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

<Begin Segment 1>

BH: Today is Friday, June 13, 2014. My name is Betty Jean Harry and I'm a volunteer with Oregon Nikkei Endowment. I will be interviewing Alice Matsumoto Ando as part of the Minidoka Oral History Project. We're in Portland, Oregon, our videographer is Ian McCluskey. He is accompanied by an intern, Cameron Boyd, also present are Marlene Ikeda Wallingford, another volunteer, and Todd Mayberry, the Director of Collections and Exhibits at Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.


BH: We'll start with some personal details. Alice, when and where were you born?

AA: I was born in Portland, Oregon, January 2, 1933.

BH: And where were your parents living when you were born?

AA: We lived on First and Pine, that's southwest.

BH: And what was the name you were given at birth?

AA: Alice Midori Matsumoto.

BH: Is there any significance to your name?

AA: I think my father named me Midori because our last name was Matsumoto, and there's a song, Matsu no Midori, and I think that had something to do with it.

BH: Okay, now, let's talk about your parents. Your father was born May 10, 1881. What name was he given, or what was his name?

AA: Well, it's Kametaro Matsumoto.

BH: And where in Japan was he from?

AA: Wakayama, he lived in Wakayama.

BH: And did he have any brothers or sisters?

AA: Yes, he had one sister and two brothers. And he was the oldest.

BH: He was the oldest. Why did he come to the United States?

AA: I think it was so he didn't have to go in the army.

BH: So he was evading the draft in Japan, okay.

AA: Draft.

BH: And he came over quite young then, didn't he?

AA: Yes, he did. I think he was in his early twenties.

BH: Okay. And your mom, she was from Wakayama also, correct?

AA: Also, uh-huh.

BH: She was born August 20, 1905. What was her name?

AA: Miky Matsushita.

BH: Okay. And now, I understand before she came, her parents came.

AA: Were here, yes.

BH: And where did they go?

AA: My grandma and grandpa lived on Bainbridge Island, and they were farmers, strawberry farmers.

BH: So that was a little unusual for that generation to come over.

AA: I think so, right.

BH: And your mom had a brother, didn't she?

AA: Yes, I think they left him also. I think he came over afterwards, too.

BH: And then after your grandparents were up in Washington, did they have more children?

AA: Yes, they had two more girls. So I had two aunts that were Nisei.

BH: Right, same as you. Okay. So on Bainbridge Island, what did they grow?

AA: They grew strawberries, mostly.

BH: Uh-huh. Do you remember visiting your grandparents?

AA: Yes.

BH: What was it like?

AA: My dad took me over when I was about, must have been about five. The island was very primitive then, they didn't even have electricity. So they had kerosene lamps, I remember the outhouse and the Japanese bath. And it just was very different than it is now.

BH: And didn't you have an aunt who also lived up there with them?

AA: Yeah. The two aunts lived there, uh-huh. And they were actually, I think, school age, at least one of them was. My younger aunt was going to school.

BH: So how did your parents meet?

AA: Well, the story goes that my dad went to visit my grandpa, because they were actually closer in age. And my mom really hated the farm life. She hated picking berries and working out in the field, so I think -- this is what my sister says -- that Grandpa asked my dad to marry my mom and take her off the farm.

BH: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

BH: Now, what did your dad do when you were born?

AA: Well, he, actually, when I was born, he was managing the hotel. I think previously he did other things like they went to Canada and worked in the fish (butchery), and I think my mom mentioned picking hops.

BH: Was that in Canada as well?

AA: No, that was in Oregon. That's how they made money.

BH: Probably the Willamette valley, yeah. So tell me about the apartment that your dad managed.

AA: Well, it was a very old apartment. It was named Kamm Apartment, it was three stories, and I heard that it was an old courthouse at one time. It had ceilings that were very, very high, nothing like the ceilings that we have now. And I remember my dad wallpapering the rooms in the hotel. Actually, it's called apartment because people came and stayed, and some of them stayed with us a long time, and some of them stayed just for maybe a week or so. It was nice because we had so much room to run around.

BH: Right. So you had how many rooms in the hotel?

AA: We had actually three rooms. We had a living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen.

BH: So what was it like to grow up there, downtown? But you didn't have a yard to play in.

AA: Yeah, so we played around inside, when it was wet outside, when it rained, we had to play inside out in the hall. I remember having a tricycle and riding it around in the hallway. And when it was nice, we played out in the street, right in front of the apartment.

BH: Did you ever go down to the waterfront, to the Willamette River?

AA: Yes. I remember going down to the waterfront when they had the Rose Festival, and seeing the ships from Japan.

BH: So what kind of a person was your dad? How would you describe his personality?

AA: I think he was, he was pretty easygoing. We were rather spoiled, probably because he was old enough to be our grandparents' age. So whenever we asked for something, we usually got it. And when we were little, he used to buy, actually, he used to buy our clothes, our coats and shoes.

BH: Your dad did that rather than your mom?

AA: Uh-huh, rather than my mom, yeah.

BH: How much of an age difference was there between your mom and your dad?

AA: Well, I figure somewhere between twenty, something like twenty years, at least.

BH: You told me that he was a meticulous dresser.

AA: He was very, very meticulous. He always wore a hat, he always dressed in a suit with a tie, because he had a tie pin. For a Japanese his age... he even wore a ring, which was very unusual, I think. And he used to take us to Newberry's and buy us jewelry from the dime store. I think that's why I like jewelry so much.

BH: And your mom, what kind of a person was she?

AA: Well, she was very quiet, and she had to do all the hard work around the apartment, cleaning the rooms, making the beds. And so it was a lot of hard work for her, but she was very quiet, and she was always there for us.

BH: So she went from working hard on a strawberry farm to working hard in a hotel.

AA: Yeah, but I think she liked that better than being out, you know, being out in the field.

BH: What was the makeup of the tenants who stayed in the hotel?

AA: They were mostly men. They were bachelors or widowers, and so... and they'd come and go, but we had two that we became very fond of, because they were there all the time.

BH: And were these Japanese?

AA: No, they were Caucasian.

BH: And what kind of a relationship did your mom and dad have?

AA: I think they were, despite their age difference, I think they got along pretty well. Dad did the cooking and Mom did the work.

BH: Since your dad was running the apartments, or the hotel...

AA: He was the manager, yeah.

BH: Yeah. Did he speak some English?

AA: He was able to communicate with the tenants, yes. Somehow he managed to learn English, he was even able to read the newspaper.

BH: That's impressive for an Issei. And you have one sister?

AA: Yeah, one sister.

BH: And her name?

AA: Jean.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

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.

<Begin Segment 4>

BH: So you were pretty young when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Do you remember anything about that?

AA: I think that was third grade, about the time I was in the third grade. I remember the... well, I guess you call them air raids. We had to put a black curtain on our windows, and we couldn't be out. And I remember one time the school actually sent us home in the middle of the day because they wanted to know how long it took for us to get home, from Couch school, home, and then we had to go back to school. But they just wanted to time it I guess to see if anything happened.

BH: Yeah, in case something happened. Now, your dad was prominent in the Oregon Buddhist Church at the time. The FBI came through Portland and met with some prominent people. Do you recall them?

AA: I don't think, I don't know. I don't think Dad was the officer or anything.

BH: Did your family talk about the war?

AA: Not too much, really. You know when you're that young, you just go along, because we were told we had to pack up and leave, and I don't even remember packing, really. But I must have.

BH: Your family being in Portland ended up going to the Portland Assembly Center in North Portland, the old Pacific International Livestock Exposition. What do you remember, what did you see when you got there?

AA: Well, it was huge. I remember the mess hall, it was huge. And my first breakfast was cereal, it was oatmeal, and I remember thinking, my, you're in this vast area, and that was my first breakfast that I can remember.

BH: Was oatmeal something that you would ever have at home?

AA: Not too much. We usually had toast and eggs. And cold cereal, maybe.

BH: Now, at the assembly center, you were then surrounded by all these different Japanese families. What was that like for you?

AA: Well, I remember... what would you call these? Cubicles that we stayed in. And, you know, my friends were there, so I didn't really, I mean, I wasn't afraid or anything. It was just unusual to be packed in there with all the other Japanese people.

BH: Were you able to continue grade school?

AA: Well, I don't know who started it, but I remember having class in the arena. And I remember sitting in the arena seats and having somebody teach us. So I don't know if it was considered a school.

BH: Did you have books?

AA: I don't even remember books at all.

BH: So not at first. And where did you and your friends play, what did you do?

AA: We played outside, because we were fenced in, but there was an area, grass area where we could play. So then we ran around on the inside a lot with my friends.

BH: In the arena, uh-huh. Now, I remember you telling us about the bathroom and the shower facilities.

AA: Oh, yes, it was all open, so we had to get used to that. But I think as kids you just adapt to anything that, you know, is there. So we didn't think anything of showering with somebody right next to you.

BH: Now, who were some of your neighbors at the assembly center?

AA: The Yumibes were our neighbors, and they were older, I mean, the girls were older. And I remember after we got out, they used to tell us how bratty we were, you know, my dad would have to yell at us. So they can hear everything because the tops were all open.

BH: How did you get new clothes and things?

AA: I remember getting... they must have let us order from Montgomery-Ward's catalogue, because I remember getting a dress that I really, really liked. It was a red and white check, and it was a low waist, and that was my favorite dress. But I think we were allowed to buy things, 'cause I remember after we went to Minidoka, I had a winter, when it was cold, we had like a snowsuit. So they must have let us order through a catalogue, because there were no stores.

BH: How did your parents pass the time at the assembly center?

AA: Well, at the assembly center, I can't remember what my mom did. I think Dad would get together with the other men. I think there was areas down in that big... I don't know what you would call it, but I think they managed to get together and visit. (...) I don't remember what Mom did, really.

BH: You were at the assembly center for several months.

AA: Months, yeah.

BH: Half a year.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

BH: And then transferred to the Minidoka camp in Idaho. How did you get there?

AA: Well, we had to go by train. So being a livestock exposition, they had tracks that ran alongside for the cattle. So I just remember them loading us up on the train, and that's how we got to Minidoka.

BH: Did you know where you were going?

AA: Uh-uh. The windows were all blackened, I mean, they had curtains on it, so we couldn't see out. So we really didn't know where we were going.

BH: When you got to Minidoka, what was your first impression?

AA: It was dusty, it was hot, because it was in the summer. And so that's what I remember most, is having to almost put a kerchief over our noses so that, yeah, we couldn't breathe in all that sand, the dust that was out there.

BH: And you were assigned barracks.

AA: Barracks, uh-huh. We lived in Block 35 first, and then somehow they moved us to Block 37, so that's where we stayed the rest of the duration.

BH: When you first got to your barracks, describe what it looked like.

AA: Well, it was just a room with bunks. They had metal beds, but that was... oh, and a potbelly stove for wintertime. But being that it was summer, we didn't have to use that, of course. And we all had to go to a mess hall to eat. There was a laundry room, which, that's where the bathroom facilities were. So there were showers there, and toilets.

BH: When you first got there, were the, was the plumbing working?

AA: Well, no, they had outhouses to start with, yeah. Afterwards... they didn't have the toilets connected, I guess, so they had outhouse, because I remember sitting out there and shivering in the wintertime, thinking, "Oh, it's so cold."

BH: And so were paper products provided?

AA: Yes. I can't remember if they were using catalogues, 'cause they always talk about that. But eventually.

BH: You were at first using pages from a Montgomery-Ward's catalogue for toilet paper. And were you able to attend school there?

AA: Yes, they had a school. After we got settled, they opened up the school in Block 32. They used half of that block for school. So we walked from, I was in 37, so we had to walk back up to 32. And most of the time we walked.

BH: And was it more similar to school at Couch as opposed to the school at the assembly center?

AA: Well, no. I mean, it was quite different. But they hired teachers from the outside, and they were all, they had to be probably certified teachers.

BH: Now, your mom held a job at Minidoka. What was her job?

AA: She worked in the mess hall as a waitress. Dad most of the time, I think, spent his time in the, what would you say, where they... I can't think of that room. Anyway, he got out, and he was very artistic. He liked to do things with his hands. So he used to, he made this game, board game that actually ended up at the Smithsonian, from what my sister tells me, because she kept it after the war. It's a game where you move these pieces around, and you have to get it to a certain place. And he had painted it and everything, and it was really something. I couldn't believe that... I didn't know he was that artistic, I didn't know he could... yeah.

BH: Your sister described it to me as kind of a puzzle game, and that your dad painted pictures in that.

AA: Uh-huh, on the board.

BH: And yeah, it's now traveling as part of a Smithsonian exhibit. What else did he build?

AA: Well, he was, he would get Life magazines and cut out the pages that had lots of color on it. And he made beads. You cut 'em in long strips like this, and then you roll it on a chopstick, and then you glue it and then you shellac it, and you can make beads.

BH: I've seen those. They're very colorful, yes. And I understand he made some sort of a partition or a screen?

AA: Yes, he made this beautiful... I don't know where he got the wood, but made this beautiful screen that, yeah, with even the cloth. So when he walked in the room, you couldn't see the beds.

BH: Kept the dust out a little bit and gave you a little bit more privacy?

AA: Yeah, privacy.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

BH: How about you and your sister and your friends? How did you guys pass the time in camp?

AA: Oh, we used to just run around... let's see. Oh, we used to get, somehow we got movie magazines. We used to cut out pictures from movie magazines and paste them in a scrapbook. In fact, we even wrote to movie stars, Betty Grable and John Payne, they were popular, very, very popular at that time. And I remember writing to these movie stars and asking them for pictures. Otherwise we cut up some magazines and pasted them in notebooks. And I don't know, we were kind of too old for paper dolls. So that's the kind of things we used to do.

BH: And I understand sometimes on weekends there were movies in camp?

AA: Yes, there was. Mr. Kondo used to show movies in one of the rec. halls, and we used to see shows like Rin Tin Tin and Flash Gordon. And there were some others, too. Those were Saturdays, we could go on Saturdays.

BH: And did you have popcorn?

AA: Oh, yes. Well, we had pine nuts. We could buy pine nuts at the little stores they had. And the pine nuts were really, really cheap, you could get a bag for like ten cents. Now, pine nuts are so expensive. I haven't had any for, since I came out, I mean, after the war.

BH: In addition to going to school, I understand that there were some other activities that people could participate in, kids could learn dancing and things like that.

AA: Well, I happened to live in a block that the Japanese odori teacher lived, her name was Sato. And she lived in our block. And since my father wanted me to behave more like a lady, I started lessons. So I'm sure, once a week we had lessons at her place.

BH: So classical Japanese dance lessons?

AA: Classical Japanese dancing, yes. Yes, and they didn't have tapes in those days, music tapes, so she used to play the shamisen and teach us. So it must have been kind of difficult for her, too. It's a lot of work.

BH: Yes. And did you take any kimonos with you?

AA: I don't know. My dad must have sent for one or something, because I had a kimono. And we used to dance, every once in a while they had what they called a fukiyo sekai, and it was in different blocks because we went way up to the Seattle blocks and performed. They actually set up a stage in the mess hall and they used to have performances there. Yeah there was singing and dancing, they even had plays. So it was really interesting.

BH: Were you ever in any of the plays?

AA: Oh, yeah. I was in one play, I just had a little small part.

BH: And so you and the other children who were learning the dancing and the music, then you'd go to the other blocks and perform? Wow.

AA: And being that, like at New Year's time, the teacher lived in our block, so we would perform for our block.

BH: What were the meals like in camp?

AA: Well, I can't remember all of them. But I remember having ham, and then somebody told me later that it was tongue. But I said I couldn't tell the difference, so we must have had a very good cook. The meals were all pretty good. I think it all depended on who the cooks were, and if you were lucky and got some good cooks. We had (a) gentleman that used to own Fugetsu. It was a confectionery, omanju shop in Portland, and he was one of the cooks. And so we got special treats on special holidays, like New Year's.

BH: You were fortunate in that aspect. Did you ever think about why you and all those other Japanese Americans were in camp?

AA: Well, I was kind of awfully young to really wonder about this, but the older people would say things like it was to protect us. If we were on the outside, we might have, there might have been a lot of harm. So I really don't know if that's true. I think, in a way, too, now, that Roosevelt, who was the one that actually put us there by signing... what was it?

BH: Executive order.

AA: Executive order, he was afraid that it would be war over here. And so he wanted to put us someplace where we couldn't do any harm. But when you're a child, you don't really... you just go along with what you're, the parents have to do.

BH: Did your parents ever talk about the war?

AA: No, no.

BH: Why do you think that was?

AA: I don't know. My dad never really said anything, and Mom either.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

BH: So eventually the war came to an end. What was the general mood in camp when people learned that the war was over?

AA: Oh, I'm sure they were happy to go back to their home. Of course, a lot of 'em probably didn't know where they were gonna go, like I really was surprised. I think, when I think about it, my dad made a trip outside. He got permission to go outside, and came back to Portland and met with one of the gentlemen that lived in our old hotel. And he helped him find, lease this new apartment house that we came back to. And the funny thing is, it used to belong to Hongos. They were the previous owners of this apartment, and so that's where we ended up.

BH: So you weren't able to go back to the Kamm (Apartment)?

AA: No, no. In fact, it wasn't even there. I think they tore it down for a parking lot.

BH: So what happened to all of your belongings? I know your dad had some beautiful antiques.

AA: I don't know. They were all gone. So I don't know what they did with it.

BH: So then your, when your family --

AA: We had to start all over again.

BH: Yeah, you had to start all over again, your family went to a different hotel. Where was that one located?

AA: This was on First and Columbia. And we found out that Hongos used to own that apartment. And the first thing I remember when we got there in a taxicab is the aroma, because Boyd's Coffee was right next door. That's where they ground their coffee. So you get this whiff of coffee, and it smelled so good. And until, I can't remember when they moved, but they were there for quite a while.

BH: Compare the Kamm Hotel to the new hotel. What was it called?

AA: St. George's, it was called St. George's, and it was... let's see. This one had two stories that I remember. It was altogether different. It was smaller, much smaller, (there) wasn't that many rooms. But nevertheless, worked for my mom. She still had to clean the rooms. But we had Japanese tenants live there, too. The Matsuda family moved in there for a while.

BH: And were there other Japanese families who lived in the area?

AA: Oh, there was a Japanese hotel almost all the way down First Avenue. And even down, across the street was the Minamotos, and, let's see... and down on Front Avenue the Hachiyas were down there. So there were Japanese all around us. Yeah, Iwamotos eventually.

BH: Hobaras.

AA: Hobaras. They were Japanese all around. And it was kind of comfortable. Onishis, I think, was over on one side, too.

BH: So this was a little ways away from Couch school. Where did you end up going to school?

AA: Then I ended up at Shattuck school, which was quite a walk. But it was, I finished my eighth grade there.

BH: And what was the reaction all of a sudden when all these Japanese families came back and were attending school?

AA: Oh, integrated? Well, someone told me afterwards, I couldn't... I never understood that the children were very good to us. I mean, they never asked questions, and they just accepted us. And someone said that they were told that Japanese children would be moving back and attending school again. And so I don't know if that was why, but Alice Kida and I, Alice and Jean Kida, we all went to Shattuck school, my sister too. And we didn't have any, any problem. They didn't torture, I mean, you know, didn't say anything.

BH: No issues of prejudice or discrimination among the kids or the teachers?

AA: Teachers.

BH: And then you went to Lincoln High School.

AA: Then I went to high school.

BH: And that was a pretty cosmopolitan school.

AA: Yes, there were lots of Japanese and Chinese. Actually, our friends that... well we had our Japanese friends there, the Kidas. But we ran around a lot with the Chinese, and we got along very well.

BH: When you returned from camp, did you return to the Buddhist, Oregon Buddhist Church?

AA: Oh, yes. Well, when we got there, they had to open it up. And so I can't remember, there was one Sensei that came, but it didn't start up right away. It took a little while to get it going.

BH: Now, when you were in, those years you were at Minidoka, were there any church activities there?

AA: Yes, we did have church. It was very interesting because all the Buddhist churches, the Nichiren, Heishoji and our temple, they all got together and we had, we would take turns, the minister would take turns having service. So we just all went, you know. Because basically the teaching is of Buddhist teaching. It worked out really good.

BH: And after returning to Portland after the war, did you go back to Japanese school?

AA: No, there was no Japanese school.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

BH: And then after Lincoln High School, what happened?

AA: Well, let's see. Oh, I took a civil service test, and I worked for Welfare Commission, that was my first job, way out in the peninsula, it was a long ride. There was a, what they call a carpool, so we would go somewhere, to this garage, and then a driver would drive us out and bring us back. And it was way out, like in the boonies, that's what they said. But anyway, I was the secretary. I had taken courses at Lincoln High School, secretarial course, and I even went to Pacific Business College for about a month or so to brush up on my shorthand and typing. So when I took my civil service test, I passed and got the job. And so I was there for a while. I worked, actually, for the state for about, maybe three or four years. I ended up at Rehab, which was a promotion the Rehabilitation Office in the State office building.

And then I got a job with a Japanese company, Mitsui. They were looking for a local Japanese person, so I got the job, I interviewed and got the job. Funny thing is I met them, the bosses, Mrs. Kato, she, her husband actually started West Coast Orient. And I went there to have New Year's dinner, she invited my friend Aki and I, Aki, she's a former Shiraishi. And we went over to her house to have New Year food, and these gentlemen were there. And so we played poker with them and just penny ante poker. Anyway, we had a good time. And when I went to interview, I found out that they were the same gentlemen that I met at her house. Anyway, they hired me. And so I worked there for close to twenty-plus years.

BH: So in the meantime you met your husband Alfred. How did you meet?

AA: Well, I think it was at church, probably, at the Buddhist church, at the social. We had dances in the basement, where it was nice, and it was dark. Anyway, that's where we used to have a lot of our dances, 'cause then I was still very active in the youth group at the temple. (Actually) I met him before... well, I knew him in camp because he was in, not in my class, but he was in the other class. But we were, I think we were on the safety patrol, we had duties, safety patrol. And I knew his sister because she took Japanese dancing with me.

BH: And that was Phyllis?

AA: Yeah, Phyllis. She took odori with me. So it isn't like I didn't know the family, and he actually came around -- and then he went in the army and then came back, and that's when we got together and started going out.


BH: You used to write to servicemen?

AA: Yes, I wrote to Alfred and I wrote to his cousin Larry when they were in the service, because they said to write to the guys in the service.

BH: And what did your parents think of Alfred?

AA: Well, they really didn't have too much of an opinion, I don't think. My mom and dad never really interfered with who I ran around with. They were fine.

BH: And after he returned from the service, that's when you started dating more?

AA: Started dating, uh-huh.

BH: Okay. And when and where were you married?

AA: We were married at the Oregon Buddhist Temple because it would have broken my father's heart if I got married somewhere else. I got married there on September 15th, it was... all of a sudden my mind just went blank. 1957.


BH: I understand that some members of the Buddhist temple chose not to get married at the temple. Why was that?

AA: Because it didn't look like a church, and they wanted more of a church atmosphere. So they went outside to nondenominational churches to get married, like my sister-in-law.

BH: And by then you were working for Mitsui?

AA: Mitsui, uh-huh.

BH: And what division were you working in? What were your responsibilities?

AA: I worked in the grain department, and we were shipping grain to Japan.

BH: And by then, had you started your family?

AA: I worked there... let's see. Kevin was born in 1960, so I worked until then. And then my friend Aki Shiroishi came and she filled in for me, and then she ended up staying. And another, a Japanese person, a local person that worked there was George Nakata, and he was my boss for a while. He was still there when I left. I left in '60 when I got pregnant with my second child.

BH: And at one point weren't you also in their lumber department?

AA: Well, that was later on, when, actually, I met a gentleman that used to use our office. And I was home for, not very long, because maybe it was about a year or two, this gentleman came from Japan, from Mitsui, and he worked in the lumber department and asked me if I wanted a job. So I went back to working for Mitsui, this time in the lumber department.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

BH: Tell me about your children.

AA: Well, I have a son, Kevin. He's fifty-three now. My daughter, Melissa, is fifty, and she's a grandmother. So I'm a great-grandmother.

BH: And how many children do each of your...

AA: Well, my son has a son, Michael, and my daughter has a daughter Kristina, and she's the mother of my great-grandson Lucas.

BH: And when you and Albert first got married, what kind of work did he do?

AA: Oh, he used to be an auto painter. He worked at a paint shop. And actually, I think he did that before he even went in the army. And he liked things that connected to automobiles. He even went into, he was thinking about body and fender, he went to school for a little while. But anyway, that was what he did. And then when we got married and moved into this apartment, we met this young couple, he worked for Brewed Hot Coffee. So he talked Alfred into working for Brewed Hot Coffee, delivering coffee, and so he made this change, which was, I think, a good change.

BH: He was delivering coffee then, and then worked in catering?

AA: Well, that was, yeah. They opened up a catering part. First they used to brew the coffee and deliver it to people who wanted coffee throughout the day, and then they had a catering part, too, that catered parties. So he did that, too.

BH: And your husband passed away quite young.

AA: Yes, he was only fifty-six. He developed a lung disease.

BH: You said that your parents didn't talk about the war. Have you talked to your kids or grandkids about...

AA: No. I am afraid I really haven't sat down and talked to them. So I know I should do this.

BH: Why do you think it is that Isseis and Niseis have been reluctant to talk about their experiences?

AA: I really don't know. It's not that we are ashamed or anything. I often think that I should put it down in black and white, sit down and put it in black and white so that they can have it, but I keep putting it off and putting it off.

BH: Now they'll have an opportunity to see this interview. Your dad was active in the Buddhist temple. Tell me about your involvement with the temple.

AA: Well, I was president of the Oregon Buddhist Women's Association for about ten years, and I finally got someone to replace me. I enjoyed it, though. They were wonderful women. I miss... a lot of them are gone now. And so I really, really miss them.

BH: What were some of your responsibilities as the president?

AA: Well, we had our meetings, naturally, once a month. We belonged to the Northwest and also the National Buddhist Women's Association. So it encompasses the whole United States. And actually, at our temple, we took care of the cleaning and the cooking whenever that was necessary.

BH: And you also volunteer every Thursday?

AA: Oh, yes. Right now, I volunteer on Thursdays at Ikoi no Kai, and I really enjoy that. Cook meals for the seniors.

BH: How did you get involved with Ikoi no Kai?

AA: Well, I have a friend named Marian Hara, who, I've known her since I was a little girl. And we became acquainted again, and she suggested that I volunteer, so I said okay, I'd give it a try. And I've been there for, I can't even remember how many years, it has to be quite a few.

BH: More than a few. [Laughs] What other activities are you involved in?

AA: Well, let's see... with the temple and... I've been taking hula lessons for quite a few years now. Our job is entertaining seniors. In fact, that's where I'm going after this interview.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

BH: Looking back, how did you balance being of Japanese descent while growing up in America?

AA: I've never had any trouble. I mean, I know I'm a Nisei, but I've never really had any trouble. I mean, I like being a Japanese American, because I treasure the ethnicity. I've lost a lot of the Japanese language because they say when you don't use it, you lose it. And so little by little, I'm losing it. And the only people that I can speak Japanese to are the ladies at the temple who have come from Japan and still use it. I feel bad because they tell me to teach my great-grandson Japanese, and it's kind of difficult. But I feel fortunate for what I've been given. So I don't really worry about that too much.

BH: How do you think their wartime experiences affected your parents?

AA: Well, I really never got to talk to them before they passed away about how they felt. I think their attitude is, well, they just had to go along with what came along. So I know it was a hardship, but they never complained.

BH: Were your parents still around when redress happened?

AA: No, my father had already passed away. In fact, my husband had even passed away. But because we were married, I received his portion.

BH: What did you think of the whole redress movement?

AA: Well, I guess it was nice of them. They could have done nothing. But it didn't bring back a lot of what we lost, that part there, it's hard to take. But at least they did something for causing all this.

BH: What can we learn about, from what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II?

AA: Well, I hope it never happens again, and I'm sure the third, fourth generation will fight back. I don't think it will happen. I don't know how, but I'm sure that they are strong. I think the Niseis were kind of, I shouldn't say weak, but we didn't speak out, and went along with what they told us to do.

BH: You once told me that the Nisei were the "silent generation."

AA: Silent generation, right.

BH: What hopes do you have for your grandchildren and your great-grandchild Lucas?

AA: Well, I just hope that they grow up to be good citizens, and they have a good life. Go to school, get their education, good people.

BH: There's one other thing I want to bring up. You told me once that you and Alfred were going to try and rent in a four-plex or something, or an apartment?

AA: Oh, when we first got married and moved into this four-plex, the gentleman who was renting us the room -- this is in 1957 -- he said he had to ask the neighbors if it was all right for us, being Japanese, to move into the apartment complex. And I thought that was rather odd. This was so many years after the war, and there was still some feeling of prejudice. And I didn't quite understand that. It kind of boggled my mind. I thought, my goodness, all these years have gone by, and there are still some people who have feelings of prejudice. But we were fortunate, the neighbors were very nice. They accepted us, and we didn't have any trouble.

BH: Looking back, you've had a rich and experience-filled life. What do you think is important in life?

AA: Hmm, that's a pretty hard question to answer, because I feel that I was very fortunate to have wonderful parents, a wonderful husband. My children are doing okay. And I think that's about all I can ask for.

BH: That your family is...

AA: That, yeah. Is safe.

BH: Are there any questions that I didn't ask, anything else that you'd like to add?

AA: Not really. I think we covered a lot today.

BH: I think we did. I want to thank you again for your willingness to participate and share your story. And I know it's something that your children and grandchildren will really cherish, so thank you.

AA: Well, thank you very much. I enjoyed doing this.

BH: Good.

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