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-02-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Okay, why don't we move on. I want to go to the summer of 1940 and you broke your pattern a little bit of, of working in the summer, because this summer you attended a Summer Leadership Conference at Columbia University that was organized by the YMCA and YWCA. And during the conference you attended seminars that discussed sort of large topics like social action, opposition to war. How did you react to some of this, of, of these seminars and the thinking?

GH: Well, I was, I was talking about this recently with another colleague of mine with whom I was a roommate by that time --

TI: Well this is How -- Howard Scott --

GH: Yeah.

TI: Well, go ahead and bring in Howard into the story of how you got involved there.

GH: Well, yeah, my roommate -- after, after two years of school boy experience, I decided I should try to make arrangements to go three quarters. That there was an aspect of university life I was missing by going off to work. And so having a full scale university career was an objective too, that I could learn being a full scale university student, even though financing myself was an objective. So, the third year I was starting school in the fall the same way, I planned to go all three quarters. And I think I took a slightly lower workload, a student load, study load so that I could have a part time job, and I looked for a part time job. And, with that I, I became in my own views, more of a regular student. Not just a working, working guy that worked in credit, extra credits and so on. And I would graduate with certain amount of education, but not learning the other part of university matura -- maturation. Things that other students were getting. So that, that part was of importance to me so I shifted. And it was, it was at some cost because it was -- it was at some sacrifice because it cost more to do that. And I had to interfere with my activities during the school year to some extent because I had a part time job. But I felt that it was worth it for going through the three quarters.

TI: Right.

GH: Now, I started my freshman activity -- I went one year as a post graduate high school.

TI: Right.

GH: Partly because that was my class that was being a senior when I had already graduated. So I was giving, yeah...

TI: Let me summarize for people who are listening to this that you skipped a grade -- I believe it was seventh grade, and so you graduated from high school as a seventeen year old. And the year after you graduated you did post graduate work at Auburn High School -- which, which wasn't that uncommon, but you, you did that, and that's what you're talking about.

GH: Yeah. Well, I should also explain that I didn't skip something because I was brilliant and scholarly, and they said, "You, we're going to move you ahead." I was in a small school --

TI: Right, let me, let me just summarize that and then we'll go back to Howard Scott. But you, in seventh grade took the, essentially the junior high school or middle school test because you were in a class of seventh and eighth graders.

GH: Many of the school classes had two grades...

TI: Right.

GH In the room, fifth and sixth...

TI: And you were getting some...

GH: Seventh and eighth.

TI: ...of the curriculum of the eighth graders and the eighth grade teacher allowed --

GH: Yeah. Some, some classes were unusually large and they, they stayed one class. So that kind of adjustment the school made. And so, when I was in the seventh grade, I -- the teacher taught certain subjects that could be taught together, like history or geography, there wasn't a grade level, there was just subject matter coverage difference, so he, he used to handle those together. And then arithmetic and, I don't know what else, we covered different levels of things. But they're covering it in the same class, so I can hear them doing it. And at the exam period the instructor said -- he happened to be our school principal too, so he said, "Now the eighth graders are gonna take the state exam, and when they graduate they'll be qualified to transfer to junior high school, next year. And I recommend to all the seventh graders in this room to go ahead and take the test; it's a good experience for you. And if you didn't make it, if you don't make it, you got a good opening of what it was, and what you have to bone up on for next year's test." So we took those tests. And then even in arithmetic I took them and I found them within my range. And it turned out I passed them all. So he says, "Well, you can graduate this year." Well my mother was real pleased. She thought that was a promotion, great honor and so on. I was little hesitant -- I was, I was encouraged because she was so happy about it, but I was a little hesitant because in seventh grade -- you know physically you're growing too -- and at seventh grade you can't compete, for sp -- basketball for example, as well as staying on for eighth grade. So actually I missed my sporting activities and certain -- I think in a certain way, social maturity and so on, I was missing something too by moving ahead like that. And then I missed some of the rapport of grade school, you know, year by year that you're moving up with your friends. And there's some overlap because we're in double classes most of the time going through. I did miss some of that, but I moved ahead, and I graduated. And I graduated, 1931 in grade school, and 1935 in high school and I went back for a second year of senior work.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.