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Introduction of Interviewers

Hi, I'm Sophia. I'm Julianna. I'm Jeff. And I'm Ashlyn and we're interviewing Marvin Uratsu on May 9th, 2007 in Richmond, California.

Childhood

My name is Marvin Uratsu. I was born in Sacramento on February 7th, 1925. I Went to grammar school, at the Loomis Union Grammar School and then went to Placer Union High School for a couple years. Then came the War, and so I went to high school in Tule Lake for one year and then the senior year I went to Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Before I even got my graduation degree or diploma the army wanted me, so I joined the army and served a couple years, came out, went to the University of California here in Berkeley, California under the GI bill, and that was a great thing. That was one of the best things that happened for us that served in the army and then I got a job with the American President Lines and I worked with them for 15 years. After that I got into the investment business and I still got my license going. Although I'm semi-retired, I do a little bit of that financial work. We've been living here, at this address, since 1951, so that makes about 56 years. So here I am now being interviewed!

What was your first childhood memory?

I was brought to Japan when I was an infant and then we came back—I think it was about 1931. I attended Loomis union grammar school for the next 8 years. We had a lot of fun in grammar school.
Any particular memories you have of elementary school?
I remember a Mrs. Molten and a Mrs. Brace very, very kindly teachers that got me started. I had just come back from Japan so my English was zip and they helped me through the difficult years and here I am. I think I speak passable English now. But anyway they got me started in the right direction. I liked to play sports. I got involved with basketball for the grammar school team and also the baseball team. We had fun. Recess time was fun time. I got passable grades—nothing outstanding. It was a great time in grammar school. The Principle there, Mr. Gates, was a very kindly principle. He was very good to us Japanese American kids that went to school there.

Could you tell us why you were sent over to Japan?

It was a real difficult time for my family. As I look back, my mother came to the United State, I think about 1916, that's my calculated guess. She had four of us kids starting in 1917, and my father was just a farm a laborer and they were having a hard time keeping the family going and work so my mother wanted to take all the kids back to Japan to live with our grandparents while she worked. I think also it was a time when there was a lot of discrimination, that is, against the Japanese People. They couldn't buy land and the future didn't look so good, so I guess my mother thought the best thing to do was bring us back to Japan and at least get to know the language and study there for a while. That's what happened. 

You said that there was a lot of discrimination against Japanese people, can you remember any specific times you were discriminated against?

Number one: there was this alien land law that made it impossible for my father to buy land. There was a period before the alien land law that some Japanese American Families were able to buy land before the law came into effect. And that was like my wife's family. They were able to buy land before the law went into effect. But in our case, in the Uratsu family's case, the law was passed and they couldn't buy land. That was one of the biggest things. It made it kind of hard for us. We couldn't get citizenship. People from Europe would come over and after so many years they were able to get their US citizenship, but that wasn't the case for the Japanese so there were two or three other things that made it difficult to live here and have to work as a day laborer on the farms. You know you couldn't make too much money and you had four kids! It took a lot of money to raise four kids. So that what my mother thought was the best for us. 

What was the difference between being raised in Japan vs. The United States?

In my case, I was just an infant. I was born in 1925 and that's when mom took us back. My time growing up, I spent just one year in grammar school and that was the extent of my experience. And then we came back to the States. 
Do you have any specific memories of being raised in Japan?
My uncle was a schoolteacher there. So I remember him. You start remembering things after your about five or six. In my case maybe I was a slow learner but I remember that. I remember the school where we went to study.
What did the school look like?
It was a big building—classrooms.

Was it many classrooms or was it just one room?

No it was a number of classes. I think it had grades from first through sixth grades or something in that order. First through six I guess. But I don't know. Now my brother now, he was older so he got educated for six, seven years and he learned a lot. In my case I was too young. I wasn't in school that long. The interesting thing is I remember that and when I was a soldier in the US Army, and I was in Tokyo and I was about to be discharged, so I going to go home to the States. But I wanted to go see my uncle before I left. So, I went there, not knowing where they live, but I knew that he was a schoolteacher at this Japanese school there. I headed right for the school and I was in uniform. This maybe is diverting a little bit away from the story. I'm in uniform—US uniform. They thought I was going to the school to investigate and to see if they were following the edict of General MacArthur. See, General MacArthur wanted to get rid of a lot of the nationalistic books that were being used to teach the Japanese. They thought, the school people thought I was going there to see if that was done. In short, I scared the Dickens out of them. When I told them, I told whoever I saw first that I came to see my uncle that kind of relieved everybody. My uncle was not the principle at that time but I remember the principle said "hey your nephew is here, so you take the rest of the day off and take him home!" That's what I came for, so he took me home and I met the rest of the family and so on. That's what happened then.

 

 

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