Joan Yamate Taketa and Celeste Johnston
DescriptionJoan Yamate Taketa (53) talks with her friend of many years Celeste Johnston (54) about what she has learned of her paternal family history, how it happened that the family was split up during World War II and what their experiences were with the Hiroshima bombing in Japan and internment camps in the US.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Joan Yamate Taketa
- Celeste Johnston
Venue / Recording Kit
StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.
00:04 Hello, my name is Celeste Johnston. I'm 54. I never said that today's date is Monday March 2nd 2020. This is where in Fresno California and I'm here with my friend Jenny. Imagine. We've been friends for 50 years so that
00:30 Okay. My name is Joan yamate taketa. She forgot I got married. I am 53 today's date Monday, March 2nd 2020, Fresno, California, and I'm here with Celeste Johnston who just said well, we've known each other since kindergarten so I asked her to be here cuz I know I figured she just roll along with anything I ask her to do. So probably the main reason I asked for us to be here with me because I needed a partner. I can't do it myself. I didn't know that but I want to talk a little bit about my dad's family history and Celeste his own my family for a long time.
01:15 You have you have you have known my family supposed to engage you with me. You've known my family a long time. My mom's side help your mom. And your dad. I remember obviously, so I'm here to tell you about my life because I can't remember for sure. Who's your daddy tiny was at my mom's actually kind of an unusual Japanese name. There's a famous train. No, excuse me, some sort of circular Transportation line in Tokyo kalyanmatka, but that's not related to my family of course, but there's no lie, you might as in I think the United States and my sister and I are like one of the few and as you see, you know, we get married there go there goes but
02:15 But anyhow, yes, I'm here to tell you about my dad side family cuz you might have heard something about my mom side before any of this stuff about your mom there more hear my dad put a family's little scattered. And this is why I'm going back to my grandparents both my grandparents on my mom. My dad's side were born in United States. My grandpa was born in Hawaii when it was still a territory. I actually have this passports this territory of Hawaii and my grandma was play born in Southern, California, so,
02:51 It's interesting because there was a big Japanese American Community, you know in Southern California and a lot of them were on this place called terminal Island, which I guess if you take cruises now you go past terminal Island and it's big and Industrial but at that time I had a big settlement fisherman whatnot. So it was funny cuz I remember that someone telling me that when my grandmother was pregnant with my dad the Midwife would not leave terminal Island so somehow she had to get on a boat to go to terminal Island and my dad is delivered. So I my dad's birth certificate it says birthplace terminal Island, which always sounded not so good.
03:30 The most inspiring terminal Island, but I guess what was the thing to do back in the day was to send your kids back to Japan? I don't know if my grandparents plan to move back there, but they sent I guess I had an older Uncle who I never met and my dad's older another older brother and then his older sister. They send them all back to Japan So my aunt who still alive she'll turn that she turns 90 this week said she was about 6 when she was sent there and they lived with grandparents my grandparents. I think my grandpa's parents because they went to Hawaii to make their Fortune enough. They made a fortune, but they went back to Japan I could live.
04:21 I'm so they were all sent back there to study. Yeah, and so the uncle I never met, you know, they have quote English first names and then Japanese middle name. So his name is Leo cops you who I never met. He was I guess I designated one child to actually stay in Japan and beyond help the grandparents. So he was sent there and he stayed there longer than actually when this whole World War II thing happened. He went into the Japanese Navy now a second brother. Why actually remember his name is George masato. He was sent to Japan to study. But he for some reason also returned to the United States. So during World War II he was interned.
05:10 Add an internment camp but my aunt recalls that later he actually join the u.s. Army. So apparently we had one brother in the Japanese Navy and then one brother in the US Army, but I think the US Army was actually after dinner quite often. They were given a choice like you can either go into these camps or you can serve you did and they were good soldiers and but but I don't I don't know if he was old enough at that time. My aunt said he did go to Okinawa but I don't think he was part of the fighting there may be translated later. But again, she said she's 90 and as I said, she's 90 and she complained to me. Why didn't you asked me five years ago. I would have remembered better.
06:00 How that goes, but so my aunt was there as well. So my uncle my uncle my aunt was her studying since H6, she enjoyed it. She says she doesn't remember but I remember her telling me that she was like this schoolgirl and just you know, perfect student and she said she doesn't remember but I heard that she didn't want to come back to United States and so my grandmother and my dad who was the youngest child were sent to Japan to bring her back and also might have not been very good for a young girl to come back by herself on the boat loan. So as luck would have it the hometown was in an area or in a village called Tana, which was around the city of Hiroshima. So here we go with the fun part of the story. So anyhow, Pearl Harbor happened while these people, you know,
07:00 Born in the United States American citizens were in Japan and you know, they couldn't come back and so suddenly as my dad would say suddenly they started using their Japanese middle names. They had to kind of forget they spoke English and since they kind of grew up speaking English, they had to switch suddenly and my dad who grew up on the west side of Fresno had to stop running around like he's used to running around Fields here and over in Japan. Everything's a little more contained like if you go up or you know, you respect the borders a little more the fences so he had stopped running everywhere and also my grandma who was born in in the United States. I think English was our first language maybe not but she was fluent of course, so she's stuck in a war situation with her in-laws right now. It's like I can't imagine
08:00 What it was like, however.
08:03 Good or not good my her father-in-law which would have been like my great grandpa sell stick. So she helped care for him. So you know, she had a purpose. Yeah. Okay. So, you know my dad's there my aunt's been there long time since she was six now she's in junior high or something like that. My dad's there used to be in the United States. You would actually get in trouble, I guess one time.
08:28 They had a school like assembly and they called everyone out and my aunts there, you know class president what not and the principal comes out to we found these two bad boys smoking in the basement and you know, one of them was my dad was mortified but you know, there was an adjustment. Anyhow, what I got from my aunt was because she was older will happen at that time. Is they stop going to school and they were recruited to work in the war effort. And so this is new to me, but when they were recruited their class was recruited she and maybe three or four other girls have been born in the United States are so they were sort of gathered up and they were sent to the principal's office, you know, just say Hades, you know, these girls are born in the US the US, you know, we are an engagement with them. What should we do with them, but they were deemed harmless so they were sent to go to work.
09:28 And what happened was they were shipped off everyday like going to job to a island called? Kanawa Jima. Jima needs Island and its were soldiers were stationed before they were shipped off to war and their job there was because it's on the island their job was to clean the equipment like small knives and just keep everything rust free. So they would trade take the train and then they would take a boat to get to that Island at the end of the day they would return
10:01 And so, you know time went on.
10:05 And this part actually my dad said they received, you know, the populace around Hiroshima receive warning that there was going to be some sort of bombing attack. And the question was put out. Hey would you know you don't want to send your youngsters far away to Country into the mountains and so my dad's grandma said yes, send him cuz he was the youngest and so he was sent up into the mountains.
10:34 And when the mom actually hit my aunt was on that island so they had to stay on that island a couple days cuz they weren't quite sure why I would is happening and so luckily there is some distance for her. Now. This is where it gets a little confusing cuz I hear different stories, but apparently
10:54 My grandmother and a neighbor girl had left to the country very early because they want to barter with Farmers for white rice. Couldn't remember. Her father-in-law was Ill white rice is more palatable and so they wouldn't take money so they have to take belongings and barter so they went out early in the morning to get rice. I guess they found someone coming back and then
11:19 This is where it gets confusing. I just said just come back to Hiroshima and they were exiting the station and my aunt said that either while they're on the train or after the accident a train the girl she was with kept pointing to a plane and it was kind of like unusual, you know, it wasn't completely unusual cuz they had seen, you know, United States planes flying across before but you know, if they just happened to see that one and my aunt says that this girl kept saying you don't look at the plane, I wonder why the plane is here whatever and then she says though that my grandma her mother, you know being born in the United States and grown up in the United States just send Stir It is not right here. So she kept trying to tell the girl you don't hide or come with me or let's go and then we're not sure what happened after that cuz my aunt says she wasn't there.
12:19 But they either hit or before like something happened. Like my dad always said my aunt's off my grandma saw something fall from the plane. Yeah and still okay, this is right. And so they hid yeah and they keep bringing up water. So I'm not sure if they found it ditch or you know, it was modernized like we know now. This was like 1940 something so there's open culvert.
12:51 Goalies Etc, but somehow my grandma told her to hide that you need to hide and so they hit and how they got back to their little village. We don't know or maybe they were walking to their little village that you know, we're looking saw the plane saw something fault and then, you know kid in a field not really sure because you know, I'm asking my yeah what the effects of yeah, nobody knew what was going to happen. So, you know, I never knew about this until my grandma died cuz they don't talk about it, right so because they're little town with outside of foot Ocean City proper my answers. They just sorta somehow everyone made it back and they just cleaned up and they waited and eventually, you know,
13:51 Quite a while later, but you know Americans, you know who came in occupying forces and then my aunt remembers being told don't look at them don't look at cuz she's a young girl These Are Soldiers, you know, and then you told on the young girls to stay Lowe's hide, but my grandma, you know being born in United States was fluent in English, so she would
14:15 You know if she needed to talk with them she would talk with them. And so, you know, she tried to get maybe extra food stuff candy whatever or maybe hey, you know, the Barton could go that way.
14:29 You know, so so suddenly she became valuable because of her English gal. And then yeah colloquial English, you know, I was born in Long Beach, you know it I want to listen to the American soldiers thought having somebody that I had said it was so fluent and obviously speaking American English. I think I read something like that happened in Afghanistan, you know, I do soldiers move in in this guy comes running up to my God. Thank God you guys are here, you know, he's Afghani American and Cuban visiting relatives and same thing happened. Yeah. I need to take a shower stuff like that. But yeah, it was probably very weird. But you know, she was like I said slower, so it's
15:19 She and she could probably prove where she was born cuz that's where her to project her passport and my dad eventually came back from the mountains and he will leave it would even say that he said they were starving they would eat weeds whatever they could get and he's a pretty use a pretty active little guy my aunt said and he was just listless and then and
15:45 You know the result of not having enough tonight So eventually I don't know their big gaps in the story, but eventually things are settled down and my grandfather who is still here in the United States. I think she got sent to an internment camp Blue Lake which is for you know, the bad people, you know, what the rabble-rousers and I'll go back to Japan type, but I think he ended up in tulelake. So he had to make arrangements for them to come back, you know prove. Hey, this is where they were born at the end of excetera, but the oldest Leo he stayed back in Japan, you know, the oldest son a party to my aunt. He later got a job at Hiroshima station cuz they start steam engine. So he did something with you know the water to me but later he he contracted leukemia. Does that have anything to do with him this location? I don't know. My grandmother also died of cancer. So how much of it is related.
16:45 Nobody Knows the right but in a lot of these things you don't they never talked about it. You just find out about it later just like my mom's side went to the internment camps. They don't really talk about that and my aunt, you know my one and he's still alive and that's why she still doesn't want to talk about it. She says I don't want to that's not supposed to be talking about. I mean, I don't know if you've ever seen the church the chi and then like that allegiance that play I'm also talking about what his life was like he said that his parents were always trying to
17:25 Make because he was a child to make it less less traumatic for him. But you know, yeah, I don't remember but my mother would say that in Camp that they were in the same camp as a it be posting can't I believe number two, she would say that there is a speech contest and she came in second to him. So there you are. I think she even had a little plaque but I could be wrong. But yeah, she would say that and it just wouldn't hit me but you know, he's become more at least maybe cuz I'm going to do more visible and maybe he's always been vocal but you know if his wife was anything like it's now I can see where she came in second or third or whatever. But yeah, she would think me and I'll talk about him. But okay, let me go back to the story. So I always wondered how you know this family ended up in Fresno. So
18:25 What the story is is that when might I don't know about my uncle grandma grandpa was in an internment camp.
18:32 You know, the rest of the family was in Japan, he started become friendly with a bunch of people from Fresno. So when they released they all came back to Fresno and he says, so what the hell I'll go back to Fresno.
18:45 And so what happened is the Fresno Buddhist Church are used to be the Fresno Buddhist Church. I think a Burmese Buddhist group stays there now. It's three story. It has a basement. So they turn the basement into like a dormitory or you could rent rooms. So he stayed there and then told the family he come to Fresno. So that's how they went from being in so I never thought of it too and then I thought how do I get to Fresno? So they moved from Southern California since you was in Fresno, they come back to Fresno and my friends are like as the you know, I don't know how who else was there if they made friends are some people they remember each other from you not coming over on the boat or traveling back and forth and then I know there's some other relatives like in Reedley excetera, and I think they're still there.
19:43 That's sort of was there anything else that's kind of like the gist of it is very different from my mom's side of the situation because they were all here they sent to you know Post in Arizona while my dad's side had a lot more of that separation due to war and then here and then you know, what do you do? And no, I forget to speaking with you know, I don't think my dad and my dad came back. I don't think he graduate high school cuz he was told he was 20. He graduated ready for it, since they both went to Central High and my dad had his yearbook and your dad is in that yearbook. Holy upcoming. Yeah, you know how they do a picture of the team and he was saying that he was on the football team and their dad.
20:43 But because I think you'd said something about because when he came back from Japan, he missed all that school. So they just put them back in third grade or whatever. You know. I think all the non-english speakers got stuck in one class together and it's like well, good luck. Give me some Easley very popular guy and Indian in the
21:12 The universe book over and over and over everything. I have told you this before over and over and over. He was called a swell guy swell. Sometimes a really swell guy. It also wasn't the bee's knees. Not just relate, huh?
21:32 So, you know those very bizarre sayings were still in coming parlance I suppose yeah. Yeah, cuz it was only that big, you know only something
21:49 Call my dad was in the remedial Class E. And also maybe he was not a swell guy hang out with your dad and dudes in my husband.
22:03 Are we right here? But he is his aunt and uncle we didn't find out till like they died that his uncle was in Manchuria and his mom and his aunt got sent, you know, cuz Japan was being rude all over the place and I'm being where they're not supposed to be I guess someone could argue that with me, but he was in Manchuria and he's at with him at you. I think they got married and what happened? We don't find this out later. What till I'm
22:29 They passed away. We found some old interview. They're done with someone is when the Russian started coming his they got out of there, right? Yeah his aunt had to dress like a boy like a man. Yeah, cuz it was not safe to be a woman. And so yes, she had in Disguise. She had to return back to Japan never mentioned it I mean, but you can imagine just having a high tail it out of there and in Disguise and if they discover you it's like not good and not good things would happen to the ended up back in Japan and then when my husband's mother came over to get married and they came over to
23:13 Never heard my auntie learned English. Don't collect it all Spanish speaking. My Dad Poor Dad was fighting or you just never spoke Spanish to anybody other than my grandma cuz he didn't want to speak Spanish is like where in the u.s. I'm supposed to be speaking English and this is what I'm going to speak until he was the last he was talking to my grandma who refused she been over forty years and had refused to learn English. I think she understood some of it but she was stubborn. I think it's easier to understand then to express your now.
24:13 My parents got married 1961. My dad is the youngest of nine. My mom is the oldest of six at the wedding and my Grandma wears black to the wedding.
24:29 And she cries all the way to the ceremony and has to be helped out of the via the church by to her strong Sons after the wedding you can imagine the relationship between my mom and my grandma went downhill from there.
24:47 Yeah, it was them. It was interesting was one of the things that made I think their marriage listen successful. But yeah, and I thank God for my mother-in-law who is not like that to him. It's just funny because we're relating related to each other since kindergarten and you are the repository of most of my memory. So just keep reminding me of things. I forgot like the time when you'd gotten into and seventh grade you've gotten in trouble incident, okay?
25:28 You're sitting in you gotten angry. And your mom said I do you go to your room and I don't want to hear a peep out of you and from the hallway. I hear a very defiant little as you're walking as I go to my room.
25:45 Hey, I was I was rebellious but you know, I think because I was wearing this since I was a little bandana on that was trying to be cool. But for some unknown reason, I remember that cool in the 80s and the roads are bad. But it's sort of funny because like the memories that we have going way back. Some of them are related to school like like shout out to mr. Murray who at Bullard Elementary who taught us about geography and we will know capitals.
26:33 Because he actually made the time took the time to teach his geography pull the lever. Remember, they're playing the math game. I was one of the best one of the girls and getting any of the boys couldn't find anything cuz everything has changed. But yeah, and I think one of my co-workers at work now, I think he knows him or beast if you still with us, he was probably not as old as we thought he was in whatever 56k I was a good student. I was Hermione from from the Harry Potter books, but my brother wasn't and he was not the best students in the world and he saw his tomorrow at
27:21 Barnes & Noble, not not printing it will be Dalton at the time and he was going to go up to him and introduce himself cuz he is really like him as a teacher as well. It's going to go up to him introduce himself. Mr. Murray looked at him and said Vince out of our how are you doing? If you remember just like I wasn't very good student. He remembered me Tisha to him and he's like, I just it was amazing. I just felt so good that even though I was only a b or c student. He still remembered me myself and I think we got lucky with that one ain't even got lucky with money for teachers. Yeah, because I think a lot of our teachers were really good.
28:06 Liberal bias 50 years later, but does not have
28:12 Good memories off of his teachers and apparently if you were not in MGM classes at Scandinavian, you didn't get paid very well. I don't even think it was MGM and they would not gifted and yeah, it wouldn't fly these mentally get a psych doctor. What's his name school for socially, but what was gift gifted and talented like everyone else is not gifted and talented. But yeah, so you are the repository lot of my memories not only School.
28:54 But used to sometimes come out work on my maternal grandparents Farm a little pin money, but I can say hey I did fieldwork man a grape vineyard. I think I've tried clients like that. I know how to do that sort of thing. Like I can sound like when those old fogies your child just needs to come out and raisin roll some crazy things to remember when the one time we did that and we broke for lunch and we ate the entire hour long. We just ate I've ever worked hard work and it was totaled if your time January 8th was like time to go out into the field again, like will okay. Let's go. Cuz you can get hit in the face with the vines, you know, somebody I always like that, you know people so well with me and you know until I bring up my skin Vine time, you know, and
29:54 I was not allowed to prune because you know, you screw that up. It's that's right.
30:02 So with 10 minutes left George, if you ever hear this my mom's name was yours quote on E. Okay, and they're from Fresno.
30:21 I have now committed this to the library. Are you go mom because he was on disability and couldn't actually do much more work starting actually looking up our family history before ancestry.com. And so he actually did the legwork was he the research and everything and found out that families kept my part of the family came from Germany. And now we just went outside the house going to say if you and I were in 1919 when Grandpa was not yet born.
31:02 My great grandpa and great grandma are not sitting in a horse and buggy. They're sitting on a Harley 1912. I think something like that. But yeah, there's a picture of my grandma great-grandma and great-grandpa and my great grandma is pregnant and they're sitting there with my with my grandpa and they're sitting on a Harley mouth and The Cutting Edge Desperados. We're not going to the Library of Congress a fascinating story cuz they came over that came to New Orleans came over for Germany Germany and they came in through some ship it at Harvard in New Orleans. They want of the Mississippi State and and in St. Louis for a little bit and then we're families. When does Friendly's Windham covered wagons?
32:03 True to Phoenix which I was fine to be fascinating cuz I was not an easy route to take and they said yeah, they are Pioneer steel and they in Phoenix where they were in more than meat trade pictures in St. Louis pictures back in Germany pictures in Phoenix, and then some car then Meat Packers and then you had the cattle rustling portion of the provided to me. They had them they had to leave her son it because it was kind of wrestlers. Oh, I tell you your Desperado tell you maybe that's why your grandma was crying when she died on the legendary fancied. But anyhow,
33:03 Just because he couldn't work anymore because I hope you know I was like Wow cool. So if it's just nice to know a little bit of that and then they they all moved to download to Los Angeles because my grandpa and my great grandpa Nicholas was at one of those domineering swords told Grandpa. He was going to marry grandma Grandma passed away after being married for 66 years. That's literally what he was talking about. But he wanted to up sticks from Phoenix to Los Angeles because he wanted to know that's how it was with you guys then back then we shall move the whole family up sticks and and and move to Los Angeles like my grandpa is Fresno seems okay. Just get off the boat and come to you.
34:01 It's good to know about your family thinks like me. Yeah, this was I wanted to get the story out somewhere cuz I don't have kids. My sister doesn't have kids. I don't know what anyone else is interesting or interested. I'm sorry. I don't have any interest in people. Sometimes I feel that way.
34:19 I feel better leaving it where maybe to the winds. I don't know but I know it's there at the importance thing. I wish I'd let this be a warning if you have questions, you know about your history ask now before your 90 year old Auntie starts to forget things which is one of the reasons why I was glad that I was able to do all of that cuz I didn't know any of that. I know so I don't work on your dad's side. Yeah, that's I don't know if anybody was interested in doing such things.
34:54 That's what this Weird Al one side doesn't one side doesn't cuz like like my dad side which I had to you know, commit to word. Yeah, you know cuz I don't think there's anyone back in Japan and anyone who knows the story. Well as my mom's side. I still have relatives in Japan that I see every so often.
35:14 So, you know that's different. They don't know the history here, but you know, they're still My Relations back there. And so it's kind of neat after.
35:28 I don't know if they're still going to keep in communication with us after my one Auntie and Uncle passed away due to the language. I can speak a little and one cousin can speak a little a little the rest of them. I'm going to put it here they might and they might as well, you know, just look in the mirror and not location are all they know so cuz it does take effort to keep your family heritage going I think and I didn't make the effort really thought I was in my thirties. I didn't realize we had a letter that talks about the side of the family that came to the us as the Lost side of the family they went away. So there was probably some people near Frankfurt then I'm related to can I get to know you have to go like find the tree over there? I know but like all this interest like I still I have the paperwork where my
36:27 Grandparents, I think give up their Japanese citizenship cuz I could have to you know, and then I have the one I think I have the letter where they're trying to see if my uncle who ended up staying in Japan for come back they had to attest to character.
36:43 Well, but I was on and yeah, I still have it and I'll have to do something with those letters eventually ma'am. Story has been up and it is now here.
36:56 Don't Mess With The Hangout
36:58 I forgive you spent a long time. Okay, I guess we'll stay friend. Thank you.