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Section below transcribed by Mikhael P, cleaned by Marina H ('11) and Alexander F (intern). Please report errors to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Greg. My name is Jimmy. My name is Jessica. My name is Mikhael, and my name is Jane and we are in San Francisco, California interviewing Sato Hashizume on January 23rd, 2008.
I'm Sato Hashizume, and I was born in Japan on July 14, 1931. At three months of age, my mother brought me back to Portland, Oregon where the rest of my siblings and father were. I was raised in Portland, Oregon until the war broke out, World War Two. At that time, we were interned first in the Portland Assembly Center, and then we went to Minidoka Camp in Idaho. We were there for about three-and-a-half years, and then I went to Salt Lake city, where my father worked for a while as a dishwasher. Then, we came back to Portland and stayed; I finished High School at that time in Portland. From there I went on to nursing school. I went to a three-year program and then continued right on and got my baccalaureate degree at OHSU and started working as a visiting nurse, that was one of my first jobs. Then they tapped me to be a clinical instructor in the field—I was doing that for three or four years—and decided that I really needed a master's degree to do clinical teaching. So, I went to University of Minnesota in the school of public health, and my masters degree—its an MS—but it's in public health nursing.
From there, I wanted to play around in Europe,which I did for about three months, went to summer school in Oslo, University of Oslo. Actually, the dean of my school got a job for me at University of California here in San Francisco. Then, I worked there in teaching. I taught and went up the academic ladder from instructor to assistant professor, and decided after about seven years that I really wanted to get back with patients and students and do that sort of thing. So, I went to—staying within the UC system—I went and worked with a home care program in the school of medicine, and became the coordinator of the program. In the meantime I became a nurse practitioner, I did that as well. Then I became a discharge planner, so that was my work there.
One of the important things that happened to me during those years was I volunteered to go with Project Hope and went to Sri Lanka (used to be called Ceylon) for one year. It was one of those life-changing events for me; I learned a great deal professionally and personally and made many friends that I have today. A few years ago, in 1992, I retired thinking that I would no longer be teaching and dong those sorts of things, and I started doing some writing on the internment. From there it just sort of mushroomed. I began to go out to schools to teach about the internment and this is how many years later, nine years later and we're still doing it. I find that it's a very important job for me, if you will. I think it's almost like a second career, but I find that its important to teach the young people of today because they have no idea that such an event happened; so, that sort of brings it up to today.
Can you tell us the story behind your name?
My first name?
As a matter of fact I could make up a story, which is pretty good. I'll tell you this, that the name itself means, "home place", and I was born in Japan where my mother was, that's the story I tell people. The real story is that my great grandmother's name was Sato and my father thought she was a wonderful woman. There's a word called Hyrishto meaning, "great woman", and so he thought that I should be named that so I will become great.
Why do you think your mother decided to have you in Japan?
She was home sick I think to see her mother, all my siblings—they're all older than I—were born in Portland, Oregon. So, I think that she just wanted to go back and have one of her children born back there where her mother was.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
My gracious. My earliest childhood memory—that's kind of a tough one. I just remember being with my brother, Tom, and playing together. Also, going downstairs, we had an apartment house and we had about five rentals downstairs in the basement, although it was the daylight basement. I remember going around and visiting all those people down there because they left their doors open. They seemed to be alright with that.
You mentioned your father was a dishwasher?
That was in Salt Lake City. He was in Portland, Oregon. He had an apartment house building. What that means is that he doesn't own the property, but he owns the business meaning he owns all the furniture, he manages it, and he does all the carpentry and all of that. That's the business that he had.
Is that kind of like what a superintendent does?
No. It's more than being a superintendent, because he owns everything so he also takes care of it, and he also gets the profits from whatever he does.
Did your mother have any occupations?
She apparently learned how to sew in Japan. She went to a sewing school and so she was a seamstress, but she helped other people with their laundry, she helped a little bit with the hotel. But, I would say that basically she was a housewife, and took care of the children.
Can you tell me a little bit about your brothers and sisters? What kind of relationships did you have with them when you were younger? What kinds of relationships did they have with each other?
What happened was I lost my mother when I was very young, I was only about three weeks before my third birthday so my oldest sister, who was only fifteen, took over the family, and actually she went to high school all the time—she was a very bright youngster. But, she also helped raise the three youngest. I was two, my brother was four and my next brother was seven, and then my older sister was eleven, and then she was fifteen.
So, your mother's death kind of changed the dynamic of your siblings?
Absolutely. It shattered our family, but my father and this is something very interesting to me is that he made a choice to raise his own children. He had a choice of sending the children back to Japan and sending back the money or going back and getting married. Somehow, he just made a choice that this was his responsibility and so that's what he did.
Were you conscious of his decision at that time?
No, of course not I was still in pre-school. What I was conscious of was that there was a grieving period, but once he got through that he really looked after us. In a way, we were fortunate that he had this apartment house business because we were around and he was around, so it wasn't like he went away some place to work everyday. He was around.
What religions did your family take part in?
My parents were both ministers of the Tenrikyo religion. They practiced that religion, but my father believed that it was OK for the rest of the children to go to the Methodist church. He believed that there was only one God and it didn't matter how you prayed, as long as you developed some moral values. So, we went to the Methodist church primarily because he said, “well you can also practice your English there.” So, we went to the Methodist church on Sunday morning and then sometimes on Sunday afternoons— like once or twice month— we went to my father's church.
Did you like following Methodist Christianity rather then being more involved in your parent's religion?
I think that they were different in terms of religion. We went to Sunday school at the Methodist church, and I had a lot of friend there. Then, we went to the other church and they had a lot of good food; I liked that too.
Did your parents go with you and your siblings to the Methodist church?
No, they did not.
Did you notice quite a few contrasts between the two religions, or was it hard to kind of reconcile them?
I really just accepted what was going on, and what happened was it was only until I went to college. I should tell you also that I went then to a catholic school of nursing. After I got out of nursing school, when I was going to college, I thought, “You know, I want to explore this a little bit more. What is this all about?” At that time, I took some courses in religion, and tried to figure it out, and decided that I was more interested in the philosophy of these religions versus the organizational structure of them. At this point, I'm really more interested in Buddhism if you can imagine that.
Did you and your siblings feel distanced at all from your parents, because of the different religions, did you feel kind of separated?
I don't think that was an issue at all. I think that my father, this was part of his life and living, and no, that was just him.
As a young child did you ever fell any sort of pressure to make your identity either more Japanese or more American or were you able to find a happy balance?
I think that there were a lot of external pressures (if that's what you want to call them). We were not accepted into the overall community, you know we had to live in a certain place. There were jobs that you couldn't get and so on and so forth. In a way, the Japanese had a subcommunity where I would go to Japanese school after American school. We would go to school from eight thirty to three thirty [American School] and then from four to five [we] went to Japanese school, and we went for a half-day on Saturdays. That half-day Saturday we spent half of that time cleaning up the school, so then on Sunday we went to Sunday school so we were very busy just being occupied with school.
So, you were really largely exposed to both sides of the cultures you were living in?
We were exposed to it, certainly, but I think that what I'm trying to say which I didn't say well is that we had a subcommunity because we weren't welcome into the boy scouts, for instance—I'm not a boy scout, you get my point—or any of these other organizations. So, we had our own boy scouts, we had our own drum and bugle corps, my brothers belonged to that. I was still under ten before camp, so you know that's why we went to this Methodist church, which was a Japanese Methodist church. Then, we went to Japanese school, then we had activities around that, we had our picnics from there. It was a time when—if you want to call it segregation—there was a certain degree of segregation there.
Was the American school you went to, was that just your typical elementary school?
Yes. It was called Shattuck School, and that particular school covered the whole west side. We had the children from the hills—and when you say hills that means the affluent families—and then we had people from Lake Oswego that were affluent, then we had everybody around the waterfront, and so those were the immigrants. We had the Greek immigrants, we had the Jewish immigrants, we had the Italians, we had the Japanese and Chinese; that was the mix that went to that school.
When you were a child going to American elementary school were you able to have friends throughout all different communities and economic structures?
My very best friends from when I was about five years old—I met them in church actually, but then the families knew each other; both of them I keep in touch with today. How many years it that? So those are my Japanese friends. When I was going to grade school, I had a little Greek girlfriend, and Katie and I would play and visit. I had a Chinese girlfriend down the street, and she would take me to see some of her friends who were Italians. I mean, we were a mixed group in a way, then we would all go home to our own ethnic food and families and all of that. It was a certain degree of playing, but then I wouldn't say that the families mixed.
Would you say that you were aware of a lot of the differences when you were really young, before being ten years old?
Yes, I think that I was aware of the differences, we would talk bout having to go to Japanese school and the Jewish kids went to their school and we would be very upset because the Jewish kids got Jewish holidays and we didn't get those holidays. So, we knew from that viewpoint that there were differences, and language differences and some of that. We sort of stayed within our own community as well, I mean we played with these kids because they were around, but still when it came to the picnics and the organizations and all these things they were pretty much the Japanese organizations.
Essentially, you would play with Italian kids or Chinese kids here and there, and Greek kids; but more or less your true, really close companions were within your Japanese-American community?
Yeah, I think that would be fair.
What did you and your friends like to do for fun?
In those days, remember this is the post-depression era and we didn't have televisions, we didn't have any of that kind of stuff. So with my girlfriends, I remember from the time we were about five we would play paper dolls. We would make our own paper dolls and all of this and then we would tell our own stories, and so on and so forth; that was really fun for us, and on the rare occasion when it snowed, I would follow my brothers, and they would have this very old rickety sled. We would play in the snow and go down the hills. I would follow my brothers a lot, and they didn't like that very much, but that was always interesting to me. I followed them into the gated theatre one time, and I thought that was quite interesting.
How do you play paper dolls?
In those days paper dolls were really popular, and I don't know this for a fact, but dolls in themselves were expensive. Remember, I was telling you this is the time of post-depression. We didn't have a lot of toys, we didn't have a lot of things. They would have books of paper dolls and you buy the whole book of the dolls, which were flat paper, and they had the dresses. Then you would cut them all out, and you'd take these dresses and you'd put them on your doll; then, you'd make up stories about them. My doll was always called Sally and her doll was called Lucille. We would take these dolls and do things, like go to fancy dress balls, etc, etc…
Is there any specific experience you remember with your friends in your free time?
We used to go all over the place. Our parents weren't worried about us in terms of getting kidnapped or anything like that. For Halloween, for instance, we would like to go to certain neighborhoods, because we would get a better deal on that. We would go all the way—it must have been a couple of miles to the park, this is the Washington park—and look around and the zoo. I'm thinking about it now, and I'm thinking, my gosh, you really had a wide range in those days. We would take the bus by ourselves and go to these places.
There is one story that I do remember, my brother Tom and I went to see my sister who was picking berries out in Gresham. During the summertime they would go out and pick berries. I had to be eight or nine, and my brother was ten. We took this bus that went all the way out to the country and they had a cherry tree. Tom and I picked cherries and then we came home, and we didn't have anything to eat so we ate about half a bag of cherries and we were very, very ill. But, that's what I remember.
Did your brothers have any hobbies that you can remember?
My oldest brother ended up being a scientist, and he started that very early. He, for instance, would try to figure out how to press flowers with a washing machine ringer, and he used to run his arm right through the ringer way up to here. The ringers used to go like this, and you would put your clothes through it, that's the way you were supposed to do it. But, he would try to press flowers, so he would put the flower between pieces of paper and then he would try to do that and he wouldn't let go soon enough and it would just go right up his arm, like that. He was always doing something. For instance, the other thing he did was he made airplanes with balsa wood and all that kind of stuff. I think this must have been after the war started because, then he would go to the window, he would let them and he would go, "Bomb! Bombs away!" and throw them out the window. Our neighbors came and say, “My god! This kid is throwing these things that are on fire out the window!” So, he was always doing that. He did, as I said, become a scientist. He was always experimenting doing things and my other brother was his assistant, usually.