Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Interview with an immigrant: II
[Continuing my series of interviews with the Nisei children of Japanese immigrants early in the 20th century. Below is my third interview with Tom Takeo Matsuoka, which took place Aug. 31, 2000, a little less than a year before he died at the age of 98. Once again, his daughter, Rae Takekawa, sat in on the interview and assisted.]
DN: How old were you when you went back to Japan?
Tom Matsuoka: Three.
DN: And how old were you when your mother died?
TM: Same year. I remember we went back in the spring. And she died in September.
DN: And your grandfather raised you?
TM: Yes. Oh, you know. It was a funny situation with my parents, you know. My parents were cousins, you know. My grandpa, his sister, younger sister, was married ... Well, one of my mother's ... My dad, and her, why they married, because they wanted to come to Hawaii. My dad wanted to come to Hawaii. And, oh, it was a big farm, but he was drafted in the Army. And that time, in Japan, was cleaning up Taiwan. Because China and Japan war, and China gives Taiwan to Japan because they lost the war, you know. Well, I think Taiwan really was a jungle, so the government of Japan wanted to clean it up. And so they wanted to send the Japanese Army to Taiwan to clean it up. And really, there were still headhunters in Taiwan, see.
Well, but they thought the Army should be from warm country in Japan, should go to Taiwan. And where I was raised was a pretty warm place, you know. So I guess my dad was drafted, and they were training to go Taiwan. I guess on the really hot days, they were training outside, and my dad had a sunstroke.
So, I guess, oh, that was no good. Kid like that don't fit. So that's why they released him.
So my dad was really disappointed, and he come home. And that's why it happened to be he thought about moving to Hawaii. Because in Hawaii, the sugar company, they were recruiting for the labor in Japan, you know. Well, and my dad went to the recruiting place. They said, 'No, no more, no more, that's all filled up. If you were married and a family, maybe you’d have a chance to go.'
Well, he come home and -- 'How am I gonna do it, get married? I have to find a woman!' So I guess the whole family talked, 'If you want to go to Hawaii that much, why, the only that is left is his cousin,' my mother, you know. That was the way they get married. They went to the consul to Hawaii because, if married, people why they could come to Hawaii.
That was a sure funny thing. That's why, when my mother died, why I was raised by the dad's side grandpa and the mother's side grandma. [Laughs]
I remember when I was smaller, I always hung around on my mother's side.
DN: How big was the farm that your grandfather had?
TM: Oh, he had a really good farm. He had one man as a hired hand, you know. That was a small village, and small acreage, and that man who hired at farm is supposed to be good farm, in those times.
So most of the Japanese who emigrated first, the idea was the same, I guess. They, uh -- one year income, and very small, but if, in America and Hawaii, if they exchange, Japan man needs American money, so it make a difference, see? So, if work three years, well, they think they can make a fortune. [Laughs]
DN: What kind of crops did you raise on that farm?
TM: Oh, the biggest crop was rice, and millet.
DN: When you were farming later, and you were farming strawberries and cucumbers and things like that, did you learn all that in the States?
TM: In those days, I didn't see nothing vegetable in our foods in Japan, where I was raised. Those all came later.
The only thing at the farm is the grain. Of course, the family would grow vegetables. I know cucumber we ate. My grandpa used to grow the cucumber. And the Japanese had no potato, they call it umo. Those were the things they used to eat. All this stuff so you would eat at the house.
DN: What religion was your grandfather?
TM: Grandpa was a pretty strict man. He was really religious, too, a strong Buddhist religious, grandpa. That's why I was raised in a Buddhist family, so I am still Buddhist.
DN: You say your father was strict. Did he also bring you up to be patriotic and loyal to Japan?
TM: You know, in Japan, at the school, when I went in those days -- oh, that's a long time ago, you know -- I think it starts at six or seven -- in the six years, the government ruled, you have to go to school six years. And then, after that, it is your choice -- stay home or you want to go to junior school. But you have to pay tuition after six years. I think I used to take ten cents or fifteen cents -- I'm pretty sure ten cents -- that every month to take. You know, but, I say, only few people can afford to pay it.
That's why if you go to the junior, that family most of them well-to-do. Otherwise, they can't go, you know. That ten cents, that's big money, you know. Because lots of candy and stuff, half-cents, they start from half-cent, you know. Quite make a difference in what people think now.
Well, anyway, if you go to junior school, junior high school, anyway, there's not so many. You have to walk a long way to go to those junior schools, you know. And, oh man, I know I have to walk a long way.
About halfway was Mr. Nakashima's. That's how many miles, I don't know. And their kids used to come to the same school. A long way to go to the junior school, you know. Anyway, after I graduated the six years I started at the junior school. I remember every month or so, ten cents I had to take to the tuition.
DN: Did they teach you to be loyal to Japan and that sort of thing?
TM: You know, in Japan, system was different before the war. Often when you go to the junior high school, you have to decide what you gonna be after you graduate. So, you want to be the teacher or carpenter, you have to decide. And you decide what school you go in, what future you gonna be. So after you graduate at the junior high, why you have to go to the different school, you know.
Only thing that was really strict was the military school. That have to be the good family, and good grades. If you have some relation in the military, then it's pretty easy go in. But otherwise, pretty hard to go in to military school. Because, and no, one thing, it was a pretty popular school in those days. Because when I went to school was right after the Japan and Russian war. After the Japan and Russian war, Japan win that war. That's why the military really was popular. But it was really hard to get into the military school.
DN: Did you try?
TM: No. The funny thing in my situation was that I wanted to be the schoolteacher, after I finished junior high school. My grandpa, he wanted me to be the merchant. And then, my dad -- never is a write nothing, but when he find out I graduate junior high here, he wrote, and he wrote to grandpa, want to try the military school. He was in this country and want me to try for the military school! My grandpa really upset, you know. 'I don’t know what gonna do. So now I have to sort out this bunch of bunk here. Because the dad wants military school, and we all want you to stay here, and you want to be the school teacher and I want you to be the merchant.'
So they talk, and finally, well, in that days, why, 'Maybe Dad want to see you too, so you go to America first. Then if you don't like it, come right back.' So he thought that was the best way to go to America and see what the country looked like. So if you think that you stay, why you'll stay, and otherwise, I'll send the money and you come right back.' Well, that's the way I end up.
DN: Did you want to go to America, or were you disappointed that you were being sent?
TM: No, I just do what grandpa say. Oh, maybe want to go see. That's what I think idea was when I thought maybe I would come, you know. I was fifteen years old at that time. It was pretty hard to make up your mind, you know. So, what grandpa says, that's what I always did.
Fifteen years and six months, that's what I was.
DN: So then you got on that long boat ride.
TM: If you come once, it's pretty hard to go right back, you know.
I don't know. At first, I didn't like it too well. Because I came to Seattle in February ... Anyway, end of February, I think it was that I came to Seattle. In a place called Barneston. That's where I end up. That's where my dad was working. Well -- snow, snow in February. And Dad said, 'You want to walk, go start the school? Well, but there isn’t much of a school in Barneston.' 'Oh, that's all right, I walk.' So my dad took me to the foreman in lumber yard, and they, 'That's where I bring him.' 'We give you job.' And what he gave me was shoveling snow. Every day, every day, I have to shovel the snow. Aww.
Oh, I said, 'Gee, this is hard work.' And oh, Dad said, 'Oh I think someday I'm going to [sell real estate] or something.' 'Oh,' I said, 'that's a big money, you know. I might as well I stay, then.' So I stayed. [Laughs]
Anyway, at the school in Japan, like I say, you know, you have to be very good family, otherwise you didn't have a chance to go to school. But anyway, eight months that you have to get after you graduate as a schoolteachers' school, then if you start teaching, eight there months, and that was pretty big money for those days in Japan. That's why I wanted to be schoolteacher.
DN: You were a kibei, weren’t you?
TM: Yeah. Because it's one who was born in this country, and they go to Japan, and educated, and then come back, they called kibei. I am one of those then.
Anyway, during the first World War, I stayed in Japan, see. I know that Japan and England have some kind of treaty. And England had part in China, and Japan went there in the fort where the German people, and they clean up. In town where I raised, they bring the German prisoner. I remember, we went to see those German prisoners.
Anyway, 1914 to 1919, during the war time, I was in Japan. During war time, this country really boomed, everything.
DN: How long did it take for you to become comfortable here?
TM: I don't even know one word of English. We always talk Japanese. We don't even know how the English start, and have to start with the first word. [Laughs]
DN: How did you learn English?
TM: I had to start the night school. I went to school, mostly night school. I went to the YMCA school.
And you know, it's a funny thing. After I married, same way. You know, a Japanese family, in the home, talk all that Japanese, you know. Ah, it pretty hard to learn the English, you know. Oh, like James [his half-brother] says, he knew no words of English, when they came to O'Brien to start school, you know. After I married, the same way. We lived with the wife's mother. All talked the Japanese. You know, hard to learn, that's why she [points to Rae] knows lots of Japanese. Because in the home, we used to talk Japanese all the time.
Well, that's the way I started in this country, anyway.
DN: Did you take night classes for a long time?
TM: Oh, you know, Dad started the farm because Dad, in 1903, we went to Japan, and he worked for the Great Northern, when they started the Great Northern Railroad company, that's when they put the railroad between Seattle and Chicago. So they need lots of men, so they came to Hawaii recruiting for the railroad. That's what my dad, after we went back to Japan, we had a small farm in Hawaii too I think. So my dad quit that small farm and then recruit for the railroad labor. And that's why he came to this country. And he started in the railroad.
Well, he worked there some years, and he had a rough time when my mother was dead. So I guess Dad was thinking about going back to Japan. Well, then they said that if you farm, you make a fortune. So he started farming on Vashon Island. They said they cleared up the field in Vashon and started strawberries. Then, they had pretty good money. That's how dad started. I think he rented five acres and cleaned up the land and started strawberries.
Well, he started, and he found out that just a bachelor, pretty hard farming, because in the morning and nighttime, you have to cook and wash the dishes. So this way, he thought that maybe it impossible to stay on the farm. He wanted company. So he wrote to Japan, and wanted a wife. Would they send a wife? Well, in the meantime, they had a few Japanese missus[es] over in this country already. And one missus going back, she pretty close to our old place in Japan. So I guess that she told him, my dad, 'Oh, I going to find somebody.' That's why it was that she found it. And that's how she came to this country. Well, they didn't know each other. It's called a picture bride.
I think she came out in 1910 or something like that. Just right after Mr. [Taft] in 1908. Anyway, after he [Taft] became president, then all the farm, everything is broke. My dad, the same way, and he broke. So they started in the sawmill.
DN: At Barneston?
TM: Yeah, Barneston. He started the farm in 1921, I think it was.
DN: Anyway, Mr. Wilson quit, and Mr. Harding is come in. He died right away. Then Mr. Coolidge.
TM: Well, then my brother in Barneston, was no school. And have to go to school, and they start, you know. So all that time, he decided, maybe he start farming again. So that's how he started farming in O'Brien.
You know, the first year he started, he contracted the cabbage. Ten acres of cabbage, to the Libby Canning company. Oh, ten acres of cabbage you have to plant by the hand, that takes a long time. Yeah. He called me. I was in the sawmill, and I wanted to come help, you know. So I went to help, and planted cabbage every day, every day, every day. Oh, it started around May, I think. By the Fourth of July, oh, it look like the tail end, but we're still planting. Aww, gee. Ten acres is a lot of cabbage, you know.
He farmed there just one year was all. Then he quit the cabbage business, and then he start by the Barneston, close to the highway. He started working other vegetables.
DN: What year did you meet Kazue?
TM: I met her 1925, I think. See, in 1925, those days, I think started in '24, I started working in Seattle Parlor Furniture Factory, that's the name of it. That's a Japanese company, you know. Well, Mr. Maeda is the manager, and his wife came from Japan, and he had one boy, and he was gonna have another boy, so he want someone to help, you know, help her. That was in the summertime. Well, happen in the summer vacation, and my wife is came to work for Mr. Maeda's wife and helping her. And I was working in that furniture factory.
And then I -- yeah, 1926, got married, November.
DN: And did you move to Bellevue after you got married?
TM: Oh, after that -- You know, my wife, the family, the father was dead, 1923 I think he died. And the mother was raising three girls and the one boy. He had another older boy, but he was a Kibei too. No, not Kibei, because he born in Japan. And he was -- he didn't get along with the family. And he came to Portland and he lived in Portland.
Anyway, three girls and one boy, that's what my wife's mother was raising. Pretty hard time. But she tried to stay and hang around in the small farm, you know. That's why, after married, I used to go help them on Saturday and Sunday, you know.
But then she -- Then my wife got pregnant in the springtime. So, I told her that I think we better move to your home, then I can help more your mother and it'll be much easier for pains, and stay with the family. So I moved to Bellevue.
And you know, I worked in Seattle, and oh, but you know, no car, nothing. Go to Seattle, you have to take the ferry to Leschi Park. Then you have to ride in the cable car. And the cable car take you down to the Pioneer Avenue, you know. Then I transfer onto another streetcar and go to this Seattle Parlor Furniture Factory. This factory was pretty close to Fort Lawton. That's the other side of Ballard, you know. A long ride, you know.
[I show him anti-Japanese articles from 1919 in the Seattle Star.]
TM: The Star is everything against Japan or the Japanese, that's what they put out. Oh, look -- picture brides. That when they made them stop. 1923, I think it was.
DN: What about the Alien Land Law?
TM: You know, that's -- they made that to really look bad for them to try to come to this country. But all the same, pile up, pile up, pile up, that's what started in Japan and American war.
DN: When did you feel that you were going to stay in America?
TM: Oh yeah, after the kids. I had three boys and two girls, and I never thought about those things. I know that I'm gonna be in the land of opportunity someplace. And oh, you know. Of course, there's three horses, chickens and everything. And my wife is born in Bellevue. But we never thought had to go back to Japan or anything. It's a funny thing, but my kids, none of them went to Japanese school, you know.
We never thought about those things in those days. But we didn't use the Japanese school, because both of us were speaking in English, you know. Idea to stay here, see.
DN: [To Rae] Did you speak English at home?
Rae Takekawa: Mmm-hm.
DN: So, no Japanese spoken in the house?
RT: Oh, yeah, there was Japanese, because he spoke some, and then we had a grandma. And so we all spoke.
TM: She speak Japanese better than all those kids went to Japanese school.
RT: Well, that's because we used it when we were little.
TM: Tats was very good.
RT: Was. Not anymore. Don't use it, you lose it.
DN: Was the Japanese school kind of a way for Issei to keep authority over the kids?
TM: You know, the Japanese school, when the war started, Second World War started, I think that about 80 kids were there. It was big, a big Japanese school. Because all the first generation, they think they have to learn the Japanese. Oh, but those kids just go for eating lunch, that's all. They don't learn nothing. They talk the English all the time back and forth, you know.
Well, even now, I don't know. Any kids they have a chance to use the Japanese side, I don't think so.
DN: A lot of them I talked to said that they hated it.
RT: I know his feeling was that we wouldn't learn Japanese properly just by going one day a week, you know. It was a Saturday deal out in the country. And he said that if you really wanted to learn it, you should go live in the country. You should go back to Japan and live there, and learn it there.
TM: You know, back in Japanese school, I read in Mr. Tsushima book [an Issei immigrant's account of the early Bellevue Japanese American community], around 1919 they started, I think, but they had to quit 1921 or so, because it against -- Japan and -- [points to clippings] -- yeah, like that -- That's why they close the school. And I think three or four years then they open again, but they have to change the name. And then they change their name and their name now open. Anyway, they had hard time to hire the teachers. So I think when they start again, was Mr. Tsushima and Mr. and Mrs. Okamura and all those people help to teach, you know, keep it going. Then they hired some teacher from Seattle, I think.
Well, everything they were saying those times is a quiet down, then increase, increase is all the kids -- Some parents are the kind that, you know, what you say, and they didn’t send the kids. But pretty soon they start sending kids.
I was gonna say before that. In the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, there was no transportation because nobody had the car. If they lived close to the school building, they can walk, and I think Midlakes is just about as far as they can walk. Mr. Kurita here, and in Medina, and whoever farming crops there, they can't send the kids to Japanese school. And if I'm not mistaken, that Japanese school was in Downey Hill. So whoever had the chance to walk there is come, you know.
But into the 1930s, is people starting to getting the second-hand car, and somebody in the neighborhood have transportation to the school. That's why the increase and increase, you know. Before the Second World War, I think is around eight years or so.
There's a mother, one of the teachers -- Mr. Tajitsu and Mrs. Takekawa, they used to come teach at the Bellevue School on Saturday. And so they come on the ferry, and somebody have to go on the ferry and pick them up, and take them back to the ferry after the school. I never sent the kids, and had nothing to the Japanese school. So I don't know so much about the school.
[Tom Matsuoka with his sons Tats and Tyrus outside the Bellevue Vegetable Growers Association warehouse in the 1930s.]
DN: How about the Vegetable Growers Association? How did that start?
TM: Well, you know, the vegetable growers idea, everybody had the idea. We have to pay the commission to the buyer, you know. For our vegetable, well they take, I don’t know how much. Anyway, that commission was a pretty big commission, you know. That’s why everybody hoped that maybe, if we own our own self, we can make back the commission, you know. That’s the idea that it started, I think.
DN: Who were the leaders?
TM: I don't know who started. Really, like myself, it really was a favor as some way to sell ourself, you know. I don't know, I can't say who started.
Anyway, Puget Sound Vegetable Growers Association, that's a warehouse in Sumner, and most of the growers were around Fife, Fife and Sumner. And they had already before Bellevue. And we knew they were doing very well. So they started to talk.
Already Sumner was doing that. Then, you know, is Mr. Sakahara, he was secretary manager for long time at Puget Sound. But he at one time lived in Bellevue too. So could be some friend he had in Bellevue. And he could have told them how they operate and how much it cost.
You know, we have to ask to some our sales, you know. Sell us the car. We load up in the car, and then have to ship it back East, but we have to find some buyer back East where this car go, you know. That's what White River, Mr. Saito's packing house. And they were doing that before.
So first we ask them to the sales. We load up the car and they did the sales. That's how it started. Kinda shaky, you know, the financial. That's why we asked Puget Sound to sell us our car. So we load, but sales, what you call it, Puget Sound Dealers --
RT: A sales agent.
TM: Well, it was pretty good. That didn't take commission, and we done real good. And the funny thing, we had Northern Pacific, they had the railroad that goes through Midlake. And we have the place to load the car, so we asked Northern Pacific for a sideline. And build a warehouse so that we can load up there and ship it out in the car, you know. So they did that.
So in 1935 or somewhere around there, Northern Pacific they kind of give up the building because they have to keep it up, and the paint and this and that, and what they get for the chargeable freight from around fifty or sixty cars didn't pay. So they wanted to save that from that building. So we had a meeting, and I said, 'I think the best way is we buy it, then it will be our own building, that we can use for storage too.' Oh so finally, I think it was $350 or something -- it was very cheap -- Northern Pacific sold us, so we bought that building. We can't buy the railroad, but we bought that building.
And well, so, we thought, oh, this is ours, this is our building. So the war started, and we rented it out. Then in 1955, I think around 1955 or 6, somebody wanted to buy it, buy that building. Well, there wasn't too many Japanese left in Bellevue. So they had a little meeting, so I was in Montana, oh they wanted me to come. So I came too. And oh, anyway, not too many Japanese stayed in Bellevue that time, 1954, 55. And, it was OK, we sell. Anyway, it was quite a chunk of money, because at that time the price went up a lot. And of course the railroad helped the offer. So anyway it sold, and we have to distribute all this money. So tried to find whoever paid the $25 when we started. So we had to say -- I don’t know how many boys were there, not too many, anyway they tried to find, and most of them they find. And by gosh, when divided, that $25 was just around $600. Around $600, $700 each. That’s a full year of food for a family, you know. Everybody was tickled.
Tok was there, my brother in law, Tok was still there. And, well, Matsanuga, he had a small eating shop on Main Street and Fifth Avenue there. And Tok said, you know, we went with the check, and Mr. Matsunaga just about jumped up to the ceiling, he was surprised to get the money. So he was, ‘Everybody eat all you want, that is on the house!’
That’s how end up the warehouse. But one I don’t know how end up is the Kokkaido Building, Japanese hall, and the schoolhouse there. I don’t know how they end up.
DN: I wanted to ask about your arrest. Did you have any idea that the FBI had been watching you?
TM: Oh, when the war started. I don’t know, no. I think the FBI, they know that a war gonna start. And if a war start, who they gonna pick up. I guess they all know it, I think. Of course, my was totally by surprise.
Anyway, they picked them up, and went to the Immigration. That’s where the first they -- all the ones they picked up they bring out to the Immigration building. They picked them up, then went in. They don’t even say name: “99!” My number was 99. Oh, that’s it. They knew, 99, who it is. So they must have been already prepared.
And now I went in, in the one room -- ‘Holy smoke! You come too, Tom? Aw, doggone it!’ And that was, the country people in company -- export-import company people was in room where I went in. There must have been 40 or so.
Then next morning, said breakfast, and here they went, and a whole bunch of Japanese was in the hall already! ‘Oh, there you are! You in the house too!’ That’s all we know. But we know that the leader in Seattle town, all those one are picked up first, I think. Those people were already there for eating breakfast.
Oh, they got to talking and it’s back and forth, back and forth. ‘Is Freddie here? Is Freddie coming?’ [Laughs]
DN: Did you have any idea that they had you on a list?
TM: Anyway, when we got picked up, we don’t know what, why, you know, they have you picked up. Somebody must have asked them someone who people know, is people, you know. Why in the heck do they have to pick up all the Japanese leaders? Well, that’s why. If there’s something on the head, that’s what they pick.
DN: Did it have anything to do with being Kibei?
TM: No, nothing to do with Kibei. If you were an American citizen, I think not supposed to pick. Because when I first went in, was lawyer, master lawyer, it was Ito, and all this lawyer for Kiyahara, the manager for main fish company; and all this American boys, you know; but December 27, so oh, they gonna send to Missoula. And at that time, all who had citizenship paper didn’t have to go. And they released them from Immigration office. And I couldn’t be released because I didn’t have paper.
And whoever had good father or somebody still alive and still didn’t have birth certificate paper, but they didn’t take them because their father is there, you know, and they know is American citizen. So Kibei is originally American citizen. See, that’s why they didn’t take it.
When we went to Missoula, I think they made a mistake. They released right away one boy. That was it, I didn’t have the paper.
RT: Well, they had both citizenships, a lot of them.
TM: Like a me too.
RT: Yeah, he did too. So he says that some of them already revoked one or the other.
TM: When it was haiseki [a term referring to anti-Japanese prejudice, in this case the 1914-24 period], you know, well, it was quite complicated stuff. That’s why lots of Kibei took the Japan [Japanese term].
RT: He says it’s a lot of it due to the prejudice. So that’s why he says that a lot of them gave up their American citizenship.
DN: But he never felt that way, I gather.
RT: He had a hard enough time getting here.
DN: Were there Army barracks at Fort Missoula?
TM: No. The Army barracks the Italians were in.
RT: Oh, what were you in?
TM: When they want to take in the prisoners here, is new buildings.
RT: Oh, they made them.
TM: Yeah. Just like in the camp. The same kind of buildings. It's a building.
Missoula, you know, they think that was a hell of a cold place, you know. But it's not -- Missoula is not that cold.
People in Montana, they call it the Banana Belt.
Well, nothing to do all day long. So we go outside and dig up the rock, and we give it a wash and clean up with a blanket, and go to the bathroom and right in the cement -- ahh hey! Quite a thing.
DN: When you left the camp, why did you take the whole family?
TM: Because we had the whole family, when we go to the sugar beets, Mr. Blatter said, best if we have six men, that is the best crew for harvesting the sugar beets. That’s why the five of use -- me and Kaz and the three kids, Tats and Ty and you -- Rudy was two or three, and one short. That’s why we took Tik, that’s my wife’s sister. And it made six-man crew.
DN: You didn’t like the camps, did you?
TM: Oh, but you think about that, the camp life, oh, that’s hard. You were going to school in the camp?
RT: Not yet.
TM: That’s it. No school. Like the younger boy, Ty, day in and day out, go to look for the scorpion, that’s what he was doing. Then go out in hills and try to find that Indian arrowhead. Oh, I said, this is not the place to stay. Oh, Kaz said, let’s go out.
Now we finished harvesting, is the kids start school. That was first year. They start school you know. Then winter come.
DN: I wanted to ask you about baseball.
TM: Oh yes. When I was young, I played baseball, baseball, baseball. There was nothing else to do, you know.
But anyway, between 1920 and 30, I was young, and no one played golf.
DN: What position did you play?
TM: I always was a catcher.
RT: His fingers are all bent from being a catcher.
TM: Anyway, I stayed 48 years, you know, in Montana. Oh but that was not so bad a place for to live. You know, Montana, people is a nice. Naturally, the weather is bad, but the people is really nice.
I had company from back East, one of the boys' relation came and they stayed one time. And she, Mrs. Hanawaske, want to walk in the morning. And she go out to walk in the road. And she said, ‘I don’t know how many people stop and want to take me to where I am going. I have to tell them I am walking.’ Oh, so I said, ‘Montana people can’t understand walking.’
RT: Oh yeah, that was in the days before people did walk for exercise.
TM: You know, like when you have trouble on the road, flat tire or something, oh, they always stop.
DN: Japanese society is very class-conscious. Did the class status transfer from Japan to the USA?
TM: No. Nothing in this country. They talk on the back. But never in the company, get-together, no nothing. But in the back they usually talk. You know. Like when one family married, is Sakuich now, Takeshini, and other family, I think they didn’t have a father or something. And the missus used to talk, ‘Oh they think that they really big, but in Japan, that a stink.’ So they talk in the back something like that. But in public never had trouble like -- no.
But until I get married around that age -- or even a year later -- had lots of family investigate the family in Japan. So when they get married or something. Like my stepmother, same way. When marry, when the boys went to get married in California, and mother send the investigators to her brother, and what later came back was ‘Nakasaki’s fired.’ Oh, she said, no, you can’t marry him. But my sister stayed unmarried.
RT: Yeah, poor Molly. That sort of thing held on for awhile.
TM: That happened a lot, you know.
RT: Yes, yes, I know. Even Tok.
TM: Mr. Nakashima, he is -- someone told my dad that there was a nice girl, and she’s of age to get married, how would be Mr. Nakashima for wife? So I asked him, would -- [couple of names] or something -- the girl who was of marriage age, why didn’t you marry her? ‘Well, if it, we’ll look, and if it all right, why I marry.’ ‘Oh, why don’t right away you go and look at what she like.’ Oh, he went and look. And he was touched by the heart, you know. But he said, ‘I think I have to write to Japan and ask them if it’s all right or not.’ And he wrote to Japan, and the father sent the letter back to Nakashima-san, and, ‘No, that’s not a suitable family, so you can’t get married.’ Oh, so he really despondent. Yeah, he tell me. ‘My dad said no, that family is no good in Japan, so you can’t get married.’ Oh, he was really strict.
You know, your dad is told, so I thought this would be all right. And, ‘Well, how we can be happy if family in Japan is not satisfied or the dad.’ So he didn’t get married.
RT: No, he never got married. I’m sure there’s one or two of those.
TM: That’s all kind of case like that.
DN: Well, some of the folks at the reunion would say things like, ‘Oh, the Matsuokas were a better class of family than ours,’ and things like that. And I wasn’t sure if they meant the old class status from Japan or where you stood in the States.
RT: I think that the one advantage that we had was that our mother spoke English. I mean, she was educated. That’s the only thing I can think of. Because financially, any kind of background that might have carried over from the old country, we didn’t have anything out of the ordinary.
DN: How did you get out of Fort Missoula?
TM: Well, in this hearing, the hearing board was one FBI, and some well-known people of the neighborhood, you know. And the one was [inaudible], some labor connection -- I think he was a bank president of Orting or someplace. They must have another banker there -- Anyway, what they asked, not too much about the Bellevue stuff, you know. Only thing they ask about is when I took the boys to Japan. That’s most of -- lots of question. Main thing, why is you a second-generation American and you lots of Japanese groups’ officer. I did religion stuff and Nihonjinkai, you know. Oh, then come into the camp, what they ask you, how does the board ask you, what do they ask, and they talk this and that, you know. But hearing other people talk, I think is state of Washington FBI people was much, much better than the California. Oh, California people said that when they had hearing, oh I guess they really hit hard.
RT: What did you answer, when they asked you why you were the officer for so many Japanese groups?
TM: Oh, I said I’m not Japanese. I said, Even I’m an American citizen, still I am in Japanese. Because the American government did not support the Japanese. They didn’t do nothing for the Japanese, you know.
DN: Can you describe old-time Bellevue for me?
TM: That was it, around sixty families. Oh, but kids, every family have a bunch of kids, you know.
Oh, Bellevue town. Bellevue town was really small. Really just a one-street town. Only good store was the drug store, that’s all.
DN: Kirkland was the bigger town back then, right?
RT: Oh, yeah. Kirkland was the city.
TM: Town was a really small town. Oh yeah. You know, our next door was -- who was that? Mr, ah, he open up soft ice cream place.
RT: Who, Alberts?
RT: Oh, Mr. Alberts.
TM: Yah. But I think he broke, I am pretty sure. He went to Alaska, you know.
RT: That’s right, he went to Alaska, so he disappeared into Alaska.
DN: How long did you do that long commute?
TM: In 1926, we married. I think in ’27, I bought a 1926 Ford car, second-hand. Not a real second-hand. Preview. He died and he want to sell, I think Mr. Odell or something, and that’s why I bought that 1926 Ford. After that, well, I thought that nothing’s easier than this. Man! Go to the Medina boat there, and Tok come and he drive. Oh, it was good.
I think it must be before you born. Because for you, I can’t take to hospital, nothing but the sick for hospital. So midwife, that’s Mrs. Nomura, she lived in Seattle. I think I went to get her through Renton, have to go down through Renton and Rainier Avenue.
RT: All the way around.
TM: Oh, yes, long time to get her. Oh, and hard time till you were born. And then, man.
RT: Took a long time for me to get in the world, huh?
RT: I always heard about that.
TM: You know, there was no electricity, you know, 1927, no electricity. I don’t know how they start electricity. Anyway, I think next year or so I put the electricity.
DN: How about running water?
TM: Oh, no no, that took a long time to get. You have to get the electricity.
RT: Well, even so, we had a well, we used to have pull up the darn buckets from the well.
TM: Oh, grandma was so tickled when running water, you know.
RT: And even then it was just running cold water.
TM: In 1942, we went to harvesting the beets in Chinook -- no electricity, no running water. Toilet outside.
RT: Waaay outside. It was cold, too.
But we were laborers, and we were given the labor house, and it was two rooms for six people -- one room for sleeping and one room for the rest of the stuff.
TM: Two years after we move to Gus place, finally we have the electricity.
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