Eugene Kiyozumi/Shigemi Uyeki, ’48

Eugene Shigemi Uyeki was born to Ryuichi Uyeki and Chisato Hirai Uyeki on March 26, 1926. During the war he was evacuated to an internment camp. He transferred from University of Utah, Salt Lake City to Oberlin in 1945. When asked why he wished to change his college, he said: “I feel that I can better prepare myself for my future work at Oberlin than here at the University of Utah. I wish to attend Oberlin because all the people whom I have asked about concerning Oberlin are very high in its praise… The most striking thing about Oberlin which influences me was its emphasis on a liberal education with preparatory works towards graduate study.”

He graduated Phi Betta Kappa from Oberlin with a BA in Political Science in 1948.

In this admissions essay, Eugene talks about how the people he met while in an internment camp influenced him to pursue the social sciences.

My Autobiography

I am an American of Japanese ancestry. I was born in the city of Seattle in the state of Washington. All of my grade school training and my two years of high school were spent in the schools in Seattle. I made excellent grades and was considered numerous times for double promotions. However, my health as a child was not very good, and after numerous consultations with my parents, it was always decided that because fo my poor health it would be inadvisable to take on extra work. Since then my health has improved considerably and I haven’t missed many days of school.

The days went merrily along. Heedless of the gathering storm clouds, most of us were busily engrossed in our play. Then the storm broke with all its fury, and our nation was plunged into the world holocaust. From that day since, like millions of other Americans, my life has not been the same.

Along with thousands of other Nisei, I was evacuated in the spring of 1942 to relocation centers in the barren deserts of the inland states. Evacuation was a very severe blow to my pride and shattered many of my pre-conceived notions of democracy. Even to the last day that I was to be evacuated, I felt that somehow the evacuation order would be rescinded. Maybe it was a blind faith in America, but it was faith.

With the passage of the great healer of all wounds–time– much of my bitterness passed away, and I put myself whole-heartedly into school studies and extra-curricular activities. My efforts were not unrewarded as witness the following positions which I held: President of the Debate Club, vice-president of the Senior Class, business manager of the Yearbook, vice-president of the Pen Club, besides numerous other lesser positions. My most thrilling experience was delivering the farewell address at our commencement excercises last June. I thought that maybe my grades would suffer for the lack of any time after engaging in so many extra-curricular activities, but they still remained just as good. Even if I had gotten lower grades, the good that I profited from these activities would more than compensate for them. Not only was I having lots of fun, but it gave me a sense of doing something for the good of the school and the community. I was constantly meeting people, always on the go, and assuming new responsibilities–doing things which would be of much value in later life.

I met many fine people in camp–both Caucasian and Nisei. The friendships I made there, friendships under a time of strain, were very enjoyable and profitable. I came to appreciate many of the things which I had taken for granted before. The monotony of regimented life in the centers, community dining halls, bath houses, and the like were abhorring to me.

Up to the time of evacuation, I was pretty set on going into one of the physical sciences as a profession. But because of evacuation and from the many influences arising out of friendships made while at the center, I have radically changed my mind, and I am very sure now that I am going into one of the social sciences. One person who has influenced me very much towards that end is Reverend Joseph M. Kitagawa of Hunt, Idaho. He is an Episcopalian minister, young as most reverends go. He is very much interested in the younger generation, and I was very fortunate in being able to help him out during the summer vacation. Just from being around him, I have to come to appreciate the good that a person trained in the social sciences can do. Another person who has influenced me a great deal is Mr. Elmer R. Smith, professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah, now on leave to the WRA at Hunt, Idaho. He was acting as community analyst at Hunt, and I spent many evenings with him discussing a variety of topics. His utter sincerity and ever-ready helpfulness in helping the Nisei who were being scored by almost everybody was like a shaft of beam in a dark room– a hope of something better to come.

I have always been an avid reader of literature of all kinds. I like to read the newspapers and news magazines for I wish to know what is going on in this complex world of ours. Lately, my taste for books has been diverted mostly towards non-fiction such as biographies and books of the times such as Sumner Welles’s “The Time for Decision.” I find a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment out of reading these kinds of books.

My plans for the future are always subject to change. At the present time, I am very much interested in majoring in Political Science, or entering the field of law. I am quite sure that I want to do graduate work in either field. Because of what we have gone through, I feel that I can add a little to the sum total of American culture.

After graduating, Eugene went on to the University of Chicago to receive an MA in Political Science in ’52, and then a Ph.D. in ’53. In 1956 he married Martha “Marty” C. Ono (a University of Pennsylvania graduate and later medical social worker), and together they had two children, Timothy M. and Robert H.

From 1952, Eugene worked as an Institutional Assistant, Associate Professor of Sociology at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, with a break from February 1954-November 1955, during which he served in the US Army as SP-3 Corporal.

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Sammy Junsuke Oi, Oberlin 1944, Admissions Essay

Sammy J. Oi, class of 1944

I was born on March 1, 1922. My early childhood days were spent in that section of Los Angeles a little northwest of the central business district. I only seem able to recall the many hills and a park near our home where often I played with my mother and sister.

We moved to the southwestern part of town when I was about four years old and soon after I entered kindergarten. I graduated from elementary school in 1933 and then attended Forshay Junior High School. It was about this time that I joined the Boy Scouts and during the next few summers many enjoyable days were spent hiking and camping at the beaches and in the mountains near Los Angeles. Many friends were made during this period whom I cherish to this day.

I entered senior high school in September, 1936. Up to this time my future was very undecided. What was I to do upon graduation? Yes, I would like to go on to college but going to college without a purpose, I thought, was useless. My father had a successful market business which I could continue if I so chose. Somehow I felt that this was not to be my lot. To be a true success, I thought, one should love his work. It was my intention to live as full a life as possible. I had made the acquaintance of two fellow students and many enjoyable and profitable hours were spent with them, discussing the question, “What are we living for?” I decided that perhaps college would help me to solve this problem.

In my second year in high school, I studied chemistry under Miss Willson, an elderly, crippled lady. Often I had spoken with her after class and in the course of one of these talks, she encouraged me to major in chemistry when I went to college. College, she said, was a place where one should learn to think. Chemistry is the subject which will help you most to think.

I entered U.C.L.A. in the fall of 1939. Soon after school started, my father became ill and was bedridden for over four  months. I was forced to look after his business, an this with my studies occupied nearly all of my time.

It was in the summer of 1940, when I spent my most pleasant vacation. With two friends, I spent a week in the interior of Yosemite. There, we hiked among tall pines and rugged granite mountains and swam in cool Lake Tenaya. There, I learned to appreciate nature.

This year when evacuation orders were issued, I dropped out of school. Now I am confined in a relocation center. My immediate plan is to finish school. I would like to go on in chemistry until I have a master’s degree and if possible a doctor’s. Perhaps I may be able to secure a position as a chemist in some plant or maybe teach in college.

At present I am hoping and praying with all my heart that the war will end soon and that men can live decently in a peaceful world.

Respectfully submitted,

Sammy J. Oi

After receiving a degree in Chemistry from Oberlin in 1944, Sammy joined the Army from ’44-’46, where service included Intelligence Service Language School, Engineer School, and assignment to the Engineer Board until discharge. He spent 7 months in Japan with a Technical Intelligence Team from November ’45-June ’46.  Once discharged, he did not return to further studies, but instead helped his father in the operation of “Oi’s Food Market”, which he later took over. He eventually married a woman named Evelyn. Sammy J. Oi passed away in 2000.

Nisei Research

Today I looked back on an old correspondence email between Ken Grossi from Oberlin Archives and a Japanese Professor Toshiko Tsutsumi from Obirin Daigaku (J.F. Oberlin University in Machida, Tokyo) regarding the names of Nisei she had found while doing research here years ago. At the time, she had discovered 16 names of Nisei. In her list I found the name of one man I had missed: Willard Glenn Sueoka, 1941-4, class of ’45 who had been in both the conservatory and college.  He did not graduate from Oberlin.

It is quite possible that Willard may have actually been a “Sansei”, meaning “third generation” and so born to a Nisei; his father’s name was George, and his mother Toshiko was an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Hawaii.

According to an Oberlin College Records card, as of 1957 he was married to Helen Y. Yoshimori.

After searching on the web I found that he had gotten a Five-Year Diploma January 1949 from the University of Hawaii. By 1950 he was a chorus director at Maui High School.  His student file, which unfortunately does not include any personal writings, includes a nice Maui High Christmas chorus concert program entitled “The Nativity” along with a letter detailing excitement about the concert from “Oberlin ‘fan’ Mrs. Annie V. Crockett” to “J.C. Kennedy”, Assistant director of the Oberlin Alumni Association. June 1956 he was appointed to teach at Hutchinson School in NY, and it seems as though he eventually returned to his home in Honolulu. He passed away in 2005.

I hope somehow I will be able to determine if he has any descendants.

That makes 33 Nisei that I’ve found so far who were present in Oberlin during the WWII period.

Last Friday I looked through the student file of Soichi Fukui, who had graduated from the college and went on to work in his family Mortuary business (Fukui Mortuary). Soichi is a Sansei; his grandfather Soji started the business over 91 years ago after immigrating from Hiroshima (making him an Issei). Soichi’s father Hitoshi (Nisei) was born in *Honomu, Hawaii, and Soichi born in Los Angeles in 1921. (*Thank you to Jerry Fukui for your correction! May 2015)

His father Hitoshi is mentioned in the book “Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo”.

What is fascinating about Soichi’s student file is that it has plenty of his personal writings, including the Oberlin admissions application and essay that he had written from the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Prior to Oberlin, he had attended the University of California at Berkeley in the College of Chemistry until he was evacuated in May 1942. He was involved in Boy Scouts (became an Eagle Scout) and was captain of the drum section of their drum and bugle corp, with whom he toured the US “after being invited by President Roosevelt for the Jamboree”. He also worked with the YMCA and other organizations and was active in his Community Christian church. He was also proud of his stamp collection, “estimating by myself to be at least $300”. This letter is particularly fascinating to me because one of my other jobs on campus is as an Admissions Intern.

Soichi Fukui, admissions essay

From 1944-1946 Soichi worked in the US Army as a translator in the Military Intelligence Section and was at one point stationed in the Philippines until ’46 when he was transferred to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters.

Also found more information on the illustrious Mrs. May (Mai) Haru Kitazawa Arbegast, as well as a Mr. Renso Enkoji via. interviews and pages about his wife Mabel Yoshiko Jingu Enkoji.

Filled in birth/death dates for Ray Masaato Egashira, though I haven’t quite found much about him yet.

A side note: Another fun part of Archives work is the moveable bookshelves of student records– they have wheels on the side that make you think you’re steering a ship! We have them in our Conservatory Library too, but still.