Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kara Kondo Interview
Narrator: Kara Kondo
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Gail Nomura (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7 & 8, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kkara-01-0036

<Begin Segment 36>

AI: Well, another activity that happened in February of 1943 -- that we had seen that, covered in the Sentinel newspaper -- was the visit of Gordon Hirabayashi along with Caleb Foote.

KK: Yes. I remember Caleb was, we didn't know too much about the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He headed the national organization. He was an imposing figure because our short Japanese stature, and here he was, six foot some, very handsome young man. And Gordon, whose name was well-known among the residents, who had come to a fact-finding, I believe, to see what kind of conditions existed in the camp and the structures within the camp and how the Fellowship of Reconciliation might be able to assist the, the internees. And it was... I have to tell you a little story about Gordon. He and Caleb were, had traveled a great deal, I think, from camp to camp. And Gordon's camp, pants were baggy and shiny and I said, "Gordon, do you have, did you bring another pair of pants with you?" And I don't remember what he said. But I said, "Gordon, you take off those pants, and I'll press them for you so you'll look halfway decent." I reminded him of this incident several years ago, and he didn't remember that, of course. [Laughs]

AI: [Laughs] That's really funny. Well, and did Caleb and Gordon, did they do any speaking themselves at all?

KK: I can't remember that they did. But I, they may have to smaller groups, but not to a public gathering, I don't think.

GN: Did the community ever discuss the Hirabayashi case? How well-known was it?

KK: I don't think we, the community, as such, did. It was those who knew Gordon, probably followed it through various sources. But Gordon was from Seattle, and we, I was interested, and I imagine the people from California knew very little about the incidents and, that he was involved in.

AI: My understanding is that, at the time, that this was -- Gordon's actions were fairly controversial partly because he was also, he was a pacifist and so, not only was he protesting that his rights were violated because he was Japanese American, because of his race and ethnicity, but also he had earlier protested the war in general because of his pacifism.

KK: Well, I think his, his association with the Schmoes, Floyd Schmoe, who... the Schmoes were, were pacifists, also, and I think -- although people, some people didn't know what pacifists were and they really didn't know what the philosophy of the Friends' Society were, and very suspicious. You know, Japanese are rather traditional. They view something that's out of ordinary as suspicious. And I'm sure that Gordon, many people felt Gordon was wrong, just as the other, Caucasian society felt that he was, for different, perhaps for different reasons.

GN: You know, you were saying that a lot of the activities in camp maybe were, in some ways, to help people not think about the outside. Did you think about the outside?

KK: Well, if you were a busy person or a busy housewife, you are forced to think within a certain limit. And because of getting out the paper, that entails a lot of detail work. And some of the social activities, people really were not aware of the outside as much as those who were outside. I don't think they even thought about people who were interned. They thought about us. So, whether it was intentional or not, probably it was. In hindsight, perhaps it was. We were so organized and programmed some way. But I don't think, at the time, we thought of it that way, it was merely of existing and, and being as normal as possible. I don't think Japanese community were, were as organized or, or are as organized as we were in camps, concentrated.

AI: Well, I was wondering, also, that when Gordon Hirabayashi and Caleb Foote came through, whether it -- you mentioned that you were somewhat interested in his case and his situation, Gordon's situation. And I was just wondering what was it that you were following and what your thoughts were.

KK: Of course, I knew Gordon before, you see. I had known him, not well, but I had known him. And I knew the family quite well, and he was from Seattle. I knew the Schmoes, too. Had known them. So it was more of a personal interest. Perhaps... and, if I were to defend him, I, perhaps, would have examined his philosophy more closely, but I, I did it more or less as someone I knew, who I trusted, and who was a friend.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.