Aragaki, June (9/6/2018)

Japanese American Service Committee Legacy Center


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[NOTE: This transcript has not undergone a final proofreading and may contain errors. It is being provided in draft form to enhance access to the video recording. As soon as possible, it will be replaced with a final, corrected transcript and will be synced to the video to provide clickable timecodes.]

Anna Takada: 00:00:15 Okay. To start, can you just state your full name?

June Aragaki: 00:00:21 My name?

AT: 00:00:21 Yes, and you, you can look at me through out the conversation.

JA: 00:00:23 It's June Kimie Aragaki. Yeah, Mike told you.

AT: 00:00:31 And if you want to stop at any point we can, we can do that.

JA: 00:00:34 Okay.

AT: 00:00:36 Um, okay. Uh, this is an interview with June Aragaki as part of the Japanese American Service Committee in Chicago, Japanese American historical society oral history project. The interview is being conducted on September 6th, 2018 at 11:26 AM uh, at Mrs. Aragaki's residence. June Aragaki is being interviewed by Anna Takata of the Japanese American Service Committee. Um, so to, as we start, can you just tell me a little bit about where and when you were born?

JA: 00:01:11 I was born in Walnut Grove, California 19, no I mean, 1921

AT: 00:01:21 What, and what's your birthday?

JA: 00:01:23 8 20 21.

AT: 00:01:28 Um, can you tell me a little bit about, um, your hometown, what it was like growing up there?

JA: 00:01:34 Well, um, out there. It was just country, country and we, we did, oh, Oh. God. So My mother and father, they were all farmers, so they all knew what the only kind of work they were able to do was just go from one place to another, like a transit. Because they had no skill whatsoever. And um, we always traveled in, in a horse, drove a wagon that was our transportation at that time.

AT: 00:02:23 And uh, do you know where your parents were originally from?

JA: 00:02:28 Oh, I can't say. My mother was from, uh, what was that? Japan, what's the right, let's see what was that? I tried think of that, Oh wait, I forgot what that province was. My father was from Japan too, from, uh, I, I don't remember.

AT: 00:02:59 Do you know when they came to the US?

JA: 00:03:03 No that's one thing I tried to find, I lost, uh, I lost my mother's, uh, immigration, uh, paper to see what, what year she came was in anyways, in the nineteen, late or early 1920s, because the, both of them came and they landed up in Hawaii. Then from Hawaii, they came to the California. And just, we had all nothing but farm life and graduated from, well only good thing was that finally we were able to go to a farm that they gave sharecropping like 60% and 40%. And we stayed there for, how many years since I was in grammar school that was in, uh, let's see, 19 well anyways, I graduated 19, grammar school, 1936. So we were on that farm for the longest time.

AT: 00:04:27 What kind of, um, produce, what's your, what kind of produce was, where your parents,

JA: 00:04:34 Oh well, on the farm? Well, we had asparagus, pears and grew the seeds and peach seeds. And then summertime was a, ok, pear picking. And then after that they had to prune all the suckers of the pear trees and sprayed it. And my mother would help spray, but she became sick and then found out that she was allergic to this spray. So she was sick for a month because of the allergy. And during that time my brother was trying to clean it, clean this, uh, pump machine that allows the sprays to come out. He had fringed gloves on and it got tangled in the gears and he lost all four fingers. Well somehow he survived, and then after that grew up, he able to fix car. He turned out to be a good mechanic.

AT: 00:05:55 And, and your mother, she recovered from the allergies?

JA: 00:06:00 Yeah, no, she was fine after the,

AT: 00:06:01 Just the spray.

JA: 00:06:03 Pom dee, that every year that because of the spray she became allergic then after, I don't know why, who decided that we were gonna leave the farm and go to Stockton, California. That was about 1938.

AT: 00:06:27 Um, before we talk about Stockton. Um, do you have memories of long ago or what, what was that like for you as a child growing up on the farm there?

JA: 00:06:39 Well, that's all we know was, well, we went to school, the bus would pick us up. And I was just thinking, what was the grammar school name was Beaver. And I was thinking, I wonder if there was ever beavers there. Well, anyways, let's see what else, Well, we used to go swimming in the Sacramento river. The Sacramento river flowed. Being kids, we were reckless, we'd jump off the wharf. And I said oh how scary it this, the jump of that high flight. I, I quit that after that. [laughs] Yeah.

AT: 00:07:24 And uh, do you have siblings? Did you have siblings, brothers or sisters?

JA: 00:07:36 At that time? Well there were seven of us. Four brothers and three sisters. Well that's seven now, three. Three girls, four boys and three girls.

AT: 00:07:46 And where were you in the birth order? Where were you in the birth order? Were you a middle child or,

JA: 00:07:54 I'm the, yes. That's right. See two brothers and then my sister and I and then my sister and another brother. So it's like a middle.

AT: 00:08:09 And um, let's see. So, um, growing up on that farm, um, and going to school, were there other Japanese American families in that area?

JA: 00:08:27 Oh, let's see. There was one or two. And one Chinese that went to grammar school with that, we knew. All the, there was all mixed nationalities.

AT: 00:08:48 And uh, did you do any other activities outside of school?

JA: 00:08:54 Did you have to go to Japanese school or

JA: 00:08:56 No, we tried. Yeah, that's right. We tried going Japanese school. Uh, even at that [coughs] in Walnut Grove at that time they were segregated Japanese wa-, couldn't go, being in school with the white kids. So, but then what else,

AT: 00:09:26 And um, and how about as far as, um, like speaking Japanese or Japanese customs at home? Did you speak Japanese with your parents?

JA: 00:09:39 Yeah, that's what he spoke to me. That's how I learned how to speak Japanese. Do you, have you learned?

AT: 00:09:45 I unfortunately, I, can't.

JA: 00:09:48 Well anyway, I speak, they speak to me in Japanese, so, so we learn Japanese that way. My father and my mother and she would read Japanese stories to us, which was very interesting. And uh, well we go to school, then we went to church. The amount of, it was about three miles away or what? Almost to the Church. We'd go to Sunday school and we, they had Bon Odori There and Hana Matsuri. All those things that they have here.

AT: 00:10:33 Um, what kind of church was that that your family went to?

JA: 00:10:38 What?

AT: 00:10:38 What kind of church?

JA: 00:10:40 It was a Buddhist church! Yeah

AT: 00:10:41 Buddhist?

JA: 00:10:41 Yeah, they had a Buddhist church there and the little town of Walnut Grove the whole city, composed of Japanese family, a lot of Filipinos and Chinese. There was, the Chinese had their own sector. So it was a mixed, mixed town.

AT: 00:11:06 And so, um, when your family moved to Stockton, uh, that must have been after you started high school?

JA: 00:11:17 Okay. Yes, almost. Yeah cause I graduated in Stockton in 1940 so it was 1938 that we moved to Stockton and we decided to give up the farm and buy, buy this restaurant you know, fast food restaurant. So that's what they decided you decide, or rather my brother and whatever . So we had this little uh, fast food, I don't know how many stools, it was just stool, maybe 12, 16, I don't know what. We called it TK cafe [laughs].

AT: 00:11:58 T K cafe.

JA: 00:12:01 Yeah!

AT: 00:12:01 What kind of foods did you serve there?

JA: 00:12:04 Well, regular American food, but these are all transit worker that would come in to get food. But us, I would make lunch for them and they take, in a paper bag. We would make lunch. They would take that and then they will come back and they, would eat dinner. So morning was either hotcakes or pancakes which they were called, scrambled eggs, oatmeal. So rather American food. And lunch we made them sandwiches and whatever.

AT: 00:12:41 Did you have a, a role? Did you have to help out at the restaurant?

JA: 00:12:45 We all pitched in. We would all work together.

AT: 00:12:49 So what were some of the things that you would have to do there?

JA: 00:12:52 Well, mainly serve the food. Well, I didn't know much. Did I do as much cooking? I don't remember that. But every so often my sister would bake a cake, which there was a guy there named Philip, I think? He was very attracted to her, so she made this angel food cake and he loved it and other people got pieces of it. So...

AT: 00:13:28 Um one thing that is, that's also helpful for me is if, um, you can just go through the names of your, your parents and your siblings just so we're able to, to refer to them later. So would you be able to tell me the names of your siblings?

JA: 00:13:44 Yeah.

AT: 00:13:44 In order?

JA: 00:13:46 Yoshiro, or we call him Jerry. That's the oldest. And the second one is Kiyoshi.

AT: 00:13:58 Kiyoshi?

JA: 00:13:58 Kiyoshi Yeah. Yes. Then Grace. My sister Grace. And then me, that, and then Doris, And Hiroshi. And Shig, Shigeo.

AT: 00:14:20 Mmm. Did all of your siblings have a, a Japanese and an English name or American name?

JA: 00:14:27 The wha? We all had a Japanese name. Then we'd, when we went to high school because the teacher's going to pronounce our Japanese name. So we picked up the American name.

AT: 00:14:44 And how about for you? Um, was June your American name that you chose?

JA: 00:14:50 What is that?

AT: 00:14:50 Was June the name that you?

JA: 00:14:53 I selected, yes.

AT: 00:14:55 And what, and why did you select June?

JA: 00:14:58 I don't know! It's just it was easy to pick. Uh, my sister Doris, she picked that. Her Japanese name was Kikue, You know, they would have hard time trying to pronounce, Kikue. So it's, a lot of people would make it sound like kick-away [laughs]. It's, which just not very good. But all my brothers, they didn't change their name.

AT: 00:15:27 And uh, how about your parents? What were your parents' names?

JA: 00:15:31 Hisano is my mother name. Ito, that's her maiden name too. Kamejiro, Ito is my father's name. So actually we were all Itos before!

AT: 00:15:47 Hmm. Mmm. Okay. So your, your family moved to Stockton, you sold the farm and you invested in the TK Cafe

JA: 00:16:01 We were there when the war broke out.

AT: 00:16:01 Okay.

JA: 00:16:02 So, in, that was 1941 so 1942 they have built the barracks and the Stockton race track and that was where we were temporary located.

AT: 00:16:22 Uh huh. Before the war broke out. Um, well first of all, what was the name of the high school you went to?

JA: 00:16:32 The what?

AT: 00:16:32 The high school in Stockton.

JA: 00:16:35 Stockton high school.

AT: 00:16:36 Stockton High School. Um, can you tell me a little bit more about what Stockton High, high school was like for you?

JA: 00:16:41 Well, Stockton high school? Well, was lot, much bigger than the one in the, and you had to take certain courses and didn't, I couldn't uh, the regular, they had economy, the economy.

AT: 00:17:03 I see.

JA: 00:17:07 And, biologies and what else could I do?

AT: 00:17:09 Well and how did, as far as like what the towns were like, how did Stockton compare? Was it, was that also a bigger town?

JA: 00:17:19 Well, not that big, they were sort of like, Each Japanese had their own sector. The Philippine have their own and the Chinese well, they were sort of mixed. So we always used to go eat at the Chinese restaurant.

AT: 00:17:39 Um, that was in Stockton?

JA: 00:17:41 Stockton, yeah.

AT: 00:17:42 So were there, were there. A lot more Japanese American families in Stockton?

JA: 00:17:47 Yeah, in Stockton. It was quite a few. That's probably, there's a bunch that, uh, we all were located to Rohwer. We'll all together in one area blocks up, they call it a block. So we knew them from back home, see.

AT: 00:18:13 Um, and can you tell me a little bit more about, do you remember the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed? December seventh? In 41, Pearl Harbor?

JA: 00:18:25 What? I was what?

AT: 00:18:26 Do you remember the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed?

JA: 00:18:31 Oh yeah.

AT: 00:18:31 What you were doing or.

JA: 00:18:33 No, I don't remember doing any... But we were not aware a aware of what, where Pearl Harbor was at. Yeah, no, never heard of it. But then afterwards we didn't, we didn't have television or radio, nothing like that. So.

AT: 00:18:56 So how did you, um, was your family then not really up to date with the news if you didn't have those news sources? I guess like radio?

JA: 00:19:10 Yeah.

AT: 00:19:12 Um.

JA: 00:19:12 Well they just, oh about the relocation?

AT: 00:19:17 Yeah. How did you get information about what was happening with the war or evacuation?

JA: 00:19:24 We didn't know much about it until they sent us all of us that you are to be relocated and to be ready by certain certain date and to get rid of, sell whatever you have to or. So, so thinking we were going to be back in about a year we, so we have stored everything down in the basement of the house we were living in, but then found out the people there are wanting to sell the house. So my brother had to go from, from the, to the house and have them pack up everything and taking to storage, which was the good part of government. That they took care of. So they, and then at that time and then that one camp Stockman, there was one incident where one person tried to escape, well he was shot. I don't know whether he was killed or what, but there was guards there too.

AT: 00:20:36 Do you, and so let's see, just for context, you were, you graduated in 40, so by this time were out of, you were done with high school.

JA: 00:20:48 Yeah 1940 I was done with Stockton and graduated.

AT: 00:20:56 So what, between 1940 and the evacuation, what were you, were you working?

JA: 00:21:06 Yeah oh well, running the restaurant.

AT: 00:21:06 Okay. Um, do you remember your, your personal reactions to the evacuation?

JA: 00:21:18 Nothing. Nothing, nothing of a sound or anything. We just filled, I say, Oh the government is gonna ship us out. So we just packed everything and, and told us to take whatever you could carry. And that was was uh, what golding or bedding but leave everything else. But then like, we took a case of Japanese records and so we were in Stockton and the FBI goes door to door to check on all the, um, just the, oh we have some Japanese record. He confiscated them and my brother was so mad. He called them bad names [laughs]. Yeah he was bad.

AT: 00:22:11 These were like documents or papers?

JA: 00:22:13 No, no just playing record music, Japanese. Yeah yeah yeah.

AT: 00:22:16 Oh, just music?

JA: 00:22:18 Uh no, that incident. So we were in this one barrack, well with one, one, a whole family was in that one section. And there was I think another family on the, there's bout two other families in that one barrack. But, uh, seven of us was in a one one room, room. That was for until the time they transferred us over to the relocation camp in Rohwer.

AT: 00:23:01 And do you remember your initial reactions to the assembly center in Stockton?

JA: 00:23:07 No. That's the funny thing. We didn't feel anything. Well so we just thought, well the government is gunna do it. So we just went along the rest. Yeah.

AT: 00:23:20 And you're with your entire family at this point?

JA: 00:23:23 Yeah, well there were lot of families that were split. But uh, we were all together. I was thinking of my second brother. What did he sleep? I don't, ah, no. I think he was by himself.

AT: 00:23:42 Um, were, were any of them married or

JA: 00:23:46 No, nobody was married in.

AT: 00:23:48 And what were your brother, your older siblings? Um, what were they doing before evacuation, if not in school?

JA: 00:24:00 Oh, they were working. No, my oldest brother, he worked in the restaurant and my second brother, he was a farmer job, uh, driving a truck. So there was the fruits, tomatoes. And all kinds of vegetables.

JA: 00:24:20 So like a truck farmer?

JA: 00:24:22 Huh?

AT: 00:24:22 A truck farmer?

JA: 00:24:24 No, he was a driver.

AT: 00:24:25 Oh just the driver.

JA: 00:24:26 Driver, the truck, did transfer and all of it. Vegetable have to be picked up and taken to the shipping dock or whatever it was. So he worked in the grape, in Lodi. That was a grape, grape town. So he worked in the grapes, cutting back in grapes. So.

AT: 00:24:51 And how long were you all um, in Stoct- in the assembly center?

JA: 00:24:57 Well...

AT: 00:24:57 In the racetrack?

JA: 00:25:01 Till uh, let's see, we were there for, 1942 we were moved up to Rohwer.

AT: 00:25:13 So let's see. That would have, was it just a matter of months that you were staying there or that you stayed there?

JA: 00:25:21 There we were transferred in 1943. To, oh, Rohwer.

AT: 00:25:26 Okay. So about a year? In Stockton?

JA: 00:25:27 Yeah, almost a year because they had to have all those barracks built.

AT: 00:25:34 And what, what did you do during that time? In Stockton?

JA: 00:25:37 In Stockton? Well we worked in the mess hall. Cleaning. [laughs] Well, there was nothing else much to do. And then we used to sew and learn how to crochet. And, what else? We didn't do much. There really wasn't much to do there.

AT: 00:25:57 Your younger siblings, did they have to go to school?

JA: 00:26:01 Uh, I think, Shig, my youngest brothers, the youngest they had finished, uh, grammar school. So, they didn't go to high school. That's right they didn't get to go because by the time they got into camp, uh, I was thinking whether he was, they were drafted from the camp or after we moved to Stock- a Chicago, but anyway, they were drafted.

AT: 00:26:41 The older boys, the older boys?

JA: 00:26:44 No, the younger boys.

AT: 00:26:44 The younger boys. Well, and so they must have been very close to draft age then.

JA: 00:26:52 Oh yeah.

AT: 00:26:55 18. Um, so in '43, your family went to Rohwer.

JA: 00:27:07 Uh, where?

AT: 00:27:07 To Rohwer.

JA: 00:27:12 Yeah, Rohwer yea.

AT: 00:27:12 And how did Rohwer compare to the race track?

JA: 00:27:17 Well, it was big! It was old, no trees. It was hot and humid. And winter was cold because the barracks were just single, single. What?

AT: 00:27:34 Like plywood?

JA: 00:27:36 Yeah.

AT: 00:27:37 Uh, huh

JA: 00:27:42 So we had two separate apartments. Mother and father and the, us girls had one and the boys next door.

AT: 00:27:55 So you're still with all of your family.

JA: 00:27:58 Yeah. Right. Then we had friends that were still from Stockton. They lived in the same block. They call it block one or block two.

AT: 00:28:09 Which block?

JA: 00:28:11 Nineteen, we were in. [laughs]

AT: 00:28:18 Does it surprise you that you remember that or is that something that you've always remembered

JA: 00:28:24 Certain things I remember, uh, then. And there was more activity there. So we, I learned how to draft clothes pattern. And they had sewing and there were uh, dances at night and they had baseball games in, the daytime. There was a lot of things to do. We, same thing, we all worked in the, mess hall. And fix the tables and clean the table.

AT: 00:28:58 Where are you getting paid for that work?

JA: 00:29:00 Well, that one we got $10.

AT: 00:29:03 Were you getting paid at Stockton? Where are you getting paid at the race track?

JA: 00:29:09 No, no we didn't. I don't think we got paid there.

AT: 00:29:13 Mmm. And how about your family members? Were other folks in your family also working?

JA: 00:29:21 Let's see the. The boys, they didn't do anything. My brother this one name Hiro the one, Hiro? He was very, very helpful in driving the trucks and delivering all the heavy uh, materials. And Rohwer they call him Powerhouse because he would, have you seen those big iron wood stoves that they install? He will carry that by himself. So he was always busy. He was always busy driving the truck delivering cartons of vegetables over there.

AT: 00:30:09 In camp?

JA: 00:30:09 In camp, yeah.

AT: 00:30:09 So it sounds like it was a very large camp.

JA: 00:30:14 Wha?

AT: 00:30:14 Sounds like it was a large camp. Big camp.

JA: 00:30:17 Oh yeah, there was, how many was? Was it 5,000? Or I forgot what amount was in that camp. What or was it 10 thousand?

AT: 00:30:29 I, I'm not sure off hand.

JA: 00:30:31 I know one, then they were Jerome, that was a little further away, Jerome. That was the other camp, but they finally combined both of them into one. I think, was it? Can't remember. Have to at least a 5,000 or 10 thousand. I don't know what. I think more five thousand.

AT: 00:30:56 And how long was your family there in Rohwer?

JA: 00:31:00 Uh, we were all, I came out in 1943. She got out Because my sister and a friend, her girlfriend, they had come out earlier and they had through a friend, through the JASC, they had set up, they found housing. So they,

AT: 00:31:26 Which sister was this?

JA: 00:31:28 Grace.

AT: 00:31:30 Grace.

JA: 00:31:30 The oldest one.

AT: 00:31:31 Older tha- just one older than you, yeah.

JA: 00:31:33 One above me, yeah.

AT: 00:31:38 Um, can you tell me more about, umm, that process of

JA: 00:31:45 Huh?

AT: 00:31:45 Can you tell me more about the process of leaving camp early to go somewhere like Chicago? Do you remember that at all?

JA: 00:31:55 Oh, there's no problem because, uh, all you had to write down, where are you going to go? And we'd have a place to stay and where, you know there's no problem getting out. So a lot of people were starting to leave camp, 1943

AT: 00:32:17 And then, I'm sorry, did you say that your sister left as well or, or she just had a friend who was out there. Did grace go to Chicago early?

JA: 00:32:26 Yes, she did. She and her girlfriend, Dorothy, I think that was her name. They left and they, and JASU, I think?

AT: 00:32:36 The Resettlers Committee.

JA: 00:32:41 Yeah, Resettlers Committee. I think, Kenji Nakane. Well he had help us, at that time.

AT: 00:32:49 And um,

JA: 00:32:52 Then they, then she met the Moss Makoka. Very, they were very helpful cause they were here, they were from uh, they lived here in Chicago already. Some of these Japanese.

AT: 00:33:06 Um, just going to take a break for one second cause I'm going to adjust that microphone.

JA: 00:33:16 Ah, okay.

AT: 00:33:17 But sorry about that. Yeah, take, take a quick break. And would you be fine just looking at that window kind of as though you were talking to me? Ok going to adjust this a little bit. Okay. So Grace and her girlfriend went to Chicago with the help of the Resettlers Committee.

JA: 00:34:21 Hmm?

AT: 00:34:21 And Mr. Nakane . Um, and so, was she the first one in your family to leave camp.

JA: 00:34:31 Leave camp, yes.

AT: 00:34:31 And, and then where, kind of, where, what were people in your family doing after that? After Grace left?

JA: 00:34:45 Oh we stayed there.Then, uh, Doris and I, 442nd in Camp Shelby they wanted some girls to come for their party or dance. So a bunch of us went!

AT: 00:34:58 Outside of camp?

JA: 00:35:02 Yeah.

AT: 00:35:02 Where, and I'm sorry, reminded me?

JA: 00:35:04 Camp Shelby. That's in Mississippi.

AT: 00:35:07 Mississippi, okay. Um, how did, how did that work? People just got selected to.

JA: 00:35:16 No, just whoever wanted to go signed up. So I met an, uh, soldier friend there. Very nice.

AT: 00:35:31 Um, can you, so tell me more about that? I actually, I had never heard of people leaving camp to go to camp Shelby.

JA: 00:35:44 Yeah.

AT: 00:35:48 So was this also 1940, so this must've been after 1943 if it was a 442nd?

JA: 00:35:56 Who was it. Because I left camp 1943.

AT: 00:36:03 Ok.

JA: 00:36:03 Later on.

AT: 00:36:03 But before then...

JA: 00:36:03 Since it happened in spring time. See, so a lot of that's around October, I think September, October I left camp 1943.

AT: 00:36:18 Um, but the, the party was in the spring?

JA: 00:36:21 The wha?

AT: 00:36:21 The party at camp Shelby was in the spring?

JA: 00:36:24 Uh probably, that's uh, yeah. Cause it's still warm. Yeah.

New Speaker: 00:36:28 Can you tell me more about that? Must have been very exciting. To leave camp and for a party, no less.

JA: 00:36:37 [laughs], yeah.

AT: 00:36:37 So, so what was that like? You just, you took a train or a truck?

JA: 00:36:41 No, they're a bunch of us. They had a bus and they transported us there. And they had rooms for us there to stay, and.

AT: 00:36:51 Was it just young women? Or

JA: 00:36:53 Yeah! All singles. [Laughs] So it was fun.

AT: 00:36:59 What was camp Shelby like?

JA: 00:37:02 Was full of all Nisei soldiers. That's where they, that's where the 442nd started. So I met this young fellow. I liked him very much so it. and I actually, yeah, I loved him. And then I, then they had another second chance to go, so I went again. And I saw him, again. And then he felt the same way about me. I was still, I, you know, I still think about him.

AT: 00:37:38 What was his name?

JA: 00:37:39 His nom-name? Don Okumura.

AT: 00:37:47 Um,

JA: 00:37:50 And he came up to the camp that year, and he wanted to marry me. So I said fine, so we went up, went together to meet his family. They were in, uh, Heart Mountain.

AT: 00:38:14 Um,

JA: 00:38:14 Well Wyoming, that's

AT: 00:38:18 Do you have a clear memory of the party itself?

JA: 00:38:22 Oh, it's crowded! It was hot and humid. Ugh! So, he says, let's get out of here. So he took me out there when we just stand, watched, uh. They were all having a good time.

AT: 00:38:40 And so there, was there music and dancing or food or...

JA: 00:38:45 No just dance, m, I don't remember much of it. Well of that, anyway. [laughs]

AT: 00:38:50 Or, and was it, did they have like a rec hall or,

JA: 00:38:55 Yeah. Yeah. Oh, so the next morning we had breakfast there, within, um, my sister to have a best friend too, there,

AT: 00:39:11 How many days or nights were you there?

New Speaker: 00:39:13 Well, you stay the whole night, that's all.

AT: 00:39:16 Overnight and then went back the next day. Um, and Don. Where was, where was he from originally?

JA: 00:39:25 He was from California. They had strawberries, strawberry farm.

AT: 00:39:34 Mmm. So that was in spring. And you said you went back one more time before leaving camp?

JA: 00:39:42 Yeah, what was it, the same year, I don't know.

AT: 00:39:47 Another dance or social event?

JA: 00:39:48 Yeah. I don't remember what day or month it was.

AT: 00:39:55 Had you been keeping in touch with Don, since the first time?

JA: 00:39:59 I wrote him.

AT: 00:39:59 Like writing letters or,

JA: 00:40:02 Then he finally says, I think he says, ah, I don't want to, I don't want to marry me. I said, oh, okay, he was down in Camp Shelby, I was in Chicago, so it sort of broke my heart. But I got to know his whole family. The Okumura family, his sister and brother,

AT: 00:40:30 The ones who were in Heart Mountain?

JA: 00:40:32 Yeah, they were all in Heart Mountain.

AT: 00:40:36 And I, I'm sorry, did you say that you were able to go visit as well?

JA: 00:40:43 What?

AT: 00:40:43 You were able to visit as well? Heart mountain?

JA: 00:40:46 Yeah, I went with him. But that's when I left camp. And went straight to Chicago.

AT: 00:40:54 From Heart mountain?

JA: 00:40:56 Yeah.

AT: 00:40:57 Oh wow. Okay. Um, what was Heart Mountain like for you? Cause that was probably the first time you're seeing a different camp.

JA: 00:41:05 The same thing. Bare. Not a tree in sight. And that place was, when they get, they get sand storm. And the sand will come through the, through the walls. It was really terrible. They always, they all say Heart Mountain as being one of the worst camp. I think they say. It was real, real bad.

AT: 00:41:38 How long did you stay there?

JA: 00:41:44 Oh, we stayed there about four days I think. Yeah.

AT: 00:41:48 And you had to have had the plan,

JA: 00:41:50 Huh?

AT: 00:41:51 You had had the plan to move to Chicago from Heart mountain, is that right? Or

JA: 00:42:03 No. I guess, I don't remember what I did. But anyway I didn't go back to Rohwer so I probably to stay in Chicago, live with my, where my sister had a apartment and rent so I stayed there and he went back to Camp Shelby.

AT: 00:42:25 Umm. So can you, can you tell me about, um, that move to Chicago? How did you get there?

JA: 00:42:35 Oh, they dragged out the old trains and they were all dusty and dirty, but he took us five days to get from Stockton to Rohwer.

AT: 00:42:53 Okay. But the, um, I'm sorry, the, the train from Heart mountain to Chicago.

JA: 00:42:58 Oh Heart Mountain.

AT: 00:42:58 Did you take a train?

JA: 00:42:59 Oh yeah. Packed with soldiers. [laughs].

AT: 00:43:03 Were there other, um, uh, internees who went to Chicago as well from Heart mountain? Like were you traveling with anyone from camp?

JA: 00:43:14 Well, that, I don't know. There must be, oh, I that, I don't know at that time.

AT: 00:43:21 Can you tell me more about your arrival to Chicago? Do you remember first coming here, or first, getting here? What that was like?

JA: 00:43:33 Mmm. Oh. I didn't think nothing of it. It just, nothing. [laughs] Well, I was glad to be able to have stayed with my sister until we find apartment that all of us could live in.

AT: 00:43:58 Where, where was her apartment?

JA: 00:44:02 Uh, let's see. Well, it's up in the North Side. Oh well, where is it. Near Fullerton? And um, Clark street, somewhere around there. Then later on we found out we had to move so moved down to Chicago Avenue and, and Clark Street.

AT: 00:44:36 Um [phone rings] whoops! We'll just hang out for a second.

JA: 00:44:36 That's fine. Whereas, hey!

AT: 00:44:48 Um.

JA: 00:44:48 Anything else?

AT: 00:45:01 So Fullerton and Clark street, uh, what was that area like? At that time?

JA: 00:45:06 Well, it was great. Okay. Oh, I didn't know. Not like now what it is today. It's entirely different, but it was a quiet area.

AT: 00:45:22 And um, was she in a one bedroom or like what was her apartment like?

JA: 00:45:29 Well they had, when I first went there was one bedroom and then later on they said we have to move out. So we had to relocate, went down to Chicago avenue and that apartment had one big, big bedroom and another, so there was two double beds, so we sleep. And there was the kitchen, and a dining room, bathroom, and a living room.

AT: 00:46:06 So that sounds like it was a nice space, there.

JA: 00:46:09 Well, it was very reason- it was $75 a month, the rent.

AT: 00:46:16 And that with, that was with, um, Doris.

JA: 00:46:22 No not Doris, Doris was still, it was still...

AT: 00:46:24 Oh I'm sorry. With Grace.

JA: 00:46:24 Grace.

AT: 00:46:26 And did you say, was she with her girlfriend as well?

JA: 00:46:29 Yeah.

New Speaker: 00:46:29 That she traveled with?

JA: 00:46:31 Yeah

AT: 00:46:31 So was it, were you all staying together then?

JA: 00:46:34 Yeah.

AT: 00:46:35 The three of you?

JA: 00:46:35 Dorothy and Grace and I moved to this apartment. Down the Chicago Avenue. Then they know, uh, two more girls. They had left town and they came to live with us. So there was all of us living there.

AT: 00:46:58 Did you find work?

JA: 00:47:00 Oh, factory work, all that was there. Sewing on bud- buttons.

AT: 00:47:06 Sewing on buttons.

JA: 00:47:08 [laughs].

AT: 00:47:08 Which factory was that?

JA: 00:47:15 Oh, I don't know, was down on, uh, Franklin Street. I don't know.

AT: 00:47:18 And so coming to Chicago, um, as a young woman. How was that for you? Did you like it here or was it challenging or,

JA: 00:47:31 Oh, it's nice it's okay. Except sometime on the street when I would go down shopping in the loop. Say "Why don't you go back where you come from ?" see. Well, aside from that, there's no other harassment.

AT: 00:47:48 Mmhmm.

JA: 00:47:48 Oh, they were all family.

AT: 00:47:55 And um,

JA: 00:47:59 1945 my family, the camp had to be closed. My mother and father. Well before that my brother and I went looking for a house so that we all can live in. So we found one down on the South Side on Ellis Avenue of 4100 North, uh South rather, so.

AT: 00:48:32 And did you say your brother came to help look for a house?

JA: 00:48:37 Which brother?

AT: 00:48:39 I thought I heard you say your brother and you.

JA: 00:48:42 Oh, the Hiroshi? Yeah, I think he was out of the army then. So he and I went looking for houses and this real estate man told us about this house on the South Side, which, we could afford but it's only $6,000 at that time. But so with monthly payment, we were, live there, paid. So my brother and father came out and my second brother Kiyo, he transferred all their, what was the, all our.

AT: 00:49:30 Belongings?

JA: 00:49:32 That we had left behind in Stockton, brought to the storage here in Chicago. So my brother had to pick it up with a truck and he backed up on drive way to get us closer to the house. And some neighbor reported to him that he's parking on the sidewalk. So he was taken to jail. [Laughs] Saying that he's, yeah. What? He's not supposed to be doing that. I don't know what was anyway, anyway, they took him to jail.

AT: 00:50:16 For moving?

JA: 00:50:17 Yeah. Well, he's on the sidewalk see, um, uh, those are, some of it. Was we stayed there for until, what is it? 19? When they bought this other house on Carmen and 6th. Well, Phyllis was nine years old. Yeah. Nine years. No, no, she wasn't quite eight year old. So that was 1958.

AT: 00:50:54 That you've moved up North from the house?

JA: 00:50:58 1958 we moved out of the South Side. And moved into, well on Carmen street.

AT: 00:51:08 So, um, but your family when they had all came out, they came to the Ellis Avenue house.

JA: 00:51:18 Right, right.

AT: 00:51:18 Um, so who all in your, was it your entire family staying there?

JA: 00:51:22 What?

AT: 00:51:22 Was it your entire family staying in that house or just, um, some of your siblings and your parents?

JA: 00:51:31 Most all of us. Except my brother. Yoshi didn't, why did they, I just try to remember. Did he stay with us? I just, I don't remember that. The older two brothers.

AT: 00:51:50 Uh huh. Do you remember the address of that house? The address of the Ellis Avenue house?

JA: 00:51:58 Do I what?

AT: 00:51:58 Do you remember the address?

JA: 00:52:02 Oh, I think it was 21. Anyways, 2100 S.

AT: 00:52:09 And were there other Japanese American families in that neighborhood?

JA: 00:52:13 Oh yeah. Next door. Next door. Uh, what is that name? They moved over one door away. They moved uh, oh what's their name... Omori. Omori the family moved there. Betty and Carol and the mother. Oh, that's right. And the father.

AT: 00:52:40 Those were your neighbors?

JA: 00:52:42 Yeah. And it just so happened the, they became more or less like a relative. My sister married Moss Motoka that she met here in Chicago and they were the, uh, they were, oh, the sister was the same.

AT: 00:53:07 Um, and uh, were you, throughout camp and up through Chicago, Were you still, uh, religious or practicing? Um

JA: 00:53:22 No. Well, because, they didn't handle no Buddhist church down there. Oh no, they didn't. Until they came out to Chicago. And then there's Reverend Kono, He started somewhere down on the South Side.

AT: 00:53:47 Um, so did you go to that, to his church at all?

JA: 00:53:51 No, but we used to go down to the other one. The one on the South side, Reverend Kubose. We used to go there. Cause that was the only one available. We just, that one. When, uh, Midwest was finally, uh, adopted, we switched over to Midwest.

AT: 00:54:17 um, so that would have been the Chicago Buddhist Church. That's what it was called at the time.

JA: 00:54:24 Chicago, that's the, that's the one. On the North Side, uh, was run by Dr, Mr, Rev. Kubose.

AT: 00:54:36 And, um. So during while you were on Ellis Avenue, were you still working at that factory on Franklin?

JA: 00:54:49 Yeah. Then finally I got tired of it. Then Doris and I, decided to go into sewing, uh, at home. So she started taking orders for making dresses for different customers.

AT: 00:55:06 So you all started your own business.

JA: 00:55:11 Yeah, more or less.

AT: 00:55:11 Did you have a name for yourself?

JA: 00:55:16 No, [laughs], no.

AT: 00:55:17 But just taking individual orders.

JA: 00:55:19 What?

AT: 00:55:19 Just taking individual orders.

JA: 00:55:22 Yeah, right.

AT: 00:55:22 And so how long were you all doing that and which, was that out of?

JA: 00:55:28 Down on the South Side.

AT: 00:55:29 On the South Side? That you were doing that?

JA: 00:55:30 Yeah, and then later on I switched when I decided to go out to work because I was getting a little bit better offers. So I went, someone was, uh, trying to open up from a plastic, plastic bag after night. So I went to seal, seal the plastic bags. Well, she was paying a little bit better. You know how cheap it was! I guess you don't know [laughs]. Cars, oh traffic, well how much was a street car? Five, 10 cents. Yeah. Loaf of bread was, well 10 cents. I don't know. And I was being paid only 25 cents an hour when I first came up. Yeah.

AT: 00:56:24 Was that pretty standard.

JA: 00:56:26 Huh?

AT: 00:56:26 Was that pretty standard for a Chicago wage?

JA: 00:56:32 Oh yeah, at that time, yeah.

AT: 00:56:33 And your family members, when they all joined you guys in Chicago, what kind of work or things where your....

JA: 00:56:43 Oh, they didn't do any work.

AT: 00:56:46 Your parents?

JA: 00:56:54 Yeah.

AT: 00:56:54 And how about your siblings?

JA: 00:56:57 Well, let's see.

AT: 00:57:00 So Kiyo was, uh, arrested in Stockton,

JA: 00:57:03 And then he was released that day.

AT: 00:57:04 He was released. Oh, so it was just a day.

JA: 00:57:09 Yeah.

AT: 00:57:09 And then was he able to, um, drive back out?

JA: 00:57:12 Yeah. Oh yeah.

AT: 00:57:13 To Chicago.

JA: 00:57:15 You know what, I'm trying think? Where the heck did he live? He didn't, was with us.

AT: 00:57:23 But he came to Chicago?

JA: 00:57:25 Oh yeah. So did Jerry too. But that's a given. And then they got married. Jerry, met, met this girl in the same camp, in Rohwer, and they got married. I was thinking, oh gee they didn't have a wedding! [laughs] Same thing with my sister. I came home one day and she's, says, oh what are you doing here? Oh, I'm getting married.

AT: 00:57:58 Which sister?

JA: 00:57:59 Grace.

AT: 00:58:02 Uh, and who did Grace marry? Someone from camp?

JA: 00:58:04 Moss, Moss Motoka

AT: 00:58:07 From Chicago.

JA: 00:58:08 Yeah.

AT: 00:58:12 Um, uh, and uh, as far as.

JA: 00:58:17 What?

AT: 00:58:18 As far as your, just kind of your general daily life in Chicago. Um, were you doing anything besides work?

JA: 00:58:29 No, not until we moved into the.

AT: 00:58:33 [sneezes] Excuse me.

JA: 00:58:38 Until we moved to the house on Carmen street. There's the big yard there, so I just, oh let's see. My father on the South Side, he was plant, grow. What did he grow? Eggplant and tomatoes. In the the little backyard.

AT: 00:59:03 On the South Side.

JA: 00:59:05 Yeah, South Side.

AT: 00:59:07 So you had a yard there? In that house.

JA: 00:59:09 Yeah. Then in the Carmen street, there was a are double lot, so it's a big bed. So my mother, let's see, she didn't do it. She did the dogs. Grew some, what did she grow? Anyway, I took over and I started growing vegetables and flowers and fixed up the yard. A little nice! I miss that. You know, or anyway

AT: 00:59:46 So you said you moved to the North Side in '58. Um. Well and where you attend regularly attending the Buddhist services?

JA: 01:00:02 Yeah, we were going there. So my sister at that time, she's drove see, so we're able to go down. No, that's one thing I've never learned how to, but I didn't get to learn. And I, [laughs] I never regret it.

AT: 01:00:23 And uh, as far as your, your social life, were you mostly hanging out with family or spending time with family or did you, were you meeting people when you came to Chicago?

JA: 01:00:36 No, just didn't do much. Just every day, go to work, take care of the, and eh do the, I had the babies, the girls and at the time they got old enough to be taken care of, my sister, would, we live together in the same building. She would fix them lunch. So I was able to go to work. So I went to work for this Art Japanese, Aiko's Art Material? Out there on, uh, I'm just trying to think of the first, where she had the art supply store.

AT: 01:01:31 Uh, and what were you doing there?

JA: 01:01:34 Huh?

AT: 01:01:34 What kind of work were you doing there?

JA: 01:01:38 Selling paper, Japanese paper and maybe, yeah.

AT: 01:01:54 Um. When, and so did you, did you get married at all?

JA: 01:01:57 Did I get married? In 19, 19 [laughs] I can't even remember when I get, 1955.

AT: 01:02:10 How did you meet your husband?

JA: 01:02:14 Oh, I met him at some kind of get together. And then I hadn't seen or heard of him for a while. Then, about three years later, he calls up and says, I like to go. You know, see you'll go on a date. So that's how we started.

AT: 01:02:33 What was his name?

JA: 01:02:35 Huh?

AT: 01:02:35 What was his name?

JA: 01:02:39 Robert Aragaki. He was from Hawaii.

AT: 01:02:41 Um, so he probably didn't go to camp then.

JA: 01:02:49 No. he was from Hawaii, was 18 he left Hawaii and came to Chicago. Thinking he was going to go to some dental school? Or what I don't know, but I guess find out [coughs] not that easy. But he met up with a dentals man to help him. So he became friends with him.

AT: 01:03:18 Do you know what year that was? That he, do you know what year that was? That he came to Chicago.

JA: 01:03:22 What?

AT: 01:03:23 What year he came to Chicago.

JA: 01:03:25 He?

AT: 01:03:26 Mmhmm, your husband.

JA: 01:03:28 I don't know what, must of been 19, at least?

AT: 01:03:35 Or what year was he born in.

JA: 01:03:37 The same year as me. [laughs].

AT: 01:03:40 Okay. So let's see. Um,

JA: 01:03:45 In 1921.

AT: 01:03:46 Mmhmm. So in 1939?

JA: 01:03:50 About that, yeah.

AT: 01:03:52 So before the war.

JA: 01:03:54 Yeah.

AT: 01:03:54 Did you, and did you two ever talk about camp or, or what happened during World War II?

JA: 01:04:05 To who?

AT: 01:04:05 With your husband?

JA: 01:04:07 Oh, they were, might of Interested.

AT: 01:04:14 Umm, because I think it would be interesting as, probably as someone who's Japanese, because before the war there weren't that many Japanese in Chicago or not as many as,

JA: 01:04:31 No.

AT: 01:04:31 Those who came. Um, so I would wonder if you thought anything of that.

JA: 01:04:38 No, cause he, he met a few uh. He started taking oil painting and he met this teacher, they, he would trying out in, Oh, what was his last name? Giovanni or something. Anyways. He was a very good teacher that he learned from. All the, that's one of his paintings.

AT: 01:05:07 Oh, wow.

JA: 01:05:08 That's.

AT: 01:05:08 Um, well, I see that we have lunch ready so we can, um, start wrapping up.

JA: 01:05:20 Okay.U

AT: 01:05:24 Um, let's see. Was there any particular reason why you chose to move to the North Side?

JA: 01:05:34 Well.

AT: 01:05:35 From the South Side?

JA: 01:05:37 Well at that time it wasn't bad yet, but then I found out, there was a lot of Black was moving in, um, since they've found this nice big house. So they all moved to Carmen street. So I'm glad they did because of the big yard I was able to grow vegetables and flowers and make it, make the yard look nice.

AT: 01:06:09 And were you, uh, so it was when you moved that you started moving, or working at Aiko's Art Supply?

JA: 01:06:19 Yeah

AT: 01:06:22 Um, did you ever think about moving back to California?

JA: 01:06:26 No, there's nothing to move back to! Cause we have nothing there. I suppose it would be nice but. There were some people that we knew, they, they had their own farms, so they had them, they moved back.

AT: 01:06:46 And when you think about your experiences during the war and, and resettlement, coming to Chicago, do you feel any particular way when you think about it?

JA: 01:06:59 No, I think it was for the best of us. It turned out that we were able to make a better living. Although. And my girls were able to go to college. So I think it was good.

AT: 01:07:23 Was it something that you shared with your family that you talked about?

JA: 01:07:29 Well, you know, that's the one thing. I didn't even talk to my husband very much. He doesn't talk much. He didn't talk much, very much. All he did was go to work in the morning, come home, eat and read the paper or watch TV. And by nine o'clock, he's asleep cause he gets up in the morning, at four o'clock. So he wasn't much of a talker. But then when he gets with his friends, he talk talk talk. [laughs]

AT: 01:08:07 Uh, and just a few final questions. Um, did you receive the official apology and the redress?

JA: 01:08:20 Yeah and the later on in, 19, not, 20, what was it, we got the reparations

AT: 01:08:27 '88

JA: 01:08:28 Of $20,000.

AT: 01:08:30 Hmm.

JA: 01:08:32 I have the letter of apology someplace

AT: 01:08:36 Mmm. Did you have any reactions to that?

JA: 01:08:40 Well, I thought that wasn't so bad. Too bad my mother and father, they couldn't receive that, but they had passed on.

AT: 01:08:53 Mmhmm., And one thing I like to ask people before we wrap up is, um, if you could leave any message or, or legacy behind with your family, your children, your grandchildren, what's something you would like them to know?

JA: 01:09:14 No, I haven't thought about that.

AT: 01:09:18 I know I'm putting you on the spot.

JA: 01:09:21 Uh, well, that's something to think about.

AT: 01:09:27 Right. Okay. In that case, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

JA: 01:09:37 Well, it's a very interesting [laughs]