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Edward Miyakawa Transcript Part 3
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TitleEdward Miyakawa Transcript Part 3
Date2007-08-18
Time Period2000-2009
IntervieweeMiyakawa, Edward
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberOckert, Kelsey
SubjectJapanese Americans
Racism
Korean War, 1950-1953
Geographic SubjectBoulder, (Colo.)
Original CollectionJapanese-American Association of Lane Co., OR, Oral History Collection
RestrictionsPermission to use must be obtained from the Oregon Multicultural Archives, OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center.
File Nameedward_miyakawa_part3.pdf
LanguageEnglish
Full TextJapanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon - Oral History Collection Edward Miyakawa – Part 3 Date: August 18, 2007 Place: Edward Miyakawa's home Waldport, OR Length: 00:39:09 Interviewee: Edward Miyakawa Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Transcriber: Kelsey Ockert [00:00] [EU] This is part three of the interview with Ed Miyakawa. Ed, let's start talking when you and your family left Tule Lake. When did you leave the camp? Your father was, said yes-yes to the questionnaire so you were able to leave the camp. [EM] Yes, right. And let's see, we were there in ‘42, so it was the latter part of ‘43, cause we were in Tule Lake about 15 months. So it was probably in the fall of 1943 that we left Tule Lake, ‘cause my Dad figured this is a great way out, to do this yes-yes. [EU] Where did you go then? [EM] Okay, as I look back in history, one of the important things that I found out as we were leaving Tule Lake is that at that particular time of course I was eight years old, close to nine I guess, and I didn't really know much of what was going on, but, the experience of leaving Tule Lake and going to Colorado Springs, Colorado, was a very important experience for me. In this sense: you leave Tule Lake and there you go, you go on out through this barb wire fencing and leaving it behind, you remember going in and now you're going out. And my grandmother and grandfather and some of my aunts and uncles were waving goodbye to us and then we're on the road and as we travel my dad doesn't know where we can get gas, he doesn't know where we can stop and get food. But you just keep going on, because some places are very antagonistic and you can't get anything from them so he has to figure out how to get enough gas to keep going until you can get to another place you can get gas. [EU] So you had a car then, you were able to buy a car? [EM] No, no. That's an interesting thing, a personal experience, that you start finding out about yourself and the world that you live in. What happened was that we leave our friends behind in Sacramento because you don't know who hates us and who doesn't hate us ‘cause we're "yellow Japs." And so my father had some friends, Caucasian friends, and when he was going to leave Tule Lake, these people literally drove from Sacramento to the Tule Lake concentration camp and brought our, my dad's car to us. So we get into out old car that we had, we leave Tule Lake 2 and leave those friends who brought the car to us. So that's how we got the transportation. Then as we're driving across the highway, we come into a little small town you know and then all of a sudden some young guys come by driving in the car and they see "yellow Japs" sitting in the car and they start calling us names and swearing at us and threatening us, and things like that. So you don't know what you're facing, and I'm not sure where we're going but I find out we're going to Colorado Springs. And so then the next door opens about who we are as human beings and we go from these barrack, concentration camps to this beautiful house sitting on this block, it's the only house sitting on this block. And it was like a 1943 mansion, that's a little different 2002 mansion. But a beautiful home and it's a home by the name of, again a name that I remember for the rest of my life, the Parkers. The Parkers, I think he was kind of religious people, I don't know what his role was in the religion, but they literally turned this house over to us. And we go inside of the house, and I'm investigating this house and I go through the drawers and desk and things like, that and I find jewelry, I find all kinds of personal things. And they totally gave it over to us outside of a concentration camp and it didn't register with me at that age, and it registered with me later about the world we live in. Here are these people, give us this key and they leave. And they let us stay there as long as we need to survive. So we're there for a month, I think it is, I'm not too sure of the time, but I think it was a month and my dad is trying to establish himself, and so here it was, the Parkers gave us their home. And then we go from Colorado Springs to Boulder, Colorado, and that's where we settle in. [06:00] [EU] So this was you, your mother, father and sister? [EM] Yeah, and so we ended up in Boulder, Colorado. So should I just go ahead and talk away? So then we go into this very teensy apartment, something like upstairs here. Everybody's crowded in this very small apartment, there's a triplex. And that's where we live when we first get out of there for a few months until we find a home to move into. And being a nine year old eight year old, coming out of a concentration camp and moving to a place like Boulder was quite an interesting experience. I think we were the first Japanese American people ever to come to Boulder. That's what I was told. And so, who knows what to expect, and we go to Highland Elementary School and the, so, I'm going into, was it third grade? fourth grade? Something like that. And my sister who's a year ahead of me, and who knows what to expect? And then I meet a lady, whose name I remember the rest of my life and that's Mrs. Blake. And given everything we've been through, we children don't know what to expect and Mrs. Blake was just an absolutely wonderful lady and she welcomes this little Japanese boy into her class and introduces me to all these students, and all of a sudden I am just accepted like I'm just another little Caucasian child and it was just an absolutely wonderful experience going into Highland Elementary School and having Mrs. Blake as my teacher, and she starts to develop my talents, and one thing that I always remember is that we had a classroom, an art thing or something, and 3 we're just supposed to do some sort of art work, so I did a bunch of drawings that were fairly large; they were about Donald Duck and his son Huey and Louie? [EU] Huey, Dewey, and Louie, his three nephews, yeah. [EM] [laughs] So all of a sudden I'm doing this, Donald Duck's Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and what I remember is that she pins them up on all the walls there, so it's a lifetime memory. And I guess they were beautifully done, I guess I have artistic talent and so anyway it was a wonderful experience, yeah, to go back to Boulder. But, what we do as little boys now and not only Japanese but all little Caucasian guys is that we play war games, in the empty lots. And so we're shooting American soldiers, are fighting against the enemies, so they're Crouts and Japs and Americans. Some of the time, I'm a Crout, some of the time I'm a Jap, some of the time I'm an American, so that's what're doing, playing war games. [09:49] [EM] And then another, so the next memorable event, there's a whole bunch of them. Another memorable event is that we go to Saturday matinees and sometimes we're seeing Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and Lassie Come Home and then one day we go to a matinee and the movie is called The Purple Heart, I don't know whether you have ever seen The Purple Heart. It came out during that period in history and there's a whole bunch of war movies, different from The Purple Heart and here am I and my three or four Caucasian friends, and we're sitting there watching this movie and it opens up inside a prison cell and inside this prison cell and there's a famous actor, I always remember his name, and I can't recall it right now, he's a famous actor and I've always known his name. He and five other Caucasian soldiers are sitting inside this prison cell, and the whole movie takes place in this prison cell and then pretty soon the bad guy comes in here and he's a slant eye and he's got buck teeth and he wears these glasses and he looks like this. And there's this "yellow Jap" and here's these five American guys and whose B-25 got shot down over Tokyo, and they've taken these guys and they put them in these Japanese prison camp prison. And so this "yellow Jap" comes in here and he questions them and of course these guys are powerful soldiers and they don't say anything. So the "yellow Jap" says, "Okay you come with me" and gets a guard and gets these two guys out. And all of a sudden you hear this horrible screaming "ahhhh" I remember that agony screaming, and pretty soon he comes back and he doesn't have a hand, and they take another guy out and then you hear this horrible screaming. And then they bring him back, and he's got things all over his eyes because he can't see anymore, and they take another guy out and then you hear this horrible screaming, and then they take another guy out and there's this horrible screaming, by this time I'm having, just about getting sick to my stomach, and I could just barely tolerate surviving that movie, and then we go out and then my friends say, "Wow those Japs sure were horrible weren't they?" [laughs] And for the first time I was really angry about what we went through. Because then I started adding everything together and I was just so angry and had a big fight, an argument with friends. And 4 after that I had a hard time going to movies anymore so then I began to understand what we had gone through. Now to conclude this part of this story, so first of all, the war games and then a wonderful friendship with all these Caucasian guys, I mean they were wonderful friends, lifetime friends, lifetime memories, I still know their names, I still remember what they look. So they were very important friendships to me. Except for that one time when we saw that movie [laughs]. So anyway, I couldn't play war games after that one. [14:52] [EM] And then one day, let's see, I was walking down the street of Boulder called Boulder and it downtown Boulder and I was with my sister and I think this was only a few months after, I can't remember the timing anymore, months a year? Who knows? After I saw that movie I was walking down the street in downtown Boulder with my sister. This kid walks by me and he says, "You dirty yellow Jap!" I'm just stopped in my tracks, and a whole different thing is triggered in me. So I turn around and I look at this kid, he's walking away. And I run up to him and I grab him and he turns around and I say "What did you say?" He's kind taken aback. "What did you say, What did you call me?" He says, "You yellow Jap." So the fight's on, punching each other in this downtown street and we're rolling around on the sidewalk and all of sudden I notice these feet gathering around me, around us. So we're fighting and all of a sudden there's a whole crowd of people around us in downtown Boulder. And then somebody says something that creates a lifetime memory he says "Wow! This is a real thing: American versus a yellow Jap!" And by this time I think both of us were intimidated and the fighting just comes to an end. I don't know who won the fight, because there wasn't a point to the whole thing. But it was just that memory, and then Carolyn and I left and it was the first time I truly began to understand what we had been through. Now the other thing I want to share with you: I'm just this itty bitty sweet little kid and if you look at pictures of me when I'm little I'm just a sweet looking kid [pause] Just about that time. [EU] This here is a black and white picture of you and your sister then? [EM] Yeah, that was my sister, see, because she was born in 1945, so that goes to tell you about how old I was and that's what I looked like. Thing now, I really truly enjoy hearing people now, is this: is that I have no idea whether I had any physical strength or not. But when I was in junior highschool, they would have a rope climbing thing, entire rope right in the middle of the gym. And you can't use your legs, all you can use is your arms and so they would have us climb up there to see how fast we could do it. So I just fly up this thing faster than anybody in the class and then we do pushups and chin-ups and things like that. And one day I giving a talk like this and telling, my wife was sitting there listening, well in those days I could do 2,000 pushups, and afterwards my wife comes up to me and says, ��You meant 200 didn't you?" [laughs] Well, I'm 70 years old now and that was when I was young so maybe it was 200. But you know I could do 2,000 sit-ups, 2,000 pushups, I could climb this rope like lightning, and I could do chin-ups, 75 5 chin-ups; all I'm saying is that I just happen to possess this incredible physical strength, natural physical strength. And at that time I didn't know I could do any fighting or anything like that. So anyway that was a fight and that was another monumental event in my life because it made me realize the world that we lived in. There were people who would give us their homes and there was still the guy that would walk down the street and insult me. Very interesting childhood experience. [19:59] [EU] So Colorado has sort of a reputation, the governor welcomed in Japanese Americans during the war. [EM] Absolutely, I can't remember his name. [EU] I think it's Carr, Governor Carr. [EM] Yeah, yeah Carr. [EU] So I'm curious if that reputation is deserved because there must have been, obviously there was prejudice and stereotypes in Colorado like every other place. [EM] Basically it was really a wonderful place, there was very rarely that kind of thing came up. That only happened, that I can remember, that one time. But the Japanese American people truly believed in Carr, and if you go to Denver or Boulder or someplace like that they have a monument in the Japanese town or whatever it is of Governor Carr because he was one of the governors that opened the door to Colorado to us. [EU] And so how long did your family stay in Colorado? [EM] That was an interesting thing too because as soon as the war ended, we had Japanese American friends there by that time, quite a few Japanese Americans did end up in Boulder and we were part of the Japanese American community there. But as soon as the war ended most of the people who lived there went back to California, where they came from, but my father was getting into the produce business again in Colorado and so he just decided he wanted to stay there and do that. But the growing season and the growing Colorado wasn't like in California. So after several years he lost, he continued to lose money and he couldn't make big money out of it like he did in California. So in 1952 or something like that, we left Colorado and went to California. [EU] To Sacramento? [EM] Yeah, back to Sacramento. Then rather than getting to that business again he got into real estate business and became a real estate broker. But we still had our home there. Even after all those years and not going back we still had our home and we went back there and fixed the 6 house up and then he had his property in Japan town and then created a real estate business down there. So back to California. [EU] So in 1952, is that the year you enlisted than in the Army, for the Korean War? [EM]: Yep, right, because my mother and father were literally driving me nuts because they just were lifetime fighters and I remember things like this in Boulder, when we were still in Boulder. We had a two floor apartment and back in those days you had a stove in the house that kept heat. So in order to heat the upstairs they created a hole in the floor with a vent thing. And so in our bedroom we were right above where my mom and dad were. And so Carolyn and I would go to bed at night and we would have to listen to mom and dad fighting all the time. It was just driving us crazy, really. So what was the question? [EU] Your decision then to enlist in the Army? [EM] Right, right, well, by that time, then we went back to Sacramento but this fighting that was going on was really driving me crazy. I could hardly stand it anymore and also I was really thinking about this when we went back to Sacramento, I was getting close to college age. And I wanted to make sure I went to college and I wasn't too sure how we were going to pull it off because my father lost all his money. And they were driving me crazy with the fighting even when we went to Sacramento. I was upstairs and listening to it and it was just beyond my tolerance anymore, so I made a decision to leave home and get the GI Bill. And the Korean War was still going on, and I didn't want to go in the army because I wasn't like the young guy who wanted to go out there and fight on the ground, I thought "no, that's not for me." So I said, maybe the way out is I'll just join the navy. So I volunteered to join the navy. So I could get the GI Bill. So I got into the CVS so I didn't even have to be on ship. And so I went to Kwajalein and Guam and then eventually by giving a guy a couple of bottles of whisky he gave me, turned my assignment to Japan, so I got my last two years to spend in Japan. [25:28] [EU] What did you do with the CVS? [EM] Oh, I was a surveyor and I learned surveying and became a surveyor, that's what they needed in the CVS. [EU] So how long were you in Guam and…? [EM] First of all, they sent me to Guam and then I was there for months or something like that and then they sent me to Kwajalein and Kwajalein is around that island chain where they were testing atom bombs, it was part of the island chain and then Kwajalein was way over there, can't remember what the name of the island was where they were dropping atom bombs. And testing atom bombs and at night you could see the lights flash up and things like that and so, and 7 Kwajalein was this tiny little island, and we lived in the barracks there and it was hot and humid, things like that. After two years there or whatever it was, I can't remember exactly, they were going to transfer me and I didn't know where they were going to send me, to the Philippines or something, and I didn't want to go to the Philippines and I thought "Geez, I wish they could send me to Japan." So I was talking to another fellow soldier or sailor and he's the one who was actually making assignments of where you go or making recommendations. And so I was talking with him and I said "Well, if I gave you a couple of bottles of whisky will you assign me to Japan?" He says, "Sure" [laughs] So I gave him a couple bottles, I don't think you can do that anymore, but back in those days you could. And so they literally sent me Sasebo, Japan. [EU] You went to Sasebo, okay. So what was it like, this was the first time of course you were in Japan. [EM] Well, I was absolutely fascinated and one of the things I'll never forget is the moment we were landing in Japan and I was in this airplane. And I was looking out the window and all I could see down there were Japs [laughs]. And I thought "What?" - it just blew my mind that all I could see was Japanese people. And so anyway that was a very interesting experience for me. But then I found out about how if you're a war torn country and you're a young woman in a worn torn country and then you have a military guy then all these poor girls had to become prostitutes. This was part of the human being, these women literally standing on the street and watching these American sailors come by, soldiers. And I go far out. [EU] Were you able to travel see much of Japan? Or were you? [EM] Yeah because my grandmother was there and she was very excited and she took me on a tour, and I took 30 days off or 15 days off whatever it was she took me on a tour of all Japan and we went up to the family homes and then I found out another thing that was fascinating to me: you come to Japan and get down on your knees, so I start learning about the Japanese culture and started meeting all my relatives. [EU] Were you able to speak any Japanese then? [EM] In those days I had forgotten a lot of it because when I was a little boy 7, 8 years old I was fluent in both languages and then because we left and weren't in the Japanese community anymore and our grandparents stopped using the Japanese language. And so by that time I had to relearn Japanese, so I was relearning, but never became super fluent. [29:50] [EU] So you left the navy and Japan at the same time then, 1956? 8 [EM] Yeah, and leaving the military was a very fascinating experience for me too, because I remember certain kind of incidents. And I was an enlisted man and one night I was out, I can't remember what camp I was in, Yokohama and I was also in Sasebo, and one night [EU] Sasebo was in Kyushu? [EM] That's the southern island, right. Honshu is the middle one. [EU] I'm trying to think of the big navy base by Yokohama; I'm drawing a blank. [EM] So anyway, one night, I hear this screaming sound, this agony sound "aaahhh." So I come out of the barracks, or wherever I was at, and there's an officer and a sergeant standing there, chief, not a sergeant, that's what they call them in the military. And another enlisted guy and there were Caucasian guys and I look up there and there on top of this telephone poll there was Japanese guy and he was trying to steal something and sneak in whatever he was trying to do but he got caught up there and he was suffering this electronic pain and he was just groaning and moaning and they were going to get guys out there to get him down. And then all of a sudden this officer says, I'm standing and watching all this he says, Well, he deserves what he's getting for being a ‘yellow Jap.'" [laughs] Another picture of the human condition. [EU] You never can get away from it. [EM] But anyway what, I just absolutely was counting the days, for the last year and a half, whatever it was, just marking off the days. Because by this time I couldn't stand it anymore, I couldn't stand being in the military anymore because it was a reflection of what this country was about. And then, you know, all military guys are getting involved in sex activities and listening to them talking about it and some pretty sickening stories, you know. About what part of the body this girl was sticking her nose up in and that sort of stuff. And I thought, "oh geez this is tough to take" So I got to the point where I can hardly stand the military anymore, and then I requested an early advance because college was going to start in September or October and I wasn't supposed to get out until November, and they gave me an early out. Then, the last story about the military: when you're going out, the commanding officer as you come into talk to him, and I wasn't quite sure what this was about. This was at that Yokohama base, so he was sitting there talking to me, and so he says "Are you interested in staying in the military? Resign up and blah blah blah." Because that was his job, to try to get me to stay in. So I said, "No, I don't think I'm going to stay in." and he says, "Oh, really? How come?" I says, "I think I want to go to college." And he says, "Well?" And I says, "I'm going to get the GI Bill" And he says, "Well, did you save any money?" I say, "Yeah, I've got $5,000 dollars." And those are the days where you get paid $100 a month, or $120 a month. And he says, "$5,000?!" And I said, "Yeah." And he stood up and he came around the table and shook my hand and said, "Congratulations, congratulations for leaving the military." He was so impressed that I saved my money to go to college, so that was the end of a military career for me. [35:10] 9 [EU] So where did you go to college then? [EM] Well, my father was a Harvard graduate and you know, I wanted to, I wasn't, didn't have the money to go there, but we had a lot of family members who went to University of California Berkeley, and my sister was there. And she was already a senior by that time or she was going to be a senior, and so I went to the University of California Berkeley. Took up architecture as a career there. [EU] So did you know from the beginning you wanted to study architecture? [EM] Yes, very early because you know one time when I was still about teenage, early teens, my dad was talking to me about what kind of career I would get into, and he's the one that brought up architecture. And he said, "Maybe with your artistic talent and intelligence maybe you should go into architecture." And that planted that seed and so not knowing what else I wanted to study, I majored in architecture. [EU] So what was it like being at Berkeley? That was before the sixties and the demonstrations and the activism. [EM] Right, it was the early fifties, yeah. There was some movements starting, can't remember what the movement was now. There was some movement starting in that age, I can't remember. But one of the interesting things that I got involved in is that my sister belonged to a group called "The Panel of Americans" and she was a speaker on the "Panel of Americans" and so when I got to Berkeley, she says, "You know you better join the Panel of Americans." And I said, "Oh, what is that?" She said, "Well, there's a group of people and the panel is a public speaking panel and the panel made up of a Catholic, a Jew, a WASP" (white Anglo-Saxon protestant they called them WASPs in those days) "and a black, and Orientals. And it would be a real interesting thing to be public speaker with this group of people." So I joined the "Panel of Americans" and I became a speaker and I did that all my five years there and found it very, very interesting, traveling around and talking like that. [EU] What did you talk to people about? [EM] Well, I really did talk a lot about the Japanese American evacuation experience. And then after that is when I got out and went to work in architect's office and that was from the mid 60s thing, the Watts riots broke out and all that sort of stuff. I think I graduated in '62 so it was only two years out of there that the Watts riots broke out. So to me as I look back on this, one door opens, and another door opens, and another door opens and that's really how I see life. The "Panel of Americans" door opened, then of course being in Berkeley is where I met my wife Mary. She's a Minnesota woman and she was in graduate school in Berkeley in social work. [EU] Okay let's stop part three at this point. [39:09]
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