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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mary Hamano Interview
Narrator: Mary Hamano
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-hmary_2-01-0001

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MA: So today is May 14, 2008, and I am here with Mary Hamano. We're in the Marriott Residence Inn in Denver, Colorado. I'm Megan Asaka and the videographer today is Dana Hoshide. So Mary, thanks so much for coming down here to do an interview with us.

MH: It's my privilege, thank you.

MA: So I wanted to start with just a few basic questions. When were you born?

MH: I was born in San Gabriel, in July 14, 1921.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

MH: Tomiye Ogawa.

MA: And how did you get the name Mary?

MH: When I was three years old, I moved to the city. We were, originally lived in a farm, but my folks, my mother was allergic to vegetables, so the doctor advised us to move to the city. So I lived in town since three years old. And the neighbor people were all Caucasian people, and they couldn't pronounce my name, so they said, "We're gonna name you Mary. You tell everybody your name is Mary." So it's been Mary ever since. So it's not really a given name, it was just given to me by neighbors. We had very nice neighbors.

MA: So I wanted to talk a little bit about your family background. So your father, where was he from in Japan?

MH: He was from Fukuoka-ken, Kyushu, Japan. Kyushu, island of Kyushu. And he, as he got older, the Hawaiian sugar plantation, I don't know which company it is, but some sugar company came and recruited several men and taking them to Hawaii. So it wasn't on his will to go, but it was to a job offering. And they said that they would give him fifteen dollars a month. But when he got to Hawaii, the fifteen dollar was the room and board you had to pay. So actually he didn't have too much left to, he didn't have a choice.

MA: And he was working on the sugar plantation?

MH: Sugar plantation. In the late 1890s, we gather that's about the time he had gone there. According to what he had told me, that he was there for either six or eight years, and then while working there, it was like the old West here. Not many women around, so there was a lot more men then there were women allowed to be around those days. So there was a lot of like our Western days here, a lot of shooting and carrying on. And then as time went on, he got injured and he wasn't able to work. He broke an ankle or something. And after he had to leave there, and he went to San Francisco in the Bay Area. And he was there during the war, I mean, the earthquake, San Francisco earthquake.

MA: And that was around 1906.

MH: 1905 or '06, something in that area. So he was still single yet, and he had to learn a trade in order to support himself. And he happened to know somebody that was, in those days, they didn't call it shoemaking, but it was shoe repairing. It was a cobbler, and they learned to do the trade by hand. And he learned as much as he could by hand. And he later opened his own business and then in the meantime, my mother was coming as a "picture bride" in 1911.

MA: So your father, I'm sorry, when he came from Hawaii, he went to San Francisco?

MH: In San Francisco. Either Oakland, or San Francisco. In the Bay Area.

MA: So he settled in the Bay Area.

MH: And then actually, he lived in Oakland. And when they were married. And the two boys were born there, my older brothers. One was born in 1915, the oldest one, his name is Hisashi, and they call him Bob also. That's another name that was given to him because they can't say it. And then, my second brother's name is Shigeru, and they, he kept that name as Shig, they call him Shig. And he was born in 1917.

MA: So your mother than came over, you said 1911. And where was she from in Japan?

MH: She was also from the same area as my father.

MA: Fukuoka.

MH: Uh-huh, Fukuoka. And then after they got settled and the boys were born, the flu came along. The influenza flu took a lot of lives in those years. And then, around, when they went, I don't know what year they went, but I was born in '21. They had to come back between, after the boys were sent, so they were about three or five years old. So you figure from that 1907, '15, five would be 1920, huh?

MA: So they went to Japan? They decided? Was that the whole family that went?

MH: The whole family was, decided to leave and live in Japan. But they found that it was very difficult to live in Japan, when you once lived in United States where there's so much freedom, I guess you might call it, and easier to make a living. In Japan, it was very difficult. Especially if you live in a rural area and farming and, it's very difficult to live, I think. And so, they were temporarily going to leave the boys and go back in another year or two, but it didn't happen. I was born after they left there, so I was born in '21, so they left the two boys with my mother's sister.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.