Densho Digital Archive
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

<Begin Segment 1>

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.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: Okay, so just your parents came back to the U.S.

MH: And they came back and they didn't settle in the Bay Area. They came down to, and San Gabriel Valley to farm, and my father was interested in farming. So then as time went on, they found that she was allergic to veggies.

MA: Your mother was.

MH: Uh-huh. She broke out and the allergy was so bad and the doctor advised them to move to town. So he had to get rid of the farm.

MA: So town meaning Los Angeles?

MH: L.A. Right in L.A, uh-huh.

MA: And this was -- when, how old were you when they moved to L.A.?

MH: I was about three years old when we moved to the city in Los Angeles. And then I grew up there until 1930, my brothers came back to the United States, and they were teenagers. And so they didn't have the full education in Japan, but I would say up to junior high maybe.

MA: How was their transition back to the U.S.?

MH: Well, they didn't know, they had forgotten that they were so little when they left, so they don't know, remember anything. Their English was all forgotten. And so it was start all over again. Start to go to school, grade school and all. My oldest brother went to Opportunity School but he didn't last there very long. But my second brother went to grade school and went to junior high and tenth grade in high school. Then he went on to work. My oldest brother, he dropped out from the Opportunity School and went to work. And they had what they called schoolboys and schoolgirls. That meant like, what they called, homestay now. They call, you go stay with a family, you work, and go to school. Or in that, it's in the same manner. But in those days, they called them schoolboys and schoolgirls. And he did that for a little while. And then eventually, when he became twenty, he went out to work on his own. And so, he really didn't have a thorough high school or school education.

MA: Where did he do his homestay? Was it around that area?

MH: It was in L.A. town. It was just some retired teachers, a couple that took him in for a little bit. And then he left there and went to work in a supermarket. And then he stayed with these people for a long time. And then of course, there is a big supermarket on what they call Grand Central, it was a whole block long, and they had everything in there. They had groceries and veggies and fish markets and everything. And they both worked there until the war started. And that was around late 1930, so it had to be around '30s, '8, '9, somewhere around there. Maybe, and I know that in '41, they were caught in that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So I wanted to go back a little bit and ask you about your childhood in L.A. And what grade school did you attend?

MH: I went to Tenth Street Elementary School. And I moved from there, we went to southeastern part of L.A., what we called the Central area, where I went to McKinley Junior High School, which is totally more black students than there are Caucasians.

MA: At McKinley?

MH: McKinley. Then I went to Thomas Jefferson High School. And also that's considered more of a ninety percent black students.

MA: So when you went to Tenth Street Elementary School, what neighborhood were you living in at that time?

MH: Oh that is now it's called the Korean area. It's right there on Tenth Avenue, we called it Tenth Street then. And it was only about three blocks from where I lived. But I went back to look for that place and they told us there's no area there. The Harbor Freeway has taken over that area, so you wouldn't find your home there anymore.

MA: And you said that growing up, it was a mostly Caucasian area.

MH: That was up 'til I was, until I was, I went there for fourth grade. The fifth grade I already had moved to another area. This other, the last area before the evacuation.

MA: But the Tenth Street area you said was a mostly Caucasian neighborhood?

MH: Yes, mostly Caucasian. We had a few Asian, maybe six Asians, and one black, one Chinese boy. When I was in kindergarten. But of course, that's different now. But, I don't know if the school's still there or not, I'm not sure.

MA: And what was your father doing when you were living on Tenth Street?

MH: He was repairing, that was all he did after he learned the trade, since he couldn't do labor, hard labor work. But he thought farming would be easy enough to do that, but, since my mother couldn't take the farming, so we had to move back to the city. And he went back to the trading, of what he originally learned.

MA: And was he self-employed? Did he own his business?

MH: Self-employed. And then, of course, my two brothers came. And then, in the '30s, early '30s, we had a family friend that was running a grocery store. And they were going to leave for Japan, and they wanted to know if my parents would take over the place. But we'd never been experienced in grocery business, but he thought with the two boys, it might help to get with the people and the surrounding and learn English better, too. So we moved to this, Avalon and what was it, Forty-eighth and Avalon. Twenty-fourth, was it Forty-Eight? Twenty-four... 4228 was our address.

MA: So that's when you moved from the Tenth Street area to this new area.

MH: Uh-huh. I lived down between Eleventh and Pico, that was in the downtown area. There was a Pico Junior High School on Pico and Santusa, I guess, where I lived. And it was a little shopping area there too, and a theater, so that's what, where I went to see the movies. And after I was, after the boys came, we moved about 1931 or '02 to the last residence where I was living. And we lived across the street from the Wrigley Ballpark, it was considered the Pacific League in Los Angeles, they called it Los Angeles... I don't think they would call them Dodgers then. And there was a San Diego group, and there was San Francisco, and then there was Oakland, and there was several teams there. What we called the Pacific League. And then we had to leave in 1941, so after that, they say they tore down the ballpark, there wasn't any ballpark. So when I went back in 1950, I went to try to look for the place, they said it's not there anymore. So, I don't know. It became a public housing area, I hear, afterwards.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So this is the time you went to McKinley Junior High School?

MH: Yeah, I went to the grade school at McKinley. And they had a big clock on the tower there. And that's how I used to look at the tower at the time to get to going to school, was a good way to look at it, 'cause that would give me time to get to school in time to, won't be late. It was, our clock there is very helpful.

MA: So you said McKinley was, had a lot of black students. In that students who went to the school, and also was there a large Nisei population as well, at McKinley?

MH: It was basically a lot of black kids. There was a lot of other student, ten percent of it was all others, like Asians and Spanish, and we have Italians and Greeks also. And of course, the Caucasians, white people, too. But not a whole lot of Japanese or Chinese, but we had a few. But in high school there was more, because they came from down, from the northern part around Adamson, somewhere in that area. People that worked for the gardening people and people that work at the market. There was a Ninth Street Market and a Seventh Street Market where produce were all brought in. And a lot of people worked in that area, where the Japanese people did their trading for their business.

MA: And that was close to your high school.

MH: They came to our school. I mean, they came to Jefferson, quite a few.

MA: So going back to McKinley, what were the relationships like among the various ethnic groups? It seems like there were so many different groups kind of mixing together at the school.

MH: We didn't, it wasn't too much of a problem. We got along very well in those days. People had more respect for each other, and they were not, they dressed, well, we were all in the same position. We weren't rich and none of us were rich, it was during the Depression, too. So pretty much we wore simple clothes and not a lot of makeup and all that kind of stuff that they do now. So it, to me, it's quite a difference. At the time when I grew up, and the time that our kids are growing up, it's a total difference.

MA: Was your neighborhood...

MH: We had an international block, I would say. We lived on a corner and we had a grocery store. We were the Japanese family. And then next door was an Italian shoemaker. And then the next door to the north of us, we lived on a corner, so that whole block going north, there was a man, a Spanish man making, building, what do you call... suitcases. And then, the next door neighbor from there was a diner, and she was Irish. And then there was a theater next door to that. And then there was another store, he was a radiator man, and he was a Russian Jew. And then there was a coffee shop where they were grinding coffee, and these were Caucasian people. Then there was a service station on the corner, run by a Caucasian. So we, then a block south from me was a Greek family that had a grocery store also. We were competitive, more or less. And then down the line, there was a plumber and they were part German. And then, further down there was, on the corner, there was a bar, and it was run by a German lady. And then across the street, there was a Polish hall where the Polish people gathered whenever they had their meeting. And in back of us, there was a little, a house, a black family lived there. So we had a really interesting block. And then across the street, we had a couple of Caucasian people, but very friendly. We had a very good, I lived in a very good neighborhood. And growing up, because we were all different, from different parts of the country. So the Greek family didn't speak any English very well. The Italian, he spoke mostly Italian and we just hand motions to get along with our communication. So it was no hard feelings or no bad feelings about anybody. And we all helped each other. And if you were in trouble, they all came and helped you. So we didn't feel as being what you call prejudiced in those days, when I was growing up. So I didn't feel that, being cast away from other people, like other people you hear. So I felt that I was growing up pretty well.

MA: Did the families socialize together?

MH: No, that's because they didn't speak English very well. And they just say hello and that's all. Just greeting.

MA: So it was friendly.

MH: Just a friendly greeting, a hello and how are you, that's all. And nothing more than that, because my folks didn't speak English very well. But I was, well, my brothers, too, couldn't speak very well, but could get around until they finished high school, then they were able to speak much better. But as a whole, we all went to school without any, any problem. They had another Japanese family about two blocks down that had a store. And those girls, we all went to the same school, junior high and high school. And then we had another man down, was a dry cleaning business. But he was a single person, he didn't have family. And that was all the Japanese. And then we had another family in back, on McKinley Street there was another Japanese family called, I think they were Miyakes. And they had a little fruit stand in their, and they lived in the house in the back there. That was all the Japanese neighbors that I had when I was growing up in the junior high school years.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: So during this time, your family had a grocery store, right? So your father wasn't doing shoe repair?

MH: Well, then after that, the big Safeways and the supermarkets started to pop around the neighborhood. And people were going to where they could get better bargains. So naturally, the small business were kind of going down. So he quit and he went back to the shoe repairing. So by the time war started, he was in the shoe business. So I guess it would be in the mid -- I was in junior high already, so it had to be around '35. '34, '35, somewhere around there.

MA: So back when he had the grocery store, who were the, and I guess in your community, your neighborhood in general, who were the customers? Was it just people in the neighborhood that would stop by?

MH: Just people in the neighborhood. We had all kinds of people. We had people from Europe, like I assume they were Polish people or Czechoslovak. And then we had mostly Caucasians, and a few, not too many Spanish people. But we had a few black people and they, too, was very scattered. Mostly Caucasian, uh-huh.

MA: Did you help out at the store, at the grocery store? Did you work there?

MH: I, no, I didn't tend to it very much because I was too young to take care of a lot of things. So I just watched the store when they had to leave to go eat or something and then I didn't do any, and in particular, I didn't really work there. When they were busy, I did help wrap up stuff or pack up stuff for them. But mostly, they did it themselves.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: Did you, at home during that time, what did your family do for fun? Like picnics?

MH: Well, my father didn't believe in cards, so we never played cards at all. Really we didn't do too much as entertainment at home. Because we didn't have a lot of facilities we do now. We didn't have a telephone for a long time, until my brother got sick and then he realized we needed a telephone. He got a telephone in the meantime. And then we also got a radio, which he was interested in Japanese baseball. In Japan, my father was interested in Japanese sumo and since the shortwave were coming in, that's when he decided we'd get a radio, a small radio. And that was about two years, maybe about a year and a half before the war started. So, and then on weekends, Sunday was our day to go to Japanese town and spend the day there. My day was to go see the Japanese movie house. And that was my only, because I didn't have any friends in the neighborhood that we could, I just had one girl next door, but she moved away soon after, about a few years later. So I was kind of alone there a lot. And so on Sunday was our day, except my mother, but my two brothers and my father, they all wanted to go to Japanese town and do their thing.

MA: Were you pretty close to Japantown?

MH: It was about, I would say three miles. Two or three.

MA: How would you get there?

MH: We had a car. By that time, we had our car, so we, we made an effort to go to town on Sunday and spend the afternoon there, and then come back about six o'clock. Well, my brothers, their entertainment was playing pool. Cause they had a friend that had a pool hall. And then across the street was a coffee shop where our family friend had, was running it. So, I would go to the Japanese movie, and then come back and my brothers would be over there to play. And my father was, he was taking some sort of lesson, like a singing lesson, I think it was, Japanese type of singing. And at five o'clock, we would have a, there was a noodle store next door to this coffee shop. We would have our snack there and then come home. So by the time five o'clock, or six o'clock, we were home, because my mother was left alone and we had to get home early. And that's all. Sunday was our entertainment. We didn't do anything in particular. And I had friends in Japanese town that I went around with, too. That was my only, there wasn't any girls around our neighborhood, you know. So that I could, except this one hakujin girl, you know, American girl. But she moved away, so...

MA: I wanted to ask you more about L.A.'s Japantown. And just what it was like, and the atmosphere there?

MH: It was, it was, that's where everybody went shopping because the Issei peoples couldn't speak English enough to go shopping to buy clothes for their family because it was, and most of them were farmers or people that did domestic work. And they couldn't get away to, and then not able to speak well enough to, to go to big places like Robinson's or whatever, those big department stores. So they had, they had little shops like a hat shop and purse shops. And they had several drugstores, a pharmacy, what we called pharmacies, but they were called drugstores. There was one place that had herbal things, and then we had the regular drugstore on one corner. But they furnished a lot of stuff from Japan like creams and lotions and soaps, and other things also. And so, and then they had a department store called Tomio, and that's where they had, basically they had everything. They had from ceramic stuff and they had dishes and they had material and ready-made clothes and things like that. And that was where they shopped. Because it was easier for them to shop there even it was a little more expensive than to go to a regular department store. They weren't able to travel that easily that way and not only that, their language was a big problem, I think. So that Japanese town was the hub for all Japanese people to do their shopping, their fish markets were there, the hardware was there, and all the sushis and manju places. You name it, they had it. And they even had a sewing school. Two schools. I went to one and there was another one also, called Modern Dress Making School, or something like that. And I went to Pacific Sewing School, and I graduated there in 1941 in June. And we were the last group to graduate from there. And then when that six months later. Well, in the meantime, before I got married, my husband was living there, too, and he was working for a restaurant.

MA: In Japantown?

MH: In Japantown. Before that he was living in Gardena and went to Gardena High School. After he came into, he also came from Japan, he was also raised in Japan, too. He got drafted six months before the war started, so he had a little bit different situation there.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: I wanted to ask you about your high school experience at Jefferson High School. What that was like, what the school was like, and your class?

MH: Oh, we had a Japanese club, we had a Chinese club, we had a Spanish club, we had a Latin club, German club, French class. And those, the Japanese group was pretty good size there. We had a lot of Japanese kids there. And we had a lot of Chinese kids, too, and we got a long pretty well. And we had good advisors, and we had get-togethers quite often. Our advisors were our teachers, naturally, and they would open up their homes and we would gather at these teachers as our advisors and we'd have get-togethers and have dance parties and that sort of thing. But my parent was very strict and I couldn't, allowed to go anywhere, most of the time. I think they feared that I was the only girl in the family, so they were too protective, I think.

MA: Did they have different rules for you than they did for your brothers?

MH: Yes, they did. My brothers had more freedom. They can go out and go in the car and they can go wherever they want. They even went as far as out towards Fresno or whatever. But I was never out of the house. And they advised me not to bring my friends, you cannot go here, you cannot go there. And only to school and then come home. We didn't have a whole lot of homework either in those days, but do whatever you had to do. So when it was time for me to graduate, everybody was, we had this Japanese club. Oh, we're gonna go to the beach and have weenie bakes. That was only fun thing we did, was go to the beach and have weenie bakes. And I asked my father if I could go and he said, he hesitated. He said first no and then I told my friends, "I don't think I can go." "Well, why not? This is gonna be our last time together. Beg your father, beg your parents. We're not going to hurt you or anything." And so, I, my brothers kind of put in their words for me. They said, "Let her go this time." So then that was alright, they let me go. But, I had to be back by a certain time. Well, they said before twelve o'clock. And so that was alright. But as soon as I come right in front of the, we lived in a store, and the front had big windows. And then we lived in the back of the shop. Most of us all lived in back of shop. Some had homes, but most of us lived in back of shops. This big window, and I see somebody's pacing back and forth. And then pretty soon, it got closer and it's my father. He's been waiting for me to make sure I got home alright. So I told my friends, "I'm sorry, but I gotta get out and get home real quick. He's waiting for me." [Laughs] And so that was the way my life was when I was going to high school, even after high school. And we had skating parties, the Shrine Auditorium was our ice, they had a big skating rink there. Roller skating was pretty popular in the '30s and people were roller skating out in the streets and everything. And then pretty soon, they banned that because it was dangerous. So they had these big rinks all over and we went roller skating. So I asked my parents if I can go. They, first they said no. And then they finally break and says yes, you can go. I get there alright, and no sooner, my brothers are there, watching. That's a sign of watching. And then wherever I go, I went to the park, picnic somewhere, and there's my brother. And so, there's always somebody there, make sure that I don't get in trouble I guess.

MA: Looking, looking over you.

MH: Yes. And to this day, I feel that maybe it was pretty harsh for me to feel that way. I didn't have the freedom, feeling the freedom like most kids nowadays. Their parents aren't watching them all the, but I feel that had helped me grow up to be a more understanding why your parents worry about you. When you have your own family, you go back and think about what you went through. So you don't want to make that mistake on your child, and your kids. So our kids were grown up a little more freedom. Not all of it, but pretty much you can do what you can do and give them the opportunity to have that responsibility on your own and not be dependent on somebody else. And so --

MA: From your experiences growing up.

MH: -- comparison, the comparison of what I went through and what I can give my kids and what my kids' kids are going through now. My great grandkids are growing up now, so it's a lot of changes. And we didn't have all this computer stuff and all these mechanical toys. We made our own toys. We didn't have money to go buy toys, on top of that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: What are some types of things that you would make and play with?

MH: I sewed a lot. My mother showed me how to embroidery, crochet, and that sort of thing was my pastime. And of course, jacks, played jacks, marbles was pretty much in our time. And then we had buttermilk. And the top was, it's cardboard paper stuff that had a cover on. Because of half of the upper part was cream, and the, you had to shake it to make your whole milk. But if you wanted to save the cream, you took the cream out first and left what portion of the cream to mix it with the milk. So it wasn't like half and half or anything, it was pretty much enough cream in there to have the milk taste good. So what we, we saved those little caps. And we, you know, we, I don't know what we call them now a days. We called them slaps, and all you do, you hit it and try to catch all the ones on top, and that's all yours. And if you miss it, you know, you take turns. That was basically the playing things. I didn't play baseball. But I did like to do cartwheels and acrobat, those kind of things. But my mother always said it's not ladylike to do that, you know. So I had to kind of do away with that. Played a lot of jacks, and hopscotch, jump roping and that sort of thing, when I was very young. But as we got older, we had, of course, a gym, we had, we called gym, P.E., whatever we call it these days. We used to call it P.E. But they call it... well, anyway, that was baseball. we had to have baseball, and we had to have basketball. But I took tennis, as a side, 'cause I like tennis. So I took that for maybe the last year of high school.

MA: What are some other classes that you enjoyed in high school? Some of your favorite classes?

MH: Oh, we had, they had modern dancing, which I wasn't interested in that. And so, basically, not a whole lot of things for me. We just liked to get together. These Japanese kids, we were, there was so many of us, and so, we just kind of stuck around with our own little group. And if somebody invites us to sort of join something, we would go along. But we pretty much stayed to ourselves, the Japanese people and the Chinese people and the Spanish people, they all had their little cliques. But we got along, we didn't have much problem. And then the black kids didn't have a lot of problem, like they do now. They, they got along real well. And in those days, we didn't call them black. That was very bad to say, "black," they were called "Negroes." But then, now, they don't like to be called that, they rather be called blacks. So there's a lot of changes and then the Spanish people, they don't call 'em Mexican or Spanish, they're Latinos or Chicanos, or whatever they call 'em now. Whatever group you were into, they're called that way. So, there's a lot of changes of what we used to say, and what they say now.

MA: Uh-huh, a lot of changes.

MH: About the different races. Uh-huh.

MA: So your father opened the shoe repair. And he was self-employed, again. Who were his customers at that time? I know you lived near a baseball field. Was there ever...

MH: Well, I, mostly Caucasian people because shoes, they kept their own shoes pretty much. They didn't buy a lot of new shoes because people couldn't afford it in those days. It was pretty rough years. The Depression started pretty much when I was... about 1927, '8, '9, somewhere in that. And things, everybody was poor. You were lucky to have food on your table, you know. We had people come around in the neighborhood, going into the garbage. We had this grocery so all the ends of veggies that we throw away, you know, they would gladly pick them up and use 'em and clean 'em, whatever they can use, they took it. So it was very difficult to live in those days. We were lucky because my mother made all our, my clothes. We never hardly went out to buy clothes, except for the boys they did, but, but my mother sewed a lot. So I had homemade clothes a lot. Until I started school, and then I learned to, I took home ec, and so that was a best way to get around to learn how to cook and sew a lot more. And then being, I wasn't very brilliant in my school years anyways. So my parents says, "You're gonna be a wife and mother sooner or later in your later life. You might as well learn this and start young." And so I believe that was what they had in mind. So I did, and I did go to Pacific Sewing School, I was gonna be a seamstress. And I had everything planned.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: So after high school, you went to Pacific Sewing School?

MH: After I finished high school, I took, I went to Pacific Sewing School. And I also went to Japanese school, language school, too, during the summer.

MA: How many years did you do that?

MH: At first, I went to, when I lived in the other area, the first area, there was a Japanese school in the neighborhood, and there were a lotta Japanese families. They were several blocks apart, but there was a good community of Japanese. We all went to Japanese school in those days. The parents, after regular school, we all went to this one building. It was a house, it was a home, a two-story home. And they had hired a teacher from Japan, a lady teacher, very strict. And if what she did now, people would be suing everybody. 'Cause you wouldn't dare strike anybody with a stick you know, with a ruler, saying, "You behave now." Whack. "Come here." Whack there. But anyway she was very strict and, but very good. And I went two years. I went two years and then when we had to move from where I was to this other home on Avalon, then there was no school in that area, so I had to quit. But then I went to Saturday school. I was old enough to take the bus. Not the bus, we called streetcars in those day. And I would go Saturday from nine to three.

MA: This was Japanese school, but on Saturday?

MH: Downtown in Japanese town, they had a big one there. So I went there on Saturday. And then, but you know if you don't use it, you forget it.

MA: Did you speak at home with your parents?

MH: I did. I spoke at home, while the parents were around. But after they passed on, well, I, it was mostly English. Of course my husband is fluent in Japanese, because he was raised, and so is my brother, and so we did speak a lot at home. But after the kids grew up, after we had families, then English was much stronger. So, of course my parents were gone, too, by that time. And, but, when my two boys were growing up, my mother and his father was still living, so they spoke nothing but Japanese. So, they spoke fluent Japanese, but once they got into school, they don't speak it and they forgot. And then the parents are gone, so there's not much in... now my son here, he's not picking it up, because he has a lot of the people, that do shop, that come in there, are a lotta people from Japan that don't speak English very well either. Even though they're American, married to a Caucasian people, but basically they do like to speak their Japanese language. So he's picking it up again. So a little bit, but not fluently.

MA: But when you were growing up, it was all Japanese in your home?

MH: It was Japanese there, for quite a while. At home, you spoke Japanese, and when you were outside you spoke English.

MA: How was your parents' English?

MH: They were very limited, uh-huh. Not, their expression was "Whasamatteryou?" What was it... "I don't understand." Just things like that. And they learned to know the different vegetables like carrots and onions and potatoes, that we taught 'em that, when they were to go to buy something, what you need. "You gotta know what you're gonna get, you better learn to say apples or oranges or the veggies' names." So I taught them that to say whenever they need to get, you know, stores. But when we had our own grocery store, they picked it up eventually, anyway, so it wasn't too bad. But they couldn't carry on a conversation like everybody else. That's why we are, we are brought up as American citizens and we, we speak English, and this is it. Our second language is Japanese. But when they were alive, we had to learn both. So whenever you had a problem, most of us were grown up by that time, so we can help translate. If they have to go to doctor for instance, and you have to take 'em with 'em, because they don't know medical terms as well.

MA: So you did a lot of translating when you were younger.

MH: More or less, we kind of did the best way we can to make 'em understand. So, to this day, I'm kinda glad that I do know enough Japanese that I can help some of these newer group of Japanese that come in that don't speak any, hardly any English, like medical terms. I can help them. I know what liver is and kidney is and what heart and pancreas, and that sort of terms I could tell them. But I couldn't tell them in full details, but what medication is good, what they tell them. You know, "This is for heart," or "This is for blood pressure." I can help them a little bit on that, too. So I have a, I feel a little, I feel that I can do that much to help somebody, have an advantage to that part. So I have this visiting nurses association comes once a month at our Tamai Tower. At first, there were a lot of Issei people living here when I first came here in... twenty-five, twenty-six years ago, and they didn't speak any English either. So whenever the nurse wanted to ask question, I could always help them. So now that, after, they're gone, there's not many people here, except the newer groups. There's maybe two or three people that don't speak fluent English yet. So I can help them for that, too. But not as much as before.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So we're back and I wanted to ask you when you graduated from high school? What year?

MH: I graduated in the winter of 1940.

MA: Was it 1940?

MH: 1940.

MA: And at that point, were you, did you know that you were going to go on to sewing school? Did you already have that set up?

MH: Not really. But yes, in a way, yes. Uh-huh, my folks was, since I did do part-time work there in the neighbor... but they felt that if I'm going to go into something on my own business, that would be the quickest way at that time. I don't know. My parents didn't feel that women should go to college. Now, we feel differently. But, in those days, jobs were not very available even if you went to college. The, a lot of them, I had a hard time finding a job. They ended up being, working in the fruit stands just like my brother did. And you don't need education to do that. They say, "You're just wasting a lot of good money and time and your ability, to not be able to use it." Well, they won't hire, you know. Those days, it was very difficult to get a job, and especially government job, you know, state jobs. Now you can get it easily, but in those days, it was very difficult. And we had a friend, my brother had a friend and he was a, they were Catholics. And he went to the Catholic college and graduated. But he ended up doing the same kind of job my brothers were doing, working in a fruit stand. Well, you know, it felt really bad. You know, you can't find a job.

MA: Do you think it was harder for Japanese Americans to maybe find work? Because of discrimination or...

MH: Yeah, because, there was quite a bit. And you were lucky, luckily the Japanese town had a lot of business. They had insurance company, they had dental, they had doctors. So you trade or do business with them easily or then to go out to the public, because a lot of places wouldn't hire you even if you did have a good education, a good background education. There were very few lawyers. We only knew one at the time, but now there are tons of them out there. But we knew one John Maeda, then there was another, another person that was well-known to be a lawyer. Maybe, maybe a few others, well-known lawyers, too. But there wasn't much to, to go against. Because nobody sued on... they do now, every little thing, you're sued. But the legal thing was, most of us, Issei people couldn't own property. And let alone owning a car was as best as you can do. But owning property or business, it was very difficult. So if you had a child that was over twenty-one, you would use their name to apply for anything and do business. And very few of us were capable of doing that in those days. Especially people that lived on the farm, they had lots of children, but when they were able to say, to get up and for your rights of whatever, it was very difficult because their English was pretty limited, too. I mean their education was, is high school. They were lucky to even get to high school in those days. So I think a lot of that had something to do, too. But nowadays, we have tons of doctors and lawyers and anything you can mention. Engineering, or whatever. We're really up there.

MA: Were your parents involved in like the Issei community, or community groups that were there for the Isseis?

MH: The way, they had different, if you come from the village, that certain village, they called kenjinkais or gunjinkais, they belong to that. And the gunjinkais are, are the ones that your closest kinfolks, your village people. And kenjinkai is a prefecture, like the state, like we call state, and the gunjinkais are the county. People that live in that surrounding. And we must have had about three hundred with kids included. When we have picnic, that was the time that we meet everybody. Or, we didn't have babysitters, we didn't have places where you could say like a babysitting place. Everybody took their kids wherever it was, whether there was a funeral, a wedding, or some kind of party. The kids all came with them, no matter what. Because there's nobody to look after them, so they take their kids with them. So that's the only time we meet everybody. And we were friends, family friends all the way through 'til they leave home, and we're still friends, you know. And fortunately, when I moved here, I found three families that came originally from California. And we, so when we get together, we reminisce the times that we grew up. Like those times when we went to the picnics or the parties or whatever. So that's the only time that you can go back to your childhood days, I call it. And we all grew up very rough in those days. 'Cause compared to what it is, we wonder how we managed with so little money we had. But you survived, we all survived. We survived the war, too, which was the most difficult one.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: When did you start your sewing school at Pacific?

MH: Right after I graduated.

MA: So in 1940?

MH: I, I started, yeah, about a few months after I finished school. So, I went to the whole year. I graduated in '41 in June. That was the last...

MA: Was the school in Japantown?

MH: Yeah, uh-huh. It was right up, right by where the Koyasan Temple is. It's right in front, the Koyasan Temple's in the back. And there's a driveway like. And there was two buildings. One was, had a manju store there and then this side was a shoe repair, then upstairs was the sewing school. We had a Japanese theater like I said, and one theater and several Chinese restaurant. And then Japanese restaurant. When they have a party, it's always a Chinese place, 'cause they had the big areas. So eating Chinese food in those days, what we eat here, Chinese food is different. We can't find, we're used to chow mein dinner, we, we figured the kind we ate back then, it's not the kind we eat now.

MA: How is it different?

MH: It's different. Totally different. They use rice noodles and it's totally different. When we say chow mein dinner, they used regular chow mein noodle and they pan fried it and all the veggies and stuff, it was piled on top, and it was what we called chow, chow mein dinner. But this, this modern right now, it's just totally different. And then we used to call hamayu, it's made out of pork, steamed pork. With some kind of a fish, and it's smelly. But it tastes, that flavor goes into this pork, and it's very good. It's steamed. It's nothing but fat, pork fat is what it is. But you asked these people now, they don't even know what it is, and you have to make your own. You can make your own, but it doesn't taste like the one you would eat at a restaurant, you know?

MA: So the food has changed a lot. The Chinese food especially.

MH: Well now, see, I think the Chinese food now has a mixture of Vietnamese, Thai, and all the other Asian country dishes are all put together, combined. And so it's not the kind what we used to find in those days. So it's very different in taste and they're more spicier now than they were then. They weren't so, they weren't spicy in those day. So food, it's so much different, and they don't, they don't use the same ingredients either. A lot of it. They're similar, but because Thai people have their type of food, and Vietnamese have their type of vegetables they use, too, and the noodles are all different.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So I wanted to change gears a little bit, and ask you about Pearl Harbor, about December 7, 1941. What do you remember about that day?

MH: Oh, that day. December the 7th was a Sunday. I can clearly remember, it was a beautiful, quiet Sunday morning. And about eight o'clock... well, my father gets up early, and he starts to move around and naturally it's Sunday, we like all like to sleep in. So we were taking it easy, and eight o'clock, somebody was knockin' at our front door. And our friend from Hollywood had gone to Gardena to pick up some bedding plants. 'Cause he's a gardener, he needs to gather up his material to take to, to do his gardening and planting and plants in Hollywood area. And he and his son came by, and we got alarmed. And so my father answered the front door and let him in. He says, oh, he says, "Taihen na koto ga dekita" And he says, and my father said, "What?" He said, "Japan started war." And he said, "Oh, it can't be. Japan's such a small country. It's impossible." Says, "No, that's the big news." And of course we had our radio, but we didn't have it on. And so, we let it go at that. And they went on, said, "We gotta hurry up and get home, 'cause we don't know what might happen." So they left early, after they left the news with us. So then in the morning we had our breakfast and we took off just like we always do on a Sunday.

MA: So at that point, your father was sort of in disbelief about what had happened.

MH: Yeah, he couldn't believe this was happening. So then we started out going out to town. Then the newspaper, the extras was going around. Extra, extra, you know. And my father said, "It's unusual." He still didn't believe. So then we went into Japanese town, and Japantown, everybody look was in disbelief, you know, that this was going on. So I took in a movie, and my brothers did their thing, my father did their thing. By five o'clock, the detectives were all over town, going to each door. Each store that was open, and investigating, I assume, and this is what I assume. Lights were going off one by one. And pretty soon, by the time we were leaving, one block was all dark. I mean, the store's lights were all out. And we said, "Well, we better hurry up and go home," 'cause my mother was left alone.

Well that, we got home all right, but in the meantime, there was a station wagon parked in front of our store. And at that time, it didn't dawn on me who they were. But it was a government car. Evidently, they had, somebody had been around investigating, or inquiring about us, I guess. Which is all guesswork now. And somebody said that they did come to somebody's house, but they didn't question too much. But we assumed that maybe the neighbors put in a good word, we don't know. But they never came to our place. But my father told my mother right away. "Get everything ready, just in case I should go." Because if he belongs to some sort of organization, they will take the top head people, you know. If the president of this group, or that group. Well he was, he was a treasurer, and he took care of the money for the organization, and he had a list of people's names and everything. And so then, my mother made a drawstring bag, put his toothpaste and essential things that he would do, if he should be taken to, you know, taken away. So she had it ready for him. But nobody came, so we went on with our business.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MH: Well in the meantime, all this notices start coming around, and then my brother, his draft notice start coming around. My second brother, my oldest brother didn't have to go. They said he was the head of the, he was old enough to say that he didn't have to go to war, I mean, to be drafted. So my second brother had to go register. Well in the meantime, he didn't pass, took two or three times. The third time, he got his notice and it was in March. And he left in March, and we left in April, because within that one month time. They told us to get ready, start packin' up, and gettin' things ready to leave. And to meet at a certain, certain place, and to be prepared to be out in the open country where you need to wear high-top boots and you need to have jean pants and long-sleeved shirts because the area's going to be out in the open and you need some protection. And so therefore, they kinda warned us ahead of time what kind of clothing to be prepared, so we got shopping for that. And got all our, our telephone and utility all paid up before we leave, and tell them when we were going to stop all that. And fortunately, our landlord was a very nice person. And they said, "Well instead of packing up your stuff and putting it in storage somewhere, just leave it as it is and board up your store and leave everything there in boxes. And when it's time for you to come back, you'll have it here. And just pay the rent." And so we did that. And so, in the meantime, my father, somebody he knew, wanted to buy the equipment, his electrical equipment, so he sold that. And the owner came in and let them in and they took whatever they needed, whatever it was. And that was okay. Well, everything else was left behind, supposedly. Well, then in the meantime, when the war, we went to the neighbor upstairs packed up a lunch for us, some chicken and some sandwiches and whatever in a basket. And took us to where we were supposed to meet, and where all the, whatever district you were in, you were to go to this certain place. And I don't remember where this, it was a residential area is all I can remember. And all these two-story houses, all the blinds were down. Nobody was lookin' out or nobody was walking out of the building. Everybody was shut in, while we were there. And we sat on the curb and there was a bus, a row of buses waiting for us.

MA: Did you know where you were going at that point?

MH: We didn't, I don't know, I can't remember the street or area. It was in a residential area, somewhere, I don't know what direction it was either.

MA: Did you know where you were headed though? You were going to get on the buses..?

MH: Well, I can't remember the, we got a notice telling us where to go. But that's all I know. I can't remember where the name of the street was, or what area it was. Was south end or east end or... it was some real quiet neighborhood, area. And there was a Bekon Storage van way in the back there. Your bedding all had to be tagged up, and when you got there, you got a nametag. And they, they put that all in this van. You only were allowed to carry two suitcases with twenty-five dollar each, not more than that. And whatever you had in the bank, either had to draw it out, or leave it. And then if you did leave it, it was frozen. You couldn't draw any money out, once it was whenever, you know, you couldn't draw it out anyway. You had to leave it there. Well, my parents got it all out and we each carried twenty-five dollars each. With the two suitcases.

MA: And it was you and your brother.

MH: My oldest brother, my mother and father, myself, there was four of us.

MA: Four of you.

MH: And we were nametag 8902. We had one, two, three, four, and I was the last one. And my father had one, and my mother had two, and my brother had three, and I was four. And so, that was our nametag. And then we got to this place. Waiting and then when we got on the bus, this lady, I guess I would assume either it's a Red Cross lady or a church lady, all gave us a sack lunch before we got on the bus. And there was a military man, a person, with those bayonets standing right there, guarding to make sure that nothing happens. So she would give us a bag, a lunch. I had an apple and a sandwich and a cookie, I think that was in there. And we ate that while we were on the bus to go to Santa Anita. We were sent to Santa Anita, then we got off, there was a string of military people and a doctor. The first thing we do you open your hands, you put whatever and they looked in your mouth and face, to see if you had any disease or any kind of complications. They would put you aside. And then they pass you on and then you were assigned to barracks wherever. And then, we settled down.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: What was, when you arrived at Santa Anita, what was going through your mind at that point?

MH: You know, you really don't know what to think because you're just taking orders. That's all they, they ordered, "Now, you go do this. You do that." Whatever. "You go through here. You go there. Go through those doctors." And then they'll guide you out to the barracks, and then you're assigned to a barrack. And this barrack, I have a picture in that newspaper clipping, what the barrack looked like in Santa Anita. It had... one building had three units. And they assigned you to which unit happened to be. We were middle unit. Because there was two, two, four of us. So, and then next door was another family had, they were, they were raised in Japan. They didn't speak any English at all, and they had a little boy called Ben. They lived next door. And then there was another couple, elderly couple. She had rheumatoid arthritis, she was very crippled. And they lived next door to us on one side.

MA: So it was like one room for the four of you?

MH: About the size of this. It had a cot, three cots there, and a broom and bucket, and that's all. They gave us our bedding and cots to sleep on. And there's not much privacy. It was built, but it was built in a hurry so the wood is raw and it's still fresh and you can still smell the wood smell. And you know those knotholes, those knots, when they get dried up, they poke, there's a hole there. You can almost see anybody from the other side. So my mother would get something, a rag, piece of rag and put paste on it and cover it up. So you could hear everything saying. There's one wood wall and you can hear everything going on, practically. But we were lucky to live in a barrack. But my cousins, they had to live in a stable and it was terrible, it was terrible. They had to sleep on straw mats, we had a regular mattress, which was much nicer. But they had to sleep on the straw mat, they had to fill their own bags. And it was pretty smelly, no matter how clean you are. And so, then they had mess halls -- they used military terms -- mess halls, several in the area. And they lived in a stable, so that was red. They had colors, mess hall numbers where called red or blue or white, yellow. And I worked eventually, when we got settled, they start recruiting for kids to work in the kitchen or wait on tables or something like that. So we volunteered and signed up. I worked in the mess hall for being a waitress.

MA: Were you paid?

MH: Not there. Not at Santa Anita, that was temporary. That was just temporary. I don't remember getting anything. We just, because we were being fed and living quarters are taken care of, so we really don't need anything actually. But if you did want to have something to buy something important enough, you'd have to ask a friend to bring it to you, up to the gate, or something. mail order. Mail order was either Sears or Spiegel's. And in those days, we had, everybody had just enough to get by, I guess. But if you needed something pretty desperate, you'd have to have a friend or somebody to get it for you and bring it or mail it to you.

MA: Would that happen? Would people from town come to Santa Anita and sort of bring stuff? Did they allow that, the military?

MH: They allowed you to come in. Of course, there was the post there, military post. They all, security things were all, they had a tower. The light, at nighttime, the lights would be, the searchlights would be moving around. You're just like a prisoner. It is a prison when you really think of it. And it's all fenced in. And Arcadia town is right there. You can see all the lights and everything and the streetcars running. But you dare not leave. You cannot leave. You're in, placed in a camp, that's it. You had no privilege of ever going out. I had a classmate, the last year in my senior year, she didn't come to school. And I wondered what happened to her. And so one day, before the war started, I saw her coming across the street with, somebody was with her. And she had gotten married to this black person and I didn't know that. That's how I found out that she had dropped out of school. And then, I hadn't seen her since then for a long time, until the war started. Then we were in Santa Anita, I come across her. And she had two little boys with her. I said, "Masako, what are you doing here? You didn't have to come here, did you? Since you got married to somebody, outside Japanese." She said, "Somebody reported that I was Japanese. And they, and that's how I had to come here." She brought the two boys. Well, I said, "Is your husband?" She said, "No, my husband's not. But I brought the two boys."

MA: So she was separated. They separated her from her husband.

MH: They separated her. And I didn't know, then I lost track. Then I didn't see her after that. I don't know where she went, or whatever happened. She had two little boys with her. And it was, I couldn't understand that either. And then, as time went on, we found a lot of Caucasian women married to Japanese husbands, you know.

MA: Were they in camp?

MH: Uh-huh. They were in --

MA: Santa Anita.

MH: There were several of them. There were a lot of them. I wouldn't say, not a few, there were quite a few of them. And then you see them walking and they didn't, that person did have to be in there, 'cause she's a Caucasian, she's an American citizen. I assumed. In the first place, we're all American citizens.

MA: Right.

MH: As far as that goes, I mean, as you say citizen. But it isn't, I thought was kind of strange. But if they're willing to come with their husband, I think that was really very honorable for them, because as a couple, you don't want to be separated. She gave up her feelings of... she coulda stayed behind. She didn't have to come.

MA: That's interesting.

MH: But she did. There were several. And some of 'em had kids, too. And Benjamin when we... I was there six months. Or just about six months.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So you arrived in what month?

MH: I went in April.

MA: April of '42.

MH: Uh-huh, 'til September. Middle of September, we were transferred to Amache. But, the time that I lived in Santa Anita, met all kinds of people. You know, just daily you meet somebody. And then they recruited to work to do something if you wanted to work, you could work in the mess hall, or be a cook or wait on tables, wash dishes, whatever. We did, so I applied for that. My brother, he worked at the, they had what you call camouflage, they weave in these different colors and they had that at the stadium. And then eventually, there's so many kids that needed schooling, so they recruited anybody that's capable or had at least a high school degree, or not a college degree. I don't think very, very few that had college degrees in those days. They would ask if they would teach these little kids to be, to give them something to do. Either write or draw pictures, or whatever. And they had separate groups like, well, preschool wasn't too much. But first, second, third, they had them all in these stands in different areas. And so they can, we didn't have any books or papers or anything of that sort. But anything that would help them to not forget what they had already learned in school to keep them intact with that, that's what I assume. They had classes inside the stadium. And then other things had to be done, like this camouflage stuff was going on. But Catholic, Maryknoll, Catholic priests brought in a movie for us to watch sometimes in the evening. And they helped us, keep us entertained that way. And other than that, if you didn't have anything else to do, you just walked around the campus in that, Santa Anita tracks. They had a track that you could take a walk around. That was our exercise, to walk on the tracks. You can't go anywhere else. Then your daily stuff, and then there's always washing. Well, the washing was okay, too. They had a place where you could do your laundry. In those days, most people had, I'd say, ninety-nine percent was white sheets. Everything was white. Nowadays, we have colored things, you know, materials are different. And they're colorful, they're not all white anymore. It was white. And everybody's laundry was whites. Sometimes, people take your laundry without knowing. They think that... so my mother had to mark all our laundry with initials on it. As much as she could to take care of. Then you had to stay there and watch your laundry, because you couldn't leave it, Because people walk off with it without knowing it, thinking it's theirs. So my dad, my folks, when it was laundry day, they stayed and watched until it was all dried. And that was their daily work, whatever.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: Let's talk about your journey to Amache. That was in September '42. At that point, did they tell you that you were going to Amache?

MH: No, they told us we were going to Lamar, and then we don't know where Lamar... then they said Granada, we don't know where that is either. Just words blocked around. And when we got ready to leave, they gave us a big breakfast and then they took us to the train. There was two trains, two sets of train. One was Union Pacific, and one was Santa Fe. The Union Pacific was a northern route, like going to Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah. The southern was the Santa Fe, it was into Arizona and Colorado, and I think Arkansas, too. So every third day, the train would leave, either the Union Pacific or the Santa Fe. But ours was selected as Santa Fe. So when it was time to leave, they gave us a big breakfast and then they took us to this train. And we were allowed to carry just so much stuff. And each, we were assigned in this one train. And they filled up the whole train, then when we started to go, we went through L.A. railyard and when I saw the city hall... the city hall was the tallest building in L.A. in those days, and it's very noticeable. It's a white building, it looked like this. And I looked at that and I said, "Oh, I'm leaving Los Angeles and don't know where we're going." And you know, everybody started to cry. To think that they're never gonna come back to their home again. It was very sad to see that departing of the city. And they go through the yard and then they started to move on. Pretty soon we came on to Salton Sea, around the Salton Sea. Then we crossed the Yuma, Colorado River, and Yuma, Arizona. We stopped there for a rest. And then we got off and stretch our legs. I don't know where these Indians come -- they came from, I don't know where they came from. But they were all coming from, selling their little odds and ends stuff, you know, what they make out of beads and leather and selling them. And I happened to have a quarter and I bought one with a shield, with two moccasins hanging. And then they disappear.

MA: So they just came to...

MH: I don't know, when they saw the train.

MA: When they saw the train.

MH: And then saw the people get off, they never spoke a word. They just handed out this thing, and, "You wanna buy? You wanna buy?" That's all they said. They didn't speak much of anything, and they disappeared. Well, we got back on the train, then we start going. And every so often, the train would stop because there are two trains that are coming. They wouldn't tell us that there were two trains. Well, pull your blinds down, and we have to wait 'til the time they pass. And after they pass, well then, we'll start moving on. Pretty soon, we came to Douglas, Arizona. I could see the sign on the roof of what city we're in, because that's the only way I know where we're going. Never ridden a train. That was the first time I've ridden a train in my life. And it was something new and very exciting. You know, you never, as old as I am at that time, I was twenty years old. And then, pretty soon, we come to El Paso. And then El Paso, Texas, now we're in Texas. And then, something was movin' around. They were changing trains or cars or whatever it was. My father was, the elderly over a certain age, they were placed in a Pullman. But other than that, we were on a coach. My mother, my brother, and myself, we sat in the coach. They told my father to go in another train. He was in a Pullman, which is a better deal. They have a bed and everything, you can sleep at night. But we saw him standin', going away in another direction, and my mother got really worried. She said, "Oh, they're taking him away." That's the first thing that hit us. But they were changing cars or something, shifting things around. We didn't know that, so, until we settled down.

And then, they start moving again, and pretty soon we were traveling through the night. And we were, following morning, we were in Albuquerque. And it was very chilly. We managed to get up and of course, they fed us in the train. And I can't remember what we ate or anything, but they fed us on the train. And then, each train had a monitor, it was assigned a monitor. In case you had a problem that you would tell him, and he would go to the front. And so, it happened to be a friend of ours and he was the monitor. And we didn't have any problems in our, our train section. So then Albuquerque, we got up and took several hours. They were changing water and putting ice in this and that and the other. Then we start traveling and pretty soon, we come into New Mexico. And then we travel and by the time we got into Raton, New Mexico, the mountain is very steep up there. So there was two train, engine, one was pushing from the rear end and one was leading us. And you could see that turn, it was kinda exciting scenery there. It was very unusual. I never been on a train, so it was kind of interesting to see what was going on. Stick our head out to see. You could see the tail end coming, coming around the bend there. And there's high altitude, so you could feel your ears start to pop. And we didn't know that was causing it, it was the altitude where we're going higher up. Then we come into Trinidad, eventually.

MA: How long in total was your journey to Amache?

MH: I think it was three days. About two and a half to three days. Because we left in the middle of the week and it seemed like three days, we got, by the time we came through Trinidad and then we come down south and going north now. So we're going to go through Swink, Rocky Ford, not Rocky Ford. Trinidad comes into La Junta. Then it turns going east, and then we were in Lamar, we were in Granada, about the middle of the morning, it seemed like.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: And what were you thinking when you got off the train and saw, you know?

MH: Well, we had no idea where we're going. We're just told that we're going and we found that we were in Colorado. And as I remember in history, Colorado, they say, that's the coldest country in the world, they say. Oh, it snows a lot and this and that. I heard of Colorado being a cold country, but it was windy. Out there, it's windy, and it's more of an open country. And this little town of Granada is only a mile from where this Amache camp was. So we went through the town. The train stopped in Granada, and then the army truck, there was, they hauled everybody in there to take us to camp, to the campgrounds. And then we were, there was a man there to advise us to be careful that there were rattlesnakes and there's these cactus plants. And when the wind blows, these needles, they do come with the sand and they might prick on you so be, that's why we advise you to wear long trousers and heavy boots and long-sleeve shirts, because of the wind is so strong. And to have a hat or something. So we were prepared for that and they explained all this. And then they take us, they took us to our block. They had so many blocks and happened to be, where I was going to be sent was called 11-G, Block 11-G. It's way in the back. About a mile, this campus, almost like from the entrance to the back end, it's about a mile long. It's a good walk. And we were, the last block was 12-K, I think, and we were 11. And then, and there was from 6 Block up to K. There's a, let's see, E, F, G... E, F, G. E ,F, G, H, there was a H, I think. So we happened to be G. There was an alphabet. They go by alphabet.

MA: So what was your barrack like? What was your living condition?

MH: Well, one block consist of a mess hall, and one building was a mess hall. And the next building was a laundry room and the shower room and the office. And a laundry room, shower, and then one block, one side had six barracks, and on the opposite side, there was six barracks. So there's twelve barracks, and one recreation building in the back. Each block, each building had six units. The two end units were small, and for couples. Then the second unit was a little large, maybe a family of, maybe five or six people. It was a little larger room. Then the middle two were smaller size, enough for our family. I was in one of the middle ones. Maybe two children and a parent. And there are four people, probably anywhere from three to four people. All in all, it was considered each block had about 300 people, considering.

MA: What about your own family? Your family's accommodations? What was that like?

MH: Well, we didn't have, they had a cot ready for us and a bucket, and a mattress. And of course, our, our bedding stuff came in later. They had a wood stove, a coal stove. It was a... some of them were pot-bellied, but ours was a cylinder type. It was about so high and it was round. And that was our heating purpose.

MA: Was it all one room? Did you all sleep in the same room?

MH: No, it's just one room. And they had a closet on one side. And then right next to the closet was the stove. And that was your, in the winter, that was your heating, all you had was coal. And there was somebody assigned to go down to Granada town, when the train would unload coal, they would go pick up the load and then bring it to camp. And each, each block, every, not block, each block, at least building, it was a bin, big bin in the front which carried the coal in. And there was three, I think there was three, because two had to share one big box. And they would dump it in there. And so, in the summertime, well, you don't need it. But it was the wintertime that it was very cold. And our barrack color was kind of a beige color. It isn't black like the one we had in Santa Anita, it was a black tarpaper. But ours was a beige color so it wasn't too bad. The picture I have there, it shows it's a light-colored, so it didn't look too bad. And then as time went on, we had tree planting. All the young men went down to the riverbed and got all the seedlings, the elm seedlings and we planted trees in the back of our barrack. And I think it was either three, three or four. Anyway, the picture shows it, it tells it. We planted trees and then after that was done, then we had a ranch, what they call Koan Ranch, down below the camp.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MH: And since there were so many people that were farmers, that were sent to camp, they gathered all the people that were experienced with farming. So there was a place down there where they can have a mess hall, and eat there, and work at the same time. So they raised eggs, chickens, and have eggs. And we had pigs to eat at all the other stuff, whatever. And eventually, the farm started. And when harvesting time come, they recruited all the young people who wanted to do the harvesting for the crop that we could have to eat. And I volunteered one time, and it was an onion patch. And I've never done any farming. So had no idea what we were supposed to do. So I went along and there was another young lady there. Evidently, she might have been a farmer's daughter, I don't know, but she was pretty well experienced, 'cause I didn't know what to do. And she would, there's a gunny sack and we'd just put all the onions in the gunny sack and then we stack it up and somebody comes and sews it up. That was alright, but I'd never done anything like that. Squatting on the ground and back-breaking job. [Laughs] The next morning I was sore all over, I just couldn't believe that. I ached so much that I couldn't tell my parents that I ached a lot. And you know, being a young girl, it sounded ridiculous to say that I act like an old person, you know. And I kept it quiet. And then the next day, we went out in the field again, and they took us to the daikon place, where all the daikons were. And there were big daikons. You could see the heads that big. And, but they didn't have any tools.

MA: Any tools to... okay.

MH: Pitchfork or anything to loosen the dirt up. And the dirt over there is very heavy and it's got a lot of clay in it, I think. And when it dries, it's really hard and is hard to loosen up. So you need a pitchfork or something, a shovel. They didn't have nothing ready for us. So that, then they took us to another area where there was celery. And the celery also, they didn't have the tool. There were, we were, they had a trench made. We were supposed to dig up and put it in this trench and then cover it and sweeten the celery up for later on to use. But they didn't have any tools.

MA: So how did you end up harvesting the daikon and celery?

MH: We never had any, we couldn't do anything right away. So we just ate lunch and came home. And then, and then also they had harvesting, potato harvestings and beet harvesting. They were out of the area. They came to recruit young people and different farmers out of the district there, where there was a place called Holly. And there was a place called Olney Springs, Crowley. They were neighboring cities, little cities in the Rocky Ford area where there was beet sugar topping had to be done. So a lot of young men went to work there. And I assumed they got paid for little whatever they did. Eventually I got a job in the mess hall. First thing they said, we need people to work in the kitchen and do things like that. So we signed up and I became, I waited on table and my brother worked in the kitchen, as a cook. He never cooked before, but he, but cook's helper, I guess they call it. And the cooking was all done by coal stoves, so it was very hot in the summer. And rice cooking was very difficult, because they had to steam rice instead of cooking it right on the stove. So when they were able to get rice, it was very, very good in a lot of ways. But we ate a lot of potatoes and a lot of fish early, but then eventually, the rice start coming and we had a better choice of food. Then the farm start bringing their veggies from below.

MA: So how did your, how did your parents occupy their time at Amache?

MH: Well, my dad was a shoe repair. So they had a, I have a book there. Had a co-op, but they had a co-op. And they had a shop there. There was a barber shop, shoe repair, tailor, and a dry goods stuff. And they had, they had other things, too. And it wasn't, it became very easy to do shopping because you can buy your own thing without going out to Granada. Because when you hear about it, it's, everything's gone by the time you go anyways. So eventually, they had what you call a co-op store there where you can, like a canteen, you can buy anything, whatever was available there. Shoes, you could buy shoes and clothing, magazines, and things like that.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: So people, you were saying earlier, people were able to go into town, into Granada?

MH: Yeah, well, as long as you got a pass. You go down to the office, down below and get a permit. And you can leave at sunup to sundown. You come back by that time. And you could either walk to Granada, or take the train and go to Lamar, or take the mail truck and come back.

MA: Did you ever go into town?

MH: I went once to Lamar on the mail truck. And I went to... they had a Safeway there. And your limited to buying certain things, because a lot of things were rationed, like sugar, flour, the basic food.

MA: How did people treat you? Townspeople treat you and the rest of the...

MH: Well, we had cash. So we would buy a lot with cash. But it sounded like the people there, later on, as we, I heard, that they appreciated us buying with cash, but when we buy, we buy everything out with it. And they want to save some of their stuff for the people that didn't have money, they traded with things as they came, like eggs, or whatever. And they needed to give them the business, too. So they kinda wanted us not to be spending too much money buying it directly with cash. Which they would rather do. But I just didn't take any chance of going anywhere around there, because "No Japs are allowed" signs are here and there, you know. So you just don't want to get involved in too much of that. So I just stayed around and looked, just walk up and down the streets of the town. And I spent one day just to see what it was like to get out, for, at least you're shut in for so long, you want to see what's going on.

MA: Did you ever hear of any instances where people had trouble with...

MH: No, I didn't hear anything. Then I came back in time to help serve with the supper. It was seven days, three days a week. Three times a day, seven days a week. And towards the end, we decided we need a day off to do our own things. So there were four or five of us, we took time off for one day off. We scheduled our timing so that everybody had a time off out of the week, so, not that there's a lot to do in camp. But then, you know, you want to go shopping or something. You want to have a little time for yourself for the whole day. And that's what we did. I eventually, we start having mochitsuki, we had New Year's. Fish was coming in, Granada Fish started their fish market in town. And they brought in fish so we could have sashimi and things like that were getting little better as time... and New Year's everybody wants to have their mochi, so we had mochitskui and the young girls and the boys all help mold things. And then divide, everybody had a share of mochi for the New Year's. And that was part of our fun thing that we did. It was traditional thing, also fun for, not to forget what we had for New Year's, you know. That was nice. And then we had our own entertainment, too. Each block had something to do with their own, figure out some way to entertain at least once a month or once a week. Of course there was, the young kids had their dance parties and their recreation around the end of the block there was a recreation center. So they could have their doings, whatever they like to play cards or dance with. I happened to have a portable record player, and so whoever had records in those days, they brought their records and they would have dance parties going on. And then we had crafts stuff.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: Going back a little bit, you had mentioned earlier that your parents were very strict with you when you were in high school and after. How did they feel when you were in camp? Did that dynamic change?

MH: Well, they changed. Because there were so many of us, we're all Japanese, and we're not all Caucasian. It's strictly Japanese. So it was a different feeling for them. So they, I, well, of course, I was already twenty years old then. So, I had a little more freedom to do what I wanted to do. So then I had a friend that was in the same block. She happened to be one of the students at the sewing school that I used to see. And so we got real close and we went, we did things together quite a bit. And she was my best friend in camp there, and I have other friends, too, but she was my closest, and we were same age. And she had a younger sister that needed to go to school yet. And she hadn't finished high school. So when the high school was built, I have that picture there, she was one of the first graduates from that high school. And they had caps and gowns. When I went to school, we didn't even have caps and gowns. We had, we were lucky to have a formal, let alone, and they weren't never the same style. They were all different colors and different styles. And it was different. And they managed to rent white caps and gowns which was nice. We had a graduation and then we also had other... the auditorium was used for a lot of things. Of course, sports was mainly what it was for. We had basketball and baseball going on, too, for the young kids. And then we had a fair, whatever you made, or had grown, veggies or something that was unusual, you displayed it. And everybody did their share of that, which was very entertaining, because you'd be surprised how many gifted people were living in the camp. But they never said they knew how to do it or anything. They made furniture out of scrap material, lumber, and made a lot of wood carving and made furniture, beautiful furniture. And homemade, well, my father wasn't clever, that clever, but he put together, made benches. We didn't have any chairs or tables, so we had to do the best we can to do that and gather up material. We had a teacher that was a very, she was a craft teacher. Very good in making artificial flowers, knitting, and crocheting. And then we had another, was a professional dressmaker. And she sewed and she made clothes for those that could afford to buy material and have clothes made. And then this was before the co-op came along, so we had to use our hands, we didn't have a sewing machine. Eventually, the sewing machine came along, so that was nice. But we did a lot of sewing with our hands. And we had handmade stuff.

MA: As time went on in camp, how much did you hear of what was going on in the outside world?

MH: Oh, we got the newspaper. We got the Pueblo Chieftain and Denver Post was coming in so we know what was going on. And we had no radio, but word got around. People would come and tell us.

MA: Was there a sense of how long you would be in camp? I mean, did you know when you would leave?

MH: Nobody knew, nobody knew. As time went on, the war got progressively harder and deeper. And of course, Japan was conquering several areas, but then eventually it was taken away, you know. They would get news, but very little was spread around, because they didn't want us to know too much, I think. But what we read in the newspaper, all got our news, so we know what was going on the outside. And then we can go out to town, so we hear things from town, so it wasn't totally isolated either. So we were pretty lucky in a lot of ways, compared to the other camp sites. I hear that some places were pretty bad. Not as, as well as we thought from what I've heard since later on, after we start living in the town, we hear people that they come from different camps, and their stories are a little different.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: Okay, so we're back. We're gonna talk about sort of the end of the war and your family leaving Amache, what that was like.

MH: Amache, when we were able to leave, we left in the spring. I think it was around May.

MA: May of 1945?

MH: Yes, uh-huh. We left on the train and they also gave us a sandwich or something, lunch to eat in the train. And we got to Denver station here. And my brother had left camp a little bit earlier and he found a job here at the manju factory, they call it Mikawa-ya. And he said, "There's some kind of work here, so why don't we just settle here for awhile," until, how the situation in California would be.

MA: Was that pretty common for people in Amache to come over to Denver?

MH: They all kind of, some of 'em went back east, like Chicago. They worked for the Edgewater Hotel and got jobs over there and work at the Libby's Cannery and some of 'em went to Cleveland, and somewhere in Ohio area. And different ones started to spread out and some of 'em went to New York, too.

MA: But since your brother was already in Denver, you kinda just decided to follow.

MH: My brother took a chance and came to Denver because we had family friends that were living here. They left, they didn't go to camp. They came as volunteer evacuees. So they had a struggle, too, trying to get through the, coming through in a car to, with their personal belongings and as much as they can carry. And a lot of , you heard a lot of stories about their, their trucks been burned down, or they been attacked by this and that or other. And had hard life coming through to make settlements voluntarily, you're taking a chance. But with your, the government tells you where to go, you're taken care of. So you don't have anything like that to happen to you. You just do whatever they tell you to do. Go certain place, get on the train or bus, or whatever. And you get there safely, but when you're going on a volunteer basis, you don't know what you're dealing with. You could get, you can get robbed.

MA: It's more of a risk, it seems.

MH: It's a risk. And some of 'em have been harmed on the way, lost their stuff and things like that. But you'd have to almost find somebody that went through that experience and as it so happened that this two or three families that we know of, that came from my father's same village from Japan, they are the ones that encouraged us to stay here for a while. And to see how the situation stands. And then, "Since you will find it much better here, because the state has welcomed us here, than in any other state."

MA: That was the governor, right?

MH: And Governor Carr had proposed that we were free to be, use the state, to stay. And then, pretty soon things got a little better, so they started going back to the West Coast. But some of them was pretty rough, too, I hear.

MA: Going back.

MH: Yeah, going back to their own town or wherever. And there was a lot of not good feelings, I guess you might call. So we, we decided we'll stay until things look, how they will look. And we did go back in 1950, after I got married and had one son. And my father had died, but my mother was still living. So we decided to drive. My brother also, my second brother got out of the service. And my husband was out of the service, too, at the same time, 1945.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MA: Where did you live when you first moved to Denver with your family?

MH: I lived in a little home, it was a big home. At one time, it was a big home and in the back, they had a carriage. It was a horse and buggy days, I think. And it was a brick building and it had two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs, which was, there was a big window. Bigger than that, double the size of that mirror there, it must have been a hay loft where they put the hay in and they had horses and buggies in those. It was a carriage place. It was converted to a living quarter, somebody had put it together. And it didn't have any bathrooms, but we had running water, that's all. And didn't have no gas, so we had to use oil, kerosene, to do our cooking. And temporary, somebody found this for us, so we decided we'd live there 'til we could find a permanent place.

MA: What neighborhood was that? Was it near Japantown?

MH: No, it's quite a ways from Japantown. I guess about a mile, good mile, better than a mile. Near Curtis Park. Curtis Park is in that Larimer Street end of town there. We used the front apartment as our, to take a bath, they had that open for us to use. So we just had the kitchen to cook, and this kerosene stove. And then we lived there for just a few months and then a friend of ours had a garage, and they lived upstairs of this garage. And garage is still there. It's called, it was called a modern garage. And this tiny family, were very good friends of ours. And so, they had bought a house on north side of town, other side of town, and they said, "The garage and upstairs apartment is open, so if you would like to live there, you can live there." So we decided to move there. And that's when I got married, from there. I lived there and so I had to be... oh, '45, '46, '47, '48, '49, we left in '50. So we lived in that for at least a few years. 'Cause we lived there when we lived in that apartment above the garage. Well, first we got married and I lived in another apartment, but I started to live in with my parents, after we got married. They were kind of lonely, so they wanted us to move in with them, 'cause there was extra rooms there. So we decided to live with them. So that's why we ended up living in the garage, above the garage. That's where our first was living there. And then, I came back and lived with them, too.

MA: During that --

MH: Then my father died the same year that I got married that year. So he passed on in December. I got married in January.

MA: What year?

MH: 1947. And he died in December of '47. And so, I had, and then the following year, I had a miscarriage. That's the reason, I didn't go to his funeral. And so the following year, '48, and '49, my son was born. And '49, March the 25th.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MA: Did you have a, I know we talked earlier about some jobs that you had in Denver's Japantown. Can you talk about those?

MH: Yeah, well, I didn't work in the... well, my brother worked for the Mikawa, then he went and got married and went to Trinidad. He worked in the greenhouse, they had a big greenhouse in Trinidad, so he moved over there. My brother came back from the service, he was a 442nd member, he worked in several different places, he worked to make, sake brewery place, and then he worked at the grocery, fruit stand, and then he worked several different places as, working for the market. And then he eventually got a job at Associated Grocer, which is a warehouse, for, I guess he was in charge of the vegetable part. He worked there for twenty-five years and then retired, and he became a gardener. In the meantime, he had nothing to do, so he decided to do gardening work.

For me, I got married, I didn't work for a while. I worked, before I, before I got married, I worked at, I helped at Umeya senbei packing there for a little bit on the spare time, then after, after I quit there I worked for a tsukemono place where they make tsukemono, homemade canned tsukemono. And then I worked for one place, right after I got out of the camp, the Okuno family, these people that run the 20th Cafe right now, their parents, grandparents, we couldn't get umeboshi and nori and tsukemono and those kind of things from Japan anymore, so they had to improvise something that they can make it near enough to say that this is shoyu and this is umeboshi, and they had factories all started up in the area. Somebody started to make shoyu and somebody started to make umeboshi out of apricots. And then this nori, sushi nori, they bought dried seaweed from California, and they washed it and strained it and meat ground it into, as fine as they could, and then cooked it and flavored it the best way they could. And then after that was cooked, they needed people to spread the nori. So the Okuno family started a factory, and the board was as long as that sofa there, and it was about that thick. Put waxed paper on, then you slapped this nori and you spread it as thinly as you can, spread it as long, and then they put it in this room where they had a fan that dried it up overnight, they had that fan going. Then the next morning, the Mrs. Okuno would measure the size of the nori for, to make sushi, and cut them and packed them in, so many in a pack, like ten, I suppose, and our job was to do all this straining and spreading it as thinly as, we had four girls working. And that was our job until he decided that the things were coming in from abroad now, from China and things, so they disbanded that. So I didn't work there, so I worked for the tsukemono factory.

MA: What did you do at the tsukemono factory?

MH: We made what they call a kyuri. A, it's like a cucumber, but it's tough and then you take the seed out and you salt it and you pack it. And when that gets real salted, then it goes into this sake no kasu, the sake, the material, that paste. They save all the paste and they mix it with syrup and sugar and flavor it and it ferments. Then when you have to, we didn't have a mixer, so you had to do it by hand and you keep stirring it up as well as you can, and spread it. And then that becomes, you pack it into these cucumbers or whatever. And then you stack 'em and let it ferment, until it's ready to be packed or jarred or whatever. And that's what we did.

MA: I imagine at that time, too, they were selling a lot of these Japanese food products because there was such a large community, right? At the time?

MH: Yeah, well, yes. And the restaurant, there wasn't that many sushi factory, or there wasn't any. There was a restaurant but they didn't emphasize like they do now. And sushi and they had a noodle factory, they had a noodle store, udon-ya and they had several of those. And they had Japanese restaurants specialized in Japanese, one, probably one, and then there was a bar, Japanese bar around in the area. But that was mostly for people that drank and they had Japanese foods, side dishes that they made. But unless you go there, I couldn't tell you what they had, 'cause I wasn't interested in going those kind of places. But basically, Pacific and Granada opened up their stores eventually because things were able to get through, in from Japan eventually.

MA: I see.

MH: Little by little.

MA: So did all those factories close then?

MH: And then they start closing down because of the fact that they could get the real stuff, you know.


MA: So I had a question about the Denver Japanese American community and the relationships between the people who were already there and the people who had gone to camp and sort of resettled to Denver. How was that interaction, you know, between the two different groups?

MH: I don't find it any different. It was nice to get out of the camp and be with other people and know what's going in the world, you know, a bigger city. And be able to be free to do the shopping and not be regulated at time and whatever we had to do in camp. So that was different, but it was nice to be out and be able to be free to do whatever shopping or talk with anybody. Going to the library, go anywhere. Nobody, well, and it seems that, it was just like normal before the war.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MA: So let's talk about, you said you moved to L.A. in 1950.

MH: Oh, in 1950, we decided to make, take a move and go back to see if L.A. is where we want to stay. That's where we originally came from. So my husband says, and then he had his father with him and I had my mother, and then my brother also, and his wife. We decided to make a move and try and go see how it's like to settle in L.A. again. Well, we got there, we found a house, and we called it Boyle Heights area, it's what they call East Los Angeles. It was, when we moved that first house, there's a Hollenbeck Park one block down, south from us. And then, the Jewish people, a lot of refugees were in, right that time. And they spoke a lot of Jewish in that neighborhood. And then there was quite a few Japanese living in there, too, scattered in that area. And I lived there from '50 to '53. In the meantime, I had my second son there. And the Japanese hospital's just a few, is down not too far from us, several blocks down on First Street. So I went, I had a Japanese doctor. And then Dr. Baba and I went to the Japanese hospital and had my second son. And there, I was able to eat Japanese food because it was more or less for Japanese people to, originally built for that purpose, you know. For the Issei people to be more comfortable.

MA: And this was at the hospital?

MH: Yeah, at the hospital. The original hospital was down on First Street and it was a very creepy place. But eventually, the doctors all got together and they built their own hospital which was only two story. But it was nice. And they had quite a busy doings in those days, 'cause a lot of Japanese were living. And so I, I had my second child there. And then, eventually, we found a bigger house, so we moved on the other side of town. In the, what was that street? Vendome? It was near Silverlake area, what we called the Silverlake area. And, and this house was owned by a well-known family. He later passed on recently. The Niseis of the family had the house, and we rented that house. And we didn't have a Japanese community, or residents in that area. We were the only ones.

MA: What was your husband doing for work at that point?

MH: He was already doing landscaping. And he had started to do landscaping. And then, we, he was doing very well. But the traffic and the smog was getting us. The smog was worse than anything else. Because the boys were, it irritated their eyes, and their health was beginning to show. If they go out, they complain about how they feel. And so they're inside the house and that's not good either. So eventually, we decided we'd go back to Colorado. He said the Colorado air is so much better, and it's clearer, and we don't have the smog like you see, you'd see the sun through that smog and it was that bad. And you can tell that that's not healthy for kids, or any grownup, too. But people are living there and making a living. And we tried to visit the people, they're too busy raising families and they've lost everything, too, so they're makeup for all the losses they had in the past. And they had no time for socializing things like we expected. And it wasn't the same. So my husband said, "Well, let's go back to Colorado, where it's a little more ease and people are more friendlier." And so we decided that we'd go back after 1953. We ended up working in a greenhouse.

MA: Where was this?

MH: In La Junta, Colorado.

MA: And where is that geographically in Colorado?

MH: It's right near where the camp is. It's only about maybe sixty miles or not even that long. 'Cause I think it was sixty miles to Pueblo. It's Pueblo. Pueblo is the biggest town west. And we're going east towards Lamar area. So that's a halfway between Lamar and Pueblo, sorta halfway. It took a good hour to get from Pueblo to where we lived. And then it took another hour to go to Lamar. So we were kinda in the middle, on that, they call that Arkansas Valley, that area. And the water situation is not very good there. It's too much alkaline. We were having a little problem to get used to the water there, too. And the plant raising was difficult because of the hard water. Eventually, we were able to solve how to raise plants with difficulty. My husband had to go to Fort Collins to, to this gardening, something to do with gardening to take a lesson. And he had to go every week for so many weeks. To know more about the soil and the water situation, and what kind of plants are suitable for our area. And the different Colorado, in Colorado, it's all different, high altitude and low altitude. And so he went to training for that, and to help the people with their problems with their gardening or whatever.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MA: So at some point, did you open your own greenhouse? Or did you work for someone else?

MH: Well, my brother had a, they bought a greenhouse in Trinidad. A very big area there. They were one of the larger ones in that area. They found this place for us, it was on sale. They wanted to know if we would want to take a chance and take in this, raising flowers. And so, we did. And not much of an experience, but anyway, we did. It's a twenty-four hour job, I tell you. Because once you get involved, you can't leave anything watered, unwatered. It has to be, everything has to be on time as scheduled. Plants, how we had potting plants and bedding plants and we had nursery on top of that. And so on top of that, so it was not much freedom to take the kids out to go anywhere. Eventually, after they got into school, they joined the Boy Scouts and things like that. Then home... 4-H for the girl. She was born in La Junta. And then, they all went to school there, from grade school up to junior college on to college. And then after they finished school, nobody wanted to take over the greenhouse. They said, "Well, this is not worth the trouble."

MA: A lot of work.

MH: And a lot of work. And they said we can find better jobs with less hour working, and get better paid and all this other stuff they hear about. So they went on their way and they didn't want to come back so we were sorta getting to a point we'd had enough of it, too. So we closed the greenhouse and we had the flower shop. Well in the meantime, my husband...

MA: So what year, around, when you closed the greenhouse? What year was that?

MH: I think it was, they were in high school, we were there during their high school years. So I'd say after '70. After '70. About '72, she graduated in '72, my daughter did from high school. Then she went on to college, too, after that. She got a job in Montana, as a special ed. And then my second son got a job as a lawyer in Boulder, and then, then worked for the Continental Airline. And so, there wasn't gonna be anybody coming, you know. I mean, they got their own jobs of their own. And so we gave it up.

MA: So at that point, you said you closed the greenhouse and opened a flower shop?

MH: Well the flower shop was just for after we closed the greenhouse, 'cause it was too much work for us to take care of, and the kids were not around to help us anymore. And then his father had emphysema, so we, he went back to Japan. And he passed away after a few years later. My husband got a job at the junior college which is a state job. It became, is considered a state job. So he took ground management, which means he takes care of the yard and the ground area and planting. And taking care of the little experimental greenhouse they had there at the science building. And he was there, he took a full-time job over there. So then, I decided we would quit the greenhouse, I mean even, the flower shop, I was for a while I did it. But then he took, he had ten years of working for the junior college, so we decided we'd go back to Denver. And that's, we left for Denver in '79, so from '53 to '79, we lived in La Junta. And there were very few families there in town. There were several farmers in Swink and Rocky Ford areas, but we don't see them every day, you know, just on certain doings, like picnics or New Year's or something special we would get together. The JACL had, we had a Arkansas JACL member, we're all members of it there, so whenever they have their meetings, that's the only time we'd get to see them. And whenever they had their big doings like scholarship fundraising, we have a chow mein dinner. That's when we all get together and help each other. That was the only entertainment we had to do, I was there. 'Course, in the meantime, our kids joined the Boy Scouts, but they were known as the Koshare Indians. They were well-known Indian dancers. They go travel to New York and back east, or wherever they're asked to entertain for the summer. And our two boys joined it and they were in for, since junior high until high school. In the two years that were in college that they helped advise the younger kids when they get into college, they're more advisor. They don't take participate, they can participate if they want to.

MA: So this is a Native American traditional dancing?

MH: The scoutmaster there, he was very interested in American Indian. And he took the kids to New Mexico and to the Navajo reservations and places like that on their summer trips and learned the Indian way of living and their making the costume was part of their project. They made all their costumes and they danced authentic dances. They taught, they learned from the Indians down in the south. Basically New Mexico area. They went to Taos, and they went to the Hopi Indians, and the Navajo Indians. And we, and Colorado is Indian country, basically. We have the Shoshones, Utes, and all in this area. Some in the Colorado Springs area, there's Indians. We have a reservation, but we don't call them reservations too deeply, because they can live outside now. They're living outside of them. And they're going to North Dakota to the, where the Pinehurst Indian reservation up there, Sioux Indian country. And they learned a lot of the Indian culture and that's how they got the town La Junta as a main area for this. They have a museum called Kivo. And they had all the traditional things that happened in that. And Ben's Fort is a trading post for the well-known brothers had a trading post for the Indians. They have a museum down there at Ben's Fort, if you go down there, there is a new museum that they built after we left there. It's a lot of Indian history down in that area, where the trading was done. They even made a movie, Centennial, down in there. With famous, what is his name? He played in Gunsmoke. Anyway, they had a lot of the school kids were in that as extras, uh-huh.

MA: So then you moved back to Denver in 1979.

MH: And then 1979 we moved back to Denver, but we moved into Aurora, Colorado, because we had a friend that was running a motel and they needed somebody to help with the motel. And they were going to go into another business, the restaurant business. And we decided we'll help them out. We stayed there until '82. Then I moved to Tamai Tower in '82. So I've been living in '82. And we're right back where we started. I lived in that area before the war. I mean, right after the war, 1945.

MA: And now you're back living here.

MH: I'm back where I started. So this is home for me. California's my home, but I've been away so long, it's, it doesn't seem like it's home anymore. This is home for me.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MA: So what are your thoughts on the Japanese American community today in Denver?

MH: I think they're dwindling. They're not, because the Issei people stuck together because they had no place else to go to entertain or to buy. And then as their kids grew up, they bought houses outskirts. And the older people all lived in this community, especially Larimer, Lawrence, Champa, Curtis, Stout. They all had, they all lived in that residential, between Seventeeth to Twenty-Seventh Street. Somewhere all in there. I lived on the Twenty-Seventh and Arapahoe when I got, the time when I was getting married, around that time. Once we lived down further, down at that end, near the Curtis Park. And I went to work down on Blake Street where this factory was. I walked. Well, we had streetcars, we didn't have buses, we had streetcars in those days. But I walked. When you're young, you can walk, it didn't matter to walk that far. It was good exercise, and it was good for you, too, on top of that to be movin', instead of riding, riding on the streetcar. And so I did that, and it, and you meet all kinds of people on the way. And Larimer street was called a slum area. It was horrible, it was terrible. But now it's become a very different area. They've taken all that old building away and they, that Windsor apartment used to be called Windsor Hotel. It was a famous hotel during the rush hour, during the gold rush days. And they say they had dollars, silver dollars all plastered on the walls or something like that. And they finally tore that down. It was very Victorian type of building, it was very famous at that time. They tore it down and now we have an apartment there called Windsor's apartment. It's a condo, condominium now. And this whole Larimer Street is completely changed. Japanese town, our Sakura Square is just only one block of it.

MA: So it used to be much larger.

MH: It had, and it was across the street. There's the whole up to Market Street. And then of course between Nineteenth and Twenty, there's between Larimer and Lawrence and then Market, there's two blocks there. So that two whole, four blocks of it was just Japanese stores, restaurants, insurance company, hairdresser, barber shop. You name it, we had it all there. So you didn't have to go very far. And of course, the shopping center on Sixteenth Street was the main shopping area. That's where the May Company and the Daniel Fisher's and all the big stores were down. Eventually, they all died. There's nothing left there anymore. We have Woolworth's, we used to call five and ten cents store, Crest's, Woolworth's. They're all gone. Nothing is there. Even the famous shoe store, Fanta shoe store, Florsheim's men's shoe store, they were all down in there, but it's all gone. The only thing that's left on Sixteenth Street that was almost original is the Daniel Fisher Tower where the clock is. That's, the tower only is left. The building, the whole block is gone where the shopping. They had furniture, they had everything. Flower shop and gift shop. All kinds. And they had so many floors. Every floor had a different item like women's wear, menswear, furniture. And it's all gone. They just saved that as, the tower as just a memento left. And then eventually, May Company came along. They call it May D&F, but it's, that was original Daniel Fisher store. A well-known store.

MA: So Sakura Square is, seems like what's left of Japantown.

MH: Japantown is what we have now. They tried to save that corner as Sakura Square. That's why they call it the Sakura Square, because cherry blossom festival is our main thing. And it used to be in May, but the weather was so unpredictable, then so they changed it to June because then the ballpark came along. And our schedule got, we have to work around when they don't have baseball, because the parking is a difficulty there. And they use the Sakura Square for parking, the baseball people use it as their closest they can to use it for parking too. So we need that area. And so we have to wait 'til, we have to know when they're not at home to play, we use that as our time to use as Sakura Matsuri, Cherry Blossom Day. So from Twenty-Third to Sunday, we have two days of it. And then Saturday, we have obon dance which is supposed to be done in July, but there we have baseball again, so we can't go according to that schedule. So everything is pushed into Cherry Blossom.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MA: It seems like you said the community's kind of dwindling, but you still seem to do a lot.

MH: We've lost, at last count we've heard was the Japanese community is down to 5,000. Which was three times more, or something like that, way back when we first came here, there was lots of Japanese. But we have, people are living in Aurora, they're living in Arvada, they're living in Littleton. They're living all over, outskirts of. We're in the metropolitan but they're outskirts. And it takes them, whenever they have something, they all come. That's when you see them. But the Simpson has, Methodist church is another one. It's in Arvada. It used to be down here, on Twentieth and California was the Methodist church there originally. And that's where all the Japanese people that are Christian, would go there. But somebody donated some land up in Arvada, and they donated the land for the church to have it. So they built a new church there. So that makes us, all the people that lived here are going over that way. So we lose a lot of people that we see. And eventually, the young people buy homes. They don't buy them around here. They're all outskirts.

MA: So it's become more spread out.

MH: And they're getting further and further away. And it's hard to get together. So as a community here, it's very little. Very little. Even our Tamai Tower, when I first moved here in '82, let's see, third, fourth, fifth, fifth floor, there were mostly Japanese Issei people. Sixth floor... the rest of the floor, we had nineteen floors of it. Twenty floor, but there's only sixteen floors that are available to live in. The rest is commercial stuff, you know, this plaza is a commercial area. And then the penthouses are open for laundry and entertaining and things like that. There's no living quarters up there. So actually, there's too much vacancy. So the HUD took over and they had, the church, they thought they could get more people in, but it was pretty difficult to get. And we were asked if we wanted to, but we had kids then. You can't have children in there, so it had to be elderly. And it seemed to be a lot of seniors, but yet there wasn't that many seniors either. And a lot of them were taking care of them in their own homes. We didn't have nursing home, we never heard of that until recently. You know, you hear more about assisted living and nursing homes, and care places like that. So it's, even they were talking even to have a nursing home built for the Japanese people. But eventually, they all go where their children are closer, so they can visit them easily and to come and the only one that when we first came, well, the last ten years ago, or fifteen, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, there was two. Mainly one in Brighton for the Japanese people in the family area than Brighton had one, where they go where there were a lot of Japanese elderlies were going there. Then they had one on this side, on the Arvada side, Wheat Ridge area, called Columbine. And that's where a lot of the town people were sent there. Well, there's nobody there anymore. And so, they're in nursing home, but they're all scattered in different areas. And places you never heard of, some of 'em. It's very difficult to find. They're way out. They're either Littleton or Arvada, or somewhere in Thornton, or Commerce City, you know. They're all scattered.

MA: So it seems like the community is very scattered now.

MH: Yeah, it's more scattered and it's because the Niseis can get around better 'cause they can speak the English language better and they can communicate better and they can find better sources for help, whatever you need. And it's not like the Issei peoples. They couldn't speak, so they had to stick into their own community do their shopping, or even to go to the doctors, the dentists, or whatever. It was always in this Japanese town. And that was, that's the way we all grew up in. But then as we grow up and got married and have our own children, you find better jobs elsewhere. So you travel, and sometime you have to go to other states and a lot of 'em do. Wherever the job tells you to go, you go. And if it's a better opportunity, go. And it wasn't for the Issei, they had this language was a basic thing and even if they wanted to go, they couldn't, because they couldn't communicate very well. And so they're all stuck together and they help each other. Now these new Chinese people that are coming are doing the same thing what our Issei people are doing. They find a place where they can meet together and they gather together. They speak their own language, and they don't speak English. No English at all. And that's getting, they're just going through the same thing.

MA: So you see a similarity with the Isseis.

MH: It's the same and their kids are all married to Caucasians or whatever. And they have their own families. And they draw in their families from their country and they all settle here. Well, that's alright, but it's getting to be, they're taking the same thing that what our parents went through. It's the same way. It's just, we're dwindling, but they're coming in, and they're building it up. And they have their, the Koreans are the same. They have their own community and they gather. They have big stores and they have their own doing. They're going the same cycle we went through.

MA: Oh, that's interesting.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MH: Yeah, Asian countries are all the same. Now we have this dragon boat race in August. You should see... 50,000 people gather in that Sloans Lake and they're not only Asians but they're all others taking part. Originally it was for the Asian people, but the other people are all taking part in the boat race. None of them are, somebody sponsored like if it's Qwest or some company, they hire boats for so many dollars, hundreds of dollars for a race. And they get these people to recruit to race. They're all Caucasian people, or they're all another, well, there is a Chinese group, or there's a Vietnamese group and Cambodian group. And they all have, but they still have other people in to join, whoever's strong enough to paddle that thing, you know, to get first place. And it was a one-day event, now it's a two-day event. It's so big, it's gotten so huge. And it's so hot -- and all the vendors, there must be hundreds of them out there. All, every country is represented. And it's interesting.

MA: Well, it seems like it's become more of a city-wide thing.

MH: That's what you call Asian, it's a city-wide thing. And it's an Asian community so that people can learn what other country, what they do, what they wear. They have a stage set up for each group like the Asians, like the Indonesian, and the Indian, the Chinese and the Koreans. And the Japanese have taiko. They're known for their taiko group. And then those that their costumes are different and it's educational for the younger kids, the younger people that are growing up, to know that there are other country's doings that you're going to learn in the meantime. So it's, it has changed a lot. It has changed. We were thinking of Japanese community, the Buddhist temple was only the biggest place where you can gather because seating is pretty big, you can seat a lot of people. So a lot of things were going on in there. But now it's spreading out to other areas. So we don't have as much like that. And we had Japanese theater places, but we don't have that anymore, because everybody has their own video. And now they got cable that you can get direct from Japan. And so there's no need to have an auditorium, special place to, so we try to keep the temple open for a lot of events when we can have it. Because it's big enough to hold several hundred people at a time. And so, that's why the Simpson church had their annual Girls' Day Festival, the Boys' Day Festival, the crafts show and those things. And then we have our own things going on here at the temple, too. So cherry blossom is the big one. That's when we gather up everybody, everybody can come. And then, of course, the main thing is calligraphy and flower arranging, and tea ceremonies, and, and paper, origami, the paper folding. And then we do, we did have nine health fair, where you can have a free screening and stuff like that but it was too much work for everybody. So we did it two years, but they can't seem to do it this year again. But the Chinese people have their own setup for that free screening and free medical help for those that can't speak English. And they have it at Tamai Tower for two years now. And it's helped people get screened out for lung tests and skin tests and sugar and cholesterol. And it helps a lot.

MA: Yeah, it's interesting. You've seen a lot of changes.

MH: Oh yeah, we didn't have, and Asian community is growing, cause we're not all Japanese. We've got Koreans, we've got Thai, we've got Thai students that live in our apartment that go to school. They're very nice. They're very friendly and casual, and they speak fairly good English. And they have opened up a lot of restaurants now because there's so many of them moving in here, so we have, you have a choice of going to all these different restaurants. Not like, you know, not only Italian food, or Mexican food. You got a choice of going anywhere you want to go. It's there. It's just a matter of your taste. [Laughs]

MA: Great, well, you know I'm going to wrap up here. But thank you so much for doing this interview.

MH: You're welcome.

MA: It was very interesting and I learned a lot.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.