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Kobayashi, Kenge Transcript Part 3
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TitleKobayashi, Kenge Transcript Part 3
Date2009-04-05
IntervieweeKobayashi, Kenge
InterviewerUhlig, Elizabeth
TranscriberUhlig, Elizabeth
SubjectJapanese Americans
Japanese education
Art Education
Geographic SubjectChicago (Ill.)
Original FormatMicrosoft Word
Data of Digital Converstion2010-07-01
Original CollectionJapanese-American Association of Lane Co., OR, Oral History Collection
Other FormatsPDF
RestrictionsPermission to use must be obtained from the Oregon Multicultural Archives, OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center.
Digital FormatPDF
LanguageEnglish
Full TextJapanese- American Oral History Project Kenge Kobayashi Date: June 3, 2006; August 11, 2007 Place: Eugene, Oregon Interviewer: Elizabeth Uhlig Part 3– 29: 09 minutes 00: 00 EU: This is Part 3 of the interview with Kenge Kobayashi. Kenge, why don't you talk a little bit about your experiences at Tule Lake. KK: Well, at that time I – all of us went to the high school and so that was the English school But then they started this Japanese school, too. So I went to the high school during the day and then right after class I went to the Japanese school. So I had schooling all day, from morning to night. And it‘ s kind of funny because in the English school they teach you Americanism, you know, about being patriotic to the United States. But when I go to the Japanese school they had these pro- Japanese teachers that tell you about Japan and how you had to be loyal to this and that. So my feeling was getting kind of mixed up because one side was saying loyal to America and the other side saying loyal to Japan. So I was torn between them. 1: 55 But the English school was run very lenient. It was very easy. I never studied for the English school. They were just classes and teach you the regular stuff. To me it was so boring because it was just -- everything was just like the history was just there it was nothing spectacular. But in the Japanese school they teach you history and geography and all that stuff, and they pound it into you and you had to do a lot of studying. So I studied mostly for the Japanese school at home. And I found that the Japanese history was very interesting, you know, because of the warrior days, and the samurai days. They had very interesting history. So I was very interested in that. But I was still torn between the English school and the Japanese school. And I didn't know what to do about that. But my father was planning to go back to Japan at that time, so, and he was expecting us kids to go with him, so all that was - the Japanese school all of a sudden became pretty important because if you're going to live in Japan you had to know Japanese. So I wanted to study more harder in Japanese classes than and it was more one- sided at that time. 4: 15 Did I talk about my sister already? EU: You said your sister talked to your parents and convinced them to stay. KK: Did I say that already? Oh, I did, OK. So I was prepared to go to Japan with the kids, but after my sister talked to my parents, she saved the day for me because I never wanted to go to Japan. Cause I never been there and didn't know what the country was all about, or what. Besides I felt at that time that I was more American than Japanese. And so I'm glad she spoke up and made us stay here. 5: 15 EU: Later on I know you became a graphic artist. Did you do painting or drawing when you were in the camp? KK: I did a lot of painting in camp, especially pen drawings I did in camp. I painted a lot of pictures of camp life, and the guards, and the scenery around there. But I lost it all cause we moved so many times and it got lost in the shuffle. But I wish I still had them. EU: Do you ever think of drawing them again from memory? KK: Yes, I did a couple of things from memory. And I have them at home. So I show it once in a while when I speak to classes or high school or middle school. I take the pictures with me to show them graphically what.. So… EU: When did you realize that you had a talent for art? KK: Oh, I always loved art, all my life. In fact, when I was in the Imperial Valley, I used to draw all the time, and my mother used to get mad at me because I didn't do my homework. I was drawing instead of doing my homework, so she was getting mad at me. But later on, after we moved to the farm in LA, I was thinking of going to art school, you know. So I told my mother that, and my mother got mad at me, says, you was going to end up doing paintings on the street corner and .. sario?? painting. And I said, no, it's not like that, you know. So, anyway, I went to school, started when we were in LA and I started school there. 7: 50 But when the Korean thing came up, the Korean War started to come up. I was drafted into the army. EU: What year was this? KK: This was 1948, I think it was ‘ 48. The war didn't start yet, I don't think. But it was just ?? , they were having trouble and they started drafting people. And I was drafted and I went into the army and was in there for about a year and a half when they decided to, if you army draftees, if you wanted to go out, you could go out. But you had to be in the reserves, the active reserves. So I chose that and I got out in about a year and a half. And when I was out, I started a school, the Art Center School, that's in Pasadena now and was going to that. Then the Korean War started and they activized all the reserves, again. And so I was right back in there again. And I had to quit school and go to the army. EU: What did you do in the army? KK: Oh, I was in the, what they call, it the radar section. I was put in the anti- aircraft battalion, and they picked a couple people from the battalion, to go to school, and I was chosen, I don't why they but chose me to go to school. So I went to school, I was in Washington, Ft. Lewis, Washington. And they send me to Ft. Bliss, Texas, for the schooling there. And that's where I learned about radar, computer, and what they call acquired direction center, and ??? and all that. They taught that. And after I graduated, they sent me back to Ft. Lewis to join my outfit. But when I went back the outfit had gone, they went to Korea, and I missed the boat by about three days. You know, they, the military they don't know what one arm is doing to, with the other. So they thought I belonged to that outfit, so I was sent back there. But all of a sudden, I found out they were gone. So they made me an instructor in Ft. Lewis, Washington. I was an instructor of radar and all that stuff. 12: 00 And, then after a couple of years I was released. This was in 1951 or 1952 maybe, I don't know, anyway, about that time. I came out again. And I started school again, the Art Center School. And I got married, in 1952 I got married. But I was still going to the school. EU: Where was that school? In Los Angeles? KK: In Los Angeles – called Art Center College. And that's where I learned about graphics and design and all that stuff. Then I graduated in 1956 - graduated, and I was on the honor roll. 13: 05 And that's when we, I, at that time there were not much jobs in LA in advertising. So I went to Chicago and I took my family. I had a couple of kids by then. EU: What was your wife's name? KK: Mary. And she was in Manzanar, camp Manzanar. But anyway, I met her during the military when I was on one of my furloughs. And so we got married in 1952. By the time we went to Chicago we had a couple of kids already - my oldest daughter and my son. And then when we got married, when I graduated the art school, went to Chicago because that's where the jobs were, you know. We spent about eleven years in Chicago. I was working for an advertising agency in Chicago. EU: Just to get back to the school. Did you go to the school on the GI Bill? KK: Yes, I went on the GI Bill, otherwise I couldn't have gone to that school. Even at that time that school was so costly, that you had to be rich to go to that school. But there were a lot of us people in the military that went on the GI Bill. So they paid for the tuition plus all the materials, and everything, so that was great. 15: 10 EU: How did you like Chicago? K: Well, Chicago, well, I loved he work cause it was big time. But the weather was so bad. It was so cold in winter time, and hot in the summer. But, I loved it there, I liked it. And most of my kids were born there. I had five kids then, and they all seemed to love it there, too. They played out in the snow and stuff. But I loved it there, because of the work. The work was very, very interesting. Because I was really advertising for big time people, for big clients. But my wife was unhappy, cause she missed all her friends from LA. And besides she was a housewife so she didn't make many friends, and she was lonely, I guess. EU: Was there a Japanese- American community in Chicago? KK: Well, there was a little, but we didn't associate with them so much. So I knew how she felt, so this friend of mine said I could find a job in LA. So I said, I'll take it. So that's when we moved back. And my wife was so happy at that time. 16: 55 But it wasn't very long after that that she got cancer, ovarian cancer. And she died in 1972. So I lost my first wife to cancer and I already had seven kids by then. EU: Why don't you tell us the names of your kids. KK: Oh, their names? The youngest is Sab, Saburo, English name is Luke. Then the second one is Jiro, David, Jiro David; the third one is Terry, Teruko, Japanese name; then Julie, Joyce, Mark, and Joanne. There are seven of them. EU: Did they all have Japanese and American names? KK: Yes, the all had Japanese names. But the oldest ones had English names - they were Catholic, cause we were all Catholic. And I named them Japanese names. So they all were either Catholic names or Japanese names. And, so I.. EU: But, they were very young when their mother died. KK: Oh, ya, they were very young. In fact the youngest one, Sab, was a baby. That's how they found out she had cancer, they had to open her up and found cancer there. But, they ranged from, the oldest one is 50 something years old already, and she's retired and living in Tennessee. And then the rest are in LA. 19: 30 EU: How did you raise them? KK: Well, I had my mother- in- law was living nearby who was helping out. She was talking care of the baby mostly while I was at work and stuff. But it was a struggle, you know, because, my oldest was doing all the cooking. And she was having a rough time. EU: What about your parents? Where they still living? KK: Yes, they were still living in, but they were in Gardenia which is too far away, so they couldn't' help. EU: Were they retired? KK: Yes, they were all retired by then. So it was my mother- in- law who was helping most of the time. 20: 35 And so after she died, it was in 1980 that I got married to my second wife. She got what you call angina attack, it's like a heart attack. And so, because there was so much pressure between her work - she was a supervisor at a big company in LA. And she had three kids of her own. She was divorced. So there were all these kids at home. And it was a lot of pressure on her, so she had this angina attack. So I said why don't we just move out here. By that time the kids all were old enough to go out on their own. And she said, ya, OK. And I says how about moving up north like to Oregon. I heard about Eugene, so we could stop there and if we don't like it there we could keep moving up to Portland or somewhere. And she said ya, OK. And so we came up to Eugene and we liked it so much that we stayed in Eugene. EU: What was her name? KK: Miya. EU: How did you meet her? KK: Through a friend. EU: Is she from Los Angeles? KK: She's from San Diego. But at that time she was in Los Angeles. She was divorced and had three kids. So I married her in 1980. And in 1989 we moved up here. 23: 00 EU: What kind of work were you doing in Los Angeles? KK: I was working for an advertising agency. Then after a while I became a free- lance artist, doing free- lance work. But it was a struggle because we had big payments for the house and everything. We bought a new house for a pretty high price and we had to pay payments. EU: In Los Angeles? KK: Yes, in Los Angeles, in a place called Arcadia. Where there was the Santa Anita racetrack. It was a nice home, a pretty big home. We had four bedrooms. And we turned our living room into a fifth bedroom, because we had to accommodate all the kids. By that time the older ones all left – Joanne, Mark, Julie, Joyce – they all moved out. So we only had, how many kids, I don't know. But we still had her three kids and my four kids. So it was a tight squeeze. But we had a nice home there. We sold it for a profit, a good profit and moved up here. 24: 50 EU: You moved up here in 1989. Did you continue working here in Eugene? KK: No, well, I retired. Before I came here I retired. I took an early retirement, at 62. I took a retirement. So I was retired and.. . But she started work here and I was doing nothing for a whole year or a couple of years before I started working myself. But when I started working at that time we had to pay back the social security money, we made so much. Until the age of 70 if you work you had to pay back social security, so I was paying, half of my salary was going back to social security, So I said - wait. So I quit and I started teaching. I liked you know, painting. I had all the schooling, so why not teach. So I started teaching. So I've been teaching twice a week for, I don't know how many years now, for five or six years now. EU: Where did you teach? KK: At the Peterson Barn? Do you know where that is? EU: Peterson Barn - on River Road? KK: It's off of Highway 99, on Royal Street. I enjoy it. EU: What do you teach? KK: Oh, water olor painting. 27: 05 EU: So while you were working you continued your own painting? KK: Ya, as soon as I moved up here I started taking classes, watercolor classes. Because I've been painting or drawing for my work, I was doing all that layouts and stuff so I was drawing all along. So watercolor came easy to me, I started doing that. Then after a few years after taking different classes, I said, why not teach because, I learned everything in high school, you know, all the basic way of drawing things. So why not just teach. So that's what I did. EU: Are you still teaching? KK: Ya, uh hah. EU: What kinds of things do you paint – scenery, people? KK: Oh, everything, I could paint people, scenery, still life, flowers, whatever you want, I could paint, animals. But, I felt that with my knowledge I could teach where other teachers here, they know watercolor, but they don't know too much about perspective, or composition, or stuff like that. I know all that so I thought I could teach. End of Part 3 29: 09
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