Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Helen Amerman Manning Interview
Narrator: Helen Amerman Manning
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: SeaTac, Washington
Date: August 2, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mhelen-01

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is August 2, 2003, and we're here at the SeaTac DoubleTree Hotel with Helen Amerman Manning, thank you very much. I'm Alice Ito with Densho, and on videography is Dana Hoshide. And we're here at the same time as the Minidoka reunion, which is occurring here at the hotel. And we thank you very much for your time. I wanted to ask, to start out by asking you about some of your family background. And you had an interesting grandfather who had an, an unusual experience, I understand.

HM: Yes. My paternal grandfather was one of the first missionaries in Japan. He was there from 1874 until 1894, and my father was born in Yokohama and lived in Japan until he was four years old. And the family, my grandmother and two of the children, came back in, I believe, 1891. And my grandfather followed later on. But my grandfather was apparently a rather prominent Westerner, and was head of the Christian theological school. I'm not sure whether it was in the Imperial University, but it was always referred to in the family as Meiji Gakuin so I figure that it had something to do with Meiji University.

AI: Right. Well, and so then, where did your parents meet up with each other? Where and when?

HM: Well, my mother was from Michigan, but she had gone east to teach in New Jersey, and I really don't know quite where they met, but she was a teacher and he was an accountant, and they got married. (Actually my father was trained as an accountant, but, at least during my being aware of his occupation, he was a loss adjuster for a marine insurance firm.)

AI: And so then where and when were you born?

HM: I was born March 23, 1916 in New Jersey.

AI: And is that where you grew up, then, in New Jersey?

HM: Yes. I went to elementary school... I started out, we always lived in Bloomfield, but the Glen Ridge Elementary School was much closer. My mother could watch me walk up the street and keep track of me 'til I got to the school. So I spent my first six years at Glen Ridge. I think it was Central School. Then I transferred to the Bloomfield school, and graduated from high school there in 1933.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, before we go further, I wanted to ask you to just tell a little bit about your childhood. Maybe a little bit about the area that you grew up, and a little bit about the nature of your schools, your school experience.

HM: Well, Bloomfield was a suburban town, a bedroom community. My father used to commute to New York. He'd go to the station and it was about a twenty-minute train ride, and then a ferry ride over to New York. And I think it was a town of about 40,000. We had several manufacturing industries. And I can't say that there was anything special. I was an only child, my parents were older than most parents, so when I was in high school, there were four of us girls who were almost inseparable. And my father would take us various places for evening affairs, but he was always very strict about my getting home on time, and when I didn't get home on time he would appear in the doorway of the school dance and embarrass me terribly. [Laughs]

And the other aspect, when I was in high school, my aunt was the art teacher. And I had grown up knowing all of her fellow high school teachers as "Aunt" this and "Aunt" that. And here I came along, and I learned to call Aunt Maude "Miss Gay," and Aunt Angeline "Miss Hartz," and it was sort of a state secret that I was really known to all of these people much better than either one of us, I guess, wanted to admit. And I played in the school orchestra. I was active in the Girl Scouts. And otherwise, had a pretty normal growing up.

AI: Did you enjoy school?

HM: Yes, I did. I had excellent teachers, and, of course, my parents being older and stricter, expected nothing less than an "A," and when I came home with a "B," I might as well have flunked the course. But thanks to my teachers, I didn't.

AI: Well, now, in high school, did you have some idea of what you might be interested in? A field to pursue, or, what were some of your hopes and dreams at that time?

HM: Well, I had an aunt who was a social worker, and so, in an effort to understand personal relationships, she guided me to many social work books, and I think I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something in the way of social work, and my college major was sociology, but I took supervised case work, and then I, after college, I worked for a former professor who had become the registrar of Michigan State...

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Before we go much farther, let me back up a bit and ask you: when you were in high school, at some point, you made a decision that you were going to go on to college? Or how did that come about?

HM: There was never any question.

AI: You knew that you would be going on.

HM: I mean, it was like, certainly I was going to live to be twenty-one. Well, certainly I was going to go to college. What else was there to do?

AI: Well, the reason I ask is that my impression is that at, in that era, many girls were not expected to go on to college.

HM: That's true. But in my particular group, we were all going on to college, and it was just taken for granted.

AI: And so how did you decide where you might go?

HM: Well, I was considered very young by my parents. My mother was from Michigan, and she had friends living in East Lansing. So it was determined that I would go to Michigan State College so that my mother's friends could keep an eye on me. And I went to Michigan State when it was just formerly the Michigan Agricultural College. It still said MAC on the college smokestack, and there were fewer than three thousand. My goodness, when we hit three thousand as, when I was in the registrar's office, oh, we were a big school. And so I was at Michigan State in the early days, although the school itself was very old.

AI: Well, and so, tell me a little bit about the, your experience of your casework and how that affected you. You're still a relatively young person, but maybe seeing some families in difficult situations?

HM: Well... as I recall, my supervised casework was with the county welfare department. Now, this was in '32-33, pretty deep into the Depression. And I don't remember very much, except for two of my cases. And one was an older woman, and when I would arrive with her welfare check, and it was during her radio soap opera, she really would rather have watched her soap opera than get her money, and she was quite upset about that. And the other was a family where the mother, I guess, had been very badly abused so that her hip was around halfway to the front, and she had several girls. And she had bought a -- I believe it was a refrigerator -- and was paying something like a dollar a week. And by that figuring, she would have been paying for the rest of her life before she could hook up her refrigerator. So she decided she was going to make some money, and with this house full of girls, she was going to take in boarders which I didn't think was a very good idea. And that's about all I remember.

I had an excellent professor, who incidentally was the wife of (Philip) Schafer, who was the assistant director of Minidoka when I got there. And I had that much connection, although I didn't know him at all. And no, this was just more of what I'd been reading about all through high school and talking about... well, I didn't know that the social worker aunt was, first she lived in the East, when I was in Michigan, and then she was in California, so it was mostly through correspondence and recommended readings.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, so then as you continued through your undergraduate years, how was your thinking changing, or -- or perhaps not changing -- what did you decide to do as your next step? Because you did go on to further education.

HM: Well, that just wasn't necessarily part of the plan. When I was, I was also taking teacher training, and the economic situation was very bad. It was very difficult to get a teaching position, and the professor who had taught student counseling in my education courses knew that he was going to succeed the registrar when she retired. So when I graduated, of course, also, I had, through my boyfriend, had become interested in the Great Books program at the University of Chicago. And I learned later that the, some education professor had written, "Wrong ideas getting in here." And I had very little likelihood of being hired as a teacher or recommended, even. So my guidance professor said, "If you will get a year's business experience, I can offer you a job in the registrar's office when I succeed." So I headed off to Detroit in 1933. Well, I worked for the scales and shovels and all that kind of wholesale hardware for my roommate's father's firm. That was during the summer, and then I worked for a distant cousin's Chevrolet agency in the heart of where the auto workers worked. My job was to hand address circulars telling people to bring their cars in for servicing. And in those days, any auto worker could change his own oil, and come Christmas time, I was told, "Well, as you can see, we don't really need you any more." And thereupon I had a winter, no job longer than two months, never out of a job more than two weeks. And I had another fairly long job, that would be months, before I went up to Michigan State in the registrar's office.

Well, there, I was eventually actually processing the applications for freshmen, and I went in to my boss one day, and I said, "You know, I think I should be making more money for the responsibilities you've given me." Well, he said, "I can't do that until you have a master's." So I set out... there were two places where I could get the courses I wanted. One, the University of Minnesota, one, Stanford. Well, Minnesota would be more or less like Michigan State, so I opted for Stanford. Went out for three months to sort of put down some roots and get a fellowship lined up, came back for six months, and then I was off to Stanford.

AI: You make it sound so easy and quick, but at that time, Stanford was way out west, wasn't it? And --

HM: Yes.

AI: -- quite, somewhat rural area?

HM: Well, I had a very distant cousin who had been with -- well, she was then, I guess, with the international YWCA, and a great traveler, and she encouraged me to travel. So, no, it didn't seem outlandishly far to go. I had gone as far as the Grand Canyon a summer or so before, so I knew something about it. And this time I went all the way to San Francisco. And then when I went back, I had a fellowship in '41-'42, and December 7th came along.

Now, mind you, there were no Asians except for a Filipino school administrator, fairly high up in the Philippine school systems, as a student at Stanford (School of Education). No Asian -- in the school of education, no Asian professors. I didn't know any Japanese, Americans or otherwise. My entire acquaintance with a person of Japanese ancestry dated back to when I was about ten years old, and... oh, dear. Now the name has escaped me. Etsu Sugimoto -- the author of the, I think (A Daughter of the Samurai) -- was speaking at my mother's church guild, and she brought me to hear Etsu Sugimoto, who appeared in kimono and was just a perfect Japanese lady. But that was all my exposure to the Japanese until I was at Stanford. I saw the signs on the telephone poles, but it didn't really register with me. The girls who worked in the residence halls were very sorry that their Japanese maids were going to have to leave, but I lived in town, so that didn't affect me. And so I just had no experience. And having grown up in New Jersey and Michigan, I had never been exposed to the anti-Asian attitudes of the Californians. So it was quite a new experience to go to Minidoka. But it was interesting to me... shortly after December 7th, I went to a meeting of the Stanford Graduate Women's Club, and the women there said, "We have no feelings about the Japanese. We're afraid of the Filipino men." And so, again, I had nothing to go on. So I went to the relocation center...

AI: Oh, excuse me.

HM: Yes.

AI: Before we get there, I wanted to ask you a little bit, to relate how it happened that you were doing some of your coursework there at Stanford, and then how the connection was made to the Minidoka.

HM: Well, during the summer of 1942, I was working for a professor who shared a suite of offices with Paul Hanna, who had been chosen to design the curriculum for all of the ten relocation centers. And his summer seminar designed the curriculum. I knew some of the students there, and I didn't have any other opportunities lined up, and my goodness. Two thousand dollars a year? And only forty-two dollars a month for room and board? That sounded like a pretty good bargain. And besides, I would be going to a brand-new school system, with all the best practices, no traditions to hamper us. And so I signed up, and wound up in Minidoka.

AI: Well, now before actually arriving at Minidoka, were you part of those discussions about planning the curriculum?

HM: No. No, I was not in the seminar. So, no, I wasn't privy to any of that. But --

AI: But you had some idea that...

HM: The principal of the high school at Minidoka had been in the seminar, and he had had a thorough grounding in Stanford education. So he did a wonderful job of implementing the program that was designed.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, let me ask you a little bit about your trip out to Idaho, and as you were arriving in Idaho, what you saw, what your impression was --

HM: [Laughs]

AI: -- and, and your impression of Minidoka.

HM: Well, my trip was a fair introduction. I, first of all, set out to buy a ticket for Twin Falls, and I thought since I was going out to visit my parents before going, that I would go into Grand Central Station in New York and buy a ticket. They didn't know where it was or how to ticket me. So I was sent back to California to buy my ticket. And I was told to take a transcontinental train to Wells, Nevada, and then transfer to either a bus or a train going up to Twin Falls. Well, I figured that if the train were late, a same train would wait rather than a bus, so I opted for the train. We got in about six-thirty in the morning, and my train was supposed to go out, oh, about eight or eight-thirty, something like that. I walked up and down the station platform -- there was no waiting room. The train didn't come. Finally, the station agent said, "Well, the train has been delayed, so you might as well go across the street to the cafe and get some breakfast." Came back, walked up and down. "Well, the train didn't get in 'til well after midnight, and we have to wait eight hours between trips to give the crew a rest, so it'll be afternoon." About three o'clock that afternoon, "Well, your train is out there in the yard, and you can go sit in it." And I went out to find about a half a car, which had been converted from, I guess, a freight car or something, had a few seats in the rear end. The windows had been open all day and the dust blowing in, and it was hot. And soon after that, a couple of railroad men got on. They'd had a day in town and had had plenty to drink, and a nice old grandfatherly conductor and a couple of young assistants.

Well, we set off on a one-track road up to Twin Falls. It was out into the wilderness. And one of the train men got friendly and I was young and green and didn't quite know how to handle it. He wanted to know where I was going in Twin Falls so he could come and show me what a gentleman he could be when he was sober. [Laughs] Well, by that time, the conductor decided that was enough, and so he took me out to show me the view. And he said, "Now, they're harmless. They've had their day in town, they work in a railroad camp along and they'll be getting off pretty soon." So then it was Helen and the conductor and his helpers. Beautiful evening. The sky was amethyst, the grass was silver, and there was a moon. We chugged along, we had to stop for hours, it seemed, waiting for a troop train to go through. And the young fellows asked if I would mind if they didn't turn on the lights, 'cause it was easier to see the signals. I began to wonder if we were ever going to get to Twin Falls.

Arrived sometime after 1 a.m., and the conductor took me through the station. Well, we had to step high because it was bodies wall-to-wall, and he explained, these were West Indians brought in to help with the harvest. And he told me what hotel I should go to and put me in a taxi, and I wound up in a hotel in Twin Falls. Got up early the next morning, because they, I was sure they'd been expecting me the previous day. Called Minidoka, the girl that answered didn't even know who I was, or hadn't been expecting me. "Well," she said, "there'll be somebody in town to pick you up later this morning." So I wasn't missed at all. And we set out over the desert. And whoever it was, I don't know where he worked, but he wasn't very communicative, so I don't know who he was or anything. And he deposited me in front of my barracks dormitory, and there I was.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: So, what was your reaction when you saw this, sort of primitive barracks buildings and...

HM: I think that I was not surprised. Now, I read a professor's paper about the Minidoka education program just this spring, and he talked about the organization of the schools and so on. Said that they had sent out letters explaining the primitive conditions and trying to prepare people. I don't remember that, but somehow or other I knew to bring bedding and what to bring, and you know, it was all so new. I... other people, you know, the servicemen were going off to camp and their situation was different. And I just figured, well, this is different for me. And I sort of took it in stride. And I had a room with a canvas army cot and a straw-filled mattress, and a light down from the ceiling and that was it. And we learned to furnish our rooms with orange crates. We went into town and bought gingham, and thumbtacks. You could take two orange crates and set them upright so that the divider made a shelf, and then thumbtack the gingham around each side, and that made a little dressing table. Get a piece of glass cut to fit, so you had a nice surface, then you bought a, got another orange crate and set that facedown, put a little padding on top, more gingham, a little dressing table bench, hung a mirror on the wall, and you were set.

And then, later in the fall, the WRA bought the Whitcomb Hotel in San Francisco for an office building, and they took the hotel furniture and distributed that among the projects. So late in the fall, I got a nice single bed and a Beautyrest mattress. And I had a regular bed and an upholstered chair.

AI: But when you first got there, that was...

HM: It was primitive.

AI: Right. And that would have been September 1942?

HM: Yes. I got there... I think it was about the third week in September. And I guess I arrived about the same time that the last people came from the assembly center. And I was told that in the morning, the carpenters would start building the block that was to be occupied by the evacuees who were met at the railroad and bussed in, given orientation and lunch, and by afternoon, the barracks would be finished, and they would be shown their apartments. Now, the story was that the original planning was based on a rural population. And we had quite a, an urban population from Portland and Seattle. And so there were fewer large families and more small families. And the apartments didn't shape up in the same proportions, and so at the beginning, somebody from the WRA project would have to go down and, "Now, Mr. Soto and Mr. Fujii, for the time being, your two families are going to have to share this apartment." And I guess they would string up blankets or something and provide a little privacy.

Now, at the Las Vegas reunion... oh, I can't remember the lady who told that when she arrived, there was a barracks with no partitions at all, and they had to divide that up among families that they didn't have suitable apartments for. So, I really don't know the details of that, but there was considerable adjustment required at the beginning.

AI: Right. And I understand that the education buildings weren't finished, when you arrived, there was no high school building yet.

HM: No. I learned from this professor's paper that originally, it was planned that they would have school buildings built specifically for the schools, but only three or four projects actually got them. At Minidoka, they said no, they would have to use barracks. And originally, the high school was assigned half a block, and the elementary schools. And that was what they had to start with. So then it developed that a half a block simply would not accommodate the junior/senior high school. So we had to wait until November 16th to start the junior/senior high school, while they remodeled a whole block. And the barracks were divided into just three 20 x 40 classrooms. However, by the time they opened school, they still had no blackboards, no textbooks, only picnic tables with attached benches, and no resource materials. And we were assigned to start teaching. Well, we used our imaginations, and the guidance of the curriculum guide, and concentrated on learning about the project and discussing evacuation and relocation and that sort of thing. Finally, we got prison-made, individual desks and chairs, which were much more flexible than the old-fashioned school desk and seat made together and bolted to the floor in rows, so that when our high school classes went in for a joint day with the Twin Falls high school, and the Twin Falls high school was an old building, and dark wood, and old seats bolted in rows. They came back and looked around, and they thought they liked the project school better. And I was very pleased with that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Well, I'm interested... you just mentioned that some of your early discussions, your early assignments before you had any textbooks and so forth were about the issues of the evacuation and the relocation. And I'm wondering, what was the nature of some of those talks? What kinds of things did -- I imagine some of the students must have gone through some difficult times.

HM: Well, one of the first assignments that I gave, really to get acquainted with my students, was for a biographical sketch of each one. And that began to open my eyes, and I remember especially, one boy who said that it was as though on December 7th, they had lowered a basket over his head. And he'd been in that kind of a fog ever since. And then I was reminded by a former student recently that I had decided we would have a debate on the justification for the evacuation. And I planned, well, we'll divide the class into teams, have a debate, one side would be pro-evacuation and the other, con-. Not a fellow or girl in my class was willing to take the pro- side of evacuation, except for this one kid. And he was an exceptional fellow, very independent-minded. And his brother had been collecting information, and so he had practically a whole resource library at his disposal. And he agreed to take on the whole class. So it was this one student against the rest of the class. And so we heard both sides of the evacuation story, but I was interested that even for discussion purposes, no student wanted to venture to be in favor.

AI: Well, I'd like to go back a little ways and -- to the point before you actually started classes. And I'm wondering what your own thinking was on the justification of this relocation issue.

HM: Well, it was very interesting... I guess I hadn't really thought it through that much. My aunt, who was the social worker, was living in Carmel at the time, and she was a social worker, and had a colleague who was in the assembly center down in Monterey County, and she had been to visit her, and she knew more about the relocation program than I did. So she clued me in a lot, so I don't think I'd ever confronted the issue head-on. But when we started the workshop of the faculty and the cadet teachers, the Nisei, who were to be assistant teachers, was the day they started blasting for the foundations of the watchtowers. Well, those dynamite blasts just reverberated through the building, and of course, it just underscored the humiliation of the cadet teachers. And we could see they were quite upset. Finally they asked us, "Well, what do you think about relocation, the evacuation?" And when the teachers said, "Well, we don't think they should have taken the American citizens," the tension was broken, and we could turn then to discussing education. So that was my first real confrontation of it.

AI: That must have been quite a moment, to really be confronting the idea that the government had taken this action against American citizens, and that as a group of teachers, you were stating that in your opinion, that had been mistaken on the part of the government.

HM: Right, right. But I have to say, we were confronted with such an adjustment, new things happening all our waking hours, so that there was almost more than we could reflect on. And it sort of grew on me, and as I learned more about the experiences prior to the actual evacuation, and, for instance, I knew a young college student and his sister who relocated very early, and through them, and through their conversations with my parents whom they visited in New Jersey, I learned how, after the evacuation orders, people would come up to their home and, "Well, I'll give you five dollars for your refrigerator," and they just seemed to feel that a Japanese family was fair picking. And then I learned about how people had to dispose of their goods, could only bring what they could carry in a suitcase, and the whole picture began to unfold. But it didn't come all at once. And I'm still learning.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: So, getting back to the fall of 1942, then, you were just beginning to learn a little bit --

HM: Right.

AI: -- about the experiences, and you were getting to know your students. And what classes were you teaching that fall?

HM: I taught eleventh grade, two eleventh grade core classes and a twelfth grade. Now the -- I'm not sure that I had two eleventh grade classes that first year, because also, they had a group of students who had a half-year of German to go, in order that they should complete their two years and be eligible for college, and they didn't have a German teacher. And I had had German in college, so I was drafted to teach the small group of German students. So looking back on it, I'm not really sure whether I had two classes of eleventh graders. But then when I went back to teaching in the third year, I had two eleventh-grade classes.

AI: Well, and for people who don't, aren't familiar with the term, the "core" classes...

HM: Oh, that was English and social studies. And for the eleventh grade -- I guess it was probably ninth, tenth, and eleventh, they were two hours in succession, and we were supposed to blend the two so that when you wrote a paper for history, you also were writing a paper for English. And it, it worked very well that way. The seniors had only a one-period class. And frankly, I don't remember a great deal about my twelfth-grade class.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask a little bit about some of the challenges of teaching these core classes, especially in regard to the content. Some of the, I've done a little bit of reading on the education in the camps, and my understanding is that teaching the democratic principles of American government and American democracy was a big part of the goals of education. Was that true in Minidoka?

HM: Well, I read about that in the history paper. And I don't recall that teaching patriotism and democracy was the primary goal. We were to have democratic procedures, we encouraged student government, and the student activities were run by the students and that sort of thing. But no, I don't recall ever trying to teach "love of country" or democratic principles. I think that the plans reflected the fact that the people who were designing the program had very little understanding of the students that they would be confronting. And I never met a high school student that didn't consider himself an American, and didn't look forward to going back out, at least among the older kids the first year. Now, after three years in camp, it changed a little bit. But never, even in the third year, did I get the feeling that any student of mine considered himself anything but an American citizen. And when I think about it, the assignment that we should be teaching "love of country" to students who had been uprooted from their homes, transferred from the green Northwest to the Idaho desert, plunked down in primitive conditions and kept behind barbed wire, and their older brothers told, classified by the military as mentally or morally unfit for service, who were we to teach them "love of country"? We didn't need to, because when it came time for the "loyalty oaths" and volunteering, even the people who refused to volunteer for the military did it on American principles. And then there was the other side who said, "If we volunteer, we'll prove our loyalty." What could the teachers do that would be better than that?

AI: Well, as you were saying, that the, so many of the Nisei students felt their Americanism so deeply, I'm wondering if any of them ever spoke out in class about some disillusionment with their government, some disappointment that the government, in their case, was not following through with the ideals of Americanism. Do you recall any of that kind of discussion?

HM: No, I don't. By and large, the students were trying to create a typical American high school. And they were enjoying a new freedom, and because, with the communal dining halls, they were no longer eating meals with their parents, where there could be a certain amount of family solidarity built up. And I understand that the parents would be reluctant to correct the children in the front of other people who might very well be committing the same table manner infractions and that sort of thing. Also, because the apartments were so small and had no privacy, the teenagers found their social life outside the home. And so for many of the teenagers, I think as a student of mine who became a professor of sociology said, he was interviewed by a younger student, wanted to interview him 'cause he'd been in a relocation center, well, "What was life like in the relocation center?" Ted said, "Well, I had a ball." And this was such a shock to this younger fellow, who expected the civil rights sort of protest attitude, he just closed his notebook, "Thank you, that will be enough." [Laughs] And he wasn't interested in hearing, really, what it was all about. But I had, see, sixteen-, seventeen-year-old kids, and they were in the process of growing up, finding their grown-up roles, and there was also the philosophy, I think, "So this is what we're faced with, we have to make the best of it. Carry on." Now maybe some of it was because I was so ignorant that I didn't encourage any philosophizing about how the government had treated them. I really couldn't answer that question. But no, it, I didn't experience it in my classes. Really -- and I think this was probably true of most teachers -- we were confronted with teaching our assigned subject matter with very little to go on. And that was challenge enough.

AI: And I understand that the core classes were very large. That you were at some, in the beginning, rather overcrowded.

HM: I think I had about fifty in my senior class, probably in my eleventh-grade classes, somewhere in the thirties. But we had another advantage -- at least I did. I didn't have any problems with discipline. Not that they were all little angels, but no, the students were ready to get down to work. And sure, they got out of line once in a while and pulled pranks and did things like that. I remember I had a very bright student who I'm sure as a result of the evacuation, was so high-strung that he was just almost jittery. And he had great trouble sitting still and concentrating. And I had a table at the back of the room with a collection books which I had brought down from my own collection, and I guess we'd gotten some stray books from contributions to the library. And they were all good reading. And so I would allow him to go back and sit at the table and read since he couldn't concentrate on what we were doing. And somehow the class seemed to accept that. He didn't suffer from it. He kept up with his classwork. And that's how I handled it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: Well, it is interesting to hear that you had so few discipline problems, especially at, among a group that had gone through so many difficult experiences.

HM: Yes.

AI: I'm wondering -- and also, I should say that I can appreciate what you were saying about how some of the young people did have times of fun and enjoyment. That as teenagers will do anywhere, they will try and not only make the best of it, but have a good time --

HM: Right.

AI: -- while they can. So I could see a lot of variation in the experiences there. It's not all terrible and bad all the time.

HM: Yeah.

AI: But I did want to ask if you would look back at your students and think, as you had mentioned there was -- in the debate situation, there was one fellow who was exceptional and willing to take on that, that side of the debate. Were there any other students that in some way were unusual? That took a different point of view, an unpopular point of view, or perhaps, maybe not verbally but in the, in a writing assignment, perhaps? Someone who was --

HM: No...

AI: -- outstanding in some regard.

HM: I remember back before we had our books, when we were studying the makeup of the project and how it all fitted together, I assigned students to explore the different departments of the project, and I had one student who did an outstanding job of interviewing the agriculture department and coming back and giving us an overview of the agriculture department. And I would say that his report was equal to a college student's. And so we had some very bright students.

AI: It sounds very impressive.

HM: But not in the kind of independence that that one kid who took on the whole class.

AI: Well, you were just mentioning the high level of accomplishment of some of the students. How about on the other end? Did you have students that you were forced to fail in class? Students that were not doing well?

HM: Well, I don't recall failing any, but we certainly had a normal spread. However, Jerry Light, the principal, did his doctoral dissertation -- I'm not sure whether it was all of the WRA high schools or just Minidoka, but he told me that Minidoka had a much higher proportion of high school graduates who went on to college or technical school than was normal for American high schools. And I can certainly attest to that. And the Student Relocation Council was very helpful, and I think they did a great deal to ensure that the college experience was good. I don't recall anybody who was helped through the Relocation Council to go to a big university. They mainly sent them to small, pretty much liberal arts colleges spread throughout, where they would get personal attention and have an opportunity to find their way and be one of the group rather than any young, inexperienced college freshman, say, going to the University of Washington, or UC Berkeley. I think that is such a mistake because they get lost. And our students went to small colleges, got lots of attention and help, and they have done very well.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: We're continuing our interview with Helen Amerman Manning, and I wanted to take you back to 1943, and school is continuing through that year. And if you could tell us, you alluded to some of the difficult conditions of operating a school there. I was wondering if you could tell us just a little bit about, say, a typical school week in, in 1943. What that would look like and what some of the conditions and challenges might have been.

HM: Now, are talking about the first year or the second year?

AI: Yes, the first year.

HM: The first year. Well, the typical school day started at eight in the morning, for the teachers it ran 'til five, and then four hours on Saturday morning. We were in the civil service, forty-four hours, so we had lots of time for preparation. The students, except for those in work experience program, which was another aspect of the progressive education which was part of the design, the work experience program, they would spend half a day working under supervision of a high school teacher who oversaw the whole program, in various specialties. For instance, there would be high school students working in the carpentry shop, or in auto mechanics... I would imagine offices. There was something like forty-two different options of work experience. So those would be off for the afternoon. There would be classes from eight in the morning until about three, and then there were...

I remember the first school dance came in December. It was a Christmas mixer. And the faculty were a little bit upset because Mr. Light said, "Now, this is a student activity. Let the students plan it." Oh, we just foresaw it was going to be a disaster. And we got down there, the dining hall had been transformed into a ballroom with lots of crepe paper decorations, the tables pushed back against the wall, the floor carefully waxed. They borrowed some student's record player. I don't know, I assume it was a student's record player. The various students contributed records from their collections, and everything moved so smoothly. Come intermission, the girls had made refreshments, there were egg salad sandwiches and punch, everything was orderly. Came the end of the dance, we didn't have to tell the cleanup crew that it was time to put things back. In no time the school was back to normal, the dance was over, and that was the pattern of school dances from then on, even to the egg sandwiches. [Laughs]

AI: [Laughs] Oh, that sounds like -- it must have been a wonderful event for the students.

HM: It was. And of course, they had the school athletics and Hi-Y and Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, I guess. So there were activities in addition, but I didn't get involved in those very much.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Well, now, during this time, in 1943, did you have much contact with people outside of Minidoka, outside of the project? In Twin Falls, for example? Did you, I was wondering if you had gone into town much, or...

HM: Oh, yeah, we went into town. We would go in on the bus Saturday afternoon, sometimes we would stay overnight in the hotel and come back Sunday afternoon. That was mainly so that we could have a good dinner. There was a restaurant in town where the main choices were chicken, fried chicken, and frog legs. And then there were the evening, Saturday night movies, which always included a Western, and then you took your chances on what would be the second movie. And we could do our shopping and have our hair done in the beauty shop and that sort of thing. And there were a number of the teachers who lived in town, in fact, I would guess that most of the staff lived in town. There were two men's dormitories and two women's. The women's dormitories, I think there was only one non-teacher who stayed there, so there were approximately nineteen teachers and one secretary. The men's dormitory also at first included Mr. Light and his wife, and his four boys slept in a -- what did they call it? -- a Silver Stream trailer that was parked beside the barracks. And there were other people from other departments in the men's dormitories. And mainly we'd stick together when we went into town, so aside from the people who actually lived in town, I didn't know anybody.

AI: Well, I was wondering what kind of reaction you got from townspeople, if any, when you went to shop, for example. And especially if you went with a group, was there any negative attitude?

HM: Well, I remember being told that after the evacuees were cleared so that they could into town and shop, they had a problem at first, because when the Issei would meet on the street, they would bow and hold up traffic. [Laughs] And so they had to warn the residents, "Look, you just cannot be as courteous as you would like to be when you're on the streets of Twin Falls." And no, as a Caucasian, I didn't experience anything. However, during the war, they had a hospital somewhere, not too far away, and they used to bring veterans from the -- or servicemen -- from the Pacific area down to Twin Falls to, for recreation. And a couple of times, I would be walking with a former student, who was a male, and that was very, very difficult for a veteran who'd been serving in the Pacific to see a white woman and a Japanese-looking male walking along. And there was nothing physical about it, but certainly an unpleasant atmosphere developed.

AI: And so the, was there some verbal harassment of the two of you?

HM: They wouldn't make it directly, but they'd make comments that we could hear. But I think both of us would recognize where these servicemen were coming from, and the reasons. So we just shrugged it off. I'm sure that it hurt, but there was understanding.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, now, you had mentioned that over time, at the relocation center, that there had been some changes, and of course, in '43, after the questionnaire had been filled out for registration and leave clearance, then many families did receive permission to relocate outside the camp. Also, as you already mentioned, some students were accepted to colleges and were able to leave later on in 1943. So, could you tell a little bit about the changing nature of, of the community within Minidoka as these changes took place?

HM: Well, I think, as I look back on it, that probably the changes started at the top when Milton Eisenhower left as director and was succeeded by... now I've forgotten his name (Dillon Meyer). Anyhow, the new director was committed from the very beginning that the relocation centers should not become a second order of Indian reservations. And he had a long-term strategy. The first was the loyalty checks, so that people of suspected loyalty were confined to Tule Lake, and people of presumed loyalty were distributed to the other projects. Then the next big step was to open the draft. So they started out with volunteering for the 442nd or the military intelligence. (Finally, the draft was opened and then the closure of the West Coast was lifted.)

And then, in the spring of '42 -- no, '43, they began to have the young people, the college-age people and the young adults began going out. And then, over the second and third years, the pressures to relocate became stronger and stronger until the final year, I would say the, probably the last six months, each family was assigned a date for them to leave. And the pressures became really intense. I remember being impressed hearing about fourteen-, fifteen-year-old boys being put on the train to Chicago by themselves to go out and find housing for the family, a job for their non-English speaking father. They would be met by WRA field staff, shepherded around Chicago, make the proper contacts, go back and report to their family what they had found and where the family was going to go. And in the summer, I heard stories that when a family either couldn't or wouldn't, and there were many by that time. Mainly they were large families or elderly or handicapped people in some way, who just simply couldn't cope. And if they had not made their preparations the morning of the day that they were assigned to leave, a crew from the project would appear at their apartment with cartons, pack up everything, and they would be bussed to the train station, sent back to the point of origin. And I heard that there were, they'd be handed, the head of the family would get an envelope with money for expenses for the trip -- I don't know how much it was, but probably not much -- and their train ticket, and they were off. And I was told that some people would get on the train, climb up the stairs to the platform on one side, and then go down on the other. The project got wise to that, so they had people stationed on the other side of the train to shush the people back onto the train to be sure that they went back to the West Coast. And those were not the most pleasant stories I heard.

AI: Also you had mentioned that there was not only a change in policy from the very top regarding relocation out of camps, but that within Minidoka, there was also some change in administration.

HM: Yes. After the first year of school -- so this would be in, say, September of '43 -- a number of the top level people who had been very humane and concerned with the project people's welfare and so on, they began leaving for other callings. Suddenly word came down from the director, "The appointed staff shall have, shall not fraternize with the residents." Well, in the first year, the Director of Community Services had told the teachers, "Now, look, don't try to make your own community up there on administration hill. I expect each one of you to have at least one community-wide activity. This is your home. You're part of Minidoka." So most of us did. I joined the mass choir, and several of us joined churches. And over the year, of course, we made friends. Now we were forbidden to fraternize. You couldn't just turn it off like that, so we had to be very circumspect. And during that year, under Jerry Light's leadership, things went along pretty well in the school, but then Mr. Light and Mr. Davidson, the head of agriculture, were considered to be too friendly. And a whole new ballgame started with the departure of Mr. Light (in the summer of 1944). Also, a number of the teachers left. You know, this was pretty difficult on them and their families. And so I believe there were only three of us who survived for three years in the faculty, and it got harder and harder to get teachers and some of them were not very well-qualified, and morale began going down. Not only because of the policies about relations between staff and residents, but also the pressure on the residents to relocate. So that last year was one of tension.

AI: That sounds difficult.

HM: But that was the way it was.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Well, so during the last year, what was in your mind? What were you thinking about? Clearly the camp was winding down, it was going to come to an end. Had you begun making plans for additional work?

HM: No. We were so preoccupied with fulfilling our obligations on the faculty, and being a part of the community. Now, I speak for myself, but I think this was pretty well true of the high school teachers. At least the -- shall I say -- more competent ones. That that just took all of our energies. And we were out there in the desert, we'd lost -- I had lost contact with my professional ties that would have helped me get another job. And it turned out that Elmer Smith, the Community Analyst and I were hired -- I'm not sure whether it was the YWCA or what group it was that hired us. But we were in Seattle for Oct-, November and December, conducting a study of the problems of the relocating Nisei. And I lived at the YWCA for those two months.

AI: So you had left Minidoka in October?

HM: October.

AI: And then moved to Seattle, and then worked with Elmer on this study.

HM: Yes, yes.

AI: What, now that must have been very interesting.

HM: It was. Our main job was to help the Nisei find one another, and we had to find them, so we had lots of social activities, and we were always on the lookout for new names and addresses. And much to everyone's surprise, they didn't live where they used to live but they lived close by, and we brought people together who were neighbors and didn't know it. And we reported on the difficulties of getting together. But mainly, I think our function turned out to be helping them find one another.

AI: Well, I'm sure that part must have brought a great deal of joy to people.

HM: Yes, it did.

AI: Reconnecting.

HM: One of the things which impressed me no end, we had a group, at best you could call them pre-delinquents. But they were youngsters that very easily could have gotten into trouble, but Elmer was sort of the Pied Piper of the pre-delinquent set. He had, he was a role model. And so during our two months in Seattle, we went to a Parent-Teachers Association at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, where many of the students had gone. And we ran into several of our pre-delinquents. And we said, "Well, what are you doing here?" "Well, we just wanted to check on how our younger boys and girls were doing. We didn't want them to get into any trouble the way we did." And so they were very protective of the next generation, to see that they should be brought up correctly.

AI: Well, that is so interesting. And I'm wondering, also, what some other impressions you had in those months. It was November, December, and this is still quite recently after the end of the war, what was the nature of the, the atmosphere, I guess, of Seattle, toward these returning Japanese Americans?

HM: I can't speak to that directly, but I do know that there was a couple who fancied themselves as sort of sponsors of the Nisei. And they heard about Elmer and me coming into town, and were very suspicious of us, reported us, I think, to Naval Intelligence. It was some military intelligence group, and Elmer told me that we were reported and being investigated to make sure that we were all right. [Laughs] But I had no contacts... I had very little contact with the people at the YWCA. It was mostly Elmer and the Nisei who would drop in to our office, and the gatherings that we organized. So I can't speak for that. I do know that in comparison to the students, or the, my students, who went to eastern places to relocate, those who returned directly to the Northwest... now, the girls tended to get jobs as secretaries and nurses and things like that, but the fellows tended to go back to their old jobs in produce markets. And that created a gap where the girls were more successful and a little higher occupational status. And there was a mismatch with the fellows. Now, the ones who went east went into all sorts of callings, but generally, there was more equality in the occupational status between the fellows and the girls. And I didn't hear any comparable problems with those who went first to the East Coast. Although several of them finally wound up back in the Northwest.

AI: That's a very interesting comparison to make. Well, now -- oh, please, go on.

HM: Well, I was going to tell you about a student -- and I am sorry to say I cannot find his name in the high school annual -- but I got acquainted with him. He was a leader -- and I was under the impression he was president of the student council or president of the class or something. A very, all-American type of kid. And they had, his group was called up in the draft shortly after graduation. And everyone was surprised to hear that this fellow had refused the draft. Couldn't believe it. So soon after he was carted off to Gem County jail in Boise, I went up to Boise to see him in the hopes that I could persuade him. And he said, "Look, there are two children in my family. My younger sister is mentally retarded, my parents depend upon me to look after her when they are gone. My parents are thoroughly convinced that Japan is winning the war and will soon be occupying Seattle, and 'anything that you do to cooperate with the United States will reflect badly on us. And we need you to take care of your sister.'" Well, we sat there with tears running down our cheeks. I couldn't figure out any alternative and neither could he. The wonderful thing -- I had expected the Gem County jail to be a forbidding place, and it turned out to be rather informal with a sort of fatherly warden. I told him who I was and what I'd come for. "Oh fine. Now you can sit right here in my office and talk as long as you want." And we talked, and finally came to the conclusion that he would, the student was doing what he felt best, and I could understand. So then when Elmer and I went up to Seattle, I went out to McNeil Island to visit. And he greeted me, "Ms. Amerman, don't you worry about me. I've discovered the library, and I'm reading." And he was getting a self-education in the library, and just getting along fine. Well, he returned to a rural town in Oregon, which had a very bad reputation. They wouldn't even sell a newspaper to a decorated Nisei serviceman in uniform. And you can imagine how they would treat him. Plus, the Nisei veterans boycotted him because he'd refused the draft. And I understood that finally it got to him and he committed suicide. So I did hear about that side of the story as well.

AI: How very, very sad. So many situations came out of that...

HM: I think you can understand why I feel those three years were the most significant in my life.

AI: But they weren't, by any means, all of the significant things that you did. Because after that, you went on.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: And I'd like to ask you a little bit about what you did, in fact, do next. After you finished the study in Seattle.

HM: Well, I went back to my home. I didn't have any connections left, so to speak.

AI: Excuse me. Your home in New Jersey?

HM: In New Jersey. So my mother said, "Well..." Oh. I had contacted the professor that I was working for when I left for Minidoka. By then he had become the president of San Francisco State. So he offered me a summer job in '46 as assistant director of the race relations workshop. Well, my mother said, "If you're gonna teach that workshop, you'd better find out what you're talking about." 'Course, by this time, I had decided that there were far more people who could teach than who had had the experience I had with another culture. And so I determined, after Minidoka, that I was going to go into race relations. So I went to the New School for Social Research, took one course from Rachael Davis DuBois, who was the intercultural specialist, and from Milton Konvits, who had worked with the NAACP legal staff in the test cases, mainly Negro civil rights. And then I headed back to San Francisco, and as a result of my work with the workshop, I was hired to develop conferences in communities in the Bay Area for the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Well, they were having problems, and after I had done, I think, about six conferences, I decided that that was enough. And then I went to work for the San Francisco Council for Civic Unity. And I worked there from, I guess it was about January '47 through 19-, September '48.

AI: Excuse me. For people who don't know some of this history, could you say a bit about the significance of the Council for Civic Unity, and nationally, its significance?

HM: The San Francisco Council for Civic Unity was a private organization. It had on its board of directors the cream of the leadership. The president of Levi Strauss, Bill Matson of the Matson line, a man who later became a regent of the University of California, the wife of a judge, Amy Steinhart Braden, whose Steinhart family contributed the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate (Park). It was really top-level social and leadership. So they were a highly respected group, and we had an executive who was very talented, and we would undertake to solve the problems. For instance, we spent a whole two or three months when Willie Mays came with the Giants to San Francisco, he was having trouble finding a home. So my boss got acquainted with Willie Mays, and the outcome was a report "Housing a Giant." Well, he worked with Willie Mays and his real estate man. Willie Mays got to be such an important figure in the intercultural problems, that the mayor of San Francisco invited Willie Mays and his wife to come and live with them until he could find a home. And it was that kind of intercession and finally resolving problems that was our, really, accomplishment.

My boss had a weekly radio program -- I think it was sponsored by the Commonwealth Club, which was, again, a citywide, high leadership group that had lectures and so on. And so it was a very... by stand-, by our terms today, it would be a very conservative group, but in 1947 we were the conscience of San Francisco, I should say. Well, I decided that I needed some theory behind what I was doing, and the director of the California Council for Civic Unity arranged for me to meet Louis Wirth at the University of Chicago, who was the top expert in race relations academically. And also organizationally. So I went down to Stanford, was interviewed by Louis Wirth, he promised me a job if I would come to Chicago. And so, under his sponsorship, I turned up in Chicago and worked for Louis Wirth, first with the American Council on Race Relations, and then I was awarded an Anti-Defamation League fellowship for a year. And I, meanwhile, was getting my Ph.D. And after Louis Wirth died, it fell to me to wrap up his research legacy with all of the students that he had been supervising. Now, I wasn't in a position as a fellow Ph.D. candidate to critique their work. But I was the one who saw to it that it was moving along, and I was the liaison between the faculty and the, the students. And then from there, I went back to the Council for Civic Unity, and became assistant director. And then when my boss left to become head of the Fair Employment Practice Committee of the city, I was not chosen to be the director, and I wound up being hired as Director of Relocation and Property Management in the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. And from then on, I was working at the local or regional level with organizations who were funded by the Federal Housing and Community Development monies to implement their programs. And after Oakland, then I moved to Los Angeles and was Director of Relocation and Property Management, and along the line I had a few consultation counseling -- consultant jobs with consultant agencies. And then when I married I came back up to the Bay Area and worked for the Association of Bay Area Governments, and from there I went to Fremont as Community Development Coordinator, until I retired in 1983.

AI: Well, this, to me, is very fascinating. Because at the time that you were doing your Ph.D. work, my, my understanding is that in the late '40s and early '50s, this was really a time of laying groundwork for really a different kind of race relationship. That groups such as the ones you were working with really believed in solving the problems of...

HM: Yes.

AI: ...perhaps "racial hatred" might be too strong a word, but prejudices, discriminations, and so forth. And so I'm, I'm so interested to hear, at that time, what were some of the visions that were being discussed? A vision of a new relationship among the races in America. How, how did people speak of those things at the time?

HM: I don't think they spoke of them in those terms. I was very fortunate, because at the time I was at the university, I think under the leadership of Louis Wirth, who was the director of the American Council on Race Relations, they developed the organization called the National Association of Intergroup Relations Officials, which was made up of the professional staffs of the kinds of agencies that I had worked with. And that group met for annual meetings so that I was in touch with the directors of the Commissions on Human Relations, the private groups, the city groups, the state groups, and, oh, I guess there were perhaps 250 or more of these professionals. And we would exchange letters and experiences, and my goodness, when we get together for our annual meetings, it was like a family reunion. And by 19-, oh, mid-1950s, the profession of intergroup relations had developed to the point where instead of having, say, one race relations specialist in a federal agency like the Housing and Home Finance Agency, they had several in a number, and there, I remember there was one from the navy, and several from housing agencies, and I don't know what all. And they began... and I would say there were a large proportion of Caucasians when the organization was first established. Well, by the mid-'50s, many federal agencies, particularly, were beginning to have more and more race relations specialists. And, of course, this offered opportunities for minorities and a different kind of professional developed, so that it was not quite the idealistic group that NAIRO had started as. And I stayed with them through about 1959. I coordinated the annual conference in San Francisco and then, because by that time I was with the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, it was not considered quite appropriate for me to take such a leading role in NAIRO, as we called it. I had been on the board of directors and so on. And I just gradually phased out.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, now, in 1954, of course, that was the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court. And I'm wondering, what was your thought when that decision was made? Or did that decision have much of an impact on you or some of your colleagues in the field of race relations at that time?

HM: Well, I saw it from a different angle. I had completed my doctoral dissertation in 1954 on race relations in an urban public school system. And the University of Chicago Committee on Race Relations had sponsored a number of research projects, master's degrees, doctoral dissertations, on various aspects of the Chicago public school system. In fact, when Herold Hunt arrived as the new superintendent of the Chicago schools, he developed a relationship with Louis Wirth and opened the schools for Louis Wirth's research projects. And so after Louis Wirth died, my plans for a dissertation had sort of fallen through, and I was persuaded by the Committee on Race Relations to pull together all of these separate dissertations and master's theses, and make a study of the impact of race relations on the social institution of the Chicago public schools. And I was highly complimented that after... see, my thesis was published in spring of 1954, and the Supreme Court requested a copy, and I sent my copy of the dissertation to the Supreme Court. And when it came back, there was a Supreme Court bookmark in the chapter on school redistricting.

AI: Oh, my.

HM: So that was my take on the decision.

AI: So, in fact, your dissertation must have had some influence in some way.

HM: I don't know what it was, but they apparently read it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: Well, then, I wanted to ask a little bit more, kind of following along this train of what you had been doing in the relocation and property management work, because, as you had mentioned before we started the interview, that at first, I think you were a little hesitant to go into that area?

HM: Yes, I was. I had, by that time, been in the field of intergroup relations, as it then became known, for about ten years. But I was looking for a job, and referred to the director of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. And he offered me the job of Relocation Director. I said, "Well, it sounds very interesting, but I'm not sure that I want to leave the field of intergroup relations. "Well," he said, "if you don't think relocating 4,000 Negroes in Oakland isn't going to be race relations, I don't know what you're talking about." And he sold me. That year, well, that project, I was given the most wonderful support group. The agency had a contract with the Council of Social Agencies in Oakland, which had an inspired director. And so I had two professionals on my staff representing the council. One was a social worker who had worked in the Alameda County Welfare Department, and he knew the rules better than most social workers. And the other was a community relations specialist. So the social worker, whenever we ran into problems of a family being relocated, not having enough money or not having furniture and things like that, Warren could go to the Welfare Department or to the military, wherever there might be money, get the welfare grant increased as necessary, get this veteran his benefits that he hadn't realized he was entitled to, and so he was a great help in that aspect of relocation. My community relations man would go out into the communities where our people were being relocated, and he would see to it that the community was expecting the family, and there would be representatives from Girl Scouts, or the Camp Fire Girls, or the Boy Scouts or whatever, to make sure that the family was integrated into the community. Well, we had a pretty wonderful relocation experience, but when I moved to the Los Angeles agency, the Los Angeles social work community was not of the same feelings, and I was not able to reproduce my two wonderful auxiliary staffpeople, and so although I think we did a reasonably good job, it was not the exciting one that we had had. And the Council of Social Agencies had a special committee chaired by Nick Petris who was, I guess he was a senator then, I'm not sure, in the state legislature. And we had people from the major social agencies who would hear some of our problem cases, and recommend to us how might, we might handle them when we hadn't been able to solve the problem ourselves. So we had a wonderful experience in Oakland.

AI: Well, I'm wondering also, to be in such a position, such a public position in a public agency that was really responsible for carrying out some major shifts in the populations, and quite visibly, because of moving, well, four thousand people, I'm wondering if your agency or you ever came under at-, well, I should say attack, but negative commentary from the news media or people in politics?

HM: When we opened our site office in West Oakland, we were picketed for a year by people protesting relocation. Yes, there was considerable opposition, but we had a very good administration, the mayor had a housing committee of which I was a member, and it didn't stop us. And the interesting thing is that there was noth-, nothing personal between the pickets and the staff. And when we would have, somebody would have a flat tire when his car was parked out in front, a staff member, the pickets would help fix the flat tire. [Laughs] And so it was friendly agree to disagree. So there was nothing threatening about it. But we persevered. And when we would have public hearings about additional projects, of course, there would still be the people who had all the dire stories, the bad effects of relocation. Same thing down in Los Angeles.

AI: What, for people who don't know about that era, what were some of the things that people were so afraid of? Why were they so strongly against this type of relocation?

HM: Well, for one thing, basically, urban renewal started out as "slum clearance." So we were viewed as going in and displacing the most vulnerable part of the population. And I think people did not appreciate how much the staff worked to help people, and all they saw was slum clearance. And the bad effects, people who had to give up their businesses and leave their home neighborhoods and go out to strange places, and there were those who suffered psychologically as, of it and so on. And the unfortunate thing was that in the early days, it would be total clearance, pretty much. There were generally possibilities for owner participation, which meant that somebody that owned property and had the resources to hang on to it and redevelop it in line with the new plan, were allowed to do it. But by and large, it was buying up blocks and blocks of slum housing that was beyond repair, and then selling it at discount prices to developers who would go in and generally -- although they tried to have some low and moderate income housing included -- it was a gentrification situation with not much opportunity for the people who had been displaced. Well, over time it became not slum clearance but urban renewal, with emphasis upon rehabilitating housing and helping businesses to upgrade and remain in the community, and the whole game was changed. But I was working in projects primarily that were the old slum clearance model. But you get very little of that today in the urban renewal agencies.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: Well, there's so much more that I would really, wish I could ask you about, and I wish we had more time in this interview, but because our time is coming to an end, before we actually stop, I wanted to ask, is there anything else that you'd like to comment on? Looking back over your experiences, some of the things that you did that you saw? Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

HM: Well, a number of times you have asked me how I felt about certain issues in the whole evacuation/relocation experience. And I can only plead a combination of total ignorance and being so overwhelmed with the adjustments and the demands of the immediate present that there wasn't much time to reflect on the kinds of questions that you asked: how did I feel about the evacuation, and how did I feel about this and that? I was just swept along in the flow of history, and it has been much more since I left the project, I have learned more and more about the events leading up to evacuation, the problems of coping with the news of evacuation, and as time went on, I began to appreciate more and more. For instance, the issues in the loyalty checks and the willingness to serve in the military. These are things that I have learned about during those three years and since then, and I wish that I'd known in 1942 what I know in 2003. [Laughs] So, I must come over as rather unfeeling, but I wasn't.

AI: Well, I thank you very much for sharing all your thoughts, your memories and your reflections.

HM: It's been a pleasure.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.