Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bruce T. Kaji Interview I
Narrator: Bruce T. Kaji
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: July 28, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-kbruce-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay, today is July 28, 2010. We're at the Centenary Methodist Church in Little Tokyo. We have Dana Hoshide on video, and we will be interviewing Bruce Teruo Kaji, and I will be interviewing. My name is Martha Nakagawa. Okay, Bruce, let's start with your father. What was his name?

BK: Umetaro Kaji.

MN: And what prefecture did he, was he born in?

BK: It was Fukuoka-ken, Japan.

MN: What level of education did your father have?

BK: He graduated from the University of Kumamoto, and he was a veterinarian doctor.

MN: But he didn't pursue that career. What happened?

BK: Well, he wanted to marry his cousin and the parents would not allow it because it was too close of a relationship. He was disappointed and when they came around to look for people to go to United States to make money, work in agriculture, he signed up. And so he came to United States and first place they landed was Seattle, so he worked on farms in Seattle and he found out that it was not very profitable because the boss was taking everything, and there was very little. And he kept all of the papers, I guess you would call it the visas or whatever were required, but he decided it was not for him, so he left with all of his personal papers, left and came south. He came as far as San Francisco down to Southern California, Los Angeles, and working all the way, trying to make money on the farms, but it wasn't very, very profitable. He finally wound up in Los Angeles and he started working for the Santa Fe Railroad, and as a result he had some stability in income. He wrote to his sister in Japan. At that time they were allowing people to get married by proxy, and he asked if they could find someone suitable for him. And then he got tied in with... my mother, Katsu Kaji, who was in Fukuoka-ken, and he would, they would, recommended her. She sent her picture to him, he approved, and she came over.

MN: What was your mother's maiden name?

BK: My mother's maiden name was Shimada. Shimada.

MN: Now, you mentioned that your father found a job with the Santa Fe Railroad?

BK: Yeah.

MN: What was he doing?

BK: He was a repairman for the wheels and the brakes of the major trains, and they had a pool where he did the high maintenance work. It required a lot of manual work, and it was also, was very noisy, so he lost his hearing, hard of hearing. Just like me, I lost my hearing in the army. It's one of those freak deals that follows, I guess, as father-son relationship. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: Now, your parents, what year did they get married?

BK: You know, I don't know the exact year, but going back, I would say it must've been in the early, maybe '20, 1920? Yeah, I was born 1926.

MN: Well, your sister was born...

BK: And she was older.

MN: Nineteen...

BK: So it may be they got married around 1918 or '19, somewhere around there.

MN: Now, when your mother arrived in the United States, what kind of work did she do?

BK: She was working for a while at the railroad also. The sleeper trains, they would change the sheets and things like that. And then she got pregnant and then from that point on she was at home.

MN: So how many children did your parents have?

BK: Three. Mariko was the oldest, and then Midori was the second, and I was the last. So we had three children.

MN: And what year were you born?

BK: 1926.

MN: Now, were all three children delivered by a samba-san?

BK: Yes. As far as I know, yes.

MN: And do you remember your samba-san's name?

BK: You know, I don't remember, but it's on my birth certificate. She later lived in Boyle Heights, so we used to walk past her home, and I can't remember her name but...

MN: Do you know where you were delivered, what area?

BK: I was delivered up on the, where the music center is. Yeah, we were up there on, what street was it? I forget the name of it, but we were up there on Bunker Hill. He was, my father was managing an apartment house and we got a free apartment as long as he managed, collected the rent and sent it to the owner. And when the Depression hit and nobody was paying rent he had to leave because we had, we couldn't pass anybody on to the owner, so we moved to a very rough area that had no, no streets, which was around Ninth, Ninth Street near the armor, armor rendering plant where they killed cattle and... off of Olympic. And the streets that we lived on had no, no streets. It was just sand and dirt. It was very, not very well developed project, but it was a place to sleep. So we moved into a two-bedroom house, the five of us, during the Depression, and it was very tough going.

MN: You said there's this rendering plant nearby, so what did your neighborhood smell like?

BK: Pretty powerful smell. It was, people didn't want to live there because of the, the smell and the fact that if you could afford it you would move out. And those that couldn't afford it then moved in, so we couldn't afford living in regular quarters because there was no income coming in, or very little that I, the parents weren't working, both of them weren't working, so...

MN: What happened to your father's job at the Santa Fe Railroad?

BK: Well until the business improved, what I mean is when the Depression hit people weren't traveling. Business came to almost a standstill, so cargo was not being shipped by the trains either, so as the economy improved, then passengers were going onto the train and freight was now being loaded up and delivered, then the railroads then started to have a need for people to come back on. As soon as that happened things improved for us, so we moved from there to Boyle Heights.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: While you're, let's go back to this place, you said it's close to Olympic and Ninth Street? How did your father put food on the table?

BK: We didn't have food, so my sister pulled a little red wagon that I had, and we went to the Ninth Street Produce Market and they dropped me down the bins to then raise whatever vegetables were located there to see what was suitable for them to, to pick, so that was our shopping routine. We would take my wagon and my sister and I would then do the collecting and selection, and that how we got some vegetables and fruits, is... I don't remember it, but they said, "Oh yes, we did that." I said I was too little to remember.

MN: Now, you had mentioned your father also raised chickens?

BK: Yeah.

MN: But he was trained as a veterinarian, to help animals.

BK: Right.

MN: Was it hard for him to kill the chicken?

BK: Well, he was raising chickens and collecting eggs to eat, and after a while, after the chickens were older and we had need to have some meat on the table, he took the chicken, or one of the chickens, and cut its head off. And you know, you have to hold it down because it escapes, and I still remember this chicken without its head on running around the yard, and we were chasing it and chasing it and it had nowhere to go, but when a chicken has its head cut off you don't know which way it's going. [Laughs] And we're chasing it and it's kinda comical because the chicken still had a lot of energy. He's still running around. So until you could catch it again, hold it down, it was a, a riot. It was very... I remember people were chasing it. A chicken without its head. They're very energetic. I would be, too, if I got my head cut off. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: Let me go back to your, your birth. Bruce, what is your birth name?

BK: Teruo. That was my Japanese name. T-E-R-U-O.

MN: What, when did you adopt the name Bruce?

BK: Well, I did that in junior high. Because the teachers had a tough time pronouncing Teruo. They didn't, came up with all kinds of names, so I was kinda embarrassed every time they come to my name they couldn't pronounce it. So at that time the comics were very popular in junior high school. Superman, Batman, and the Katzenjammer Kids and all. Everybody was trading comic books, and I liked the name of the Batman, Bruce Wayne, so I started using Bruce as my personal name. And it wasn't legal, but I used it every opportunity I could. So when I got out of the service I had Henry Tsurutani, an attorney in Little Tokyo, legalize it, and from that time on I used that as my legal name.

MN: Now let's go back to where you are living at Ninth, near the Ninth Street produce market, and then the economy started to improve so your family was able to move out of this area. Where did you move to?

BK: We moved from the Ninth Street area over to Boyle Heights. Right across from Roosevelt High School was a house for rent on 470 South Mott Street, which was right across the street from the high school and a Japanese garden. So we moved there for I don't know how many years, and that's when I started going to grammar school on First Street, grammar school on First. And when I graduated there moved over to Hollenbeck Junior High, graduated there, I went to Roosevelt.

MN: Correct me if I'm wrong, when you started the First Street grammar school your oldest sister Midori was in Roosevelt and then... wait a minute, Mariko. Mariko?

BK: She might've been... Mariko was in Roosevelt.

MN: Roosevelt, and Midori was in Hollenbeck Junior High School?

BK: I think so.

MN: And then which Japanese language school were you attending?

BK: Chuo Gakuen, which was right off of First Street, close to the First Street grammar school, so when that school let out at three o'clock, we would just walk across the street from First Street, go about half a block up to Dakota Street and go halfway up the block on Dakota where the Chuo Gakuen school was and attend one hour of Japanese school. And then went home.

MN: Now, you also took kendo lessons at Chuo Gakuen?

BK: Right. In the evenings they had activities. I recall either Wednesday or Thursday, one day was judo and the other day was kendo, and Fridays was Boy Scout. So they got me involved in kendo, and we bought our dougu in Little Tokyo and I have a little bamboo dou and a black mat and then a, bought the shinai, or the sword, and started kendo. And it was following everybody's footsteps. The same applied to the other boys in the area. They went into kendo or judo. I didn't like judo. I liked kendo because you wouldn't have to be flipped around. [Laughs]

MN: Do you remember your kendo teacher and, and the assistant to the kendo teacher?

BK: I remember a kendo teacher, Mr. Shimo. Mr. Shimo's son was Cedric Shimo, and Cedric Shimo was in the Boy Scouts. He was one of my leaders.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: So when you turned twelve you were able to join the Chuo Gakuen's Boy Scouts? What kind of activities did you do?

BK: The Boy Scouts followed the ritual of Boy Scouts of America, and you went through learning how to tie ropes, how to hike, how to do first aid, and so you had all these merit badges you would have to work for, hiking, canoeing, electricity, and then you would have to win so many awards for the merit badges of things that you accomplished, canoeing and hiking. And after you got so many badges you became... what was it? You have to lead up to the fact that you can become an Eagle Scout, so in between there were other ratings, but you had to climb up to the number of badges to become a Eagle Scout. And once you accomplished Eagle Scout that was the highest honor in Boy Scouts.

MN: One of the, I guess merit badges for Boy Scouts is in the swimming requirement, and the swimming must've been difficult because a lot of the pools were not open to minorities, so how did you folks get around that?

BK: Oh, yes. (Japanese) weren't allowed in the public pools. (...) But there was an exception after the pools were open to the public for so many days, just before they're going to change the water, the last day, they allowed our group to go in and swim. It was very cloudy and dirty, but they allowed us to go. And it was not what you call equal treatment. We're still second class. Not second class Boy Scouts, but second class citizens.

MN: Your Boy Scout troop, 197, also helped out in Nisei Week. What did you guys do?

BK: When Nisei Week came around, as you know, it was a promotion that was sponsored by the merchants of Tokyo in order to get business. And what they did was they came up with a plan that if you bought merchandise you would get so many tickets (to vote). And certain areas promoted a candidate and the tickets that you bought represented merchandise you bought in Little Tokyo, and that brought business to the Little Tokyo merchants who then sponsored the various activities. And what you did is got one ticket for every dollar that you bought of merchandise, so the farmers would buy ice box and stoves, and they would save the tickets until towards the end of the promotion. They would stuff the (voting) boxes with (...) the candidate's name on the back and stuff the boxes to get their candidate to be the queen. So it was a successful promotion in that it brought business to Little Tokyo. And it also brought the community together and began to attract the general community, and the Nisei Week and the parade and the ondo (dancing). So all the Boy Scouts participated in the parade and we went first before the parade started. At that time they didn't have any parking meters, and so we would have to go up and down the streets. The cars were parked on curb. We'd have to go inside the restaurants and tell everybody, "Got to move your car. The parade is gonna start." And the people would move, move their cars off of the street because we needed all the space for the various parade participants to come down with the crowd sitting on the curb. The Boy Scouts then formed their own units to march, and the Koyasan Boy Scouts had the latest equipment because their merchant parents had the most money. (Yes), they had not only the regular bugles, but they had the piston bugles, and not only the regular drums, they had the tenor drums and the bass drum sets. We had to compete with that. But we had a good instructor for our marching band from Stevenson Junior High, and he came on Friday nights to teach us how to march (...) and also play (...) marching songs. And so we competed with (...) other units. There was a Koyasan, Nichi Hongwanji... I think Maryknoll had one, too. And then Chuo Gakuen. At least four or five Boy Scout troops.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: You were a part of this Boy Scout Troop 197, the drum and bugle corps?

BK: Right.

MN: Is this when you started to have a love of music?

BK: Well, we had to select something to be a part of the troop drum and bugle corps, so I was too small to carry a drum, so they said, "Maybe you ought to be a bugler. All you have to do is carry a bugle." So I started blowing the bugle and kept that up, and (...) I became a member of the junior orchestra. My parents bought me a cornet, (...) and that's what I had when I went to Manzanar. So that's the drum and bugle corps (beginners).

MN: So you just mentioned at Hollenbeck you joined the band there?

BK: (Yes), they had a orchestra at Hollenbeck, so I joined the junior orchestra. Mr. Abbot was the musical director, and we had to practice... others were learning the violin and I was learning the trumpet part. We played Christmas tunes and we played some classicals. I forget the names of the classical songs, but they were not complicated ones because everybody was learning. The girls playing the violin and the trumpet and the drummer and everybody, it was a very mixed up orchestra. [Laughs]

MN: Now, you told me that the Hollenbeck Junior High didn't have a, a cornet, so you had to buy your own. Was your family able to, how were you able to afford buying something like this?

BK: Acquire a what?

MN: The coronet, the trumpet.

BK: Oh, (yes). Well, my folks bought it... I think as time went on and the economy became better my father had a full time job, so he was able to afford to buy all the things like the kendo equipment and, and the coronet. Times became better for us.

MN: Was he still at the Santa Fe, with the Santa Fe Railroad?

BK: (Yes). The Santa Fe Railroad, if you worked there as a repairman you got union wages, so, you know, it was not just peon wages. It was regular wages that you got, so it really helped out.

MN: One of the things you also mentioned, was very interesting and special, is that you were able to go to San Diego.

BK: Yeah, the railroad company gave its employees special passes. It didn't cost them anything except the tickets to issue them and they would get on the train to go down San Diego, and so we got an annual pass to go down to San Diego. That was our vacation for the year. The whole family got to get on board. It didn't cost the railroad much except the tickets they printed because they rode, boarded the train and just sat on the train and went all the way to San Diego, got off, then we had to pay for going into the zoo and all. And after that was through we'd get back on the train and come home. So that was one of the, I guess, one of the benefits of working for the railroad, get free rides to San Diego. Did I tell you about my favorite chimpanzee?

MN: No. Tell me about your favorite chimpanzee.

BK: [Laughs] Every year when we go down there we make sure we went by this one, one cage where they had the chimpanzees, and this one chimpanzee learned how to spit. And so as the customers came by he would suck up the water and go "hoo," and we knew that. Every year we'd go back there and say be, be careful because the chimpanzee... [Laughs] And they were not dumb, the chimpanzees.

MN: And I bet you looked forward to these annual vacations?

BK: I guess it was the only thing my father could afford at the time, and so all of us took part in it. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now, let's see, in 1939 your sister Mariko turned twenty-one, and so what significance did this have for your Issei parents? What was your father able to do after Mariko turned twenty-one?

BK: Well, I guess things were pretty good at that time, and he wanted something more permanent. And the laws were that if you were born here and turned twenty-one you could then purchase land, so he was looking around and found something close by, only three blocks away, at 2617 East 3rd Street in Boyle Heights. And he purchased it under her name. And so it was a two story house with one, two, three, four, five bedrooms and two bath and a deep lot. And he purchased it and we were very close to Roosevelt High School on 3rd Street, between Mott and Fickett Street, and it was handy for us because I, I could walk to First Street school, walk to Hollenbeck, walk to Roosevelt. It was that close. Only took minutes.

MN: Now, how long did your family own this house?

BK: It owned the house from the time they purchased it before World War II and he had someone stay in the house while we were in camp. My father and mother passed away, it went on title to my sister Mariko, and she owned the property and lived in it until she passed away. After she passed away we sold it.

MN: So would this be in the '80s or '90s or 2000s?

BK: I don't remember the exact year, but it must have been when she was maybe her sixties or late seventies, so... I don't know, it had to be, I think in the sixties or seventies.

MN: When Mariko was, when Mariko was, was in her sixties or seventies?

BK: When Mariko was, when she passed away. I don't know how, how old she was then. But she was never married. She was supposed to get married, but my father didn't approve her intermarrying a Chinese man so she had to call it off. Just broke her heart.

MN: Okay. Well, when you were living in Boyle Heights, you talked about Mr. Muto, who used to come around in his truck. Tell us about Mr. Muto. What was he selling?

BK: Mr. Muto was a traveling vegetable man. He had a large truck, and on that truck he had all kinds of boxes full of vegetables. I mean, onions, you name it you would need for a family that needed to go out and buy groceries, well, he carried everything and would drop into the house once a week. And also he had ice, packed ice with fish, and so when he came around my mother would come out and look at what he had, not only in fruits and vegetables, but more the fish. Because she didn't drive, she didn't walk far, and it was very convenient that he came by. So she bought whatever (fish he had) and she packed it in the icebox for our food for dinner. Mr. Muto made the rounds once a week, so he was our traveling grocery store.

MN: Now, you were talking about how your mother was very fixed in terms of what she made for lunch for you. What did you bring to lunch every day?

BK: She was not a very (variable), person that wanted to make interesting sandwiches. It was the same kind of sandwich that she packed for us every day, and inside would be a peanut butter jam sandwich and a fruit, and then she would go down to the wholesale house and buy a box of chocolate "kisses." You know those little silver things? And she would throw so many into the, the lunch box, lunch bag. And usually it was a tuna sandwich. It's a tuna sandwich that she put on with the bread, and by the time I got to lunch it was soggy. But that was the usual fare: tuna sandwich with a fruit and kisses. [Laughs]

MN: Now, your parents were active Seicho no Ie members. Do you know how they became Seicho no Ie members?

BK: I don't know. I think she was having physical problems of some sort, and what happened was she finally went and tried Seicho no Ie, which is a, a new religious group that started. And then they started meeting at our house, because downstairs living room, dining room could be put together and became a little assembly room for the local people to come in. The Seicho no Ie sold a big, like a bible, and they would open it up and read a certain paragraph of the Seicho no Ie and someone would get up there and talk about whatever it was. And my mother was good at making, what is it, those Japanese (manju). (...) She'd make that for every meeting they had at our house, so the Seicho no Ie meeting was once a month and she would work all day making the manju. She would steam it, have a pink manju and a white manju, and after the sermon was over they would come out with manju and tea. She was a busy lady, making manju. Yeah, I remember that.

MN: Now, Sei Fujii was also Seicho no Ie. Did -- he was with the Kashu Mainichi -- did he come to your house?

BK: I don't recall all the people that came to our house because there were more Isseis. Usually days when they had a meeting I was busy outside playing sports. I wouldn't be hanging around because I wouldn't understand what they were saying. And it was no place for a young person. It's a seniors' meeting.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: When you got older you started to attend the Onodera Gakuen instead of the Chuo Gakuen, but Onodera Gakeunis a girls' school. How did you get around that?

BK: Well, it was, Onodera Gakuen, the teacher, Mrs. Onodera, son was Ray Onodera and Ray Onodera and I were classmates, going to junior high school, and so we were, Mutt and Jeff, we were together everyday, playing baseball, trying to play basketball. And so I would go to the Japanese school and he and I were in class with Mr. Mayeda, the teacher, and he would teach us, the two of us, so I went to Onodera Gakuen and paid, had the, the gessha or the tuition paid to Mrs. Onodera. She came from a very well-known family in Japan and they were on the high navy classification, and so when the war broke out they were very, very concerned because of relatives that were in the higher echelon. But they couldn't communicate because of the war, but they came from a very high, highly recognized family.

MN: Now, you graduated from Hollenbeck Junior High in 1941 and then, I was looking at your yearbook, and then next to your photo you have this nickname, Casanova. Can you share how you got this nickname?

BK: [Laughs] Oh, well, they picked nicknames when you graduate. Some people have nicknames. And I don't know why someone put down Casanova, but they thought I was good-looking. [Laughs] I was very timid. I was no Casanova, but they put names on people and that's how I got that. But that's about the time I started using the name Bruce. I would write Teruo B. Kaji, and I used the Batman, you know, Bruce Wayne. So I started using "B," and, I don't know, I was well-known in the Jewish circle because Fred Schwartz and I were very good friends. He's Jewish kid. And after hours we'd go up to his home and we would be practicing broad jump or high jump or whatever, and we got along fine. So he was always well-liked by the Jewish girls because he was a very good-looking Jewish boy, and he used me as a messenger to take his love notes to all of his girlfriends. I don't know why, maybe that's why they called me Casanova. I had no, I had no, no sex drive at that age. Jewish kids were very advanced. Not me. I was slow in growing up.

MN: Well, you had a very, a good relationship with the Jewish Americans because when you entered Theodore, Roosevelt High School you were with the Wabash Saxons. What was that?

BK: It's, our relationship, Ray Onodera and I, we were in sports together and played basketball, and we signed up for the Roosevelt sports team and they had classifications. A was varsity, B, C, and they had even a D team for basketball and that's the real shorty guys, like I was barely five foot then in high school. And Ray was a little older, but he was a little awkward and we were tenth graders, but we were very active in sports with a bunch of Jewish kids. And so after hours as we were growing up, since we were about the same size as some of the Jewish kids, they invited us to play at the Michigan (Soto), Michigan gymnasium. So Ray and I would walk into this Jewish gymnasium past the Jewish mothers who would look at us, and they knew we weren't Jewish, but it didn't bother them, (afterwards) they got used to seeing us. We would go up there and play games, basketball game with the other Jewish kids. So we had a good relationship.

MN: So was it you and Ray, the only Japanese Americans in the Wabash Saxons?

BK: The Wabash Saxons was a team name. They had other names for the individual teams, like the Blue Jays (...). The Wabash Saxons was (also) an area up in Boyle Heights where most of the Jewish kids lived, and Wabash was another street past Brooklyn. And then a group that we were playing adopted the name of the street, Wabash, and then the name Saxons, so they used that in some of the activities and that kind of stuck to the teams that we played with. It wasn't every specific team, but if we were gonna go play, says the Wabash Saxons are having a meet or something, and we'd go to the gymnasium to go play. We got along very well with the Jewish group.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: You were a freshman in high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed. What were you doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

BK: On December the 7th, I'm not sure. Usually on Sundays we'd go to church. I'd go to the Evergreen Baptist Church and then go home, but after that... our relationship with the Jewish kids had also developed a group that had the corner of First and (Soto Street) to sell newspapers. And so Larry Anisman and another fellow, Jewish kids, had the corner. They knew the person who was distributing the newspapers, and he'd come by and distribute so many Examiner, Daily News, which were the evening papers, and there was the four o'clock, the five o'clock or whatever newspapers. Each one had the results of the horse races. The people who were buying the afternoon newspapers were all interested in the horse race result, and so after school we would run down to First and (Soto intersection), each of the corners we'd have to have people assigned to it. So the Jewish boys took the bus (route), busses on First and (...) Soto Street. I was assigned the street car, the P-car going to Boyle Heights at the First and Soto. And Ray was there, too. Anyway, as the newspapers came out at different hours, the people that were going home that bought the newspapers wanted certain times, the (horse) race results, so we were very busy trying to make money. And the Jewish kids were the guys that had the connections. Japanese kids didn't have any. So I think we, I told you the, later on, the war progressed. The distributor of the newspapers was a Filipino, and then when the results came out of the war breaking out, then there was a lot of animosity towards Japanese. And then the announcements about what was happening in the war didn't help. So later on this Filipino distributor says, "You Japanese boys, you can't work anymore." So we lost our jobs. We didn't know what was going on. I mean, we had nothing to do with the war, but they controlled who works (...), so we lost our jobs.

MN: How did that make you feel, as a child?

BK: Well, we were lost. 'Cause at that time you have no control. I mean, we were subjected to changes in the attitude of the city, of the government. At school we were being told that we couldn't continue school. We were gonna, having to check out. And pretty soon they were giving us orders that we would have to move out of the Southern California area, and then we started hearing about the registration for evacuation. So my sister was working with friends at the, the Catholic school, and she was helping register people. Now all Japanese people had to register, and she was helping the registration over at the (Maryknoll) Catholic school over in the Little Tokyo. And as a result, as we got all the registration of Japanese Americans coming in to report, they had to report to that school and give their names and addresses because eventually they're (going to be evacuated) out of the area. So most of the people that signed up at Maryknoll were related to the Maryknoll school, but since my sister was not (a) Catholic, but she was close to some of the people at the school so she was helping register people, so they registered us also with (the) group. So we were connected with the Boyle Heights Catholic group that went to Manzanar. And that's how we got to go to Manzanar. Most of my friends that were in Boyle Heights that weren't tied in with the Catholic church went to... what was it? Went to (Poston) Arizona. What was it? There were two camps over there.

MN: Poston?

BK: Huh?

MN: Poston?

BK: Poston. Yeah, they went to Poston I, II, III. They had two, three camps.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Now, your parents made an arrangement with a Mrs. Hertz.

BK: Mrs. Hearst.

MN: Hearst. What was the arrangement during the war with her?

BK: I wasn't aware of the details except what I surmised afterwards. I know that she came and lived in the house and didn't pay any rent. She could rent the rooms and keep the rent and we would have to pay for the expenses, so she stayed at the house and paid nothing, all expenses. But she was to look after the house. I mean, nobody had any choice. We had to get someone to take over and look after things. There was no one left amongst our Japanese friends. Everybody had to leave. And I don't know how she came to be the contact for our family, but that was determined by my father and older sister. So she stayed at the house for three years, rent free, and kept the money. When we came back at least we had the house, and the, we had paid the utilities with the money that we made in Manzanar, so she didn't pay for anything. I found that out. I says, well, what could you do? There was no choice at that time.

MN: Your dad had a lot of Japanese medical books. What did he do with that before going into camp?

BK: Oh, yes. My dad, as I told you, was a medical student and graduated with the medical school in Kumamoto, and he had brought a lot of the medical books from Japan. He had them sent over. And they were written in German, because at that time Japan had no knowledge of medicine or methods of treating people. They were in the Dark Ages. So we had medical books that were written in German that we had to destroy as part of the holdings of my parents, and anything else that had Japanese words, we were burning it up. The back incinerator was busy. I was tearing out the books, my sister was stoking the fire, and we burned everything up. There was nothing left. That was a state of panic at that time.

MN: What was going through your mind at this time while you were doing this? You're fifteen years old, you're a teenager.

BK: We didn't know anything about relations between countries. My father and I didn't communicate. He spoke a little English, but very little. It was mostly Nihongo with his friends. My mother was not very conversive in English, and so my contact was mostly with my peers. And so whatever was going on as far as the war was concerned we had no appreciation for, except the fact that we were Japanese and we were being sent out of school, gonna be sent out of the state. And we had no identity really, so we were at a loss and just had to go with what was told for us to do. We had no control.

MN: Well, how did you decide what to bring to, to camp? You're told you can only carry --

BK: Yeah, you were told what you could carry and you only could take what you could carry, and so my dad went down to the famous department store and bought the biggest suitcases you could buy. So they said you could carry one suitcase and he got the biggest for each one of us, and that's what we packed, was our clothes and whatever we were gonna take. Each one was entitled to one. And then I carried my cornet in my hand, and that was, that was it. There was not too much leeway, what you could take. Mostly clothing. What else? Couldn't take, pack a lot of food.

MN: So your parents didn't tell you... why didn't you leave your coronet? It's not very practical.

BK: No, they didn't say anything. At that time was panic time. You just try to make sure everybody had clothes and... we didn't know where we were gonna go.

MN: Did your family go straight to Manzanar or did you go to an assembly center?

BK: No, we went straight to Manzanar.

MN: How did you get there?

BK: We went down there to Little Tokyo and, down by whatever street it is where the train, train came. What is that street? When you go down Second Street, go down all, all the way to the river almost. You run into the square tracks. I don't know, it's...

MN: Alameda? No, you're going more east of Alameda?

BK: Yeah. Where is it, the, what street is it? The... I don't know what the street name was, but it's like Turner Street or something like that, and that's where the train came by. And that's where the train, you could get on the train there. It was like the train station. So that's where we, we got onto the train, and then it left there to go up to Manzanar. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: I know you remember what day you left for Manzanar.

BK: [Laughs] Yeah, when I, that was my birthday. I had just turned sixteen on the day we left. So nothing to celebrate, but it's... the time when Ralph Lazo got on the train with us. He was just, and his classmates were about us, our age. They were from Lincoln High School. I was from Roosevelt. Very few people from Roosevelt on our train because most of them were Catholics, supposedly. Because my sister was helping the Catholics' community in registration, and we were tied in with them. So it's, it wasn't a very good trip. That was a long trip. And it took us all day and almost all night to get to, to get to Manzanar. Got off at Lone Pine and then they had busses there. We got on at Lone Pine and they bussed us up to Manzanar. And it was dark at night, got there very, very late. But it was sad. I mean, it's, it's dull. They had all the window shades drawn all the time. You couldn't see anything.

MN: You mentioned Ralph Lazo. Can you briefly tell us who Ralph Lazo was?

BK: Ralph Lazo was a classmate. He was a Mexican American who was attending Belmont High School, and he came down to see his friends off, down to the train station. So he got on the train and his friend had bought a newspaper, so he wanted to read the newspaper while he was waiting. He got on the train to return the newspaper and he stayed on the train. He didn't get off. Then he says, "Well," he said -- the train is moving very slowly. You could, you could jump off any time. He says, "Maybe I'll get off at Pasadena." He kept on and he stayed on the train until we got to camp, and then... people, they didn't know who he was, but he was on the train so they bussed him over to Manzanar and they put him in bachelor quarters. So he wound up in Manzanar. Eventually the camp discovered that he was not to be there, but he was there, so they called his father to tell Mr. Lazo that, "We have your son here." And I don't know what kind of relationship he had with his father, but Ralph talked to him on the phone and said that he was here with his friends and they have a high school. They're gonna start a high school. He'd like to stay here with his classmates and finish school in camp. And so the father figured, well, he's got to finish school anyway and he's with his friends, so he let him stay. That's an odd thing that happened, but it was good for us because he was a good friend. He was very outgoing friend. Ralph Lazo.

MN: Now, what were your first impressions of Manzanar?

BK: Well, it was cold. It was drafty, the room. It was very primitive. It was not private. I mean, all five of us had to live in the, one small room. And it was kind of a, I guess forced living. You have to live according to the instructions given to you. We didn't have any choices. There was very little privacy, and there was very little incentive to do anything. So it's like being in prison. You couldn't go anywhere, do anything. And you had to wait for orders, just like the army. Camp life was very, you would call it engineered for prisoners. Yeah, you had to follow instructions.

MN: Do you remember what block your family lived in?

BK: Block 26, Barrack 7, Apartment 2. Yeah, I don't think I'll ever forget that.

MN: What sort of job did your parents do at Manzanar?

BK: My father became a carpenter. He like tools. My mother became a, worked in the kitchen, drying dishes and things like that, whatever they had to do. And my sister became a book, a librarian with the library that was formed in camp. My other sister became a teacher in primary school, taking care of the little kids. And I became a student, working part time as a messenger boy.

MN: Now, your father, you said, became a carpenter.

BK: Yes.

MN: Are there still buildings standing at Manzanar that he worked on?

BK: Yeah, he worked on the building that is now the former gymnasium and also houses, the, the Manzanar, what is that they have up there? Visitors' quarters. It was at the gymnasium. They worked on, he was with the Manzanar carpenters' group, and he worked in building that building, which is amazing.

MN: Are you talking about the interpretive center?

BK: Yeah. He worked there to build the interpretive center.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now, December 1942, Manzanar had a riot. Were you there to witness this?

BK: Yeah, I was there as a lot of us. There's no activity in, in camp. And I think it was summer day, and there were people yelling. I don't know what caused the yelling. I think there was still this animosity between the, the Kibei group, who were pro-Japan, and the JACL, and they felt that the JACL had recommended that we be in camps. Anyway, they were looking for some people who were JACL people. And they thought that the administration had protected them, and so I hear that some of them went up in the hospital where, I think, the JACL members were being protected. That's what the rumor was. So they went up there and went through all the hospital looking for JACL leaders. They couldn't find them. They came out. They thought that maybe he was being held in protective custody in the jail, but the jail was in the front of the camp, so they came down -- they had hachimakis on, the Kibeis -- and they were making... they must've been drinking something, shochu or something. And they make a lot of noise and going down to the base of the camp where the local, I guess, temporary police (jail) was, and one barrack was used as a holding tank.

They went down there thinking that maybe that's where they were being held, and as they went down they were making noise and the crowd followed them. And so they went towards the front of the camp, near the highway, and they were making a lot of noise. All of a sudden the camp called out the guards, and so the military people came out with their jeeps and they formed jeeps on the side of the barrack that housed, what was used as a jail, and had the lights flashing towards the crowd. And it was dusk. It was dark, and so you could see the jeeps' headlights flash towards the crowd and the crowd standing, knowing not what to do, and these Kibeis now starting to throw rocks against the jail. And pretty soon they're making a lot of noise and they were, claim that they were being held in jail, the leaders of the JACL or whatever, and pretty soon things got nervous and somebody fired a gun. And once the gun was fired several people got shot and killed. I heard it, a gun fire and I ran all the way home, I mean, to my barrack. I couldn't explain to my folks what happened because they, they didn't understand what was going on. So that's what happened that one night. There were, several people were shot, and they were running away and shot. So some of them were shot in the back, which didn't look good for the military people, to people, to shoot people while they're running away. But anyways, it was a bad experience for everybody. And you can't blame the people that were incarcerated. I mean, they didn't know what was happening. The government really didn't have cause to put us in to begin with, but they felt that the JACL leaders were those responsible for making a deal with the government and that's why we ended up in camp. And I really don't know today if that's true or not, but there's some evidence that the JACL people were involved. And maybe they were thinking about the safety of the people more so than anything else. I have no idea. I'm not gonna get into that because that's past history.

MN: But you're a teenager at that time. I mean, were you scared? What was going through your mind, being in this camp and this...

BK: I didn't know what was going on. We were sixteen years old. What did we know about politics? Nothing. I didn't know why they were yelling. I didn't know why they were shooting. And we were in the dark, so as far as I... I didn't know what relations the JACL had with the community. Nothing. Didn't know what JACL represented. But that was another phase of our growing up, finding that there were different elements in our community, antagonistic and some maybe more cooperative with the government. There's a lot that's been talked about, but I don't know whatever, what really happened.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Let me ask you about Mr. Louis, Louis Frizzell.

BK: Oh, yes.

MN: Who was he? Share with us, what was he like?

BK: Louis Frizzell was a recent graduate of UCLA music school. He was born in Shafter, California. We found that out afterwards. We come back and met his father up at Shafter, California. It's a town way up north. And his major at UCLA was music, and he came to us in Manzanar as a teacher to take over the music department. And he had a special talent. He was a single man. He was, had some physical problem. I don't know if it was a heart or whatever, but he couldn't join the armed forces. But he was tremendous in terms of musical talent. While he was at UCLA in music he wrote a musical about college life and what we did is, I think in about the third year of camp life, we experienced him getting involved in more music and drama, orchestra. At first, as the classes convened, he got them organized and got them involved in singing (in) choral groups. So he formed a lot of choral groups, different classes, and had different kinds of musicals that he created for different seasons. So he got them involved in Christmas, singing messiahs and Japanese, I don't know, Christmas songs. And he formed an orchestra and got them to play different kinds of seasonal tunes. Christmas time, he got them to play the "Toy Trumpet," and other seasonal performances. He got the choral group to sing ("America"), but it was about the history of the United States, in choral form, and it started off [sings] "In 1776 the sky was red and thunder rumbling overhead, and bad King George couldn't sleep in his bed 'cause on that fateful morn, oh, Uncle Sam was born." And he goes through this whole operetta and the whole choir sings it with different parts, and so he was very innovative, he even wrote a operetta while he was at the UCLA and got the students to perform it (in Manzanar). It was about college life and had different parts. And I wasn't part of that group. For some reason I think I had left to got to work up in Utah to make some money for college. But they performed this musical while I was gone. It was very popular and talked about college life and the people that were in class and they (...) had a problem. They wanted to do something but couldn't raise money, and then one of the graduates who was an actress and a performer, (she) comes and then they had a fundraiser and everybody participated, and they raised the money and they were successful. And the choir and the people that played the different parts, all Niseis, they put it on and did a wonderful job. And he got them excited. He got them involved. He got them to sing songs from different parts, from Australia, so he got them informed (and educated). Christmas songs, he got the orchestra to play seasonal songs. The play he wrote, he got them to also play other parts of drama, drama class. So he got them really going, and I don't think that the Niseis that were in our class would've ever been involved in any of these things had they stayed at the schools they were in, because they were too timid, or kind of reserved kind of people, not the outgoing like the Jewish kids or other kids, but they were exposed to Mr. Frizzell, who used their talents and brought it out. And I thought he did a whale of a job of keeping us involved (and participating).

MN: Well, he got you involved in the Christmas solos.

BK: Yeah, I was involved because I was playing the trumpet. We used to play, Christmas time, the "Toy Trumpet." I played the solo for that. For band, I played the solo for that. And then when we had our graduation we had three trumpet players get up there, and before the program started, dum da da dum, da da da da da da da, and then another scale up, and they had three trumpets playing different notes, but we had the fanfare for the opening ceremony. And he did so much to bring lifestyle and campstyle for our school. He was an amazing person. He also discovered special talents of our students, like Mary Kageyama, and he got her to sing in her style. And he thought so much of her that he wanted her to go to New York -- I think I might've said that before -- to perform in the musicals in New York. But at that time everybody said that that would be inappropriate because there was too much racial discrimination, and so she didn't go. But if you recall, even recently now, there was an article about Jack Su, Jack Suzuki, who changed his name to get by. But she could've maybe done that, but she didn't. But within our circle she's been singing, and amazingly her whole family sings, and so her son-in-law leads an orchestra, her daughter sings, their two sons sing, and she continues singing. We have this book signing of my book. I wrote memoirs for my kids, and you helped me, and then they said, "Well, why don't, why don't you print the book?" And now they're in the process of printing the book. They gave you a byline, too. I put, I says you got to put this young lady's name down, too. [Laughs]

MN: Let's, let's go back to you.

BK: That's alright. I'm not... just an addition.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now, in addition to the camp orchestra, you were in a band.

BK: Oh, that's post war.

MN: No, no, no. During the camp years. You and --

BK: Yeah, we had the, we formed a band in camp. Yeah.

MN: Tell me how you guys came up with the name Jive Bombers.

BK: Well, I was at, I was going up to the music center to practice. Nothing to do in camp. I was involved with the school orchestra and all, so had a lot of things to practice. And there was a fella, older fellow, Bill Wakatsuki, who was one of the leaders up there at the music center, older fella, and he was a singer. He had wonderful operatic voice. But he also was into music. And he says one, one time we were up there with everybody that was practicing music, he says he wanted to form a band. He says... so he got us together and we were talkin' about it, and he says, "But we have to have a name." And he says, "Anybody have any ideas?" And I suggested, there was a record that had just come out, and I had heard it. It's "No Name Jive." So I says, "How about Jive?" He says, "Oh, that's new music." And somebody says, "How about something," he said, "that has a lot of punch to it?" And somebody says, "How about Bombers?" You know, they were bombing London. Well, so he says, "Oh, that's good. Jive Bombers," he says. This is, that's the name that clicked, so from then on it was the Jive Bombers.

MN: And Bill Wakatsuki --

BK: Wakatsuki.

MN: He's the brother of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston?

BK: Right. The person that wrote the book (Farewell to Manzanar). Yeah, the older brother.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Now, I know you were really active in a lot of extracurricular activities, and one of them was the Manza-Knights. What were the Manza-Knights?

BK: Manza-Knights was a boys' club and it was made mostly of boys from the downtown area and Boyle Heights, and they had different groups from different areas. We had the group from San Pedro and the Yogores, and then they had names of fish, and we had the other people who came from different areas, San Fernando Aces and the Bel-Airs, so each area tried to develop a name for the group. And so the Manza-Knights was a East L.A. and downtown group. It had more than just one group of players and different ages, so you had the Manza-Knights and the older fellows, and then the Manza-Knights that were in between, and then the Manza-Knights that were the younger group, so we did, we joined different categories of activities based on age. So the Manza-Knights were basically made up of downtown, Boyle Heights people.

MN: You got in trouble one time as a feature editor of the Campus Pepper, which is a school newspaper. Can you tell us that story?

BK: Oh yeah, well, we had a contest to name the school paper, and the person that won out was entitled the Campus Pepper. You know, pep, pep the people, to cheer them up. And the Campus Pepper had different kind of editors. You had the editor that wrote serious things about what could happen in school, and I became an editor for, not humor, but feature editor. I would write things about certain people and certain couples, just to keep the names in front of the group, and one time I ran across a poem. And this poem was in some editorial or some newspaper, and I thought it was good because it was the world's shortest poem. The title to it should've been "World's Shortest Poem: (Fleas)." And at that time when the paper came out we had to use a stencil, and the stencil you had to have a stylus put in the heading of a different subject. And Nori Kuriyama was supposed to be the artist to put the headings in. Well, he forgot to put in "World's Shortest Poem," which he should've put in, but it just came on "Adam, Had them." And the vice president, she called me in and says, "Bruce, what is this 'Adam, Had them? It sounds pretty bad." I says, well, I tried to explain it, "Nori Kuriyama should've put the heading in, 'The World's Shortest Poem: (Fleas).'" She said, "What does that mean?" I said, "That's all. That's the, that's the name of the poem. '(Fleas).'" I said, "You could make it whatever you want, but that's the direct copy I got from another newspaper." And she was really miffed, and I said, "I don't know what you're thinkin' about. I don't have any thoughts about it. Just '(Fleas) Adam Had them.'" [Laughs] Oh, boy.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Well, let's talk about your parents. Did you spend a lot of time with your parents or at your barrack?

BK: We were in the same barracks, but everybody had a different thing that they were working on. My dad was a carpenter so he'd be gone all day, working on the projects and coming back. And we never got together. My mother worked in the mess hall. My sister was a librarian, and my other sister was in the, teaching the small kids. And each had their jobs, and we'd never sit together as a family to eat. They ate at the barracks or the blocks where they worked, and lunch time you're supposed to go back to your block where you slept to eat, but sometimes you're at one end of the camp and by the time you walked you'd miss out. Yeah, the family was very loose. We never sat together to eat. We were independent. I sat with the boys. My sisters sat with their teachers. And my father ate wherever they had to eat with the carpenters, and my mother was in the, in the mess hall, wiping dishes and doing everything to keep the tables clean.

MN: In 1943, when you were a senior in high school, the government passed out the controversial "loyalty questionnaire."

BK: Oh, yeah.

MN: Did you discuss this with anybody, and how did you answer it?

BK: I wasn't confused. I didn't discuss it with anybody. I just put what I wanted to put in and that was it. There was no question in my mind. I'm a loyal American and I'm not pro-Japanese. I don't know anything about the Emperor, so I just filled it in and signed it. There was nothing in my mind. Then I heard other people had problems.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: Now, when you became a senior in high school you started to think about your career plans. What were you thinking about going into?

BK: Well, in my senior year I was still thinking about going into medicine, and I was working in the (hospital) after hours, as (an orderly), helping out. And they had me working in the men's ward. So this fellow from San Fernando, he's teaching me how to give, take people over to the benjo and give them a bed pan, do all the things that you're supposed to do for sick people, and he says Mr. So-and-So, you have to be very careful with him. You have to take him to the benjo and pinch his cheeks before you let him go. [Laughs] Yeah, he's... you wanna scratch that, but he would tell me all the details about each patient. And it's (an eye-opener), it was interesting for me because that's the first time I dealt with people and their frailties and their problems. And then we had one of the camp employees, a Caucasian, he was in the hospital. I don't know if he has appendicitis or something, but he was stricken in bed and he called me. He says, "I got to have a urinal." He says, "I have to go." I says okay, so I brought the urinal to him, and then he's, he's buzzing me and I said, "What's, what's the problem?" He says, "It's topped out. You better..." [Laughs] So I took his urinal and emptied it. I says, I says, "You're the champ. You're absolutely the champ." So we'd do all sorts of, good relations with people, and every time, after he left the hospital and would come back, he says, "Hi, Bruce. How are you?" I says, "Hi, Champ."

MN: One time the hospital staff asked you to watch over the babies ward. How did that go?

BK: Yeah, that, I was working at night and the person in charge of the baby ward didn't show up, so the nurse ask, asked me to fill in. So I says okay, so I went over to the babies ward and I'm sitting there. Well, usually for the men's ward, they buzz you, you go over there and ask them what they want, and you do whatever they want and come back. But the babies ward, if they start crying you're supposed to go over there and check them out, so I have a flashlight and a baby starts to cry, so I go over there with my flashlight and flash it on and, oh, baby stops crying. So then I come back to the office and wait, then it starts crying again, and pretty soon another baby starts to cry. I go, flashlight... and then the nurse comes over and says, "Bruce, aren't you taking care of the babies?" I says, "Yeah, I'm checking them out, but I don't know what's wrong with them." She says, "You come with me." And so she says, "Now watch me." So she changed the diaper. She said, "That's what's wrong with the baby. They wet their diapers, so you got to change it." I says, "Oh," I says, "I didn't know that." Basic things, they don't tell you what to do and so you learn the hard way. But you remember all these things I told you.

MN: Now, you also got to see your first autopsy. How did that come about?

BK: Oh, that came about one day the news was out that one of the patients needed blood, and they says, well, they first had to find someone with the same type blood and I matched the patient's blood, so they said, "Are you willing to donate some blood for him?" I said, "Yeah, I guess so." And so they took some blood out of me and gave it to the patient, and that same night he died. And I said, "Oh, my God, I wonder if it was my blood that, that created the problem." So when they said that he passed away, they're gonna have a post mortem, I said, I was very concerned, I says, "Can I watch?" And they said, "You want to watch?" I said, "Oh yeah." He says, "Okay, you put on a gown and you observe what we're doing. Don't say anything. You just watch." So I went to the post mortem, and that's the first time I saw the, how they conducted a post mortem. I mean, they got a big, like a skill saw, just go across the chest and down, open it up and look at first the heart, then they go down the vital organs. And as they check each one they make the comments and then someone's recording everything. And it came down to the place where you're supposed to pass the water, and those things were little peanut size. They weren't normal. So he had uremia, which means that they think he couldn't pass water normally, and the water was all inside his body. He couldn't pass it on. So that's what he died of, uremia. And that's how I find out it wasn't my blood. He had another condition then. It was fatal to him.

MN: Did you throw up during the autopsy?

BK: (I saw) the first time autopsy. It, it's brutal. I don't want to see (another) one.

MN: But you didn't throw up?

BK: No, I didn't throw up. I was, I was kinda (queasy). There's another time in Sioux City, Iowa. I was working in, watching an operation, and this nurse says, "You want to watch this operation?" I said, "What it is it?" He says, "They're operating on the elbow, and you've never seen an elbow operation?" I said no. "You want to see it?" I said, "I don't mind." I watch it and the nurses are holding the arm, see, and the doctor's, is chipping into, taking the bone out because it's broken. They have to replace some part. I says oh, man. That was too much for me. Bangin' away. Those, she goes to the side, says, "Just take this. After you take it you can leave." They gave me a shot of scotch or something. So I took that and I left. I says, I don't want to see any kind of operation that has to do with people holding the arms or whatever. If you're lying down and they cut open or whatever, that's, that's okay. That's very, I would say, impersonal. But when the nurses are holding your arm and they're bangin' away like this and the arm is goin' up and down, this is a, I couldn't stand it. That, that was (bad). I was ready to pass out. I said, I wouldn't know what I would do if they did that to me (...).

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: Okay, now you graduated with honors from Manzanar High in '44.

BK: Yes.

MN: You received a California Scholarship Federation, but why weren't you able to go directly to college?

BK: We had to first apply to college and be accepted by a college outside of (California), and we had to fill in forms and send it out, and Sam Ono and I were accepted at Sioux City, Iowa, at Morningside College (...) and in order to do that we had to have so much tuition money. So when I graduated we went to work up in northern Utah, (to) do farm work and earn some money. So I spent, from the time I graduated, with a couple of my classmates, we went up north and worked that whole summer into winter, working for various farmers. And with the money that we saved and some help from my parents I sent an application to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and was accepted, so when I came back from farm work I knew I had been accepted, so I got ready to move to Iowa.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: Now, before we go to Iowa, let's talk about your farming experience. You're a city boy, and you and your friends were city boys. Tell me, what was it like doing farm work?

BK: Well that was all a new experience for us. I mean, the three of us from our class that went out, Reggie Shikami and Seigo Yoshinaga and I, we were in the same tent, three guys in a tent. None of us had any kind of farm experience. The only incentive was that it was work and that they would pay you, and so it was not a matter of experience. It's a matter of tryin' to go out there and make some money. And they didn't tell us what kind of work we're gonna do, except farm work, so as we were assigned to go out and work we found out what the job was and we applied ourselves. So it's a whole new experience for all of us. Some people worked on a farm. Some people worked in the plants, like there was one experience where we worked for a company that canned peas, and they put them in cans and then cooked them and brought them out, and you had to take it out of the, I think a big metal basket that they had taken in and cooked them, and it had to come out of the cooker and had to take them out and then stack them. And stackin' em', you had to have gloves because it was still hot. But we did that kind of job. There were others that worked at making ketchup. The tomatoes would come down the row and you would have to take the ones that were not so good or not tomatoes or leaves and try to clear the belt of irregulars and the ones that wouldn't be applicable to the kitchen. And you learn on the job what was required. We had to clean the stalls of animals' refuse, and we had to mow the hay. We had to work in lining up the rows of hay. You have to get the hay that's cut and line it up in rows so that the machine can come down and pick up the hay and bale it. And then after it's baled, then you have to take the baled hay and put them on trucks and then put them in the barn. So we learned how to do each phase as they taught us, and I tell you, we came out very physically strong after the work we did on the farm. It was hard work. (...) For tomato season, what you have to do is, as the tomato plants grow, you have to kinda prune them to get the ones that aren't doing so well and take them off the vine because they take the same nourishment that the other ones are provided, and you need the nourishments for the good ones, so they become good solid tomatoes. So the preliminary, I guess, pickings are more or less ferret out or clean out the bad ones, and so we did that and from there on it's supposed to be good pickings. Well, you have bad luck and the frost came in. It froze all the tomatoes. Everything is dead. You learn that farming is not all that easy to do. The farmers that make money, they're lucky. We learned everything about the problems of the farmers. They hired us to do the work and we did whatever we had to do.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: So you finished your contract, you came back to Manzanar and you found out you're accepted to Morningside College, you and Sam Ono.

BK: (Yes).

MN: When you got to Morningside, how did the students and faculty treat you folks?

BK: We got there early, before the semester started. We were there even before Christmas. Semester started early February, but we went to register and pay our fee and they say you have to find quarters where you're gonna stay, so they referred us to a reverend who had a home close by and rooms to rent, so we rented a room and shared a room together. Then we had to find jobs because we need sources of income. Sam found a job in a local restaurant. They referred me, because I was pre med, to the Methodist hospital in town, so I took a street car and went to the Methodist hospital, and they were looking for an orderly for the operating room. And they said, "Have you ever worked as an orderly?" I says, "Yes, at Manzanar. But," I says, "never in an operating room." Says, "Well, I think the nurses will tell you what to do once you get up there, but you fill out the form and you're on the staff now. The staff is entitled to, to eat in the restaurant any time. We'll give you identification so you can just go in there and eat." That's what I was worried about, a place to eat. So as long as I traveled from school in a streetcar down to the hospital, I could eat, so I was just worried about eating. But then meeting the people up at the surgery room, they needed someone to clean out the surgery room after operations, and so the nurses up there says, "Have you ever done that?" I said no, not really, so they told me about the procedures that they go through. The doctors usually come in and they already have the kind of operation they're gonna work on, and so you have to put out the kinds of surgery linen that's required. If it's appendectomy, well, you have a sheet where the appendectomy takes place, there's an opening so that it's not cluttered and they can operate. For every operation there's a different kind of covers. They were tellin' me how to do that, and once the operation is over the linen is then sent down to the laundromats and the sanitizing place, so they go down and they clean and they're sanitized and then brought, brought back. And they just stack them in places where they store the linen. So I learned a lot about the operating room. And one day I noticed all the containers they had in the operating room, there's no labels on them, so I asked the nurse, "How can you tell what they are?" Said, "Oh, the doctors know what they need." I says, "Yeah, but what if they pick something that they thought it was and it wasn't the right thing?" She says, "Well, they haven't made any mistakes." I said, "Could you get me some black ink? And then what I want to do is if you give me what they are, the description and I could fill it in, label it." So I did that and the doctors said, "Wow, this is the first time we've had any labeling." Says, "Now we know we can't make any mistakes." So I got along with the doctors and they were grateful for even that little bit.

But I got along with the cadet nurses, and I was in music so I said, "Do you know of any bands coming into town?" I think that's the time that Yoshindo was, he was also a member of Manza-Knights and also a member of Jive Bombers, he was there before me at Morningside, and so he used to go to listen to the bands, so he would tell me who's in town. I says, "Well, let's go together," so we used to go listen to the band. It was a new experience, because this was the first time I, I'm hearing the big bands. Who was it? I forget the band leader's name. Anyway, when we went there to the music hall and the band is playing, nobody's dancing. Everybody's in front of the, the stage, and they're performing and they're just listening to the music. Nobody's dancing. And it's catching, because everybody's moving. That's (...) when I was seventeen, eighteen years old. That's the time when you're growing up and really full of energy.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Now, you just arrived at Morningside and then in February '45 you received your induction notice.

BK: Yeah.

MN: So you're in college, did you ask for a deferment?

BK: No. Once you're eligible... I didn't know anything about the rules of registration or deferment. Once I got notice by the army I just told the school that I had received my induction notice. They returned all the (money) except for a few, few dollars, like I received all my money back. And I reported back to Manzanar. Then I went down to San Pedro (Army headquarters) to be inducted. They told me to go back to (Manzanar) camp, went to camp, waited and waited for orders to report for duty. I waited for that, then I went up to Salt Lake and was inducted (...) and then sent out to Camp Wolters, Texas, for basic army training.

MN: Going to Manzanar and you're in this camp and you're waiting to go fight for a country that has your parents in camp. How did that make you feel?

BK: Well, I guess that the people that received the notices, I mean, you're already designated as a group, returning back to camp. And I wasn't the only one that received (a notice)... I don't know how many people were notified that they had to report for duty, so we're just waiting for orders. It's not that we had anything to do in camp except wait and then take off (when ordered). There's nothing to do in camp. You can't find a job because you're not (...) there permanently, so all we're doing is just biding our time. As soon as we received our notice, then our group was driven by bus to Salt Lake and then reported for duty. Then they would assign us clothes, an (identification) number. We'd get our, (dog tag). The number assigned to us and then they'd put the Protestant or Buddhist or whatever on the (identity tag) and we had the (...) dog tag assigned to us. And then you'd go to the line and they would give you the army issue of so many shirts, so many socks, so many whatever, and your shoe size. You get a whole gunny sack full of your clothes, and once you get that they give you orders where you're gonna report for the infantry. So we were trained to be the infantry replacements for the soldiers in Europe. We were sent down to Camp Wolters, (Texas), the infantry training (unit).

MN: When you were at Camp Wolters, VE Day was declared. Did you think VJ Day was gonna be pretty soon?

BK: Well, it changed, it changed our routine, because we were supposed to be trained as replacements for the other 442nd. We were all Japanese in this contingent being trained, and I don't know if you realize that the army discriminated and all Japanese were placed in one unit. All the blacks were in another unit, all the Indians were in another unit, and you were being put in segregated (units). So we knew that our group was scheduled to be replacements for the 100th/442nd, and when we found out that the war was ending in Europe, they took us off of orders to be shipped to Europe because we weren't replacements anymore. So as soon as that happened, (Fort Snelling) in Minnesota, was looking for people (who) had Japanese background, so the language people came down from Minnesota to test us. We were all JAs in our unit, so each one was then seated and given Japanese books to read, and so if you were able to read up to a certain book, then you were sent up to Fort Snelling. So I qualified for that, so they sent me to Fort Snelling and a few other fellows. Some of the other fellows that were from Salt Lake, they didn't have any Japanese school training. They were sent somewhere else, but those that had Japanese school training, we all went up to Fort Snelling.

MN: What were these, what was the twenty-five week intensive MIS language training like?

BK: It was, it was brutal. It was very brutal. Very competitive. And we would get up in the morning, have breakfast, then march towards our classroom. We reported in our classroom and had our lesson plans and instructors gave us special problems and instruction. Lunchtime, we were marched back to our quarters. We ate lunch, and then after lunch we were marched back to our school and stayed there 'til about maybe 4:30-5, then marched back to our quarters, had dinner. And I don't know if we went back to class or not. In some cases we went back to class, then came back before 9:00, and then lights out at 10:00, and some of the guys hadn't studied yet so they would study under the blankets with a flashlight. It was intensive. Very intensive, very competitive. And so the only time we had off was on Saturdays it was half day, so the afternoon some of the guys took off for town. Sundays was off 'cause we went to church in the morning, and Sunday afternoons just catch up on writing letters and all, or study. We were always studying.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: Now, I know you folks were all private first class. It was difficult to make ends meet financially, especially 'cause you were sending money to your parents. Tell me some of the creative ways you guys were saving money.

BK: Well, as a private, you're making less than seventy-five dollars a month. I don't know if we were making even that, but part of it was for support of your parents and insurance and whatever, and whatever we got was very nominal at the end of the month. And so we were always broke, all of us. I mean, we were privates. The privates is the lowest scale in the army, and they hadn't designated us as, for promotion yet, so a lot of us were always short of money. And there were some people from Hawaii, they didn't have the same problems we had, like being in camp, so their parents were out doing what they normally do, doing business, growing crops, tomatoes, coffee, whatever, and they always had money. And they said, "Well, if you want to borrow money," they said, "we'll loan you five dollars, but at the end of the month you owe me ten." That's how it was in the army. And if you wanted to gamble you gambled and hopefully make it up. But a lot of us had to wash our clothes with the money that we earned. There was a Bendix machine that took these (streetcar) coins, and these coins were (...) three for a quarter or (...) we could use the (streetcar coins in the) laundromat and we'd wash our clothes. Well, the ride to town was one coin, and so if we used the coins, we'd get three for the Bendix machine, and we could use the same coin to go all the way to camp and back. We'd use one coin a piece, we'd still have one coin extra, so that's the way that we saved some money. And the poor Bendix operator, he wound up with a lot of tokens, not real money, but tokens. But I guess he understood what everything was all about. If you wanted to gamble and borrow more money you could, but it cost you a lot of money. Yeah. That's the army way.

MN: Do you want to share about being a pin setter?

BK: A (pin setter)?

MN: Pin, bowling pin setter?

BK: Oh, I told you about Watanabe, huh? Yeah, this fellow from Utah, Kinji Watanabe, and I became fast friends, and so he was in a different class than I was, but he was in a different company also, but we got to know each other and he says, "Let's go to town. I says, "Well, I can't afford it." I says, "I don't have any money to spend." I just got my clothes... we had to keep our clothes, uniforms, the cleaners, you had to pay the cleaners. I says, "I don't have any money." He says, "Don't worry. We'll go down and we're gonna make money." So he knew something I didn't know, so we went to town and got off the street car, and he says, "Let's go up the second floor, there's a bowling alley." And so we went to the bowling alley, he says, "We're gonna set pins and we're gonna get, make some money for chop suey." I says, "Well, I have never set up pins." He says, "Don't worry." So he goes to talk to the fellow in charge of the bowling alley and they need pin setters, so we go to the back and he says, "You watch me." "While the people are bowling," he says, "after they bowl, I'll put the rack up and then all the pins are ready for the bowler. After he bowls, he knocks down the pins, you pick up the pins and put them where they belong. And (the bowling person) gets the ball (...). He get another chance at knocking the pins down. After the second (throw, the) pins are knocked down (then) you set them up and (rack them). And then he tries again, and keep repeating it." And so I follow what he tells me to do, and after the bowlers bowl about three, four games they quit, so after they quit he says, "You wait. Usually they send money down the alley." I says, "They do?" I says, "That's nice." But sure enough they send a quarter down the alley, and so after the customers leave we go up to the head desk and the guy says, "Well, how many sets did you have?" and then he pays us for setting up the pins. We take that money and our tip and we went to (eat at) John's Chinese restaurant on the second floor, and that's where they serve some good Chinese food. And we ate our fill and we went home, really tired on this trolley but very happy. So that's how Kinji taught me how to make money at the bowling alley.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: While you were at Fort Snelling VJ Day is declared, but your service term isn't over and you have, you're going, you're scheduled to go over to Japan with a stop over in Hawaii, but you never made it with your unit. What happened?

BK: Well, when we left Fort Snelling, we had been stationed at, we had been ordered to go to Japan, so the whole troop went to Seattle and we went to the port quarters where we had to wait 'til the ship got in, and when we went there and reported I contracted an illness, and I got the mumps. So they sent me to the hospital. And it's an infectious disease, so they took me right away and put me in a hospital and had me in restrictive quarters. Nobody else could come in the area. It's contagious. I don't know what it was all about, and they says, "You can't leave your bed." They said, "You're restricted right here." I says, "But I have to go." Said, "You do it in bed." I said, "I can't do it in bed." He says, "You have to do it in bed." [Laughs] So that was quite an experience. Once you do it, that, that's it. You became a seasoned performer. So after I got over my, my mumps I was taken back to a port of embarkation again and waited for the next ship, and finally wound up going to Japan.

MN: But you weren't in Japan very long. You were shipped out to the Philippines. You worked with the 795th Military Police unit at Lupow Prison Camp. Now, why did the MIS have to have Filipino escorts?

BK: When we were shipped out to go to Japan I was supposed to be stationed in Tokyo with the housing for civilians that were coming over to help in trying to get the Japanese government going again, but at the last minute, I came home one night and there were orders on my bed saying I was ordered to go to the Philippines to the war crimes, and so I had to wake up my buddy to have him take care of all the things that I had to ship home and so that I could report in the morning to go to the airport, to go to the Philippines for the war crimes tribunal. (...) The army is not, not very helpful in terms of giving you much time to go from one place to another. It was overnight. I came home, orders (were) on the bed to report in the morning to ship out to the Philippines. That's it. So you have how many hours to take care of everything you had to do. Anyway, my buddy from Boyle Heights, Glen Arai, was in the same quarters with me and he took care of everything, so I really owe him a lot.

MN: Now, why did you guys have to have Filipino escorts once you got to the Philippines?

BK: Well, we looked like the enemy. There's no guarantee that Filipino civilians would not attack us. Even if we had U.S. uniforms on, the Filipino people really suffered and were maltreated by the Japanese soldiers, so they, they were really mad at the Japanese and there's no guarantee that anybody would, would take care of us, other than ourselves. A Filipino could attack us at any time. So we were in another compound. Our quarters were behind barbed wires again, and we were protected by the Filipino soldiers from the Filipino (army). So there I was again, behind barbed wires, and all during the time we were in the Philippines, we were, all the Niseis were in one unit working for the war crimes (...). I just saw another friend of mine had passed away. Because most of my (aging) classmates, a number of them have already passed away. I guess I'm one of the holdovers. We're a passing group, MIS group and the 100th/442nd. I mean, just old age, it's taking (a toll).

MN: Tell me why you folks made getas.

BK: Made what?

MN: Geta.

BK: Oh, it rained so, so often in the Philippines. Our tents were on raised floors. It wasn't on the ground, had to raise it because it rained so often in the Philippines you can't have anything on the ground. You'd be soaked. So we were on a raised platform and it was all canvas (tents), and we also were sleeping in hammocks, rope on one end and rope on the other end, in hammocks, and they had, that hammock was covered by mosquito netting. Mosquito netting because the Philippines had a lot of mosquitoes, and when we go to bed you have to be, we use these, I forgot what we used to call them, these balms, and we sprayed this (tiger) balm on us so we wouldn't get bitten by mosquitoes, and even then we, we'd get bitten. But it, it was terrible. I mean, conditions in the Philippines were horrible. That and we had my clothes washed and cleaned by local Filipino girls that wanted to get money, get paid to do the work. They would do so, but our clothes would come back and they would clean them in the, the rivers and the rivers were dirty. They would come back with a strong smell, but they were washed in the water they had. It was not very good.

MN: You were also having trouble with the local children. What were they doing?

BK: Well, the children had no homes. In the whole of Manila there were few buildings that were standing. The old city hall was bombed out; everything was bombed out. Very few homes standing. People were homeless and family didn't exist. All the kids were wild. They were roamin' around and wanted to find food, so the kids would come under the barbed wire at night and steal everything they could find from us. We had to post guard every night. We'd catch the kids and take them to police. They would register them and they had no place to put them. They'd come back the next night. So we had to post guard every night. We got to know the kids and we tried to help them, but there was no, no way to fully take care of them, so the police knew them well and we knew them well and we did what we could, but we couldn't, we couldn't keep (them fed and clothed).

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

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: So what was your assignment as part of the Manila war crimes tribunal? What were your responsibilities there?

BK: Our responsibilities were more to work in translation. There were (Japanese soldier) prisoners that had surrendered. The war had ended, but there were a lot of soldiers that were out in the jungles and lost their company, lost their fighting unit. They were loners. They didn't know where to go. Their unit was lost. And as they gave up and reported, our duty was to process and to find out if they were any of the ones that had committed war crimes against the Filipinos, and if they were cleared of any atrocities, then they were processed so that they could return home. Those that had committed atrocities were imprisoned and had to wait hearings for the war crimes. So that was part of our duties, and also translating (statements of) those that were found to have been responsible for some atrocities, we had to convert their testimony in Japanese to English, as the court was conducted all in English. So that was part of our work in doing the translation. And then the people above us would then have to read our work and make any corrections before it was submitted to the court. For us, our work was more or less to clear people of any atrocities, get them to a point where they would be free to go home. And the problem was there was no quick way to do that. It's a process of clearing them, taking their testimony, making sure that they weren't responsible for atrocities, and there was, hate to say it, but there was a lot of atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers. They became animals just like they do in every war. A lot of them that were in the Philippines were from Kyushu, and that's where my folks came from, Kyushu. So they were, came from Kumamoto and, and Fukuoka, and they wanted to get home. And so once they were cleared they were used as help for us in the camps. They worked in the kitchens and kept the bathrooms and everything clean, the grounds clean. They had no money, so us GIs were mostly (Niseis), felt sorry for them. So I didn't smoke and I didn't drink so I would take my allotment and I would a buy beer and cigarettes and take them over and give it to the prisoners because they had nothing, had nothing at all. And they put on a show for us as a kind of thank you, before they left for home. We got to know each other and they got to know about Japanese Americans. I think a relationship was established at that time.

MN: So when your time was up you returned to Tokyo and then you were, you found out you weren't assigned a table of organization. Why is this so important?

BK: Well, when we were assigned to the Philippines our orders said that we were assigned to the (...) military police (unit). However, that military police was not the ones that issued us our monthly checks. In order to get a raise in rank you had to be in a table of order, which means you had to be assigned to a group that we would report your name at your (position) every month, that you're entitled to certain benefits, and we weren't under that table of order. And it's the mistake of the Military Intelligence Service group that assigned us from Tokyo to Manila for not having set that up. And so we never got a raise in rank. We were a private from the time we left Minneapolis. They didn't raise our rank at all, and yet we were going home, they say, "Would you like to sign up for two years?" I says what for? I mean, "If we did what would, what would happen? We would wind up the same way?" "Oh no, we'll make you a lieutenant." I says, "Why aren't we a lieutenant now? What happened?" And that's my peeve and my complaint against the MIS: they didn't take care of us. Not at all. But anyway, that's what you call a goof. Army goof.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: You were honorable discharged February 1947 and you returned back to Boyle Heights, and what happened to this lady who was living in your home? Was she still there?

BK: Oh, Mrs. Hearst kept the proceeds of whatever she would rent out. She lived free of any expense. My parents paid for the water bill out of the camp proceeds they made. So she lived for free and she rented the place out. She would keep the rent, but she would look after the property and that's all my parents were worried about, someone to live there and make sure the property was maintained. So Mrs. Hearst was good in that she did live there and the property was not destroyed, and she didn't do anything but just live there. But we're grateful that she stayed there.

MN: Once you're back into civilian life, what did you do?

BK: Well, the first thing I did was to go to USC to register. I came back after being discharged on a weekend and so my buddies came over, and on Monday I went to USC to register, so I didn't lose a day at all from coming back from being separated from the service in trying to get my civilian life going. And Monday when I went down to USC, I filled out all the forms and then found out that I could register for the coming semester for the evening program. The day program was (full). And I (applied for the night program). I was happy that each night I had a different course, three units, and so I had fifteen units during the week. I was able to attend school by street car. I didn't have a car. And I could study while I was riding on the street car, which was a benefit. And after the semester was over I converted to summer school, and in summer school I was in the regular school program, and then in the fall I was in the regular school. So I didn't miss a beat.

MN: Did you continue in medicine?

BK: Pardon me?

MN: Did you continue with medicine?

BK: No, when we took the various tests, ability tests, we were thinking about what fields I would be best suited for. Medicine came out okay, but it showed that I was academically strong in math, so I said what is there in math that I could take that won't take too long? And they said you could be an engineer, an accountant. I said, "How long does each one take?" An accounting only took three years, so I says, "I want to sign up for accounting." So that's what I did, and I graduated with a degree in accounting.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: Now, when you returned to Little Tokyo there were still remnants of Bronzeville and you went to the African American run Cobra Club. Can you tell us about that experience?

BK: The American run...

MN: African American, the club, Cobra, Cobra Club on First and San Pedro. Your friend Shap Kuwahara worked there.

BK: Oh, you're talking about the (Club Cobra) which was a nightclub on First and San Pedro in the Taul building. When we were in Manzanar we had the Manza-Knight Club and people from the Manza-Knight Club came from downtown Los Angeles, and one of the fellows was Shap Kuwahara. And his sister, we didn't know, but had married a black person from the Jefferson area, and he was in charge of a photo lab at the Cobra Club, which was a nightclub. And so Shap, who was in our Manzanar group, was doing some work in the photo department of the nightclub. The customers would come in and listen to the music and this photographer would go around and take pictures of the customers and then they would bring the photo back and (process it and) charge so much, and that's what he was doing. But he invited us into his lab, and his lab was below the stage and the stage was where the performers performed. And he did his work, taking pictures and developing. They would come out and deliver it. So he invited us to his lab, which underneath where the performers performed, and we could hear all the music. And so we got to hear the music. We didn't see the guys, but the Club Cobra was very, very busy, and the night club was very busy after hours, not during the light hours, but the late hours. The black people liked their music. Oh, man.

MN: Well, you joined a band, too. Which band did you join?

BK: That's from Manzanar. We were in a band, so when we came back there was various groups. They wanted to form a dance band, and so I heard about it from several people. I don't know how it came about, but the dance band was formed with, with Tetsu Bessho, and Tetsu was able to contact people like Lane Nakano to sing, other people that played musical instruments and the girls to sing, and we wound up with different kinds of gigs, assignments for college dances, high school dances, and Japanese (group) dances. And we used to practice as a orchestra and to perform, so we made a little money, but it wasn't great. It was just more for personal pleasure.

MN: Do you remember which dance you were performing at that you met your future wife, Frances?

BK: No, we were practicing at the church (...) as a band. Learning a new song (as a band), and that one church was in the West Side. (...) The girls' group was meeting there and they were having regular group dances, and I was invited to one of the group dances, so I met Frances, there. That was my first meeting with her. And I didn't see her then for a couple of years because I was busy with school and we were also performing at weekend dances. I had no time to date, no time for women. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: Now, you were able to graduate from USC in three years rather than four years, but you stayed an extra year. Why did you stay?

BK: Why did I stay for one year?

MN: Why did you stay the, another year?

BK: Oh, I stayed another year because the state of California also had a GI bill, and I hadn't used it (up). And so I (decided), well, if there's something there that I can use then I'll stay, so I continued going to USC and went into teaching, commercial (courses). And I wanted to maybe use that as a possible source of income, 'cause maybe teaching would be a profession that I would like. I don't know. From what I saw with the teachers that I had, some of the better teachers that I had seemed to be very happy teaching, so I wanted to (begin) teaching business.

MN: But didn't one of your counselors tell you they don't hire Asians, Asian Americans?

BK: No, they didn't say anything, but some of the people that I was in accounting, they said they were thinking about going into teaching accounting, and I wasn't thinking about that except that I had one more year of benefits, and I hate to lose out on any benefits. [Laughs] So that's why I went into (teaching commercial courses).

MN: Now, at this time everybody knew about Paul Mayekawa's situation. Can you tell us who Paul Mayekawa was and what happened to him?

BK: Paul Mayekawa was a student at UCLA in accounting, and he was a top student. And from what I had heard about him is that the accounting professor at UCLA thought so much of his ability in accounting that he introduced Paul to one of the large accounting firms here in Los Angeles so that he could get a job, and the people at the accounting firm says they don't hire Japanese, and so that was a big disappointment to the instructor as well as Paul. And so he went to work for private industry, a title company, and eventually I heard about him and then he came over to our firm to work.

MN: This is way later on when you had your own accounting firm.

BK: Yes, I had my own accounting firm.

MN: Now, going back to your school years, while you were getting your teaching credential, you also got a part time job with the Reginald K. Wilson CPA firm in Beverly Hills.

BK: Right.

MN: But there's all this anti-Japanese sentiment. How were you able to get this job?

BK: Well, I had some Jewish friends attending USC at the same time that I got to know that were from New York, and they were out here trying to get their education out of the way so they could get on in life. And Al Silverman was one of the Jewish persons I got to know, and he had a job with a Jewish firm doing bookkeeping, and somehow we made contact. I was in touch with these people from New York. I got to know the group. There were three fellows from, that were together, one in accounting, one in marketing and I think two, one in engineering. But Al Silverman was in accounting, and so he had a part time job with Mr. Reginald Wilson. He told me about it, and he says that he was gonna leave Mr. Wilson's firm to work at another firm and if I wanted to take over his job, so he introduced me to Mr. Wilson, who had never dealt with a Japanese American but who was looking for someone to fill in the job, so he agreed to let me do the accounting that Al Silverman was doing. He was basically doing bookkeeping work for various doctors, professional doctors of the Beverly Hills area, so I substituted for him and went to work for these various doctors to keep their books current. And when I did that I was doing bookkeeping work for several of his former clients and then got to help them out in the office as well, and so he had clients for the income tax that were pretty well-known people in the acting field. And I don't know if I recall the name. It's Charles Boyer (and) Bob Waterfield's wife (Jane Russell).

MN: Jane Russell.

BK: Jane Russell. People like that. And so I would see them walk in, say hi to them, and they didn't know who I was. They didn't care. They (were) having their income tax and other things done. But I was able to be part of the group there that was working together, and the attorneys that were next door, I got to know them, and so we got along fine. I got my experience part of the CPA. You have to have that in order to get to CPA, not only the education, but actual work, so that experience that Al Silverman gave me the opportunity to work with the job that he was doing gave me the experience so I could apply for my CPA, and then once I got that I came to Little Tokyo and started working with Kiyo Maruyama. And we started our firm, the Kaji, Maruyama Firm and got involved in Little Tokyo. I also tried to use my teacher's credential about that time, and I had a friend whose uncle was in charge of the commerce division over at East L.A. JC, and I went in, introduced myself, and he said, "Well, gee, we just hired a person in the night program for teaching cost accounting. And I just filled it up, so I don't have anything available, but if something happens, give me your name and phone number and I'll give you a call." So I was surprised that he would accept me as a Japanese American to teach at the JC level, where Dr. Henderson at SC was very fearful that my education would go to waste because nobody was hiring Japanese American. But anyway, I came back to our accounting firm with Kiyo, and we were developing new clients, and then I got a call from East L.A. JC and he said the fellow that they had just hired to do cost accounting, father passed away back East and so he's going back and he's not coming back. "So the job's open for you." So I was fortunate enough to take that class in cost accounting over and stayed there for the whole semester and one more semester after that. By that time our accounting firm, Kaji and Maruyama, picked up a lot of clientele, and so I gave that teaching job up. I couldn't keep doing that at night and then the other work during the day. So I was blessed in that my time was occupied. I didn't have to worry about looking for work.

MN: Going back to this East L.A. teaching job, what were some of the obstacles that you had to overcome to, to really relate to your students?

BK: I had the adult classes. This was the night classes, and most of the people that were in the class were workers during the day. They're trying to improve their lot by taking these classes, and I understood what their problem was, and so the day I took over the class from this party who, father died, I walked in and I was younger than most of the people that were students. And I just didn't know how to introduce myself, but I figured, well... so I went up to the board and wrote my name in Japanese, Ka-ji. And while I was doing that people started sitting down and then looking at the board and wondering what was happening, so after I finished writing it I introduced myself. I says, "I'm your new instructor here. This is my name in Japanese," I says, "but I just want to let you know what it represents so that you have a better feeling for the class." I says, "This is 'ka,' which means in Japanese, 'together,' that means not alone, but together. And 'ji" means osameru, is to learn, to govern, and so to me, this 'Kaji' can be interpreted as Mr. Democracy, together we learn." And everybody laughed. I says, "That's the spirit. We come here and we come here to learn, and I'm here to help you as much as possible, so if you have anything on your mind," I says, "don't hesitate to ask." And so the class took off, and I says, "And one more thing that I would like to propose to you." I says, "You're all working people and I know that after you work and come here, you're serious that you want to learn. I'm serious. I want you to learn." I says, "Let's make a deal." I says, "I would like for you to listen to my lesson and then work on it while you're in class, not take it home and do homework." I says, "I want you to do your homework while you're here, and then when you leave here you can go home and sleep and rest." And I says, "Anybody against that?" Everybody's for it. So that's the formula I proposed to them, and it worked out fine. It did work. I got their attention. I got their attention, and (if) they had any questions, they asked their questions, they got it off their mind. And they did their homework, and if they didn't finish, at least they were almost through. So I kind of varied the subject matter so that it was more, I think, palatable for them and also saved them a lot of time. And it saved me a lot of time because I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time making corrections. So the "Kaji" came out very, very strong.

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

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: Now, Kiyo tells me this is right after the war, in the '50s, and when you guys were in the office just chit chatting you shared this dream you had, this vision. Share with us what vision you had.

BK: I don't know if I remember what the vision was. I have always felt that we were mistreated as Japanese Americans and that our cause has not been known to the people in the United States. The government took advantage of us. They put us in camps. They never compensated us and then told us to leave the camp and "go back to where you came from" and gave you travel expenses, and that's it. I says, "This is mistreatment of the citizens of this country, and yet we volunteered to serve in the army. We served in Europe, and I don't know what to tell you, but if it weren't for the 100th and 442nd, I think we might've lost the war in Europe. And as far as the Japanese Americans in the Pacific side, if you didn't have them, according to statements by the government, it would've cost you more time and money to have won, if you would've won." I says, we were mistreated, and I think that the government should know about it. We should let the citizens know about it. The only way we can do it is ourselves. We have to build a museum somewhere where people can see what happened and tell people what we're all about. And we're still lacking money. We're lacking recognition, and we haven't received anything from the government. I says we have to let the public know, and the only way I can think of is to start a museum, start a public place where we can teach people as to what happened to us. Nobody else is gonna do it for us. We have to do it ourselves. So we get, the soldiers got together and... however, the soldiers wanted to form their own unit, which was okay by me, just as long as we get the story out. So that's how we started.

MN: Before you, we get to that point, you had other, you were still making a living, before you could pursue this museum dream, and in between you got married. You were working in Little Tokyo. You had your office with Kiyo. You were teaching night classes at East L.A. College, and then in between you were sneaking in visits with Frances. How were her parents taking your visits?

BK: Well, Frances' family was in a turmoil. When I was first dating her, her father was ill. He passed away, and so there was one year lapse after he passed away that I felt I shouldn't be intruding on the family. They had to readjust themselves. After that I prevailed on Mrs. Tashiro that I wanted to get married to Frances, and she was happy, happy to see me come around. [Laughs] She needed some company, too, 'cause she was lonesome. But it worked out well. So our lives, we got married and we stayed close to Mrs. Tashiro's home because she owned a four unit apartment next door to her home and we stayed there the first year. Then she got pregnant and we had our first baby, so I says, "We need a home." So in between... Mrs. Tashiro moved out to Gardena, bought a new residence, and I moved to Gardena and bought an old house, and so we both moved to the Gardena area. And Mrs. Tashiro was close by, so we could look after her. And then the Gardena chapter started.

MN: Okay, let's, let's stop with the Gardena chapter there.

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