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Aikens, Alice Endo Transcript Part 4
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TitleAikens, Alice Endo Transcript Part 4
IntervieweeAikens, Alice Endo
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberToliver, Christy
SubjectJapanese Americans
Community centers
Geographic SubjectEugene (Ore.)
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
Full TextJapanese- American Oral History Project Oregon - Oral History Collection Alice Endo Aikens - Part 4 Date: April 14, 2007 Place: Home of Elizabeth Uhlig, Eugene, OR Interviewee: Alice Endo Aikens Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Transcriber: Christy Toliver Length: 00: 25: 11.12 [ begin Audio 4 - [ 00: 00: 04.15]] [ EU] Alice, you men-, you said before you're good at multi- tasking. And I think when, um, I think you've been very active here in the Eugene community, at the, at the museum for example. Could you talk a little bit about the work you've done at the, at the university at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. [ AA] I was on the, uh, Friends Board, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History Board for several years and, uh, I actually had the experience of, uh... Well, we actually gave birth to the Winter Solstice Program.... [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] ... when I was on the board, uh, we made it into a reality. And now it's just a regular event at the univer( sity), and the museum. And... ID Day, uh, at the museum, used to be held inside the museum and I always thought, " Gee" you know, when I used to go there I thought, " It's so crowded and you can't really, uh, see anything...." Anyway, I thought there were too many pitfalls, so anyway we decided to do outdoors. And ever since then it's outdoors, uh, in the summer, or, well, I think it's going to be held pretty soon. And they usually have, uh, canopies and they're prepared for rain. But, [ sighs]. I think, uh... it's just sort of turned into a different event in that it's held, you know, in a different manner so that it can handle more people and crowds and I think it's improved since I first, uh, attended it. So, um... I don't know, I think when I was on the board I just wanted to see things happen so I just go into it and just did things until things did happen. And then, uh... actually when I came to Eugene I really didn't know anybody. And the people I knew were all at the university and there weren't any Asians that I knew at the university really-- they were mainly professors' wives or students or acquaintances. So, I really was not active in Japanese- American events until recently I have to say. Although, I did, I was introduced to Japanese- Americans, I really did not connect to them. You know how it is, you go to event and you meet somebody, but you don't ever see them again. The only Asian I really knew on a regular basis was Betty Singlou [ sp?] because she worked at 4J in the same department I worked at. And she was part- time but I did see her regularly. And she, uh, persuaded me to give a talk on my voluntary evacuation experience. And from there on, uh, and this is only probably in the 19-, late 1990s when this happened. From there on I started to give talks and then I met more people. Then I went to this meeting that Cindy Carlson had four years ago at her house, proposing a Eugene Japanese- American memorial. And I just went there as one of many people there and for some reason I guess I stayed on and just became really involved. And, um... As a result of that, I've done the Day of Remembrance events for the last three four years. And I don't want to be doing it every year actually [ laughs]. I'd like [ laughs], you know, other people to handle it. But while I've done it, uh, it's been-, it was held every time at a different place. We've done it at the U of O Law School. And then it was held at the Longhouse, Native American Longhouse. And then, the very first time I went to a DOR was, it was held at Sheldon High School. And I understand, oh, and the very first time I ever went to one actually was at EWEB. [ EU] Hm. [ 00: 04: 39.03] [ AA] When Betty asked me just to light candles and that was my task. That's [ laughs] my introduction to DOR was to light the candles. So... [ EU] C-, could you explain what the Day of Remembrance is? [ AA] Oh, the Day of Remembrance is February 19th, uh, 1942. And that's the day when Franklin Roosevelt signed, uh, the Executive Order 9006 [ correction: 9066], which, uh, caused Japanese- Americans to be removed from the West Coast-- people on the West Coast were removed because, uh, they were thought to be possible, uh, people who might help Japan in WWII and they wanted them to get out of that military zone. So it's an annual event held throughout the United States by Japanese- American groups. And, uh, this year they had Day of Remembrances in Portland on February 17th, they had one in Hood River on February 18th, and we had ours on February 19th. So, um, we try to have ours on the 19th as close as possible. This is the first year we've actually had it on the 19th. But, um... [ EU] And what kind of events do you, what kinds of things take place then as part of the Day of Remembrance? [ AA] We usually have people, uh, talk about their experiences while interned in an internment camp. And, um, we also invite speakers, such as, uh, Lawson Inada and perhaps like Peggy Nagae-- people from out of town who have, you know, a wealth of experience or can just, uh, talk about such things. [ EU] Peggy Nagae? Who is she? [ 00: 06: 52.14] [ AA] She's a former Assistant Dean of the Law School at the U of O who, um, actually I think she left several years ago and has had various positions from then on in the legal profession, but presently she works as an independent consultant and lives in Whitefish, Montana. But she still continues to work, uh, with, uh, Japanese- American topics. [ EU] And Lawson Inada is a poet? [ AA] Lawson Inada is a Sansei from Fresno who is, uh, actually the same age as I am-- I think he just turned 69, or will? And, uh, he is a former English professor from, uh, Ashland-- Southern Oregon University is it? Or College. And he was designated the, uh, poet laureate of Oregon in 2006. And I believe it's a two year, uh, responsibility. And, uh, his job is to travel throughout Oregon to... um, help people if they want poetry workshops or to speak or to, uh, I guess enrich their lives with poetry somehow. And so I'm sure he has a very busy schedule. [ EU] When you participated in the Day of Remembrance what did you do? What kind of presentation did you make? [ 00: 08: 45.04] [ AA] I talked about my, uh, personal voluntary evacu-, evacuation experience. And, uh, it's actually a PowerPoint presentation with visuals and, and, um... It's, um, not your typical internment experience, uh, and a lot of people would say, " Well, you know, you didn't go to camp and so you probably didn't suffer." But actually I think in some ways we suffered even more because we didn't have a place to, although it was camp for these people, I mean, we were on our own-- we had to find a place, we had'a find a way to get income, you know, work. And then you were actually in this hostile environment, you know, and it was just kind of, you never knew what was going to happen. And, so, in some ways I think it was just as difficult not being in a camp for my family. And I was so young at the time I was probably oblivious of a lot of things. [ EU] But you think it's important that, to share that experience with people today. [ AA] I really think so because otherwise people will never know and, uh, they just won't realize what really went on. Uh... And so therefore, the Japanese, Eugene Japanese- American Memorial is very important because I think, uh, education and it being an educational vehicle is what's most important about it. And I think it's really working because every time I pass the memorial there are people there reading the plaques and people reading the stone pavers and they seem to linger there. And, uh, once we get the bronze sculpture there I think it will attract even more people who will be driving by and will say, " Oh, I've got to get back there and see that when I, at the first opportunity." It's in a place that's so accessible and there's so much traffic there on West Sixth, in addition to the walking path, which is actually Willamette Street-- it's an extension of Willamette Street. And there are a lot of people who walk that path that I think it's very fortunate that we have that site. [ EU] Can you tell us why you chose to have the memorial at that particular spot? [ 00: 11: 37.17] [ AA] The Civil Control Office was located very close to that spot-- it's where the Hult Center is. It's actually less than a hundred feet away from where the bronze sculpture will be. Uh, The Civil Control Office was located upstairs in the building. Ah, and at one time it was called the Bearing Supply Company. And we have a picture of it that we obtained from the Lane County Historical Society. And, uh, it, it's, uh, it was taken in 1943 I believe, or 42. So we know exactly where it was. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] And so it's, it's a historical site is what it is, because of its physical proximity and its location. [ EU] Could you describe the, the, the memorial then? The pavers-- what are those? And, and what are the...? [ AA] The memorial consists of three large, uh, monoliths-- three large basalt rocks that are upright. And three, and each on one has a bronze panel. And the first panel is, uh, " Justice" and it depicts three Japanese- Americans - Korematsu, Yasui, and Hirabayshi - who defied the law and purposefully were arrested and put in jail. And, uh, these were, they were all heroes actually because they knew that it was wrong to send Japanese- Americans to camp and they spent time in prison and they were later exonerated. But, you know, they were, they suffered, you know, when they were in prison. The second plaque is called, um, let's see... the last one is... [ EU] Is it " Perseverance"? [ 00: 13: 44.23] [ AA] Yeah, " Perseverance". And it shows a, a Japanese family standing behind barbed wire in an internment camp. And then, let's see, " Justice", " Perseverance", oh! The third one is " Honor" and it is to explain, uh, and tell about the 4- 42nd, uh, Regimental Combat Team composed of, uh, Japanese- Americans. Actually, I was told there was one Korean in that unit so we can't say all Japanese- Americans. But, uh [ sighs], they were called upon to fight in areas where they were having problems and were sent to really tough, they had really tough assignments. And they were a highly decorated group. And, so, uh... Their motto was " Go for Broke." And there have been movies made about them. So, um, the three big boulders with those three topics. We have, in the forefront, a bronze sculpture of a young girl about five feet tall and she's looking at a butterfly sort of distracted. And she's sort of an example of innocence. Not aware that, uh, any moment now she and her family will be boarding a train, which is just a block away, with their belongings that they can carry. And the girl will be, the likeness will be, um, that of Michi Yasui Ando. And, um... Michi Yasui was the sister of Minoru Yasui, the first U of O Japanese- American law graduate. And, uh, she, uh, in 1942, March, uh... actually got a phone call from her brother who said - who had fled from Eugene, Oregon to I believe Denver, Colorado - said, " You better come too or else you're gonna end up in a concentration camp." And so he told her to get on the bus and get to Denver. And so she, um... was very nervous about going to the bus station, but she succeeded in buying a ticket. And, uh, the man who sold the ticket was so distracted because there was so much going on he didn't even bother to look up at her. And she got to Denver safely and then continued her education there, as did her brother. But, um, there's a, um, post- script to this-- she never received her graduation diploma in 1942. And in the 1990s Keith Richard, or Richards, uh, the Archivist at the University of Oregon in the library discovered her diploma in a file. And he told her to come back and get it. And she was still bitter about the whole experience and said, " I'm not coming." I think it took several more tries before she decided to come back. And when she came back she gave the Commencement, uh, Address. And Mel said he was there and she, he heard her give the talk. And she was awarded her diploma. And I, I heard it was an outstanding talk. [ EU] Hm. [ 00: 17: 45.09] [ AA] And so, the likeness is of Michi and, uh, of course the Yasui family, um, many of them contributed money for stone pavers. And our memorial walkway consists of stone pavers-- Pennsylvania Blue Stone. And they're all irregular shaped stones, stone pavers. And they have different words, mottos, family crests, sayings on them. And, uh, actually, it's still open if people want to have words engraved, uh, this summer. Because Lisa's willing to come with her equipment and engrave the words on some of the blank pavers, stone pavers. And, uh, she will this summer engrave " Justice", " Perseverance", and " Honor" on the big basalt boulders. So we hope this will occur around June, at least by July 20th at the latest. And then our memorial will be complete. But the stone pavers to me are very interesting because I've handled each one as the orders have come in and I've worked with Lisa Ponder, you know, on the graphics of it and the wording and getting them down so they're concise. And it's just been very rewarding. And, uh, I just feel like we're very fortunate to have that site. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ 00: 19: 23.10] [ AA] Uh, it's not a big site. It's very intimate-- it's like a pocket garden. But it has a very serene feel to it. And, uh, the gardening style is definitely Japanese because Jim Robinson who de-, well he didn't design it, Kenge did, Jim Robinson who... [ EU] It's Kenge Kobayashi? [ AA] I mean Kenge Kobayashi, yes. Uh, designed the garden. And, uh, Jim Robinson landscaped it with his crew. But Jim was trained by a Japanese- American in Portland, Mr. Kurisu, who has a international landscaping company. And he worked with him for nine years, trained with him. And, um, his boss donated the three large, black pines by the big basalt boulders. And they're twenty years old [ unsure of words " years old" - [ 00: 20: 20.10]], they've been in training for twenty years old [ unsure of words " years old" - [ 00: 20: 22.07]]. And they did that because, uh, his father, um... his fath-, oh, what was his father's name? Anyway, his father was interned during WWII, so it's to honor his dad. And we wanted to thank him for that, for the three trees, and so... we have his name on a big boulder. And we put, um, three sets of black pine needles underneath because Mr. Kurisu didn't want anything else on it-- he just wanted his name, his father's name and that was it. [ EU] Hm. Finish up with, uh, do you have any comments about the, the Japanese- American and the Asian community here in Eugene. Do you think it's become stronger? It seems to me it's become stronger over the years, with so many events-- the [ unintelligible - [ 00: 21: 18.03]], Asian Celebration, now the memorial? [ 00: 21: 21.24] [ AA] I find that there is this momentum of, uh, more people being involved and more people attending these events. You've got your July Bon Odori. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] And, [ clears throat], you have your Japanese- American Association activities. And these are regular events throughout the year. Um... Including your cooking classes, your plant exchange, your holiday party complete with Santa Claus. And then the Asian Celebration seems like it's a very popular event. And the Japanese- Americans are certainly involved with that in many ways. So...[ sighs], I think, and then the Japane-, Eugene Japanese- American Memorial has brought in people I've never met before. They kind of appear, you know? [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] So I just feel like I've met more people as a result of the Memorial Committee, but at the same time there seems to be a lot going on. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] And, uh... Uh... I think, uh, perhaps this is good because one thing I notice in Eugene is you don't have a Buddhist Church or Japanese Christian Church where you regularly go and you see people on a regular basis. So, unless you're maybe like a Japanese- Hawaiian where you see them every week for your hula lesson or your ukulele lesson, uh, you don't really see people regularly, you know, it's just at these events. Or maybe at a lecture, or talk, or party. But, uh, in Salt Lake City when I was growing up we always saw people regularly every week at church - at Buddhist Church - or at the language school. Or... Like, uh, Saturday evenings they would have, in those days they would show, Mr. Komatsu would show these Japanese black and white films from Japan. They'd always have a chambara, you know, a samurai film first. Then they'd have a tear- jerker, one film for women. And everybody would cry. When the lights came on [ laughs] everybody was crying [ laughs]. And it was always a double feature. But, um, I don't think there's a Japanese community here to speak of. [ EU] Hm. [ AA] Because everybody lives... you know, in Eugene, Springfield, outlying areas, and you don't have a Japanese town. [ EU] Uh- huh. [ AA] Everybody's kind of like just out there. [ short pause] And so... I think, uh, it's really, I th-, I think it's really hard to get to know people for that reason. [ 00: 24: 41.29] [ EU] Uh- huh. Well, is there anything else we didn't talk about? [ AA] Oh there must be. [ laughs] [ EU] [ laughs] [ AA] [ laughs] I'm sure there is. [ EU] Yeah. [ AA] Yeah. Um. I'll probably think about it tonight maybe. [ EU] Well you can give us a call then. [ AA] Yeah. I can always e- mail you and say, " Oh, by the way!" [ laughs] [ EU] Okay. [ AA] [ sighs] [ EU] Well, Alice, thank you very much. [ AA] Oh, you're welcome. [ end audio - [ 00: 25: 09.21]]
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