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Indented text represents the follow-up interview conducted on May 6, 2006. coming soon


Introduction of Interviewers

My name is Max, my name is Hilary, my name is Ashlyn, and my name is Jawanza and we are interviewing Rose Nieda on May 13, 2005, in San Francisco, California.

Can you please state your full name?

My full name is Rose Nieda.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Walville, Washington. State of Washington, that is. April 26,1923.
What camps were you interned in?
First, I was sent to Fresno Assembly center. Then from there, I went to Tule Lake.
What were your parents' names and professions?
My father's name was Koichiro Serizawa and my mother's name was Ai Serizawa.
What were your adopted parents' names?
That was my adopted parents' name.
What were your biological parents' names?
I don't remember.

What generation are you?

I am Nisei, second generation.
Do you have any siblings?
Yes and no. Because I was adopted, everything is murky.
So yes?
Yes, I understand later on. I found out that I did have a brother. I mean I do have a brother and one sister. The sister passed away about three years ago.

Are you in touch with your brother at all?

No.
What is your earliest memory?
Walking around with a tin lunch box, going around the veranda, and I had rice balls in it for my afternoon snack.

Did you grow up in Washington?

Yes I did.
Were you there up until the internment?
We moved around quite a bit. I can't quite remember. I was evacuated from a place called Bryn Mawr, Washington which is right above Lake Washington.

What was your childhood like?

We were very creative in those days because we did not have the Game Boys, the television, the radio. We did have the radio, but no videos. We did make a lot of things out of left-over lumber and things. We made trucks, and we punched out the cork in the Coke-a-Cola bottle caps and we wore them as badges. We made stilts, and we played "can as stilts"—we'd smash the middle and then tie them up. We made our own kites, and then a lot of things like that.

Do you have any really close childhood friends?

Yes I do. I have two. I met them when I was six years old, and I still am in contact with them.
What are their names?
One is in Seattle. She's eighty-six or eighty-seven and her name is Lillian Yamamoto and she is a cousin to Gordon Hirabayashi, and so I have a lot of interaction with all these people that are quite well known.

Do you have favorite games that you played with your friends?

Yes, we played a lot of games. We played ping pong. We played card games like gin rummy, and we played Karuta which was a Japanese game. My mother was instilling in me all these mottos like "When a dog walks it gets hit" and all that kind of stuff. Of course, it was in Japanese. Now that it comes back to me, she was programming me.

What are some others you can remember?

A lot of things like "If the tree grows, the wind will blow it down." "The fire is on the other side of the river." This is all in Japanese, so it's kind of a poetic thing. Also, at the same time, you are learning Japanese. You begin to sing-song it. And then you relate the motto to the picture, so it was a lot of fun. Especially the one where he says something about "You can hide your head but you don't hide the other part"—there was a man with his head covered. Do you remember that one? You didn't play those games? Oh.

Can you remember one that you learned as a sing-song?

Kaji wa Kawa mooko meaning, "The fire is on the other side of the river."
Did you go to Japanese school when you were young?
Yes, my mother tried to make me go on Saturdays, but I hated it because it seemed like I was going to school everyday of the year.

What was you early schooling like?

That is very interesting because English is my second language. When I entered the first grade, all I could say were simple words like "hello," "good-bye," "thank you," "no thank you," "yes," "no". The teacher was aghast because I couldn't read. I'd put up my hands and I'd call another Nisei who was in the eighth grade and I'd say, "Yoshiko san." "Come here I can't understand anything." She would be embarrassed—she is in the eighth grade after all—and here is this little kid saying "Yoshiko san." I tried very hard to learn English.

Were there a lot of Japanese Americans in your school?
No, there weren't too many. The point was that I went to a school where the whole classroom, first through eighth, there were only twenty-eight students. And we were hand picked from the lady that owned all that land around there. She named the school after herself and that school is still standing today. I went back a couple years ago.
What's the name of the school?
Elliott School and Elliott is the name of the family that owned all the property around there. Hundreds and hundreds of acres and we were surrounded by Scandinavian people—Hansons, Andersons, Johnsons. All the "sons".

How did you get to school?

That's a good one. I walked two miles each way. Yes, really. My children say, "My goodness, you tell that story over and over and over." We stopped and picked corn on the way because there were fields of corn, and we picked salmon berries, and I don't know.
Who did you go with?
Neighbors, children. As a matter of fact we would take the tar paper off the road and chew it as gum. I mean, we didn't have any money for gum. It was a wonder we didn't get sick.

What was the area that you grew up in like?

The grammar school days were all farm country and we lived next to a river because of the water, for the irrigation system. Also across the street, there was a big golf course, which we were not allowed on, because it was for whites only. One of our neighbors had a son who wanted to work, so they hired him as a groundskeeper. The members protested, so he had to quit. They didn't want any Japanese Americans on, even as a groundskeeper.

When did you start feeling discrimination?

I think around the fourth or fifth grade because I used to be very good in math and they would skip me a grade or two. Then all of a sudden I would get smart and then they would put me right back again.
Can you remember any specific incidences at school, where you experienced discrimination?
Not really. I think more or less I was teased about, "We know something you don't know," and things like that. And I couldn't figure out what they were saying. They'd say, "That's not your real mother." "That's not your real father." I used to shudder and I used to go home and ask my parents, "Is that so?". They would say, "No, no, no." In those days, they denied all this.
They denied the adoption?
Yes.

Was the area that you lived in mostly Japanese American?

The funny thing was that there were three families all together and we were the ones that developed that area, and cleaned up the rocks out of the soil. I remember having a huge pile of rocks that my mother had picked up so that we could grow vegetables.
What did you do with the vegetables that you grew?
Oh, we sold them of course.
Where did you sell them?
I think my father took it to the produce market in Seattle.

What did your parents do for a living?

They were truck farmers.
Tell us what that means.
Well the small truck that they would rotate the vegetables like tomatoes, beans, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, potatoes. You know just keep it going around, all year round. And we used to have horses, pigs, goats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, geese that when my parents weren't around they used to chase me and honk at me and tear my sweater up. They would just wait for the parents not to be around. To this day I fear them. And I used to go swimming in the river. It was cold, but that's where I learned how to swim.
Could you tell us about the day when you learned how to swim?
Older people were with us and one day I saw the older person jump in so I jumped in and I nearly drowned. A six foot fellow pulled me out by my hair she said "don't you ever do that again." But I learned how to dog paddle
.

Do you remember which river it was?

Cedar River. Are you familiar with Cedar River? Are you from the Seattle area?
No, I've been there.
Have you? It's still there. Do you know Maple Valley? Oh you do?
Yes, I lived in Seattle for fifteen years.
Really, after the war or before the war?
Long after the war.
That's when Boeing was up and everything was right?"
Yes.
I did not go back after camp. That was the last place I wanted to return to, because it's damp, and I just didn't like the thought of being evacuated from that area.

Can you think of other examples growing up where you now realize that it was something you did because you didn't have enough money to go and get what you wanted?

Oh, let's see, I can't remember really, anything else, just picking wild salmon berries. Are you familiar with salmon berries? I think that's peculiar to the Seattle area, isn't it? And we used to be able to pick currants, wild currants too. There were mushrooms in the back forest—the spongy ones. What are they called? You can get them at the Berkeley Bowl now, very expensive, but we were able to pick them up.
What did the tar gum taste like?
I don't know. I can't remember that far back. My goodness, I bet that thing was toxic. They would lay it down when it was still warm and you'd just scoop it up.

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