Yamanaka, Iwao Rocky (10/8/2017)

Japanese American Service Committee Legacy Center


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Anna Takada: 00:00:01 This is an interview with Rocky Yamanaka as part of Alphawood Gallery's Chicago Resettlement Experience Oral History Project. The oral history project is being conducted in line with the current exhibition Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Demise of Civil Liberties. Today is October 8th, 2017 and we're recording at about 2:40 PM at the Alphawood Gallery oral history studio. Rocky Yamanaka is being interviewed by Anna Takada of Alphawood Gallery.

Rocky Yamanaka: 00:00:38 What's your name?

AT: 00:00:39 Anna.

RY: 00:00:40 Takada?

AT: 00:00:41 Yes.

RY: 00:00:42 Oh, OK.

AT: 00:00:43 Do you know any Takada's?

RY: 00:00:45 I, the name is familiar. I just can't place.

AT: 00:00:51 Maybe David or John? Those are my grandparents.

RY: 00:00:54 Oh, great. I probably knew him maybe years ago.

AT: 00:01:01 So, um, to start, can you just state your name?

RY: 00:01:05 My name is Iwa Yamanaka. Uh, they call me Rocky because that's what Iwa, Iwa means rock. And so the once my friends...what it meant is they start calling me Rocky. So I've been Rocky for the last, how many years? 85 years. Even though I'm 90.

AT: 00:01:32 And and you're 90, you said?

RY: 00:01:34 Yes, I'm uh, yes.

AT: 00:01:37 Where, where and when were you born?

RY: 00:01:40 Uh, March 27, is it 27, March 27, 1926. So makes me nineties, 90 years old, I believe. Is that right?

AT: 00:01:59 And where were you born?

RY: 00:02:01 Here in Chicago. Uh, my mother, well my father was, my, my father came here in 1900 as I understand, uh, and my mother, he went back to Japan and married my mother, I think in 1920 and I was born in 1927. I had an older brother and older sister and one younger sister.

AT: 00:02:35 And um, all of your siblings, were they born in the U.S.?

RY: 00:02:40 Yes. And.

AT: 00:02:42 In Chicago?

RY: 00:02:43 In Chicago. I've lived here all my life. Um, and well that's about

AT: 00:02:54 Do you remember what your father did for work?

RY: 00:02:57 Well, he owned a restaurant. Uh, he came as a young boy, I understand, with a Caucasian family that was in Japan. And they came back and they brought him and I understand he got educated here and he started a restaurant in Chicago downtown and, and he went back and married my mother in 1922, I believe, something like that, and he brought her back. And he had four children. My older brother Kan, my older sister Mary Shizuko, and I was third, and then my younger sister is, um, we call her Terry but her Japanese name is Sh-- No, I can't even remember. It is so long. Anyway, she's in a nursing home now because she's kind of lost her memory, uh, in the last...

AT: 00:04:14 Is she in Chicago as well?

RY: 00:04:17 Yes, someplace uh, but she's under care of uh, because she's, she, she's kind of lost her memory. Um, so, of my family, uh, I think I'm the only one left. My father's gone, my older brothers, older sister. Uh, I'm the third and Terry is not doing too well. And uh, well that's about all I can say about myself.

AT: 00:04:56 And, um, so you said your dad was at a restaurant downtown?

RY: 00:05:02 Yes, he owned a restaurant downtown and then I think he lost it during some depression and then he ended up being a cook and um, it was on the South Side or downtown. Can't remember. I remember where it is, but I can't remember the street numbers anymore. It was on the South Side of downtown and my, my mother, I think my father, well, my father was very young when he came to Chicago, like I said, with the American family that was in Japan and he grew up apparently here in Chicago and got, uh, well he went back and married my mother in 1922 as I remember and I was the third of their family or four kids.

AT: 00:06:09 What else do you remember about your father's restaurant?

RY: 00:06:15 It was on Clark and Chicago Avenue. That's all, about all I can remember, I know it's not there anymore. Neighborhood has changed.

AT: 00:06:26 What was the neighborhood like as you remember it when he had it?

RY: 00:06:30 Well, um, it's not too far from downtown, but uh, it, it's, to me it's still the same as it was even then. They had little stores around those near, there's a YMCA just down the street. I remember it was a kind of a popular area I thought, but he owned the restaurant on the Clark, Clark and Chicago. It was Chicago Avenue? Something like that, uh, during the Depression, uh, era. Um, as I remember he, um, yes, when did he pass away? He passed away about Nineteen Twenty...Nineteen Twenty, I guess... Well, anyway, it just.

AT: 00:07:41 And do you know what kind of food it was that you had at the restaurant?

RY: 00:07:44 Oh, it was a regular, typical restaurant. Nothing fancy, they served rice and scrambled eggs and everything else like that, you know. Um, but, uh, it was owned by my father, who, he would, I think he, he had some Japanese food, but uh, in those days people were more interested in eating just, uh, ham and eggs and stuff like that.

AT: 00:08:19 Kind of like a diner style.

RY: 00:08:21 Yeah it was things where people came in just to eat lunch and stuff like that. It wasn't a fancy restaurant at all.

AT: 00:08:30 Do you remember what it was called?

RY: 00:08:34 Now I wonder if it had a name. It was right on Clark and Chicago Avenue. It was right near the corner.

AT: 00:08:44 And where was your family living?

RY: 00:08:48 Uh, I remember living on Cleveland Avenue, uh, up north about, uh just, it was where Cleveland and Lincoln Avenue cross. I don't remember the address, uh, except that we lived right on the corner. Uh, but after my father died and then my mother had them move, it was, at the time there was only three kids left in our family. Um, then we ended up going, where did we go, up a little further north. It's hard to remember things like that. The street name, Fullerton Avenue, Lincoln, Clark, somewhere in that area, I remember.

AT: 00:09:50 So just a little bit farther north.

RY: 00:09:53 Yeah.

AT: 00:09:54 And do you remember where you went to, where you went to school?

RY: 00:09:59 It was called, it was Lincoln school. I think it's still there. And while our high school, yeah, it's all on the near north side. Um, and uh, yeah, I, I grew up there and let's see... When things happened kind of gets mixed up in my head.

AT: 00:10:32 Take your time.

RY: 00:10:32 Um, but, well, I, I remember getting drafted on V-J of World War II and I went, I was, I spent two, two years in the army. The war had just ended when I got drafted.

AT: 00:10:51 How old were you?

RY: 00:10:53 I was probably 18. Uh, I was, I think I was 16 when I graduated from high school and most of the guys that I graduated with all were older and they went in the Army. A lot of them got killed, I remember. World War II. And I, when I got my draft notice, everybody started celebrating, they said the war is over. So like I said, I got drafted on V-J of World War II.

AT: 00:11:32 When you were in high school, you knew young men who were drafted

RY: 00:11:36 Oh yeah.

AT: 00:11:38 and left during the war.

RY: 00:11:38 Yeah, yeah. World War II. And I spent two, two years in the army. Most of it was spent down in Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland. And because I was an artist, I got assigned to an art department in the camp. I didn't have to go overseas, and I stayed there for two years. And then when my time came to get out of the army, they said, uh, join up for two more years and we'll make you a, um, an officer. I said, no, I, I've got family at home that I have to go back to.

AT: 00:12:35 That was your family in Chicago?

RY: 00:12:37 Yes. They were still here, my mother and two sisters were still here and I was the oldest, so I felt like I couldn't stay in the army. Uh, so I came out and made a living, uh, well because they gave free education. So I, I spent two years, uh, at an art school and I got a job pretty quick and I worked as an artist in Chicago doing commercial, uh, 'til about 1990 something when I retired.

AT: 00:13:21 What school did you go to?

RY: 00:13:23 It was called Lincoln School.

AT: 00:13:27 For College.

RY: 00:13:28 I never did get to go to college. What happened.

AT: 00:13:35 For art school?

RY: 00:13:35 Well, I went to art school. Uh, I went to the art art institute and also another place called the Chicago Academy of Fine Art. And I spent the most of my life doing commercial work. Uh, television just popped up and they were making little commercials, black and white commercials on TV. So I worked as a, as an artist doing TV commercials on black and white. It finally turned to color TV, I remember in 1990s, and that's when I, I retired.

AT: 00:14:24 And so when you were growing up on the near North Side and before the war, what was the neighborhood like? How would you describe it?

RY: 00:14:41 Oh, in those days. Yeah. Your neighborhood was like five square blocks because we didn't have cars or, uh, we just had bicycles and we just spent our time all within five square blocks, really. Um, I never had a car until probably when I came out of the army and that was the first time I ever had a car to drive any place outside of that neighborhood. So it was pretty primitive. Uh, there was street cars and stuff like that, uh, in Chicago.

AT: 00:15:31 Did you know other Japanese Americans?

RY: 00:15:36 I only knew, I think there was maybe at, there was more Japanese here in Chicago, but the ones that I knew in my neighborhood, there was probably only four Japanese, uh, families. The Joichi family that had like seven boys, the Endo family, which had four children, the Sato family that had two boys. Um, but there was no such thing as a Japan town or Chinatown, you know, so there was, they were spread out. But this was all near the near north side I would say is near Division Street and uh, Wells street area.

AT: 00:16:32 And those families you named, those are folks who were there before the war?

RY: 00:16:40 I would say so, yes. Yeah.

AT: 00:16:44 Do you know what brought their families to Chicago?

RY: 00:16:48 Uh, no I have no idea. But it seemed like most of the Japanese families all were in the restaurant business. That was, there was probably a half a dozen Japanese owned restaurants, not fancy restaurant. This is in the 30s, 20s, 30s, just little neighborhood restaurants. And they uh, it seemed like so many of them worked either owned them or worked in them in those area. Um, uh, I know some of the, the, the guys my age, they all, because we all went to the army and we all got to go, how do you say, we all got college educations and once you got educated, you, you ended up going to Philadelphia, um, different places in the country because you were educated and that's where the work was, you know. So Chicago changed a lot after World War II. Before that it was very, you lived in five square blocks. But uh, like I say, after World War II ended, people went, we all got college education in whatever you wanted to learn. So they became engineers and other different people. Education.

AT: 00:18:34 What were some other ways that Chicago changed after the war?

RY: 00:18:39 Well, I, the biggest was that so many of the ones who came back from World War II, they got free education. So they all spread out. They went to college in New York, California, and Texas. So it kind of, people never came back. You know, they went to college in Philadelphia and they ended up living in Philadelphia, that type of thing. So all my, kids my age, I think we got free education. And your college took you to Philadelphia or California or New York and you ended up living there. They never came back. It seems like the old neighborhood just kind of dissipated after the war.

AT: 00:19:42 But you decided to stay?

RY: 00:19:45 Uh, yeah. I went to the Art Institute here in Chicago and I got right away, I got a job and I, I was in art field and that's when television first popped up. And I was lucky enough to start making commercials for television, black and white television. And uh, in the fifties and sixties, seventies.

AT: 00:20:10 And so when all of your, when your peers were taking work and moving to different parts of the country, why did you stay in Chicago?

RY: 00:20:21 Because I had a pretty good job and I had a mother and two sisters that needed me. So I stayed in Chicago, and I enjoyed it. I mean, I know there's art everywhere in New York or California. I had a chance to go to California, Walt Disney, I remember, but uh, I said no, I'll stay here in Chicago.

AT: 00:20:46 Did you support your family?

RY: 00:20:48 Well, I was the main support I would say, you know? Yeah, it's been so long ago, it's hard to remember all the details, but, uh, part of growing up here in early Chicago, I was lucky to get an education because I spent two years in the army.

AT: 00:21:23 And during the war, what was Chicago like during war time?

RY: 00:21:32 Well, it's uh, it wasn't like the coast, I think, you know. The coast, I think people moved away from the coast, uh, for safety sake. I know the Japanese people who grew up in the California area, they got chased out of the, the coastline. So they, so many of them came to Chicago. So there was a big group, uh, Japanese people who were never there before the war, but once the war chased them out of the West Coast, uh, there was, uh, quite a handful of Japanese people here in Chicago. Whereas like I say, before the war, there was probably no more than 50 in the whole city.

AT: 00:22:26 Do you remember your reactions to that?

RY: 00:22:30 Well, I felt like a stranger because when I came out of the army and place was full of Japanese people, I didn't know. You know, I thought, where did these people come from, you know, and I got to know 'em, you know, to sports and bowling and everything else. And I married one. So, but before that I was, I lived, I knew very few Japanese and there was no so-called, there was no Chinatown, there was, there was no Japantown. Very spread out, a lot more than Chinese people.

AT: 00:23:16 When you were growing up, did you experience um, any kind of prejudice because you're Japanese?

RY: 00:23:23 Oh yeah, every now and then, you know, like when World War II started. But because you're a Chi--, Oriental, they call you chink, all those, uh, and people got killed in the war and they, if you look Oriental, you know, they didn't like you because they got killed fighting the Japanese army and stuff like that, but it wasn't very bad. You know, occasionally you get sworn at and you know, but the, uh, there was no, no big, big thing, not to me. And, um, well, like I say, it was, this is in the 19-- what, 1940s, 50s. It was a pretty prejudiced era.

AT: 00:24:24 And what, um, so you said that you were a little, you were surprised when you came back and there were a number of Japanese Americans.

RY: 00:24:33 Yes, well, they got chased out of the West Coast, uh, they took most of the Japanese families that lived along the West Coast and they didn't let them, because of the war with Japan, they made them all move inland. And a lot of them came to Chicago. They went to Salt Lake City and Texas and places like that. But, uh, there was so many Japanese here in Chicago that weren't there before the war. And they formed their own churches and all that. And you know, I married, married one, uh, Japanese Gal who was born in California. And most of them, a lot of them went back after the war ended and they were free to go back to the West Coast. But a lot of them still stayed here. And, um, so there's a, a lot more Japanese in Chicago than there were before the war, I should say.

AT: 00:25:45 Do you remember when you first heard about the camps?

RY: 00:25:50 Well, communication wasn't that good in those days, you know, I mean, we didn't have television and you have to read about it in uh, newspapers or something like that. So I didn't know what was going on out there and I was only in my teen age so, you know, it didn't make too much sense to me. You know, all of a sudden I see some Japanese kids in the neighborhood that weren't there before and you just didn't find out things too quick that, there was radio, but there was no television, stuff like that. So you learn what was going on very slowly out. You know, unless you were very inquisitive and asked questions all over the place. And I, like I say, I, that's when I go, went in the army and I, I learned to, um, I got acquainted with some Japanese people because we were all in the same, uh, army camp more or less. And I had never hung around or knew many Japanese, uh, American people before the war, there was so few in Chicago.

AT: 00:27:15 And so did some of those folks who moved to Chicago or maybe, maybe who you met in the army, did they tell you about their experiences during the war?

RY: 00:27:28 Well, I knew that they, they were, they had farms in California and they'd got kicked out of the West Coast. Uh, the, you know, the army just just didn't want Japanese people living along the Coast. So they made them sell their places, uh, of living and they had to go inland. And uh, the ones that ended up in Chicago, my wife's family was one of them. Uh, and they had to learn new, new way of making a livin' than where they came from. And, and Chicago was a lot different from these California people who didn't, they don't like snow [chuckles] and they had to learn how to live in the snow country like Chicago. And it was cold. And in those days we didn't have fancy cars and stuff like that. We had street cars and things that were, well, primitive, I say, but they, I guess they all get used to it, but a lot of them, when they had a chance, they went back to Southern California and places like that.

AT: 00:29:00 Do you remember your reaction to hearing about the camps?

RY: 00:29:06 The camps? Yeah. I was, I mean, it didn't affect me at all, you know, no, nobody from here in Chicago had to leave their home and get put into a camp. Uh, but they chased all the Japanese people off of the West Coast and they had camps, uh, all along Arizona and, uh, places inland. Most of them, I would say, majority of them went back and tried to st--, because they, a lot of them were farmers and stuff like that, all along the coastline. A lot of them went back, but a lot of them, uh, decided to stay in the Midwest or where they got pushed back to because America was at war with Japan, so that they didn't want Japanese people along the West Coast. And, but, uh, like I say, the men all, we all were in the army. So we had free education when we, if we survived the war. So we all went to school and the world changed quite a bit for us as people who, so by World War II and went to school after that and now we're all college educated and stuff like that, you know, and didn't have to live on a farm or anything like that. So people lived in cities a lot more, I think, after that.

AT: 00:30:59 When you were growing up, um, were you in touch with your, your Japanese heritage?

RY: 00:31:08 When was this here you're talking about?

AT: 00:31:10 When you were a kid? Did Japanese at home?

RY: 00:31:15 I had my mother and father and there was probably here in Chicago, well, I can't say for sure, but I knew maybe a dozen Japanese families, you know, the mothers and fathers were from Japan. But most of them were pretty old by that time the war was ending. But I grew up with the so called second generation, you know, and they're, they grew up like I did. We went to primary school and high school and college here in Chicago or wherever. Um, there was no, it wasn't like Chinatown, especially here in Chicago. The Japanese people were scattered quite a bit. They didn't have a China, Japantown, like Chinatown had a lot of gathering of Chinese people. So, um, we just kind of melted into the, the, you know, there's all kinds of different people that are Black people and there's European people and stuff like that. So we were a part of that group. Uh, and so you, that's what you grew up with, you grew up with Black kids and Italians and Germans and uh, there wasn't no such thing as a Chinatown. There was never a Japantown like there is a Chinatown. Um, there was a Japanese area where a lot of the Japanese churches would, uh, would be.

AT: 00:33:21 Do you remember some of those areas?

RY: 00:33:23 Oh yeah, I can remember some of them, uh, they had some on the South Side. Um, and there was some on the North Side, you know, and then the Japanese families wandered. They'd be around their church group, you know, and then eventually they went out, the younger people went out to the suburbs. And before you knew it was very, uh, sparse, no, no big thing like Chinatown, you know. There was groups, areas where there'd be Japanese stores, uh, in one area.

AT: 00:34:04 Did you ever go to any of those?

RY: 00:34:04 Oh, yeah. Yeah.

AT: 00:34:08 Where did you go?

RY: 00:34:08 Well, uh, Clark and Division was one area that the Japanese used to hang around with and they had Japanese restaurants where you could get Japanese food, you know, and they had Japanese bars, um, and Japanese grocery stores, you know, where you could get stuff that, uh, the normal, you know, our parents liked.

AT: 00:34:37 Do you remember any of those, the names of those spots?

RY: 00:34:45 Oh, my memory is so bad. There was one, right on Clark Street. I remember everybody used to go there because they, they, what was the name of that, it was a, it was like a place where if you wanted Japanese food, you had to, you had to go to this place. He, he seemed to have all the different Japanese foods that they like.

AT: 00:35:18 Grocery store?

RY: 00:35:18 Huh?

AT: 00:35:19 Groceries?

New Speaker: 00:35:20 Pardon?

AT: 00:35:20 It was a grocery store?

RY: 00:35:22 Yeah. More or less a grocery store. But they sold, yeah.

AT: 00:35:27 Star Market?

RY: 00:35:28 Star Market. Yeah. It's been there for a long time. Yeah. And people from all over Chicago used to come there just get Japanese type food. You know, I don't know what exactly that is. Uh, you know, it's rice and certain Japanese things that they like to cook with.

AT: 00:35:51 That must've been a big change from before the war.

RY: 00:35:59 Well, yeah, here in Chicago, but they had all these things along the West Coast.

AT: 00:36:04 But I'm saying in Chicago though it must have been a big change to all of a sudden have a Japanese grocery store.

RY: 00:36:12 Sure, oh yeah. We didn't have a so-called Japanese town or China, like Chinatown or anything like that. The Japanese people were all, there'd be little groups of five families who had to live here and five families and stuff like that. It wasn't, it wasn't so-called Chinatown or Japan.

AT: 00:36:36 And did you, um, did you go to any churches or you or your family?

RY: 00:36:42 Well I grew up in, um, Caucasian fam--, uh, neighborhood and I went to church with, uh, Caucasian kids and, um.

AT: 00:36:53 What kind of church?

RY: 00:36:54 It was a Lutheran church, I remember that. It was not a big church, and, um, I, we were probably the only Japanese, me and my sisters were probably the only Japanese people in that neighborhood. But, um, after the war, the Japanese groups that came from California formed their own little neighborhoods so they'd have Japanese church and stuff like that and grocery stores or restaurants, a lot of it was near Clark and Division, at least on the North Side. There was some on the South Side that did the same thing, you know, they, um, I think that for foreign people, you know, they stick around for the, where they can get that kind of food, you know, you know, there was a grocery store or something like that that was run by a Oriental, they wanted to be near there, you know, that type of thing. Instead of going out to the suburbs and not being able to get that kind of food or that's a way it happened.

AT: 00:38:14 Can you tell me more about some of the, I guess, kind of almost social groups that you joined? So you said golfing and bowling, were those mostly Japanese American?

RY: 00:38:29 Well. Yeah. See, like I say, I was a little different because I was, I grew up here in Chicago and there was no so-called Japanese groups, but once a war started and I was about 12, 14 and they, they formed certain areas where they, Japanese stores would, would pop up, and Japanese restaurants. Yeah. So these certain areas, uh, had a lot of uh, Japanese people in them and they formed, they'd have their Japanese stores and Japanese, um, restaurants and everything else.

AT: 00:39:17 And what about those sports leagues and things? You said that you did bowling and?

RY: 00:39:22 Oh yeah, I bowl with everybody, you know, but eventually I ended up bowling with a Japanese group, you know, but before that I was bowling with Caucasians and different nationalities. But once, once the Japanese people formed, um, bowling leagues and golf clubs, I joined them because there wasn't such a thing as a Japanese bowling league or anything like that before the war. And then once they start coming in from the West Coast, uh, those things were available, to me anyway.

AT: 00:40:12 Did you ever, how did it feel being from Chicago and then having a lot of Japanese Americans coming in?

RY: 00:40:26 I felt like a stranger here, I'll tell ya. Because they'd seem to know each other and a lot of them spoke Japanese, you know? Uh, because of, their parents all spoke Japanese, so a lot of the American born guys could speak Japanese. Uh, I felt when I came out of the army, uh, and Chicago was, especially like Clark and Division area, that was full of Japanese families area. I really felt like a stranger, you know, I, I wasn't used to seeing so many Japanese and, uh, Japanese stores and stuff like this. But you eventually you get used to it, you know. You're not from the West Coast, but, uh, you know you're same, uh, nationalities. So you mingled with them. And I ended up marrying one gal who was from California.

AT: 00:41:36 Where did you meet Alice?

RY: 00:41:39 I think it was at a bowling banquet. Haha. But that's, that's what I remember. She wasn't much of an athlete, but I was a pretty good athlete, so I, uh, after the season's over they have a kind of party. Bowlers come out with their girlfriends and all of that. I went there because I, I was bowling with the Japanese guys and that's when I met my wife there.

AT: 00:42:15 And when did you start going to Tri-C?

RY: 00:42:20 Tri-C. Well, it's probably when we moved. I guess, I, I was, I was living further north. I know there was very few Orientals.

AT: 00:42:37 Further north from Lincoln Park?

RY: 00:42:40 Yeah. I mean there was no, no other Japanese families where I, I grew up. After my father died, we had to move closer to downtown area and there was more Japanese, uh, families for some reason in that area. Wells Street, uh, Chicago Avenue, places like that and I got to know some Japanese, uh, families and kids my age and, yeah, well.

AT: 00:43:20 How long were you there? In that neighborhood?

RY: 00:43:28 Like I say, it was never a Chinatown like, like Chinese people have. There was no big Japantown. But there was little groups where there'd be maybe half a dozen families all lived there. So, um, I just, I went to Waller High School, there was no Japanese there when I started, but when they came in from the West Coast, I started having some Japanese people in my club. Uh, not club, but I got to know some Japanese families that way. You know, through school I think.

AT: 00:44:17 Did anyone ever ask you which camp you were in?

RY: 00:44:21 Oh yeah, they all think everybody's from camp because they're all from the West Coast and they all were in camps. There was like six different camps, spread along Iowa and away from the coast and they all come to Chicago and so that they think they all spent some time in camps. And I was, I never went to camp because I was, I was, I grew up here in the Midwest.

AT: 00:45:05 Where, where did you move to after you were living in the Wells, um, and Chicago area?

RY: 00:45:14 Well, it's hard for me to remember all, I didn't, I always lived on the North Side, some time closer to Downtown, some time, a little further away. Um, but mostly always on the North Side. South Side was kind of foreign to me. And so I got the meet a lot of the Japanese people who migrated in, uh, from the West Coast. Um, well.

AT: 00:45:55 Where did you raise your children?

New Speaker: 00:45:55 Pardon?

AT: 00:45:56 Where did you raise your children?

RY: 00:46:01 You asking me questions that I have to think a little.

AT: 00:46:05 That's fine! Yeah, take your time.

RY: 00:46:07 Where were we? I'm trying to re... When we got married, we lived on Geneva Terrace, I think. They went to Waller High School, same as I did. Boy, it's really funny that it's hard for me to remember exactly where my, my kids went to grammar school. I know they went to Waller High School and they, they went to college and stuff like that, which I didn't go. I went to Art Institute, uh, after I got out of the army.

AT: 00:47:01 So they were probably, you were probably around this area, if they went to Waller high school.

RY: 00:47:08 Oh yeah, I was always on the North Side. It seems like uh, never, we never went on the South Side much. It was just like a foreign country over in the South Side. But like I say, it's hard to remember 90 years, so.

AT: 00:47:30 And you've done a really really wonderful job. I mean, I don't blame you. 90 years, that's a long time.

RY: 00:47:36 Yeah.

AT: 00:47:37 So.

RY: 00:47:38 Yeah. And things have changed so much over the years. Um, we had street cars, horses walking down the street and stuff like that. And now it's a lot, much more modern, fast moving.

AT: 00:47:59 Do you ever recognize, um, this area, I know that you know, you've, you've been having some issues with memory, but when you walk around this neighborhood, is it familiar to you?

RY: 00:48:14 Oh yeah. Lincoln Avenue, Clark Street, you know, those are the main streets. They've changed somewhat, you know, but they're still, Clark Street is Clark Street and I, I grew up in Lincoln Park. I was always near Lincoln Park, so I spent a lot of time swimming in Lake Michigan, playing baseball in ballparks all along. Bowling alleys are still, still around.

AT: 00:48:47 Can you tell me the story about when John Dillinger was shot?

RY: 00:48:52 I was, I was playing baseball about two blocks away and all of a sudden we'd see people you know, I, I probably, how old was I, I was probably about 10, 12 years old. And we see all these people running down towards Lincoln Avenue. I said, "what's wrong? What's wrong?" He says, "they shot Dillinger!" You know, so we put our stuff away and we ran down through the Biograph Theater, which is where he got shot coming out of the Biograph Theater. And you know, that's, you know.

AT: 00:49:39 Did you know who he was?

RY: 00:49:41 Dillinger was well known to kids. I think for some reason kids, there was other, how did you say, bad guys that kids knew because they would give you tips. You know, they'd say, "gimme a newspaper kid," and they'd give you a buck or something like that, you know? Uh, I don't know how you say it, but Dillinger was a famous guy. Yeah, and when he got shot at Biograph Theater, I mean that, that was a wow, you know, big, big event for people from all over the neighborhood, Wanted to see Dillinger. He was, he was a crook and all that, but he was like a hero to the young kids for some reason. 'Cause I went to, in school. I know some of the guys said they live in the same area that he did and he would give 'em a buck just to go get a newspaper, stuff like that, you know? And they all, you know, that's what it was, like in the thirties. Baseball players and gangsters and everything else were, for the kids, uh, they were like heroes, you know?

AT: 00:51:23 Like Al Capone?

RY: 00:51:23 Yeah. Right. Well, they didn't have television in those days. They just had newspaper and you, what you could hear from people talking, you know. I remember going to the Biograph Theater after he got shot and women were dipping their handkerchiefs in his blood, I remember, because he was so famous and well, a lot of people liked him because he was a gangster, a famous gangster.

AT: 00:52:02 Another thing I wanted to be sure to ask about was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked.

RY: 00:52:09 Okay.

AT: 00:52:10 Do you remember finding out about that news?

RY: 00:52:15 Do I remember? In some ways I, I remember that I was at a Boy Scout with, our church had just started a Boy Scout, Scout...

AT: 00:52:27 Troop?

RY: 00:52:27 Uh, class, troop, and all of a sudden, boom. It didn't happen because our scoutmaster had to go in the army. All right, well we didn't have television, you know, and stuff like that in those days. So everything is from here, what you hear and you know, um... Everything was very primitive like this, you know, they, sometimes you wouldn't hear about stuff for weeks, you know, radio sometimes, you know, there wasn't so-called television at that time. So things didn't, news didn't move very fast like it does now.

AT: 00:53:29 Do you remember your reactions to hearing about that?

RY: 00:53:38 I would say that it didn't bother me because I was, you know, a young teenager and didn't make, mean that much to me, you know. But to the older people, I think in, you know, the idea of Pearl Harbor and all that was very important. And the newspapers made a big thing of it, I know. I remember because we went to war right after Pearl Harbor and so many people their, either their husband had to go into the army or the oldest son had to go in the army. So it was pretty bad time for a lot of people. You know, um, I was, I was still fairly young. I was what, 14. 1927, 41 yeah, I was, I was about 14 when the war broke out. And when I turned 17, getting ready to get drafted, the war had been going on for three years or four years and, uh, it just so happened, I got drafted on V-J, so when I reported downtown to go in the army, everybody started celebrating. There was a big party out downtown and everybody said the war, the war is over and they're partying, dancing and everything out in the street. And that's the day I got drafted and had to go into the army.

AT: 00:55:44 What year did you meet Alice?

RY: 00:55:47 Oh.

AT: 00:55:49 Or how long have you been married?

RY: 00:55:49 I think I was like 30 years old. So that was, I don't know, what is that. I was out of the army, I know I was, I was in the army...

AT: 00:56:04 Mid-50s.

RY: 00:56:04 Huh?

AT: 00:56:04 Mid-50s.

RY: 00:56:06 Okay. Dates and everything. it's kind of fuzzy.

AT: 00:56:13 Um, and how many kids do you have?

RY: 00:56:20 Uh, we had two girls. Um, yeah, and they have, the oldest daughter has two boys. Um, uh, well that, that's my, the oldest one, uh, lives in New York state most of the time. But the son, sons come here a lot.

AT: 00:56:58 Do you get to see them, so you get to see them a lot?

RY: 00:56:59 Yeah. Yeah. In fact, one of them lives here now and we're buddies.

AT: 00:57:10 If you could leave any kind of message or legacy with your children and your grandchildren, what would you want them to, to know?

RY: 00:57:18 I have no, I read a Playboy or something. I mean, I was, I was lucky. I, I was an artist so I did a lot of things that are unusual. I mean, I, I was involved in making television commercials early when television was, uh, just starting. Um, but outside of that, I didn't work that hard, even though I was lucky to, I happened to work for a guy, a Chicagoan who worked at Walt Disney and when he came to Chicago and the war broke out, they, they needed, they wanted uh, how you say, but the East Coast and West Coast had had, Walt Disney and they had a well, and they could get things done by Walt Disney and the West Coast or East Coast had the stage plays and all that, so they could make play. Chicago and needed some somewhere for Chicago people to make television commercial. So they formed, my boss, the guy I worked for was a former Disney man and he started a, how you say, oh,

AT: 00:59:08 Company?

RY: 00:59:09 company that we made television commercials, black and white television commercials, early television. And eventually more and more came in. But uh, yeah, we were one of the first people in Chicago to make television commercials here in Chicago, because of him and him being known, former Disney man. And I learned to animate, make TV commercials, like that. So, that's how my career went. Anyway, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. And I learned how to be an animator from a guy. World War II started and they needed a guy from Walt Disney to make TV commercials. So, he taught me. Anyway, that's kind of my life.

AT: 01:00:20 Well, thank you so much for, for sharing all of that.

RY: 01:00:25 Alright, well.

AT: 01:00:25 As, as we wrap up, is there anything else that you'd like to add or that we might've missed?

RY: 01:00:30 No. Well, you know, in the last, uh, 20 years, I've been more or less retired and I just have my grandkids helping them grow up. I was, I was, I don't want you to say Playboy. I was involved with baseball and bowling and soccer. So, that's what I've been into for the last, while my grandkids are growing up.

AT: 01:01:08 Well, thank you so much again, Rocky.

RY: 01:01:10 All right, well. I, talk about, first time I've talked about all of this, my life.

AT: 01:01:19 I really appreciate you coming in and doing this.

RY: 01:01:24 Well, hope you can use it then.