Interview with Jane Reeves, 2002-02-17

Material Information

Interview with Jane Reeves, 2002-02-17
Reeves, Jane ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
World War II Oral History Collection ( local )
World War II
World War (1939-1945) ( fast )
Temporal Coverage:
World War II ( 1939 - 1945 )


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'World War II' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
WWII 008 Jane Reeves 2-17-2002 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text

This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
the University of Florida.

WW 11-8 Summary
Jane Reeves

Jane Reeves begins the interview speaking about her childhood in California and her
relatives that lived in a Japanese-American community on the Sacramento River (pages
1-2). She talks about her grandparents and why they moved to the United States from
Japan (pages 2-3). She explains how her relatives felt about Japan before the war
(page 3). She explains the names given to first and second-generation Japanese
immigrants (page 4). Her parents were born in the United States, but went to school in
Japan (page 5). She describes the problems her parents faced when they returned
from Japan and the difficulties they encountered in learning English and attending
school(pages 5-6). Reeves speaks about the social networks her parents lived in (page
7). She speaks about her brother and problems he faced as a youth (page 9).

Reeves talks about what happened to her family after the government began placing
Japanese-Americans in concentration camps (page 9). Reeves and her family are
moved to a camp located at the Fairgrounds in San Joaquin County, California (page
9). She offers her memories of the first move into a camp (page 10). After the first
camp, Reeves and her family were moved to a camp in Arkansas (page 10). She
describes life at the camp in Rohwer, Arkansas (page 11). She offers her opinion on
why few Japanese-Americans resisted internment (page 12). Because of the difficult
climate, Reeves and her family were relocated to a camp in Colorado (page 13). She
offers her memories of the camp (pages 13-14). She describes the transitions the
family made after being released from the camps (pages 15-16). She reflects on the
lack of privacy inside the camps (page 17). She mentions relatives that served in the
war and others who protested their treatment inside the camps (page 18). Her uncle
served in the Pacific as a translator (page 18).

Reeves talks about relying on family members for support during the war (page 20).
She speaks about returning to normal after their internment (page 21). After the war,
the family moved to Yuba City where they worked as tomato farmers (page 21). She
talks about various family members' remembrances of their time in the camps (pages
23-24). She remembers various relatives (page 25). She talks about her youngest
brother who was born inside one of the camps (pages 25-26). Eventually, she received
compensation from the government (page 27). She speaks about her grandfather who
denounced his citizenship and moved back to Japan after the war (page 29). She
offers her insights on how the Japanese managed to endure their confinement (page
31). She mentions the Japanese-American Citizen's League (page 32). She talks
about other prejudices she had to face while growing up (page 33). Reeves mentions
how she wound up living on the East Coast (page 34). She ends by offering some final
thoughts on what it was like to live in a Japanese-American internment camp (pages

University of Florida
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

World War II Project

Interviewee: Jane Reeves
Interviewer: Sandra Dietel

Date of Interview: February 17, 2002


D: This is the interview of Jane Reeves taken on February 17, 2002, in Tallahassee,
Florida. The interviewer is Sandra Dietel. I wonder if you could just start by
giving me your given name at birth.

R: Jane Yuko Nishikawa.

D: And where were you born?

R: Stockton, California.

D: And when were you born?

R: December 22, 1941.

D: Okay, can you tell me about your siblings and how they are in the order in your
family, age-wise?

R: I have an older brother, Phillip Takeshi Nishikawa. Then I was the second child.
I have a younger brother, Dennis Nishikawa. Do you want their middle names?

D: No, that's okay. How much older is Philip than you?

R: {Philip is 3 years older than I], Dennis is three years younger than I. Today is his
birthday, actually; he is fifty-seven years old. I have another younger brother,
Richard Nishikawa, and you met him at the wedding.

D: I do remember that. How much younger is he than you?

R: Ten years.

D: Let's start... I'm going to go back to your grandparents, they came here first to
the U.S.

R: Right.

D: Do you know when they came?

R: No.

D: Do you know about what part of their lives it was? Was it when they were young,

R: When they were very young.


D: Very young.

R: Not very young, but young adults.

D: Where did they come to in the U.S.?

R: California, in the Bay Area, that general area. There's a little area above
between Sacramento and Stockton, it's... it was heavily settled by Japanese
immigrants and it's good for farming. A lot of them settled in a little town called
Walnut Grove.

D: Like Little House on the Prairie.

R: Right and it's on the river, the Sacramento River, there's a lot of agriculture going
on there.

D: Were they farmers then?

R: My father's parents were. My mother's father was not necessarily a farmer. He
was more of a... I think I told you this, more of a merchant. He came over as a
very young man when he was still in school and he went to school here. He
worked as a schoolboy. In those days you could get a job working for a family,
like a houseboy and doing various household chores. They would give you room
and board and allow you to go to school. I'm not sure what kind of education he
was getting, maybe high school. I'm sure he didn't speak English when he came

D: So both your parent's parents, both your sets of grandparents lived in Walnut
Grove or in that area?

R: Uh-huh.

D: And do you know why they came to the U.S.?

R: I'm sure it was for economic reasons. My mother's family used to have a sake
[Japanese rice wine] brewery in Japan. It went... some employee, the story
goes, that some employee ruined the whole batch of sake and they went
bankrupt. So my grandfather had to come to this country to earn money. That's
the story that was told. I don't know if he was making money going to school and
being a schoolboy. They were merchants more or less, I think.

D: That set of grandparents, did they meet here? Your grandfather and your
grandmother or did they come over together?


R: I'm not sure about that, my mother's father, my grandfather Honda, was not
married when he came here. He went back to Japan and he married my
grandmother. She was his first cousin, they're first cousins. So that was
obviously an arranged marriage. Then they both came. I don't know how old he
was at that time.

D: Then your father's father came as a single man.

R: That I don't really know, but I believe so, because his first wife was a widow.

D: Here in the States?

R: Somewhere she was a widow. I don't know where he met her, but she already
had a child. Would be my father's step-brother. He was older by quite a bit. He
was not considered, later on, he was not considered the oldest son, because my
grandfather was not his father. He married, the woman he married, I don't know
where they met, but I don't think it was Japan. I think it was here somewhere.

D: Were either set of your grandparents, do you know if they were affected by the
different laws that were regulating Japanese immigration and land-ownership?

R: Land-ownership for sure, because they couldn't own land. I don't know how they
resolved that, whether they put it in their children's names or whatever.

D: Did they eventually own land then, either side?

R: I don't think so. My grandfather may have owned a gas station that they actually
ran. That's what they did.

D: Which grandfather was this?

R: My mother's father. My grandfather Honda. Is that how you'd like me to refer to

D: That might be better, just so I keep them straight. So they weren't U.S. citizens at
that point?

R: No, they weren't. My grandfather Honda did become a U.S. citizen. I know
because after the war he gave it up because he was so angry at the government
for the way they treated the Japanese and himself in particular.

D: Okay, we'll get to that a little bit later. I'd like to ask you more about that. Before
the war, though, do you have any sense of what their attitude was about the
U.S.? Were they loyal to Japan? Do you happen to know?


R: I don't really know. I suspect that they probably were emotionally attached to
Japan but they would never have ever done anything illegal. They certainly
had... their hearts were still in Japan with the Japanese.

D: Can you pronounce this term, the term given to immigrants that were living in this
country? It's spelled I-S-S-E-I.

R: E-say.

D: E-say.

R: That means first-generation.

D: Your grandparents were issei.

R: They were issei.

D: Your parents, however, were nisei [second-generation] then.

R: Yes, or another term, we call it kibei.

D: Because?

R: They were educated in Japan.

D: Both your parents were born here.

R: Right.

D: From the same area then.

R: Yes.

D: Then they were sent to Japan to be educated.

R: Exactly.

D: Do you know about what age?

R: They were probably around two, is what I get from them. They say they were
around two. My father is a little older than my mom, a year and a half older. So
he might have been a little bit older. It wouldn't surprise me if they both went
together, because they were from the same area. Children would be taken by an
adult and they probably were taken together.


D: Did their parents know each other then? Your father and your mother's parents.

R: I assume that they did, just from living in the same community.

D: So they knew each other since they were little children.

R: Yes.

D: Why did they send them to Japan?

R: It was a custom for grandparents to raise the grandchildren, rather than having
parents raise their children, because economically we needed to be able to work.
My father's parents...

D: When you said they... the parents would need to be able to work so they would
have less time and effort to put into raising their children.

R: Exactly. My father's parents, they were farmers and they needed to be able to
work. The children were just not able to help at that age. They were better off
sent to live in Japan and to be raised by grandparents or other relatives. My
father actually didn't have grandparents. He was raised by an uncle and aunt.

D: Did your mom and dad go to the same part of Japan then?

R: Yes, they did actually.

D: That's amazing.

R: They both come from a little town called Kumamoto, it's on the island of Kyushu.

D: Just had a question, I can't remember it. When did they return to the U.S. then?

R: They were teenagers, I think thirteen, fourteen. At a time they were able to help.
It was
not a good thing for them because they didn't speak English and they had to
start from the first grade, start school here in the United States in the first grade.

D: That's rough, you're pre-teen.

R: My father tells the story, a very embarrassing moment for him and you've got to
know my
father to know how embarrassing. He's very proud, he's a very proud person
and very proper. He was in elementary school. I don't know what grade he was
in. He might have been in the first or second grade, because his command of
English was so poor. He said that the teacher told him to do something, so he


went out and he rang the bell. Bell hanging out there, I guess they ring the bell
for various reasons. It turned out that that wasn't what the teacher asked him to
do. When he found out, he was very embarrassed.

D: What I was going to ask you previously, you said it was fairly common for
parents to send their children to Japan, to be raised by grandparents. Was that
common in Japan as well for that to happen?

R: Yes, they would generally be extended family anyway. In Japan, they would all
be living together so that grandparents raise the grandchildren. They were at
home with the children.

D: Okay. When did your parents get married then?

R: I believe it was 1938. Just before the war. My mother was twenty-two and my
father was twenty-three.

D: What were they doing for work about that time?

R: They were managing a hotel in Sacramento. My father worked in a grocery store
also. That's what they were doing.

D: Did your parents go to school beyond high school?

R: No they didn't. I don't think either of them graduated.

D: From high school.

R: Right. My mother says it's because she couldn't continuously be at school. She
had a lot of absenteeism because she had to help at home. My grandmother
had a lot of babies, so my mother was the one who ended up taking care of the

D: Her own mother had a lot of babies?

R: Yes, I think she had twelve, eight of whom lived. My mom has a sister who is
sixteen years younger and had a brother who was thirteen years younger.
Probably that's why they made her come back.

D: She was needed for more labor.

R: That's right.

D: Can you talk a little bit about your parents integration into American culture. Do
you know anything about that experience for them before the war?


R: I think they lived in a community of mostly Japanese. That was their social group
and that was who they associated with. I don't believe they ever had any friends
who were not Japanese. They probably worked for the non-Japanese, who we
refer to, or who they would have referred to, as hakujin, meaning white people.
Whereas Japanese are nihonjin. Nihon, meaning Japan. So people of Japan
are Japanese and hakujin is whatever.

D: Right before the war there was a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment. Things were
just seeming to really pick up. Did your parents ever talk to you about that? Did
they have experiences with prejudice?

R: I don't know. I'm sure they did. They've never conveyed any of that to us, or to
me. But I'm certain that there were instances where there was prejudice. I just
can't imagine that it didn't happen.

D: Were they religious at all? Was your family religious at all?

R: No.

D: I'm really interested in those different terms. Issei, nisei, and kibei.

R: Sansei is third generation.

D: You're sanseithen. Okay.

R: It's just the generations. After the Japanese numbers, ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roko,
hitchi, hatchi, ku, ju. So issei is from ichi, right? One. And nisei is from ni.
And sansei is from san, which means three. It's just the generations.

D: It's just sort of semantics. Was there, in your experiences, what were the
differences between those generations?

R: Well, issei were generally they were not born here they were the first ones to
come and they were referred to as isse. Some of them may have become
citizens, I know that my grandfather Honda did become a citizen. I don't know
about my other grandparents because they had all died. I think before I was

D: Were there differences even between those generations in how they thought of
themselves as living in this country or their citizenship as Americans? Issei, I
mean, they're Japanese, now they've come to this country to live. In your family,
were there kind of marked differences?

R: That's really hard. I think niseiwere kind of the generation that they were born
here, but many of them were educated in Japan and their sentiments were still


with the Japanese. I get that feeling not because they say so, but if we're
watching anything about a war, or anything about the war comes up, they're
always saying things about how bad the Americans were and how great the
Japanese were.

D: Your parents say that. Is that something you've heard from your parents?

R: Not just from my parents, but from other people too. My uncles and whatever,
their sentiments certainly were with the Japanese and they still are. They're
interested in Japanese athletes. They don't have to be from Japan. They could
be Japanese-American. My parents always watch Kristi Yamaguchi [Japanese-
American Olympic figure skater] whenever she skates or anything like that.
That's because Kristi Yamaguchi was the daughter of my brother's dentist.

D: So a personal tie.

R: There was a little bit of a personal tie there, very far removed, but still. That kind
of thing. Or they think the Japanese... they cheer for the Japanese athletes at
the Olympics, that kind of thing. Of course, that's all trickled down to me too. I'm
always interested to see how they do. I was certainly interested in seeing how
Hideo Nomo [Japanese-American pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers] was
pitching. He was pitching.

D: That has carried down to you.

R: I think it's mostly sort of like an identification with the culture.

D: Do you think your kids have that?

R: No, I don't believe they do at all.

D: Before you said you were unaware that your parents, you think that may have
suffered prejudice, you're not aware if they did or not. Did your older brother
ever talk to you about that at all.

R: No. I know he's had problems.

D: What kind of problems?

R: The first time he went to school, he didn't speak English.

D: Your brother.


R: My brother, my older brother. He was in a fight because he's just very... he
doesn't take anything from anybody and if anybody teased him or said anything
to him, he would immediately hit him.

D: Your brother wasn't sent to Japan, is that because of the war?

R: My brother, no, because the second generation, the nisei, didn't do that. We
didn't have any grandparents in Japan anyway.

D: They were here, sorry, that makes sense. I'm going to go now to... I guess it
would probably have been around March of 1942, because in February, I think,
FDR signs the order for the Japanese-Americans to be relocated. What do you
know about your family's experience just with that evacuation process?

R: I know that my father had put in a crop. By this time he was back into farming
with his brothers, he had two brothers that he farmed with.

D: Did they own their piece of land?

R: They did not, no. They were tomato farmers and with tomato farming at that
time, you did not ever own your land, because it's a nitrogen-depleting crop. So
you could only grow tomatoes for two years on a piece of land and then you had
to move on. I don't know if they would have been allowed to own land anyway.
They probably would have since they were citizens... He had put in a crop
which he was not able to see to completion because we were moved out into the
camps. The first place they sent us was Fairgrounds in San Joaquin County,
that's in Stockton [California]. I think that happened to a lot of Japanese, they
were moved into fairgrounds or racetracks. I know that in southern California,
they were moved into the Santa Anita race tracks. They were housed in the
horse stalls. I don't have personal knowledge that that's what happened to us,
but it might have.

D: Do you know how long your parents were given to get their stuff, get out?

R: I really don't. They don't talk about that. They haven't ever talked about that to

D: About that particular getting up and moving part.

R: Right.

D: Do you know then what was left behind? Did they own a home?

R: No, they didn't own a home.


D: Did they have furniture household kind of things? Do you know what they took
with them?

R: I've heard since that they could only take what they could carry. In our case, it
was my mom and my dad and my older brother and me, and I was just a baby
because I was born in December. I must have been what? Three months old. I
would have been one of the objects they had to carry. So I'm sure that they
didn't leave with much. I think they managed to have a camera, which they were
not supposed to have. But I think they had a camera, or somebody did, because
I know there have been pictures, there are pictures.

D: So did your father go with his brother, were there any extended family that went
with you into that first place?

R: In San Joaquin County? I'm sure we were all moved, we didn't all go to the
same camp afterwards.

D: So from Stockton, that's where you went, you went on to...

R: Arkansas.

D: Can you say the name of that camp?

R: Rohwer.

D: Rohwer.

R: I'm pretty sure it's R-A-U-E-R or it might have been R-O-W-E-R.

D: It's R-O-H-W-E-R actually. It's a strange word.

R: I always thought it was L-O-W-E-R.

D: Can you tell that story? I think you told that story about the name, I'd like to hear
it. We could get it on tape.

R: Well, all my life I thought that the first place, the first camp we were at in
Arkansas, was Lower, Arkansas, and I had told everybody it was Lower,
Arkansas, because that's what my father had said. In my adulthood, we have a
friend from Arkansas who was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and I was telling
her we were in Lower, Arkansas. She said really? At some point, she tried to
find out where Lower, Arkansas, was and she came back to me and she said, I
haven't been able to find it; I've never been able to find a Lower, Arkansas. So,
being curious, I started investigating by looking at maps and whatever and I
knew it was near McGee. I discovered there was a place called Rohwer.


D: How did you make that connection then? That that was where you had been.

R: Well, it could always be that place. I know because my father has such a strong
Japanese accent, he says L's for all of his R's.

D: That's interesting. Can you tell me what you know about your family's
experience in Rohwer?

R: I do know that it was a very bad climate.

D: Bad how?

R: It was very humid. I think it was very buggy. I think there was a lot of disease.
This is the South in the [19]40s. This is pre-air conditioning. It was just very
damp, you get a lot of disease from climates. Of course, we're from California,
where the climate was dry. My parents probably didn't mind it, because it
probably wasn't that different from where they grew up in Japan, which has a lot
of humidity also. The milk supply was not good. I was a baby and my mother
breast-fed me. When she weaned me to milk, it caused a lot of gastrointestinal
distress. She said I had diarrhea all the time, so she had to breast-feed me
again and did so until I was pretty old, like sixteen months old, just because the
milk supply was bad. I don't know about other people but I know that's what they
tell me and then they asked to be moved. That's when we moved to Colorado.

D: Was that pretty early on into the stay in Rohwer? Do you have any idea how
long your family was there?

R: I really don't know, they've never told me. We weren't there for very long.

D: Why did they asked to be moved?

R: Just because of the bad climate. It was just bad for my health. Mostly my
health. The facilities there were very bad apparently. It was a lot of mud, it was
very wet, it was near the Mississippi River. My father and I guess my uncle was
there, also with his family. Because they used to go into the swamps to collect
cypress knees.

D: For what?

R: Just to collect cypress knees.

D: Did they work when they were there?

R: Not that I know of. It was pretty early in the war. They probably didn't have a lot
of work programs at the time.


D: I'm going to back up a little bit before we go on to talking about your experience
in Colorado. I want to ask you, did your parents protest at all, relocating?

R: No.

D: Do you have a take on why so few Japanese-Americans actively resisted, I mean
didn't actively resist the relocation?

R: I'm not sure but it's not their way.

D: What do you mean by that?

R: They're not proactive people. The culture is not proactive.

D: Japanese culture or Japanese-American culture?

R: Japanese culture. That's probably why we had strong dictators. If you think
back of the feudal system, where you always did what your boss tells you or your
lord tells you what the minister tells you, you just do it. It was not a democratic
society. It was based on obedience. You never questioned it. They tell me, my
parents tell me, that the emperor was considered a god. You do not look at him.
It was that kind of society.

D: And they believed it.

R: I don't know if they believed it or not, but they were raised to do what they were

D: Do you have memories of how that affected... how were your parents then? Did
they have a pretty heavily sort of Japanese influence on their parenting of you
and your siblings?

R: Sure, absolutely.

D: How?

R: I was told all my life or as a young child that I should do what my brother told me
to do. We had a very bad relationship, because I would always express my
opinion and I would be punished by my brother.

D: You would express your opinion to your brother? Or even to your parents?

R: My parents didn't really care. They were very good parents, very loving and
whatever. My siblings, it was I shouldn't talk back to my brother. So he hit me, it
was because I talked back. I heard this from my mother over and over again.


Don't talk back. I guess they didn't get it through to me that I should do what I
was told.

D: So the obedience part didn't quite make its way to you.

R: Well, it did, but that didn't include my brother.

D: How did that?

R: Well, I hear stories from my mother that I was a very good child and that if she
told me to sit in one spot and wait for her, I would. Used to say, sit here and
wait, and I would sit there and I would wait while she did whatever she did and
she was always surprised. It's pretty funny. I think I was that way in school too.
Even though I didn't do what my brother told me, I certainly did what my parents
told me.

D: Do you think that was a cultural kind of influence on you? Or also part of your

R: Probably both.

D: Can you tell me what you know about your family's experience in Colorado?

R: I was really too young to really remember a lot. I don't remember anything
terrible. It was just the way we lived.

D: Can you tell me the name of the camp you were in?

R: It was Amache. It was near Lamar, Colorado.

D: Do you have any memories of the camp?

R: I have memories of the camp. I was a little bit older. I think I was three and
older when we left. My brother was born in 1945, February of 1945 and we were
still in camp. I would have been three at the time. So I was a little bit older than
three, so I remember quite a bit about the camp.

D: What do you remember?

R: I don't remember the barracks or anything like that. I remember the school, the
nursery school, I went to. I remember not being happy about being in nursery
school. I don't know why. But my teacher was a friend of my parents. They're
still friends today. I would never tell them when I had to go to the bathroom. I
would always go home with wet pants. Every single day. I guess I was... part of
my personality was, I was very stubborn. If I didn't want to be there, I wasn't


going to tell anybody anything. I remember getting lost trying to find my cousin's
house. I assumed because it was all barracks and it all looked alike. I thought I
knew how to find their place but I didn't. That was okay because everybody
knew everybody else and they knew where I lived.

D: So your father's brother was in Amache as well?

R: It was my mother's sister.

D: Okay.

R: I don't think anybody else was in Amache, just us. I know my uncle came
through on his way back to California, stopped in to see us. I think he was going
to Boulder and he stopped in to see us. They had a small baby also. She was
older than my little brother. I don't know exactly when that would have been.
Was probably before 1945, maybe 1944. I remember him coming to visit. I
remember the baby.

D: Why was he able to come visit? Was he being relocated to another camp?

R: I think it was probably because it was 1944. It was well after the threat was over
and they no longer felt like the Japanese were going to sabotage anything. It
was just those things. My father had been going out and working. Being allowed
to work on the farms, doing agricultural work.

D: In the farms in that area?

R: We were in Colorado and he did work in Walla Walla, Washington, which is quite
a distance and then also in the area, I remember we all actually relocated to a
farm in Colorado. It was owned by a Japanese man and my father worked as a
farm-hand there.

D: This is after you left Amache?

R: I think we left, but we were still in Amache. We were living there, like agricultural
work is seasonal anyway. I remember distinctly this place and it was in Rocky
Ford, which like Rohwer, I thought was Lucky Ford for most of my adulthood. I
remember there was a rooster there that apparently liked to chase me around
and harass me because I was small. I remember my father took that rooster and
chopped his head off and made me watch. And I was absolutely fascinated by
this headless chicken flapping its wings. He wanted me to see because this
rooster had been so bad to me.

D: Do you have any idea how much your dad got paid for the work he did?


R: No.

D: I didn't know if you would have known afterwards.

R: He was able to save money, because when we went back to California, one of
the first things we did, this is why I think we were allowed to own property or he
was allowed to own property, was that he did buy a house and they had enough
money to buy a house or to put a down payment on certainly. This was right
after the war.

D: When you were in Amache, have you ever heard anything about your older
brother's experience in the schools there, about the education?

R: No, I'm sure it would have been fine until he started school outside of the camp
because inside of the camp, everything was all Japanese in the community.

D: Was it a pretty tight-knit community though?

R: I would say so, everybody knew everybody.

D: So the three-year-old, you were free to walk around. It didn't seem to be too
much to worry about.

R: No. Of course, we were hindered by the weather. When it snowed, like we were
snowed in. I remember not being allowed to leave. I stayed in the barracks or
what you would call our little home while my mom and dad and even my brother
also went out the mess hall to get food and I was left at home. But I think that
might have been because I was sick. Maybe they didn't allow sick children to

D: Do you remember anything about what you had in your little home? Know what
it looked like? Accommodations?

R: I remember playing with tents or whatever. You know how you hang blankets up
and do that kind of thing, but that's about it. I don't have any recollection
whatsoever of that.

D: Or toys, having toys.

R: No, we didn't have toys.

D: How about organizations in the camp? Do you know if your parents joined any
sports or took classes or were part of the camp council at all?

R: No.


D: They weren't joiners.

R: No, they weren't. Usually that was left up to the educated people who could
organize and have feelings about what to do about our situation. I know there
were leaders and and whatever and they did whatever...

D: They told them to do.

R: Whatever they were told.

D: They were obedient.

R: They were obedient.

D: Do you know if your mom worked? Was your father the breadwinner for the

R: Only when we went out as a family and then she was a cook. She would cook
for... she's been a cook most of her life... not a cook, like in a restaurant or
anything like that, but she would cook for crews. My father, later on in life, would
have a crew of men and they would do things like hoeing or tractor work or that
kind of agricultural thing, planting, harvesting. She would always fix the meals. It
was, in that sense, she worked. I think that's probably what she did when we
were in Rocky Ford.

D: Did you ever hear any stories or know anything about the food situation within
the camp?

R: You want to hear the Spam story?

D: I want to hear the Spam story.

R: One of the things the government provided us with was Spam. They perfected
putting Spam in cans with a little key to open it up. You didn't need a can opener
or anything. Something they gave us probably as experiments. Spam was okay,
but it's not really to the Japanese palate. It's not something that the Japanese
would like to eat. They developed a recipe to fix Spam that everybody loves and
that's with teriyaki sauce. They cooked it in teriyaki sauce, that's soy sauce and
sugar and it's really good. And I swear, every Japanese family in this country
knows how to fix it.

D: Do you fix it?

R: Yes I do.

Reeves- 17

D: Is that the only way you'll eat Spam?

R: I have eaten Spam since. I guess I have had Spam as a substitute for ham, not
anymore. I only fix it with soy sauce and sugar.

D: Is that for special occasions?

R: No, not really. It's a favorite lunch.

D: So you continued to eat that, after the camps and onward into your life?

R: Yes. I'm not ashamed.

D: Did your parents ever, or did you hear anything about being in a small space with
people, privacy issues, tensions that develop between people?

R: No, I think they were kind of used to it. If you think back on what the Japanese
home is like in Japan where they were probably raised. It's small with paper-thin
walls or screens they would have. And I didn't know it at the time, but since I've
become an adult, I've realized the way you have privacy is, you ignore
everybody else. [end of side 1, tape A]

D: So you were talking about privacy, just essentially you shut people out, is that
what you're saying?

R: I guess that's what they do. I've never heard them say anything about that being
a problem. I'm sure it was to some extent. There probably was a lot of tension
going on, but not that I recall.

D: Around late 1942, I think early 1943, there was this application for leave-
clearance that the Japanese-Americans in the camp had to sign. There were
specifically questions twenty-seven and twenty-eight that asked about
willingness to serve in the Armed Forces and loyalty to the U.S., forswearing
allegiance to Japan. Have you come to know about this particular situation,
these forms that your parents would have had to fill out?

R: No, I don't know anything about that. I do know that a lot of the young men were
eager to go serve their country and they did. I know that my uncles, two of my
uncles, my father's older brother and younger brother, served. My Uncle Frank,
who is my father's oldest brother, did not serve voluntarily.

D: He was drafted?


R: He was coerced. I guess drafted would be the word. He was one of the people
who complained bitterly about being in a camp. He did, he was a troublemaker
by American standards or Japanese standards or whatever.

D: Do you know what camp he was in?

R: No, actually they might have been in Amache. I don't remember but I do
remember seeing pictures. I had a cousin who was just a little younger than I
was. I remember seeing pictures of her and her mother. She would have been
my age, but I don't remember anything else. I'm not sure that they were in the
same camp with us. He was drafted into the Army even though he had a wife
and three children, whereas my father was not and he had a wife and two
children. There was certainly the same eligibility. Uncle Frank was in Maryland
somewhere serving his country. I'm told, in fact I think he was the one who told
me, that he stood up one day in mess hall and he said that Franklin Roosevelt
was no better than Hitler. So you can imagine what happened after that.

D: What did happen?

R: He was just terribly harassed. I don't think he was incarcerated, but they were
watching him. He said that just because he protested our being put in camps.
Of course that wasn't true, Roosevelt wasn't as bad as Hitler. Hindsight is
hindsight; you can say that for sure.

D: But the sentiment was among some people at the time that there was some
parallel between what Hitler was doing to the Jews and what the American
government was doing to the Japanese-Americans.

R: Among very few of us, one of whom was my uncle.

D: Did your younger uncle then go willingly to serve?

R: I'm pretty sure, because he served in the Pacific actually. He was an interpreter.
Or translator. He translated for the Army, recently it's come out that many of the
Japanese men served in the Pacific as interpreters and interrogators and
whatever. He was one of those people. They didn't publicize it. I don't know
why. I guess nobody ever thought of it, but it's come to light now that many of
them did. Of course they were a tremendous help, because who else would
speak Japanese except for the Japanese? And he was raised in Japan. He was
educated in Japan and his loyalty was never in question. My grandfather, my
mother's father, was apparently also somewhat of a troublemaker and voiced
dissent. He was put in a camp for the troublemakers. That was Tule Lake,
California. He was there for probably the whole war.

D: This is your mother's father, your grandfather, then.


R: Right, he was a citizen. He had a wife and two daughters in Japan. That's
probably why they put him in that camp too.

D: Now when you said he was a troublemaker, did you ever hear any stories about
anything that he did?

R: No. He didn't do anything, in fact maybe the reason why he was considered a
troublemaker or potential troublemaker was because he did have a wife and two
children in Japan. That made him very suspicious in the eyes of the
government. They put all the dissident-type people, or who they considered
dissidents at Tule Lake. I remember when we were going back to California, we
were in Tule Lake. That's one of the places we stopped. I don't remember
anything about it at all, not a whole lot to remember, but we were there on our
way back. It took us a long time. We left in probably the spring of 1945 and we
were in Idaho for some six months where my father worked on a farm for a few
months. I guess just making our way back.

D: So basically, they worked, earned money, move to the next place.

R: I'm sure that we were doing that, just because they weren't letting us back into
California, but they let us leave the camps.

D: Do you know how they traveled?

R: We had an automobile.

D: Did you have that from all the way from when you were in California, when you
got moved?

R: No, the uncle that I told you about that came to visit us in Amache and he was
on his way to Boulder, I think because he taught school there, he was teaching
Japanese there or something, I'm kind of vague on that too. The story is that he
wrote my father, he was in Chicago or someplace, not at a camp maybe, or
maybe he was at a camp somewhere further inland. He wrote my father and
said, if you send me x number of dollars, I'll buy a car and I'll drive to Amache or
wherever he was. Then you can have the car and I can go on to Boulder. So
that's what my father did, sent him money. Then we had a car.

D: Wow.

R: And that's what we used to get back to California.

D: Your father and your mother, I guess, had siblings. They all kind of helped each
other out.


R: Pretty much. Everybody was pretty close. This was my mother's oldest brother,
older brother. He had a wife and two children. Three children, one of them was
a baby. That was the baby that I was telling you about. That was probably in
1944, 1 don't know. She was born, she was a pretty small baby. Of course I was
young too. Everybody helped everybody else out. We would... we went back to
California, we lived with my mother's aunt and uncle who had a store. They had
a store in Walnut Grove. They had the store and then they had the upstairs with
a lot of bedrooms. They had boarders, so they had rooms that they could let.
We stayed with them for awhile.

D: Now did they resume to that business or... They had been interned as well?

R: They would have been interned as well.

D: I would imagine they would have had to have been.

R: Yes, this was... yes they were. And they were also in Amache. I don't remember
my mother's aunt and her husband. He may have been dead at the time. What
they did was, the store was closed down. This was Walnut Grove, this was a
Japanese community, almost exclusively Japanese. So they probably just
closed down, everybody was gone that was still there when they got back.

D: Do you know if your parents, did they have possessions that were still there
when they got back?

R: I'm not aware of that. I know that we have pictures that have survived of pre-war
pictures. There were dishes that belonged to my grandmother that were in
barrels that we had. I think that some things probably did survive. Maybe they
had all been stored at Walnut Grove. I don't know.

D: How long did it take your parents, in total, to get from one state to get back to
Walnut Grove?

R: I don't know. I don't remember any other stops except for the one in Idaho. We
might have gone straight back to California from there.

D: At that point, do you have any knowledge of your parents or anybody in your
family getting any help from any organizations to get back on their feet?

R: No, no.

D: They definitely didn't have help then?

R: I am sure that there was no help available whatsoever. There was nothing to set
up any kind of help. Government agencies? I don't think so.


D: Or church groups or any kind of Japanese groups that came together to help

R: I'm not aware of any. There might have been, but I'm not aware of any.

D: You said your parents, they bought a house almost immediately when they got

R: They did.

D: Do you know about how long it took them to get back on their feet?

R: I think we were in probably pretty good shape. My father managed to save
money. What's one of the things that we did was... he was able to work in
agriculture. He could have crews of men who would go out and do farm work, do
planting, they'd hoe, whatever. He was like a foreman-type person or a crew-
chief anyway. We'd go out in the spring, I think it was in the spring, we'd go and
we'd live in different places. Usually at a big ranch. My mother would cook and
my father would be the crew chief. Then we'd come back in the fall. So I would
go to school for awhile someplace, then we'd move and I'd go to school
someplace else. We did this all the time until I was about... until I was ten. Then
we moved to a place called Yuba City.

D: Where is that?

R: Yuba City is about forty miles north of Sacramento. My uncle, my father's
younger brother, was growing tomatoes. We're still tomato farmers, still in his
blood. He told my dad that he should come and work in tomatoes or grow
tomatoes. So that's what we did, we moved to Yuba City and he started growing
tomatoes and did fine for awhile. With agriculture, you just never know. The
weather is bad and you lose your crop or have a bad crop. Prices are low. It's
kind of risky, but we managed.

D: Did your father remain a farmer until he was older?

R: Yes, that's what he did. Never had his high-school education-type thing.

D: Worked hard.

R: Yes, farmers work enormously hard. They don't work hard in the wintertime
except occasionally. They have a lot of time off in the wintertime, but when the
sun's shining they're out there working.

D: Do you remember how the Japanese-American internment was dealt with in your
schooling or was it dealt with? Did you learn about it as a kid in school?


R: No. Of course I knew about it, we all knew about it, but it was not part of any
history lessons we learned.

D: Did you learn history about World War II?

R: We probably did. My history teacher in high school was an Army veteran himself
and he loved to tell war stories. He loved to tell just anything, but I don't
remember hearing about the internment.

D: Did you ever have thoughts about that, about why aren't they teaching this or
talking about it?

R: No.

D: Didn't occur to you.

R: Never occurred to me. In fact, a lot of that was something that had happened
and my parents never wanted to talk about it. So we didn't.

D: They didn't talk about it at all.

R: No, sometimes they would refer to when we were in camp, this happened or we
know so-and-so from camp. But they never told us much.

D: Why do you think they didn't want to talk about it?

R: Bad memories.

D: Do you think those are memories of things that actually happened in the camp,
or just that it happened in the first place?

R: Probably just that it happened. They've never told me much of anything.

D: Have you ever asked?

R: No, I never have come out and asked. It's just something that I knew that they
didn't want to talk about. They never wanted to watch any kind of war movie. I
send my parents videos all the time, for Christmas, because they don't go to the
movies or anything. I'll send them something. They love exciting movies. Their
favorite was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or something like that. We
discovered that, we were watching a movie with them and they just thought it
was wonderful. I send them movies ever year for Christmas, but I would never
send them Pearl Harbor. They would throw it in the trash or something like that.

D: So they pretty much stay away from things that kind of bring up those memories.


R: Absolutely.

D: You had mentioned earlier... not earlier in this interview, but the last time I talked
to you, that different members of your family had different reactions to the
experience. I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit.

R: Okay, I think the people who were most affected by the whole camp experience
were the young people, the teenagers, people who would have been in high
school. You know the best-years-of-their-lives-type thing.

D: So your older brother wasn't quite old enough at that point.

R: No, he was only three years older than I am.

D: Your uncles?

R: My uncles were at that age, in particular, my Uncle George.

D: Your Uncle George is whose brother?

R: My mother's youngest brother. He was thirteen years younger than my mother.
I was born when my mother was twenty-six, so he would have been thirteen, so
that would have been the years. He would have spent all his high school years
in camp. Of course, they were just lost years.

D: Has he talked to you about that?

R: I've just seen what happened to him. He and his wife, my Aunt Marcia, who was
really pretty gifted. She used to write us letters all the time. I used to correspond
with her and she would correspond with all of us. She'd write us these nice
letters and whatever. She had a bad childhood too. I can't say it's all because
of camp, but a lot of it is probably because of camp. Her mother physically
abused her. Of course I didn't know this until much, much later. In her later
adult life, she had mental problems, very bad mental problems, you know. She
had nervous breakdowns and whatever. Probably all of it is... probably the root
was in being physically abused as a child. Then having camp on top of that.
Then my uncle was... he just never found himself. He became a truck driver
which is okay, you know, I'm sure he was very good, but he had certainly bitter
feelings about the whole experience.

D: Has he told them to you or how do you know that?

R: I just know from the things he's said.

D: What kind of things does he say?


R: Well, he's very racist, for one thing.

D: Against Americans?

R: Yes. I think from everything he's ever said that the Japanese were superior
people you know and this kind of thing. I don't think he ever realized how bad it
was. Maybe he did. You know you look back on these things and you see how
well-adjusted some people are or how they've adjusted, how they dealt with it.
How other people haven't. As an adult, I can see it in young people. In friends
of my children. I can see how some of them, they just totally get lost. They don't
have any anchor or whatever and they drift. Whenever they come back and they
find themselves, it's all good. He just got lost and never found himself.

D: Do you have any sense of what it would be about the camp experience that
would have caused that?

R: Maybe it was just the lack of structure, of having nothing to do. Being in a camp,
there's no work, I don't know. I'm sure they got some education but I don't know.
I don't know what kind of education. It's also, what is our future? I really don't

D: But you have a sense that since those are kind of formative years...?

R: Maybe they were just... maybe he was just an exception, maybe he would have
been wild anyway.

D: What about your Uncle Frank?

R: My Uncle Frank was an adult.

D: And how did he weather it? Did he had a lot of anger about what happened?

R: He did have a lot of anger, but he was okay. They had some tragedy in their life.
My aunt had tuberculosis and she was sent to an asylum. Her children, my two
cousins, were also sent to an asylum. You know, a health asylum, tuberculosis,
they used to send them to special hospitals at the time.

D: This is after they got out of the camp?

R: This is after. My uncle lived with us for a while. We used to visit her every
weekend and the kids, the two kids. They lost their daughter because of
tuberculosis. I don't know. I think he dealt with it pretty well. He later became a
civil defense person and became a person of some authority in civil defense, so I
understand and took a _. You think that with his record they wouldn't
trust him, but he did okay. He was... got a reasonably good job. Didn't work in


agriculture anymore. He didn't grow tomatoes or anything. But they had a gas
station, they bought a gas station, and they ran the gas station for a long time.

D: Was there anybody else in your family that were of that generation, the teenage
generation that you have any memories about?

R: I guess mostly it was my uncle. My Uncle Don was a little bit older and he also
never did anything. He became a cook and he managed okay for a while, but he
also had health problems. I don't know if being in camp affected him as much as
it did Uncle George. They were the only ones that I know of that age.

D: How about then, people, yourself and people of your age?

R: Mostly I think we're okay. We did okay. My cousins have all been fine. I think I
told you last time, one of my cousins has even become a congressman. See,
we've been schoolteachers, lawyers, I'm probably the least successful of them

D: But you went to college? Did you go to grad school as well?

R: I did go to grad school. I didn't get my degree, but I did go to grad school. I tell
everybody, I had a baby.

D: So your generation, your age, went on to graduate high school, to go to college,
to become professionals.

R: Exactly.

D: Is that something that was important to your parents, did they stress that growing

R: Absolutely. They always said that they had a little Japanese education,
American education, but not a lot of either. They wanted us to all get our
education. They told me from when I was very young that I would go to college.
They never said, you can go to college if you want. They always told me I would.
They stressed education. I think most Japanese families did.

D: You said that you think your youngest brother actually was affected negatively by
the experiences in the camp. Or at least by the availability of medical care. Was
he sickly?

R: He was a little bit, but probably not by today's standards. At the time when we
didn't have medicine, we didn't have antibiotics, we didn't have a lot of things.
Then you sort of like edge. He did get sick once we were traveling I think. He
was very young, maybe a couple months old, three months old and he got very


sick. He probably just had... not rubella but roseola. which you have a very high
fever and you can appear to be very ill. My mother thought he was going to die.
but of course he survived, because roseola was not serious. I think his most
serious problem was at birth when he was born, he didn't have oxygen.

D: So he was born in the camp.

R: Born in the camp and he didn't have oxygen. He almost was stillborn and he
was lucky because the nurse told the doctor to try one more time because he
wouldn't cry. You know how they turn you upside down, they hit you on the butt,
give you a little smack and you start crying? Well he didn't. He did on the last

D: It doesn't sound like it was necessarily the lack of medical facilities that affected
him. He happened to have been born...

R: I think he probably was born that way because of the lack of medical facilities.

D: For prenatal care.

R: He was my mother's third child and he probably was okay, but she didn't have
any help with her childbirth. Like today we have Lamaze and they tell you how to
breathe and they tell you this that and whatever. She just had him. Who knows
what might have gone wrong? It might happen at any time.

D: Does she think that it was the situation she was in?

R: She's never said anything to me about that. I'm just assuming that since I heard
that he almost died at birth. From what I know now of anoxia. She herself
witnessed the death of some of her siblings when her mother was giving birth
and the babies didn't survive. She knows about things like that. She thought
that Dennis was almost stillborn.

D: Did he continue to have health problems in his life?

R: He had some hearing-loss, but I don't think that was due to anything. Basically
he didn't have problems, he was pretty healthy growing up.

D: Around 1948, there was some kind of minimal financial compensation that was
made to families, people who had been interned. Were you aware of that?

R: No.

D: You've never heard that your parents received anything for that?


R: No, in fact I'm sure my parents would never have done anything...

D: To make that happen.

R: Right. They would not go through a lot of red-tape.

D: Were they basically just suspicious of the system?

R: I think if it was a lot of red-tape, they probably didn't think it was worth their
efforts. I don't really remember it. I have a vague recollection of something. I
remember my mother complaining that my father would never do anything
whatever, it was because he hated red-tape.

D: You mean some forms that might have had to do with the camp.

R: Or some legal stuff that you had to go through. I think my Uncle Frank probably
did go through that for compensation. Of course, he was willing to do that. My
father would never have done that.

D: Obviously then we all know that much later on, that actually did go through in
1990, people started getting much larger compensation. You said one of your
cousins was a congressperson. Did he happen to be active in this whole
movement at all?

R: He was only elected two years ago, not two years ago... but he's a first-term

D: From California?

R: Right, but my sister-in-law's cousin has been a congressman for many years and
he was involved in that. My sister-in-law, my older brother's wife's cousin, a
distant relative. Well, he's not really a distant relative. He's a cousin, a first
cousin to my sister-in-law, but he was also one of my brother's roommates in
college. It's not like he's really distant.

D: How did you feel about the compensation? You received compensation.

R: Yes.

D: I remember it because I remember when Melissa got her car. She said, I got this
car because my mom got a compensation check, which was the first time I
became aware.

R: Actually it paid for their wedding, it was the wedding.


D: What did you think about getting it? What do you think about Japanese-
Americans getting that? What did you think about the sum of money?

R: Anything was welcome. My family, because there were five of us, received
$100,000 right?

D: Yes, $20,000 each, I believe is what everyone got.

R: There were five of us who received compensation. My youngest brother was
born in 1951, so he didn't receive any compensation. Most of my uncles and
aunts and cousins were also in the camps, so they received the same amount. It
helped a lot. Financially, it was nice to have money, it was nice that the
government apologized. A lot of people grumbled that it wasn't enough.

D: Were there people that you knew that grumbled?

R: No. Not that I heard of. A lot of people felt like that we shouldn't get
compensation, not Japanese-Americans, but other people who felt that it was not
a good thing.

D: Did you feel like you should?

R: I felt like a lot of people should, just because it disrupted their lives so much. It
wasn't ever going to give them back their lives, or what their lives might have
been. As for me, I felt like I didn't suffer, but it was nice. I paid for Melissa's

D: Now you talk about... I'm going to go back to you starting to tell a story about
your grandfather, didn't want to become a U.S. citizen. Did you say he wanted to
go back?

R: He was a U.S. citizen, he got his citizenship, yes he did. I don't know the history
of the gas station. Was probably in my uncle's name.

D: Tell me again, this was your grandfather...

R: Honda.

D: Your mother's father.

R: My mother's father.

D: He became a citizen after the war.


R: No, he was a citizen before the war. He's the one who owned the gas station. I
think it must have been in my uncle's name, his oldest son. Because they
weren't allowed to own property. He was like, I said, he was in Tule Lake
because he was considered a dangerous person, a troublemaker. He was so
angry that after the war, he left. He denounced his citizenship and went back to
Japan. He never came back until 1969-1970 for a visit. He came back for a
visit. He was a very nice old man. Very active. Of course I couldn't speak to
him because I don't speak Japanese and he spoke very little English. I know he
spoke English, because he had been in this country for so long, but he probably
had lost it all.

D: Do you know why he came back?

R: To visit.

D: So he didn't come back to live?

R: No, he came back to visit. I think the reason why he was so angry at the
government is because they wouldn't let him leave. He wanted to go back to

D: At the time that people were being relocated, he just wanted to go?

R: He probably wanted to go back during the war. I guess it's probably impossible.
His wife was dead and he had two young daughters in Japan. Of course they
were okay, there were a lot of relatives and everything, they were fine, but he still
wanted to go back. All of his other children were older. I guess Mae was the
youngest and she was ten. She might have been ten. That's pretty young to
leave a child. She was with relatives and her older sister wasn't too much older,
wasn't an adult. I guess maybe he was angry at that. I don't know. I do know
that he was really angry and he did go back to Japan as soon as he could and
that was right after the war.

D: Is it important to you that your children know about your family's experience with
the internment and your experience with the internment?

R: I don't think it's important for them to know about our experiences. I think it's
important for them to know that it happened, they should know that it was unjust
and that it should never be perpetrated on any other people. So hopefully they
will be wiser politically.

D: Are they interested to know about it? Do they ask questions?

R: I don't think so, I really don't think that they are. They're not into this kind of
history, family history. Maybe that's my fault.


D: Somewhere I read that for some people, they thought that the camp experience
weakened family bonds, what were traditionally kind of strong bonds among
Japanese people, that for some families it weakened them. Because of
tensions, because of differences in the political thinking of the isseifrom the
nisei. Different feelings of loyalty or anger to this country. Do you have any
thought on that?

R: I can see why that would be, but I don't have any personal experience. Two of
my uncles were in the military, actually a third one might have been. The man
my aunt married. He was probably in the war also, he was probably a war
veteran. I am just not aware of his family history, his history. I can see how the
issei might have felt like they shouldn't have gone to fight. I think most of them
wanted to show their loyalty even though a lot of people may have been against
it. I can see how that might have happened. It didn't happen in my family. I
didn't know my grandparents either.

D: I remember when I talked to you earlier, you had mentioned this particular
word, gaman, you said it meant to struggle and endure.

R: It means to suffer.

D: To suffer and endure.

R: Suffer in silence. It's like being stoic.

D: I don't know if you've answered the question, what, if anything, does this
particular word or concept mean to you when you think about your own or your
family's experience and how they ended up coping with it. Does that word

R: I think so. I think it applies to most of the Japanese who suffered the indignity of
the whole experience of being put in the camp, of not being allowed to leave, of
being forced to live in barracks, forced to eat in a mess hall. This is all things
that are forced upon people, not necessarily what you would choose to do.
When you go to school and you go to the dormitories, that's our choice. That's
not a bad situation. Eating in a cafeteria and whatever, but that's by choice also.
Whereas this is something that was forced upon them, to live in that kind of
community which wasn't all that bad and yet it took away a lot of their freedom
and privacy. I think they all experienced bad feelings and bad thoughts. Also
made them feel less than their own self-worth. They felt they had less self-worth
because they were being singled out. I know that a lot of people committed

D: Afterwards or during?


R: During the war. It maybe wasn't a lot, but I do know of people who committed
suicide because they couldn't endure. It couldn't have been as bad as some
people make it out to be [end of side 2, tape A]

D: Do you remember where we were?

R: I guess we were talking about gaman and that's sort of what you do, when the
situation gets bad you say, gaman something-or-other, which I know what it is in
my head, but I can't say it. Grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it-type thing and that's sort
of what it is. That's what it means, be stoic, suck it up.

D: Is that something that, as you have lived your life, is that something that has ever
come back to you and something that you think about when things are difficult?

R: Sure, actually it is true. It is something that you learn because when the going
gets rough, you don't just sit down and cry and give up. You hang in there and
you deal with it. You do, really. Things can get really bad, but you gaman it.

D: It sounds like come on.

R: Gaman.

D: Gaman. Which certainly sounds like it's kind of the suffering in silence part is
sort of what your parents did.

R: In fact, they all did. That's what they did.

D: You grew up here and westerners, Americans, talk more about, are sort of more
effusive about emotions. Did that change for you or do you think you still hold on
to some of that stoicism from your cultural background?

R: I don't know. I like to talk about my feelings and I do. But if something is really
terrible, I think I just have to bear it. A lot of times it's physical pain. There's
physical discomfort when you think you're going to just die, just hang on and you
know you're not going to die. Like, childbirth or whatever, you just hang in there.

D: Did you find growing up and even in your life that white, or Caucasian people
now, know much about the Japanese internment or cognizant of it?

R: No.

D: Just aware of that.

R: It's something that you just put in the back of your mind. I've had people call me
on the phone because they know I was in the camp and they want to know... I


had a couple of young people call me, like were doing projects in middle school
or high school and they wanted to interview me, so they asked me a few
questions and whatever.

D: How do they know about you?

R: Probably through family. They know. I was Karen's mother, this kind of thing. I
don't know of anybody else here who might have been in the camp and I know
there are a number of Japanese people here in town, but I don't know of
anybody else who's been in the camps.

D: How about people of your generation who are peers, do they ever talk to you
about it or mention it or bring it up?

R: No, you don't.

D: They would have known the history.

R: We don't ever talk about it.

D: Is there anything that I've left out, haven't asked or any particular memories or
something that just didn't get touched on.

R: No, I don't know. I can't really say off-hand. I think maybe some of the things
that are about the camp that we don't talk about is probably some of the positive
things that came out of it.

D: What were they?

R: It's probably the sense of community that the Japanese came out of there with.
A sense of community, of being able to accomplish things. They were forced to,
and they could as a group. Maybe out of that was born things like the Japanese
American something- League.

D: The JACL. I don't know what the C stands for, but I believe the acronym is
JACL. [It is the Japanese-American Citizen's League].

R: That's what it is, JACL. The Japanese battalion was the most decorated
battalion in World War II in the European front anyway.

D: Did your older uncle then ever end up in Europe in that regiment? I think it's the
442nd regiment.

R: That sounds right. The fighting 442nd. No I don't think he was. I don't think he
ever saw combat. I think they probably kept him here.


D: Do you remember that being a real source of pride in your community about that
particular regiment being so highly decorated after the war? Is something that
was talked about?

R: I wasn't aware of that until the movie came out actually.

D: Which one was that?

R: It was called Go For Broke. That's something that they would say, go for broke.
It had a lot of Japanese actors in it. Van Johnson was the star, you're too young
to remember him as an actor.

D: Yes.

R: I saw that movie in Walnut Grove. I might have been like nine or something like
that when I saw it. Maybe eight or nine. So it was soon after the war that they
made this movie. Yes, I think that a lot of people felt a lot of pride and still do.
But of course, there are always going to be people out there who are prejudiced,
right? It's never going to go away.

D: Did you suffer any prejudice growing up? After the war and kind of from that?

R: Oh yes, sure. It's one of the reasons why I think that prejudice is bad. I'm all for
civil rights. I'm a knee-jerk liberal.

D: And you can be proud of that.

R: Or whatever. I'm all for things like affirmative action. It's very unpopular but I
think that those kind of things help bring about equality, economic equality.

D: Can you talk about the prejudices that you suffered? Do you have specific
memories about that?

R: It started when I started going to school. We used to play games. All the kids
used to play war games. This is in elementary school. Of course, it was the
Americans and the Japs type of thing. Everybody called us Japs. Of course,
nobody would do that now. It was the Japs that were the enemy and we were

D: Do you remember what that felt like as a kid?

R: I think it was so common, we didn't think anything of it.

D: Did you ever feel threatened?


R: No. They might have called us Japs and everything like this, but we were not
treated badly. I think maybe some people... I don't think it was because we were
Japanese that we had anything bad happen to us or anything like that. I always
felt like we were accepted on some level anyway. Like in school they always
said, Japanese people are real smart. That was okay.

D: That was a good stereotype, it was a good prejudice.

R: It was always okay. When I was in college and I would look for housing, for an
apartment or something, we were turned away from a lot of places because we
were Japanese.

D: This is when you were at Berkeley.

R: When I was at Berkeley. I knew a lot of that did go on. It's mostly, mostly
housing. That even happens today. Not against Japanese, but obviously
against black people. It's not supposed to happen, but you know it does. There
were just rules. You just didn't rent to Japanese or Chinese or Indians. Mostly
because they cook that smelly food.

D: So it's just a general anti-Asian sentiment on the West Coast around that time
and even for quite awhile afterwards.

R: Absolutely.

D: Did you feel that when you ended up in the East Coast?

R: In the east coast, there was a lot of that going on. Mostly because since I
married Bob, we were like mixed-marriage-type thing. There were people who
just didn't either... they didn't realize that we were married or something.

D: The assumption wouldn't be that you were married because one was American
and one was Japanese.

R: I remember when we were shopping for bedroom furniture at Macy's and Bob
was talking to the saleswoman about stuff and I was wandering around. I didn't
stand there and listen to what was going on. I was wandering around looking at
the furniture and every once in a while I would come back and see what was
going on. After a couple of times she looked at me and she said, go away, can't
you see we're busy? Bob and I were like what? He said, that's my wife. I guess
that's not necessarily prejudice, but it was something.

D: The assumption that...

R: ... he wouldn't be married...


D: He wouldn't be married to you.

R: Actually I think we've had minimal experience with prejudice. A lot of my children
of course were teased about being Asian. I think they dealt with it well. Melissa
had probably the worst time, but she dealt with it okay. I think Greg has probably
not experienced any kind of prejudice. People accepted him because he was an
athlete-type person.

D: Karen?

R: Karen probably experienced it hardly at all because she doesn't look Japanese.

D: As much as Melissa does.

R: As much as Melissa and Greg. She was always so outgoing and whatever, she
never had any problems making friends. I guess Melissa is a little bit more quiet
and kept to herself a lot, much more.

D: Were the problems that Melissa and Greg felt, those have mostly been here in
the South... if they felt them.

R: I think Melissa maybe, but Greg has never talked about it. Greg has never said
anything. He sort of like had a social group from a very young age. Being on the
swim team and maybe some people might have said something. There were so
many other Asian kids on the team. They all got along well.

D: Do you remember what you would say to Melissa? Would she come and tell
you? Or how to help her cope with that?

R: Well, we would tell her things like, that she was lucky that she had two cultures
and this kind of thing. She might have felt a little unhappy. I remember when
she went to high school when she had to introduce herself, she'd make jokes
about it, like my name is Melissa Reeves. My mother is Japanese and my father
was not in the Navy. Because they would ask her that. Was your father in the

D: I didn't know that. I didn't know that story.

R: Yes.

D: Okay well, anything else?

R: I guess really what we've suffered or our being in camp wasn't nearly as bad as
what happened to the people in Europe, the Jews certainly, and the people who
were put in Japanese concentration camps, they were caught over in China or


Indonesia or the Philippines, certainly I have to say that our government, even
though they perpetrated this injustice on us, it wasn't that they sent us to gas
chambers or anything. So for that you have to say that our government certainly
was as fair as they could be to us. Even though they said they put us in camps
for our own safety to keep the other people from killing us. Nobody believes that,
but they did say it. Still, we were not starved, we were not beaten or tortured, as
far as I know. They might have been very brutal to a few people, but certainly
not to the majority of us. As far as that goes, what I remember was okay. You
have to put it in perspective. There was war, Pearl Harbor had happened. This
was their reaction. So in that sense, I don't blame the government as such. Of
course, I didn't suffer much if at all. Maybe the most we suffered was that during
the war, a lot of people made a lot of money and we didn't, because we were in
camps. Maybe a lot of people lost property and things like that. Things like that
happen. It wasn't like the Germans and the Jews, that's for sure. Look at us

D: Definitely endured and succeeded.

R: We've endured and we've succeeded. They didn't take opportunity away from
us. I tell a lot of our students who come from other countries, who are
immigrants, we have a discussion about our country and things. I'm grateful for
things that we have, opportunity and they are too. Freedom of religion. That's
probably one of the biggest things our Constitution does for us. Freedom of
religion, a lot of these wars are based on religion. I can say that, even though
I'm not a religious person, I really appreciate the fact that our government isn't
making me a Baptist or something.

D: Right, okay, thank you.

R: You're welcome.

D: End of the interview.

[End of interview.]