Paul Kusuda’s column
MARCH 1950 WAS SPECIAL FOR MY WIFE AND ME
Paul H. Kusuda
Part 1 of 2
By Paul H. Kusuda
My wife Atsuko and I have a special memory of March 1950 because that’s the month in which
we were married. In Chicago. In a church with a congregation largely comprised of Nisei
(Japanese Americans) who had been forcibly evicted from California, Oregon, or Washington in
1942 and moved to desolate locations to live one to four years in hastily-built, five-unit, (later
made into four-unit), tar-papered buildings (following the architectural design of World War I
enlisted-men’s barracks) in ten relocation centers sited in desert or swampland areas in
Western and Central United States. New part of the country to call home. New experiences.
Atsuko and her family were sent first from Central California to a Wartime Civilian Assembly
Center to live for a few months in housing facilities hastily put together in a county fairground
and then to a more-lengthy but indefinite stay in the Jerome (Arkansas) War Relocation Center,
a former swampland. Our family was sent from Los Angeles to the Manzanar War Relocation Center near Death Valley,
California. (Our family was forced to make one move rather than two, so we were more fortunate than many others.)
Arkansas had two Centers, one at Jerome and the other at Rohwer. Both housed about 10,000 persons each as did
In 1943, Atsuko moved from the Center to Columbia, Missouri, with a government check for $25 (using a one-way railroad
ticket paid for by the federal government) where she enrolled in the University of Missouri. I also moved in 1943, with a
government check for $25 and using a one-way ticket to Chicago where I was eventually admitted to the University of
Chicago. Absent the enforced eviction from California, Atsuko and I would never have met. So, out of bad came some good.
Thankgoodness for strange outcomes from undesirable happenings!
1950 was an exceptional year for us. A greeting card for that year contained a lot of interesting information I decided to
reproduce a few items for this article. My intent is not to plagiarize; I have no idea from whom to request for permission to
use selected bits and pieces: HISTORY: “U.S. Senate adopted ERA BY 63-19 vote. Senator Joseph McCarthy launched anti-
Red crusade in government. Truman denouncedMcCarthy as saboteur of U.S.foreign policy. MacArthur arrived as Seoul fell
to the North. President: Harry S. Truman (D). Vice-President; Alben W. Barkley (D). SPORTS: Ohio State beat California 17-
14 in Rose Bowl. Yankees took World Series in four straight games over Phillies. Navy defeated Army 12-2 in annual
football game. MUSIC: ‘Mona Lisa;’ ‘Good Night Irene,’ ACADEMY AWARD WINNERS: Picture: ‘All About Eve;’ Actress Judy
Holliday, ‘Born Yesterday;’ Actor: Jose Ferrer, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac.’ BIRTHS: Mark Spitz, U.S. swimmer, 7 gold medals,
1972 Olympics; Julius Erving, American Basketball star. PRICES: Postage Stamp…$.03. Bread (pound loaf)…$.14. Milk
(quart)…$.21. Gas (gallon)…$.29. Car…$2,210.00. Minimum wage…$.75. Median family income…$3,319.00.”
What a year! I had moved from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois in January that year and was living in a downtown YMCA where
I paid rent and membership by the week. I was a Social Research Analyst for the Illinois Division of Child Welfare, the State
Office being within walking distance. Nearby were places to eat or shop as was a movie house. I was shocked to find that it
was only about a year earlier that African Americans could be seated in the first floor. Prior to that time, they had to go to the
balcony. Springfield was not like Chicago; for years, it was like being part of a Southern State. I learned that Southern Illinois
was definitely a different part of the state. Though called the Land of Lincoln, it had a long ways to go insofar as racial
minority issues were concerned.
Knowing I was to be married in a couple of months, I searched for an apartment, relatively near the office. I searched for a
while and considered myself fortunate to find a one-room apartment that had a reasonably low rent. It was a family home
that had been remodeled to include space for two single-room apartments with one communal bathroom—bathtub, toilet,
and wash basin—no laundry facilities. The two upstairs apartments had an outside stairway entrance, so tenants did not
have to go through the owner’s living quarters. That appeared to take care of entry and exit. A major problem, later
discovered, was that the landlady, a snoopy person, was able to access each apartment from her part of the house. A young
couple, recently married, lived in the other apartment. They were nice and friendly. Luckily, we had no privacy problems
despite the need to share bathroom facilities.
When I brought Atsuko to the apartment (where I had set up housekeeping) she immediately announced we had to find
someplace else to live. She was more than horrified to see the crowded room with its brass head- and foot-boards, the
small kitchen with a small stove and oven, small refrigerator, and little space for washing pots and pans. She was also not
pleased to have to use a shared bathroom and toilet. I felt the same way; however, I had not been successful in locating a
better place. For one thing I didn’t have a lot of money and another, I had no car. Together, we tried unsuccessfully to find a
more suitable place. We were therefore forced to live where we were even though public transportation was available.
Actually, we never used the buses during our year’s stay in Springfield. I don’t remember whether Springfield had electric
trolleys. We missed Chicago and its streetcars, buses, and subway cars. The saving grace was that everyone we got to
know was friendly, kind, and helpful. An African American co-worker and family were especially good to us; she invited us to
their home for dinner and we got
to know her husband, daughter,
mother-in-law, and their relatives.
Also, my supervisor (Italian
American) invited us to his house
to have Sunday lunches with his
wife and children. He said he
liked to make spaghetti and
usually made a lot. Both families
drove to pick us up and return us
to the apartment. So, living in
Springfield was pretty good. We
had many good remembrances.
However, we were glad to move to
Madison when the time came for
the move to Wisconsin.