Frances Ota

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Densho Digital Archive Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection Title: Frances Ota Interview Narrator: Frances Ota Interviewer: Jane Comerford Location: Date: April 2, 2003 Densho ID: denshovh-ofrances-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

JC: Okay. So today is April 2, 2003. This is an interview conducted by Jane Comerford with Frances Ota, O-T-A. Good morning.

FO: Good morning.

JC: So Frances, I'd like to begin this interview by asking you some real basic questions like where were you born, what year were you born, and to tell me a little bit about your, who your parents were and your siblings. So if we could start there, maybe you could just give me those first five years of your life.

FO: I was born at Wilsonville, Oregon, January 22, 1923. I'm the third. I have an older sister and an older brother, and I'm number three. We ended up with a family of seven children.

JC: What did your, what did your father do?

FO: Well, we were out in remote Columbia County. Our address was Scappoose, Oregon, and he worked for the Clark and Wilson Lumber Company. And on the sideline, he started a silver fox farm, and I just vaguely remember some of the foxes.

JC: So can you tell me what your early life was like out in Scappoose as a family?

FO: Well, there were no Japanese neighbors whatsoever, and our friends were Caucasian neighbors. And our activities were, this was on a 15 acre wooded, it wasn't a ranch. It was just sort of remote, and we played with the neighbor kids. And in the summertime, there was a creek running through, and we would, we all were self-taught. We could all swim, learning on our own. But our summers were very pleasant. We played amongst ourselves and our neighbor children. I recall it being carefree. But I think times were really hard, but the neighbors were in the same situation, so we never felt deprived. I think my childhood was a good family wise until my father's death on this railroad accident, and our lives changed drastically from thereon. We had to move, and my mother was receiving the state industrial accident pension. And through her friends was advised that maybe she should return to Japan where life would be a lot easier. Prior to getting her passport and getting ready for the Japan trip, we worked, I believe it was two summers picking hops and doing odd things. I remember a place called Banks, Oregon, where we were picking hops, and I believe Independence. And I'm just a little ten year old kid, and I was a babysitter for my younger siblings, so I never did any of the work, but I recall doing those things.

JC: And so what year did you then leave?

FO: It was 1930... was it '6 or '7? I believe my father's death was '35, so it was either 1936 or '37. I remember we, I remember Columbus Day, arriving in Japan on Columbus Day.

JC: Tell me about the years in Japan, who was there and how did you live and --

FO: Well, the years in Japan with my mother's pension money, we were, we lived well. But first we were in a rented home, and then my mother built this home. And to this day, my sister and I marvel at how she was able to save the money to build the home. But the money ratio at that time was very extreme compared to today's, one dollar would bring you 360 yen, and that lasted for a long time. So our, the living arrangement was very good.

JC: And so while you were in Japan, was there, what was happening in terms of the war?

FO: Well, around, what was it, around '39, '40, there was much talk and unrest about war, and we'd always learn that America was going to start the war, and I'd write to my older sister, Grace. She didn't like Japan at all. And of course, she was already, she had started high school here. And being a good student, she was a wonderful student, and she just didn't like Japan at all. And of course, in Scappoose, we were not able to go to the Japanese school like the Portland youngsters did here. We were too far away, so we had no, the basic language at all except conversational language that we learned at home. And so in Japan, schooling was, it was really rough for us. We had private tutors come to the home, and I'd remember him showing picture books, apple means ringo and orange means ringo, and we were learning very old basic Japanese through a tutor.

JC: And so you heard that America was going to start a war and your sister is in the United States. She's there, but you're still in Japan with your mom. So what happens at that point?

FO: Well, my sister attended Lincoln High School, and that is where Mrs. Mabel Southworth was the teacher there, and she was a long time teacher at Lincoln High School, and she befriended my sister. And she, in fact, her trip to, returning to America was on her... what was the word I want to use? I think she beckoned her to come, and she could stay with her and go to school, and that was how she was able to come to America. So she came to the Southworths' home, and she helped with the housework, and that's how we became acquainted with Mrs., Mr. and Mrs. Southworth. And due to her again with all this war talk, I would write to my sister. I'd say, "I won't be able to return to Japan, or to America. There's too much war talk." And you know, my sister would write back and say, "You've never had it so good. There's no talk of war here."

JC: And so Mrs. Southworth became your benefactor?

FO: Uh-huh. She also became my benefactor. And my mother agreed that I could return to America as well.

JC: When you were in Japan, did people know that you were from America, and how were you treated?

FO: It's, we never, well, we didn't feel discriminated. In fact, we were looked upon sort of in awe, you know. My older sister would, would often say, "Oh, these people are staring at us," and such. And she was tall for her age, so she was called a beanpole or whatever, and she makes that remark, but we weren't discriminated. They seemed to treat us like in awe. But my mother's stories of what, when the war struck, during wartime, the town of Hiratsuka where she built the home, the whole town was flattened by bombs, but our house remained. And my mother said the resentment was hard to bear. Here there's a family from America, and their home is still intact, and the rest of the city were just flattened by the bombs. And I thought, oh, that must have been hard for her to bear.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

JC: So how did it come that you came back to America, and who came with you or how did that work?

FO: I came all alone.

JC: Tell me about that experience.

FO: Well, it was sad, but I think it was sadder for my mother letting me go at that age because I was sixteen. But she also sent my brother, an older brother. I'm third in line, and my brother, I remember my mother saying -- his name is Joe -- "I want Joe to hurry up and hurry to America because I don't want him drafted in the Japanese army." And I thought, oh, she was wise. So he came before, he was the second, and I was the third to come.

JC: And so what year was that, Frances?

FO: 1941, June, six months before the war.

JC: So talk about --

FO: And here I'm pleading with my sister. There's so much war talk. I'm not going to be able to return. And she'd say, "Oh, you don't know what you're talking about." And I even told her that they're saying America is going to, when they say there's something about Hawaii now. I remember telling this to the army official, but I don't quite remember, something about Hawaii, I remember.

JC: So they were preparing the Japanese people for the attack on Pearl Harbor in some way or --

FO: Oh, what was that about Hawaii that, "We will take Hawaii," was that it, that Japan was saying, "We'll take Hawaii." There's something about Hawaii there that I vaguely remember. But I remember writing to my sister and with her saying, "You've never had it so good, stay where you are."

JC: So you're sixteen years old, and it's six months before Pearl Harbor. Talk about that time for you, and tell me what happens when Pearl Harbor occurs.

FO: Well, I came, my sister met me in Seattle. I came on this Hikawa Maru. It's the same ship that we had gone to Japan on, and here I'm returning on the same Hikawa Maru. But it was lonely and sad. I thought goodness, being adventurous at that age because it was my own determination that I wanted to return. But my sister met me in Seattle, and I was taken into the Southworth's home, and I spent the summer there. In the fall, I entered Gresham High School as a junior. But that, my education had been so sort of smattering. I had, the Japanese schooling was really rough. The only, I could do the math, but if it came to story problems, I was sunk. But the Japanese schooling was what has only be, helped me. The etiquettes and the flower arranging, some of the nice cultural things that, those are hardest to remember. But other than that, reading and writing very rough when you have not had the basics in earlier years. It's like a foreign language here in high school. You lose it as fast as, it just doesn't stay with you. But conversational Japanese, I'm told I do all right because when we traveled to Japan, people were marveled. But you're coping for the right words when you don't use the language because we never used the Japanese language in the home. So like my son, it's too bad that he's had French in St. Helen's Hall, but he's never had any Japanese which in a way is too bad today.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JC: So you're at Gresham High School, and you're living with your benefactor's family, and now it's three months before the war. How is it to be a Japanese American student or to be Japanese ancestry and at Gresham High School? Are you aware of that?

FO: No. There were a number of Japanese American kids at Gresham High School. In fact, my closest friends today are ones who had attended Gresham High School, uh-huh. But here, I'm only there September, well, December, and I'm only there a few months and Pearl Harbor strikes. It was a Sunday

morning, and I remember in the Southworths' home what mixed feelings with that. Of course, I thought about my family, and I thought, oh, terrible feelings.

JC: So you must have been pretty frightened for your, you had family in Japan and family in America.

FO: And the worst part was there's absolutely no contact thereafter, you know, for almost about three years. We went through the Red Cross, and finally we made contact. But all those years, there was absolutely no contact with my family in Japan.

JC: So what happened to you and your sister then after Pearl Harbor?

FO: Well, was it April that they finally decided to round up all the people of Japanese ancestry, and we were put in the Portland Assembly Center which was the, they called it the livestock, I don't remember, the hurriedly partitioned, and the buses came and picked us up at, I believe it was at the Gresham fairgrounds where we were picked up. And of course for me with the Southworths, there's being, it was not hard for us to be evacuated because we didn't have to worry about possessions or, so that portion other than the, my sister was at University of Oregon, and it really, she was really upset because she wanted to come to new, at University of Oregon. So we were rounded into the Portland Assembly Center.

JC: And what was that like to --

FO: It was just, it was just a mass of people, and you just couldn't get, the feeling was, I can't describe it, but we were only there about a month, and my sister was pretty headstrong. And one day when there was a flyer or such saying they're looking for farm workers in Eastern Oregon, volunteers, my sister says we're going. And my mother's friend from Portland, gentleman friend, he came to us and he says, "What do you girls think you're going to do out there?" My sister says, "I don't know, but I'm not staying here." So here, we get rounded. We went on this train with, I believe the shades were drawn, and we're off to Eastern Oregon.

JC: So everyone on that train, were they all Japanese Americans put in the assembly center?

FO: Uh-huh, from the assembly center, and I understand there were 110 of us. I'd read that where there were 110 of us who went out on that first day.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JC: Can I go back for just a second to try to understand what it's like? You're like sixteen years old --

FO: Uh-huh.

JC: And your sister is not much older.

FO: No.

JC: And --

FO: But of course, we worked picking berries and such that first summer when we had come from, when I had come from Japan, we went out from the Southworths' home and picked berries at the Caudel Farm, and they still are very good friends, so we've had a little bit of working.

JC: I imagine it being very scary to not have your mother, to be sent to a center where you don't know people, to suddenly get on the train...

FO: And Miss Azalea Peet was there, and she was another benefactor there, Miss Azalea Peet, the missionary lady that I... and she conducted the Sunday school there on Sundays, and she was in general an adviser. And then we had another adviser woman from the farm they call it [inaudible] farm, I just want to call it the farm labor camp, but there was another Caucasian woman who sort of, maybe she was sent from the War Relocation people because there must have been someone who oversaw the group. I'm sort of vague on that, but I remember a Caucasian woman. She must have been through the War Authority.

JC: So tell me about, where are you when you're in this war or in this labor camp, and what's your life like in the labor camp?

FO: Well in the beginning, it was tense, and my sister, mother, and I, we were, we stayed in this tent, but that was very temporary. In Nyssa, Oregon, they set up these tents, but that was, it didn't seem like it was even a whole summer. But then they moved us to a, a camp that had cabins over at, the address was I think Adrian, Adrian, Oregon, and that's where we went to school. I started high school at Nyssa. A bus would come into our labor camp and pick us up. There were a bunch of us and bring us home again. I call that my, my war, prisoner of war days. There was no social life at all. It was just, you get picked up and you go to school and you come home and that was it. And there, I finished my senior year, graduated from Nyssa High School. There were two other fellows from the same camp who graduated with me who were Japanese Americans. And there was a Caucasian classmate who was very nice to me, and I still correspond with her. She, her family was very nice to me. I went to her home on graduation, and we dressed together. And one family that was very nice to me, the Boyles.

JC: Were there some people in that area who were not nice to the Japanese Americans that were there?

FO: Well, I can't say because we had, really had very little contact with the outside community except for being, they made groups, and we went out to work in groups, you know, harvesting, we would toss the sugar beets onto the trucks. We would pick up potatoes, top onions, but the potato picking I remember very well. You'd have to wake up like one a.m., two a.m. in the morning because you're taken out to the field before, well, just barely daybreak because they don't want the sun to be hitting the potatoes that had been dug up by the, by the tractors. And we would be, first, we were putting them in baskets and then putting them in gunnysacks. But the men were, there's potato belt, bud. There's a big belt that you can wear with hooks in the back, and you can hook your gunny sacks, and you hook a whole bunch of gunny sacks in the back, and you take it off and put it on your hook in front, and you're putting in the potatoes, and that way you can work much faster. I remember doing that, but it's a good way to lose weight. That was hard work. But you're through by nine-thirty, ten o'clock. By the time the sun comes out, your work is done. But you're sure, you're going up there early in the morning. But waking in those hours were very hard. And to this day till we used to go clam digging here, but you'd have to leave here at midnight or such, and I'd tell my husband when I remember those Eastern Oregon days when we were forced to awaken so early, it reminds me of those days, and I'm not waking, getting up at one, two o'clock in the morning to do anything.

JC: That was incredibly hard labor for a young girl.

FO: It was, uh-huh.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JC: So now you've graduated from high school. What next, what happens?

FO: Well, I had, I think it's all due to Miss Azalea Peet. She, I believe she set the groundwork for me to enter Eastern Oregon College of Education, and I went there the following year and entered into the

cadet nurse's program. That's another government sponsored program, and finished a whole year. And that was, the cadet nurses finished the first year, and, and then the group was to go to the Dalles Hospital on our next step of our training. And they'd come and tell me that I am not allowed to go because it happens to be in a restricted zone. I thought, oh, they won't allow me to go. So then I'm sure it was through Miss Azalea Peet, I wrote this letter to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt pleading with her that, can I return to this zone to finish my training, and I had letters to show that it went through the channels. And finally, I'm given permission to join my classmates. But it's almost six months later, and I have my pass today to show that I was allowed to return. But since... well, was it in the interim now I have been here, the school tried to arrange for me to transfer to a group in Salt Lake, also the same program. And here I'm going to Salt Lake City all on my own, and I meet up with this director of nurses who was most unkind.


FO: I think that's the first time I faced discrimination. She had me, she grilled me one day, and she said, "I see where you've been to Japan. You were in school in Japan. What did you take up in Japan?" Well, I'm just a young school kid. What could I say. I said, "It was a girl's private school, liberal arts. What else would I be learning?" But she grilled me like I was enemy number one. And then she went on to say, "Your records, your school records, you lack in algebra. You should go back and pick up some more credits before you can enter the program." Well, I confess, my educational background was rather smattering because between America and the Japanese training which was real hard. But she was rough with me; she had me in tears. So then I returned to the College of Education again, and I started my second year there. And lo and behold, an army personnel shows up. I don't know how I was found, but I guess they do keep track. I guess they kept track of us there. And they asked if I would like to be a linguist, and I thought, "A linguist?" He says, "There's only one catch." He says, "You have to be a member of the armed services." And I thought, I don't see any harm in being a member of the armed services, I thought.

JC: So you --

FO: So I agreed to... and then I had the paperwork to show that they accepted me, and here I'm going into service from Portland, Oregon, during the days that the area was restricted. That's how I became a member of the Armed Services. But my basic training was at, in Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and it was a wonderful experience. As I've said before, discrimination is something that I have never felt except for this, the nursing director who grilled me. But I think the experience in service was really wonderful when I compare it with my friends who stayed in the internment centers. That was a waste. But so much more could have been accomplished if they had come out and even joined the services.

JC: So you see that as having been an opportunity?

FO: It was a stepping stone for me. It was a wonderful experience.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JC: And were you in Portland then when you were doing this after you went through your training in, you went through your basic training. Then where did --

FO: Basic training, Fort Des Moines. And there, all alone, they sent me to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, where I was to become part of the language school. And then when basic training was completed, my peers there were saying, "Oh, you're so lucky." You know where you're going and, because the others over there what they're called staging to be assigned to wherever, whatever departments they were to be sent to. And here, they said, "Well, you're so lucky. You already have a spot to go to," and such. And here all alone, I traveled to Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

JC: So two things there, what was it like to be all alone in Fort Snelling, and did no one look cross-eyed at you and think you're a Japanese?

FO: No, but the whole camp there was the Japanese American, the language school, so there were so many men there. You could have had pick of dates. In fact, you felt like I'm not going to go out with anybody. It was really something. It was adventurous.

JC: So what happened? You're there, you got all these great guys around you.

FO: There were fourteen of us gals, who came, women, and, but they wouldn't start our program, so we were doing clerical work. Was it two months later, whatever, but there was a wonderful commanding officer, this lady commanding officer. She said if any of you are unhappy and want to do different things or what. And I said, you know, I've had nurse's training. I already finished my first year in preclinical training. I think I would like to be in the medics, and she paved my way in here, and my nursing, or my military career in the medics. And here I'm sent to Camp Crowder, Minnesota, and I joined the medical group at Camp Crowder. And the duration of my service was at Camp Crowder, and that's where I met John. He was in the surgical medics being a surgical technician. But I was even, one of the WAC ladies, she says, "I want you to meet somebody that I'm working with. You'll like him." And I thought, "No, no, no. I'm staying away." I'm not, I've seen enough of the Japanese American fellows at Fort Snelling. I'm being real cagey, but we met and played ping-pong. By the way, I won a battalion championship in ping-pong during basic training. So John and I were good at ping-pong and whatever. That's how we got acquainted.

JC: So when did you and John, how did you get from Minnesota? When you get married, how did you get out here?

FO: Well, Johnny was discharged in December 1945. And two weeks later, Mrs. Southworth had been planning my wedding for me all summer. She had a whole booklet made on the plans for the wedding. She was a jewel. She had the wedding all planned. And John got discharged December the 2nd, I believe, and then I was still in service but was able to get away. And we were married at the Southworths' home on December the 15th, two weeks after Johnny was discharged from service, and she gave us a wonderful wedding. She had the Lincoln High School choir come and sing at our wedding.

JC: Tell me a little bit more, I mean, she was an incredible benefactor for you.

FO: She was.

JC: She was an incredible person in your life. Was that a common experience? Who were benefactors, and do you know other people who had someone like that? Were there other Caucasians that came to the aid of the Japanese or how did that happen?

FO: Well, I hear stories all along of people who benefitted. The evacuees kept in close touch, sent them gifts. You read about it all the time of people with benefactors. But Miss Azalea Peet was wonderful in Eastern Oregon. She was, she led the way for my schooling. And the Southworths were just wonderful, couldn't have done without them because actually we were orphans.

JC: So in a way, they were like your parents here.

FO: Uh-huh She refers to us as foster daughters. We were her foster daughters. She was very... well, she taught for twenty-seven years at Lincoln High School, and there's a scholarship in her name left at the school. My sister's classmate was Jerry Frank. She corresponds with him still. And whenever I see the articles that Jerry writes, I mail it to her.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JC: So you and John are back in Oregon. You've gotten married. Then where does your life take you? Are you, where do you live?

FO: Well, we started out at Vanport, and we were there almost, I think we were there almost a year and a half.

JC: Tell me about what, what was Vanport?

FO: Well, Vanport was like a city in itself. And the way the Vanport grew up was for shipyard workers, was it not? Was that Henry Kaiser who started the Vanport, but it became a regular town with the store, the stores, the post office, the whole works. But it was temporary dwelling for us. And Johnny acquired this plot here, and he was out here working when the flood came.

JC: So tell me about that flood. What was, what do you remember of that time?

FO: Well, John was employed with the City Planning Commission, and he was one of the members who surveyed the, the dam, and he didn't like what it, it looked like. And he said, you know, "We better start moving." And we were fortunate enough to move some of our things out to the Southworths' home.

JC: And then --

FO: And fortunately, he came home the, let's see, this happened quite late in the afternoon, did it not, and he must have come back to Vanport around noon, and so we were fortunate enough to get out. But it would have been disastrous if he weren't there to pick us up because I had a baby by then.

JC: So when the flood or when the dike broke, you were actually at the Southworths' or in Gresham or away from Vanport?

FO: No. We left right, I think we left when the dike did break, but we were able to get out before it got real bad.

JC: And for someone who has never been to Vanport or doesn't know that, what was that like? I mean, what does that mean when the dike breaks? What did you experience? What did you see? What --

FO: I didn't except for the pictures, and we never went back to see the devastation.

JC: So those, your, the house that you'd been living in, whatever, you left there?

FO: Well, they were huge barracks about two-story, well, it's like barracks, but they were two-story with how many units? It's like a big apartment complex but hundreds of them.

JC: And that was all flooded?

FO: Uh-huh. Have you seen pictures of the flooded apartments floating? I think we have a whole, there was an article not too long ago of the flood. And that was in 1948, a warm sunny Sunday. It was Memorial Day, was it not?

JC: So after Vanport and you had some land somewhere, what happened then?

FO: Well, this is the lot that Johnny was trying to clear to build the house. So after the flood, we thought we would be real strong and courageous. We were going to really rough it, and our farm friend said that they have a new tent that they would loan us. So we set up a tent here and lived for the summer. Well, he started building the house; our house which was built in stages.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JC: I want to ask you, I want to go back a little bit now. The war is over here, and you've returned to Oregon. When did you first get in touch with your mother, and how was that, your mother in Japan and your family?

FO: I believe through the Red Cross we were able to get in touch and found that everyone was all right, and the home was in place. But the war stories that my mother tells is really hard to visualize. She even told us of the story of a, an American pilot who had washed ashore, and the local people had buried him. And here I remember my sister asking my mother, "Well, did you keep the, his, the tags and his things, so they could inform the authorities?" "No," she says, "everybody was too afraid." They didn't tell the, to try to tell the American authorities of what had happened.

JC: So what's it like to be a part of the country that has bombed your other country? Was that hard to reconcile feelings of being an American and still having family in Japan or what did that feel like?

FO: No. I don't think Japan has... Japan's a nice place to live, and it was nice while I was there, but my allegiance has always been America, and I never thought I would be living in Japan.

JC: And did your mother then stay in Japan, or what happened to her?

FO: No. Right after the war she returned, and she probably would have about the time that I and my sister and brother came, but she said that there was not enough funds to put together for the whole family to return. And since she had built the house there and such that she was going to stay with. But then her funds stopped too, so she went through a bad time. I understand she went, she was a cook at a factory and such during the war years, so she had it rough. The beginnings of life in Japan was very easy for her financially; but during the war, it was very hard for her.

JC: And she had three children living in the United States?

FO: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

JC: So you and John, your husband is a doctor?

FO: Engineer. He's a graduate of Caltech.

JC: And you started your own family?

FO: Uh-huh. John is self-made. He worked his way through college. He tells me he was a houseboy while attending California Institute of Technology. And being a houseboy, he learned some wonderful household chores. Being a houseboy, he's a wonderful ironer. He's very detailish when it comes to house cleaning which I'm not. I try to hurry through everything, but, no, he's very detailish. So he's learned some good, good points as a houseboy. But he graduated from Caltech in, also in 1941.

JC: And then do you have children?

FO: Yes, I have one lone son. And well, he was a, I shouldn't brag, but he's very precocious. Learning came so easy for him. Right when he was five years old, he appeared on the Uncle Bob Radio Show with an accordion piece, "On Top of Old Smokey," dressed as a little cowboy and took the top prize. He entered St. Helen's Hall and mainly from kindergarten because we had no kindergartens here. I don't know if the public schools, they, most of them didn't have kindergartens in those days unless they were private kindergartens. I can't say, but he started kindergarten at St. Helen's Hall, and he went through all through the eighth grade. I think he received wonderful training there.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JC: What were the values that your mother and your father wanted to pass on to you and your siblings? What were the things that were most important that you remember they were teaching you?

FO: Well, I lost my father very early. But I think the basic family, you might call it instincts, is to be good workers and strive and be good at whatever you do. So we all seem to have that, the drive to, to do well in whatever you get into.

JC: Did your spirit of independence and almost adventure come from your parents?

FO: Well, because my siblings, the children are all college educated, so we'll have to give credit to our parents, I'm sure, because it seems like we're all strivers. I have a sister up in Seattle. She has three children. They're all college educated. The youngest graduated from Yale. She's an attorney.

JC: Do you think that, this is just curiosity. Are the, do you think the values of, that you as a Japanese American, you and John as Japanese Americans, pass on to your child are different, or what is it you wanted your children to, what's most important for you to have had to have taught to your children, your child?

FO: Well, it seemed like education, I think it has to be talked about at an early age. You just can't say when you graduate from high school you must go to college. No, I think that's too late. I think it has to be from grade school on. You must do well in school in order to get into college, so it has to be in the growing up years. I think education is foremost.

JC: You mentioned that your father had passed away when you were young. Can you say more, what happened to your father?

FO: In an industrial accident while he was working for the Clark and Wilson Lumber Company.

JC: And you were --

FO: I was ten, ten years old.

JC: So your mom was, had seven children?

FO: Uh-huh.

JC: What was it like for a single parent to be raising children at that time? That would be in the 1930s?

FO: Uh-huh.

JC: What do you remember that experience or her talking about that experience?

FO: I think she kept much to herself. She never showed despair. We often marveled at how she endured because she never, at least to my knowledge, she was never one to show despair. And we wondered how she managed because she never let the children know or feel that of hopelessness, so we never felt the, the devastation of losing our father. My only remembrance is shortly after the death of our father, my personal feeling was I don't think I want to go to school. I wanted to stay close to home because something may happen to Mother. I remember that sort of feeling.

JC: Did she talk at all later on about what had it been like to have seven children?

FO: No. Those are my regrets, you know. When you, after you've lost your parents, you always think, oh, I wish we had more sessions. I wished we had more time. I think everyone goes through that, uh- huh.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JC: And then I want to return to something else. You said that after Vanport, and you had a lot here in Gresham and you set up a tent, talk about what that was like to --

FO: The roughing, we were going to rough it. We thought it was going to be fun because here summer's coming on, but it rained on us. But I, when we first moved out of Vanport, I want to thank the American Red Cross. And to this day, they're one of my favorite charities. I'll always remember them because they helped us with cots and the dresser drawer and some blankets. They started us out.

JC: So the Red Cross provided everybody from Vanport with certain material things?

FO: I don't know about everybody, but for people so, because I don't know where everyone went to tell you the truth. We had a place to come to, but everyone, I'm sure most people had no place to go, so I don't know how they were set up. But I'll always remember the American Red Cross.

JC: So did you use your American Red Cross cot in your new tent?

FO: Uh-huh. There may be one still up in the garage attic, I don't know. But that was a rough beginning when it rained on our tent. And my baby got pneumonia, and we landed in the hospital. That was a hard start.

JC: So your child was just, Jeremiah was how old when you were living --

FO: A toddler, little over a year.

JC: How long did it take 'til John was able to build the structure?

FO: Well, we moved into our first section in October, hurriedly. [Inaudible] in the rough structure.

JC: Sawdust in your ears.

FO: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Same house, we're still here.

JC: So the house we're interviewing you in is an addition to the original house in 1948.

FO: Started in '48.

JC: 1948.

FO: And Johnny actually built it with his bare hands. He didn't have the equipment he had in later years. It was, he worked during the day and in the evenings. He worked till midnight.

JC: And so --

FO: But this is a no mortgage house. We were able to build it without, and yet we could have taken advantage of the Oregon State Veterans Loan or the federal loan, but we opted not to.

JC: So you didn't take advantage of those programs. You built, when you built this house, it was totally when you had money or,

FO: No. We didn't have money. We went to buy material as he was able from his paycheck.

JC: So you never borrowed any money?

FO: So we never borrowed money. This is a mortgage free home, never had a mortgage.

JC: That could be unheard of.

FO: Well, that's what my neighbor tells me. But I would not recommend it. Today's young people would not be able to put up with the type of housekeeping that you have to endure.

JC: Tell me the names of your siblings. You're Frances.

FO: Yes. My oldest sister is Grace and then Joe and then Mary, Josephine and Gladys. My father when he first came to America in Oakland, he attended a business college. And he was a Christian, and my sister is still seeking out and still when he became a Christian. But he gave us all Christian names at birth, so he had the foresight. So we all have Christian names on our birth certificate for which I'm very proud of.

JC: And do you see there having been an advantage to having a Christian name? Or tell me more. You said you're very proud of that. What does that mean?

FO: Oh, because so many of my friends and peers, they were given Japanese names and no American names. And today, their offsprings all have American first names and maybe a Japanese second name. And I'm proud that our father had the foresight to give us all English, Christian names. I think it was remarkable for him to have done that so long ago when most of the children were named Japanese names.

JC: So he was starting you out as Americans?

FO: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JC: Frances, is there, is there anything that you want to talk about that I haven't asked you about yet?

FO: Well, our one and only son, a real high achiever, it was almost uncanny as to all the awards that he acquired in his youth. He, after St. Helen's Hall, he attended Central Catholic High School, and there he graduated as a valedictorian, student body president. He made governor of Oregon on the American Legion Boy's State Program. He was able to go to Boy's Nation under the American Legion Boy's State Program. Mr. Clinton was also a member the same year when they met up with President Kennedy. And then later years when Mr. Clinton became President, he had reunions for his former Boy's Nation members. He had that two years in a row. And my son got Christmas cards from the White House due to that. Our son was also a, he was quite an orator. He won the JACL local oratorical contest, then went on to win the regional, and then the national. He attended the national JACL convention with his speech on civil rights, and he was awarded a nice war bond. And just a year ago, I gave him the bond because I said it's not earning interest anymore. You do something with it. And then he, his college was, he started out at University of San Francisco and then... on scholarship, and then he went to Oregon State and graduated from University of Oregon Medical School, and then his residency work was all done and through the University of California at UCLA. And today he has, he's board certified for internal medicine, family services, respiratory diseases, and emergency medicine. And he's now affiliated with the Kaiser Permanente program. He is really self-motivated. He was a real enterprising kid. In his college days, he was a representative for Evelyn Wood Speed Reading. He got to travel all

the way to Canada on a speed reading program. And I attended one of the sessions, and I was amazed. Here at Lloyd Center, there was one of the Evelyn Wood sessions there, and there was a whole group of people, and they toss a book. He and another fellow were representing Evelyn Wood at this program, and they would toss a book, and they'd say, "Read paragraph such." You have five minutes, three minutes, whatever, and that's taken away from them. "Now let's hear what the paragraph was all about," and it's uncanny. They can recite it back to you what the book was about. I was amazed. And friends would ask does that program really help, will it really help everyone. And our son said, "No. You must be reader to begin with. You can't just enter the program and expect to become a speed reader."

JC: So besides producing a very accomplished son, what other thing in your life are you most proud of or feel, you look back and you say, "I'm so happy about that?"

FO: Well, all in all, except for the evacuation program which was really unjust especially for the elders, of course myself having had the foster parents who befriended me, I did not suffer the personal, the loss of property, job, whatever, too young to be in that category. But all in all, I think life has been pretty good to us. I have no complaints. And so today, we're reaching the age where we're living day to day, but our foremost would be to strive for good health, good relationship with family and friends, and to be a good citizen, to pay our taxes. Speaking of taxes, my son says we're over taxed on our homemade home.

JC: Is this the advice that you would give to young people today about how to live their lives, how to live a good life?

FO: Well, I think you have to meet up with the proper, with a good partner to have a smooth marriage and family. But I would say it's all in fate what you come through in life. It's a learning process.

JC: You seem to have an extraordinary capacity to see the positive in some of the negatives that occurred in your life. Where does that come from?

FO: Well, all I can say is my life has been mostly harmonious. I haven't been dealt very few so-called blows.

JC: Many people would consider losing their father when they were ten, coming back as a child to be alone in a country, being taken to an assembly camp, working in a labor camp, as very adverse circumstances.

FO: I think it's youth. You don't worry. When we were at the farm labor camp when I look back now, I think goodness, what if one of us got sick? There's no insurance. There's no money. What would we have done? But I guess, blame it on to youth, never had such worries. But mostly, if you're content within yourself, I guess you don't harbor worries or you live from day to day.

JC: And would you think that that same philosophy applies other than that experience in Utah, your sense is that you've never experienced, prejudice, yet many, many Japanese Americans would tell other stories of prejudice. How do you account for that?

FO: Well, I think youth, we weren't old enough to be dealt real prejudice because we weren't out in the working world or such at our age when the evacuation came. So a lot of my friends, they took evacuation as it was a new opening, you know.

JC: So I'll ask the question again. Is there anything else that you'd like to talk about that I haven't asked you about, just something you'd like to expand on or that I forgot to ask or that would make an interesting story for a young person to hear about given the era that you lived in? It's an extraordinary era.

FO: Well, I would like to give credit to my husband John. He's been a wonderful provider, my best friend, and I have a son who is very good to us.

JC: Well, you're an extraordinary person, and you've lived through some extraordinary times, and I appreciate very much your willingness to be interviewed today.

FO: Well, thank you.

JC: Sharing your experiences with us and with the people that will view this video.

FO: Thank you much. It's been enjoyable for me as well.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JC: Frances, tell me a little bit about what school life was like in Japan when you were there, just sort of what the school day was like, and also did they, were there any preparations, or did they tell you as schoolchildren anything about the war that was going on or the war that might be going on?

FO: It seemed like very little, the kids weren't exposed to war talk hardly at all. The grade school that I went, here, all I remember is the harshness, the physical harshness of Japanese public schools. I would tell my friends, "In America a school bus comes and picks us up, and we go into a schoolroom that's all heated." In Japan, there might be little charcoal burners. But it's cold, and I would have to sit on my knees to stay warm during the school. And then after school, maybe the Americans should do this, the kids do the cleanup. After classes are over, buckets and little hand thick mats, the kids go scoot with that like a human mop. They're doing all the cleanup after school. This is grade school. The kids do all the janitorial work. And when we tell them that in America, we don't have to do any of this. And in the beginning, they'd say, "Well, you don't have to do it. You're not used to it." And then they would be that nice to me saying, "It's too cold for you," whatever. They would sort of pamper me, but that was grade school. It was, and the kids bring their cold lunch. They do serve hot tea, but the school, grade school life was, it was harsh. And one day, we took some candy to school, and no one would accept. And they said, "We're not allowed, we're not allowed. We'll be punished." So you can't give anybody any tidbits, that sort of thing.

JC: So did you have any sense that a war was going on, or that Japan might be going to war against the United States?

FO: Well, we did see send-offs of military people. People are seeing them off at the railroad stations, they're singing in unison and that sort of thing, but we didn't make much issue about it. Maybe it was too common of a thing. I don't know because war was on with Manchuria and over that way, life, they'd been at war so long that we didn't make much issue of it.

JC: Did your mother talk about it at all? As a child, you probably didn't have anything to compare it with. Did your mother?

FO: No. Except one thing we remember is my brother is two years older than I, and she said, "I want Joe to hurry up and return to Japan because I don't want him in the Japanese military." I can remember that so well. And here I'm telling my older sister just lately, "Wasn't that wise of her? She, she was wise in many ways." Because here in Oregon, there are, I read of people who served in the Japanese army, the American-born Niseis, and they had a difficult time returning to the States after that. I think one congressman helped one individual that I know of in Portland, and he finally was able to return. But after having served in the Japanese army, they didn't want him back.

JC: When you... tell me about, tell me about going to Japan on the boat, and tell me about coming back to the United States on the boat and how, what those, how those experiences were different, what they were like?

FO: Well going to Japan, of course, is just a big adventure. We were, got down on third class. And I remember my older sister, she got a babysitting job of this darling little gal from first class. She reminds of a little Shirley Temple. And my sister and I were talking one day, and I said, "How'd you get that job as a babysitter? You're in third class, and you got picked out to babysit for this darling little girl." I remember that.

JC: How long did the trip take in those days?

FO: Oh, it was like fourteen days on this ship. But like I say, it was a big adventure for us. And it was the Hikawa Maru that we went to Japan on. And lo and behold, I returned to America on the same Hikawa Maru, and it was one of the three sister ships of Japan. But this one was used as a hospital ship, so it did not get destroyed by bombs. And today, it's a historic relic in Yokohama in that museum area. We were there, and I was telling my sister -- she went to Japan last fall. And she said, she was sorry, she didn't get to visit the museum. She said time just didn't allow her to visit. And I told her, well, the Hikawa Maru is sitting there, and Chinatown is beautiful. It's a nicest Chinatown in comparison to the San Francisco's Chinatown or the Vancouver, B.C. one because the Chinatown in San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C. have become old and rather decrepit; whereas, Japan's Chinatown is new. And these Chinese merchants, they'll greet you with, "Irasshaimase," using Japanese terms as if, as if they were Japanese. It was delightful.

JC: So your trip over was an adventure. What was your trip back?

FO: Oh, sad leaving my mother all alone, and there were three of us in this one cabin. One girl, she married a friend of John in Sacramento, so we correspond today, and we just happen to become roommates. We didn't know each other until then. But I remember coming back. We had lots of refugees, and they were mostly headed for Canada, and I think they were Jewish refugees. But from what I learned from Mrs. Southworth, my schoolteacher/mentor, she said they were mostly well to do Jewish people who came in that era, and they have settled in Portland, and some of the people are outstanding today. They were many people who were able to get away. And I think they came via China or whatever, but they came back on the Japanese ships, and they were refugees, 1941, on the same ship I came back on. I remember that very well, full of refugees because normally you don't have all those, all the foreigners like that on the ships.

JC: Did your ship leave from Japan and stop somewhere along the way?

FO: No. We came from Yokohama to Seattle, no stopping.

JC: So the refugees --

FO: And I'm told that was next to the last ship that I came on. From thereon, there were no more ships coming to the U.S. from Japan.

JC: Were people on board the ship afraid at all?

FO: Not that I could... except for the refugees. You wouldn't know what they were thinking of, but, but I really remember all the refugees, so many on that ship.

JC: Did you, did you interact? Did anybody interact with the refugees and talk to them about --

FO: Well, in those, did very little. In fact, in Japan, you know, I craved English speaking people because there was no, you know, you feel like you're shut in a room when you leave America, and you don't know the language, and you wished somebody were speaking English to you. And occasionally, we

would see foreigners go by on motorcycles and this and that, and my mother would say, "Why don't you strike up a conversation with them?" Well, they may not be Americans. Maybe they're Germans, who knows. But we craved for English speaking people. It was like being shut in a room with nobody to talk with.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JC: Tell me what it was like to be a woman in the military.

FO: Well, the women in the military, of course, amongst my peers, you know, we were brought up rather sheltered, you know. You, we didn't go gallivanting, going out at nights and this and that. We were all kept close to home and such. So my feeling when I first volunteered, I thought my peers would think good little girls don't join the service, especially in that era, because we had often heard that you don't date a sailor, you know. Don't you remember that sort of... but the tides turned quickly when I was in school at La Grande. We had the air cadet corps stationed there with us. You wouldn't be caught dating a civilian. Everybody was for their air corpsmen. How the tide changes. But my military service, all in all, it was an adventure. It isn't what people would imagine, that only bad girls or wayward girls are joining the service. It was a wonderful group of kids. I've corresponded with a couple of them all these years, and we had wonderful commanding officers. And like I said, rather than languishing in those internment camps, I'd think what a waste of time for people of my age to be just... oh, it was just a waste of time. You could have been doing something meaningful, productive, and they didn't. That was horrid. And here the military led me to a more productive life because of the time that I'd served, Uncle Sam in turn rewards you.

JC: So you went to Minnesota.

FO: Uh-huh.

JC: What was the experience like in Minnesota?

FO: Oh, in Minnesota, it was bitterly cold. The sidewalks are caked with ice, and no one seems to clear it or anything. People who live there act like, well, it's common. And here, we're walking like we're on pole sticks or such, you know. We're afraid to walk the streets. The ice is cold and thick. It was bitterly cold. I remember that mostly.

JC: And that was the school for linguistics?

FO: Uh-huh. It was the, the language school, uh-huh.

JC: Say more about that. What does that mean, the language school. What are you training to do?

FO: Well, they recruited the Japanese Americans or anyone with knowledge of the Japanese language. And they were training them supposedly I guess to use for the occupation services, or many of them went to the Philippines and such to act as interpreters, the men. Now I often tell Johnny, "Oh, if I had stayed, I could have been able to go the occupation group to Japan," because a group of women did get to go to Japan under the occupation. That was after the war.

JC: And what would they do in Japan then?

FO: I... well, my sister who next, my sister who remained in Japan, she had her English knowledge because she almost finished grade school here, so she was able to speak English well. They hired her at the police station, and she worked a spell for the Red Cross. Here she's just a teenager, and they're using her because of her English ability and Japanese as well.

JC: The Women's Air Corps, WAC is Women's Air Corps?

FO: No.

JC: Women's Army Corps.

FO: Army, uh-huh.

JC: What is the, what is the Women's Army Corps, and who was in it?

FO: Well, there were wonderful officers. And mainly it was to do the home, home base work, I would say, clerical, you know, and not for combat, and they didn't mix the genders like they do today. I don't know how the girls get by being mixed with the males on their everyday lives. How do they cope, their personal lives. Because in the WACS, we had different barracks. We were completely segregated from the men. Our mess halls and everything, we were all separate. But today, my goodness, I don't know what they're doing today because it seems like they're right in with the men. And like basic training from what I read, they're not as hard on the women as the men. Like the pushups, they're only allowed, required to do certain number of pushups compared to what the men have to do and such. Our basic training, well, it wasn't easy, but it wasn't that rough. But we were completely segregated from the men. So --

JC: What was your basic training? What did you do during basic training?

FO: Well, you get up early right at, what was it five-thirty, six, and it's the mess. And after that, I think we had our training. We had some march drills. And of course, there's a lot of orientation class work, but it went by fast. It was six weeks.

JC: Did women also have physical training?

FO: Oh, yes. We go through, uh-huh, but not as severe as what the men went through. But I remember marching at, in Iola. It was so bitterly cold that my face would, we would be numb when we came in. But it was all an adventure. And being young, you know, you can tolerate most everything.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JC: We didn't talk about this, but, so you had... one of your sisters stayed in Japan permanently?

FO: No, no. We're all here except my brother who finished his civil service stint in Japan and opted to stay during retirement, but he's still working for the American companies.

JC: So everybody in your family left?

FO: Oh, yes. We're all back.

JC: Your mom and all left. What year did you leave, they leave?

FO: Well, shortly after the war was over, everyone came back, so it was early '50s.

JC: Had your sister been there during the war?

FO: My, the youngers, uh-huh.

JC: What stories did they tell about being there?

FO: Oh, terrible stories like my one sister worked as a, like a nurse's aide. They turned the grade school which is just a few blocks from our home into a makeshift hospital, and she said it was horrid. They didn't have the supplies. They didn't have the medication, dying soldiers. She went through a real hard time. I think she's the only one who experienced that sort of... because the others were much younger. They didn't have to be out.

JC: And so you mentioned that there had been the bombing in --

FO: Oh, the whole city was bombed flat.

JC: So what did your family do at that time?

FO: Well, our house remained, and my mother was working as a cook in the factory for a short while. And then after she came back to the States, her, her accident, her pension was resumed. But we tried to get her back pay. But maybe if I had gotten a better lawyer, maybe we could have collected the back pay because the kids were still minors, and my brother was serving in the Korean War. I think if, if we worked harder, we could have collected the retro pay for her from that fund.

JC: So you mean that while she was in Japan, she did not receive her state accident insurance?

FO: That's right. After the war broke, they stopped it. And after she came back to the state, it got resumed. But she didn't get her retro pay which she should have because the kids were minors, and my brother was in service in Korean War.

JC: And your mother, you said she came after the war. So would that be in --

FO: Early '50s.

JC: In the early '50s.

FO: Uh-huh.

JC: Did she come back to Oregon?

FO: No. She came to California where my eldest sister resides.

JC: When your mom and your sister, when you talk with them, did they talk about what it was like immediately after the war in Japan?

FO: Uh-huh. We've heard stories.

JC: Can you remember some of those stories?

FO: Well, the fact that our home remained, and she felt the resentment of neighbors knowing that we had come back to Japan and were from America, and here her house didn't get bombed, and the whole city practically was flattened out.

JC: And so what was that, did they talk about what it was like to live in a city that had been bombed out, and, you know, what daily life was like from let's say 1945 until the '50s when they, when they left? That was an intense long period.

FO: Well, right after that when the U.S. occupation came in, there, my sister was hired as an interpreter for the police station and the Red Cross, and so they're mingling with the Americans right off.

JC: Was food easy to come by, or I wonder what it was like.

FO: I think the rationing was, it was real severe. And if you had relatives in the country or such, you could get food there, but I hear food was real tight. Have you, have you read the story, is it the Rising Sun? An American woman who married this diplomat, and she lived in Washington D.C., and she went back to Japan. She was American, Caucasian, and they lived right in our locale. And she wrote this book, and she talks about how scarce the food was. They would go up in the hills to scrounge for edible plants, and it was hard for everyone. And then we hear stories of how poorly fed the POWS, the American POWS were. And I told that to my mother one day. And she said, "Well, the rest of us didn't have anything to eat either." You know, the man who built our fireplace, he was an American POW, and he was incarcerated near our town. And when he mentioned that while he was building our fireplace, I said, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Oh, he said, "Don't feel that way." He said, "While I was a POW, I had this one guard who befriended me." He would sneak in rice cakes or whatever. And he says, "My wish is I'd love to go back to Japan and meet up with him." That's a POW man who built our fireplace.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

FO: But I don't know how people feel about the women going into service today. But in my particular case, setting aside the stigma of what my peers may have thought, it all came out for the best.

JC: So the stigma is you say that maybe it was loose girls that went in or something?

FO: Well, that was the feeling I think society had at that era, uh-huh, like you're not supposed to date a sailor in peacetime. So it's hard to be a peacetime military man.

JC: Or woman.

FO: Yeah.

JC: Well, it's as you say, you know, for you it opened many doors.

FO: Uh-huh. Yes, in comparison with what I would have had to endure and waste my life in the internment camps. The internment camps, that was a sad situation.

JC: Do you have friends that were in the internment camps?

FO: Oh, yes, most all of my Gresham friends. They all spent many years in internment camps. But they did go out in the summer to work in the canneries and such. But in the winter, they went back home to the internment camp. But it was so unproductive in those years when they could have made something for themselves.

JC: Do you ever have a conversation with them? I mean you had the opportunity to go to a labor camp. Did they talk about, did other people have the opportunity or --

FO: They could have.

JC: Did they say why they didn't go?

FO: Well, of course, many of them with parents, and it's probably the parent's wishes that you stay here where it's safe probably, that was the reason.

JC: So in some ways, your opportunity came because you and your sister --

FO: We were adventurous. We didn't know what we were getting into, but we went for it.

JC: It was very brave.

FO: Yes. When I look back, it was. We didn't know what we were facing.

JC: If you had that opportunity again, if you were in that same place again, would you do what you did?

FO: I don't know. It would depend on the circumstances, I would think. Regardless of, regardless of our age, we would still do what we thought was right, I think.

JC: Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?

FO: Unless there were better opportunities. We were just grasping for whatever. That was what it amounted to.

JC: Okay. That's great. I mean, it's an interesting thing to think about that. You know, you sort of grabbed for what was there. Your sister particularly said, "I'm not staying here." You're the younger sister. I'm sure you wanted to stay with your older sister, right? So you're going to go wherever she goes.

FO: Yes, because she told me, "I'm going. You can stay here if you want." Well I thought, my goodness, staying. It was assembly center, and it was really, it was really unorganized. The assembly center was a mess, disorganization, whatever. You can't tolerate that life very long.

JC: Yes. So, and besides, she's your family.

FO: You know, I have to credit her for saying, well, she didn't try very hard, but she did tell me, "You stay here if you want to." And I thought well, what am I, what am I going to do?

JC: What happened to your sister after going to Nyssa?

FO: Oh, she was gung ho'er. She went to College of Idaho, and then she went to Missouri. I think it was all through Miss Azalea Peet again. With the Quakers, is it Friends, what is that? Anyway, they paved her way for her. She's a graduate of University of Minnesota, worked her way through. She's a gung ho woman.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

JC: And remind me, Miss Azalea Peet was the person who was in Nyssa. She had been a missionary in China, but she --

FO: Japan.

JC: I mean in Japan, excuse me. So she was a Quaker, Friends, Quaker.

FO: She had connections, but she was a Methodist missionary, uh-huh, and she was here in Gresham before the war.

JC: When was she a missionary in Japan?

FO: It would be prior to the war. She served seventeen years or such. And then after the war, she went back again to Japan. She's a graduate of the Hunter College from a very well-to-do family.

JC: Did you maintain contact with her?

FO: Uh-huh, until she went into retirement home in North Carolina. And that's where she passed away and the home wrote that she was no longer, but we corresponded all the way through. I think she's been gone five, ten years now, maybe, a wonderful woman.

JC: This is kind of an odd question, but having been the recipient of a benefactor's enormous generosity, have you ever, have you in turn tried to do something or had the opportunity to kind of... I don't know what it would be because there's not but, I don't know, somehow --

FO: Well, my son tried to sort of push me into it. In his senior year at the medical school, he was a medical officer at the Donald Long Home here. And occasionally, he would bring, he took kids up skiing, and he'd drop by here at the house and such. And he'd say, "Mom, why don't you take in a couple of foster's kids." And I said, "Jerry, I'm working, and I don't think I have the tolerance, whatever, to take in foster children." But I remember him saying, "Mom, why don't you take in some foster kids?"

JC: It's interesting because that gives you such an appreciation for what your benefactors did, I mean when they took in you and your sister. I mean it was, it's interesting to me that, how that happened.

FO: But a foster, well, they're not all unruly. But this particular incident, he took these two kids to ski at Mount Hood. And of course, my son is a skier, so he was in the more advanced area of skiing, and he picks up these kids later to bring them home. And when we were here, there's a red pill in the hallway there. And I said, "What's that?" And he said, "Those kids." That little short contact, they've already pick up some, whatever, pills with that group they were, he says, "I thought he was talking a lot more than he usually does." So they already picked up some pills while we were with the skiing group. Now, isn't that something?

JC: The Southworths, did they, did they have a particular connection with the Japanese American community that they decided to be the benefactors for you and your sister? I mean --

FO: Well, I think it's with acquaintance with my sister at Lincoln High School because she was the high school teacher at Lincoln, and she served twenty-seven years there or such. And then later after she retired, she was adviser to many of these local high schools. She was making rounds, I know.

JC: So she knew your sister before you all went to Japan?

FO: No. My sister started at Lincoln High School, and that's where she met my sister.

JC: So when your sister came back from Japan, did she come, she was the first one to come back?

FO: Uh-huh.

JC: She came back by herself to where?

FO: Oh, let's see. She had another contact in town where she was studying drafting, sewing. It was also a Japanese family, and she stayed at their hotel and learned drafting and such. Maybe it was through that contact. It's a little vague as to where her first contact was with, but the Southworths also adopted a son, but he was already out of the home and such by the time we arrived.

JC: Japanese American?

FO: No. She was, he was an offspring of one of her students, an illegitimate person. The grade school, I think an eighth grader or such from what we hear.

JC: Did they have any particular religious affiliation, the Southworths?

FO: Not really. They first lived at Montgomery Drive in Portland, and then they bought this, a land in Troutdale, and they built their home. That's where they lived for many years. They're both gone.

JC: Yeah. That must have been like losing a parent.

FO: Uh-huh. Oh, she was particularly fond of our son because he was such a good scholar. She just, being a good student and a schoolteacher. Yep, she really was fond of him.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.