Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Earl Hanson Interview
Narrator: Earl Hanson
Interviewer: David Neiwert
Location: Poulsbo, Washington
Date: May 27, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-hearl-01

<Begin Segment 1>

DN: This is our interview with Earl Hanson at his home in Poulsbo. Today is May 28th?

EH: -7th.

DN: I'm sorry. May 27th.

EH: I think 27th.

DN: Yes, you're right. Yeah, sorry. May 27, 2004, and the interviewer is David Neiwert, and our videographer is John Pai. And we are having a very nice conversation with Earl in his home. Earl, can you tell us a little bit first about your family? What was your father's name?

EH: Gunnar.

DN: Gunnar? How would you spell that?

EH: G-U-N-N-A-R. Well, actually, his full name was Gunnar Torvald Hanson Haltbakk. And when he came to Port Blakely in 1910, he dropped the name of Haltbakk and took up the name of Hanson. And in Norway, the Hanson name is spelled "-E-N," but somehow or another it's "-O-N" here in the United States. So everybody calls me a Swede, but that's a no-no. But Dad was born in Kvisvik, Norway, in (January 8,) 1891. Then my mother was born in Forvik, Norway, up near Mo i Rana, and she was born in 19-, wait a minute, 18, (January 15,) 1895. 'Cause Dad was four years older than her.

DN: And what was her name?

EH: And her name was Ingebjorg Strand. Ingebjorg Frederika Strand. And Dad came to Port Blakely in 1910, Mom came to Tacoma in 1914. And where Dad lived, in Eagledale, on Bainbridge Island, was, there was a community of people that had come from Norway where my mother was born. And there was quite a few of 'em. So my mom would come from Tacoma up and, and visit all the people up there, well, that's where she met my Dad, and then in 19-, November 26, 1921, that's when they got married. And went on a honeymoon to Los Angeles, and back to Port Blakely. And Dad was a carpenter and a shipwright, and a boat builder, and he was also a commercial fisherman in Alaska.

DN: Why did he leave Norway?

EH: He came over with four of 'em. There was, the economy was so bad that they figured they could come over. And what Dad wanted to do was to work in the Port Blakely mill, which he did. And I think Marcus and Ed Batten also worked in the mill. And then Pete Oness was a captain of a whaling ship. And he had sailed with Roald Amundsen. So every time I'd see Pete, he'd always talk about him and Roald Amundsen. So that goes back a long, long way. And the first trip that I went to Norway, and I hadn't seen Pete in oh, I don't know how many years, and I'm waitin' to go through immigration and I look out, I told my mom, I says, "That looks like Pete Oness over there." She says, "That is Pete and Ellen." [Laughs] So they had come down, they had known that we were coming, and so they were there to meet us. And then I was meeting a cousin that I had never met before, and I had one picture of him, but he, he picked me out and so that was our first trip to Norway. And that was the first, my mom hadn't been back to Norway in fifty-seven years. So it was a kind of a tear-jerker when the whole family got together. When we got to Trondheim, we came in on a bus from Kvisvik, from where my dad was, home was, and the bus driver says, "Everybody out, this is the end of the line." And he says, "The bus isn't gonna go anyplace. And I told, asked my mom, I says, "Who are all these people out there?" She says, "That's all your relatives." [Laughs] "And your aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins," oh, boy. And there was over fifty of 'em there. So we had a, quite a reunion there.

DN: What year was that?

EH: 1972.

DN: Wow.

EH: Our oldest daughter, she had just graduated from high school. And so Norma drove a school bus, so she couldn't go, but Earlene -- that's the oldest daughter -- she went with us. And I was the flight leader on a charter flight for Sons of Norway. And she was my assistant, so her and I, we got two free round-trips. And then Mom, I think Mom's trip at that time was about three hundred bucks, round-trip. And we had a great time.

DN: Was your mom a typical homemaker?

EH: [Nods] That's all she did, was a homemaker, yeah.

DN: And what about your dad? Was, did he work at the Port Blakely mill until it closed?

EH: He worked at the Port Blakely mill, and then I don't remember what year he started fishing in Alaska, he went to Yakutat, and fished there until I think 1939 when, and we were just kinda getting the war going. You know, Hitler was making his move. Well, he didn't wanna go back to fishing, but they needed carpenters to build a army base in Anchorage, Alaska. So he went up there for a year, and then came home, and then he, he went to work in the Winslow shipyard. And stayed there until he died. He actually had a stroke going on board one of the boats. He was, had a foot up on the ladder, and his tool box here, and he had the stroke and he... I think in his right hand, he hung on until somebody came along and laid him down, and then he laid for two years, and that was it.

DN: When he, did he leave the Port Blakely mill when it closed, or before then?

EH: That's before -- [laughs]

DN: Would have been...

EH: That was before I was born. See, when the mill closed is the year I was born.

DN: In 1923?

EH: 1923, yeah. See, the mill had burned twice, I think. And, but I think he... of course, my first recollection, he was working at the shipyard in the wintertime, and then going to Alaska and fishing.

DN: Was it his own boat?

EH: Yes, he had his own boat. He fished for Libby McNeil and Libby in Yakutat. And...

DN: So he'd go up there in the summertime and come back?

EH: Yeah, I think, I think he was gone about six months out of the year.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

DN: Hmm. So, can you tell us the day, or your birthdate, then? You were born...

EH: June 29, 1923. I was born in a Norwegian hospital in Seattle, Washington, which closed its doors in 1927. And two of my classmates were also born there. And Charlie Ness and his dad used to fish in Yakutat, too. And Charlie was born just a few minutes before midnight, and I was born right after midnight, and our mothers shared the, the same room in the hospital. We, we both grew up in Eagledale, we both graduated together, and we both went in the air force. He, he went in before me, though.

DN: And were you good friends?

EH: 'Til the end. We never had a bad word between us.

DN: Like brothers.

EH: Oh, yeah. But he always reminded me that he was the oldest. [Laughs] Even, even, he was in... I think he was in Providence Hospital when he died. They, they had given him chalk, but they didn't give him any stuff to dissolve it. And it solidified on him and wiped him out. And I, I saw him on Saturday afternoon, and he died Monday morning, early.

DN: What year was that?

EH: 1988 or '9. One of, one of those two years. I, I'll know again, because my mom, my dad, and Charlie's folks and Charlie and his wife are all buried at the Port Blakely cemetery. So I always go put flowers on Mom and Dad's grave, bring some over to Charlie and have a few words with Charlie, but Charlie doesn't answer me back. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

DN: Now, Eagledale is located on that ridge to the south of Winslow, south of that bay, pretty steep ridge, right?

EH: Well, we were, where we lived was just off of New Sweden Avenue, kind of up on the hill, and that was Pine Street. It was just a, not even a block long, the street, but we still called it New Sweden Avenue. And there were more Norwegians on there than there were Swedes. How it got the name "New Sweden Avenue," I don't know.

DN: Maybe it sounded better than "New Norway." Who knows? Did, did, can you describe your place?

EH: Dad built, well, we lived in, in four different places. Two of 'em on this Pine Street, the first place, when I came home from the, the hospital after being born, I was too young to remember that place. And then we moved, oh, about a block and a half away, and lived there until I think 1929. 'Cause my sister was born in that house, and then I mentioned Pete Oness, Dad built his home at the very end of New Sweden Avenue, and we lived there until 1931, I think. And then from there I went to McDonald grade school, and then to Bainbridge High School. And then Dad built the house, which was a real big home, and it's still there. Then let's see... I think there's been about three or four people that have owned it since, since we sold it.

DN: Was it a, the... this house was built when? What year?

EH: Pardon?

DN: What, what year was that house built?

EH: I'm gonna say 1931, 1932. Somewheres in there.

DN: So that's the house you mostly remember growing up in.

EH: Yes, yes.

DN: You say it's a, it was a pretty big house?

EH: Yes.

DN: How big was your lot?

EH: Well, we had two, two acres there.

DN: And did you keep a garden?

EH: Oh, Dad always had a garden. And, and he dug everything, he loved to raise potatoes, because back in Norway, that was one of the things that they were, raised a lot of, on their, on their farm there. And the farm in Norway, I'm gonna guess, probably is about fifty acres, and my cousin built a new home there, and that's where they live. And the first time I came to Norway, they were a little bit afraid, because Norwegian custom, the eldest son of the eldest son is the property owner. And my father was the eldest son, and I'm the eldest son. So when I got there they were very nervous. I said, "Just calm down." I says, "All I want to do is come here and visit with you people, and that's all." Says, "What you do with the property, that's yours." But a beautiful piece of property. And I always wondered, Dad always liked to have birch trees, and he also liked to have hazelnut trees. And the hill going down to the lake was just covered with hazelnut trees, in Norway, and birch.

DN: So...

EH: And then we, in our hill where, there in Eagledale, it had oh, I think about five or six hazelnut trees. And Dad just treasured 'em. He never got to pick any of the nuts or anything, and then one time he and I were out lookin' for a Christmas tree, and I told him, I said, "That looks like a birch tree right there." And it was a little tiny thing. Boy, we went home, got the shovel and dug that up. It's still there, and I have two descendants of that tree right across the crick.

DN: Here in your, on your property.

EH: Uh-huh.

DN: Did, how many siblings, brothers and sisters do you have?

EH: I have two sisters and one brother.

DN: Do you remember what years they were born?

EH: Let's see. My sister (Jeanette) was born in 1929, Lucille was born in 1931, she's the same age as my wife, and my kid brother (Reynold) was born in 1933. They're not, none of 'em are around here.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

DN: What age did you become aware that you had Japanese neighbors?

EH: Oh, when we were building the house, or when -- I shouldn't say "we" -- when Dad was building the house, we were living in Pete Oness's home, and I'd always have to take lunch up to my Dad. And the place we would take a, I would take a shortcut, and it went right past the greenhouses and past the Takayoshis' place. And Mrs. Takayoshi would always open up the window, and she always would say, "Ah, I see-a. You bring Father lunch-y." [Laughs] "Yes, I do." And then, not too many years after that, why, they, they left and then they moved out to Pleasant Beach, and put in bigger greenhouses out there.

DN: Can you describe their operation a little?

EH: Well, they're in Eagledale. I'm, I think it was tomatoes that he was growing. Because they told us that we could not eat the tomatoes unless they were washed, because they, he had to spray 'em with something, you know, to keep, keep the bugs or whatever. Like in the summertime, they had vents in the top of the glass roofs, and they would open them up. And then open the doors, we could just walk right in, 'cause whew, it was hot inside. And I've often wondered how he got his tomatoes to market, but I think the auto freight used to come in and pick up the tomatoes and take 'em off.

DN: And how did they heat it in the winter?

EH: Coal. They had a boiler, there was a boiler there, and the, the water pipes were probably about that big. Probably about two-inch water pipes running all over in there, under, underneath... well, the planters were up probably about that high off of the floor, and there was probably about that much dirt in, in there, and that's where they grew the tomatoes. And there was pipes up above, and then underneath all of the planters. And they were, let's see, there was two greenhouses there. And they were probably, oh, I'll betcha a hundred feet long or so, each one. So he grew an awful lot of tomatoes.

DN: Did they have, did they have children?

EH: Yes, but I didn't know them. Whether they were older than me or younger, I don't remem-, I don't remember. What I do remember, though, is the Akimoto family, and when we lived at Pete Oness's house, the neighbor across the street owned the greenhouses down below. And there would, boy, those were humongous greenhouses. And I'm sure they raised chrysanthemums. 'Cause we would always go down and, on a good day, we would go down and play ball out in the street, but the boys had to do their chores before they could go out and play ball.

DN: This was the Akimotos?

EH: That's Akimotos, yeah. And if you get a chance to meet Jerry Nakata, they're cousins of Jerry's, which I didn't find until later in years, life.

DN: But these, were those your first Japanese playmates?

EH: Yeah. Yeah, oh yeah. They were, oh, they were neat kids. But poor Tanio, he was the youngest boy, and he was so pigeon-toed, and he could hardly run. And when they left Eagledale, they moved to, I think to Auburn, and then they went to Denver, Colorado. And I think they live, the whole family lives in Denver now.

DN: Did, and what about at school? You must have had Japanese classmates as well.

EH: Oh, yeah. Pete, well, see, there, the road didn't go -- when we lived in, in Pete Oness's house, they, there was not a road going down to what we called the lower road, where the greenhouses were. And they went to Pleasant Beach school, and I went to McDonald school. And the only one that went to McDonald school was Pete Ohtaki, and Pete was the head of Japanese Air, Japan Airlines for the United States. He was later stationed, I think, down in San Francisco or someplace. But he died -- oh, I don't know how many years ago now. And then when I got into the, the high school, that's where all the Japanese kids come in together. And that's where I met some of the fantastic guys.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

DN: When... your father worked at the Port Blakely mill, and that was where a lot of the early Japanese that came to the Island worked. Can you describe their little community there?

EH: See, that was gone by the time that I remember, but just listening to the stories, they were on, from the end of Blakely bay, go up to Fort Ward, which was, later became the U.S. naval radio station, and on the right-hand side of the road, there was, there was a crick that went up there, and that's where they all got their water. And that was... I can't think of the name of the village that they called it. But that's where they had their homes, and they were more or less the laborers, according to Jerry, in the Port Blakely mill. And loading, loading the ships, the sailing ships at that time. I have a picture of Port Blakely downstairs on the wall there. You can see some of the old sailing ships that were in there. And after the mill closed down, a lot of them, I think, moved away. Probably moved to Seattle or wherever they went, but there were a lot of 'em, that they found that they could, they couldn't own property because they were aliens. And only, the only ones that could own the property were the ones that were born in the United States. And they would rent property and then start strawberry. And they raised the most finest strawberries in the world. And that was the Marshall strawberries. And you won't, I don't know whether you can find Marshall strawberries to this day, because they only lasted a short time, but the flavor, oh boy, it was really somethin'.

DN: How many of these strawberry farms were there? Do you have any recollection?

EH: On the Island?

DN: Yeah.

EH: Boy.

DN: One figure I read said thirty-eight, something like that.

EH: Well, there were two hundred and seventy-three of 'em, I think that was the count, that were evacuated from the Island. And the Kitayamas, they, they had greenhouses, the Furutas had greenhouses, Jerry Nakata's dad had strawberries, the Okazakis had strawberries, the Kouras had strawberries. I named the Sakumas... Suyematsus, and I think the Hayashidas had strawberries. I think the Hayashidas was the family out in the north end. When they, they left, they leased property or rented property from Maude Beaton, who was a old-timer in Port, Port Madison. And then she let them store all their goods in the house and locked it all up, and it was there when they came home.

DN: But you, you did know someone whose father had worked at the Port Blakely mill, didn't you?

EH: Yeah, Jerry.

DN: Oh, Jerry?

EH: Jerry's dad did, yeah. He, that's why I wish Jerry could have come up here today, but he, he lost his wife I think about a year and a half ago, and he still works for the Nakata, they own Town and Country Markets. They, I don't think... but he works over in the Central Market over here. And today's a bad day because that's freight day. And when we have, well, there's four or six of us get together periodically from our class, and we have a class meeting. And Jerry is in and out because of, he's got to take care of the freight. But...

DN: But, but you say most of the, most of the farmers actually came from elsewhere? They weren't left-, holdovers from the mill?

EH: Yeah.

DN: So how big a, how big of, how big were these farms?

EH: Well, the Sakumas had... boy, now I'm guessing. I would say ten to twenty acres. And then they went, moved back to Winslow, and then the Okazakis came in. And I would say that they had about twenty acres of berries.

DN: Did they grow crops besides the berries?

EH: They would, okay, periodically you have to take and change the ground, so-to-speak. You pull your strawberries out, they would grow peas, and several summers there, they'd hired us kids to pick peas. And I guess they shipped them to Seattle, because there was, the strawberry cannery didn't handle peas.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

DN: The, you mentioned the cannery. Can you tell me about, a little about that cannery?

EH: Well, it burned here a few years ago. It was owned by R.D. Bodle company, and I was too young to go to work there. But they would hire all the, as much of the Island people as they could, and they had two big lines, conveyor belts, where they would dump the strawberries out, and they would be washed and then they would... when you pick cannery berries, you had to husk 'em all. And when you pick market berries, going to the stores, then you left the husks on. And these gals would pick out the bad strawberries, or if there was a husk on there they'd have to pick that off. And... boy, there was quite a string of gals on, on both sides of this conveyor belt. And seemed to me there were two conveyor belts. 'Cause they had trucks coming in all the time, dropping in the fresh berries in there.

DN: At least during strawberry season.

EH: Yeah. And, you know, that was one of the bad things. I have to mention this, because when they took the Japanese away from Bainbridge, it was just prior to strawberry season. And they lost everything. Some of 'em just had to let 'em go, some of 'em leased or sub-leased or whatever, to Filipino farmers. And whether they kept the strawberry cannery going or not, I don't remember.

DN: I, I read in at least one account that the, that the Bodle cannery actually leased farms, farmland to the, to the farmers. They would have a contract arrangement with them.

EH: That could be, that could be. There was a Japanese school down, down in Winslow, and Mrs. Ohtaki, she was the schoolmaster. And she taught them to speak Japanese. But you ask Jerry today if he could speak Japanese -- [laughs] -- no, he doesn't know.

DN: When I interviewed the, the Bellevue Nisei, they all said they went to the Japanese school as well, and they all hated it. [Laughs] They all hated going to school.

EH: I shouldn't say this, but Jerry would try to skip class. [Laughs]

DN: Was it a, was it a weekend school? Did they go on Saturdays, or was it after school?

EH: It was after school. Whether they went every night or what, now, that I don't remember. We're going back quite a few years.

DN: Sure.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

DN: So you mentioned that you worked on some of these farms as well.

EH: Yeah, I picked strawberries. For the, first I picked strawberries for the Sakumas, and I also picked peas for 'em. And then when they would move back to Winslow, then the Okazakis came in, and they had strawberries and peas, also. 'Cause they would alternate, you know, different sections of it, because the peas would put... nodules? Is that what it is, in the soil that the strawberries needed? Yeah.

DN: Yeah, and I think the strawberries put pathogens into the soil, and after about five years they have to be cleared out.

EH: Yeah.

DN: Did these families move around from place to place a lot?

EH: Well, wherever they could get land to farm, they would do it. And you know, they started out small, and then they would expand and expand, because when the mill shut down, nobody had any money, and they just started out real small, and I can't tell you who the first ones were that started raising strawberries, but I know the, probably the biggest strawberry farmers on Bainbridge was the Kouras. And their, Meadowmeer golf course is the old Koura strawberry farm.

DN: I guess it was well-prepared for a, for a golf course, huh? [Laughs]

EH: Oh, yeah.

DN: Did, did you get any sense that, that their parents, at least, had desire to return to Japan? Or did you feel that these people were gonna be your neighbors for a long time?

EH: No, they came here to be American, to be Americans. And they all stayed. I know Jerry's mother, before the war, went back and visited for I don't know how long, in Japan. But then they had to go by boat, and I think it took us ten days on the boat when we came back home. And, but... well, Harding Akimoto -- not Harding, George Akimoto. And he was a relative, cousin of Jerry's, he had gone, they had sent him to Japan to go to school, probably in the mid-'30s, something like that. And then he came, came back, I think probably about '38 or '39. And he, he was strong.

DN: Did he have any trouble fitting back in after being in Japan?

EH: To my knowledge, no. Got right into the ballgame. [Laughs]

DN: Did you ever go in their homes?

EH: Oh, yes. Oh, well, like with the Akimotos, living close there, let's see... there was Tanio, Harding, George, Peace, and then the other girl, I can't name her. But they had a birthday party. Joe Welfare, who lived across the street, he, he and I were always invited, and if I had a -- when it was my birthday, they all came up to my place, or Mom invited 'em up. And have cake... we had, we couldn't keep ice cream because all we had then was an ice box. Cake and probably punch. Oh, and the birthday candles. You always had to have the birthday candles on.

DN: And what were their homes like?

EH: Gee... almost like everybody else's, you know, I never got into their bedrooms or, or anything, but inside, in the kitchen and living room, was just like everybody else. I think that the walls were paper on the walls, wallpaper, yeah.

DN: And did, did they have things around the house that would attract your attention? For instance, anything Japanese, particularly? Or anything that caught your curiosity?

EH: I don't remember any Japanese flags.

DN: Oh, I'm thinking more like flower arrangements, that sort of thing.

EH: Well, they always had flower arrangements. They were good at that. And she would make, Mrs. Akimoto would make, she would always have a jello. And it was unsweetened jello. And it was, it was... well, it had a different taste, so I don't know whether it was imported from Japan or what. I don't know. But I ate it. I'm still here. [Laughs]

DN: [Laughs] How about, how about other foods? Did they eat traditional Japanese foods as well? Tofu?

EH: Well, I didn't really know about tofu, and, well, they ate a lot of rice, and I think going to school, they carried sack lunches just like the rest of us. What they had on their bread, I have no idea. Probably strawberry jam. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

DN: So what kind of, what kind of activities would you have with these, with your Japanese neighbors? You've mentioned baseball.

EH: Well, Jerry, in high school, he was one of our star basketball players on the Bainbridge High School team, and also was, another one was Mitsu, but we called him "Lefty" Katayama. He was, he was a great basketball, they were both fantastic basketball players.

DN: How'd the team do?

EH: Oh, I can get my annual out. [Laughs]

DN: [Laughs] Little, little hazy now, huh?

EH: Yeah, oh, yeah.

DN: How about football? Did they play that?

EH: Oh, I'll tell you, you know one of the best football guards that Bainbridge ever had was... Koba. Harry Koba. And he was about that wide, not very tall, but man... Pop Miller was our football coach, and he just admired Harry. He said, "That was one hell of a football player." And then Bear Omoto was a, I think he was a tackle. And he was, he was much bigger than Harry, but man, he, he could plow through that line like nothin'.

DN: And these were all hard-working kids who...

EH: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, for them to turn out for football, they had to do double-duty because the strawberry fields, you had to get out and hoe them, and keep 'em well-weeded, and they had the most beautiful strawberry farms in the world. And the plants, gee, they were big. And every Saturday, they had to put their time out in the fields. And they would be all lined up out there, with their fork hoes, and doing the weeding.

DN: Did, did the farmers also bring labor help over, at, strawberry picking season over from Seattle?

EH: Oh, no, they came from Canada.

DN: Oh, really?

EH: They, they were the... somewheres up on Vancouver Island, I think, was a, an Indian tribe, and they would bring them down, and, to help pick strawberries. And so they were, during the strawberry season, there were, ooh... I know that the Sakumas and the Okazakis, they had quite a few. And they lived in tents, if I remember. And where they got their water, boy, I don't know.

DN: How long, typically, did a picking season last? A couple weeks?

EH: We... well, we graduated May the 27th. And on Bainbridge High School, the Seattle schools and all the other schools, like spring vacation, winter break, and so forth, they would get usually a whole week off. We would probably get maybe one day off. Because to get our 180 degree -- degrees -- days in, that would back it up so we could, we could get out early to, so that the Japanese could go work their strawberries.

DN: And, and, but it would usually last two weeks or so? With the picking and...

EH: Oh, it lasted... by the Fourth of July was usually the end of the strawberry season.

DN: So over a month.

EH: Yeah. I'm guessing -- and that depended on the weather, because the Marshall berries were very, very susceptible to rain. Like we got here today. They wouldn't, they'd rot right now. Or turn to mush. And there were years when they had pretty low quality berries.

DN: And those, of course, would inflict hardships on the, on the families.

EH: Yeah, it did.

DN: Did, when you, when you'd work on these farms, did, did you find that, that it was a camaraderie-building sort of thing? Friendship-building?

EH: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, you, when you go to school with these kids, they're, they're just like everybody else. And some of them, they would put up a, kind of a little shack type of a deal, usually built out of shakes. And at least, though, it had a roof, where they could pile up their berries. They were put in crates. And, and we had carriers... I would venture to say six boxes. They were, I don't know, probably about that square, and they were quite deep, for the cannery berries. And one of 'em would stay there, because we had punch cards. For every hand carrier that you brought in, they'd punch your card. And the more punches you got, the more money you made. [Laughs]

DN: Sure.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

DN: Did, what age did you become aware that people were prejudiced against the Japanese?

EH: Well, I think... probably, and I was working in the Port Blakely store, and there was one Japanese fellow that always come in the store, and he loved to fish salmon. And a lot of people said that he was a retired Japanese admiral, which was false. And the guy you mentioned over here, sour grapes.

DN: Lambert Schuyler.

EH: Yeah. He, after the war, when they were starting to come back, that's when we really heard about him. And we had another gentleman that I admired because he took care of the Boy Scouts. There was a, I was in Troop 498, and Jerry and the Winslow kids were in Troop 497, and we had a place called, well, it was a, a scout camp. And we'd go out there and Major Hopkins would take care of everybody. And we always thought he was just a great guy. Well then, after the war, why, he was a dissenter. Didn't want 'em back on the Island. And Schuyler was another one.

DN: When, but you didn't really encounter it, even through -- there was no real segregation on the Island or anything like that? Everybody mingled. How about your own parents? Did they ever...

EH: Oh, hey, they, it was great. I think everybody in our community were all immigrants -- our parents. Let's put it that way. And the Japanese were, were immigrants, also. And I never knew of any animosity against them, or anything, until just before the war, and then there were incidents, but when it boils down to everything, there was not -- well, when they took them away, they took away, the FBI came in and took away, I don't remember how many husbands, or fathers. And I believe they took 'em to Montana. I don't know where. And they were eventually let go, and there was no charges brought against anybody. But the, the one guy that really stood up for the Japanese, and that was Walt Woodward. He was the publisher of the Bainbridge Review, and there's a school named after him on the Island, and we even had his wife as a substitute schoolteacher. And he, he got Paul Ohtaki to write letters to the Review, so he, so Walt could publish 'em. So we, we kept information going, and I used to write to Jerry, and he'd write back to me, and then when I went in the service, we lost contact, and then I didn't see him again until probably about 1946, '47. 'Cause when he came home, he went, got his own store up somewheres in Seattle, and was over there for a few years, and then he came back to the Island.

DN: You say there were some incidents before the war broke out, that...

EH: Well, I can remember my folks always took the P-I, and there was big headlines about a radio being found on Bainbridge Island. Well, I think it turned out to be nothing, but it was still headlines. And other than that, it was, kids were in school and played ball, and, you know...

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

DN: Do you, you probably remember December 7, '41 pretty closely, pretty well.

EH: [Laughs] Do I.

DN: Yeah. Can you tell me about it?

EH: You know, Mom had hired a carpenter to redo our living room, and it changed the windows around. And that Sunday morning, I was out on, up on a scaffolding. I was probably about eight feet in the air, and I had the radio out there. And I'm prime coating the windows -- or the fascia boards on the window. And "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor." I almost fell off the, the deal, and I disconnected the radio, went in, and plugged it in the house, and all of us sat there and listened to all, about Pearl Harbor. And we were shocked. I mean, utterly shocked. But that still didn't change anything with, with any of us on our friends, you know, the Japanese friends.

DN: Did you connect it to your friends at all?

EH: Well, we'd always talk to each other, you know. 'Cause it wasn't very long after that, let's see... when did they take them out?

DN: Late March.

EH: March, yeah, because we had a, a deal at Eagledale on the day they took 'em away. And I was one of the guest speakers. See, December, that was in '41, and they left February or March.

DN: It was March 30th.

EH: March 30th, okay, yeah. But in between there, life went on as usual. And then when they announced that they were gonna take 'em away, I think the, they gave 'em ten days to pack up their stuff, one suitcase per person was all they could take. And those poor people had to get rid of -- a lot of the people had to get rid of all their stuff. I know, I think it was Sam Nakao, was talkin' about, they had just bought a new refrigerator and a new stove. What are you gonna do with it? Give it away, penny on a dollar? Or give it away? And, and like the Nakatas had the store, well, that was Momoichi and Johnny, they had the store there in Winslow Way, Eagle Hardware & Market, which was a meat market, and I think Marshall Realty took care of the place for them. They just shut it down, and closed it up and held it for 'em 'til they got back.

DN: But a lot of the homes, these were leased homes in some cases, right?

EH: Yeah. Well, okay, I think we said, mentioned the Hayashidas. Boy... that was the one out in Port Madison, I know that they saved all of their stuff, even their old truck, and they parked it right there, and they had, well, most all of 'em, they didn't have tractors, they had horses. And you know, I don't know what they did with all the horses.

DN: The, well, the Nisei in Bellevue, who went through some similar experience, described how "vultures" descended on them to basically pick them clean.

EH: Oh, yeah.

DN: People come in to take advantage of their situation.

EH: Penny on a dollar. Put it that way, 'cause it was, lot of 'em lost a lot of money. And, you know, in later years, when they got the $20,000, you know, after they had -- well, this was just a few years ago that they got that. I heard some rebuttal on that, and I told 'em, I says, "Did you ever grow up with 'em? Did you ever know any of 'em?" "No." I says, "Don't make statements like that. Like I says, "If you had to leave your home and everything in it, or get rid of it right now, what would you do?" I says, "That was the situation that a lot of them were in." And...

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

DN: But, so the, the announcement in mid-March that they were being evacuated must have come as something of a shock.

EH: At first they thought it would be just the, the immigrants from Japan. The ones born in the States, they thought they were gonna stay home. And it didn't turn out that way. Now, Tom Kitayama was in our graduating class, and very, very good friend of mine. We were in boy scouts together. He was at Washington State, and he was out of the area, from...

DN: The exclusion zone?

EH: Yeah. Because I think the, the mountains was the dividing line. Somewheres in there. And, and so an American family took him in and kept him there until he graduated. He became -- now, I'm going to brag a little bit about the Japanese. He, he and his brother and his family went to... down in California. Union City? He became, got on the city council, he became mayor, and they named a school after him. The Tom Kitayama, whatever the school is. I've got it, I keep a, I have a box of all the, the stuff from the grads. And Sada Omoto, he went on to become a doctor, and, from Detroit, Michigan. What's the name of the school there? One of the big schools there, anyway. But he still lives back there, but he never, he always comes for our class reunions. And he was our class president when we graduated, and he's still our class president. We're proud of him.

DN: That, even though he didn't get to graduate with you, right?

EH: Oh, they all graduated. We were the last class to graduate prior to the war.

DN: Oh, you graduated in '40?

EH: Yeah.

DN: Oh, okay.

EH: And he, he was salutatorian, valedictorian. He was, boy, he was sharp. And now, all, all of us, we all graduated together, and -- [laughs] -- more or less went our ways from then on, you know.

DN: Uh-huh.

EH: But we, we would always get the -- our class, probably, is one of the few classes that gets together probably three or four times a year. [Laughs]

DN: Did, one of the things about the Bainbridge evacuation was that it was, they used the pretext that, of course, there was the danger that they could spy on the Bremerton naval station and that sort of thing, and could sabo-, conduct sabotage. And that was why a lot of the FBI agents came in right after Pearl Harbor and took away a number of the Issei who lived on Bainbridge. Did, do you think anybody realized at the time that what was happening on Bainbridge was actually a test run that was going to affect all the Japanese up and down the coast?

EH: Well, you know, it kind of came as a shock to all of us. And when they announced that, the soldiers moved on the Island, and they were patrolling all over, and I remember that one of the arterial stops, the army truck was parked there and I talked to this guy. And I, and one of the questions I asked him was what he felt about taking our guys away. He says, "I can't say anything because I'm in the service." So we told him, I says, "You're taking away our, some of our best friends." And then when I was, went down to the Eagledale dock to see 'em off, "Park, get up there. Up there." And Frank Kitamoto has a picture showing, and there's soldiers up in, up in the field up there, holding us people back up there.

DN: Pretty strong feelings?

EH: Why, everybody was crying, you know. Hey, that was a shock.

DN: Yeah, these were people you'd grown up with.

EH: Pardon?

DN: These were people you had grown up with.

EH: Yeah, yeah. Well, actually, you know, back before the war, you knew practically everybody on the Island. If you didn't know 'em personally, you knew 'em by name or by sight. And, and they were good people.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

DN: You mentioned Frank Kitamoto as well -- did these fellows all play baseball?

EH: Well, now, see, I didn't know Frank until back, well, I met Frank when they started in promoting the park in Eagledale. He's, he was two or three years old when he was taken away. He's a, a dentist, and he's located right across the street from Bainbridge High School, and he'd been there for years. And like I say, he goes all over. Well, always tries to take Jerry with him -- [laughs] -- as a back up. But Frank has done an awful lot of research. And I'm the program chairman for the Poulsbo Historical Society, and the last meeting we had, I had Frank over to, to put on his program for us, which went over very well. And we had that on film, too. [Laughs]

DN: But, did, and you played baseball, too, obviously. Did you play on the high school team?

EH: No.

DN: No.

EH: I played football. That was the, that was the only sport I played. Well, you know, I was offered a job at the old Port Blakely store. And, and come down there after school nights, and work until six o'clock. And so I did that, because needed, needed to buy gasoline for my Model A. [Laughs]

DN: [Laughs] You had bought yourself a Model A in high school?

EH: I did. I had one in a million. It was a Model A convertible with roll-up windows, and it was called the Cabriolet, and it only, they only built a few of 'em. And I paid thirty-five bucks for it.

DN: [Laughs] Used.

EH: There, oh, yeah, it was used, yeah. And boy, did the girls like that car. Oh, man. I'd take the top down, and, and the girls would sit across the top of the, of the, the top, and in the rumble seat, and away we'd go.

DN: You, did you get of rid of it when you went off, when you joined the service?

EH: I, oh, I, I got rid of it, boy, I don't remember. I think my next car was a '37 or '38 Plymouth. And then, then I got rid of that, and then I bought the '41 Ford. '40, '40 Ford coupe that I had with me in the service when I was over at Ephrata.

DN: I see.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

DN: So go back to our story here, now, you graduated in 1940?

EH: '1.

DN: Oh, you graduated in '41?

EH: Yeah.

DN: Okay, right. That summer of '41. What did you do after that summer? What were you doing in, on Bainbridge?

EH: Well, I worked for, for the Port Blakely store, and I was working then, they had me come and work full-time. And then I got offered, from another store out at Lynnwood Center. And I went, worked there for oh, maybe about six months or so. And then, then I had applied for an apprenticeship at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Well, along came a job called the mechanic learner. So I took it, and then commuted to Bremerton every day. But I only stayed there until, for three months. And that's when I left, because Winslow had offered me an apprenticeship in the machine shop at, down there. So I left the naval yard and went down there.

DN: Was there a bridge across Agate Passage then?

EH: No, no, no. That didn't come until 1950 or '51.

DN: So how did you commute?

EH: There was a ferry from Point White to Bremerton. The old Rosario. And then when the Agate Pass bridge was built, why, then they did away with that run. But there was a lot of people that commuted daily to Bremerton. What time was it? I remember we had to go, the ferry ride was only fifteen, twenty minutes, but we had, we had to be out there early in the morning, and it was tough gettin' up that time in the morning. [Laughs] Headin' off for the ferry.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

DN: Did you, so anyway, the... you were, so that was what you were doing when this all started to go down. And were you still in pretty close touch with your Nisei friends?

EH: Well, let's see... I don't remember where Jerry was. And Tom Kitayama and Ray, his brother, they, they went on to Washington State. And let's see, who else? Keto, he was going to, he became a pharmacist, and was going to Washington, the UW. And Lefty, I don't know whatever happened to him. And Sada went back east, or, no, that was after the war that he went back there and went to school.

DN: You, you're kind of mentioning these names, and lot of 'em I'm, or, can you give, tell us the full names?

EH: Full names? Sada Omoto, Keto Okazaki, and Tom Kitayama, and Lefty Katayama. There's a, was a Kitayama and a Katayama. No relations.

DN: And they, these were your buds?

EH: Yeah, they were in our class. 'Cause you're more, well, they were the closest to us. So you kind of hung on to them.

DN: Uh-huh. So they weren't, they weren't there at the dock that day? At, on March 30th. They were in school, a lot of 'em, it sounds like.

EH: No. No, lot of the, well, they took all the kids out of school.

DN: No, I mean, in college. Several of them...

EH: Oh, in college?

DN: Yeah.

EH: Well, Tom was the only one, Tom Kitayama was the only one that I can name right off, to truthfully say where he was. And he was at Washington State, so, and Sada, I don't remember where he was. See, he lived out on the north end of the Island, and that was kind of the other end of town, so to speak. [Laughs]

DN: Right. So you, how, how far was the dock from your home at the time?

EH: Less than a mile.

DN: Short walk then?

EH: Yeah.

DN: And was this a Saturday morning, or was it, was it a non-working day?

EH: Well, I was working, and I, I was working for Emmanuel Olson, and I was on the delivery route. And boat was to leave at 11 o'clock, I think. And I had the route out there. I says, "I'm gonna take time off, you can dock me, whatever you want, but I'm going to see my Japanese friends off." And that's when they run me up, out in the field out there, and, "You stay out there."

DN: So you, you came down to the dock to see them off, and you were told to stay away.

EH: Yeah. Couldn't, couldn't see 'em. We could, from where we stood, we could see them walking down, or unloading from the trucks, and then walking down on the dock. But...

DN: You had this bad feeling, it sounds like, just because there had been military presence on the Island for about a week and half already.

EH: Yeah.

DN: So what, what thoughts went through your head as you were watching all that?

EH: Well, at first, it was, it was thought that it would be just the immigrants that would be taken away, and the kids born here would be able to stay. But it didn't work out that way. And... you know, when I was working -- I worked six days a week in the store, and we didn't get through until six o'clock at night. So there wasn't too much -- well, the Kitayama family, they, they were close by the Pleasant Beach store. So they would come into the store periodically, so we could see them. But Tom, Tom was not there. His younger brother Ray, I know he would come in, and his sisters. And can't remember the name of the sisters. Hmm. But that, they were the Kitayamas, anyway. But they had, they, they were, oh, very, very close to the store. Well, actually, the owner of the store owned the property that they were leasing from. They had the greenhouses.

DN: Uh-huh. When you were, when they were being loaded onto the docks, though, what, what kind of thoughts went through your head? Were they...

EH: Well, everybody was crying, you know, and I've been trying... you see, there's so many of the older people that are gone, and I've been trying to find out who else was there. And Gina Ritchie, she's the only, only other one that I know of, and she's got Alzheimer's, so it wouldn't do any good to ask her. But the rest of 'em, they weren't there.

DN: Did, when you... and my understanding is that the, when the Japanese were being loaded on, they were being pretty brave, putting a brave face on it. There wasn't a lot of...

EH: Well, like the one girl said at one of the meetings for the park, the girl that sat next to me, she says -- she was much younger than us -- and she said, "Oh, we're going on a vacation." [Laughs] Well, that's what their, I think her parents had told her. So she was quite happy about it until they, they got down there and it was no picnic. Pick out your straw to make, they gave you a mattress cover, and you went and got straw to make a mattress, and that's what you slept on.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

DN: Were you, did you stay in touch with any of them in the camps?

EH: Well, I wrote, like I wrote to Jerry during the war, and he, we probably wrote couple, two, three times, is all. And like I say, when I went in the service, then I lost contact with him. Because then he had gone to Idaho, and then I didn't see Jerry again until... I got out of the service in 1946. And they were already home, a lot of 'em. But a lot of 'em, some of 'em, they wouldn't even go back. Like the Koba family, they, they stayed in Moses Lake. And some of 'em went back east, and they stayed back there, and... there again, Walt Woodward, you've got to pat him on the back, 'cause boy, he stuck up for the people through thick and thin. And a lot of people quit buying the paper, they quit advertising, but he bulldozed his way through. So you got to pat him on the back on that, too.

DN: Did, did any of your classmates or friends join the 442nd?

EH: Jerry's brother was in it, Momoichi, or they called him Mo, and Art Koura were the two Islanders that were in the 442nd. And I think Art was one of 'em that was wounded. And I sat on a panel with Art a year or so ago, put on by the Bainbridge Island Historical Society, and one of the kids that we went to school with, he graduated after us, was a Congressional Medal of Honor. And that was Bud Hawk, and he and I and Art Koura, Hal, Harold Champeness, and... the old guy. Moritani, Moritani? I think his name was Moritani. He was one of the ones for the, speaking for the Japanese. And then Bud Hawk, and then there was some of the naval personnel that stayed on the Island that were at the naval radio station during the war. And they're still there, I guess.

DN: Did, when -- but none of them, none of them lost their lives that you're aware of in, in the fighting?

EH: No. Now, Jerry went in the, in the service before the war ended, I think. But he got out because he had a heart murmur. And Sada went in the service, and he went to Japan as an interpreter. And I got to tell you somethin' about Sada. We had a birthday party for him, or his family had a birthday party for him, and we had a teacher that was, in high school, if you passed going through her class -- she taught mathematics, geometry, trig and all that stuff. If you went, went through her class, you knew something. But she asked Sada one time about, something about Christianity. And Sada couldn't answer it, because he was a Buddhist.

DN: Were most of them Buddhist, or was there a mix?

EH: Boy, I don't know. Tom, the Kitayama family, they're Baptist, and I think Jerry is Congregational church in Winslow. And what the rest of 'em are, now, that I can't tell ya. Oh, Noboru Koura, he goes to my old church on the Island, that's Bethany Lutheran, and oh, I don't know. Well, and then the Sakai family, they, they became Catholics.

DN: What church did, you went to the Lutheran church?

EH: Yes.

DN: Did you have any Japanese people in your church?

EH: After the war, yeah. That's when Nob, his full name was Noboru, we called him Nob for short, Koura, and he's been a member of the Bethany Lutheran, still is. Very good member. They all love him.

DN: But there weren't, there wasn't a Buddhist temple or anything like that? They didn't have Buddhist gatherings on the Island that you're aware of?

EH: You know, come to think about it, I think they had a Buddhist Temple in Port Blakely, up on the hill. And there was also a Baptist church. What did they call it? I can see it. It was on, right next to the Sakuma family's farm. And just less than a block away from, from where the R.D. Bodle had their cannery. And it was a little building, and I can't... oh. Too far gone. [Laughs] Jerry could, Jerry could tell you.

DN: He could probably tell us, give us the details.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

DN: Well, after... what was the Island, the atmosphere on the Island like after everyone left? Obviously everyone was kind of dealing with, first of all, the fact that there weren't any strawberries being picked.

EH: Well then, we were, we were in, everybody worked at the navy yard, or worked at the shipyard, and we were practically working night and day. And there was so much talk about what was going on in Europe, what was going on the Pacific and so forth. So I can't recollect any... much being said about it.

DN: What was your own feeling? Did it feel like the Island was quieter?

EH: Well, now, Walt Woodward had Paul Ohtaki write letters for the paper. And I think, I think he wrote a letter once a week telling about all the Island Japanese. Who got married, who had a baby, some of 'em died. You know, they played ball down there, and who was on the ball team, stuff like that. It was interesting. We always read it, find out what they were doin' and how they were doin'. And we had no idea what kind of living conditions they had down there, because they put 'em in a dust bowl down there. And it was, and the... [laughs] It's like when I first went in the army, we had these tarpaper -- we called them tarpaper shacks, for barracks. You know, they were shiplap, and they would dry out, and there would be big cracks, and everything would blow through. And I don't think they had, had tarpaper on the outside of their places. Because the sand would just blow in on 'em, and they would have to shake the sand off all the time. One that likes to talk about that, that's Kay Nakao. And you're gonna have to interview Sam and Kay. And Kay, she's on our committee. Sam's had a stroke, so I haven't seen him for a while, but neat, neat guy. And Kay, she's a charmer, let me tell you. She's a cutie.

DN: [Laughs] So, so you were keeping up with, through the paper a little bit. But...

EH: But see, and then, then when I went in the service, well, then I lost all contact with everything, you know, more or less.

DN: Sure.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

DN: Well, describe, tell us about your, your service. When did you join?

EH: Well, I went in in 1943. Like I say, another fellow and I, we were both apprentice machinists, and the machinists were so hard to get, and they had trained us to do a lot of these tasks that nobody else knew how to do. And we didn't get called up, we weren't 4-F, and finally, we, the other guy, he worked swing shift, and I worked days, and he would take over my job when he'd come in. And, "We got to go in the service. We got to go in the service." Well, he says, "I want to fly." And I says, "So do I." Well, then, so then we debated back and forth, whether we were gonna go air force or in the navy. And the air force won out. So we had to call in sick one day, 'cause we had to go to Port Orchard and talk to the draft board down there about going in the service. Well, "The shipyard needs you there. You're gonna stay there." Says, "No, we want to go in the service." "Well, the only way you can do that is to sign voluntary induction." And he says, "You don't know where you're gonna go." But it's, we told him we wanted to get in, try to get in as, the cadet program. So they arranged it, and we then took sick leave to go to Seattle and for two days, we took nothing but tests from eight o'clock in the morning until four or five in the afternoon. Two, two days of... whew. And to be eligible, you had to have ninety-six percent or better, so we both got selected, we both left the same time, and I can still hear my mother. I walked from home down to the Eagledale ferry dock, got on the dock there, 'cause they had given us train tickets to go to Fort Lewis, and then on to Buckley Field in Colorado. And -- [laughs] -- I can still hear my mother, when I'm walkin' down the hill, goin': "Oh, they're taking my boy away. They're taking my boy away." [Laughs]

And that was, that was in November, and then I got to come home on a fifteen-day delay of route to go to Hammer Field. And wow, that was really something, because the physical training that you take, you're really exercising. And boy, I was in tip-top shape. And like I was telling my granddaughter, I says, I could pick those guys up and throw 'em around, you know. And... but got back on the train, went down to Hammer Field, turned right around and came back up to Ephrata. And we parked -- well, the nice thing about this is there was I don't know how many of us, and we were all privates, and they didn't have many trains for us, and so they had these old, old railroad cars with special cabins on 'em, rooms. They were the deluxe ones. But they had the old chandeliers hangin' up there. And that's, we had four cars, one was our dining car, and then... I don't know. But here we, we lived the Life of Riley, and the butler or whatever you want to call him, he'd come out with that white towel and wait on us. And here we, were living like kings. And they would hook us onto different trains heading north, and finally we got into Martinez, that's someplace in California, and they hooked us behind a, a group of infantrymen going up to Fort Lawton to be shipped overseas. And they were in this cattle car and we were in this plush deal. Oh... we could get off the train to do anything we wanted, and the officers couldn't even get off of their train, and they were complaining like crazy, 'cause here we were out running around and all these guys hangin' out the windows. [Laughs]

DN: Cussing you out.

EH: Yeah. And then they pulled us in, right in front of the ferry dock, downtown Seattle, and there we stayed for two days. Still living the Life of Riley. [Laughs]

DN: Life of Riley.

EH: And I called my mom, she says, "Where are you at?" I says, "I'm in Seattle." "I thought you went to California." I says, "I'm back up here, I'm goin' to Ephrata." "Well, where's that?" "That's somewheres out in the Columbia basin." So, and that, when I got out to Ephrata and got assigned, when I got my first pass, that's when I got on that bus, and that's where I met the two Koba boys at...

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

DN: Can you describe that for us?

EH: Okay. Well, I'm sitting by the window in the bus all by myself, more or less. And I seen these guys wavin' their hands at me. And I looked out the window, well, here were the two Koba boys. And I hadn't seen them since high school, which had been couple, two, three years by then, I guess. So I rolled the window down and we're hangin' onto one another, and talking about old times back home. Bus driver says, "Gotta shut the window, we're gonna leave." So I said goodbye to the boys, and didn't find out where they lived in Moses Lake. So I never, I've never seen 'em again. And no sooner we got started, and this some smart So-and-so said, made a nasty remark about the Japanese kids, and that they were not welcome. So I stood up, and I says, "You know," says, "those kids were born on Bainbridge Island, if you know where Bainbridge Island is. It's right in the state of Washington outside of Seattle. And I grew up with 'em, went through high school, grade school and high school with these kids, and they're just as 'white' as everybody on this bus." And from then on, complete silence. And nobody, the guy who said it didn't have the guts enough to come back and say, "I'm sorry." But it was very, very quiet all the way to Seattle. And that was about a three or four hour trip. But...

DN: That's one of the, did that strike you at the time -- not just that incident on the bus -- but that was the whole thing about the internment, was that people didn't seem to understand that there's a difference between the Japanese in Japan, and American citizens.

EH: Well, they, they evidently didn't know. But they got found out when I told them that they were born on Bainbridge. And I came home, got my car, went back, and I wish I had found out where they were, because there were four families from the Island that were there. And I'd have, I'd have gone over and visited all of them, if it was that close. But then from Ephrata, then I got sent to Geiger Field in Spokane, and that's where I got in the 1901st Aviation Engineers, and that's when we went overseas. Came back to Seattle, spent two weeks at Fort Lawton loading and unloading -- we had, our battalion took three LSTs to load all of our engineer equipment.

DN: And LST is...

EH: Landing Ship Tank.

DN: Okay.

EH: They're about three hundred and, three hundred and thirty feet long, something like that. And the reason we had to, we had to load, lash 'em down, and then unload. Because what we were in training for was to... when we hit the beach, to get everything off of the LST in less than a half an hour. Which we couldn't. [Laughs] But that's another story.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

DN: Well, tell us what kind of action you saw. You, you went all the way to...

EH: Okinawa.

DN: Okinawa in this LST, right?

EH: Yeah.

DN: That must have been quite a trip.

EH: Well, living on deck, and you could get a shower, well, there were 118 sailors and 314 army personnel on board. And there was only sleeping places for, oh, I don't know, maybe about a dozen or so. And they gave us army cots. and in between all the equipment, or in the trucks or wherever, that's where you put up your, your cot, and that's where you stayed. And when it rained, get out the bar of soap, and you'd get all soaped up and it'd quit raining, so then you'd have to get a bucket of water from over the side -- salt water -- and rinse off with salt water. But you could take a salt water shower any time you wanted. But nice, warm shower once a week. And you stepped in the shower, you got wet, and you turned it off, 'cause there was a guy standin' right there watchin' it. And then when you got all soaped up, turn your shower off, get rinsed off, and that was it. That was your shower. [Laughs]

And you know, during that fifty-two days, oh, boy. We had steering engine trouble, from... we stopped at Hawaii, we stopped at Enewotak, and we stopped at Saipan, not getting, we couldn't get off, although some of 'em did, they put down a, a lifeboat and went in and got the mail for everybody. And seven, eight days before the landing... the landing on Okinawa was April 1st, at eight o'clock in the morning. And I think about eight days prior to that, the steering engine went out on the LST. So we drifted out there for six days. And we drifted within sight of Taiwan, which was then called Formosa, and now called Taiwan. And we thought, "Oh, don't let any planes come out, please don't." But during the time that we were drifting, the patrol boats that we had, two of 'em, they were these tuna clippers from out of, I think, San Pedro or something like that, that they'd mounted guns on 'em, small guns, and patrolled around us, and we just drifted along until they got the thing repaired. But one of the days, there was a submarine came up right alongside of us. And I think that's where I got a little bit of my gray hair. Whew. Everybody was just absolutely panicky.

DN: This was a Japanese submarine.

EH: Until they saw the American flag.

DN: Oh, okay. [Laughs]

EH: But then when we went in to hit the beach, we landed at two o'clock in the afternoon, and the... oh, I don't know what you would call 'em, port captain or whatever it was, told the skipper exactly where to land the LST. But there was a big rock out there, and we got stuck on that rock, and couldn't wait for the tide to come in. So one of our other LSTs pulled in, and they got a bulldozer off and a friend of mine from down in Georgia, he bulldozed out enough material so we could get off of the LST without goin' that deep in water, you know, with all the equipment. So we were a little bit late getting to the airfield, we bivouacked right on the edge of the airstrip, and that was a mistake, because we were bombed and strafed and whew... I never wanted to get out of there and... but then finally, we moved back a ways up, further up on a hill, and we could, we could watch all the... well, we had a good view overlooking Kadena, and then Yontan airstrip was over across. And one night, when the suicide planes were coming in, one came in, he cut his engines, and he... round, he landed, and they destroyed twenty-four of our aircraft on, on Yontan.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

EH: But when we got up to the airfield, here was a TBM or a TBF, I'm not too sure. There were three navy people on there, they were off of a carrier, and they'd run out of gas. And they landed on... Kadena, when we started out, was nothing but a Piper Cub field, or a small field. And it was just full of shell craters, because the navy had started shelling on both sides of the island for quite a few days prior to our landing there. And we didn't have any aviation gas, but on the way up, after we got off of the ship, we noticed a gas dump, which was Japanese, and so we went over across the airstrip and here were tunnels in there, we should have never gone in there. But here we rolled out several drums of aviation gas. And picked it up with the wrecker, took it up and I made a big funnel, and we lifted the drum up in the air and tipped it, pulled the bung out, and that's the way we poured the gas. We were pourin' gas all over the place... oh, boy. And...

DN: Good thing you didn't pass out. [Laughs]

EH: Well, we got, we put, I think, two drums of gas in. I'm not too sure, but we got 'em enough gas. Then we all went out on the airfield, and lined up in a spot where they could taxi out and take off. And they took off, we never saw or heard from them again. And it's, to this day, and I've been to, I don't know how many of our -- well, I have not missed one of our reunions of the 1901st, and nobody can remember what the carrier was. And to this day, I would like to know. But our LST, we, we got off, four days after we got off, was hit and sunk by a kamikaze, and I have a picture of that.

DN: It was empty at the time, more or less.

EH: Yeah. Well, the guys were on board. We, we had taken all of our equipment off. But my friend off of the LST, he comes to all of our reunions, 'cause I, several of us have been to several of their, the LST reunions. And I'm a honorary member of the crew. [Laughs] Which is great, and I get all the, their newsletters and stuff. But that was kinda sad, but then George, he, he was blown off of the ship, and they picked him up, and he came to May the 17th of '45, and he was at a hospital near his home. And the reason he had to wake up was because it was his brother's birthday. And he, to this day, he doesn't know how, how he knew, but it was there. But he didn't even know he was home, or back in the States.

DN: Took quite a shot.

EH: I've, I've got the news article on him, and... great guy.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

DN: When, when you were getting bombed and strafed there at Okinawa, did you lose many men?

EH: [Holds up one finger]

DN: Just one.

EH: One of the guys that I relieved, he got hit by shrapnel. And it grazed him right across the neck here, and it scared him so much, the next day he was this way. [Pantomimes shaking motion] And he was getting worse and worse, and then they put him on the hospital ship, I believe it was Hope. And she was hit by a kamikaze. Now, that's the last I ever heard of the guy, so I can't say. But then this airfield that we built was Kadena Air Field, and at that time, it was the largest airfield ever built by the military. And we didn't complete it, we had it paved, and the 101st Airborne, all their planes came in when Japan announced that they were gonna ceasefire. And I have pictures of that, and then we loaded on LSTs again, and went to Korea. And that's when I went through that 120 mile-an-hour typhoon. And that was no picnic. It's hard to describe the way that the ship would come up on a wave and it would go down this way, and the propellers would come out of the water and just shake. And then the, you would hear that roar. And then back down into another wave, and you could see the plates buckling on the side. And I thought, "We're never gonna get home again." But it blew us almost back to Saipan, and then, then we headed for Inchon, Korea, and went up through Kimpo airdrome, which was another small airfield, which we built up into a major air -- well, we built, I think we built Kadena up to 11,000 feet long, and I think we built Kimpo 11,000 feet long. Because we went way out over the rice paddies on that, to get it so that they could get big airplanes in. And then when my turn came up, "I'm goin' home." And the lieutenant, he says, "Earl," he says, "I wish you'd stay." He says, "I'll give you a couple more stripes if you'll stay." "No way, I'm goin' home." [Laughs]

DN: So you had fulfilled your...

EH: I had, I had enough points to go home. So... and I left, left Seattle from down, you know where the Coast Guard pier is?

DN: Yes.

EH: Okay, that was, I think, Pier 39 at that time. I left on the north side of that pier, and then landed on the south side of the pier, or vice versa, I don't remember which. So came back to the same spot.

DN: Probably a welcome sight.

EH: I got down, boy, and I kissed that old dock. And there wasn't any bands, no fanfare, no nothing, except there were some gals down there passing out little bottles of milk. Whew... fresh milk.

DN: And did your mom come over and get you?

EH: Well, I called my mom... we went right on up to Fort Lawton, and, "You're free to go, do whatever you want to do." Well, Tuesday, that was on Sunday we got off, and Monday, Monday we were going to Fort Lewis to be discharged, and I called my mom, "Who are you? Who are you?" Well, my voice had changed. I said, "Mom, I'm home." [Laughs] She says, "I thought it was some of the guys you had told to call." You know, because I think it was ten cents a call to call from Seattle to Bainbridge. [Laughs] So I got home Tuesday afternoon, I was free and clear of the service by Tuesday, March 26th.

DN: 1945?

EH: '46.

DN: '46?

EH: Yeah.

DN: Okay. So and by then, victory had already been declared, of course.

EH: Oh, yeah, yeah. All the fanfare, well, you know, the day that the Japanese said that -- or evening, is when we got the word on Okinawa that the war was over. Everybody, every gun on that island went just completely crazy. We were at, we had outdoor theaters, and I ran like heck back up to -- I had, was a battalion machinist, so I got underneath that truck and I lay there all night long. Because they were shootin' everyplace.

DN: You never knew where they were gonna come down. [Laughs]

EH: No.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

DN: So you got out of the service, and what did you start doin'?

EH: Well, the kid I grew up with, he got a job at a salmon cannery in Alaska. I says, "Jiminy Crickets, that's what I want to do. I wanna make some money." And so my old boss, he got me a job at False Pass on Unimak Island. So I just got home, turned around, and left to go up to Alaska. My mom had a fit. "You just got home, you've been gone all these..." So, okay, so I went up there and spent six months, and then went back again the next year, and then the third year, then I, I went to Alitak on Kodiak Island, and I spent two years there. And then...

DN: What were you doing?

EH: Huh?

DN: What were you doing?

EH: Running the cannery.

DN: Oh, I see.

EH: Canning salmon. Well, in the four years that I canned salmon, I canned over... or I should say "we," over 400,000 cases of salmon. That's a lot of fish.

DN: That's a lot of fish. [Laugh]

EH: Oh, boy.

DN: People hardly ever buy canned salmon anymore.

EH: No. Well, look at the price of the Copper River kings right now. Aye-yay-yay. But my uncle wrote me, and he says, "When you get through in Alitak, why don't you come down to Petersburg and go fishing?" So I went down there and fished for five (months) with my uncle. Or, I had my own net and my own boat and everything. And we pooled our fish, and so then I spent the month of, last part of August and the month of September in Petersburg. Then I came home, and then I had enough money in the bank to loaf for a while, chase girls, and...

DN: [Laughs] Is that when you met Norma?

EH: No, no. There, I didn't meet her until they built the Agate Pass Bridge. That was in 1950, '50 or '51. And that year I went purse-seining with a friend of mine. And it was a fall run of dogs in a place called Chomley Sound, outside of Ketchikan. And the trip up, it was just absolutely gorgeous, just beautiful weather. And we got up there and went out to Chomley Sound, and everybody that was there, we were a little bit late getting there, and everybody had deckloads of fish. And during the night it started to rain. And you know what happened to the salmon? Up the river they went. So we didn't get very many fish. I made more money playing bingo at the Elks and Eagles club in Ketchikan than I did fishing. [Laughs] But then Norma and I were married in 1951, '52. '53, '52. And then I went to work at Keyport, at the torpedo station, and I retired out of there.

DN: Doing, what were you doing for them?

EH: I was a planner and estimator, and then when I, my back was getting so bad, so I had to have back surgery, and I had the back surgery, but I, I went out on a disability from them, and then Honeywell asked me to come to work for them, so I worked for, part-time, as a consultant for them for six years, which was a good deal.

DN: And when, so when did you officially retire finally?

EH: 1986. I left Keyport in 1979, and Keyport in -- or, I mean, Honeywell in '86.

DN: And I'm sorry, what, when did you go to work for, at Keyport? What year did you go to work at Keyport?

EH: 1953.

DN: '53.

EH: May, May of '53, yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

DN: How did you meet Norma?

EH: [Laughs] At the dance out at the Kingston Grange. Well, this friend of mine that I grew up with on Bainbridge, Norma was working at the navy yard, and he had, he had met her down at the navy yard. And so he was the one that introduced me to her, so then my sister was in the Waves, and she had a nice-looking girlfriend that she would bring home to the Island. My sister was stationed at Pier 91 in Seattle, and she would bring this girl home, so I introduced Jim to Lois, and they're man and wife, living over in Wenatchee, now.

DN: Playing Cupid for each other then, huh?

EH: [Laughs] I got even with him.

DN: [Laughs]

EH: And then when I retired, why, here we are here.

DN: Yeah, and this place is, is Norma's old family farm, right?

EH: Yeah, her grandfather's place.

DN: But you built this house, or had it built?

EH: We had it built, yes.

DN: And what year, you say? '63?

EH: '6-, we moved in here, we had to move in here July, June 14th of 1966. It wasn't finished, but we sold our other place, I came home one day from Keyport, and I think I'd worked on a Saturday, and I had this big sign, "For Sale." So I took it down on the highway and set it up there, and said something about which house it was. That was on Saturday, and it was sold on Tuesday. And she wanted to move in right away, and we had to find a place to go to. Well, we had got this place, we had to be out of there on June the 14th, so we moved in here. We had the kitchen done, upstairs, the bedrooms were done, the bathrooms were done, the bathroom in the basement was done, the bedroom in the basement was done, and the, we had a kind of a -- no, the kitchen was not done. 'Cause we put this kind of a pullman kitchen down in the basement. And we bivouacked down there and so forth, and then little by little, we got it all finished.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

DN: Now, when did you start reconnecting with your old Nisei friends?

EH: Oh, boy.

DN: You said, mentioned you got back in touch with Jerry in '46 or '47? Something like that.

EH: Yeah, somewheres around then. But then Jerry was in Seattle someplace. He had a store, I think on Capitol, Capitol Hill, I'm not too sure, but somewheres up there. And then he came back to the Island, and I think, you see, Mo Nakata, his older brother, was the one that was in the Jap-, the 442nd. He and Ed Loverich had bought up the old Bainbridge Gardens store, and they started that up, and had a grocery store there. Well, then, they, they got together with Johnny, and they pooled their money and they built Town and Country Market in downtown Winslow. And that started the Nakata build up, because now they've gotten, well, both Mo and Johnny are dead and gone, and Jerry -- I call him the patriarch of the Nakata family, because he's the oldest one now -- and I tease him, he works part-time over here at Central Market, and people come in and I introduce 'em to Jerry and I says, "Oh, he's the owner of this store." [Laughs] And Jerry just about has a fit. But he and I were in, we've been in this CAPRI program, which is cardiac rehabilitation for quite a few years now. And we still continue on.

DN: Did, did you have heart surgery?

EH: Yeah, I did. Jerry, I think Jerry had his before me, about the year before me. I had mine in 1993.

DN: Doing well, it sounds like.

EH: Well, that's what CAPRI does for you. That's why I keep staying with it and Jerry, he does the same thing.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

DN: Did, you've been involved in recent years with working on trying to get a memorial down at the spot where...

EH: Eagledale, yes.

DN: Can you talk about how that came about?

EH: Well, okay, then we've got to go to Frank Kitamoto. Well, see, Jerry was the head of this Japanese group, or whatever they want to call themselves, to promote the Japanese deal. And then Frank Kitamoto got elected as the chairman, and, I don't know, Jerry, he says, "Earl, you got to, you got to come and be with us," and this Jarvis, who's from the National Park Service, and what's the gal's name? I can't think of it. I could find out. They were, they had turned my name in, and so that's why, the connection comes there. And then I've been helpin' 'em, and then they had a dedication at the Eagledale park deal there, before it was a, it's still not a park, and I was asked to be one of the guest speakers, so I had to get up and tell about the class of '41 and the good, good guys that we had in our class.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

DN: The, the one thing that I did mean to -- and I forgot to kind of ask you about -- was the, the return of the Nisei to the Island. There was an active campaign to, to keep them from coming back, wasn't there?

EH: Well, when you get a chance to interview Jerry, he had no, no repercussions at all. One girl, she was much younger, I think she was in my sister's class. And they welcomed her back, and she wanted to get in Rainbow, and they didn't vote her in. And she was a little upset over that. But other than that, and then Schuyler, holy smokes. Walt Woodward, he, he was always saying what a dirty S.O.B. he was.

DN: Lambert Schuyler?

EH: Yeah, Lambert.

DN: Or Schuyler? I'm not sure how you said his name. I wasn't sure.

EH: Schuyler, I think.

DN: Schuyler?

EH: Yeah, I think so.

DN: Did, did that, and, of course, you didn't get back to the Island 'til '46, and this probably would have all been the year before, anyway.

EH: Yeah. Well, you see, when I got, got back out of the service, that's when I went to Alaska.

DN: Right. So you were there and gone.

EH: I was out of the country again.

DN: Right.

EH: So to speak.

DN: Are you aware of any, so you're not aware of any problems that people had coming back. How about their property? Was, had their property been vandalized or any of that?

EH: Now, that I can't tell you. I know Jerry, they had their place when they came back.

DN: And the Hayashidas' place was fine?

EH: Yeah, yeah. And I think it was the Hayashidas. The Kobas, they never came back. Trying to think of a guy... I can't think of what his last name is. But he, he never did come back to the Island, either. And Bear Omoto didn't come back. And then he had gone, and Lefty Kitayama, he didn't come back.

DN: Did the strawberry farms come back?

EH: Not like they were. You know, the Filipinos have taken over a lot, and they were not as good a farmer as the Japanese were. The Japanese farmers were immaculate. Just right down to a tee, you might say. And where the Filipinos, they were more or less kind of lackadaisical, or whatever you want to call it.

DN: They probably had, came from a different culture as far as farming went.

EH: Yeah, yeah. Well, they, I don't think they were real farmers like the Japanese were. But, you know, the Japanese, when they came to the Island, they went to work in the mill, and they were still not farmers, until they realized, hey, the mill is gone, we've got to do something. And I think Jerry could tell us who the first ones were to start the strawberry farm. Because it was, it was easy, and they could make a little bit of money at it, and they had to work all year to keep their berries just so.

DN: Right. Well, and it also kind of fit in with the lifestyle they were forced into by not being able to own land. It was, they could move from place to place. Did, what happened to the cannery? Did it remain there all those years, or did it finally close down?

EH: They closed, now, I can't tell you what year they closed the cannery down, but they used the, Weaver had a cement plant down there. Weaver? I think so. And then here, a few years ago, it caught fire. And completely wiped it out. They could see the flames from Seattle, they were that big, when it burned down. 'Cause it was built out over the water, and they had a big parking lot where they would come in, and a big loading dock where they could bring the strawberries in, you know, and have 'em all ready to cart 'em on over. They had some kind of a rack deal, they'd bring the racks, and somehow would dump, dump the berries onto this washer deal, and it, it went on up, and then onto the conveyor belt where the gals would pick it all out. And then, then they, I think they were, went through some kind of a chopping device or something, and then put in cartons, I believe.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

DN: If you were to talk to a group of young people, say fifth, sixth graders, something like that, and try to impart to them your life lessons out of what you saw happen to your friends and neighbors, what would you say? What would you tell them?

EH: Funny you ask that, because just last fall, I was invited to be on a panel at the Sakai School on Bainbridge. And it was for the sixth graders, and that's all we talked about, was the Japanese. And that's where -- excuse me -- I found out that there were four families that were at Moses Lake when I was at Ephrata. I thought there was only one family. But the kids... oh, and all the kids wrote me letters, the teacher, the principal wrote letters back to me thanking me for doing, doing this. And the kids asked the questions, and there was Harold Champness, myself, Jerry Nakata, a young fellow who lives on the Island, but he, he went to Manzanar, but he was out of San Francisco someplace down there. And the fellow that owns Bainbridge Gardens now. I think there was six of us on this panel. And then the sixth graders all sat around, they had all written questions, and they could ask you, me, whatever, and if they asked, why then we gave them our remarks. And one of 'em asked about my feeling, and I told him that story about meeting the Koba boys in Ephrata. And I didn't repeat what was said on the bus, but -- in so many words, I put it to 'em that they knew it was derogatory.

DN: Did --

EH: And I've been asked to come back again next year.

DN: [Laughs] Did, what, what kind of... other than talk-, have you thought about it philosophically, about the meaning of what happened? Have you thought about it in terms of, if you were to tell these sixth graders how they should deal with people, what would you tell them?

EH: Well, Jerry would always say, he says, "I'm nothing but a Jap." I says, "Jerry, I don't want to hear that." I says, "You're just as 'white' as I am, and the rest of us. And you remember that." And I've told it in front of a lot -- and I told those kids over there, too, that. And they appreciated it. But you know, that's the way you feel.

DN: Right.

EH: The color of the skin has nothing to do with it. You know?

DN: Right.

EH: It's [pounds chest] from within. And I think that -- our whole class, we had six Japanese boys, and two Japanese girls in our class. And hey, they're always welcome. And we see 'em -- [pantomimes a hug] -- hey, all the girls, when Jerry comes, they give him a big hug. [Laughs]

DN: Something that... children don't seem to be born that way, and if you put 'em in an environment like what you had as a child, they just naturally get along. It's almost as though bigotry is something that's taught, maybe by elders, maybe by other people. Do you have any thoughts about that?

EH: Well, now, you met my grandsons.

DN: Okay.

EH: Okay, they are interested in... Jerry is the apple of their eye. They see him down in the store, they go up, and you know, Jeffrey, the youngest one, he's husky, and he gets, he just about squeezes Jerry. [Laughs] And Jerry says, "Boy, that grandson of yours, he, he came after me again." But Jerry works with an Okinawan girl at the Central Market over there. And I go down, I call, I call her my "Okinawan sweetheart." She's, she's just as sweet as can be, and she worked at Kadena airfield on Okinawa. She was born in Naha, and worked at the airfield, I think in the hotel or whatever it was. She was a boss of some sort, and then she married this kid from Bainbridge, moved to Bainbridge, and then they divorced and she's working over there at Central Market. She goes back about once a year to visit her parents and her grandmother. And like her grandmother says, she, she has no animosity against the Americans. She was actually saying it was nice that we came there. Although there were a lot of Okinawans that got killed, but that was war.

DN: Yeah. Well, I think that about covers the bases for us. [Laughs]

EH: I never dreamed it'd be anything like this.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.