Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mara Mihara Interview
Narrator: Mara Mihara
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: April 27, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-mmara-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is Thursday, April 27, 2006, and I'm here with Mara Mihara, and we're at the Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington, and Dana Hoshide is on the camera today. So thank you for doing this interview.

MM: You're welcome.

MA: I wanted to start by asking you when you were born.

MM: I was born September the 20th, 1925.

MA: And where were you born?

MM: I was born in the hospital in Spokane, Washington.

MA: Where are your parents from in Japan?

MM: They are from Okayama. I'm not positive the city, but they always say they're Okayama-ken, so...

MA: Do you know maybe around when they came to the U.S., when they sort of immigrated?

MM: You know, that's something interested, interesting, I never did find out. And they didn't come to Spokane first, they went to, oh, Tacoma, around that area, and then they came to Spokane, and then they stayed here in Spokane.

MA: Do you know what they were doing in Tacoma?

MM: In the lumber, you know, lumber business. And I don't think they were there too long. But my dad had problems breathing, so the doctor advised him that the air would be better here in Spokane, so that's the reason that they moved over here. And, but he liked it over there.

MA: In Tacoma?

MM: Uh-huh. But I think after he got here, you know, he was, probably felt better, the air, and so...

MA: And so he worked in the lumber industry in Tacoma, right?

MM: In Tacoma.

MA: And then what did he do in Spokane?

MM: He, he also worked on the Great Northern Railroad where most of the Nihonjins, Isseis worked, and then we also had a hotel, and so he helped my mom run the hotel. And then he was always busy doing things for people, and working at the church, so he kept himself busy.

MA: What were, what was his job at the railroad?

MM: Well, he was, he was a redcap, and he liked it because he got to meet so many people. He didn't seem to have a problem with his English language, he probably didn't speak very good, but at least he could understand, and then the people could understand him. But he liked the job because he met so many people. And then he was, there were other Nihonjins with different jobs, so, yeah.

MA: What exactly were his duties being a redcap?

MM: Well, it's mostly when the train stops and the passengers get out, well, then, you know, carrying their baggages. And then he had miscellaneous jobs like maintenance work and things like that. He liked the job, and everybody was very friendly, people who worked in the offices, so he really liked it.

MA: Were there other Isseis that were redcaps that he worked with?

MM: No, there weren't any redcaps, but there are a lot of other Nihonjins working, 'cause I would say the majority of 'em worked on the railroad. Not in that particular category, but, you know, just about everyone started out there at one time or other on the railroad.

MA: What were his, do you remember his hours, like, did he work really long days at the railroad and then work weekends at the hotel, or how did that work?

MM: Well, he worked, he worked... let's see. It wasn't exactly the midnight shift, it was more or less, oh, like from two o'clock or three o'clock, then... 'cause by the time my dad came home, it was in the evening, we were sleeping and all that. But he was an early riser, so he got the work done in the hotel, too. He, like I say, he liked his job and he liked the people. All the people were down in the offices down in the railroad were very, very nice people to him.

MA: These were mostly Caucasian folks?

MM: Yes, yes. I don't think there was one Nihonjin working in the offices, they were all Caucasians. But he really like the job. And then he, the days that he didn't work, well, he always had things in the hotel to do. My dad was very, he was very good with his hands, so he fixed everything.

MA: And you said also that he worked a little bit for the Methodist church, maybe helped out there?

MM: Yes, he, he had his fingers in everything. I mean, he was, he loved carpentry work, so they built cabinets, and then his gardening was his second love, I think. He just loved working in the yard. So it's like he was, had three jobs, really. But that was his first love, I think, was gardening. See the flowers grow and trim the shrubs and all that. So he enjoyed that, and then it was for the church. And then every time the Isseis would have a food sale, well, he was right there helping, you know. I think he just liked to be around people, and liked to help. Which was good, 'cause it helped my mom.

MA: Did your mom work as well?

MM: No, my mom stayed at home, and she took care of the hotel. My mom never went out and worked. I don't know if she was bashful, or... I think she had enough to do in the hotel in the first place. But, and then my mom was very shy about answering in English. She could understand, but it was very hard for her to answer back, although she could. But she was, I guess she thought that she wasn't speaking right, you know. Whereas I would speak to my dad in Japanese, and he would answer back in English. [Laughs]

MA: Why do you think he, why do you think he did that?

MM: I don't know. I guess it's because he spoke so much English down at work. But he spoke very good English, and that came with experience.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.