Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Evanston, IL for high school – Matsue Watanabe (OH0068)


My brother officially got married in Chicago, and he, he was out there. And my sister Massie went out, and Kiyo went out, and Sue went out. And Sue went to Evanston. And she was working as a domestic in Evanston. And then when she left and went to Chicago, they called me out so I could finish high school in Evanston, Illinois. So I went to Evanston township high school. And I felt like a little pea in a, in a great big barrel because it was a high school with four thousand students. And, and so being there and not knowing anybody, like I didn’t think I knew anybody, I was very, very afraid, and I was two weeks late anyway getting there. And so I was behind schools getting there, and then getting there and finding out that it was one of the high, high academic schools in the nation. I think that scared me more.

But, but luckily I was, I was down getting my locker and my oldest sister, Massie, was with me ’cause she’s the one that took care of me, and there was one person walking down the hall. And I looked at him and I went, “Oh, my gosh,” and I knew him from camp. And I think that’s what helped me a lot. Because I, I knew that I at least knew one person in the whole school. And, but it didn’t take long to get to know others, especially you get to know people in just study hall. Which study hall, you have about a hundred, hundred students in there because it’s great big room. But, and the people around you were very friendly, so it worked out fine.

So long as you have a sponsor. And after they said that you could go out to do that, well then, of course my older brother, my brother and my older sisters all, all prepared for that. And so they had sponsors. And when you’re, when you’re, the first part of your family goes out, then it makes it little easier for the next part. So they can help get sponsors for you. And so by the time it was my turn and they decided that I should come out, well, I just took Sue’s place in her home. And I went to school and worked as a schoolgirl. And she paid me, she, because all she wanted me to do was to cook and wash dishes. And, so she paid me for doing that and I didn’t have anything else to do there because she had a housecleaner, she had a, a person that came in to wash clothes, and a person that came in to iron.

And, so there wasn’t anything for me to do, so I kept up her sterling silver on her big dresser. And so I don’t think that it’s, I just cleaned it all the time. And they were just a wonderful family. He was the head of the English department at Northwestern University and she was a stay–at–home mother, and they had two boys, and very, a very wonderful family. And so I, I just went to school and worked there. And then on the weekend I would go visit my sisters in Chicago.

Video Interview — October, 2006

To see this interview in its entirety, go to the Densho website archives. You will have to register to be allowed access to their archives. Once in the archive, visit the Visual History Collections: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection.

Matsue Watanabe

Matsue Nishimori Watanabe was 15 years old, in the 9th grade, when she was evacuated. She is the second youngest of six children. The Nishimori family did not move with most of the Bainbridge Islanders to Minidoka. They stayed in Manzanar. When the government started to allow the Japanese Americans to leave camp to travel east, Matsue's older brother and sisters moved to the Chicago area. When she was 18 years old, she moved to Evanston, IL to finish her last year of high school. She lived with a sponsor family.