Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Stan Shikuma Interview
Narrator: Stan Shikuma
Interviewers: Ana Tanaka, Dr. Kyle Kinoshita
Date: February 11, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-33-1

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KK: Good evening, everyone. We're here today to conduct a legacy project interview with Stan Shikuma, who's currently co-president of Seattle JACL and has been a member for quite a few years. And we have on this recording Ana Tanaka, who's a University of Washington intern, who's conducting the interview. And Evan Shigaya, who's a guest here, observing the interview and learning more about both the legacy project as well as JACL. So, after I get done with this introduction in half a second here, Ana is going to take over to fire questions at Stan. And this will be about an hour but it's not so much a grilling of Stan but more of a conversation in that way. So anyway, Ana, go ahead and take it away.

AT: Yeah. Hi Stan, it's nice to meet you.

SS: My pleasure, Ana.

AT: Thank you for being here. So I'm a junior at U-Dub, I'm one of the interns working with the JACL on this legacy project. And so I guess to start off, would you want to just start off telling a little background about yourself?

SS: Well, sure. So I was born... well okay, so I'm a Sansei, third-generation Japanese American. Both my parents, both sides of my family were put in the camps. They weren't married yet in World War II, when World War II came. So Dad's side of the family was in Watsonville, California, and they got taken away to Salinas fairgrounds first and then sent to the Poston concentration camp in Arizona. My mom's side of the family were living in Shelton, Washington, and they got taken directly to Tule Lake in California. So yeah, Grandpa Shikuma immigrated around the turn of the century. I think he came in the 1890s. And was a... started as a hired hand on farms and then became a sharecropper. And eventually after my uncle, oldest uncle was born, purchased some land under my uncle's name, since the Issei couldn't buy land. And other notable thing on my dad's side is Dad was the first in the family to go to college. He attended Stanford University in the '30s, so actually during the Depression. Majored in economics, was not able to get a job afterwards other than finally got a job as a clerk, kind of a clerking position in a company. He got married and had my older brother who was four when they got taken away to the camps.

My mom's side of the family ran a dry cleaning store or laundry in Shelton, Washington. And my mom is Kibei so when she was I think eight years old, they sent her back to Japan, her and my older Uncle Phil. And they stayed there for about ten years living with relatives in Hiroshima-ken, not in the city, but in one of the smaller islands in the same prefecture. So some of her school friends were affected by the bombing of Hiroshima. So when she came back at age eighteen, she had forgotten pretty much all of her English, so she worked as what they call the housegirl, basically a maid, house servant, for a family in Bellingham, who I believe the husband was the president of what is now Western Washington University. His wife was a painter. I don't know if she was a great painter, but she gave Mom a couple of paintings which I still have. She also painted ceramics, so like dishes. So I have a few of those as well.

So Mom got married to Dad after the war because Dad's first wife, Mary, died in childbirth. Sorry, this is kind of out of sequence. But, so after the war -- during the war, Dad got out of Poston and went to Chicago and lived on the south side. One of the stories he told me is that where they were living was in the south side of Chicago so it's the Black area of the city. And he said, "Yeah, so it was kind of strange because you would get on the subway, the train, going into downtown," where he had a job. He said when he got on the train, he was the only person who wasn't Black on the whole train. And when he got off downtown, he was the only person who wasn't white on the whole train. So once you cross from the south side to north side, it's like the whole racial complexion really, just totally changed. Because segregation was really strict back then.

Anyway, so after the war ended, he moved back to the West Coast, but Dad and Uncle Mack, who also had kids, went to a little town called Brogan, Oregon, in Eastern Washington. And Uncle Heek, who was the youngest and a 442 vet, went back to the hometown of Watsonville, California, with Grandpa and Grandma. And they never said it, but I think it was because they weren't sure if it was safe to go back to Watsonville. And so they sent Uncle Heek, who didn't have any kids yet, and Grandpa and Grandma, who their kids were all grown. And the two brothers who had little kids, they went out to Brogan, Oregon, which had a population of like two hundred. Anyway, so they were living there. Dad's first wife died in childbirth. There were some, some rumors that the doctor who was supposed to be taking care of her was drunk when he came into the hospital. And so there's underlying things of like, did they really care because maybe they didn't really care about Japanese patients. And so, my uncle, another uncle on my mom's side, was the pastor at the Christian church in Ontario, Oregon, and so he connected my father and my mother. They met, they got together, got married.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.