Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Takashi Hoshizaki Interview
Narrator: Takashi Hoshizaki
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Jim Gatewood
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: July 28, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-htakashi_2-01

[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Wednesday, July 28, 2010. We're at the Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, in Little Tokyo. We have an interview with Takashi Hoshizaki. In the room we have Jim Gatewood, who's the secondary interview, and on camera we have Dana Hoshide, and I'm Tom Ikeda, the interviewer. So Takashi, I'm just gonna start at the beginning, so why don't you tell me your birth date and where you were born?

TH: October 3, 1925, and I was just born about a mile east of here, so right east of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.

TI: And, and what was the name given to you at birth?

TH: Takashi Hoshizaki.

TI: Any significance of that name?

TH: It was, the Japanese character is the first character of my father's name, Kei. Keijiro is his name.

TI: Okay, so in some ways then, you were named after your father?

TH: Correct.

TI: So tell me, what was, again, tell me your father's name, and where was he from?

TH: He was Keijiro Hoshizaki, and he's from Kanagawa-ken in Japan.

TI: And do you know, like, a town or...

TH: The town is called Yahagi.

TI: Good, okay. And tell me a little bit about your father's family. What, what kind of work did they do?

TH: In my father's family, basically they were farmers, and he was one of thirteen children. There were three brothers and ten daughters. And he was born, I have to think back, 1895.

TI: Now, in my notes I have that he attended college.

TH: He attended Waseda (University) and (...) graduated out the second in his class.

TI: Now, was that, was that common for his siblings also, to attend college?

TH: That I don't know. (...) The firstborn, my uncle Sadagoro, according to his biography, only attended (...) grammar school (...) and by the time he (was) old enough (to work, financial) conditions in family (was) such that he had to go out in the field and help with the farming (...) and harvesting (...).

TI: Because I've, I've done quite a few of these interviews and it's pretty uncommon to have someone's parents, an Issei, with a college education, so I was just curious about that. That it, it's more like your uncle. A lot of them went up to grammar school and they had to help out with the family, and so I was just wondering if you knew any of the circumstances behind why your father was able to go to college.

TH: I think, I can't remember exactly, but he was the youngest brother, and I think there were several other sisters born before him, so I think he was about midway in the family, so therefore I think that they, possibly the economic conditions and also the workload was such that he was able to attend college.

TI: So they, there might've just been a sweet spot where the older ones had to work to help support the family?

TH: I think so. I think that would probably be the situation.

TI: Well, you mentioned also that he was number two, second in his class.

TH: Second in his class, and (...) the person who was number one was given a very good position in some large corporation. And so apparently my dad said well, he's number two, so he then returned home and the story goes that he was out fishing when (...) some young boy came running out telling him that he was now number one because the number one person turned down the position. And so then my dad went to work, I guess it was Manchuria and I believe it was a mining company, pushed papers for about three months and decided that wasn't for him, so then he (...) came over to United States.

TI: And do you have any sense what the reaction of the family was when he decided to, to go to the United States?

TH: No, I don't know. But his oldest brother, Uncle Sadagoro, was already here (in America), had established a business by that time (...). He probably came over here, also, to help his older brother in his business.

TI: Okay, that, yeah, that makes sense. Do you know about what year this was when he came over?

TH: I can't, can't remember, but he probably was here about the time that he was, say, twenty, so that'd be 1915, around that period.

TI: Good. So he comes to the United States to work with his older brother.

TH: Yes.

TI: And this is in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo? Is this where this...

TH: Yes.

TI: So tell me a little bit about the business. What kind of business was that?

TH: Basically importing Japanese food and commodities.

TI: Good.

TH: And the company still exists today. (...) Eventually turned into the Mutual Trading Company.

TI: Good. Any memories or stories that you can remember about your father's early years in, in Los Angeles?

TH: No.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Okay, so around 1915, so let's talk about how he met your, your mother, and how did...

TH: How he met her, that I have no idea, except that apparently, when the 1924 Exclusion Act was imminent, then he went back to Japan to marry my mother, and he was in Japan when the, (when) was that, (...) was that 1924? The big Kanto earthquake. So they survived that and then they came back to United States, landing in United States about two, three days before the July 1st date fell and kept the people out, the Japanese, the Asians out, basically.

TI: So they, they got in just under the, the gun kind of, under the, before that happened. So tell me your mother's name.

TH: Name, and it's N-A-M-E.

TI: And do you, how about maiden name, do you know?

TH: Hirano.

TI: Hirano, okay. And do you know, tell me a little bit about your mother's family. Do you know what they were doing?

TH: No, not, not... well I guess they were merchants, because during the earthquake, the building collapsed on her, and the way, apparently, they set the building up was that instead of having shelves up around three feet high, they dug trenches, and so the (...) shelves were then at ground level and you were then standing really three feet below the ground level. This is the way, apparently, they displayed the merchandise. And so when the building collapsed, well, she was in that three foot deep ditch, and so she was then saved by that. And then the neighbors came around and were able to rip open the roof and get her out, but there were other cases where apparently they couldn't rip out the roof or remove the timber, and apparently quite a number of people who survived the earthquake then died in the fire that followed.

TI: I've never heard that. So in their store, they actually... you know, like most people, they have a floor and then the shelves go up, but in this case they actually dug these, these sort of...

TH: Ditches.

TI: Ditches. And they were wide enough so that people could walk down there and get things.

TH: (Yes).

TI: Do you know why it was done that way?

TH: I think probably from an economic reason. You didn't have to build a house or the store up higher. This is the way I would see that.

TI: Okay, and was that a pretty common... back then?

TH: That I don't know, but my guess is probably yes.

TI: Okay. So they get married, they come 1924, right before the Immigration Act. You're born 1925, so I'm guessing you're the firstborn?

TH: Yes, I'm the firstborn.

TI: Let's, let's talk about your siblings. So you're firstborn, 1925, why don't you just walk through your, your siblings?

TH: Okay. My sister was two years later, which would be '27, and then came my brother.

TI: Well, so your sister's name is Yoko?

TH: Yoko. And then my brother Hiroshi, I think was born, again, two years later. And then the next was Toshiko and then Kazuko and Kiyoko, about two years apart.

TI: Good, so there's six, six children

TH: Six children, correct.

TI: Two boys, four girls?

TH: Yes.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So, let's talk about your childhood. What are some, when you think about your earliest childhood memories, where were you living when you can start remembering that?

TH: We were living, I guess, in the same building that I was born in, and again, it was just east of where we're having our interview here. And again, at that time there were more open areas, and I remember just playing (in what) we would call the empty lot, vacant area that my cousin and I played in, so that's about, I guess, about the earliest that I can remember.

TI: And then eventually your family moved when you were about, what, seven years old or so?

TH: (Yes), so my dad (...) decided to start his own business, and so (...) we moved out to the Hollywood area, where I still am. I still live there. And so he started a business in 1932, which apparently was in the depth of the Depression, and apparently he did all right. He was able to provide for us.

TI: And when your father started the, his store, so he was working with his older brother when he first came over... how was that for the brothers, for him to start his own store? Was that something that his older brother supported?

TH: I think my, my uncle was a little disappointed that he decided to strike out on his own, 'cause apparently (...) you have a company and you have a person there working away and suddenly that person says, "Well, I'm gonna go become independent." So I guess my uncle wasn't too pleased, but later on there was support from him on that. And the store he started in the Hollywood area was Fujiya, and with other symbol behind it was cash and carry grocery store. Guess in the Depression he wouldn't go much on credit. [Laughs]

TI: Now, did you ever ask your dad why he decided to start a store in the midst of the Depression?

TH: No. No, I didn't even think about that being in the midst of the Depression 'til much later on, you start thinking back and you realize it was in the midst of the Depression.

TI: And how did the store do?

TH: Did very well, so that by five years later, as I now recall, he had saved enough money to buy a piece of property and then put a home on it, and 1937 was when we moved into our new home. So I think about it and I said wow, five years, he did, saved enough money out of the business to do that. So... quite pleased.

TI: 'Cause then you were about, what, twelve years old, so you could have...

TH: Yeah, twelve.

TI: Remember moving to a new place... let's talk a little bit about the Hollywood area when you were growing up, in terms of, in terms of the neighborhood. I mean, like, let's first talk about your playmates. Who were some of your playmates when you think back?

TH: Well, it was actually -- and as I think about it now -- it was sort of like a ghetto area where we then lived between Melrose and Beverly Boulevard, and then I guess Vermont Avenue was to the west and Hoover Avenue, Hoover Street was to the east, and so we had a fair number of Japanese in there. And I have, then... you know, start naming, that'd be many, many names, so I don't know if you want to go through that.

TI: Well, the question I'm... I mean, I'm curious, you mention, you called it a ghetto. Why, describe why you would... why ghetto? Why the term "ghetto"?

TH: Okay, 'cause I used to wonder why people didn't live outside. Most of the Japanese were within that area. There were a few families outside, but then you could see the borderline and when you cross over Vermont, you're in a completely white neighborhood, and very similarly to the east of Hoover was the same. And so our grammar school that I went to is Dayton Heights, which was right in the center of this, but I guess the (...) district for the school was large enough that we had (...) white kids from the white families also attending Dayton Heights, so we had a mixed type of environment at that time.

TI: But within your neighborhood, within those boundaries you described earlier, what percentage were Japanese in that neighborhood?

TH: I'd say probably ninety percent.

TI: And what would the other ten percent be?

TH: Oh, well, we had a black family next door, and I think there'd be a scattering of the (Filipinos), and Mexicans. So it was mostly Japanese, and then within that area, the Hollywood Gakuen was also started about that time, before World War II.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's, let's talk about that, Japanese school. So you attended the Hollywood Gakuen?

TH: Yes.

TI: And tell me a little bit about the school. How large was it? How many students were there?

TH: Well, thinking back, it must've been over a hundred students, and it might've been as much as a hundred and fifty students. And the school building that they put up had... well, they designed it so that (...) the partitions removed, you have a very large auditorium, but with the partitions in you had fairly large three rooms to split up as classes. And in the classes, thinking back now, probably twenty, twenty-five, maybe thirty, thirty of us in each class, and I had suspected maybe something like six classes. But then I (...) went to the daily school, and that was after regular school that we attended the Japanese language school, and that was from Monday through Friday. And then they also had an all-day Saturday session where the other students went.

TI: And so how was it determined who went to the daily and who went to the Saturday?

TH: That I don't know. They had a bus, too, so that might be that they were the more extended children, maybe even outside of the, what we call the Virgil district now.

TI: So perhaps where they lived, there wasn't a convenient, maybe, gakuen or Japanese school.

TH: (Yes), and so on Saturday the bus probably went around and picked 'em up and they spent the whole day.

TI: And so... Japanese school, tell me about it. I mean, did, was that something that you looked forward to?

TH: Oh, I think most of the kids didn't because we missed out on playing after school activities, but (...) you followed what your parents would more or less like you to do, so we attended the school, reluctantly. But for me, what happened was as we got up into, say, the 1940, probably 1940, I decided well, it'd be kind of nice to really know the Japanese language. And so then I felt that if I learned enough to read the Japanese newspaper, like the Rafu Shimpo, but unfortunately as, as I began to get really interested, December 7th came along and that was that for my Japanese education.

TI: Was there something in particular that, that made you want to, to really learn Japanese? Do you remember a person or an event that said, oh, and that, that prompted you?

TH: No, I really don't remember what suddenly tripped... I said, oh, it would be kind of nice to know the Japanese language.

TI: So I'm curious, is that something you've done with other things, where you kind of think about something and you say, "Oh, this is something I want to do," and you just do it? Is that something that...

TH: I think, basically, that was... yeah. Or maybe the opportunity is there and I look at it, says okay, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So before we go to December 7th, let's go back and still talk about some of your other childhood things. I want to get a picture of your neighborhood and some of the activities, so, like on those days that you could play with people in the neighborhood, describe some of the, the things you would do, some of the activities.

TH: Well, football would be one that we could, traffic wasn't as heavy as we have today so we as kids could then play football in the street, and just occasionally a car would come by, which would then delay the game, but (...) not so much baseball, but we did have open or vacant lots which then, if somebody had a bat and a baseball or a softball, really, we would then form a team and mark off the bases and go ahead and play. And there were, I would say, probably, maybe about twenty-five percent or more of the lots were not occupied by houses, so it's quite open at that time. And I guess the history goes back that there were a few houses in the area, but from my understanding there was a bakery on one corner, but the bakery building caught on fire and it was never replaced. And so there was one section there, a total of six standard lots were just completely open, and we as kids would then go and play in that particular area. And there was one tree, I guess, sort of surviving from some of the other activity prior to it, probably, maybe... well, age of the tree, my guess would be about forty, fifty years prior. And it was an open space there, underneath the tree. And I didn't play much, but my brother used to play marbles, and it was a nice perfect spot so all the kids would gather and play marbles. I remember that.

TI: 'Cause it was a nice, shady place probably.

TH: (Yes), underneath the tree, and the soil was smooth enough, because it was flat, and (...) that was actually a river bottom area, in that case stream had, or... you can see still evidence of the stream that had run through there. And so that was nice soil. The ground was just perfect for playing marbles.

TI: Now, when you guys had all these activities, what kind of adult supervision was there?

TH: Virtually none. Virtually none. And I kind of think back on that and see what the kids are doing today, or what they can do, it's kinda sad because they don't have the activity of playing out, where during late spring we would have the grasses, the oats growing in all the vacant lots. And oh yeah, then we used to have fights where the soil would be just right where you can pull the grass out, get a clump, and you pack the soil and you can then throw it or sling it. And I remember some of the kids used to set up little forts and then we'd just be flinging those things back and forth, and even though it hit you it was such that it wasn't, it wasn't gonna really hurt. So yeah, I remember that.

TI: So in your childhood, no adult supervision. You guys had to kinda make up your own games.

TH: Own games, yeah.

TI: And so I think about parents today, and one of their concerns are, well, for safety. They want to make sure people don't do anything inappropriate. I mean, back in your day, did some of those things happen? When you think back, did you guys get in trouble? I guess maybe that's the question.

TH: No, not in my memory. I think that we had enough, I'd say self motivated or self thought up activities that kept us busy doing things. And then, I remember now that they would, we would (...) get potatoes and build a little fire and then do our attempt to bake the potato, generally came out all burnt (...). [Laughs] But it's activities like that, and this, and I remember in that same area, the kids used to then dig their little forts down, so we made little pits into the soil and then that was where we would then start throwing our little grass, whatever you might want to call it, back and forth.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So let me switch gears a little bit, talk about organized activities. I mean, there are things like, I'm not sure, judo or, or things like that. Were there things that, there were adults who organized things for the kids?

TH: Well, at the time, kendo was one and then judo, as organized... and basically that was it for (...) the Japanese side. And then we had the Boy Scouts.

TI: But before we go to Boy Scouts, the judo and kendo, tell me a little bit in terms of, like, how that was organized. Who, who would do the organizing in your neighborhood for that?

TH: Oh, gee, I really don't know, except that the judo was organized to the point where there were, I guess you might call it an association for, say, Southern California, and there were several judo schools. Hollywood was one, and I think that there was one maybe down in what we called the uptown area, down around what's now Olympic Boulevard, and then the San Gabriel Valley was one. And we would (...) have our tournaments and our judo schools would be competing against each other. But thinking back, yeah, I think it was organized enough, with the Japanese people, and so I guess the older people got together and I guess even the parents got in and did that.

TI: Okay. You're, you were just gonna tell me next about Boy Scouts. Tell me about the Boy Scouts.

TH: We, the Boy Scouts that I associated with, the one down in Saint Mary's... and so I guess turned twelve, and are eligible for the Boy Scouts and I joined Troop 33. We had a good time, and there wasn't any real push to (advance in rank). I've forgotten now, can't remember, but if then finally you pass all your lower requirements, then you finally start taking your merit badges, and if you get enough merit badges you go up the rank. I think it was Star, Life and then finally the Eagle. But I guess the 33 group, we had a great time playing games (...), and it wasn't really organized to push ahead and the real desire to be Eagle Scouts. But finally they, I think just before the war broke out, they, (...) the parents said, "We got to get this thing organized." And so we began (...) reading and studying for our merit badges. But then again, December 7th came along and that ended that.

TI: I'm curious how some of the Issei felt, or maybe your, your father. So here he had a store, you were the oldest son, so I'm guessing that he needed your help at times at the store. How receptive was he for you to spend time with the Boy Scouts and to put the time to get badges?

TH: Oh, yeah, he was very receptive to that. In fact, he would push to that, some of the activities, and now thinking back on that, I remember the Boy Scouts, I guess, out of Southern California had just organized, I don't know whether it might've been a jamboree or tour to Japan, and I remember my dad asked me if I would want to go (...) to Japan (...). But the troop that I was in had activities going on and I said no. I said I'd rather stay here, and I forgot why, what we were planning to do, so (I) turned that offer down. So my dad was very receptive (...).

TI: Good. Other, other than that one encouragement to go to Japan with the Boy Scouts, were there any other opportunities for you to go to Japan, whether with the family or, or other activities?

TH: No (...). Well, as a youngster, yes. (...) I can't remember, must've been about the nineteen, late 1920s, I think we went, went back, and for what reason I don't, I don't know.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Let's... I asked earlier, or mentioned earlier that there must've been times that you needed to help at the store. Can you talk about sort of your role at the store, what you had to do?

TH: Yeah, well, it was wherever I could help, so it was when I was quite small. Well, my dad would leave the house, I'd guess, around four in the morning, and go down to the market to pick up, I guess, fresh vegetables and fruits and whatever. And he would probably return maybe six, maybe seven o'clock in the morning, and those days, stores would open up at, say, six in the morning to provide service to people going to work, which meant that the people then would be at work at eight o'clock in the morning. Well, so it meant that we had to open up the store early so these people, if they're short on something, they can come to the store and buy it. So the store was set up that it had very heavy doors, not really doors, but maybe panels that would lock together to form the outside walls, and when the business is open the panels are then put aside (...) vegetable counters (...) would be pushed partway out onto the sidewalk. Well, I remember getting up early with my mother and pushing, help push (open) one of the panels back (about a foot or more) so that the people could come into the store, buy what they want, and those panels were very heavy and sort of rickety, so we were very careful in doing that. And then when my dad got back then (...) he'd push the panels open and push the store open, got the store completely open. I remember doing that. That was my earliest thoughts of helping my dad out, and I don't know how old I was. Maybe seven years old or something, just to be with my mother, I guess. Yeah, that would be right because he opened the store in '32, and so that would be right and I would be with my mother as, so that she wouldn't be doing it all by herself. And plus, I guess now, thinking about it, I might have been the English interpreter. [Laughs] She didn't understand too much of the English part.

But later on, in those days rice came in a hundred pound sacks, and so I guess the maturation was if you can throw the hundred pound sack of rice on your shoulder and take it out of store and put it into truck or car or whatever, and so as I grew older and my dad had hired a couple of people, (...) by the time that, I guess sixteen was when one could get a license, driver's license, so by the time I was sixteen I would make some of the deliveries. And the delivery would actually, would probably have a hundred pound sack of rice, and I remember he says, "Okay, you deliver to Mrs. So-and-So." Alright, fine. So I get there and I look up, and that's where she lives, three flights up. The hundred pound sack of rice on my back and sixteen years old, struggled my way up there. She said, "Don't put it down."And she had a rice bin, which then we opened it up, put the rice in the rice bin. But doing that kind of work, I attributed the fact that, later on, thinking, that really strengthened my body, so (it helped) a lot (for) things that happened to me later on, I didn't think about it at the time. Thinking now about it, I think that turned out to be a real plus for me. (...) Then also got to the point where (...) I would be receiving goods and (...) check the inventory and so forth and make sure that when the meats came in that the poundage was correct, throw it on the scale and they would charge us for, say, twenty-five pounds of meat. Look at it and says no, that's only twenty-two and a half pounds, and the delivery guy didn't like that. (...) Those are some of the things I remember.

TI: So you're kind of doing a lot of different things, delivering, checking, all those different things.

TH: Yeah. Cutting meat and so forth.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So tell me a little bit more about your father. What, if you were to describe him as a person, like his personality, how would people describe your father?

TH: Well, I'd say very friendly and, I guess, basically got along well with the people. Because of the business he never really got into, as a joiner for different organizations, because going back to the fact that he would be getting up at four in the morning and then we would close the store at around nine o'clock, and then after that he would then have his evening meal, which then meant that he probably only maybe had six hours of sleep or even less. And so he kept very busy and the store was open seven days a week, full run from Monday to Saturday and on Sunday was open, I guess maybe eight in the morning, and then we'd close at, supposedly at noon, but it was always a case of half hour after the last customer left. People would come in a little later, alright, you service them and you sort of wait around and finally no one would come for a long time, okay, then you shut the door. So he had very long hours, so that's why... but he, going back to personality-wise, yeah, I guess you'd say that he's very friendly, very knowledgeable and I guess he had, he had a pretty good, what would you call it, understanding of people. My wife said, "Yeah, he, he was a..." she would consider him as what, one person that she would say, "Yeah, he was a good guy, good man."

TI: And, and not only good social skills, but could read people well, you say?

TH: Yeah, right.

TI: Now, your father was, was well-educated, and I'm trying... how did he sort of keep his intellectual side going? I mean, was there, was he a reader? What did he do in terms of staying on top of things? Did he...

TH: Well, working as he did those long hours, I don't think he really had much of a chance, but I think you're right. He did probably read when he could, and I'm sure that he read the newspapers, and I remember we'd have the Japanese papers come in and I think that he read that in brief little span of time that he had. And I remember going up closer to December 7th, he would then ask me to look in the newspaper. Now, I don't know whether it was, it must have been an English newspaper, yeah. So he kept up with things and he apparently had bought stocks in Tokyo Electric, and so he was then wondering what the price was as the, the market really can sort of predict what's gonna happen in the future. And so about August of, during the summer, I think it was August of 1941, he was (asking when) the paper would come in and I'd sit there. "Alright, what's the price of Tokyo Electric?" I'd just pick a number (as an example), say, "Eighteen dollars and seventy-five," and pretty soon it was going down, so apparently my dad turned around and he sold it. But later on we find he sold it still at a little profit, so he didn't take a loss. But all of this, thinking back into the history or what was going on, he knew that things were not going well with the relation (between) Japan and United States, and my understanding was that, I guess it was August '41, U.S. put a oil embargo on Japan. And (in my) reading later (on) in (the) diplomatic world, an embargo would be almost the same as an act of declaring (...), so I guess my dad suddenly realized things aren't (going to) go too well.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: And so was your father aware of sort of these, I guess, larger happenings between the United States and Japan?

TH: Yeah, I think so, because I remember him beginning to discuss... gosh, I can't remember the two diplomats that came from Japan, and he would talk about, oh, whatever they said. So I (...) got a little aware that, about what was going on, the diplomacy that was going on. But if I may jump a little bit further ahead, on December 7th when the family all gathered together, he said, "Japan's (going to) lose the war." That afternoon. And he says, he says, "No, Japan's (going to) lose the war." Because apparently he had enough information or knowledge of the difference in the industrial capability of Japan and United States. And in my later readings I realize that (...) the war with (...) the Russian, Russo-Japanese War, that the Japanese were very fortunate to have won the war because they were really at, at the end of their strength, capability. They had lost so many men, their resources were now being depleted, so, I forgot who it was, was it Calvin Coolidge? Or maybe it was the former, earlier Roosevelt came in and brought about peace, but peace in turn was more in favor of Japan, and I think there was some, some other war that, reading back, I can't remember correctly, but again, they showed that unless... again, Japan was very short on resources, and they were able to win the war in a very short time. But my dad looked ahead and he says no, Japan doesn't really have a chance, and looking at the history of World War II, you could see what had happened. I think Japan just ran out of resources.

TI: And so I'm curious, when your, your father said this on December 7th, so this is after the attack on Pearl Harbor?

TH: After the attack, yeah.

TI: Your father says, you know, no way Japan's going to win. Do you, do you remember what you thought?

TH: Oh, all the kids (said he's wrong), because what we had heard of what had happened, it looks like Japan had a very good chance of winning the war. But you reflect back, yes. And well, another thing, too, talk about the sneak attack that Japan... well, you go back into history of Japan and her wars, basically, she would strike first and then a day or two days later she would then make the declaration of war, and so that goes back even with the Russo-Japanese War, I think the war that she had with China was basically the same thing, that she would attack first and then make a declaration. In fact, there's a comment (on Pearl Harbor) that I had read of an officer and a sailor on a deck of one of the ships, battleships that were being bombed by Japan at the time, and the sailor would say, "Gee, I didn't know they were mad at us." Whereas the officer says, "Well, they did it again," knowing, the officer knew the history of Japan. So it was just two contrasting thoughts, but yet one knew the history and the other was not keeping up with history.

TI: Interesting. In going back, when you heard your father say that Japan was going to lose, lose, and yet you, you're thinking back to Pearl Harbor and the devastation that had occurred, so what, what did you think about your father's statement? You believed him or you thought that, oh, he's probably wrong, or did you...

TH: Well yeah, you'd say, "Oh, he's probably wrong," because we, we knew... well, we heard what had happened, so one would quickly draw conclusions, says, "Wow, we're in real trouble." So that was kind of interesting as it went on. But I guess the, the knowledge he had and the decisions he made, it was quite startling to look back and, look back at his life. But we don't have, I can't, I can't interview him now. He's far gone.

TI: Well, it is interesting, because in some ways he was trained, probably, to run a corporation or some... it was, like, a top business student. He was picked to, to work with a large mining sort of company, and generally they groomed them to eventually run these things, and his life took another turn and he did this, but yet he had all these skills, all this sort of background experience.

TH: But in turn, we sometimes wondered, after we got back, that, "Gee, if Papa hadn't decided to come to America, we would be in Manchuria or in, somewhere in Japan, probably doing pretty good," but what had happened in Japan after the war and from the stories that we learned from our relatives, things were pretty bad, so we thought, oh, well, maybe my dad made a good choice.

JG: Did your dad ever communicate his expectations for you or your siblings?

TH: No, not really. He gave us all the opportunity, if I wanted to do, say, go to school, fine. And in fact, after, after we came back, he switched over and got into the plant nursery business, and doing that, again it was one of these situations where it was just the opportunity because the houses and the landscaping was neglected during the war, so the business was very good. And so he was able to support, I think, five of us in college at one time, so thinking back, you say wow, that's really (something), but he was very eager for us to go to school. So he never said well, we can't afford it or anything like that.

TI: Well, following Jim's... maybe not expectations from your father per se but were there expectations from your parents about being Japanese? I mean, were there certain things that you felt, "Well, I'm Japanese, and so Japanese do certain things"?

TH: No. No, I think... I think basically we were Americans in our thoughts, and even, say, thinking about speaking in Japanese was something that was very difficult. We weren't that fluent in it. I mean, thinking of the vocabulary that we had, we, I guess, later on I finally figured out that we were using kids' language, kids' words, not adult words. [Laughs] So that's one of the situations that are -- no, we felt basically that we were more as Americans.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Before we go to the war, I want to just ask about your mother. Similar questions, what was she like? How would you describe your mother, or how would other people describe her?

TH: Well, I think she was, my dad was more laid back, I think, but my mother was, was more, I guess you might say... oh, what's the term I want? More directive, and so she would be very concerned about the public appearance, which goes back to the Japanese type of thing, and our health. And so I think in a way she may have actually ran the, the family, but in the way it was not noticeable from the outside. You'd think my dad then would be the one that would be the dominant one. And in all those years I've never seen the two in conflict or any arguments. They got along very well. And so the six of us grew up in a very nice, I would say, family environment. So that helps out. But she, going back to my mother, she had, apparently had gone through high school and after graduating, and I guess she actually probably had training in sewing, so that she then ran, had taught sewing, so she was very skilled in sewing clothes. And some of the things that she turned out, I was rather... at that time, well, you don't think much about it, but later I could go back and look and says, wow. And the stitching techniques that she had used. And in fact, she one time had a pile of cloth there, so I (asked), "Where did this cloth come from?" Well, somebody had decided to sew, and I (...) forgot what it was, but it must've been a complex clothing item and the person couldn't sew it, so she gave up and says, "Here," and gave it to my mother. And my mother, having her skills and knowledge, was able to do the sewing. It may have been a suit or something like that, that she put together. And she did have a (...) good (sewing machine), in those days Singer was the sewing machine. And when the war came along, then (...) getting ready to leave, she had it (...) converted into a portable sewing machine electrically driven, and I remember we took that into camp. So (...) she was able to make clothing and do repairs and so on. And (soon) other people found out (...) she had a sewing machine (...). She got everything (done) for the family and finally says alright. She then loaned it out and I guess maybe a year or so came back, well-used. [Laughs]

TI: But she was the type, though, to really think ahead. I mean, for someone to think about, not only bringing a sewing machine but taking something that was not portable, making it portable and then bringing it, she really had, in her mind, had to think that through, realizing that there weren't gonna be all these clothes available, that she probably had to make things.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, well actually... let's, so let's go to December 7, 1941. Why don't you tell me what you can remember of that day?

TH: Okay. Well, by that time I was sixteen, had driver's license and I was very interested in aviation, so I was making model airplanes and, in fact, actually designing models, flying 'em, and so graduated up into the little gasoline motors. And so I was flying, had gone down to a place called Western and Rosecranz, that was a big, open area there, and the people in Southern California would gather, those who were interested in the model airplanes, would fly their gas models there. And I was there December 7th, and (...) I found that on that day I could not really fly my model, airplane, model airplane because there was a large regional meet there, and later on, talking to other people, they says, "Oh yeah," I says, "I was there," and so forth, 'cause everybody remembers that date. So anyway, I would go there early Sunday morning and try to fly, and then when I drove back, came back home, then I found out that, what had happened (...) now, there was a war on. And so that was my recollection of December 7th, plus the fact that we all sat down and my dad said, "Now Japan's (going to) lose the war." But then after that came the time to prepare as to what was (going to) happen.

TI: So the next day, when you went back, when you went to school, what was the reaction at school?

TH: There was nothing, as, as some might think that there'd be anger toward us, but no, all our schoolmates, we just sat around and talked. And the, I guess the others were talking about, from their newspaper, radio reports as to what happened at Pearl Harbor and so on. But no, we were still, as I said, kids, friends, except that it felt a little strange because all the propaganda and stuff that was starting to come out. (Thinking), "Wow, something's gonna happen." No, it didn't, so that was very good.

TI: So I want to make sure, so your, your non-Japanese American friends, they... so there were no taunts or any negative comments or name calling, stuff like that?

TH: No, no name calling. Yeah.

TI: How about on the other side? Did any of the non-Japanese Americans come up to you and say, "Hey, Takashi, we know you're okay, you're American," or anything like that? Did anything like that happen?

TH: No, it's, it was, for me, there was nothing like that. I mean, we were still friends. We, as by high school many of us had been schoolmates, classmates (...) since grammar school. Because we had at Dayton Heights a very diverse background school. (...) I guess nothing much really happened. We continued our classes.

TI: Or how about amongst your Japanese American friends? Was there any discussions about what happened or things happening in the community? Any discussions about that?

TH: No, I don't remember that, except that I guess I would be following the progress of the war, what was happening, and I had a fairly good grasp of geography, except Pearl Harbor. Where's that? Oh, it's in Hawaii. Okay, fine.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: How, how about Japanese American classmates, did any of their fathers get picked up by the FBI?

TH: Oh (yes). In fact, in the neighborhood, that afternoon, December 7th, a fair number of, of the fathers were picked up. And didn't hear much about where they were, and then finally, I guess maybe a week or so later, (...) "Oh, they're down in Terminal Island," was what we heard, and pretty soon they were then removed from Terminal Island. And I don't know how many weeks later, but I was visiting one of the families whose father was picked up, and they're sitting at the table, rolling the socks up and I said, "What's going on?" Said, oh, "We know where," by that time he was a grandpa, (...), "Yeah, we know where Grandpa" -- well, no, they didn't know, except that they told us to pack up all different clothing so that they could get over to them, so I remember that, sitting there rolling up socks and whatever else, so that they could package it up and get it to him. But (...) as I said, the schoolteachers, the principal, Japanese school principal, they were picked up. And it turned out, later on I find that those who were very active in the different organizations were the ones that were picked up, 'cause I guess the government figured that they were the leaders and just pulled the leaders out of the whole group to sort of detooth the population.

TI: So I'm curious, from a community standpoint, for the families whose fathers were taken away, were they treated any differently, these families that, like the mother and the kids, were they treated any differently than any other family?

TH: No, I didn't notice that, because we were still, as I said, as a kid, visit so and so, and you go over and pretty soon there they are, rolling up the socks. So not much...

TI: How about a sense of trying to help some of these families out, because all of a sudden the main breadwinner was now gone? Did you see or hear of any attempts to maybe bring food over or anything like that?

TH: That I don't remember, but I'm sure that that happened. (...) Think back on the Terminal Island group, they were the very first ones down in Southern California (to be) moved out, and soon as the word got out that they had something like forty-eight hours or even less than that, in some cases twenty-four hours to move out, the word got out and those people who had trucks (...) quickly went down and helped them move out, and then they also moved into (our neighborhood). The relatives were all open to that, and so suddenly in the neighborhood (there) were a bunch of new kids and so you wondered, "Who are these people?" Then that's when I heard the story of Terminal Island. There was cooperation, quite a bit. And then apparently there was a big (concern), especially now as the evacuation, the removal of us became more or less imminent. Families then moved around so that they would be together, 'cause they heard that they would be moving groups out by areas, so the families that were dispersed then moved together into the same neighborhood, so that when we went into the camps they would be together.

TI: So are you talking more about the Terminal Islanders? I mean, that they were kind of dispersed and they would kind of get together? I'm trying to understand which families.

TH: No, other families.

TI: Just other families, too.

TH: Other families. Well, the Terminal Islanders, okay, they had to leave first so then what happened then was they in turn moved in with their relatives, so in the Hollywood area here were several families now together with one of the families who were in Hollywood.

TI: Oh, I see, so I'm thinking, so if someone, like, married and moved someplace else, you mean they'd all try to get back together so that when...

TH: Yeah, so somebody, as you said, if they had married out, okay, one might be up in San Jose or way out in, in Camarillo or something like that, yes, there was another family that came in from Camarillo and then stayed with one of the families in the neighborhood.

TI: So I'm curious. I've interviewed people who were in Terminal Island and they talk about leaving the island, and this was kind of, like, the end of February, early March of 1942, '42... I'm curious from the, I never asked someone from the incoming community that they came into, when all these Terminal Islanders started coming into the neighborhood, how was that for you and the others? I mean, was there any hardships or any, were there positives to it, negatives? Can you, any sense of that?

TH: Well, just that they were new people in the neighborhood. But hardship, our family didn't go through that, but I can see because some of the families I knew, they weren't living in a large place. I mean, small apartments, and with the economy as it was... so I can certainly say, oh my gosh, thinking back, it's that, you suddenly now double up the number of kids and parents into maybe a small apartment, and so I think, yeah, that might be a hardship for that particular family.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, you talked about, at some point, how the families were sort of consolidating because they knew that they would be leaving pretty soon. Your father had a store, a business property, so what kind of preparation did your family go through?

TH: Well, my dad then had to basically close the store. And I guess, fortunately for us, when the war broke out suddenly there would be rationing, and so there'd be shortage of goods, and so then whatever merchandise or food that you had had apparently a more inherent value to it because of the rationing. Things would be short. And so he had no real problem getting rid or selling the things (...) he had in his store, and also, and so I remember taking, say, box of canned goods (...), putting 'em into (a) panel truck and loading it up and finally realized that you had a slight overload, so went over to the service station and filled the tires with more air, and you wondered if... what it was instead of, say, thirty pounds of pressure you probably put, I don't remember, may have pushed it up to fifty pounds so that it can take the load better. And then we drove it from the Hollywood area, out, can't really remember where, but it, to the east, the other side of the Civic Center, and so delivered all the groceries to this one particular place, and in several truckloads. We had two trucks and I think we made several (...) trips doing that.

TI: So you're selling to another retailer or wholesaler, I guess?

TH: My guess is to probably to another retailer.

TI: And your sense was then, because these goods were in demand, your father didn't have to sell at a discount or anything, that, that he found a willing buyer?

TH: (...) Willing buyer at a decent price, would be my guess. And with the closing of the store and then now the question became all right, we had these two trucks, and I don't know whatever happened to the one of them. I think he may have sold it, (on) the property that my dad (...) had built in 1937 had four garages, and so we put two cars and one was a passenger car, and then he put the truck, so we had two garages with the cars and the other two garages, they were filled with the, I guess the showcases for the meats, into the garage. So he took some of the store equipment and put those away. And then we also had, had some room that he used as a little warehouse that he had put (...) on the property, plus the rooms where the two workers stayed. And the old talk was that you can only bring what you can carry, so when you finally gathered all those things together you had other items that you wanted to keep but yet you realized it was kinda silly to carry it in in place of some of the other, more essential items. So my dad says, "Well, we have room in the back and if you people want, you can (...) go ahead and store it if you wish." So the people from the neighborhood then brought all their, I guess their second choice type things and, and put it into that mini warehouse we had. So the whole place got stacked up from floor to ceilings and wall to wall with all these boxes that people put their name on it, fine. And so that, that's what happened, but then the flip side of that is when people came back and said, "We have this item there." And he said, "Well, when did you put it in?" "We put it in kinda early," so it's way in the back somewhere. So I wasn't there to do that 'cause that's another part of the story. But so they finally began to clear out that back area, and it was something like ten years before we finally got most of it cleared out, as people went back East and stayed there and then gradually started to come back.

TI: That's interesting. And your parents kept it, all through those years?

TH: Yeah, just kept it there. Okay, Mr. So-and-So is gonna be (back), they're still alive, so they'll probably come back and pick it up.

TI: What strikes me as I, as I listen to you describe this was how, it's almost like how calm and methodical your parents were during this time, that there are other people I've interviewed and for some other families this uncertainty caused them to perhaps sell things, like their stores, their cars, all that at pennies on the dollar, whereas your parents didn't do that.

TH: Yeah. Well, (...) I think (...) the saving grace was we had that house. The name was in a citizen because (...) my dad and mom couldn't buy property, and then instead of saying, as you say, panic and then trying to sell the property, my dad turned around and (...) leased the house. We have, diagonally across the street from us (...) the grammar school that I went to, and so my dad apparently talked to the principal and gave him the opportunity of leasing the house from the family. And the amazing thing was that my dad, again, looking ahead, figured that the war would last about three years, and so they made about a three, I think it was a three-year lease, and I think the lease ended, I think a few months before the war ended, (...) kinda mind boggling when you think, projecting ahead and then guessing fairly close as to what was (going to) happen. And so with that fact that the school principal now was living in the house, in turn protected the other property and the things stored in the back, because there was now somebody living there, and the rent was such that it was enough (...) to pay for the property tax, so the family was able to keep the house, and then when we got back with the proper lease papers (...) they got the property back. So, as I said, it's kind of an amazing thing.

TI: That's really extraordinary, for him to even do a three year lease.

TH: (Yes).

TI: And so for the lease to come up just, again, months before the war ended, and to then even probably pick someone prominent in the community, in a way, to protect the house.

TH: (Yes), the house and protect the area. Well, we also had next door a black family and their son and I virtually grew up together. We played together, so again, we had another neighbor who was (...) watching, the watchdog type of thing.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: During the war, did you have much communication with the principal or the neighbor family?

TH: I didn't, no. Maybe... no, very little, except when we went into the Pomona Assembly Center (the black family, the Marshalls), came out and visited one, I think it was a Sunday, I guess, and we were able to speak to them, look through the old (wire) fence. But the thing was that (...) family did catering as their business, and so it was in a hot... I don't know if you've been to the fairgrounds during the summer. I mean, it gets blazing hot. So they brought out -- and I still can't believe it -- they brought out an apple pie and basically it was pie a la mode, where they bake the, there's a certain technique of baking the apple pies so that the crust now stands away from the apple, and they brought ice cream out, and so there we were. Kind of embarrassing sitting there eating the pie a la mode out along that fence in (front of the other inmates). With what we had, it was just a, it was a real pleasure, but you had kinda embarrassing (feeling) that here you had something that you couldn't share really with the other people.

TI: So this is your, your next door neighbors? This is the black family.

TH: Yes.

TI: And you said you were really good friends with their son, who is about your age.

TH: Son, yeah, about my age.

TI: I'm curious, did, as this was all going, when it was clear that you were gonna have to leave, did you ever have a discussion with your friend about what was happening? Did he ever, did you ever share with him about what was going on? How you felt, or did he share how he felt about this?

TH: No, I don't remember. I don't remember anything about that.

TI: Yet this family came and visited you at Pomona?

TH: (Yes), the family came and visited us, (yes).

TI: So tell me, since we're talking about this, tell me about that visit. What was it like when they came to visit you? How did it feel for you when they, when they came? Besides having pie a la mode. [Laughs]

TH: We suddenly got the word that it was the Marshalls and the Marshalls are here to see us. They come and see us? Oh my gosh. Okay, so gathered up the (family), and I don't know how we made contact along the fence, because the fence was quite long and you had literally, I would say, thousands of people along the fence. But somehow contact was made and so we were able to converse and then, and I guess they were asking how we were and so forth, but I don't remember any details except the, to me almost a shock, to see, wow, they had gone to the effort of, of bringing this apple pie, that pie a la mode, and bring it all the way up and having it still in the nice frozen state (...) and the effort that they had put out (...) to bring it to us.

TI: Yeah, that's what strikes me is the effort. They could've just visited and brought something else, but to bring sort of ice cream on a really hot day, they must've done a lot. And so it meant a lot to them to do something like that.

TH: Yeah, and then thinking today, well, how would they do it? And I can see block of the frozen ice and then they, with the catering business, they probably knew what, what would be required, but still, to drive all the way out from Los Angeles in those days to the Pomona Assembly Center. We didn't have freeways, so it was a long drive to come out. (Yes), thinking about that, it really, it really struck me. And it stuck in my mind.

TI: In terms of just neighbors, can you describe any, what kind of interaction your family had with this family, the Marshalls?

TH: It was, well, the kids, like myself, the boy was about my same age and so they also had a girl, two girls, but one was a little older, but (...) my oldest sister (...) knew each other and played, being next door neighbors. (...) The mother had moved into the neighborhood (...) before 1900, and watched the whole neighborhood change (...)... she was very friendly and, and the Japanese families around her really liked her, liked the family, so we were, as I said, very close little community. (...) The mother's brother (...) lived down the street (...). He would play with the kids in the neighborhood. So it was a very close knit little group there.

TI: Was it the type where, say, the kids from the, the Marshall kids would come over to your house and play and you would go to their house and play, or was it pretty much on the streets?

TH: It was mostly out on the streets, yeah. And that's, I guess in those days there wasn't much that, I don't remember, of going into other people's homes to play, was really mostly outside activities, and I think completely different from, I guess, today. Today, I think the kids, they move inside and watch TV or play computer games, along that line.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Okay, Takashi, we're going to start up with your second session, so we were talking about Pomona and the Marshall family coming to visit you, but let's back up a little bit. Let's, let's talk about... why don't we talk about the journey to Pomona? So from the Hollywood area, how did you get to Pomona?

TH: Well, we gathered (...) at the Hollywood Independent Church, which was just about two miles north of where we lived, and then we got on the bus (...). We didn't know where we were going, but then eventually we ended up at the Pomona fairgrounds.

TI: Now when you said you didn't know where you were gonna go, by this time some people had been sent to Manzanar, places like that.

TH: Yes.

TI: So was there a sense of, of where you might be going, like whether it be Manzanar, or you just didn't know where you were gonna go?

TH: Basically, we didn't know. And if we can back up a little bit, it then became a problem of what kind of clothing or, especially what kind of footwear should one be getting. So the word went around that everybody was buying these, I guess they used to call them engineering boots, and so everybody was buying that type of footwear. And then my dad went out and bought canteens, and these were, I guess, half gallon canteens, which, it was like the old miner's type with felt on the outside which you can then wet and it'll cool a bit with metal screw cap tops on there. And so we each had one of the canteens, so the concept (...) was, well, it may come to a point where we need to really move around or so on, so fill that thing up with water and, and it'll boost our survival probability, doing this type of thing. (...) So with that in mind, and also (...) people (...) didn't really know, Manzanar is somewhere up in the Owens Valley was the best that people could determine where the camp was, but other than that we had no idea. We didn't think we were (going to) Manzanar, except that now we suddenly end up in the Pomona fairgrounds.

TI: Going back to what you brought, so your, other than canteens, did your, did your father... I'm curious, what else did your father sort of have you bring with you? Were there other things that he, he thought would be important for you to bring? Like you mentioned the boots, did you buy these engineering boots?

TH: (...) I can't even remember, I doubt if the girls, but the girls probably had something comparable (...) to those boots. Other than that, no, I don't remember what else, (...) did we have some heavy coats? I don't remember and I don't think so, thinking about (it), as we were standing around waiting to be transported.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so you go to Pomona. So what are some first impressions of Pomona when you got there?

TH: Well, again, we had visited the fairground before and suddenly, we're now at the Pomona fairgrounds. But (...) thinking back on it, (...) I don't really remember too much, except I think it was a little chaotic. And then we finally had, I think we finally found our (assigned) apartment or the barrack that we were (to stay), and then guess we settled in (...). I guess as a sixteen year old, you begin to go out and start exploring around. And ran into a guy that I did judo with, and I really don't know exactly how it all turned out, but they were looking apparently for volunteers to work in the mess hall, so I says okay, fine, so then I signed up, went to work in the mess hall, I think virtually from the very first day that I arrived. And that in turn was really something because people were then being, coming into the camp, either bus, many busloads or by train, and I was working in the very first mess hall that opened. There were about, if I remember, something like thirty-three, thirty-five of us (working) in this mess hall. And so that became a job now of feeding the people as they came in, and it became getting the mess hall all full of people. (...) They would eat their food, and (...) would eat the food fairly fast because there'd be a long line waiting to come into the mess hall. So as soon as those people finished then (...) working (as) the dishwasher (...), we had to (...) wash dishes like crazy so that they'd have clean dishes for the new set of people coming in. And so this was sort of the routine that went on in breakfast and lunch and dinner, and it was hot. But one, one day (as the) people came in... I guess we had a maximum load. The chef, or the cook said, the head cook said, "Well folks, we fed something like 2100 people."

TI: This is one meal, not a whole day? This is one meal?

TH: Yeah, this is one meal, and I forgot how many people the mess hall held, probably at least three hundred people, and so it was just this continual turnover of just getting in or feeding the people. And one of the guys that I met later on, after we got out, said that he remembers the very first meal he had in Pomona. Well, the people were coming in so much I guess the government was trying to deliver enough food, but it's one of these problems that all we had in the mess hall, I remember one day, was a big, huge wheel of cheese and rice. And so the fellow sat down and he said he had just this rice gruel. We had to put more water into the rice to stretch it, and a thin sliver of this cheese, which was not really meant to eat. It was more of a cooking cheese. And he sat there and he looked at it, and he says, "Well, I guess this is the way it's gonna be." [Laughs] But things improved much after that, but that was his first meal and he says, "Boy, this is gonna really be something."

TI: So the cooks just had to do with whatever they had.

TH: Yeah, whatever they had, and oh, it was really, was something to, at least be part of, to watch what was happening.

TI: I'm, I'm kind of this process guy and I'm trying to think, 2100 people, you seat about three hundred, so that's, like, a turnaround seven times. What, what would be the bottlenecks? I mean, how do you feed so many people in such a small space and a concentrated time? How do you, I'm trying to think, what would, what would kind of slow, be the one thing that you would have to, the bottleneck for all that? Would it be like the dishwashers or the serving the food or, what would it be?

TH: That's, that's kind of interesting, 'cause we, I never, never really remember where the bottleneck was. It was, it was a more of a continuous flow. We'd, I don't particularly remember that day except when, when the cook came out and announced it, but people said... no, we worked like crazy to get the dishes washed, and I guess the gang of cooks there were just turning, turning out the food as fast as they can. And I don't remember where some of these things came to a halt, but it was just a continual flow.

TI: Yeah, it's pretty impressive when you think about serving that many.

TH: Yeah.

TI: And then just for one meal. Then you have to get ready for the next meal.

TH: Next one. And it was just amazing, 'cause we went from one, basically one to the next with maybe about an hour break in between.

TI: And then you, was this a paid volunteer position, or did you get paid for this?

TH: Well, at the beginning you just more (or less) volunteer and then later on they says oh yeah, we're gonna get paid. Oh, great. Six dollars a week or something like that, or six dollars a month, or I forgot. Yeah, I think about six dollars a month.

TI: So hardly anything.

TH: Yeah, and the guys that I worked with in, in the mess hall says, oh, I think that's nine cents an hour, "Hey, the slaves in Egypt got paid more than this." [Laughs] (Narr. note: Recalculating, $6 per month working about 10 hours a day, seven days a week would be 300 hours or 2 cents per hour.)

TI: So why did, why did you do this? I mean, I would imagine you, the options are you can be playing baseball, you can be doing cards with friends, or you can be working?

TH: I don't know. I says well, we're here, work needs to be done, the people need to be fed, so okay. So here's a little core of people that we just work, work, work. 'Cause I remember we'd be getting up early to go work in the mess hall and then some days it was so hot that I would then say, "Okay, I'm gonna take a break and go shower and change my clothes," because we were just dripping with perspiration. I remember doing that, wasn't every day, but I remember some days that we had to do that. And then it would be until we finally got the dinner finished and then all the things like dishes washed and the cooking pots and so forth all cleaned up, and it would be, oh, maybe nine o'clock at night. So everybody at the very beginning really pitched in, and then other, as other mess halls opened up, then the load lightened up, but being the first and we just took the brunt of the incoming people.

TI: So was there a sense of camaraderie of the, the group?

TH: I think so, yeah, because then when we went to Heart Mountain, that particular mess hall people stayed together. In fact, it was up in the same block that we were assigned to at Heart Mountain, found out they're up in the upper mess hall, 'cause the blocks were divided up into two sections, two mess halls to each block. So then I went to work in the upper mess hall, same group.

TI: So they all, you wanted to stay together. They wanted to work together.

TH: Yeah. Yeah, knew each other.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So I'm curious, in the early part of when the group was first forming and doing this, did a hierarchy form? I mean, how did, how did this group of thirty-five figure it out? Was there, like, a person in charge? Were there team captains? How did this work?

TH: The cook, the head cook was in charge, and then alright, so then I guess I'm there. What's needed? Okay, we worked as busboys at one time or one period of time during the meal, and then, then need, okay, dishes, dishwashing group needs more help. Alright. So, as you say, it was a real group working together. No... I suppose it was really, we all felt that we had to do this, I mean, for the common good.

TI: But even figuring out, at some point you, you're doing one thing, then you're now dishwashing, then your bussing tables, I mean, how were you directed? How did you know, okay, this is what's needed now, versus this, versus that?

TH: I think probably you look and says okay, these people need help. You go over there and help out. And at some times, as the people got ready to come in, (...) I would be out there helping in the dining room, we'll call it, getting ready to open, and it was so hot, people standing in line, that the old, older people would pass out. So I guess the chief cook, the cook says, "Well, we can't have that happening, so bring the older people in first." Okay, so then I guess I was assigned to do it (...). I remember going out in the line and saying, "Okay, you," the older lady there, said, "Go on ahead." "Oh no, I don't want to go in." "No, no. You got to go." And then (...) I'd ask the, maybe the granddaughter who was with her said, "You go in, too." She said, "No, no, I don't want to go." And virtually have to force these people to go in (...). So that was kind of a relationship that people had in the camp, and... that way, anyway, once we got that established, then people said okay, the older people go in first. Sure, fine.

TI: So to go back a little bit, you got a little emotional there, because, was it because of people, what is it, not wanting to sacrifice or...

TH: Yeah, not, not wanting to... you'd give 'em, say, "Hey, go on in because you might pass out." And then you can't, I feel that you can't have just the, the older grandmother go in by herself because it's obvious that, that she was being physically helped by the young lady, so I said, "Now, you go in, too," and they would refuse. So I thought, well, that was really something.

TI: So it was moving to you that even the granddaughter didn't want to get preferential treatment.

TH: Yeah. But at the same time, it's, you have, I feel that she has to go because there's other physical dangers of tripping, falling, so on.

TI: Right, right, yeah. And so what does that mean? How does that, what does that say to you, when people do that?

TH: Well, I think, I guess a community helping each other in times like that we had in the camps.

TI: Good. Thank you. That was good. Thanks for sharing that.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So other memories of Pomona? I mean, it sounds like you were really busy with the mess hall, but was there anything else about Pomona?

TH: Well, one of the things that happened was, I guess to keep the people occupied, might say keep busy, we had baseball games, and then I guess you might call the local talent shows on the stage and music and people would sing. I remember one evening that we had free time we did go out there. I was out there taking that in. So there were activities. I guess the people who were in charge, or the authorities realized that you just can't have 'em sitting around, maybe mulling and, and so keep 'em occupied and give 'em some entertainment.

TI: Good. I want to go back. I forgot to ask, you mentioned the head cook. I'm curious, what kind of experience did your head cook have?

TH: We were very fortunate, and the fellow's name was Nob and I forgot his last name, but he was the chef at the L.A. Country Club. And so he had, he was a professional, basically, and so he was able to then project ahead and know, and I remember some days he would step outside and look at the weather and say, maybe the old thing, "Well, better make up some more soup or we'll cut back on something," knowing how (...) the people would be wanting to eat or what the people would eat, different weather conditions. And then that way he was also training, I think he had about three other assistant cooks, and he would be training them a lot, what to do.

TI: And was this an Issei?

TH: A Nisei, I think. Yeah, Nisei fellow. He was very good. In fact, I learned a lot about cooking 'cause they used to complain about the cakes that we would make, very course. And so then I (asked why the cake was just so-so), "Oh no," he says, "We only got this kind of flour to do it," whereas if you're gonna make a cake or make bread or whatever you get different types of flour. I still don't fully understand it, but better maybe the type of wheat or maybe the way they ground (and) prepared the flour.

TI: Yeah, you probably were lucky because he knew how to cook for large groups.

TH: (...) And there were other, when we were in Heart Mountain there were other problems with, in other mess halls because they didn't have experienced cooks.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Good, so let's move on. So from Pomona you're then moved to someplace else, so why don't you talk about the journey to, to Heart Mountain we mentioned earlier? So talk about the train ride to Heart Mountain.

TH: Well, in fact, I don't really remember getting on the train, except I remember the train ride, and, again, it was in August so it was hot and the train itself was, we were, I guess commenting that this was pre-World War I type of train. (...) I think it was gas lit and so on, but so the passenger car, the train itself, it was on the hot side, very warm inside. And when we came time to eat (...) we moved into the dining car and the dining cars were at the time air conditioned, so it was a real shock to walk in and wow, it's very cool. And you had a tendency to want to maybe stay in there as long, but then no, there are other people that are coming in. The personnel, the workers there were blacks, which at that time was, was the set up for the railroads, and apparently they had sympathized with us and so the food that we got was well-prepared and lots of it. And so here we're just sitting there, doing nothing, and then here comes this plate with, the breakfast would be maybe three, four bacons and two eggs and potatoes and whatever else, and no matter how much you tried (not to waste), you couldn't eat all of it. And most of the people, it was the same thing, so finally the, I guess the person in charge or someone who decided to be in charge went back and talked to the cook and says, "Hey," he says, "We're wasting all this food. Don't serve as much." [Laughs] So the portions got a little more sane for us who were just sitting there not doing anything. So that was the thing that I remember, and I think that the train ride took about four days. Three nights, four days. And as we went through certain sections we were requested to have the shades pulled down, and I remember, I think it was one night, with the shades even pulled down, somebody peeked out and says, "Oh," he said, "We're in Pocatello, Idaho." Well, Pocatello, I don't (know but) -- Idaho I knew, so I figured we were going around the north way and apparently we went to Billings, and then from Billings went down into Powell. So then when we got there it was daylight, and when I got off the train and looked out I, my first impression was, was wow, this is a great place because I could see wide open spaces and Heart Mountain in the back, and so I thought it was very nice. But I guess I was looking at it from the standpoint of a sixteen year old and also a Boy Scout who loved to go up into the mountains and fish. [Laughs]

TI: So like with hunting or fishing, camping, probably?

TH: Yeah. Right, yeah, that's kind of envisioned, but then really thinking about it, though, my sisters said, oh, they hated the place because when (...) they break the sod like they did for building the camp, then when the wind comes up the dust blows and so it was dust everywhere. And then my sisters would then have to be cleaning, trying to mop and sweep all the dust, keep the dust off the things, so it was, really it was kinda bad. But again, I immediately went to work in the mess hall, which then pulled me completely away from the hardships and some of the things you had to do within the barracks.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Now, when you, when you first got there, were there a lot of people already at Heart Mountain?

TH: No. We, we were, again, probably one of the first to go in. I don't know whether we were the first, but we were apparently one of the very early ones, 'cause it was mid-August or so, or maybe when we went. Can't remember the exact date.

TI: Okay, so you were, so the mess hall team stayed pretty intact and so they were put to work right away?

TH: Yeah. Yeah, and so it was kind of a relief because we, again, we had about the same number, but in the way they divided the blocks up there were about, I think maximum of two hundred eighty people that you fed.

TI: And, and for your family, so there were six kids and your parents? Describe your, your living quarters.

TH: We had enough members in the family so that we were then (...) assigned two rooms. And so that made it a little better. There were four of us in each one of the rooms. And they talk about one coal burning stove or a heater in each room and then one bare light bulb hanging down on a cord, so that was it. And the, again, the wood was, was of very poor quality so as they dried there were cracks and knotholes would fall out. And the apartments, or the barracks weren't finished, so we looked at two by fours and later on, I think, I think it was that first winter, they came through, they finished off the inside with what they call celotex board, which then provided some insulation and some soundproofing and put the ceilings in and so it became a lot better by, I think within the first winter things were finished off. But still when the dust blew, the construction was such that the dust would be blowing through the windows and through the doors into the vestibules.

TI: So I'm curious, with the, so you have two rooms. You had four sisters, one brother, so there were two boys, four girls, so how did you guys figure out who slept where? Which four slept with...

TH: I don't remember. Yeah, I don't remember. And I think the problem there is, I don't remember is because I was out of there before the family was awake and then I would be coming back after dinner, but I remember in the wintertime (...) I would throw a chunk of coal in the burner and then shake the ashes off so it would start heating up the rooms. I remember doing that. And so, yeah, so anyway, I don't remember how it was split up.

TI: Your parents, what, what did they do with their time at Heart Mountain?

TH: My dad eventually went to work at the poultry yard. Chickens, raising chickens. And that's about all I can really say. Meanwhile, you know that (...) by 1944 (...) the draft thing came up and I was out of there. They, the FBI or marshals picked me up and...

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Right, so before we go there, I just want to touch on a few things. So when you were at Heart Mountain you were, what, about seventeen?

TH: Sixteen.

TI: Sixteen? So you still were going to school then?

TH: Yeah.

TI: And so talk about the school at Heart Mountain.

TH: They, they announced that there was a school (opening), and I looked at, I guess my records and then in order to graduate out of high school I just had to take two courses. So I signed up for those two courses and also, in doing that, it set my work schedule for the mess hall. So then I went into the morning -- oh, they had two shifts. We didn't work all day on that Heart Mountain, so I had the morning shift and so after lunch then I would go, go to the high school, or actually we were having classes in some of the barracks and I don't remember much more about that, whether it was in, in one of the mess halls or what. So I took my two courses and so in one semester I was ready to graduate.

TI: So you, you graduated quite young then? You were, like, sixteen, two courses. Most people graduate when they're about eighteen, so you --

TH: Yeah, well, it goes back earlier when I was at, originally started out at the Maryknoll school and so when I transferred out and came into Hollywood they were going to assign me to a class, and one of the teachers had a book and, and I looked at it and says, "Oh, I read that book already." Then suddenly realized that oops, the assigned classes they're gonna assign me to was using that book, so then they bumped me up. And so I, in a way, by default I skipped a grade, and so I was, like say, sixteen, thinking back, maybe I was just turning seventeen or was sixteen that, that I had graduated out of high school. So I was ahead, got ahead again.

TI: So you graduated, I mean, so you took those two courses and you graduated. I'm just curious, you, if you could explain, what was a high school graduation like at Heart Mountain?

TH: Well, by that time they had finished the high school building, and so there was a large room which was really a basketball court, convertible also into an auditorium.

TI: So they finished the high school building, so there's a high school, actual high school that they built?

TH: Yeah, it was an actual high school that they built, and with, I don't remember much of the other classroom because I think my classes were in the barracks, and so when my graduation time came, the school, the building itself, was finished. So I was in the first graduating class out of Heart Mountain in, I think, 1943, but now officially they have eliminated the class of '43 and put it together with '44. I don't know if that's official or not or whether they, it was the Heart Mountain reunion group put it together that way.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so I'm gonna go ahead and skip up to the "loyalty questionnaire." I mean, there are other things we can talk about Heart Mountain, but I want to make sure we, we cover this. So you, you sort of edged into a little bit about being drafted and, and that, but before we get there, in 1943 the government had a questionnaire. Do you remember that questionnaire and how you answered it? In particular, questions twenty-seven and twenty-eight.

TH: Yeah, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. I think (...) whichever one it was, I said yes, I'll be loyal to (...) United States. Then it says are you willing to serve in the army, you know, wherever sent, and (...) Someone had pointed out the form had, I think had the selective service symbol on it, so I said would I be volunteering if I said yes, so I said no, and so I became a "no-yes," or a "yes-no" boy.

TI: But explain that a little bit more, it was almost like you saw, like, it was almost a technicality or something? You, 'cause you didn't want to be, you didn't want to volunteer and that's why you said no? Is that what you said?

TH: Yeah. Well, volunteer or what would it really mean? Well, it goes back to Pomona, where you began to hear the older Niseis talking about that we should've, we should've contested the evacuation and so on, and so at that time I said, well, something's wrong. This isn't just straightforward. It looked like something funny was going on, and so as I, time went on and got to learn a little bit more and then the first time hearing about JACL, so I thought well, this whole thing is not right. The evacuation is not right. And in fact, I had written a letter to (my) homeroom of Belmont High School and stating, I says, "I think this evacuation thing's wrong," so on and so forth, and remember the teacher writing back, says, "We're very sorry you feel this way about it." I thought, gee, too bad I didn't make a copy of my letter and also kept the letter that they sent back.

TI: And this is your old high school?

TH: Yeah. So even then I had, I began to really have doubts in my mind and began to think, so when this draft thing came out I said this is crazy and... but especially then when they were talking about in, into a segregated (unit). They wouldn't let the (Nisei) go into the navy or into the air force, so I said no. My bottom line was, says I wouldn't go out from the camp, be drafted from the camp.

TI: Okay, so let me, let me see if I can summarize a little bit. So first there was this questionnaire that came out, and on one question -- this was probably twenty-seven -- you said no, which said essentially would you be willing to serve in the military, thinking that you didn't want to volunteer. And then later on you were sent a notice to report, essentially --

TH: For the physical.

TI: To report for a physical, and, and so tell me, when you got that, what happened? Describe what happened when you got --

TH: Oh, when I got that, I had more or less made up my mind that I wouldn't go, and so I just said okay, just sort of ignored the notice. And I guess maybe a week or two, maybe a week later the, they appeared on the steps of the barrack and, and I was (...) under arrest.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And so when you were, you made your decision not to report, did you discuss this with anyone, like your, your father or anyone else?

TH: No, no. Except that I saw the notice about the Fair Play Committee and I went to one of the Fair Play Committee meetings.

TI: So describe this. So the Fair Play Committee was a group that essentially opposed the draft, led by men like Frank Emi.

TH: Okay, the Fair Play Committee originally had, was sort of a evolved group that came later, because we had a fellow named Kiyoshi Okamoto who was talking (...) that it was the constitutional civil rights problem (...) for us to be put in the camp. And so he then claimed to be the Fair Play Committee of One pushing the civil rights wrong that was imposed on us, but also, apparently at the same time there were other fellows in the camp who then were pushing, again, the same thing that Kiyoshi Okamoto was talking about. And I think that one was called, early on was called something like Congress of America and that was another group, and those sort of, I guess, people left camp or, I don't know what happened, but then it slowly, I guess, evolved over into what was called Fair Play Committee who was originally now pushing the civil rights problem. And then when the draft came up, then it became a point where... it was something that was possibly now to contest the civil rights in court, so we used now the refusal of going into the army, the draft problem as a means of presenting our case in a court of law. But unfortunately, when we finally got in the court it was not about the civil rights. The judge then threw out everything and concentrated only on the fact that we didn't show on the doorsteps of the draft board.

TI: So let's go back, so thank you for describing that. It was really well done. You mentioned you went to one of the meetings of the Fair Play Committee. Describe that for me.

TH: Well, I was a little shocked when I walked in because it was virtually wall-to-wall people. And people talking, and some were standing up, I guess maybe describing their stand, but all I remember about that is I finally stood up and I said, "Well, I don't know about that, you guys, but the conditions as they are, I wouldn't be going." And that was about all that I said and sat down. And Mits Koshiyama years later says, "Yeah, I remember. You're the guy." [Laughs]

TI: Well I'm guessing, within that room, you're probably the youngest or one of the youngest --

TH: Oh, yeah.

TI: -- 'cause you were barely eighteen or just...

TH: I just turned, yeah, 'cause when, I just turned, see, October, and I turned eighteen. And I think it was a month or so later that this, the questionnaire came out, so I was one of the youngest. And then by April or so, then they tried to draft me, and so... I, yeah, I was the youngest, one of the youngest. And along with that, if I may just interject, years later when the Korean conflict was on, they were drafting people into the army and I got my second draft notice, and I was finishing up my master's, so then I told 'em hold off 'til when I finish my master's, then I went into the army. And later on I find that there were six of us in the group of sixty-three who then served during the Korean conflict, so I was, started thinking more about it. Then I thought, I started doing some, just some numbers, little about, because of my training, and I thought, well, how many of us out of that sixty-three would still be eligible about ten years later for the draft? That meant that there had to be people like me, eighteen, and so I figured I think that virtually the six of us were the, were the total count of those who were still eligible for the draft. And on top of that, I, talking to Lane Hirabayashi about this, began to wonder how many others from the other camps who resisted the draft later served if they were called, and so that's sort of a curious point and it might be something worth someone doing a study on that.

TI: With, I think the point you're trying to make is that you refused, you, I think you mentioned two things: one, the civil rights of being locked up in the camps, and the second one, I think, was going to a segregated unit, were the, I think, the two reasons. And both those reasons weren't in play the second time, and so that's why you, you and probably the other men...

TH: Yeah, we were, yeah, we weren't in camp and then we had our -- in fact, President Truman had pardoned all of us so we had our civil rights back, so fine. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So let's go back, so you, you get your papers to report for the physical and you ignore them. You don't, you don't go. A week or so later you said they come to pick you up, so describe that. What happened?

TH: After, the part that I really remember is that they just, when they came in the morning and picked me up, the only thing I remember was I think my mother, I think she must have handed me a sweater and somehow I think she handed me a little spiral bound notepad and a pencil. And the reason I remember, I think that I remember is I moved around, being interrogated and then signing the report paper that the FBI had, was that I had wrote all the events as they were happening. And apparently -- and I don't really remember all the details, except there they were, and except that we went (...) to the administrative area of the camp and (...) that was where they had interrogated me, and apparently they were trying to get information on the Fair Play Committee. And (...) then I went over to the Cody jail and then I somehow, from there I came back, if I remember the notes part. I went back to Heart Mountain and eventually ended up in the county jail at Casper, Wyoming. (...) There were so many of us that we had filled up the county jails in and around the whole area of Wyoming.

TI: And, so going back, your, so your mother, I understand the sweater and then the notepad. Did, did she tell you, did she have, did she tell you why she gave it to you? I mean, you used it, in a way, to keep track, but that, it's kind of an interesting...

TH: No, it... yeah, she didn't say, but it was interesting because I felt that, well, they were holding pretty well, and I used to say, "Well, my mother and father weren't upset," but then later on I talked to my siblings and they said, "Oh, yeah, my mom was really upset that this had happened." I said oh, okay, well that's after I had left then, this all happened.

TI: So when this was happening, in the moment they were pretty stoic about it?

TH: Yeah.

TI: But then your siblings later on told you...

TH: Yeah, that (...) she was upset. But then she did come out and see me during the trial at Cheyenne. There was a group of the people who were then permitted to leave the camp, I guess who were related to resisters, to come out and then sit in the trial.

TI: So describe meeting your, your mom? Was your father there, too, or just your mother?

TH: No, just my mother.

TI: And so were you, did you have an opportunity to talk with her?

TH: Yeah, just a bit and... but apparently what had happened was that there was a huge hailstorm, and so the talk and, I guess, more at that time was what had happened and how the hailstorm had smashed the windows in the room that they were in, and I said, "Oh, you didn't get hurt?" She said no, no, everything's fine. But that's the, the real part of the conversation that I remember, so that's basically about it. But she was there, I remember.

TI: So your... and why not your father?

TH: I don't know. It may be that they have limited family members coming out, but I really don't know. I was really surprised that they permitted the, the parents to come out.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about what you could recall of the trial, or before the trial, the preparation for the trial. Do you remember any of the preparations in terms of talking with a lawyer or any conversations with a lawyer?

TH: A little bit. I guess the problem then became trying to find a lawyer, and this fellow, (who) was it? Menin, I guess. Yeah, Samuel Menin. But his idea at the very beginning was that we give 'em a little hard time trying to supposedly identify each of the defendants, so he suggested that we all get identical haircuts so it made it difficult. And I thought, oh, (...) that's not the kind of defense that we need. But I went along with it, and some of 'em refused to go along, but so that was the very beginning, and he did apparently try to give us a good defense, but now I guess my mind is a little confused because Eric Muller did the research on it and reading his book, get a real sense of what was going on. But at the time, sitting there as a defendant, I don't think those things really crossed my mind, except the time that the judge says, "you Jap boys," and then he said, "Oops," okay, and we were having a non-jury trial and so (what) he says, "Well, that doesn't look good for us," which it wasn't.

TI: But during the trial, thinking back at the time, did you feel the lawyer, Menin, was trying to do a good job of defending?

TH: Yes, I, yeah. But he did try. In fact, there was a time that they even got to the point of Menin ready to take on the district attorney. In other words, take his coat off, roll up his sleeve and they're gonna have it out with (fists) in the courtroom.

TI: In, in the courtroom?

TH: In the court room. [Laughs] So, thought "Wow, what's goin' on?" Well, must be, these guys are really goin' at it.

TI: And I'm not sure exactly when this was taken, but there's a, a fairly well-known photograph of, of the courtroom.

TH: Of the sixty-three, yeah.

TI: Of sixty-three. Do you remember when they took that picture?

TH: (Yes), it was very strange because I was in the back row and then as the guy got ready (to take the pictures), somehow something flashed in my mind that said, you know, this picture might be famous about fifty years from now, and so I (...) so I stood up and looked at the camera. And I was surprised, it was about fifty years that suddenly the (picture) came up and being shown all the time.

TI: Yeah, it's a well-known photograph and your premonition was right. It, it did become very prominent. Now was this photo taken, at what point during the trial?

TH: I really don't remember, except that as the trial was going on we had a court, I guess a photographer came in and set up to take pictures.

TI: So describe when, I guess, the judge rendered the verdict. What, describe that.

TH: Well, as the trial was going along, it became more or less apparent that it wasn't going to be good, so when he finally gave us a sentence, I said, well okay. The other thought was whatever came out of this very first trial, the possibility of really appealing it and getting a better, maybe a better review or really the legality of the whole thing would be looked at, instead of just the fact that we didn't appear for our induction notice. But again, all of that didn't come to pass (...). We had a sentence of three years.

TI: So when that happened were you surprised at the verdict or the sentence?

TH: No. Well, the length of the sentence was a little surprising.

TI: How so? How was that surprising?

TH: Most of the others that we were hearing about was that one year would be, probably be the maximum that they're giving to these other draft resisters, so when it was three years I said wow, that's quite a bit. And later on we learned that usually you only serve about a third of your sentence and then you can go out on, on a parole.

TI: But he essentially kind of threw the book at you, gave you kind of the maximum level, and you guys served more than a third.

TH: Yeah. Yeah, I think the whole idea at the time, thinking back on it, was that we were the first to be tried and so I guess they were really afraid that if we had won the case then (...) everybody in all the camps would then just say the heck with it. (...) If they're called for the draft they wouldn't be going in. So I think they, as you said, they decided to make an example of us, and three years was enough that they scared people into rethinking any decisions that they had made.

TI: But our justice system isn't supposed to work that way.

TH: Yeah. But it was interesting going back into reviewing what had happened. I gave the keynote speech at the Manzanar pilgrimage this year, and in that, and someone else had pointed out earlier, but in that speech I said, "Well, the sentences from all the different camps (for) resisters, ran from three years for us and, and down at the Gila River people it was one cent apiece fine to acquittal altogether (for those from Tule Lake), so it was this whole range of sentence." And it was interesting because the one cent fine was made, I think after the war was over and the trials had, I guess, somehow legally got dragged on that long.

TI: During the preparation, during the trial, what type of discussion was going on amongst the men? When you were in the cells, do you recall any discussion?

TH: No. I personally think we didn't really have anyone with legal knowledge within the group and since, especially someone who was a legal scholar who would understand what was going on. And even now, well, now we go back and there're questions about what was in the Selective Service Act, and at one point early on it was set up so that if you're to be drafted into the service you could not be held, incarcerated in any particular institution. But then apparently later on they rescinded that part, but my question in my mind is when did they rescind that? Was that before our trial, or was that after? But I haven't had time to stop and look those things up.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So, so you get your sentence, three years. So what happens next? Where did you go?

TH: Then they split the group up and the older people, I guess maybe they split it at age twenty-six or whatever, somewhere around there. The older people then went to Fort Leavenworth and the younger set like myself then went to McNeil Island in the Puget Sound. And we then went by train from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I don't remember too much of the trip, to a place called Steilacoom, which is across the bay, across the Sound from McNeil Island, and I don't remember how long it took. A few of the guys, maybe two, maybe three, went with the marshals in the car because the marshals apparently had to (...) be there to officially transfer us to the federal penitentiary. And Yosh Kuromiya recalls when we got off the boat that there was a Japanese fellow -- I missed that -- guy named Mikami who was really happy to see a bunch of Japanese people coming on the island, and we got to know him pretty well while we were there.

TI: And he was there under different circumstances?

TH: Yeah. He was a much older person, and the story I got was that he had apparently murdered someone, I think it was in Alaska, so then he was serving a life sentence. But he was later, after we got out and the war was over, he was (...) released and he went back to Japan.

TI: When you went to McNeil Island, which is a federal penitentiary, how was that different than the other places you were incarcerated? I mean, going from essentially a county jail, I guess, to a federal penitentiary, what was that like?

TH: Well, the county jails, the facilities were, the total facility is much smaller. Casper, Wyoming, had apparently just finished their county jail, so it was a nice, clean jail. Cheyenne, Wyoming, was much older and it was, I felt it was probably never really cleaned, and so when all of us were (...) stuck there before the trial, volunteered to clean it up and (...) so we (asked) the guards to give us a bunch of rags and scrubbing (brushes) and then we scrubbed the whole place clean. So for the rest of the time we had a halfway decent place to sleep. In fact, some of us were sleeping on the floor because we were just jammed in there. But then contrasting that to the federal penitentiary. The federal penitentiary was really kept in, I'd say, controlled and also healthy conditions, but, again, these large buildings (were) your old standard, what you see in the movies, the bars and cells and so on, and we stayed there a week, two weeks. I don't remember. As we were being processed through and being checked health-wise, and I guess they also decided... we were able to (give) some more background as to who we were and what we could do, and then we were, since we weren't hardened criminals, we were then sent out to the minimum security area, which was the farm. There we lived in dormitories. No barbed wire. Doors were open and slept in a large (...) dorm, and when we first arrived it was double-decker beds that we shared. Two stories (in the building). And so the conditions were much, much better than the county jails and much better than the, what we called the (big) house, the main penitentiary.

TI: It's interesting, so I live in Seattle and so most of the people in Seattle went to Minidoka, and so I've interviewed some of the draft resisters from Minidoka and I think they had to stay in the, in the big house. They had to stay in the...

TH: Yeah, we... I didn't know too much about that, and then later on I thought about hey, those people were sentenced and where were they? And then someone says they were kept in the big house. Now I don't know whether... see, by the time we left, and I can't really think of why, but the minimum security facility became overcrowded and so they had to build two extra barracks on the (slope) next to the main facility, and so it may have been, and I'm just guessing now, that there were just too many people. And I guess also maybe the authorities were a little afraid and just kept us separated. But when I think about it, says, yeah, where were those people?

TI: So any particular memories about your time at McNeil that you want to talk about?

TH: Well, it was, to me, kind of interesting because it was wartime so we had conscientious objectors. The Quakers are in there, also the Jehovah Witnesses. We also had guys who were hijacking trucks of liquor and whatever else (...) and bank robbers in there, but these are minimum (and less dangerous criminals). We were mostly, I guess mostly what you would call political prisoners at that time, so the (farm population was different from the main prison), and they, especially the conscientious objectors were college-educated. (...) They would have seminars and I would go there and sit down, and so it became almost like being at a university with all these people there, and got to know a little bit more about literature and then more about political aspects going on at the time. So to me it became an educational period, and I started taking a correspondence course in math when I was in the main prison. And the fellow, (the teacher) was a Filipino who apparently had, was sentenced to life for spying for the Japanese, and so he ended up in McNeil. And as I was going through (the prison) literature I find they had a correspondence course in mathematics, so I says (oh great), so I signed up. But when we went out (...) into the farm, I was able to continue the course as a more or less (...) correspondence course, so I learned (...) my math and I was able to get about two years more math training. And then I ran into a guy that I heard was, apparently played the piano, black fellow, and I was interested in playing the piano so then I took lessons from him and when he left, (one of the) Jehovah Witnesses (...) came in and (...) saw me trying to play the piano, so he became my teacher. By the time I got out, I could play a few tunes.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Good, so let's talk about... so you were there for two years?

TH: Two years, a little more than two years, yeah.

TI: So let's talk about your release. Now that you've been released, what happens next?

TH: Okay, well, about time that we heard that (...) the group of us (...) are gonna be released, I remember one of the COs came up (and) says, "You're being released on a very auspicious date." I says, "Oh? What are you talkin' about?" He says, "You know, it's Bastille Day." Well, I didn't, at that time, Bastille Day, I didn't know much about it, but he says, well, he said that that was quite a famous date in, in history. And it was July 14th. Okay, so later on I really found out what he was referring to. And so we were released, but some of us (...) weren't released on (that) day because we would get what we call "good time." That is, if you're a model prisoner you get so many days removed from your sentence, and so it was, some of 'em would run into little problem with the guard, so they would lose the good time, so they came out a few days later or maybe a week later. Unfortunately, one of the fellows there who was very well liked was working as an electrician, and as he was showing his replacement, (...) accidentally was electrocuted, (and) died there. (So) there was one that really didn't get out of prison.

TI: And this was sad because it was just as he was ready to leave.

TH: Ready to leave within, say, a week or so, and that was really a sad thing that happened. Real blow. When we did get out we got our standard suits and I think maybe twenty-five dollars plus train ticket home. We gathered together and took pictures. Probably you maybe have seen the picture of us standing near the trestle at Steilacoom. Got on the train -- oh, then there were other people who lived around in the Seattle area that came out and greeted us when we got over on the mainland (...).

TI: Now, was there any feeling being free at this point? Did you, do you recall thinking or any, any thoughts of...

TH: Well, I guess 'cause we're free, fine, but (...) it was the first time that I would be (...) really by myself, away from the family, plus with the train ticket to get on the train and now to go back to L.A., to Los Angeles, again, that was another feeling that, maybe (with) a little apprehension that now here we're going back the first time. I'm traveling completely by myself, so it was kind of a mixed feeling. But it was, as you said, it was, I think it was nice (...) to be out.

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

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: Did you have, were you apprehensive about returning to Los Angeles? Did you have a sense of what was gonna be there when you got there?

TH: Not really, but I had heard from other prisoners and (...) they talked about the smog that had transformed Los Angeles. So I was curious and maybe a little apprehensive about that. But the other thing is that, as you know, they were now testing the A-bomb. We got to Portland, got off the train and visited some of the people (...), went to a (Buddhist) temple (...). Maybe I got a little confused in my mind, but we did get off in Portland and spent a little time there. The next train to Los Angeles was several hours (after) we got off the train. So walking down the street, saw a movie theater (...) showing the newsreel at those times, the A-bomb tests in, I think it was probably Bikini. So I went in there and I watched that. And then I thought, well... I guess I was always interested in science, so I had a pretty good understanding of what was going on. (...) Got back on the train, and got to L.A. and stepped off the train (...) and see the smog. And my dad and my (youngest) sister greeted me and so we went home, with the smog overhead.

TI: And what was the, kind of the reaction from your family, when you finally got home? Any discussions with your father, mother? Anything you can remember?

TH: No, I guess my youngest sister, I remember, was glad to see me, and got home (...). They (had) the house back, so by the time I was there they were already in the house for over a year. And yeah, so (...) sort of settled back in.

TI: The fact that you were in prison, was that something that was discussed directly, or was that something just not really discussed?

TH: No. (...) It wasn't talked about. Okay, I'm home, (...) I guess, really fit back into the family and start work, helping out at the nursery that they had opened. And then (...) find out that my (sister Yoko had) enrolled at City College (...). By the end of the summer I then (...) enrolled at Los Angeles City College.

JG: Did you register, kind of coming out and returning to your family, did you register any changes that had occurred, I guess in your parents or in your siblings, I mean, as a result of camp, or just even your being away?

TH: Well, the thing was is my youngest sister came out to greet me, and suddenly to note that in the two years that she had grown up quite a bit. So that (...) was really the only impression that I remember, but other than that, no. I guess also the yard was sort of a mess because it wasn't taken care of, and even the house itself was, again, not in good shape. So that was about the only thing. But I guess, I don't know, maybe I was just thinking more of getting back into society. I guess still feeling, there might've been feeling a little strange that you're now, you got a whole different environment from a prison environment, so you're out.

TI: Now, did, were there ever any encounters or, or did anyone confront you because you were one of the Heart Mountain resisters?

TH: No. (...) I didn't speak about it or push that part, and I guess all those (following) years never really came in the forefront until I began to apply for jobs (...). Then I had to explain that yes, I was, (...) convicted, then I had to sit down and write a paragraph or so of what happened. But that was about the only exposure.

TI: Yeah, did, did the fact that you had to reveal this information, did that ever have a negative impact on you not getting a job or something, or you not maybe even applying for a certain job because you knew that might be a problem? Was that ever --

TH: (Yes), it did because I was always, before I was interested in engineering, but there was another factor there 'cause I enrolled in City College, I think there was something like eight thousand students with the GIs back and six thousand of 'em were (engineering students), so I looked at that and I says oh my god, you know. [Laughs] And at that time I still did not know about -- or maybe the pardon wasn't there yet, yeah. And so I thought, well, we know with my background trying to get a job in engineering would be kind of difficult, plus all the other students. So (by) then my dad had started up (the) nursery, so I said (to myself), okay, maybe switch over and so I went into botany. So that's where the change came, but (...) as I slowly went through my education I kept drifting back towards the engineering side.

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

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: But then after Truman issued the pardon, did that sort of change your thinking? Did that all of a sudden maybe say, "Okay, I can do some of these things"?

TH: No, it didn't. I just (...) accept the fact that now I can (...) vote and have my full citizenship back. That was basically about it. But I changed my goals and went into the botany class, and that's where I met my wife. So it was kind of, thinking back on all these events and how evolved through, and eventually when I ended up at UCLA, when the space program started I had, my PhD was more in what we call circadian rhythms, and so I got curious as to what would happen to the astronauts in space without the daily twenty-four hour input. With that (in mind) I wrote a proposal, and (...) gave me the opening into NASA. Eventually it moved further and further away from the botany and into the circadian rhythms and the reaction of the astronaut, but also still (kept) maintaining part of botany, trying to figure out how now to feed the astronauts, growing plants in space, so I eventually ended up at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

TI: So let me just, just summarize it really fast, so you went to L.A. Community College, then you went to UCLA, got your master's and then later on your PhD, and this was all in, in biology, plant biology?

TH: Yeah. Now, with the, my master's, then I had the draft call so I spent two years in, in the service, and then when I came back my dad and mother were thinking about taking a vacation, go back to Japan. And by this time they were also studying the Noh drama, the singing and the dancing, and so they wanted to go back and, and be under the tutelage of the masters, so Barbara and I, when we came back said (...) we'll take over the business for a year while they're there. (So) I delayed going back to UCLA. The GI Bill was still on, so we decided I'd go ahead and pursue for my doctorate. (...) After they came back, (...) I went back to UCLA.

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

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: And so then, so during all this you, you marry Barbara, a Chinese American. Was there any issues, sort of, for you to marry a Chinese American?

TH: Well, that was kind of (...) early in the game. We sort of joke about it because when we got married, 'cause there was concern in the (reactions of our families). Her side of the family had some concerns and my side of the family did, too. But we said no, we're gonna get married, and so finally they said alright, they wouldn't impede (our marriage). So when we had our wedding we sort of joke and say we had my side of the family on the left side of the church and her family's on the right side and all our Caucasian friends sat in between. [Laughs] And all during (my life) I generally dressed very casually, no tie or anything, and so the comment from some of the professors at UCLA, said, "Well, that was the first time I saw him with a tie on." [Laughs]

TI: That's good.

JG: Did you, when you were courting, did the issue of your imprisonment... I mean, how did that come up in your relationship? When did you tell her?

TH: Yeah, so I guess when we got to a point (...) we got serious about this (...), I told her. And she was not upset or anything like that. The thing that surprised me was many people that I talked to and then they find out that I was imprisoned and I was a resister, I got very positive feedback. I guess especially 1960s... at that time got real positive feedback when they find out about (my past). I guess, maybe the fact that I was a con, or an ex-con, that might be shocking to some people, but then when they (...) really find the story behind it, then I get positive responses. In fact, many of the people says, "(Yes), I would've done the same thing if I were in the same situation." But the fact that we took that stand, (...) those that volunteered (or were drafted), that's the other side of the story. So I think that we shouldn't forget about them.

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

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: But tell me how it has been in terms of... so you're talking about some of the men who fought, perhaps in Europe with the 442, what has been the reaction of, of that group towards the resisters?

TH: I find there are some that (...) well, still don't think very highly of us, that we were a bunch of cowards that didn't go in.

TI: And is that based on, are they aware of your full story, that you actually, although you did not, you were convicted of draft resistance during World War II, but you served later, would that information, does that change their thinking?

TH: It might. It might. But there are others that understood where we were coming from as the civil rights part, that we, we used ourselves as a tool to bring it into the court level. But I think that as the story goes on, like I pointed out earlier about the number of us who later served and the number of us who would have, would still be eligible to serve was, out of that sixty-three, there's six that I know of, including myself. And I don't know if there are others in that group that I don't know about, but then I find that there are others from other camps. There were two -- I think they were from Amache -- that went in to be inducted and the sergeant apparently asked them, said, "Wait a minute, how old are you?" And they just had their twenty-eighth birthday, the two of these guys, a month or so earlier, and the sergeant says, "No, you're too old. Go home." So there are two others from another camp who were willing to serve.

TI: From your perspective, are there any open issues in terms of how people view the, the Heart Mountain draft resisters, that are still open, or do you think, from your perspective, that it's time to move forward? Are there, are there still some things that you think still need to be corrected?

TH: I think the full story should, should somehow be told and then contrasting that with the 442nd, tie it all in. And what happened later, as you say, there were a number of us who later served, that it was not quote, unquote "draft resistance," but it was, again, a civil rights (issue)... let's say a thrust (...) to see if we can bring (...) this question into court and then bring it out so that we can... as I said, I think if it really stood out in court and it was really looked at, as today we can see, (yes), we had a real stand, but at the time, the way the courts were going, we didn't.

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

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: But you have, so you're associated with a group, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, and they are created an interpretive center. Will, will this be an opportunity to do this, to really merge -- or not maybe merge, but to be able to tell the story of the Heart Mountain resisters vis-a vis the, the larger body? Is this gonna be a part of that?

TH: I think so, and I think by bringing the resister (story) in, I think basically we should think more as a civil rights movement, or a civil rights thrust to (...) get us out of camp (...). We're just sitting in camp not really taking any legal action as a whole. But (...) what was her name, Endo, then brought it up. What was... I've forgotten the term, (writ of habeus corpus) but then when the courts decided yes, Endo did have a point and (...) the court went (in) her favor, then that's when the camps were suddenly dissolved. So this is the type of thing that I think we should point out, that this is really, the (resistance) was really a means of bringing a civil rights wrong into court. And, but tied in with that, we have those who served and really brought the American public around and recognize wow, here are these guys who were put in the concentration camp and then really did a great job, I mean, great sacrifice. Reading some of those stories, you go wow. It's really something. But Senator Inouye, (...) when someone asked him, "What, what would you do?" And he said, well he was, he thought that he would really have to think about that. And many of the Hawaiians had no idea that we were in camp. But I think as the story evolves, that Heart Mountain (now) has the (Heart Mountain Wyoming) Foundation, the learning center has a real opportunity to point out what was happening in, within the Japanese population and what decisions had to be made. And we also had, not only the resisters, we call 'em, and those who served, we then have the renunciants, and you look at the family stories of the renunciants. You say, well, wait, the family wanted to stay together, they're (going to) ship the dad back to Japan so the family says, "Alright, we're (going to) go and become part of the renunciants." Nothing to do with the children, the Japanese Americans' loyalty to the United States. So all this total story has to be at least pointed out.

TI: So, so this makes sense, what you just articulated. Is there, is there resistance from including some of these other stories into the overall... like when you do a, the learning center, for instance, and would there be resistance to perhaps adding or making sure that story of the resisters is there or the renunciants are there? I mean, what's it like right now in terms of what you see?

TH: I think in some cases there probably is... that the resisters may be looked upon in disfavor because of the fact that we refused to go and then... but I think it's there and so one has to be careful that we first, that if (we) encounter the problem then I think we have to be careful, explaining the story so that it's not something that's really black and white (but) has all the nuances there. And far as the, I would call it the civil rights movement, like Kiyoshi Okamoto, where he was coming from. And I think the end of the story in camp was the resisters, which then was hopefully to take the whole thing into court, and I think people forget that. We focus more on the resisters. Here are these guys, you know, just didn't want to go into the army. I'd say no, that was, we were sort of the pawn in that, bringing the civil rights (...) story into the courts.

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

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: Well, I have to say, you did a really good job of articulating this. I think this is by far the best I have in terms of, not just looking at the, as a resister story, but really as a civil rights story, so this was excellent. Jim, before we end, though, any other questions, closing questions?

JG: One of the things -- well I guess I have two questions, and I think they're linked, but before we even started the camera you talked about terminology, resister versus civil rights activist, I guess, and I'm wondering if you could kind of expand on that. I mean, is "resister" a term that you shy away from?

TH: No, I don't shy away from it, but I think it might be that I don't like to have the conversation or the discussion focus on resisters where the resister is, is just a part of this total civil rights problem. And so that's one of the reasons I, in my mind, when we want to discuss the two, those who served and then those who did not, that we bring up the factor of the civil rights problem. But I think, again, the term resisters, I think was sort of modified when people threw in the resisters of conscience and that, that put a completely, a slightly different flavor to the idea of resister. I think... then also, I think there is now a push for clarification of the use of words and the meaning, like the things like relocation camp, concentration camp, and so what was the camp itself? And again, we can go with, to your term of resisters and what were they? Were (they) draft dodgers (...) or really resisters of conscience or really the end product of a civil rights push? And so this is where, at least, I come from. So I, people say "resisters," I'd say alright, that gives me an entry point into discuss and really see what was going on.

JG: As Japanese American history -- and this is my last question -- as Japanese American history unfolds and maybe even twenty years from now, as this story continues to deepen, I'm wondering, I mean, you've spoken to this quite a bit, but even being more specific, what would you like to see your legacy as a, as a resister, as a civil rights activist or as a member of the Fair Play Committee, what would you like to see that legacy be in terms of Japanese American history?

TH: Well, again, going back, that we were just part... the whole, total problem, it goes really back as to what was happening to the Japanese since their entry into this country, and there was this, always this push -- in fact, I'll, maybe I'll send you (...) my keynote speech that I made at Manzanar telling the background what was going on, after I did my research, began to see what was going on. But, yeah, that the resisters then really was playing a role in this overall shift, or the push now to become part of America, and can't really think of the words, but still, it's... for me, I think the legacy is that, okay, here's a group, a minority group that came through in history and there was this big upheaval that was really what I call the trip point in the evacuation during World War II, and then from there the 442nd came through and put a whole different viewpoint for the American public to look, and then here underneath is where (we) resisters, pushing civil rights. And I think eventually they'll say, yeah, okay, we're, we're now seeing the evolution or the evolve of the changes within the Japanese American population. And the other factor of this happening, which is kind of an aside, is the quick or the rapid dissemination of the Japanese American, the out, out-marriages that's going on. And I don't know, probably in the, maybe in less than a generation from now, we may see the real, what you might call the core of the Japanese American, the Sanseis, the Yonseis dispersing in, into the American population. But they can then carry the story of who they were, as to what happened along... and that's what I like to see.

JG: That's great. Thank you.

TI: So, Takashi, thank you so much. This was an excellent interview.

TH: Okay, you're welcome. Thank you. I hope, I was hoping that I'd do at least a decent job.

TI: No, you did a fabulous job.

JG: This was a great interview. You did much better than that.

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