Updates (research and life)

Hello there!

This blog has unfortunately been pretty inactive in the past few years (despite me wanting to go back to it), but I wanted to announce that I’m hoping to move (or copy) all of the information about Oberlin Nikkei students to their own page. Initially I had uploaded all my findings onto my personal blog for convenience, but I never thought that so many people throughout the years would find them and reach out to thank me for documenting their grandparent or an old friend/colleague. Thank you so much to everyone who has sent me a message! *If you are a relative or friend of someone who was a student at Oberlin College during the war, please email the Oberlin Alumni Association at alumni@oberlin.edu or the Alumni Magazine at alum.mag@oberlin.edu with any information or stories you’d like to share! They’d be really happy to hear from you.*

Oberlin has not contacted me about making a separate website for these students, but I’m hoping to collaborate with my brother Alex Guevara to make a separate space for these stories and photos, one that will no longer be tied to my personal blog. (I’m pretty sure there’s at least one page referenced by Wikipedia! Who did that?? In any case, this is Wikipedia’s page that references Oberlin College and the Alumni Magazine’s article on Oberlin taking in students during the war.)

In the meantime, thank you for your interest!

Here are some books that I’ve read since my time at Oberlin that have addressed (directly or indirectly) Japanese-American incarceration and internment during World War 2. If you are interested in reading some non-fiction and fictional accounts, I suggest you look these up!:

  • Farewell to Manzanar (non-fiction), Janine Wakatsuki
  • The Moved-Outers (fiction), Florence Crannell Means
  • Manzanar (photo book), Ansel Adams
  • No-No Boy, a novel by John Okada (about a young Japanese-American ostracized from his own community for refusing to go to war once the draft began)
  • The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka (her novel When the Emperor was Divine addresses the subject more directly but I haven’t gotten hold of it yet)
  • Snow Falling on Cedars (fiction), David Guterson

I REALLY wish I could go see George Takei’s musical Allegiance! It’s my dream to work on something like that!! What a fantastic combination.. historical + musical theatre! Unfortunately I’ve never been in the States when it’s been running, and there haven’t been any showings in Japan…. yet. Please go see it for me!

I also hope that in the future I can do something with my own idea for a (probably YA) novel regarding the subject. In any case, I managed to type out over 50,000 words for a draft of it for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2016. If you love to write or have always wanted to write, I recommend you participate in their contests! The 50,000 word draft contest is always in November, but right now they have something called “Camp NaNoWriMo”, for which writers design their own goals (word count, # of minutes, hours, pages, lines, etc.) for the month of April. I’m kind of participating, but I’ll be starting work next week after a long spring break. (I’ll be teaching English every day at three different schools!)

Another life update: I began Japanese to English translation through the website Gengo and have also done other random freelance work from tourism details to doujinshi (fan-made manga). Since I originally came to Japan wanting to use Japanese and not just teach English, I hope I can keep this up and develop my skills further- even amidst teaching at three schools.

My immediate goal, however, is to learn how to stay organized and keep track of so many different schools/classes/students! Any teachers out there with great tips?

Goodbye for now!

~Cassie

Advertisements

My Research Process

First of all, I wanted to thank everyone who has taken time out to read my blog– and even subscribe to it! Thank you so much! After tomorrow I will no longer be actively researching Oberlin Nisei, as I will be graduating next Monday. Soon a new chapter of my life and my blog will begin– when I travel to Japan to teach English for two years through Oberlin Shansi. 🙂

Clyde Owan, the Obie Alum who commissioned this research project, asked me a few questions that might be interesting to all of my readers, as well as to the people who will take over my project after I graduate.

What kind of information did I collect?:

  • Full name (including spouse’s last name if necessary)
  • Date of Birth
  • Parents
  • Siblings (Any Obie siblings?)
  • Years attended Oberlin
  • Graduated? (Y/N)
  • If Nongraduate, years attended Oberlin
  • College or Conservatory? (Major?)
  • Relocated/Interned? Name of camp
  • Military Service? (Y/N + where)
  • Post-Oberlin Education
  • Post-Oberlin Occupation
  • Any significant achievements?
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Deceased? Date

What were my sources of information?:

  • Old Oberlin yearbooks (“annuals”)
  • Student files kept in the Archives (if deceased prior to ’07)
  • Student files from the Oberlin Stewardship office (if deceased after ’07 or still living)
  • News articles (about the student or about a family member of the student)
  • Published scholarly articles (by the students)
  • Obituaries (of either the student or a family member- parent, sibling, or cousin)
  • University websites for profiles/bios (for students who became professors)

Which Nisei provided information to me?:

Alice Imamoto Takemoto and I have corresponded a few times via email. Her son, Paul K. Takemoto wrote the book Nisei Memories: My Parents Talk About the War Years.

Kenji Okuda (Oberlin Student Council President) has an extensive collection of letters that have been transcribed to the University of Washington’s website.

What key questions/issues remain unanswered?:

Many. I hoped to find more detailed information about how students lived and were treated here (at Oberlin) at the time. I found many essays written prior to admission and after graduation (usually to the alumni class or for a school or organization), but I wish I was able to find more writings that were produced while at Oberlin. The exception is Kenji Okuda’s extensive collection.

What findings inspired you?:

My absolute favorite findings were personal essays written from internment camps to the Admissions Offices.  I was inspired to read these stories of strong and optimistic young people, many of whom were forced to leave home with next to nothing, and then see many of them graduate and lead illustrious careers, marry wonderful and loving spouses, and touch the lives of so many others around them.

The decision of the Oberlin President at the time to welcome Japanese-Americans just seemed so “Oberlin”, and this research has made me even more proud to be an Obie.

(I still remember writing my essay to Oberlin College… I was studying abroad at an all girls’ school in Osaka, Japan at the time.)

Mai Haru Kitazawa Arbegast ’45

Landscape architect Mai Haru Kitazawa Arbegast was born in San Francisco, California in 1922, the eldest of six children (June OC ’46, Ernest, Thomas, Rose, Helen), to Mr. Gijiu and Mrs. Kikuno Kitazawa, who owned the Kitazawa Seed Company in San Jose. She attended San Jose State College until WWII, during which the family was relocated and interned in a detention camp at Heart Mountain, WY. From here she was permitted to leave and attend Oberlin College, from which she graduated in 1945.

After Oberlin, she received a Masters in Ornamental Horticulture at Cornell University. Following the end of World War II, she and her family returned to San Jose, and Mai earned a second Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley in 1953.  (In Cornell’s Department of Horticulture alumni newsletter, Mai noted she was “the only woman around as a graduate student in Horticulture from 1947-49”). After teaching in the UC Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture from 1953-1967 while maintaining a professional practice, she opened up her own Landscape Architectural office, lecturing, touring, and consulting. She received numerous awards, including a Life Time Achievement Award from UCB and a Horticulturist of the Year award.

Mai married David Elwood Arbegast and they had four children, Deborah, Lisa, Michael, and Katherine, and granddaughters Victoria, Mikayla, and Allison. Mai passed away in April 2012.

Obituary

Mai’s Berkeley Profile

Jean Mieko Morisuye Conklin ’48

Image

Jean’s Oberlin application photo

Jean Mieko Morisuye was born in Sharon, PA on August 26, 1926 to Masanobu “Mori” Morisuye and Kikue Hasegawa Morisuye. She chose to attend Oberlin in 1944 because of its lack of fraternities and sororities and because  of high praises from a neighboring Obie alum. She graduated from Oberlin with a B.A. in Zoology in 1948, and received a Masters in Biology from Brown University. Some of her numerous job positions included teaching assistant in the Brown Zoology Department, Research Assistant at Yale’s Department of Anatomy, and Research Assistant at Barnard’s Zoology Department.

While working at Yale, Jean met and married Yale anthropologist and professor Harold Colyer Conklin on June 11, 1954 and they had three children, Bruce Robert and Mark William Conklin. As a family they traveled on three trips to the Philippines for Harold’s research, and Jean devoted her time to anthropological documentation. This culminated in 2002 with her book “An Ilfugao Notebook”, documenting the family’s 1968-9 experience in Luzon. Jean passed away peacefully in Hamden, Connecticut on July 22, 2010 with Harold at her side.

(Before passing, Jean would regularly update the Oberlin Alumni Association, documenting her numerous job positions at Yale, including executive assistant to the director of athletics, and director of human resources and to the general counsel, finally reaching the “no-children-at-home stage” in 1977, and her post-retirement projects such as “getting family photos in order, throwing out stuff we don’t need, knitting sweaters and scarves, and still finding time to travel to the west coast to see grandchildren”.)

“We Asked Permission from the Police Department”

Ours was the only Japanese family in Sharon, Pennsylvania where my father since 1925 was an electrical engineer at the Westinghouse plant. I was born in Sharon.

Except for the week following Pearl Harbor while he was being investigated, my father continued to work at the plant. The only restriction was that the sections of the plant that were working on war-related things were off-limits to him. His salary was also frozen during the war years resulting in a comparatively low salary for the last half of his service at Westinghouse. The people at the plant, and, in fact, any who knew us in town, continued to be supportive and friendly.

The police did come to the house and removed our short-wave radio and any books or magazines written in Japanese. Everything was returned at a later date. We were restricted in travel to a distance of 5 miles from Sharon, but if we asked permission from the police department for a travel outside this zone, it was granted and they always offered to watch the house while we were gone. We used this privilege mainly when my parents drove me to or from Oberlin at the beginning or end of the school year. For holidays a lot of us traveled by bus because of gas rationing.

I entered Oberlin in the fall of 1944 and graduated in 1948. I considered only two colleges, Ohio Wesleyan and Oberlin, and chose the latter because it had no sororities or fraternities. Also, someone in Sharon was a graduate of Oberlin and she visited our home to assure us that it was a great place to go to school. My high school grades were good but not super-exceptional. I applied and was accepted, probably because the school was anxious to do its part in accepting Japanese students.

To my knowledge, the Nisei students were treated very well on campus and in town. It is possible that I was given a single room, albeit a very tiny one, my freshman year because they were not sure of a roommate’s reaction. But my room became a gathering point and I made many life-long friends that year.

Image

Jean’s Senior Photo

Teruko “Terry” Akagi Brooks ’45

Terry Akagi

Terry Akagi

Name: Teruko “Terry” Akagi Brooks

Birthdate: June 20, 1922

Parents: George Takuji Akagi & Yone Kanayaki Akagi

Siblings: Mossi M. Kusumi of Columbus, Yoshi Kiyabu of Honolulu, Terry of Oregon, and Dr. James Akagi of Lawrence, Kansas.

Transfer student?: from University of Washington

Internment Camp?: Family evacuated from home in Washington to a camp in Minidoka, Idaho.

Degree: B.M. in Violin from Conservatory of Music (for which she had won a music scholarship from the Japanese American Student Relocation Council); class of 1945

Post-Oberlin: Taught violin and played in symphony orchestras such as the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, the Grant Park Chicago Orchestra, the National Women’s Symphony in Chicago, Virginia Symphony Orchestra (first chair) and the St. Louis Orchestra, where she met her husband Joseph Brooks. They lived together in Texas before she passed away on September 22, 1922.

News article reads:

“Career Born in Kindergarten”, Chicago, Ill. SUN TIMES. July 18, 1951

The first Japanese-American ever to win a full scholarship to the famous Berkshire Music Festival now in progress at Lennox, Mass., is a young and gifted Chicago violinist named Teruko Akagi.

A former resident of a Japanese relocation center in the West, she came here [to Chicago] six years ago from Oberlin College with a bachelor of music degree.

At that time, interestingly enough, she was so uncertain about her choice of a future that she asked a well-known Loop violin teacher, a stranger to her, to advise her whether or not to continue with her studies-studies she was financing by working part time in the office of a West Side calendar manufacturer.

Today, Teruko- or Terry, as she’s usually called- is one of “Boss” Petrillo’s busiest little (5-feet-2) girls. […]

Chronologically, the story of how she became a violinist began during her kindergarten days in her native Seattle, Wash. One day the teacher bade Terry and her kindergarten classmates to pick out their favorite musical instrument from a tableful of them. The teacher then organized the youngsters into a band.

“I picked a violin,” Terry told us before she entrained for the music encampment at Tanglewood, scene of Massachusett’s yearly music festival. “I became so attached to it that when it came time to go into first grade, I didn’t want to-because it meant leaving behind my violin.”

[The article then details how her parents presented her a violin and music lessons and that her freshman year at UW, where she majored in musical studies, was interrupted when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and West Coast Japanese were evacuated.]

“We were only allowed to take our personal belongings with us… and in selecting what to take, I almost left my violin behind.”

While working as an assistant teacher in the music department of the high school at Camp Minidoka, she won a scholarship to Oberlin College and was on her musical way again.

Crowding Oberlin’s four year course into two years (“including summer”), she managed to graduate with the class of 1945. Then, without contacts but with a B. of M. degree and $16, she came to Chicago (where her family had been relocated from Camp Minidoka) and landed a part time job with John C. Baumgarth Co.

In college, she had heard about the training orchestra maintained by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and looked it up. Although promptly invited to play with it, she was beginning to be gnawed by the fear that there “was no place in this country for a Japanese-American girl musician.” And to dispel it, she sought out George Perlman, asking him: “Will you listen to me play, then tell me frankly whether or not I should forget all about it?”

Not only did he urge her to continue, but became her teacher. And through him she auditioned two years ago for her present October-through-March post with the thriving Kansas City Orchestra.

Grace Kyoko Imamoto Noda (non-graduate of ’45)

young Grace Imamoto (in front of father, Zenichi)

Grace Imamoto was born on January 14, 1920 to social worker James Zenichi Iwamoto and Yoshi Iwamasa Imamoto. She was only three credits short of receiving a degree from U.C. Berkeley when Japanese Americans were forcibly “evacuated” from West Coast institutions. Grace was proud of her academic record and refused the offer of one professor to receive a “D” to graduate. After evacuation, she and her family were evacuated to Arkansas for internment. She then was released from the camp to do domestic work in Minneapolis. Although she attempted to enroll in the University of Minnesota to complete her degree, she was denied admission.

Grace later moved to Oberlin to accompany and support her sister Alice Setsuko Imamoto, who was studying in the Conservatory of Music. At this time Grace worked as assistant cook, cleaning and preparing meals at “Grad House”.

In her poignant personal essay, written in sophisticated script, Grace speaks of how her personal history and the West Coast evacuation of Nisei sparked her interest in psychology and her desire to become a social worker.

Childhood was spent in a closely-knitted family unit. Reared under parents who devoted most of their time with child psychology, discipline, and […] development. My three sisters and I were given music lessons in piano, violin and cello. Music was developed not only for ourselves but also to play at various organizations. Through this work I became attached to the church by playing for church services. I joined the first organization – W.W.G. – World Wide Guild. A group interested in helping the youth of other countries of the world who needed some assistance. I became aware of the existing conditions through the messages  actively brought back to us by the missionaries. I devoted all my free time, outside of my homework, piano practice, to collecting unwanted toys, postcards and other useable material for my club.

I had difficulties in my adolescence, causing much grief to myself. My parents couldn’t understand me nor I-them. I didn’t realize that we had such a phase in our lives. I began [to] wonder about many things such as adolescence, behavior, moods, inner thinking. In speaking with my freshmen counselor in high school, she told me some of the doubting (?) problems. I took courses in high school to prepare myself for college. I stayed the later two years of my high school working in a private home so that I might become acquainted with the ways others lived too. I was extremely fond of people, meeting friends at the club meetings, churches, and parties.

However college was a sudden new world opened to me. I attended a university of 15,000 pupils and I didn’t realize how insignificant I became. One had to do exceptionally well in his works to be recognized by any of his professors. I had some trying times not knowing a sa(?) and lacking that person to person relationship with my instructors. I wanted to study for social welfare major but being extremely interested in behavior, ideas, reactions and activities, I decided to research into psychology. I wanted  to study the personality of people – the basis of our society and the social world. In trying to make up my mind what specific field of psychology, I began taking many of them to compare them.

My actual desire to become a social worker penetrated my heart after the evacuation of Japanese aliens and citizens from the Western Coast. The lack of social worker was suspiciously noticed. I felt so helpless not knowing too much about social welfare. (I helped in the school teaching) Many proud mothers would not come to the social science office for assistance despite the desperate need of assistance. Children were poorly clothed, families were dissatisfied and broken-up having been uprooted from their normal ways of life. Ministers were only available social workers but they too lacked adequate training. I would like to study this summer and finish my A.B. degree and continue into some Social Studies School in order to meet the call which will be great after this war has ceased.

Although she received the necessary credits to receive a degree from Oberlin, Grace refused them, believing she had rightfully earned a degree from Berkeley. Oberlin asked Berkeley for permission to award Grace a Berkeley degree at an Oberlin commencement, but Berkeley refused, and Grace did not receive her Berkeley degree until travel restrictions to the West Coast were lifted in 1945.

After Oberlin, Grace married Grant S. Noda on April 4, 1945 and had two children, Kathy A. Noda and Tanya M. Noda.

Though she did not graduate from Oberlin, she wrote in an Alumni Reunion Class Questionnaire:

I regret I only attended one lecture course to fulfill credits towards BA from UC Berkeley. War prevented me from graduating from Cali. in 1942 & 1945. […] I’m delighted to see Oberlin’s growth – the Conservatory is magnificent & certainly one to be most proud. There are some of Oberlin’s graduates here in Davis.

Myra J. Iwagami, ’47

Myra J. Iwagami was born on February 16, 1925 to electrical engineer Echirow Yama Iwagami and Cecilia Allen, an Oberlin graduate. She was attracted to Oberlin through her mother’s influence as well as its “co-educational, uniquely liberal & cosmopolitan features”. She was active in journalism, becoming Assistant Business Manager of the Oberlin Review (campus newspaper), and graduated in 1947 with a BA in English literature. Outside of school she was active in her Presbyterian Church. She did not seem to document any hardships for being a Japanese-American during the war, though she does mention speaking to groups about the subject towards the end of her essay.

Verbose Myra’s lengthy personal essay (taking up 8 pages of small stationery) depicts her high school life in the 1930s: the influence of an English teacher, her deep involvement in the school Annual, her stint with oboe that ended from incessant headaches, her activities with church, and her hobbies.

In 1936, the family decided it was high time that I saw something of the country besides my provincial surroundings. We visited New York City and Washington D.C. On our way home we stopped for a few days in Oberlin. Seeing photographs are very convincing, but seeing the real thing adds stability to one’s convictions and impressions.

On Good Friday evening, 1937, I became a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago. It was a step which I have never regretted in the least. The church has been my second home.

During the first part of the same year, I joined the Camp Fire Girls. That summer I won a week at Camp Nawaka (near S. Haven, Mich.); the family sent me for a second. […] During spring vacations our group used to rent a Y. Farm house (near Desplain Illinois) for three days. We were on our own then, cooking and everything! It also is an experience that I think every young girl should have. […]

[…]

Nineteen thirty-nine was a red letter year for me; after eight years of elementary study, I received my first “White Paper” – (no comment).*

From then on I think I lived a dual life; one for school and one for church. Those first two years in high school were rather hard. […] It wasn’t until my third year that I decided perhaps if the school and I didn’t get along, maybe it was because I had not done my part. So all of a sudden-out of the blue- I joined the annual staff as a minor staff member. Now after two semesters of hard work, I was promoted to editor of the production staff. Right now my official school day ends at twelve-thirty and my annual day begins then and ends at five o’clock. If I do say so, I think we have a grand book and incidently this is our fiftieth year.

The same year I was eligible for membership in the Junior English Honor Club. […] I was elected vice-president the second semester. The teacher who had the honor class was also my English teacher. In my first two years, I had three English teachers – all of which did next to nothing for my English. Miss Buchanan was my last hope. All the English grammar I know today is due to her. Here to fore teachers had been people you see forty minutes each school day. She was the first teacher I ever took an interest in. I think perhaps she has done more to enrich my appreciation of the “Arts” than anyone else. Her death was not only a loss to the school, but a private one to me; I felt as if she were one of the family. But then people like her don’t die; they live on back there with the people and things you never forget.

Someone said she was of the old school because she had taught for forty ears. But goodness, if the old school was the school that provided you with a thorough general knowledge of English grammar and literature – then I’m all for the old school.

Now in m senior year, I belong to the Senior English Honor Class.

When I have time, which is rarely because of the annual, I attend Forum, a discussion of current affairs. Sometimes we have guest speakers. […]

[…]

As I said before m church has played a major part in my life. Every year at the end of school, our department (Senior High School – all four years) rents some camp for a week. Our minister (Dr. H.L. Bowman) and his wife and some of the church staff go along. During the week we have discussions and other activities – and in general get to know each other. During Christmas vacation we go to the Y farm house for two or three day of general fellowship.

[…]

When it comes to memorable occasions, I know that the summer of my junior year will always be a bright star. It was my first year at Geneva (Lake Geneva, Williams Bay, Wisconsin). I attended the Central Regional Planning Conference of the united Christian Youth Movement. I met the finest young people you could meet anywhere. There were thirty two states represented and sixteen denominations. [Myra then quotes Ann Elliot’s poem ‘Camp Again’ to describe her impressions of the conference.]

During the summer (1942) on Tuesdays and Fridays I read to the blind. At the beginning of the summer mother had promised to keep up my allowance and having no outside obligations to fill I thought I might like to do something. So I became a member of the Blind Service Club (a volunteer member). I read to students who were attending summer school in college. The young man I read to on Tuesdays had just graduated from Wilson Junior College and my Friday students had just graduated from the University of Chicago. I read for two hours on each day. Now in the beginning, if my intentions had been to do some “good deed” for someone else, it was a humble person who came away. […]

Last summer while at Geneva, I became interested in the Japanese relocation problem. Since then I have sent a number of boxes and have another load to go now. Before Christmas when they were trying to get Christmas presents for the children, I spoke before two or three groups of young people – acquainting them with the problem.

Through one of the young people I became a Tuesday afternoon volunteer worker for the American Friends Service Committee (located in the downtown district of Chicago). […] Their offices are small and their staff smaller yet and so it is only through volunteer workers that a lot of the unglamorous but important work is done. Tuesday is one of the joys of week.

Well there you have it; “Past Imperfect”.

Now what are my likes, hobbies, etc.?

I have collected stamps and do now when my financial status permits me to do so. Just in the last few months I’ve taken up working cross-word puzzles. Why? Well I work them for a relaxation, a past time, but most of all because I hope they’ll do something for my vocabulary – and I think perhaps they are in their meager way. I love music, that is both the masters and popular – excluding jazz. [She talks about her favorite composers and writers] Incidently, although I have several past times, my main one is reading. It seems like I read constantly; I usually do one book a week. Everyone has moments of let down – so for such times I collect cartoons. It’s great fun to open the book and have an hour or so of good laughs. I’m a great fan of the movies, but I hate Westerns and most mysteries. I think one of the best pictures I ever [saw] was “Rebecca,” and two of the worst were “This Above All” and “Now Voyager”. My biggest theatrical thrill was Macbeth with Evans and Anderson.

That just about covers the past and present.

About the future – who knows? I would like to indulge in some part of the field of journalism. I like to write and I think I have some imagination. I think I would like to try to write because I’d like to try and give others the feeling of satisfaction that I have when I finish a good book – anyway, there are fewer limitations on writers.

After Oberlin, Myra became a syllabi editor at University of Chicago Press for three years, a Production Associate at Science Research Association for six years, then worked as Assistant Copy Chief in advertising for Carson Pirie Scott & Co. She wrote at least one article for the Alumni Magazine, about Oberlin Housemother “Mrs. Locke”. Myra did not marry or have children.

* Maybe my readers can help me understand what Myra might have meant when she said she received a “White Paper”?