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Yoko McClain Transcript Part 3
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TitleYoko McClain Transcript Part 3
Time Period2000-2009
IntervieweeMcClain, Yoko
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberFernández, Natalia
SubjectJapanese Americans
Comparative Literature
Japanese Language
Geographic SubjectEugene, (Ore.)
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 Nameyoko_mcclain_part3.pdf
Full TextJapanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon - Oral History Collection Yoko Matsuoka McClain – Part 3 Date: March 22, 2008 Place: Yoko Matsuoka McClain's home Eugene, OR Length: 00:27:56 Interviewee: Yoko Matsuoka McClain Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Transcriber: Natalia Fernández [00:00] [EU] This is part three of the oral history interview with Yoko McClain. So Yoko, you were talking about, you were working for the Americans in Tokyo after the war… [YM] That's right, that's right [EU] And how did you come to Oregon? [YM] Oh, what's happened was that there was a scholarship in those days they called GARIO Government Account for (Relief in) Occupied Areas, that's… now, it became Fulbright. So what happened was, one day the other girl who was working with me she said, "Oh there's a test for that so if you pass you can go to the States so why don't we take it?" I said, "Hmm, that would be fine." So we just went to, that test was given Tokyo, Osaka, and a few other cities, I think you know. I was in Tokyo of course, so went to the, I think they rented the Tokyo University classroom, and that's where they had test. And so, then so, I never thought that I would, but the day when they announced the people who passed and we went over to look at the list on some wall, so my name was there. And so then afterwards I have to go to the oral exam and then physical exam so I passed; and so that's why, they ask now, "Congratulations, you pass, but where would you like to go?" So I said my friend said, then somebody introduced some Japanese gentleman who studied in Michigan before the war and so I talk to him "So where shall I go?" and so he said, "If you go why don't you ask East Coast, then you can see West and Midwest, and then East Coast." So I said "Okay" and I wrote to the State Department, you know, they took care of that, so State Department, "Please send some school West Coast, I mean, East Coast." And so a month later or something, they send, they answered and said "You assigned to Oregon?" [laughs]. So I thought Oregon must be the East Coast, [laughs]. So, turned out to be, always laugh about that. That's what happened. [EU] Okay, so when did you come? [YM] 1952 [EU] To Oregon, 1952, in September? 2 [YM] No, we came in July and then had an orientation until early September, University of Washington. [EU] Oh, okay, so how long did you, so you spent a month or two in Seattle? [YM] Ah, six weeks, I think. [EU] Six weeks. [YM] And in those, days US was so wealthy, they give us everything, you know, every weekend they took us to all over inside of Washington, Mt. Rainier, and that island and any place. Then when the time came, when that all ended, from about, two German students from that group, too, was coming to Oregon, so we just traveled, came to Portland and apparently train didn't go directly, so we stayed in Portland YMCA, and then came down [EU] What did you think about the United States, seeing it for the first time? [YM] Oh, you know, we thought it was just wonderful because we didn't have enough things to eat, and then we have more than enough things to eat, Tokyo was still burned, you know, and it was so green. So everything, was just, we thought was wonderful. [04:37] [EU] So when you started at the university in Eugene, what did you study? [YM] Oh, um, since I thought it was the one year, scholarship was one year, and so somehow, whatever I wanted I just took [laughs] but I was always interested in French, so I started French too. I can't remember what else I took. And then when the one year was up, I met one Japanese medical doctor in Portland through another student and so this, he was so good to me and he said, in those days you can't be in this country unless you have a sponsor, who sponsor you, in case something happens, they are responsible, and so he said, "I'll sponsor you, so, one year, you can't see everything, so you can't learn much about the States, so why don't you stay longer?" And so he offered, so, State Department said "okay" - I stay longer. Then I still had tickets, return tickets, then third year they said I had to return, either return, or just return the tickets; then I had several good friends here and so they said, "Oh, you should stay" - so they wrote letter to State Department and here the foreign student advisor and everything, so they said I can stay and I send tickets back. So I decided [laughs] [EU] You decided [YM] That's what happened [EU] Okay, um, how long then, were you at the university as a student? 3 [YM] Uh, so, then I got my, you know since I was only two years in Japan, and so I could have graduated sooner, just transferred those, but since it was all during war time, we couldn't do that much and so I stayed on, and then I got BA here; then I married and then after child came, I came back to this university again for, as a graduate student. And then after married in those days there was a draft, so my husband was in the service, so I went to Germany, and a year in Germany, you know, with him. And came back and then I thought, and I majored in French, you know [laughs], don't remember a thing [laughs]. So I thought, if I just get a teaching certificate in French maybe I can go anyplace, so, you know, if my husband go anyplace, then maybe I can get the job. So I went back to school to get the teaching certificate in French. Then I always worked in a museum ever since second year of my stay here, because first year I had such a good scholarship, but from second year I had to work so I got a receptionist job, then I was translating something, so I went back to the museum. [EU] That was the art museum at the university? [YM] That's right, that's right. So I worked again, you know. Then, actually, I worked until the day before my son was born [EU] Oh boy, okay. [YM] [laughs] Then afterwards, about, when he was about 8 months, Japanese Department said they need some teaching assistant, if I'm interested, so I said, "Yes, I'm interested." Then I had a very good babysitter, next door neighbor, grandmother, so then I went back to school. [EU] Okay, and that's when you got your master's degree? [YM] Right, that's right, that's right. [EU] That wasn't in French, what was your master's degree? [YM] Comparative literature. [EU] Comparative literature, okay. Did you study other languages? English, French… [YM] [laughs] Oh, yes, yes, I was always interested, but nothing I remember, but German, Spanish, Italian, [laughs] Chinese [EU] Okay, um, going back a little bit, when you were an undergraduate did you live in the dormitories or? [YM] Only one year; then I rented the room, much cheaper: 25 bucks, you know. [09:36] [EU] Could you talk a little bit about some of your friends or your classmates? 4 [YM] Oh, yeah, you know, I was very lucky because from the beginning I had such good friends you know. That's what makes my, made my life here so easy, I think, and my best friend even now, she was high school, she was at high school, when I came first time here, and in the fall in those days they had a big foreign student introduction or some kind of thing, so in the ballroom on the campus, and all the foreign students put on their native costume; and the foreign student advisor introduced everybody, and townspeople, faculty, students, anybody who wanted to come. That time after that, one girl came up to me and so, she said her birthday is same as Japanese emperor's [laughs] and she started talking to me, you know, and so she was in South Eugene High School, in those days, University High School, is what they called it. And then she took me to the movie, or you know, to eat hamburger, those kind of things, and then so, such a funny way starting some friendship, so she still my very best friend. [EU] And what is her name? [YM] Her name is Sally, and she, ah, her dad was an attorney, lawyer, and her mother was a harp professor, such a nice family and so almost like a family, even now, we brought up our children together and even the grandchildren, so it was three generations that we were just laughing, but then many other such good friends I made, you know, that's what, I was really lucky actually. [EU] Someone said you're friends with Misa Smith? [YM] Yeah, yeah, Misa was in the same class, you know, not class but about the same time we went to school together. Right, right, she's such a nice woman, you know. [EU] And I think you once mentioned Mitzi, Mitzi Asai? [YM] Mitzi was at the Carson Hall, that's why I remember her. I lived there only one year. Misty must be a senior at that time, I think [EU] How did you meet your husband? [YM] You know, I was working at the museum, as the receptionist and so he came in with his friend, whom I knew, that's what he introduce him to me; that's how I met [laughs] [EU] Was he a student at that time? [YM] Yeah, he was a student at that time, um-hum [EU] And what was he studying? [YM] He was studying education, I think that time, and then later – he taught at 4J, too, for special education in the psychology thing – and then but he was always interested in art so he went back to graduate school in Art History and then he got an Art History degree and he started 5 his own business selling Japanese prints and he was always interested in printmaking himself, you know, so that's what happened. [EU] And when did you get married? [YM] ‘56 [EU] ‘56 [YM] In December. [EU] And then you said you went to Germany? [YM] Yeah, he was already in the service, you know, so I followed him later, I went there in '57. [EU] Did you like, how did you like, that was the first time in Europe? [YM] That's correct, correct; we had fun because in Europe it's a small country, small, so for the weekend you can almost go to the foreign country, you know. But in Germany it's a nice old, old town we were. A few years ago my student was in Frankfurt so I just stop over because I went to Poland to give a talk and Frankfurt I just, then she took me to, she took me to Bamberg where we were; so no, I went in peacetime so that was good [laughs] [YM] Did you ever go back to Japan in those early years? [EU] I went back to Japan after 13 years. [EU] Okay. [YM] Now so easy I go back once or twice a year. In those days wasn't that easy, you know [14:51] [EU] Yeah. So you came back to the United States, and then you went to graduate school, your son was born, you went to graduate school; what was your thesis when you studied your comparative literature degree? What was your thesis? [YM] Oh, about my grandfather. [EU] About your grandfather [YM] And he really liked Jane Austen and so, you know, compare those things, Jane Austen and I can't think of other one [laughs] right now. I, I think he had a very good sharp mind because, now I was reading the other day, like, oh what the bookstore for the web? 6 [EU] Amazon? [YM] Amazon, uh-huh, Amazon. Yeah, they said Jane Austen is still the best seller, you know, that's interesting isn't it? That's a Pride and Prejudice was the one he really liked, you know, he wrote lots of things about him, about her. Pride and Prejudice is first novel I read in English, you know, and then I was in still high school and my English wasn't that good but story was so fascinating, so interesting, without knowing lots of vocabulary, I could follow the story, so I have such special love of her stories, you know. [EU] Do you think her writing had an influence on your grandfather's? [YM] That's what, I, that's my paper [laughs]. [EU] Oh, okay. So you were back in Eugene and your husband was teaching at 4J? [YM] At first. [EU] And, um, when did you start teaching at the university? [YM] Let's see, ah, let me just see…'64 [EU] ‘64 [YM] That was as a graduate student I started teaching; then I stayed on, so I quit teaching ‘94 so I taught exactly 30 years. [EU] 30 years. And what department, then, were you teaching in? [YM] East Asian Languages and Literatures. [EU] Okay. So, um, you, could you talk a little bit about, you were teaching Japanese? [YM] That's right, that's right, that's right. [EU] Were there other Japanese teachers here? Was it a big department? [YM] That time was a, when we started was only two graduate assistants and then two professors, but now it's a huge department, you know, hard to believe. And so no, was lucky because I really enjoyed teaching very much and so, in Christmas time I still get lots and lots of letters from lots of kids, you know. Last year we had a reunion here in town and this coming summer in Seattle my students want me to come and he's contacting all the other people nearby to get little reunion too. So that's one nice thing about teaching, you know, always some kind of young people, you know. [EU] Did you teach, what did you teach then? 7 [YM] All sort of things, you know. Yeah that's right. I enjoyed first year to teach and those kids would know nothing about Japanese and those kids become fourth year when I taught Japanese literature in Japanese, they get up to that stage, you know, and that's rewarding, right? [EU] So you taught everything from beginning grammar to literature? [YM] That's right, that's right, that's right, that's right. [19:20] [EU] Yeah, um, you wrote a grammar, a handbook? [YM] That's right, that's right. [EU] What was that called? [YM] Handbook of Modern Japanese Grammar [EU] Could you talk about that book? [YM] You know, after some years, you start finding out what kind of trouble they have learning Japanese, so sort of a basic grammar, and I collected so many expressions, many many expressions, that you use in Japanese, that's what the students have so much trouble, so I made it into book. And some after verb, you have this expression, and after noun, you have this kind of expression. So that's what it is; that's the one, 21 printing, I think, so far. [EU] So it's still in print? [YM] Uh-huh, that went to all Europe, South America, wherever, Russia – wherever they taught Japanese, so, that was a, I got letters from London, from Germany, you know, those kind of things. When I was in Japan and I met French linguist he said he wanted, he brought his, my book, and he wanted me to autograph it; "everybody in France who teach Japanese use this book" so I was so flattered [laughs]. [EU] Yeah, so in your thirty year career, how did, can you talk about the development of teaching Japanese language? At the beginning there weren't many books for you to use? You wrote your own book. [YM] Of course, every language same, some teachers say talking, you know, speaking is the most important but I'm still old fashioned. All my students said if you go to Japan, to be able to say little bit Japanese doesn't help, you have to be able to read newspaper, you know, to work there, so I just emphasized that, you know. It was tough for the students but in one week we do hiragana, you know, and start reading in Japanese right away. And then usually I did for two terms all the grammar and then a third term start reading more, you know, something, and then so, then by the end of first year, one professor who was taking, history professor, he said, "I 8 never realized you can do this much within one year." You know so, that's always rewarding [laughs] because my own professor said, one thing students have to feel they learn something after a year, which is so true because just anybody can say ohayo gozaimasu, or those kind of things, little conversation, to be able to speak is important but if you have the basic good grammar, then, if you spend year or two in Japan, they become fluent, but without that good background you can't go forward; that's how I felt, you know. [EU] When did you start teaching kanji? [YM] Oh, usually, almost second term, right away, I think. Might be even, yeah, and then of course day after day, teacher who started teaching "How did you do?" so I said, "You have to give a test everyday for kanji." Otherwise people won't study and never learn, so day after day first ten minutes it's always kanji test [laughs] that's just how, you have to force them, you know. [EU] ‘Cause it's, it's just difficult learning all the kanji. [YM] If you start saying it's too difficult, of course it's too difficult, so you have to push them, you know [laughs]. Then, you reward if they work hard, you know. Some people just don't have any problem just doing, then skip classes; some people work harder, so that's how I grade it, for your efforts too, that's something so important. [EU] So you, you must have been a strict teacher? [YM] Maybe I was…that's what they say [laughs] [EU] But kind teacher [24:40] [YM] I was there 5 minutes before, and I told them, "If you're a minute late to come to class I take one point off." So everybody had to just rush [laughs]. You know, that's one thing, if you get lax, there's just no end to it, students come all the time late. Only one student, I still remember, he was a Korean student, but he always came late, but I sense right away something wrong with him, you know, so I didn't joke or anything. But other students if they're late, I say ohayo gozaimasu or something like that, then it would be embarrassing, so they would come. Then a couple weeks later they call me, office call me and they said he had a problem, mental problem, and in hospital or just have to go home or something. That's kind of thing, you know you could tell, you know, like Virginia student, I thought teacher must have felt something, must be horrible depression or something, but that student I can't joke with him, that kind of feeling I had. [EU] So you started off as an instructor, but then you graduate, you got tenure… 9 [YM] Um-hum, and then I had master's, didn't have any PhD but because of my publication, I got full professor, so it was more unusual [laughs]. Like the president himself, Paul Olum was at that time, dean and president was very open minded and so he said when they put me first in senior instructor, lots of people thought I deserve so much more, or something, so he looked at it, Paul Olum was the president but before that he was academic provost or, you know he was the one who took care of the promotion and everything and he said, "I look at your record and I think you deserve to be associate professor, so why don't you do that in a year or two?" So then my department was very understanding and they put me on to that. So it's, without PhD you won't get to that too much but he said that whatever you brought not too many people get such good comments from, from Harvard Professor, Stanford Professor, so, they gave me [laughs] so that was nice. [EU] Okay, let's take a break. [YM] Okay. [end 27:56]
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