Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview II
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 25, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-02-0001

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TI: Today is May 25, 1999. I'm Tom Ikeda and I'm here with Alice Ito. And we're the two interviewers. And at the camera is John Pai. And, this is the second in a series of interviews. And, this interview I really want to sorta jump to -- we were talking a little bit in the car but -- to the summer of 1935. This is the period right after you graduated from high school. And what I want to talk specifically about was the influence of your mother and father, and what, the influence they had on your thinking about education, and what it was to be a immoral person. So, it's a big topic, but I thought maybe you could summarize some of the things that you talked about last time.

GH: Yeah, that's a little bit difficult. [Laughs] On that, posing it that way. I mean, we, we never got into any discussion per say on morality, moral aspects and so on. So, I would have to just respond generally speaking.

TI: Well, why don't we start with the education first then.

GH: Alright --

TI: That's more specific --

GH: Yeah.

TI: And the influence your parents had on your education -- or your thinking about education.


GH: Well, all along, all of us who grew up in Hirabayashi home, grew up with the same kind of perspective going into high school after elementary school. After high school we expected to go to university, in the same perspective. No big deal, it's just that you're continuing on, it's part of the process.

TI: Now how was that communicated to you, that you were, you were going to go on to college?

GH: Well, just as when you finish elementary school you're gonna go to, in our case, Auburn High School, that's where the bus went. And, junior high they dropped off kids, then the senior high, the rest of us. And that was part of the deal. And going to university was a little bit of a break because it meant it's gonna cost something. And we weren't quite familiar with the procedure of -- we learned this as we confronted it -- registering for the school and getting on the campus, and finding out where you stood -- from this building you go to where. And it was a pretty big mystery.

TI: Well, even in the choice of school. You went to the University of Washington, but was that clear that you would always -- you would go to University of Washington?

GH: Well, I think that was pretty clear, just as I went to Auburn. I could've gone to Kent or some other school, I suppose. Except the easiest place was where the public bus went. Our school bus went to one high school. And so most of us were Auburn -- you know, from Thomas -- we were Auburn students. And in sports, you develop pros and cons, attitudes. Well, so Kent became one of our schools that we're gonna beat. So that attitude existed. We never were friendly to Kent. [Laughs]

TI: But now going back to, again, thinking about your parents now with their education --

GH: Yeah --

TI: What about that?

GH: Well, I think, I think it was their view -- and they're not -- they didn't have a patent on this idea. This was quite common among many Japanese families. That if you're going to rise above the unskilled labor profession, if you're going to get into anything that may be a significant level above working on the farm with whatever lack of skills you have, you have to, you have to learn something different. And education was looked at as one of the opportunity sources. And so --

TI: Now was this coming from both your mother and father?

GH: Yes, yes. Most, most -- that's true. And it was, however, most of the talking was done by my mother. She was more articulate in that sense. And Dad was very good for agreeing and endorsing, and if necessary adding his comments at points. But, most of the general presentation of arguments and shaping of views came initially, in terms of verbiage from my mother. But all of us had that picture all the way down. And course, in a way, I became a kind of a model for the rest of my siblings because they followed track.

TI: And so after you went to the University of Washington, and then later on got your Ph.D. Did that sort of set the expectations for all your other siblings, do you think?

GH: Well, I think so. I think without that kind of graduate school opportunities and experience, many people would get their Bachelor's Degree and get to working, making some money. We never got busy on that aspect. We, we never were very good at making money. And, and so it, it was suitable to continue challenges along the educational line. And we happened to -- I didn't know anything about graduate programs when I was going -- when I started the university.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.