As I recall that Sunday almost 71 years ago, it was sunny. We had come to Lafayette to meet my Uncle Joe to talk about the house my father wanted to build on the lot he just bought on O'Connor Street.
The lot was a remnant of an old pear orchard. My father had already picked the pears and my mother had canned them.
We were walking through the orchard when my uncle appeared. I was anxious to get back home to Berkeley. I had to study my lines for the Christmas Pageant at Burbank Junior High School. I had the part of the angel who would narrate the Christmas story. I was going to wear a halo and wings.
"The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor," my uncle told us. We didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was.
My husband, Dan, told me he heard about the attack on the portable radio he had bought with money earned from delivering the Oakland Tribune. It was heavy, with four batteries, and he carried it on his shoulder. His father told him not to play it too loud or it would wear out the batteries.
"It was about 10:30 a.m. I had just finished my Sunday paper route. I went home and woke up my dad. He was a bartender. Worked until 2 a.m. I told him the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I wanted to know where it was. He didn't believe me. Told me not to spread rumors."
It turned out that there were plenty of rumors going around after the attack. One time my school was closed early because a Japanese attack was imminent. We were
I went home and stayed in the basement, supposedly the safest place. My mother wasn't home. Perhaps she had gone shopping with my little sister. I was one scared 14-year-old. When she did get home and found me in the basement, she had some sharp comments about the school authorities.
Both Dan's father and mine became block wardens with metal hats. Dan said his father got a gas mask; I don't remember if mine did. Our mothers both made blackout curtains so our electric lights wouldn't leak out from the windows, telling the enemy where we were.
In February, our neighborhood changed drastically. The Yamashiros and another Japanese family that lived across the street from us were sent to internment camps.
My father and Mr. Yamashiro were fellow gardeners exchanging ideas all the time. I don't know how they did it because my father's English wasn't that good, and according to him Mr. Yamashiro spoke only Japanese.
When the families left they gave us the canned food they had to leave behind. My sister still has the doll that her little friend gave her. Her family didn't have enough room to take it with them to the internment camp.
I did get to play the angel in the Christmas pageant, which was moved from the evening to the afternoon. My father had to work, but my mother and sister were there.
Contact Nilda Rego at firstname.lastname@example.org.