Off Beat: CD reunites friends after a half century



More than 50 years ago, Frances “Chickie” Ishihara White and Nancy Guenther were friends on the same bowling team in Simi Valley, Calif. Their families shared fun and food. Then both families moved in 1961, and the friends lost touch for half a century.

Last summer, The Columbian published a story about White, who launched her singing career behind barbed wire as a 15-year-old Japanese-American internee during World War II. After the war, she sang professionally, but she’d never recorded her music. Last summer, at age 85, she recorded her first CD, titled “Chickie.” The article mentioned White’s upsoming CD release party at Courtyard Village Independent Senior Living. That article reconnected the friends.

“I was reading The Columbian, and Frank (Guenther’s husband) heard me yell, ‘There’s my Chickie!'” Guenther said.

At the party, Nancy Guenther approached her old friend and asked her, “Do you know who I am, Chickie?”

“We look a little different, 50 years later,” White said.

But after a moment, she recognized her. Chickie White and her husband, Ed, were reunited with Nancy and Frank Guenther. The friends discovered they lived only a quarter-mile apart, just like the old days in Simi Valley.

“The distance has come full circle,” White said.

The Whites threw another party at Courtyard Village on April 28. The 17-piece Minidoka Swing Band played. Then, accompanied by a pianist, White sang one of her favorite songs, “You’ll Never Know.”

After the party, the Whites hosted a gathering for their friends, including the Guenthers. As they were leaving, Chickie White ran into her kitchen and returned with the remainder of the chocolate cake wrapped up for the Guenthers. Just like old times.

— Susan Parrish

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story, or just tell a story.

More on Chickie White

Chickie White will sing at the Mother’s Day luncheon at 10:30 a.m. May 10 at the Luepke Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd.

White is featured in a documentary, “Searchlight Serenade: Big Bands in the WWII Japanese American Incarceration Camps,” which will be broadcast at 7 p.m. May 21 and 4 a.m. May 23 on Oregon Public Broadcasting. You can purchase the DVD at 866-212-8777 or KEET.

Watch White sing “You’ll Never Know.”

A July 27, 2012, Columbian article about Chickie.

The CD “Chickie” is available online through CD Baby.

Read about Japanese American internment camps in Idaho and the West, 1942-1945: Farrit.