Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hank Shozo Umemoto Interview
Narrator: Hank Shozo Umemoto
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: July 30, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-uhank-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So Hank, the way I start this is I just some background on the day, so today's Friday, July 30, 2010. We're in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo, at the Centenary United Methodist Church, and in the room we have Dana Hoshide on camera and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And so, so Hank, why don't I just start from the very beginning and why don't you tell me your birth date and where you were born?

HU: I was born in Sacramento, actually a farm about ten miles from Sacramento, and I was born on October 12, 1928. And in those days they used to brag about, at least my parents, my mother used to brag that I was a Columbus Day, and of course, right now Columbus, Columbus Day isn't that popular.

TI: So your mother knew that it was Columbus Day back then?

HU: Oh yeah.

TI: Okay, so it was --

HU: Yeah, she used to brag about it. [Laughs]

TI: Even though she was Japanese, she knew her, her American history.

HU: Oh, yeah.

TI: You mentioned about ten miles outside of Sacramento, on a farm, so were you delivered by a, like a midwife?

HU: A midwife, yeah. Mrs., was it Mayeda? Something like that. Yeah, Japanese midwife.

TI: Okay. And what was the name given to you at birth?

HU: Shozo, and the way, the way they got the name was in Japanese calendar, there is Showa, a Showa and a sannen or a third year of Showa, so he, my old man took "sho" from Showa and three from sannen, third year, and that made a Shozo.

TI: Okay, so you could always remember when you were born then. [Laughs]

HU: [Laughs] Yeah, 'cause he took the easy way out.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: And so you mentioned your father gave you this name, so tell me a little bit about your father. What was his name and where did he come from?

HU: His name was Ryosuke and in those days, like samurais, they used to have that "suke" name. And then he was born something like 1879 or so in Wakayama in a town called Minoshima. And the way he came to America was more of a circumstantial situation. Anyway, he was the third son of a wholesale merchant. His family used to sell implements, farming implements, seeds, supplies and things, and since he was the third son, he wasn't entitled to any of that thing, so in a way it was good because he was free to do whatever he wanted. And well, when he was about twenty-three, I believe he was about twenty-two or twenty-three, he was engaged to be married to this one girl and one night he saw her tachishoben. Tachi means to stand up and shoben is urinate, and in those days I guess that wasn't too popular. [Laughs] (...) We're talking about 1902 or something like that, today I don't give a hell how a woman take a leak, right? But in those days, I guess it bothered him, but I guess that they just were more modest those days. Well, today there are some modest girls. Like last year it was interesting. There were two girls from a university in Tokyo, a Christian university, and they were out here on SCC program, Student Conservation Corps, and when we were, when we had the archeological dig at Manzanar, they spent three or four days with us with a project, and we were working on this chicken, chicken ranch. There used to be a chicken ranch -- oh shoot, let me take that back, let's say chicken farm, because when you say "chicken ranch" people might get, might relate that to the chicken ranch in Las Vegas. You know that's a brothel?

TI: Right, right. Okay, so chicken farm, right?

HU: Right. So you know? [Laughs]

TI: Yes.

HU: Have you been there? [Laughs]

TI: No, I haven't, but I've read about it. [Laughs]

HU: So anyway, we don't want to think that there was a whorehouse in Manzanar, right? So anyway, we were working on that project and this chicken farm, they had a bunch of housing and they had this foundation, concrete foundation, and these, they were pretty huge, twenty feet by three hundred feet. There were about five of those plus several other small structures, and these were concrete foundations laid by the Issei people, and so they had these Japanese graffitis. Now, after sixty some years, we call it inscriptions and they were all Japanese inscriptions (except for one in English). It says "Frank Bakatare." (...) We don't know who Frank was, probably a foreman, or he could be a white department head or something because at Manzanar the head of a department was always White, like fire chief was White plus twenty Nisei firemen, police chief was White with eighty Niseis under him. So anyway, we don't know who he was. Rest were Japanese characters and I asked these two girls from Japan, students from Japan, to translate some of the things written on there. First couple of 'em (were) like Dai Nippon, Beikoku, or like, you know, "Great Imperial Japan" type of thing. They had no problem with that. And the third one was a chinbo, and of course, chinbo is a vulgar Japanese word for penis, equivalent to, say, a prick or something like that. Anyway, they looked at that and they started giggling. We never could have them translate it, so I guess it goes to show that even today, there's modesty in some sectors of Japanese culture.

TI: Especially amongst the women, probably.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So let's go back, so then, so you talked about, so your father, so he was supposed to marry this woman. He, he saw her urinating while standing up, and so this is about 1902, so then what happened next?

HU: Okay, so for my dad, that wasn't, that wasn't acceptable at all, so he took the easy way out and he took off to Hokkaido. And Hokkaido in those days were, was more Japan's wild frontier, and he farmed there for about a couple of years (where) he was a total failure, so then he came to America and I guess he didn't do (...) any better because he ended up as a migrant farm laborer. And then later he had a friend named Ushijima or something like that, and they went into partnership and grew celery, and celery is something that you could, when you hit it you hit it big, you got wealthy, but then if you don't, you're in the poorhouse. Well, after couple of years they ended up in the poorhouse. So he, my dad went to Sacramento while Ushijima kept on with the celery thing and eventually he hit it and he became one of the wealthiest Issei farmers. So anyway, my dad went to Sacramento.

TI: Now, the celery farming, where was that? Was that near Sacramento?

HU: Around Salinas.

TI: Okay, Salinas.

HU: Salinas, in the San Joaquin Valley, and --

TI: Did you ever know if your father was, what's the right word, kind of looked back with --

HU: Envious or something?

TI: Yeah, envious of this man?

HU: No, not, from what I heard from my mother, that this is what I heard from my mother, and I guess, I guess he just took it in stride.

TI: Okay, so he goes to Sacramento and what does he do then?

HU: He buys a, he buys twenty acres of farm with nothing on it, then he started planting grapes and developed a grape vineyard, and then it was 1931 when he passed away at the age of fifty-two. And he left five kids.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Well yeah, before we go there, let's talk a little bit, you mentioned your mother. So how did he meet your mother?

HU: Oh. My father's wholesale company, they were selling implement to my mother's family, and my mother's family had this, was a sake brewer and then they also owned this large parcel of land, which they sort of leased it out to the farmers, so my mother's family was buying implements and supplies from my dad's company, so that's how they sort of had the contact. Or course, of course, my dad never met my mother. He was, shashin kekkon, she was a "picture bride."

TI: So this was, the families kind of knew each other in Japan?

HU: Yeah, the family knew each other.

TI: It sounds like your, your mother's family was, was quite wealthy then. They had a sake brewery, they had land.

HU: Yeah.

TI: And so I'm wondering why she decided to become a "picture bride"?

HU: Well, she came from a family of thirteen siblings and she was the thirteenth one, and one of her sisters was already in America and I don't know, I guess her mother said to go to America and in those days they say, "Hai hai." They, so she came, and good thing because she had tuberculosis. She didn't know at the time, but she was real skinny and everything and when she was about fifty years old she got this physical and they found a, size of a, this spot the size of a dollar that was, what do you call it, it was a scar actually, so she had tuberculosis. In Sacramento it's hot, hot and dry, summertimes it's around a hundred, hundred four, so I guess the dry weather just cured her naturally, so fortunately, if she didn't come to America she'd probably died at a very early age.

TI: That's interesting. What was the, the age difference between your father and --

HU: About twelve.

TI: Okay, so --

HU: So thirty-six, he was thirty-six when he got married. She was about twenty-four or something like that, twenty-two or twenty-four, so there was, that's quite, there was a quite an age difference there.

TI: Okay, so she came over, I'm doing the math, about 1915?

HU: Nineteen, let me see, my brother was born 1915, after three years, so 1912.

TI: Okay, around 1912. And, and what was your mother's name?

HU: Kusu. It's funny, when I was in the army I went to, I was overseas, I was sent overseas and at Camp Drake in Tokyo. We sort of got registered and then there was a Nisei girl that came from, after the war to Japan, and she was taking the information and she looked at the record and then my mother's name was spelled with a O, so she says, "Is this your mother's name? Kuso?" So kuso is, is "shit" and that's really funny. She was laughing and we all laughed. [Laughs]

TI: And so at some point someone had, had changed the U to an O.

HU: O, yeah.

TI: I see. Okay, Kusu, Kusu is the, is their family name?

HU: Her, her name, her family name was Hiramatsu.

TI: Okay, Hiramatsu. Good. Okay, so you mentioned she came 1912.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: In 1915 your brother was born, so let's talk about your siblings. So your, is it your brother Ben was the first one?

HU: Yeah, Ben was the first, and then three years later there was Sam and two years later there was Miharu and then I think two years after that was Yoshimi, my sister, and five years later was myself.

TI: Good. So Ben, Sam, Miharu, Yoshimi, and then Hank. And, and tell me, tell me a little bit about the family home when you were growing up. What was that like?

HU: Physical or cultural?

TI: Yeah, let's start physical and then we'll talk about...

HU: Okay, physical, let me see, it wasn't much of a home. I remember my mother saying that Ben was born in a barn next to a couple of horses, so they really started from scratch. So as, as far as I could remember, we had a main parlor which was decent. It had the, it had inside walls covered with wood, but the rest of the bedrooms and kitchen and things, it was a frame, a shell and it didn't have the inside walls, so these (two) by fours, you could see all these (two) by fours and of course we used to use those four by fours to put things on.

TI: So essentially no insulation?

HU: No insulation, yeah. And so I remember my bedroom, we used to cover, plaster newspapers to keep the wind out, so it was crude, like a pioneer home. When I think of it right now I like to call it, say rustic. So, so we had, we had this parlor which was halfway decent and then we had the dining room, kitchen, couple bedrooms and they were all bare inside, and then we had this, a little sort of a shack where they used to house the workers. During the harvest season, they used to hire Filipinos, and I guess Mexicans weren't around at the time, so the Filipinos were the workers and they used to sleep in this house during the harvesting season. And I used to sleep in there because I was, when I was about twelve years old, eleven, twelve, I wanted to get away from the family, so I used to sleep in there.

TI: And did you stay, did you sleep in there when the migrant workers also slept --

HU: No, then by that time we had enough (working members) in our family so that we didn't have to hire anybody.

TI: So even at a young age you, you liked to be independent?

HU: Yes, so it was good. It's cool. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Before we talk about more of the family life, I wanted to talk about your father because your father died when you were quite young.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So you were, I think, two, about two and a half.

HU: Two and a half.

TI: What, what happened to your father?

HU: Oh, he smoked too much. (...) I used to admire those Issei people not because (...) of their perseverance, hard work and all the guts and determination that they (had) -- but when I was a kid (...) they were my heroes because they used to roll Bull Durham with one hand (while they plowed the field). I used to watch them plow and they're holding this plow, the two horses in front, they're holding this plow and they have this rein around their shoulders, and then, and they have this Bull Durham, which cost about five cents a package, and on the side they had this thin paper and (on the string top) and somehow they used to manipulate that thing with one hand. They used to put the tobacco in the paper and they would roll it up (with two fingers). They had these big old matches (and) they would swipe that thing against their ass and then light it up. They were my heroes in those days, and I remember going home and cutting up a newspaper and putting the dried up grape leaf in there and smoking them and and even today I could smell that smoke. [Laughs] But anyway, my old man, he smoked too much.

TI: But that image, I want to go back to that image. So, so these men were plowing, not stopping, and they're able with one hand to, in their mouth to, to make a cigarette, put it in their mouth, and smoke it without missing a beat in the plowing?

HU: Right. Right, yeah.

TI: And you thought that was just such a cool thing.

HU: Oh, that's a cool thing, yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So your father, was it, like, lung cancer or something like that?

HU: Yeah, probably had lung cancer and the he, in the, at the vineyard, they would start trimming, pruning around January, when it was cold, and then after that he would be plowing all day. When they plowed, they'd go plowing this much space at a time, so you, you're going back and forth and back and forth, and then after they plow it, they would go over it with a disc, disc to sort of level it, I guess to chop up the sod, and then after that they would harrow, they call it harrow. It's a round thing like that with spike and as, as they pull it, it kind of turns around and makes it smooth, and after that they would go dig the ditches. So it involved (months of) labor, so from January to May. He died May the 5th, and so May 5th he finished everything. He plowed it, he made the ditch ready for irrigation, everything, and I guess that's when he, and during that time he had pneumonia, but his spirit was up and then when he finished everything, I guess, you know, he relaxed and then he went to bed and he never woke up.

TI: Wow, so he just, he worked up to the, almost to the day he died. Interesting.

HU: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So I'm wondering, so how did the family support itself? I mean, here he was the, the essentially the breadwinner, I mean, he was the farmer, he did everything. So what happened to the family after he was gone?

HU: Then my mother went to Japan, left Miharu-san (and) Yoshimi-san, two of my sisters, in Japan 'cause I guess in those days woman were useless. [Addressing videographer] No, no offense to you. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so she brought your two sisters, or your, your sister, to Japan...

HU: And left them with a couple of (my mother's) sisters. She had a lot of sisters. And then...

TI: So that left Ben, Sam, and you.

HU: And myself, yeah. And then Ben had just graduated from grammar school. In those days, in our days we used to call the elementary school "grammar school," and it went from one to eighth grade, and in those days, say 1931 when he died, grammar school education, I would say, wasn't sufficient, but it was passable. I mean, you could get by with grammar school education, just like President Truman. So it was, I guess education wasn't that, it wasn't something that they had to have, so anyway, after he got out of grammar school, Ben took over the farm.

TI: And so grammar school, so he's about, what, fifteen?

HU: Sixteen, fifteen, sixteen. Yeah.

TI: Okay so Ben really, he took over.

HU: He had it rough, yeah.

TI: Okay, so he essentially drops out of school, or doesn't go on to high school, and runs the farm. And at that point you're, again, just an infant almost, you're two and a half, three years old, so probably don't even remember that much at that point?

HU: No, except that he was still plowing the field with, with the horses, and I remember after American school, English school, we had Japanese school for an hour, and I remember, it was first grade, and then my Japanese school teacher says, "Well, when you go home, say, 'Tadaima, kaerimashita,' greet your parents." So I went home and Ben was out, Ben was plowing, with that horses and thing, and I said, "Niisan, tadaima," and, oh, he just bawled me off. He said, "Bakatare," oh, he just cussed me out, 'cause I, he was so, he was tired and irritated and here I'm shouting at him and the horses got kind of excited, I think, so that was kind of, when I think of it right now, kind of funny. But so anyway, where were we before?

TI: I want to get a little more about your, your brother, 'cause he at such a young age had to take on so much. Was, do, do you ever get a sense that there were regrets on his side or anything that he had to take on so much at such a young age? Did it really change him?

HU: No. No, I think he was proud because his friends and neighbors would sort of, sort of honor him or say he's a good boy type of thing, so I guess, I guess he had, he was in an environment where he was sort of praised rather than -- so I don't think he had any regrets or he was, he didn't have any hard feelings about that.

TI: So I'm curious, so as you're growing up as a, as a boy, and there're probably times when, when you would do something to get in trouble, who would be the discipliner?

HU: My brother.

TI: So he would be the disciplinarian. He would, he would sort of play the father role.

HU: Yes, but he didn't say much. All he, all he said was, "Yakamashii," you know, "shut up," or "Bakatare," or something like that. Actually, he didn't, actually we didn't communicate that much.

TI: Now, would he, would he speak to you in Japanese or English?

HU: Half and half. Yeah. Yeah, my brothers, they taught me the bad words, like... so this was out in a farm and you're exposed, you're talking with your parents, communicating in Japanese, so when I went to school I didn't know very much English and only, so I remember, I remember the first day at school there was a, there was a guy named Paul. He was three, three years older than me and he was teasing me because I had a butterball, a candy in my mouth. He called me "Hundred Butterball" and things like that, he was teasing me, so I got mad and I said, "God damn son of a bitch," because that's about the only English words I knew because of my brother, and then bang, bang, bang, I got beat up. I still remember that. And then of course, there's a good side to that because there were older girls who were sympathetic and, "Oh, Shozo," patted me and you know. [Laughs]

TI: That's funny. So I'm, I'm curious, when you think about your childhood, how was your raising different than, say, the boys your age who had an, like an Issei father? Was there a difference having your brother kind of play that father role, an older Issei versus a Nisei? Do you know any difference?

HU: No, I, no, I didn't, I didn't feel any difference, but there were times when I, when I looked at a guy walking with their, with his father or something I would think, I used to think, "Oh, gee, I wonder how it's like to have a father," but it didn't bother me that much. I didn't think it was such a big deal because my, to me, my brother was sort of a father figure and I had my mother who was sort of, I was very attached to my mother.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about your mother a little bit more in terms of, so what was she like? I mean, what did she do in the house and what was she like?

HU: She used to get up early. And she used to do whatever farm work she had to do, and in those days, I still remember when I was small, when I was little older we had kerosene stove and things like that, but I remember when I was younger they used to call it hetsuisan. Hetsuisan is a... well let's go back, I remember one time when they had to rebuild this hetsuisan and what we, they did was they got, there's a hard pan area in the, on the farm. It's clay, and then I remember my brother used to cuss every time he was plowing that because it's hard, so they took that soil from there, put it in a bucket, bucket tub, and mixed hay with it. And I remember stepping in it, in water and I remember kind of mixing it up, standing in there. I was having fun with my bare feet, and then they would mold that into a kiln like. It's flat surface, maybe that tall and wide and couple of holes and inside you would burn the, the wood. And the wood came from the, where we pruned the grape vines. There's these strands of branches and they would save that and they would use that. My mother used to use that to cook, fire up, and that, we used to use that for bath, too. In the furo, we had that separate little shack and there was this box made out of redwood and you, you would put the brush and boil the water, and that's how we lived.

TI: So you really lived off the land. I mean, you took the clay from the land and made the kiln, you used the wood from the grape plants.

HU: Yeah. Even food, that tsukemono. I remember, it's winter, springtime, they used to have all these weeds come up and there was this mustard grass, they call it. Beautiful yellow flowers, but before it becomes a flower there's buds and I remember helping my mother trim that thing and she would make tsukemono and that was the most delicious tsukemono I have tasted. And mushrooms, all around us there were empty land, pastures, hay ranches and things, and I remember going with my mother to this pasture, our neighbor, hakujin neighbor's pasture and there's these mushrooms growing up from under the cow dung and I remember picking those up.

TI: So it sounded like you really lived as much as you could off the land.

HU: Oh, yeah.

TI: When you did go to the store, what kind of foodstuffs --

HU: Bacon, rice, shoyu. Shoyu came in a tub like this, five gallon tub, bamboo, made out of bamboo, and after it's empty it's usually used as a bath for tsukemono, so tsukemono -- oh, miso because we used to eat, for breakfast we used to have gohan rice and miso shiru, and until, until my brother got married. When my brother got married my sister-in-law, she, she got out of high school, out of high school she went to housework. A lot of girls used to do, my sister went to house work where they got exposed to American culture, so when my brother got married and my, then my sister-in-law started cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast, so that's when we started having bacon and eggs for breakfast, but before then we had miso shiru and umeboshi, so a lot of the food that we bought in the early days were Japanese food like that. And my mother grew all the vegetables, eggplant, you got everything you could think of and she used to make tsukemono out of that, and then she would always leave one plant for seed that she would dry it out and then use it for next year's crop. So yeah, we did live off the land a lot.

TI: And about how old were you when your brother got married?

HU: That was 1937, so about nine years old, eight or nine years old. So he got married in February, so eight, seven, eight, so yes, I was eight.

TI: And can, do you remember the, the wedding and what that was like?

HU: Yeah, they went to a China-meshi, I remember that. Yeah, and in those days they all went to this China-meshi thing and then, they were Isseis, I mean it was Isseis' world and so the Isseis would drink and they would, everybody would take turns singing. Yeah, I still remember that.

TI: And how did the routine, other than getting bacon and eggs for breakfast, what other, how, how else did things change in the household now that you had another woman in the house?

HU: Well, she was the only high school graduate in our family, among our relatives. She was the only one, so I thought, I think she was very intelligent, until one day I ask her, I asked her where Oz was, because I was about fourth or fifth grade and there was a teacher named Mrs., Miss Milner and everyday she would spend maybe half hour or so reading this story about Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, whatever you call it, and to me, I mean, she was really good at reading and so I was captivated. I was just, to me it was real story, and so one day I asked my sister-in-law, "Where is Oz?" She said, "No, that's just a fiction. There's no place like Oz." And I kept saying there is Oz because my teacher tells me a story of that, and then we just kept going for about twenty minutes and finally it was settled and I decided that she didn't know too much about geography. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] That's, that's a good story.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about the community. You said you're about ten miles outside of Sacramento, so what was your area called?

HU: Florin.

TI: Okay, so the Florin area.

HU: Yeah, Florin area, there were about twenty-five hundred Japanese living in that area and they were mostly strawberry and grape farmers. In fact, Mr. Sulu, George Takei, his mother was from Florin, from, her family was, they were growing in strawberries, so it was a community and in that Japanese community was sort of divided according to the grammar school areas. So Florin, the town itself, had their, their own sort of an area and in fact, in that area they had two American school, English schools, one for white, one for Japanese only, and I think it was nineteen, either 1940 or '41 that they integrated, so that was one of the few communities where these grammar schools were segregated.

TI: That was in the town of Florin? That was more --

HU: Town of Florin. I guess, I guess you could call it a town. There was a couple of stores. There was Akiyama, Akiyama, he, they sold food and thing. There was Tanikawa, they sold dry goods, like shoes and that kind of stuff. And those were the only two major stores. There was a Japanese garage and there was a Christian, Japanese Christian church, I think. Oh, and they had the Buddhist church and Buddhist church was one of the bigger churches there and whenever they had movies, Japanese movies, they had these young people, Young Buddhists Association that, that kind of young people's group, and to raise funds they used to hire this guy named Mr. Ban from Los Angeles and he would come down and show these movies. In the early ages I would, yeah, when I was at a earlier age, it was talkie. It didn't have the sound, so this guy would stand in front next to the screen and he would dub in the words himself. And then later it became the talkie and when that happened we used to say, "Oh, it's talkie, talkie." It was the greatest invention of the time, sort of. So anyway, at the Buddhist church all the, everybody in that surrounding area would go to the Buddhist church to watch the movies. Also Bon Odori, they used to have the Bon Odori at the Florin Buddhist church and that's where they used to get together and have the Bon Odori type of thing. But then otherwise it was sort of separated. There was Florin, there was Elder Creek section and there was, our area was called Taishoku and there was Mayhew area, so there were this different sections within the Florin area, but when there was some activity or something we would get together and have it at Florin.

TI: So your, your little area was called Taishoku?

HU: Yeah.

TI: What does Taishoku mean? What, what --

HU: Taisho is, it's Japanese year, like right now it's, what, it's Heisei, I don't know what it is. It's Heisei or something, before that was Showa and then Taisho and Meiji, and so it was built in the Taisho era, so they just called it Taishoku.

TI: And when you have these different, like, areas, was it sort of also separated by where people came from in Japan?

HU: I know there's, oh, there's one area that's, that was... in Japan they used to call these people eta, which is not a, not a complimentary name. I hate to used the word, but there was this certain area where there were, there were concentration of people from that culture or whatever.

TI: This was in the Taishoku --

HU: No, it was away from...

TI: Away from, a separate area. And back then, did people discriminate against them because of, of their background? When you say --

HU: Sort of, yes. Sort of, because before the war it was, it wasn't too civilized and when they got married there they had this in-between, the baishakunin, and they would ask their relatives in Japan to check up on the background of that and so yeah, there was discrimination there.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So I want to go back just to kind of daily life growing up. I mean, in terms of things like a bathroom, did you have indoor plumbing or was it an outhouse? Can you describe...

HU: Oh, yeah. In the beginning, when I was small, it was dirt floor, I remember, and then it had this, they had two by fours and they had flats, so actually you wouldn't touch the floor, but later on we rebuilt it and then we had cement on the bottom. Then, of course, it was a shack, no inside covering. The plumbing was from the pipe. We had a five hundred gallon tank where we stored the water, and it was at a higher level and you had a piping down to where we lived, (...) that's where we got the water. And then -- no, come to think of it, we had this piping down to the yard and into the kitchen, but from, to the bathroom it was just a short distance from the pipe faucet, so we had this water hose going into the tub to fill that up, and then they, there's, it's made out of redwood, the bottom is like galvanized steel, and then of course it gets hot, so they used to have this, gesuita they called it. It's, it's a bunch of slats, made out of slat, and it would float on the top, so you would keep the heat and then when you go in you step on it, it sinks down and then it keeps your feet away from the hot metal there. And then of course, Japanese style where you wash yourself and you go in, everybody, all of us go into the same hot water there. And then, of course it was heated by these cuttings, brushes, and then when it's heated up we would take it out and pour water on the, make charcoal out of it, and that charcoal, we used to use it to heat the room in the wintertime. I remember we used to have a bucket and this washtub, sort of discarded washtub. We would put dirt and ashes on there and we would put that charcoal and then heat up the room.

TI: Would you have to worry about things like, so how would it vent? I mean, what about carbon monoxide poisoning or something like that?

HU: Right. That, yeah, that's a good point. We had enough air coming in because it wasn't that sealed, house wasn't that sealed, so we didn't have to worry about it. Of course, in a room like this you're dead.

TI: So there was enough, I guess, holes in the wall and things like that in ceiling.

HU: Right.

TI: Okay. There was a story you mentioned to me over the phone about toilet paper, what you used for toilet paper back in those days.

HU: Oh, yeah, yeah.

TI: Tell me about that. Where would you get your toilet paper?

HU: We, everything, we were green people. We recycled everything, newspaper, recycled for irrigation. When you irrigate the land, you irrigate the water from the top going down and you, you have this, like a step, you have sort of a dam, you have a ditch, you have a dam, and we used to use newspaper to cover that so you brought your own. So that's one way we used the newspaper and newspaper, we used it for toilet paper. Also magazine, we used to have Japanese magazines, books and they're, they're usually on newsprint type of paper, so it made good toilet paper. And I remember it was 1939, we had a neighbor named Art Shiyohama, he was a lot older than my brother, but he used to come around and he used to like to read the comic books and one day he brought me May issue of the Detective magazine, and there was one story that really fascinated me. It was about a boy about my age, he was about my age and he went to a theater with his parents and when they came out they got mugged, his parents were killed and later he became a crusader. They called him Batman. So that was the first issue of the Batman magazine and about twenty, twenty-five years ago it was going for about hundred twenty-five, well hundred, hundred twenty-five thousand in (an) auction, and I remember going to Quartsite, (Arizona) -- that's a, that used to be a real huge mega, mega swap meet. Right now they don't have it anymore. And there was this comic book dealer and I told him about the, my comic book. I told him, "Hey, I have this 1939 issue of the Detective magazine," and then I told him what I did with it and I was hoping that he'll give me some sympathy. I was expecting sympathy, but instead of sympathy he laughed and laughed, (he then) called me a "hundred thousand dollar asshole" and --

TI: So Hank, you have to explain this. This is the very first edition of Batman --

HU: Yeah.

TI: -- which as a collector's item is incredibly valuable and rare. So you had this back in 1939. What happened to this?

HU: That, I used it as toilet paper. Yeah, and just a few months ago I saw it on the television it went for about one point something, over one million dollars. And so it went to wipe my ass.

TI: Yeah, that's, that's, I'm glad we documented that. [Laughs] That, that would've been a family heirloom if you had kept it.

HU: [Laughs] Right. I wouldn't be here.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So anyway, you mentioned how you were very green. I mean, is that, it's a common term now in terms of a popular term, in terms of being green, but you essentially recycled everything.

HU: Everything. Wires, we used to make our own crates for grapes. We had to pack (grapes in) it, so ever since I was seven years old I was using a hammer (to make these crates). They used to wrap this lumber with wire, so we used to save the wires (...) to bundle (pruned grape vines) with that wire, so everything, there was nothing that, I don't remember anything going to waste. Except cans. Cans, we used to have this well -- in the old days they used to dig a hole for the well -- and the water wasn't that deep, thirty, fifty feet you hit the ground water, and then they used to pump it up from there. So we, and then later we got a pump up on the surface, so we had this empty hole where the well was, so we used to dump all the cans in there. So cans, that's one thing we didn't have any use for, except for milk cans. Milk can, you would go like this and put it on your feet and squash and then clop clop clop clop.

TI: Right. I remember that.

HU: I guess everybody, yeah, used to do that.

TI: So yeah, recycling, how about things like, so I'm guessing that even, like table scraps or, were, like, compost. You would compost things. How about like even the used bathwater? Would you do something with that?

HU: Oh yeah, absolutely. That would go, flow into the garden, my mother's vegetable garden.

TI: Wow, so everything was just, everything was used.

HU: Just about everything, yeah. And table scraps, we had a stray cat. He was a black cat. He never, he was very, very unfriendly; he wouldn't come near us, but we used to feed them, feed this cat a scrap. And there was one time when she had a baby, about three or four litters, and then we found her eating that. I mean, we, we just found the carcass, just the skin there because apparently she ate her own kittens. It was a mean cat.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So let's, let's switch gears a little bit, talk about school now.

HU: Okay.

TI: So tell me about school. What was that like?

HU: Well, country school, country grammar school one, first grade through eighth grade, we had three classrooms and three teachers. First, second and third was handled by a young lady teacher named Miss Bolton (...) and then there was another classroom for fourth, fifth, and sixth grader and that was Miss Milner, and there was seventh and eighth, which was the principal's, Mr. Henderson's. So we had three classrooms and three teachers (...). It's the kind of classroom that you see in old Western movies, like "House on the Prairie" or something, the classroom with bunch of all these different grades in one classroom.

TI: And so when you went to school, what would you typically wear when you went to school?

HU: Let's see, regular shirt like that, jeans, and work shoes or oxfords, regular, regular clothing.

TI: And who would your classmates be?

HU: That's interesting because that was, this was Japanese, predominately Japanese community, so there were twelve students in our, in my grade, and out of that five, let's see, five were Niseis. Five, six, seven, eight -- no, five, five were Niseis, four were already Sanseis, 'cause it's a, this was an older community. Four were Sanseis and three were Caucasian.

TI: Now, I'm curious. When you knew which ones were Nisei, which ones were Sansei, was there a difference between Nisei and Sansei? Did you --

HU: No, actually no difference at all, except they were smarter. I wouldn't say smarter, but they were... well, like for example, we used to give, we had to give a talk in front of the class and there was one Sansei girl that says governor of California is Mr. Warren, Governor Warren. I said oh, wow. To me that was just foreign, that kind of thing, I'd never heard of that kind of thing, so I guess the Sanseis were a little more advanced in, because of the Nisei parents, they would, they'd be talking about politics or whatever. But otherwise there's no difference at all.

TI: In some ways you were almost a mixture because your mother is Issei, but your, your older brother who kind of raised you was Nisei, so you probably got a, a flavor of both.

HU: Yeah. Yeah.

TI: And so when you think of, so there are nine Japanese Americans and three Caucasians, how, how would your classmates describe you as a student?

HU: Not too smart, kinda stupid. [Laughs]

TI: So how, if, were you kind of someone who spoke out a lot in class or...

HU: I would just, I wasn't that talkative. When I was, I was, when I was first, second grade I was very talkative. I guess I quieted down. I would, I would say average, not too talkative.

TI: Now, why do you think you quieted, because now you're very talkative, so it's almost like naturally, I sense that you're a very talkative person. Why, why do you think you quieted down?

HU: I, that, I've been trying to analyze that over and over for last fifty years or so. I really don't know why. I guess, well, it may have happened -- this is just a suspicion -- that it may have happened in 1938 when my sisters came back. And my sister, Miharu, Yoshimi, they came from Japan and Miharu-san was sort of, I wouldn't say bossy, but sometimes she would ridicule me. When I say something or do something she would kind of get after me. That may have been one of the problems. I really don't know.

TI: Interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So your sisters came back from Japan. Why did they come back?

HU: This was 1938, they were, let's see, Yoshimi-san was fifteen and Miharu-san was eighteen, so like she was eighteen, time to get married and that kind of thing, so that's one of the reasons. And also they would be of help to the farm, picking grapes or picking strawberries, something like that.

TI: It's interesting, because they, they pretty much, I think, grew up in Japan, then they come back to the United States. They must, how did they seem to you? I mean, did they seem kind of different in terms of more Japanese, or what were your impressions of your sisters when they came back?

HU: You know, that's a funny thing because I'd been away for so long that they didn't seem like sisters. Like, like growing up with the siblings is a lot different than having someone that you meet for the first time when older, so we were never really close like the regular siblings and there were times when I wish, gee, I wish we grew up together, would've been a lot closer.

TI: Yeah, because they were the ones closest to you. I mean, Ben was quite a bit older. How about Sam? Were you very close to Sam?

HU: Sam, he, he was, I don't know, he was one of the eccentric guy in our family. I know some people call me the most eccentric, but he was -- anyway, he didn't get along with Ben, and I remember he must've been about sixteen or something like that, sixteen, seventeen, and Ben was about eighteen, nineteen, and they started arguing and I remember they went, they went into actual physical confrontation and they were throwing each other around. I still remember that. And, and after that he went to Oakland. He just left home and left, went to Oakland and he lived by himself over there 'til he got married. So I didn't have that much association with him.

TI: So when you were growing up you were almost like an only child?

HU: Yeah. Yeah.

TI: Okay. So before we get to the start of the war, any other prewar kind of stories or memories you want to share that I haven't asked about?

HU: Let's see, I think... there was one time when I went to my friend's house. That was, I must've been about nine or ten years old, then he had this little bike and I was riding on his bike and I lost control and banged into a post or something and I got knocked out, and then next morning I woke up and I was in a daze. Then my mother asked me, "What did you do yesterday?" I said, "I don't know." So I lost my memory; it was a total blank. And they took me to a doctor and they said I had amnesia, so for one day I lost complete memory so my memory was gone, so that was quite an experience.

TI: So like, things like, could you remember your name and...

HU: Yeah, I remembered my name, but I just didn't remember what happened that day. Total, total blank. I guess it was sort of a temporary thing.

TI: Then after a day or so you recovered?

HU: Yeah.

TI: That's interesting.

HU: But no, I never did remember that, what happened, so I asked my friend what happened. He says, "You hit your head." That's about the only thing, information I got.

TI: Interesting.

HU: And he was, his name was Tadashi and he was a couple years older than me, and when we were small we used to go fishing together. You know, out there in the country we had this creek, natural creek, and in wintertime the water would rush through and summertime it'd sorta dry up, but there's these pockets of water and there was one place where they, this was this oak tree and a perfect spot for, as a swimming hole, and we used to go there and catch carps and catfish and, like, minnows and tadpoles.

TI: It sounds like you, you had a pretty happy childhood.

HU: Yeah.

TI: It was in the country, but pretty slow, relaxed, lots of the good things.

HU: Yeah. When I was growing up, when I was twenty or so I used to think, gee, I'm gonna get married and go back into the country and raise my kids out in the country type of thing.


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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so Hank, we're gonna start the second portion. In the first hour we really talked about your, your childhood, little bit about your family, so let's go to December 7, 1941. And at this point you're, I think, about thirteen years old?

HU: Twelve.

TI: Twelve?

HU: Let's see, December, yeah, thirteen. Right.

TI: Yeah, you just probably had turned thirteen.

HU: Yeah, turned thirteen.

TI: So tell me, on December 7, 1941 what, what can you remember about that day?

HU: It was about ten o' clock, the family, they were out on the farm working and I was listening to the radio, and they said, "the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor." And I didn't know what they were talking about, Pearl Harbor, so I went to Ben and say, "Hey, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Where's Pearl Harbor?" He said, "Hell if I know." So nobody knew what, what Pearl Harbor was, so I still remember that day. And then after that the rumors start flying, Japan's gonna win this war in couple of months, that kind of stuff. [Laughs]

TI: So when you say those rumors, can you remember how you heard about those rumors, where those rumors were coming from?

HU: Issei people. They used to listen to the shortwave, before they, before it got confiscated. Shortly after the war we had to turn in our things like, I remember we turned in two cameras, twenty-two rifle, twelve gauge shotgun, and we were supposed to turn in the shortwave radio, but in those days they had tubes and they had coil for shortwave, so all we did was unplug the coil and hide 'em.

TI: I'm curious, going back to those Isseis who talked about Japan winning the war, things like that, when they said that was it, do you remember, was it a sense of excitement or confidence? How would you describe the feeling that, the Isseis when they thought Japan was gonna win the war?

HU: I think they were pretty confident that, they would listen to shortwave radio and it's all propaganda, so they were just convinced that it's gonna be over in a very short time. And then of course, I guess the Niseis, I don't think they got, had the same feelings.

TI: So what were you thinking? So here you just grew up in America, you hear about Japan, people are talking about Japan winning the war, what did you think at this point?

HU: I thought Japan was gonna win the war because the Isseis were talking so much about it and they were so confident about it.

TI: So how did that make you feel, thinking, well, if Japan beats the United States, what would that mean to you?

HU: You know, I really didn't think that far ahead. I would just, I was more interested in playing and fooling around and war was just secondary. It's beyond my interest.

TI: Now, did you notice any changes in the community, in the, right after December 7th or even on a day, like, there were FBI pickups, did you know about any of these things?

HU: Yeah, there was a guy named Mr. Inoue, he had, he was a veteran, he was Issei, but quite a few Isseis were in the U.S. Army before, during World War I. He had part of his nose clipped off by German, a bullet. He was veteran. He was one of the first to be taken away. He was among the few thousand, there were two thousand on the FBI list before even, the war even started, and so he was one of the first guys to be taken away. There was another guy, I think his name was Ono, I think he was a sort of a community leader among the community, that community, and also there were, there was a Japanese teacher, he got taken away, so just in our community they were taken away. Of course, in Florin there were, merchants were just taken away during the first --

TI: So I'm curious, you mentioned the first gentleman who's a World War I veteran, Mr. Inoue, do you know why he was selected?

HU: He was a leader among the, among the Taishoku group, he was one of the important person. He was more the leader of, of the community, because he had that World War I background and I think, I guess he was a little more educated and so he was one of the leaders.

TI: You would think that a veteran, a World War I U.S. Army veteran would not be picked up.

HU: Right, but they, they didn't, they didn't care. They just picked up whatever.

TI: And so what, did you have a sense of what the community felt when these men were being taken away?

HU: No, not really, but I remember one thing, the day after Pearl Harbor Japanese school closed down. We didn't have to go to Japanese school, so I was happy that I didn't have to go to Japanese school. That's one thing good about it, I remember.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So when you went back to regular school on Monday, was anything said about, about Pearl Harbor or anything?

HU: Not really. I don't remember, everything was just, went just as usual. And we were predominately Japanese students there, our class, so there wasn't any change at all. And then a short while later when they had the, the coast designated as a prohibited zone, there was a family from Monterey that moved in with our neighbor who was a relative of the people from Monterey, so that, that was kind of strange, something different. We said, oh, wow, what's going on here? But then they just blended in with our group.

TI: And something I remember, so originally your farm had twenty acres, but right before the war started, I think you mentioned how your brother had purchased another twenty acres, or the farm got larger?

HU: Yeah. He, he purchased twenty acres adjacent to our, our land because it was empty. There were a couple of parcel that were empty. There was one parcel that was empty in front, there was one in the back and there was one on the side, and he bought twenty acres on the side next to our, our vineyard. And that was couple years before the war started, and the way he was developing is he took three acres out of the twenty acres and he planted grapes. And the way he did it was he went to another farm where they had good crop of grapes and after they pruned it he picked up these cuttings and they, he, you cut the cuttings about that deep, I mean, that long and he buried it in the ground upside down. And by springtime there were roots sticking up from the branch and he planted those, and so he planted three acres of that and then grapes take several years before it matures, so during the meantime he planted strawberries around it. So while the grapes were growing he was getting a strawberry crop out of that, so when the war, so the, when the war started, by time of evacuation he had these grapes planted already and the strawberries were producing a pretty good crop and he was going to the next stage where he was developing another three acres, and that's when the war broke out.

TI: So the time the war breaks out, it sounds like the farm was, was doing quite well.

HU: Yeah, sort of.

TI: It was, it was sort of progressing, he was adding more acreage, so things were --

HU: He had some great dreams. He was telling me, "Shozo, you're gonna help me when you grow up." "Well, I don't know." [Laughs]

TI: Well, because yeah, I mean, all of a sudden he had forty acres. It'd have been good to have help. So eventually, so you mentioned how they had the initial exclusion zone on the coast, but eventually Florin was also affected. People started hearing that they would have to go, too.

HU: Yeah.

TI: What did your brother do with, with the farm?

HU: It was just rumors and for a while everybody thought, hey, it's just a restricted zone. We're gonna stay put. And some says we got to move and there were rumors back and forth, and so what everybody did in the area was they just continued, continued, say they'd start pruning it, after pruning they start plowing, and so by (the time) we had to leave before May 30th, (...) all the plowing and the cultivating was done. Only thing left (were) irrigation, irrigating and harvesting. And so when we left, we had the shipping company take over the, look over the farm and they would irrigate and they harvested the crop and whatever few dollars that was, that was net, they sent it to us while we were in Manzanar. And so... yeah, what were you gonna say?

TI: So the, this shipping company then sort of took care of the farm for you?

HU: Yeah. Not, not very well, but at least they irrigated and they harvested. Now, a lot of our neighbors, they were fortunate enough to have, to sort of lease it out to the hakujin people and they would look after, like -- I had a friend Sasai, they had somebody who was sort of looking after it. They were, they just leased it to the hakujin people and they, they got whatever they earned, but when they came back the farm was intact. They could just step in and take over. And of course, there were guys like, I had a friend Herb, (whose) house was just burned down to the ground, house, the tank house, the barn, everything. It was just flat, to the ground. There was another neighbor, Sasai, their barn was burned down to the ground, and they had a (Caterpillar tractor) in there and when I went there after the war and saw it, I mean, it was just like a war zone. You see this black, that tractor, it's black from fire and sitting on the concrete slab of the barn, and it was, oh my God, it was kind of horrible. And of course, during the war Japanese school building was burned down.

TI: And these were all, like, vandalized?

HU: Yeah, and we knew, we have a suspicion of who did it, but there's no evidence, so there's nothing we could do about it.

TI: And so after that initial harvest, so the shipping company irrigated and harvested the existing crops, so after that happened, who took care of the farm?

HU: That shipping company.

TI: So they, did they kind of lease it then? Did they lease the land?

HU: No, they sort of looked after it and they harvested the crop and whatever. Then we sort of, I guess he took, they took their share of the profit and sent us whatever that's left.

TI: But then for the next year's crop, did they plant and take care of things?

HU: No, just, just left it as it is, just irrigated and just harvested. (...) When the shipping company took over the crop wasn't up to the table grape quality, so they just sent it to winery, so they turned it into wine.

TI: Okay, and how about the house? Did anyone stay in the house?

HU: We boarded it up and we had a neighbor, hakujin friend, Mr. Barnaby (look after the place). We brought our car and some of the furniture to Mr. Barnaby's place and he sort of kept his eyes on the place for vandalism and things.

TI: Okay, and, and what were you thinking while all this was happening? What were your thoughts during this time?

HU: That's funny. I guess when you're twelve, thirteen years old you don't, you're not very much involved in politics and things, so it just, "Oh, jeez," it's... I mean, I mean, I didn't have any emotions or anything of that sort. I said, oh, I just took the news as it came along. It was mostly rumors, I think, but it was fun listening to them. You had, one day they're saying hey, we've got to move out, next, next day they were saying, oh, we could stay, but everybody just kept on working until the last day. They were just hopeful, and then also they figured, there was a rumor going on that we're gonna be away for just a few months. There's that hope and there's always that hope that you will return after a short time, and so it was just a temporary thing that we just, at least I took it as...

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: But eventually, up to the last day, so eventually you and your family had to leave. So in terms of family groups, your brother was married, Ben was married, your other brother you mentioned had gone to Oakland, so was it your mother, your two sisters and you were the, that was the family?

HU: Yeah. Right, and so when the war started my brother, his wife and his boy, and my mother, my sister and I were living together. Now Sam, my brother, was in Oakland. He was -- not Oakland, near Oakland, Hayward -- he married into a family who was raising tomatoes, and he married a girl whose father died, so this girl, his, his wife was sort of running the farm. So he went in, he married her and then he had to sort of join the family, work on the farm and I think he was very, very upset about that. He was, even, even, I remember even until he died he was sort of angered about that. Yeah, he was just frustrated.

TI: Now, why, why was he, because he wanted to do something else with his life?

HU: Yeah. Yeah, he didn't want to be a farmer. Yeah, that's what I think, but since he married her, I mean, he was sort of obligated to work on the farm and he just hated farming. And he, he took, he took a correspondence course in refrigeration and he even went to, what was that, Columbus, Columbus, Ohio, and took one month field training there in refrigeration, so he wanted to go into refrigeration and air conditioning business and here he was out on the farm and he was just pissed off and very unhappy. And my second, Miharu-san, my sister, she was married and she was married to another farmer in the Delta, Sacramento Delta region, so (...) when the war started there were just my, my mother's family and my brother's family.

TI: Okay. And so the Florin community is kind of interesting because the people in that area went to several different camps. They all didn't go together as one big group to one place.

HU: Yeah.

TI: But they went to separate places. And so where, where did your group go to?

HU: Okay, we were under -- well actually, the West Coast was divided into, what, 188 exclusion areas and ours was Exclusion Order number 92. It involved 2,500 people in that Sacramento Florin area (...). There were about 325 of us who went to Manzanar directly, and there were, my friends, some of my friends went to Pinedale Assembly Center, and then some of my other friends went to Fresno Assembly Center, and then I think other people, I think they went to Sacramento, the fairgrounds there, and several other places. And Pinedale, it was interesting, last month we went to Yosemite and on the way back we stopped by Fresno Underground Cave Garden and then after the tour, we went on the tour and after the tour the tour guide was talking to us and she was saying that this guy who dug this underground cave-like thing, he had a lot of Japanese friends and when their, the Japanese friends went to Pinedale Assembly Center he sort of took it pretty hard, so he was, so he never, he was from Mediterranean country and he never applied for citizenship as a protest for Japanese going into Pinedale Assembly Center, and I thought that was very --

TI: That's an interesting story, yeah. I never heard that. That's an interesting story. I'll have to talk to the -- so that's the people went from the, went to Pinedale?

HU: Yeah.

TI: Okay. I'll, I'll check into that.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: But so let's go back to your story, so three hundred, about three hundred twenty-five went to Manzanar, so tell me about the journey to Manzanar. What was that like?

HU: Okay. The way it happened was they posted this Exclusion Order, this about so big and then on the top it told you what area it covered and the bottom section said you had to leave by such and such days -- ours, we had to leave by May 30th -- and in the middle was an address where the head of the family was supposed to go there to register, and so my brother went there and that's where we got the number 8648. We were numbers then, and then that's where they told us that we're going to Manzanar and they, they told others they were going to Pinedale or Fresno, wherever. That's where we found out where we're going, and they told us we have a choice. You don't have to go to camp as long as you move out of the western states, you know, you could go to Wyoming or somewhere. Well anyway, I believe there were about (2,500) that moved out of the West Coast out East and didn't have to go to camp. Anyway, we went to Manzanar and we had, they told us that we have to be at Elk Grove Railroad Station at ten o'clock. That was Sunday morning, May the 24th, and then so Mr. Barnaby, our Caucasian neighbor, he drove us up, drove us to the, to the railroad station, and then at the railroad station there was bunch of MPs and we boarded the train and there was one MP standing there with a rifle. Those days they already had the M1s, but for domestic use they had the old Springfield 03 or whatever they, the old rifle, so it was kinda, very upsetting. You know, here we're going voluntarily to the station by, without any force and then we're going into the car and you see this guy with a rifle. That, that was very disturbing.

TI: And when you, was it disturbing to not only you but the other people there also? Did people talk about that?

HU: No, nobody talked about it. Then, they didn't bother us really. The only time they bothered us was we came down from Sacramento down to Bakersfield and then it was dark, so we had to pull down the shades, and then we cut across to the East over Tehachapi Pass and by that time it was nighttime and I raised the curtain and looked out the window. Oh, it was just beautiful, pine trees, moon, stars. I mean, it was just beautiful sight, and the soldier came up to me and say, "Hey, you can't look outside the car. Pull down the shade." And I said, then I couldn't do anything, but I was really pissed off. Why can't I look out? There's no harm in that. I was very disturbed about that. And of course when I, then we went to Mohave and from Mohave we went on the bus and then when we went into the camp, I mean, there're barbed wires, these towers and then MPs all over, and they were driving up and down the camp in a Jeep and I remember the second morning I was there I was sitting with my friend and then this Jeep came right in front of us and I shouted, "Fuck you," and gave them the finger. [Laughs] And that was kind of stupid thing to do because they came to a stop, sudden stop and they start coming, walking toward me and I was just, I was trembling and shaking and I was breaking out in cold sweat, and, and the driver says, "What did you say?" And I couldn't even speak, and I looked up and I was looking up a barrel of the rifle, and then finally I said, "Nothing." I couldn't even, my voice would even come out. But anyway, in retrospect I'm glad that I'm expressed what I thought at the time, but in a way I'm kind of ashamed that I lied and said, you know, "I didn't say anything." But it was a, sort of a traumatic experience, but as time went by there were a lot of activities --

TI: Before you move on, I just want to ask you a couple questions about that. So what was the demeanor of the MP when he, when they stopped and came up to you? How would you describe his demeanor?

HU: They were pretty cool. I mean they, I guess they felt they were pretty cool. They were, I guess they thought they were big shit or something like that when they came up to me, but I was scared.

TI: They were intimidating.

HU: Yeah, absolutely.

TI: I mean, you said they had the guns, they were, the guns were pointed towards you when they came up.

HU: Yes.

TI: So why, why did you say what you said to them? What made you --

HU: Because I was pissed off because why should, why should I go into a place where it's surrounded by barbed wire? Why should they be watching us, searchlights and machine guns? Why should they be patrolling the area with rifles? And, I mean, we're peaceful, right? We didn't do anything wrong, so at that, I was, what, thirteen and I, I'm not thinking right anyway. You're, when you're thirteen you're more spontaneous. You're, you don't think about what you're doing, so I guess I did what just came naturally to me.

TI: Well, it's a pretty bold thing to, to --

HU: Yeah, stupid thing.

TI: -- to flip the finger off to an armed MP.

HU: Yeah, it's very stupid.

TI: Or bold. [Laughs]

HU: [Laughs] I just, I thought I was a, I thought I was a big shit, too.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So what were some of your other kind of initial impressions of, of Manzanar? So here you had this encounter with the MP, how about living conditions? What did you think about the living conditions?

HU: Living condition, you know, living condition, I don't know what other internee told you about it, but to me it was good because I came from a farm. We had outhouses, right? At camp they had high tech flushing toilet. We had furo, at camp they had this shower, and then also washbasin, it was a galvanized trough, but at least you had hot water, cold water while back home we only have cold water. In wintertime it got frozen. I mean, it wouldn't even come out. So living condition -- oh, and then inside the barracks, the, when we first got there it was bare, just a shell, but then about three months later they came and they plastered the wall and put linoleum, so that was much better than where I was living before the war. So no, to me personally, from where I was living and comparing with Manzanar the barracks and the latrine, everything, it was good. Camp was good.

TI: So was it better, better than what you were used to?

HU: Yeah, it was better, in fact. I mean, some people might not like me talking like this, but to me it was good.

TI: It's all kind of relative. I mean, what you know and what you're going through, so it all depends. How about food? What'd you think about the food?

HU: Food, the complaint I had for it initially was not enough. Because thirteen, back home I was eating about five bowls of rice. I was really consuming, and go to camp and you got a couple of toast and meat and potato and beans or something like that, so I was hungry. It took me at least two weeks before my stomach got used to it, but, but otherwise the food itself, I don't remember too much about the food because I guess it wasn't too bad or too good. I remember canned spinach I didn't care for too much, liver I couldn't eat at all, on Fridays there was fish, which I didn't like, and aside from that I guess it was pretty good. We had beef and veal and - oh, lamb stew, I didn't like it, but I got used to it later. The food wasn't bad, and when I went in the army during the basic training the first thing reminded me, I got reminded was that, hey, this army food is just like the camp food because it's, I guess the menu was the army menu at the time and it depended on the cook who cooked it. So initially a lot of people used to go to a mess hall that had good cook, a good cook and then they got wise to it and by the time we got into camp they had this guy standing by the door watching who's coming in and they recognized any outsiders so we couldn't go to the other mess halls.

TI: So even though the cooks essentially got the same supplies --

HU: Same.

TI: -- some people were better than others with the food.

HU: Oh yeah, absolutely, because some mess hall, they were fortunate enough to have a cook that had a restaurant in Little Tokyo, something like that, and they were good.

TI: That's good.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Tell me about school at Manzanar. What was school like?

HU: It's great. Compared to... here again, it's relative, if I were, if -- I was in seventh grade, just got out of seventh grade, going into eighth grade -- if I had stayed back home, in eighth grade I would have been in this one room, one room with two classes, two grades and one teacher, and with one teacher you, basically it's reading, the three Rs, but camp, I remember the first, first semester we had woodshop, which we would have never had back home, and of course we had different classes for English and gym and that kind of thing. And science class, they had science class and that I remember because they started plastering the wall and putting the linoleum after the camp was, was finished. It was finished in June, so from about June they started fixing that interior. And in this science classroom they haven't gotten around to putting the linoleum and plastering the wall, so I remember sitting without chairs, we were sitting against the wall and it was afternoon class where the wind starts blowing. And when they built the camp they removed those sage brushes, all the vegetation and they had just nothing but fine sand and silt on top, so when the wind blew, I mean, it just came up. We could, you could see the dust just coming up like volcano from the floor and we're just scraping the tablets like that, so it was quite an experience. But after a week or two they plastered the... but that's one of the things I remember about the school. But it was definitely better than what was back home.

TI: Well, tell me about some of the teachers at, at your school.

HU: Oh, there was a couple of teachers... I think everybody in the class remembers Mrs. Oatman, well actually Miss Oatman, and oh, she was an English teacher, she was strict. She would, you would look like that [looks to the side] away from her and bang, she would slam the ruler on the desk. I mean, she was, everybody thought she was some, somebody from hell, somebody... I mean, she was, she must've been in her late fifties or sixties. To us initially, we thought she was mean, mean old witch. And then they had this detention and a couple of San Pedro guys, Terminal Islanders, they're, they're... well anyway, they didn't behave, so Mrs., Miss Oatman had these two guys help her, got sent to detention and they, she had them help her move the furniture in her cottage there, in her room, and these San Pedro guys, Terminal Islanders, they spoke a lot of Japanese. I mean, they were very good in Japanese, so, so these two guys, were, they're talking about baasan, all the bad things about this, the teacher and then Miss Oatman was just minding her own business and when they left she gave 'em a couple of Coca Colas. They say arigatou and she started speaking Japanese and she was, she used to teach in Japan, so she knew the Japanese language. And the, when that word got around, I mean, we had nothing but respect for her, so she was one of the greatest teachers.

And there was Mr. Rogers, he was my French teacher and he was real, he was in the Navy. I guess he got injured, he was, injured his shoulder or something. Oh, he was brilliant. I think he was a genius. He spoke French, Spanish, I mean, half a dozen other languages very fluently, and I remember, and he also learned Japanese, so he would speak in Japanese, and one day we asked him, "Hey, what are you gonna do after you get, we leave? Where you gonna go?" He says, "Probably Japan." And then, so when I was in Japan, when I was stationed in Japan, I was in Tokyo and I thought maybe Mr. Rogers is in Japan so I start investigating and sure enough he was there. And I called him and he took me out to lunch that day and he brought me to his room and showed me all these pictures of Manzanar and we had a sort of great reunion.

TI: Good. Any other teachers that --

HU: Yeah, Mr. Greenly, Greenly was English teacher and he was very oriented in Japanese, Nisei problems. He said, "You guys have staccato..." you know Niseis, we have this accent. When I'm talkin' over the phone I can spot a Nisei. No matter how much they try to hide they have the accent just like I have an accent, so he was aware of this Nisei accent so he drilled and drilled us on, in talking more fluently and we had to memorize poems like Theophilus Thistle, "so many thousand thistles." I remember at one point we had to memorize "Kubla Khan in Xanadu, did Kubla Khan the stately dome decree where Alph, the sacred river," and so on and so, I don't remember all of it, but I still remember a few words of it and things like that. And he was, I think, very, very helpful. He was blind. He was cleaning his rifle, I understand, and it went off accidentally, he got blind, so he had this blind dog, but he has this very, very great voice. You probably heard of Mr. Greenly from others.

TI: Yeah, I've heard about some of the teachers. This one I'm not sure. This is the first time I've heard about this teacher.

HU: Yeah, he was a great teacher. He was...

TI: So it sounds like you, you had some really good teachers.

HU: Yeah, I think so. I liked, there were quite a few teachers that I liked.

TI: In the same way, it's, so you went from, probably an improvement in education, I mean, from where, where you would have gotten to Manzanar.

HU: I think so. Absolutely. Oh yeah.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So I'm gonna switch gears a little bit.

HU: Okay.

TI: About your, the family life, so your mother, your sister, you, how did the family life change going from the farm to Manzanar?

HU: Well, it changed in a good way, maybe, in a bad way. We were very close, closely knit family before the war. When we went to camp my brother's family and my mother's family, we slept in one, just one room. There was, what, three, six of us, and later when there were vacancies we, we were able to move. We were able to separate. (When we first moved into the block, there) were fifteen buildings, residential buildings. One was reserved as a community building, like in our case, in our block it turned out to be a kindergarten preschool, and there was barrack number fourteen, which they reserved it thinking that maybe they might have to use it as a community service building, but later on they found out that they don't need that space, so (...) they used it for residential. So we went, moved in there and my brother's family moved into another place, so we got separated, so we were at the opposite end of the block. So it sort of separated us from my brother's family. (...) So my mother, my sister and I were living together, then we also got separated in terms of, say, eating together for example. I would eat with my friends, my sister would go with her friends, so there was no, the family cohesiveness sort of dissipated there. So we sort of, but of course, we stayed in the same room, so it was a drastic change from what we used to have.

TI: And what would your mother do at camp? I mean, so you were with your friends, your sister was with her friends, what would your mother do?

HU: First they got the only job that they could get, camouflage, and that's, there's some conflicting stories about that. Camouflage was operated by this outside company that paid the workers at piece work prices and then there was, so they were able to make, if they wanted to, maybe eight dollars a day or sixteen dollars a day, which is one month's, sixteen dollars, regular pay, so there was controversy there. But I think that lasted only a short time and they went into regular sixteen dollars a month pay. So by the time we went into camp it was on the sixteen dollars a month, so camouflage factory was one of the places where people didn't want to work because with all that lint and things and the conditions out in the sun, so anyway my brother, my sister and mother, they worked at the camouflage factory. And then after a while there was this controversy, there was this problem, incident where the hardcore Kibei group, they start rattling them. They said, "Hey, you traitor. How come you're helping the government while you're sent to this kinda place?" It was, became sort of uncomfortable, and I remember the morning when they just came back and I asked them what happened, they said, "There's trouble. We don't want to work there anymore." So my brother got a job as a cop and then my sister got a job in the sewing factory and then my mother worked in the mess hall.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: When you say your, your brother was a cop, so that's internal security?

HU: Internal security, yeah.

TI: And how, how did that, how was that viewed by, you mentioned earlier the, the, you said the Kibeis who were questioning making the camouflage and that's in terms of, "Why you helping the U.S.?"

HU: Yeah.

TI: When your brother became, like, internal security, did that also --

HU: No, that, it didn't affect that until the "riot." When they had the riot, I remember that morning, the riot, I think it was December 6th, I believe, My brother came home early. He was on a day shift, he come early, I asked him (why). He says there's gonna be trouble and so everybody, we just took off, and that's the day of the riot. That's when, well, (...) little before that there was a Tajima, I think it was Tajima and Slocum, they went to Salt Lake City JACL meeting and lot of people didn't like the idea of, that was favoritism, they were being special privileged, and then by that time JACL has, had become sort of unpopular. I think it originated back in, what, 1927 where a handful of Nisies met at San Francisco and that was sort of the beginning of the, that later became the JACL. And originally they wanted the Nisei, the purpose was to get the Nisei into the American mainstream, but then by the time the war started there was rumors saying that -- by that time I think the headquarters was in Salt Lake City, they didn't understand the condition in the West Coast -- there was rumor, there were allegations that the JACL had, had intervened in the relocation where, where at one time the government was thinking of putting all the aliens in camp and JACL intervened -- this is just allegation, rumor -- that they intervened and they said if they're gonna put the Isseis in there, why not put all the Niseis in there, too, because they wouldn't be able to support themselves. (Narr. note: Tokutaro Nishimura was adopted by the Slocum family of North Dakota. He was better known as "Tokie Slocum."

TI: So, yeah, so the JACL took a very cooperative stance with the government.

HU: Right.

TI: And so inside Manzanar there was this friction between sort of the JACL group with, with others.

HU: Right.

TI: And, and so your brother knew there was gonna be trouble that day. He was in internal security.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So he came home early?

HU: Yeah, he came home early. He, yes.

TI: Knowing that there was gonna be trouble.

HU: They just left their job, and so, so that day, I don't know, some say there was about fifteen hundred, two thousand people got together and some went after Tajima and some went after Slocum and rest of 'em went to, to the -- well, before that, when Tajima and Slocum came back Ueno and his friends beat up Tajima and Tajima went to the administration and they arrested Ueno and put into jail in Independence, I believe, and there was some complaints, so they moved him back to the Manzanar, into the police station. And that's, that's when they started, tried to release Ueno from the prison, so that's when my brother and the Nisei cops just walked off the job because they didn't want to be, if they stayed they had to hold Ueno in prison and they would be called inu. Inu is one of the lowest things you could think of that you could be called at that particular time.

TI: And so who was gonna, who was going to hold Ueno, if, if the security people left, who was left there?

HU: [Laughs] Nobody except the police chief. There was only one hakujin guy and that was the police chief, so they sent in the military police. So they had, so when this mob went there they had these military police guarding the station there and then they started, people started throwing rocks and things and then somebody started the truck and then just let the truck go toward the MPs and the leader fired the shot or something and then the rest of the guys took that as a signal to fire, so they just fired into the crowd. And that, I remember that night, it was in the evening, after, after supper, and everybody was saying, "Hey, there's gonna be trouble. There's gonna be some, somebody's gonna beat somebody up." And when you're a teenager, when, if you hear somebody's gonna get beat up, hey, you got to be there. And so it was getting cold, so I went into my barrack to get my jacket and that's when my mother stopped me and says, "No, you cannot go there," and that stopped me, but my friends went there. There was a guy who was a neighbor back home, Charlie Sakihara, and he was there. He got shot in the hips. He was one of the seventeen guys that, among the seventeen casualties there.

TI: And so it was, I'm sorry, your mother or brother who stopped you?

HU: My mother. My mother.

TI: Your mother stopped you, 'cause she knew there was gonna be trouble and so she, she kept you inside.

HU: Yeah, so, so everybody knew it was gonna be trouble. All you heard about was the word inu, they were going after the inu, they would beat up the inu, they would kill the inu, that kind of stuff.

TI: Now, did your brother ever give you more insights in terms of the conflict from internal security standpoint, in terms of the troubles and who you had to kind of watch out for, things like that?

HU: Yeah, by that time we were living separately on different end of the barracks, so I hardly even talked to him, so there was no communication at all.

TI: Okay. And after the riot, what was the, what, the tenor of the camp? I mean, what was the atmosphere like?

HU: It's just like any other day. I didn't, I didn't see anything different. But there was, there was, "Did you know that Charlie got hit?" and that kind of stuff. That's about it.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So let's switch gears a little bit again, so just other activities. I've, you're a good writer and on your website you have different stories and one of the stories that really caught my attention was the Alabama Hills story.

HU: Oh, yeah.

TI: So talk, talk about that. So you're in camp and, and I've been to Manzanar and it's, the geography is actually quite striking, and then nearby something called Alabama Hills. So why don't you explain that?

HU: Yeah, Alabama Hills, the, they used to make, they made famous movie, like Gunga Din... lot of, probably hundreds of Western movies with that background, so Alabama Hills, it's, also it's a mining, before it was mining, gold mining. In fact, they got the name Alabama Hills because couple of prospectors from Alabama started digging in the area and that's how they got the name Alabama Hills there. So anyway, it was summertime, summer vacation, and my friend, we were just tossing baseball and it was getting hot and then we start thinking, well, maybe we should go hiking, maybe up, up that Mount Williamson, but that's too, too high. Finally we said, "Let's climb Alabama Hill. It doesn't look that tall and it doesn't look that far." And it's a funny thing, like mountain, hills, it looks so close, but once you start going it's quite a ways. So anyway (my friend's family friend) was a chef at this mess hall, so he had prepared a lunch and, and then... I can't remember what, what we had for lunch. Well anyway, we start -- oh, and he says, "Maybe we should, we could shoot jackrabbits," because it was, there were a lot of jackrabbits there. And so he made a couple of slingshots and we started early in the morning and we were kinda, not scared, but it was sort of exciting because you're sneaking out of this barbed wire area and you're looking around and see if nobody's watching you. Actually, it was, we were overreacting, but we were overreacting, by that time nobody cared anyway.

TI: So you just kind of walked right through the, just underneath the barbed wire and just walked out?

HU: Yeah, walked out, and then we came to George Creek and we had to cross the creek, the water came up to, to here, and I was amazed at the trout. There were a bunch of trout, good size native trout swimming all over. You could just almost grab that thing, and unfortunately we had slingshot; we should have brought fishing pole then. But anyway, we start going and this guy, my friend was much more physically adept to that kind of thing, so he sort of helped me out. And also this, you could see Highway 395 and we figured, well, we didn't want to get caught, so instead of going over the crest we went through the, sort of a gorge like thing, which is, you got a lot of loose rocks and things, but anyway, finally we got up there. We're, all the time we're looking around to see if we're not being watched, and we went over the hill and we looked over and we, they still had these gold mines out there, gold mining place, and then, then we figure there could be some movie being shot there, which there wasn't. Then we looked over, we saw the gold mines and we didn't go any further because we were scared that if somebody saw us they could easily take a pot shot at us, so anyway, we came back. But that, that was quite an experience. But there were other things to do, like the first day that we got there the barracks are covered with tarpaper and it used to come in a roll, just like the roll that we buy today except that in those days they had this round tarpaper scattered all over the block, and we start tossing that thing across the firebreak. The firebreak is about 525 feet long and most of the time when you, when we tossed it it would go up and then boom, take a nose dive, but when you went way out, it would go up there and sort of hover up there and, it would crash into the barracks across the barracks and we got a rush out of that.

TI: So, I mean, you would catch a wind or something or a nice, nice current and it would actually go all the way across the --

HU: Yeah, all the way across, over 425 and bang into...

TI: And then people would come out of the barrack and see what was --

HU: Good thing they were just completing --

TI: Oh, so they were empty?

HU: Yeah. Block 35 and 36, they were just beginning to fill in. And thirty years later, a couple of guys took the same idea and called it Frisbee. So my mother used to tell me that this is the land of opportunity and that's one of the reasons why they came here. Only opportunity I got was bunch of missed opportunities. [Laughs]

TI: You could've been the inventor of Frisbee.

HU: Right.

TI: Good.

HU: And there were other... basketball, softball. I think first thing was softball. We had a softball team that we used to play against. Even the Terminal Islanders, they had Skippers, the older, older team's name was Skippers and our age group, they had a team called Skippers Junior, and we used to play against them and Boyle Heights guys. What did they used to call themselves, Boyle Heights? Anyway, there were quite a few teams. And then by the time the basketball season came along it was, they, the camp was well organized enough that they had a league. They had a adult league, they had a high school league and we were in the junior high school league, and one day we're -- anyway, we signed up for the junior high school, they called it the Midget League, and we signed up for that league and we're shooting basketball, trying to figure out what to name ourselves. And we're coming up with all kind of names like Panthers, Lions, real big, macho names, and there was a guy name Ralph Lazo and he was a Mexican American. He was attending Belmont High School in Los Angeles and when his buddy came to, went to Manzanar he tagged along. He was visiting us and he was watching us, and he says, "Hey, you guys look like a bunch of midgets. Why don't you call yourself the Mikado Midgets?" And I think he was just joking. He was a character. He was a real nice guy, character. And, and we were kinda stupid, we're kinda naive and we thought, hey, that's a cool name, so we called ourselves the Mikado Midgets, and of course Mikado means emperor, so Emperor's Midgets. That's a lame name, but I guess it didn't matter because we had a lame team anyway. We never won a game. We lost every game we played. So there was that kind of thing. There was judo.

TI: Going back to Ralph Lazo, did you ever get a chance to talk to him very much or get to know him?

HU: No, he was about two years older than me. Only thing we did was just, "Hi," you know, when we come across, came across each other. We'd say "hi" or "what do you say." I think we used to use that term a lot, "What do you say." You'd see somebody, say, "Hey, what do you say?" And that's about the extent of it.

TI: Were you ever confused, like why is this Mexican American in camp? Did that ever cross your mind?

HU: No, it never even crossed my mind. [Laughs] He was kinda popular and no, I never wondered about that. Yeah.

TI: Okay, so I'm gonna switch gears here again. So you, you were in Manzanar at a time where you're kind of coming of age, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Tell me about the social scene. I mean, did you get interested in girls? Were there, like, dances? I mean, what, how did that all work?

HU: We had dances. We used to get together. Every block had this recreation room; we had one in our block and I used to hang around with a guy in Block 28, like Wacky, that's a brother, older brother of Farewell to Manzanar Jeanne Wakatsuki. Yeah.

TI: And his nickname was Wacky?

HU: Wacky, yeah, we used to call him Wacky. And I don't know how he got the name, maybe short for Wakatsuki or maybe he was sort of wacky. He was a character. So anyways, there was Wacky and there was Mas, there were a few other guys and there were a few girls there that we used to get together and we sort of had a small dance type of thing, get together. But, well actually, but when it came to girls I didn't get around much. I'm not a, I'm not a Romeo type.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so Hank, we're gonna start the third hour, and right now we're inside Manzanar and you've been sharing some stories about sort of the day to day life, things like school, activities, teachers. So I'm gonna get into some of the, maybe some of the more mischievous stuff. Like I read one of your stories about, I think the first time you got drunk, and it was in Manzanar. So can you, can you tell me that story?

HU: Oh yeah, that's... yeah. [Addressing videographer] You want to hear it? You want to go out of the room here?

TI: [Laughs] No, she's fine.

HU: Well anyway, okay. Anyway, it snowed in Manzanar and this, this, that time the whole place was covered, just like covered with cotton, roll of cotton or something, Alabama Hills, the Sierras, Inyos. It was absolutely a perfect day, with only one glitch that it was school day, and my friend and I said school's gonna be here forever, but this snow, it's gonna melt, so why not make use of it? So we started playing in the snow. And we had regular oxfords and bare hands, no gloves and we start making, trying to make snowman or something like that, but right away our hands start getting numb, our toes got numb, and so we went into the recreation room on this block and we fired up a stove. Stove is only so big, so high and it didn't do much good. We took our shoes off and socks, but it didn't do much good and my friend's saying, "Hey, we just got to warm ourselves up from the inside." And he said, "There's a guy named Gandhi next barrack," and Gandhi was a Issei guy, he was black, short, skinny. He squatted like Gandhi of India, and he says, "Well, Gandhi always has a couple bottles of shochu," and shochu is a liquor like whiskey, vodka. Today they make it out of barley, rice, wheat and the good stuff. In those days, in the old days they made it out of, out of anything they could get hold of, and in camp they had a lot of potatoes. We ate a lot of potatoes, and so they had a lot of potato peels; they saved that and turned it into shochu. And my mother used to warn me, said, "Don't ever drink shochu," because she knows people that got blind. So anyway, my friend went to Gandhi and asked for bottle of shochu, and Gandhi says, "Well, it's gonna cost you five dollars and who has five dollars?" My friend was a good talker, he was very persistent, and finally Gandhi says, "If you want it so much, why don't you masturbate in front of me and you can have the bottle?" Well, to make the long story short, we started sipping on the shochu, it felt good, and later we started getting woozy and then we started vomiting. And my friend, he kept saying, "Jeez, this is hell. I know what hell is like because this is hell. Hell on earth." And, and he kept saying that and then finally he lost his bowel movement, and then, then he, then only thing I could remember because I was kind of woozy myself and only thing I could think of was, "I know this is hell because only in hell will I be wiping fuckin' ass." So that was the first time I got exposed to drinking.

TI: But I guess just want to make sure I understand this. But your, your payment was this man had both of you masturbate in front of him?

HU: Not me. The other guy. Yeah.

TI: Okay. So that was sorta --

HU: No, I wouldn't have that kind of courage. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, so that, that was the payment. So you didn't have to pay money, and so he did that.

HU: Right.

TI: Which brings up a question, were you ever aware of, was there any situations where as a, a teenage boy, there were maybe homosexual activities or anything like that that you were aware of, that you had to, to be on the lookout for?

HU: No, we never, in those days, well, we just, we had very different attitude toward gay people. We used to call them fairies and queers and that kind of thing, and so it was something that we just shunned and I, I guess we never talked about it and we didn't know of anybody who were gay.

TI: So you weren't aware of any of that kind of activity during camp. Okay. So, so yeah, getting drunk and getting sick was, was one story.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: The other thing when I go to Manzanar, on the horizon or in the backdrop you have these magnificent mountains. You mentioned Mount Williamson, Mount Whitney's there, and I know that you have a connection with those mountains. Why don't you talk about your connection with those mountains?

HU: Well, from the barrack that I lived, from the room I could see the whole scenery or vista, whatever you want to call it, and I used to look out the window, daytime, nighttime, and one night I saw a couple of lights coming down from the mountain. And it was coming down, I thought it must be a car and then, and then the, the light kind of, went kind of askew and I thought, "Oh dear, what happened?" Maybe they, maybe the light... you know, in those days headlights were mounted on, mounted on the fenders. I thought maybe it fell off or something. And so anyway, it was really eerie, and so the following day I told my friend Frank, I said, "Hey Frank, I saw this weird thing last night. There was a couple of lights coming down from the mountain." And he says, "Well, that's, they were hikers." I said, "Hikers? Where did they go?" He says they went to Mount Whitney. I said, "Mount Whitney?" He said, "Yeah, there's Mount Whitney right behind that mountain right there." And I said, "Wow, it doesn't look that far," because it looked close. When a mountain, even if it's far, it looks close. And I said, "Why don't we climb that thing?" And he said, "Hank, you fuckin' asshole. You got to be a free man to climb that." And right there and then I made a vow that when I'm a free man I'll climb Mount Whitney, but then when I came out of camp we came to Los Angeles. I didn't have a car and we just, I just didn't have the, what do you call it, no transportation, nothing, so that was out of the question. And then the Korean War started and I was at the other side of the planet, so, so I was thinking of climbing Whitney; that's out of the question. And then after I got back I got married and that's it. That's done. Until when my kids were young, I told them about the Mount Whitney story and they said, "Well, why don't we climb that?" I said, "Okay, yeah. When you get a little older we'll climb Mount Whitney," so that was a promise I made.

And then the kids, they grow up in no time, they were going their own separate ways, and I didn't have anything to worry about until when I was about sixty-eight years old, my friend got triple bypass, so Karen says, my daughter says, "Hey Dad, how's your health?" And I said, "It's great. It's, I could out-hike any of you guys," and I was joking. Only a moron would take me seriously, a sixty-eight year old guy with, hiking with people in thirties and things. But then -- I'm not saying that Karen is a moron, but one day about a week later she sent me an email and she said, well, why don't we meet at such and such a place and climb this place called, called Ice, Ice House Canyon? I said okay, and I knew I wasn't in shape, but all this time when they were kids I was lecturing them that you don't have to accomplish what you set to do, just try, so I figured, well, I have to try, set an example or just keep up with what I've been preaching. So, so anyway, we met at, we met there and started climbing this mountain called Ice House Canyon and the first five hundred feet or so my calf started hurting, I mean, my ankle started hurting, and then my calf started hurting and by the time I was halfway, I mean, I just couldn't make it. I just plopped back on my back and then they just went ahead. And then on the way back it was going downhill, so it was fine. I was in great shape then. And then Karen, says, "Hey Dad, we got to climb Mount Whitney." And I just broke out in cold sweat. I never thought that they remembered, but they did remember, and I said okay. I had no intention of climbing Mount Whitney, but I thought I would just play along, said, "Okay, we'll do that. We'll start training for it." So the following week I went up and went a little further, and I kept on going and I met this guy named Wilson Harvey. He was, he's a hakujin hiker, and I told him, "Hey, I'm sixty-eight years old. I shouldn't be doing this." And he got mad. He says, "Hell, I'm seventy-eight years old." And then I started hiking with him and when we started, when I started hiking Mount Baldy he was there. I used to go there early, he was there and he was sort of my mentor; he sort of gave me a lot of tips and things and we would hike together for a while and things like that. And then, then I got addicted to hiking, so I started hiking every weekend and then I met a lot of guys there, lot of hikers, and I would tell them that, the story that I once made a vow to climb Mount Whitney, but I had no intention of doing it now. Then they all said if you could make Mount Baldy you could do Mount Whitney, and I still didn't believe them until one guy says, "Well, why don't you try? If you don't make it you can always come down." I said hey, that's a good idea, so after two years of conditioning I tried, made an attempt at Mount Whitney. I went to the trail camp and it was cold; down at Lone Pine it was about hundred four degrees and when I got there it was freezing, and I wasn't prepared, so I thought gee, I can't go up anymore so I came down. That was a good excuse, legitimate excuse. And the following week I went up again and on this trail -- there was about ninety-eight switchbacks and there was a place where it was icy -- and then they were saying, "Oh, there's ice up there." I said, "Gee, I don't have my clamp-ons, so I have to go back. I'll come back next week." So the third week I went up with the clamp-on and when I got there the snow level was down to about seven thousand feet, so I thought oh my God, I'm saved, so I got out of that. So I trained for another, conditioned for another year and after third, after the third year I tried again and then I made it up in something like six hours and fifty-four, fifty-seven minutes or something like that.

And then there was, it was something that... I feel great. It's something that I had accomplished, that I vowed to do, say, fifty-seven years earlier (...). But the thing that, that I got most out of that was that, while conditioning I was going up Mount Baldy and I did Mount Baldy about two hundred twenty-five times, and the thing about that was that in the beginning I, when I got up there it was lunchtime. I would go sneak around to a big boulder and hide in the back of a rock or something and eat my lunch, because I have this, or I still have them, but I had a real strong complex that a lot of Niseis have where we went through such a experience in discrimination that we're afraid to go into American or white people's society, and so when we were, when I'm up at, when I was up at Mount Baldy, I mean, I just couldn't get myself to join the other hikers there. But then as I kept climbing that thing, climbing the mountains, I met a lot of people and they're young people and they didn't have the experience of the thing that happened during the, during World War II, because I'd been, or Nisei's been exposed to a lot of these people who experienced World War II -- like I had encounters with guys who were in the, what's that, Bataan or Burma Death March or things like that, they had this very antagonism or very bad feelings toward the Japanese and the trouble is that they couldn't, they can't distinguish the Japanese soldiers from the Niseis, and as far as we're concerned we're Japs and no matter where we're born, we're Japs and once a Jap is always a Jap and there's discrimination. And we went through a lot of that. We had to take a lot of that. For example, I remember coming to L.A... in the, back in the old days they used to have community theaters. They used to have white community and they would have a street with Bank of America, a little theater and grocery store, so they used to have these small theaters. I remember in two, twice, we weren't able to go into the theater and, or... even employment. I remember going for a, applying for a dishwasher's job and the guy says, "Well gee, I don't have anything against you people, but if my customers saw you working for me I'll lose my customers," and things like that. He was very direct. And there was once when I was walking on Broadway and there were two marines, and they smiled and said, "Konnichiwa," and I said oh, these guys are very friendly. I said, "Konnichiwa," and then just, they just, this guy looked at his buddy and said, "Yeah, he's a Jap," and they just walked away. That's, that kind of thing is very, very, it sort of stays in your mind and affects what you, or how you react later on in life, so --

TI: And the example you gave, so these, some friends, these hiker friends that at lunch time you just didn't feel comfortable even sitting with them?

HU: Right. Yeah, in the beginning, but as, as I went, as time passed on and when I got to know a lot of these people, they were young, they were a lot more liberal. They had no idea about this, they had no, no...

TI: So the question I want to ask is, so when you're hiking with these, these friends in the Sierra Nevadas, do you share that during World War II you looked down in the valley, Owens Valley, you were, you were at Manzanar? Do they, do...

HU: No, I don't talk about that.

TI: You never, you never tell them?

HU: I never tell them. There was one guy that I talked about Manzanar, how I was at Manzanar. That was at Baldy, and funny thing that happened, last year he visited Manzanar Interpretive Center and he, I think somehow he, my name, a mention, my name was, came up and he says, "Oh, I know Hank Umemoto. We used to hike together." And he left me a message there and he said, "I was here," and so I emailed him, after I got home I emailed him and he was real nice about that.

TI: It'd be, it'd be interesting if, especially with those hiker friends, if you had, on one of those treks up Whitney, to have told the story of when you saw those lights coming down Whitney and that was when you were a young boy and how that was a promise that you, you made.

HU: Right.

TI: I think that would really be a powerful story for hikers up there.

HU: Oh yeah.

TI: Because when you're up there it's beautiful and you see it and you can see the valley, but for them to understand that, I think would be a really powerful thing for them.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Well, thanks for sharing the, the Mount Whitney.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: I want to get you back to camp during the war. When you were sixteen you, you took a short leave from camp. Can you tell me about that?

HU: Yeah, this was toward, this was in June, so June, July, August, a couple months before the war ended and by that time the ban on the West Coast had lifted and so people could go back to their homes. And we were sixteen, there were five of us who were working on this roofing crew in camp. We were putting new roof on the barracks, and the funny thing about that is we were reroofing Block 16, which was elementary school, and there was nobody, no students there. Then we reroofed that barrack and then, then after that in September the school never started in Manzanar, so that, those buildings that we reroofed was never used. It was torn down after, after it was closed down. Well anyway, we were on the roofing crew and one day the warehouse burned down where they kept the tarpaper, so the following day we went to clean up and then after that we were out a job, so we figured why don't we go outside and made big money? In those, in those days all the older guys were out, going out short term leave, they had relocated, so we tried, anyway. We were sixteen, but we tried and they said, "You're only sixteen. You can't go." And we kept bugging the guy and he says, "Well, get an okay from your parents saying you can go," so that's what we did. We got an okay and we were just about the only sixteen year olds that left camp for one month leave without our parents, I think. So we, we went on the bus to Mohave and at Mohave we boarded a train to go to Stockton, and this was a Pullman and they didn't want us to sit with the passengers so we were put into this lounge next to the toilet. They have toilet and they have this sort of a bench like place, so we were put in there and we went, stayed in that until we got, we reached Stockton, but when you're kids, we were able to talk and, I mean, we enjoyed it. It never occurred to us that they didn't, because we're Japanese we weren't able to join the other passengers, but in a way we were naive because in camp there was no discrimination and we weren't exposed to that type of thing where we would be aware of it. If you're aware of it you, you could tell right away that you're not wanted. So anyway, we went to Stockton and my friends, my friend had a German friend, neighbor, and then we went to his place, but then by the time we got to his place it was dark and he had a, a worker's shed and he had two single bunks with mattress, so we went in there and there were four of us by then and we sort of bunked together, two each. And we were so tired that we just, we're out, and then when we woke up, we looked up and jeez, there's a harness, they still had this harness, horse harness and things, and there was black thing with red hour glass on the belly. I thought, oh wow. And we looked down, it's dirt floor. I mean, it was kind of scary.

TI: So these are poisonous spiders?

HU: Right, yeah. And then we went out for a drink and they had, he had this hand pump and right next to the hand pump is the outhouse, and we just couldn't have the, we just didn't have the courage to drink it out of the well (...). It was after the harvest season, so there was no job. (...) German (friend's) name was Joe and he was, he was sorta looking for some jobs for us and he took us into town, Stockton. When we went out (of Manzanar), we didn't bring much money, just a few dollars 'cause we figured we're gonna have a job there, so... so anyway, so we went back to Joe's place and we stayed there for forty-eight hours without food or water, then finally we collected all the money that we got and which came to about sixty-seven or sixty-seven cents and went to this country (...) market, like AM/PM store, like the thing we have now, and we bought a jar of mustard, a liter (...) of Royal Crown Cola and bread, loaf of bread. And on the way back we went to a cemetery and in the cemetery was an apricot tree loaded with apricots (since) nobody's gonna eat a fruit that's growing in a cemetery. So anyway, we got all we can carry, And on the way back, it was after onion picking season so there were rotten onions, but we picked some not too bad ones. So we went back and then we made onion and mustard sandwich, and that was the most delicious meal that we ever had.

So then finally we got a job at Mandeville Island, and that was originally swamp land that converted to agricultural. They put levies and converted to agriculture, so they had this decayed reed, real tiny, sort of microscopic thing that when (they) make contact with the skin (the) itching (was) unbearable. And anyway, fortunately they, they put me into the shed as a swamper hauling out potato sacks and things. So anyway, that was quite an experience, and on the way back we decided to stop at Los Angeles and when we got off the station we went to the taxi driver and say hey, we want to go to such and such a place and then they, they just ignored us, ignored us and says, "Why don't you guys walk?" and so anyway, we had this suitcase and we're lugging the suitcase and we went to the hotel, and then we stayed there and about three o'clock in the morning we start scratching, everybody starts scratching. And then one guy flipped the lights on and what do you know? We saw these black things on our skin and, bed bugs, and bed bugs, they bite you in a line like that and I think it was one of those things that, it's worse than ants, maybe even worse than the bees because it goes up in a line like that. And then, anyway, we went back to Manzanar. Once I got to Manzanar, I mean, Manzanar was just paradise. You had your food, the shelter, I mean, nice shower, nice clean bed. That's, that's the kinda experience where I appreciated Manzanar after going through that outside (experience).

TI: That's a good, that's a good story.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: While you were at Manzanar you had an acquaintance, a Mr. Muro. Can you tell me about that relationship, who he was?

HU: Yeah. Mr. Muro was very active in Seicho no Iye, which is Japanese philosophy like the Christian science, and he was sort of... well anyway, my mother and my sister got to know, got to know him somehow and he used to visit us. He used to talk to us. He was like a mentor; he was sort of like my, like my dad sort of, and he treated me like that. And he had an interesting life himself where before the war he used to sell vegetables. He used to sell, he used to have this truck, carry vegetable, and he used to go around to these Japanese homes to sell the vegetable, and there was a guy later I, that I don't think I remember his first name, but his last name was Doi. He was living in Seattle and he contacted me and says, "I also knew Mr. Muro." And his story was that before the war they were, they were sort of poverty stricken where they couldn't pay the electricity bill, so when anybody came they would just close the door and window and never come out and then one day Mr. Muro came (around). Mr. Muro saw their situation and he gave them food, whatever vegetables and things that he had on his truck, he gave it to them. So, so this fellow named Doi, he, he sort of owed a lot to this Mr. Muro, so that's the kind of guy that Mr. Muro was. And he was married to this Mexican American lady and they had an adopted daughter. Her name was Hope, and at the time of the evacuation she was about eleven years old. She was a Nisei, but then when Mr. Muro went to Manzanar, Mrs. Muro (...) and Hope stayed in Los Angeles and they lived on Fourth and Main, was a sort of a skid row there, and there was a Catholic church, I think Third and L.A., Los Angeles, so anyway, close by, and she attended the Catholic school and so, and then also she lived in a neighborhood where they didn't care whether she was a Japanese or not, so during the time everybody was in camp, she stayed in Los Angeles and she's the only Japanese that I know of that ever stayed in Los Angeles during the war years.

TI: Yeah, so let me ask about that. So Hope was adopted by, by Mr. Muro and, and his Mexican American wife.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So Hope was Japanese American?

HU: Japanese American, Nisei.

TI: Nisei, and, and she stayed. Why did she stay and not go with, go to Manzanar? Or to a camp?

HU: I really, I really don't know the reason, but I've heard, or I read in the documents that, at least in the earlier days, when a father went to camp with a daughter or a child, the child would've been sent to the orphanage in Manzanar, so I don't know how the, how long the regulation lasted, but that could be one of the reasons maybe, or maybe they thought that maybe she might have better opportunity outside, but then it turned out that in her early forties after her, after Mrs. Muro passed away she took her own life, so if she had gone to camp she could've made a lot of friends and maybe her life may have been different. She might be running around with her grandchildren now.

TI: Interesting. But while she was in Los Angeles she was almost, like, under the radar because she lived in the skid row area.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Sounds like the Catholic church kind of supported her so that no one really found her.

HU: Right. And also that name is Muro, M-U-R-O, and that is not a typical Japanese name, so that may be another reason.

TI: Okay.

HU: And of course, she was white, she had a white complexion, so she could've been mistaken for Chinese.

TI: And so the Muros were kind of important after Manzanar for you, because when you left Manzanar they provided, I guess, shelter or, or helped you out.

HU: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So I guess at this point let's leave Manzanar and talk about life after Manzanar.

HU: Yeah, okay. So we went to Mr., we tagged along with Mr. Muro, and Mr. Muro had, had this lease on this hotel, so we stayed there. At that time my mother, my sister and I, we stayed in a room probably no bigger than that, maybe twelve by twelve or so.

TI: So it's a small room, twelve by twelve.

HU: Small room and they had one sink, and that, you had three stories and we, and our story had one toilet and it's an old fashioned toilet where the tank was up on the ceiling, on the top and you had the chain and you pull the chain and the water will come and flush down, and they had one bathtub and we had to get, we had to have Mr. Muro open the bathroom every time, every time we wanted to take a bath, so I think we, I only took a bath maybe twice a month or somethin' like that, you know, kind of enryo. So compared to that, I remember Manzanar was a luxury, like Hotel Hilton actually. So anyway, it was in skid row and every time I went down the stair, by the entrance there was a bum or there's vomit, (I had to) jump over the vomit and that kind of stuff. It was just... and we lived there about three and a half years, and anyway, after we (left) Manzanar, my sister got married shortly after that, so it was Mother, my mother and I lived there for, for three and a half years.

TI: So when you left Manzanar were you, had you graduated from high school yet?

HU: No, I still had junior, eleventh and twelfth grade. I just finished, completed (tenth grade). I went to Roosevelt High and I was supposed to go to Belmont, but there were a lot of guys from East Side, Boyle Heights area that was in Manzanar who were my friends that I knew and then they were going to Roosevelt, and I think one of the principal or vice principal, Mr. Fox (from Manzanar High), he became, I think, principal or vice president at Roosevelt High, so there was this principal or vice president from Manzanar at Roosevelt High and there were a lot of (Japanese) students that were attending Roosevelt High, so I faked my address. In those days they had, they had hostels, like Evergreen Hostel. In the beginning there was Koyasan right downtown, that was a hostel, so we used to, and there were other guys from the Belmont area, we used to use the Evergreen Hostel address, so that put us into the Roosevelt High district. So I attended Roosevelt High, and the graduating class, I think (had about 67 Japanese).

TI: Well let me explain, ask a question, though. So at Roosevelt High, you wanted to go to Roosevelt High instead of Belmont because, one, you mentioned the friends, you had friends there?

HU: Yeah.

TI: Was it also because of this principal, too, that he was --

HU: No, not, not as much as the principal, but mostly the friends. So in the graduating class I think there were about sixty somethin', sixty-eight or somethin' Niseis graduating, so it was, I think at that time it was the biggest Nisei class in the nation probably, so it was, it felt like home. I mean, with all the friends and people we, I knew.

TI: And how well were the Niseis accepted by the other students?

HU: Oh, it was, that area was mostly, what, predominately Mexican, Mexican Americans and there were Jewish and Russians and there were, there were a lot of, there was a concentration of Japanese before the war, so actually after the war it was just, blended in. Like nothing happened, actually. So we didn't have any, anything.

TI: Okay. So tell me, so you, after Manzanar you lived in this room. What, what was the location of this room? When you say skid --

HU: Four, four seventeen and a half, South Main. That's Fourth and Main Street. In fact, right down the, right down here. Yeah.

TI: And so do you have a sense of how this area had changed during the war? Because before it was predominately Japanese, the war happened, and then coming back, what was the difference between before and after the war?

HU: Well, see, before the war I didn't know, but I think it was, when we came to Manzanar, Little Tokyo, there was still black people during the, during the war a lot of black people took over the area, but then by the time I came out it was -- we came out in August and then the ban was lifted in February. So February, April, May, June, so people, the Japanese had relocated, I mean come back and they had opened up their stores again -- so by the time we came out, I think, barber shop was open, there were cafes and I remember oyako donburi or something for thirty-five cents or something like in those days. And also we used to hang around corner of First and San Pedro. There was this Taul Building that you probably heard of and we used to hang around there, and so I guess, I imagine it was back to the old Little Tokyo days, but today, I mean, it's entirely different. I came down Fourth Street and I couldn't even recognize any of the buildings there. It's, today and those days, I mean, it's just like black and white.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Okay, and you were, you said about three and a half years before you moved out of the skid row area?

HU: Yeah. Interesting thing happened there. Mr. Muro died. I think he was about sixty when he died and so Mrs. Muro and Hope moved out to, I think, Westchester or somewhere and then another lady took over the hotel. And then there was this girl my age and one night we went out and kinda walked around the town and then her mother didn't like it at all. She went to my mother and says she didn't want me to be hanging around with her daughter and then next thing we knew she says, "Could you move out?" So we got sorta evicted. And I had a friend, Leland, and his mother and father, was Nisei from Hawaii and they were dentists and they were living in this hotel, or apartment near Washington and Main Street. It's, it's removed from the skid row and they had a vacancy, so we moved in there.

TI: Okay, and during this time what was your mother doing?

HU: Nothing. She never worked. She wanted to work, but I said, "Well, you better not."

TI: So how did the two of you support yourselves?

HU: We sold the house. I mean, not the house, we sold the farm, but it didn't bring in much and what we actually, we divided, but... divide the proceeds among the siblings, so there wasn't much. But there was enough to tide us over for, until I started working.

TI: So let's talk about, so the farm was sold. So this was forty acres, the house, your brother had all these dreams of building something big. What happened? Why, why was the farm sold and what happened to your brother?

HU: My brother, he answered "no-no" on the "loyalty questions," so he went to Tule Lake and he was one of the "Wassho wassho" boys with hachimaki and things, so he got sent to, later sent to Fort Lincoln, Bismarck, and then, then after that he was sent to Japan. (...) When he left for Tule Lake I guess he had no intention of going back to farming, so he says he doesn't want the farm. (...) I was only about sixteen or fifteen or something like that and I had no intention or no capability of running the farm, so we just asked the shipping company to just sell it, sell it for us.

TI: Did you ever talk to your brother about his decision to go "no-no," to renounce his citizenship and then go to Japan? Did you ever talk to him about that?

HU: No, I never did. After he left Manzanar I didn't see him until I was in the army and I visited him. I spent maybe a couple of days with him and that's about all, so I haven't... and at that time I never talked about why or anything.

TI: Well, when you visit him when you were in the service, did he talk about his decision at all then?

HU: No, no, he didn't. He was sort of happy with what he did. When he was in Bismarck he took a correspondence course in refrigeration, so when, and he was sort of a smooth talker, anyway, so when he went to Japan he was able to talk himself into a job with the occupation force. So later he got his own business; he never came back to this country.

TI: Did he ever come back to visit the United States?

HU: [Laughs] He never did.

TI: He never came back. Was he bitter about, about what happened to him?

HU: No.

TI: So you never talked about that.

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

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: Okay, so, so from the proceeds from the farm, so you had enough to keep going, 'til you started. So I'm going to jump a little bit, because you had an interesting encounter. So during the '70s and '80s there was a movement within the Japanese American community to seek an apology or redress from the government, and there was a woman in particular, her name was Lillian Baker, who opposed this movement and you knew this woman. I want to understand how the two of you got to know each other.

HU: Oh, through, through business connections, and then she was very misunderstood. She studied under this Japanese artist, so she knew more about Japanese culture and custom than us Niseis, really, and so she had, at one time she had quite a few Nisei friends. And at one time a couple of Nisei ladies asked her to make a presentation or speak at this group of young people, and her theme of her speech was that the Japanese did not suffer in comparison to what the others suffered because it was war time and in war time everybody suffers, like her husband was killed in the Pacific during the war and the Jews, six million Jews were sent to gas chambers and that kind of thing, so in a way I believe her speech was sort of belittling the Japanese situation. And then, so the young people, the audience started booing and that's when things start happening. So Lillian Baker is a very strong person; she's not going to stand for that, so she counterattacked and the audience counter-counterattacked and it sort of escalated, and over the time things got very, very tense and she did something that isn't too acceptable, like even on national television. She went up to the Nisei veteran speaking at the, what's the center thing, and grabbed his paper, and that kind of thing. I mean, it just isn't excusable, but she was that kind of person where she reacted very strongly to that kind of situation and she was, she was not a diplomat. She didn't have that finesse of a politician, so she was taken in a wrong way. Maybe it was rightfully taken in a wrong way, but if you, if anyone knew her like I knew her, she wasn't the type of person that she made herself portrayed to be. And so it's just tragic and as far as I'm concerned, in front of the camera, I'm not ashamed or afraid to say that Lillian Baker was my friend.

TI: So explain that, this friendship. I mean, how did it come about and what was your relationship with her?

HU: She used to come to my shop and I used to do work for her, and then we would talk and express our feelings towards things and things like that. She was, she was very sensitive about making... I don't know, giving credit or anything to sort of bring up a certain ethnic group. For example, I remember the time they had some kind of monument in Arizona, or anyway, in the West, and the monument said something about the Indians, about the white people slaughtering the Indians or something and then she didn't like the idea, the terminology of what it said that Indians were mistreated by the whites and things like that, so she was kind of touchy about those things as well. And I guess when it came to Japanese, I guess she didn't want the white people to be known as somebody that mistreated the Japanese or something in that nature. I mean, I can't explain it, explain it too well, but sort of in that nature, in that line.

TI: But what I'm hearing from you is, is that you felt that she was misunderstood, that maybe at the beginning she, she held these views, but then with these encounters it sort of escalated and, and it was her nature to kind of then push back and back and back and that's kind of what happened.

HU: Yeah. Yeah, it just went out of control.

TI: When you, when you, and you had this opportunity to talk with her on a more personal basis, so how do you feel about her views? Where were you when you, did you ever discuss things, did you ever kind of sometimes try to discuss or... and maybe sometimes you disagreed with what she had to say? I mean, what, how did that go?

HU: Yeah, there were things that bothered me, like she was sorta close with the, these, the group that was in the Death March thing, Japan's, Japan's, what was that? Bataan?

TI: The Bataan Death March.

HU: Yeah. They, and those guys had a very strong group and they were backing Lillian up and I didn't think that that was a good idea because these guys were calling us a "Jap" just like the Japanese soldiers did that they had encountered. That kind of thing. And well, so there were things that we, that we didn't agree, but I like to respect anybody's opinion and I like to judge a person by what the person is rather than what a person says or what other people think of the person.

TI: And as a person you respected her?

HU: Yes, as a person, sure.

TI: So she was a very controversial person, and how did, I guess, your relationship with her affect how people dealt with you? So when people found out, "Hey, Hank knows Lillian and her friends," how did that...

HU: Yeah, I got some hate mail, not life threatening, but something that, sort of enough to kinda think about, kinda piss you off, but then I didn't take it that seriously. In a way it's a compliment, because now I know that somebody's listening to me and taking me seriously, and so in that respect there's, there's a plus side to that, so it didn't bother me much. But it's ironic that these people who were fighting (for) Japanese right (are) attacking me because I'm expressing my point of view, so, so it didn't bother me much, but I did have (some) kind of reaction, but mostly, aside from that I had more compliments on what I did. Like, like declining my twenty thousand redress, I had more compliments on that (from) people I knew, or people I know. They didn't take my view as anything.

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

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So let me explain this and then let me ask you a question. So, so when the redress bill passed, part of the bill was an apology and a twenty thousand dollar payment.

HU: Yeah.

TI: And so when it came your time to receive the payment you refused the twenty thousand dollars on, on principle. You said you did not feel like you wanted this. So first tell me why you refused the twenty thousand dollars.

HU: Okay, mainly my reason was that, rather than talk about the injustice, I want, I knew that this was gonna be on record in the archives and I wanted the Japanese Americans to go down in history as someone who went to camp graciously and made whatever, made the best of what they had. They didn't have much, but they made the best of what they had with what time they had. They even built a lot of beautiful gardens and things and when everything was over they said sayonara to camp and they went out and continued where they left off and continued on with their lives, so I think that was... to me, I think that was more important than the injustice. You know, today... well, let me say this, that it's important that we have people who, who say, "Well, we were sent to concentration camps, we were incarcerated, we were uprooted," and things, because those are strong words. And saying that, "Hey, we want redress, want some action, we want some apology," well, those things, they're strong and those are the things that rouse people up, and those, when people get riled up it sort of goes into history. Without them we probably may not have any mention in the textbook or anything, but it's important to have those people, so I have nothing against those people, but then I also think it's important to sort of bring up the fact that, or the things that we did to survive through that wartime hysteria because that's a legacy. So we're not leaving history in this case, but we're leaving legacy, so maybe generations from now our (descendants) might say, "Hey, my great great-great-great-grandparents, they were sent to camp and they did such and such a thing. They went through this courageously and they continued on their, with their lives. They didn't get any help from the government; they didn't go on welfare." So I think that, to me that means a lot and that's legacy.

TI: So it sounds like, and correct me if I say anything that isn't what you're trying to say, but it sounds like there's, that you are fine with this kind of... you know, people have different views of, of what happened and how they want to do it. In your case, you wanted more of this legacy of people persevering, able to go through this experience and without any government support, able to, to do well again, or to survive, but you also are fine with, perhaps, people that were some, I'll call 'em more activists, who used these strong terms and, and to make sure that this information gets in the history books. So in your case, you took, some would say, a big step of refusing a twenty-five, a twenty thousand dollar check at a time when twenty thousand dollars was, was a lot of money. It still is a lot of money.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Do you, how do you feel about the other Japanese Americans who took the twenty thousand dollars?

HU: Oh, that's great. Yeah, that's, that's great. Yeah, that, people ask me, "Hey, you refused, but I took it. What, how do you feel about it?" I say, "Hey, that's great. More power to you." I mean, it's just, it's just difference of opinion.

TI: And so what's the, the Nisei reaction when people find out that you refused twenty thousand dollars? I mean, what, what, like amongst your friends and they, and when you're having a quiet drink with 'em or something and they say, "Hey, you, you didn't take twenty thousand dollars?" So what do they think?

HU: They call me an asshole. Stupid asshole. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] Because they say it's like free money, just take it?

HU: Yeah. Yeah.

TI: But do they respect your --

HU: Yeah, they, they respect my stand.

TI: It is a very principled stand you took. Is part of your stand, does part of that come from discussions with Lillian Baker?

HU: No. No, that has nothing to do with it. Yeah.

TI: Or but not, not when you actually made the decision, but some of the words that you, you remember her saying or anything like that?

HU: No.

TI: So if she wasn't in the picture you'd still probably do the same thing?

HU: Uh-huh, right.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: So the other thing I want to talk about is terminology, because we've talked about this in the past and you've mentioned some things like concentration camps, incarceration, you said are very strong terms, terms that you probably wouldn't use. So talk about terminology. What do you think, how should, how should we use terminology?

HU: Okay, you use it any way you want. Okay, we need people like -- well, we had to have people like Sue Kunitomi who said, who used the word "concentration camp" and this should never happen again and this should be a reminder that in the future this will never happen, well, we need people like that, otherwise, otherwise Manzanar would not be an interpretive center today. And so they could use whatever term, terminology they want. Okay? That's their, their privilege. But then I myself will not use the term "uprooted," "incarcerated," "concentration camp," "forced into camp" -- no, no offense to you. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, but, and the reason you said is because we use a lot of those terms on our website.

HU: Right, right.

TI: That's okay.

HU: So I would not use it. Let's say with, let's take the term concentration camp, okay? You use concentration camp, that's fine, okay? I have no, no qualm about that, okay? Go ahead and use it. But my, I won't use it and it's, and I get offended, personally get offended when it's used because let's put everything in context. Okay, it happened, evacuation happened in 1942. Let's take the terminology of 1942. What was concentration camp? Well, concentration camps were, prisoners of war were forced into this barbed wire compound with a rifle, but Japanese Americans, we were not forced in that way. We were not forced because we had an option. It wasn't much of an option, but they said, "Hey, you could move out of Western states or go into camp." So the word is, so concentration camp in the, in the terminology that was used in 1942, meant a compound of enemy, enemy soldiers put into this camp where when they escaped they would get shot, that kind of thing. And Manzanar, for example, wasn't, it was similar physically maybe. It had towers, it had, it had the barbed wire fence, and then, in fact, one guy was, was caught collecting lumber or something and he got shot, and so in the beginning at least it had the form of the concentration camp, but then we had a choice of making it a concentration camp or making it a community and when people were in there they built the churches, they had schools, they had other cultural schools or lessons, like flower arrangement. They had all kind of things like judo, kendo, so they have all these activities and they had businesses like photo shop, they had gift shop, and that was run by the cooperative enterprise, which was owned by the people there. I think in Manzanar they had, each person seventeen and over had about five dollars and eighty-seven (share in co-op) or something like that.

TI: Right. So, so Hank, so it's clear to me, so you think maybe, so what I'm hearing is "concentration camp", in your mind is too harsh. You would, you would say that here was more of a community rather than, than what you would term a concentration camp?

HU: Yeah. And then also there was the Jewish, I mean Nazi concentration camp. I mean, six million lives were lost, so when you talk about, when we use the word "concentration camp," to me, it's that type of thing and it implies that we were enemies, which we were not. In fact, thirty-three thousand Niseis, Sanseis served in the armed forces, so that's where...

TI: So let me, let me turn around a little bit, or let me share... so I, terminology is, is, I think, really important, and so when I talk to the scholars to help, so I say, "What do we call these camps?" And so some scholars would say, well, some of the things you said. So look back at the era, 1940, 1942, and their take is that the term "concentration camp" was actually a term used by the government people, like President Roosevelt and others to describe where the Japanese and Japanese Americans went, and what they say is that the term "concentration camp," the terminology or the meaning got twisted a little bit or changed when people found out about what happened in Germany and, and places like Poland where you had the Nazi, what they called concentration camps. And so what the scholars say, well, they're, it's kind of like euphemisms, that in fact what happened in Germany, those are more like what they would classify as death camps, and, and in the same way, in the United States, the government used euphemisms, that internally they would call them concentration camps, but instead they would call them relocation centers. So that's what the scholars say, so they are trying to perhaps... and what you said, try to use terminology that was perhaps more in that era. So that's kind of what they're saying, so I just wanted to share and see what kind of reaction you have when, when the scholar who said that, "Well, Hank, here's the documents, here's a memo. Roosevelt actually says concentration camp, or at a press conference when people ask him, 'So where are the Japanese going?' He'll say, 'Concentration camps.'" So what do you think about that?

HU: I think, well, they could call it whatever they want, but then, to me, it was not a concentration camp. To me it was a relocation camp and when we came out of camp, for, until about 1970 no, we used the word camp. We'd say, "Hey, which camp did you go to?" Camp, we referred to it as a camp, not a, never a concentration camp, and the concentration camps, people start talking about concentrations camp in the '70s. I remember I attended one lecture. It was given by professor, Japanese professor who was teaching at one of the universities on the coast up North. I can't remember his name, but he, then after the lecture I talked to him and said, "Hey, I was in Manzanar and to me it was not a concentration camp. It was a relocation camp and we never referred to it as a concentration camp." And he says, "Well, you know, I'm a PhD. I'm a professor," and he, yeah, he says, "I studied all the literature that these other professors wrote on the camp and that's concentration camp." And he says, then he says, "I'm a PhD and you're not," so he was saying that -- I was there; I should know. But he's saying that he knows, he's implying that I don't know anything, and I asked him, "Where were you during the war?" He said in Japan. He says, so he never, he was a Japanese, Japan Japanese sort of, so he was, he had no experience or association with the Niseis, so that's kind of, struck me as kind of funny.

TI: So it sounds like almost, so what you're, you perhaps don't like is, so it's kind of like these people after the fact, whether they're from Japan or even younger who are coming in using, perhaps, terminology that they think is more appropriate, but they weren't there. I mean, it's people like you and others who lived through the experience and, and what I'm hearing is feel like you want, in some ways, more ownership of that in terms of the terms and what it's called because you, you experienced it?

HU: Yeah.

TI: That makes sense.

HU: So personally, to me, there's an implication that when, when I'm put into a concentration camp I'm an enemy of this country sort of, and that's...

TI: When you said "enemy," I think, and earlier you said you don't also want to be portrayed as a victim either, a sort of victim mentality.

HU: Right.

TI: So there was all those things. Okay, good. So I finished my questions, but I do want to leave it open in terms of, if there's anything else that you want to share or talk about that I didn't ask. We've covered lots of different things, but I just want to give you an opportunity, is there anything else that you want to talk about?

HU: No.

TI: Okay. Well this was fabulous. This was a good interview. This was interesting. You're not, you were concerned, I think, about having these outlandish views, but I think if anyone listens to this interview they'll get a nice picture of, of your life and why you think the way you are, so I think this was good. So thank you very much.

HU: Thank you.

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