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Aikens, Alice Endo Transcript Part 1
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TitleAikens, Alice Endo Transcript Part 1
IntervieweeAikens, Alice Endo
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberToliver, Christy
SubjectJapanese Americans
Cleaning establishments
Geographic SubjectSanta Monica (Calif.)
Oakland (Calif.)
Keetley (Utah)
Salt Lake City (Utah)
Eugene (Ore.)
Original FormatMicrosoft Word
Data of Digital Converstion2010-08-09
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
Full TextJapanese- American Oral History Project Oregon - Oral History Collection Alice Endo Aikens - Part 1 Date: April 14, 2007 Place: Home of Elizabeth Uhlig, Eugene, OR Interviewee: Alice Endo Aikens Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Transcriber: Christy Toliver Length: 00: 26: 46.08 [ begin Audio 1 - [ 00: 00: 16.26]] [ EU] How is, um, you're Sansei, right? [ AA] Right. [ EU] Of third generation. Can you tell me about your grandparents? Do you know when they came from Japan? [ AA] I don't know what year my grandfather came, but he came as a worker. And I do know that he worked on the railroads in Montana. And he did jobs, odd jobs, in Utah-- like worked as a handyman for wealthy families, just did odd jobs. And um... so what happened is he would earn money and then he would send it back to his family in Japan-- to his wife and children. I never met my grandmother - because she live in Japan of course - and I've only seen pictures of her. And uh, my grandfather actually died in, uh, Utah. So, uh, after he died we had a burial, I mean sent his ashes over to Japan, to his wife. But I think he came originally to Santa Monica, California in... the early... maybe in the 1920s. And actually at that time his whole family was with him, and they lived in Santa Monica. And then they all went back to Japan so that the kids could go to school in Japan. And the kids and the wife stayed in Japan and he came back. And then continued to work in the United States-- in Montana and whatever jobs he could get. He kept sending money back home and with that money they could buy land, uh, right in the... it's not in Tokyo, but it's quite a ways south of Tokyo. And uh... so my grandmother was of course taken care of by the eldest, uh... let's see, what would it be? Oh, the eldest daughter in the family. And so, I never really got to know her. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ 00: 02: 38.06] [ AA] Um, with my - that was with my maternal grandparents - for my paternal grandparents, I never knew my father's father because he died of a heart attack when he was... probably in his late forties? And he had, by this time, had twelve children. So my grandmother was left as a widow with twelve kids. And uh... So, I don't, I've never seen my paternal grandfather - only in pictures - but I remember my grandmother because we would go visit her and she would come visit us. And, you know, I still remember her has a very strong willed person and all of her kids and everybody obeyed her. You know, whatever she said was law. She was just a tiny, petite woman, but I do remember she smoked. And I thought it was so odd that somebody, a woman would smoke. And it ever struck me, uh... it made it more of an impact for me later on, but I guess she did what she wanted to do, you know? Here she was smoking-- it wasn't good for your health. But, uh, maybe that was the only vice or sin she ever had because she had to put up with twelve kids. [ laughs] But she actually could not cope with twelve young kids without an income, so she sent the older six to Japan to be raised by her sister in her birth town. And so they were raised in, uh, Japan. But uh... [ EU] Were all twelve of those children born in the states? Or...? [ 00: 04: 22.08] [ AA] They were. Well, actually, let's see... Maybe one or two were actually born in Japan, but they... those two became citizens of the United States. And they were, my parents were, my grandparents were very, very tradition Japanese-- very traditional Kibei. And uh, always kept their Japanese- ness, or whatever, when I think about it now. [ EU] You said, " Kibei." Could you explain... who Kibei were? [ 00: 04: 57.27] [ AA] Um, her kids, her older kids were all raised in Japan and they were - culturally I think they were more Japanese like and they thought more Japanese even while living in the United States. I mean they were living America, but I never considered them what you call Americanized. Because if I compared them with my friends' parents or relatives, to me they were so, um... traditional and strict and, uh, whereas a lot of my friends they didn't have to eat with chopsticks. Because their parents didn't want them to be Japanese- like, they wanted them to be Americanized. But I know we all had to eat with hashi [ chopsticks] and we always ate the same menus-- they were all Japanese menus [ says with a laugh]. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ 00: 05: 56.21] [ AA] My father always had to have rice for dinner. I mean, we never had bread for dinner. So my mother just always did whatever he wanted without complaining-- that's just the way it was. [ EU] Did your grandmother ever learn English then? Did you, could you speak English with her? Or was it Japanese? [ 00: 06: 17.14] [ AA] I could speak English with her, and my grandmother, she understood, but she always answered in Japanese. And she could speak broken English. For instance, when she was talking about one of her cars she'd call it a Shopolrey [ sp?]. And of course I knew, but my friends said, " What is she talking about?" You know, I said, " Chevrolet. Don't you know that?" But you know, I was so used to hearing broken English, I guess you'd call it, and your ear just gets used to it after a while, you know. But, uh... [ EU] What did she do to raise all those children? What kind of work did she do? [ 00: 06: 54.02] [ AA] She and her husband had a dry cleaning store. And so, when the kids were old enough she got, uh, the older ones to work in the dry cleaning shop. So they all had responsibilities working, delivering, you know. And, uh, they were all set to work right away. So when her husband died it was she and the kids and she did all the alterations and they did the pressing and whatnot. So... [ EU] Was that in Salt Lake City, or where...? [ AA] That was in, uh, Oakland, California. [ EU] Oh, in Oakland. [ AA] Uh- huh. [ EU} Okay. [ 00: 07: 30.17] [ AA] My grandmother had a, uh, a huge - to me it looked like a huge - Victorian house on Myrtle Street in Oakland and it was in the black neighborhood. But the house was big-- it was, uh, two story house. I remember going there couple times and remember thinking, " Wow, this is really a big house." But of course they had, you know, she had twelve kids. And they all had to live in that house. So, uh... [ EU] Where was your father in these twelve kids? Was he the oldest or youngest? [ 00: 08: 03.25] [ AA] My father was next to the oldest. So there was pressure on him to, you know, be... uh, I mean there were more responsibilities on the older siblings. [ EU] Uh- huh. Um, did your grandmother ever go back to Japan? [ AA] She went back and visited perhaps once or twice. Especially the sister her raised her, that raised six of her kids. She just went there for visits. And, uh... but other than that, she lived with always her oldest son, Ichiro, who took after - you know, looked after her-- he and his wife, family. And so it's was very traditional. Uh... and she died actually at age 82, I believe. You know, in spite of her smoking. And she, towards the end of her life though, she'd sit and home and watch TV because everybody was working, you know, and there was nobody her age to relate to. So it's really kind of sad. [ EU] Uh- huh. You said that their home was in a black neighborhood in, um... in... [ AA] Oakland. [ EU] Oakland. Was there a Japanese community - a Japanese- American community that they were involved with? [ 00: 09: 20.27] [ AA] Oh, definitely. There was a Buddhist church and my uncles were very active in the Buddhist church. And, uh... I don't know what other clubs, but I know that they had picnics every summer and they were the Kanagawa- ken, uh, groups. So everybody from Kanagawa- ken and Japan would get together for a picnic every summer. And that was a big thing, you know, once a year and they would all connect and talk. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] I went to that once, uh, and there were a couple hundred people there. Yeah, it's a very tight group. [ EU] Uh- huh. Hm. Um, how did your parents meet then? [ 00: 10: 07.01] [ AA] It was an arranged marriage. Um... My mother lived about ten miles away in Matsuda. And my father, um, he was one of the older kids who was shipped to Japan and raised there for awhile. He lived in, uh, Odawara, which is quite close-- two villages quite close. And so it was an arranged marriage and my mother was eighteen and she married my father who was, I believe, about maybe nine years older. And my mother actually was US citizen ' cause she had lived in Santa Monica and was born in California when my grandfather was still working in California. So they were both US citizens, but both their upbringing was in Japan. And they to the States and started a, uh, Asian grocery store in China town in Oakland. And it was called a Yamato Shokai. [ EU] What was your mother's name? [ 00: 11: 26.14] [ AA] Yoshiko Shibuya. [ EU] And your father's name? [ AA] His name was Kikouhei Endo [ sp?] and in school they couldn't pronounce his name, so he named himself Frank. [ EU] Frank. Okay. [ 00: 11: 41.27] [ AA] So he became Frank Kikouhei Endo [?] from then on. [ EU] Uh- huh. So they, they established that grocery store... [ AA] They did... [ EU] ... in China town. [ AA] It was probably financed by my grandmother and, uh, some of his younger brothers and sisters would some and work too-- in the grocery store. And I remember, uh, I was about three then when we had that store. And it's funny, but I can still remember, I know we lived in upstairs of the store and I remember having to climb stairs to go upstairs to sleep every night. And I remember this - coming down the stairs and to the left - there was this little doorway and it had curtains hanging and that's where we had our meals. It was very dark in there. And if you go out this way [ makes some unknown hand motions] it led into the, uh, grocery store. I remember right in the middle was this ice cream... they used to have these ice cream boxes and you had'a open up the top and get your ice cream bar out. But I remember it was right there. And I just remember a few things like that-- just sort of visuals, you know? I'm pretty sure I can remember that. Uh... but, uh, for most of my life I always lived in back of the store-- of whatever store they were running. [ EU] Was this a Japanese grocery store? Was it Asian? What...? [ AA] It was Japanese grocery store. We sold tofu, Japanese canned goods, rice, uh, fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, my father, he told me he would peddle his vegetables with a cart in the streets to sell them. And he would deliver to in his truck, to whoever wanted to order. And so I think it must have been a pretty tough job-- you know, peddling vegetables and also delivering rice to different places. Then my mother would always be there to take care of any customers who walked in. But it was, it wasn't very big, but it carried all the staples. [ EU] Yeah. [ short pause] How many brothers and sisters did you have? [ 00: 14: 03.24] [ AA] I had one brother at the time, Tom, and then my sister was born, uh, five years later when we, after we evacuated to Utah. She was born in Murray, uh, Utah in 19... probably in 1942. [ EU] How old were you then, um, in 1941, 1942? [ AA] In 1942 I would have been, I was turning three. [ EU] Just three. [ AA] Uh- huh. [ EU] Do you have any memories of the evacuation and how that, how that happened and how that...? [ 00: 14: 40.14] [ AA] [ Sighs trying to recall] No... uh... I just remember, you know, being with lots of relatives, you know? Lots of people. And I remember in Keetley - where we ended up at initially in Utah - uh, somebody was always holding my hand and we were always walking down trails or down rocky roads and I would always stumble because there'd be rocks and stones and I had to get up again. I think in those days girls just wore dresses. So you were always getting bruised knees, you know? I remember that and I just remember being with a lot of playmates-- a lot of my cousins and other people. [ EU] So your family wasn't evacuated to an internment camp? [ 00: 15: 33.18] [ AA] No, because if you left by March 29th, you could leave on your own from the west coast - and that meant from either Washington, Oregon, or California - at your own expense. And you could just leave for another state. And the government wanted you to do that so they didn't have to pay for these camps. But only... five, about five- thousand people managed to do it because the government actually didn't give you that much of a warning... or they didn't set the deadline farther away so people could manage to do it. So, there were only about, under five- thousand people who did it. And they were the ones who had maybe some reserves and could, or had relatives or contacts in another state to go to. They just wanted the Japanese- Americans out of that area, military zone. And most people of course couldn't do it and so they ended up in internment camps. We were supposed to go to Topaz [ referring to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah]. But my grandmother had a couple of relatives who were arrested by the FBI-- two relatives, the Iomotos [ sp?] [ 00: 17: 00.25]] And he, she was very upset about that and she just didn't trust the government and she wanted to keep her family together, the huge family together. And, uh, so she was the matriarch and so whatever she said, you know, went. And so she sent my brother, my father and, uh, another relative, Roy Tachiki, a brother- in- law of my father, uh, to Utah to find a place to move to. [ EU] What happened to your, to, to the, um, to your parents' store? Or your grandmother's, the dry goods, the dry cleaning store? [ 00: 17: 47.08] [ AA] Uh... my father had to terminate his lease-- he was just renting the store. And then they had to sell things, uh, for a fraction of the value of the goods. And, uh, he hired three car loads, three cars, and he sent three car loads of, uh, canned goods and rice and the dry cleaning equipment to Keetley, Utah on the train. And, uh, some of their possessions and, uh, while in Keetley, you know, it saw us through-- eating the canned foods and rice. And so, I thought it was pretty smart of them to do that. Because there was a very small train station in Keetley. And because he had sent all the dry cleaning equipment ahead, after the war he was able to start his dry cleaning shop in Salt Lake City. ' Cause that's something he knew he could do, you know, as a skill. [ EU] Why did they, um, why did they go to Keetley? [ AA] Because they didn't know anybody, uh, in the hinterlands. Although, a relative of ours, Mrs. Suzuki knew of a lady in Salt Lake City who owed the US Cafe and they happened to be from the same Prefecture in Japan, Kanagawa- ken. They had met on a train or something and she knew Mrs. Tsuiki [ sp?], uh, lived in Salt Lake City and owned the US Cafe. And my grandmother knew about this conversation so she told my father and Roy Tachiki that, " Get on the train. I'll give you two- hundred dollars. Go find this US Cafe. Talk to Mrs. Tsuiki about a place that we could come to." And so they did and they were able to find the US Cafe. Mrs. Tsuiki and Mr. Tsuiki got a, um, a friend, um, Mr. Aoki, who had a car. And he had Mr. Aoki drive them around the state if Utah. And also a Mr. Wada from Oakland. And he was a prosperous, uh, merchant and he was also looking for a place for his family. And, uh, Mr. Wada knew about a George Fisher in Keetley who was the sheriff also of that little town. And he was, Mr. Fisher was looking for labors to farm his ranch. And they went up there and they looked at his ranch and it was, I think, about three- thousand, nine- hundred acres, but it was covered with a foot of snow. And they didn't know that underneath was just sagebrush and rocks and it had never been farmed before. So Mr. Aoki drove Mr. Wada, my father, and my uncle to Roosevelt, Utah in Duchesne County and that's like nothing, I mean there's nothing, it's like Siberia there's hardly anything there. But in this little town, in Roosevelt, they had to go to a town meeting and meet everybody from five- hundred miles around and they just said, you know, " Can we bring our families here? We'd like to start a new life." And they had this big meeting and they were told, " No, we don't want any Japs here." And so that only left this prospect in Keetley so they decided to go to Keetley. And actually about a good two- hundred people ended up in Keetley, Utah. Because Mr. Fisher was one of the few people who was willing to risk having Japanese come to his place. And actually in that area a lot of people had never seen a Chinese, or Japanese, or, uh, as they called it in those days, a Negro ever before. So we were novelties. In fact, we were so unusual that the Salt Lake City Tribune sent a reporter out there to do stories on us periodically. [ 00: 22: 20.25] [ AA] And, and they took a picture with me with all the kids, uh, one time. And I have a picture of it that I received years later. But, uh, they took pictures of my aunts knitting, you know. Knitting socks to send to the soldiers and so forth and so on. So, uh [ sighs], that's why we ended up in Keetley, is just, you know, just by circumstances. [ EU] Do you remember the travel, the trip out then? From California? [ AA] I remember, um, sitting in my father's, it was a navy blue International panel truck and very uncomfortable because I think we were sitting on benches that probably my grandfather made-- you know, just wooden benches in the back. And all I remember is we would, we hit a lot of jackrabbits along the way [ laughs]. [ EU] [ laughs] [ 00: 23: 18.19] [ AA] And we kept saying, " Oh, those poor rabbits-- we ran over some more." [ laughs] But I remember something about rabbits and killing the rabbits. And, uh... so, I so remember my mother and father and my brother and I in that car and probably there were more too. But I don't remember that much, since I was three. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] Yeah. [ EU] So where did you live in Keetley? What kind of house or home did you have there? [ AA] They were, um, units made for miners, because in that area there was silver, zinc, and lead mining. And the miners had left and these were really quite old, dilapidated dorms, but livable. And so, we were in one of the many units. There were several buildings there on the premises. [ EU] How long did your family stay there? [ 00: 24: 23.09] [ AA] We only stayed the three months, because we were not farmers and didn't know very much about farming. And we decided we'd be better off, uh, going to another place to try to find actual jobs that paid. The people who stayed at Keetley for a whole year only netted sixty dollars per family for the whole year. And you know, the people who went camp, I think only got paid sixteen dollars a month, but they were fed every day. But in our case, we had to feed ourselves. And if you don't have income coming in, it's hard. So, um, my family moved to three or four places. One was, we lived in Holiday, Utah and this family, they were willing to let us rent their, it was an abandoned warehouse. And I think it had three rooms, no toilet, no hot water, but we lived in it and the owners helped us move in. They were really nice people actually. But we rented that for a while. And before that even we lived in two other places. My father tried chicken farming, but the owner came back from the war because it turned out he was 4- F. So we had to get out and he had to get back into his house. [ laughs slightly] I think that's one of the few times I remember living in a house. But it was not very long. And then we also lived in Crescent, Utah - the country side - and it had a farm house, and chicken coops, a bath house... But there were thirty or forty people living there and we all crowded and I know the Hironos [ 00: 26: 25.03] lived in the chicken coop... and I don't think we lived there too long. And then from there I think we moved to 67 Westford South to start the dry cleaning business, and we lived in the back. [ EU] I'm going to stop here for a minute. [ AA] Okay. [ end Audio 1 - [ 00: 26: 46.08]]
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