California Council for the Humanities
California Stories Initiative
Years of Valor, Years of Hope
Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946
Tulare County Library
The Friends of the Tulare County Library
And the Tulare County Historical Society
Interviews in 2003-2004
Interviewee: Sam Katano
Tape # 100
Interviewer: Catherine Doe
Place: Tulare County, CA
Place of Interview:
The office of Dr. Katano in Visalia, CA
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Japanese Community before and after war
Chinese gambling houses
Discrimination before and after the war
CD: We are in Dr. Katano’s office and it is May 11, 2004 and we are working on the project "Years of Valor, Years of Hope". Dr. Katano, can you say your name and spell it please.
SK: Sam Katano. S-A-M K-A-T-A-N-O.
CD: All right, let’s go ahead and get started. Why don’t you start with when your family settled in Tulare County?
SK: Let’s see, as far as I know, Tulare County, I would say about 1925.
CD: What brought them to Tulare County?
SK: My father, Masuji (Jim) Katano, was engaged in migratory farm labor and my grandfather, (Sadakichi Katano) was a labor contractor, so he was working for him and they would go up and down California working, but my mother, (Kaneko Makabe Katano) was getting tired of carrying blankets around. They called them blanket people because you didn’t have suitcases, you just rolled everything up in a blanket and put a tie on it and carried it. She got tired of doing that going from one place to another. My dad thought he would settle down in Tulare County; he and his brother, John Katano, would contract out certain fields there and so they started to settle in this area. First, they were in Delano, but then settled down in Visalia.
CD: And where in Visalia?
SK: I’m not real sure. I think at first it was the southern part of Visalia and
then it was the eastern part of Visalia. Just around the southeast part of town. In those days, Visalia was not
that big. It was on the other side of
Ben Maddox somewhere and the other side of Tulare
Avenue somewhere. They would live in places and work in the
field there. I think eventually that my father found a job. He was doing truck driving and that sort of
thing but eventually found a man that had a laundry that was willing to give
him the laundry if he would come help him. So my dad decided he would help him and when that man left for
CD: How big was the Japanese community then in Visalia?
SK: I’m just guessing, but it seems like we had about 1,000 families, maybe not that much but the surrounding area had more, like Exeter, Lindsay and Orosi and Woodlake. They had more people. But in our area, we had about 1,000 people.
CD: And how big was Hanford?
SK: I have no idea how large Hanford was, but they were much larger than we were at the time. They are small now, but in those days, they were quite large because they had a pretty big community over there of Chinese and Japanese.
CD: And do you say the towns, the Japanese communities would get together for certain holidays?
SK: Well you know, the Buddhist church, we belong to the Buddhist church, the Buddhist people used to have what we call O-bon services, and O-bon services in Japan are like the Christmas here and it is celebrated quite large. The whole nation celebrates it. In those days, we would have these O-bon dances in July though. What we did before was a little different, but lately most of the churches would get together and say, "We will have an O-bon festival at your place and I’ll go help you and then you come to our place and help us there." We would just go around helping each community because each community didn’t have that many people. But before the war, I recall it was quite big. So many people,Reedley, Dinuba and Visalia had tons of people, Japanese people. Their O-bon festivals were quite large. But after the war, they centralized it more to Fresno. Fresno had the most, so we would have our big one in Fresno and the rest of the group would just around and help the other communities.
SK: Fresno . . . that was right after the war. Fresno had a huge one. Now it is not that large anymore. But it’s larger than what we have, but not that large anymore. And ours has diminished. Before the war, I remember we had huge O Bon dances, everyone was involved in it, but after the war, I don’t think we had any until just lately. About 20 years ago, they decided to organize the dancing again so we started to have our dancing again. Before that time, because we have been back from the war about 60 years now, so during that first 20 or 30 thirty years we didn’t have anything going on. We would all go to Fresno and then if the group would establish a dancing team here, they would go to other places like Reedley and help them in Parlier and Fowler. We didn’t have anything out here until we reorganized.
CD: What was considered the Japanese town part of this community?
SK: It extended from Tipton . . . it was right on Center Street from Tipton all the way to around Garden Street and was considered Japanese town. But it was a mixture of Japanese and Chinese. The Chinese had their restaurants there and they had gambling halls and everything like that. I have read some things about this area from way before I was born. Now that was much larger than it was when I was born.
CD: What was larger?
SK: The community here in Visalia was. They had a whole bunch of stores and hotels and all kinds of things and it was quite large. I read the names of the owners of the hotels and things. I have no recollection of those people because they were before my time, before I was born, but they were a much larger community. I think I read some place that it went down hill because one time they had a fire and it burnt the place down because in those days the fire departments were dead. When I was a child, it was about that large but it was still quite a flourishing community because it seemed like all my activity was centered here. In those days, we really weren’t accepted by the outside community so this is where we stayed. We had everything here. We had our restaurants and we had our movies. We had one gentleman that owned the movie theater where it used to be called the Visalia Theater right over there.
CD: Where the Enchanted Playhouse is? Yes. I remember that, the Visalia Theater.
SK: Before that was built, right there he had a theater called the Bijou. He had it there. He was quite wealthy, he had that place running and I remember that was the theater we went to. We could go to the Hyde Theater that was on Main Street or the Fox Theater too, but the Fox Theater was what you could consider the nice one in town. The Hyde Theater was a grade below. Sometimes we would go there. Most time we would go to the Fox and then to the Bijou most of the time because a Japanese man owned it. Just before the war started he built a new one,a new Bijou,just a half a block north on this side of Main Street. That’s gone now but they built a Bank of America there. They tore everything down. The Johnson Hotel was there too. They tore everything down. That’s where he had his new theater but he lost it during the war when he had to leave.
CD: What was his name?
SK: Nakamichi. He’s not here anymore. He passed away and his children didn’t come back. Most of them stayed in Chicago and way after the war they transferred to L.A. One of them did anyway. The other one, I think, got married and stayed over there. I think she’s still over there.
CD: Would you say most of the Japanese didn’t come back after the war and settled other places?
SK: Most of the people that had the stores in this area didn’t come back because the shock to them over how much they would have to pay.
CD: What do you mean have to pay?
SK: In rent. When the war started the rent was so cheap. My dad told me it was about $5.00 a month to have one of these stores in the Chinatown area. We were paying $15.00 a month and when he got back, he was paying the biggest store amount in the area, but when we came back, they wanted a minimum of $100 per month. No one had money, so everyone all just left. We stayed a while and looked around. The church was established as a hostel. Then they came and stayed there and were able to look around. So, most of them moved north to Dinuba, Selma, and Kingsburg, up that way and Fresno and out that way.
CD: So the Buddhist Temple was set up in some way for Japanese people to stay?
SK: The church was divided up. I guess they put curtains up. I never saw it. The families would sleep there. They would have a communal bath there. I remember it was sort of makeshift but when you came in from camp, it wasn’t too bad because that’s the way we lived in camp anyways. Therefore, no one had any privacy but what the heck. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to do that because I was in the service. My folks didn’t have to do that because they had their home on the north side, so they came back to that. They were fortunate that way.
CD: Tell me a little bit about the Japanese school.
SK: When we were younger, we would go to the
regular public school from Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday we would go
to Japanese school. That was primarily
because the Buddhist Church: when
they first came to
CD: On Saturday and Sunday?
SK: Yes, on Saturday and Sunday.
CD: What do you mean by accepted, you didn’t feel accepted, and you were more accepted here? Do you guys refer to this as Chinatown? So you felt you were more accepted in Chinatown than in the normal school?
SK: Not normal school, the town itself. We all went to public school; that was not a problem. Whenever you did any shopping you stayed here because you knew you were accepted here and we did most of our shopping here unless we wanted something big, well, you’d go beyond this area. The town was right over there on Main Street. J.C. Penney, Mode O’ Day and things like that. We all go over there. The Montgomery Ward was considered at the time, for us anyway, sort of a high class store. But they didn’t have one in Visalia. It was in Tulare. So we had to go to Tulare. I remember every year my dad would take us to the Montgomery Ward store in Tulare and get our school outfits for the next year. Whatever nicer things you wanted to get you went over there. I don’t know if they still have a Montgomery Ward in Tulare or not. I never looked into it. After the war they established a Montgomery Ward here, so we just went there. Most of the shopping we did, the little shopping, the grocery shopping we just did downtown in Chinatown. They had stores and everything. But if you had big shopping like something they wouldn’t carry, you would go . . . I remember G&I, Goldman and Iseman, was on the corner of Main and Locust. That was the only supermarket in town. That’s where we would go to get the bigger, nicer items. The stores here would only carry breads, milk, bologna, candies, flour, rice, some basic things that they would need. But if you needed something more fancy like Dutch Cleanser or maybe Comet, Clorox, you would go to G&I.
Ed: Montgomery Ward closed all their stores in 2001.
CD: So at school you said everyone was pretty much integrated. There were no problems?
SK: Public school? Public school was no problem. It was all integrated. It was OK.
CD: How would you say Sierra Vista was?
SK: Sierra Vista was the first junior high school made in town and so what happened was from the north side, the kids went to Webster Grammar School and from the south side, they went to Jefferson School from 5th to 8th and after 8th grade, you went on into high school. Everyone consolidated into high school. Well, I guess it got to be a little crowded, so they decided to make a junior high school over where Sierra Vista school is. So that was our first junior high school and so the kids from Jefferson and Webster in the 7th and 8th grade would go to Sierra Vista School. Before it was 5th to the 8th grade. We were the first graduating class from Sierra Vista School. I remember that.
CD: Do you remember who the President was?
SK: You mean the President of the
CD: No, I mean the president of Sierra Vista.
SK: You mean the principal?
CD: No, the Student Body President.
SK: Oh, the President. I never got involved in politics. Let’s see . . . I’m not sure. You know, I can’t really recall for sure.
CD: I interviewed a man who I think was in your same class, I can’t remember the first name, somebody named Low. Maybe he wasn’t the first graduating class. He said he was the first Chinese American president.
SK: It wasn’t our class. Ours wasn’t the . . . how do I say, if I’m not mistaken, we weren’t the full . . . we were the first graduating class, but we didn’t spend the full year there. We were there building it. We even helped build it. One of our classes in grammar school was manual training at Webster. So we would go over there to the school and after we moved over there, the manual training was building the cabinets and the workbench, that’s what we used to do. The other things was making the basketball courts, not the courts, but the basketball hoops. We’d make that and somebody else would put it up for us because that was too big. We worked on the bottom of things. We did all kinds of little things like that. So we weren’t the first full year, I don’t believe. We transferred over there later, I think, in the 8th grade. But anyway, Low, we didn’t have a Chinese person.
CD: It must have been later. Interesting that you actually helped build the school. So you actually helped build Sierra Vista.
SK: In those days, the unions didn’t have anything to say. You could do whatever you want. Nowadays the unions will stop you and you can’t do that. Low, huh? From around here?
CD: Yes, but it must have been a later class. I couldn’t exactly remember what class he was. So how old were you when the war started?
CD: And do you remember the Sunday when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
SK: I remember that day. I was in the kitchen. It was early in the morning. I was in the kitchen when I heard the news
and I was by myself. Like I told you
before, I wasn’t surprised because I felt it was coming. Something had to happen and it eventually
happened. I really wasn’t surprised; we
just didn’t know what was going to happen to us. That was the only thing. I was fortunate because I had a close-knit
family. My father, mother, my sister, Miyoko Katano Mitsuoka and I, just four,
but we were very close. As long as we
were together, we didn’t think we would ever get separated. My dad always wondered if he would have to go
or not because he had heard through the grapevine that a lot of Japanese were
getting picked up by the FBI, so he didn’t know whether he was going to be
around or not. That was his biggest
fear. I remember the first thing he
started to do was burn everything that we had that had any connection with
CD: That was linked directly to
SK: Yeah. Letters, pictures, gifts, things like that.
CD: And they did pick up some Japanese, right?
SK: Yes, in this area. The only ones that had to go were the Head of the Japanese Association and the Head of the Japanese Kendo Club because the Kendo was associated with the Black Dragon Society. They felt it was subversive so they picked up the Head of the Kendo Association, and then Mr. Ishizue was the only other one that had no connection, but only because he wouldn’t obey the law. The law was that we had to be in by 6:00. You had to be in your house at 6:00 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning. But he was out on a ranch; he had a ranch in the Venice Hill area, so he said he would go out there, whatever. This is the rumor. I don’t really know what happened, but I was told that he wouldn’t observe the 6 o’clock thing and someone snitched on him so they picked him up. The other thing he didn’t do was that we were supposed to turn in our short wave radios. All the Japanese had short wave radios. We had to turn that in and we had to turn in our firearms. I guess he didn’t do it and they came and picked him up. We don’t know if someone snitched on him or they investigated and picked him up. But he was the only one aside from the two leaders in town that had to go. So my dad was very happy that he got to stay. He was relieved after that.
CD: Explain again why you weren’t surprised that Japan . . .
SK: If you go back, and if you paid any attention
to the news, you know, we were already at war with Europe and
CD: Instead of joining
SK: We were always fighting with
CD: Oh, the Japanese were fearful of the war.
SK: They were planning on leaving and going back
CD: So you were just waiting for the war to happen.
SK: I knew something was going to happen, but I was just fearful that something was going to happen. But when it did happen, I was thankful that my father and mother were with me and I was young enough to think that my father would take care of everything and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I had no idea where we were going. My mother said they were told, but she had no idea where Poston was. My mother at this date
. . . she never likes to talk about these things . . . I don’t know why. You ask her questions and she’ll kind of say she doesn’t know or it wasn’t good. She would never say anything else, but I think there was good and bad when it happened.
CD: What was the good?
SK: The good was that we didn’t have to work anymore. All her life she had to work. In the fields, she worked 10 hours a day and stuff like that. Even when we had the laundry, she had to do physical work constantly. We had some machines. A big washer and a big tumbler, a wringer where you wring out the water, those are the only two big equipments that we had. My father had bought some presses, but all the other things you had to do by hand. That was a lot of work. They would take in sheets and things and one of her jobs, I remember, was to hang the sheets on the line. Carrying the sheets out in a wicker basket, that’s heavy. She had to work very hard all her life. And before that, she had to work out in the fields. On top of that, being all by herself; in this country she had no relatives.
CD: That’s right, your father had to go and get her.
SK: She had no friends. The only friends she had were relatives and she said they didn’t look good on her; they just looked down on her. So she said that when the camp came, at least she got to rest. She didn’t have to do anything.
CD: Did she see it that way?
SK: Yes, I think most of the Japanese did, the poor ones anyway. The rich ones were hurt because they had been living on a ranch and not going to live in a little 20 x 20 place wasn’t so much fun. But most of the poor people were sort of thankful in a way because they didn’t have to worry anymore. They were going to feed you and you had a place to stay and just rest.
CD: So tell me how you prepared between Pearl Harbor and the relocation camps. How did you prepare to leave?
SK: We didn’t know that we had to leave, so there weren’t any preparation until they told us we had to leave. The county was zoned into three parts, one, two and three. Zone One had to leave within weeks. Zone Two they gave them quite a long time. They gave them about six weeks to get ready to leave, those that wanted to leave. But, if you didn’t want to leave, then you’d go to the camps. They had two kinds of camps. One was called the relocation camps and one called the assembly centers. The assembly centers were rapidly built. Don’t ask me how quickly they built them, but they must have built them real fast, all these barracks and things. Poston was built in . . . we had three camps, one, two and three.
The first camp was built in something like two months and the other two camps were built after, because they first built that and brought people in there, and then they built the other two. But I think in was all done within months, so when they built the assembly centers I think it was just as fast. Within weeks they had these barracks built. Did you see that picture from the Tulare County Fairgrounds? They had a picture there the other day at the library. Those things weren’t there. They built those things in a matter of weeks. And then they did that all over California.
CD: So this was Zone Three?
SK: We were Zone Three. Zone Two extended from about 10 miles inland to Highway 99 and 198. Highway 99 west and 198 south was Zone Two. So if you were in Zone Two they gave you six weeks to get ready to leave. And if you didn’t want to leave, they sent you to these camps. So a lot of people left. I know some people came into this area here, but they weren’t from this area. They came from the coast, the wealthy people. They would rent apartments and stay here hoping they didn’t have to go anymore. But then after they came they got another order saying they had to leave, so this time they didn’t move, they stayed and moved with us to our camp. I remember one of our friends came from San Francisco. (Nozawa) They were old, old friends of my dad. They used to live here and they went to San Francisco and established a restaurant, so they stayed there a long time. So when the time came to relocate I guess the parents decided they really didn’t want to go to camp so they came, asked my father if they could come here and he said OK and they got them a place and they stayed there until the time to leave.
CD: And they went with you?
SK: Yes, they went with us. They didn’t want to move twice. Most of them didn’t want to move twice. If they moved once, they stayed and the ones that moved early moved further east. Most ended up in Utah, Salt Lake City, out that way. And to Denver, Colorado and that way. Those people stayed for the duration usually. I also met some guy where the family didn’t want to go to camp so they moved, but they weren’t rich, they were poor, so they had to go to Utah or Colorado, out that way where they could work the fields and he said it was terrible. "There was nothing,no electricity, no gas, nothing. You just had to live out there with the mosquitoes," he said. Just bad. To irrigate - there was no irrigation system. They had to carry the water to irrigate things. He said that was really hard and he hears about these people in camp and he felt like going to camp. He didn’t want to listen, but some people had it real hard. And I ran into him. That’s one guy that I know and he’s a pharmacist here in town, but this other guy I ran into at one of the reunions, he said the same thing. He was from the Bay Area. His family didn’t want to go to camp, so wherever they went it was hard because, being Japanese, they weren’t wanted anywhere and everyone would turn them away. He said it wasn’t much fun.
CD: It wouldn’t be. Tell me about how it was like when the camps were being closed and your parents came back.
SK: I was in the Army then so I don’t know exactly what happened. I was going to school back east. When the time came for me to enter the Army, we had to take a pre-induction physical and everything, I called my sister, Miyoko. She was in Chicago because she was sent there to help me out going to school. I said let’s go see our folks before I get drafted and she said okay and she got things arranged. After I got my physical, I went down to Chicago. She and her boyfriend, Noboru (Nabe) and myself, all three of us, decided to come back. You had to go to the relocation authority in town and tell them we wanted to come back and the authority would give us the tickets to go back on. So, we got the tickets and they gave us $25.00 spending money per person. Then we shot back to . . . we were supposed to go to Parlier because they wouldn’t give you these things unless you had a place to go and have a job there waiting for you, so my brother-in-law, my brother-in-law now, he wrote his friend in Parlier and got a letter back saying that he had a job for him, so he took the letter to the administration authority and they gave us tickets. Instead of going all the way to Parlier, we stopped off at Poston.
We all went down on the Santa Fe, we got off at Phoenix and from Phoenix, we went to Parker on the train. When we got there we found out my folks were gone. I didn’t know they weren’t there. It was OK because our neighbor said we could stay with them until we found out what to do to go back and see them. So then we stayed over there with my father’s neighbor in camp and in the meantime we found out they were going to close camp. That’s why they left. They gave them notice that they were going to be closing camp, so off they went. Anyone who wanted to go, if they found a job they could go, so my father went to find a job and he found a job in Nevada, so he and my mother took off to Nevada. We didn’t even know about it. They had just left a week before we got there. Right after we came back and found out they were gone, we went back to the authorities, the administration to find out how to get back and go see them. So they made arrangements for us. They gave us bus tickets to where they are. The only thing we had to pay, I think we stayed three days and we had to pay for our stay in the camp. Thirty cents a day.
CD: You had to pay to stay in the relocation camp?
SK: Because we had been out already and came back in. So if you go into camp they charge you. I think it was 30 cents a day, something like that. So we just paid our 30 cents a day and left. We got on a bus and took off through Nevada. We started in Arizona and went through Las Vegas and inside of Nevada to Reno to Lovelock and then we met our parents there. So what I was doing, I went there to stay for a while because I knew I was going to be drafted. But the Selective Service, they’re not too good about tracking you down. See, I was in Ohio, and now that I was in Nevada they would have to send all my letters to my new address in Nevada and it takes them forever. I think I stayed there for about a month waiting for word to come. It never came, so it was a month of doing nothing, because there was nothing to do in Lovelock, absolutely nothing there.
CD: But your parents were working?
SK: My parents were working, and my sister got a job so she was working but I was just sitting at home doing nothing. No television in those days. There was radio, but that was about it. It was country music and Lovelock was a just a dinky little town. I told my mother that, "I couldn’t be doing this forever. I’m going to have go find out," and I went to the Selective Service in Lovelock and asked them, "You know, I’m supposed to get drafted, but my draft local is somewhere else. Would it be all right if I left with your group here to wherever you’re going to get inducted?" He said sure and the next bus was just a few days more and the next bunch of draftees were going to go, so I just signed up with him and he said to be here at a certain time in the morning. So I got there and got on the bus, said goodbye to my folks and took off. That’s how I got into the Army from where we were inducted at Fort Douglas, Utah.
CD: Weren’t you afraid you would have to go to the war and fight?
SK: Well, it was the nature of things. If you get inducted and drafted, that’s what
you have to do. You have to do what you
have to do. At the beginning when the
draft first started before I was draft age they were taking a lot of the Japanese
from this area, but when the war started with
CD: So how soon did you parents get to Tulare County?
SK: 1946. It had to be around . . . I think about the spring of 1946.
CD: What did you hear from your friends from Tulare County and from them? What was the atmosphere like for Japanese Americans?
SK: I think in those days from what they told me, there was a lot of antagonism because they could see signs where it said "No Japs Allowed Here" and "No Japs Allowed There" and stuff like that, so you knew it was out there. They didn’t go out of their way to encounter those kinds of people. They would just go where they were accepted and so they would do their shopping where they were accepted, things like that. Other than that, like I said, they stayed away from trouble. They didn’t go out looking for trouble. From what I heard, there was no outward demonstration against us. It’s just that in some places, like in Reedley, and this was before the war, where a gang of kids would go after Orientals so the Chinese had to wear T-shirts saying "I’m Chinese" or something like that. Here in Visalia I didn’t hear of any outward demonstrations against us, fights and things, but the only thing I remember was on our door in our house. When you got up in the morning there would be a little paper plastered, "Get out, get out Japs!" and stuff like that, but other than that we didn’t run into anything.
CD: What were you saying about the granges? Was that before the war or after?
SK: During the war and before the war. The granges were heavily KKK, and some of that. I was surprised too when I found out, but you’d find more granges in the rural areas. The first time I ran into that was when I went to the Tulare County Fair after the war and they had this huge quilt and it was a KKK quilt. KKK! It was a nice quilt, but then we knew that the granges were more or less where the KKK sort of gathered.
CD: What were the granges?
SK: You know, I don’t really know. I think it was just an organization of farmers and farm laborers and things like that, so you would find them in the rural areas such as Ivanhoe, places like that, or Dinuba. It was just an organization; they had their own social groups. After all that time, 20 years later, I found out that the grange in Dinuba had a dancing group and the Japanese were all in there too. They learned how to dance this kind of dance. They had a club there and they would meet every week. I think maybe during the war days, that this hysteria got a hold of them maybe. I was surprised when the Dinuba kids told me they were going to the grange for the dance and stuff. So they were accepted over there. I think nowadays I don’t see any outward discrimination. It’s just that it was hard to get jobs and things at the beginning.
CD: It was hard for Japanese to get jobs?
SK: Before the war, there was no way you could get a job. After the war, it was just as bad; you couldn’t get a job. And then when I came out of the Army I tried to get a job, but I couldn’t find anything. No one wanted me.
CD: Because you were Japanese?
SK: Yeah, they wouldn’t say that, but you just couldn’t get a job. My sister looked around for a job and she couldn’t get anything either. No one would hire her. And finally . . . she used to go to the unemployment office and they’d send her here and there and every week she’d go back and in the meantime she was working in the field in Ivanhoe and out that way. About the fourth or fifth time that they sent her out and she kept going back . . . the last time they just told her they weren’t going to hire any Japanese.
CD: They told her right to her face?
SK: None of the workers was going to work with Japanese. They called her Jap so she went back and told the manager of the unemployment office that she wasn’t going to come back anymore. Because there was no sense since no one wanted to hire her. So then the manager said since you can’t find a job, I will hire you here at the employment office. His name was Johnny Fatica. I think he’s dead now. So she got a job there and she worked there until she got married. That was nice.
CD: What about housing? Was it hard to find housing? Were there places they didn’t want Japanese to live?
SK: Yes. In other words, if you wanted to buy a home, I think you were restricted. It wasn’t just the Japanese people. The Jewish people, I remember, couldn’t buy wherever they wanted to buy. I remember Mrs. Sumida. She was very wealthy so she always wanted to have a house in Green Acres over there. Well, they wouldn’t allow it. They said, "No, you can’t come in here." I guess the real estate people would say, "The people living there didn’t want you." You know, like that. I remember a man called Bedrosian, he was an Armenian man, and he couldn’t get anything either. He went south, way south in Visalia, somewhere, he lived over there; he built a home. But Mrs. Sumida, after they rejected her, she went to where Golden West is now. There was nothing out there. So she bought five acres and built a home there. At least she had a place to go. Nowadays if you have the money, you can get something. But when I got married in 1960 (to Momoe Kawagoe), I was offered a place in Green Acres.
CD: So by 1960 . . .
SK: Green Acres before that was like estates. One house was huge, then another huge house. There was a lot of room between homes. Like the Hughes lived there. Before the war, my father always wanted to buy a home because we were going to go to high school and the high school was that way. So he wanted to get closer to the school, he went around looking, and there was a house over there just on the other side of Willis Street. It was a nice house, a stucco house; it was a nice home. It was for sale so he went to the real estate people to see if he could buy that and I think he was told, if I’m not mistaken, that it was $1500 in those days. He said he could afford that and was going to buy that, but then the real estate man said, "You can’t go in there, because the neighbors don’t want you." So he offered him a house on the north side for $1500, so we ended up on the north side over by Bailey’s over there, so for $1500 we moved over there. And so when the war started, the man who built the home before we moved in, said he would take care of it for us. I guess he had been living there for years and had it built in 1920, or something like that. And he and his wife had lived there forever and when they sold it they moved further north, but he would always come to see how the house was and visit with us. So when the time came and we had to leave he said he would take care of it for us. During the conversation, he asked my father, "What did you pay for this place?" My father said $1500, and he was shocked because he had it for sale for $500 and so we had to pay $1500. Things like that happened. Anyway, that was my father’s experience. That was before the war.
I was talking about this family, Mr. Sumida, buying a home in Green Acres; that was after the war.
CD: Right, it didn’t sound like things turned until the ‘50s.
SK: Things kept getting better and better. You know how it goes. However, as I said, we got married, my wife and I, in the 60’s, ’64, something like that and we were offered a place in Green Acres.
CD: Do you want to buy there?
SK: No, we didn’t want to buy there. It was just open land. It was a lot.
CD: It didn’t have a house on it yet? So how did the man manage the house? When your family came back, did you have a lot of rents sitting there?
SK: In those days, rent wasn’t very much either. There was a freeze, a federal freeze, a rent freeze, and you couldn’t raise your rent. The rent was $10.00 a month, so what can you make on $10.00 a month? When you had to pay for the water and the water was $1.00 a month, I think. I can’t remember now. That was monthly and so you get $9.00 a month and then you have other expenses so there’s really nothing left. But he took care of most of it for us and the collecting for us and that was okay.
CD: And the house was there?
SK: The house was there, and it was in the same shape that we left it in, so that was good. But the person that was in there wasn’t about to move because you couldn’t find anything for $10.00 a month, so he wasn’t going to move, so then we were told my father had this job in Nevada and he wasn’t going to come down until he had the house, but they wouldn’t move. So they told him, "If you want to get your house back, you’re going to have to come down here and get it." So he left his job, moved down here, and stayed with a friend in Cutler. We met them in camp and we could stay with them. I don’t know how long it took, but a few weeks. They stayed with them until they got the people evicted, and then they moved in.
CD: I wanted to ask a little bit about Chinatown before
the war and during the war. Was there
much tension between the Japanese and the Chinese? With
SK: No, I never felt any. We constantly were in and out of the Chinese stores. I didn’t go to gambling joints, but we always went to the Chinese restaurants and things and it was fine. We didn’t go to all the Chinese restaurants. We went to the ones we knew. The Hong Kong and the Shanghai was there. The Shanghai was just across the street from us so we would always go there. Not the Shanghai, the King Far Low. The King Far Low, I think it was. That was right across the street from our place. And so we just went over there and buy whatever. Everything was a dollar,a huge plate, we’d eat chow mien about this big for a dollar. Everything was a dollar. My mother and father were working most of the time. So every once in a while she couldn’t cook, so she would tell me to go and buy dinner and take it home. They were good to us; they were very good to us. There was the Hong Kong restaurant. They were good to us too. We used to go there sometimes and they were good to us. I don’t think I felt any animosity from the Chinese kids. The Chan’s used to live about a half a block from us and I think he was in my class or one below, something like that. One below, I think, and we’d go to school together.
CD: How big do you think the Chinese community was?
SK: I have no idea. You know the Chinese community is difficult to figure out because they are about a generation ahead of us and by the time the Japanese started here, they had already diffused into the community. You see, we lived right there. They might have had the business, but they lived elsewhere.
CD: Oh, I see. They weren’t just concentrated in one area, in Chinatown.
SK: No, they were all over.
CD: Would you say if someone, a Chinese American, wanted to buy a house, that stucco house, do you think the realtor would have let him buy it?
SK: All I know is they lived out there. They lived in nice homes. They had nice homes. I think that maybe they might have. I never really looked into it that much. I don’t know that any of the Chinese lived in the ritzy area like Green Acres. They didn’t live there, but they did live away from the center of town, out towards . . . because I remember we used to visit the Chan’s when they used to have a house over there. They also had a house here too, but I couldn’t figure that out. They were here and then they were over there. The only one that I was really close to was the Chan's.
CD: Tell me about the gambling joints
SK: They were pretty big. They were quite large. That’s what kept Chinatown going, was the gambling joints, because they really were busy in the evenings.
CD: There were several. There wasn’t just one.
SK: There was a big one and a lot of little ones. The little ones it seemed to me, most of the local Chinese would go there. The big one was where the Caucasians went. It was quite large. It was in the middle of Center Street where the Razzari’s parking lot is now. They all tore it down. It’s all torn down now.
CD: What was it called?
SK: I don’t remember. I don’t think there was a name. Maybe there was, but I had not idea.
CD: The Gambling Joint?
SK: But it was big and the man that ran it was quite an influential Chinese. I don’t think he was influential in the Caucasian community, but in the Chinese community, he was a big man.
CD: Who was he?
SK: Bill something or other. Let’s see, Bill was his first name. I can’t remember his last name, but he stayed until he died.
CD: Was it legal?
CD: But everybody knew about it.
SK: Yes. Wide open. What happened was right after the war. . . I think it was after the war, some of the wealthy ladies in town got together and decided to clean up Visalia and so they closed it down. Before that, Sandy Robinson was the sheriff and he was in and out of it all the time.
CD: Actually gambling in there?
SK: Most likely. He was . . . maybe he was paid off. All I know is Sandy Robinson was the sheriff for a long time and he never bothered anybody. The minute the women’s club closed it down, Chinatown went dead.
CD: That’s really interesting. What year do you think that happened because Visalia is not a gambling place now?
SK: I would say around the early ‘60s, or maybe the late ‘50s. Thereabouts is when it happened. Before that time, like I say, the place was flourishing, not only the gambling joints but the restaurant, everything because there would be a lot of traffic. In the evenings, it would all be lit up. People would be in and out all the time, but we didn’t have any problems that I know of.
SK: Nothing like that. Maybe a few but it was usually in the alleys and they were usually drunks, you know. We had a lot of Indians that would come and get drunk and get into fights, but today those Indians are very wealthy, but the ones that we knew that were our friends, it’s sort of sad, I can’t remember what his name was. We used to know him because he used to work in the country with friends of ours and he would come to town. But he wouldn’t talk to us, he was sopping drunk. Other times you would see him he was sober and a really fine guy.
CD: This was an Indian from
SK: No, American Indian.
CD: Did you ever hear anything about the opium den?
SK: Well that’s what they said, but I had no idea whether it was going on or not going on. I don’t know. I never saw anything. But that’s why there . . . I don’t know whether that was the reason, whether it was the gambling or maybe it was the opium. That’s why they had connecting tunnels underneath the streets outside the streets this side of Center Street.
CD: Did you ever see them?
SK: I saw them, yes.
CD: What were they for?
SK: They said if they ever raided that place, you ran over here. You closed the doors and ran over here. That was whole idea, so you could escape raids.
CD: Right, right.
SK: That’s what I was told anyway. The reason we stayed down there was because in the summer it was very hot here and if you went down there it was cool.
CD: Down to the tunnels?
SK: The basement. They had a building here with a basement. The basement was connected to the tunnel to the other basement over there, so we spent a lot of time in the basement. It was dark, but it was cool. We used to play cards and whatever down there. That’s when I saw the tunnel.
CD: What did your dad do with his laundry business before he went to camp?
SK: He just closed it up. No one wants to buy a hand laundry, so he just closed it up and sold his equipment and that’s it.
CD: So he didn’t have a business to come back to?
SK: No, no, he just closed it up. I think we had a car, a station wagon, panel truck. He sold that. The presses and washing machine, they weren’t new, so nobody wanted those things. So what he did was the people that he bought it from down south were going to come here and pick it up and basically get rid of it for him, was what it amounted to. There was no money involved. If it was new equipment people may want it, but they were old, old things: the boiler, the presses and the washing machine and the wringer, and that was it I guess.
CD: What did he do when he came back?
SK: Went to work in the fields.
CD: Was that pretty much the only option?
SK: No one is going to hire you. The only other thing was you could become a gardener maybe, but in this area it wasn’t too lucrative gardening at that time. In L.A. it was. Most of the guys who went back didn’t do anything but gardening, went into the gardening business and they got started that way, but my dad had no gardening experience so he went to work in the fields.
He would drive . . . I think he bought a car and he would drive to work. Before he bought a car, we had our home on the north side over there by Bailey’s, and about a half a block from us was a Mr. Moreno, I think it was. Mr. Moreno was a labor contractor, just about a half block from where we lived, maybe a block. And he went over there and asked if he could to go work with him and he said sure, so he went to work with him. He worked with him until he got enough money to buy a car and then he bought a car. Once he got the car, he could go on his own to wherever he wanted to work, so he went to work primarily for his friends, his Japanese friends in the country. They had small fields. He would work there until their thing finished and then they’d find a place where he could go to keep on working. Their friends and they would make connections, so he could go from one place to another. That’s why he got a car, so he could go and do that. He did that until he piled up enough money hopefully to start a laundry business.
What he did was, he had my mother taken a few places that knew us, he would go and pick up the laundry for them, and she would do a few small things at home. That way she got started with a small business. Then he was going to build a laundry after that, but in the meantime she got sick and had to go to the hospital and there went all the money, so then when that happened whatever they had saved was gone. So then, when my sister got married, her husband said he would come help. So with his money they built the laundry.
CD: Oh, they did build it.
SK: Yes, they built a small laundry and then they started the laundry business after that. So they went back into the laundry business.
CD: Do you remember anything about the rationing?
SK: We had the stamps and things. In camp we had to turn in our ration stamps because we didn’t need it. We turned them in to the mess hall, I guess, or maybe the block manager. They would use it to get butter and sugar and whatever was rationed for the camp.
CD: So they issued you food stamps in the camp.
SK: No, here, before we went to camp, we had them. And I think when we went to camp we had to turn it in, so they could use that to get sugar for the camp. We had a communal mess hall. Each block had a mess hall and they would get their allotment.
CD: And do you remember, did they ever ask the Japanese to buy war bonds?
SK: Yeah, I think we bought war bonds. I think I did. Yeah, I remember buying war bonds and I kept them until I came back from the war and I cashed it in because I was going to go to school Yes, I remember buying war bonds.
CD: Were you at camp when they asked you to buy war bonds?
SK: No, no, here. In camp we didn’t have any money. If you went to work, if you were a full time employee, you got $16.00 an hour.
CD: You mean a day?
SK: Oh, I’m sorry, $16.00 a month. If you were professional, like a doctor or a dentist, you got $19.00 a month. So you know you didn’t have much money to buy war bonds. War bonds were $20.00 I think. I think it was a $20.00 value, I can’t remember. But I kept the certificates. I cashed them in after I got back from the Army and used it to go to school. Didn’t want too much, but still, a little bit helps.
CD: And what was school like the day after Pearl Harbor?
SK: School here? Public school?
CD: You were going to Visalia High.
SK: I didn’t notice anything because I just ran around with my friends. Most times when you go to school, you have your own friends that you hung around with and most of my friends in school were primarily Japanese because there was a big Japanese community in those days. So we just ran around together. We were always together anyway. We had a few Caucasian friends and they were fine. They didn’t do anything. And we didn’t get involved with anyone we didn’t know. In high school in those days, it wasn’t that large, so everyone knew everyone it seems like and we just stayed away from the ones that didn’t like us. I don’t know that we had anyone that was like that and didn’t like us. We weren’t close friends, but we were friends. You know what I mean.
CD: Right, acquaintances. What about the teachers?
SK: They didn’t bother us. It was just school. To me it was fine. I didn’t have any problems.
CD: So overall, how many people do you think, how big do you think the Japanese community was after the war was over and people were moving back?
SK: Right away? Right away, I don’t know, but after they settled down, the ones that moved away and things like that. Well, right after that it was very small. There was nothing here except the Sumidas. They had the dry goods store here. They didn’t come back until about a year later I think. The church was still there. Mr. Nakamichi, I think he, . . . did he come back? I’m not sure. Maybe he came back and he was the one who had the theater.
CD: Oh, he was the one who had the theater, the Bijou.
SK: There weren’t that many people who came back. The cost was just too much and they weren’t used to that, that big expansion in rent and everything. Most of them moved out. The country people came; the people that had ranches came back and so they gradually started coming back. Even to this day, we don’t have much here. In fact, the Japanese town here is gone. Just me and Roy’s Drug Store used to be next door and he closed down now, so I don’t know.
CD: So it never really recuperated.
SK: Not the town itself. It never recuperated. As you see, there is no more town here. The Ford garage and the parking lot over there and the building. The Chinese are still there, the Lums are still there. Howard Gong was there, he sold it to the Lums, and they are still there. The Lums had the Hong Kong restaurant before the war and they just kept it because they did very well.
CD: And what about the Buddhist temple? Is that still there?
SK: It’s still there.
CD: Is it still used as a temple?
SK: Yes. We still have our regular services. We don’t have weekly services. We had to reorganize. The adults only meet once a month because there aren’t that many members now. Maybe a hundred at the most and that’s counting children too. So we meet once of the month. At the beginning, we’d meet once a week, right after the war, but nobody came. It was just empty.
CD: Because there weren’t people or they just weren’t coming?
SK: There weren’t enough people to come. They were there but they couldn’t come because they were all working, so they decided to go to once a month. At once a month more people came, so now we’ve continued this once a month thing. The Sunday school thing, we have that every Sunday whenever we can whenever there is nothing interfering with it such as holidays and things. At that time, right after the war there were quite a few children. I say 40 or 50 children we had. Today we are looking at five, so it’s all gone down. It’s not that no one wants to come; it’s just that we don’t have any more kids. To have kids you have to have families here to raise kids and make kids, something, but we don’t have that anymore. We had that for a while but it is sort of dying out.
CD: Where were you when we dropped the A Bomb?
SK: I was in the Army.
CD: And what was that like?
SK: Well, the only thing I felt during that time was that the war is over and we wouldn’t have to worry anymore.
CD: Were you worried?
SK: Oh, when we first went to camp they would train you how to use a gun, how to take apart a gun, how to use a mortar, how to use the grenades and you are just listening because you don’t want to miss anything because you are being trained to be a soldier. But right after the bomb was dropped, that disappeared. People were falling asleep and not paying attention anymore. So we learned, but we had to learn mostly in the field. They teach you, but then heck, you really had to learn in the field when you did bivouac and they try to teach you practical stuff. You go out and you learn. I remember one thing, everything quieted down. There was no more tension.
CD: Right, there was no more urgency.
SK: And then not only that, they gave us more time off. I remember that. We used to get weekends off and then they would give us half day on Wednesday off and things like that. The food got better, it seemed like. Maybe that was just my imagination. But the trouble with the Army was that we didn’t have good cooks. In basic training, once we moved on from basic training to permanent quarters, then the food got good. Because the cooks had been there for a while and they knew what to do, so it was good food.
CD: What did you think of the
SK: At the time I thought of nothing, it was just
a part of war. As the times went on, I
wondered if they really had to. Then you
find out more of what was going on and you wonder whether they really had
to. After you delve into it further and
further you find that they probably should have. The thing is, if you are fighting a war, it’s
either them or you.
CD: So your final analysis is that we should have dropped the bomb?
SK: I think it was okay to drop it. We didn’t have to, but it was okay that we did because in the final analysis we saved a lot of American lives.
CD: And maybe Japanese lives too? Who knows how many Japanese would have died.
SK: That’s true, but I think it was one of those
things that in the final analysis, if we didn’t drop the bomb, we would be
having a bad time over there. I think probably
CD: True, that’s a good point. Tell me a little bit about the reparations? Is that the right word?
SK: As far as I was concerned . . . naturally I’m glad we got it, but after looking back, right after the war was over, I remember, they started that and what happened, I don’t know who was in charge, probably the government, whatever, you know. We got papers, my dad got papers to fill out, if you wanted reparations you had to put down what your earnings were before the war and what was lost during the war and had to show receipts and income tax that was never paid. You had to show all your expenses, what your income was and what you lost. No one kept records. Big businesses did. I know there was . . . I heard that it was on the coast and these big companies kept records and they got money back. The rice growers were big and they kept records, so they had records to show. I think they got millions. One or two million dollars in reparations. Nobody else did because you couldn’t fill out the papers. You didn’t know what to put down. You had to show proof. That went on for a few years and finally they said, "OK, you guys that didn’t get anything, we’ll settle with you for $400." So they gave all the families $400.
CD: What year was that?
SK: I don’t know. Four or five years after the war was over. I can’t remember how long it was. We were getting nowhere, but no one had proof that they lost everything. Legal proof, so they just settled with everybody for $400. Each family got $400. So the politicians, I think the one that pushed it was the one from Sacramento, you know, the Matsui. They figured $400 wasn’t enough so then, they had to ask for more. When they asked for it, the people in the larger communities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco out that way, they pushed hard for it. There are a lot of activists in that area. We were considered country bumpkins and we didn’t know about things like that, so we never got involved. So they tried to come and every time we had some event they would come to us and say, "Won’t you have someone get up there and speak about this?" But nobody wanted to do it. I asked why. Most of the wealthier people or the people on top said they didn’t want to stir up trouble. They wanted to leave things alone because if you start doing something like that who knows what will happen. The local people might get upset and things like that. So we didn’t help them, let’s put it that way.
CD: Tulare County didn’t.
SK: The whole central California valley area. So the people in the cities kept pushing and finally got it through but they claimed the Democrats were the ones that were doing it. The Republicans weren’t on our side, if you want to call it that. So the ones that really pushed it and got the Republicans to come over with us was Pashayan, do you remember Pashayan?
Charles Pashayan Jr., 17th district, 1979-1991 from Tulare County.
CD: Yes, my brother worked for him.
SK: They said Chip Pashayan finally pushed it to the Republican side?
CD: Yes, because he was a Republican.
SK: He started the ball rolling on the Republican side and they finally got together. Otherwise . . .
CD: The Central Valley came through.
SK: That’s right. And then they said once the ball started rolling it went through. Otherwise, every year it was turned down. What it was that they didn’t turn it down, they didn’t acknowledge it. It wouldn’t come out of committee. It goes to committee and then it wouldn’t go out of committee and the sessions would be down again. So the next year they start over again and it never comes out of committee. So finally I think Matsui was pushing it and he got a hold of Pashayan and he talked to him about it and he said, "Okay, we’ll help." With him helping, the Republicans started in and then they got enough votes to get it up into the Congress.
CD: And once they voted to pay, how long did it take?
SK: I can’t remember, but it took a long time, that’s all I can remember. A lot of people died, my father passed away before he got it. I can’t remember, I think it took five or six years before we got anything. The reason is: once you pass something in Congress, then there is a committee you have to go through to get the money, the Appropriations Committee, or something like that. They wouldn’t give us anything. They said they didn’t have enough money, so they wouldn’t appropriate any funds towards that. Finally, I can’t remember who it was, they decided they would appropriate so much money, and they only gave us a few million or one million, something like that, that they appropriated to us. Well that wouldn’t cover anything. They said they were going to give us $20,000, but if they gave us $20,000 it would take me 10-20 years to get it because there isn’t enough money to pay the people off. They would pay the people off, I think paying the older ones first. The younger ones would never get it. They never promised us interest. So anyhow, it was sort of a funny thing. But it’s okay. I didn’t mind because at least we got something. When we did get it, Senator Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) finally got it for us. I can’t remember the term they use in Congress, a mandate or something like that. There is term they use where they say they are going to give it to you and you don’t have to go through the Appropriations Committee to get it. They were just going to give you the funds. He did that so we finally got it. In the beginning, only a few people got it because it was only a million or so that they appropriated every year. It was going to take a long time. I think they appropriated over a billion dollars for us, so that was good.
CD: Did you think it was about fairness about the internment camps too?
SK: I don’t think that. The people were interested, yes, but the people that weren’t interested, they weren’t interested. They never did bother. To me, as long as we were compensated that much, at least we got it. So that’s ok. I didn’t feel bad. Some people felt bad that we were getting this. We weren’t that mistreated in camp. They didn’t mistreat us in camp. We took care of ourselves. We did our own administration and we had our own police department and fire department. We took care of ourselves in camp, so we weren’t mistreated in camp. No one came to kill us or anything. They felt that maybe it wasn’t worth the government doing all this.
there was a guy in our camp in our block that became the editor in chief of the
Japan Times in
CD: Wasn’t it for lost income too?
SK: Maybe. I don’t know why. I think it was mostly for what they did to us. Not so much the income, but being citizens and being thrown in jail for no reason. That didn’t sound right. We weren’t given a fair hearing or anything. They just threw us in camp and that was the point that they brought: because they did something bad for us, we should get reparations. I didn’t feel bad until I found out later that during that time the Black Muslims . . . you know they have the Muslim group back east, the Malcolm X and militant groups like that. Well, there was a militant group and they took over an office building in Washington, D.C. This was after the war. . . do you remember that?
CD: No. I remember you talking about it. It was in the 60’s or 70’s?
SK: I don’t know when it was. There about. Anyhow, they took over an office building in Washington, D.C. and they held the people in that building hostage. I don’t know what they were demanding, but the police went there and circled the area and they wouldn’t let them come out and then I think they were there for three days, maybe longer, but they finally gave up and came out. In the meantime, when they were coming out the police were arresting them as they came out and mistakenly they arrested some of the hostages because they couldn’t tell one from the other. They were all black you know. So these hostages were taken into prison until they could prove they weren’t one of these guys. It took about three days. They were in prison for about three days and they got $15,000 for three days. So I figured $20,000 for three years wasn’t too bad. I’m not going to complain.
CD: Yeah, the government can afford it.
SK: So I didn’t feel too bad. But anyway, I was happy to get the money. We didn’t celebrate or anything. We were just happy to get it. Some people went right out and got a car. I think you could get a car for that in those days.
CD: So is there anything about the war years that we didn’t talk about?
SK: Gee, I’m not sure. I spent most of my war years,I went to school back east. I got drafted and went into the Army. Then from there I went to military intelligence school and from there I came back. That was already post war.
CD: What year was that?
SK: ’46. That was the end of ’46.
CD: What did you think of Tulare County when you came back?
SK: When I came back, I couldn’t get a job; let’s put it that way.
CD: How long did it take you to get a job?
SK: I got a job because my friend hired me. In the fields on the farm. On the Martin Ranch. He was working the Martin Ranch and he said. "If you can’t find a job, then come out there and I’ll get you a job," so I went there and got a job working with him on the Martin Ranch.
CD: When did you get a job doing what you went to school to do?
SK: Oh, that was way after. See from there I had to go to school and I went on to school in L.A. and I stayed there until I got my degree in ’60, no ’58. After I got my degree then I had to do an internship for one year, that was ’59 and then after the internship, it was ’60 and to make a little money I spent a little time in L.A. working for a doctor. He wanted me to take over his office because he wanted to go on an extended vacation. So I worked there for three months and then I came back. When I got back, it was 1960. I came back and Roy’s Drug Store was open so he told me he would put me up here. I looked for a place but I couldn’t find anything. Not because of this current issue but I didn’t know what to look for and I didn’t know what was available. Dr. Manuele helped me look for places but I just couldn’t afford it. It was too much, so Roy said he would put me up here for a reasonable price, so I started here in 1960.
CD: Was there a big difference between 1946 and 1960?
SK: When I got back from the war? The difference was when I came back here in 1960 I was working for myself. Whereas in ’46 I was looking for a job and no one would hire me. Today with all the insurances and the clinics and things, they hire Japanese doctors, Korean doctors, they hire anything. If I wanted to, I could go work for the state or whatever. I’d just have to pass the test. The conditions are much better now than in 1946 as far as the atmosphere is concerned. But still I’d rather stay quiet. I wouldn’t want to go out and rabble-rouse. I’m just happy here.
CD: I think I’ve asked all my questions. Do you have anything you would like to add?
SK: I just wanted to say, like the last time, that all my experiences were my own experiences. And how I felt about the experiences was how I felt, because of the environment I was living in. I’ve met a lot of people who went through this experience who have been very bitter about the whole thing. Because they had different experiences than I had.
CD: Like what did they have?
SK: Well, they had to work hard. Even after camp they had a terrible time and even during camp they had a terrible time because they weren’t getting along with everybody and things like that. They felt that they were wronged. They just feel this whole thing was bad, you know. I just don’t want to think of it that way. I just felt that I got along okay. I wasn’t miserable or anything like that. I didn’t think I suffered physically. I was too young to suffer mentally I guess. Physically I was okay. I didn’t care much about good clothes, fancy this or fancy that. I’m sure some people had that. The one thing I longed for in camp was ice cream. We didn’t have ice cream. But that’s about it. Candies and things like that. Otherwise, I think I felt okay.
Even after the war and coming back and the way things are today I think I’m pretty well satisfied with whatever I’m doing today. I know, I read some place, that the problem with Japanese of my age, of my generation, was we made a mad dash for mediocrity. Which is probably true. We just wanted to live like everyone else. There were some guys who achieved, but I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t really try to achieve. I just tried to make a living and have a family, that was it, and I was happy with that. People from my block, just my block, if I went into different camps and things, I’m sure there were a lot of people that really did well, I don’t even know them, but I’ve heard some people really did well. In my block was that man I told you about, the editor of the Japan Times, well, another one of the guys became a University of California regent.
CD: Which one?
SK: Steve Nakashima. And then there was another one. A friend that was in our block became a minister, but an activist minister. He was a minister at the Glide Methodist Church in San Francisco.
SK: You know that one?
CD: Yes, the Glide Church. Now there is a black minister there.
(Ed. Cecil Williams, whose wife, Jan Mirikitani, was interned during the war in Arkansas)
SK: He was the head there right after the war, he was a minister over there but it was a black church and so he was involved in all the demonstrations they had. I don’t know how many times he was arrested. He was leading the parade and everything, but when he retired, the City of San Francisco honored him for one day. Lloyd Wake was his name, and they had "Lloyd Wake Day." There were a lot of people that achieved very well, but the majority of us, they say, made a mad dash for mediocrity. That’s where we are today. But I’m happy. I’m not looking for big names and big things. But these three people from our block did very well and I’m sure there are other stories where they have done very well.
I had heard of one guy from Colorado, the Granada camp in Colorado, and he was an importer-exporter and he had three ships that would import his goods. He became very wealthy, but that man, the only reason I know him, in my office I ran in to a man who was a sheriff over in Granada and he told me about him. After he told me about him, I watched and found his name in San Francisco. He was a big person over there. This man in camp told him that the only way to make money was to do that . . . .
CD: So he did it and he made money . . . .
THE TAPE RUNS OUT HERE.
C. Doe/Transcriber: Jan Chubbuck, 5/20/04/ Ed. JW 5/02/05
Editor’s note: Some changes to this interview in italics were made during a phone interview on May 2, 2005.