Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ramsay Yosuke Mori Interview
Narrator: Ramsay Yosuke Mori
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Kelli Nakamura
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: February 28, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-mramsay-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today's February 28, 2011, and we're in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Hotel. Kelli Nakamura is helping with the interview. I'm Tom Ikeda, and on the camera is Dana Hoshide.

RM: You couldn't have found a better person. She knows how to...

TI: How to ask these questions?

RM: She knows how to make me talk.

TI: So Ramsay, I'm gonna start at the very beginning, and can you tell me when you were born?

RM: Not really, but it was in Japan, in Tokyo. February 23, 1933.

TI: And so that makes you just, you just had your seventy-eighth birthday.

RM: That's right.

TI: Okay.

RM: Just last week.

TI: Well, happy birthday.

RM: [Laughs] Not that I wanted it, but it came on me. Yeah.

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

RM: Yosuke, which is, my mother explains that Tahei yo no yo to suke, which is your normal suffix used in Japanese boys' names, and thus Yosuke.

TI: And so where did the name Ramsay come from?

RM: My father was a avid, had an avid interest in politics and one of his great political heroes was Winston Churchill, of course, in those days, and from that he took, took a look at, you know, the political hierarchy in Britain, and he came up with Ramsay McDonald, so he thought that would be a fine name for me and so he named me Ramsay.

TI: So you mentioned you were born in Japan, yet your father was in Hawaii. What, why were you born in Japan?

RM: Because of the immigration rules at the time, my mother had to go back to Japan every other year, and because they were so discriminatory she was very angry about the situation and, and she thought that "if the United States does not want my child, he will become a Japanese."

TI: Oh, so she chose to have you in Japan?

RM: Yes, definitely. And of course my father was doing well enough that he could afford to send us every other year. That was three of us, my sister Pearl and I and my mother.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's, let's talk a little bit more about your mother first. So tell me your mother's name.

RM: Her given name was Shibuya, Ishiko Shibuya. And she was born in Chiba, in an area that's called Boshu. Now, I've asked, like I told you, I worked for the airlines and I was on the airplane a lot, working especially first class, and I'd run into some very interesting people, so I'd ask Japanese that I met there whether they'd ever heard of Boshu and nobody ever did, but there's a certain area in Chiba, at the bottom end of Chiba across from Yokohama, I mean, it would be the entrance to the harbor, and there would be one side, I think, of the entrance where you could see the ocean and then on the other side of the harbor you could see Fujiyama.

TI: Wow, it sounds like a really beautiful place then.

RM: She, from what she told me, it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. But even after traveling, this itinerate airline job took me there, but I never did go to Boshu.

TI: And what kind of work did your mother's family do?

RM: My mother grew up in a family that, her father, in other words, was a doctor. Her mother, she didn't mention too much except that, what she did say was that she was a, not very well. Back in those days it was probably tuberculosis. And she always remembered as being a person that was off in a side room and people had to take care of her. By the time she was, I think, thirteen years old she was an orphan. Her father died. And so her family, typical of Japanese, the way socially the families are set up, they wanted her to marry a doctor, and so they, at the age of thirteen they, they engaged her to a fifty, at the time, fifty-some odd year man. And she was the kind of person that said, "No. If you want a doctor that badly in the family I will become a doctor." So she was born before her time. She did grow up a little more and then proceeded on to Tokyo's women's college and did become a doctor. Of course, by the time she graduated there wasn't any place she could work. Nobody in Japan wanted a woman doctor, especially a man, and so the only two places where she could get a job was, I think, China, I think -- China was occupied at the time by Japanese -- and Hawaii. And so she chose Hawaii, and that's how she came, came to Hawaii.

TI: So she sounds like a very strong, independent woman.

RM: For me, that was the biggest difficulty I had with her, yes. Very headstrong.

TI: And so when she got to Hawaii where did she work?

RM: Kuakini Hospital. It was called the Japanese Hospital at the time, and specifically, so that was the area where she could easily find a job at, 'cause my father and my grandfather had pretty much been the primary doctors there for many years. And I think she, she told me at one point that, well, she was working where she, working at Kuakini, she realized that about one-third of the patients were Mori patients. So that, that was quite an impact on her, I think. But the meeting, of course, must've been electric for my father because he had been widowed, became a widower some, some years before, two or three years before, and all of a sudden there was this vision of a, you know, perfect Japanese woman. So he -- this is my mother's story, not my story -- but he would bring his Packard Roadster down, with his Roadster cap and riding breeches and everything, and with my oldest brother, Arthur, in the rumble seat as chaperone, and then he'd put her in the front seat with him and then they'd roar off to Pearl Harbor where Igamori had a sanitarium, and I think, from what my mother was telling me, I think her point was that she was thereupon seduced at the Pearl City Sanitarium, but I guess I can't go beyond that, as far as stories go. She never told me more, but I had my own suspicions and my own conclusion.

TI: So your father really courted her heavily during this, this time period?

RM: He must've really put the show on, yeah. I think he, to get my brother involved and everything else, but I, it was an anecdote that I never forgot after she told me. It always sat there in my mind.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Let's talk about your father and your father's family. Let's start with your grandfather. Tell me a little bit about him.

RM: My grandfather was a real rascal. He was, he's a navy doctor is about the only way I can label it. He went to the, the military academies in Japan and finally ended up at the, I can't remember the name of the college, but it was a military based medical college, and he went to school there and then after the school, of course, he went to England. It was a custom in Japanese medical, medical practice, not the custom, but the, what is it, the philosophy that the Japanese really liked as far as medical things go was the German system, I think it was. My grandfather was a little different. He went off to England and studied at London and got to learn a lot of the cultural things. In fact, if you recall a picture that I showed you guys, he's got an English suit on, obviously. Nobody else buys suits like that. And when he came back from England, why, he'd eat, he'd eat rice with raisins in it and milk and everybody in the family went crazy because Japanese don't eat rice that way.

TI: And how good was his English?

RM: His English was excellent. A little formal, but of course at home all we ever spoke was Japanese. And so if asked to and, if I get in a Japanese sort of situation my Japanese does come out, but I don't know where it goes in between because it, there's no, no academics involved at all, unfortunately. I don't read and I do speak it. That's all. I'm illiterate otherwise. [Laughs]

TI: So you mentioned earlier your grandfather was a rascal. I mean, he's a very learned man, I mean, a surgeon, studied in London, why would you call him a rascal?

RM: Well, I think during his younger days he went down to Nagasaki and met my grandmother. Of course, we weren't, we didn't know about all this stuff as I was growing up. Nobody said anything about it. Course he never talks about it. But in Nagasaki he met this young girl and, of course, before he knew it they had a baby, and being a navy man I would expect that kind of, you know, that's why I call him a rascal, I guess. And this is before he became a Mori, and that's another part of the family history which is interesting. There was an older couple named Mori, which is a very aristocratic family, Mori Motonai family, and this family had no, no heirs and so they looked, at the time my grandfather's family name was Oguri and he was the second male child. Igajiro is what his name was. That was the name he was given. In order to become the first born he managed to get himself adopted by the Moris, and that's how we became Mori, or we carry the name. Although there's nothing wrong with the Oguri name, but, but that's part of the history.

TI: But then by doing so he became the heir to the Mori family or the Mori estate.

RM: Yes. And the other thing, of course, is that his stepmother was not so much officious, but very proper and very logical, and so she happened to hear about this young girl in Nagasaki that had a, Igamori's child and insisted that he bring this child and the woman into the family, and so Yae Nagaka, her last name was, became part of the Mori family.

TI: Oh, so that's how, essentially, they got married. I mean, it was...

RM: Yes. Now, when my, when my sister-in-law, Sachi, who is married to my brother Arthur, my oldest brother, began to check family records, that would be things like the koseki, she discovered that, well she had a, she had a problem with the records and it said, listed my father as being a illegitimate child, and she couldn't quite figure that out. [Laughs] And when everybody put things together that's the story they came up with.

TI: Good.

RM: So I'd say he's definitely a rascal. There were, I think, were other incidents. The area around River Street and the old Dillham railroad terminal used to be the red light district around Honolulu. And I remember an elderly man that used to drive or chauffer the limousine for the Packard, old Packard limousine for my grandfather, and when the war started he came around to help the family because they knew that both parents were off in the, in camp, and while he was doing dishes or something like that, cleaning up here and there, he kind of chuckled to himself and go, "Heh heh heh," and my mother would go and question him when she had a, when she had a chance. This is after the war, I guess. And then he'd tell stories about my grandfather wandering into this house of ill repute. He'd look so fine and elegant and when he came out, straightening his tie out, and she thought it was very funny and she'd repeat these things to me, so I got the definite impression that he was, he was naughty in areas like that. Not completely proper.

TI: So your father was born in Japan and he was, you mentioned originally was illegitimate, so he was the, I guess the love child, the first one.

RM: That would be a better name for that, yes. Thank you.

TI: And, and tell me about your father. What, what happened to him?

RM: Very straightforward. [Laughs] See, he was brought up by the elder Mrs. Mori in Japan, so I think he was pretty, very proper. And, and of course his mother, and of course they both came from Japan eventually and settled here in Hawaii. It must've been very difficult for them because I think they were very, very secure in where they came from and all of a sudden they were in the wilderness of kind of the agricultural frontier in Hawaii. And I think the name that everybody used to use for native people was doujin, and I don't really know all the, I just know the word because I've heard it phonetically, but it means, I think like a, like a native. Native, uncultured, uneducated.

KN: People of the land.

RM: People of the land?

KN: Yeah.

RM: Oh, that's good. That's good. I'll remember that. Doujin. The jin is "people," yeah?

TI: And so why did your father and grandmother choose to come to Hawaii? Was there, did you --

RM: Well essentially, I think they were called to, to come home to Hawaii because now, by then Motokazu was already a doctor and things were stable. I don't think my grandfather ever got under control, but... [laughs].

TI: He does sound... growing up as, as a child, do you remember your grandfather and his personality and he, what was he like?

RM: By the time I started growin' up my grandfather was already, when the war started he was already in his seventies. 1941, he was already in his seventies, so by the time the war was over, which is, you know, the period of time that I really woke up and began growing up was after the war started and after, after 1941, in other words, and by 1945 I was definitely an all-American juvenile delinquent.

TI: And so he was just so old by then, he was, like, probably eighty.

RM: Yeah, I remember him walkin' around the yard -- actually in his underwear, Japanese style underwear, kind of, pretty long, long and with a top and with a button down, button down back end so you can go to the bathroom, that kind of stuff -- and he'd walk around and be going, pickin' up leaves and stuff like that. I think he had, what is that when you have, your lungs are bad. He's a smoker. And that's how I remember him, and that's how my neighbors probably remember him, too. [Laughs]

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So going back to your mother and father, when they first met, they were married, I think, in April 1930 and your, your sister Pearl was born November 1930.

RM: Yeah.

TI: So that, by doing the arithmetic, she was pregnant with Pearl when they got married.

RM: I'm sure she was. [Laughs] I think we figured that out eventually. And it must've been Grandpa's Pearl Harbor Sanitarium that was doing it because they'd go down and mess around. She talked about reading poetry and all this kind of stuff, but it was probably a little more basic than that, yeah. I think they, as, in fact, I think as, as he got sicker, after the war, and then she had to take care of him, I think, that, that tenderness and the reality of being married, I think, came out a lot more. Up to that point there was, like I say, my, my mother was quite willing to stand up to arguments and anything else that came along, so, so...

TI: What a fascinating story. It's almost like a movie when you're telling these stories. I can just see this.

RM: Probably some of the, lot better than some of the ones I've seen on TV. [Laughs]

TI: So let's talk about your, your siblings. You mentioned, we mentioned Pearl, we mentioned Arthur, but why don't we just go down and talk about all your brothers and sisters?

RM: Okay, well then below Arthur is Victor, who is currently about eighty-six and lives up at Arcadia. And I asked Brian, "How come, have you asked Victor, because he would've been a very good subject for you to interview?" and he, and Brian told me that he refused. Instead he said he would, he didn't want to have his physical self being seen or heard and that what he'd do is send him a little book that he wrote about the family, he and the family and his experiences during the war.

TI: So, I'm curious, so Victor is eighty-six, you're seventy-eight, so about eight years' difference.

RM: Yes.

TI: How do you think his story would differ from yours? Those eight years, you're looking at --

RM: Well I tell you, he was responsible. He was the responsible one. 'Course he was old enough to take care of the family and of course there were people like Dr. Golds that I mentioned earlier who had gotten him deferred. "This child," I think the words, specific words were, "This child should not be drafted because the government has sent his parents to camp."

TI: And so they, the family needed him to help out and do the, and do this during the war?

RM: Definitely, yeah.

TI: So let's go back to siblings, then we'll go back to that story. So Arthur was the oldest and --

RM: Yes. He was in, Arthur was in New Haven, Connecticut, at the time.

TI: Okay, so when the war broke out he was about nineteen?

RM: Yeah.

TI: And then Victor was the second one. He was about seventeen when the war broke out?

RM: Yes.

TI: And then after Victor, who came next?

RM: That would be Margaret.

TI: Okay, Margaret was about fifteen when the war broke out.

RM: Yes.

TI: And so the first three were from your father's previous marriage.

RM: First marriage, right.

TI: Okay. And then after --

RM: Then there's my sister Pearl and I from the second marriage.

TI: And Pearl was about eleven when the war broke out in 1941?

RM: That sounds right.

TI: I have about three years and then you came in 1933, so you're about --

RM: '33.

TI: -- eight. Okay.

RM: Legitimately, I might add.

TI: [Laughs] Okay. In terms of how the first three were raised compared to you and Pearl, were there differences? Because there's an age difference, but not that big.

RM: Yeah, I have, I have to guess on that, but they used to live in this very ancient home on Wilder Street, when I saw pictures of it, photographs, it absolutely looked gothic, you know, dark, dingy, little staircases that went up to nowhere. [Laughs] And there used to be pigeons up on the top, up in the rafters, and they used to coo, and my mother would say things like when she first went to the house she'd see these three snot nosed kids that weren't having any, getting any care at all and they'd hear 'em talking amongst themselves, they'd hear the, the, not the doves, but the pigeons cooing up above in the rafters and they'd talk about a child that had died, died earlier, Saburo. "Saburo ga naiteru, Saburo ga naiteru," and they'd keep repeating that when they'd hear the cooing of the pigeons up there. And she made it sound almost horrific, like, the situation there, but she had gotten herself involved, so she tells me that she worked very hard to make it much more normal for the surviving kids from the first marriage, and I won't say that the, my three elder siblings got along that well with my mother, because, again, she was very strong-willed and did whatever she wanted to and my father let her be that way, but then they, they all grew up and they went off to school, went and got married, and we didn't see that much of 'em, anyway.

TI: And yet it might, it must've been disruptive, because earlier you mentioned how every other year she had to go back to Japan, and so here was this strong mother figure for the, the older three and then you, Pearl, and your mother would then disappear. Did they ever talk about what it was like when she was gone?

RM: I've never heard them talk about it, but they made, I think all three made it clear that they didn't always approve of my mother. It didn't have anything to do with me and they never blamed me for it, but, except for maybe my delinquency, when I got delinquent, they probably said it was my mother's fault kind of thing, but -- perhaps it was, perhaps not -- but then everybody could blame the war for that kind of thing.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Now, so before the war you spent quite a bit of time in Japan. Do you, do you have very many memories of Japan?

RM: Yes.

TI: So tell me some.

RM: Some interesting ones, like, 'course, Hawaii's always been warm and, and in a Japanese school there's a period for exercise and I'm trying to remember the term for that. [Laughs] It doesn't come to mind, unfortunately. You know, undou, but it wasn't that. It was, they had a more formal term for that, but every morning you had to get out in the, in the open areas and exercise. And I'd be shakin' because, I mean, jeez, that was like forty degrees weather, fifty maybe, but nothin' much better than that. If we're lucky it might go up to seventy, but here it's eighty degrees all the time, so I was shaking. And the instructor, very rigid, almost military for training, would say, "Mori no konnyaku." [Laughs] All the other kids would laugh. They thought it was funny, but, but that's very heavy in my mind. Never went away. [Laughs] If I think of any other thing I will try to remember that, but I did learn, by the time I got home to Hawaii, way ahead on math, that kind of thing. And again, the exposure to language was probably very strong, yeah, because we didn't, we hadn't been learning kanji at that time, but hiragana, katakana we were already practicing. Although you can't, I can't write anything now, but...

TI: Well, but how about your English abilities? When you came back to Hawaii how good was your English?

RM: When I got back to Hawaii on the last, before the war, in other words, about like 1939-ish, I would say -- in fact, 1940 is when we came back -- the last time we came back I, the only English words I could remember were "yes" and "no," and the rest was all Japanese, but I got along on just "yes" and "no." This wasn't Punahou, It was a preschool, I think. And of course my sister, I never talked to my sister about it either, because she was running into the same problem, and of course I never realized that she was having problems 'cause at that age you only think about me, you know, what's happening to me. [Laughs] Yup.

TI: When you got back to Hawaii in 1940 or so, who were some of your friends that you would hang out with?

RM: I really didn't have any local friends at that particular time. The first friend that I remember was a Hawaiian, little Hawaiian kid named Percy, and Percy Torres and I were best of friends. That's the name that comes up. Then after that it's, course, it's all school friends that I remember.

TI: Now, in your neighborhood, Wilder Street, where there very many other Japanese in that neighborhood?

RM: There was one real bad kid... now, he chased, he'd come down the street and he'd yell at me, goin', "Nya nya nya, your father's one spy," so I'd have to chase him back up, and I wasn't a big kid. It's kind of amazing if you look at me now because I'm pretty tall now, but at the time, up 'til sixth grade, at Punahou, just an example, I was the shortest in class and by tenth grade I was second to the tallest. I sprouted in between. But you're talkin' about those days when I was still the shortest one in class, and I could, I could pick up and run after this big Portuguese kid and chase him down, put him arm locks like Tarzan used to do, because we used to use, we used to read Tarzan books all the time. That was how we kept ourselves entertained, playing Tarzan up in the woods.

TI: And this was because people teased you. This was after the war had started and they're teasing you about what happened to your father or your, your parents.

RM: Yes. There's a lot of speculation about that. In fact, it's written up in some of the, some of the cheap narratives of Pearl Harbor, but --

TI: Before you go there, let's, I want to do some more prewar stuff, and then we'll kind of segue into that.

RM: Okay. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Earlier you mentioned the house, and I find your house interesting. You mentioned it's kind of gothic. Can you describe, 'cause I think there were five kids, your parents, and your grandparents, I mean, how you all lived in the house?

RM: No, that's not the right picture. That's the right picture for the three older kids, from the first marriage. After about 1936, I think, mid, mid '30s, I think my father must've been reading about Frank Lloyd Wright and all that kind of stuff because he built a beautiful home after that, very modern with, with a big, big glassed in area for, that was the main dining room, and that had a library on the other end of the main, the main floor, and that's with nice furniture so you could sit down and read. And hundreds of books in there, which, unfortunately, as the house, they used, the architect used a lot of, a lot of plywood, which was very new at the time, and of course, they never treated the wood in those days. It was just plain Pacific, you know, Pacific Northwest fir, and the termites loved it. They went through the house. Even the books, they went right through the books. And you'd find leather bound volumes with a small hole in one side, small hole out the other side when you'd open it up. The termites had eaten the inside of the book. I had, part of my job was, because I was the only child at home by the time the war ended, I'm the one that had to do all throwin' away, so that was, I wouldn't say nightmarish, but one of the less enjoyable things I've done, because there was, like, a connection to everything you touch. Everything you cleaned up, you threw away whether it was, if you found a hair or anything personal, something that somebody'd used and it was worn to some degree, a pencil or something like that, had teeth marks on it or something, you'd know who it came from. And each child had an area that they, they lived in.

TI: So it's just so many memories for every object that you --

RM: Every object, it came along with a memory, too. So throwin' 'em away, it becomes very difficult.

TI: But going back to the house, so were there actually two houses, then?

RM: Yes.

TI: You had the old house and the new house and they're right next to each other?

RM: Well, they're both new houses, actually, as, when he started the project in the '60s, I mean in the '30s, mid '30s, they built the small house in which the family could live in and that was a regular, regular two bedroom house with a huge Japanese room for my grandfather. And that was, that was a very formal Japanese room that Japanese carpenters had actually been imported in to work on. This is for another, another big haole family that they were doing it for, but they came to the Mori residence to get some rice and Japanese cooking and they did a little extra work for building this room. It was a, it was really a gorgeous room, tatami and, and engawa around the outside and tokonoma, you know where you could hang these valuable things. That's the first place I learned about a wood called shitan, and according to my mother it's a red, what they call red cedar, I believe, and according to my mother the logs would be, would be cut down on the imperial grounds and then taken to the imperial moats and dumped in there. The wood was so hard that it would sink down to the bottom, and then of course, they'd leave it down there for about ninety years or a hundred years and then bring it up and form it into tables and furniture. And it's, it's gorgeous stuff. I still got one table left.

TI: It must be really hard and preserved.

RM: Very. You can't just use a normal saw, but these guys that came from Japan knew how to work with it and the tokonoma was made from that, the base of the tokonoma. And I had a piece around that I carried around for a long time because I was really amazed with that. I didn't even know what I was gonna do with it, but I was just gonna keep that piece. But I still do have that table that my, actually my mother ran off with a lot of that and kept to herself. Of course, she had a right to it. And of course, when she died, of course, I ended up with a lot of that material. My brother's didn't. [Laughs]

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Anything else before the war? Any other stories or anything you want to talk about before we go to December 7th? I'm trying to think.

RM: I can't remember anything outstanding other than what I've told you so far as far as the family.

TI: How about things like church or language school?

RM: Well, language school was something that my two brothers and my sister Margaret went to. They went to Japanese school after Punahou, and of course they both learned how, all three of 'em learned how to read and write, and of course I never had to go. [Laughs]

KN: Why did your parents send you and your siblings to Punahou, which at that time was for predominantly white children, missionary...

RM: Yeah, but of course, there was no question that Punahou had a huge amount of, what is it, class, social class, and of course excellence. The best school in the state. In fact, best school west of the Mississippi. [Laughs] I remember that. That was drummed into us for a while. But in fact, I think it really is. And so it was a must, must go to school, so all five of us went to Punahou.

TI: Well, and your oldest brother, Arthur, so he was, when the war broke out he was back East at Yale. Is that right?

RM: Yes.

TI: So was that common for Punahou grads back then to go to Ivy League schools?

RM: It has always been so, yes. We were always made to understand. I didn't, I won't say "say" because that's, there's no, they didn't propagandize it, but it was obvious that the smartest ones went to Punahou and the ones that were best, you know, people that could afford to go went. And it was a, it was a school that, I think, socially everybody wanted to go to but couldn't, and especially if you were Oriental, it was only ten percent that they took, so only the best could go.

TI: So within the Japanese community, your family, I mean, the kids were quite privileged in many ways. I mean, the best school...

RM: Definitely. Definitely. As I said, like my mother, my mother pointed out when she first came, one-third of the patients at Kuakini Hospital were Mori patients.

TI: Now, did that prominence put any pressure on you? Did you sense that as an eight-year-old, that you were perhaps different, because --

RM: Well, we have to get into the wartime period there because when everybody starts sayin', "Your father's one spy and your mother's one spy and you get spy radio in your house," and this kind of thing, any such, any such feeling of pride in being that, in that social class disappeared immediately. There were, of course, some friends that were not permitted to play with me anymore, once the war started.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Ramsay, I'm gonna now take you to December 7, 1941, that Sunday. Can you describe what your day was like on that, on that Sunday?

RM: Yes. It's, it was very distinct, and I remember it specifically because it was a day that I didn't get hassled to go to church, get dressed, that kind of thing. I put on whatever I wanted and I went out on my bike because my parents were both involved in very deep conversations, which they should've been, 'cause I think there were a number of reasons why they were aware of what was going on and one reason, one reason why they had a warning of something occurring was that the, my mother at the time, I got a, I should explain that, was a Yomiuri Shimbun correspondent, and it had to do with the fact that, it enabled her to stay in Honolulu, the job itself, and so she talked the people at Yomiuri into hiring her as a correspondent, social correspondent. But she received a call like three or four days before the attack and a political correspondent -- no, it may've been two days before the attack -- the political correspondent, which I can't recall the name of, started asking her about troop concentrations, how many airplanes, how many ships in the, in Pearl Harbor, that kind of thing. And of course she wasn't that technical about military activity and so she decided she'd hand the correspondent over to my father, who was much more technically oriented and would be able to answer. Now, my, on the other hand, my father was one of these very methodical kind of people and so he started figuring out, okay, here's a society correspondent calling from Japan and they want to know what it's like in Hawaii, so he decided, okay, it's midwinter in Japan, "I think it would be kind of fun to talk about all the flowering trees in the yard," and so he started talking about all the -- this is on radio phone, not the kind of phones, telephone we got nowadays. It was, anybody could listen to it that had a shortwave radio, and when he started talkin' about the trees with red blossoms on there and little further on another flowering tree that had been in the yard and kept going around that way, and of course the Military Intelligence people were glued to that damn conversation, without my parents ever knowing, and they had taken everything down. And of course, colors of flowers in certain kinds of trees became battleships and cruisers and number of people, that kind of thing, and they made sense out of whatever the conversation was about.

TI: So the Intelligence people were somehow interpreting the, the talk about the garden into the ships.

RM: Yes. There's a, there's a man named, a historian named Slackman that worked with historical documents in Pearl, at Pearl Harbor, the intelligence stuff, and he wrote a book, or he, he published a book that was called, let me see...

KN: The Orange, or The Orange Race.

RM: Oh yeah, the, the...

KN: He didn't call it the "yellow race," he called it, like, the "Orange Threat" or "Orange Race."

RM: This had to do with, had to do with Patton. He's about a colonel at the time. Still playin' polo in Hawaii, but it had something to do with the disposition of the "orange race," and I have it at home, so I should've taken a look at it before I came down, but...

TI: So he was the one who tried to, to say that, making that linkage between the...

RM: Well they, they, in the book there is a page with a list of people that should be, should be dealt with in the event that Intelligence needed to something about, and of course the war was every reason to collect these people and, of course, my grandfather's name and the telephone number, I even remember to this day, was 69512, was the old telephone number, and that is clearly shown in that book. Patton and the Orange Race, that's it. And it was a plan that Patton had, had devised to collect the critical people for intelligence reasons, and my grandpa was on there and my father, I think, as well as the Sogas, other people that we knew pretty well. And I never realized that, but it definitely sent some pretty big shivers up and down my spine when I saw that.

TI: And these were essentially, we talked about earlier in terms of almost class, in terms of community, your family was very prominent.

RM: These, this is, these are, were set up by Patton because of their importance and having some influence in the, over the population at the time, I think.

TI: So the real community leaders, in essence.

RM: I think that would be the best label for that, yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: And so, going back to, you were talking about your, your parents deep in conversation on December 7th, so what...

RM: Okay, move back to that point in time and, of course, nobody said, "We're gonna go to church today." They were just talkin' to each other." So I just hopped on my bike and took off. And of course that's what I remember. I remember riding up the hill. This is Alewa Heights and --

KN: Did you see anything, because you are in Alewa Heights overlooking Pearl Harbor?

RM: I think the things that were most obvious -- it was an ordinary Sunday morning, is what it was, quiet, still. I couldn't, I mean, it wasn't like, there weren't airplanes flying overhead. I mean, there were one or two that eventually came over the valley and there was actually an anti-aircraft shell that exploded up on the mountain later on in the day, but that wasn't all happening at that particular point. So I rode up to a point right above St. Francis Hospital and I could see over Punchbowl, over the hospital, over Punchbowl, and I could see from Diamond Head all the way across to Pearl Harbor there, and there were black puffs of clouds, hundreds of black puffs of clouds all over the sky, actually. And that was ominous because the target practice that they used to do, the anti-aircraft guns were always white, so these puffs of clouds were always white. And of course the armed rounds that went out on December 7th were all black, and so it was a very dramatic difference and that's the kind of stuff that, as a kid, you remember. And of course pretty soon another kid came up that I knew, so we were roamin' around up to where -- Tootie McAnlis, I don't know if you remember that name, but lived, he's a big football star and all that stuff, lived up on the corner, but he was bigger and stronger and someone you looked up to. [Laughs] And up to his house, turned the corner down there and went up to another lookout down there where you could see everything, all the smoke at Pearl Harbor. Of course, you couldn't define anything clearly because it's too far away, like it's, what, seven or eight miles away from there, but lots of smoke.

TI: And so what were you thinking? So black puffs, it's different than just practice, what were you --

RM: Well, we knew it wasn't practice. That, that's the immediate awareness that we had. And of course, pretty soon a cop came around and said, "This is," you know, "This is..." and you could hear radio calls saying this is the real McCoy, it's war. And the cop came around and said, "You people go home. Stay home," and chased us all away from that area. But that was very evident. And of course, what followed after that, of course, was, was also very significant.

TI: But at this point, did you know it was Japanese planes that were...

RM: We had no idea what a war was. [Laughs] Let alone, let alone the black clouds up in the sky. We knew it was something real whereas the white clouds were all practice, and these were real, but we had no idea that there was shrapnel flying around up in the air trying to get the airplanes. And of course, like you say, I, we weren't tuned into the fact that it was a war, but like I mentioned, an aircraft round came down, and of course we were tuned into bombs [laughs]. We knew what that was, 'cause, I guess because everybody shoots firecrackers off around, in Hawaii, but we knew what that was, so we, all the kids in the area rushed up to the mountain and were climbin' around Alewa Heights. It's a fairly brushy area, lots of what they call haolekoa and cactus, and we're up there on the trail lookin' for the bomb because we knew it fell down there somewhere. And of course, my parents were busy. In fact, at that particular point is, is the point at which they were picked up. It was still morning.

TI: So this is still morning December 7th.

RM: Yes.

TI: So even while the bombing or the fighting's going they're picking up, or is this right after?

RM: Well, my brother, my brother recalls my father being called away on an emergency, that a, the bomb had fallen in the middle of, where, around, close to the cannery, I think it was, and somebody had got his arm knocked off, so he had, or injured to the point where he had to amputate it, so he was called down to the hospital in the morning. So we knew it was not a normal morning.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: And so, but the FBI came that, later on in the morning to pick up your father and grandfather?

RM: Yes. I think the FBI man's name is Shivers, and he's the guy, of course, that had, had Patton's list with my grandfather's name on it. And when they came they took my grandfather and my father.

TI: Now, were you home when that happened?

RM: I was there for the evening, evening pickup. I don't that clearly remember, the first pickup was my father and my grandfather, but there were army jeeps, military and police. I think two gentlemen in suits were Shivers and then I believe the other man, I'm told, was John Burns, eventually became the governor of Hawaii. That time he was the captain in the police department.

TI: How interesting. You mentioned the second pickup, so describe that.

RM: I think the Military Intelligence people took a look at the morning's take and they found Iga Mori on there, my grandpa, Motokazu Mori, but they actual one that they, they thought was a spy, which was my mother, Ishiko Mori was not there, so in the evening they came back to pick her up. At that time they saw my brother, who was hangin' around, trying to see what the hell was goin' on, and they said, "You, come along with us," and took him along as well.

TI: This is Victor you're talking about?

RM: Yeah, he was like eighteen years old, seventeen or eighteen years old. So he stayed in jail, actually. They threw everybody in jail at first, 'cause the police didn't know what to do with them. Especially with a guy over seventy, what do they, how is he gonna, how is he gonna be fifth, fifth columnist, you know? Blowing up, shootin' soldiers and blowin' up stuff at that age, not a very good choice anyway. So by, as it turned out they let him go on Christmas.

TI: And so they let your grandfather and your brother, they let them go? So Victor and --

RM: Yeah, when they found out, he was a Punahou junior, I think it was, and not only that, a good student --

KN: Yeah.

RM: -- they let him go, but they treated him like a, any common criminal they would've picked up. Hardtack and coffee was all they had for that week, no real food. Course, they were, they were under tremendous stress at the time, too, I'm sure.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So what was it like at the house? So they took your father, your grandfather, your mother, and Victor, leaving you, your grandmother, Pearl, and, I guess, your other sister.

RM: Well, getting back to the fact that the war produced a juvenile delinquent, I think in what I wrote, the story that I wrote, I said, well, I wasn't like, like a swaddling baby, a suckling baby, I think I said, being yanked away from its mother's arms. I was an eight year old. I was free. That was the thing that absolutely delighted me. Nobody around to tell me what to do. It was great, wonderful. For a juvenile delinquent it couldn't have been better.

TI: So all the authority figures, or a lot of them, were just taken away.

RM: Gone.

TI: Gone. And you were on your own. Well, there's, but still you had your older, you had Margaret and then later on Victor. Did they try to keep you in line?

RM: My sister Margaret would write charts out and stuff, typical of a teenager. She'd get very detailed in this, saying Ramsay is gonna do this and my sister Pearl is gonna do this and whatnot, and me, probably, she had a line for, but of course she couldn't make anybody do it. So we didn't. I think my sister Pearl was always a good player. She always played by the rules and she was always very nice, and she probably played along, but not me. I was just doing what I wanted to do.

TI: How about your grandparents? Did they ever come and try to get you to do things?

RM: Not really. Knowing how my grandfather was to start with, I mean, he was almost a juvenile delinquent himself, as far as, I mean, a navy man off the ship, and he acted accordingly, I think. So I think he understood that part.

KN: Did your grandparents clean house after they returned, or your grandfather returned?

RM: Everybody had to try doing things for themselves, but there was usually a staff of one live-in maid, one come every day kind, a day maid.

KN: Did they feel that had to, though, clean the house of Japanese items and anything that they had which might be suspicious?

RM: My grandfather had swords and, and anything that looked like a weapon was confiscated immediately. And I did get it back. In fact, I still have it. I probably got to take it to Brian 'cause he could use it over there at the Cultural Center. But my son and, my son in particular really enjoyed that thing. He'd take it out for all his friends to see and it's, it was a ceremonial sword. It has, when you take the hilt off, there was no signature on there for the person that made it, so I think it was appraised at one point, and there's something written in Japanese about the quality of the piece, and I think the quality is excellent except that, of course, at this point it's, carbon steel rusts, so the blade's, the blade's rusty. And it hasn't been cared for.

TI: But how about things like papers, letters? Were any things like, anything like that destroyed during this time?

RM: Coming from a literate family, everybody wrote stuff down. Let me put it that way. I don't, I don't consider myself literate in terms of the rest of the people in my family. I'm surprised I got published at this particular point, but that's the kind of family I came from and there's nothing but paper around that house. A nightmarish amount of stuff that I actually had to physically look through. Enough to make you gag. And of course, like I said, each piece had somebody's personal mark and, and that's kind of scary when you think about it. You're sitting there all by yourself looking through people's writing, especially like my sister. My sister wrote a lot and, my sister Pearl, that is, and I think she did want to become a novelist at one time or another. And I would say the least literate person is the one that's doing the writing at the moment. You never know.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Yeah, that's... so let's go back to, to Victor. You said he was picked up, held for about ten days.

RM: Yeah, twelve days, I think it was.

TI: Twelve days, and so they released him, did, what was he like when he came back? What, any, was he changed in any way?

RM: He describes the feelings in a little booklet that he wrote, and now I can't remember. I can't, I know he, he's got heavy beard. I remember his beard was all grown after two weeks with no shaving, and of course, he was amazed that they just simply checked the record, found that he was seventeen years old and a high school, high school junior and from a prominent family, and they let him loose. They didn't even give him money for carfare, but I think he had some to get on the bus and get home. And he was amazed because all the stores that used to be open and people walkin' around the streets were gone. Stores were all taped up so the glass, glass wouldn't break, that kind of stuff. And he came home on the bus with no problem. Nobody hassled him.

TI: Do you recall him saying anything to you, after he got back?

RM: No. No. I was a little too young. Nobody confided in me. And then, especially with my behavior going in the direction it was going in, nobody's gonna confide anything in me and trust me. [Laughs] No.

KN: Do you think that was common among the internee families, that the children who were left behind, they kind of scattered to all different directions?

RM: No.

KN: So you were kind of the exception?

RM: I think that, for most people, they got, they got very normally scared. For me it was a huge adventure. I tell you, like, as an example, during this wartime period, you're talkin' about four years, so there was a battery up on the mountain and they had to be fed, and there was a big empty lot right across from our, our house, and so they made a kitchen encampment right across the street. These are just ordinary GIs, cooks, people that do the dishes and all that stuff, and they were across the street cookin' for the guys up on the hill that were watchin' at the gun emplacements and stuff like that, watching, what do you call that, watching the ocean and stuff like that. And so I went over there to see what the hell's going on and they had a big, like a two and a half ton truck and they're running over a coconut, so I watched 'em for a while and kept runnin' over the coconut, and of course nothing happened to it. I mean, the truck would bump up on the coconut and bump down. And so I think they finally gave up is what happened, and so I went up and I -- they had beaten on a coconut with a hammer or something like that anyway, because it had marks on it -- and I walked over there and I picked up the coconut, went back to the curb where, where there's a cement edge and I started bashing the coconut on, on the curbing. And all of a sudden I hear somebody going, "Hey Joe, look, look at this kid. He's gonna open that coconut." By then I'd had, had the stem part soft already, so I could start peeling off pieces, so they watched it, all came out and watched me open up, this little kid. And like I said, until I got to ninth grade I was still the smallest kid in class, but opened up this coconut. "Joe, this kid, the kid opened up the coconut." So I became a big sensation there. They gave me cookies, they gave me candy, everything out of their c-rations. They had chocolates in there. They gave me all that stuff, and of course they, being the mess tent, they had more than the usual rations, so I had all kinds of stuff I'd bring home. And like I say, it's always a great adventure and these guys were really very nice to me, whether I was an "enemy alien" or not. They didn't know that one of the big spies of the whole, whole December 7th situation had just been living in that house a day earlier. They weren't at that level of information. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So what are some other adventures that you had during this four year period during the war?

RM: Most of my adventures during that period -- well, of course, we were going to school in these private houses.

TI: Oh yeah, tell me about that. So what happened to, yeah, why these houses and not school?

RM: Yeah, well, Punahou is, was a very impressive facility even back then, and so the military engineers decided they needed it and so they moved immediately into the school and the school had to move out. And so we went to private homes along, in a bunch of areas. I think there were some in Kaimuki, I think maybe a new one. I think there were at least two houses, depending on the grade you were in, and we went to one. And we could walk there, which made it very easy. And of course kids always get in trouble going to school and coming home in particular, but if your parents weren't there or somethin' and you didn't have to be home at an exact time you'd get in all kinds of trouble, go down to the river, catch fish. There's all kinds of things to do, especially in Punahou. So I did it. I got in trouble.

TI: Because your parents were taken, did your classmates treat you any differently? Was there, you mentioned earlier some --

RM: That's an interesting, that's an interesting question, especially because it had to do with Punahou kids, and I'll say with a certain amount of pride that, that the Punahou kids were wonderful. They never mentioned anything about my father being suspected of being a spy or my mother and the fact that they were in camp. Almost everybody knew that. I'd tell 'em anyway, if they asked. There was one individual that was prevented -- one, just one individual that was prevented from playing with me, and I think he felt real bad about it, although we never talked about it. And --

KN: What was his ethnicity? Was he Japanese, or was he --

RM: Haole. Yeah, haole. Before the war his mother used to drive him down to our house to play with, but once it started, never saw him. After the war we did on very isolated instances see each other. In fact, even the mother talked to me. Nobody ever said anything. And of course it wasn't anything that I could, I needed to make an issue of, 'cause it... but we weren't real good friends after that anyway. [Laughs] The other thing that was striking was I had some friends that would invite me over, like two right off hand, right off hand, the guy that, Dougie Ackerman, that, did I mentioned built my house. We remained friends, great friends. And the other was Albert Limus, who lives on the mainland now, but he's a swimmer and a surfer and from that we had a lot of things in common, but, and a great athlete. But those two guys, we'll always be friends, and it doesn't matter whether we haven't seen each other for twenty years, we see each other, "Hey," just like the day before we'd seen each other. But they taught me a lot of lessons about people in general, and I think maybe because of that, of course, it was my job as being a flight attendant, where you're dealing with people all the time, I think that's probably the reason why I survived that job. It's very difficult. I'm trying to think of the president's name and my memory's failing me. [Laughs] But I had... I can see his face. He's short, stocky...

TI: The president of what?

RM: Punahou School.

TI: Oh, Punahou School.

RM: Met him on a flight one day and he says, "You know, I've been, I've been looking for years for some Punahou person to be workin' on an airplane. There you are." It wasn't a big deal. I mean, like most people were presidents of corporations or something like that, but not me, I'm a flight attendant. [Laughs] And I kind of dropped the ball there, but it was still a great job. It was good fun. And this guy used to go skiing every, every winter in Colorado, and so when I saw him I purposely went up to talk to him and he wanted to know how a Punahou graduate survived in this kind of environment, in particular the fact that I had started out at the hanger at United Airlines and, of course, at the hanger there were all these Farrington boys. "Hey Mori, I hear you went Punahou?" [Laughs] "Yeah, yeah." And of course, within a certain period of time, over the years, these guys would come back to me and say, you know, they'd want somebody to be the vice president of the union or something like that and they'd say, "One thing about you, Mori, you know how for talk." And that's the way I'd always come out of it. I'd come out a hero. [Laughs] So this president just looked at his, the guy that was with him, the aide, and he'd say, "Take that down, George. Take that down." [Laughs] It was very funny, but he really, really was impressed seeing me and talking to me.

TI: That's good.

RM: And I think that's part of the reason why I can just mouth off, I guess. I've had lots of practice.

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So I want to go back, you talked about, during this time of war, that you had some true friends or really good friends who, who hung out with you. I want to ask about the Japanese community. What was the reaction of the Japanese community, community to you and your family during this time period?

RM: You know, I never had very many Japanese friends. Probably because we weren't doing the same things. There were, of course, many, many, many family friends that I got to know along the way, some even going to Punahou, but I never really got along with 'em. Instead, like I showed you the picture of my friends, underneath the tree, there's Portuguese, there's one Japanese. One Japanese, Harry Takahashi is in that picture. Everybody else is part Hawaiian, or one Portuguese, Mike McCormick's in there. He's not a Punahou name. But Harry's the only one. He's country boy. He's from Wahiawa, drive in to, drive in all the way from Wahiawa every day. And of course Harry, of course, was a good baseball player, good athlete, and I was always down Palm Drive smoking cigarettes.

KN: So you were hanging out primarily in Manoa, at Punahou, and at Alewa Heights, which, at that time, what kind of community was that? 'Cause Manoa was more of a white community, even back then.

RM: Manoa was, Manoa was, other than the farm area in Manoa, where they're growing the lettuce and there's housing back there. You know that?

KN: Yeah.

RM: There's a big housing back there and there were a lot of juvenile delinquents there, too. [Laughs] So I got to know some of those guys. But damnit, I forget what that housing was called. Back, back during the war everybody knew the housing. And a lot of our group, bad guys were there. Wilder Street area was very lower middle class. I think there was a house where there was a Mrs. Judd, close to ours, down Wilder Street a little bit, maybe about a block down, but other than that I think it used to be a very prominent area, prominent residential area, but, especially along Nuuanu Drive, but where we were, close to the side of the mountain, there weren't that many big houses. McIntyre's, I think I remember a bunch of Punahou people. We're not crowded with 'em like Diamond Head Circle or something like that.

TI: I was wondering, during this time, because your father wasn't there, in terms of just money and things might've been more difficult, did people come and help out the family, like bring food over or anything like that?

RM: Absolutely. Being a doctor, I was always used to people coming over early in the morning and leaving three chickens in a gunny bag, that kind of stuff. 'Course we had people around that would slaughter them and clean them for us so we could, the maids could fix dinner, that kind of stuff. Sometimes there were a hundred pound bags of rice that would show up. Sometimes we never knew who brought 'em. But of course, we were a big family; we ate 'em. But that's before the war, after the war, and during the war, through that whole period, so although the doctors were all gone, in camp, people still brought stuff.

KN: Do you know who tended to the Japanese community when prominent individuals like your grandfather and your father and mother were taken away, who were the medical backbone of who most Japanese went to?

RM: They were the medical backbone of the Japanese community at that particular time, yeah, prior to the war. After that, of course, they, he lost his prominence. Number one, because he converted the hospital from Japanese to Kuakini, regular hospital. It's part of the regular hospital system in Hawaii, but up to that point it was a private hospital.

TI: And was that because the Japanese doctors were, were gone, so they had to --

RM: Military, actually, needed the hospital, so they claimed it during the war. That was my understanding. I'm not completely certain of that, but I think that's, that's the reason why it stopped being a private hospital.

TI: But the Japanese community, who did they go to for doctors when your father and mother were gone?

RM: Let me see, my father, my grandpa, my father's patients, I think, were farmed out to a number of doctors in Honolulu. I think all Japanese, though. They didn't assign their patients to, to the haole doctors. But what's of interest, Dr. Bowles, there is a doctor, I'm talkin' about Gilbert Bowles, who was not a doctor, he was a missionary, but his son was a doctor and John Bowles, the guy that organized this book, his father was a gynecologist. Now, there were lots of Japanese women that went to Dr. Bowles because he spoke impeccable Japanese, but that's the kind of community we live in. You never know. [Laughs] Can't tell by the looks.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about your parents now. So, so they're taken away on December 7th, both your father and mother, where did they go? Where were they taken?

RM: They were, one of the interesting parts of their trip to Crystal City, Texas, was the boat trip. They were placed on an ordinary, an ordinary freighter, nondescript, and they traveled, just one ship, across the Pacific. Back in those days, during the war, everybody traveled in a convoy. The first ships would start comin' out of Pearl Harbor and they were naval ships, armed, and then from there on the merchant ships would start going into the middle of the convoy where they would be surrounded by military ships, and there might be as many as, like -- do you happen, I better not give you any numbers because I'm not sure. I can't, I'm not sure about, it seems to me there were like thirty, forty, sixty ships in a convoy. And then, of course, the destroyers would slice around and through to make sure that no enemy submarines or anything like that would come between, and it was a very impressive movement. And you could get, get to Diamond Head and watch these things take about hours getting through from out of the harbors in Pearl Harbor and then go off to the mainland. And that's the way they used to travel, but the ship that, that my parents were sent out on was just a single freighter, and in the middle of the night they were so afraid of being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine that they would wake everybody up and line them up around the railing of the ship. And of course they're, anywhere, even in the Pacific, in the middle of the night it's cold out there, and all these old women, elder, older men were lined up along the railing of the ship and then they'd put these floodlights on 'em so that if there were any submarines around they would not torpedo their own people.

KN: That was the thinking of the crew?

RM: Pardon me?

KN: Thee crew thought of this?

RM: Yes. And they did get across the ocean safely. There's no tellin' if there were any Japanese submarines out there ready to torpedo 'em, but they got there safely.

TI: But before they went on this, this freighter ride, where in Hawaii were they held?

RM: Sand Island.

TI: Did you or any of the other family members visit?

RM: Yes. We were permitted to go once a week, and of course that was another huge adventure for me. I loved it. You'd see these navy guys on a little gig come in and pick you up and I could watch them steering the boat, and it was just fascinating, going over to Sand Island. They had a, they've all, the Coast Guard station's always been there, so the navy probably had taken that area over and then from the ships, they were driven to the camp.

TI: Now, were you able to bring anything for your parents, like food or anything like that?

RM: If they asked for things specifically we would take 'em things, yeah. But I just held my mother's hands and, well, a little old for that already, but... like I say, it was a great adventure.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So can you describe when, in terms of how you were able to meet with them, was it like an area, special area that you would meet them, or what was that like?

RM: Yeah, I think it was a, I don't remember too many details, but I think there was a area where you could meet. Wasn't anywhere near where, where they were kept, because I think they were kept separately, male and female and that kind of thing.

TI: Do you recall any conversations with your father or mother during this time?

RM: I, seems like the only thing I got was "are you being a good boy?" kind of thing, but nothin' spectacular. There were no secrets. They were just there. Some of the interesting things they did to pass the time was... you know, Sand Island is an island that was reinforced, built up by the dredging of Honolulu Harbor and the airport and this kind of area, so there were a lot of shells, in particular cowries, tritons, those are the ones that whirl, and what these guys would do because they had nothing to do is they'd find a piece of concrete and they'd take that shell and rub it against the shell, I mean rub it, rub it against the concrete until they wore it, wore both sides of the shell down until you'd have a perfect cross section of the shell and the growth inside. It was fascinating. And these guys had the patience to do that for a while. I don't know if I've got any of those around anymore, but those were great, great souvenirs.

TI: Oh, so they would do that and then when you came it was like a little gift that they would give you?

RM: Yes.

TI: I see.

RM: Those were beautiful. I think they do things like that commercially now, but back in those days these guys were in camp, didn't have anything to do, so they made those.

TI: Yeah, if you find one of those I think Brian would like one of those, too, if you ever found that. That would be, that would be pretty amazing.

RM: I'll look around.

TI: Yeah, no, that'd be pretty, pretty cool.

KN: Do you remember about your parents' appearance at the camps? They were allowed --

RM: Yeah, my mother, my mother told me at first that, when they first got to camp these GIs would come out with fixed bayonets and they would march these old ladies to wherever they were going, to the, to the latrine or, or to the dining rooms, you know? And of course, even if they were Japanese, they were, a lot of these people were very well connected, like I say, they could send their kids to Punahou, right? And so like there was, Mrs. Freer was very active in making sure that the ladies were treated like ladies, according to their proper status, social status, and they complained to the commanding general about things like that, like what is this? You take these sixty, seventy year old ladies and marching 'em out at the point of a bayonet? That's crazy.

KN: These are white women outside of the camp, outside of the camps? In the communities?

RM: Mrs. Freer was, yeah.

KN: Advocating on behalf of these...

RM: Right.

KN: Oh, I never heard that. That's interesting.

RM: And those things were fixed pretty rapidly, I believe. And of course, with the men as well, they had different means, I'm sure. I mean, what do you do while you, are you gonna let razor blades into the, into the camps so these guys can shave or what? But they got these things fixed up. And again, Gilbert Bowles again comes up. The name keeps coming up during the war. Did a lot to humanize the situation.

KN: How so? How so, in what ways?

RM: Well, to make it livable. He'd go in and talk to the internees and ask 'em what they wanted, that kind of thing. The GIs weren't gonna do it. They're eighteen years old, didn't have any sense anyway. They knew how to fix bayonets. [Laughs]

TI: So it sounds like some of the, the prominent white people in the community would visit and advocate for some of the people at Sand Island?

RM: I cannot pull any names, pull any names out of the hat, but you're absolutely right. There were a lot of people of conscience, really, religious people primarily, that came forward and checked on these, demanded to, to make sure that it was being humane.

TI: And Gilbert Bowles, was it more of a religious or was there like a personal friendship with some of the people there?

RM: Quaker. Quaker.

TI: How about your --

RM: I, yeah, I had personal friendship with the grandchildren, but that didn't make any difference. They took people into their homes that were in need, they fed people. They were truly, truly missionary. Truly Christian.

TI: Now, were you aware of any family connections? Your grandfather and your parents knew people in the community who were prominent. Did, did any of those people come and help or advocate for your parents or family?

RM: I am sure, particularly in my grandfather's case, that people, other than those that were obvious, must've spoken for him because they knew his age. They knew he wasn't an enemy, and I'm sure they had a great deal of influence. They probably made the military look like, look like crap, puttin' an old man like that, old women into a jail type of confinement.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So Ramsay, we had just talked about your parents, first at Sand Island and then they took the trip over on that freighter, so where do they go next after that?

RM: Let me think, Angel Island in San Francisco. And that was almost, from what I hear, it was almost like Sand Island, had barracks kind of buildings and all that kind of stuff. But I suspect... no, it was an island, must've had to use ships to get in and out, off and off. But from there by rail, I'm, I think, I remember her talkin' about Sharp Park, the horse racetrack down, goin' down the peninsula from San Francisco, and I think there is a plaque there commemorating the fact that internees have gone through there. [Laughs] I don't know who puts up all that stuff and I don't know who told me that, but I remember my mother talkin' about Sharp Park. And then from there into Texas, I think. No, wait, wait, the relocation center was Arizona, wasn't it? I'm not sure now.

TI: Well there's, I have in my notes Santa Fe? Did they stop at Santa Fe, New Mexico?

RM: New Mexico, okay. That was it. And then from there to Crystal City.

TI: And so tell me what you know about Crystal City. You were telling me earlier some stories --

RM: What my mother was tellin' me, when they first got there there was nothin' but barbed wire and tents and watchtowers at the corners. And it, sleepin' in tents and hearing the coyotes wail at night, she said made her, made her just indescribably lonely. I mean, she's talkin' like she was an orphan from Japan, but, but that's, that was her description. And I think she'd talk about starry nights and being cold, and then it was kind of eerie with her talkin' about the coyotes wailing. And of course by the end of the period, I guess you're talkin' about four years, I think, they had built a complete village in that enclosure with, with almost like a city hall kind of thing, central administration building, and they had a hospital that my father was the chief surgeon of, and they had a swimming pool dug out by hand. The first time I saw it, on that film I mentioned earlier, Justice Department film, and it appears from what I saw that it wasn't all that bad. They'd done an excellent job. My understanding is, was that within that Japanese group there were master carpenters and builders and they could just about do anything they wanted. The Justice Department kept bringing 'em, bringing 'em materials and they did that. But the other thing I learned about Crystal City was that it's completely different than the military run camps that everybody else was in, that I read about concentration camps and stuff, the ones in Idaho and California were quite different. And my understanding is that Crystal City was an area that, they called it a family camp, but on the other hand, I believe that they, they, or I got the impression, rather, that they had organized it so it would be available for prisoner exchanges. And I think because of that there were more prominent, socially prominent people in that camp than in many others. Among the Italian people that were there, I think, was a guy named... whoa, that old memory. [Laughs] Can't pull these names out.

TI: That's okay, but do you recall any stories that your mother and father talked about in terms of Italians or Germans or the, like Japanese Peruvians or anything like that in terms of different groups?

RM: Mother talked, talked about it all the time. She would attempt making potato pancakes German style and she'd call it, it was Japanese-fied and it would come out as "karutoferu puferin," that's with a Japanese accent. [Laughs]

TI: Say it one more time.

RM: Potato pancakes. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

RM: But if you ask a German to pronounce it they wouldn't pronounce it that way, but that's the way my mother used to pronounce it.

TI: And so she learned from a German family how to make those?

RM: Yes. Yes, I forget what lady it was, but she, again, she was a very prominent German name, here, locally. One of the ones I remember was a classmate of mine named Bobby Shane, used to be [inaudible]?

KN: Yeah.

RM: Okay. And his parents were in the camp.

KN: So Germans from Hawaii were sent up?

RM: No, I think just at Sand Island. I don't think he got, I don't think he got sent out any further than that. But Italians in particular -- Joe Pacific is who I was thinkin' about. He used to be the big shoe man in town, and my father knew him. Get any shoe fixed, after the war, of course. [Laughs]

KN: So Joe Pacific was there?

RM: In Sand Island.

KN: Really? Well that's interesting.

RM: Once he found out that my parents were in camp, well, he took good care of 'em the whole time.

TI: So this is after the war, just that shared experience, he always took care of your...

RM: Yep, right. I mean, it wasn't exactly a brotherhood, but when you have common experiences like that there's a tendency to identify, yeah. I think that's, that's cool. I think that's cool. It's a nice thing about people.

KN: Were you in communication with your parents while they were in the camps? Whether it be you or your brothers or sisters or your grandparents...

RM: I still, I think my wife may have tucked away a letter or two that had censored marks on the, things that were cut out, you know. You'd have a letter and all of a sudden there's a hole in it, an indication that it had been censored and stamped.

TI: And who were these letters to? Were these to you or other people in the family?

RM: Some were, I think, I think I might've gotten one or two letters that were specifically for me, but mostly they'd be sent to Margaret, somebody like that, my older sister, or Victor, and then they were handed down to me. I think most of the time they didn't know where I was and they were workin'. 'Cause Victor and, Victor and Margaret were still going to Punahou School at the time, so they'd go to school and then they'd go to work after that, at the cannery and stuff like that. Eventually my brother ended up driving the big transport trucks, the eighteen wheelers, you know? They take all the field pineapples and bring 'em into the cannery. And that's a, by then that's a highly skilled job, but by then he had been driving the buses for HRT and a bunch of other things like that, but whole different world we're goin' through. But he did, he was actually, even at, even during the war, doing part time work at the cannery, he was quite successful.

KN: Was it to get pocket money or to help support the family?

RM: Support the family.

KN: Support the family.

RM: Paid a mortgage.

KN: Really? So your brother and sister were responsible for --

RM: Actually, let's see, who was it I met at, I should remember it because these obligations are important, but president of Bishop Trust, I guess, now, these people agreed to, for us to hold off payments on the mortgage and just pay the interest. Yeah. And even when we couldn't do that they would make allowances for it.

KN: So they understood your circumstances, that your parents weren't at home.

RM: Yep, they knew who we were and they knew our parents and they helped as much as they could.

KN: But your brother and sister felt that they had to go to school and work, to support the family?

RM: Yeah.

KN: And you recognized this even as a young...

RM: My brother Victor, worse than that, he went to school for another twelve years to become a surgeon, so got to give him credit. I can't, I don't have any such honors to put next to my name. [Laughs]

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So Victor and Margaret were working, what about Pearl? What, what was she doing during this time, during the war?

RM: She was always a good girl, always did what she was told to do, never fought back, which is diametrically opposed to direction I was traveling. I was about as bad as I could possibly be, and she was as lily white as she could be, but yet she's the one that probably suffered most, of anybody in the family. She's the one that committed suicide. And she did it a number of ways. I mean, even committing suicide is not, not easy, and especially during the war when you, you just don't have things to, to die with, whether it be pills or medications or guns or whatever.

TI: But during this period, when she was trying to commit suicide, this period, was this, this was after the war or did it start during the war?

RM: This is, of course, after the war.

TI: Okay, so after the war. But during the war, did you notice anything? You said that she would always kind of do what she was told. I mean, was this a hard time during the war also for her?

RM: She, before she died, I guess she was preparing for it so that she, I came home late at night one night and she was burning all her papers, personal papers. She wanted to become a novelist. She thought about, with a name like Pearl, she, she thought about, shucks, now I can't remember the name of it, that lady that wrote novels about China...

TI: Pearl Buck? Pearl Buck?

RM: Pearl Buck, yeah. And of course that was how she grew up, reading this kind of stuff, and so that's how she wanted to be. And of course Pearl Buck's novels are all social conditions and I think she probably wanted to do that kind of thing, too, so I think she was, probably felt very deeply about things, especially feelings, and then liked to put it down on paper. Unfortunately, when she decided to die she decided to destroy all the things that would be evidence of what her personality was like. Her Oahu is an example; her picture's cut out of it.

KN: Oh, she did that?

RM: Yeah. And then everything that she had written, which had been a lot, all hand, handwritten, she tried to burn. She failed at that the first time around because she didn't realize paper's that hard to burn. And so I had to, late at night, I'm probably drunk, comin' home and I had to show her that you got to put kindling in between the wood, between the paper or otherwise it won't burn. Otherwise you're gonna find complete sheets of paper there later, a manuscript. I did take everything over to Brian Niiya, left it at the Cultural Center. Actually, my brother took all that stuff over there. I added to it because I had all the stuff that my mother kept for herself, like the photograph albums, that kind of stuff. The last year was a period of time in which Karen, my niece, my brother Victor's daughter, put it all together and then she made discs for us, DVDs, and so we've got all, instead of the albums we just have to keep the DVD now and we've got all the pictures on there. So that was great. She did a great job.

TI: Going back to when your sister is burning her papers, what registered with you when you saw that? You realized that her writings were really important to her and here she was destroying that. Did, what did you think about that?

RM: I wasn't bein' a scholar at that particular point. In fact, I didn't do any work at all, basically, and eventually failed my classes. But it doesn't mean that Punahou didn't leave its mark on me, I think. I think if you read the story that I wrote I think it probably gives some indication that I do have some sense and I do have some conscience. It wasn't all bad. I learned quite a bit, especially about people. I mentioned working on an airplane, you're constantly working with people and that's probably what I learned that has been more valuable to me than anything else was, what people are like and how to treat 'em.

TI: And so, during this time, were there signs that you felt that she was, she was troubled?

RM: 'Course, I was troubled. I was doing everything abnormally and so I imagine that, I couldn't understand why she wasn't revolting from a lot of things and in constant rebellion like I was. She just, just kept it all internal and I think at one point she just could not take it any longer.

KN: It's very interesting that in your family you had two children who are trying to go to work, trying to go to school and work, and they're trying to do this all without parental supervision, and the two younger children are, in their own ways, reflecting or expressing that there's something wrong with this situation.

RM: Well, of course, I don't, I think you're talkin' about conscience at that point, aren't you?

KN: I don't know. I mean, just in that--

RM: What's right, what's wrong kind of thing. I was goin' for everything bad. Everything that I was not permitted to do I was doing. If somebody told me to do something I'd do just the opposite, especially when, later, after the war when my mother came home. It got to the point where it was ultimately intolerable.

TI: So Ramsay, tell me, explain to me, so someone tells you to go left then you go right, I mean, what, why'd you do that? What were you thinking? Why would you always want to do the opposite?

RM: The only thing I can think of is a bad seed, you know? [Laughs] Although I'm being, I'm trying to be funny there, but, but I really suspect that I may have had an affinity toward the negative side.

TI: But I mean -- and I do mean this to be fair to you -- you've just, you're going through a very difficult time. I mean, your parents have been taken away...

RM: It should've been very difficult.

TI: Well I think it was difficult and, and what your reaction was --

RM: Not to me. I was doing all things that I would've been told not to do and enjoying every bit of it, yes.

TI: So you were enjoying it? This was, it was, like, pure enjoyment or was it rebellion? Was it like --

RM: It was total rebellion and I think that I, in many respects, got a lot of satisfaction from it, yes. I mean, I could've been mad at the US of A, I could've been mad at Uncle Sam, I could've been mad at Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but no, it wasn't personalized in any particular way. I was just being bad.

TI: It's like a rebellion against all authority almost.

RM: A very good friend of mine is Masaji -- you know who Masaji Marumoto is?

TI: I don't.

KN: The lawyer.

RM: He, locally, he was the first Japanese Supreme Court justice, and of course he was very close to the Japanese community from the very beginning. They were raised, I think, I think Marumotos came from Kona. I knew his son, Wendell. Last time I saw him, saw him at Long's Drug Store and about half hour later I came out of Long's Drug Store and Wendell was out in the parking lot lookin' for his car, so -- he's had some problems himself and I am not sure whether he's going to get a book done, but if he, he used to be a Phi Beta Kappa kind of guy and if anybody got an A in class or A-plus in class Wendell was the one. He's little bitty guy --

KN: So you went to school with him?

RM: Yeah, little bitty guy with big huge glasses, at the books all the time. [Laughs] And at this point, of course, he's tryin' to put a very hefty volume together, I think, particularly about the politics and things in, here in Honolulu, and I hope he gets it done because it'll be a very, very interesting book and he'll be quoting all these politicians that we grew up with.

KN: So you went to school with this gentleman, you went to school with him at Punahou, and then --

RM: He's a '52er.

KN: But you said you were '53. What happened? Some time --

RM: This is, they moved on and left me because I didn't, hadn't finished, hadn't finished all my work in '52 and that's the reason why I went back in '53, because I just could not tolerate making up the work. In fact, I went to Roosevelt. I forget what the lady's name, she's kind of famous as a, the advisor, class advisor kind of thing, and she told me, "Ramsay, you're gonna have to get that work caught up or Roosevelt School is not gonna take you." [Laughs] So at that point I really gave up, decided I'd come back in '53, and that's the reason why I'm '53.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: I want to now kind of just back up just a little bit, to the time when your mother and father returned to Hawaii. Can you talk about the, what that was like when your parents came back? And, 'cause at this point, this is four years later, so you're about, what, twelve years old at this point? So what was that like for you with your mom and dad coming back?

RM: Stifling. I was suddenly put under the thumb again, so to speak. [Laughs] I was suddenly under authority again, so it was difficult. I know that they bickered constantly about why my behavior was thus and so and my mother trying to explain things, and of course my mother had, had elicited a promise from my father at the time she agreed to marry him that I would be her child, the first male would be hers, to take back to Japan is what she had in mind. Of course, they didn't consider what I had in mind and I absolutely refused that, but that would've been, my mother's dream is to produce a doctor out of me and take me back to Japan.

TI: Now, when did you first know about this? Was this when you were really young, did she tell you that that was part of the plan?

RM: I don't think she ever stopped telling me that, but I probably got to the point where I refused to listen to it after a while. But when I got into my teenage years and I was driving and taking apart engines and soupin' 'em up and stuff like that, like we'd work, we'd work for, like, a whole week tryin' to get the engines back into the car again and then go off to race on Saturday or something like that, we'd been up for forty-eight hours without any sleep. [Laughs] So she thought we were crazy. She thought we were all crazy. But she'd come outside, see me with my hands all dirty and stuff and she'd say, "You know, those hands could be performing remarkable surgery," and this kind of stuff, and it just totally blew me away every time she did that.

KN: Did your parents, especially your mother, hope to return to Japan or just leave you...

RM: That would've been, that would've been her dream, yeah.

KN: To return to Japan.

RM: Okay, let me explain it this way, that when, at thirteen years old when they tried to make, arrange a marriage between my mother and a fifty-three year old Japanese doctor and she suddenly decided that she was going to become a doctor, and she did that. She did fulfill that. But it wasn't directly to her family because she went and got married to somebody else, and she owed it to her family, really, to maintain a doctor in the family and at this particular point the only way she's gonna be able to do it is to make a doctor out of me and take me back. [Laughs]

TI: So it was a sense of obligation, almost, that it was like --

RM: Well, I didn't have any of that obligation.

TI: But your mother did. Your mother, because she didn't return as a doctor she needed to find somebody else.

RM: After, after all, they permitted her to get away from that fifty-three year old man in order to become a doctor. She had fulfilled that part of it.

TI: So during the war you change a lot. You went from eight to twelve, so you grew up and went through this, what you call this juvenile delinquency phase. How about your mother and father? Did they change? When, when they came back after the war did you notice any changes in them?

RM: I think that by the time they got back from the war, my father started getting sick. He eventually ended up with stomach cancer, I think, but, and it took, I think, a long period of time, but before that period, even after he came back from, from camp, he'd still walk from the Wilder Street residence down to his office, just for exercise, and on occasion, I was old enough, I'd tag along and walk with him. So we're, I guess, a pretty good walking family. In fact, the big Packard, it was being driven, driven, chauffeur, with a chauffeur, would get me to Punahou School, and then of course my mother with a driver would come pick me up and the way home, but one day I decided I was gonna walk home from Punahou School. That meant walking along that road that comes by Roosevelt and then down to Papale and over the hill. And my mother walked with me and the limousine came along behind us. That's, was my character, too. I insisted on doing these things and my mother would humor me sometimes, maybe too much, so, and so she walked me all the way and we got to a place called Halinuuanu, which was the ice cream parlor, big huge ice cream parlor the Derryman's had on Nuuanu. We got as far as Nuuanu and I agreed to have an ice cream soda there, and so they bought me an ice cream soda and then after that I guess I decided I was, already gotten enough walking, so I agreed to get in the limousine and we drove off on the limousine after that and went home. But that's the kind of kid I was and that's kind of way that my mother was raising me, so what can I say? I was still in character.

TI: So you were a very strong and independent spirit also. I mean, we talked about, earlier, your mother --

RM: Just like my mother, yeah.

TI: Strong, independent, yeah.

RM: Everybody shook their head, but -- oh, I was telling you about Wendell Marumoto and recently, because of the story that I wrote, Wendell and I started talkin' to each other again, but he said, almost in an apologetic kind of way, he said, "You know, I never associated with you because when my father and I," Masaji and he, talked about me, "we decided that you were crazy." I said, "I can understand that." [Laughs] "It's okay, Wendell." And then once I wrote something, why, of course, he thought he had a better hold on me, I guess, but now I'm talkin' about him wanderin' around looking his, for his car in the parking lot, so I don't know. Maybe I didn't deserve that. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So going back to your life after your mother and father, you felt stifled, you felt like all of a sudden you had all these authority that you had to deal with.

RM: Yes.

TI: How about your, going back to your sister, 'cause I want to complete that story, did she feel the same way? Did you ever talk to her --

RM: Absolutely not. I'm sure she didn't. When I got into my little difficulties with my parents, or with my brother Victor, even, I think most of the time she probably just laughed. I think she had a good sense of humor. And if she thought that what I was doing, my behavior was, was from a personal point of view justified, well, she probably laughed about it. I've got a, I've got a picture of her that other ones may not have.

TI: The two of you were pretty close then, that she understood you, in other words?

RM: Of course, by blood we were probably the closest of any of the siblings, but she never confided in me. I never confided in her either, and we were both pretty independent.

TI: But it sounds like she understood you, though, when, you mentioned that when she was, would watch your antics she wouldn't get worried. She would just sort of laugh.

RM: I would think so, yeah. I don't think she was worried about me, no. I think she probably sympathized with me. In fact, at the point where she finally did, you know, die, I think I, my eventual feeling was that I sympathized with her, and if anything I probably would've blamed my mother if anybody had pointed it out to me, but, and the war, of course.

TI: So, so tell me what happened to your sister. We talked a little bit and we, we know she committed suicide. How did she commit suicide?

RM: You mean the actual physical manner that she did it? She tried a number of times, and I, again, I explained that. One night I came home and I smelled gas and I went into the kitchen and I realized that all the windows were closed and the door, and the gas was on. I can hold my breath 'cause I'd always been in the water and stuff like that, been reasonably healthy, except I drank and smoked and everything else, but I got into the room and I turned all the gas off and I started opening up the windows so the gas would flow out. And I could see her in the maid's room -- that was the live in maid, maid's room -- and I kind of shook my head, thinkin', God, she's gone crazy. Only crazy people do that. And after I got upstairs and we'd opened up anything, made sure everything was gonna clear out, the gas was gonna clear out, I thought, hell, she could have blown us up, you know? That's a dumb thing to do. And I went to bed and heard her come up maybe forty-five minutes later and go in her room.

And that was the first time I realized it, but then it began dawning on me that, it wasn't just me, that she was going through as much difficulty as I was. It's just that she, she didn't display it in the same manner that I was displaying it, in outright rebellion. It was very internal. I think as far as her social life, it must've been very full because she had boyfriends. One guy was name Mohammed and I think he was, if I remember, his last name was Saddiq, I think it was, S-A-D-D... you know. And Mohammed would always call her Burlanti, which I think is, again, in Arabic, Pearl, and he'd use that that Arabic term to address her. He probably cried more than anybody else at the funeral, so they must've had a very, very sincere, very deep relationship. There was also, also one of the Punui Park heroes who knew about hotrods and stuff and who might've got me started on that stuff, guy named Callahan, good Irish name, but Hawaiian in face. I think he was, mother was Chinese-Hawaiian. And I know she was, he was kind of a mysterious guy because he'd go and caddy up at the Nuuanu Country Club and he was the guy that made the most money there because he'd gamble with the guys after they made all their tips stuff from carrying clubs, and he's always the guy that had money, won it all from everybody else. And I though, in a way I guess he was kind of the gang boss up at the park, but she started goin' around with him and I think that was probably her last boyfriend, possibly even the most significant.

TI: So socially she was doing well. I mean, there were lots of people who liked her.

RM: She got along with a lot of people, yeah.

TI: Got along with lots of people.

RM: Even at Punahou School she was very popular with her, her own classmates.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And so when this happened what was your reaction? I mean, was this something that totally surprised you, or what were you feeling about this?

RM: Well, I actually watched her die because, because my mother heard her calling and she, of course, probably realized that she was having problems, and I don't think my mother wanted to be confronted by the actual reality of it, so she called me to go in with her. And like I described her being in bed already and being almost comatose and her eyes turning up in her head so all you could see was the white of her eyes. And then gasp, gasping for air before she finally went completely unconscious. But of course that was the first time I've seen anybody die and it was very dramatic because she was probably the closest person that I've ever known. You don't realize how much you've lost, when somebody dies, until you've actually experienced it. You just never know that. But I have thought about that a lot.

TI: And what do you think you lost when, when Pearl died?

RM: Again?

TI: What did, when you say you don't know what you lost until it happens, what did you lose when Pearl died?

RM: Well, it has to, that summary has to come, from what I've thought about her and what conviction I have about her from the period hence, and I know that, that she had to be a very, very valuable person, in any way. Not just to my mother, but to, to me as well. Up to that point she was my sister; I hated her. Brothers, brothers don't love their sisters, not 'til much later after they've lost 'em.

TI: Now, do you think of this as an, a result of what happened to your family during the war? How would you characterize --

RM: Well, I think the turmoil that drove her to it was basically the same thing that I was goin' through. It was just expressed in a different way. And she, of course, resolved it in a different way as well. I mentioned -- no, I won't do that. I'm not gonna mention it again. I was gonna bring something up, but it, I shouldn't do it, so I won't.

TI: Okay. So after the suicide, you write about people now being worried about you, in terms of a lot of attention spent in terms of, of...

RM: Because of the way that I, my character developed, the direction that I went, I don't think anybody felt sorry for me. I don't think that they felt that I was sensitive enough to deserve it.

TI: Why, say that again. So you...

RM: I mean I was a, I was a total asshole is the only way I can put it. And everybody knew that. So I don't think I got any sympathy out of that. I did, I take that back. There's a guy, a very well known guy named Sparky Matsunaga, who eventually ended up as a senator, and he came up to me personally, of all the people that came to the funeral he's the only person that came up to me personally and said, "Ramsay, if you ever need help, do not hesitate to come to see me." That gave me a very good feeling about Sparky and how he felt about me and the fact that I must have some worth for him to make that opportunity known. I'd forgotten about that, but I'm glad I mentioned it, 'cause I really think of all the people I've met, he's the guy that I admire most, guy that could quote poetry and still work up in Washington.

TI: And how did you know --

RM: I don't think he's a Punahou boy, though. [Laughs]

TI: So how did you know Sparky Matsunaga during this time?

RM: Family friend.

TI: I see. Okay.

RM: A lot of those guys got scholarships to go to school. 'Course, a lot of it was GI Bill, but got scholarships to go to school originally through a Japanese group that my grandfather and my father administered. You know Marumoto?

TI: Good. So let's talk about, so in terms of the family life after, you know, so your sister committed suicide, so how did the family life change after this? Again, you said it was difficult. Things like keeping you in school. I know there's lots of efforts to have you stay at Punahou and rather than just kicking you out because you weren't doing --

RM: 1953, immediately after I was, not immediately, a few weeks before I graduated the army called and drafted me, told me to report to Schofield for military service. And so for the next two years I was very busy, being a GI, yeah.

TI: But they let you graduate first, though, before you...

RM: Yes. Well, my father had to request that they delay it slightly to just let me graduate. They'd already waited a year, as far as they're concerned, but...

TI: Now, during this, this period, again, I read your, your memoirs, and it felt like you didn't really care whether you graduated or not and yet you, you graduated. Thinking back, are you glad that you were able to graduate from Punahou?

RM: I'm very glad that I finished school and I'm very glad that I finished at Punahou. I'm very glad that they, I feel very obligated they, they did permit me to graduate. Not obligated, that's the wrong word.

TI: Appreciative, maybe.

RM: On. On wa nan desu ka.

KN: Obligation?

RM: Huh?

KN: Obligation.

RM: Obligated. Okay.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So tell me the influence of the military. You said after high school you're drafted. Well, first I should, I should point out, at this point you're not a U.S. citizen. You're, you were born in Japan.

RM: Exactly.

TI: And you weren't naturalized.

RM: Exactly.

TI: So how did you feel about that? You, you're not even a U.S. citizen and they're drafting you into the U.S. Army.

RM: I questioned that, and a very intelligent looking sergeant came out of the office and said, "Well, if you don't want to remain in the army then you have to go back to Japan." And of course that, again, is one of these real situations where you have to make a decision, and it became very obvious that I didn't want to go home and be a Japanese, whether I was welcome there or not, I wanted to be an American. And the only way to remain in Hawaii and have some chance at becoming an American was to stay in the military. And of course I was infantry and I figured I could handle that.

TI: What, talk a little bit about the army life, because you said infantry, but in your writings you talk about how you thought of yourself as this juvenile delinquent and not being able to do much, but then in the army you actually saw a different side of yourself.

RM: It's absolute discipline. You have to do everything after you've been told to do it. It's absolutely the opposite from being in a middle class or even upper middle class family going to a private school, exactly the opposite. They tell you to take this shovel which they put in your hand, say "dig a hole," you dig a hole. Then after you dig a hole, even if it starts raining, they say, "Sleep in it tonight," and you sleep in it. And it's like, in Germany it was like forty degrees, so cold that you could see people's breath comin' out of these holes in the side of the mountain. And then they'll tell you to dig a hole and make sure it's deep enough because there's gonna be, they're gonna run a tank over it and they run a bloody tank over you after you finish. [Laughs] I was lucky. I had a, had a bunch of Puerto Rican kids that were in my squad and one of the guys could really dig. I've never seen anybody dig so fast. He helped me dig my hole. He slept in that, the tank went over us and we were okay. [Laughs]

KN: Did you appreciate the discipline of army life?

RM: Now what?

KN: It's so different. Did you appreciate the discipline of army life, 'cause it was so different?

RM: There's no appreciating it because it's shoved down your throat. If you fall asleep in a meeting or something like that, he -- they tell you it's a history course, but I learned all that stuff at Punahou already -- they come out and hammer your, your helmet liner. They give you the inside liner of the helmet that we wear most of the time and we very rarely wear the heavy one because, jeez, it weighs pounds. I mean, it's all steel for, to stop a bullet it's got to be, you learn about the physical facts by wearing this iron pot, and then the rest of the time if you got the iron, iron pot off and you're dozing off somebody, wham, comes and hits you over the top of the head.

TI: But how did the military life change you, though? I mean, by having so much discipline, how did that change you?

RM: I never appreciated 'til I got out, and then I began to realize that, hey, the stuff that we're doing was totally stupid, without any reason at all. The only justification they ever said, they ever talked about was that "the Russians are three and a half minutes over the border by jet airplane. We have to be ready." And you're digging a hole? [Laughs] Doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Nothing in the military ever did. And they'd never be able to convince me that it did make any sense, but I know somebody's got to be the cannon fodder. Talked to a lot of guys that ended up in Korea, the guys that I was drafted with, went to Korea and they were in that Chosin Reservoir retreat when MacArthur had to pull his armies back, and they said Chinese soldiers just keep comin' and comin' and comin'. You could shoot, you'd run out of ammunition. You could throw rocks at 'em and they'd still keep comin'. And there would be, like there's one guy that we ran into that was a, that had a Congressional Medal of Honor, I think, for bravery, and he was one of the cavalry at Schofield, Hawaiian guy, and they said they had counted something like, something like sixty dead Chinese around the gun emplacement that he was defending before he finally got shot and stabbed and they left him for dead. But then recovered, but that's the reason why he's a hero. I mean, number one, the number of people that died just involved in that particular meeting, it's incredible. It's beyond being able to comprehend.

TI: Now, why was it that your friends went to Korea and you went to Germany?

RM: We were, we went to headquarters after I finished basic training, they kept me over for a little extra training. They called it leadership class, I think it was. That's 'cause I'm the biggest one. I'd always be the first one in line. They line you up by height, I'd be the first one up there, so you get the hold of the guide, the guide on, and then when you, when you're running as a platoon or whatever you'd be in the front. And then of course I guess I was right up there where people could watch me, so they decided, okay, go to leadership school. And when I went to leadership school -- we're at the headquarters company -- and there was a old master sergeant there, one of these guys that got more stripes than can hang on his arm already, and he had taught ROTC at Punahou School. I think he remembered my brother. Not me, Victor. Good boy, did what he's told to do. [Laughs] And so he said, "Well, Ramsay, where do you want to go?" I said, "Oh, I don't know. I've never been to Europe." "Let me see what I can do." Next thing I got orders for Germany. I don't know how Punahou weaves itself into my life that many times, but it did. I can't tell you why. I'm glad I didn't go to Farrington. I shouldn't say that, but I did.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Okay, so after the military, what happened next? Where did you, what did you do?

RM: I started working for, I went to school first. GI Bill, a hundred and twelve bucks a month we got for that. I earned it. First thing I ever earned, first thing I ever did that left me some residual value. And then, of course, I had the educational allowance and that's where I was pickin' up, but of course it wasn't a whole lot of money, even back in those days. And I was drivin' by that time, you got to buy gas, make sure you, you and your friends got beer and all that stuff, so hundred twenty bucks goes very rapidly. And of course there was nobody around to organize what I was doing, so by the end of the month I'd be broke again, waitin' for that damn hundred and twelve bucks. Learned how to drink. Course, I knew how to drink from before then, but even more at UH. And we drank this wine that was called Vino da Tavola, good Italian wine, table wine. And you'd sling that gallon jug over your shoulder and, and you have the cork open, right, you could drink it like that. [Laughs] Wasn't a, wasn't a wonderful life, but we were havin' a good time. And we, we thought we were learnin' stuff, but by the end of two years I realized I hadn't learned anything at all, so we had a good time. [Laughs] I went for, went to look for work and, of course, the first place I went was Hawaiian Airlines, and I'd have to get there early in the morning, like three-thirty or something like that, then the newspaper trucks would come in and they'd leave flats. Flats are stacks of newspapers that have straps. Might be like forty pounds each, maybe, and then you start loading hundreds of these things up on what they call a Hovair, it's a belt, belt that you put stuff on and it rolls up to the top where there's another guy, another guy like you that doesn't have enough education to get a better job that's stacking it in the airplane. [Laughs] So just hundreds of hundreds of pounds of newspaper flats we'd stack every morning. By seven o'clock we were wiped out, and we'd done our exercise for the day. Then we'd load bags on regular airplanes after that. But those newspaper flats were just murder.

TI: And then eventually you got to United. I think you went from Hawaiian to...

RM: Yes. Japan Airlines.

TI: Japan Airlines, and then to United?

RM: And then to United.

TI: And then you, again, worked kind of --

RM: But of course, I was, I didn't have to do any muscle work at United. I was a clerk. And that's when I ran into Farrington guys that I, that I described to you.

TI: Right. And then you became a flight attendant after that?

RM: I became a passenger agent and then a flight attendant, when the job opened up. And at first I knew my mother wouldn't like it. It was servile. We were not something that somebody who went to Punahou and came from a family like ours would be doing. You're serving people, so she really didn't like that. But it was definitely the best job I've ever had in my life. Every week was an adventure, and I'd fly, usually with the seniority we had, that is, the length of service that you have within a certain group, and we were at the, pretty much the top of it because of the growth in the airlines. When I went in they hired only, I think, about four or five of us, and during the next summer they started hiring, like, classes of twenty and thirty, forty even, I think, and this group that numbered eight people when it started became two hundred, two hundred local guys. Think only had one haole in that group, Wade Quinn. [Laughs]

TI: And so you had a lot of seniority, so you got to really choose the routes that you would fly?

RM: We not only got the choice of routes to fly, but we also got the choice of whether we wanted to work on the front of the airplane in first class or the back in the coach. And we also got, of course, the option of bidding for the direction you were going. Eventually it ended up being Japan and, and Bangkok and even Australia and New Zealand we went to, and of course it went, going East, of course they started going into all the old Pan Am routes, to Paris and London and Frankfurt. And all of a sudden we had the whole, whole world in front of us, just based on seniority.

TI: And that was back when jet travel was a really exciting business?

RM: I became a flight attendant just at that point when 747s came in. 'Course, United didn't buy 747s; it bought DC-8s, so we were workin' DC-8s. And I would do some interesting flights, like I would fly a trip from here to New York, JFK, and then Hong Kong from there.

TI: Over, over the Pole, or how would you go from Hong...

RM: Oh yeah, got to go over, a polar route because, Great Circle is what it is, the shortest distance is the Great Circle. And it would take, like, to Hong Kong from JFK was often over eleven hours and we'd do it in a Pan Am, what they call a SP, special performance, 747.

TI: Wow.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So the, I want to now bring you back to Hawaii, and to talk a little bit about the, you talked about how your father, after the war, wasn't really healthy, that healthy.

RM: No.

TI: And eventually died. Can you talk about that in terms of the death of your father and then handling his estate?

RM: I was already workin' for United Airlines by then and I was working swing shift, so he was home. My mother was working at the camp site, oddly enough, I mean ironically, and doing statistical data on the diets of immigrant families, especially Japanese, and especially after they came to Hawaii and whether, they were trying to determine whether that had anything to do with the prevalence of, say, stomach cancer or that kind of thing, use of tobacco, that type of thing, and so she was quite busy and she was gone most of the day. And when I left for work, which usually started at about, like three o'clock in the afternoon, swing shift, my father was sitting on his bed and I could hear him saying, "Iya da, iya da." And that sticks in my mind. It really, really imprinted in my mind. And when I stopped by his room to say I was going he pretended like nothing was wrong, that everything was okay, and he said goodbye to me, nothing special. And I went to work. And by the time I got home from work my mother was there to greet me and she said that he had passed on, and so being a doctor, I think he knew symptomatically what was happening to him and that's the reason why he was saying, "Iya da." And again, "I don't want to," as best as I can translate it. "I don't want to." That was my last memory. And that was another funeral there. Every Japanese family that we knew in, in Honolulu was there.

TI: And when you say that, how large would that funeral be, the service? How many people would be there?

RM: Oh, I'd say about, about four or five hundred people.

TI: Now, this was during a time when your brothers were not in Honolulu, so they asked you --

RM: Yeah. My brother Victor was in school, and my sister Margaret was raising a family from, in Minnesota. And of course my sister died.

TI: And Arthur was in Japan, I think?

RM: Arthur was, had a thriving practice in Japan, yeah.

TI: So that left pretty much you to handle the estate. Is that...

RM: I was the administrator.

TI: Administrator. Or executor, or administrator?

RM: Administrator.

TI: Okay.

RM: That means that my father had no will. He had not written a will. Intestate, I think they call it.

TI: And so what's the role of the administrator? What, what are your functions?

RM: The same as, as the, as the, what was it?

TI: Executor?

RM: Executor, yeah. It's the same thing. You're working under the court's direction and, and the lawyer involved was a guy named Ted Tsukiyama who is very prominent amongst, and very vocal about... you know?

TI: I think we all know Ted. [Laughs]

KN: We all know Ted.

RM: Yeah, I mean, he stays pretty quiet and all of a sudden he'll jump up and say something nasty. So like in terms of the story I wrote, he said, "Tell them they need to know." [Laughs] I put that in there, as a matter of fact.

TI: I saw that.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So Ted really encouraged you to write your story?

RM: Yeah.

TI: And prior to that, how many people knew about your story?

RM: Well, John Bowles. And I had a friend named... terrible short term memory. Norman Godbowl. Let's see, after school he went to Columbia University, I believe, became a journalist, worked as an advertiser here, locally, for a number of years, dated some, some of the loveliest girls in Honolulu before AP hired him, and then he went to Australia. And from Australia he was sent to Vietnam, to the Southeast Asia, I mean, a real shooting war, and so he, he saw all that and he went back to Australia and he, he stayed there. Meantime, he had developed a film studio and made quite a bit of money and married another woman and lost a fortune, I think. And he's another drinking buddy of mine, so every once in a while he'd show up in Honolulu. And he's a writer, so I told him how John Bowles is after me, wants me to -- "Yeah, why don't you do that?" Said, "You should do that." And he lectured me and he said, "You know, writing is a discipline. We have to get up whether you want to or not, early in the morning when it's quiet and nobody's gonna bother you, and sit down in front of that computer and whether you write anything or nothing or if you write pages you stay there. Every day, do that early in the morning when nobody's up." I did that.

TI: And how long did you write?

RM: Six months. Just to write that, twenty-eight pages, took me six months.

TI: And when you were done, what did that feel like?

RM: It drained me quite a bit. Emotionally it drained me quite a bit. It, I was bringing up, writing about all the highlights in my life, not necessarily good, the good and the bad. I dragged out all these skeletons from the closet, and I was really, really afraid of letting it all loose, like all the demons were out of the closet and in the story and I really was afraid to show it to anybody. But then when people read it they, they gave me some very, very encouraging reactions.

TI: And did that surprise you?

RM: Including you.

TI: [Laughs] Did that surprise you, the reactions of people?

RM: Yeah.

TI: How so? Why, why did it surprise you? It is a --

RM: Because I had no idea that it would have that kind of impact. No way of knowing. I thought, hell, all that junk in the closet that I dragged out, people are reading it and they're taking an interest in it, and people are, in particular, responding to it. I'm getting an emotional response out of it. And of course that is absolutely a thrill to anybody that writes anything, yeah, is to have people respond like that.

TI: And how has this changed you? When you see the reaction, you go through the process, you write it, you get the reactions?

RM: Norman came up within a few months. I mailed it to him and I said, "Norman, I've done this thing, I've done this thing." I sent to him and I didn't get much of a response from him, email like, and then he showed up one day and he said, "You know, I really like what you wrote and we'll use this as a outline and I want you to write me six hundred pages and I will find a publisher for you." And I think that reaction floored me even more, because he thought it was really a great story that needed to be told. And so that made me feel very good.

TI: And are you doing that? Are you, are you writing?

RM: [Laughs] I'll tell you, when I was, during the six months that I was writing it, I'd get up early in the morning and I'd sit there whether I wrote one page or twenty, and about seven o'clock, seven-thirty, my wife would come up, turn the damn TV on and I'd go, I'd scream at her. I thought I was gonna have to divorce her to finish this damn story. [Laughs] But I think eventually she understood how to survive, which was to not turn the TV on or bother me during that period of time, and she learned how to leave me alone, although she didn't like it. And I could hear the TV going downstairs, so I think she was okay, but she survived it.

TI: And so does that mean you're still writing or still will write?

RM: No. I've never been an ambitious person. I've done a lot of things I've been successful at, like roaring down a, down a street in a souped up old jalopy, that kind of stuff, did very well. [Laughs] Very well-known for that.

TI: Well, I'll encourage you also because I did read it, I've heard your story, and what's clear to me is you have a very unique perspective that I think is important to tell, so --

RM: Yeah, I don't think anybody else has written about spending, I mean, learning, becoming, trying, a kid trying to become an American and ending up being an all-American juvenile delinquent. Probably the only one, but especially in the context of Pearl Harbor, that's the way it happened. And I think the fact that I was naughty or whatever you want to call it, delinquent, I think the natural inclination was there to start with, in fact, it's part of my character, and the war gave me the opportunity to become, I don't know whether it's the best or the worst of the juvenile delinquent. [Laughs] Some people have, most people have forgiven me for becoming the juvenile delinquent.

TI: We're coming to the end of the interview.

RM: I'll never be the hero of the class. I'll be the juvenile delinquent.

TI: Oh, it's, I think as people get older, I think it's not about right or wrong, hero or whatever, I think, I think people are just looking at...

RM: What impact you had.

TI: Yeah, what happened.

RM: How many, how many bowls of rice did you bring home? [Laughs]

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Okay, so Ramsay, we're gonna start up again and, and I had talked about after your father's death you were the administrator for the estate, and one of the things that you had to do, your father had accumulated different properties that were probably, like the house was built for a large family of eight and now it was just your mother, and so it probably didn't make sense for her to be there by herself, plus it was filled, as you said earlier, with papers and artifacts and objects. So talk about what, what happened in terms of what you had to do.

RM: I met a cop not too long ago -- married another flight attendant friend of mine, beautiful lady -- big Hawaiian man and he was, of course, grew up as a juvenile delinquent as well, in the same neighborhood, and he remembers, "Oh, I used to burgle that house," he told me.

TI: Your house he used to burgle?

RM: Yep. He says, "You know, I'd go in there, I'd see money lyin' around all the time, all over the place." Told him, "Yeah, that's the way my father was. He left money lyin' around all over the place." In fact, after he died my mother picked out his favorite suit and we sent it off to Hosoi Mortuary, was doing the, doing the fixing up, and Mrs. Hosoi came over at the funeral and said, "Oh, Mrs. Mori, I need to see you. I need to see you." And my father had secreted -- because they both knew that was his favorite suit -- he had secreted like eight hundred dollars in cash in the suit. [Laughs] And Mrs. Hosoi brought it out to us. But of course, that's the kind of community we lived in.

TI: So your dad had lots of cash and it sounds like he had just lots of things all over, around the house.

RM: Oh, yeah. My brother Arthur and I were looking through one of the drawers, dresser drawers, and there were, like, twenty-five dollar gold pieces U.S., beautiful things. And he'd tell me in a typical lawyerly way, he'd say, "Why, Ramsay, I have been collecting coins since I was a child." He'd pick up the coin put it in his pocket. So family, when it comes to family, I mean, you see a gold piece like that, which is probably, well nowadays it's worth about a thousand four hundred dollars each, one gold piece, so I guess he was doin' the right thing for Arthur.

TI: Well, how about like things left over from his medical practice? What kind of things were left?

RM: My grandfather was one that left a lot of stuff and, of course, my father hadn't done anything with it, and so these, like I said, he's a navy, navy doctor, navy surgeon, in fact, so everything that he cut out of somebody as a surgeon he'd preserve it in a bottle, so when you went into his office he had these jars all lined up around the office, pickled organs and things. Even a baby, in stages, I think nine months' stages of babies that he had removed for one reason or another. And it must've been absolutely fearful going in that office. But all of that they put into mono'oki in the back, little shed in the back, and I got in there and I was cleaning that up and all of a sudden there'd be somebody's stomach or something like that, pickled. Sometimes the containers were broken, so it had that formalin smell. And the girls that worked at the office, the secretary and a nurse, a practical nurse, actually, actually buried quite a bit of it because it was difficult cleaning it up and, of course, with broken glass and, and they said they dug holes on the property and buried quite a bit of it, but there was still some left. So when I got in there, I was sittin' there all by myself, lookin' through the papers in there, like the magazine Lancet, which is a British magazine, a very well-known British magazine for medical, medical stuff, and of course they were very old ones, from way before the war, in the eighteen, I mean, the late 1800s, and there were piles of the Lancet stacked up in the corner. And then in a little cabinet, I opened it up and I found bottles of USP, heroin, hundred percent.

TI: So pharmaceutical grade...

RM: Ninety-nine point, yeah.

TI: Wow.

RM: And what he used to use that for, I find out later, is that he used to make cough syrup and he'd put a little bit of that in the cough syrup and of course it did wonders for a cough, and I imagine people from all over the countryside lined up to get that cough medicine. [Laughs] You could understand how, how good your cough medicine is if people are lining up to get it. And they had, it was on the inventory, it was current inventory, but they never collected it, so when I went out, down to the narcotics bureau and I actually gave it to the agent along with ampoules that indicated they had cocaine in it or whatever. The ampoules, of course, didn't amount to much, but bottles of heroin really woke him up. And he looked at me and he looked, looked at the heroin and he, he says, "Well, you're right. It's on the inventory." Nobody'd come back to collect it. So I'm tellin' him well, "Why is it such a surprise? It's out in the open." It was in the back storage room. I didn't tell him that, but, but he would say, "If you emptied these out in a container and you put milk sugar in 'em, maybe ten times the quantity of milk sugar, and you put it in a capsule, each capsule you could sell for about twenty dollars." And it began to occur to my how much worth I had of heroin in the back of my car for about six months before I finally turned it in. I could've got, had my throat for havin' that much in there, if anybody knew about it, and I realized, I finally realized what I'd been through. That kind of experience, yeah... I think I touched upon all of it.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: And then the, the house, whatever, what happened to the house?

RM: The house finally got cleaned out. My father got, my brother, Arthur finally got my mother moved out, setting up a system where he could take his part of the, his share of the estate and my share of the estate and give her an allowance. I think he did take out shares from Victor and Margaret as well, but for the most part it was Arthur and mine and he invested it himself in order to give my mother an allowance, because she was entitled to what they call a dower. I think it's one third of the estate, the real value of the estate, for life, so there is a time, time element involved in that calculation. But the actuaries who got that thing all set up, they know how to figure that out.

TI: So, so she was taken care of for the rest of her life, from the...

RM: Yes. And then she moved to a place on Keanu Street, I think it was, in Kamuki, and she had a real good, real good, or tolerant landlord. Like after she died, the landlord found out, he said, "Mr. Mori, just take your time, just take your time and clean up and don't worry about the rent."

TI: Towards the end of her life she took up smoking, which contributed to her death. It's sort of, in some ways, ironic that she would study cancer and take up then smoking.

RM: And she'd be a doctor on top of that.

TI: A doctor and she would take up smoking.

RM: Out of nostalgia for my sister, because my sister used to smoke a lot. Maybe that was the one of the ways she got it out of her system, but because of that my mother decided to smoke. And she'd watch, she was a critic for cinema, Japanese cinema that came through here, so she'd go out and see the first, first movies that came in and then she'd write a critical essay on that. And they'd publish it for her. That's why I was tellin' Brian that Brian's grandpa was, no, Brian's father was the editor of Hawaii Hochi, so probably knew her quite well, personally.

TI: So it'd be his grandfather, not his father.

RM: Is it grandfather?

TI: Grandfather.

RM: It is, grandfather. Okay, the ages match better that way. We have a connection, but our connection's even better now that he's got all the records over there.

TI: So whenever you want to see it you just go visit Brian.

RM: Yeah, I can't really, once you, once they become the trustees to the, what do you call that, the memorabilia that comes in on that, you have to, I think, be an educator or somebody that's doing, doing biological work -- not biological, biographical work on a family --

TI: To get, to get access to it.

RM: Yeah, actual writer or somethin' like that. But I asked him, he says, "Make sure you come see me." 'Cause I really haven't had a chance to take a look at my, what my sister wrote. Most of her personal stuff I helped her burn, which is, which is sad to say, because I'd really like to see the stuff she burned, but she burned it and I helped her burn it. That's part of the irony.

TI: And the irony, too, that you think your mother, you think, picked up smoking in memory or as a memory of...

RM: Yeah. But see, I don't feel that too much because by that time she was just too big a conflict for me. She had been nothing but conflict.

TI: And the conflict was, explain that. What was the, the main reason for that conflict at this point in her life?

RM: Well, I'd say right off the bat that, the fact that she wanted to take me back to Japan to live there and be a Japanese. It just never worked. But in the process she did some really hateful things. Like she'd call my friends' mothers and say, "Well, you're, you shouldn't play with, you should tell your son not to play with my son because he's a very bad influence on him." That kind of stuff. And she'd do everything possible to keep me from seeing my other, other delinquent friends.

TI: Well, but at the end of her life, I mean, as you're, as you're, essentially cleaning up the estate and doing things, that was difficult for her and that, I think, caused conflict. As you were doing that she would sort of resist that process.

RM: I was throwing away everything, I was trying to take away everything that meant anything to her and take her away from the environment that her memory that she dwelled on were... and it got to the point where one time I really thought I was gonna, in the evening, late evening when I was tired and of course she was bein' about as ratty as she could be, I just got to the point where emotionally I had the feeling that I would destroy her. And that scared the hell out of me. I think I write in my story that I went out and walked all night long, walked the streets, trying to get a grip on myself, and then when I got home I hopped in my car and took off, all day drove around, and then when I was finally tired enough I came home and went to sleep. And then, of course, when I tried to put it all back together again later I think I physically could have physically destroyed her. No telling how, but... so not just a conflict. It was a huge conflict, yeah.

TI: And so after that, that evening where you had that and you --

RM: I think she realized that I had reached a point which was no longer tolerable, so I think we both realized it to the point where we were a little more hesitant to create any further, any further incidents.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So a little bit earlier we talked about how your mother had, I think, bronchial cancer or lung cancer.

RM: I think it was after that that I think she, she, I guess, couldn't find enough to do, so decided to go back smoking. And her excuse was that it reminded of my, reminded her of my sister, but on the other hand, watching her smoke was a very trying experience because she'd, she'd kind of light up and then she'd, she didn't know how to smoke. She was just inhaling enough that it affected her bronchia, just her, the tubing in the lungs. And it wasn't going down into her lungs. In fact, I mentioned in the story, again, that Dr. Bower who did the surgery on my mother to take out the infected portions of her lung, told me, he says, "You know, Mr. Mori, your mother's lungs are like a country girl's. They're pink, shows no hint of any tobacco. It's only in the bronchia that... and that's the root of the lungs," he said, "and so I can't take that out because without the bronchia you can't, you can't breathe." But her lungs were just fine. But my wife just went through, well, last, three and a half years ago, she had breast cancer and the surgeon removed her lung, I mean, removed her breast and along with it twenty lymph nodes in the area of her chest, all around her arms, and all twenty lymph nodes were infected. And they have a radiation that they call gamma, which I think is the radiation they get from radioactive isotopes and they plant it into the machinery and they program it so they can hit exactly certain spots of the body. The treatment takes only about thirty minutes 'cause they're, maybe fifteen minutes or so, or ten minutes of radiation, and then in the three and a half years, the last time she went to the doctor, she's clear. There's not cancer there.

TI: That's amazing.

RM: So she needs to go another year and a half or so, five years or so, to be truly... but more than likely she'll die of natural causes at this point.

TI: That's just amazing how cancer --

RM: Yeah, but in my mother's case, of course, Mother's case, she came out of surgery and recovered and she went back to smoking. It killed her. It was not like she deserved it. She earned it. She really did.

TI: And in your, in your writings you describe your mother's death, and so can you tell me how she died?

RM: Of course, the cancer had spread throughout her body to the point where it not, it's not just your lungs. It's everything else that begins to, is infected and begins to deteriorate, and so it's a slow process. But eventually they had her on oxygen, so there was a tube running up her nose. And there were a number of friends that she had that would, would very faithfully come and stay with her, take turns staying with her in sort of a watch, and at the point at which she stopped, stopped talking and stopped eating and drinking it's relatively short, in fact. So I was there when my family, and they called me and they said, "Ramsay, you better come over because it's, there's a change." And what had happened is she was laboring for breath at that time. And all of a sudden the laboring stopped. Her breathing became almost normal, and the expression on her face just became very calm and eventually her breathing got slower and slower and slower and finally stopped. And then the only thing I could see that indicated any life in her body was that the artery on the side of her neck was pulsing. And I could see it pulsing and that remained for quite a while. I can't tell you exactly how many seconds, but especially when you're watching somebody die, why, time is not something you're aware of, and that finally slowed and stopped, and I knew she was gone. And at that point I think I probably stood there for a few seconds and it was, I felt like a wave coming through me, and I think, at that point I went outside onto the veranda outside this care home and I, the thing I remember is I looked up at the sky and I could see all the stars. It was clear. And then the emotions just completely took me and I cried. You could, you could even see some emotion now, when I'm talking about it. Same thing happened with the other interview.

TI: And talking about that emotion, what was the emotion? What was it coming from? Was it grief? Was it, describe what, what that emotion came from.

RM: Relief. Relief, I think, is the thing that I've got to say. It wasn't that I was gonna miss her. It wasn't that I loved her and had lost her. It was relief that the conflict was over. That's the only thing I can, I can attribute it to.

TI: And so how many years ago did this happen now? Was this...

RM: I'm trying to remember when she died now and I can't even remember.

TI: It's been, it's been a while now, hasn't it? It's been --

RM: Yes, it's been a while.

TI: And so looking back now, what have you learned from this? I mean, what...

RM: I don't know if there's any lesson to this other than to say that war's not, not just something about shootin' each other. There's a lot more to it than that. It affects people in so many different ways, and I think that's, that's probably a reason why I should tell this story. And it probably is, as a matter of fact, dehumanizing in a lot of ways. That's what happened to us. Now, if my mother had succeeded in making a doctor out of me and then taking me back to Japan there's no telling what I would've felt about now. But that's what happened to me. Yeah.

TI: Perfect. That's good. Thank you. So Ramsay, thank you very much for the interview.

RM: I'm actually pleased that I can do it. I'm pleased that I can talk about it and I'm pleased that I write, wrote about it. And I'm pleased that, that you folks are interested in what I wrote.

TI: Well, thank you. I mean, I appreciate it.

RM: Thank you.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.