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Aikens, Alice Endo Transcript Part 2
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TitleAikens, Alice Endo Transcript Part 2
Date2007-04-14
IntervieweeAikens, Alice Endo
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberToliver, Christy
SubjectJapanese Americans
Buddhist temples
Religious communities
Geographic SubjectSalt Lake City (Utah)
Original FormatMicrosoft Word
Data of Digital Converstion2010-08-09
Original CollectionJapanese-American Association of Lane Co., OR, Oral History Collection
Other FormatsPDF
RestrictionsPermission to use must be obtained from the Oregon Multicultural Archives, OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center
Digital FormatPDF
LanguageEnglish
Full TextJapanese- American Oral History Project Oregon - Oral History Collection Alice Endo Aikens - Part 2 Date: April 14, 2007 Place: Home of Elizabeth Uhlig, Eugene, OR Interviewee: Alice Endo Aikens Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Transcriber: Christy Toliver Length: 00: 23: 44.29 [ begin Audio 2 - [ 00: 00: 05.00]] [ EU] So, Alice, your family moved to Salt Lake City? [ AA] Uh- huh. [ EU] And had the, um, the dry cleaning store? [ AA] Right. And here again, it was the Tsuikis [ sp?] the US Cafe, they let us rent one of their stores. They were, there was a barber shop and then a, another store and we rented that from the Tsuikis who ran the US Cafe two places down. And there we had a, uh, dry cleaning shop. It was just my mother, father who ran the entire operation and we lived in the back. And, uh... They got up at, uh, oh, by six and the store was open 7AM to 7PM every day, including Saturdays. And then on Sundays, uh, they cleaned the store, you know, and they cleaned the, uh, living quarters in the back. So every day there was something going on. And, uh, on Sundays if we finished we would go visit relatives, you know, in Midvale or Alberta... um, as an outing. And in the summertime there was a lot of Japanese- American picnics going on, so we would go to picnics on Sundays. But, uh, they always worked at least twelve hours a day. And, uh, because my mother worked up front - had to wait on customers, pressed, ironed, and she did all the alterations - uh, I did all the cooking in the back from the age of nine on-- so I did dinner every night. And then we ate right at seven. And if they were still busy, you know, they had to do more work in the front. Uh... So... and- [ AA] Your grandmother lived with you then? Or, what did your grandmother do? [ 00: 02: 10.26] [ EU] She actually lived with my Uncle Ichiro who, who is older than my father, who was older than my father. And then when the war was over, actually Ichiro and his family, and my grandmother, went back to Oakland. Yeah. And, uh, I don't think they went back to their house. What they left there was stolen-- everything was stolen. Uh... and you know, my grandmother actually sold the house, I think, after a while. I can't remember the sequence. But she ended up living with my Uncle Ichiro as she aged and they took care of her until she finally passed away. [ EU] Your parents though decided to stay in Utah? Rather than move back to California? [ AA] Yes, because there was nothing to move back to in California-- their store, you know, had been terminated. And, uh, they had all this dry cleaning equipment. So they started up the store with the equipment that was shipped over by train. And even Ichiro came over and helped at first. And he even knew how to do hats-- how to steam hats and how to clean them. And they didn't do that after Ichiro left, but... The only thing they did was send the clothing out and it was dry cleaned, but they did all the finishing by hand. And it was, you know, it's very tedious work... to keep track of. And as I got older I also helped in the stores and waited on the customers. They also took in laundry and, uh, Eco Laundry [ sp?] would come and pick up the laundry and deliver it in the evening. I think it took probably two days, but we saw the driver at least twice a day-- Joe would come bring in things, take things. So, you know, it's just constant when you have a smaller business-- you're just never done. [ EU] Did they live then within like a Japanese- American community then? [ 00: 04: 25.01] [ AA] We were right on the fringe, uh, we were part of the Japanese- American community on First South, because if we looked across the street you would have Sage Farm Market, Amy's Magazine... uh... and then if you went down the street one block you would have all the Japanese stores. Uh, Sunrise Fish Market - and I went to school with the daughter - and you would have Family Market, and you would have California Market, you would have this Jewish store owned by, I can't remember his name; it started with an S, Mr. S.... But then you had the Imperial Hotel, which was just a very old hotel that there were many Japanese- American people living in there, especially older men because it was inexpensive to live there. And then you had the Colonial Hotel down the street. A lot of families lived there-- it was inexpensive. But then again, there were a lot of old men living there too, probably because it was not too expensive. And... Seagull [ unsure of word " Seagull" - [ 00: 05: 40.07]] Cleaners, our competitor, but she was my best friend. [ laughs] [ EU] Yeah. [ AA] And, uh, and there were other, and the Buddhist Church was down the next block and there were some apartment houses that a lot of Japanese- Americans lived in. And the Eagle Laundry was there too, so. Within about two, three blocks was all Japanese town. And so we all knew each other. And I had to shop for groceries every day, so I made my rounds as soon as I got home from school and did that. And, uh, there was a meat market across the street to the right - Miller Meat Market - but that wasn't Japanese. They were Polish. [ laughs] [ EU] [ laughs] [ 00: 06: 27.19] [ AA] But anyway, I went there regularly, you know, And, uh, it was just part of growing up-- just doing all the grocery shopping and then coming home and cooking. [ EU] And you cooked Japanese? [ AA] Uh- huh. We called, well we had... If we had like, uh, cube steak, uh, we would still have rice and, you know vegetables. And we'd call it Yoshoku, which means American style, but you still had to have the rice. You know, I can't ever remember not having rice, for dinner. And, you know, for breakfast it was, you know, toast and cereal and lunch was just basic, but for dinner it was always rice. Probably green tea too afterwards. [ EU] What was it like living in Utah? I mean, did you face many, much discrimination you felt? Or...? [ 00: 07: 29.01] [ AA] You know, uh, it's so, um... you're surrounded by a lot of Mormons. I mean in school all my friends were Mormons. Um... The Japanese- American friends I had were all Buddhist. But, uh... You know, it just felt like they dominated, you know? The, uh, the Mormons dominated, you know? They would talk about their passion or this and that. So... I think it made the Japanese- Americans stick together even more. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] And I didn't feel like I was really into that big group-- assimilated. Somewhat. Uh, I think, I think we gravitated more... towards our friends, you know, Japanese- American friends and things and the Buddhist Church and Japanese- American school, Japanese language school, which we were forced to go to. We were, had a choice of either going to Japanese school, um, three times a week from four to six, on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays or you could go on Saturday for half a day. Or until two o'clock. Because we wanted to go see the movies, see all the cartoons, we opted for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from four to six. And then on Tuesdays I had to go to my music lessons, uh, violin lessons, at the McCune School of Music and Art up the hill from Lafayette School. And I remember I was always so embarrassed I'd have to ask my teacher if I could keep my violin in her closet, you know, in the morning on Tuesdays and then get it out before I left for my lesson. Uh, but you know, to me it just seems kind of strange-- here I lived in this, in the back of this cleaners - it was actually one room - and, uh, yet my parents sent me to this really fine music school-- McCune School of Music and Art. They were Europeans, very wealthy, who built this huge mansion on the top of the hill. At the end of Main Street in Salt Lake City. It's still there. And it was, uh, they taught everything there. You know opera, piano, violin, uh, dance upstairs-- Virginia Tanner's famous dance troop. And uh, but you know I really got a good education in music just because they sent me there. And, uh, for a while we had a trio going - two other, two or three other Japanese- American girls and I - we played in a trio. And I remember, I don't think we weren't that great, but we were asked to play at like the governor's house... and different places around town. [ laughs] My friend reminded me that we used to play at such and such Cafe and I thought, " I don't remember that!" [ laughs] But we were like about, uh... probably in junior high school? [ EU] And these were other Japanese- Americans friends? [ 00: 10: 50.29] [ AA] This were other Japanese- Americans. Maybe it's kind of rare to see three or four Japanese- Americans playing the violin, I don't know. But, um, we had, we did that for a while and we all, all our mothers sewed our dresses, you know, the same dresses. Because in those days you sewed, you know, everything was hand sewn. Um... But, um, yeah, it was, it was, uh... At the time it didn't seem so odd because at the time my best friend also lived in back of her dry cleaning shop. And the friends I had, uh, lived in Colonial Hotel. And that was really a rundown hotel-- you took the elevator and sometimes the elevator would get stuck. You know? You didn't know what to do. And the hotel really had a very bad odor to it. And it was a very terrible place to live. Um... But most of my friends all lived, you know, on it [ laughs] in not the best places. But we still were happy. And we thought we had a good childhood. [ EU] Uh- huh. It's interesting that your parents, um... I mean, basically would with the two different cultures. I mean, you studied Japanese, but you studied Western music. So, you were assimilated in certain things, but you were still very Japanese. [ 00: 12: 13.02] [ AA] Uh- huh. My mother sent me to the Singer Sewing School when I was twelve in the summer. ' Cause she felt like I should know how to sew. So that was my introduction to sewing. And that was two years before we were required to take home- ec. and a little bit of sewing in the ninth grade. So, uh... And of course, she went to a professional sewing school when she was young to get that skill-- she, she was really an accomplished seamstress and could do drafting and knew all that, you know. [ EU] Hm. [ AA] And so she would teach me how to do certain things. But she sewed all my clothes. And very patient person and very accomplished in sewing. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ short pause] So you went to, you stayed there for high school then. Of cour- and then university? [ 00: 13: 12.14] [ AA] Yes. Yeah. Uh... we, uh, actually lived in back the store until I think I was in high school. And then we bought our house. We would still go to the same schools-- we didn't opt to go to the school where the house was. Every morning we'd get up at six - whole family - go to the cleaners, eat breakfast. From there we would go to our school-- the same school that we went to when we lived in back of the cleaners. And, uh, after I graduated from West High School I went to the University of Utah-- and graduated from there. And then, my brother did the same and my sister did the same. So, I don't know, it's just funny how... they didn't push us to go to college, but I think we knew that if we did not we would end up working like our parents. You know, you just see it. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ 00: 14: 16.24] [ AA] So I graduated in business education. And, uh, I did teach school for two years, My brother became an engineer - a mechanical engineer - and he went to, uh, and got his masters at the University Michigan as well. And then my sister graduated in Elementary Education and taught for many years in Salt Lake City. So... I don't know how my parents did it, but we just, naturally just went to college... without any... they didn't say one thing. [ laughs] You know, it's just kind of a natural sequence. [ EU] Did all of your friends go to college too? [ AA] Not all of them. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] Uh, my best friend went and she graduated a year early actually. And she ended up going to medical school. And I just met her last year after not seeing her for about... thirty years or so [ laughs], forty years. Um, I would say half of them went on to college and maybe half did not. And then when I go back to visit, most of my friends are still living in Salt Lake City. Most of them have not left town. Maybe ten percent may have left, you know, for some reason. But I always find it interesting how you can go back to your roots and they're still there. You know, and I keep thinking, " I can't place myself as still being there" you know. It's really hard for me to imagine myself, self still living in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm just really glad I had a chance to leave and then gain some other experiences. [ EU] Do you still have family back there? [ 00: 16: 09.05] [ AA] My sister still lives in Salt Lake City, yeah. So we go back for that, to visit her. But, uh, and then I have cousins, quite a few cousins who still live in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas like Bountiful and Ogden. So, once in a while I'll see our cousins if it's a funeral or a wedding. But my sister I'll [ clears throat] see more often. Yeah. [ EU] You said you taught school for three years-- at high school? [ AA] I taught [ clears throat], uh, middle school for two years… in Granite School District. And I taught, uh, typing. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] But, uh, I was what you call a traveling teacher-- I didn't have a home room. [ EU] Oh. Ah. [ AA] Because it was so crowded. The school was so crowded and didn't have enough room, classrooms. So I would teach typing for most of the periods, but I also taught math, I also taught English. And I traveled from whatever room was empty I would [ laughs] go there and teach and that was my first year of teaching I got. And so, you, when I think about it now it's pretty rough because I didn't really have any prep in math or English-- you know, I just taught it. And so, you know, you're, you're always doing your lesson plans the night before. So I did that for about two years. [ short pause] And it was in an area where the kids came from very low, uh, income. And so there were many problems there-- they didn't want to learn and a lot of behavioral problems. It wasn't the ideal school to teach at if you're a traveling, a traveling teacher in your first year of teaching. But, but it was series of experiences. [ EU] Uh- huh. Yeah. Did you, I mean... when you left Utah was that a purposeful decision? You wanted to, to see a wider world? Or how...? [ 00: 18: 15.18] [ AA] Actually, that's when I got married and so I left. [ EU] Okay. [ AA] And my husband was finishing up his PhD at the University Chicago. So, actually we eloped-- we eloped and left. Because at that time you could not get married in Utah, if you were Asian. [ EU] Where did you, did you meet him in Utah? [ AA] I met him at the University Utah, yeah. [ EU] Okay. [ AA] But there was, uh... what'd they call it? There was some rule there - Anti... - which was repealed I think the next year. But that was still in nineteen... sixty... two-- that you could not, an Asian could not marry a Caucasian. [ EU] Hm. [ AA] Legally. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] You know. I think Utah was one of the last states to have that ruling. So, it was in 19, early 1960s still that was still in effect. So, uh, I ended up in Chicago, Illinois-- the University Chicago in those, uh, University of Chicago area where those ghettos are, you know? [ Over top of each other] [ AA] Where the student housing is. EU] Uh- huh. It's on the south side. [ 00: 19: 33.01] [ AA] Yeah, south side. And that, for me, was quite an experience-- where you had to have double locks on your apartments. And then, uh, so I lived there for a while-- in Illinois. We did come back and we traveled up to New York and Canada, came all the way back to Utah. And then we lived in Utah for a couple of years. And Mel luckily had a job at the University Utah, when he finished his studies he taught at the University Utah. And then, uh, he got a job at the University Nevada. And so we moved to Reno, Nevada for two years. Lived there. And then he was hired at the University of Oregon and so we came up here and we've been here ever since. And that was the very last month of sixty- eight, so we got here in 1969 during that terrible snow storm. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] And, uh, we didn't, we were towing my car and, uh, we could, we did not come the regular way-- we had to drive all the way up to The Dalles. And then come from north to south to Eugene. And there was ice and snow up there. It took us, I think, three, four days to get here. [ EU] Hm. Uh- huh. [ AA] And, uh, I remember we had to disconnect the cars and I ended up driving the towed car. But we hadn't prepared it for a trip. And I remember spinning up in The Dalles on ice all the way around and... we had all kind of problems coming. And I remember we stopped and we picked up a Native American who was hitch- hiking in the snow [ laughs]. [ EU] Hm. [ AA] And [ laughs] Mel, you know, took him in the Pontiac. And I don't think the guy said a word. I don't know, maybe they had a conversation. But that was our introduction to Oregon was ice and snow. But when we got down closer we saw our first rainbow. And then we saw clean cows-- you know, because it rained so much they were clean looking, not dusty. And then we lived, we got a house in Santa Clara through the Registered Guard [ laughs] newspaper. And we rented this house, uh... probably about six months or less. But when we got there, of course, it was snowy and we were the only ones for quite a ways that had a authentic snow shovel. [ EU] [ laughs] [ AA] And everybody was using plywood or fir to make these snow shovels to try to clear their front. And, uh... our furniture had not come-- we didn't have any furniture in the house and I got the flu. So I remember sleeping on the floor [ laughs]... [ EU] [ laughs] [ AA] ... and, you know, with the flu. And, uh... It was Santa Clara and it seemed like quite a ways from the University at the time, but we were able to find our present house and we've been there a long time, the longest we've ever been anywhere. And so, now we're firmly planted. [ EU] What does, what did your husband teach? Or what was his field? [ AA] Anthropology. Um, he's a... archeologist. [ 00: 23: 09.21] [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] And his interest is Great Basin archeology. He's revising his book right now on archeology of Oregon. He's writing a couple of other books. He officially retired last year. Uh... he retired from teaching actually in the year 2000, but he kept on as, uh, director of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History until last July. And, uh, he has a lot of writing in the works and thoroughly enjoys [ laughs] retirement. He's busier than ever. [ EU] Uh- huh. Okay. Let's take a break here. [ AA] Oh. Okay. [ EU] Okay? [ end Audio 2 - [ 00: 23: 49.29]]
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