Interview with Elizabeth Gladden
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Northwest Public Television | Gladden_Elizabeth
Gladden: Elizabeth Gladden. Capital E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H. Gladden. G-L-A-D-D-E-N.
Bauman: Great. Thank you.
Gladden: The first year I was there, I was a Feemster. I was unmarried. And then we got married this second year. So my maiden name was Feemster. So the Social Security people told me to keep the F. Originally my middle initial was an E. But to keep the F of the maiden name to keep their records straight.
Bauman: Sure. Right. And how did you spell your maiden name?
Bauman: Okay. Great. Thank you. All right. And my name is Robert Bauman. And we're conducting this oral history interview on July 7, 2014, on the campus of Washington State University, Tri-Cities. So I guess let's start with maybe how you found out about—what were you doing before the war, maybe? And how you found out about an opportunity to teach at Heart Mountain.
Gladden: Okay. As I said, Pearl Harbor is the one that started it all. And from there, the Army thought that the Japanese on the west coast would be a danger. And they wanted them moved. And we found out later that that wasn't true, that they really weren't a danger, that California just wanted the Japanese out, and this was a good opportunity to get them out. And I was teaching in Nebraska when Pearl Harbor came along. And then I finished that year, and the next year I moved to a town called Osceola in Nebraska, which was a little better opportunity. And I taught one week when I got a call from the Davis teachers' agency, telling me that they had a good job for me in Wyoming. And it sounded very good because I was getting $1,000 there, and out in Wyoming, I would be getting $2,000. So I just doubled the pay for a couple months' more work. My father thought I was going to the end of the world. But I resigned then at Osceola. I don't think the school board was very happy with me. And I packed up and came out to Heart Mountain. And it was, I think, the second week in September when I got out there. Some of the teachers had gotten there already. The principal and school superintendent had been on the job for several months. And they had tried to get everything organized so that we could be an accredited high school. And then we started school I think the first week in October. Several weeks I was there beforehand, we sorted books and got assigned to our classrooms and got things set out.
Bauman: Do you remember what your first impressions were when you arrived in Heart Mountain?
Gladden: What? What?
Bauman: Your first impressions of the place.
Gladden. Oh. [LAUGHTER] I remember writing the folks and saying that it was all right if you looked up. The sky was pretty and blue, but not if you looked around. No, it was very, very bleak. It was hot. And all you saw were these black tar paper barracks. And you just saw the trainloads of evacuees coming in, and you felt sorry for them.
Bauman: What sort of housing did you have there?
Gladden: Well, the first year we lived in Cody, Wyoming. There was no gas, so people weren't traveling. So we lived in a—what do you call it? It was a motel. A little motel. And a lot of the faculty lived there. There wasn't enough room at Heart Mountain yet. They had built dorms out there, and some of the single people were out there in dorms. But there were no apartments for the married people at all. And then in the next year, we had a fairly nice apartment, except ours also was not dust-proof. We had lots and lots of dust. But we did have electricity and water and a refrigerator. And all the evacuees had when they arrived was a big room. The rooms varied in size, depending on the size of the family. Some of the rooms were 20 feet long, and some were much smaller. Families varied from six on down to single. They had one lightbulb hanging down from the ceiling, no running water. The latrines and the showers were all outside. There was one for each block. And there were 20 blocks. So it was pretty cold. They said some of the mothers didn't get anything done but bundling up their children and taking them out to the bathroom and back in again. It was pretty, pretty sad.
Bauman: And for the single people, were there separate dorms for the single people?
Gladden: No, the evacuees were in the same ones, but they had a smaller apartment.
Bauman: Oh, okay, I see.
Gladden: They say the women went to work immediately, getting sheets and so forth, dividing up the space so they'd have a little privacy. And I guess the latrines at first were just wide open. There was no privacy in them at all. But the Japanese were quite ingenious. They began to do things. They said Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck got a lot of money from tools that the internees had ordered. Some of them were trying to patch up the leaky holes in the barracks and so forth. They had one pot-bellied stove in each room. They didn't do adequate heating jobs, of course. Of course, that's what we had too, up on the hill. We had a pot-bellied stove.
Bauman: And so what did you teach then?
Gladden: I taught English, and I also had a math class. I taught freshman and sophomore English and Algebra.
Bauman: And about how many students did you have in a class?
Gladden: Well, several of the classes were quite small. But they never got over 25 or so. They were pretty good. And I would say that the discipline was heaven. We had none of the discipline problems that I had when I got back to Pasco. [LAUGHTER] I think they were all kind of beaten down at that point. They seemed cheerful, but I don't know. They must have thought they couldn't get by with anything, because they very good. And of course the original schools were in the barracks. And there were no desks. They had the long benches that the kids sat in, and they had to do their writing on their lap. And I had an assistant to help me grade papers, which was nice, because I'd never had that before.
Bauman: So the whole time you were there, there were no desks?
Gladden: Well, just in the barracks. In '43, then, the high school was built. And it was heaven compared to what we had. It went up within a year. But it had a big administrative building--section in the middle. And then it had two big wings on it. And they had a Home Ec department in one section. They had a shop. They had a science department. They had a big gymnasium and auditorium combined. And we had enough textbooks finally. So it was very, very much improved over the first year.
Bauman: What about eating facilities? Were there cafeterias, mess halls?
Gladden: No, the kids always ate in the mess hall. You see, each block had its own mess hall where they would go, along with their bath facilities. And they would go to the mess hall to eat. I might say that at first there was a little unrest. They claimed they weren't getting the proper food and so forth. But they kind of worked with the administration. And later they didn't seem to complain so much about the food. Then we had a separate cafeteria up on the hill where we ate at noon. And we complained, because the meat was always lamb. I was so tired of lamb when we got through.
Bauman: I guess that's what was available in Wyoming.
Gladden: Right. Yeah. Well, another thing that's of interest when we're talking about food is that they had their own chicken ranch down at the bottom they put in. And they also had a bunch of pigs down there. And the second year, the late summer, 1945, they took over the land across the street--across the highway—and they put in a huge garden. And they had every kind of vegetable imaginable down there. And the people around Cody said that it wouldn't grow. It wouldn't grow there at all. But we had an abundance of fresh things then. And it was in the fall of 1945—1944, rather—when it got really cold, and they were afraid the potatoes were all going to freeze. So they dismissed school. And they plowed up all the potatoes. And the kids went out and picked up potatoes. The faculty, too. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: So about how many internees were there?
Gladden: We had 10,000 in the camp. And there were times when we had about 10,700. There were 120,000 Japanese that were evacuated. If you had a sixth of a Japanese blood in you, you were evacuated.
Bauman: And obviously all the internees were from the west coast. Were they mostly from California?
Gladden: All along the coast. They were sent from Washington, along the coast. It went down that were also taken. There is this movie—maybe you've seen it--that is very, very good, number of years ago. And I can't remember the name of it. It's based on a family that was evacuated from over on the coast.
Bauman: And so there were some residents there from the Tri-Cities area, right?
Gladden: Well, yes. My understanding is that the Columbia River was the dividing line. Everybody west of the Columbia River went. But some people east—and I know there were a couple families in Pasco went, because they were afraid. Sentiment against the Japanese was very, very bad, and they were afraid to stay. And they came back.
Bauman: Now did you know these people at all when you were there? Or were these people that you heard about later?
Gladden: No, once the war was over, it was over, yeah.
Bauman: So for students who were in the high school when they first came to Heart Mountain, but finished high school during the war, were they able go to college somewhere?
Gladden: Well, while they were in camp those three years, if they had the resources and they found a school that would accept them, college students could go out, as long as they went east. And we had a number who went out. And also there were a few of the laborers who went out to get better jobs that were allowed to go.
Bauman: So you went there in the fall of--
Gladden: In the fall of '42, and left in the late summer of '45. Was there five years--or three years.
Bauman: Overall, how would you describe your experience teaching there?
Gladden: Well, I would say it's very good. We had a nice social background with other Caucasians. And we knew a few of the Japanese. But somehow we didn't get very—there wasn't an opportunity, really, to get very close to them. I might say that the administration did a great job in trying to get things organized, along with the help of the outstanding leaders in the Japanese community. And they had Boy Scout groups and Camp Fire Girls and Girl Scout groups. And they had dance clubs and everything that would keep the kids busy. And when it got really hot, they dug a great big swimming pool. And the kids went swimming. And then in the winter, they skated there. Some of them had never seen an ice skate before. And they had great fun ice skating. They couldn't get out on the hills, though, to go sledding. They had to stay in camp. Oh, I might say there were about 19, I think, guard stations around the camp. And they were up high, with very powerful searchlights. And nobody could get out without being caught. And as we went in and out the gate, we had to have badges on. And the Army was stationed down at the base.
Bauman: You mentioned, when I talking to you earlier, that you had teaching assistants or assistants that helped you, grading?
Gladden: Yes, I had two students. They were kids who were already through high school. And they would help grade English papers and math papers. Sakiko Yoshimura and Metsu--Metsuku--Mets--suku—what's her name now? I've forgotten. I saw it in the book. Yeah. Yeah. And we kept track of--one of them went back to Japan the minute the camp closed down. And the other one was a seamstress. And she went to California. And when my daughter and I were traveling one day, we stopped to see her. But we lost track of her later. We don't know what happened.
Bauman: Did you ever get a sense, or any of the internees ever say anything? They expressed any sort of disappointment or anger or anything about being in the camp? Or did they not really talk about it?
Gladden: No, we were told when we went that you'll never get a job in a private school again. If you go teach those Japs. You're through. And they were crying for teachers when we got out. There's no problem.
Bauman: So once the camp closed, then, what happened to you? What did you do?
Gladden: Well, when the camp closed--well, school was over in 1945 in the last of May. And all teachers were through. But if you wanted to stay on, and they needed you in some other department, you could go. And I was always interested in hospital work. In fact, that's what I thought I wanted to be when I was growing up, was a nurse. So I went to the hospital. And my husband went to the housing area where they were boxing up the household goods that the Japanese acquired and put them on the train. Incidentally, each one was given $25 a ticket to where they wanted to go, and that was it. But I had a lot of experiences in the high school—in the hospital. And I was so grateful for the opportunity. Being a Caucasian, I got to do things--administer medicine and do things—that otherwise the Japanese didn't get to do. And I remember so well. One of the doctors came in and grabbed me one day. And he said, come here, I need you quickly. Lady's going to have a baby. So I was there and he put out his gloves for me to hold to put them on. I was only woman in the room besides the doctor. And I got to see a baby born. And that was before I had any children. And it was really, really interesting. And another experience, there was a time, there was one of the fellows dying, an older man. And she got me and said, I think you need to see this. So she took me in, and we watched his last breaths. And when he was gone, she says, now we have to take out his false teeth and take him to the morgue. They had a morgue in the hospital. So she says, I want you to go down with me. And so I did. And shoved him in the freezer there. Then we came back to the room to clean it up. And she says, oh, I forgot to put his false teeth in. But she says, you don't have to go with me this time. I'll go down and do it. She was a graduate nurse, of course. And the salary scale, I don't think we've talked about, was very interesting. There were three scales. I was making over $200 a month. And the highest any Japanese internee could get was $19 a month. And some of the nurses got a little upset at one time. But they wouldn't do anything about it. They had set the scale for $19 for professional. And then I think it was $16 for in between. And the laborers got only $12 an hour. They said they couldn't pay the laborers more than the Army--an Army private got. And that was $20 a day, not an hour. $20 a day. So they didn't make much money. That was one reason they liked the work outside, if they could. Get a job on the outside. Because the administration demanded that they be paid the same way as a Caucasian on the outside. The governor of Wyoming wasn't very helpful. He wanted them to be slave laborers, practically, and work for $12 an hour. And the WRA--that's the War Relocation Authority--said no. You have to pay them same as you pay Caucasians. So some of them got some extra money that way, if they could be cleared. I mentioned to you the newspaper. We had a fellow who was trained in journalism. And he immediately started a newspaper. It started within a week I think from the time he got there. He got his staff together. It was an eight page newsletter--or newspaper, rather--that came out once every Saturday. And that kind of kept the evacuees in touch with what's going on in the outside world, as long as rules and so forth in the camp. And he had some pretty good editorials, where he was questioning things. And I do have some copies of those that I'll give you, if you want them.
Bauman: Now did those newspapers have to go through--
Gladden: I don't know how much censoring they did. I wouldn't be surprised, but what they had some though.
Bauman: Were there radios allowed in the camp to listen to?
Bauman: Get updates on was happening in the world?
Gladden: There were always rumors, always rumors. [LAUGHTER] We had a fellow up in the dorm area that got the greatest delight out of starting a rumor and seeing how long it took to get around. Oh, there were rumors about how there were Japanese on the coast, and they were going to invade. There was balloons that were going to be coming over, and so forth and so on. But nothing ever happened. There was never any incident at all.
Bauman: Do you have any idea how large the staff was that worked at the camp?
Gladden: Oh, dear. I think there were 200 in the administrative area. And teachers--I don't know for a school that size—it was a big high school. We had the eighth grade in the high school, too. So it was a pretty big school. And our classes weren't big. I remember one summer, I taught solid geometry, and I only had about eight students in there.
Bauman: And was there a graduation ceremony?
Gladden: Oh, yes, yes. When they graduated, there was a big ceremony. We had a big auditorium, as I said, which was also a gym. And it was well used here.
Bauman: Was there a church or churches in the camp?
Gladden: Oh, yes. The WRA started out with two churches, a Catholic and a Protestant. And the Buddhists wanted their church. And two-thirds of the group were Buddhists. And the WRA refused, but eventually gave in. So eventually there was a Buddhist church, and the Catholic and the Protestant. We went to the Protestant church and got very well acquainted with the minister and his wife and had them over for dinner. Nice couple.
Bauman: Do you remember when you heard about the war ending? Or any of that?
Gladden: Oh, yes. We were eating lunch in--oh, no, no. When we were eating lunch, it was when Roosevelt was pronounced dead.
Gladden: And my husband was down in the lab, because he was always fooling with radios. He was building his own radio. And he came rushing up and said that Roosevelt had died. And this was during the lunch hour. I forget the date. But the war--well, it's an interesting story about how we heard about the war. We were married in '43. My sister was married in '45. And her husband was working at the University of Chicago. And the department--what do they call it? The one where they were--
Bauman: The Manhattan Project, or-?
Gladden: Yeah. Well, it's part of the Manhattan Project. And he knew what we were doing out at Hanford, but we didn't know what was going on out here. And so the fellas were in the living room--I remember--and we were out in the breakfast nook at York, Nebraska, at my parents' home. And Stanley--my brother-in-law--came running out to the kitchen and grabbed my sister by the arm and said, come in and listen to this. He said, I want you to hear it. And you tell me what you heard. And she did. And then he said, well, that's what I've been doing. So that was how we know the war had ended. They'd dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. They always said Hiroshima, not "Hiro-SHEE-ma."
Bauman: So now did you and your husband meet at Heart Mountain? Or, how did you meet?
Gladden: I met my husband at the University of Chicago. I was there one summer. And we got acquainted. And we corresponded. And he'd come to Nebraska and so forth. Then he ran out of money. He was working on his Ph.D. So he took a job at Whitehall, Montana. And he was there the year that I was at Heart Mountain, the first year. And then he wanted to come down. And of course they gave him a job. And we were married then.
Bauman: And so after the war ended, how did you end up in Pasco then? How did that happen?
Gladden: Oh, that was when--we stayed in Heart Mountain until almost the end of the summer. And then my husband was interested in getting a teaching job in Washington. So he started applying for jobs along the Columbia River, any big town. And Pasco was the first one that answered his letter and said, we have a science job.
Bauman: What were your first impressions of Pasco?
Gladden: Terrible. [LAUGHTER] Terrible. It was the last day in August. Very, very hot. We were in what they call the Riverside homes, down the river. Big room. We must have had a refrigerator. I don't remember it. But the cupboards were open. No doors on the cupboards or anything. And of course there was no electricity. I mean, you couldn't buy any electric gadgets. You did your cooking on a range. And if you can imagine that, on the last day of August--then it was then that C.L. Booth, the superintendent, asked me if--or I said, do I have to stay here? And he asked me what I did. And I said, oh, I've been teaching school. And he said, come on up and we'll you a job. So then I taught a year. And then we quit to have our family. And then I went back later.
Bauman: And so you already knew about Hanford before you came here, though.
Gladden: Yeah, we found out. The end of August, I guess, or in August, whenever that was, when my sister and her husband were there, because they'd just gotten married.
Bauman: So what was Pasco like as a community in the 1940s, 1950s?
Gladden: Well, we stayed the first night at the new Pasco hotel on Lewis Street. And before we got our Riverside apartment. And it was pretty hot. I wasn't much impressed. My husband always wanted to go to Hawai’i. And he thought, well, we would be on our way to Hawai’i, then. He thought it would be nice to teach over there.
Bauman: And so you stayed.
Gladden: So we stayed.
Bauman: So that would be 70--almost 70 years?
Gladden: Yeah, well, it was 70--I figured it was 72 years since I'd been at Heart Mountain. We came to Pasco in '45.
Bauman: '45? 69 years, I guess.
Gladden: About 20 years.
Bauman: ‘45 to now.
Bauman: So if there anything I haven't asked you about--
Gladden: Well I think we’ve-
Bauman: --Heart Mountain?
Gladden: Well, there was one thing that--the Nisei were subject to draft. And they had to fill out a big form. And they had a couple questions on there that a few of them wouldn't sign. One of them, are willing to withdraw all allegiance to the Japanese emperor? And the other one, are you loyal to the United States? Would you be serving the Army? And there was a committee that formed. And some of them thought their constitutional rights had definitely been tramped on. And that they wouldn't sign, they said, until they were given their freedom back. But the 442nd contingent that you know about, that was so very, very famous, they were all made up of Japanese. And a lot of Japanese took part there. But because of the questionnaire and so forth, and some of them got a little belligerent, they were arrested. And there was one fellow who really wouldn't give in. And he was put in jail for three years I know of.
Bauman: So you knew about that, about the questionnaire.
Gladden: Uh-huh, yeah. That happened while we were there.
Bauman: Were there a number of young men from Heart Mountain who did end up going to the military, joining the Army?
Gladden: Oh, yes, yes, a lot of them. Which I think was pretty wonderful. The way they've been treated, that they would actually go. But they were showing their loyalty to the US. They claimed they were still US citizens.
Bauman: Well, this has been very interesting for me.
Gladden: Well, it's fun to review it. I hadn't thought about it for so long. But it's interesting.
Bauman: At some point, when you were here in Pasco, did you ever get to know any of the Japanese-Americans who lived here who had been in Heart Mountain?
Gladden: Well, my husband had Jerry Minatoya I think, in class in Heart Mountain. And when he got here, he had him in class in high school.
Gladden: There were a number of Japanese families living in Pasco, though.
Bauman: Well, I want to thank you for coming in and sharing your experiences and your photos.
Gladden: Well it’s been—I'm sorry my voice is so cracky.
Bauman: No, it’s wonderful. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
Gladden: You're welcome.