Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Fujimoto Interview
Narrator: George Fujimoto
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-fgeorge_2-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: So today is July 5, 2008. I'm here with George Fujimoto. I am Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. And we are in Denver, Colorado, with the Japanese American National Museum conference. So George, thank you for doing this interview with us.

GF: Thank you for asking me.

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

GF: I was born January 13, 1920.

MA: And where were you born?

GF: In California, Colusa, California. C-O-L-U-S-A.

MA: And what was the name give to you when you were born?

GF: I guess it was George Kazuo.

MA: And I wanted to know a little bit about your parents. What was your father's name?

GF: His name was Tadao and my mother's name was Tsuya.

MA: And where were your parents from in Japan?

GF: Kumamoto.

MA: And do you know what your father, what his family did in Japan? What type of work?

GF: No, ma'am, I sure don't.

MA: Do you know at all how he met your mother?

GF: No, I don't remember how he met my mother 'cause I know, I think he was in California when they got married but I think she was here with her parents.

MA: So she came with her parents to the U.S.?

GF: With her parents yeah, yeah. And then that's where Dad met her, I guess.

MA: And what about your siblings? How many children were in your family?

GF: There were seven of us in the family. Big family.

MA: And were you the oldest, or...

GF: Yes, ma'am.

MA: So you're the oldest?

GF: I was the oldest.

MA: And how many boys and how many girls were there?

GF: There were four boys and three girls.

MA: Wow, that's quite a family.

GF: Yeah it was.

MA: So you were born, born in California --

GF: Yes, ma'am.

MA: But you actually were raised in Colorado, is that right?

GF: Yes.

MA: When did you do that move to Colorado?

GF: We moved from California to Colorado when I was eighteen months old and we moved to Loveland, Colorado.

MA: Is that near Denver? Is that outside of Denver?

GF: It's not too far from here. I'm not too sure how many miles or anything like that. It's probably not over 60 miles I guess.

MA: And do you know why your, your dad decided to make that move?

GF: No, I don't. He's, he's trying to venture out, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: Okay, so you moved to Loveland, Colorado. And what type of work were your parents doing in Colorado?

GF: Well, what he'd done, he'd bought a cherry orchard in Loveland, Colorado and I'm not too sure how many acres he had. But from there he moved to Longmont, Colorado. And in Longmont we farmed a few years before moving to Ault, Colorado, and we farmed there.

MA: So was Ault pretty much where you stayed?

GF: Yeah, in that area.

MA: Okay. Can you describe the town of Ault and what, what it was like?

GF: Oh, town of Ault is just a small community, probably a one-horse town. And I don't know how to explain that, only it's real small town and it had a couple of drugstores and couple of grocery stores. So it was small.

MA: How many families were there?

GF: The Japanese families in that area?

MA: Yeah, the Japanese, uh-huh.

GF: I don't believe there was very many. Probably might have been about five or six families.

MA: So pretty small Japanese community?

GF: Yes. Right.

MA: And were they all involved in farming?

GF: Yes. They're all farming, uh-huh.

MA: So, what, what did your house and farm look like? Can you describe that in Ault? Like how big was your house and...

GF: Well, we had some small house... we did move a little bit, around, so we had some small houses and then we had some pretty large house, depending on, you know, the place, kind of farm we rented. And I believe it's probably... one of the largest house, we probably had about three bedrooms in the large house. The rest of 'em was pretty small, one and two bedroom homes.

MA: So how big, generally were, was your farm? Or was it one farm in Ault that you worked on ?

GF: Well, we rented, Dad rented some farms. Lots of it was anywhere from 80 acres on up. So if we rented two farm, that would be 160 acres. And so that's how it multiplied and I think the largest we had was, was three of 'em together so hundred and, I mean eighty plus three, that's two hundred and forty, right? That's, that's what we... about the size we had, the largest

MA: And your father was renting these farms?

GF: Yes, we were renting all of 'em.

MA: And that was because Japanese, at that time, couldn't own land?

GF: Well, that was one of the reasons, too. But that's... my dad never had that kind of money, I guess, so we rented.

MA: Who would you rent from? Who were the property owners?

GF: I don't remember their names anymore, they were all hakujin people.

MA: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So, I'm curious about your farm and can you describe a typical day for you on the farm?

GF: Oh, get up at 4 o'clock in the morning, milk the cows and do the chores and go out to work. And my mother fixed breakfast and off we go to the field for whatever we had to do.

MA: And what types of things did you grow on the farm?

GF: We raised sugar beets, cabbage, onion, peas, carrots, all kind of... our biggest crop, the main crop, was sugar beets, yeah.

MA: That was a pretty popular thing to grow in Colorado.

GF: That was a, a best, well not the best, but most secure crop to raise, 'cause actually, sugar beets was a contract, you know, and you're more sure of what you're gonna get from that, then you would the other. The rest of the stuff is a gamble, hit and miss.

MA: So the sugar beet, who would contract that?

GF: We had a place, a factory, call the Great Western Sugar Company, and that was pretty large area. That covered a big area. And they contracted sugar beets from all, most of the farmers from all over.

MA: And then the other, the vegetables that you would grow, what would --

GF: We would just have to go to market with it. Find a place for it. And we'd travel... some of the produce we'd travel from place like Ault, we drove and drove to get to Denver, Colorado, which is about 70 miles and, then some cabbage, onions, celery we delivered to, to Denver. But the sugar beets we had a, kind of a storage place so we took it there, we dumped it there and we kept it there until wintertime and then in wintertime they reloaded it and sent it to a processing factory.

MA: So it sounds like the sugar beets was a pretty --

GF: That was the most, yeah --

MA: Good, profitable thing.

GF: That's the most secure crop for most of the farmers, you know, whether it was Japanese American or whoever it is, that was the main crop.

MA: And who, so, I assume you and your siblings all worked on the farm?

GF: Not mine. [Laughs] I wanted really to get off the farm after a while so I moved to south Texas and I'd done a little work for somebody else and, and I opened up the bowling center.

MA: Oh, but this is later, later on?

GF: Yes, yes.

MA: But when you were younger, like before the war --

GF: Oh, yeah.

MA: You and your whole family worked on the farms?

GF: Oh, we all worked on farm, yes.

MA: Would you have other help? Would you hire other people to come help you work on the farm?

GF: Especially sugar beets. The other crops we, we tried to harvest it by ourselves. With sugar beets it was a pretty big crop so we hired foreign labor. They'd come from Mexico, and that's who we, we hired.

MA: And they would come up just for the sugar beet harvest?

GF: Yeah, uh-huh.

MA: And then go back --

GF: Go back, yeah.

MA: -- to Mexico? So how did it... can you explain the process for harvesting the sugar beets and what you'd have to do and...

GF: Well, back then we had a, like horses was our horsepower. So we had a, an equipment was drawn by the horses and that lifted the beets out of the ground. It loosened it up. So then we'd have to get up there and pick the dirt off of there and pile it up in a pile and then we'd go with a knife and we'd cut the tops off and then load it up in the truck and we sent it to the, the factory, sugar factory, or the dump, storage place where...

MA: And then for the other stuff, for the vegetables, it would just be...

GF: We just harvested that and went to the market. Some of 'em we put in storage in the wintertime. We had to go work that over and sell it again.

MA: And would you go with your father around with the produce to sell?

GF: Not very much.

MA: So he would kind of do that part?

GF: Yeah, small yet, yeah.

MA: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So I'm... I wanted to talk a little bit about your family and what, what religion did you practice?

GF: Well, my folks were Buddhist. And we went to the Buddhist gathering with the parents, but not saying that we went to the Buddhist church, you know. You know what I mean? We didn't study the Buddhism. We just went with them and that was it.

MA: So there was a Buddhist temple in, in Ault, or...

GF: No, we just had a little, a church that they had a Buddhist gathering in. And most of the time our minister would come from this, Denver, to our little community once a month and that's when my parents would take us and we'd go to the church.

MA: And so it, was it just those families in Ault that would go or did other people come?

GF: No, it was just the families right there in Ault. Yes.

MA: And what, what about Japanese language school? Was there a school in Ault that you attended?

GF: They had a Japanese language school. I went a little bit, but I didn't really go to study. I think I really went to play. [Laughs] 'Cause I didn't learn anything in Japanese. I mean, that was a hard language to learn. So I didn't learn it. But I had a younger brother that knew a little bit more Japanese than I did.

MA: Did you speak Japanese with your parents?

GF: Oh, yes. We spoke, I'm sure we spoke Japanese until we went to American school. But once we got to the American school and I, and I learned English, why, I got away from it and naturally my brothers and sisters younger than me, they picked it up from me and so they kinda got to where they learned English, too.

MA: So tell me about your American school. What, what was the name of it?

GF: Oh, I don't remember. That was in Longmont, so...

MA: Oh, I see. So it wasn't, it wasn't in Ault?

GF: Well, some of it is in Ault where I, I went to Ault and Pierce. But they had high school, but the other school before that, I'm not sure that they had high school.

MA: So in Ault, what, what school did you go to?

GF: I guess they just called it the Ault School, Ault High School. In fact, there was two, two schools within 10, 15 miles apart. One of 'em was, was in the city of Pierce and the school in Pierce. And there was a school in Ault and they were called by name, Pierce High School, Ault High School.

MA: How many Japanese students were in Ault High School when you were there?

GF: I don't think there's too many Japanese student. I'm gonna say, probably at the most, fifteen students going there at the time.

MA: And how did the Japanese students get along with the white students and...

GF: Most of us, I think we got along pretty good. We didn't have any trouble with them.

MA: And in general, in the town, was that the same? The Japanese and whites got along okay?

GF: Yes. We were not segregated as Japanese and so forth. Yeah, we got along pretty good. Yeah.

MA: Did you ever feel, with the other farms, the non-Japanese farms, there was any competition there? Like any tension, competition over...

GF: No, there really wasn't competition. When we, when I got up to about sixteen years old, I learned how to drive a truck and haul our, our sugar beets. And I think us younger people was the only one that had a little competition with the, with hakujin people 'cause we wanted to load up a truck as quick as we can and get to the dump. But other than that, as farming competition, we didn't have it.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: So then you, you were telling me earlier that your father was actually involved in an accident when you were --

GF: Oh yes.

MA: -- a teenager?

GF: I was... I think, I'm gonna say, I got as far as to the ninth grade. It probably took me forever to get there. But that's when my father got kicked from the horse. He was training a horse and he got injured pretty bad and he couldn't do too much work. He had back problems so he says, "Well George," he said, "You're the oldest in the family. You need to quit school and help run the farm." I says, "Fine, I'll do that." Which made me happy because, you know, whenever you don't go to school very much you don't learn too much and you can't keep up. So I was glad to quit. So I quit and helped father farm.

MA: So you, before your father's accident, you had been... not going to school very regularly because...

GF: I still weren't, even though my dad was still in physical condition, he needed help. So me being the oldest one, I had to do most of the help at home.

MA: So then after his accident you really took on full responsibility?

GF: Right, yes.

MA: So when your father had his accident, did you take him to the doctor? Was there a hospital in Ault?

GF: You know, that is what, I still can't recall just how it happened. Whether he... I'm sure it wasn't, you know, like a broken bone where he couldn't move. But he was sore muscles and, and moved very little. So he had a hard time gettin' up, going to work. So that's why I had to help him.

MA: Did the doctors usually come to, like if you were sick or something, did the doctors come to your house?

GF: I don't remember doctors coming to my house. So most of the thing, if we were sick, I don't know what they got. [Laughs] I guess we never got sick. Yeah. The only time, well, we weren't sick, but they had an epidemic of scarlet fever. And they come out and quarantined our house. They put a tag on there, but I pulled it off and went to school and took it back home. [Laughs] But I don't remember any doctors coming for us.

MA: Interesting. So they quarantined your house so...

GF: They quarantined because of that scarlet fever.

MA: Interesting. So, then your father had the accident, so, when you were sixteen you said? Or, a teenager?

GF: It might have been either fifteen or sixteen years old. It might have been... probably sixteen.

MA: So I'm just curious about the Great Depression. Did you feel an impact at all on your farming or in Ault, in the '30s?

GF: I believe maybe because we were too young for the depression time. All I know is that we could say that we didn't have any money which I'm sure there was a lot of families did not have enough money, but we didn't starve because when you're on a farm you got vegetables, you got meat and all, all the things that you might say was a luxury for city people. So, we can't say that we really suffered that bad.

MA: Did your, so after you took over on the farm, after your father got injured, did your siblings also help out? Did any of them also have to quit school?

GF: Oh yeah, they helped. Like, things like hoeing beets or onion or things like that. They all had to help no matter how small they were.

MA: But did they continue school?

GF: Oh yeah. They did.

MA: So you were the only one that your father asked to, to quit school and...

GF: Well, actually, I think there was, out of the seven of us, there's three of us that didn't get a full education. One of 'em is my sister. She was the third in the family. Yes, third member in the family. And the fourth member, he was a boy. And whenever he got able to, old enough that he could go in the service, well, he was called for the draft and he went in the service before my other brother went, to kind of, thought that maybe it'd help so he could stay and finish out school. So, my brother Roy -- which would be the third member, boy, in the family -- and myself, two boys, we didn't get to complete the education. I don't think my brother Roy went to finish out. I'm not sure.

MA: What about your sister. Why didn't she finish?

GF: Well, I don't know. I think Mom probably thought she needed help there. I'm not sure, but I know she didn't, or I think she didn't finish school.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So, let's talk about the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Do you remember that day and hearing the news?

GF: I heard the news, but we never thought too much about it. We went to work and done whatever we can and then the, the news kinda get, got worse and worse. And then our parents said, "The United States was bombed by Japan." And they didn't say a whole lot about it except trying to... what do you call it? To get rid of all the, the Japanese stuff that she had. But, we didn't have to do that because the state, or the county, they come and kinda confiscated all that or we had to take 'em in. So all of our firearms, swords that we had, we had to take 'em to the courthouse.

MA: So all the Japanese families in Ault had to go down...

GF: Right. And they had to turn all their stuff in.

MA: Was there any... did you feel any negative things or discrimination from the white folks in Ault after Pearl Harbor?

GF: I don't believe there was too many discrimination. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, I felt no discrimination. Maybe because I left home too early, before all this war really got serious or whatever. Because I had no, had no problems. I don't think my brothers or rest of the family had any problem.

MA: So it was just that one time, you remember, of taking your, all of your --

GF: Oh, yeah.

MA: -- firearms in, into the authorities.

GF: My folks had to take it in. Yeah. Most of the Japanese had to at that time.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: So you, then were, were actually drafted --

GF: Yes, I was drafted.

MA: -- is that correct, into the army? Do you remember what, when that was? Was it... it was after Pearl Harbor, right?

GF: Oh yes, because Pearl Harbor was '41, right? And I went in the service in '42, March of '42. I was already signed up for going to the service but I didn't go in until March of 1942.

MA: So you, you had enlisted or you were drafted?

GF: No, we were drafted.

MA: Drafted.

GF: I think most of the boys, at that time in our community, was drafted.

MA: Most of the boys from Ault?

GF: Uh-huh.

MA: Even the Japanese Niseis?

GF: Yes. I heard where they wouldn't take the Japanese because they were, they were Japanese and, but that wasn't the case where we were. I mean, we were, were all taken. I guess we were, 'cause I was about the earliest one there, in that area, taken in the draft.

MA: So when you heard the news that you were gonna be drafted, or you were drafted, how did you feel about going into the army?

GF: Oh, I guess I didn't feel any, bad about it because I knew that we were gonna have to go. So...

MA: What about your parents? How did they -- I mean, I guess because you were the oldest and you were, had the responsibility of the farm -- how did they feel about you going off to war?

GF: Oh, I guess they didn't say a whole lot because my mother said to me, that she said, "Well, I keep worrying about you." I said, "Well, I'm sure you do." But they didn't say I can't go or, "Don't go," or anything like that.

MA: Did your parents have to hire help to, for the farm at that point or what happened with that?

GF: Well, I don't know how many more they might have hired. They... you know we always had to hire some people for some of the manual labor, which we had to do. But for the big part of it they probably did not hire any more because he cut down on farming. The reason he cut down on farming is after I went, evacuation come, and my dad had a lot of farm there so there was one family, he was telling me that he'd give 'em the whole, one block of farm that he had. He had onions and sugar beets as the two crop that we planted early. You'd plant them early and... and he already had all that done and when these people come, he let them have the whole farm there with all the crop in the ground already and the equipment, he let them use his equipment. And, so he got some of the land reduced, so by doing that, well, then he'd have less help, he needed less help.

MA: And this was a family who had come from the West Coast --

GF: West Coast, right.

MA: -- a Japanese family? Oh, interesting.

GF: Yeah. And he... and then others, there's some other families, too, he said he helped a little bit, whatever he could, you know. With this one farm and family in particular he let them have the equipment, the farmland that he had already worked on and everything and, and we don't even know where they're at. [Laughs]

MA: Wow, that's very generous, yeah, of your father.

GF: Oh, yeah. Dad really helped a lot.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: So, you were drafted and then, where did you go after you were drafted? What...

GF: I went to, I come to Denver. That's where they drafted us, or went in here. And then from there we went to training in Camp Robinson, Arkansas. And after our basic in Camp Robinson, we went to Fort Riley, Kansas.

MA: So I wanted to talk first about Camp Robinson and... how many other Niseis were there at Camp Robinson with you?

GF: I'm not sure. You know the camp is so large there. But I recall that there was a, I think, five of us Niseis from between Denver and where we lived that went in the service at that, at that time. So, whether they went to the same camp that I went to or not, we don't know. They scattered us all out. But I was in Camp Robinson.

MA: Were you treated any differently than the white soldiers in Camp Robinson?

GF: No ma'am.

MA: So what was, what was basic training like in Camp Robinson? What, what did you do every day, and...

GF: Oh, we go out with a pack on our backs and go out with our guns and go to the bushes and, and forest and run around like in, in a war, things like that, crossing a river. It's just, it's just military training. That's what it's called.

MA: Did you ever go into the town in Arkansas, where camp Robinson was? Or did you basically stay on...

GF: No, I guess I went to the town. I'm not very sure that we went to a town in Camp Robinson. But we did have after we got to, to Kansas. Because we was through with our training, and we had the weekend off that we could go to town. So we, we did go to town.

MA: So how long, then, were you, were you in Camp Robinson?

GF: Oh, I think Camp Robinson, probably the training didn't last over two months of training.

MA: And then you were saying after that you went to Fort Riley, Kansas.

GF: Fort Riley. Yeah.

MA: How, how was your experience there in Fort Riley?

GF: Well, it wasn't too bad. The only thing, whenever we went to, to the Fort Riley there, I went to canteen which is, was a post exchange. And I guess maybe that's when I kind of felt a little bit of discrimination because I went to a bar, a soda fountain, and waitin' to get waited on, but the ladies that was there, they wouldn't wait on me. But later on I seen her doin' this. [Nods head to side] "What's the matter? And, so finally stared at her and she's still doin' that. So after I got moved over, that's when I really found out there was black and white discrimination. I didn't know that in Colorado. So she said, "Well, we can't serve you here." Says, "You're, you're not black. That's only for black people. You're not black. You don't belong here." So, I mean, it wasn't against me. It was against somebody else that she wasn't gonna serve me there because that was for the black people.

MA: So they kind of lumped you in with the white folks?

GF: Yeah, we were.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: What about your work at Fort Riley? You were telling me earlier that you had to do...

GF: Oh, that, that was detail work in Fort Riley. So, most of us Niseis there had to do garden work or take care of the mess hall for mess officers. Some of 'em took care of the swimming pool. And I was stuck with taking care of a lieutenant's house, kind of sweep and clean the house and fix their beds up. That, just real dirt detail, I thought. That's what I thought. So, when we had a chance to get a leave, we took the leave and then when we took the leave we had somebody else, "You want to take my place?" Say, "Yeah, I'll take your place." So when they took the place, well, I never did go back. [Laughs] We let them have it.

MA: Did the white folks, the white soldiers, have to do that kind of work or was it just the Niseis?

GF: No, that was all Japanese people. That whole... we had a real big house. It was a, it was a national, it was a prison building is what it was. And that's where we was all stuck in there. I don't know how many Japanese people was in there, but there was a bunch of us in there. And we all had to do that kind of work. In fact, when, maybe I shouldn't even mention it, but since come to that, I just heard one of my friends that I knew in Fort Riley, we were gonna go to baking and cooking school to get away from all the bad detail. But I said, "No, I don't think I want to do that." But this fellow here he, he went to the baking and cooking school and right now he's pretty sick and he's in the hospital here in Denver.

MA: So he actually left.

GF: Pardon?

MA: Did he leave the service then?

GF: Oh, no. It's after. It was all over with.

MA: So, what was the morale like among the Niseis at Fort Riley? I imagine, there was some...

GF: I guess it really wasn't too bad. The, lotta things that, that made 'em feel bad is, in Fort Riley, the cooks that cooked for all the Nihonjins there? They were all Chinese cooks. So at that time, the Chinese and the United States were allies, remember? So the Chinese people had a button on there says, "I'm Chinese." And they were separated. I mean, they didn't have too much to do with the Japanese, which is different today. But they had not too much to do with the Chinese and... but that's why at that time, I didn't like 'em. Because that's the way they felt us. But it's all right now. It's changed. I mean, things change.

MA: But they were really separating themselves from the Niseis?

GF: Oh yeah, uh-huh. They were at the time. 'Cause they, they cooked for all of us and they had a different place to stay then we did.

MA: So were they treated better than the Niseis?

GF: No, I don't think they were treated any better. It's just, it was just that way.

MA: So, how long were you in Fort Riley?

GF: We was in Fort Riley... oh, I don't know how long. But, anyway, we left there sometime early in '43 to go to Camp Shelby.

MA: So why were you sent... 'cause Camp Shelby was another basic training.

GF: Right.

MA: Why were you sent again to basic training? To another, another one?

GF: Well, see, that's when they organized the Japanese, all the Japanese organization, so they thought that we need another basic training. So we took basic training all over with some of the new recruits that we got which was, most of 'em, from Hawaii and some of the people they got from these camps, if they want to go. And there's some people from camp did not go, which I don't blame 'em. So that's why the training was, 'cause we had to train new people.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So they took you out, all the Niseis, out of Fort Riley and sent, sent you all to Camp Shelby?

GF: Well, we had, we volunteered to get out. I think everybody's ready to get out of there. Yeah. So we went.

MA: So how, how was it then being at Camp Shelby with all, all Niseis? How was that experience?

GF: Well, it wasn't any different. All of our officers were white and I think though the worst is probably, discrimination, is when we went to town. When we went to town of Hattiesburg in Mississippi, the policemen were always right after us, Japanese. He says, "You don't date white girls." But that stopped because our captain, I think he sent a note into the city that that's not gonna happen again. So it kinda stopped. So, our white officers was good to us. In fact, I think they all volunteered knowing the Nihonjin people.

MA: So they volunteered for this...

GF: For this, yeah. That's why I think they were all, all good.

MA: So how... you were saying that there were Niseis from Hawaii and Niseis from the camps, how did you feel about those two groups? Were there... I've heard from other people, there's...

GF: I never had problem with people. So I got along with all of them. But there was lots of, I don't know what you call... they kinda hated each other, Hawaiian people and the American, from the United States. And I never felt that because I got along with all of 'em and they all call me different kinds of names and it's all right for me.

MA: You were kind of... 'cause the people from camps were from the West Coast and then there was people from Hawaii. And you were from, from Colorado. So...

GF: From Colorado. We didn't have any problem. And, to me, they were just people. They had name for us, kotonk, and all that kind of stuff. But it didn't bother me.

MA: Did the people that came from camp ever talk about camp... in, in Shelby?

GF: No. There's not any that I know or I met that come to Camp Shelby from the relocation centers. I mean, I didn't meet 'em. It might have been after our time. 'Cause I got hurt in 1943 and from first to '43, all of that year, I stayed all my life there in the hospital. And therefore I didn't get to meet any of the new people that come in.

MA: So it was mostly people from Hawaii, then --

GF: Yes.

MA: -- that you were with.

GF: Uh-huh. Except the, the group that was sent from Kansas and they were sent as non-commissioned officers. They were sergeants and mess sergeants and that, that's the type of people that were from the States. Maybe that's why the Hawaii people didn't like 'em. I don't know. Maybe they tried to show their authority. But I didn't feel that way. I just got along with everybody.

MA: So what, what did you do in Camp Shelby? I mean, you'd already done the basic training. Did you have to repeat all the stuff that you had learned? Or did you take on a different role?

GF: No, we didn't have to. I mean, some of 'em that was a, an officer, a non-commissioned officer, they had to take and train them. But I went to the motor pool, motor department, and in the supply until they sent us to the guarding prisoners in Alabama.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: Okay, so when... so they sent a number of you to Alabama, right?

GF: Yeah. Yes, ma'am.

MA: Was it the same group that had come from Fort Riley?

GF: No. They were all from, most of 'em, from Hawaii. See, they were regular GIs.

MA: And, okay, so you were sent to Alabama to guard, was it German, German prisoners?

GF: They were German prisoners that they got in Africa. They got a group of German prisoners in Africa. And they sent 'em up to the United States and they sent them to Alabama. In Alabama they had some peanut farms. And that's what we was doing, harvesting peanuts for the farmers in Alabama.

MA: So the, the prisoners were harvesting the peanuts?

GF: Yes.

MA: They were working?

GF: Yes, they were the ones working.

MA: And your duty was to guard them.

GF: Guard them.

MA: Oh, interesting. I never... that's, that's interesting that the Germans would be sent to Alabama. How, how many prisoners were there?

GF: The prisoners? I'm not sure how many. You know, really, I don't really know just how big of a group that was there or not. Because if I think right, I'm sure, I probably was not guarding prisoners for, not much, maybe a week when this accident happened. And, actually the accident, and I don't really know just exactly how it happened, what happened because after it all happened I was kinda laid up in the hospital. And when we had this 65th anniversary in Hawaii, I went there for that one purpose. To meet some of the people from the service company to see what I could find out from them. If there was somebody in that, at the time, our wreck or heard about it. But I didn't get to see the service company because I was registered in the medics. So they wouldn't let me in the service... I mean I couldn't sit there because all the seats were taken. So they said, "Well, go on over there. But you can sit here. We'd like to have you sit here for a while, until it started." And when it started, well then everybody from the service company come back over there so I didn't get to talk to them.

MA: So I wanted to ask you a little bit about, again, about the prisoners. Did you ever talk to them, talk to the Germans?

GF: Well, I got to talk to talk to one, really because he wanted to talk, I guess. But he was, talked pretty good English, fairly good English. He says, "Hey, so you're a Japanese. What are you guys doin' over here? You ain't supposed to be guarding us. We're supposed to be friends." I says, "Well, we're friends now, but we weren't then." Says, "You were in the German army and my relatives are probably in Japan. And you fighting against United States, that's a war, American soldiers." And they couldn't figure out us Japanese people being in the American army guarding them. And that's as far as I knew, got to know 'em for little bit of, short time.

MA: Yeah, that's interesting.

GF: Yeah. I wished I could have stayed there longer, or I don't know how long they stayed 'cause I'm sure... I didn't stay there much over a week or something like that. It happened too quick.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: So can you describe the accident and what you know happened?

GF: Well, that's what I mean. I don't know, so I wanted to find out from some of these members of the soldiers that might have been in Hawaii this last time I was there. But I didn't get to talk to them, so I didn't...

MA: But, was it a car accident?

GF: Truck.

MA: It was a truck.

GF: We was a truck. All I know is we had thirty, he said, thirty soldiers on the truck, the back end. And that went over an old river bed and the investigating officer says that it was a miracle that we didn't lose any more people in that. I think they said they, they lost one and I was the most serious injured and I think there was another man with a broken collar and another one with a broken wrist. So he said, "With thirty people in there and with the kind of wreck it was," he says, "it was a miracle."

MA: So what happened to you? How were you injured?

GF: Oh, I had a broken hip. And it wouldn't heal so they operated to try to get it healed, and it still wouldn't heal. I guess it did heal in a way because I laid in that cast for so long.

MA: How long were you in the cast?

GF: I was in there for twelve months. It was a body cast. And the reason I think it should have been healed and I should have been out is when I got transferred to this city here at Denver, Fitzsimmons, there's a colonel and a captain, the inspecting officers after, after they took the cast off, they come through in there. And I heard the, the colonel talking to the captain. He said, whatever his name was, said, "You know, I can't understand why they kept this man in this cast for so long." So then I start thinking. I said, well, I shouldn't think that way, but the reason I was down there -- it was in Georgia, it was down South. Maybe the southern people didn't like us Japanese. So, he was a captain, and I said, "Well, maybe that captain wanted to let me die in that cast over there." 'Cause if you hear somebody say, "Why did they keep him so long?" you start thinking. I did. Which maybe I shouldn't have, but I did.

MA: Well, yeah, yeah. So you were transferred, then, from Georgia to Denver, while you were still in the cast.

GF: In the cast. Yes.

MA: Wow. So then you were in Denver for a while.

GF: Oh, yes.

MA: You did your recovery in Denver.

GF: Recovery and I went from, from Denver I went to Colorado Springs and back up here and to Tacoma, Washington, and back here. And then finally I got discharged.

MA: So after you recovered, you were still sent around, around the U.S.

GF: Yeah.

MA: So when did you... when was your discharge?

GF: I got out in 1945. I don't remember what month, or I didn't look it up, but it was in '45.

MA: Was the war over at that point?

GF: Yes.

MA: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So what did you do after your discharge? Did you go back to your, your family?

GF: Well, I guess in a way you could say that. I went to near where my family was and I wanted to farm, so I started farming.

MA: In a separate farm from your family?

GF: Yes.

MA: But was it in Ault?

GF: Yes.

MA: And was it just you on the farm? Or...

GF: Yes, I just rented a farm and I farmed a little farm myself.

MA: And did you meet your wife during this time, you mentioned...

GF: Yes. When I was in the hospital here in Denver, Fitzsimmons it's called. Fitzsimmons. I don't know how she -- I guess she was a U.S.O., whatever you wanna call, you know there's a lotta girls who come around -- and that's where I met her at the hospital here. And then, well, after I went to, got recovered and come back home, then we got married.

MA: Was she from Colorado?

GF: My wife? Yes, she was from right here. I mean, not Denver, but Brighton.

MA: And what's your wife's name?

GF: Mary. She was a Matsunaga.

MA: So you got married and your were farming in, in Ault on your own.

GF: Yes.

MA: And then you, at that point decided to move, right? Kind of make a life change.

GF: Well, from, from Ault we come to Brighton where her parents lived. Well, they needed help. Actually they needed somebody to help, her mother and father, they want to call me about it. And so I said, "Well, I don't know." But anyway, I come up here and I thought maybe we could stay there and help with the parents, but it didn't turn out that way. I mean, not long. So then while I was still here in Brighton I got another farm. I rented a farm and I farmed it for two more years. And I thought, "That's no good. I'm gonna get out." That's when I left.

MA: What... why did you suddenly decide to leave? Was there something that happened or you just got sick of it?

GF: No. To me, Colorado was not a good place to farm. We had two elements against us. That's how I felt about Colorado. We had the weather and the price to fight. In Colorado you had one crop, if you had a little failure there you're out. So I located another place, which is in Texas, that could raise two crops a year. So naturally, you start thinking, with two crops a year you could make some money. Well, that was not a good deal either. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: So you moved, then, from Brighton...

GF: Brighton to south Texas.

MA: South Texas. And was it you and your wife? Didn't your, your father also come with you?

GF: Yes. My father and my mother, of course, and then my youngest sister and my third brother went down there.

MA: Did you know anyone in that area where you decided to move?

GF: The only one I met is the real estate man. 'Cause he was up here recruiting so I met him and went down to locate some farm and that's what we done.

MA: And what area of south Texas was this?

GF: This is in the lower Rio Grande Valley. It was in the valley. It's a tropical place.

MA: I imagine it was quite a change from, from Colorado.

GF: Well, yes. But I just tried to get used to whatever place you go because you have to. And so I thought I'd farm over there, but that didn't turn out very good. [Laughs]

MA: What happened with that farm?

GF: Drought, mostly. And the water, irrigation water, we got from the Rio Grande river, which is right there. It was all pumped to a higher elevation. And the water flowed, gravity flow. But with the severe drought they had, they didn't have any water in the river. And we walked the river and almost anywhere we could walk across the river without getting wet. That's how dry it was. So, even after buying the farm we couldn't farm so that went to pieces. I said, "Gotta quit." So I turned it back and I was gonna keep the citrus 'cause I figure I could take care of the citrus by buying the tank truck and that's what I done. But that was another mistake. I bought the truck and got a tank on there and got water to water the plants. And most of the places I saw the water which I thought was water, to me was at the time I didn't know it was alkaline, It didn't have salt in it. So I start taking that up and watering my little trees and all of a sudden I saw trees dying out. Well, salt water killed it. So that took care of the citrus. So I got clear out of that business.

MA: And what did you do after the citrus?

GF: I worked for a produce company and then finally to Wallace, a company which he raised carrots and thing, or contracted carrots for Campbell soup, Gerber soup, and that's where I worked. And, and he needed somebody to go out and pioneer a different land in Texas because he wanted to spread out. So that's what I was assigned. I went out and got some different land, contracted farmers and, and helped them raise the carrots. Because they didn't know. They (weren't) familiar with vegetables. And that's what I'd done for, oh, two, three years before I tried to get into myself raising cucumbers, pickling cucumbers and selling them and contracting to growers. Oh, I was selling 'em to a company in Arkansas called Brown and Miller, pickle company.

MA: And you were doing this on your own. This... you quit the other company. Kind of went out on your own to do the, the pickling.

GF: Then I thought, well, that's not any good. So I kind of worked a little longer until I built up a little more money and then in 1970 I decided I'm gonna go open up a bowling alley. So that's what I've done.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: So I want to talk a little bit more about your, your farming experience in Texas and, I imagine Texas being so close to, to Mexico, you had a lot of... were a lot of your laborers who worked there Mexican?

GF: We had a lotta laborers there. You know, those days are pretty early so I think the minimum wage at that time was 50 cents an hour. So we got labor for 50 cents an hour which we thought was pretty cheap. It wasn't cheap, but still cheap enough. And so down in south Texas my main crop there was cotton. Raising cotton. And then it was carrots because I had got in touch with these Campbell soup and Gerber and all those. I could raise carrots 'cause they wanted carrots. And I also raised onion and cabbage and lettuce. And that was my farming down there.

MA: So how were the Mexican laborers treated by people? Was there a lot of discrimination against them?

GF: Well, the ones that we used we... I don't know that they were because they were, we were close the river. They done their work and they're gone. So, I don't know whether the hakujin people discriminated 'em or not, I don't really know.

MA: So they would kind of work seasonal and then go back home?

GF: Right. Uh-huh.

MA: Were there, was there a Japanese community in, where you were, in that area of Texas?

GF: Well, within about a 60 mile area there was, I'm gonna say there was about fourteen Japanese families. So, today the farming not good and even some of the better farmers in, down in the valley, they're not there anymore. They're not farming.

MA: And were most of these Japanese families, they had been there for a while? Or had they come more recently like you?

GF: No. Some of 'em was there for a while. But there was... oh, I'm gonna say maybe half of those Japanese people were evacuees. And they went down there to farm.

MA: Oh, after, after camp?

GF: After the war, uh-huh. Of course they, they went down there just ahead of me. See, I didn't get there until '52 and some of those were there a little bit earlier. And some of the fellows that I met, they were from Poston, Arizona and so forth. And they come from the relocation center and they're down there farming.

MA: So you kind of became friends with some of them?

GF: Oh, yes. In fact, most of the Japanese people down there become friend because half of 'em was foreigners, too. They were not all native Japanese.

MA: How, how were you treated by the white folks in Texas, in general?

GF: I didn't have any problems. I don't, I don't think... I don't believe any farmers in that area were mistreated badly after the war. The only time I heard that there was one, one Japanese guy coming from work -- this was already, right at Pearl Harbor time -- this hakujin guy caught him coming out and shot him, killed him. And that was in close to the place that I got the farm. And I heard about it after I got there. It was a Japanese family by name of Date. And he was killed coming out but, back then, it was right after the war so they didn't do nothin' to this American guy.

MA: Right. So you farmed for a long time after, right, for a couple decades in Texas before you opened your bowling alley?

GF: No, not really. I, I might have farmed all together, if I put them all together in a period, it might be about 10 years. That's only one decade. [Laughs]

MA: One decade, okay.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So, you said in the early '70s you kind of saved up money, decided to open your own business, this a bowling alley.

GF: Yes.

MA: What was the name of the bowling alley?

GF: Valley Bowling Center.

MA: And how, was it pretty popular?

GF: It was, not really popular like it was earlier. It kind of died down but I got it picked up fairly well.

MA: And was this in, right near your, your home and your, the town you lived in, where you opened the bowling alley?

GF: Well, what I done was I was gonna put in a lotta hours in the bowling alley. So, I bought a mobile home and set it right behind the bowling center because I wanted to get some early morning customers. And in order to do that, if I lived any distance from the bowling center I would have to drive by car, right? And by doing that, if I have a flat tire or somethin' like that, I'd have trouble opening the place up, someone might be waiting, so that's when I bought this mobile home to put it over there. And that way I could live right close to the bowling alley. And I'd just get up and have breakfast and open up the bowling center and wait for customers.

MA: Who were your customers? Were they mostly regulars that would come in?

GF: Oh, yes. In the bowling business you have to have regulars. You've gotta get, make a contract with them and what they call a league. So you have certain bowlers during the week that will come every week. Then they'll be another group comin' every week. Once a week they come. And when I first went over there I had lots of league because I worked hard on it to get different people. I went as far 40 miles, no, 50 miles, to get people to bowl. I done pretty good. Not, real, real good, but good enough just to make a living.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: And tell me about your children and when they were born and a little bit about them.

GF: Well, I had a boy... oh I can't remember when the boy...

MA: Oh, that's okay.

GF: Okay. Well, I had two boys and a girl. And the girl is Donna, you know her, okay. And so she was the baby. So that's my kids.

MA: Was Donna the youngest?

GF: Yes, ma'am.

MA: So you had two... what are your boys' names?

GF: Jerry and Walter.

MA: And so they grew up in Texas? You had them when you were in Texas.

GF: Yes. They all grew up in Texas.

MA: Okay.

GF: In fact, they were not born in Texas, none of 'em. Those two were born in Greeley, Colorado, right up here. And Donna was born in Denver. And when she was six months old, that's when we went down there.

MA: Oh, okay.

GF: So she's, you might say, a native Houston. Or Texas people, anyway.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: So, you've lived in Colorado and Texas, can you talk about the differences that you noticed between the two, I mean, aside from the climate and all that, but just like how people are?

GF: Well I think the people in Texas, that is where we are, are more friendly than they were in Colorado. 'Course we didn't have any trouble even in Colorado, but in Texas you say "hi" to anybody, almost. And get to talk to them right quick. But we didn't do that much in Colorado. Maybe because we didn't travel as much. Maybe we're traveling more down there. But in Texas, it seemed like they're, most of 'em were pretty friendly people. Even the hakujins. I don't, I don't have any trouble.

MA: People are more open and friendly.

GF: I think so.

MA: That's interesting. So did your, your kids stay around in Texas? Did they move other places?

GF: No, they're all in Texas because well, my second boy, Walter, he passed away, oh I'm gonna say, at least twenty years ago. And then Jerry, the oldest one, he's still in, in Texas, north of Houston, north of Houston, yeah. And Donna's in Texas. Well most of 'em are here.

MA: And did you retire from your bowling alley?

GF: Year and a half ago. [Laughs]

MA: Oh, you just retired.

GF: Right. Yeah, I spent thirty-six years in the bowling alley and finally I was lucky enough to sell it and when I sold it, that Donna, she said, "Okay, Dad. It's time for you to move." So I thought okay. So we moved.

MA: So you've only been retired for a short time.

GF: Right, from the bowling business.

MA: How was it closing your business? I mean...

GF: Well, I felt good about it because I wanted to quit anyway. I felt that I had enough years in the business. 'Cause I was there for thirty-six years. So I felt good about quittin'.

MA: And now you're living closer to Donna.

GF: About a block and a half.

MA: Oh. Great. So is there anything else you want to talk about or, or tell me?

GF: Oh, not really. Maybe you could come up with some questions because I can't think of anything. [Laughs]

MA: Well, this has been a great interview. So thank you very much for participating.

GF: Well, thank you. I don't know whether I give you any good information or not. I'm not good at that.

MA: It was great. Thank you.

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