Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Alice Matsumoto Ando Interview
Narrator: Alice Matsumoto Ando
Interviewer: Betty Jean Harry
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: June 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-aalice-01-0003

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BH: And when you were growing up, you mentioned that your dad did the cooking. Did he cook Japanese food or American food?

AA: Yes, mostly Japanese food. Yeah, we ate a lot of okayu, ochazuke, and tsukemono.

BH: Traditional Japanese rice...

AA: But he was a very good cook, yeah. And he made dishes like stew, curry, sukiyaki, naturally. But he did a variety, and he even was able to make us a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey.

BH: In what ways was your family connected to the Japanese community in Portland? Did you belong to a church or temple?

AA: Well, Dad took us to the Oregon Buddhist Temple when we were old enough to attend.

BH: Did you celebrate Japanese holidays as well as American holidays?

AA: I think so, I think so.

BH: Where did you go to elementary school?

AA: Well, when we were very little, at age five, the nuns at Marylhurst decided that in the neighborhood there were lots of Japanese people. So they thought maybe the parents needed help, so they started a school, and it was kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, and it was actually a store front on Ankeny, I think. And they gathered the children, I can't remember how many of us there were, but they were very good teachers. And so I remember, that's where I learned to read, and I just remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, I can read Dick and Jane books." Before that I guess I spoke mostly Japanese.

BH: What was the name of the school?

AA: It was called St. Paul Micki, and I don't know where they got that name, but I thought it was pretty appropriate.

BH: Now, your family was devout Buddhist, and yet your parents allowed you to attend this Catholic school?

AA: Uh-huh. My father told the nuns that they could "borrow" us, but we were not to be converted.

BH: And what did you think of the teachers?

AA: Oh, they were wonderful. The nuns, there were three of them, and they were just really wonderful. I think we learned a lot more than what they teach in public school these days. [Laughs]

BH: Do you remember the names of some of the other Japanese kids who went to that school?

AA: Jean, she's Jean Tsujimura Takeshima now, and there was the Nakatas, George Nakata and his sister, Mary, who's a Fuji, she married (Joy) Fuji. And, well, there's my sis. And a lot of 'em moved around, but those are the ones that we were really close, and we still have a real close relationship.

BH: And I understand one of the nuns is still living?

AA: Yes, Sister Marilyn is still living, and she's close to a hundred. And we see her, we try to see her once a year, we celebrate her birthday.

BH: And she's out at Maryswood now?

AA: Yes, Maryswood, that's where she retired.

BH: Okay. So who did you play with? Did you play with...

AA: Well, my sister, and then we had a tenant, there were a couple of Japanese tenants. Migakis were one. I remember Frank Migaki who's passed away now, but his family lived with us before the war. And so I remember playing, following him around, actually, because he was older.

BH: What did you do about lunch at school? Did you take your lunch?

AA: We took our lunch, but the nuns would make soup, they would make soup for us to go with our sandwiches. They wanted to make sure that we ate healthy.

BH: I believe you mentioned that you also went to mass as well as to Buddhist church?

AA: Yes. Well, my sister and I, I don't know we worked that. But whenever we didn't want to go to the Buddhist temple, then we would go to the Catholic church and go to mass. And yeah, it was kind of nice to be able to be flexible, to go wherever we wanted to go, and St. Mary's Cathedral is where we went. It's a beautiful cathedral.

BH: After second grade, then where did you go to school?

AA: Then because my father would not allow us to go to a Catholic school, I went to Couch school.

BH: And were there Japanese families who went to Couch?

AA: Oh, yes, there were other families. In fact, I think Frank was still in grade school at the time. So sometimes he would walk me to school.

BH: And if it was raining, how would you get to school?

AA: In those days it was trolleys, they didn't have a, I don't remember a bus. Yeah, there were these trolleys.

BH: And living downtown, then where did your family get groceries? Where did you do your shopping?

AA: Well, my dad, I remember going shopping with them because they, on Yam hill there were a lot of shops, there were a lot of little stores with vegetables. And I don't know if there was a Fred Meyer then, but he must... oh, I know maybe down on Front Avenue, there was a... what would you call it? There was a store where people brought their produce.

BH: Like a farmer's market?

AA: Farmer's market, yes.

BH: Did you go to Japanese school?

AA: Oh, yes, I went to Japanese school, and I (...) made it up to the third grade. Because I had some help at the Catholic school, I think, that did a lot, I mean, it helped me a lot, too, so I can advance more.

BH: That's very interesting. At the Catholic school, the nuns had the foresight to teach Japanese. So did they do that, did they bring somebody in?

AA: Well, yes, they brought a lady named Mrs. Miyako, and she is the one that used to come in and teach us as part of our curriculum. Besides, we had to learn the catechism and all the prayers.

BH: And your parents were okay with that?

AA: Yeah. [Laughs]

BH: Which Japanese school did you go to?

AA: Well, it was on the north side, I think that's what they called it. They had a north and a south, so I went to north.

BH: What'd you think about going to Japanese school?

AA: Well, really, I mean, this was after our regular school.

BH: So was it Monday through Friday?

AA: Yes, and even on Saturday, half a day. So... well, I didn't mind it so much. It was a big help.

BH: When you were growing up in the hotel, you were pretty young. Did you have any responsibilities at the hotel, or were you just being a kid?

AA: Not really, yeah. No responsibilities.

BH: What kinds of things did you look forward to as a kid? Did you take any family vacations or anything like that?

AA: My dad never drove, so I don't remember actually... only thing is like going to Bainbridge after school was out, Dad would take us.

BH: Going to visit relatives in the summertime?

AA: Either my dad would take us or my aunts would come over and then they would take us with them.

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