A Japanese Internment camp survivor reflects on experiences and confinement in the camp during World War II. Japanese internment camps were established during World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt through his Executive Order 9066. From 1942 to 1945, it was the policy of the U.S. government that people of Japanese descent would be interred in isolated camps. Quotes from Japanese internment camp survivors such as from Mrs. Haqiwara should never be forgotten.
Here Is her full interview:
Question: I’ll do the same thing as I did before if I could just get your first and last name and the correct spelling so I have it on tape.
Question: Ok go, ok.
Answer: Misako Hagiwara, M-I-S-A-K-O H-A-G-I-W-A-R-
Question: A Husky. Graduated from the University of Washington, we won’t hold that against you. (laughs) I have WSU license plates on my car so when I go to the campus to shoot I always worry about my car getting spotted over there so. I’ve got a nephew that’s a Husky so I give him a bad time all the time. Now, so where did you grow up?
Answer: Wapato, Washington. Um, let’s see, 18 years there, all through their school system — it was a consolidated rural system and it was a pretty good school actually.
Question: And now Wapato is it by Yakima no?
Answer: Um hm.
Answer: Eleven miles south of Yakima um hm.
Question: And what are you now Nisei first generation born?
Answer: Nisei uh huh.
Question: And what about your parents?
Answer: My parents were both from Okayamaken in Japan and ah but from different decades it’s really interesting. There’s 17 years difference in their ages so he had to have some time in the United States and had traveled all over the Pacific on ships before he settled down and then worked all kinds of jobs on railroads and as a cook so he didn’t do the heavy stuff but he was a really good cook. The poor man was illiterate actually I think but very bright and ah, I think what the problem was that he didn’t have, ever get his eyes checked or that they didn’t have what would take care of it because he didn’t see up close very well and distance seemed to be just fine. And my mother’s family still has I think in Japan a small greenhouse, actually they call them frame houses, and her brother had over the years learned to have a good business in grapes and he grew these great, big, beautiful, big, dessert grapes they have in Japan. Think he called them Alexandrias or something and ah, they were original stock was from Egypt or someplace and they were just big, beautiful, they were almost the size of plums and we were all over Japan eating them, they were wonderful.
Question: So they’re…
Answer: They’re great big ones.
Question: Oh wow hah. So and they’re a table grape or a not a wine grape.
Answer: They’re a dessert grape, uh huh.
Question: So what did your father do in the States when he settled down in Wapato?
Answer: Um, we ended up um, I think in Wapato, he originally ended up there as a butler for the town’s first family actually. And then he, when mom and dad first got married in 1917 I think it was, they had a little store and a boarding house as I understand it. So when World War II ended in, I mean World War I ended and they had that flu epidemic mom had just had a new baby and she was up and down the stairs taking care of all these dying men so that was the end of the store and the boarding house and they went into farming. So we grew up on truck farms in the valley.
Stories of those in the internment camps during World War II:
Question: Hm. So um, how many children?
Answer: Four, I was the only girl. One brother is older and two younger.
Question: So you were the princess of the family.
Answer: Actually my dad tried to treat me like a princess my brothers insisted I was the servant slave girl (laughs).
Question: Brothers can be that way. Did you grow up in a traditional Japanese family? I mean did your dad and mom speak Japanese or was it English or bilingual or…
Answer: It was probably basically Japanese. Dad’s English was acceptable, but uh and my mother’s English was always just awful (laughs). So we learned to translate for them very early on so that they wouldn’t be misunderstood quite so much.
Question: So if they went to town and were dealing business the children a lot of times would help them with ah…
Answer: No we had the business we were babies or it was before I was born ah, and um, they did their business mainly in the Japanese community. They had a tiny little community there.
Question: And ah, I’m trying to remember a gentleman I interviewed, Shig Honda grew up in um, I think he was Seleah, is where…
Answer: Shig Hond
Question: Yeah. Does that name ring a bell?
Answer: The Honda family is very well-known family in the valley but I don’t think I know the Shig.
Question: Oh really. Because he was, and he was fairly young and he ended up in, I can’t think of the name of the camp but in Wyoming.
Answer: Yeah that’s Hart Mountain, he would’ve been from…
Question: Yeah, Hart Mountain, yeah.
Answer: How old a person is he?
Question: Oh, boy now my mind’s drawn.
Answer: Because he might’ve been…
Question: He was, too young to go in the service, I know that much, he was very young when they went to the camp, so, I’m thinking he was only like eight, nine, ten when ah they got…
Answer: It must’ve been a different family than the one that we knew because the three boys that I knew and the girls, two of them are still living, they’re in their 90’s and they’re still living and I know that Harry, who’s the only one that I know, has two girls that are just younger than we are so…
Question: I’ll have to go back and look because I’ve done so many I’ll have to look and make sure I’m accurate on his age, maybe I’m wrong, but I thought he was fairly, fairly young, because I remember the stories that he told were, well no he was maybe 13, 14 ’cause he talked about…
Answer: So he’d be in his 60’s now.
Question: Yeah, well, 60’s or 70’s.
Answer: Seventies. Hmm don’t remember any…
Question: So um, did you face the depression then? Do you remember…
Answer: Oh yes. On a small farm, you face the depression especially when all your neighbors are having more trouble than your family. We, my father and mother, were both very resourceful people and we always had a truck garden beside the, or the kitchen garden beside the farm produce and my father was a great barterer (laughs). He could trade for almost anything.
Question: So did you remember things you wanted that you couldn’t get or was your dad so good at bartering that you…
Answer: No actually we never lacked food. We didn’t have the kind of foods we had gotten use to but we were kids, you know, and it was fun, and nobody else had anything either so ah, that part of it. But when you hear about your neighbors tearing at their floor to burn for heat and rented houses at that, you think oh my gosh what is going on in this world? Those people had to be cold and hungry. So you were very well aware of that, the depression.
Question: So in Wapato there was a Japanese community then.
Answer: Yes almost all of the farmers in the area, some of them, still some of the descendants of those first families have the pig farmers there now still. The ah, you might see occasionally some produce from the Inaba farms, it’s a big corporation now but that, let’s see, Ken’s children’s, no they’re Ken’s children that they ah, they’re in their 40’s and 50’s and they’re doing great.
Question: So they came back and were able to sustain the farm.
Answer: But that’s one of the few (laughs).
Question: Well I know that ’cause I’ve heard a lot of different stories of different things that happened where people trusted somebody and all sorts of… So where were you when the war broke out?
Answer: The war broke out I was a senior at the University of Washington. Ah, I heard about it from his brother actually. I was at, it was a Sunday morning of course and I was at choir practice at a church in downtown Seattle, and Abe came in late, he hadn’t been to church he just came in for the choir practice, and said, “Pearl Harbor’s been bombed!” And of course, that took care of the choir practice. Yeah, that. From there I think we had a couple of more weeks before that term ended and the spring term that we finished before the ah, evacuation orders and curfews, and all of that went into effect.
Question: Did things change on campus for you in that way? I mean did you…
Answer: Actually the Japanese students on campus were a segregated group. There was the Japanese student club and the men had their own housing facility, living facility there, and the girls mostly were scattered in um, housework, maid service situations, almost all of us were doing that. So um, but so you saw your friends in the library and then you went home. (laughs)
Question: So you didn’t face the prejudice that I’ve heard.
Answer: Um, not in that sense. You had your own friends, you had your Caucasian friends and you had your Japanese friends, but you stayed pretty much in your own community.
Question: Hm. So when you heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed did you have the faintest idea where Pearl Harbor was and what this meant?
Answer: No ah, I guess we got that information pretty quickly because we didn’t, we didn’t wonder where Pearl Harbor was, some of the kids had come from Hawaii there so.
Question: So then the orders came down for internment. How did they notify people or how did you, were there rumors or fears or did it just…
Answer: I don’t remember that there was anything in particular. You certainly didn’t get any notice in the papers or the mail or anything. But yeah, the press had it yeah, pretty good coverage of all that.
Question: And so what happened to you? Did you end up at the camp or your family or…
Answer: Um, during that spring quarter I, we all talked about what we would do if something bad happened and I’d hoped we’d be able to finish, those of us who were seniors hoped to be able to finish. So some of us were playing with the idea of just moving out say to Washington State where we could go or someplace else. And my brother had graduated from Washington State in ’36 and I thought about that but that’s pretty remote for someone who’s been in the city for a couple of years. My brother, that’s right, he graduated in ’40. And he was doing his intern here in Seattle, he’s a pharmacist and he was doing his intern with ah, (Durkwooda?) Drugs, but his draft number came up so he was drafted in, too. That left the two younger boys at home and mom and dad thought well if I can make it on $500 that last quarter they’d be willing for me to be outside the camps or whatever was going to happen to her. And maybe somebody would have a chance to try to get help from the others if it came to that. So they, at the end of that quarter we just got on that last train from Seattle. Actually, it sounds like a gutsy thing to do but there were 150 to 200 of us on that train. And we were all heading out to Minneapolis or Chicago because that’s where the Northern Pacific went (laughs). And ah, a great many of them got off at Minneapolis and there were some of us that went on to Chicago and then beyond that, too.
Question: But still even though there was 150 still was pretty gutsy to do because…
Answer: Yeah, to be away from home, really away from home for the first time um. I happened to have heard of the international house at the University of Chicago and sent transfer papers to there and evidentially knew I was coming when I got there over the weekend. And then ah, I got three sociology classes to finish up my university work. The credits were transferred back to the university that had arranged to waive the foreign language requirement for two hours of a foreign language I was short. And um, there were wonderfully helpful people along the way but I did get to the University of Chicago feeling like I didn’t know a soul and then I discovered that one of the teaching assistants at the university, one of the instructors, was also been transferred to the University of Chicago. So it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Question: It still for me it’s kind of interesting because again ah, the history books paint this picture of war and the world, you know having the war effort and everything like that, but yet again, here is the average everyday part of life, transferring your transcripts, getting on the train, going back to school, going to a new school. In some ways part of life just went on, you just continued.
The Things Our Father’s Saw is other first-hand accounts of the “war over there” and Rick Atkinson’s Pulitzer Prize books on WWII like the Guns Last Light (a three-part series) are simply amazing. All four books are definite must-reads in my opinion.
Answer: Um hm. Well it was a little change but then changes happen and we were, we were kids (laughs). I didn’t think, we could take it in stride pretty much, and um…
Question: That’s a big thing people forget is that you didn’t know any different.
Answer: Right. You didn’t know to be scared.
Question: Now what about your family that stayed back, that was in Wapato, what did ah…
Answer: They were interned, not interned, they were relocated. First, they went to ah, Meadowlands, Portland Meadows, ah for their Camp Harmony type thing. And then they went to ah, Hart Mountain.
Question: Which is in…
Question: Wyoming, yeah. So could you have correspondence with them?
Answer: Oh yes. You could write to them. (Patrick Hagiwara: Did you write in Japanese?)
Answer: Mom wrote in the simplest form of Japanese and I tried to (laughs), but the boys were there. So if I couldn’t figure it out the boys could read it for me. (P. Hagiwara: They did write in Japanese.)
Answer: Pardon? (P. Hagiwara: They did write in Japanese huh?)
Answer: The parents yes, not the boys, Tak did once in a while. (P. Hagiwara: I thought my dad wrote in English because ah [inaudible].)
Answer: They could write kind
Question: Was it, I wonder, I know with people that were fighting overseas all their mail was checked and everything because they didn’t want to give away locations. I wonder if the same thing happened to mail coming out of the camps.
Answer: I don’t think so. I didn’t get much mail from camp but no, I didn’t ever get anything that ah…
Question: What was the, do you remember kind of the general, did your mom write you or your mom and dad? Just mom?
Answer: Just mom.
Question: What was kind of, do you remember her feelings or thoughts or what she wrote about?
Answer: No she was very upbeat people, they both were, and um, she could go with the stream (laughs). Dad had the first vacation he’d had in fifty years I’m sure (laughs). He had a good time, he really did. Most of the men had trouble adjusting to not having anything to do. But he was a cook, he was the favorite man of the place (laughs).
Question: So is that what he ended up getting a job as a cook within the camp also?
Answer: Well no practically assigned to him. Any volunteers for cooks? Well of course they had a cook. And ah, lots of people that they were paid something like $16 dollars a month or something, ah, 12, 16? Something like that so if your work was less or of lesser importance you didn’t get quite as much money but the poor people that were important to the life of the camp got paid. And this was spending money and that was more spending money than he had ever had in his life (laughs).
Question: Yeah, just coming out of the depression.
Answer: Coming out of the depression and coming out, and sending kids to college and all.
Question: So when somebody…
Answer: He almost had a good time. Because he was busy, he was doing things that was appreciated and um, having fun at the same time so. And my mom did some embroidery stitchery that she was good at and I think there’s a piece as you walked in, pair of storks there.
Question: Oh is that right, that’s what your mom did?
Answer: That piece that mom did. She did a piece, a big piece, each one different for each of our, each of us for our rooms.
Question: So your ah, your siblings were with your parents then your brothers. Two brothers.
Answer: Two brothers. They didn’t stay very long. Hadale went out with the first opportunity to work on the farms around ’cause they were, labor was short and farm labor was premium and got good farm labor, these kids were trained (laughs). And ah, he had been out of high school for about a year I think, maybe not quite that long and had been out at Spokane working odd jobs and whatever he could find I guess and when he went to camp, why then within six months they were out working. He was, Chez was still in school so they couldn’t ah, get him quite so quickly. Anyway um, they when, they both volunteered out of camps and went to MIS, Military Intelligence Training.
Question: So they went in, they were pretty young going into the MIS. I mean like so many other people but they were 17, 18.
Answer: Oh no, Chez was 19 I think ’cause he missed a year of school someplace along the line and ah.
Question: So did they leave the camps with animosity to what happened to them or what?
Answer: I don’t think so. They, Hadale was probably just finding what he wanted to do and he was getting a lot of different experiences and I think he was even a dealer in a car place for a while (laughs), and I didn’t want to play poker with him.
Question: He was a good poker player.
Answer: He was good. And he ended up with New York, not New York, Japan Air as a, in cargo management out of um, JFS, JFK. (P. Hagiwara: New York.)
Answer: New York. And they loved, evidently enjoyed his work. I thought he was drunk and I didn’t think he could ever get a job done (laughs). But he did, evidently, they told him he could ah, just look at a block of cargo and know how much space it would take in an airplane. He could have, even have the skill or ability to know exactly how it had to be packed to fit into the place so that he could give the shippers, the freighters, a head start on it and, and um, they enjoyed him, they liked him.
Question: Oh wow.
Question: Did so, how long did your parents end up in the camp then? Very long?
Answer: Well the first ones out when the camps could be closed, they were the first ones out because they had a place to go home. The farm at home was still in my brother’s name and had been left in charge of good caretakers who lived in the house. Actually, it was one of the better houses so (laughs). Mom and dad had put just $3,000, can you imagine building a house for $3,000? Well they had the house in 1932 and just it’s its pumice concrete and rough woodwork and it’s an absolute, ugly rectangle (laughs), but it was a house and it was ah…
Question: And he still had it. So who took care of it then?
Answer: I can’t remember the name of the people, can you Pat? (P. Hagiwara: From Oklahoma, I don’t, Whitmore, Whitward or Whitmore.)
Answer: Something like that. He had been a, he was through that old period, the Indian Bureau Rep, Agent, and ah, they needed a place to live and that was as good a house as you were going to find in Wapato, around Wapato ’cause we were out in the country a little bit.
Question: So basically your dad went to them and made an agreement, almost like a rent and…
Answer: Actually, no it was just a caretaker, he didn’t pay anything to live there. Actually, I think they paid him when they got back, they, I think they paid him, the caretaker something or another. It might have been something to do with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, this land was basically on the reservation.
Answer: I don’t know how it worked.
Question: So they, and when they got out they went back.
Answer: They went back. I think they were there about July or August of ’45, must’ve been at least by September. But anyway, when we got back there in September they were in the house and…
Question: Huh. It sounds like your mom and dad didn’t hold any animosity either to what had happened or did they?
Answer: Well mom was very outgoing and dad was a happy-go-lucky guy (laughs).
Question: Like you said, he was…
Answer: They always rolled with the punches and we were…
Question: He got a vacation. He…
Answer: Now he was back on the farm where it was going to be different again (laughs).
Question: Huh. Gosh, it’s interesting the different perspective, ’cause I mean I’ve talked to some people that were in Seattle and instantly the Pearl Harbor happened, they were coming back from the movie and the racist remarks that were yelled, he was a 10-year-old boy or something like that but that people like yourself that, it just wasn’t the thing that happened kind of.
Answer: Well I think with my background, my mom’s outgoing, and dad was fairly happy go, and he could do anything. You could give him food, and you could have just nothing for food and he’d make a meal out of it. And ah, so we never felt deprived ever. Other people didn’t have anything. Um, he was trading for little bits of meat from somebody and he would make head cheese out of the parts of creatures that other people throw away (laughs). (P. Hagiwara: You know I never heard any resentment. Just all of a sudden it dawned on me, I never heard any complaints, most of them older people I guess they worked every day of their lives they’re just like going over there as a vacation away from what they were doing.)
Answer: Farmers, for the farmers it was pretty much that but for city people who didn’t have anything to do, that they could do. (P. Hagiwara: No my dad worked seven days a week.)
Answer: I know.
Question: So it was a vacation? (P. Hagiwara: It was a vacation to him. My mom worked every day, too. It’d be a, I never heard. That’s funny, it never dawned on me that any of the resentment that the old folks talked about having to relocate.)
Question: It would be interesting to look at different, different age groups… (P. Hagiwara: I never talked to all the old people but it just dawned on me right now, I never heard.)
Question: I talked to one gentleman, Mr. Kiuchi and he was at Camp Harmony and he said for his parents, for his dad the hardest thing was is that prior to being in the camp, at home he waited ’til dad got to come home to eat, and when they went to the camp it was mess hall so it took away that…
Question: Exactly, yeah. So it was interesting whether it was, whether it was intentional or not it kind of psychological thing that happened just because of not being aware to, to different cultures or families or how their lives would. I guess everybody had a different piece to the puzzle.
Question: So while you were back in Chicago, there was a young gentleman that came a-courting.
Answer: (laughs) A gentleman?.
Question: Can I use gentleman? Is that
Answer: Uh uh. (laughs)
Question: Or you had to straighten him out and make him a gentleman? (P. Hagiwara: That’s a proper word.)
Question: So tell me a little bit about that. Here you’re back in college, the war’s going on now, and is this a person in uniform coming to visit you?
Answer: Yeah, I think basically in Chicago the uniform was worshipped. I don’t know why but there’s no place else where a uniform was treated better than Chicago and um, these guys wander through. I lived at Chicago seminary and that’s the reason for this attack on, I kept talking about God, but that’s all they would talk about. What can you do but answer them the best you can? Actually, it was, has to be just one of them because the other guy was, had been at the university and I knew him and he’d, very quiet, shy person and never said very much.
Question: So when you met this young gentleman in uniform were you smitten by him or just another uniform?
Answer: Actually I knew his older brother and I knew his sister. You know, ’cause he had to be a buddy or a brother, one or the other (laughs). And he would just develop into more. I get a kick out of some of the guys at the seminary when I was living in their dormitory. Um, they kept saying they worried about you, they worried about me. She can’t really marry that soldier, he’s a drunk (laughs).
Question: But you straightened him out.
Answer: Actually it took 55 years to do that but yes.
Question: Work in progress.
Answer: Work in still, work in progress.
Question: So how long did you court before you got engaged and married?
Answer: Actually, it was at a turning point in my life. I had to decide rather quickly what I was going to do. I was graduating a senior, this is June of 1945, ’42, and ah, what am I gonna do next? Here’s this guy who wants to (laughs), so it was, it wasn’t a matter of saying that was just the best guy which it isn’t, but ah, after I took that one little trip to Indiana with a girlfriend and her aunt, a dentist who was anxious to marry me, I decided that the other was a much better deal (laughs).
Question: So where did you have the wedding?
Answer: Ah, Thorndike Hill and Chapel, University, no Chicago seminary. The, seminary is across campus, just across the street from the University of Chicago. Rockefeller Chapel is on the same street that Thorndike Hill and Chapel is on. It’s a little tiny chapel, a smaller one of the two, of the ah, Chicago seminary chapels. I think it seats 19 or 20. Beautiful windows and structures and pews and woodwork and all of that from Thorndike Hill.
Question: So did you have family come by?
Answer: No it was just whoever was there. (P. Hagiwara: Your brother.)
Answer: My brother wasn’t there. (P. Hagiwara: Jack was there, in the wedding?)
Answer: Um, um. If Jack was there he would’ve been the best man (laughs), he wasn’t available.
Question: So your family’s back at home now, they’re still in Wyoming at this point, or are they back in Wapato?
Answer: Ah, 1942, there would be, I’m not sure whether they were in, they must’ve been in Wyoming but that might’ve been later even later. Actually, he said when are you gonna ask your mother and father if you can get married? And I said I’m not gonna ask them, I’m gonna tell them (laughs). That’s the kind of character I was in those days.
Question: So did you, in getting married, did you have the furthest thoughts from your mind that he would ever get sent over to active duty or did you think he was going to stay home front at this time?
Answer: I had, don’t think I thought that far ahead. I knew he was in the service but you know, servicemen were treated very well in Chicago and um, I don’t even remember thinking about what would happen.
Question: Do you remember when he shipped off?
Answer: No. I wasn’t there. He came home for the last furlough, he’s that, probably would’ve been March or April of ’44, ’43, I don’t know which, ’44. And of course the war didn’t last a whole lot longer than that, just a year and a half after that. But ah, yeah I did, I did have to move the few things that we’d have accumulated in the five, six months that we were at Fort Sheridan. But that was not a big deal. The Army came in and did it for you. Packed it up, send it where you want it to go. Do you want this? Don’t want this they’ll discard it, you know, they’ll take care of it. So it was just mostly my personal things and a few pieces of furniture which they put in storage for me and which some of his Alaska friends whose wives were being left in Chicago could use and so they paid the shipping, the storage charges ah, and took the furniture. So that was it, no problem. Ah, and his friends knew there was an apartment being vacated in their building so took that, too.
Question: Were they kind of looking after you then? His friends?
Answer: Um, pretty much so, yes I think so. Bill’s wife, Bill was a Tatsuto, older brother to two of the guys ah, one older and one younger I guess, I found out, and it was in his group at Fort Sher, in Alaska, oh Chilkoot. And Bill had been in school and his wife was a Seattle girl who’s sister was in love with my brother (laughs). So we sort of fell into a relationship and she didn’t marry my brother, I mean my brother didn’t marry her but ah, was a relationship that was comfortable and they, how we took care.
Question: So when he shipped off and was going overseas you didn’t see him to wave goodbye but now you’re at home, you’re with a child at this point.
Answer: Not yet. I had ah, was, let’s see how’d that work out. I worked at the University of Chicago for, clear-up until the baby came. I got a job in the Dean of, the head of the Sociology department, whatever his name was now, Dean, can’t remember his name, who is related to some, it’s amazing how many of these interactions ah, work out. But anyway, he was a sister, he had a sister for whom my girlfriend had typed for at Pomona or something (laughs).
Question: Small world.
Answer: And she was this friend had been sent particularly to Chicago so that she could work for Dean Schmidt or something like that, not, no that wasn’t his name. Anyway, she knew there was an opening in her office so I could come work for them at the University of Chicago. The first thing they’d do is say you have to have a physical, you’re an employee you have to run down to the medical center, they have their own medical school and go through this physical. And this guy says, “Are you married?” And, “Yes.” “And how long?” And I tell him and he says, “Do you know you’re pregnant?” And I say, “No.” (laughs) So that was the first I knew about it.
Question: And is he already overseas now when you find out?
Answer: Yes. (P. Hagiwara: No)
Answer: Yes, January. Did you go overseas in April of that?” (P. Hagiwara: May.)
Answer: Oh, ok, that’s right. Yeah, he came home for one leave.
Question: And so he now knows you’re pregnant and now he’s gonna go off and fight this war and you’re…
Answer: They didn’t know they were going overseas yet.
Question: Oh, they still didn’t know. (P. Hagiwara: Yes we were.)
Answer: They were on their way someplace but they didn’t know which direction. (P. Hagiwara: No we went out overseas ’cause that’s why they allowed me vacation, I mean.)
Answer: No everybody got a furlough before they went. (P. Hagiwara: They had to have furlough before they went. That’s why I got it.)
Question: So how did you, once he did then leave and is going overseas was that hard or were you so busy?
Answer: We were busy all the time. We hadn’t really had a lot of time together anyway because the first few months we were, I was at the university still working and he was 35 miles away and then we were there for a couple of months and then he was off again and it just part of the routine. Just roll with the punches.
Question: And then you had your baby daughter.
Answer: Which was amazing. The whole thing, can you believe it, the university and the Army, between them, we paid $50 for prenatal and after-natal care, birth, the whole bit. Best hospital in the world (laughs). Was amazing.
Question: Wouldn’t even buy you an aspirin today. So and then you sent some mail over trying to get it to him that he had a daughter.
Answer: Actually, we sent it and we didn’t hear anything, but then there were lots of times when you got bunches of mail at once and most of the time it was ribbons anyway. And if they weren’t ribbons he didn’t say anything, because all you could say is you got up in the morning and you went to (laughs) the latrine and you washed your face or something like that. That was about it so I didn’t care whether I got any mail or not. So did you save any of that?, why would I save any of that junk. (laughs)
Question: Do you, now this is one I had thought about, who picked the name of the child?
Question: Who named the child?
Answer: I think we talked about it while he was out on that little furlough.
Question: So you thought that far enough ahead, ’cause I was wondering about that, if somebody’s over fighting and they hadn’t thought about it well, do we name ’em, do we wait ’til they get home?
Answer: I think we must’ve talked about it because she got my name for a middle name, and we came up with, I think he wanted Kathryn and I didn’t go for that so we settled for Kathleen. And now she’s Kathleen Hagiwara-Purcell and she uses Kathy I guess.
Question: Do you remember when he came home and the first time that he saw his daughter?
Answer: He woke her up in the middle of the night. That is a story in itself. Now it was a hot summer in Chicago and we’re three flights up in a tenement actually. And ah, to be, have your door open, you have to block it with something so I put some chair in front of the door, or opened it a little and put a chair there so it wouldn’t open any further. Well this man evidently, bump, bump, bumps his way into the apartment downstairs under me and has to make a quick exit when he hears knowing that he doesn’t expect it. (P. Hagiwara: And what happened was that I went to the place and second floor the door was ajar and I heard loud snoring going on and I don’t remember my wife snoring, but anyhow, it seems all right so I pushed and pushed and pushed and the chair that was there fell down and I thought he’d wake up but he kept continued snoring. I went over to his bed, but that’s a man and so I went to the next floor and then the same ajar door, I think it was, that’s when I opened it or pushed it.)
Question: And you’re sleeping upstairs? (P. Hagiwara: And she was there and the baby crib was there. This must be it, I said.)
Answer: He woke the baby up. (laughs) That’s when he first saw her.
Answer: And immediately after that I was sicker than a dog for… (P. Hagiwara: She couldn’t talk.)
Answer: …week, two weeks. I don’t know how long it was. Anyway, they weren’t sure what he might have brought home with him. So they insisted that the baby should go someplace else and his parents were living a couple of blocks, half a dozen blocks away at that time so that’s where she… (P. Hagiwara: She couldn’t talk, it was kind of a quiet place where we were staying.)
Question: So the first, that was his first ah, ’cause you always hear about you know, the father comes home from the war and the child comes running with arms, but here it was you might’ve brought malaria home or something like that.
Answer: (laughs) And we weren’t real happy to see him at first. (P. Hagiwara: It’s kind of funny because she couldn’t talk and I didn’t feed her anything, I never got her water even, so she said something like this, and I thought she wanted pencil and paper so I brought her pencil and paper, she writes down, “Need water.” (laughs) So I got her a drink of water and I forgot, gee that’s right I hadn’t fed her or gave water to her.)
Answer: I didn’t care whether he stayed or not at that point (laughs).
Question: So was that a, and I hadn’t thought of this either, was that a tough um, ’cause he had been away for how long roughly? A year, less than a year? (P. Hagiwara: A little more than a year.)
Question: Little more than a year.
Answer: About a year and a half. (P. Hagiwara: May ’til July. I was there with you May.)
Question: So you got married and you weren’t together that much when you got married ’cause he was moving and you were doing whatever and then he went overseas and so now…
Answer: Now we’re in for it.
Question: Is this when the marriage really started then? I mean you had to really figure out who everybody was and…
Answer: Basically. And what he was going to do. That was the big one (laughs).
Question: Go to school. Or you had already made him go to school before that?
Answer: Actually it never occurred to me that he might not want to. He’d worked so that his brothers and sister could be in school, it didn’t occur to me that he might not want to or be a part of it.
Question: Did you have to recondition him to let him know that he was in civilian life now and he wasn’t a, wasn’t in military life anymore? Was there a change?
Answer: All he wanted to do was to go down and talk with his buddies. And the other thing he felt he had promised to do was to do church work. So he spent a lot of time doing the so called church work which was janitorial for the most part (laughs). Wasn’t even much church, actually the building that St. Peters Church, Episcopal Church was using at the time, they had built in 1932 or 3 and it had been used in the war years as some kind of an armory type thing. And ah… (P. Hagiwara: It was actually a gym.)
Answer: A gym. Yes it was a multi-purpose big gym with a kitchen off one side and it had an altar up on the stage and places to hide ah, folding chairs, but basically, it was a gym. It had been used as a community center as well as a church. And when we first came back they were using it as a hostel for returning people. They just got the Army out a couple of weeks ahead of us and they opened it with Army cots and beds, you know, it was like home (laughs).
Question: And I didn’t even think of that, that’s it, you’ve got all these soldiers coming home and temporary housing. (P. Hagiwara: These were ah, these were ah, relocated people.)
Answer: Um hm. Coming back from the camps because the camps had been closed basically and you had to get out quick. So I don’t know how the Episcopal church did it but they evidently had some way to get by with letting the Army use their facilities there with the Army (inaudible) or what. But I don’t think the Catholic churches had that problem.
Question: Huh. Well I’d have to look into that one.
Answer: Well it wasn’t a problem really I guess it was just a …
Question: A process.
Answer: It came up recently because I had said something to our current minister about St. Peter having been a host, armory facility during war years for at least part of them. And she didn’t believe me. She says, “You can’t do that in church.” (P. Hagiwara: Because it wasn’t a church, it was a multi-purpose.)
Answer: Well what brought it up was that they were looking for the original altar.
Answer: And I hadn’t any idea of where it went. Course I hadn’t gone to that church before we came back from the war anyway. (laughs) I had been going to the Methodist church.
Question: Well great. Well thank you very much. Was interesting times. Like I said it’s interesting to see everybody’s different prospective on. It’s kind of like pizz
Answer: I always find that my perspective is very different from most of our, my friends because they have, went to the camps and they did this and they have the greatest buddy friend, and camp reunions, there’s a big social event there a lot and I guess it should be. But I don’t even have the high school or college reunions because I was all over (laughs).
Question: So you’re like me. I face that same thing. I have friends that are college buddies that they still do stuff well I moved to a new college so there was never that group that I could associate with 20 years later to say hey, you know-ho are your kids and, ’cause I was never there for that. But I can see where the camps would be the same thing, where they shared a life experience together for however long they were in there.
Answer: Very impressive time in their life, too.
Question: We talked to probably one of the most powerful stories I’ve heard was Mr. Kiuchi talking about um, he said you know, you’re the elders they had been, they were depressed and sad being in the camp and he says he can remember the kids trying to pick the spirit up and on the fourth of July they put together a little parade and they had a little band and he says he can remember in Camp Harmony closing the parade, now here they put in Camp Harmony and the guns pointing in to them, and they closed with singing “God Bless Americ
Answer: ” You know and you just look at the check to position of that and it’s just an amazing story to hear.
Answer: More recently, Pat has a nephew who’s an actor and he has been taking for six years now, a little play that they call, ah, what do they call it? I can’t remember the name of it.. He brought it up, he’s brought it up to Seattle two years now and he’s, they’re closing it with the original cast after six years. These guys are getting close to 50 and they’re trying to do teenager things (laughs). “Bomb Diver’s Christmas” I think it’s called. Anyway, it was a sort of a pull together thing to amuse, amuse their or to recapture some of the old feeling about the camps, and we think it’s great but we didn’t experience any of it. We don’t know what it is. But most people think it’s wonderful to.
Question: Wow. So do you have a lot of friends that you knew that got into different camps?
Answer: Actually no. I was an oddball actually. I was one of the few from the class of 1938 because this was just at the end of the depression, ah, whoever made it to college, was most of the kids. Most of them didn’t try, didn’t bother, a couple of from home I think there was one other guy and one girl who made it to college out of that. And ah, the guy died before he finished college and the girl went on to great things but they’re…
Question: What was your, what was your drive to go on to college?
Answer: I don’t know. If your teachers all think you should, you sorta should (laughs).
Question: So it was encouragement from.
Answer: Mostly from teachers, I don’t think my parents thought. My brother did go to school but then that was mostly because I insisted that he do. He’s gotta do it first ’cause I want to do it, too. (laughs)
Question: Oh there’s the ah… ‘Cause it was different then, ’cause you know today pretty much any kid that graduates from high school they plan that they’re going to go on to college and it’s a given to a certain extent where back then it wasn’t so much of a given.
Answer: No actually the older people in our church now that are left, I don’t think there’s any my age or older that went to college.
Answer: The younger ones have but ah, and not a whole lot of those.
Question: And was it more unique being a woman in college?
Answer: Yes. Yes, the guys would have the opportunity before the girls would yeah. And the other family had all girls so. So they all went.
(Japanese Internment Cap Survivor story courtesy of WWII Voices in the Classroom, WWIIhistoryintheclassroom.com)
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