Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Grace Sugita Hawley Interview
Narrator: Grace Sugita Hawley
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 3, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-hgrace-01-0011

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MA: And you mentioned to me earlier that you went outside of camp at one point.

GH: Uh-huh. We were able to get passes to go out. My mother used to take me. She took me out to a hick town called McGehee.

MA: And what was that like?

GH: Well, I mean, just to get out and go and see stores and walk around freely, it was an experience. It was kind of fun, she said, "You don't have to go to school tomorrow, I'll take you out to McGehee." I guess she needed the company, so she took me, and just going shopping. But the stores are so small, and nothing special, but for us, it was a thrill to get out and go to real stores, 'cause we never got to see real stores.

MA: How were you treated by the people in the town?

GH: They weren't very nice. They weren't very nice. That's when we began to feel the difference. They, I don't remember too many incidents, but I know they weren't very friendly. But we also didn't know where to go in the bus, because the colored in the rear, they always have a sign, "colored in the rear." And the bus driver, we don't know what to do, he looked at us and he says, "You stay in the front." Oh, so we found out we're not colored, so we stay in the front. So we get in the station and the restrooms are "colored" and "white." So we decided we'll go to the "white" section since the bus driver told us not to go in the back. But that's when we first learned about segregation. We never had that here. So it's kind of sad, you know, we had to learn all those things. Because we were in the South, too.

But when we were in Heart Mountain, my sisters had a pass and they went out to a town one day with their friends, they went out just for the day. And they're sitting there in the soda fountain waiting for service, nobody waited on them. And they sat there and waited, and then finally somebody practically threw the menu at them and said, "We don't serve Japs." They couldn't even tell them that, they didn't have no courtesy to tell them that. They just ignored them totally and let them sit there. And finally, when the girl threw that thing at them and they saw it, they had to walk out of there, they walked out of there. And after a while they can laugh about it. They felt like fools, sitting there waiting for service. But that's how it was. Either that, or there'd be signs in the window saying, "We don't serve Japs."

MA: But did you see that type of anti-Japanese discrimination in the South when you would go to McGehee? Was there anything like that?

GH: No. Well, I don't know where we ate, whether we ate at a restaurant, that I don't know. It's not everywhere. But in the South, I think, more the discrimination was against colored people, so they didn't bother with us. That's what I think. They didn't know what we were, we were kind of in between.

MA: Versus, like, somewhere like Wyoming, it was a very white...

GH: Wyoming was bad.

MA: ...a very white state.

GH: Oh, yes. But you know when we went to Montana, my father finally got his pass to go, so he took us to Billings. And the whole family went out, and we went to a restaurant, I think we went to the hotel, too. And went to the restaurant to eat, and we didn't have any discrimination, we didn't meet any discrimination. So it depends, I think. We went to a lot of stores there, and he was gonna buy me a bike, so we went to a lot of sporting goods store, walked in and out of stores. It didn't seem like it... I guess they thought that if you can afford to pay for it, it must be okay. So then he had a friend, I don't know how he met this family, Japanese family, lived in Montana, they were farmers. Never went to camp, because they lived in Montana. And they came to visit us, and all girls, they had no sons. So they came to visit us in camp and they saw, you know, it was a real new experience for them to see camp life and all that. So they asked my sister and my brother to come and visit them and spend some time on the farm. So they went there and, you know, we weren't raised on a farm, my sister and my brother especially. [Laughs] I don't think they wanted to go back again. It was like getting up at the crack of dawn, and then the girls all drove trucks and tractors and everything, they had a big farm. They did all that, and they were supposed to pitch in. And I don't think my brother was useful in any way. [Laughs] It was really funny the way they talked about it. But anyway, that was interesting to know that there were other families out there.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.