Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kay Sweeney Interview
Narrator: Kay Sweeney
Interviewer: Alison Walcott
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: February 26, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-skay-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

AW: This is Alison Walcott, and we're interviewing Mrs. Kay Sweeney in her home in Northeast Portland. It's February 26, 2003.


AW: Can you tell us about your family?

KS: My family is living in Kagoshima City, Japan, for generations.

AW: How many siblings do you have?

KS: I have six brothers and one sister.

AW: All right. And are they older than you or are you the youngest?

KS: No. I was third from the bottom.

AW: What type of jobs did your parents do?

KS: My father was a Japan railroad employee, and the mother was a regular housewife.


AW: What was Japan like during the years before the war?

KS: Before the war as I remember, there was a lot of depressions I was talking about. And soon after that, Japanese army officer revolting in Tokyo area and tried to kill political leaders. Then soon after that, we went to Manchuria War and that... then that continued to the war in China.

AW: What was schooling like?

KS: It was strict, indeed, absolutely. We cannot talk in the classroom. And whenever your attention level wandered, and teachers, suddenly a piece of white chalk fly at you. Then sometimes, he ordered to stand, stand at back of the school classroom until next recess end. It was very strict.

AW: Were most of your teachers male or did you have female teachers?

KS: Most of my teacher was male teachers, even the grade schools.

AW: And was it difficult to enter college?

KS: Oh, in these days, we went, we entered the girl's high school, and we had to prepare for entrance test. So the, after the school hour, teacher kept us giving us a special lessons for preparation for the test. And the test, therefore, test wasn't very difficult to us, as a usual routine.

AW: So the exams were easier for women or for girls?

KS: Yes.

AW: What type of subjects did you study?

KS: Well, we studied, we covered just about everything we do here, mostly Japanese language. Some, we had some English lessons, and we had the, all kind of economic and house economic and history and geography and math. I don't know everything we had.

AW: At that time did everybody go to school?

KS: Oh, yes. Everybody went to school, but not everybody went to the girl's high school.

AW: Did some women stay home and work with the family?

KS: Yes. Yes, some went to work.

AW: Were all your brothers and sisters encouraged to go to school?

KS: Yes.

AW: And what type of college did you attend?

KS: Well, I went to, from the girl's high school, then to the nursing school for three years.


AW: But if you want to just talk a little bit about what it was like to be a woman in Japan at that time?

KS: Well, we girls go to school. Most of the girls went to girl's high school or some not. But after that, they went with some, take over some job, or we land in some housework and ready to get married someday.

AW: Did many of your friends get married right after high school?

KS: Yes, many of them got married.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AW: So you were recruited into the Japanese army. Was this just after college?

KS: Yes, shortly after I graduate from nursing school.

AW: And what were your experiences during the war?

KS: Oh, there are so many experience I had. One incident I can't forget about it, Red Cross ship was attacked by American submarine at Cam Ranh Bay. It's near the Saigon. And we never thought we were going to be attacked anywhere because we were working under the International Committee, International Treaty, so we never thought about being attacked. But anyway, we approached to the Cam Ranh Bay. The ship's radio one night announced to us there is American submarine around, so everyone be still, quiet, and not to talk to, and stay where you're at, your positions. And then ship's radio, ship's light is turning off for dark, completely dark. So we just sit on the floor in the plane. And little while later, we heard a torpedo was coming at our ship, and that sound is so, so scary and like "hew," like the sound. And same time, vibrations, we felt in the ship. So we thought, my goodness, maybe our ship going to be sunk. Then we were kneeled down on the floor. We prayed and prayed and prayed so hard. Anyway, first torpedo was not quite near us. But second torpedo was so close to us, I thought, I believe I was hit like it, vibration I had it. And we are, this time where I really thought we are going to die here on the sea. And time went a little while, then third torpedo was kind of far away from us. And from there on, our ship was just by zigzag course taken to, away from the Southeast China Sea, and we got lost for two days after that. Anyway, our captain was a very experienced captain, and he took us to the, two and a half days later to Saigon headquarters. And at Saigon, they were so surprised to see us. They told us, "We wired Tokyo headquarters already days ago, a day ago, and your ship was sunk, and you must be the ghost ship." So we said, "No, we are not. We've been lost all over," I imagine, I said. And they were very glad to see us, very glad to see us. Then we stopped there. We had some, we had some work done for a couple days, then we left to Singapore. And at Singapore, our group was divided into two. Half of our group went to the north toward the India, and we were to go Jakarta. But, however, our trip will be next about three, four days to Jakarta from Singapore, so we had very much pressure how it's going to be. And when we arrived in Jakarta, we were so glad that was, everything was all right. The God is blessed us.

AW: And what was your life like in Jakarta?

KS: It was very nice. Living quarters are very beautiful, used to be the, one of the hotels. And the people in Jakarta is very friendly and welcomed us with both hand, both thumb, and, "You people are from our brother, from Northern Orient. We are welcome you so much," they said. We are more than blessed.


AW: What places were you stationed?

KS: Well, we stationed first in Singapore about a month. When I in the Singapore, our quarters was so large, and there was a English prisoner came to sweeping the floor every morning. So there I had a cigarette which is army license, but I don't smoke. Therefore, I give it to, I happened to give it to, one box to the English prisoner. My, the reaction was so I never forget. He was so thankful. And from there on, we are very friend-like situations. [Laughs] And after that, we moved to the Malaysia. Malaysia was a very beautiful part of the country and lot of plantations and beautiful beaches, and we went to the [inaudible] also. It was seventh, it had seven floors, and our hospital nearby there, so we helped them about couple months.

AW: What was your job like?

KS: Well, it was difficult from the, it was different from the typical hospital work. But in Jakarta, we did not have very many patients. We did not get, we did not fight. Therefore, time to time, we were sent to the, all over the island, central and Eastern Jakarta, Eastern Java. And there we were visiting the village treating native, native patients for the malaria or skin disease or, and sometime, we tour the native hospital, and it was very, very best experience I ever had as a nurse.

AW: Working with the natives was the best experience for you?

KS: Yes. We get along really well with the natives. Sometime in fact, we worked with Dutch Catholic nuns, Catholic hospital, and that experience different again. The nuns were very nice to us, and we never bothered them. We never tried to order them anything and the time being, and they were very close to us, familiar to us, and we had lots fun with them. In fact, one, when the war finished, one of the nun came to our quarters and, "Please stay in Java. Don't go back to Japan. We'll protect you as much we can, so don't go back to Japan." They begged us, and so the Indonesia native hospital people begged us too, but we had to come. We were in the army.

AW: And what were your experiences with Americans during the war?

KS: During the war, I did not see any American soldiers or any war scene or any, not a one airplane. It was very peaceful in Java as if we were avoided from the war and seems to, American forces went up to the north. Therefore, we were completely avoided.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AW: And what was it like when you found out that Japan had been defeated in the war?

KS: Oh, it was miserable. It was miserable. First, we went, we came back to Nagoya Bay, Nagoya port we came back. And when I saw Nagoya port on the deck, there was nothing, whole, the city wiped out. And there is one tall, tall, skinny tube. It was stand among them and pointed the sky and some steel, some steel from the building just like twisted like wire, and they stood here and there, and I could not believe what a ruin it was. Then suddenly, at that time suddenly I remember I had potassium cyanide which is sewed in my collar of uniform during the wartime. And I thought, oh, "I am in Japan, I never take this home. I shouldn't have be able to take this home." So I went back to my room and ripped off seam and threw out potassium cyanide to the Nagoya Bay. Then next days, we were, took train, very crowded, very, very crowded train, standing, to my hometown. It was, we were all way to the hometown was standing, no seats available at all, and we were hungry. We are tired, and I was thinking my family, my hometown during the time, and that's how I went home. And when I arrived in my hometown, Kagoshima City, it was totally wiped out again, and there was nothing. There was nothing, just ruin, and I thought, "Why?" And later on, I find out that my hometown, Kagoshima City, was next Okinawa, next to the Okinawa. They were going to land it there. Therefore, they had bombed my hometown.

AW: All your brothers and sisters survived the war?

KS: Yes. Luckily, everybody survived, even the brother, a brother in Northern China. He came home safely.

AW: Is it all right to ask about, a little bit more about Jakarta? You had told a story previously about when you got word about the Americans surrendering or that the Japanese surrendering that half of the crew in Jakarta were sent back home. Can you tell us that story?

KS: Oh, yes. There was many, much confusion. At first, we could not believe Japan was, ended the war. And then we were heard about Emperor's radio announcement, and then we know that was true. But however, many army officers, army men was, could not accept end of the war. Some of them wanted fight again themselves. And some of them, the officers, they're suicide. So many, they're suicide. And the day was, town was so quiet, there was nothing noise. Everything was stopped just like clock was stopped at that point. It was so quiet, everything, was nothing going on for a few days. But we have to do something, so we were ordered to move to the mountaintop barracks where Japanese army reserve, constructed the, reserved them some emergency. So we moved top of the mountain, and there we saw Japanese soldiers every day. They were going with guns to the bay, to the Tanjung Priok Bay, and I, we were wondering why they're supposed to be, go to the war now. There seems to have ammunition with them. And, "What's going on?" we were asking to the army people. Then they said, it's, that's request. Dutch try to coming back to Indonesia again, and Indonesian soldiers, people were really fighting for them. And so the Dutch wanted the Japanese soldiers to come to the scene and fight with Indonesians. Therefore, they took Japanese soldiers after the war.

AW: The Dutch had taken the Japanese soldiers?

KS: Yes.

AW: Were the Japanese fighting with the Indonesians against the Dutch also or --

KS: They wanted to, but I don't know what, how it's happened. We were top of the mountain. So finally, I think Dutch was give up. Finally, Dutch give up to enter the Indonesia again, and that was end of the Dutch occupation in the Indonesia.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KS: After the war, we stayed Jakarta around a year and a half about until Japanese ship come to get us to take us back to Japan.

AW: And during that time, were you still working --

KS: We are still working as a nurse. And, oh, during that time, there was very funny incident happened. One distinguished Indonesian gentleman with black mustache and long sarong on and barefoot with slippers on, and he had two servants, two servants with him, and he came to headquarters. And there, we were very much worried about what went wrong now, if we had anything wrong, that's why he came here. We could not understand until after he left there, we were told this distinguished Indonesian gentleman was a village chief. And he already has two Indonesian wives, but now he wanted to have number three, number four Japanese wife. So he had, he told the commanding officer that, "I can exchange one Japanese lady to thirty-nine chickens." [Laughs] And commanding officer was, cannot believe his request. But he said, "No, no, these ladies are very important. They were army employee, and we are supposed to be, take them home to their parents safely. This is what my responsibility." "So, so sorry," he said to him, and he went back. But after that incident, many soldiers teasing us, "Hey, how about thirty-nine chickens. If I give it to you, would you come to be my wife?" They were teasing us, and that was a very, very funny incident.

Another incident, one day outside our camp, egg, man brought a basket of egg, and I don't know how many were there in the basket, about fifty or sixty, and I ask him how many, no, how much it is, how much it is. He said, oh, he said, "One piece is how much by Indonesian money." I said, "Okay." Then I thought I'd cut down the price. I said, "Very expensive and how about so much money, you can give this all for us?" And he said, "Maybe, but let me think." I don't know how to, let me think, and he start counting his ten fingers. Then he start counting from his toe. After twenty, he put both hand in his head, on his head, and he said, "It's so difficult, I cannot count anymore, so I let you have whatever you say. You can take them all." And that was Dutch, under the Dutch administration. They were not, have any school education, nor they did not have, Indonesian did not have any birth certificate. So they don't know, when we ask, "How old are you?" they don't know. They say, "I don't know my age." "Why don't you know your age?" we ask them. And, "Well, because I don't know. Nobody don't know. My parents doesn't know," they said. "Oh, don't you have a birth certificate?" "I don't know such things." Okay then. He was thinking, he said, "Yeah, I'm so old now." And, "How old are you anyway?" and he said, "Oh, now I remember. Please count the ring of the tree or coconut tree in my yard. That's supposed to be my age. My parents told me that coconut tree was planted the year I was born, so that should be my age." So I counted. It was about twenty-six. I said, "You are twenty-six years old, young man." Said, "No, I'm old." So I said, well, here he was only few years older than I am, and he said he was old. He was going to die pretty soon. And that's how everything was so pitifully low, low level, educational level low, nothing, no education, no birth certificate in middle of twentieth century. And when I sometimes went to bicycle ride in the countryside, I visited some people. Inside house, there was no furniture whatsoever, just the dirt floor and some weaved, weaved, what they call that, weaved carpet or something like that on the floor. And there was no furniture, no cooking utensils, and I was surprised how these people were living with. And I asked the lady, "How do you cook? How do you prepare the meals?" She said, "Oh, we going down to the river. We wash the rice there. We had the water in the river. Then we cook rice outdoor by tin can." And that was about the level in the middle of the twentieth century, and I almost cried for them. They were so, so lovely, so nice people, but I almost cried for them. Their history of three centuries, three centuries Dutch occupation made them strip everything to the bone. And so we told them, "Now you are your own country, so you have to be strong about it. You have to do, have to live your own because your own country has so much natural resource, you know, oil and teas, teas and rubber, and so much natural resources there. We really envied them, but that's their own thing. So we never thought, we thought Indonesian people are really sacrificed three centuries. That's why we helped them as much we could.

AW: During those two years when you were there after the Japanese surrendered, did you just expect the Japanese to come back? Were you in contact with the Japanese government when you were still in Jakarta? Were you in contact with the Japanese government?

KS: No. We cannot conduct ourselves with the Japanese government, but the headquarters, I think, they had some. But one of those days, we had order to go to the Tanjung Priok port, and they were taking us to the port, port dock. And there, Japanese ship was waiting for us to take us home. From there, we came home, but we stopped in the Singapore again, and we stayed there about couple of weeks. Then we went back to Japan to Nagoya, and that all took about, for us month and a half to get back home because it was about 7000 miles south from Japan.

AW: You told me a story about a time when you were still living in Jakarta and the Japanese government had sent a boat for some of your crew members to go back to Japan and you had stayed. Could you tell us that story?

KS: Yes. End of the war, I think it was sometimes during the 1944, later part 1944, the war was to Japan was not going too good, so I think the government want to take us back to Japan. And so if we wished, we could go home. And there was, if you signed it up, I thought about it, but I did not signed it up. However, my, couple dozen of my girlfriend signed it up to go back to Japan was last trip to Japan, and we went to see off them in the Tanjung Priok Bay, port. And after that was, they took same Japanese hospital ship also with some patients in it I have heard. And after they left, however, after they left about two, about couple days later, the Japanese Red Cross ship was sunk by American submarines, and we lost all our friends in there. That was Sunda Strait, I think the boat sank.

AW: And these were people that were returning home because they thought Japan was going to lose the war?

KS: Yes.

AW: So many of them were only children or were they just people volunteering to go back? Were their families asking?

KS: Yeah. People volunteering, going back. I volunteer stay there.

AW: And that's twice you saved your life by staying.

KS: So, yes. I really saved twice my life; once submarine attack, and second time in this boat we are supposed to be taking, so the God was with me.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AW: So let's go back to when you got back to Japan. And what was life like in Japan now after the war?

KS: Oh, it was so pitiful. People did not have no food, first of all, and it was difficult. We did not able, we could not able to have rice and Japanese staples. But our meal was just a dumpling, and nothing there in it even no vegetable very much inside. Anything in the food we can eat we put it in the dumpling, and that was our food. And then there was some American supply food that came later on. And one day, it was said that they, one day the sack person taken care of this, sacks, it was say for animal. This sack say for animals, but that was for Japanese people. And even though we were glad something, we're able to have some grain we're able to have, but that American food was for animals. [Laughs]

AW: So after that time you stayed in Takashima City for a while, and what did you do after that?

KS: No. I was called to the Kokura National Hospital. There, Kokura was a very nearest to city place from the Korea and, no from the Korea and from the port. So there are many soldiers and civilians came back from overseas those days, and we were taking care of them. And some of them are very, very, was sickly; some of them were malnutrition; some of them were, needed surgery, so we had to taken care of them. If a person able to traveling, we take them to the, few together into the nearest national hospital, their own birthplace, so the family can help them. And other than that, we took care of in the hospital. And as they get better, we send them back by group every time, and we were traveling together with them. That was my, we're traveling together to their native place.

AW: And these were Japanese?

KS: Oh, yes. They are Japanese soldiers, former soldiers and civilians.

AW: So they were coming from their overseas destinations and getting --

KS: And they were working in the oversea, and now they are coming back after the war.

AW: Was it an American military hospital or was it a Japanese and civilians --

KS: No, that was Japanese hospital. This Kokura National Hospital used to be Japanese army hospital in the area, largest one. And yes, I worked there about four, four years or so.

AW: And did you have many experiences with the Americans during the postwar time?

KS: No. There wasn't many Americans soldiers stationed in Kokura area. But those days, American medical field is very progressed than anywhere else in the world. So we wanted, we wanted to learn American medical technology, and then also we get to know more American and speak English. So I ask, I ask my employment to the, Camp Kokura. Camp Kokura was a general depot. They were supply depot to Korea. So it was very near from Korea, nearest place in Korea. So I worked there as a health supervisor. The Camp Kokura has about seven, eight thousand Japanese employee working there repairing, anyway, repairing or making parachute or something like that, and so I was working for those Japanese employee.

AW: In a hospital or --

KS: No. It wasn't a hospital. I was in the level office. Yeah, I was in the level office employee. But some of those have sick leaves like that. I had to go their home and check how their conditions, how their treatment goes on, so on. And after that, I went to the American army hospital in Fukuoka City. And my English was very poor, but they were more than glad to, me to be there, come to work for them. So I moved to the Fukuoka City, American hospital, army hospital. There I have many, many experience, and I have met many people. And I met so many show business people there too. And when I was working there, I saw Marilyn Monroe and Bob Hope and James Mansfield and Joe DiMaggio, and so many people visited our hospital to see our patients, so that was very, something to, extraordinary. I never seen like the people. And at the army hospital who I was working at the surgical department, I saw so many United Nations soldiers. Some of them were from French soldiers, and some of them were Australian and Turkish, and so many I don't remember anymore, so many, but we able to communicate by some way. They always, French soldier, I never forget, had lady's stockings. So I said, "Why do you have the stockings?" [Laughs] It surprised me. And they said, they show us. They wrap around their neck, and, "This is my girlfriend's stocking," and Korea was so cold that we were, wrapped around our neck and just by mascot they showed. And the British soldiers show us, first they show us their wedding picture. They were holding their bride on the doorway, their home doorway holding high, you know, their brides. And those things I saw so many, and we laughed at them. [Laughs]

AW: That must have been such a neat experience though to have contact with so many different people.

KS: Yes. I have so many different nationality, and people send them there. It was very much good experiences to me. And yes, human beings are always same, you know. They like same things what you like. So I could be their own place, and I, we prayed they going back to their own land safely after that.

AW: And so during this time, you were learning English. Is that why you decided to study in the United States?

KS: Yes. I had some very, very basic English in my high school, high schools. But I went to the evening schools to take English, and lot of GI was teasing me , "Why do you have to go school every night? Why? You are already grown person. Why do you have to go school so much?" but I didn't know how to explain. "Because I wanted to," I said, "and I may go back to Japan, no, I may go back to Jakarta or I may someday able to go America, so I like to prepare for that," I said. "Oh, that's very good idea," he said. [Laughs] We learn so much American customs, and we were very comfortable at there, and American nurses were very nice to us too.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AW: And when was it that you decided to come to America?

KS: Well, this person talked to me one day. I was going to chapel. I was Christian then, and I was going to chapel in hospital, and this person told, ask me one day would you like to go America, so I say, yes. I like very much, I said. "Well, you know, I was from Tennessee, and if you like to go there study University in Johnson City, Tennessee, there is a medical University in Johnson City," he told me. So I said, "Wow, I like very much. And I wonder if they can let us enter their nursing school." And he said, "Well, I think so." And few weeks later, he said, "I have letter from my folks. Yes, they are taking nursing student there." And so I said, "Yes, if you can help me how to get, how to go about that," and he helped me very much. And first I was going to study nursing in America, but before deciding to come here, I was reading the book how American South was, culture of American South. And that was, that was not very favorable to me because there was so much racial segregation there I read in the book, and it was pity. And I was thinking if I go there, how they treat me. What, how do they, how do they treat me anyway, and what am I going to, am I going to be the black people school or white people school or what, so it made me little about to think about it. If I have to go someplace with black people, then I have to eat with them. I don't know. It was not very pleasant for me. I could not stand for that, I thought. So another thing, after four years I studied in American university, if I can graduate and return, it's to the, return my appreciation to my supporter. And I was thinking to, you know, go or not go. Finally, I decided to come here, and I came by Northwestern airplane. I paid three hundred dollars those days. That was large money in Japan. One dollar was 360 yen those days, so I used my saving very much for that, for the trip.


AW: So what was your first experience in America like?

KS: Oh, it was nice. I thought living, housing is so much nicer, living conditions just entirely different from Japan, and the people are more prosperous, and I felt very good. I thought, I can do something out here.

AW: How did your parents react to your decision to come to the United States?

KS: Oh, well, I was a grown person that time, and my father was deceased then, few years back, and it was not so difficult to persuade my mother. [Laughs] After all, I was grown person, so I just come. I wanted to use my own, after the war own, what do you call that, my own freedom and see how it's, my luck is going.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AW: Now so, how, can you tell us the story about how you came to Japan or came to the United States?

KS: Yes. That's how I came to Japan to the United States.

AW: And then you went, did you go, you never went to Tennessee or where did you end up going first?

KS: Oh, I went to the, I called from Seattle to the medical doctor I used work with. He lived in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and he said, "I want you to come here and stop here, see my folks." So I say, "Yes, all right." So I get airplane to the Minneapolis from the Seattle and stayed his house. I don't know how long after that. I stayed a little while, and I talked about the, my pain going to the South, and I had lots pressure going there, and he said, "Why don't you marry me and let's go together to the California." Well, I was thinking. So, but I thought well, that was good suggestion. I take the suggestion. I will take, get married. And someday, I can accomplish as a nurse, I thought. And I took the suggestion; I got married to him.

AW: And you knew him previously from Japan? He was a doctor that you knew in Japan?

KS: Yes. We are working together in the army hospital. I was his assistant nurse for about two, three years.

AW: That wasn't so odd that he proposed.

KS: No. We know very well each other, and his family was very nice. He had one sister and the parents, and I become, I became very, very good friend with his mother, especially his mother was a wonderful Christian, and I and she was good relationship until she died.

AW: So from Minnesota, did you get married in Minnesota?

KS: Yes.

AW: And then from there you went to San Francisco?

KS: Yes.

AW: Can you tell us about your life in San Francisco a little bit?

KS: Well, in San Francisco, my husband started work in the Kaiser Hospital, and he was an OB-GYN resident there, so we did not have very much money, very little money, and we were looking for the house, housing to live. Then he found, he thought that there is some up on the hill. I don't know San Francisco some on the hill, hilly area. It's very exclusive area, and he thought that was nice to live there. So we went there, and I was turned, we were turned down to occupy the house there because my nationality. And manager there told me, "Well, I'm sorry. Japanese coming in around this area only janitor or painter only, and I'm sorry, we cannot take you." We are refused to occupy the apartment. That was a very, very much depressing experience.

AW: Was it difficult to meet other Japanese in San Francisco?

KS: Yes. I met some of Japanese, Japanese nurse. And other than that, I was not driving those days, so we stayed only one year or two, that's all.

AW: In San Francisco?

KS: In San Francisco.

AW: What did you do to occupy your time?

KS: Well, we were just around, looking around our neighbors. And our neighbor was a registered nurse also. She had two children, and she always asked us to go to the park in the afternoon with children, and we played there under the orange blossoms. It was so beautiful. It was very peaceful, so nice, and there was not too many people around there, so it was, it was very nice. And I still responding, corresponding with her.

AW: And so your daughter was, was she born in San Francisco at that time?

KS: Yes. No, she was born in Minneapolis.

AW: Oh, before you moved.

KS: Yes, yes. No, before we came here, just before. She was only very, very little baby.

AW: So you're probably very busy with her too?

KS: Yes.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AW: And when did you guys move to Portland?

KS: We moved to Portland when, as soon as he's through the residency out there. And before then, he was turned down couple of the place for, as a medical doctor because, because of my nationality, I imagine. They turned down him, so we came up here. Kaiser Hospital here was very nice, welcome to us, and I like it very much.

AW: What was Portland like when you first arrived?

KS: Oh, it was not, it was quite small. It was not as big as now and not as crowded as now either, but I like it mostly here. It's nice green garden city, it is, and surrounded with white capped mountain. And that was really made me homesick from Minnesota like that. So I said, "I loved here." I like to live here all my life, if I can, and I'm still here. [Laughs]

AW: Did you ever think of going back to Japan or you felt you were an American now?

KS: Oh, yes. I am here, let me see, over forty-eight years now. So if I go back to Japan, I have more problem with my own people, and I cannot go with their way of living anymore. So I told my husband, too, I will never going back there. This is my home. I love it here, and people here so nice.

AW: Did you end up going back to nursing school once you got to Portland?

KS: Oh, yes. I went back to the, in 1960s, I went back to the Clark College in Vancouver to take nursing course and to take the national examination.

AW: And after that, did you work as a nurse for a while?

KS: No. Before then, I married to the, my husband, Dr. Sweeney, and he had a private practice in Longview, Washington, so I moved to Longview, Washington. There is only one hospital, and they did not have no employee there. So I established my own business as a ship chandler, and it was really challenge, and I had more experience from doing the ship chandler. I saw so many ship, foreign ships as well as Japanese ships.

AW: And how did you and Mr. Sweeney meet?

KS: Oh, I was teaching in 1960s. I was teaching Japanese language at YWCA, and there was many students. Some of them was a lawyer, some of them were international businessmen, and some of them were like my husband, and he came from Longview, Washington. So I was very appreciative, and he was one of my students.

AW: Could you explain what a ship chandler is? What kind of job that was?

KS: Well, I had the supply house, and we had, and when ships come to the port dock, and first thing is the custom, U.S. Custom goes on, and he will check everything. And after that, we can go on board on the ships, and we see ship's captain and ship's chief steward. And if there are anything, they have order from here, this port. Then whatever they give us order for the machinery, for paint or provisions or sundries, anything, we supply to them while they are in the port. It was very strenuous work, and the men's work, it is. I was only woman doing that.

AW: How did you get involved in that type of work?

KS: Well first, I was helping this American ship chandler. He came to me one day in restaurant. "Are you Japanese?" "Yes, I am," I said. "Do you speak Japanese language?" "Yes, I do." And, "Well then, I like you to help my business." Then I helped his business to take the order from Japanese ships, for log ship and wheat ship and chip dock, ships doing, taking the chip dock, chips, you know, wood chips, and so I was doing that business. But some problem occurred between the ships and this ship chandler because he was somewhat, somewhat dishonest, so it was, I was accused. And out there, I was going to quit this job. Then one day, this ship came. I quit my ship I was acquainted with, came, and he called me. He said, "We want you to come to get the order." So I said, "Well, I'm on the way, I quit this business like it." And, "Why, why, and we were looking for you, and we'll be here only couple days, couple of days. We have to have supply and go." So I said, "Well, I think about it." And I went home, talk to my husband. My husband says, "Well, in that case, you have to have your business certificate, and also you have to have some trucks and some people help you out." So from there, I started out.

AW: That must have been quite a, quite an achievement especially being a woman being Japanese.

KS: Yes. Yes. First time in my life I would do such a, I ever did such a business, and it was very, very interesting. And after I quit, come back here, some American company called me here, and, "We like you to work in our company." Say, "As what?" I says. "What do you want me to do?" And he said, he said, "We want you, our company is log company. We want you to go between here and the Japan in communication, and sometimes you have to travel to Japan and here." And that was not very, sound like very convenient to me because I had the family. My husband lived here alone, and I was his aide, and I thought well, if I were myself, I would, but I have family, and I think I should not do this and thank you. I refused that job. I don't know what company it was. I don't recall anymore. He send to me a few of their name card for their company's names, and that was it. Since then, I was already retired to taking care of my husband.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AW: So what other activities do you enjoy doing?

KS: Pardon me?

AW: You're a very busy woman. What other activities do you do?

KS: Oh, we, let me see. We like to travel, traveling with my husband here and there sometimes. And sometimes I like garden, gardening my yard, and I am the member of the, some Japanese Women's Club and Hyakudokai, and JACL. And also I am member of the Haiku Poem Group. That I have been doing many, many years. I enjoy so much.

AW: And how many other women or is it just women involved in the haiku group?

KS: No. There is men and women involved in it.

AW: And how long have you been doing that?

KS: Oh, haiku I've been doing many years. First I started from the, my high school time and some wartime and with army hospital patients. And after that, after I entered the family life, I quit years. Then I was doing myself time to time. And then I was member of Los Angeles Tachibana Haiku group, then here Hood Haiku group, and then now another new haiku group here. So I've been doing all my life almost, adult life, I mean.

AW: You're also a member at Epworth Methodist Church. How long have you been at Epworth?

KS: Epworth, I was about twenty-eight years at Epworth.

AW: And now that you are fully retired, what kind of activities do you enjoy doing?

KS: Well, just about same things. I am doing, I am doing more gardening for summertime. Wintertime, I'm just going to the meeting of the Fujinkai and Hyakudokai and haiku class. And so --

AW: What activities do you do with the Fujinkai?

KS: Pardon me?

AW: What activities do you do with the Fujinkai?

KS: Oh, there are many activities. We take a trip together once a year, and we are helping Japanese graduation, high school graduation student. And other than that, I don't, we're just helping each other and for the community, Japanese community. And we do the, some Japanese Nisei veteran's group for their family like that, something like that.

AW: That's all the questions I have for you today. Thank you so much for doing this.

KS: Thank you.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KS: We were told Red Cross International Treaty, you know, you, nobody can attack you in the water. That was a treaty. It was a treaty, we were told, so not supposed to be attacked. But I saw one day, I saw in the movie, one day in the TV that was saying... what was that? Oh, yes. I think it was this, and it was "Treasure Hunt," "Treasure Hunting." And this man was in the deep, on the ocean treasure hunt in the Philippine Bay, and I saw another, another Japanese Red Cross marked ship was sunk in the sea floor. And I said, "My gosh, we are one of them." We could be, and that, and the one was sunk in Sunda, Sunda, near the Jakarta, Sunda Strait. That was my friend that was on the boat, couple dozen, and they were same way, they're bombed. And this ship in the Philippines Bay, I saw by just accidentally. I saw in TV show the "Treasure Hunt." I said, "There is another one, my goodness." This was not only for us. It happened many times. There was not mistake, anything. They must be shoot us purposely, and there is international treaty. We are supposed to be, treat enemy or your side as the same as your own people like enemy or what. That's how we were taught, and it was not, it was complete. And so later on, this day, I saw the show of "Unsung Hero" which is submarine's people. It made me sick. I just, soon I look at it, I turn it off, TV, I just hate to see the "Unsung Hero." It may be wartime, but I don't know. Even the wartime, they shouldn't, they should not. But it was happened, so I knew, I hope everybody know this. I was one of the person. I happened to be, escape from that. But I wanted to know, everybody know about this, shouldn't have be, happen again International Treaty there. So that's why I tell them especially. I don't, I don't accusing them, but you know, their, maybe chief in charge person made them shoot, I guess. But still, still, I thought we were, we were really sank in the South China Sea. It's cold black sea.

And after that happened for about two, three days later, we went to South China Sea, you know. One day, I had little time, my work, so I went to the deck. I saw outside over the ship. There was just couple hundred of sharks on the side of the ship traveling with us. And I went to the other side, it was the other side same, sharks just put there, black and waiting, you know, back there just, together, and they're traveling with us for I don't know how many days, quite a few days. Then I ask the ship's people why this fish is traveling with us. And he told us they are waiting for the leftover garbage. In those days, I think they were threw away in the garbage, garbage in the ships, oceans, from ship, so the fishes wanted to have that, waited for that. That's why they were traveling with us. And I thought, "Wow." There was, few days ago, if we were, if our ship was, you know, bombed, and we were threw at, in the ocean, we won't be last very long. It made me really goose pimple when I saw that. That was happening on those days. It was scary. You know, after all, I thought I was really dying out there. Second torpedoes, really, I got hit, my ships. It's so close.

AW: It's amazing they avoided it.

KS: We need to go to the bow of the ship. I think vibrations happen and ships "whirrr" like that, you know, vibration, terrible vibration. I said must be hit somewhere, I thought, but it was very close, very close. And third one was very, very far away, just right before weapon sound, so then I realize we were safe. And our captain did zigzag course like that, you know, so they don't hit us, and he was a very experienced captain. And he told us not to talk, not a single word because the submarine radio will catch human voice easy just like you sit here, and so we are very quiet. But we just, just like that and kneel down on the floor, just pray and pray very hard, but that was nothing. But I thought why they wanted to shoot us, you know. In Japan, we had told us, they had told us we are not going to be attacked as far, under the Red Cross mark. There is a treaty; we are not, but it's happened. So maybe there are mistakes sometimes, but sometimes purposely done. I wanted people to know about it what was happened.

AW: Great story, you know. You're probably one of the few people that can tell that story.

KS: Yeah, I think so. I think so. There are not too many people. And I lost those two people, my group in that big hospital ship going back to Japan, late 1944. And half of us went to Burma area, and they never came back either. So we were one of the few very lucky came back to Japan. So when I go church, I really, you know, I really pray to the God that saved me, and I really appreciate it, appreciation. I really talked to the God about that experience.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.