Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gus Tanaka Interview
Narrator: Gus Tanaka
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: April 23, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-tgus-01-0009

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LT: Well, after the war you were able to continue your studies at Haverford, and you earned your Bachelor of Arts in 1945. Then you went to Long Island College of Medicine in Brooklyn, and eventually earned your medical degree from the State University of New York. And then in 1951 you began your internship at Kings County Hospital. You married Teddy, whose family was from Ontario, Oregon, and after you completed your residency at Kings County Hospital, you and Teddy and your three children decided to come back to Oregon to practice. And your father had chosen not to practice in Portland, and you all began in Ontario, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon. Can you tell me how you and your father decided not to return to Portland and not to practice in your hometown?

GT: Well, I must say that the circumstances which caused us to have to leave Portland in the first place was somewhat traumatic and hard to forget, that they didn't want us there. And it never occurred to me to think much about when I returned to Portland after it was all over. As a matter of fact, the longer I stayed back east, the more I more or less assumed that I would be spending the rest of my life back east and not come west. And so my mindset was a little bit skewed to do exactly what I did. Sometimes when people look at how doctors locate and where they decide to practice and so forth, sometimes they feel they're colored by how good they are as a doctor. And if a doctor goes someplace to get his education and stays away for a while and then shows up in a small village, that he probably wasn't good enough to survive practicing. That isn't true at all; many things happen. Now, you don't know the situation here in Ontario, but...

LT: And actually, before we talk about Ontario, could you talk about why you chose not to locate in Portland first and then we'll move to Ontario?

GT: Well, I felt that I had no friends in Portland that I could identify to help me. And the fact that there were no overtures from anybody to, for me to even think about practicing in Portland...

LT: And what about your father?

GT: My father?

LT: Uh-huh. What about his returning to Portland?

GT: He went to return to Portland and he found nothing but ice cold chill. He called a lot of his doctor friends that he used to practice with and so forth, they were either too busy to talk to him, or if they did, they didn't have very nice things to give any encouragement. When it looked like my dad was going to need help, he started putting pressure on me to join him in practice. It was not my desire or in my plans. I felt that I would probably stay in the east, preferably in an academic situation, spend the rest of my career. I had given up all thoughts of ever having to return to the west. And when I discussed this with people around here, my new family doctor, Teddy's also, is Dr. Fred Stark. And he came here... how long has it been? [Addressing Teddy] Did he come after we... Fred Stark. Well, anyway, there's a feeling that doctors who move and practice in a small hick town must not be very good. But I'll tell you about Dr. Stark. Dr. Stark was an internist and surgeon in the army, and he was practicing in this, he was assigned to this military hospital in San Francisco. And he... and I don't know what his rank was, but he had to be high up. In an organization like the army, the higher up you go, the less contact you have with your skills, you become an administrator and so forth. Well, in order to gain, not lose his skill taking care of sick people, he took a cut in pay to spend a certain percentage of his time taking care of sick people. As a matter of fact, when President Eisenhower became President of the United States, he was in the White House and he developed a severe bellyache and he wasn't doing well. And he said, "You guys aren't solving my problem." They said, "We were worried about this, too. The whole country is worried about it." He said, "Why don't you get me a good consultant?" Says, "Who do you have in mind?" Said, "Do you have someone in mind?" Says, "Yeah, get me Stark." So they flew him to Washington, D.C. (Narr. note: When talking to Dr. Stark recently, he said he consulted Eisenhower at Walter Reed hospital shortly after he had finished his presidency.)

LT: From Ontario?

GT: What?

LT: From Ontario?

GT: Yeah. No, no, that was at the White House, and recommended a treatment, and sure enough, Eisenhower recovered and they flew him back. Now, that same doctor is now practicing here in Ontario, and is currently my personal doctor and Teddy's personal doctor, and he's got more brains than most people, five people have, and so forth.

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