Tomeyo Okine—A Japanese American in California

All photos from California State University, Dominguez Hills, Archives and Special Collections, via Calisphere. Click to enlarge

The year is 1940, and the Okine family of Whittier California poses in front of their recently bought car.  In the amazing online collection of family photos, there are many in front of the car, obviously a prize possession.  Tameyo Okine, the mother of two boys and two girls, stands proudly on the right in a patterned dress and stylish shoes. Age 55 in this photo, she was born in  Japan and immigrated to the US in 1911.  All of her children were American born.

Undated photos. Click to enlarge

The Okine family ran a flower nursery. The above photos of Tomeyo are undated, but might have been taken about the same time.  They show that printed dresses might not have been Tomeyo’s regular at home attire.  No other photos in the large collection depict women in pants.

1943. Click to enlarge

After Pearl Harbor, Tomeyo Okine was sent to a internment camp in Arkansas along with her husband and two daughters.  The sons enlisted in the military.  What happened to the car and nursery?  Many Japanese Americans lost their possessions in the course of their internment.

1952. Click to enlarge

In this photo, taken in 1952, the family has been reunited.  One son has married and has a child of his own. Letters show that the parents moved back to Whittier. On this special occasion, Mrs. Okine wears a suit, but it doesn’t fit her small frame very well.  Now in her late sixties, she has switched over to sensible shoes.

1958. Click to enlarge

In this final photo of Tomeyo Okine, taken when she was 73, she is back again in a print dress.  She died five years later in Los Angeles.

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5 Responses to Tomeyo Okine—A Japanese American in California

  1. A touching reminder of the terrible things that can happen — yes, in America — when we look for differences instead of similarities. Raising flowers for the market is farming, so it’s not surprising that Mrs. Okine wore trousers, like other farmers and their wives. (I happened to be working on a post about overalls when I read this.)

  2. Mema says:

    Thank you for the story.

  3. I have just finished reading a book – when the emperor was divine – about a Japanese family during the war which mainly knowing European history was very interesting. I love the way her chin is always up – shows a certain strong sense of character to my mind – great to see the photos through the years

  4. Reader says:

    Thanks for this.

  5. Marianne says:

    Oh, I love this!

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