Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tomiko Takeuchi Interview
Narrator: Tomiko Takeuchi
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: May 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ttomiko-01-0012

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LT: So you were five years old when your family returned in 1947 or 1948. What do you remember about leaving New York and taking the trip to Oregon?

TT: The train. I remember I was sick the whole time, I was sick as a dog. And so we had, I remember we had bunks, and I don't know what it looked like, but I had the top bunk, and I spent a lot of time in that little bunk. And for the first several days I couldn't eat or do anything, and I still remember Sylvia in her little dress skipping in with a little dish with a piece of cake or something, you know, because she had gone to have dinner, man, I was sick as a dog. My mom would get me soup and stuff like that, but the first about two or three days, until, then I guess I got accustomed to it or something, or maybe you get so sick that you're no longer sick or you get used to it. Then after that I was pretty good, and I did get to go and have lunch in the dining car and stuff. And the train trip, once I was like a human, was far more exciting. So we came back on the train, and then we were lucky enough to be able to go back to our home and that type of thing, but we then didn't stay in our house. We actually went to... and I didn't realize this, Sylvia said we actually went to Seattle for a while to stay with Mom's family. And then after that we went to Vanport.

LT: And what is Vanport?

TT: Vanport was a housing, ghetto-housing area built in... it must have been, like, in a kind of a ravine or something, and they just put a bunch of clapboards there, so a lot of immigrants were there, and poor people, and a lot of people who had just come back from camp, actually, so there was quite a large Japanese population there. We only stayed for a short time, thank goodness, 'cause I do remember it being real jammed, we didn't have a yard. We did have our own bathroom and everything, but it was pretty ugly. I do remember that, because by then I did have some memory. So we moved out shortly after, and then they had the Vanport flood where, because they were in this ravine, the water just came through and took everything. But we didn't lose anything, luckily. So by then we had moved into Portland, my father still had his same store, and then he bought a house just four blocks away from it.

LT: So you were living in northeast Portland, and you had a home four blocks north on Northeast Sailing.

TT: Sailing.

LT: So your parents continued with the store. Did you have jobs, chores that related to the store?

TT: We helped a little in the store, but not much. Like I said, we did some facing, you know, where you pull the cans going, you do. And then I used to go with my dad on deliveries, and he... I wasn't much of a help, but I went in the car, singing the whole time, and got a chance to be with some of the neighbors, and I loved it. I loved going into these homes, and there would be like an older lady who didn't, couldn't move very well. And so we'd take the groceries, and I remember Mr. Ledberg, and he was a young man, probably fortyish, who was taking care of his mother, and he always smelled like garlic. [Laughs] So we'd go in, and I don't know why he didn't work, but he was home, so we'd do the deliveries. So I was the delivery girl with Dad, and then the other, Sylvia was the one that did, I think, a little bit more help. But by then, in school, there started to be activities, so she couldn't work in the store as such, because, you know, Bluebirds, Brownies and all those things that were happening. So, yes, not as many chores. But I'd get up there just 'cause I liked being with them. I liked being with my folks, and I liked being with Dad, so I would walk up there and spend time up there.

LT: Well, you know, getting back to the reason that you didn't come back to Portland right after the camps, your father had been concerned about the attitudes of people in the Northwest. How did your neighbors and customers of the stores respond when you came back three years later?

TT: It seemed that his plan was correct, 'cause I talked to my cousins who moved immediately, and they were ugly things that happened at school and in the neighborhood. And we didn't have any of that. It seems to me, and all I can remember is like when I started at Rigler as a kindergartener, there was very little of that. Very little of any of that stuff, and it was a white school. And in my neighborhood we did have a Filipino family across the street from us, and all the rest of the street was white. But I can't remember any problems with... they didn't go to our school, though, they went to a Catholic school. So we were still the only white, the only Asian people in the school, yeah. So I haven't had much of that at all, luckily.

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