Page 29 Santa Fe Manuscript
KAMBE Toshiharu Slide Show
Victor Kambe, son of KAMBE Toshiharu, was interviewed on May 31, 2003, at his home in Rolling Hills, California.
Victor Kambe, Tape 1 - Audio
Victor Kambe's father, KAMBE Toshiharu sold his horse in Hiroshima and immigrated to the United States. Kambe's grandfather was a landowner in Japan. Kambe's father worked as a schoolboy in Seattle, Washington and started a wholesale produce business. He became a leader of the Japanese community downtown and lived in the University District.
Kambe's father wrote a column in the Hokubei Mainichi. He explored the relationship between Japan and the United States and presented news of the the war against China. Although he expressed nationalistic views, he raised his children to be American.
Eventually Kambe's father began publishing a monthly public opinion journal called Koron. He sold advertising and subscriptions and quit the produce business. The Kambe family struggled financially while Kambe worked full time publishing his writings. Kambe does not know precisely what his father wrote. Kambe worried that he was very pro-Japanese but he believes that he often took a moderate or even pro-American stance.
Kambe's father returned to Japan to marry the sister of a friend he met in Seattle. Kambe created a vase made of polished stones while incarcerated in New Mexico during World War II. The center stone is red and in the shape of a heart.
Kambe and his brother, George was bowling at a tournament in Tacoma, Washington when he heard Pearl Harbor was bombed. When Kambe returned to Seattle that afternoon, he found that the FBI had arrested his father. Kambe's mother was at a poetry meeting during the arrest. Kambe tried to visit his father at the INS station but could only wave from the street to the silhouetted heads of prisoners in the window.
Kambe's mother kept a diary chronicling her wartime experiences. According to Kambe it is "a real tearjerker."
Kambe's father was very striking and articulate. Kambe feels that he never really knew his father. Now kids and adults associate freely with each other; back then they seemed to occupy different worlds.
Kambe spent time with his father when on basketball tournaments and at a Salvation Army summer camp run by a Japanese couple in Auburn, Washington. Yet Kambe does not remember conversing with him. Many people knew Kambe's father and told Kambe how they respected him.
In the late 1930s, Kambe traveled to Manchuria to report on the Japanese invasion. His articles were published in the local Japanese newspaper.
Victor Kambe, Tape 2 - Audio
Kambe wrote policies for Sun Life Insurance but they stopped accepting policies for Japanese people once the war started. Kambe then worked for Kashiwagi's Men's Store. The family struggled to support itself after the father's arrest.
Kambe, his mother and sister were incarcerated at an assembly center and in Minidoka, Idaho. After eight months Kambe moved to Cleveland, Ohio to work for the War Production Board. They fired him citing a security threat. Kambe tried in vain to appeal that decision.
Kambe's mother and father were transferred to the Justice Department's prison camp for families at Crystal City, Texas and eventually moved in with Kambe in Cleveland. Other families also stayed at the house Kambe rented. He looked after three pregnant women.
Kambe's parents never discussed their wartime experiences. Kambe only discusses his wartime experiences when his children and grandchildren inquire for school assignments.
Kambe accepted the situation with no hard feelings for the United States. Kambe is impressed with the fortitude of the issei who came to a foreign country with nothing, raised families and survived the war.
Following Pearl Harbor, Kambe did not believe the government would imprison U.S. citizens. However the family soon sold their house and furniture at low prices not knowing whether they would ever return. When imprisoned, Kambe's family possessed almost nothing. When Kambe left camp with his wife they had about $50 to start new lives. Now the third and fourth generations have financial support to start their careers.
Kambe's mother and father worked together at a home in Cleveland. She cooked and did housekeeping; he worked as a gardener and chauffer.
Kambe had married while incarcerated at Minidoka. His wife moved from the concentration camp at Gila, Arizona, and were married in Twin Falls, Idaho.
When Kambe resettled in California, he lived with his sister-in-law in East Los Angeles. He bought a house in the Uptown section of Los Angeles (now Koreatown). His wife became sick with tuberculosis and was moved to a sanitarium.
Kambe worked for a vacuum cleaner company for thirty years. After moving to Los Angeles, Kambe's father worked as a gardener for a large estate. He died in 1956. Kambe moved to Rolling Hills on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the 1970s and lives there now.
Kambe's father helped start a boarding house for Japanese students at the University of Washington.
Kambe discusses family photographs taken by his father.
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