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Title: Paul Bannai Interview I
Narrator: Paul Bannai
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 28, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-bpaul-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, I'm going to take you back now to Boyle Heights. And you had mentioned that you were twelve years old and you completed your last year of grammar school in Boyle Heights. And then the next year you went to Hollenback Junior High School.

PB: Hollenback Junior High, right.

AI: And it sounded like you became very active with your friends, your classmates, neighborhood groups, sports...

PB: Right.

AI: ...some of the Japanese American groups that, the church. And was this one of the ways that your parents supported you that allowed you to become very active?

PB: Well, it may be. It may be. I've never gone back to analyze that, but I remember that when I went to junior high school that the school, again, was made up of primarily Jewish. We had quite a few Japanese Americans there. But in junior high it was more or less a matter of studying hard and making it out. Now, it changed when we went to high school because we're older, we began to set, you may say standards for going on, whether we're going to go on to university, our future, you might say, occupation. These are things that we had to think about. We also were, in high school, a lot more, you might say oriented towards individuals and people. And that's why I remember that we had a Japanese club at high school. And I became president of that and was very active to show the people, the other people in the school, that we were proud of our heritage, that being Japanese, we wanted to accomplish more, we wanted to be better than the others, you might say. And as a result, I remember I did a lot of things that I think it was more or less not to do something but to outdo what the Russians were, group would do or a thing... I remember we built a Japanese garden, for instance. Lot of the parents were now going into gardening, and they became very good gardeners. Well, I remember when we thought in terms of what will we leave as a legacy to the school? Let's build a Japanese garden. So we built a Japanese garden. Now, during the war, unfortunately, that garden was abandoned. So it's been about five years ago that the Roosevelt High School became a Mexican school, primarily Mexican, that the Mexican students came to us and said, "We ought to renovate that garden because it was a beautiful spot." So fortunately I was able to go back to the rededication of the Japanese garden. And it's a beautiful place. The Mexican students dug the holes, and we got donations from Japanese nurseries. And so if anybody goes to Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, you'll see the garden there.

And as I say, these are things that I think individually and all of us tried to do because we were different and we wanted to be a little bit better than somebody else. And that was the same reason that I remember that I tried to do more things for the school and work harder. And one of the things that I remember is when I graduated, I became an Ephebian, which is not based only on grades but upon your activity and what you contributed to the school. But every year they would choose so many graduating class to be Ephebians. And I remember that I was chosen that year as one of the Ephebians at Roosevelt High School, which was a proud time. Now, it's been a long time since then, and this year -- because the year is not over -- we had our 63rd high school reunion. And I wear these fancy badges. But this is the badge -- [laughs] -- 63rd reunion we had. But we still get together. And primarily the Japanese students, alumni don't show up as much except when we have the big reunion. But all the rest of my friends, the Russians and the Slavs and whatever other nationalities, they all show up, and we still have a good time together.

AI: Well, that's wonderful to hear about.

PB: Yeah.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.