Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Manzanar, Mother worked in kitchen – Matsue Watanabe (OH0067)


My mother and dad — well, my dad wasn’t there at the time — but my mother was working in the kitchen. So she got a job working in the kitchen. And in those days I think they paid those help like sixteen dollars. And the help, the professional help got nineteen dollars. And you can’t imagine how the doctors and dentists felt getting nineteen dollars a month, but that’s what they were allowed. Anything, anyone that were called professionals were given that and all the rest of the people were non–professionals, so they were given sixteen dollars, just three dollars’ difference. That’s, that’s very degrading, I would say. And, but eventually when I got little older… oh, I do remember working in the camouflage net. And we’d weave those camouflage… what do they do, just strips of material and you’d weave those.

It’s gunny sacks; that’s why it’s very dusty, dusty job. And eventually I quit that. I only did that for about two weeks. And then I went and, because my girlfriend told me that the teacher, our teacher, our English teacher said that we could have a job cleaning their barracks, their apartments, and that was the professional people that came in. So, I had a job, the job of cleaning the apartment of the director of, of accounting there for the government. So I cleaned his house once a week. And, and I remember my girlfriend cleaning her, the English teacher’s house once a week. And you really would have to clean because it was so dusty. But that was a better job than, for us fourteen–, fifteen–year–olds, fifteen–year–old people. Well, I guess I probably had to wait ’til I was sixteen to do that. But it was a better job than working otherwise.

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.