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5-Tule Lake to Detroit
What was the day like when you left?
Fortunately for me, I had a friend who worked in the travel bureau. So she arranged for.. maybe I shouldn't say this.. she arranged for me to go to Minidoka to see my.. some relatives—no friends—that I grew up with in Minidoka because they're from Seattle. From there I went out to Detroit on a train. Of course, like I said before, they gave me twenty-five dollars, I had a job with the Johnson Milk Company and I didn't last too long at Johnson Milk Company. They thought I was Polish when I went to Japanese, I mean, to the YWCA. Serizawa, evidently is sort of Polish, is it? So they gave me a private room. And I thought, "This is great, why, I'm living it up!" The middle of the night, knock comes, and she's.. the head.. director says, "I hear you're Japanese American." I said, "Yes, I am." She says, "Well, you can't have a private room, you're going to go in with all the rest of them." I said, "Ok." and so I moved. There were two or three already in there. And they resented my being thrown in there because they were so comfortable together. So they didn't make any space for me or anything! I felt so out of place! I tried to be friendly, as much as I could. They worked at the same place, but they would get up early and just leave me all alone. We were going to the same place, to work! But they never asked me to join them, or, "Would you like to go with us?," or "have a meal with us?," or anything like that. But of course, probably it's my fault too.
How many of them were there?
Then I went to work and what I was doing was tallying the sales for the day, like butter—so many pounds, milk, half cream. They didn't have half and half in those days. Anyway, I thought, "Well, my goodness! This place doesn't even have any outside windows!" You go in and this one brick, what do you call those, glass bricks? That you can't see out? I said, "I'm not going to do this. I hate this place!"
What did you hate?
I don't want to be confined in a space like that. I like open space. Which you'll find out when you come to my house because everything is open.
Is that because of camp?
No, I always had open space around me when I was youngster too. I thought, "Eighteen and a half a week? Wait a minute! And I'm not happy here!" So I said, "I quit." Then I didn't have a job, so I took a night job, I think. They came after me. They said, "You can't leave an essential industry. We'll report you to the government." Which meant jail for me because I was doing something illegal. I said, "Ok, go ahead, I don't care."
What were you doing that was illegal?
Leaving an essential industry.. which I went out for, right? I said, "Go ahead, I don't care," I mean what could be worse? They didn't pursue it, fortunately. Then I met a German American person. She saw me working at night at a desk and she felt sorry for me. She says, "What..," you know, she introduced herself. I was telling her that I relocated here and I just quit my job. They're threatening to put me in jail and all that kind of stuff. She says, "Well, I'll find you a job." She got wonderful jobs for me, in the main building in Detroit called the Penobscot Building. As soon as they found out I was Japanese American, fellow employees would protest. Out I'd go, out the door. I think that happened about three or four times. Finally, this young lady found me a job in a small firm, which became huge before I left. Matter of fact, I became treasurer of the company. He happened to be of Jewish decent, he says, "Well I know what you're going through. So we'll just say you're Chinese." I said, "I don't want to say I'm Chinese." He says, "Well, you have to eat, you have to survive." I said, "Let me think about it." Right away, on the spot, I said, "Ok." He says he knows I'm Japanese American, but we won't tell his partner that I'm Japanese American. So we didn't, I disguised as Chinese. But later on, this partner said, "I would like you to contact the Chinese Embassy and I would like you to have the Consul General come to speak to my client." I thought, "Oh my god, what did I get myself into?" I told him the truth and by that time he had accepted me as a Japanese American. There were moments.
Where did you live?
Another German American person at Church, the main Church where I attended, they heard about my plight and that the Japanese Americans weren't finding any rooms. They volunteered to take me in as a boarder. At first, I was supposed to just stay there and pay so much a week. But then, later on, they liked me and said, "You can join us for dinner, go on outings..". I was part of the family, you might say. After I left another Japanese American.. They invited another Japanese American and she became head of nursing at UC medical school. It's very interesting.
Where were you parents during all of this?
They were in camp. Everyone had to leave. But we had nothing to go back to. And since I was in Detroit, they had to have a job. So I found them a job.
They came to Detroit?
Yeah, to join me. I had to find housing and housing was very tight at that time. Some company or some fellow offered us housing and it was a two-story house and we got the unit above. Little did I know that he intended to put lots of families in there. Before I knew, there was one family, two families, three families, all using one bathroom, one refrigerator. And there was a lot of tension there, but we had to adjust. I said, "I protest," and he said, "Go ahead, leave." Where am I going to go?
How much was it?
I can't remember, it was very.. But see at first it was one family. Then, all the sudden, three. And we all paid the same rent. See it's triple what he..
Can you tell us how you met your husband?
Oh my. I was going to school during the night, working during the day and in between I had another job because I knew I had to get my parents out. I became ill, stressed out. I ended up in the hospital and he was making his rounds and then he ran into me and that's how we met. At that time I was engaged to another fellow, the same fellow that I found a job for, but he wasn't making any headway so I dropped him.
Was you husband Japanese American?
What camp did he go to?
He didn't go to camp at all. He left. He left selling his microscope. See, he was at UC Medical school and the third year is a clinical year evidently and so he had to repeat that year, but no medical school would accept him. So he sold his microscope and took a train out. And the American Friends Society met him along the way, this little kid, you know, coming along. And so I am grateful to the American Friends Society.
How had you kept in touch with your family when they were still in camp?
We wrote to each other. I tried in Japanese and English. We did.
Did the government look through you mail?
I don't know whether they did or not...They would open up the mail...I don't think so. I didn't even think of those things in those days. I finally got them a job. My mother worked at Stouffer. I think Stouffer's is still in business, right? And she was making pies again. My father, I got him a job at some place called Guardian Glass Company because they were hiring. They need a lot of laborers in those days, so he was able to get a job.
How old were your parents at this point?
I think my mother was fifty because he died the year he came up, I think.
My father died. They were about the same age.
How did he die?
Heart attack. She came home one day and he was gone. I was living at the Y at that time because my husband had gone to Japan on assignment. So I moved back in with my mother.
Was your husband part of the army?
Attached to the army, but he was a civilian. With the, what was it called? Health and Welfare Department. He was already a doctor.
When and where did you get married?
1946, April. I remember that. In three weeks time we were married.
Where? In Detroit?
In Detroit, yeah. He was one of those guys who said, "Marry me now, go to school, make up your mind, that's it."
Do you remember the ceremony?
Yeah, the parents couldn't come. They were already back.. His parents couldn't come. His family couldn't come. So we just had a little small ceremony in the Church.
Where were his parents?
They were still trying to rebuild their business here, in California. Are we in California? See, I travel a lot I don't know where I am, I'm sorry. It is California.
How did you move out to California?
He went to Japan. No, he was with.. let's see.. He was a resident at Grace Hospital in Detroit taking up at radiology. Then a veteran came back, my husband got ousted because veterans had first preference. He went to work for—they had in house physicians at Hudson Motor Company. Do you remember Hudson's? In house physician there and he didn't like that because he wanted to be a specialist. In order to get out of the job gracefully, he signed up to go to Japan. We saved our money and he came back and finished his residency in radiology. I had my family very late because everything had to be in place before we had a family.
Were you still in Detroit?
No, we had moved back. From Japan we came here.
When did you move here?
When did I move here? 1951.
When was the first time you went back to Washington?
The first time, I just couldn't bear it, but I thought, well this lady said, "Well, you know we don't have many years left," I think about six years ago. I've been going back ever since, once a year.
Who do you see up there?
A lady that I grew up with when I was six. You can imagine how many years I've known her.
Which camp did she go to?
Minidoka, I think. She was married because she's older then I am, when they went to camp. After that I lost complete touch with her and then somehow, through Gordon, who is her cousin, we met up again.
Did you receive reparations from the government?
Yes, I did. A lot of the neighbors of my age group, of course, objected. They said, "You're going to stir up a lot of trouble. Everyone else is going to want, the Indians would want it, the so-and-so would want it." I said, "Ok, if they're going to give it to me, I'll take it." I can't even buy a car with $20,000, right? And three years of your life you cannot buy with money! And so I accepted it. A lot of Nisei, when we had this going, they needed money to protest this thing. A lot of Nisei were asked to donate money towards this cause and they said, "No, we don't want to have anything to do with it." I said, "When the reparations come are you going to accept it?" Here I go again! She said, "That's none of your business." After she, after these people got it, I said, "Well?" Of course, I shouldn't do things like that. It just riles me!
Are you angry?
No, no. Fortunately, as time goes on you remember all the positive things as anything in relationships or anything. You think, I learned a lot from this experience. They say even in failure you learn something. Time is wonderful in a way.
What did you learn from this experience?
Well, I learned how to adjust to adversity. I knew about people, interaction, educating the Caucasians for instance. My neighbor says to me, "I didn't know Japanese people became professional people." I said, "Why?" She said, "The only ones I knew were gardeners and cooks. Matter of fact we had a cook and a gardener." I said, "Oh!" It's so, I don't know, it's so interesting. Then one day—I live in Tiburon—and I opened the door and a solicitor said, "We would like to see the lady of the house." I said, "Oh, she's not here." I mean I got real fresh from then on. Someone came to see me and my husband was out in the yard and she said, "You know, I went to your house the other day, but only the gardener was there." I said, "What do you mean? Gardener?" She says, "Yeah, the gardener was working out in the yard." I said, "Oh, that was my husband." She said, "Oh, I thought you were married to a white man because you live in Tiburon." I mean you've run across this right? Then, Halloween came along, knock on the door and a little boy, he's very smart he says, "We have a custom here, that is trick-or-treat at Halloween time." I said, "Oh really?" I mean things like, it's very interesting, you know? I learned a lot. The post office, we were the first Japanese Americans there that were professional so everyone knew us. They say, "Where is that Japanese family?" They say, "Over there." It's a good identity thing. There are positive things, right? Unfortunately, we don't have too many Japanese Americans in my development. Our neighbor had the house up for sale and they said, "Well there's an African American doctor that wants to buy our house. Do you have any objections?" to me. I said, "Huh? Are you asking me?" I mean, ok.. Ah, we're talking about camp.
Is there something you would like to pass on to the world that we can learn from you experience?
Well, at this point in time, I think it was a good learning experience for me. At that time you think, "Oh my goodness this is a monumental brick wall facing me!" But when you go through it, I am thankful that I learned so much. I have no bitterness, really. You think about losing three years of your life, but you can't. I have to move forward. Get on with your life. It's like losing a spouse. A lot of people are still grieving after twenty years. You just have to get on, go on with your life. That's the way I feel about everything that's happened to me. That's all I can say.