Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Charles Oihe Hamasaki Interview
Narrator: Charles Oihe Hamasaki
Interviewers: Martha Nakagawa (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Culver City, California
Date: February 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-hcharles-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay. Today is Wednesday, February 24, 2010, we're at the Courtyard Marriott. Dana Hoshide is on video, we're gonna be interviewing Charlie Hamasaki, and interviewer will be Tom Ikeda and myself, Martha Nakagawa.

CH: Very good.

MN: Charlie, let's start with your father's name.

CH: Tahe Hamasaki. You know what Tahe means, T-A-H-E.

MN: What is his original last name?

CH: Jo-h, J-O-H with a hyphen. American people, they go, "Jow." No, that's not it. J-O-H. J-O-hyphen-H.

MN: What is your mother's name?

CH: Mother's Hamasaki.

MN: First name?

CH: Oh, Kikue.

MN: Now, why did your father take on the Hamasaki name?

CH: Okay. My grandmother had five, five sisters, and five sister, and my grandmother had four daughters. And so they, no son. So somebody have to take over that name of the family. So my father came from, Jo-h, came from Hamasaki. That's what happened. See, our family in Japan was pretty well-off, see, in Japan. So they had to get a son, want a son to take after the name and all the things they owned in Japan, the property and everything.

MN: What prefecture are they from?

CH: Okay. Wakayama-ken, Higashi-mura-gun, Kozacho, Tawara-mura. That I know.

MN: Okay, you're the youngest of six children. Can you name your siblings from oldest to youngest?

CH: My brothers and sisters?

MN: Yes.

CH: Emiko Hamasaki, Emiko and Tamikazu, and Futomi, and Shizuka, and Uzuhiko, and me.

MN: Now, Emiko and Tamikazu were born in Pasadena, is that correct?

CH: Yeah, yeah.

MN: Futomi, Shizuka, Uruhiko were born in Long Beach.

CH: Long Beach, exactly.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: Where were you born?

CH: Well, this is how it goes. 1921, my mother was pregnant, I think, toward the end of the year. So them days, to raise a big family, it took lots of money, lot of people. And not only my family, the rest of the people, same thing. So they took all the kids to Japan to, cost of living became cheaper. So I was supposed to be born over here, so we registered at that City Hall office, San Pedro. So we took that kid to Japan, and while we were in Japan, my brother got that childhood disease, measles or mumps or whatever it is. So it prolonged my family to come back over here, and that's the time I was born over there. And then I came here maybe three month, three month old, three month old with my older sister and me, myself, and the rest of 'em was in Japan. My grandmother took care of them until, until they, couple of, until three of 'em came back later in 1936.

MN: When did you find out you were born in Japan?

CH: That's another question. I thought I was born in Terminal Island, right? Everybody thought so. We were growing up, we don't ask where was you born and when you was born. We just go to school, that's all. But when I went to junior high school, you know, Richard Henry Dana junior high school in San Pedro now, you got to take the ferry to go to the school. So that's when we had to register. So I put "Terminal Island," of course, I didn't know where I was born. I take it for granted I was born in Terminal Island. So when I came home, I asked my mother, "Tell me the truth, what part of Terminal Island I was born? Over that street or that street?" "No, no, no, you was born in Japan." That's the time I, first time I found out that I was born in Japan, and that's it.

MN: What is your birthday?

CH: 10/7/22. October 7, 1922.

MN: What is your birth name?

CH: Birth name? Oihe.

MN: Because it's very unusual, what is the kanji to Oihe?

CH: Oh, that's very hard. You know the... I interviewed with Japanese people, businesspeople, for me to go teach simple English. But due to my Japanese knowledge of the words, I mean, they didn't hire me. But they asked my Japanese name, you know, and all these people, I told them, "I bet the way I write the kanji, you won't be able to pronounce my name." You know what? They thought about it for five minutes, five minutes is a long time when you're thinking, you know. So they couldn't figure it out, "Write it down, please." So I write it down in Japanese, they start thinking. They say, "Seihei namae ikue." They just didn't know how to pronounce that name. So they gave up. I told 'em, 'That's wrong." "Then what is it?" I told 'em, "Oihe." They go like this, "Yeah, mattaku." "Yeah, you could read it that way." I told 'em, "Hey, you guys are all college graduate, but don't you know how to read all different type of, way of reading Japanese language, see?" And they shook their head, yeah, they said a very unusual name. I think I'm the only one in Japan, or maybe there were two people maybe in Japan that got the same name, the way you write it.

MN: Can you write it for us?

CH: Yeah, umareru taira kara na. I'm not too good in Japanese.

MN: Umareru ne, "born," sore ne? And taira.

CH: Made, made, waiting. Oh, like this.

MN: Also could be Heiwa no hei ne? Kore? Heiwa no hei deshou?

CH: How come you know Japanese?

MN: I know Japanese.

CH: You went Japanese school?

MN: I went Japanese school.

CH: Up to what grade?

MN: All the way to sixth grade.

CH: I went sixth grade, too, but I went to play in school.

TI: And where did that name come from? Who gave you that name?

CH: That Koyasan, you know, one of the famous temple in Japan, Japan, it's located in northern part of Wakayama-ken. The bonsan, the minister named me. Bonsan name, that thing. I hated that name. Very unusual, that's why they named me Charlie. In high school, junior high school and high school, they couldn't even pronounce that name. "Ohai, Oeehey, they say. Yeah, they couldn't pronounce it. But you know why they gave me "Charlie"? I used to like to, in junior high school, or was it high school, junior high? You know the monologue or dialog you do? You know, you got to go up in the front of the class and say anything you want? So I start talking all different kind of thing, I'd be talking, talking for forty-five minutes. That's why the teacher say, "You know, you're the Japanese Charlie Chaplin," they told me. So your name is "Charles" from now. "Oh, okay, well, thank you." That's why in 1936, I put that for the social security card. Social security? That card, yeah, I put that name on my driver's license. That's where I got the name.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Okay, you grew up on Terminal Island.

CH: Yes.

MN: Which prefecture did Terminal Islands come from?

CH: What?

MN: What prefecture?

CH: Oh, what prefecture? All the majority of that people from Terminal Island is Wakayama-ken, okay, fifty percent. Other, maybe twenty-five percent was from Miye-ken. And the other percent was from Shizuoka, and the rest is all different prefecture, maybe two or three families. Like Tottori-ken and Okinawa-ken and Miyagi-ken, very few Hiroshima and Kumamoto. Oh, Kagoshima. All different people were, that's why Terminal Island Japanese got all mixed up like that, from all different place, we talk different kind of Japanese language, you know, a little bit. When I went Japan, they didn't understand what I was talking about, especially northern Japan.

MN: Now, both of your parents worked. What did they do?

CH: Where? In Japan or here?

MN: Terminal Island.

CH: Terminal Island, well, of course, ninety percent, I'd say maybe seventy-five percent, well, eighty percent, they're all fishermen. And fifteen percent was maybe merchant, and other people was, well, they do all different kind of work. But they got few, we had merchant over there. We had lot of merchant in the chop suey and drugstore, shoe store.

MN: So your father was a fisherman.

CH: My father was a fisherman, and my mama, mother was working the cannery. All the tuna you guys eat, canned tuna? They stuff 'em up, cut the tuna and stuff 'em up.

MN: Now, when there was no fish at the cannery, what did your mother do?

CH: My mother went, you know where Palos Verdes is, in the south, south coast? What do you call that? The Torrance and Gardena area?

MN: South Bay.

CH: South Bay. South Bay, Dominguez Hills, yeah, and Gardena, all farmers. All Japanese, remember, they were all farmers. It's not like today, all farmers, they'd go pick strawberries, number one, it was strawberries. And beans and corn and onions, topping. That's what they did. That was the time, slow time. Slow time. So they always had work. That was Depression era, you know.

MN: Did your mother take you?

CH: Huh?

MN: To the farms? Did your mother take you to the farms?

CH: Oh, yeah, I was young that way, you know, I used to tag along. It wasn't fun for me, they were, stay in the field, you know.

MN: It was Depression era. What did you eat? Did you have enough to eat?

CH: Depression era, hey, you out on the sea, what do you find over there? Chicken and rabbit, everything in the sea? What do you think you're gonna eat? Fish. Fish is, we got number three, you know, remember, that's why we don't have heart attack. That's why we eat nothing but fish. No vegetable, up to the farmer, we used to trade fish and, you know, things. Of course, a few people had chicken later on. Eating, we didn't have no problem, but when it comes to clothing, that's another story. We used to buy that eipuron pantsu, we used to call that. Eipuron pantsu.

MN: Yeah, what is that eipuron pantsu?

CH: Eipuron pantsu, is that the pronunciation? We didn't know how to talk English, remember? Nothing much, all Japanese, that was talking Nihongo, eipuron pantsu. We buy that thing and my mother, we used to play a lot of marbles. Put a patch, brand-new eipuron pantsu, that was three-layer patch.

MN: Is that like a coverall?

CH: Yeah, coverall. Coverall is this way, you got a long sleeve. That thing got the string over here. Probably Tom don't know what eipuron pantsu is.

TI: No, I think it's, is it like the overalls with just the suspender-like things?

CH: Yeah, no shoulder, no sleeve.

MN: So all the kids wore eipuron pantsu.

CH: Eipuron pantsu. And shoe, we buy, we put, you know... maybe you guys don't remember the shoe, they would, you'd have a steel plate in front, kid-type, our kid-type. So the shoe don't wear out. Otherwise we'd go barefoot. The Terminal, where we come from, it's all sand. Only three feet above sea level, sea level. That's the place it was.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: So how would you describe Terminal Island?

CH: Well, Terminal Island, Terminal Island is about one and a half mile wide, and about two and a half to three miles long. See, that was Terminal Island. And that was a sandbar during the 1800s, late 1800s when they came over, it was sandbar. That was Terminal Island. There was nothing over there. Of course, when I started remembering, there were a few houses, that was Terminal Island. Now, you're not talking about Terminal Island, now when we gonna talk about after the farm --

MN: No, describe Terminal Island for us.

CH: Okay. Like I said, mile and a half long, two and a half to three miles long, Terminal Island, and I called it, like I told you, "Enchanted Island." The best place in the world to live. Well, all these Terminal Island people, they didn't recognize that it was a real good place to live. Because Terminal Island was all the people, that community was one people. One fall and everything falls, everybody in Terminal Island. And, well, growing up over there, of course there was no crime. You didn't have to lock your door, nobody comes steal anything. One thing, Terminal Island, you know, all the people, you do something bad, everybody, they all come to the cannery to work and they gossip around. That's why they know. But growing up, Terminal Island, of course, we had almost five hundred students, two Caucasians, Russian immigrants that came from Russia to escape that Russian revolution they had, they came over, and they could talk just as good Japanese like us. They didn't know how to talk English. They talked Russian and Japanese. We talked little bit English and ninety percent Japanese, see. So first, when we had the school, when we went to school, we had kindergarten, okay. Morning class and day class, one year you got to go. So we go to first grade, we had little b-1 and big B-1. Second grade, we had B-1, B-1 and B-2. No, A-1 and A-2, B-1, it was the other way, half a semester, second one, second one. They put that one, extra one, 'cause we didn't know how to talk English. So that's why they emphasized in talking more English. That's why kindergarten to, we went about two years just to graduate from kindergarten, year and a half. That's why when I went to junior high school, supposed to be in junior high school, twelve years old, but we went there thirteen, most of the guys. So we went to junior high school, you know, at the school ground, we talked Japanese. So they gather all of us guys in the auditorium, and, "While you're in school ground, talk English." Yeah, okay. They ask you question and you know Japanese, "You want something?" He said, "You don't want something?" Said, "Yes, I don't want nothing." Over here you say, "No, no, I don't want it." That's the difference. That's why we got mixed up. That one little word, we got mixed up.

MN: Now, when you talked Japanese amongst yourself, is it Wakayama-ben?

CH: We talked that Terminal Island language.

MN: All mixture dialect.

CH: All mixed dialect, we talk, you know. But mostly Wakayama-ken. Majority were Wakayama-ken, so other people, they start talking to us. But Okinawa and Kagoshima people, I go to play with them, "Hey, your mother's Japanese, or what kind of Japanese you talking?" I didn't understand Okinawa and Kagoshima when I went, when we were growing up. But in Terminal Island growing up, there were so many young people, and not like you guys, city, L.A. or Seattle, you didn't have no fun. All you do is watch television and stay in the house, made a few friends that go here and there. I don't know what kind of life that you had, but like us guys, growing up, we had lot of fun playing with other kids. The number one fun growing up was we could look at the sword, sword-fighting movie. It's not like talking or, not like talking, we go. We had East Side gang, West Side gang, Candle Street gang, and Hokkaido gang, and Toma gang. We all played together, all competition, we had Olympic. We had Olympic, we had the best judo club, and the best kendo club, and we had the best, best swimming club. Swimming club, and we had two Nisei Week queens from Terminal Island. One, two? Two. And gee, that kind of place we went. Skin diving, skin diving to get crab and lobster, and we'd go spearing for fish, and you know what abalone is? We'd dive for abalone. And what kind of, and we'd go mountain skiing, mountain over there. Hey, we had a lot of fun. Of course there wasn't no television in them days. That's right, if you had television in them days, we'd all be inside watching television.

TI: And how would you decide to do all these things? Was it sort of like just the, your friends would say, "Let's go skin diving, let's go look for abalone?" Or were there adults there telling you what to do?

CH: Adult? No, we made our own fun. We made our fun. Of course, the hardest thing to do is we were pretty old already. Not old, but I think fourteen or fifteen or sixteen, see, around there. We're a little kind of kid. When I was maybe twelve years old, you know the tuna can, that cover? See, my mother used to pack the tuna inside that can, and then roll, it comes in a roll like that, they drop oil in there, they put the can. You know these cans come in a container like this, wrapped up in a paper about like that, all wrapped up. We used to go get, I used to go get that can, the wrapped up cover, go to that, not a beach, but wharf. We had a wharf, wharf, you know. I mean, you can't stand up because maybe fifteen or sixteen feet deep. So I get that can and any, all these, I gather about twenty-five thirty kids, and I throw the can, and each guy, I give him one penny. So I get the can and I throw it, all the kids jumping in, they grab one penny, you could buy fifteen caramel candy, you know, them days. So they used to run, down, down, then they come down like that in the water, they'd catch 'em like that. "Hey, I got four, I got five," I'd give 'em four cents or five cents or something like that. By that time, they got, all became a good swimmer and a good diver, just because of that. You know, you can't dive fifteen feet, young kid like that, but you know, they're so anxious to make one penny, they try like hell. By the time it come down, a lot of 'em fall down on the bottom, so they go all the way down. That's why Terminal Island, we had maybe, man, we had a couple hundred anyway, different areas. In the fish harbor now, it's not the beach, it's not a beach, you know, harbor. So all different places, all swimmers. That's why we got the best, we took the swimming champion L.A. L.A. had a swimming coliseum, coliseum swimming, Olympic stadium right there. Seattle, you never had that kind of thing, huh?

TI: Well, my father talks about, in a similar way, there was a ferry across Lake Washington, and people would throw pennies, and they would go dive for pennies do the same thing.

CH: You know, when I got maybe fifteen or sixteen, you know what a Matson line, M-boat, boat from Hawaii to over there, they four big ship, they dock at the Terminal Island dock, so we go over there, we dive, and you know, depart, we start screaming, "Throw out some money." Oh, they look and, hey, five cents, no penny. Five cents to fifty cents. And you look at those kids diving for money. See, they do that in Hawaii, so we knew about it, so we started doing it Terminal Island. And older people that come to Terminal Island, you know, Terminal Island now, when you come Terminal Island, there's funny kind of smell. It's a fertilizer smell. All the Caucasian people, when they come to Terminal Island, they pinch their nose. Say, "Hey, what's wrong?" "Something smell about this place." "Oh, it's a rotten fish," I tell 'em. 'Cause they had a big fertilizer plant over there. So I know there was a distinct odor, you know, smelling fish. But I remember when I'd go to San Pedro junior high and then high school, oh, there's Slavonian people, Italian people living in San Pedro. Terminal Island was all Japanese. When they come to the work, they get on the ferryboat and then they come to San Pedro, and we're coming from school, same smell. You could smell that odor, you know. So, see, that's how it smells, the Terminal Island. What a place. So growing up in Terminal Island, man, see, I was lucky. We went, I just graduated from high school, that's why, we're lucky. But these younger guy, they miss all the good fun. They come to city like that, hey, look at my kids there playing around. They didn't have any fun like we did.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Charlie, tell us some of the games you played as a kid.

CH: Oh, we played cowboy. Cowboy, oh, cops and robbers, cops and robbers, yeah. Then we played Kick the Can, then we played Russian... we had to go to "Russian Pun." "Russian Pun," nobody knows no "Russian Pun." "Lost and Found."

MN: Lost and Found.

CH: Lost and Found, you know, I think something like that. Of course, we had samurai sword fighting. Sword fighting was lot of fun, 'cause we had, there's a hundred kids from different area fighting each other. "I got you," "You ain't got me." "What do you mean, 'I got you'?" They don't know. So we finally put that on the bamboo, you know, the chalk. Chalk, that mark. "See? I got you." We had that once a week, sword fighting. Kick the Can every night. And "Lost and Found" was Hatatori. That was one of the best games, Hatatori. I don't want to... it's hard to explain, that game, Hatatori.

MN: Get the flag or something?

CH: Yeah, yeah, get the flag, Hatatori. Get the flag. You got a little square like thing, and there's about five flag in there, this side and this side, and you come over there, somehow, if you get caught, you're out. So you're a fast runner, the best chance. So if you're caught, you, everybody line up, and you tag that guy, he's safe again. But to tag that guy is hard. He's in the line. It's hard to imagine what kind of game it is.

TI: Well, that game, and another game I heard is jintori.

CH: Huh?

TI: Jintori? Did you play? Two poles and two teams? It's like Capture the Base?

CH: Something similar to that, yeah, Hatatori. We got six of 'em.

TI: Okay, six --

CH: We got six in a box. In a box, you know you put six of 'em.

TI: So it's similar.

CH: Yeah, something similar about that, right.

MN: What was Dead Man's Island?

CH: Huh?

MN: Dead Man's Island?

CH: Oh. You ever heard of Al Capone? The gangster from Chicago? 1930, 1940, '39 or '40 he came to the federal penitentiary. See, that was built in Dead Man's Island. That was maybe one square mile? One square mile. Nothing, nothing on there. That's why they built that thing. Oh, that's where, used to be our camping grounds. See, we used to camp out over there, from 100-pound sack of rice, it come in, what do you call that material? Anyway, you put that rice in there. See, after the rice come, we cut it open, make a tent out of that. So that's why we used to go camping over there, and we afford the thing we ate. There was all kind of crab. You dive and eat the crab, and eat that pinch. You got that rock crab, you called it. They used to have that at Redondo Beach. See, he doesn't know about L.A.

MN: It's okay.

TI: Well, we had different things. We have, like, similar in Seattle, like Dungeness crab and all...

CH: Dungeness. The Dungeness crab ain't good. The red crab is better, got more meat. But you know lot of kids, they learn to eat that, the miso. You know, the head part. See, that's the best one. But when I look at that, they look like somebody puke in there. You know, it's so dirty-looking. That's why I never ate that thing. But lot of guys will eat -- today, all the people, Terminal Island people are still looking for the things. But you don't have that much crab. So I remember, that's why we got spearfish, too. You know, just cook 'em, and then no bread, no milk, so all the merchant, all the bread company and the milk company come and deliver and they had a box like that, grocery store, they stuck 'em in there. So I think we tell the guys, "Go get some over there." You know, maybe you give 'em penny, leave something over there, but they bring it. So we had something to eat. We used to sleep over there maybe two night. Two nights. Some of 'em, family, parents, they get worried, that's why they come and check up. But that's not camping. Yeah, no fun with the older people coming around, no fun. No fun at all. That's why we had that kind of fun over there. Then all the white people, all the white, the Caucasian people, they all come fishing on Saturday and Sunday. That was a nice fishing spot, 'cause they didn't have no breaker over there. It was wide-open sea. Until recently, they put that thing, too, they screwed up the whole place. No good no more. So then, when they come fishing, they get tangled up on the line, they'll wrap them kelp around there, they see us swimming, "Hey, Son, come over here." "What?" "Can you untangle that thing?" We go over there, "Five cents, please." "Hey, used to be one dollar a day with the guys diving." Well, how often you get caught, but they used to get caught lot of times. That's why we always had some kind of way to make money.

And we used to get, you don't know what a tomcod is. You know what a himono is? Fish, split open the back and dry out, dried fish. A himono. See, we used to get those little fish like the tomcod and kingfish. Two fish for one penny. So we get about two hundred, then one dollar. One dollar is a big money. Twenty-five cents, Coney Island hot dog, Five cents for Pepsi cola or Coca-cola. You get to eat four hot dogs and one Pepsi cola for twenty-five cents. Hey. That's why we used to make money out of catching the fish. Dumb people, L.A., downtown, or all that farmer, they don't know where we caught the fish. We caught the fish where the water was polluted. [Laughs] You know, it's in the big harbor. But it's not like today. Them days it was nice, but it was still polluted. So they don't know. They say, "Umai, umai," they eat it.

Then when I used to go skin diving for abalone and I go to the farmer and sell it for twenty-five cents apiece, they all bought it, every one. I tell 'em, when we came back, you had to sell about fifty of 'em, twenty-five cents apiece, look how much money it is. Man, that's why with that money, I was rich going to high school. That's why I used to take my hakujin girlfriend, Nihonjin girlfriend I don't have. You know why? Everybody pointing finger at you. They go to cannery, "Oh, that guy took that guy's... he was holding hands and walking down the street." That's the way it was. They were backward a little bit, you know, small-minded. So I had to go to Monterey, I used to come all the way to L.A. to go to all the movies, buy 'em candy and hot dog, hey, they like me. Spend the money. [Laughs] That's why it's fun.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Let's go back to Terminal Island.

CH: Okay.

MN: What was the main street on Terminal Island?

CH: Tuna Street was the Broadway of Terminal Island, Tuna Street. They had maybe twenty-five merchants, twelve on this side and twelve on this side, Broadway. That, it must have been about one block long, all the little stores were there. There was three chop suey, I think, three chop suey and three hardware and two drugstore and two liquor store and two gas station and one bank, and maybe seven or eight grocery stores. Butcher, two butcher --

MN: Two butchers?

CH: Butcher, butcher shop. Meat market they had.

MN: Were these all run by Nihonjin?

CH: Huh? All run by Nihonjin, yeah, all run by Nihonjin. But of course we had, Terminal Island, on the Wharf Street, that was the, main street was Tuna, then Wharf Street was right by the water. They had a cannery, they had six cannery. Sea Pride, French Sardine, Franco Italian, Van de Kamps Seafood, Starkist, and International, and Southern Cal. That was where the cannery there. And you know, when a boat come in with sardine or any kind of fish, my mother used to go, well, they don't know where the boat come in. So each cannery, they had a whistle, and each whistle different, represents different cannery. So [makes sound effect], "Hey Mama, I know, Van de Kamps." Middle of the night, you got to wake up, go boots and apron. And they go. That that was happening all the time. You know, Terminal Island, I even ditched school. I tell 'em I got the flu or cold. You know that long time ago, school had that steam heated heater. You know, you ever heard, you know about the steam heater heater? Steam. That it was. So we put the thermometer right there, and when the nurse come, we put in our mouth, go like that. "Hey, you got a high fever." "Yeah, I don't feel good." So they sent me to that, sent me home. Sent me home, so hey, we go to work in the cannery for thirty cents an hour. Thirty cents, we worked ten hours, three buck.

TI: So you would rather go to work and make money than go to school?

CH: Well, that happened all the time. Finally the teacher got wise. There's too many Japanese, they're not all sick. Something's wrong. They find out. I used to do that once in a while, not every, can't be doing every time. When it get busy. That's why, make lot of things, you know these mackerel? I mean, you line up these sardines, one by one like this. Going down, they cut the head and the tail and they pack 'em up, so you'd line up. It's a boring work like that. So cutting the mackerel, easier. You know, I could see you and we'd be talking, see. We used to play games so the time goes fast. You do the same thing over and over ten hours, drive you nuts. But you're thinking of getting the paycheck. You know, Terminal Island people, they were all poor, you know. We didn't have no telephone, we didn't have no car, and all that kind of thing. Of course, no television. Even telephone, maybe one house got, maybe out of fifty, one out of fifty. Of course, there's the store, they got the telephone. Mochi ka? One tofu-ya we had. I used to live right next door to them, so I know the son and the daughter, say, "Give me, hey, why don't you give me tofu and," what's the other thing? Rubbery kind of thing.

MN: Konnyaku?

CH: Oh, yeah, konnyaku. Konnyaku and age. They used to give me for free, 'cause I'm right next door. Yeah, that's why, well, eating, I remember going to maybe, from second, third, fourth and fifth to sixth grade, I ate every day, I ate tuna can. Can of tuna. I mean, not can, but prior to you putting it in the can. I used to eat the fresh one. I grew up eating tuna. Tuna and mackerel. Not my family, it was all the other kids, same thing. When I was going to school, you know what I had to take? I had to take bread, bread with sugar only. Yeah, bread and sugar. Then I got a little high-tone, little bit. I'd put butter and sugar. And then next came peanut butter, and once in a while I'd get nigiri. You know, us guys, nigiri, all the white people, "What are they eating?" They didn't know, they never saw rice ball in them days. They didn't know, so we all used to get together and eat that nigiri. And once in a while we used to take takuan with us guys. That takuan, somehow, junior high school, "Hey, something, funny smell around here." 'Cause you open the locker like that, the smell come out. They used to pinch their, "What are these Japanese guys eating?" It's pickled radish, nothing wrong with that. You guys eat picked cucumbers, same thing. But yeah, they smelled, though. "Well, that's why it tastes good," I tell 'em. [Laughs] That was junior high school days.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now, when you started working at the cannery, you also collected the mackerel liver.

CH: Right, exactly. Mackerel liver was used for some kind of medicine over there. Shark medicine and mackerel liver, they used to make some kind of medicine out of that. That's why we had to, when the mackerel come in, you know, they got the knife and they cut the guts open, and they throw away. Why throwing away? This old man got smart, he got all the guts, from the guts he took the liver, about that big. You know the Hill & Hill coffee can? You fill up that, get twenty-five cents. So go fast, about ten guys working. You know, twenty-five cents, sometimes we went three or four. That one dollar an hour. My mother was making only thirty-nine cents an hour, we were making more money than our mother. And that was good, but once in a while. You don't catch that much mackerel.

TI: Who would buy the livers?

CH: Gee, I don't know. He was taking someplace, that guy. I don't know who was selling. But shark, shark... that liver was a good liver. That shark you got to catch, but there wasn't no shark catcher. Only once in a while it comes in the net. But fishermen, this is later year, but fishermen make the most money than the gardener. Fishermen, you know, you don't find too much lazy guy when you catch the fish. You could see dollar in the net. That's why they got to hustle not to lose the fish. Even a lazy guy work hard. [Laughs] If you, one hole like that, all the fish go out. That's why everybody work hard. I did fishing for... I come back to that later, maybe.

MN: Well, you know, when you were a child, you said you collected stamps?

CH: Oh, stamp collector? Oh, yeah.

MN: Yeah, where did you get the stamps?

CH: I used to go a stamp collector, stamp was cheap, you know. Like ten cents or something, whole bunch of stamps, you get it from... I was fascinated by looking at Santa Lucia. "Where the hell is that?" In Nicaragua. I don't know where that kind of... Panama, we don't know where it was. So I had to send the money to collect stamp. And I used to collect Japan stamp. Japan stamp, you know, you get it from Japan, and whenever a ship from Japan come, we used to go over there. "Hey, Oihe-san," "Do you have any kind of stamp?" "Yeah, we got a few stamp," the used one, of course, not new one. "Come up here, and we'll give it to you." So we used to go over there, and they used to give us tamp. And those are sailor, Japan boat, asked you, "Hey, Tom, where you from?" "Hey Martha, where you from?" You know, he's asking us guys. We got about ten guys collecting stamps. So we went up there, and by the way, "I'll feed you zendai." Zendai. "What the hell is a zendai?" Zendai is the mochi and that, some beans in there kind of thing. That's the first time I ate that kind of thing. Boy, we were all hungry. Oh, we ate that thing after we finished eating that thing. They'd say, "Hey, by the way, Tom, what part of, your parents, what part of Japan you come from?" "Martha, what part of Japan you come from?" They're asking us guys. Hey, we don't know where we came from. So one guy knew. One guy knew, [makes sound effect], he said, you know. "Wakayama-ken, Nishimura-gun, Wakuka-mura," he said. "How about you then?" "We're all same place." We didn't know where we come from. But this one guy, he knew it. You know, so I went to my home, I asked my, that's the first time I asked my mother, "Where you come from?" So that's the time I learned. That first word, she told me the first thing, I remember. I never forgot. It's amazing when you're young, you remember things, you know that? I still remember a lot of things my father teach me. It's amazing when your mind is still brand-new yet, that's why you go, remember all the different kind of things.

MN: How old were you when that happened, when you went home and asked your parents, "Where are you from?"

CH: I must have been about seven, maybe. Seven years old, seven or eight years old. Nobody asks that kind of question when you're going to school, "What part of Japan you come from?" "Where you was born?" We're too busy playing. [Laughs]

MN: Now, the other ships also were coming, and you helped bring grocery to them.

CH: The what?

MN: You helped bring grocery to the people on the ship.

CH: Oh, yeah. That was, that was back in 1933/'34. '32, '33, '34, I was working on a grocery, I was helping, my friend had a grocery store, I was helping my friend's parents over there. So they load up the truck with a lot of merchandise and they go, all go to that port of Terminal Island harbor where all the big ships were docked. And L.A., L.A. Harbor you called it in them days. So all these ships, we take that truckload of merchandise, as my friend, "Hey, where we going with that truckload?" "Oh, there's a Japan ship coming, and we got to take it to them over there, I mean, sell it to them." So all the ship they had come, the ship name was Brazil-maru, Paraguay-maru, Peru-maru, Rio de Janeiro-maru, and Buenos-maru. There was five different ships, they all come. So I go over there, I look at all the Japanese people on that thing. I thought they're gonna come up. Kemomura immigrated over here, you know, so I told him, "Where these people work?" Oh, they're going South America. South America them days. So they bring that basket down, and, "Give me that and give me that, give me that," so we had to load it up. And you know, it's a funny thing, I talked to the Brazilian people that was here, I went to a party, Shinnenkan party, there were two Brazil people from San Palo, they came. And they, you know, those real wealthy people, they want to know the economic of this country right now. So I talked to these people, you know what I told them? I told them the same story. My grandfather was one of 'em, he told me. So he asked me, "Hey, how come you know?" "Hey, I'm old enough. I'm eighty-seven years old, so I know about that. I'm not one born like you guys." So he was amazed, you know. So he tell him, "Hey, Hamasaki-san, whenever you come to San Palo, come see me," he'd show me around. So I ask him, "What kind of business you in?" He's in the textile business, you know that? So you know, I know these are assembly, congressmen in Japan, he was an international wrestling champion named Antonio Inoki. He was from Brazil. When he came Brazil, I treated him real good, I helped him a lot. Then he became the world champion. He's the guy who fought Ali. You ever heard of that guy who fought Ali for fifteen rounds? If he stand up, he's gonna get knocked down. So what decision, Ali. Antonio Inoki, he's from Brazil. So we were talking about that. So be sure you ain't gonna go no Brazil. It's a dirty place, I know. I know South American, Caribbean islands, they're all dirty. Only the front is pretty. You guys never been around there, huh?

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Well, let's go back to Terminal Island. [Laughs] There was a benshi on Terminal Island. Tell us what a benshi is, and how did you get in?

CH: Benshi?

MN: Benshi.

CH: Oh, you mean a movie? Oh, movie was only ten cents. Where you gonna get the ten cents? We were seven or eight or nine years old, around there, you know, before, before the war, 1933, '34, '35, they didn't have movie. I mean, they had movie but they didn't have the speaking type of movie. They had a benshi, you know what a benshi is? He'd get on the side of the movie and he'd imitate woman's voice or different voice, and that's the movie we used to watch. And that guy was, you got to be pretty talented to use different tone of voice. We used to watch that guy and we'd peek over there from... no ten cents. That's why one guy sneak in and open the door, and about ten guys go in. All the kids. They got wise, they close the door, still we got to climb that school playground or fence, then we used to peek in and watch. Once a week we used to do that.

MN: But you also watched American movies also.

CH: Oh, American movie, yeah. And seven or eight, too far to go. Take the ferry, you got to pay five cents to go --

MN: Oh, this is later on.

CH: -- across, the ticket, come back, five cents. There's five cents movie, but you got to get fifteen cents to go back and forth. And when the earthquake, 1933, March 10. March 10, 1933, there was a big earthquake, 6.2 earthquake, Long Beach. Long Beach was the center. So we were in Terminal Island, earthquake. So where we gonna go? We didn't have no car or no place to go, so my mother and all the neighbors look out there, tsunami. Tsunami. So boy, all of us -- you know how it happened? When the, oh, that Saturday night we had a Japanese movie like benshi. So to reserve our seat, you know what a zabuton is, the cushion? We had to reserve for my mother and father, about six guys went over there with that zabuton, the cushion, to reserve. We were going like this and all of a sudden, [makes sound effect]. "What the hell is this?" We saw all the building going, moving like that. It's made out of wood, so nothing came down, but wow. Because you know what? There were a few Issei over there, "This is an earthquake," in Japanese. "Jishin, jishin, get out." So we run like that outside, and we go see that thing, and there was a big old water tank near us, and all the strut on the big water tank, way up there, about a hundred feet up, start breaking, pow, pow, pow. And the telephone wire, it'd go boom, boom, boom, snap all over, like everything. And that thing cracked open, you know, it's sand, see, cracked open.

So my mother and father told, the neighbor told us to go to the wharf and see how much the water's rising. Maybe tsunami. So we rushed to the wharf and you know, usually the, from the pier to that thing is about, anywhere from ten to fifteen feet difference every time. The water was that much. We're right there. I run home, and water that much, "Oh, the tsunami gonna come." So few people ran to San Pedro where, take the ferry, higher ground, few families took the boat and went straight to the ocean. We didn't have no car or nothing, so some farmers came from someplace to pick us up and we went to Dominguez Hills. We ran up to there, and all the people were scattered. Terminal Island was empty. Them days, from San Pedro, some other, Wilmington, there's a lot of mix, finger, itchy finger they got. They come and steal. So there's a few people left over there watching over the Terminal Island. But that water came that much up there, it never came. 'Cause Terminal Island, that much more, the whole island would be sunk. 'Cause it's only that high. So those days, boy, every time, aftershock, I didn't know about aftershock them days. One big earthquake come, maybe fifteen second, another one come and another one. All night it's coming. Them days, San Pedro, Friday, they had a track meet at Long Beach Poly, Long Beach Poly High School. They had a track meet, you know. So all the Japanese guys, they were on the track team, they were, track meet, so you know what happened? My friend said, "Today I jumped twenty-two feet." "How can you? You only jump twenty feet." "Yeah, but when that earthquake came, it was two feet harder." I don't know if he's telling the truth or not. He keep on telling, "Yeah, you might be right." That's why I keep on telling him. He told everybody. [Laughs] Well, that was a big one, man. It was bigger than the Northridge. Oh, he doesn't know Northridge, earthquake.

MN: Now, Charlie, you know, when you were a kid, your parents were both working. And so let's say you went to see a yuurei movie, a ghost movie, and you got scared. So where did you go?

CH: Yeah. I used to go, I'd go to movie, and there's a lot of, you know, movie, scary movie. But when the movie was... I used to look around and then run like hell, nobody following me. Then I'd go home, and I'm the only child, see. My other sister was married already. Looking under the bed and everything to see if anybody, nobody did, but still I'm scared. So I used to go to the cannery where my mother was working. See, nobody home, cannery working. So you know what? All the can, can, they... all the can, they got a big box like that where the can come in. And empty, I used sleep in there until my mother finished working. Before that, if nighttime come, I used to go to my friend's. There's a lot of kids around, but, hey, six o'clock, everybody got to stay home. So I used to play with 'em until about eight o'clock. Then I used to go the cannery and sleep over there in the box. So that's why I asked my mother, "Mama," I didn't know, "Mama, don't I have sister and brother like next door and other people?" "Yeah, you got four of 'em in Japan." Huh? Yeah, I found that out... I don't know, when I was pretty old, you know. Yeah, seven of us, six or seven. See, I was the only guy. All the other guys were, them days. At least fifty percent, huh, they sent to Japan? Everybody had big family. Fifty percent, they went Japan.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

CH: But the time 1941 came on, well, Terminal Island population grew. They grew from, all Kibei came. See, my older brother, about three of 'em came, wartime, before the war.

TI: And did they all come because...

CH: No, they didn't come together.

TI: But did they come because they sensed that the U.S. was going to war with Japan?

CH: My third brother, second brother, found out the third one, you know, he was indoctrinated, brainwashed. Out of four sons, at least one's got to serve in the Japanese army. He didn't want to come. Dumb guy, huh?

MN: Futomi?

CH: Yeah, he got brainwashed. I think I never got brainwashed like that. When the war came between Japan and America, I told my mother and father, all the people, "Japan gonna lose the war. A big man can't beat up a little man." They all got mad. Yeah, my father, "Kami no kuni," he said, "Japan is a god's country." All these war, they never lost. But this one, they're gonna lose.

MN: So since we're talking about this, let's talk about Futomi. Now, all your other siblings started to come back to the United States from 1934, Futomi stayed behind. What happened to him?

CH: My oldest brother came 1933.

MN: Oh, 1933, okay.

CH: Yeah, 1933, and then my other sister and brother came 1936, I think. Around there someplace.

MN: And Futomi stayed behind. What happened to him?

CH: He's brainwashed. He was, see, like him, see, he graduated West Point of Japan, army, that school over there. West Point. They called it something in Japanese. Anyway he graduated, that's why he got out of that school as a lieutenant, same thing, West Point lieutenant. So then the war, there was war going on already with China them days. So he sent that letter, America and Japan gonna, that was in November or October, October or November. "Japanese and American gonna have a war, so you better come to Japan," he said. So my father was to go November, Japan, no worry. But the last boat that was coming here, they turned back, and that's right, he never went. Good thing he didn't go. Was just go to Japan because my grandfather and grandmother was still living, and they didn't see each other for something like thirty years.

MN: This is November 1941.

CH: '41, yeah. December it started. November is, the boat stopped coming.

MN: Your father was planning to go to Japan.

CH: Exactly. And my mother was going to follow later.

MN: But so Futomi was still in Japan, and he's now in the Imperial Army.

CH: Imperial Army.

MN: What happened to him?

CH: He died in a, he died in, he got killed in some part of China. Not Manchuria, but China someplace. That's why my father was getting... see, when he died, he was a lieutenant colonel already. See, that's why the government support him when my father went Japan, 1945, from Tule Lake, he went Japan. So we didn't have to send him a social security check. He never got it. He could have got it. He never got that. So he was living on my older brother's money, they sent it to him.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: We're gonna come back to talking about you now. We're gonna talk about you. How often did you leave Terminal Island and go to downtown to Little Tokyo?

CH: Oh, I had a Model A. When I was growing up, maybe six or seven or eight years old, they used to have a Red Car in San Pedro, so we used to get on the Red Car and go, whenever you want to buy Japanese stuff, we go all the way to L.A., come to L.A. on the Red Car back and forth. Yeah, we used to go at least maybe once in two month or maybe sometimes once a month. But we had a relative living in L.A. Red Car take only maybe forty minutes maybe or something. Maybe half an hour, forty minutes. And then when I grew up, I had my own jalopy, Model A, you ever heard of a Model A, Tom? I used to take that back and forth all the time. I take the young guys all over the place. Model A.

MN: Let's go back to your relative who had a market. Where was it and what was it called?

CH: It's Nishimi Market, and it was located at North First Street, San Pedro. North San Pedro Street. Main Street and First Street, right, in San Pedro? But there's south and north right there, that's the boundary. But north one block, one block north, Nishimi Market. And the other one was, live on Seventh and Kohler Street. Kohler. That's south. Between Central and San Pedro, Kohler Street.

MN: That was your uncle?

CH: Yeah. My mother's cousin. My mother's cousin.

MN: And this is the person that had the flower designing business?

CH: Huh?

MN: Did he have a flower designing business?

CH: Oh, yeah, that's the one. That's the one the cousin, flower designing. See, after she died, my sister took over. That's why she became rich. I thought, how about some money? Yeah, but hey, even if you're rich, you die, huh? What's the sense having money? No sense. Spending the money, like me, I'm different from those Kibei guys. Japan, I don't know, Japan people are a little bit different from the way I think, you know that?

MN: Did you take judo lessons?

CH: Yeah, I took judo.

MN: How far did you go up?

CH: Well, my, what do you call, my character, my character wasn't that good. That's why, even if I had the ability of black belt, my character is bad. That's why I got only Nikyuu, second of brown belt. Then you go to first brown belt. Sankyuu, Ikyuu, then Shodan. My brother, he was good one, that guy, from Japan. He was the oldest one.

TI: Explain that again. Your character wasn't good? What do you mean by that? I don't understand that.

CH: I was a juvenile delinquent. I used to be a cook, help yourself kind. Whatever the opportunities, come help myself, come grab it and take off. Not only me, my gang was like that. We had the worst gang. Nobody wanted to play with us guys.

TI: And how old were you right now at this point?

CH: Well, I was, from fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. Or eighteen... seventeen I got caught, that's why eighteen I was a good boy.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Well, let's talk about that then. You became a juvenile delinquent. What were you stealing?

CH: I used to steal candy at first, then go to dime store and help yourself, lot of little kind of things. And then when you start saying, don't get caught, you get more brave. That's how the crook is, like smoking marijuana, you turn to hash, hash into cocaine, cocaine to heroin, same thing. Get braver and start getting more and more and more, then you know, of course, we didn't have no money to buy gas, so we'd just steal gas from the road. You what a longshoreman is? They, Terminal Island, they had a lot of longshoremen unloading and loading. Nighttime, daytime, anytime. Nighttime's the best because there's hundred car lined up. Help yourself. Siphon the gas, then we got braver and then start stealing cars. And then stealing cars, you take the car apart and go sell it to these dealers. They used to buy it, they didn't care them days. Before the war, everything was more lenient. You don't get, you don't get a cut too often. There wasn't too much watchmen in Terminal Island. There was one policeman, since the Japanese was so honest, one policeman. And we know where the policeman goes, we know where he goes, every move he made.

TI: Now, was it common for there to be other gangs like yours?

CH: No, we had the only gang. You know, Terminal Island, all Japanese, they were pretty respectable, majority of 'em. But I was the other half. But we had a lot of fun, long as we don't continue to do it. Then you be like this.

TI: So why were you different? What made you do this?

CH: Oh, our personality was different. Our personality was different. We didn't agree with each other. They were too, in other words, you call it square head. Us guys, more round. [Laughs] That's the way I see it.

MN: You finally got caught.

CH: Finally got caught.

MN: What were you stealing?

CH: I got caught. Well, this is the automobile tire. Tire, take tire and sell it, I still remember his name. Postman Nobu. Nobu his name was. And that time we got caught, but there was other times we got caught be Fish & Game, see. All the Caucasian people would come fishing, we're smart. They want fish to take it home to eat it. No, we made a net ourselves, go to the Dead Man's Island, all kind of fish in there. "You want to buy fish?" "You want to buy fish?" They'd buy it. Finally the Fish & Game caught us, you know. "Hey, you young kids, come here. Come here. You're doing something illegal." Yeah, it was that guy. So we get the, we're on the boat, he's on the car. So we go over there, he come around the car, so we're going back and forth. Then there's a barge, a barge, I know the guy, see. We parked in the water, he can't go, barge, we still got to go, come on the land. So here comes a little jig boat, we had all kind of, one horsepower jig boat. We get on that jig boat, "Okusan, take us over there." So okay, so Fish & Game still think we're one of us, hell no, we're home already. [Laughs] We had a lot of fun, cop and robber kind. That real kind, though.

MN: But when you got caught by the San Pedro police department, where did they take you?

CH: We went on probation. First of all, every little community got Japanese, what do you call that? Society. Japanese society people, whatever, like a PTA, they have that kind of thing. And when I got caught, "Hey, you come here, father and mother got to come to this place, the committee, where they got caught." So they're gonna send us to Whittier, Whittier State Reformatory over there. So meanwhile, at school, they find out, so they come to police station, we all went to the police station and, "Hey, you guys are, Japanese are supposed to be real honest and, you know, they don't do these things. But you guys are special." "Oh, we're having fun, though. We didn't do anything bad." "But you did, you broke the law. So I tell you what, instead of sending you to that kind of place, reformatory, we give you one year probation. Every week you report something and you do something. You got to do some kind of project, so you report." So we did that for one year. And all the Nihonjinkai, they say, "You can't play each other no more," they say. Who's gonna listen to that kind of thing? So we didn't... state reformatory. I went though, over there, the Nihonjinai people went over there, "These guys are good boys, they're mischievous, but only one little thing, that's why they'll be alright, we'll take care." "Oh, in that case, okay." Yeah, but still, bad guy wasn't that bad, though. And the few guys ended up pretty bad.

TI: But what about, so after you got caught, what did your parents...

CH: Play with?

TI: Well, your parents, what did they say? Did they say something?

CH: Well, my father and mother was interested like hell. Yeah, so everybody, and who the gang was? Then we don't want to point finger, so the older guys, the father, he finally came and, "I'm sorry, my son was a gang leader." He was two, three year older than us. He incite us to do everything, that guy. He never, he never showed up, though, that guy. See, he didn't get caught, that's why. But it was fun doing all that. It was exciting. All the, my younger guys, they all liked me, you know, they want action. All the younger, they put on the, my car, boy, I used to take 'em all over the place. That's why they still remember that. And so I want to show 'em how good driver I was, so I go and flip over the car, you know. Several guys was in the car. Four guys in the front, three guys in the... you know what a rumble seat is? They were in there. When I turned over the car, I was going like this, I stopped, I looked at the roof, there was a big hole. Big hole. It's a canvas top kind. I said, "What happened to the three other guys that were sitting?" I'm going like that, driving like this, they're not there. Well, it's sand, that's why they went on the sand. I went way out the back guys. Two guys were, there was one guy missing. What about the one other guy? I hear that, looking around, "Itai no, itai no," he said, "It's hurting, hurting." He got pinned under the car. So I went to pull him with a hand, said, "Don't pull me." Bone was sticking out. He broke his arm. So Model A's light, I lift it up and boom, it came out. I took him to the house and boy the mama got mad at me. She, "Warui bouzu guy like you playing with my son, never gonna play with." When the war came, we went to the same camp, I came and said, "Obasan, we had a lot of, you remember that time you got mad at me?" "Yeah, you baka yatte ne," "You crazy guy." But I tell him, hey, that happened, there won't be no story, I tell him. In Japanese, you tell him, "Hanashi no tame." You got something, you talk about it. See, I did a lot of things, that's why I got lot of things to talk about. Whereas other innocent guys, they ain't got nothing to talk about. That's why I had a lot of followers with me. They're all over.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: So Charlie, let's get some details. I know we're jumping around, but what's the name of your elementary school?

CH: East San Pedro grammar school.

MN: Was this on Terminal Island?

CH: Terminal Island. The principal was Mrs. Walleter. She was a nice, she was so nice, you know what happened, Martha? She went all the way to Japan, all the Wakayama-ken school we went to. I still got the picture maybe. I've got the picture someplace. My older brother and my sister is in that picture... Walleter. Yeah, she went to Japan. Amazing, huh? Them days.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: What about Japanese school? Did you go to Japanese school?

CH: Warren Furutani's grandmother. You know Warren Furutani? His grandmother was my teacher. And his father's my good friend. So when Warren Furutani, he became something. Yeah, I told him, "Hey, you know what?" "What?" he says. "You look like Hiroshi, Hiroshi Furutani." He said, "That's my father." "Oh. Your grandmother was a schoolteacher, huh?" "Yeah, how do you know?" "I'm from Terminal Island." "Oh, you're from Terminal Island." So he invited to me, he had a station right downtown, invited to talk anything you want about redress. So I said, go ahead. But when you got half an hour, look like only five minutes. Time goes fast.

MN: What was the name of the Japanese school?

CH: Seishou Gakuen. There were two. One Buddhist and one Christian. See, I used to go to Baptist church when I was young, 'cause I used to love to hear "Jesus did this and that," and everything, it was fascinating for me. The reverend's talking, "Oh, yeah, what a guy," I thought. And he's a god, he said, "Oh, yeah, that God, number one." As I grew up, older and older and older, Mrs. Swanson was my teacher, she used to come and call me every time, "You bad boy. I heard you did this and that, bad. Come to church," I used to run all over the place. Finally I went over there, we were baptizing. Baptize, what's that? "Oh, see that tub of water?" "Yeah, that's a regular tub. What are you going to do with that?" "No, you come over there, you get inside there with a cloth on top and the thing gonna bowl like that, you're baptized." I don't want to do that thing. So the people gaman. They finally asked the reverend that came to preach to all the Japanese people, there was about three preachers. Nobody do nothing. I raised my hand. I went over there, I did it. Baptized. "Hey, he help?" "I don't know if he helped." But that's why I used to, you know, Tom, I used to argue with all the preachers. Man, I used to argue with them. Yeah, but boy, they're preachers. They don't get mad what I tell 'em.

TI: Well, that's interesting. So first, they talk about what a baptism is, you said, "No, I'm not going to do that." But then when they asked for volunteers, you were the first one.

CH: Yeah, I feel sorry for those guys. Yeah, I did. Nobody go up. So those guys, "I don't want to take a furo," he said, take a bath. So that's why Mrs. Swanson treat me real good. But I didn't believe in God, that he was a god. He was just a person. Same thing. Buddha, same thing. I used to work with all these Catholic people and, you know, I'm not impressed by, you know, this maybe later come up, but when I went to South America, lot of things happened. Now what?

MN: Tell me what the name of the other Japanese school was?

CH: Sokei Gakuen. That's the Buddhist. There were two. See, there was, Seisho Gakuen was number one. So all the, maybe two hundred students going to that Seisho, first Book 1 to Book 12. That's the way it was, by book, you go grade. Up two, I don't know, twelve, it's book. So when that Buddhist school opened up, half went that way. Half and half split open. Then that one, Sokei Gakuen, they started Boy Scouts. We didn't have Boy Scouts. So I wanted to join the Boy Scouts, "No, you're a Christian, that's why you can't join." Huh? What's that got to do with it? My mother telling me, and it cost five bucks, five dollar, too much. And so our place, my dad was Christian, Christian. He didn't go.

TI: Well, so was that on purpose, that if a Buddhist wanted to join your gang, you'd say no?

CH: No, no, it's a different type of people. Looking at my grade, my grade, one up or maybe two or three down, there was that group. There were a different type of people. There's that studious kind of people, and you know, innocent type of people, and the rowdy kind of people. Anyplace you go, they're kind of different kind of people, right? I don't know what kind of people you are, maybe you're a bookworm, or I don't know.

TI: Yeah, I'm kind of a nerd. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: But in your gang, did you have, did you give each other little nicknames and things like that?

CH: Nicknames? You know, horse's mouth, anybody who got more nickname than I do, let me know. So I talked to that guy last year. Nickname, we had all kind of nickname. You know, I hate to say anything, but name is Oihe, and my father's name is Tahei. TA-HEI means a fart in Japanese. You don't know? Onara, onara, that, you better take that out maybe. See, onara, tahei, that's a big onara. And my name was Oihe, "ohe" means great onara. Big and great. Great, so they used to call me "Ohe," "Ohe." They skip the "i." Everybody, even today, they say "Ohe," "Ohe." That's why I used to hate that name. These guys used to tease me, "Ohe," and he used to hit me, I used to cry and, "Wait 'til you get older, I'm gonna beat the hell out of you," I used to tell 'em. But when they got older, became friends. "Remember that time you used to call me that?" [Inaudible] So we had Taratsugu Marumoto. "Taratsugu" means, we used to call him "Tara ketsu." Taraketsu Shimotani. "Tara ketsu" means "free okore."

MN: Butt.

CH: "Tara ketsu," "free okore." We had Rotten. He had smelly, what do you call that? Odor. What do you call that now?


CH: Yeah. BO, body odor, his name Rotton. We had Soup, Soup, we had Snake, and we had four, Knucklehead, Triangle Head, Square Head, and Pinhead. And we had Horse. You know Horse? We had two Horse, not the Yoshinaga, two Horse, Kajiyama Horse, Matsushita. And we had, what else we had? Heji. Heji ite kure. We had Shonben, we had. Yeah, we had all kind of nicknames. Amazing. Everybody had nicknames, if I start thinking, man, go right down the line. We had about fifty nicknames. Tar, Tar, he was black, that's why. We had Sambo, Black Sambo we had. We had Osama, Osama Rie, his ear went like that, and we had Donkey Ear, too. Donkey, Donkey. We had a lot of nickname. Well, we didn't have too much fight, though. It's amazing. Well, kid time we had fight, but as we grow up, nice and peaceful place. But we were too sections: Kibei and Nisei, we play against, football against each other, baseball, each other, but when it come to judo and kendo, and swimming, we was all mixed. We want to get the state champion.

MN: So the Kibeis and Niseis got to, they... they were okay?

CH: Separated. Separated.

MN: Did they fight a lot?

CH: Kibei played -- no. Kibei played with Kibei, Nisei played with Nisei. Go to school, same thing. But we had special class for Kibei. Like my brother and my sister went to special school before they entered that regular school. They didn't, they can't, even when the war came, they didn't even know how to talk English. And stick around with their own group, Kibei. Omoshirokatta.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Okay, now, Japanese school, how far did you get to Japanese --

CH: See, you go by book. I went to Book Ten, I think. Ten. Gonensei marute yo. I didn't learn nothing. We went in order to play around. And we studied a lot, but I knew how to read kata, the easy way, katakana and what's the other one?

MN: Hiragana.

CH: Oh, yeah. Katakana and hiragana. Even today. But if you don't use it, you forget. I still don't... well, I know a few kanji 'cause when I was in the army I know how to read Japanese already. I was ninety percent I knew, but I forgot almost everything. But few words I still remember. But when you... see, I sing a lot, I used to. I used to sing a lot, I used to go entertain, this and that, I used to be in a band and everything. But you know, you learn Japanese kanji from singing. See, that's why I still remember those words.

MN: Now, why did you quit Japanese school?

CH: Hey, I got to play football, man. Football. Football, I got to play football and track. See, baseball and basketball come same time, same time. That's why I play football and track. And that's why I had to quit school. All the farmer from Palos Verdes, all the tomato farmer, they all want to play. They're good athlete, you know, but they got to go work in the farm. They, after school they got to go work in the farm, I feel sorry for those guys. They were pretty good athletes, too, you know. Yeah, they want to play, even today I talk to them, "Hey, how was it?" "Oh, you're poor farmers," you know. But a few of the guys, "Hey, you dumb fisherman, you didn't get rich. Look at us guys." They still have the land, few guys told me that. These guys in San Diego, my good friend, San Diego, they go Chula Vista, see. Then, look at that, poor guys.

MN: Now, this was when you were in junior high school.

CH: Junior high school, yeah, junior high school.

MN: What was the name of your junior high school?

CH: Richard Henry Dana Junior High.

MN: Was this on Terminal Island?

CH: No, what do you mean? He's from England.

MN: No, no, your school. Was it on Terminal Island?

CH: No, no, in San Pedro. Junior high and high school was in San Pedro.

MN: So you took the ferry.

CH: I took the ferry, it was five cents. But you know L.A. school board, Unified School Board? Hey, they got to be free. So when I was in junior, we got the ticket for nothing. Up to then we were paying five cents. And the bus is three cents. We used to walk just to save three cents, we used to walk two miles to school. So you got six cents. But sometime I have even three cent. Sometime for my mother, this kind of purse you got, oh, not a thing. [Laughs] I used to take few things. Mom would say, "Omoshiroi na?" They used to play Hana when no fish come in. I thought I had fifty cents one time, there's something missing. I used to get caught. "Yeah, I got to buy schoolbook," I tell him. Then Mom say, when I think about it, my mother and father, they were not hundred percent up here. They didn't know anything about, nothing about society, they don't know nothing. They were innocent people. Mom is still young, so whenever they tell me, say, "Boy my mother and father were smart," they didn't know nothing. See, no education. I think my father went third grade or fourth grade or something. But even then, they know how to write kanji.

MN: So when you left Terminal Island to go to junior high school, did you experience discrimination at school?

CH: You know, that's one good thing. See, all them Slavonian, Italian. I said San Pedro is about at least fifty percent Issei immigrant from the Old Country, Italy and Yugoslavia and Croatia. Croatia, you know where Croatia is, huh? You call it "Dalmatian" people. They're the Issei. Nisei was just like us guys, no discrimination, nothing. And you know, they liked Japanese because all them people were San Pedro high school, one of the lone sports center, you know. You don't know about San Pedro, I see. The student from SC and all, he got a big restaurant over there. See, he catered to all these famous athletes, Ram and Dodger and that kind of people, and he's my friend, that guy. Italian guy, that's why I never faced discrimination, nothing. They never called us "Jap," it's amazing, huh? All those Japanese guy. See, we used to play against each other, play same thing, you know, that's why it was real nice. They still remember. See, we still have class reunions, but half of 'em gone, so last five years, we didn't have it. I think the guy died. Four hundred forty graduated 1941, class of '41, only 150 left. Out of that, maybe 100 now. Yeah, you know, you know wartime? During the war, we're in Salt Lake City, I was taking a train to Chicago...

MN: Let's get into the war later. Hold on, hold on, before we get in, I'm ready to get into the war years. Can we leave Terminal Island?

CH: Oh, Terminal Island?

TI: There's just one thing I'm curious about. Because you're such a charismatic person, people like to follow you. So when you were in junior high school, a young teenager, what about dating girls? Was there much...

CH: Junior high you're talking about.

TI: Yeah.

CH: Junior high, you don't even think about that kind of thing.

TI: So you didn't think about that. So there was no...

CH: Nah. Dating a girl? No dance, no nothing. They didn't have that kind of thing.

TI: So even your gang, you didn't talk about girls?

CH: No, no.

TI: So it was all about just...

CH: Yeah, yeah, having fun. It's amazing, huh? Right now, people, they're more advanced maybe, junior high school. Not us guys.

TI: Yeah, because now in junior high school, it's common to see lots of dating, so I was just curious...

CH: Yeah, even junior high right now? Wow. We never talk about girls. We were talking about having a good time, not with girls, you know. Go here, go there, play together and everything. All exciting kind of thing. But if you, if you knew, if your mind was a little mature, you might think different. But we wasn't that advanced, maybe, I don't know.

TI: Okay, no, that's good, I was just curious.

CH: But high school is different thing. I could tell you a lot of things, but I shouldn't say that kind of thing over air. Better not.

TI: Okay, so go ahead, Martha.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Well, let's get into the war years, then.

CH: Huh?

MN: Let's get into World War II.

CH: Oh, World War II, World War II.

MN: December 7, 1941, was a Sunday.

CH: Exactly.

MN: What happened on Monday?

CH: Sunday... oh, wait. December 7th, Sunday, Monday. Monday, ka? Oh, I found out Monday when I woke up, was it December 7th? Oh, December 7th I found out there was war, they say. I didn't believe war. But this guy, he got radio, he came and told me, "Hey, there's a war between Japan..." "Oh, bullshit. Where the war at?" "In, someplace in a little island someplace in Hawaii." He said Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor? Where the hell is... I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. "Okay, well, Japan airplane bombed that place and war started." "Yeah?" So, okay, the war started, okay, then we found out they had all these guys still going school. I woke up, everybody, "Hey, I guess the war is on 'cause you didn't go to school today." "Oh, there's a war going on." See, I woke up kind of late, December 8th. And I was a fisherman already. So when December 8th came, all the... oh, that day, it happened that my boat that I was working on, I had some kind of engine problem or something that they couldn't go out. They were fixing something in the boat. Meanwhile, maybe fifty percent of the boat went out, it was sardine season. When the December 7th bomb, they came, road that they fish, they came into that harbor where they put, between that lighthouse and this other, they put a barrier, screen, so they couldn't get in. All the boat, all the Issei was taken off. All the Nisei remained and the boat came in. And that's the first one that went to Tujunga internment. Used to be CCC camp before, Tujunga. And the family, they didn't know where they went. But we later found out they were in Tujunga. But that was just a little, little bit of Japanese, Issei, little bit. Not the majority.

MN: When were you arrested?

CH: Huh?

MN: When were you arrested?

CH: February 2 or 4, I forgot. February 2, 1942. That's the time majority came. I was sleeping yet, and I couldn't go noplace. That's the time he came knocking on the door. So I told 'em, "Your name Charles O. Hamasaki?" "Yeah, why?" "Put your coat on and get your shoe on, and we'll see you." I said, "What do you mean? I don't want to go noplace." "You're alien, 'enemy alien,'" that guy told me. I said, "I didn't do nothing." "Well, we got an order, 'enemy alien,'" he told me. When I went outside, you ought to see all the FBI. There was a hundred of 'em all over Terminal Island arresting all, every different individual Issei. And I was the youngest one.

MN: How did they know you were Issei?

CH: Why I got arrested, why they had that record, when I, fishing license, commercial fishing license, I should have put down "Terminal Island," I was born. Then I would have never... I put, I was honest, you know. I put "Japan." Well, that's why they came and arrested me.

TI: Yeah, so it's probably those records.

CH: Huh? Yeah, they went through the Fish & Game and look at all the record.

MN: Okay, your house had a... most Terminal Island had a himono pole, and you had one, too, and the FBI, what did they think that was?

CH: You know, you know what a dry fish pole look like?

TI: I'm not sure. Explain it.

CH: See, okay, they're, sardine, mackerel, Spanish mackerel, everything, you split it open and put it up in the air. They were putting it in the basket like that, put it up there. If you put it down there, there's lot of fly come around and then they contaminate that thing. So we put it way up there. Because when you put it way up there, the wind, the wind make that himono, that dried fish, taste better. So each family had that thing. And, you know, when the FBI came, they thought all those thing up there, that pole up there, they thought it was antenna, spy, they say. Radio. They took the radio and the picture and they took all the, confiscated all the little electrical kind of thing, radio especially, and sword, and emperor and empress picture, they all tore it down. So I explained, "That's not an antenna, that's a dried fish pole." "Well, it look like an antenna," he said. "Look, where the wire then?" "Oh, they shut up, they went home." Even today, I still got one in my whole area. I'm probably the only one that got that thing. Lot of people, they, "It's a Boys Day, that's why you put that koi up there? Either that, or you put American or Japan flag up there." Today, recently. Well, what that pole doing there? They don't know. See, my next-next door is from Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island, my next-next door. They, both of them passed away, but they didn't know what that was. She used to come and ask me every time.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: Now, did you and your father get arrested at the same time?

CH: Yeah, same time. We went together.

MN: Where did they take you?

CH: They took us to immigration station, you know, immigration, three or four days. But since I know how to talk Japanese and English, I was an interpreter there for those guys. The main question they asked was, "What part of Japan you come from?" "What you were in Japan or what kind of group you belong to?" That was the main, three questions. And, "Were you in the service before the Russian-Japanese war or Chinese-Japan war?" That was the aid, see. That was the main question and that's it. So when I was at the interview, "Hey, okay, all you guys go home." I was going home, too. They didn't know I was supposed to be in there. One guard finally, "Hey, that guy, don't let that guy go. He belongs here."

TI: Well, let me make sure I understand. So there are other interpreters, and they would go home and you would try to walk out with them?

CH: Yeah, yeah, right, we tried to go home. My two Russian friends, Andy and Jerry Cantwell, they know how to talk Japanese just like me. They were going over there, we went on these things. "Okay, let's go home." "Okay, let's go." That guy, he caught me, man. [Laughs]

TI: Now, when you were interpreting...

CH: Huh?

TI: When you were helping to interpret, what was the mood? Were people, the Isseis, were they frightened or were they worried?

CH: Nah, they weren't worried. Well, worried about the family. The family didn't know where they were going. If you got family, worried. Like me, I wasn't even worried or nothing. I said, "Hell," I say. When they, February 5 or 6, from there, they ship us to Union Station over here, the bus going in, and I see all my friends, "Hey, Oihe, where you going?" "I don't know. Goodbye, might see you later." Everybody, I see all my friends, 'cause their father was taken in. I see all the guys on the bus, then that was it.

TI: So I'm guessing some of your friends maybe were surprised, because they probably thought you were Nisei or born in Terminal Island, not in Japan. So they were saying, "Why you?"

CH: They didn't... one guy, there were a few guys, they knew I was born in Japan.

MN: What was the average age, average age of the Isseis who were taken along with you?

CH: What was that?

MN: Average age.

CH: Oh, they were, most of them were born before, late '80s, 1800s, late 1800s. My father was born 1876.

MN: How old was he at that time?

CH: 1876, so twenty-four plus four, sixty something.

TI: About sixty-five?

MN: And you were how old?

CH: I was nineteen.

MN: So there was a big age difference.

CH: Yeah, well, I was the youngest.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: So they took you to Union Station.

CH: You know where Union Station is, Alameda.

MN: From there, where did they take you?

CH: From there, we got on the train, all shades down, shades down, two MPs on each side with a bayonet, and we go to, we stop at Fresno, Fresno, pick up maybe hundred. And then we went to Lodi, Lodi-Stockton area, we pick up so much, they was all farmers. Then Sacramento, few, they went when we went to Marysville, we pick up a few, and then we went to Eugene, Oregon, pick up a few. Then we went to Portland, we pick up a few, then we went to Tacoma, few, and again we went to Seattle, pick up a few, and that was the last place. 'Cause... what do you call that? Other side of, other side of Washington state? Not Yakima, but... Spokane. Spokane, we didn't pick up nothing. 'Cause that was, you know, unrestricted area, that's why. So we went to Butte, Montana. Yeah, we went to Butte, Montana, and they cut the train in half. Half stay at Fort Missoula, and half end up in Fort Lincoln, Bismarck, North Dakota. There was about five thousand people, forty-five hundred apiece, around there someplace.

MN: How did you know that you were stopping at these places?

CH: Huh?

MN: How did you know you were stopping at these places?

CH: I'm the only guy who was peeking outside.

MN: Didn't you get in trouble?

CH: No. If they come here, "You can't peek," I said, "What do you mean? I want to know what." I'm the only one talking English. I want to know where I'm going. "You know where?" "Of course, I grew up over here. You guys making a big mistake picking me up, but you did." "Well, too late, too bad." I argued with 'em. So, "You got to go to latrine, huh?" Got a bayonet and go, go, go like that. [Laughs] So I know, that's why I would tell all the Issei people, this, this, all the place. So my leg got swollen, three day, four nights, you know. My ankle got swollen. You don't move, you sit down for four days like that, yeah, then serve us good food. The food was, we never ate such a good food. We never ate American food like that, meat and hamburger and that kind of thing, potato, and French fries. I didn't know French fries and mashed potatoes looked like. So he said, "Hey, this is the end for us." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "They feed us good food because we're gonna get killed and everything." That's what they were, "Korosareru kara." You understand Japanese little bit?

TI: No.

CH: Okay, then I don't talk Japanese.

MN: Go ahead.

TI: But there are rumors about maybe...

CH: Yeah, shot to death. Like an oven in Germany, they were figuring that kind of thing. So I thought, "No, this is a democratic country, that's why they won't do that kind of thing. They're more humane," I tell 'em. One old man said, "Democracy, shit." He said, "Democrat, shit." Instead of "democracy," he put, "Democrat shit." He told me, hey, I laughed about it. "Hey, you're pretty smart," I told that guy. So we landed at Bismarck. L.A., over here wasn't that cold, but it was not like over there. Ten degree. Ten degree all the way down to minus twenty-five it goes. That's... you know where Bismarck is located? You know North America and the northern hemisphere? Bismarck is right in the middle. You look at the map, this half and that half, it's right in the middle, Bismarck. It's cold. Like us guys... that's why the FBI's smart. "Be sure to wear a coat." But I had a shoe, I had a moccasin. Terminal Island, at Terminal Island, we used to have a dance. We skipped that, I was mentioning about Terminal Island, see. We'd gather all the different area people from Compton and from Dominguez and Lomita, Torrance, that kind of place, high school. High school time, we used to invite 'em and we used to have dancing. I used to, we used to go to the dance. And big dance, once in maybe three month, all, all Los Angeles, different place, all different people gather and dance. There's a lot of people. Civic Auditorium in Torrance, maybe they still got it. We used to go dance over there before. That's when we start getting interested in women. "Hey." But in Terminal Island, we didn't have no girlfriend. There was a lot of nice-looking women, you know, of course, there gotta be some. Not everyone's ugly, you know. There were good ones. So it was good.

But going back to North Dakota, get off the train, shivering. "All you guys line up." Four row, like in the army, like a platoon, platoon was how many? Ten guys this way and four guys this way, I think, army. In fact, I remember. A platoon, all that playground all line up. Every morning you got to do that, and you're shivering, 'cause we didn't have nothing. Cold. That's why third day they gave us shot, flu shot or some kind of shot they gave us. It wasn't flu, it was some kind of shot, and all these old people, older people, they got sick, you know. So since I was the youngest one, youngest one, I did all the errands for these, and I did lot of things. So I got to know the officers. That's why they all treated us good. But first two months, there was three or four guards entering that barrack. And there was, barrack was, consists of fifty people. One, one aisle got twenty-five, and other side got twenty-five, so fifty, we had twenty-five barrack all line up, and there's a fence in between, maybe say twelve this side, or fifteen this side, and fifteen this side, all barrack. From all different part of California and West Coast, anyway. And they had a big regular fort. Long time ago, they didn't have a barrack. They had a big fort like a hotel. They were, all rest of the people was in there. And the other half, there was German prisoner over there, all fenced in.

TI: So you're talking about, like, over a thousand maybe?

CH: Yeah, yeah, right, right. There was that much people living there. Yeah, of course, during the winter months, one thing, like North Dakota, they got natural gas. So we didn't have coal, so we had a gas heater. That kept us warm, gas heater. That was a good gas heater, it kept us warm. It was during the war, you can't even get out from the front door in the snow. Snow piled up in the front door, you can't get out. That's how cold it was.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So like a typical day, what would a day, like, be at...

CH: It's a long day.

TI: Yeah, so from the very beginning, like waking up, just kind of walk through what you would do.

CH: No, like a winter month, it's too cold to go outside. That's why they, people, they like to gamble. Like I was in the fishermen, that's like about three barrack. They get to go, they talk to us, then few, "You're from Hiroshima," "You're from Wakayama," they all get to talk about old stories. And then there's a time to listen to -- we had a radio. "Oh, Japan's winning the war. Japan's winning the war." Then they're all winning the war. "Oh, Japan win, huh?" So we got to all sing, praise the Japanese emperor and the Japanese people. Everybody start singing Japan song. When that come to me, hell, I don't know how to sing any Japanese songs. So I sang, "God Bless America," and "America the Beautiful," and "Star Spangled Banner." Say, "Hey, you're in this kind of place, why you want to sing American songs?" "I don't know any Japanese songs." I told 'em, "Grammar school I learned "Hata Po Po," that's all, but I don't know the words. I told 'em, a few other kind I learned. That's why. You know what? They brainwashed me. "You got to learn Japanese songs." They teach me how to sing Japanese songs, 'cause all they know is "Naniwa Bushi," and old kind of songs. I still remember that kind of thing, what they teach me in there. That's where I learned. So when I got into this band and singing group, sometimes I sing that song for them. "Yeah, where the hell you learn that song?" When they ask me question, I make a long story short. Yeah, they're all surprised. Lot of people, they don't know my story. They don't know. So I want to explain it to them. Maybe they don't believe me. Lot of people, lot of people talk about it, and they talk real bad about the internment camps, concentration. But I was a real concentration camp, I was in. They got guard tower and every damn thing. German people.

MN: Charlie, I just want to go back a little bit, just get this on record. When you got to Bismarck, when the FBI arrested you, did they let you pack a suitcase?

CH: Nobody had suitcase. Just coat and shoes, that's all they said.

MN: So when you got to Bismarck, that's all you had.

CH: That's all we had. We didn't have nothing. Nothing, nothing. No suitcase, nothing. Yeah. And a lot of people, after they find out you could send letter, and all the letter come over there, they're all censored. All censored.

MN: How was the food at Bismarck?

CH: Oh, it was bad at first, that's why we called the Spanish consul. Spanish consul, they were neutral, neutral country at the time of the war, Spain. That's where we... was it Spain or Switzerland?

TI: No, I think Spanish. Spain.

CH: Huh?

TI: It was probably Spain.

CH: Spain, yeah, something, they came. Saltpeter, you know what that is? They went, "No, no good." Probably, she probably don't know what it is, but they gave us that thing, number one. And other kind of things, lousy food, after that the food got little bit better maybe. But actually, Tom, I didn't know what I was eating. I forgot what I was eating. No, I don't know that. And camp, too, relocation camp, I wonder what I was eating, actually.

MN: Were you the only father-son...

CH: There were two.

MN: Another...

CH: Another, you know, it's a Bonsan-san. Me and him were the youngest. Maybe there was three. There was another young guy. Other guy, oh... other guy, he was a little bit older than me. I'm wondering if that Tani no father was Missoula or Bismarck. He was in there, too. There were four young guys. One guy, that guy, and Terminal Island, three guys. They were older than me, though. They were born in Japan, too. But there were a few guys born in Japan, they were younger, so they didn't have fishing license. There were a few people born in Japan. When they took the families, they happened to be born over there. So I was talking to a lawyer, "Hey, you know, you could be American citizen." "Yeah, I know that. You're talking about Feliz, huh?" Yeah, well, that's human, too. It's an alive thing. So you could be too late. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: So they interrogated you at Bismarck and they had an interpreter.

CH: Yeah.

MN: Did you have an interpreter?

CH: Me? I told this Korean guy, you know, "Boy, they talk bad about Koreans, they hated Japanese them days."

TI: So they interpreters were Korean?

CH: Korean, they had two Korean interpreter they hired from Washington. They came down to Bismarck. So interpreter, they're saying, "Oh, Japanese, Issei, they don't know how to talk English that good." When they came to me, I told that guy, "One thing, I want to say something." "What is it?" "Take those two Korean out of here," I tell 'em. "Hey, he know how to talk English" And besides, you guys are not talking English," I told him. "You're talking Korean-English, I don't understand what you say. Out, out, out," I told him. They look at me like that, they went out. That's the number one question, huh? Number one question: "What if Japan's army come over here and I give you a rifle, would you shoot 'em?" "Sure I'll shoot 'em. But..." I paused little bit. They were looking at me. "When the Japanese army come all the way to North Dakota, hey, don't you think the war's gonna be over already?" I told 'em. They didn't say, they jumped to next question already. I tell them, "What a stupid question you guys are asking," I told 'em. I told 'em that. Yeah. Go all the way to North Dakota. [Laughs] See, in other words, L.A. and all those places gonna be in Japan roof? Half of the country gonna be under Japan's roof. That's what I told 'em. So this and that and everything. I said, "Man, you said a good thing," he told me. One month later, or three weeks later, "Hey, go home," they told me.

TI: Okay, so after the hearing, they realized that you weren't a threat, so they told you to...

CH: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Now how about your father? What happened to your father?

CH: Oh, he was innocent, too.

TI: So he was let go also?

CH: Yeah, yeah, he was released. But the other guys went probation and interned to Camp Livingston in Louisiana. They didn't have Santa Fe them days. Camp, all went to Camp Livingston, Louisiana, they went to.

TI: So about how many of the men were released at this point? After the hearings...

CH: I think about half and half, I figure. But all these schoolteacher and Japanese bank people, and Bonsan, that kind of people was arrested. They went to Livingston. And Nihonjinkai president and judo men, martial art kind of people, they didn't get released, see.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Well, we talked a little bit about what you did at Bismarck. What kind of sports activities did they have?

CH: Well, you know, Issei, they like sumo. They organized a sumo from each different group. I was a champion, 'cause they're all too old. [Laughs] You know, too old. But there was a couple guys from Guadalupe, California, Santa Monica, California, younger guys. But young, they were thirty-five years old. They were in their prime. They were better than me, of course. I was nineteen. They were more, you know, built than I was. And of course we played baseball against the Germans, but Germans, they're all young guys. You know, seamen, merchant marines, all those guys. All younger. That's why they beat us, but we didn't, good time. And that's why we had, once a week we had movie. And we all the, we had a hall. Get together and have a movie. And that's why all the Terminal Island people, they were free. Other people, "Five cents please." With the five cent, I pocketed. They don't know different.

TI: Now, where would people have, get money, though? How could they pay you?

CH: Oh, they had money. Yeah, they had money. I don't know where they got it, but I know I didn't have no money. They had money. They had money to gamble, so they must have had, brought money. 'Course, I wasn't interested that kind of thing. I didn't even think about that kind of thing. Right now, see, you think about it, but when you're young, you don't think about those things, "You have money or what?" That's what...

TI: And what could you do with the money? If you had money...

CH: Yeah, see, they didn't have no PX. Well, even if you have money, you can't buy nothing. That's why they gambled. And that's where I learned how to play ping pong. There were a lot of ping pong crazy people. And you know my next block, every time... see, I used to deliver the mail and I used to have the mess call, I called from time to eat or everything. I was the, I used to do everything in the camp, 'cause I was the youngest one. So I go to one next-next barrack, every time I go, letter for this and that, then I look inside there, there's always a certain kind of group in there. So I wondered what, they're always talking about something. So I asked the guys, "Hey, what are those guys talking about?" "Those are Japanese government people," they told me. You know, Japanese government, they talk about something. You're not allowed to join them. Japanese government, you know what, they were the first ones to get shipped out on the Gripsholm. You know that ship Gripsholm? They were the first one, they took 'em out. And one was Prince Matsudaira. He liked ping pong. I learned ping pong from him. He told me, "What you doing here?" "I'm American citizen, they made a mistake." Matsudaira. I still remember that guy, Prince Matsudaira.

TI: But he taught you how to play ping pong.

CH: Yeah.

TI: Was he, how old was he?

CH: He must be about forty years old, around there someplace, thirty-five, forty.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

CH: But a lot of people were, and you ever heard of Meatball Kawakita? You don't know, you don't know the voice of... what do you call that?

MN: Tokyo Rose?

CH: Tokyo Rose. You heard of Tokyo Rose? I know the family in Chicago. And then you never heard of Meatball Kawakita? Oh. You know, he was American-born, Imperial Valley, okay? Then he got, he went to Japan to see grandfather or mother or something, then he got caught in the war. But since he know how to speak English and Japanese, the government, since he was dual citizen, government made him a special guard to guard the POW. And he really treated 'em real bad, you know that? He treated 'em bad. And this other, my friend, he treated 'em good. Guy named... I forgot his name. That guy, Meatball, he treated 'em bad. After the war, he came back home. He was shopping at Broadway, Broadway that department store? One POW spot 'em. "What the hell this guy doing here?" He spot 'em, FBI arrested him right away. Then he went to trial and they said he's, verdict was treason. You're supposed to kill them, treason. But they gave him one more chance. "If you return to Japan, we'll let you go." He went back to Japan and he's still there, Japan. And his father, his father, you know, he was a millionaire. He was the richest guy in Imperial Valley, and his father was Kawakita Oyaji. And I used to deliver letter. He's the only one get letters, that much. I told him, "Ojichan, hey, how come you get so much letter?" He's a big businessman. So I start talking with him. He's the one that told me, "Hey, Hamasaki-san, when you do something and think about something, do it. Do it. You'll never regret it afterwards if you do this." I followed the thing he do, he told me. And I asked, "How come you're so famous Imperial Valley?" He owned this and that, and one big mistake investment was Manchurian railroad, he told me. "What's that got to do, Manchurian railroad?" Oh, I made a lot of money from Russia to Manchuria. The railroad they made. He was one of the investors. He was telling me all different kind of story. Yeah, he was already, always thinking that guy, all by himself. Well, I thought, "He's a little off," I thought, you know. Hell no, he gave me a good advice, that guy. So that's what I tell all my kids, whatever thing I do. "And don't forget obligation," I tell my kids. But like my other kids, you give 'em something, they don't thank. I told my kid, I disciplined.

MN: Let me ask a little bit about Kawakita. You met after the war...

CH: No, before the war.

MN: Yeah, during the war, the father was at Bismarck, Fort Lincoln.

CH: Yeah, same barrack.

MN: Then after the war, you ran into the Kawakita family in Los Angeles.

CH: Oh, yeah, I was selling, I was a salesman. I was selling a few things.

MN: At that time, was Meatball already on trial when you...

CH: At that time? I think he was, I think he went back for trial maybe. I was a salesman 1952 and '53, I think. That's the time I met him, '52/'53. 'Cause I came back from South America '53. So '53/'54, '54. Maybe he got, he went Japan maybe, after trial probably. '54, that's why.

MN: Do you know why he got the nickname "Meatball"?

CH: Gee, I don't know. See, my good buddy just died couple of month ago, he was one of his good buddies from Imperial Valley. They went school together. He was telling me about Meatball. I never asked that guy, you know. I think they named him Meatball in Japan, I think, when he was a security guard over there, Kawakita. I talked to the sister when I went to sell 'em, "Kawakita, I know Kawakita." I didn't tell 'em about Meatball, though. Well, you know, I don't want to insult them or anything, that's why. "Yeah, I know your father," I tell 'em. "How come you know?" "Bismarck." "Oh, yeah." They thought I was lying, you know.

MN: But you didn't personally know Meatball? You knew the father, but not Meatball.

CH: Yeah, I never saw Meatball. And I never saw Tokyo Rose either. But Tokyo Rose had relatives, so I know. That was about 1946, '46.

TI: So, Charlie, I'm curious, at Bismarck, here you are with essentially all the leaders of the Japanese community from all of the different communities, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Fresno, they're all together. How did they get along? Was there an order? I mean, were there some people who kind of rose to the top that people would look up to? Were there like leaders in the group?

CH: Yeah, that's a good question. You know, at my age, I didn't realize what they were doing. 'Cause even my, when I'm forty or fifty years old, I take interest in human being, you know. See how they get along together. When you're young, you don't think about those things. And what they talk about, besides, we're too young, so, "Hey, young men, get out of here," they tell you. I can't join the same conversation 'cause I don't have no interest with them. That's why I never listened what they were talking about. Like you said, yappari, they all get together, they got something to talk about, especially when they come from the same prefecture. Then they got lot of things to talk about. Or like me, I go all different place. At least I see one Terminal Island guy, I think... Grand Rapids, Michigan, I went there, one Terminal Island guy, I went to... well, I forgot that place, there was one guy. It's amazing. I go everywhere, there's some guy I know. It's amazing. One of my friends, he's a movie industry guy from Japan, he went to, I don't know, something, some place over there. You know, so they start talking about this and that and everything. So he asked him, "You ever heard of a guy named Charlie Hamasaki?" "Yeah, I know that guy." "Where?" "In the army." [Laughs] In the army. Yeah, he came back and said, "You know, there was a guy who knew you." "Who?" He mentioned the name, yeah, I was in the army. You never can tell. There were no Japanese when I first went to that kind of place. There was no Japanese, I was the only guy.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: Let's go back to Bismarck.

CH: Oh, okay.

MN: How much interaction did you have with the German prisoners of war?

CH: Oh, I learned how to talk German little bit. [Speaks German] See, I learned all that kind of thing. So I got a good buddy, German guy, young guy, same age. Same age. They were telling Germans going to win the war. [Laughs] And you know? It's amazing. Jew, boy, they really hated Jew. "Jude," you call 'em. They were... I didn't know so much these German people hated. Discriminated, prejudiced, Jewish people. I used to work with the Jewish people, too, but that guy there, he was really prejudiced. I don't see how people can be that prejudiced. It's amazing. I used to talk to them. See, sometimes, them days, you know, all that farmers, they're nothing but farmers. Big-time farmers all North Dakota and Montana. Big, they go by, not acre, they go by... what do you call that?

TI: Hectare?

MN: Huh?

TI: Hectare?

CH: No. They don't go by acre, they go by, I forgot the word. They go by that. Men, they come to, I told 'em, "I want to go help 'em." No, you can't go out, but some Germans used to go. That guy was telling me, "I was out of camp." "What you doing out of camp?" "Oh, I went to help on the farm." "Oh, yeah?" But not every time. Yeah.

MN: What kind of activities did the Germans do?

CH: Huh?

MN: What kind of activities were the Germans doing?

CH: Oh, I know they would play soccer every day. They would play soccer every day. Not baseball too much, soccer. Well, they got a fence so you can't go inside. They were already talking about what part of Germany they come from, what they were doing on the ship. That's what they were talking about. Hey, half of 'em don't know how to talk English, now. Most of 'em, they talked broken English. Sometimes, "Huh, huh?" "Oh, okay." Japanese, Japanese is number one. [Laughs]

MN: So where did you interact with the Germans? In the mess hall?

CH: No, mess hall, they got their own mess hall. We got their own mess hall. So I used to go call, so many barracks, you go to this, you know.

MN: Barracks.

CH: Yeah, I used to do that. I was helping out. I helped out a lot. That's why when I was a serviceman, they wanted me to open up an office in San Francisco, I turned 'em down. In Fresno, I turned 'em down. So I used to go to San Diego, I don't turn down, but I went to Seattle. You know, when I went to Seattle, those Issei was still living, lot of 'em. They all were well-off, mostly farmer and merchants. When they see me, "Hey, you was in North Dakota with me." Oh, I was there, but I don't know that guy's name. See, I did everything so they noticed me. That's why they bought stuff from me. I used to sell 'em... I used to sell, what was I selling? [inaudible] this Noritake dish, that kind of thing. So that's why I did pretty good selling.

MN: Did you have communication with your family?

CH: Nah, I never wrote letter.

MN: So they didn't know where you were?

CH: And my father probably wrote a letter, but I never gave my father a letter. No letter. Lot of people, same thing, few letter from all, it's amazing, from all different kind of place. That's why I talked to him: "Ojichan, where you come from?" And they told me, they said if I was more inquisitive about everything, I ask 'em more. But there were a lot of famous people in there, though. One of the famous people is Guadalupe the King of Lettuce. He had thousand and thousand acre, all ship 'em to New York. He was the richest guy in the whole place. Even today. Probably you don't know, see. You're Washington, that's why. Actually, Tom, you're from Seattle, downtown?

TI: Yeah.

CH: I remember I went to Jackson Street, I remember. Where that Japanese food was. Maybe they don't have it no more, I don't know.

TI: No, they still do.

CH: They still do?

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: How long were you at Bismarck?

CH: February, March, April, May, July, six months. August I came out.

MN: Were you and your father released at the same time?

CH: No, no, he came later. One month later he came out. "Hey, Papa, you got released." "Yeah, yeah, got released."

MN: After you got released from Bismarck, where did they send you?

CH: Santa Anita. You remember I was telling you, when I was, coming from all the way from, what do you call, Bismarck? We stopped at Billings, Montana, and I was looking outside, window open, you know. We see some girls. "Hey, you're..." they don't know I'm Japanese. "Hey, we need a farm worker. Can you come and help?" "Hey, I'm going California." They don't know where I was coming from, you know. Still coming down there, it's free, see. Maybe there was about ten guys in the whole train. That's regular passenger train, ten people.

TI: Did they have, like, MPs with you?

CH: No, there was nothing, nothing. No, free. Free. So then our train stopped to let this other train go. No, other train stopped, so the main train get to go. Then you know, this train was stopped, then I get my coat, I look around, all Japanese face. I look around, "Oh, Japanese. Where the hell you going?" Then I saw my friend standing on the platform like this. "Hey," but too late, my train was going. See, I came, I came, and later I find out those people was going to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Wow.

TI: So when you were going back to California, you did not know that the Japanese community was --

CH: Yeah, yeah, I still didn't know. They were, that train was from Pomona, not Santa Anita. Pomona Assembly Center. Two different centers. So when I went over there, August, September, they ship us out, too, just like those guys. Yeah, I told my friend when he came to L.A., "I saw you," you know. But he don't know I remember. Kikuchi Matsushita. I still remember that guy. Man.

TI: But going back to that, when that woman asked if you wanted to work at the farm, if you wanted to, you could have just gotten off the train...

CH: Yeah, probably, yeah. Probably. Who the heck gonna stay in Montana? Nothing but wheat field. From one end of the state to the other end. You call that, what do you call that now? Acre...

MN: Okay, so when you got to Santa Anita, your family, were they living in the horse stalls or in the parking lot?

CH: [Laughs] Parking lot, those parking lot was all barrack, all barrack. Of course we're put in the horse stable. Hey, but let me tell you one thing, Martha. I'm a fisherman, commercial fisherman. You think fish don't smell?

MN: It smells.

CH: It smells. Horse stable, it wouldn't smell nothing to compare with fish. That's why I was used to it. But all the people were going like that. [Holds nose] The farmer, but all the merchant, townspeople, it smelled. That time they really emphasized how much the horst stable smells, see. You had to put it in the paper to make the story good, but it didn't smell that bad. Yeah, that's why all the younger people, "Ah, horse stable." And when the white people or any other nationality heard horse stable, they think, "Way down, horse stable." I didn't think nothing about horse stable. Probably they were living in a nice home. Then from nice home to horse stable, huh, Tom? There's lot of difference. But like us guys, we were living in a barrack, same thing. Terminal Island all barrack, mostly barrack, individual homes, Terminal Island. Terminal Island, remember, there were three thousand people all congested together, you know. Like going back to thing, we had a bath, public bath, one bath, six family. Each family take turns. And no gas, wood.

TI: So what did you think when you saw the city folk, and they would come, and they were holding their noses and they were kind of grumbling...

CH: Where? You mean Santa Anita?

TI: Yeah. What would you think about those Japanese?

CH: You know, I didn't even think about those guys until they start publicizing about the horse stable and the smell. I never heard of it before But when you talk about horse stables to some other nationality people, they say, "Horse stable?" They emphasize the word "horse stable."

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: So who, what members of your family were at Santa Anita when you got there?

CH: Oh, my brothers and sister. My sister's husband was Issei, Shizukazu. He got released, too. He came, too. That's why everybody was there, the whole family. My brother, he was in army already.

MN: Tamikazu.

CH: Yeah, yeah.

MN: So when was he drafted?

CH: 1941, April, I think, around there someplace. April or May, around there someplace.

MN: And what was he doing at this time?

CH: They gave him a fake gun and march. Fake gun, wooden gun and march, this and that way. Then Presidio of Monterey, I mean, San Francisco, Presidio, they organized these intelligence score. Then they moved to Fort McCoy. Camp McCoy. That was the first Italian school. And then that filled up, so they had to move to Fort Snelling. That's where he was teaching over there, Fort Snelling. Of course, he was bilingual, graduated from Japan school. There wasn't too much... he was a Kibei.

TI: I'm sorry, was he an instructor or a student?

CH: Teaching, instructor. I think he was instructor. That's why he stayed there a long time. He didn't go overseas. Then he went to someplace else. McCoy to Snelling to Fort Hood, I think. I don't know what he was doing in Fort Hood. I think they got, all the Kibei got, ganged together. All different camp, and stuck 'em in Fort Hood. Oh, no sense, they're all right, that's why Snelling. So when he was supposed to go to Philippine, I went to see him from Chicago. He said, "I'm going overseas, Philippines." But somehow, I don't know, something happened, that's why he stayed there. He didn't go. I went to see him. "Niisan, goodbye. I hope you come back alive," I told him.

MN: What did you do at Santa Anita?

CH: That's where I met my first girlfriend. Oh boy, oh boy. Santa Anita, there were a lot of dance. Dance, and you meet all different kind of people. Then lot of guys were working, too, you know, so, yeah, maybe I should get a job. What should I get? What's the best-paying job? Eight dollar. I think eight dollar a month. It was eight or ten, around there someplace. Fixing the camouflage net. You know, camouflage net? Nah, that's too, they come back dirty. How about work in the kitchen? That was something like eight dollar, kitchen. But when I was looking for a job, I thought, "Nah, why should I work?" Then the relocation time came up before I got a job. But I met a lot of guys, people that I used to know from before the war. Yeah, there were a few... there was maybe twenty family, maybe, of Terminal Island people there. But most of them, remember, went Manzanar, you know. Yeah, twenty families. See, we couldn't go Manzanar because the district my uncle, it was downtown, see, they all went to Arkansas. Four went to Manzanar. We ended up in Rohwer, Arkansas. Three days, three nights, the train. Took that long. Went all through Texas, Texas took one day. The train's not moving fast enough. It's slow, slow train.

MN: So, but Santa Anita, you were there for how many months before you went to Rohwer?

CH: Santa Anita, was August. September... maybe month and a half maybe. Not too long.

MN: And by then your father had also joined you, is that correct?

CH: Yeah, we went to, we had a... father and mother and everybody, the whole family went together.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: Okay, so when we left, you were at Santa Anita going to Rohwer.

CH: Right.

MN: At Rohwer, what kind of job did you have?

CH: Rohwer? The only... the most jobs that was open for twelve dollars a month was a lumberjack. See, you need lumber because Arkansas, when it gets wintertime, it's cold, you know. But they got coal, but we used that oak tree lumber for... what kind of stove you call that? They got a name for that stove.

MN: Potbelly?

CH: The stove, you put the lumber in the stove and heat the room when it's cold. So lumberjack, you chop the wood.

MN: Potbelly, right?

CH: Arkansas and Jerome camp, it's a swamp. Lot of trees and lot of snake all over the place. We never saw a snake, you know. Which one is poison, we don't know. But, of course, there's a lot of people that come from the country. Like there was a guy living in, come from Nevada, so we used to call him "Rattlesnake Sam." He knew everything about snakes, so I used to follow that guy. You know what a timber rattler is? You know what a desert rattler is. A timber rattler is a big one like that, it's a long one. Big head like that. So you know, he used to hunt rattlers. He'd make a belt from the rattlesnake. So he used to hunt them. Then he used to sell that venom.

TI: Venom?

CH: Venom, venom. Go like that, bottle, get the thing, it come out, he used to sell the thing. People used to buy it for some kind of medicine. So I used to follow that guy. So he, sometimes he'd bring a snake and shove it in my eye, you get scared. Sometime you go dance and you know, there's a green snake like that, dancing away, I got something in my pocket, I go like that, "Yaahh." [Laughs] Well, of course, like us guys, in camp, they always talk about the camp, you got persecuted, this and that, and everything else. Us young guys, we had a lot of fun. Like the people come from Fresno or the San Joachim Valley, people in the Hood River, Oregon, people, and Imperial Valley people and the Glendale people, hey, they came to paradise when they was camp. Not under the hot sun. I told them, "You guys all taking vacation." I said this in the cultural center, I made a speech over there, you know, about "how you people getting along after the war." But if it wasn't for the war, hey, you'd be still locked up in the hot sun working on the farm. I know how it is working on a farm. I know how it is. Maybe that story come later.

MN: Oh, you worked on the commissary, too, right?

CH: Oh, lumberjack, yeah, lumberjack was too hard. So you know, I started thinking, "Where you gonna get the food? We got food distributing, everybody distributing. So I was thinking, I went to this place, the people, I ask 'em, "Hey, how about a job working in the commissary?" "Yeah, there's job open, work in the commissary." So I went to my friend, got a job. There was a couple more, that's why Terminal Island guys. Hiro and... Tad and Hiro. "Hey, you know why I got you the job?" "Huh?" You know what kind of guy I am, we're gonna steal. Dorobo. Those other guys are, all my age guy are all dumb. They never think about that kind of thing. I used to get rice. Rice and all the vegetable, I used to bring it home and cook it instead of going to the mess hall. I used go to like this, pea coat? Everybody would get pea coats and [inaudible] I get it for nothing. I had an itchy finger all the time. Why not? I told them, "Government put you in this kind of thing. We got to retaliate by doing something." So I used to get lumber to make something. But my father's so honest, said, "My son got that lumber, I don't know where he got it." The inspector come, and, "That's our lumber." But they're not gonna stick me in jail. They had a jail over there, but for a little thing like that? See, I was way ahead of the other guys. Other guys, they're doing this and something else. I had a bad attitude toward the government, anyway.

TI: But part of your attitude was, it seemed like, you felt like you were in camp unfairly, so you said, so why not, I guess. Is that what your, how you felt? Because the government put you there, you felt like you didn't owe the government anything?

CH: Nah. The government, why they put me in? I didn't have no animosity against the government. But the one that lost is the Issei people. I heard lot of stories about after the war, how much they lost. The farmer especially. Because it was a harvesting time, they got arrested. One of my Imperial Valley guy, the last load from Imperial Valley from, all the way to L.A., he was the last guy to bring the produce to that market over here. And all the rest, all lost. Oh, I heard a lot of that story, especially like us fisherman. My father used to own a boat, too, maybe the boat cost $15,000, that was a lot of money in that time. But since we couldn't, my father, he drink a lot and gamble too much, he lost the boat, 'cause he couldn't pay the rent. That's the way it goes. That was just a minor thing, but look at all the big farmers, they're the ones that should get more than $20,000. Not the guy who was born in camp. Born in camp you get $20,000 same as us? Oh, something wrong. Yeah, if I had something to say about it, I'd say something. But you know, they're other group. But when I testified I should have said that, but I said something else different against the government.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: Now, how long were you in Rohwer before you got a leave clearance to go to Kalamazoo?

CH: Oh, see, you know, okay. You know the "no-no" question? That question, okay. "No-no" people, they couldn't get out from the camp because "no-no." But they let me out of the camp because I signed "yes-yes." You know why I signed "yes-yes"? There's a reason. 4-F is something wrong, you can't go, physically unfit. But I'm physically fit, I could go. But since I put "yes-yes," they let me out. Because I put "yes-yes," I was a 4-C, like I say, I'm a 4-C. 4-C means "enemy alien," the draft board. That's why I put "yes-yes," I know they're not gonna draft me. So they let me out right away. Let me out to... you know, in camp, them days, you had all kind of hundreds and hundreds of jobs. You could pick any one.

TI: Now, to get your leave clearance, did it ever come up that you were a Japanese, you were born in Japan? Did they ever, was that part of any consideration?

CH: My draft board, I got it already. Draft board. Desha County, Arkansas, draft board, "enemy alien," 4-C. That's why they never came after me. But I know a few people, my friends, they're out of camp but, you know, they ran away from the draft board. Everybody come, they change address. I was just talking to, last week, one guy. I found out he was a "no-no" boy. He drafted, one of my good friends from Sacramento guy, he ran all over, he got away. But when the 442 came over here, over here, and they did a real heroic job over there, he got released from the army. Yeah, he was lucky, that guy. He didn't get penalized, he didn't go to the, Fort Leavenworth, Arkansas, that guy.

MN: So how long were you in Rohwer?

CH: I was in there not too long. When I went there? September. October, November, December, January, February, March, April I think I went out, seven months.

MN: And then you went to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and where did you work there?

CH: See, them days, there was always a man shortage, so there was a lot of job from all different kind of state. Mostly farm work. From all different camp now, I'm not just saying Rohwer, now. From Colorado, the Amache camp, and the Heart Mountain camp and Minidoka. They're all farm workers. Some came to Manzanar, even Poston, too, the work came. But I picked the best job over there. It was a country club job, and I was gonna be a bartender and a parking lot attendant and dishwasher and waiter and everything. There's no men, only women working there. I said, "Oh, boy, good chance." [Laughs] All hakujin, there's no Japanese, the whole town. The town of about 75,000 people, the town. So I stayed at YMCA, and room and board, I mean, board is, it was free, I worked there. But hey, I was getting fifteen dollars something a month, they didn't have an income tax them days. You know that? Or social security, they didn't have it. Fifteen dollars, too cheap. So I went to get a job and I quit, I went... and job was too cheap. And then I got to pay for food and room and board, so I came back and said, "Give me the job." "Okay, any time." And when I was working there, we're all, nothing to do, so my girlfriend and I was walking down the street, and this guy, he saw me, you know, come and said, you know what he told me? "What camp you from?" He knew about the Japanese, you know. I told him I come from Rohwer, "Where you come from?" "Poston." Poston. Hey, since I was the only Japanese, he want to talk Japanese, he invited me to the house for dinner. I went one time and that was it. He never invited me. Of course, that was one of the zoot suit guys. Wearing that kind of, he had the... and then I was working, two months later, when I was working at that -- I forgot the name of that country club -- here come an old man. One woman came, dishwasher. I told him, she said I didn't talk Japanese, I kind of stumbled and mumbled and stumbled, you know, then I finally came up with, "Where you from?" Poston he came from. I told him, "What you doing out here?" "There was a job opening, I came here." I told him, "Hey, okusan, you shimbo over here. There's only three Japanese in the whole town," I told that guy. But when I left, he was still working there, though.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: So from Kalamazoo you went to Detroit?

CH: Yeah, Detroit. I went to Detroit. You know, they had a B-12 program for the naval officer learning over there, B-12 program they had, I know. And they had, from our camp, I think, few people went in. From other place, all waiter, for the student over there. Yeah, that wasn't good. I quit.

MN: And you picked apples in Detroit?

CH: Yeah. I worked, I think, one week or ten days, something like that. Not a good job.

MN: And then from Detroit, you went to Cleveland?

CH: No, then from, there was that, University of Michigan, that's not in Detroit, it's in Lansing. I think it's Lansing, Michigan. From Lansing I went to Detroit. My girlfriend from Heart Mountain came, so, "Come on down." Detroit, oh, what a dump that is. Detroit wasn't a good feeling, that days.

MN: So from Detroit, you went --

CH: Yeah, my friend sent me a letter from Manzanar. "Hey, I'm in Cleveland, so come on down." And that's why I went Cleveland. And I stayed in Cleveland maybe half a year.

MN: And you worked at the Blue Boar cafe?

CH: Blue Boar restaurant, yeah, there was nothing but women working there. [Laughs] Yeah, there was no man. It's amazing, you know that? Only men was black people. And kurombo girls and white girls. And you know, when I went Cleveland, discrimination, you know that? I thought they give you uniform working that kind of place, so I don't know what that place is. So I got, happened to go inside the restroom and was changing, that manager came, "Hey, you better get out of here." I told him, "What for? I'm changing my clothes?" "No, your place is this other place." I said, "What other place?" Then I went to other place, "Well, what's the difference? Same thing." "That's for black people." Cleveland now. That's way up in the north. That's north of Mason-Dixon line.

TI: This was the restroom area, or the changing, I mean...

CH: Oh, change the clothes. Restroom.

TI: So a different place.

CH: Yeah. I was really surprised. 'Course, I know how it was in Arkansas. I know there was prejudice in Arkansas, not in Cleveland, though, you know.

MN: You had a hakujin girlfriend in Cleveland. So when people asked you --

CH: Hey, you know why I got a hakujin? There's no men. You'd be surprised during the wartime, you go to big city, lot of women. Especially when I was working in the country club, they're all women or black people, but they don't have fun with black ones.

MN: So when they asked you, "What are you?" What did you tell them?

CH: Lot of times I gave 'em... "Mongoloid" was the first thing I say. "'Mongoloid,' what is that?" "Well, a Mongoloid's a Mongoloid." You know, they don't know the difference. They never asked me, a lot of them. But when I take my hakujin girlfriend to the theater, the news come out, in the Philippines, all the Japanese soldier were getting killed, I said, "I got to go toilet." [Laughs] I used to walk out. Then I used to come back and sit down and watch. But they never talk about war, you know, them people. It was amazing. It was nice. Even in Chicago, I had a hakujin girlfriend, never talk about war. Nice and real, everybody was friendly, though. But of course I get a few discrimination thing in Idaho.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MN: Well, let's see. Hold on, hold on. So Cleveland, you went to Chicago.

CH: From Cleveland?

MN: Uh-huh.

CH: No, no, no. From Cleveland, my friend... see, from Detroit to Cleveland I went out, okay. He told me what hotel he's staying, Colonial Hotel. I still remember that. Colonial Hotel, I stayed over there. So I got a room, wasn't there, I got a room and I was waiting, waiting, waiting. And I had a long room, see, then when he came home, he had some other guy sleeping. I could hear somebody talking, the way he talked. I could spot him right away, Terminal Island English talking. Oh, god, this is the wrong room. So I went knocked on the door, "Hey, you there?" [Laughs] "Hey, you got the wrong room?" "Yeah, but I heard you talking, that's why," okay, I went over there. So we was both working in the same place. He got me a job over there. But he's a smart guy, so he quit. He's an engineer, that's why. That's why he couldn't, he worked someplace else. And we were still... see, WRA had, the War Relocation Authority, WRA, heard about it. So each city got it. Each city got it, so you could get a job anyplace if you go WRA. So he got a good job working in New Orleans, you know. Since we come from Terminal Island, we're fishermen, they found out that industry, we know. So shrimp fishing, "We'll give you a boat," the New Orleans cannery or someplace, "So come on down, we need guys like you." So he asked me, he asked me to go. Who the hell going shrimp fishing, New Orleans? So meanwhile, he sent a letter to his friend in Manzanar, and he said he's going to take it, so he came all the way from Manzanar go to shrimp fishing. I said, "I went fishing." They made good money. Well, there wasn't any men. There was a few, but they're older guys. So he did all right. But he got drafted army, so he had to quit.

Meanwhile, you know, my friend from Manzanar, they wrote me a letter in Cleveland, "Hey, why don't you do a real man's job instead of washing dish or be a waiter or something?" He said, "Why don't you come work in a farm?" He told me, "Farm? Farm where?" First of all, come to Ogden, Utah. That's where they got the tomato cannery all over the Utah. So I told him, "Yeah, okay." So I, on a bus, I got on a bus, I said, instead of going New Orleans, I went to Ogden, Utah. Going to Ogden, Utah, I stopped at Cheyenne, Wyoming. "Hey, you. You Japanese?" "Yeah, I'm Japanese. Why?" "You can't get on the bus." "What do you mean I can't get on? I paid for my fare already," I told him. "No, soldiers first." I was delayed for a day and a half, they won't let me on the bus. Even coming from, later, coming from Rohwer, Arkansas, to Salt Lake City, I got to stand up. All the way, whole two days, no place to sit down 'cause army soldiers, lot of soldier going back and forth. That's why I went to Ogden. And I work in Bear River Canning Company in, two miles south of Ogden, town. It's a cannery over there, tomato factory. And when I went there, man, you ought to see all the women working, Japanese women. And I went to Clearfield, Cageville, what other... one more town. I went over cannery, tomato. Nothing but Japanese women. I asked them, "Where did all these people come from?" They they start telling me, "Lot of 'em come from Wyoming, Heart Mountain. Heart Mountain and Topaz. You know Topaz? That's in Utah. Topaz, and rest were all Poston people. They all came to work in the cannery 'cause there's a labor shortage. That's why two year, those workers, I worked about one year. Maybe... during the season, tomato season.

And then after the season's over, they decided to go top beets, topping beets, Idaho. Idaho? What part of Idaho? Said Twin Falls, Idaho. I looked at, oh, right there. Close to Pocatello, around there someplace. I went over there. I didn't know what beets looked like. I thought... you know the beets, the red beets you eat? I thought that beets, topping. That small thing like that? Hell, no, when I, the big beets like that, you go like that and chop that then put it in the truck. In a row? I look at the row, looked like one mile long. You go up, after you come down, it's evening. Work all day. Boy, what a slave labor that was. I never worked so much, hard in my... once you bend down, you got to come up for air, you know. You got to keep on walking. Boy, I hated that job. One month I did, until we cleaned up the whole place, then I work in an orchard, orchard family, apple orchard. Then these Japanese guys want help, so I went to top onion for that onion topping, there was one Japanese farmer living in Burley. Twin Falls and next town was Burley. I went chopping onion, and piecework, pow, pow, you've got it. And you know what? Go like that, cut, there was a scar right here. Yeah, onion topping.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MN: And you had some sort of harassment incident at Twin Falls with the veteran?

CH: Yeah, yeah, that army guy. You know, army, two time, in town we go eat, there was one Japanese restaurant over there, No Delay Cafe. You know they had over there? We go over there, and there's lot of veterans with crippled guys and everything. They had a hospital over there. Then they're shouting, pencil, "Hey, you people, I don't know what people you are, what are you?" "I'm a Japanese American." "I hate Japanese." "Why?" "Look at my leg," one chopped off. "Buy me a pencil." I said, "Why I got to buy a pencil?" "Yeah, you're a dirty Jap," he said. We start taking, he start swinging that thing around, the crutch, you know. "You know what? I could beat the hell out of you." We told 'em, "You're crippled, that's why we don't do it." But you know that other veteran, they understand. They come and, "Hey, leave these people alone. They ain't got nothing to do with the war." Then they let us go. And some other time, we walked to town from that farm, we walked to town. Walk into town, one guy, car coming, he said, "Looks like it's gonna hit us." So we got a tomato and we throw it at that car, you know." The car turned around like that, came back, put a gun, hit right here. [Indicates temple] "What are you gonna do?" "I came from Guadalcanal. I'm gonna kill you guys, I killed a lot of Japs," he tells me. "I'm not a 'Jap,' I'm a different kind of 'Jap,'" I told him. You know, then we start arguing and this and that, but he went away. I said, "Go shoot that gun." You know, that kind of thing.

TI: This was in Twin Falls?

CH: That was in Twin Falls, Idaho.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: Now, were you aware that there was a camp just miles away from Twin Falls?

CH: What camp?

TI: Minidoka.

CH: Minidoka camp was between Twin Falls and Idaho Falls.

TI: Yeah, so it was pretty close.

CH: North of Pocatello, I think, around there someplace. I remember I stayed there couple of weeks or something, I stayed there. They got, each camp got a hostel for visitors. And I knew some, I had a girlfriend, too, that why I knew her. That's why she introduced me, few people, this and that.

MN: So you just went to Minidoka, you wanted a, sort of a rest from farming, so you went to Minidoka, you just walked there?

CH: Recuperate.

MN: Yeah, you walked in and said, "I want to stay here, I'm gonna visit a friend"?

CH: You could lie. "I got a friend," I lied so many times, I went to different camp. You could, I know there's room open. They had to for the people, visitors. That's why it was nothing, no problem.

MN: How long were you at Minidoka?

CH: I was there about eleven days, something like that. Little over ten days.

MN: And then you just walked out?

CH: Yeah, I tell 'em, "Thank you very much." I've got to go Manzanar. In Twin Falls, there was hostel over there. Not hostel over there, living place. Two guys came by, they went back over there. From there, they had to go home. They had to go back Manzanar. So I told 'em, "Hey, I'll go, too." Which I was eligible, I went. I went all the way to Manzanar. They didn't check me, I went on the same bus. They're from Manzanar, the seven guys. I was the eighth guy. I went Manzanar, they just let me in. But somehow --

MN: But wait a minute, wait a minute. Before you got to Manzanar you stopped at Reno.

CH: Oh, yeah, you know, I made seventy-five, eighty dollar, hard labor, every else, same thing. You know what? We went to Reno, there's a gambling place. Hey, I lost everything. Everybody lost. What a dumb guy. You know, we always say when we go Reno we're not gonna gamble the blood and sweat money we made? Well, everybody agreed, that's hard work. Harder work than fisherman. Anyway, we lost all the money. But the other guys, they don't care. That's their home. So when I, when they put me in, when they put me in for how many days? They put me in, then they find out that I was illegally in that camp.

MN: In Manzanar.

CH: Yeah, Manzanar. "So how come you came Manzanar?" So I don't have no father or mother, only uncle I got. So you know, that's the way they let me in. Then find out, I don't know how they found out, but they found out I was there. "So I'm sorry, but Mr. Hamasaki, you got to get out of this camp, you don't belong here." Well, where I'm gonna go? I ain't got no money, no nothing. You can't put me out, your government put me in relocation center. I got, I don't know where the sixty-nine dollar he gave me. Sixty-nine dollar. And me and the other guy, other guy, he had his family over there, so he didn't want to stay there so he came out with me. So coming out, they took us to Reno, and Reno to Salt Lake City we went, 'cause Salt Lake City, you know what a chick sexers are? Chick sexer, my friend, there was about ten chick sexers living in this hotel in Salt Lake City, so that's the only place I could go. So sixty-nine dollar, then I stop at... what the heck is the little town in Nevada? From Reno it's about a hundred miles east. Elko. You know the town Elko? I stopped, I gambled, I lost the whole thing. Made the other guy, too. [Laughs] Salt Lake City, we know we have good thing over there, so they put us in over there, they gave us that to go back to Ogden, Utah. Ogden, Salt Lake, did I work over there a little bit? I worked a little bit. I did. To get money. So that's why I went to Ogden, Utah. Yeah, Ogden, Utah, I went. Was that before or after?

MN: When you went to Manzanar, though, which blocks did you visit?

CH: Block 10.

MN: Because why?

CH: Because Block 9, 10, 11, was all Terminal Island. Block 10. So they got something going right now, Block 14 they're gonna make. You heard about that? See, I know where Block 14 is. Us guys, 9, 10, 11.

MN: So it was like a reunion for you.

CH: Huh?

MN: Reunion. You had a nice little reunion at Manzanar at that time.

CH: When?

MN: When you visited. When you smuggled yourself into Manzanar.

CH: When I smuggled into Manzanar?

MN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CH: That was 1944.

MN: Yeah. You haven't seen your friends for two years, right?

CH: Huh?

MN: You didn't see your friends for two years.

CH: My son?

MN: No, friends.

CH: Oh, yeah, yeah. Two year I didn't see, it was two years. I didn't see 'em for two years, yeah.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

MN: Now during this time, when did you return to Rohwer when your mother had a stroke?

CH: I came back to Ogden. Yeah, I came back to Ogden. From Ogden, then my mother had a ischemic stroke, was a mild stroke. So I went to visit. So then I said, "Nothing's wrong," little bit, she could talk, but the arm was kind of bad, and leg. So she was all right.

MN: And at that time, your parents are already planning to go to Tule Lake?

CH: Yeah.

MN: Did they ask --

CH: No, that was early part of 1945, middle part of '45, they were planning to go to Japan 'cause my grandmother was still living.

MN: Did they ask you to go to Japan, too?

CH: Yeah, they did. When I was in Chicago later.

MN: But that was a --

CH: I turned it down. I didn't want to, no, I don't want to go to Japan. I told my mother and father, "Why you want to go Japan for? You're gonna starve over there." But they didn't starve, but they, lot of thing to eat, see. Inaka, farm.

MN: And when did they go to Japan?

CH: End of '45, I think, December of '45, around there someplace.

MN: Did they ever return to the United States?

CH: Nah. They wanted, my father wanted to go to Japan before the war, and they got the house and everything, so they got a place go to. I know they're not gonna starve 'cause we got a lot of property over there. So people making rice, we don't have to work, they give you the rice 'cause they're using the property. They didn't... well, I think my sister used to send 'em lot of food from here. I didn't do nothing.

MN: Did anybody else go to Japan, any of your other brothers or sisters?

CH: No, nobody went.

MN: Just your mother and father.

CH: Mother and father, that's all.

MN: And they never returned to United States.

CH: Huh?

MN: They never returned to the United States.

CH: No, never. They died over there. So my mother didn't want to stay over here. She would have probably lived a little longer maybe. She must have been about seventy-something, I think. My father died of old age, anyway.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

MN: Somehow you ended up in Chicago and you worked at the Galler Drug.

CH: Yeah, that's the Jewish wholesale drug. That's the last time I went to Chicago? No, from Salt Lake I went to Denver, and Denver I worked at a ice company. No, egg. Dollar an hour, that was a good money, one dollar, you know. So I stayed over there, but my friend keep on calling, "Come to Chicago." I worked about two weeks and I went to Chicago that time. Then I stayed there the longest. That's the second time I went Chicago, you know, second time.

MN: And then you got a letter from your friend in the Counterintelligence Corps.

CH: Yeah. That guy, yeah, I was working -- I hadn't, of course, before I worked in the, the longest job I had was in wholesale drug, the big company, used to be. And that's the time Japan needed sugar, saccharine. They, we had all kind of saccharine. Piled high all over the place. Little by little... I had a whole bunch of, they sent me a letter, black market in Japan. That's why, okay, now, how the hell I'm gonna send that thing to Japan? So you know what I did? At the same time, Military Intelligence school, Sakai, Lieutenant Sakai and one more sergeant, they came together recruiting people. And somehow I got hold of that guy, Sakai, and I talked to that guy. "Do you take alien?" I tell him. "We take anything right now." "Why?" "There's a lot of prisoner of war coming from Japan from Russia, and interrogation, interpreter we need. So we need every available soldier who is bilingual." "If you take 'enemy alien,' 4-C, I volunteer." "Fine." So I signed. So I went to my friend's place, and, "You know what? I'm going to go in the army, I'm going to volunteer." "Yeah?" I told him, "You're not doing nothing." See, like me, I was a bum. I used to be a bum. Bum around everything for food, and, 'course, got everything. So army was the best place for me to go, and they had a deal, too. So that guy said, "Yeah, if you go, I go, too." We both volunteered. And when I found out that you swear the oath, allegiance, I went over there. "Hey, you're alien. You got to do by yourself." I was separated from the other guys that volunteered. That's where I got my citizen. [Laughs]

MN: Did you ever make it to Japan?

CH: Huh?

MN: Did you ever make it to Japan with the sugar?

CH: That's why every, nothing goes smoothly in life, right? Something always interrupts, something always happens. So when took a basic over here, Fort Knox, what's the name of the camp over there? Camp over there, that big training camp?

TI: Snelling?

CH: No, no, no, on the West Coast, near Monterey.

MN: Oh, Presidio?

CH: No, no, that's not a training camp.

TI: Not... Monterey.

CH: Monterey, yeah.

MN: Camp Roberts?

CH: No, that... Camp Roberts is more north. No, south, Camp Roberts. Fort... never mind. Then I went Monterey. After basic, Monterey. So I started over there for nine months. It was twelve hours a day, Japanese. But I was the number one because I knew how to talk Japanese. There was a student from Florida, adopted by a hakujin, he didn't know a word of Japanese. But when he'd make a talk, everybody would make a speech, something, one sentence like this, he cut it in about four different parts, speaking Japanese. Nobody knew what he said. [Laughs] He flunked. Other guy, head of our class, the teacher passed him and he went Japan. But my case, my case, when it came time go to overseas, I didn't have the clearance yet. And besides, when you want to go overseas, you have to have thirteen month overseas duty, and I had only eleven month to go. Eleven month to go, huh? So they want me to re-up for one more year. One more year, army one more year, so I told that colonel, "You know what? See that boat on the Monterey harbor? That's a fishing boat. Well, what do you think I was? Look at the record." "Oh, you're a fisherman. Well, I want to be a fisherman. You know what? My father owned about five of 'em like that. So I got to take charge, so I can't go in the army." I bullshit that guy, the colonel. So, "Oh, in that case, okay." But meanwhile, prior to that, prior to that, they checked my record, and they knew I was in North Dakota as an "enemy alien." That's why I didn't get the clearance first. But afterwards, they accept my 4-C. That's why, the thing was, I didn't have enough overseas duty, eleven months, and I was two months shy. So the rest of the guys, they all went. See, I was waiting for my clearance. See, if I wasn't waiting for the clearance I would have went with those guys. I want to see my mother and father over there. And you know John Sagrove, you know him? I was in the army same time as him. He went to Wakayama, MG, military government, Wakayama. So I was in the same one. I was going with same prefecture where my mother and father was. It was real good. But hey, forked tongue, you know what a forked tongue, huh? I thought one side was going to be... this side was exciting life, too. So I don't regret anything. I went to Central and South America, the other forked tongue was. Right?

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

MN: But wait a minute, don't go there yet. Tell us, when did you get into the army and when did you come out?

CH: I went there 1946 to 1949. One more year extension. Extension was, Korean War was June 30. May 30 or June 30 Korean War started, 1950. Yeah.

MN: So you were honorably discharged, and then what did you do after that?

CH: Well, honorable discharge, but you know, I was in a stockade causing trouble in that... go Monterey, Monterey, all my friend were Hawaii guys. Same personality, they liked to drink and they liked to cause trouble. We got in a big trouble downtown, we beat up all the hakujin guys over there. So the Captain McDonald, our CO, that guy, came to bail us out in the jail. [Laughs] Then in the morning, roll call, all us guys, one company, how many guys? There were two hundred... I forgot. Lot of guys, anyway. You know what he said? "Those dumb guys," I bailed 'em out. Got all the kind of different trouble, you know, "I want you to respect the civilian everything." But I tell you one thing, you know what he said, the captain? "In wartime, I'd rather have you guys than anybody else." [Laughs] He said that. Gee, when he said that, goddamn, quite a thing for the captain to... oh, he said that, man. Yeah. We never thought he'd do that thing.

MN: The tears coming out.

CH: Yeah.

MN: So, okay, so you got released out of the stockade, then you went to Chicago?

CH: Uh-huh.

MN: Then did you go to Chicago after that?

CH: After I got discharged? Yeah, they gave me, must have paid for 175 dollar. Instead of going Chicago, it's cheaper to come to L.A. So I came down to L.A.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

MN: And then L.A., what did you do in L.A.?

CH: Hey, I'm broke. Everybody had a car. I had to borrow. Going on a date, I got a junk car, all the air and gas leaking all over on a date I used to go like that. No money. So I, only job I could find is going fishing. So I got on a fishing boat, then I went to Monterey, sardine season, Monterey. That boat wasn't too good, didn't make too much money. But going back to before the war, I used to make seven, eight hundred dollars a month, September, October. That's big money. Ten times money the gardener working, and fruit stand worker. Then after the war, I went Monterey, fishing, but they had a strike, that's why we couldn't work. So I came back to Terminal Island again, fishing over there. But that boat, fishing, no good. So what happened was, I know that my Italian friend, went school together. I saw him in the wharf, you know, at the dock, "Hey, Oihe, what you doing here?" "I'm looking for a job." Fernando... Napolitano, something like that. Luciano. "What you doing?" "I'm looking for a job, too." But you know what? I found a job. Yeah, looking for a job. "Why?" "It's scab, we're gonna be a scab, it's big strike. But this one boat, they want to go South America, Central and South America. Would you work, take a chance?" "Sure, I'll go anytime." How's the boat? That boat is one of the top boat in the San Pedro fleet. So I told my other friend that was broke, "Hey, you want to go with me to Central and South America?" "Hell no, I'd rather have fun on the shore." Hell, I'm going. I went with the Italian guys, with my friend, together. And that boat made, the first year I made something like eleven thousand bucks, the boat. All eleven thousand dollars all saved now. You know why? I ain't got no time play. No time to play. When I come shore, you're out already. I had three bank accounts. I was rich. But you know, one vice I had is gambling. All gone when I quit. But I still got GI Bill. GI Bill I had, I went to school. I was gonna work in UCLA, but they told me I got to go to Santa Monica, City College first, when you get good, they ship you to UCLA, something like that.

MN: But hold on, hold on. Let's go back to Costa Rica. You were there for two years, right?

CH: Yeah.

MN: Okay. Then you had all this money, you also had a cabaret.

CH: No, no, wait a minute. You don't get paid right away. The skipper, "Whatever you want, take it." So they got to put it on the books. So I know the mayor and the chief of police, I go do anything, 'cause I cheat 'em. All the people are poor. They're poor, man, those people. No education, hey, I mentioned about Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, they don't know where Pearl Harbor or Hawaii is. Never heard of it. That's why, over there, it's funny thing. Costa Rica is a seaport, the biggest seaport in Costa Rica is Punta Renes. Punta Renes you called it, that's where we was. That's where the Van De Kamps seafood and Starkist tuna company was there. That's where we unload the fleet. But since I treat all the little kids, the shoe shine boys, I had about eleven shoe shine boys following me all over. I got a room over there, all sleep over there. 'Cause they're all from the country. I feed 'em, I do everything. What they make, you know, they either spend it themselves or give it to the father and mother in the country. They all come out to the town. The town consists of about ten thousand people, you know, that port. Yeah, all that merchant, they all go to the port. So hey, I treat those guys good. That's why, then there was a Chinatown. It's amazing. That's why I talk Spanish little bit, I learned. And then Chinatown, I told 'em, hey, over there, Chinatown. They say, the Costa Rican word, they got a word, I know it but I won't say it to you. They say Chinese just like Jew, okay. Chinese, they're telling me, the Costa Rican guys. They're like a circle, they got all different business going on. And the outside people come, they pay this guy. And this guy pay this Chinese, and the money's coming in, never going out. And meantime, that's why the people, they start hating these Chinese people. But before the war, there was four veterans from Japan come fishing over there. Four veterans now, all veterans, commercial fishing. You know what these guys telling these Japanese? "They're the number one people in Hawaii. They hire all Costa Rican as a crew, and they treat 'em real good." So you know, when I was around there, they come around. "You Japanese? I heard you're Japanese." "Yeah, why?" I look at their son, three, Ichiro, Jiro and Saburo. What? Yeah, I look at 'em, real ainoko, you know, not one family, there are a few of 'em like that. Yeah. That's why I treat 'em so good. That's why when I came back to the States, one guy from Costa Rica came, he came and visited me, he remembered. And that guy there, I was married to Flo that time.

MN: Florence.

CH: That guy, he brought big tuna like that. And he told me, "Hey, there was a guy, he brought one tuna." "Who's that? Know his name?" "Yeah, him. He came to see you." But I was working, that's why I wasn't home. And they still remembered. And then not only that, but going kind of ahead, but, you know, there was a, my skipper, he made a boat, thousand seven hundred-some boat, he want me to go, go to Africa. Okay. You know, that big boat carries seventeen hundred ton of tuna. So every trip he made something like, big money anyway. Big money. So he wanted me to go, so maiden voyage to take all the Fish & Game people, police department and fire department, we went out maiden voyage to see how everything operate. And on the boat, I got two Costa Rican friends, they remember me. "Hey, Kareche, what you doing?" My name was Kareche, that means Carlos in Tiko. Tiko means Costa Rica census. Costa Rican people. Yeah, you talk to that guy. Amazing that kind of thing, you keep, small little people, they remember. That's why all the people, kurombo kid walking around, I give 'em fifty cents or one dollar. "Remember, I'm Japanese. You become a mayor, remember what Japanese did to you." I tell all these little ones. You don't know how good these people gonna be.

MN: Is this where you learned how to smoke pot?

CH: Huh?

MN: Is this where you learned how to smoke marijuana?

CH: When I was in Colombia.

MN: Colombia.

CH: I went to the big marijuana company. Marijuana company, can, one dollar. One dollar, big can. I went to, this Colombian, he took me. He's my good friend, that's why. He was a dishwasher on a boat, but he was a Colombian. Only Colombian. He said, "I'll take you to..." what do they call that now? We don't say "marijuana," you know. It's mota. "Mota, I take you." [Laughs] He took me this way, that way, he'd look around like that, up and down, you know, where there's a lot of shack around there. That Colombia, Buena Ventura town. Vacchio? It was Vacchio, Columbia, or Buena Vista, one of the town, I forgot. Took over there, I went to the factory, they got a lot of leaf, that thing. Big screen like this, they put that thing, it's dry now. They go like this, all the fine ones all driving down, like that, all the junk ones. The other ones, they go someplace, I got the good ones. One dollar. No, five dollar. Five dollar, I tell 'em, can like that. I know it's a contraband when they come to L.A., Terminal Island port, I hid it under that net. The custom, they're not gonna, they're looking for not that, them days, they're not looking for marijuana, you know, mota, they called it. They're looking for whiskey and cigarettes. See, whiskey and cigarette, they don't have tax. There's a blue kind of stamp on each one, tax. Over there, that's why we could buy one bottle of whiskey real cheap, and cigarette, too. That's what they're looking for. So whiskey, we get the seabag, right, when we come aboard. They spot us, 'cause, "Hey, wait a minute." "What?" I know it's a customs officer. "Throw your bag up in the air." I know what they mean. I throw it up in the air, nothing happened. "Okay, go home." They want the bottle to crack. So when I used to throw dance party or house party or beach party, all the women's club used to come, 'cause everything, I had everything. And my club was a good, good entertaining club. That's why growing up I had lot of fun.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

MN: I'm gonna skip, okay? Let's go to the 1980s. You testified before the CWRIC commission. Okay. How did that come about that you would go before the Commission?

CH: Yeah. They pick me because I talk a lot. The Long Beach State University, Long Beach University, Northridge State University, UCLA, and SC, the four college guys, they came to our meeting, one meeting, because somebody got to represent Terminal Island and say something against the government. So they pick me. So, "What are you going to do?" You know what they tell me? "We're gonna write everything for you, everything what you should say," they told me. But I told those guys, "You guys are Sanseis. You don't, you guys don't know what the hell is going on. You get all the goddamn words from somebody tell you this, and from book, everything. I talk from my own mind," I told those guys. So, you know, I don't want this. But take it anyway. So when that thing started, I had a couple sheets. That thing, no sense, so I threw it away. I didn't go according to what they tell me. But I told everything, this and that and everything. [Claps] Da-da-da. Okay. The main point came to, the Hayakawa. Hayakawa didn't like Nisei to collect, at that time, twenty-five thousand. Twenty-five thousand, Hayakawa, okay. So what I told that guy, that board from Washington, D.C., I told the guy, "Hayakawa, he's rich. He don't need no twenty-five thousand dollar. And besides that, he's a Canadian citizen, so what the hell he got to say about us guys getting twenty-five thousand?" But besides, the point I'm trying to make is, I told 'em, the thing, okay. You put twenty-five thousand, and Japanese people, they got lot of pride. You put twenty-five thousand, this pride kind of thing. P-R-I-D-E. The word or the twenty-five thousand? Hey, where you gonna take everybody? Not everyone gonna take the twenty-five thousand dollars instead of the word, that's what I told 'em. Then I told 'em about Evelyn Baker. Was it...

MN: Lillian.

TI: Lillian.

CH: Oh, yeah, Lillian Baker. Good thing she wasn't there. I talked bad about that guy, you know. She said Japanese people in Terminal Island, they had torpedo and they know all the fishing ground and everything, that Japan fleet come in, they're gonna guide you here and there and everything, no good. Besides, what do you call, Japanese navy, they didn't want to come. So I told him, "Hey, you know Baker-Faker?" I tell 'em "Baker-Faker." "Baker-Faker, you think I'm gonna get that flag up there? We ain't got no radio, no speaker or nothing. Flag and wave this, come this way and come that way and how deep the water is? And you think all the fishing boat carry torpedo? In the first place, were are we gonna get the torpedo, and how're we gonna launch the damn thing?" I told Baker-Faker, "You know what? Hey, you're the only person that antagonized Japanese people in Gardena or Southern Cal. You know why? You don't want Japanese to take over Gardena, that's why you're jealous. Besides, somebody must have got killed in that Japan, that war, World War Second. That's why maybe you're talking like this." After that, it was all over. So that's why Warren Furutani, he called me to say more. But I didn't say no more. Well, I just say anything I feel like saying.

MN: After you testified, did you get hate mail?

CH: Yeah. "From Freedom Road," it said. Something like that, "From Freedom Road." I opened the letter: "Why don't you go back to your own country?" You know, I got letter. I was going to take it to Rafu Shimpo, take it to Hirohata...

MN: Hirahara.

CH: Hirahara.

MN: Naomi.

CH: Yeah, yeah. I was gonna tell 'em about that but I didn't do it. I got a couple of 'em. But you know, some people offer me a job because I testified against it.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

MN: Yeah, let's talk about those two men that came to you.

CH: Oh, the FBI. Yeah, you know, when I talk bad about, testify against the government, I said whatever I want. So that's why FBI came to check on me, but they think, they're representatives from some kind of organization.

MN: They didn't tell you they were FBI, right?

CH: No, no. They didn't tell me FBI. I was working, two people come, I got a phone call. "Why don't you come down, we want to see you." You know, you say something about the testifying, that, "We like your attitude." So they came. So okay, "Let's meet you at that Santa Monica someplace, eating place, we'll buy you a dinner." Okay, now what do they want now? "Okay. These two girls is coming from New York to California first time. And you're a karate expert." See, this is the story. "Karate expert, so we want them, protect them." "Protect? What do you mean?" "You know how to do karate?" Went like that. Oh, well, that's good. So, okay. They talk about something else. And they want to know my picture, and, "Do you have anything that you do?" "Yeah, I'm a singer, I tell 'em." Or they'll bring me the picture, so I took my picture. And meanwhile, all these things going on, they called me again, meeting over here, then, you know, it dawned to me, I knew it, something's wrong, fishy over here. Like I'm not a simple simon, you know. So I know what was going on already. Didn't have to tell me. So after that, after about four meeting, four meeting and the girls over here, sitting down, they were kind of looking at me, but I know something's wrong. Finally they say, "Okay, we're gonna make a film about all these things going on." That's what he's telling me. "So we're gonna let you know." Telling me, "We're not gonna take a job away from you to make this film," he's telling me. "Oh, I know that." So I found out there's something wrong. To make a film, you got to work how many days of work? They got to take me out, I thought something's wrong there, I figure. So they say, "We'll let you know." I never got a phone call after that.

TI: So how did you --

CH: I almost tell 'em, "You guys are FBI." Sure feel like telling 'em.

TI: So, yeah, how did you find out, or how did you know that they were FBI?

CH: They gotta be FBI. Who would have come here asking you all kinds of questions? Nobody gonna ask me. I figure it's gotta be FBI or cop. They want to know more thing about, they want to investigate me, see. See, that's the reason, investigation. That's why they make up the story. And meanwhile, that story came out in the movie, Karate Kid. Same thing. Same plot. Yeah. What's that guy's name? I forgot his name. I met that guy.

TI: Pat Morita?

CH: Yeah, Pat, and I met the other guy. What's the other guy, Japanese? He died recently.

TI: Mako?

CH: Mako, Mako, yeah. I told Mako, "If I was in TV, you'd be out of a job," I told Mako before he died. [Laughs]

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

TI: Let me ask a little bit about the monument near Terminal Island. How was your brother connected to that monument?

CH: He started it all. He was gonna make it at Terminal Island, the monument. Terminal Island, but that place, that place where you make the monument, it wasn't the ideal kind of place. So the best place was on Terminal Island toward that fireboat station. That's where we made it at Terminal Island. Of course, us guys, $250,000. But since we know the architect, one of my friend's son is an architect. He did it for free. That's why, you know, this society, education is good, but number one is who you know. That's the number one, who you know.

MN: And this is Tamikazu, the one that...

CH: Yeah, Tamikazu. That guy there, he's smart. He's an intellectual. He graduated from University of Minnesota or Michigan, then graduated from SC and graduated Tenri Daigaku in Japan. But when he talk, he can't talk. He could write. Anybody could write. You could think and write, mistake you go over. When you make a speech, you can't go back, "Oh, I made a mistake." You can't say that. Writing you can do anything. That's why when I wrote an article in Rafu Shimpo for, what was...

MN: Hirahara.

CH: Hirahara, Naomi, I said, "You think I could put that thing?" "You wrote that?" "Yeah, I wrote it myself." Look at, "Yeah, I'll put it in for you." See, when I wrote that thing I could think, and I could turn this thing around, put it on top, you could paragraph everything just right instead of jumping off from here and into another. I don't have no education to be a journalist or people who write. [Laughs] So the monument, yeah, we donated a lot of money, all the Terminal Island people. And we donated Keiro home, the hall, we made that, and we donated a museum, a lot of money to get a space, the Japanese space, Terminal Island space. You know what, what's the guy, the promoter? What's that guy who tried to raise money? Kobayashi? No.

MN: Fred Hoshiyama?

CH: Yeah, Hoshiyama. That guy, he came to a meeting, he's talking, talking, talking. You know, I told him, I told my friend, "Hey, this guy's a con man," I told him. "No, you shouldn't say that thing." "Yeah, he is. You wait, what they, speech." I'm telling these guys. I'm telling, "He want money to raise, that's why he's talking nice and sweet to us guys. He's got to organization people. Tuna Street gang, Cannery Street gang, Albacore guys, Barracuda gang, he put everything. These guys got leader, you go to different family, raise money. This guy's a con man. You watch what he's gonna say." Then he said, "You know what? You people, since you're gonna donate, we'll give you twenty-five square feet of the area in the museum." You know what I told him? "Hoshiyama, you sure you're telling twenty-five square feet?" "I'm sure I'm saying twenty-five feet." I think five or six years later, I went to museum. Where the hell is that twenty-five square feet? There's nothing. Only a few picture here and there. So I told them, "I told you. Remember what I told you?" I was right all the way. He's a promoter, that guy. Tried to promote himself. I know a lot of crook, gang people. They're smart. To be a crook, you got to be a smart guy. A dumb guy, he never can be a con man, right? They're all intelligent people. So I get all the information, then I learned a lot of things from each different personality, all different people, right? That's why you talk to people. So that's why I tell my brother, "You're too intellectual. You got to go to any people's level. You got to talk to poor people, dumb people, medium people and intelligent people. You got to be versatile. Then you get to know the people and they like you. Just 'cause you're smart you're gonna be stuck up? No, that's the wrong attitude to have, I tell him. That's why I got lot of friends all over.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

MN: Now, Charlie, you were very popular with the girls. But you finally settled down, you got married. Why did you decide to get married?

CH: Well, everybody, my friend was getting married. That's why I told one of my kid, "Hey, you got to get married. Windy day come, snowy day come, lightning come, rainy day come, well, you got to get married when you get old." Hey, maybe I'm telling you that. [Laughs] "Hey, you're gonna get lonely guy, all your friend, you're the only one that's left over?" No, I ain't gonna go through that, I told him. That's why I got married.

MN: So your first marriage was Florence?

CH: Yeah.

MN: Florence Ochi and then did you have children with her?

CH: Huh?

MN: Did you have children with Florence?

CH: Yeah, three kid, and this one, new one, I got too. Five.

MN: Oh. And then you married three times, you said?

CH: Huh?

MN: You married three times?

CH: Yeah, I was married... what do you call that? Common-law wife. Common-law. Hakujin.

MN: When was this?

CH: Back in Chicago.

MN: Oh, this is during the war.

CH: Yeah, yeah. No, after the war.

MN: After the war.

CH: But I went in the service, I said goodbye. That's after, though, 1945.

MN: Did you have children with her?

CH: No, no. Lucky thing. Maybe I got a lot of children in Punta Renes.

MN: You don't know that, huh?

CH: I don't know. I don't want to know. What you don't know don't hurt. Some, that's why some question I don't ask. [Laughs] But you treat people good, they respect you. And don't forget... nah, wasureta. Boy, I'm getting, dementia setting in. Oh, filial piety. Obligation, duty. You understand that?

TI: Yes.

CH: Nihongo, they used to say, Japanese, oyakoko. You know what happened? My son and daughter, I tell you, you gotta, from four kids, you gotta learn Japanese. I told them. No, they're too busy. That's a big mistake she made. One of my son is a broker. But broker, when you're working for a broker, they got a lot of business with Japan. Now, if he understands Japanese, he would go out more. But this girl that was underneath him, she went above him. 'Cause she was bilingual. I sure feel like telling Flo that. But past is past, I don't want to bring up that thing. Yeah, that's a mistake. That's why I sent my, both of, my girl and that son to Japanese school. So when I went to the Japanese school, you know, they say, "You forgot to pay your dues." "What do you mean? I've been paying for the last four years, every day without missing." "You made a mistake." "No, you didn't pay." Goddamn. So I ran over there. I know the principal. I was talking to the -- my voice is big -- "What do you mean? You're a bakayaro," I told him in Japanese, you know. I told him Japanese, "Anna bakayaro aru mon ga," I tell him. That teacher got scared, I talk loud. "I paid. Check the books." Meanwhile, the principal came. "Yeah, Hamasaki-san, what you need?" Hey, you're one of the teachers called me up, that I didn't pay, your bookkeeper, I didn't pay. I paid. Check the books. Go into the office and check the books." "Yeah, he paid." "That's why you guys are stupid. Check that damn thing." Besides, when I went to the school, now, benkyou, instead of studying and this and that, "Remember, oyakoko, you can never teach about that kind of thing. Manner and etiquette, you don't teach that kind of thing. Teach those things," I told the teacher. She didn't say nothing to me. Yeah, I told them. Me, I don't talk ridiculous kind of thing. Common sense kind of thing, you know, human being, got to have common sense. That's why when you take right, you're right. You don't take, turn black into white, you know, or white into black. Right? So what's the next question, Tom?

TI: I think my questions are answered. We've gone over three hours, this has been wonderful. I mean, is there anything else you want to say?

CH: Huh?

TI: Is there anything else that you wanted to say at the end?

CH: Yeah, my life, the fork in the tongue, maybe if I went Japan I would have stayed in Japan, married a Japan girl. But I went other way. 'Cause Japan, I went Japan about ten times, touring. You know, I spent my twenty thousand dollars touring, tour? Lot of my friends bought car, I didn't buy a car. See, like me, I had twenty cars, 'cause I'm a body and fender, I buy all different kind of cars. I sold 'em all to that, since that insurance went up, I sold every one of 'em. So I said, twenty thousand, so I went Japan about ten times already. But South America was a good place, good place to be. Yeah, they restrict Japanese, that's why it's good, instead of Chinese. Oh, I had a great time over there the last two years. I spent all the money, but I went to the capital, north San Jose capital over there. Yeah. Good time, good time. I think, I tell a lot of guys, I live a ten man's life. You guys, all ten guys together, and my one life is equal to your ten. I told them that, lot of guys. Today, I'm so busy, everybody else, they're sedentary today. All they do is watch TV all day long, don't go noplace. Like me, I'm always doing something. But when they, that's why my grandkids, I told 'em, "Don't come around my house." Everybody, they carry their grandson, "Oh, this is my grandson," they brag about it. Not me, I never carry that kind of thing. "But you say that in your mouth, but deep inside heart, you're happy." No. When I get invalid or something, don't move, stay home, I welcome 'em. Right now, today, I can't be chasing the little one around, change the diaper for them or taking care while the parents go someplace. Whew, no thank you.

TI: Well, Charlie, thank you so much for doing this. This has been wonderful.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.