at home. So what was your day like once you resettled in Parkdale?

JH: Parkdale? I think we still had, we didn't have strawberries anymore, so I think got up, asparagus were growing, we'd go out, back to cutting asparagus and hoeing around the trees.

LT: A long day again.

JH: Yes.

LT: How many days a week did you work?

JH: I think we worked every day... well, we didn't work on Sundays. But other than that, we worked every day.

LT: Okay. And your whole family worked together.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Did you and the Japanese American community take part in events again? Did you celebrate New Year's Day like you had in the past?

JH: No, I don't think we did after the war, after we got back from camp. I don't remember going to any doings with other families.

LT: Okay. Then let me ask you this question. Before the war, you and other Japanese American families ate Japanese food and you celebrated New Year's Day. And after the war, you didn't meet with Japanese American families and you didn't recognize Japanese holidays as much. Was that a, was there a reason? Was it because of the war? Do you have any ideas why that might have happened?

JH: I have no idea why. Maybe it's because the kids were grown older and they more or less went their own way. We had things to do like with the hakujin friends once they got back, like going to basketball games or going to see a movie.

LT: Okay, so it sounds as if your life was more integrated with the community.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: But you didn't spend as much time doing Japanese kinds of things there.

JH: No.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

LT: In 1920, you got married, I think. How did you and your first husband meet?

JH: Mr. Suzuki introduced us.

LT: Mr. Suzuki was a neighbor in Parkdale?

JH: Yeah, he lived about half a mile from where we lived.

LT: Okay. And your husband didn't live in Parkdale.

JH: No, he lived in Hood River, I mean, in Portland.

LT: Okay. And he was originally from the Dalles?

JH: Yes, they had a farm in the Dalles.

LT: So in 1920, who did you marry?

JH: 1940...

LT: Oh, it wouldn't have been 1920.

JH: No, 1949.

LT: Okay, he was born in 1920.

JH: Yes.

LT: Okay, and so what was his name?

JH: Tsutomi, but we went by Tom, Tommy, I mean.

LT: Tommy. And so you, the Parkdale kid who worked in the orchard and cut asparagus, moved to Portland. How did your life change?

JH: Of course, I still, 'cause they had a grocery store. So I worked just as hard as I did on the farm, or maybe even harder, because we'd, Grandma would fix lunch, and we'd dash home. I stayed with my in-laws, we stayed together. We'd go home, have lunch, and then I swear, right after we got through eating, we'd go back to the store so the others can go have lunch. So there wasn't much time we had doing things together while we were working.

LT: And your husband's name was Tsutomu Tommy Okazaki?

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: So you lived with the Okazaki family. What was the name of your store and what did you sell?

JH: Lombard Food Center. It was a grocery store.

LT: And so your jobs were different. What kinds of tasks did you have at Lombard Food Center?

JH: Running the register, clerking.

LT: So you and your husband both worked at the Lombard Food Center. What was it like to be a married couple, to work at a grocery store that was probably open seven days a week?

JH: Uh-huh. It was hard work, and we had to be... like checking out, it's not like now where they have the computer. We had to know every price of the produce, and of course, the canned goods were all marked, but like the produce, you had to know what produce you were ringing up. It wasn't bad, but it was hard work.

LT: Did you also help stock the items?

JH: No.

LT: But you said sometimes when people bought heavy merchandise, you had to lift it.

JH: Lift it, yes. That was hard.

LT: It sounds like you were very busy. What were your hours like?

JH: Whenever the store opened, and then after we had breakfast and all that, we'd go to work. In the evening, too, we were open 'til like nine in the evening. So usually, though, after I had dinner, I wouldn't go back.

LT: So it was a long day.

JH: Yes, it was a long day.

LT: You also had two children.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: Can you talk about that?

JH: Yeah, Raymond was the oldest, he was born in 1950, and then Betty Jean was born in '54. And, of course, I didn't have... when they were little, being, working, while Tommy was living, Grandma Okazaki took care of the kids, 'cause I was always working. So I really didn't raise them when they were just little babies.

LT: So while you growing up didn't have grandparents, your children had the benefit of their grandparents then.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: What kinds of things did you and your family do together for fun? I know you said that when you were growing up, you remember an annual camping trip that you took. How did you and your family spend time?

JH: We would head for the beach once a year, and that was our vacation. We'd spend a week at the beach.

LT: Did you camp out in sleeping bags?

JH: No, no, we stayed in a motel. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

LT: And then in 1961, Tommy died.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: And your children were young. Raymond was ten and Betty Jean was eight. That had to have been such a difficult time for you and your young family.

JH: Yeah, it was. Of course, I was living with Tommy's parents, so they kind of took care of the kids, and I was still, I kept on working.

LT: So you were a working single mother.

JH: Uh-huh. And then I don't know what year it was, but then I don't remember who mentioned it, but they thought I should probably move in with the two kids in another home. And so we rented a house just right next to the store, in back of where I was living, and we stayed there for I don't know how long. Gee, I don't remember. Maybe 'til I got married, then we bought a house on Albina Street. Then after that, we moved out to Northeast Portland where we had a home built, where we're living now.

LT: Okay. Well, and your second husband actually had a relationship with Tommy and with the store.

JH: Yes, they were very close. Yes, they were very close.

LT: Can you talk about that?

JH: In fact, they had, like season hockey tickets together. So the kids knew of him real, the kids knew him very well, and his folks were, they felt sorry for the two kids coming to the store after school, and he would take 'em home. After Tommy had died, he'd take him home, and they would have dinner there. And, of course, I would go over there, too, after I got off work. That's how... it's somebody that the kids knew, and they knew his folks, too. 'Cause he stayed with his, he kind of looked after his folks.

LT: And so Tom, the son, and friend of Tommy, had a father who was also a food broker who came to your store.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: So you all had a lot of connections as friends and businesspeople, too. Okay. So you married Tom Harry. What year was that?

JH: '63.

LT: '63, 1963. And you said that Tom promised Tommy that...

JH: If anything happens, because he was weak, he was sick. He knew that he had kidney failure, so I guess evidently he knew that he wouldn't be around forever. So that's how he... then, "When I go, kind of look after my kids for me."

LT: And so Tom promised that they would get an education.

JH: Uh-huh.

LT: I have to ask you one question. While marrying outside Japanese Americans is fairly common now...

JH: Now, it wasn't then.

LT: It wasn't at that time. Was it difficult to be a Nisei marrying a hakujin, a Caucasian, at that time?

JH: Well, I don't think so, for me, because we did more with the hakujins than we did with the Japanese, being in the type of business we were in. We'd go out with these hakujin friends of ours for dinner or bowling or whatever. So we weren't around... of course, especially me, but Tommy would go bowling with Nisei League bowling, but that's the only thing he did as a Nisei. The rest of things we would have, get together with his hakujin friends of ours, close friends of ours.

LT: So were people okay with...

JH: Yeah, they didn't seem to say much.

LT: Okay, were there some who did?

JH: I don't remember.

LT: Okay. So it seems like you stepped out and did things on your own from school to going to New York to getting married. So in many ways you were a trailblazer.

JH: [Laughs] Yes, we had Trailblazer tickets.

LT: Oh, okay, well, that, too. That makes a lot of sense. So right now, what kind of hobbies do you enjoy?

JH: I don't do much... I used to do a lot of kitting, but with arthritis, I don't even do that. That was the only hobby I had, because I used to bowl, but I gave that up in 1980, and haven't touched it since.

LT: You've also done volunteer work.

JH: Yeah, well, for a while I did at Ikoi no Kai.

LT: And what is that? What were you doing?

JH: I was helping them prepare lunch food for the seniors.

LT: And now, hopefully, you get to go in and enjoy the lunch food.

JH: Yes, I do. [Laughs]

LT: That others have prepared.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

LT: So thinking about your experiences during World War II, what happened to Japanese Americans being uprooted from your home and placed in camps, you mentioned that your mother had strong feelings about that. Can you talk about how she felt and what she said?

JH: She thought that it was for our own good to be in camp, because that way we'll be safe. We never know, our neighbors were fine, but you might, when you're out shopping, or when you might run into some people that really had a grudge against the Japanese people, you just don't know what would happen. So she says, "I think it was for our own good that they did put us in camp."

LT: And your mother also felt strongly about remaining in the United States rather than going to Japan. Can you talk about that?

JH: Yeah, she mentioned that my dad said, "Well, we should go back to Japan," and Mom says, "No, the kids were," they weren't little babies, so she says, "They were raised here, and they know their American culture, and we shouldn't take them back. We shouldn't go back to Nihon just because we're from Japan. They're here." So my dad said, "Well, okay." Because some families did go back to Japan. I know Uyenos were one of them, and I think they were the only ones. But like Hiratas, they moved to California.

LT: Yes, so some families from Parkdale went to Japan. Some chose not to return to Hood River, and your family stayed in the United States and went back to your farm in Hood River, Parkdale.

JH: I don't think the Satos came back to Parkdale, either. I remember, I don't know where they went. Oh, I know, I think they went to California, too. That's right.

LT: There was one Sato family --

JH: And Kawaharas went to California.

LT: So your mother felt strongly about Japanese Americans being safer in camp. How did you feel? And if I can ask, you were taken from your school to camp, how did you feel about all that?

JH: You know, it just didn't seem to bother me at all. I guess being still young and not knowing too much about it, I guess I just thought, well, that's fine. It's for our own good that they are sending us to camp, where we will be protected.

LT: Since the war, Japanese Americans have been able to gain redress. There have been reparations for those who were in camp, and the government had apologized, saying this was a mistake, especially to put citizens behind barbed wire. Knowing how you felt and how your mother felt, what do you think about the recent developments?

JH: I know I just haven't given much thought about it.

LT: Some Japanese Americans are speaking out, and they're recognizing the Executive Order 9066 that placed Issei and Nisei in camps. And some of those events have been sponsored by the JACL, Japanese American Citizens League. Any thoughts about recent programs that we've had?

JH: Not really. I haven't normally paid that much attention to it, I guess. I did read about it in the JACL newspaper, but other than that, I just...

LT: Well, and that's okay that you may not have attended or may not have paid attention. I'm just wondering, now that it's seventy years afterward, how you think about people speaking up.

JH: I think that it is good that they are speaking out to express their thoughts on how they felt about all the things that went on after war broke out.

LT: Can you talk about that a little bit more?

JH: No, other than that I'm happy that they are coming out and mentioning to 'em that it was not the right thing to do.

LT: Okay. Thinking about you as an American citizen, your parents as Issei were aliens, as my grandparents were. You were born in this country, an American citizen, and you were placed in camp, you lost your rights, you were behind barbed wire, and eventually after four years were finally able to return home. How do you think World War II affected your sense of who you are as a Japanese American?

JH: It never entered my mind at all. I guess I figured that my folks were Isseis, and this is not really their country, I mean, this is not where they really should be, they should be in Nihon. And so I figured, well, I think they did the right thing.

LT: They?

JH: By putting us in camp and all that. But other than that I never... 'cause I was treated fine.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LT: You have a son and daughter and two grandchildren who are now grown, young adults. Have you talked with them about what you experienced during World War II?

JH: Not really, but I mentioned to Alex that we were in camp and that we were under barbed wire and all that. You know, there's not much article written about that, so he was amazed. He says, "Oh, are you sure, Grandma?" I said, "Yes, we were in camp where we were restricted. We couldn't come back to the West Coast area. We can leave if we, like Grandma went to New York and your dad went to Chicago." But they were amazed, 'cause evidently -- I think they're being published now, in the books now, aren't they?

LT: So you've talked to your grandchildren about that. And it's not surprising that because of what they didn't know before, that they question that. So you'll have to put out your pictures. Thinking about your grandchildren who didn't learn a lot in school about what you and other Japanese Americans experienced, what do you think we should be learning? What do you think Americans should be learning about what happened to Japanese Americans?

JH: Well, they probably should... as long as they're citizens of the United States, if something like this happens again, they should think what happened to us, and not repeat that same issue again.

LT: Okay, that makes sense.


LT: You've talked to your grandchildren, especially your grandson about what you experienced during World War II. And he was surprised, because it's not often something that schoolchildren learn.

JH: That's true.

LT: So what should your grandchildren and other grandchildren and other students learn about Japanese Americans and World War II?

JH: Well, I think now that there's books out that they can read about what happened during World War II, and the Americans should make, or any country should make sure that it doesn't happen again, to let everything come out that happened during those times. Other than that, I don't...

LT: And you're doing your part by telling your story. I have one last question. What's important in life?

JH: First, I think it's really my health. Well, anyone's health. As long as you're healthy, you can go out and venture out and do what you wish to accomplish.

LT: And what are you doing to take care of your health?

JH: [Laughs] Trying to, I really should do more exercise, but I haven't been doing that. That's one thing that they stress, is walking or exercising. But I really haven't done that. I used to belong to the Cascade Club, but I don't know how come I dropped out of it. And I haven't rejoined, because I used to do water aerobics twice a week, which was really good, but the water was cold sometimes. That's what got me, to go back.

LT: Well, hopefully the weather is getting nicer, spring is coming, and you'll have a chance to get out and walk even more.

JH: [Laughs] That's true.

LT: Thanks a lot, Jessie.

JH: You're welcome.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.