Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Lorraine Bannai Interview
Narrator: Lorraine Bannai
Interviewers: Margaret Chon (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 23 & 24, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-blorraine-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is March 23, 2000. I'm Alice Ito, conducting an interview for the Densho Archive with Lorraine Bannai, and my co-interviewer is Margaret Chon. And Lori, we're just going to begin at the beginning here, and I'd like to ask you what was your name at birth?

LB: Lorraine K. Bannai. My middle initial is just K.

AI: And where were you born?

LB: Gardena, California -- actually, I was born in a hospital in Los Angeles, but my family's home was in Gardena.

AI: And your date of birth?

LB: February 19th, 1955.

AI: Well, from here I'd like to ask you a little bit about your family, just a description of your family, your mother and father, and maybe if you could start out with the names of your mother and father?

LB: My father is Paul T. Bannai. My mother is Hideko Bannai. She was formerly Hideko Matsuno.

AI: Then can you tell us a little bit about them, where they were born, where they grew up?

LB: My father was born, I think in Delta, Colorado. His parents had emigrated from Japan, and his father, my paternal grandfather, was engaged in coal mining and onion farming and all kinds of more manual labor-type of work. And my father was the eldest son. They ultimately had five children. And eventually my bachan and grandpa moved the family to around (the) Utah, Colorado area, looking for work, and then ultimately moved to Los Angeles in the Boyle Heights area, where the family lived up until the time of the internment.

My mother lived in Glendale, California. Her mother had emigrated from Japan around the early 1910s or so, and moved to Tacoma with her first husband, and he passed away and she remarried. And her second husband passed away. They ended up in Los Angeles, and my grandmother raised four girls as a single mother during the prewar period in Glendale. My mother was in Glendale up until the time of the internment, when she was in high school.

AI: And where were your parents interned?

LB: Both of them were -- both families were interned at Manzanar in the Mojave Desert, California.

AI: Had they known each other before going to camp, or how did they meet?

LB: My father actually went into camp with his family, and soon left to do sugar beet farming, as a lot of the young men were able to leave camp to do manual labor outside of the camp, and then from there he went to try to go to the Midwest to enter college. From there, he went into the 442nd and eventually into military intelligence. My mother, as I said, went into high school in camp. She went to Manzanar High School. And my father, when he came back from the service on leave to visit his family, would come back to Manzanar to visit. And I think, as I recall, my father saw my mother at a dance or something and had his kid sister introduce them during the dance, and then they started corresponding.

AI: Oh, I see. And then do you know when they got married or -- and the circumstances around their wedding?

LB: Like a lot of young people in camp, within a year or two after entering camp, they were allowed to go to the interior United States to find work. And my mother moved to Chicago along with her siblings, and most of my father's siblings moved to Chicago to find work. And they continued to correspond. And he came back to visit her in Chicago, and ultimately they got married there in Chicago. Thing that really stands out in my mind though, is because their families were still in camp, they got married and had their siblings there at the wedding ceremony, but unfortunately, their parents couldn't be there because they were back in camp in Manzanar.

AI: Gosh. Do you happen to recall about how old you were when you, when you heard that story, when you found out that story about their wedding and the circumstances?

LB: Well, I think I have to kind of qualify this because I don't know for certain that they weren't there. It's just my guess that they probably weren't there because I know that my grandparents on both sides and the youngest children remained in camp until camp closed or the very end of the internment. And I don't recall ever hearing that they ever visited Chicago or were ever in Chicago. So I suppose putting all that together tells me that they weren't there. No, I can't ever recall hearing any stories about the wedding. I think I just kind of put it all together myself.

AI: Right. Put two and two together.

LB: Uh-huh.

AI: Well, so then what happened? They were -- your parents were there in Chicago.

LB: Uh-huh.

AI: What happened to them next, and how did they eventually come back to California?

LB: My father stayed in the service. I'm not sure, but I think he extended his tour of duty or whatever they call it, and decided to come up to Fort Lewis up here in, south of Tacoma. So they came back here at some point in time, and my father was stationed at Fort Lewis and my mom was with him. They stayed here for a little while, and then ultimately ended up going back to Los Angeles where their families had moved to when they left camp. So after the war, the entire family on both sides eventually ended up back in the Los Angeles area again. (They moved) to Los Angeles, probably for a little while, then ultimately my father bought a home in Gardena, California, which is where I was born.

AI: And what was your dad's occupation at that time, after moving to Gardena and you were born and growing up?

LB: My earliest recollection is that he started out in the flower market. And I think (it) was probably about the time I was born, he was still at the flower market waking up really, really, really early in the morning and going off to work in the flower market, and, and then coming back, probably midday or something like that. After that, he went into the real estate business, joined an existing real estate office, (a) Japanese American real estate office, Kamiya Mamiya Real Estate, I remember. And from there, decided, I guess, ultimately to go out on his own and start his own real estate business, Bannai Realty. And he was in real estate pretty much thereafter. My mom was a stay-at-home mom pretty much. She worked part time, different jobs, while I was growing up. Sometimes she was at home, sometimes she went out and worked for a while, but mainly she kind of kept the household together.

AI: Well, now you had two siblings, too, so could you tell me about them, their names and when they were born?

LB: My sister is Kathryn Bannai. She's the eldest. She was born in 1950, so she's five years older than me. She is now living in Vancouver, B.C.

AI: And your brother?

LB: My brother is Don Bannai. He was born a year or two later, so he's three or four years older than me. And he is now living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.