Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Paul Bannai Interview I
Narrator: Paul Bannai
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 28, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-bpaul-01-0010

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AI: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about your high school days. I realized from the information you sent me that you were also working while you were in high school.

PB: Oh, yes.

AI: That you had jobs to do. Could you tell me a little bit about the work that you did?

PB: Well, this was an economic situation because we had to pay rent. We couldn't afford to buy a house. But my father's job didn't pan out. My mother couldn't work. We had the family, my sisters and my brother. And they were young. So I felt it necessary that I contribute to the household expenses. So I remember that I would go to fruit stands and work on weekends. It helped. And I remember that the last few summers when I was in school, that was already -- I'm in, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen -- I went up two summers, all summer to Oxnard. And they had what they call Japanese labor camps in Oxnard, that all these people would go and they would work in the different fields. Up there it was primarily tomatoes, beets, vegetables of different kinds. And I remember that I went up there. And the first year I went up there, I think I was about sixteen, that this labor camp where mostly older Issei people, very few young Nisei, and I would join them to harvest tomatoes, for instance. Well, for whatever reason, even though I was young and had a lot more pep than these Isseis, the Isseis had worked at it, and they knew what to do. So whether it was picking tomatoes or hoeing the ground or anything, they were always ahead of me. And we would go down the row, I would always be behind. So I remember that the supervisor came to me one day, he said, "Mr. Bannai, you, we're going to have to find something else for you to do." So he found out that I had a driver's license at sixteen. So he says, "In the morning you will take everybody to work, and when the tomatoes are picked, you'll take 'em to the cannery and you will drive. That way you'll be doing much more than trying to keep up with the older people." So I learned then that farming was not really my area, that the Isseis who had all this experience could outdo me so much. But at least I made money that I had, that I could take home and support, help support the family. That was the reason I worked every summer and weekends.


AI: Okay, we're continuing with Mr. Bannai.

PB: Okay.

AI: And when we left off, you were just telling how you worked during high school...

PB: Right.

AI: ...on the weekends and also during the summers. And you were very active in high school, and wondered if you would just tell a little bit more about some of your favorite activities during high school.

PB: Well, I started a program called athletic manager program. And I recruited some of my students along with me. And what we did is we managed all of the football and the sports activities, and helped the athletes so they could, you might say take it to the best degree. Plus the fact that we encouraged all of our students to attend all the athletic activities. And that became a program that stayed and is still very active at the high school and went to other high schools. So I think that these kinds of things that led to more improvement from the standpoint of social, that led to better achievement in their grades were all things that I particularly wanted to do. I got to know the principals of our schools very well, worked with them real, every day. And I think it was important and -- later on, not when I was in school, but later students also. So I felt that I did something while I was in school to help the educational system along.

AI: And were you active in the student government also?

PB: Yes. We had a, I ran for vice-president of our school student body, and I was successful. And as I said, our Japanese club was very active, and I was president of that for several years. So I tried to contribute wherever I went or whatever I did to the betterment of the environment that I lived in.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.