Marion Masada and Charlene Kiyuna

Recorded October 16, 2020 Archived October 16, 2020 35:19 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020125


Charlene Kiyuna (67) interviews her friend Marion Masada (87) about her childhood experience of being imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp during WWII and the subsequent struggles she faced after her and her family were released.

Subject Log / Time Code

M.M. begins by sharing memories from her childhood.
"Of all the eight children, I'm the last one... it's a mystery how younger ones die before. I'm trying to do the best with the years I have remaining," M.M. reflects.
"In your childhood, you have warm memories, after WWII things changed for you and your family..." C.Y. says to M.M.
M.M. was 9 years old when soldiers detained her and her family. She describes the change in temperature from Salinas, CA to Poston, Az.
"We were living in this hot desert area, it was unpleasant. My mother and father worked in the kitchen, they had to make money... Because they worked in the kitchen, we didn't eat as a family for those 3 years. It did something to our family dynamic," M.M. explains.
M.M. remembers sleeping over at a friend's barrack and being assaulted by that friend's father. She couldn't tell anyone, and it was a trauma that she lived with for a long time.
"When we got out of the camps it was a very hard time. We couldn't go back to Salinas, it was very discriminatory," M.M. says. Her family moved to another farming community, Watsonville, Ca.
M.M. remembers a friend that she made during her high school years. This friend was Italian and her family welcomed her to stay with them and showed her a level of generosity she hadn't yet experienced. It is with them that she learned that were good people in this world.
"He was kind, he was patient," M.M. describes her husband, who she met while doing work as a secretary for her local church. "When we got married he told me, 'Marion, we're going to be together for life, I'm in no rush.' Sab uput me at ease," she says.


  • Marion Masada
  • Charlene Kiyuna

Recording Location

Virtual Recording


Partnership Type



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00:03 My name is Marion Masada and I am 87 years old but I'll soon be 88 in January. And today's date is October 16th year 2020 and I am in Fresno California. And this is my dear friend Charlene. Kiyuna who agreed to be my partner today.

00:26 Hello, I'm Charlene. Kiyuna. I am 67 years old. Today is Friday October 16th 2020. I'm in Fresno, California.

00:42 I am here with Marion Masada a very dear friend and a beautiful individual. She is a wonderful friend to me.

00:54 So I'm here so that I can chat with Marion and I'd like for Marion to start by telling us about her childhood and we'll go from there. I was born in Salinas California and I had a very happy childhood. My parents were successful Farmers truck-driving. They my father raised all kinds of vegetables and he marketed them himself directly to the grocery stores and though he was born in Japan and knew very little English he knew how to conduct business at least that much he was able to do and I remember that every I guess it was Saturday because they worked on Sunday. The market was open on Monday.

01:54 So that every Saturday my father would go to friends home and they would play cards cuz they love to play cards Japanese card game called on the food it and all they would play for hours and just have so much fun. And then we children were played and then on New Year's we would gather at this elderly couple's home way out in the country. They were childless. So they wanted to have my fat my family my grandmother my grandfather and my cousin's in and we will gather at her place and do music Suki which is making these

02:38 What would you call them Charlie rice pounded rice flavoring with it Daikon radish and soy sauce or or we would put some sweet beans in the middle. We would just enjoy it and have a wonderful day of this ritual of mochitsuki, which is first you steam the rice. What's the rice steamed then is put into this.

03:20 This deep. It's a stone mortar mortar. Okay, and then we kids I would take turns with these long sticks and and we pull cat it and smash it to do the Motions because this is what I remember we would go round and round poking it up all kinds of position and then the founder would come in and there's a big Mallet and one person would do it and then the person have to be very careful who turn the my Mochi rice over and it's the Rhythm you pound he promised he turns over eight pounds and she turns over so and they have to be very careful that he didn't Palmer ham which never happened though because it's a rhythm and until

04:20 That's such a happy memory and made this woman and her husband very happy to have children around they they wanted to adopt children but no one was even I remember one time. My mother was approached when my youngest sister was born in Camp in the concentration camps. Would you be willing to give up your child to do a couple who didn't have any children and so my mother talked it over with me and she said do you think we should give her knee to this couple and I said to my mother no siree. She's a heart baby. You don't give her away and and I remember being so adamant and

05:13 Show my mother never gave her away. Thank God for that because earlene turned out to be the cutest little baby and we brothers and sisters doted on her and carried her on her arm and shoulder my brother's shoulders and he took pictures Galore of her and she was just a cutest little baby ever and we just loved her. So my mother said later on. I'm so glad I had eight children and and we were her pride and joy, and but you know of all day children, I'm the last one.

05:58 All my brothers above me they all died and then my sister and brothers underneath me. They all died and is is there a mystery haul how younger ones died before you and so I I I I'm at a loss to explain why I'm the last one. But anyway, I am the last one and

06:30 So I'm trying to do the best I can with what years I have remaining and but it is it is a strange feeling to be the last sibling alive, LOL Marion that in your childhood. You have those wonderful warm memories and something happened when World War II broke out and that really changed the path that your family was going to take. It really changed you as well. So

07:15 Tell us about that experience when I was 9 years old. My family was incarcerated at the Detention Center on the rodeo grounds of Salinas and that was near my home. And so here I was behind the barbed wire fence with the guard towers on your guns in word, not out. And so

07:43 I remember my very best girlfriend. She was a blond her name was Dolly Jane Bradley. He came to visit me one time he was on the other side of the gate and I was on the inside that was a very strange feeling to not be able to hug each other or to have a private conversation. So that was the last time I ever saw her and it was it was a funny feeling and then we were incarcerated at that detention center for about 3 3 to 6 months. I don't remember the exact time and the other thing that is amazing to me is we have to pack our things and and take care of all our belongings before.

08:43 Or we left and I never never saw my family move things to the barn. It was called The Granary I think and those days I never saw that I never saw my mother packing or or you know, getting ready to leave. I never saw it and that's a mystery to me. And then we were incarcerated and then a ship by old dilapidated train to a place called Post in Arizona and Salinas is a very cool country because it's near the Monterey and it's cool. It's cool All Year Ron and here we worship to a desert area where there's dust storms and don't stick that you have to cover your face. Otherwise it would

09:43 In your eyes and in your mouth and in your nose, and it was not a very pleasant feeling and it was very hot. When we arrived in Arizona. They they let us off in the little town of Parker because that was the nearest town. I think it was about maybe 50 miles away from where we were be incarcerated in this Camp prison camp.

10:14 So it was very hot. And I remember was so hot that the bus driver Caucasian young man was stripped of his waist and here we were in the Colts sweaters and all the clothing her mother could get on us because we were only allowed to to the baggage per person. We have to leave everything else behind and my mother had to leave the car behind all our belongings in the barn. And so she had to really be careful. She said she's sacrificed one one duffle bag because she she made these duffle bags so that she could stuff it as much as she could with our clothing and necessary items being sacrificed one and filled it with Kotex pads. She just bought boxes and boxes and filled it with it because she had two daughters that would soon.

11:14 Some of these when we would need it and so I remember tell my mother telling me that and so we were living in this hot desert area and and it was

11:33 It was unpleasant in my mother and father. I have to work in the kitchen. They have to have a little income to buy those clothes because our clothes were eventually getting too small the ones that we brought with us and we had to have bigger clothing and she ordered it through Sears Roebuck. I remember

11:59 Catalog was our best friend in Camp in the concentration camp and because my mother and father worked in the kitchen.

12:09 We never ate as a family for those three and a half years. We were incarcerated and that did something to our family Dynamics Mi and I never saw my brothers in the camp. I never saw them because they would wake up and take off to be with their friends. I never saw them and then my sister had her friends. I had my friends and then my mother had a baby.

12:42 When I was

12:44 Can I guess in and stole my sister belittle me. She was a year younger than me. She could help take care of the baby and I did all the family washing and ironing and I would scrub all these clothes these jeans and everything strip of my hand and rinse it twice. I was in the laundry building cuz you have to take your clothes to the laundry room. There was separate latrine. That's bathroom for the men and one for the ladies in the middle of the block. And so I was there pretty much the whole day washing and rinsing all these clothes and then hang him up that took one whole day.

13:35 I remember and so I didn't have much time to play but I did have one girlfriend and we would play cards and we would go out in the desert and sing our hearts thought we would just sing together and then come back and

14:00 And that and then they they were able to have a library called a novel Hut works at a church is sending books on you in books that they didn't want any more. So like a Nancy Drew mystery books in and what was the was the other one? That was popular Nancy Drew in The Bobbsey Twins III, that's where I grew my that's where my love for reading grew and I love to read to this day.

14:36 Because it's something that took me far away and out of my prison camp into another world and I had good imagination. So that was a very wonderful thing to be taken out of the camps through the books.

14:57 And it was a wonderful gift and then I Christmas time the first Christmas the church has sent in some used toys and and some broken toys. Maybe that would be wrapped up as gifts for us. But I remember the Christmas party that we had in the dining room with the children and we play duck-duck-goose shoes and and I have to run around the circle and I fell on my elbow and I was knocked unconscious and they have to rush me to the doctor's office and I never got my Christmas gift. So to this day I think about that and I said, where was my Christmas gift? I never got any and I said I was jipped. I was just

15:57 Memory that never leave my memory because of what happened and then one day my sister's girlfriend said she would like to invite us for the night at her Merrick apartment or rooms Barrett room. All we had was a room for each family and it just had nothing but beds and nothing else. There's no living room. There's no little kitchen where we might eat a snack or something. No, we didn't have that because they my family all we had room for with beds and the neighbor of family. All they had room for was bent do in the night her father molested me and I was so traumatized I could not nothing would come out of my voice.

16:56 And if I could it would have made me him. I'm sure and caused the Great furore for my father and my family and their family at night.

17:11 But I just couldn't scream and and I was so drunk. I couldn't sleep I can sleep for a long time. I get my one eye open so that I could you know, keep an eye on on him. And that was the trauma that that I was never able to talk to anybody about it. So the anger was reminding me for many many years even to the point where when I got married the man's face would periodically is it would appear on Saab shoulder does my husband on Saabs neck, and I would see him instead of song.

17:57 And then I would get furious I would get so angry and then

18:06 It was a lot of confused thinking and thought that it was not fair to him. But but he knew before I married him. I told him what happened to me. And so so I'm going back now. I got to step back a little bit going up and everything going to school and all that when we got out of the camps. It was a very difficult time. We could not go back to Salinas where we came from because no Japs allowed to Salinas. Don't come back here. It was the the atmosphere was very hostile. It was very discriminatory and very dangerous.

19:06 So we moved our family moved to San Jose to Watsonville and we spent one year there in Watsonville the East my 8th grade year and after-school, all of us children have to work. My brothers went to work and I went to work as a maid cleaning homes for $0.50 an hour. I worked into home the first home with a German lady and she wanted me to duster home everyday every room dust. There was no dust is it was already it was already clean when I came she was a fast hideously clean lady and she was a single lady and she had the cutest little house and and it was arranged nice that it was just immaculate.

20:06 I would just but there's no dust. I don't know how you just when there's no dust and then the second they were just a Mother's Helper and I know she she she was to feed me my supper. She fed me so little that. I was hungry mind you after school. I didn't get any snacks or treats from this German lady and then I'm working both home and I'm hungry and I never got enough food. I remember remember this to this day and and for dessert she gave me a liver liver as thin as a sheet of paper almost of chocolate cake, and I remember to myself

21:02 I will never be this dingy when I feed people I will never do that. I remember that and then

21:13 Then so that was the one-year my 8th grade year and we moved to San Jose after one year because my mother and my brother went Scouting Around where we could move to where we can all have a job. So they found a job for all of us, but now she have to find a place to live and nobody would rent to us. And so so my mother found an abandoned house, so we lived in this abandoned house for maybe a month or so until they started around and found another place.

21:55 And but we all had jobs a dollar not work because the fruit trees needed to be picked and they couldn't wait. So the orchard man is willing to pay a dollar-an-hour for anybody who came and worked men women children. Everybody got dollar now. So that was a wonderful thing there in the next home that we move to we have to make it home. It was a apricot shed with just the roof and we use the trees to dry the apricots all around the shed there and we made it home and had that my mother have to cook outside or on a fire.

22:41 Do you have to cook the rice on the fire? And she have to make a one dish main dish? I remember to feed our family. My mother made a huge pot of rice in a huge part of the second. You could be either of beans or could be due to a spaghetti those those four things and she always made us eat until we were full. She didn't want us to be hungry. And so I remember that and my mother used to make it taste good. How did she do that? She put a stick of butter.

23:25 Stick of butter one in this a spaghetti a stick of butter when into soup a stick of butter one in the what was the other dish soup and spaghetti and beans and beans juice it sure tasted good with the butter and my youngest sister discovered it one day when she saw mom get this stick of butter and and stick it in. You know, you can't do that and she said yeah. Well, that's why I put it in

24:05 Oh, that was so funny. But my mother always status until we were full and that's why we're all Stravinsky's through this day. Anyway, anyway, now I made up my mind. I wasn't going to marry. So my aunty called me to San Francisco after 2 years of college with all I was able to do on my own. I didn't want my parents to have to fund me in. Anyway, I cuz I was on my own for so many years.

24:44 Working as a maid.

24:46 Oh, I got to backtrack during my high school years. This is what saved me when I enter High School San Jose High School. The first day I was the one of the first ones to be in the classroom sitting in the classroom C and there was an Italian girl sitting there. We were the two early bird at because we were knew we were new to San Jose. She was new from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and she smiled at me and I smiled at her and we became very dear friends and she invited me to live with her family during the days. I had off a working in the home in these Caucasian homes that I worked in and so this family treat me with love and kindness and generosity.

25:38 Galore that saved my life that showed me early in my life that there are good people in this world. So I was able to differentiate those who were bad and discriminatory and ugly in their ways, you know that they would spit on us and and call us Japs. And so that was that was very hard to take but we took it and we never fought back or we never said anything verbally back. We just quietly took it and that kind of reminds me of the verse in the Bible. Somebody treats you badly. You you give them the other cheek if they hit you on the cheek, you know that verse early.

26:38 I kind of remember reminded me of that first. So I guess in a way we did the Christian thing and so

26:52 Where was that going on this?

26:54 Anyway, that it does this family was the front Annie family wonderful family. I am forever grateful to this family and I was in Elsie's wedding yesterday asked me to be in her wedding. So there we were on this very happy day. She got married at nineteen right after high school. She got married. Well, I wasn't going to get married. So I was happy to be in her wedding and then my there was a black girl in our class at Willie Washington. She asked me to be in her wedding to so there I was in her wedding to so I had to experiences of wedding and had that was a very happy in it and wonderful experience for me.

27:51 And so now I'm in San Francisco working and Gathering all my things for my single life. I got all my linens in my silverware dishes because I was intending to entertain cuz I love to have people over and I love to cook so so I was already and then then I used to work for the Army under the Golden Gate Bridge and I saw a lot of lot of fooling around and and wasting time and I said, I was paid very good, but I saw what I saw and and I said I can't do this.

28:42 And the lady that I work for she likes me and she went ahead and had me tested for doing Secret work or something, you know doing classified work. And so when I said I'm quitting or she was really disappointed, but I couldn't I couldn't take that kind of life or people weren't doing the work. They're supposed to be doing they wasted half of the day smoking and talking about what happens or the weekend and and what else other gossip there were talking about. They were all older than me too because they've been working there for years and years and I was a newcomer. I was only 23 years old and here I was working with these people who years and years of this kind of life. I said, I can't take this I want

29:42 Life to count for something. I don't want to live this life and and just get along and so I couldn't stand it. I Quit so there I was without a job and my church sent me to Lake Tahoe for training with the working with young people until I said, okay, I'll do that and the church sent me to many places were to learn and the Presbyterian Church was the educating Church wanted to educate the leaders in the church, and I wanted to be a leader in the church after I became a Christian at 23.

30:28 Funny to use me. And so anyway, I want at this conference. There was a lady say she said to me Marian, we need a secretary in our office in the Christian at office and said would you be interested I said, oh, yeah, that sounds good Christian education, you know, so I I said, okay I took a pay cut their hair was

30:59 So and then I met some and that changed my life.

31:06 He was Seminary Student came in for some material and so he liked me but I had no inkling of this person, you know, but he liked me when he's when you first saw me there, you know, so and he went down to his friend. Is it just a girl up there Japanese?

31:32 It's so your friend came up and he said oh she's not for you SOB and we've been married 64 years old.

31:49 I shouldn't say that. That was not nice. Well, I must have done something to you know, keep your interest. Right will you was kind of Haitian and that kindness is what you know, it's what I need. Yes.

32:17 Charlene hear you're getting an earful today. It's beautiful Marion. So after you messed up and you started to go out with him, and then you married him. I began to trust him. He was somebody that I was able to trust I trusted him so much that I even told him about what happened to me about this man, and he said to me I would never do that. I would never do that. As a matter of fact, you know, when we got married, he told me Marian you tell me when you're ready because we're going to spend the rest of our life together. I'm in no hurry. He put me at ease.

33:17 He did for me. Yes, and now you have three daughters all doing well.

33:29 Praise God, they're doing well handicapped and they're doing okay. The oldest one is 50-60. Oh my gosh, and she's been living on her own for 26 years living with schizophrenia. And then the youngest is mentally handicapped. So she lives in a board-and-care home wonderful home in Southern California where there are many opportunities for people like Eliza. She has a job. She's happy with programs for her and they go dancing once a month.

34:20 Well, I have to say Marion and saw both have you could tell that genuine kindness and love they have in their hearts by just looking at the children that they have raised but I feel pretty lucky that I got to get to know Marion and that we live close enough to each other now that we can hop over in 2 minutes. So amazing and all this time. I've been living here and it's just been recently. Yes. Yeah it was that goes. Oh my God, how many years have we missed?

35:04 So it's been it's been really nice. Thank you for this opportunity.