Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Helene J. Minehira Interview
Narrator: Helene J. Minehira
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Kelli Nakamura
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 2, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-mhelene-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today's date is March 2, 2011. We're in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Hotel interviewing Helene Minehira. Helping interviewing is Kelli Nakamura, on camera is Dana Hoshide, and then my name is Tom Ikeda. So Helene, I'm gonna just start at the very beginning, and why don't you tell me when you were born?

HM: April 30, 1925.

TI: And so that makes you eighty-six years?

HM: I'll be eighty-six in a couple of weeks.

TI: You'll be eighty-six, okay. Good.

HM: Maybe about two months now.

TI: And tell me again where you were born.

HM: Waipahu. That's out in the country, (west) of Honolulu.

TI: And when you were born, was it at a medical facility or was it at a house?

HM: At a house. (The sanbasan, or midwife, was called to assist with the birth.) Well, the, according to my mom and my grandmother, Mom had a bad time. (The sanbasan couldn't do anything so they called Dr. Uyehara.)

TI: So was that pretty common? Midwives would do, handle most of it, but if there was, like, an emergency there was a doctor on call?

HM: Right, the doctor. But those days, I remember that we had two, no, three doctors in Waipahu. They all had a little hospital, Dr. Uyehara, Dr. Uyesato, and Dr. Tamura. Yeah.

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

HM: Helene Junko Kimura. Don't ask me where my mom got the word, the name Helene, but Junko is for my grandmother. Mom used to read a lot.

TI: So you have no idea where Helene came from?

HM: No, I don't know, (but Mom was a great reader, so the name Helene probably popped into her mind.)

TI: Okay. So let me ask about your father. Can you tell me your father's name?

HM: Kiyohide Kimura.

TI: And tell me where he was born.

HM: He was born in Onomea, Hawaii.

TI: So he's a Nisei.

HM: Nisei, right.

TI: And do you know what year, about what year he was born?

HM: He was born May 3, (1897).

TI: Okay, well, that's, so he was --

HM: No, yeah, eighteen, no, (1897).

TI: Okay, 1896.

HM: Well, we'll check it out later.

TI: Yeah, that looks about right, 'cause then that would make him about twenty-(eight) when he, when you were born.

HM: Right.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So tell me how your grandfather, his father came to Hawaii.

HM: According to my, story that my aunt told me about it, and it's a good thing that when, whenever I talk to someone I have a tendency to jot down notes and it's actually rubbish that I, working on my genealogy, I have tons of papers (and notes), but good thing I didn't throw it away. My grandfather wanted to go Calcutta, India, way back those days, and I've spoken to quite a few people, but they can't tell me at that time if people were going to Calcutta, but according to my aunt he wanted to go Calcutta. But he came Honolulu instead.

TI: Did your aunt know why he wanted to go there?

HM: No, no, no, but she knows that Grandpa, her father wanted to go Calcutta.

TI: Do you know why he wanted to leave Japan?

HM: Well, I guess everybody, everything was greener on this side. So I have a very good Okinawa friend who's, he's already gone, but his mother's, said, "Why did you come to Hawaii?" She said they were told they don't have to eat potatoes; they can eat rice. So that wasn't so with my grandfather, but it was greener pasture here for him.

TI: Okay, and then what did your grandfather do when he came to...

HM: He was a schoolteacher. And a Casanova too, I understand.

TI: And a what?

HM: Casanova.

TI: Oh, so tell me about that. How do you know he was a Casanova?

HM: This is what my aunt told me. Boy, she told me a lot of stories about, but at the time that he left Japan he had three girlfriends. My grandmother was the lucky one that came with Grandpa.

TI: So he was more of a Casanova in, in Japan?

HM: Yeah.

TI: And then he met your grandmother, and they came to Hawaii.

HM: Yeah.

TI: Okay. And then they had your father.

HM: Well, can I back up a little bit? Okay, in order to come to Hawaii he needed money, right? So what he did is, mukashi, long time ago, they used to say people owned property from mountain to the ocean, but this is a hearsay from my aunt and she said what he's done, he did, was to sell all the property and came to Hawaii. So I, she presumed that he paid all his taxes and then came here. So that's the hearsay, so I'm not sure, but if it was from my aunt, well, that's from the horse's mouth, so I think that must be true.

TI: So it sounds like he was a pretty adventuresome person, to sell everything you have, go to a different country.

HM: Right. Yeah, so he had guts, I think.

TI: Do you know anything about your grandmother and what she was like?

HM: My grandmother, well, she was very, not shy, but she was kind of aloof, my grandmother. She's never worked for sugar fields, but she was a little... because when I started working my genealogy what I've done is I got the census, and ten names above, ten names below because they're all neighbors. Now, who do I call to get information? So I pick a name that's real Japanese, old Japanese name. Bingo, on my family I found one, so this is where I found out that my grandmother was aloof. She was, they say hanagatakai, you know? I'm sure you've heard all that phrase. So that was interesting. That's how I did my genealogy, being nosy, (...) Mom, I'm getting kind of sidetracked, but didn't get along with her mother-in-law, but that's a story, where your only son cannot get along with the mother, mother-in-law, so I thought that was it, but when I heard story from, Mr. Ochikubo was telling me about my grandmother, "Ah, Mom was right." So you know what I did after I heard the story? I went to bedroom and I apologized to my mother, you know, hotokesan, I told her, "Mom, I'm sorry that I doubted you all these years," because when I thought, well, that's a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law kind of thing, but I had to apologize to her.

TI: Because you didn't believe her.

HM: I didn't believe her. I thought, well, it was mother-in-law and daughter-in-law thing, but...

TI: It's interesting, I'm, as a father, I think of my kids. Sometimes they'll believe more someone else than their parents, if you tell 'em something, so I think it's human nature.

HM: Yeah, so I'm very nosy, so the kids says, "One of these days, Mom, somebody's gonna pop you in the nose for it," so if I haven't --

TI: [Laughs] No, I think you're safe now. When you're eighty-six not too many people are gonna pop you in the nose.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's go back to your father. So born in the late eighteen hundreds, what do you know about his childhood, growing up?

HM: I've seen his delayed birth certificate and he looks like a little bulldog, and he had a scar here [points to forehead above left eye]. Remember those days soda pops came in bottle? So somehow that exploded and cut his, above his eyelid, but he does look, I wish I brought all those papers with me, pictures with me. I forgot. But he, warukozo, he did look like a rascal thing, a rascal boy, but you see, they went to Kona in Hawaii and when he was two months old (...). Probably Grandpa found a better position. And I wondered how did my grandmother carry a two month old baby and run away from plantation? I didn't know that Grandpa came in a period of free immigration, they were able to go (without being caught). So then I heard stories that people took the government road. They called it a government road those days and it ran through Parker ranch, so one day -- I'm always looking at travel news and see what's coming up and so forth -- then the Parker ranch had a tour that went through the field and went to Mr. Parker's original home up in the mountain. So I called the number and they said yes, so about couple of days later my husband and I jumped on the plane and we went, and we were, this was the last tour to... then I saw the, I asked the driver, "What is a government road?" He said, "This is it, government road."

TI: Wow, interesting.

HM: I was so happy that Grandma carried my dad, two months old, and went to Hilo, I mean Kona, on the government road.

TI: And so you saw the actual road that they...

HM: Right. It connects things. You've been wondering how did they run away, but when you do genealogy you get your nose into it, and then the government road comes out in the conversation lot of times. So I'm glad that, so they went to Kona. And this is where I, we don't have any story about Kona. Nothing, not a single word my dad or my aunt ever mentioned. Nothing in Kona. But could have been he taught school, or there was a merchant, Kimura Shoten, did he work for them? But I can't find anything about Kimura Shoten. I've asked people in Kona, but nobody seemed to know, but one of these days I'd like to find out, see if I can go to the Japanese council at the, somewheres and find, and see if I can get some story. So this period in Kona is totally lost.

TI: Well let's, let me move on then, because I wanted to talk about your father 'cause it was unusual that he served during World War I.

HM: Yes.

TI: So tell me about that. What do you know about that?

HM: Well, let me tell you what my grandmother told people in the community, in Japanese: "Uchi no Kiyohide Amerika no heitaisan." And I understand she was very proud. So you can see back of her mind they had no intention of going back to Japan, because they had nothing because they sold everything. But my grandmother was very, very proud of her son being an American soldier, so I understand that she really bragged about that.

TI: And did your father ever tell you about, about serving during World War I?

HM: He said it was terrible, the discrimination was terrible. So when I grew up, when I grew up, when I went into the business world, this is what he taught me. I don't know whether it was the right thing to say, but I think I learned from what he said. He spoke very good Japanese as well as English because Grandpa and Grandma, my grandma didn't speak pidgin Japanese or pidgin English. She was trained because she was still hanagatakai. So this is what he said in Japanese: "Gaijin gonna push you with their mouth." They said, "The haoles gonna push you with their mouth, so watch it. So that meant, that taught me I have to be strong, so that was a good lesson.

TI: And that's what he learned by, by...

HM: Being in service, the... but everything, according to my mom, said, "Your dad got busted as soon as he got promoted."

TI: Explain that.

HM: You know, his stripes.

TI: Right, yeah.

HM: Because he must've been getting into a lot of trouble, otherwise he wouldn't get busted.

TI: Oh, so he got like a corporal or something and then he got --

HM: And then he got busted.

TI: -- busted back down to private.

HM: Yeah, but he, he got out as a corporal, but that was, Mom always said that, she probably heard it from someone else, that, "You know, your dad got busted as soon as he got promoted," so he must've got into a lot of trouble. He wasn't gonna let anybody run him over.

TI: Interesting. Now, were there very many other men your father's age who had served in the military?

HM: I don't know, but there was a very famous Pahala group. I'm not, I'm not sure, correct about that, but there was a, they called the Pahala group. I didn't think of looking it up, but I should have.

TI: Yeah, because on the mainland I, there're a few cases I've come across of, of men, Japanese, usually Japanese, they were Isseis actually served in World War I, but not, not Niseis.

HM: Nisei. And then another thing Mom said, that Grandma was happy because he brought home food, so he was able to bring, so like butter and things, because Grandma had, Grandma wasn't working and there were other siblings at home, so when Dad brought home food, it saved the whole family.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: How did your father meet your mother?

HM: Oh, that's a real cute story. My dad worked for the railroad. He was a railroad man, not a plantation. He said plantation wasn't his life, so he worked for the railroad after he left the army. And then the train, he was a (brakeman) during pineapple season, and off pineapple he was a, he worked on the passenger train, so the train either went to Kahuku or went to Waihiawa. When it came to Waipahu it swerved off to the right and they went to Waihiawa, and I remember distinctly where the train station was in Wahiawa. You see, back in my mother's days the girls usually went to sewing school or to be a barber or, they used the word houkou, they worked for a haole home and to provide income for the family because there were a lot of siblings. So my mother worked at Schofield as a housemaid, then she had to catch a train to (and from) to Schofield, so that's where she met my dad, on the train. That's a cute story, love story. They met on the train. Yeah, so I, so when I think about the train I always think about, what did my dad think about my mom?

TI: Well that's why I'm curious. So how did that, what happened on the train?

HM: Yeah, that's where they, I don't know whether it was love at first sight or what. I thought that was cute. They didn't have any in-between man. They met on the train. That's a love story, I think.

TI: Now, was your mother, let's talk about your mother now. What was your mother's name?

HM: Itagaki.

TI: And where was she born?

HM: She was born in Halawa, Aiea. You know where the stadium is in Halawa? In just back of that, she was born there.

TI: And how did her family...

HM: They're from Kumamoto. One, the story again is my grandfather was a playboy, too, so they practically threw him out from Kumamoto to let him suffer on his own, to make a man out of him. [Laughs] So this is the story that I, my grandmother told me that he was actually thrown out from Kumamoto to venture on his own, to make a man of the boy, so that's a funny story, but that's how it is.

TI: And so that's how he got to Hawaii?

HM: Yeah, so my grandma really suffered. My grandmother really suffered.

TI: And why was that? How did she suffer?

HM: Because he was a playboy. He didn't want to work. So Grandma really suffered.

TI: So does your, your mother talk about that, too, about her father being sort of a playboy or not really working?

HM: Yeah, so she said, "Okaasan, that's the reason why Grandma, Okaasan worked hard."

KN: What kind of work did she do to help support the family at this time?

HM: Well, having a lot of kids, having babies every year, that was tough on Grandma. Oh, then I skipped it, but they moved to, when they first came from Japan they went to Koloa, Kauai, for three months, so they got off the boat and they were shipped to Koloa, so I guess Grandpa didn't like (Kauai), they came as a free agent, so, free immigration, so they came, that's when they came back to Oahu and they landed up in, worked for Aiea plantation. Yeah, so that's, there was a little period, about three months, they were in Koloa, and they came to Halawa, Aiea plantation.

TI: So it sounds like your mother's family there were quite a few children. She had a lot of brothers and sisters?

HM: Yeah.

TI: How big a family?

HM: There were nine in all and at the, they lost two when they were little, so they ended up with seven. So Mom had to go out to, the top two, my uncle and my mom had to work to help support.

TI: Okay, so she was like the second oldest or the oldest?

HM: She's the oldest daughter.

TI: Oldest daughter. And going back to your father, how large was his family?

HM: His family was large, too. We lost one, so we ended up about, golly, I forgot, but it wasn't as big as my mom's family, but we lost, I lost an aunt when she was real little.

TI: Okay. So, so let me, your mother's first name was, one more --

HM: Matsue.

TI: Matsue, and your father's first name was?

HM: Kiyohide.

TI: Okay, and they met on the train.

HM: Yeah, it's a real cute love story, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: And then they got married, and then what happened? So after they, they...

HM: Well, being the eldest son, I'll, well you see, (back in those days) they wanted you to marry people from your same prefecture, right? My mother, being Kumamoto, that's the reason why my grandmother didn't like it, because everybody, all his brothers, they all married Yamaguchi-ken and oops, Dad came back with somebody Kumamoto. So people did say that, "Because your (mother's family was from) Kumamoto there was a little," that was those days, and I'm sure it happened all over. They wanted you to marry someone from your same prefecture. That did happen.

TI: So there was some, on your father's side, some, they tried to discourage him to do that.

HM: Yeah.

TI: Okay, but, but he went ahead and married --

HM: My mom.

TI: -- your mother. And where did they live?

HM: With his mother. Because being the eldest boy, you know.

TI: And then they had three children?

HM: Yeah, they had three of us, all girls.

TI: And what was the birth order?

HM: You mean, I was born in '25, and Amy was born in '27, and my youngest, Miyeko, was born in '28. I lost both of 'em, too.

TI: Okay, so you're the only one left, even though you're the oldest, you're the oldest sister.

HM: Yeah.

TI: Okay. And then during this time your father continued to be a railroad worker?

HM: Railroad, uh-huh.

TI: And tell me about that job. I mean, was that a pretty good job for...

HM: Well, he was a brakeman on pineapple season. You know, brakeman is the, they have to turn the, what do you, you've seen pictures where someone have to turn the wheel, the track so we'll, I don't know how to explain it, but I can picture it in my mind. So he was a brakeman during pineapple season.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So I'm gonna switch gears now and talk about you now, in terms of your early childhood.

HM: Oh, I had a wonderful life.

TI: Tell me about it.

HM: Real spoiled kid. Being the oldest daughter and the only first granddaughter, I was really spoiled. I mean, spoiled is not the word. I mean, people used to tell me that I was really spoiled. But I had a wonderful, wonderful life. I was Grandma's pet. My, that's how I... I couldn't do anything wrong under my grandmother's eyes, so I, you can just imagine how spoiled I was. And I went to church with her, hongwanji, Waipahu Hongwanji with her, and Grandma always wore kimono and went, so before we went to temple, to keep me quiet, we had to stop at a store called Matsumoto Store and buy me some goodies so I'll keep quiet while the service was going on, but I enjoyed that because I had something to munch on. And so you can see I was spoiled. Then running around and getting into trouble, but I remember I was told not to go into the ditch because all the kitchen water and everything went to a ditch and went to the river, but I never listened, I guess, and I got blood poison going into the ditch, so I, my mom said it was touch and go kind of thing, but that didn't teach me any lesson. [Laughs] I got into other trouble, but, but I guess that's growing up.

TI: And how old were you when you got the blood poisoning? Do you remember?

HM: I was very young. I don't remember it, but this is the story that, so I ended up in those, the Kuakini Hospital was called Japanese Hospital, so I landed there. So I must've been, I don't think I, not going to, maybe about four years or so, so I was, I never listened, I guess. [Laughs]

TI: You mentioned you were Grandmother's pet, so when Amy and Miyeko came along were you still kind of the...

HM: Yes. Mom was very upset about that. She was very upset because Amy, Amy was the cutest thing. She had lots of hair and then, she had so much hair it was bouncing off her forehead because she had lots of hair. Amy was real sweet. She had dimples. And Miyeko, Miyeko was the prettiest among three of us. She was cute. But Amy used to wet her bed every night, Amy would, so Mom used to say that Grandma was always upset, "But if you had done that," she said, "June, if you did --" they all called me June -- "if you did that, Grandma wouldn't have said anything. But she said it really hurt every day, Grandma picking on Amy, so that really hurt Mom. That really hurt Mom.

TI: So it almost sounds like the children, you and your sisters, it was like a tug of war between your mother and your grandmother, in terms of how they were raised and what should be said.

HM: Right. Right, so it was really tough on Mom. It was really tough on Mom. I remember her crying. I remember her, seeing her cry, so, but I thought she was nakimiso, crybaby, because I didn't quite understand, why was Mom crying?

TI: Especially since she, you, she was perhaps being critical of your grandmother, who you probably adored because she was so --

HM: Yeah, so this is why until I started to work on my genealogy and got the facts, I didn't understand.

TI: Well, you were a young girl, so you probably wouldn't understand that.

HM: No, no, I didn't think anything of it because while you're young you don't think of anything but yourself only.

TI: So at what point did the family move away from the grandparents?

HM: Okay. So in the house we had, I remember we had the second, my uncle Yutaka lived with us, Auntie Teruyo lived with us, and Uncle Satoru, and everybody lived in one big house, so you can see what Mom went through. So Uncle, when I think about that, Uncle Satoru was a funny one. Mom said he comes home from work, his socks is there, couple of steps, his pants is, the khaki pants, everybody (wore khaki pants), so that's the story I remember about Uncle Satoru very well, Mom said, "You knew he was home because his socks was there and his pants was there," so that's the reason why I remember Uncle Satoru so well. But we left the family, everybody got married and moved out, so we moved out when Grandma passed away, because no longer we could stay in that plantation home because Grandma passed away, so we moved out.

TI: And where did you go?

HM: We moved about half a mile away or so. We had to rent a home.

TI: And about how old were you when you moved? Do you remember?

HM: I think about six years old.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about school. What was school like for you?

HM: Well, I enjoyed school, because I spoke English and I spoke Japanese, so I had no problem going to school. And I made friends very easily, even when I was a kid, and then I loved the underdog kids. I don't know why. I still do. I still do. I love people, I'm not looking down at them, but somehow I get attached. I love that type of people. You know, the Japanese would say they get stomped down, and so I, even today I try to help people that people look down to. I hate when people get treated like that. I still, ever since I was a little girl. I guess that was my teaching of my dad.

TI: And what would your dad say about that, his teaching?

HM: He said, "Always treat the underdog. They're the ones that going to help you. They're your true friends." And when you think, when I think about it, they're the real friends, because they're not looking at you down. These people will help you when you're in need, and I find that that's really true.

TI: Do you have any examples of that? Can you remember an example of maybe someone helping you or you helping someone?

HM: Okay. When we started to work on the repatriation and they found out who my dad was, then my dad had a, you know old days everybody had nicknames. I don't know whether you had this on the mainland, but on the, my dad was called Madeira. Madeira is Portuguese. I don't know why, where my dad got the word Madeira. So when we started to work on the repatriation, this is when I got help. "Oh, you're Madeira's daughter?" And I'd say yes, so when we started the work on, they were so free in giving me information about Puuloa, so I felt really arigatai what my father had taught me, that help, help people. So this is when I really said thank you to my, my dad. Then he used to say, "If you treat people right, you're gonna get this in return," not to you, maybe to your children and grandchildren. I really believe that. I really believe that. So what my father had taught me came true, so ever since I was a little girl I loved, I love helping people.

TI: Okay, good.

HM: I still do. I still do.

TI: So let's, let's talk about Japanese language school.

HM: Oh, that's the fun part. [Laughs] I could read, because I wasn't a very good student, but we used to, they used to say the kanji, the hard Chinese characters, I can't remember every one, so I would Romanize that, so when the sensei used to say, "Who wants to read?" oh I would read because I had all my kanji written down so I could read that. So I used to love to read Japanese book because I was, but that was cheating, but I used to, that's how I am. But that's the fun part of Japanese school, but well somebody had to hold the totem pole up anyway, so I was the one. I didn't listen to the teachers, and then the bad thing that we told the senseis, was really bad, gessha is tuition that we paid, dues that we had to pay to go to language school. They called it gessha. I said, "We're paying you," so this was bad, but lot of kids said that, that "we pay you," so we thought we were better than them.

TI: Oh, so they were working for you.

HM: Yeah, that's it, I guess that's the American way of thinking now.

KN: How did the teachers respond to that?

HM: Oh, boy, you know what came after that, but it's, that wasn't, but that's what we did. I guess that's part of growing up. We thought it was funny, but when I think about now it's hazukashii, you know. I'm ashamed of doing that. But we did what everybody else did, copycat, so I did get into trouble in that respect, and I would not bow to the Japanese flag.

TI: Now, why wouldn't you bow to the Japanese flag?

HM: Because I thought I'm an American. I'm Japanese, but I thought I was American. That wasn't right for me to bow to the flag.

TI: And how about the other students? Were there other students like you that wouldn't bow?

HM: Oh, there were other kids, but I was the one that did the talking and got into trouble. [Laughs]

TI: Now, were you as outspoken in the regular school?

HM: Yes.

TI: Okay.

HM: Always got into trouble. Yeah, so my son was like me; I had to go to school because the counselor would call me. But I think I had a joyful life when I was a youngster, although then, when I got suspended from Japanese school this girl, of course I wasn't doing very well in school, so they were talking bad about me, so I said, "One of these days I'm gonna get you." I told her that. I said, "One of these days I'm gonna get you." So we have to stand in line when we went to Japanese school, short ones to the last ones. I was considered tall, so, tall and big, so one day I thought, I'm gonna cook her goose, so we have to go to, when we went to class we went, marched in, we had to go, not from the front, we went through the back and we sat down. But that day I went through the front, I whacked her with a book. I wacked her with a book. The teacher at that time said, "Go home. Don't come back to school," so I said, "Okay, I'm gonna go home."

TI: So because of that that's, you got suspended?

HM: Yes.

TI: Okay, that's how you got suspended.

HM: So when I went home and I told my dad, you know what I got. My father was famous (his belt came off his pants, slap on the face) so fast you'd, it'd make your head turn. Either belt or this [raises hand], so I really got what I deserved. And then in couple of weeks the teacher came, Reverend Tsuha, he was my favorite Japanese school teacher. He never played favorites -- well, he's the one that threw me out of school -- he never played favorites, that reverend. He said, in Japanese, "Botsu botsu kaeru go ja nai ka," and I, he said, "It's time that you come back, so I went back to Japanese school like nothing happened. [Laughs] But I loved Reverend Tsuha. I loved him. He played fair.

TI: That's good. You were a pretty spirited young girl when, back then. [Laughs]

HM: Yeah, I got into a lot of trouble, got into a lot of trouble. Gave my parents a bad time.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So I want to kind of now move to the Puuloa farm and how that all happens.

HM: Okay, one day, this was in 1941, early part of the year, my father said, "Okay, girls, sit down," and we had no furniture so we had to sit on the floor Japanese style and we had to sit, so we sat and he said, "We bought, have a property in Ewa Beach." Now, people those days didn't own their own property, and down Ewa Beach. I was very happy we were gonna move down to Ewa Beach. And those days only haoles or white men had the beach homes in Ewa Beach, so I was very proud, and I went bragging that we were going to move down to Ewa Beach. So then my friends would say, "Wow, your father's rich," but I didn't know where the money came from and now that, that was beside the point. Well, we were gonna, so when, then my dad owned a car -- a rumble, we had a rumble seat, Ford with rumble seat -- then here again, very few people owned a car, so we got in, hopped on the rumble seat and we went down. We chugged along Ewa Beach Road, no cars those days, every, all sugarcane on both sides. Then we went, and I remember distinctly he made a left turn, and I thought that's a funny way of going to, down to the beach, because I knew... so I thought maybe we were headed for Pearl Harbor way down to the beach so I didn't say anything. Then when I looked in the back of the car; the dirt that the car was turning up, just like watching a cowboy movie, all that, then we went along, then he stopped. He said, "This is it, girls." And the kiawe bushes were so thick you weren't able to stick your thumb through. So I must've made a real smart remark here again, and then, wham, came the... and it still hurts today. And he said, "This is it, girls." So, but I didn't think anything. Boy, the kiawe bushes were so thick you wouldn't believe it.

TI: So describe the whole area, so your place was lots, lots of bushes. Was that, like, everywhere?

HM: It was like that all over.

TI: So very undeveloped. There was no one else there.

HM: We were pioneers.

TI: And how close to the beach were you?

HM: Far. [Laughs] But Pearl Harbor was very close. You could smell the salt air, so we were pretty close. Okay, they bought that property.

TI: And again, this was early 1941?

HM: Yeah.

TI: So like in January, February?

HM: Yeah, he, I think it was about January he bought the, then I was looking at the paper. He bought, we had nine acres of land and it was about seven thousand dollars.

TI: Oh, so that was a lot of money back then.

HM: Yeah.

TI: And he bought it, or he paid for it all?

HM: No, loan.

TI: Okay.

KN: What did he hope to do with the property?

HM: Okay, my father is a railroad man now. The property was so that we were supposed to be a farmer. That was a farmland. My dad's a railroad man now, so I told him, "Dad, you don't the difference between a hoe and a hammer." Here again, the smarty pants. But this is what I, I said, "Why is he buying?" but actually, when I think back, it was kodomo no tame ni, for the sake of the children. He bought nine acres. There were three of us, right? Three times three is nine, so his intention was giving us three acres of land. I didn't think about it at that time, but that's the reason why he bought that.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So now you have all this, a lot of property, nine acres, undeveloped. What happens next?

HM: Okay, now we have to clear that out so, because we have to build a house, and the first place we had to dig a well for water, but we didn't know that Puuloa is below sea level, so we hit water in no time, but brackish water. The tide comes up, the well overflows; tide goes down, no water. The gravity. So we built the, we dug, when Mr. Morita, very good friend of ours, he was the leading dynamite man, worked for Waipahu sugar mill, sugar plantation, so we, Mr. Morita came and he helped us dig the well. So water was the most important thing, but it was brackish, so what, we had to clear, so we cleared the land up just to build a house, that was the most important thing. So my mother's family came every weekend to help us, and then, oh, you won't believe it, you'd cut and I'd swear there was another tree coming up. There was that many kiawe trees. So we, and there were a lot of coral rocks, so we had to pick the coral, clear that in order to build, so we built a wall with the coral rocks. That was our help. But Mom made obento for us because her brothers came to help us, and so my mother made obento like we were gonna have party every Sunday. Mom was so good in that. She, she was never tired to do things for us. The obento she made for us, you won't believe it, osushi and then the nishime and everything else that, she always made something for her brothers, because I'd, we lost, I lost my grandmother when I was little, so she made something that her brothers wanted to eat. So you can imagine the obento that my mom made? So we had to commute from Waipahu because we didn't have a house yet, so then when we cut the kiawe tree, cut it to certain (length) stump because we had the people making charcoal down Ewa Beach, so they came, we sold the kiawe to the charcoal people. But that was work, believe me. We, then the house came up. The area wasn't that clear, just enough to build a house, but today I, it's a mystery to me, how did they build, where did they build the sewer? Because we had some water, so I'm gonna have, that's my next project. I'm gonna have to find out from other people how we, they built a cesspool.

TI: Because, yeah, 'cause the tide would come --

HM: So this is one question I haven't found.

TI: So go back and explain the water, though. What did they do about the water?

HM: Okay, the water. The Kimuras -- that's us -- we had war before the war began. You know why? Because we had to buy a gallon barrel, then we had to go to Ewa plantation to get fresh water, because we couldn't drink the brackish water. So that was, this is the war between my dad and myself. I was on the top and he, then I, "Don't waste the water. You're upsetting." That was the easy part now. Now, you get home and you have to empty that, so we had war before the war began. But I think that's where my dad and I got very close. We spent time going down to get water, and the little fight that we had, the little makeup that we had coming back, my father would say, "Sho ga nai," we had to do it. So I think that's why my dad and I got very close, we developed and everything else, because I was very close to my dad. You couldn't tear me apart from my dad. I guess that's where we got really close, the little war that we had.

TI: Well, and just working so closely together on a, on the same project together.

HM: Right. So we couldn't waste water, so Mom used water for cooking, we used the brackish water to do the dishes and so forth and so on, and the, when we had to wash our hair or take a bath, Mom was the boss man because we couldn't waste any water, not a drop of water. So when we washed our hair, since I'm the oneesan I start, so Mom would wash, no suds, but she would give us some fresh water and we would shampoo our head. Those days we didn't have shampoo, so we had to use soap. So she'll rinse my head and Amy's down here and Miyeko's down there. We couldn't waste water.

TI: [Laughs] So the same water had to rinse your hair and your sisters' hair?

HM: So we were really pioneers, but when, when I think about it now, it was fun. I don't know, I actually can't remember whether we were sad or, but I think we must've got into fights. "You get, you got the better water, clean water," and so forth. I'm sure that happened, but that was Mom.

TI: Did your mother ever complain about no water to your father? Did they ever get into arguments, like, "Why did you buy this land? There's no water here"?

HM: Well they, they, maybe, but they didn't fight in front of us. I'm sure they must've had a lot of, when we weren't around, because Mom was a quiet one.

TI: Well, then how about you? Did you ever complain to your father, like "why did we buy this land? There's no water," you always had to go and get the water by hand?

HM: Oh yes. Yeah, that's where the war was. Yeah, that was the war. But when I think about it, then you grow up and you have your own children, the word kodomo no tame ni, it really, it's such a beautiful word, kodomo no tame ni, you know? So, but --

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: I'm sorry, so describe the house. I mean, how much were you able to do in 1941?

HM: Well, we built a big, our house was real tall, way up high because the intention was they were gonna build another room to prepare to ship their produce, so they were gonna build a room downstairs where they can rest in the day, so the house was really high. I don't remember any neighbor's house as high as ours. So my father had this wide view of the future, so he built a big house, so we were real proud. The three of girls had a huge bedroom and Mom and Pops had a small room, but they built three of us big bedrooms, my parents did. And as Mom, as a very, she was quiet and very atamaii, smart, she built, if I know Mom well, she would have never bought furniture for the house, for the living room, but, because I remember zabuton all over the place, Mom would've never bought furniture. I'm sure Mom, but how she built our dresser -- oh, when we were growing up oranges and apple came in wooden crates, that she made dresser for us. And how did she dress it up? She bleached the rice bags and she made curtains for the, so that's, Mom did that for three of us. So what, but we had our own bed, because when we lived in Waipahu we lived in such a small house, so we all had to sleep on the floor. Oh boy, those days not everybody had beds, and we were real happy we had our own beds.

TI: So you were pretty happy with the house, your room, your bed.

HM: Yeah, I was, growing up, but I didn't really think... and I can't tell you that I was happy moving down there, but what we got after that, none of my friends had that, not even my cousins. So I was happy.

TI: And when did you move into the house?

HM: In August just before, I mean, August before school opened.

TI: Okay, so August 1941. And now tell me about the neighborhood. Who were your neighbors, who else was living down there?

HM: Well, we had the Hoshides that was across the street about a quarter mile away from us, but they were, they were poultrymen, so I could hear the chickens. And the Yamadas lived, we couldn't see them at all, but the Yamadas had poultry, but their farm was huge, so that's all we heard from Yamadas was the chicken. But no neighbors in the back. And --

TI: And -- go ahead.

HM: And then couldn't see the other neighbors. We could see Hoshides because they were about a quarter mile away from us. We could see them. But the Yamadas, no. And then we could smell the pigs. We couldn't see them because they were so far away, but the smell we got. So we were gonna be real farmers, I think. [Laughs]

TI: And do you know what your father was planning? So he --

HM: He wanted to be a truck farmer. That means raising vegetables, so that's when I said, "Dad, you're a railroad man. You don't know the difference between..." [Laughs] But I'm sure that, I'm sure they would have been successful. I'm sure they would have.

TI: Okay, and in terms of, so you moved in right before school, were you then going to the same school you went before?

HM: No, we, because Waipahu, you see, from, the only high school that was in, out in the country was Waipahu High School, so kids from Aiea down to Waianae came to Waipahu. So there weren't such thing as buses, so we had arrangements to go to school with the Yamada's children -- the Hoshides, the kids were still little -- so we went to school late every day because they, Yamada's children had to do their chores. We had no chores because we didn't have any, nothing there as yet, so we had to wait for the Yamadas to pick us up, so we went to school late every day. Because Yamadas children had to do their chores first. I didn't care. [Laughs] So from Puuloa we went to Waipahu High School.

TI: And during this time, when your father's building the house and the lot, is he still working as --

HM: A railroad man, uh-huh. He wasn't, I guess he had no intention of quitting until he had something going, otherwise we won't, we can't eat.

TI: So that's a lot of work this time, for the whole family.

HM: Oh, yes. I hated weekends. Oh, boy, I hated weekends. And then I don't even remember using gloves to pick up those corals. Of course, they weren't big, but that was work.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So anything else before the war we should talk about? 'Cause the next section we're gonna talk about the war starting, but before that, anything else about the neighborhood or your friends or anything else about the neighborhood?

HM: Okay, we visited the neighbors. Of course, we had to take... and my dad was a social type of man. We went and we introduced ourselves, then we went to Sakugawa? They had pigpens, so you can see pigs and the flies, so they would say, "Have tea and go home." And you know the spout of the tea pot? You couldn't find it with all the flies, but it's amazing, we never got sick. With all the flies, we drank tea and whatever they offered we ate and here was the flies, but we never got sick. It's amazing. I don't know why we didn't get, I always wondered about that, because now at home you find one fly in the house, everybody goes crazy. But you couldn't find the spout because here was all the flies.

TI: And you didn't say anything? You just drank the tea?

HM: Yeah, we drank the tea because they offered you the tea. Obachan would offer. It's, we're taking their time out, because they're raising pigs, so you take what they give you. We didn't talk back or anything. We didn't think it was dirty.

TI: Now, did your parents entertain during this time? Did anyone come to your house?

HM: No, everybody's too busy to entertain. We just went around introducing ourselves, that we moved, and then Mr. Charlie Nishioka was across the street (from Sakusawa) we didn't associate with Nishibatas, but, this Okinawan family.

KN: How many families were in the neighborhood?

HM: I don't know because we couldn't see the neighbors, but if I look at the map, lot of people bought the property but they weren't living in it.

TI: And how many non Japanese were in the neighborhood?

HM: I knew of two, Mr. Zane and the other one had a Hawaiian name but they were Portuguese. But my mother loved their home. It was built in a U-shaped type. It wasn't like a farmer's home. It was a U-shaped type, one side was kitchen and bedrooms, and the living room, and they had a little patio in the back. My mother loved that house.

TI: And that was the Zane house, or which?

HM: No, Mr. Zane was a, these Portuguese people had, they had, I think they were, intention of being of being a truck farm. I'm not sure.

TI: Good. So anything else before the war, before we go to December 7th?

HM: Well, we, I, when we moved to the house I was very happy. I was very happy we had a house of our own. But I didn't think that the mortgage, the... you know, when you are growing up, everything is for me, myself, and I, you don't think about anybody else but yourself. But I was very, very, I was a very happy child.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So we're gonna start the second section, and I want to go to now December 7, 1941, and have you kind of describe your day. What was that like?

HM: Okay, Sunday we kind of took it easy, that Sunday. I don't know why Dad wasn't, he wasn't yelling at us, "Hurry up because we have to..." but when I close my eyes I can see my dad and my mom very, very calm that morning. They weren't rushing us around. And then we finished our breakfast and my father said, "Okay, botsu botsu, let's get going," so we stood up, and then we heard this sound. See, we lived in Ewa, down that way, so we heard this sound coming, sounded like a swarm of bees, you know that humming sound? You could hear it, so we said, "Gee, what's happening?" Then got closer. Oh, you can't imagine. You see in movies, a war movie, planes coming. That's nothing. That's nothing. But that heavy sound that's coming, and it was not one or two, so as soon as they got closer the house started to vibrate, so by the time it did, the planes were right above our head, and I didn't know a dive bomber and a torpedo, because somewhere very, coming very low, they were coming fairly, because I guess they're the dive bombers, so they're, they flew lower. I don't know, but this is the story that I found out that they flew lower than those guys that came down.

TI: Helene, before we get into those details, when you start hearing the humming, that noise, and it gets closer and you see all the planes --

HM: Yeah, we saw that round red circle and my dad said, by the time we saw it was that fast, started to, already, the bombs were already going on. My father said, "I know the Americans do the stupid thing, but this is the most stupid thing I've seen." We saw that round red circle, and we didn't think it was war. We thought it was maneuvers, because we didn't, nobody had any feeling that we'll be ever invaded by Japanese, right? Because they were at war against, they were already fighting someone else, so we didn't think about it. And that, then when you saw the bombs, the explosion and the smoke and the sound of that plane just, I'm telling you it was really scary. It's, when you go to a movie you sit down and watch it, but actually when you see them coming and bombing and that thick, thick black smoke and the oil and not knowing what's going on. But we didn't think about turning the radio on, but I don't think at that time they, I don't think anybody knew that was, we'd been attacked at that time. I don't think so. People have said they knew, but I think they're lying. But I don't think we dreamt, we ever dreamed that we're gonna be attacked, but when you're there in the midst of all these planes with the red circle, we were scared, but we didn't know anything about it.

TI: So describe to me how close were you to the actual bombing? When you say Pearl Harbor, how close was that?

HM: You see, Pearl Harbor is shaped, the entrance is shaped like a U shape, and this is the Diamond Head side and this is Ewa Beach, so we weren't too far away from the entrance of Pearl Harbor when the... the reason why I saw that is last year I participated with the, speaking to community college teachers. Then we were invited to Hickam Air Force for officers' club, so I asked one of the security guards, I said, "Could you tell me where Puuloa was, Puuloa is?" And he said, "Oh, right at the entrance of," we were very close the entrance of Pearl Harbor. And I thought to myself, gee, that's really, really close. I didn't realize it was that close, and it really scared the hell out of me, to see how close we were at that time to... and then we heard about, my dad talked about the Marine barracks. Here again, the kiawe bushes were so thick I didn't know how far away, how many miles the Marine barracks was.

TI: So just like over the ridge almost was Pearl Harbor.

HM: Right, right, just a stone's throw. Maybe it's not a stone's throw, but when I saw the entrance to Pearl Harbor and where he pointed out where Puuloa, it was like a stone's throw.

TI: And the planes, did they come right over the house, or how close were they coming to your house?

HM: They're very close. They were, you could, you can (...) feel that (whoosh) because they flew so low, so can you imagine that, the sound of the plane?

KN: So when you, where were you when all of this, watching this from the --

HM: Yeah, we went to the front porch to, to --

KN: All your family members?

HM: Yeah.

KN: And what was the reaction of everyone there? You were scared. What was your father and your sisters' reactions?

HM: You know, I don't think we were scared yet, or frightened yet at that point. I don't think so. Because we didn't dare that, we didn't think that we'll be ever attacked. War was not in our vocabulary at that time. There was war elsewhere, but not in our everyday language war wasn't. So when the planes came in and that sound of the planes coming, the dive bomber that, I can't explain that sound. The plane come heading down and the planes are going around that way, you can't imagine, and it was like a swarm of bees coming, not one, two planes. They were just above our heads. Then, but guess what Mom was doing? Mom had her hands there [holds hands as if to pray] and she was saying, "Namu Amida Butsu" See, we were taught by our grandpa, and she was, too, that whenever you are afraid or something happens she says, "Always say, 'Namu Amida Butsu,'" will help you. So all through while we were watching Mom had her hands like this. But when the bombs started going on and the black smoke, I don't know how long it went because we, time was lost at that time, actually lost. It seems like everything was stopped.

TI: And when the explosions started happening --

HM: The house shook. The house shook. It's really not like watching the movies.

TI: Did you stay on the porch?

HM: We stayed on the porch all the time. But, you know, when you see war movies they start shooting when they come down, right? Not a single shot was fired. Not a single shot was fired when they went overhead, so we thought it was maneuvers. And then it just went on for a while, then we heard this terrible sound coming down from the street. Somebody was clanking something. We could hear it. Then we could hear somebody yelling and it was Mr. Zane and Mr. Kakazu. They went to the Marine barracks. We, well the local people would say "buta kau kau," that means that they went to the Marine barracks to pick up the slop to feed the pigs, but in local language we call it "buta kau kau." So they came up and say, "War, war," and that's when we believed that something was happening. And we said, "How did you guys protect yourselves down at the Marine barracks?" because when they came to the Marine barrack they were firing because that's military base. They said, "They told us to hide in the garbage can," so they covered themselves with the garbage, but somebody protected them that day. Not a single bullet went through those cans. Amazing, don't you think? Amazing. So they came home and they told us it's war, so that's when everybody froze. That's when we, so when Mr. Kakazu and, they went around the neighbors to tell them, because I don't think anybody turned the radio on. By then I'm sure there must've been some news, but we didn't think of turning our radio on. Then next you know we hear these screeching, planes coming. You've seen in the movies where they have the planes tailing one another, they call it a dogfight. First Americans were chasing the Japanese. They flew below the telephone line, so they were really, really low. We would, whoosh, we could feel the air. And then they flew so low that we actually saw the eyeballs of both pilots. So low. But not a single shot was fired. Amazing. I cannot understand.

TI: 'Cause you were right in the middle of all this happening.

HM: Yes. And they were still bombing when this thing happened. The next thing you know the Japanese are tailing the Americans. Not a single shot was fired. Amazing. You won't believe, and they flew below the telephone line, so, like the movies that you've seen, the war movies, how low they fly, that's how low they were flying. But I couldn't tell people that I saw the eyeballs of the pilots because they think I'm lying to them, but when I heard stories -- you see, when the planes first came in they flew over Ewa, because they came from Kahuka area, so they passed Ewa, so by the time they came to Ewa plantation they were really low because the target wasn't too far. Filipino kids (they) were flying (kites), we had oral history, (some later these) Filipino (boys), by the time we had oral history they were young men -- they said, "When we," because they didn't know any difference. They thought they were American pilots because I'm sure at that age they didn't know Japanese signal, so they waved and the pilots waved back. Amazing.

KN: But the community was left intact as --

HM: While the, where the kids were flying kites. So they say, "We saw them. We saw the eyeballs." So that's when I got proud, brave, and told people that I saw the eyeballs of the pilots.

TI: So the Japanese planes were just shooting at the military targets, the Marine barracks.

HM: Yeah, Marine barracks. And, and that thick smoke, it's, there's no word in the dictionary can describe that.

TI: It was the smoke coming over?

HM: Yeah, because the wind was blowing toward Ewa Beach side. That's where we lived.

TI: And do you have a sense of how long this went on?

HM: Like I said, the time was stopped. The time wasn't moving. It's kind of like everything was frozen. We felt like we were frozen, that feeling.

TI: And after the neighbors, I think you said Mr. Zane and someone else came by and said, "It's war, it's war," what did your parents do then now they realize, okay, we're at war?

HM: My dad says, "Don't worry." We must've said something, but I remember distinctly my father said, "You girls got us. We'll protect you." I remember distinctly that's my, "Shinpai surunai," he said. "Don't worry," he said. I knew, and I firmly believe if something had happened my father would have helped us. He would have protected us, and so as my mom. But that was very firm assuring words, shinpai surunai, don't worry. It's the tone, tone of voice. I can still hear him. But I hope nobody goes through this experience, even my worst enemy. That, I can close my eyes and hear that sound coming, because it was the back of our head coming as it got closer, because they were already flying very low.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And so when the attack was over and the planes were gone, then what happened?

HM: The thing just disappeared, the planes just disappeared. Where did they go? And they were gone. I can't tell you how long it was, but they came to do their mission and they were gone. And that's where the, you got scared. It was, you couldn't, you didn't know what to do with yourself, whether you should cry or anything, whether we're going to survive tonight or tomorrow.

TI: And when the planes had left, what sounds, what could you hear at that point?

HM: You can hear them going, going back. We didn't see them going, but you could hear the sound going toward that way, toward Kahuku way.

TI: And then when they got out of range, when you couldn't hear the planes anymore, what sounds were left? Did you hear still explosions?

HM: Yes, some explosion, and the thick oil smell. Then that, that explosion going off here and there, and then my father said, "Oh, I wonder how many guys got killed?" But then we knew it was war. It was a horrible day, horrible day. I hope nobody goes through that.

TI: So this all happened in the morning.

HM: Yeah, in blink of your eye, blink of your eye.

TI: So as the day went on, what happened next, so after the attack?

HM: Everybody was quiet. Everybody was quiet.

TI: Did people go to other houses and check on people?

HM: No. No, we didn't. Nobody in our neighborhood did. 'Cause you didn't want to dare go out because, you know, funny thing, we didn't have, we didn't have telephone and yet we heard stories. It's amazing how rumors fly, even without telephone. We heard that the Japanese gonna invade Ewa Beach, and Ewa Beach is close by, so we were afraid of that. So what my dad did is filled up the burlap bags with whatever dirt, we didn't have that much dirt in our yard. He made some burlap bags and he put it in the bedroom to protect us that night.

KN: So despite being very close to the military barracks, no one came to see you?

HM: No, nobody went out. Nobody ventured out.

KN: I mean, you didn't have visitors even come by, even military personnel come to visit you?

HM: Okay. I don't know how many days later, must've been right away, you see, my, by then the government had rationed gas, so everybody had just ten dollars, ten gallons worth of gas. So my dad still worked for the railroad, so he couldn't come home every day, so weekends he came home.

TI: Oh, so actually you're gonna go to when they do this, but let's stay right, the days right after Pearl, December 7th. So like on that day, were there, like, any military people going through the streets just checking for damage or anything?

HM: No, no, no.

TI: So there was no government officials, no police?

HM: No, no cars, no... no. I don't, when you think about it, I don't think that people knew that people ever lived in Puuloa. I don't think so. I firmly believe that, I don't think so. Maybe the families worried about their families being in Puuloa, but here again, we couldn't call my mother's family because we didn't have telephone yet.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So how about the next day? Did your father go to work the next day?

HM: Yeah, he went to work. 'Cause he didn't want to get laid off, right? So he went to work, so he couldn't come home. So like I said, I don't know whether it was following day or day after, I don't know whether it was Marines or army because I didn't know what, what their uniforms looked like those days. That was the least thing that I worried about, military, those days. So these two young fellows came, really young boys, and then they came up the step. The frightening thing was, I've seen pictures where the rifle, they have that, what do you call it?

TI: The bayonet?

HM: Bayonet? I've seen only pictures. This is actually true. And the other fellow had his hand on the gun, came up the step, my mom said, "Girls, stand back of me." We were taller than Mom. Mom says stay back, so we stayed back. We'd be, for a change we'd listened. [Laughs] And then she opened the door. The first guy who put his foot on the living room floor, guess what Mom said? "Boys, we Japanese do not come in the house with shoes." She emphasized the word "we Japanese." I think she meant well. She said, "We Japanese do not come in the house," and you won't believe this, but those boys removed their shoes, the boots. They probably heard the mother say, "Boys, we do not come in the house with dirty shoes or muddy shoes," because they were just as afraid of us as we were afraid of, they didn't know what was in the house and we were afraid of the guns. But those boys removed their boots.

So they looked into the living room, we had not a single piece of furniture, only zabutons here and there. Mom made beautiful zabuton. They went to my room; there's nothing in my room because we just moved in. So they went into Amy's room, nothing there. Miyeko's room, nothing there. Because we just moved in. So they went into Mom's room. Mom had a camera. Remember those Kodak accordion type of camera? Mom had that. So they, they're gonna touch that; Mom said, "Don't touch that because I've taken pictures only of my, my three girls and pictures of my, seeing how much we were improved (clearing the property)," so they let it go. So Mom says, "I'll show you," so you know on the trunk, they called it, we called it toranko -- it's trunk, every Japanese family had that. That's where they kept all the important papers. So we had stack of futon on the trunk, when my mom went there to take that off boys didn't move. They let Mom do it. They must've trusted my mother. They must have. She took it off, she opened it up, and she brought the album out. "Now, boys, you can see so many pictures of my girls." Then they went to the hotoekesan. We're Buddhist, so we have an altar. So they got the, Mom said, "Stop, don't do that. I need that now in the worst way," so they didn't touch that, they, we heard rumors -- now, these are rumors -- they knocked it down. We heard rumors they, that they even scattered the ashes around. That's the rumors that we heard. Funny thing, we didn't have telephone, but those rumors ran around real fast. They didn't touch it.

And then they went into the bathroom to see what was -- now, when we were growing up we, they had a kusuriyasan, medicine man, that went to house to house and then we bought medicine from the kusuriyasan. And then Mom -- Mom, brave one -- she stuck her hand in the bag, she brought all the medicine, had a picture of Japanese soldier blowing the bugle and the Japanese flag. She said, "Boys, you can take this back with you. It's only a cold medicine. And if," listen to this now, Mom said -- she was so brave, so calm. I wish I learned to be as calm as Mom. She said, "If you find it, if it's poison you can come and pick me up," she said. Boys did not take that with them. They must have really trusted my mother. They knew she was... Mom was honest. She didn't raise her voice. She was calm as a cucumber, I'm telling you, real calm.

And they left, they had to walk through the kitchen, said, she said, Mom said, "If you boys in my neighborhood and you want something cold to drink," and we drank nothing but Kool-Aids. We didn't have soda pops at our house. My father didn't drink, so we didn't have beer or anything. Said, "You can come by and have something cold to drink." So they went off. They didn't want anything and they went off, but Mom... Mom really saved our lives. I feel so arigatai I had such wonderful parents. I wish you guys could have met my mom. She was on the heavy side, so I think that's why we all look like, Mom used to always say, Mom -- this the funny part of Mom. She said, Mom had beautiful legs, she had real nice legs, top heavy, but she said, "I can't understand why you girls got daikon legs and I have such legs." She used to lift up her dress and show us her legs. That was the funny part of my mom, all the time. She always compared our, our legs, but...

TI: It's amazing how strong she was, how calm she could be when all this was happening.

HM: Yeah, she was so calm. You know, her, I think her thought was just us, the girls.

TI: Helene, thank you for sharing this. I know it's, it's emotional, it's hard, and I appreciate you sharing this about your mother.

HM: Yeah, but Mom was, Mom was... I lost her so young, but...


TI: So, Helene, we were just, you just described the soldiers at your house and your mother showing them around, and after the soldiers left, what did she say to you and your sisters?

HM: I don't remember what she said. I'm sure she was just as scared as we were. That's, she told us, "Girls, stand back of me."

TI: And so as they went from room to room, did --

HM: Yeah, we were like little ducks following Mom.

TI: So you followed them around and watched what they did?

HM: Yeah, we were, we weren't, I was already sixteen, so I was a young lady, you know?

TI: And you said taller than your mother, too.

HM: Yeah, we were taller than my mom, and yet we followed her. Must've been a sight, huh, to see young ladies just following Mom like that, just like the ducklings.

TI: No, I love the way you described it because I can almost, I can visualize it. It's like a movie.

HM: Yeah, slow, slow movies. Followed Mom.

TI: Now, did the soldiers take anything?

HM: No.

TI: So at the end, even with a camera there and things, they --

HM: Yeah, they didn't. But the sad part, we talk about the camera -- we'll come to that later. I'll tell you the story. But you, you've seen, heard stories about mothers, you know the, like pioneer days, what mothers did. Mom did exactly the same.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Did your mother ever bring up that her husband was a veteran of World --

HM: Huh?

TI: Did your mother ever bring up the fact that your husband, her husband was a veteran of World War I, was an army veteran?

HM: Yeah.

TI: So she would tell them.

HM: Yeah, she would. The funny story, she always said, "You know your dad," she would shake her head, "he got busted as soon as he got promoted." [Laughs] She used to shake her head and say that, because Dad was the kind of guy, and I think I'm like my dad, if you say, if I say something and it's not right then I think, but you're gonna have to prove to me that I am wrong. I'm not gonna take, that's one of my bad habits. That's Dad. That, I know it's wrong and yet you're gonna have to prove to me that I am wrong.

TI: But I was wondering, did your mother, like with these officials, these military soldiers, did she ever tell them that your dad was a veteran?

HM: No, but I wrote on my repatriation thing, "Why are you, why did you evacuate me when my dad served in the army in the First World War?" I wrote that on my paper. It didn't do any good. [Laughs]

TI: In the house, was there any symbol or sign that your father had served in the U.S. Army?

HM: No, no.

TI: So there're no pictures or anything?

HM: Oh, we had pictures.

TI: Of him, like, in the uniform?

HM: In a uniform.

TI: But they weren't on display or anything, so --

HM: No, no, no. We just moved, so the house was still bare. And surprising, our bedrooms were still clean yet, not messy. We didn't have chance to mess it up yet. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah. No, it's interesting to me that the soldiers followed your mother's orders, I mean, taking their shoes off.

HM: Surprising, so they, I'm sure they heard their mother. Don't you think so?

TI: Yeah, that's what I'm wondering.

HM: Yeah, they heard their mother talking, because they were young, young fellows, real young kids. And I always wonder, did they ever survive the war? I think about that all the time. Lately there've been lots of helicopters going by, by fours, I think, "Are they getting ready for another invasion?" That's what I think about. And then about three o'clock or so, I don't know whether it's a passenger plane or military, I know it's about three or four o'clock in the morning... I'm a very light sleeper, I don't know, because of the war I still have the fear. The kids always say, "Mom, forget about it," but every morning about three o'clock I could hear the plane coming from the distance, roaring sound, because they're going, they want to pick up altitude -- airport is down there, so they come -- so I'm hearing the planes, so I don't like that. So I'm up about three o'clock every morning, so actually I don't sleep very well.

KN: Even still today, because of the war?

HM: I think it is, because you can hear that roaring sound because, like I said, they're stepping on the gas and trying to pick up altitude, is it? 'Cause when they come to the Waikiki they're going... so I still have that fear in me. I don't think it's ever gonna go away.

TI: Yeah, I think some of it just is always gonna stay.

HM: Yeah.

TI: Going back to your, you were talking a little bit about your father, the gas rationing so that there's only, like, a certain number of gallons, so he with his job had to stay there, then?

HM: Yeah, he stayed at Aunt Teruyo, who's the one that, she was very proud of the family and she told me all the stories, and it's a good thing that I jotted down, like I said earlier, whatever paper I had in my bag, I jot everything what she said, so I have, in fact, I brought you some scratch paper that I can show you. But you know, I'm jumping ahead, but I brought a book.

TI: Well, why don't we keep talking? Let's just do it when we get there. So I want to get to the point where some soldiers came and made you, gave you the order to leave, but between the story you just told and when you had to leave, anything else happen?

HM: No, there was a quiet period. There was a quiet period. Like I said, we followed Mom wherever we went because we had to go outside, our bathhouse was outside, so we had to go out, so I think we took a bath about two o'clock in the afternoon. [Laughs] Because we didn't know whether the military's coming nighttime and there's just girls at home, so that's when the, that's when we used to have fun taking a bath because everybody would have to share the fresh water, so we had fun in taking a bath, washing our hair and cooking. And Mom planted some tomatoes, tomatoes did very well. So tomato is still my favorite vegetable. But it was a quiet time. We didn't, we couldn't go out; we didn't have a car, and people weren't traveling, the farmers were busy.

So, but I forgot to tell you, December 7th, when everything settled down, no planes were going, not even American planes, I had a boyfriend. At sixteen you had to have a boyfriend, so I had a boyfriend who came from Honouliuli on his bicycle, and, like I told my granddaughter, "Being a teenager at my time and your time is the same, just time is different and place is different." But I worried about, he, over the weekend he used to come to see me on the bicycle, so I told my dad, "Dad, you think Jimmy's coming down this afternoon?" thinking only about myself. So you know what happened, huh? This hand came up. But I'd never seen him after that, not a single word until a couple years ago I saw an obituary, that's all.

KN: You never saw your boyfriend after the war?

HM: Uh-uh.

TI: Even, so after that day, I mean, you never saw him?

HM: No. We didn't have telephone, so I couldn't call him or he couldn't call me, right?

TI: But it seems odd that you wouldn't have seen each other.

HM: He went to St. Louis. I went to Waipahu school. So we never had a...

TI: And then just, you said a few years ago you saw the obituary, so he had died.

HM: Yeah.

TI: Oh, that's, that's interesting.

HM: Yeah, that was, that's the sad part, but I guess meant to be like that.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So let's, let's continue the story. You said there was this quiet period.

HM: It was very, very quiet.

TI: And then what happened? Something then happened.

HM: And then we were told to evacuate. That was frightening. "You have to evacuate before sundown." You've heard stories, you've read about it, when they say you have to get out by sundown...

TI: And what kind of reason did they give? I mean...

HM: No reason, you just evacuate. Like they did to the Japanese in the mainland.

KN: Can you describe that? They came to your house? They made an announcement and they told you? What happened?

HM: Now how are we gonna get out?

TI: Well, no, so, Kelli's asking how did you find out that you had to be evacuated? So how did they tell you?

HM: That we had to get out by sundown.

TI: And who told you that?

HM: Military. I don't know whether it was army or Marines, but they came.

TI: So did they come to your, your door?

HM: Uh-huh.

TI: And they talked to your mother?

HM: Uh-huh. Okay, in the meantime, we were worried how were we gonna get down, but Mom was very quiet, and those days we didn't have such thing as suitcase because nobody traveled, right? So we, you know what furoshiki is? The big (square piece of material) that you, every, everything was wrapped in furoshiki. Well Mom quietly packed all the individual for us, for she and dad, and she had another one with all her important papers, and then when we were ready to go, how are we gonna get out? No cars. We can't ask the neighbors, right? So I remember every afternoon there was a great big defense truck. We called it defense truck. They took workers, I don't know where they went, but I remember going, seeing them, so they always left about three o'clock, so I told Mom, "Don't worry." I said, "We're gonna hitch a ride," and we hitched a ride. I stood in the center of the street, my legs spread open wide, and I had my hand, held my hand up, so the driver told me to get out, he honked his horn and told me, I said, "No, I'm not getting out." So he came down, so you know what language came with that, but that's okay, but I said, "No." I said, "You're gonna have to take me up because you told me that I have to get out," because he was a military, a defense worker, so I'm blaming him because we have to evacuate. So after bouncing back and forth he said okay, so we had, those days rice came in hundred pounds bag, so when war broke out first thing my dad went to and got groceries for us, so we were well stocked with food in our pantry, so Mom said wherever we go we need rice, so we carried the hundred pound -- it's heavy, hundred pound bag rice -- so we carried it, we carried our own clothing in our furoshiki, then we put the rice, and they didn't even help us. So we struggled, the three of us struggled to put down. So they Mom wanted to get, jump on the bed of the truck. How is Mom gonna get on the bed? I insisted that Mom sits in the front. No, cannot. I said no, Mom's gonna -- so after a while we argued they put Mom in the front.

So we went, and then they, they told that as far as they can take us, Waipahu, from Ewa Beach, so we got and then we got off at, the road was called Danburo. Danburo means "down below," so we got off at Danburo Road and, but fortunately Mom had a friend that lived very close by, so we just meekly went to her house, so she opened the door and let us stay there for a while. Here again, how did my father know that we had to evacuate? But he showed up. Amazing. How did he find out? I don't know. So they told us they'll provide us transportation and housing. Ha ha. No such thing. We had to hitch a ride. No transportation, no housing, so I, then a couple of days my father said we're gonna move to Honouliuli Japanese school, so we moved there. Then we had to leave with the rest -- see, the farmers were able to go in sunup and sundown to finish whatever product, the produce they had, they had to finish it up. There was time limit, I'm sure. I'm not sure about that. So they, we all stayed, and the funny part is that it was not nice sleeping with the mosquitoes every night, but the snoring and the stories that people talking in, in their sleep, oh, it was funny.

TI: So this is at the Honouliuli language school?

HM: Language school.

TI: And all the people sleeping kind of together.

HM: Yeah, in one big room we all slept together. [Laughs] So kind of you couldn't, you had to listen that stories that people talking in their sleep. That was the fun part of the, staying at the... but Mom helped with the cooking. She stayed home.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

KN: How many families were at the --

HM: Oh, there were quite a few of us. I can't remember, but there were quite a few of us.

KN: And these were people who had been displaced?

HM: Yeah, we were in the same community, but they were well-established farmers, so they were given time to finish whatever they had to, were producing, so I don't know how long a period they had.

TI: And then for, like food and things, was it all communal so that everyone kind of ate together, chipped in food, ate together?

HM: Yeah, everybody chipped in. Right, Mom did the cooking. But it was very enjoyable. Nobody talked about anything sad or anything. Everybody was laughing like nothing had happened, which was very good. So we, we didn't know that certain people lived in the same area until the war broke. Maybe that was a good thing in disguise. We met good people. Yeah.

TI: Now, what did people think about the possibility of going back to their homes? What was the thinking?

HM: We, we tried and I got statement from the navy saying that they thought about it but we were too close to the military, so they didn't release us.

TI: Now, earlier I asked about the non-Japanese and you said there were two families.

HM: That I know of.

TI: The Zane and a Portuguese family, what happened to them? Were they able to stay or did they --

HM: They weren't evacuated... gee, I read about it just this morning, not when we were told to evacuate. But -- I didn't know this until I read a book, how they were compensated -- they were, like the Portuguese family were given three thousand dollars because it was worth that amount at that time, so three thousand dollars in 1941 was big money, so that's what they got, so they didn't get compensated like we did. But we had one family, the Chinese family, she wanted to get in for the repatriation, so she came and then we worked together, but she was denied flatly, but she, so I lost a very good friend because of that.

TI: Why is that, because...

HM: Because she couldn't get twenty thousand dollars like we did.

TI: But why would she, I mean, you tried.

HM: But she didn't tell us the story that they got compensated.

TI: Oh, I see. So the non-Japanese families got compensated, but the Japanese families didn't get compensated.

HM: No, we didn't.

TI: So what happened to the farm? I mean, so you didn't get compensated, what happened to it?

HM: Everything, they took everything away. So couple of days later, going back a little way, when my parents went back to the house to pick up the trunk and everything, lot of things were missing, already missing, but good thing whoever went in didn't mess around with the important, the trunk. We had other things. See, my mom used to buy us kimonos all the time, so we had beautiful kimonos in the trunk and nobody touched it. But since it was, the doorknobs were gone, the light fixtures were gone, and our water pump was gone, some, somebody had, I say stolen the thing, but the military said they didn't do it, but who did it? We don't know. So the house was stripped naked.

TI: But then in terms of the property, now that you couldn't go back there, what happened to the property?

HM: Went back to the navy.

TI: And, and you said you got no compensation?

HM: We got the twenty thousand dollars, but that was --

TI: That was later.

HM: -- later. But nothing. We lost everything. So we didn't live in the house very long.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

HM: We moved in in August before school, and it was less than two weeks from December 7th when we were evacuated. I remember distinctly, less than two weeks on a Thursday that we were --

TI: So maybe about eleven days after December 7th. And so the pig farms, the chicken farms that were all down there, they lost all that, too?

HM: No, they had, they were able to finish whatever they, they had started, so they probably sold all the pigs, and I'm not sure. I don't know the story on the other...

TI: But still, the property that they --

HM: They worked hard to, to get to that point.

TI: Because your father, earlier you mentioned, paid seven thousand dollars for those nine acres, and so he lost all that?

HM: All that, so we didn't have, the loan was just canceled.

KN: At that time, what do you remember thinking about that, that you'd lost everything, especially after, beginning of your story you were saying to, how you were bragging to your classmates that you now had land.

HM: I was really proud.

KN: And now it's all taken away. What do you remember, your reactions or your parents' reactions to be at, at that?

HM: You know, my parents never talked about it. I wish they would've told me their feeling, but they didn't say anything.

KN: What did you feel about events that had happened? I mean, it was a great adventure at the Japanese language school, but now where do you go?

HM: Where do we go? Then we were told that we have to get out from there, but the sad thing when we went to Honouliuli, there was a Jodo mission temple, when the FBI came to pick up the ministers you won't believe it. He wanted -- they had a brand new baby -- he wanted to hug his wife. She was holding the baby, so he wanted to hug her. They tore him apart from his wife, actually, so I hated the FBI. They didn't even give a chance for him to say goodbye. That's, that's the worst part of being in Honouliuli. I cannot forget that. They were doing what they were told to do, but did they have to be that mean? I don't know.

TI: And then, they said then you had to leave Honouliuli?

HM: Uh-huh. Where are we going? We had to look for a house.

TI: So where did you go?

HM: Well, it was hard to find, so my aunt on my, my mother's younger sister found us a house. We had automatic air conditioning. Floors, it had a lot of holes on the floor because it was an old, old house that they were able to find us, so there was hole right in front of toilet. [Laughs] So we always say, "Watch out now."

KN: There was an indoor toilet?

HM: Yeah, but the house was so old, so it had pukas here, the holes all over the place, but that's okay. We had roof over our head.

KN: What part of town did you move to?

HM: Wahiawa. But we had a place to stay, even, it was really, the termites were already holding hands, but a place to sleep.

KN: And in the meantime your father had continued his job as a railroad man?

HM: At the railroad, uh-huh.

KN: So you guys did have income coming in.

HM: Yeah, so, and in the meantime I was already out of high school. But although it was war, I had a wonderful high school life. I didn't, I didn't think I worried that much about war. I don't think so.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

KN: Since you graduated, what did you do in the meantime?

HM: The biggest mistake I made in my life was I didn't go to university. Why? In 1943 the war was, war was war. It was really going at it, so few of our friends got together, why go to university? We may not be alive tomorrow That's the attitude. I didn't think, so that was the biggest mistake I made in my life, not going to college.

KN: What, what did you want to become, if you did in fact go to college?

HM: I wanted to be a social worker. I have proof because we had a Japanese school yearbook and I said I wanted to be a social worker. Don't ask me where I got it, but that's what I said, I wanted to be a social worker.

KN: But war changed all of that and a lot of people's attitudes, I guess. When you met together and you talked with your friends and said, "We may not be alive then."

HM: Yeah, that's what we thought, why go to school? We may not be alive tomorrow. But that was my biggest mistake I've made in my life. But I didn't let that get me down. [Laughs]

KN: So what did you do, since you couldn't go to school?

HM: I worked for the, I worked for the military and, of course, the pay was good. Money was so... so did I save? No, I spent it. Here again, may not gonna be alive tomorrow. Bad attitude, but you know, that's what was in my mind.

KN: So what kind of jobs did you do?

HM: I worked for the army ordinance depot, at Fort Shafter. But the thing that, you've heard of the black badge, because we were Japanese we had to, that was the worst thing. My best friend, Chinese girl -- I won't mention her name -- she called me "Jap." We were the best of friends. We shared our lives, we talked about, we talked about our personal life. Nothing was hidden, everything was on the, open to the table. And yet when I started wearing black badge I got called "Jap." It was embarrassing to wear the black badge when everybody else had white badge. Why should I punished?

TI: And for your friend to call you that, so she would know you --

HM: She was my best friend. We shared lives. We shared our secrets and everything, and yet...

TI: So why do you think she changed her attitude? She knew you before.

HM: I think they were afraid of being friends with Japanese. I've never asked them, but I'm sure they were afraid, because I've heard a story about German family, even the aunt didn't want to help the children because she was afraid to be caught. So I think there must've been some, somewhere along the line they may get into trouble. I never found out, but I'm sure that's how they felt.

TI: It was almost like she wanted to show people that the Japanese weren't her friends so she would do that to her best friend.

HM: Yeah, I don't know whether that was her, her thinking, but it could be fear being a friend of Japanese, thinking they may get picked up also. This was still 1943 now, so when I think about it even now, I hated it, but I don't, I don't hate her anymore. I don't know what happened to her, but I don't, when I talk about it, I don't hate her.

TI: So besides wearing the black badge, what are some other examples of the Japanese being singled out and, and more difficult?

HM: That we, we had to go through the gate, we even had to open our bags to show that we had nothing in the bag, even our lunch paper bag we had to open up. I hated that. And then we would, if our friends are not feeling well, we would give them a call to see, and then if the mother's not feeling well, the father, "How's Okaasan?" Clink, you could, telephone conversation were cut, because even the telephone was censored. You couldn't use Japanese words.

TI: And this was when you were at work, or just everywhere?

HM: Everywhere. I mean, that's my experience now. I'm sure it happened to other people, too.

TI: So your sense was whenever Japanese was used someone was listening?

HM: Then my father used to say, "Don't say anything because you don't know who's listening."

KN: So there was no Japanese language spoken at home?

HM: No, you couldn't. You couldn't speak Japanese.

TI: How about acts of kindness? It was hard to be Japanese, did you ever come across someone who went out of their way to help you because you were Japanese?

HM: Well, I don't know about that. I, maybe it happened, but I don't think it happened to me. In the whole, people were nice. People are nice, so it could have happened, but it's a good thing I didn't remember that bad part of that story. I can just remember the nice, nice thing. Of course, I remember the horrible things I went through, but something like that, it's not in my mind anymore. When I talk about it I'll think about it, but other than that, uh-uh.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So when the war ended, how did that change things?

HM: Boy, did I quit my job right away.

TI: [Laughs] Why is that?

HM: I didn't want the black badge. I should've kept the black badge. I don't know what I did with it, but I think we had to turn it in. But when they said the war is over I quit. [Laughs] I wanted to get away from all that. I wanted to be free. I didn't want to be tied up.

TI: And the reason you kept the job during the war was you needed the money?

HM: Well, our job was frozen. You couldn't quit.

TI: I'm sorry, it was frozen so that you couldn't quit?

HM: Yeah, we couldn't quit. Jobs were frozen that time. Maybe it was a good thing. I would've jumped from one job to the other.

TI: But -- go ahead.

KN: What other instances of martial law? Because there was freezing of jobs that you experienced --

HM: Yeah, that's why --

KN: Do you remember any of the blackouts or other things that happened?

HM: Yeah, the blackouts, I think we, as our family we took it as a stride. We didn't worry about blackout because Dad had everything. They really took good care of us, so we didn't have, we didn't worry about those things. So you can see my parents really protected us, so we didn't think... no, no, no, we didn't, I thought, I don't, so I don't... of course, it was uncomfortable. We had to take a bath while the sun was up and all that, but still then we had food to eat and all that, so those are the things, the least things I worried about.

KN: What about your sisters or other family members? Were they going to school still, or did they work?

HM: So three of us went to different schools. I finished Waipahu High School and Amy went to Farrington and my youngest sister went to Leilehua, so we were, temporarily I stayed with a family in Waipahu because I wanted to finish high school. And Amy wanted to go to Farrington, so Miyeko, the youngest, was the baby, so she hung around home, so she went to Leilehua. So three of us graduated different high schools.

KN: What kind of jobs did you look for after the war? Since you wanted to leave as soon as possible since you didn't like the black badge, what kind of jobs did you do afterwards?

HM: Then I worked for Kodak Hawaii, and at that time there were still Marines at the Kodak Hawaii building. I don't know what they were doing, but that's the least thing that I worried about, but I was a stock clerk.

TI: That reminds me, you said there was a story about the camera. Earlier you mentioned how the soldiers didn't take the camera and you said there was a story you were gonna tell us later.

HM: Oh yes, I don't know what happened to the camera. I think that's the least thing on my mother's mind. So I have no picture of the house, no picture of improvement, but it's on, you cannot erase that from my mind. I can still see the house and the improvement was being done, and I don't know what else my mom had in the camera, but that's the saddest thing, that I don't know what happened to the camera.

TI: So at some point, maybe when someone came through the house, they --

HM: Yeah, they could have picked it up, because people those days, people didn't have cameras, so we had luxury at home. My dad really loved my mother. You used to see the things that he used to buy her, Japanese records -- remember the record player? My dad bought a lot of things for my mom, I remember. He really loved my mother.

TI: Kelli, is there anything else around the wartime, 'cause I was gonna, I want to kind of move to the redress time and to understand that.

HM: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So, so I'm thinking in 1988, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed by President Reagan.

HM: Right.

TI: Which offered an apology and twenty thousand dollars per person, and it was to pay redress to those individuals who were affected by Executive Order 9066.

HM: Oh, I hated the, still today I don't like Executive 9066. I hate it.

TI: And so the money would start coming out in 1990, 1991, first payments, and I think about this time there was some activity in Hawaii to start addressing some of the issues that, that affected you and others.

HM: Right.

TI: So can you talk about that, how that got started?

HM: The first meeting was held, the Japanese, you know where the Japanese Cultural Center is? The building that used to be called Pango, Pango, they used to have dances. I used to go there dancing every weekend. And we went there and found out, so talked about it, so right away Mr. Nishioka, Charlie Nishioka, he was a, he raised chickens down the street -- I couldn't see him, I didn't know he was my neighbor until that day -- he said, "Okay, let's work together." Then Bill Kaneko, who was in, helped us out, the Puuloa group, he said, "In order to advance you're gonna have to work as a group," so he gave us a good, so we got together and Mr. Nishioka had a service station in Waipahu. He said, "You can use my office." So we decided that we're going to charge every family twenty-five dollars, for stamps, correspondence and whatever we needed, so some families didn't want to. They wanted to get onto the wagon but not paying the twenty-five dollars. Well, that's okay, so we decided to, Mr. Nishioka was really nice about that, so everybody, so we started to go and, gee, I can't think of her name now... isn't that something? I can't think of the woman who helped, isn't that terrible? She's on the tip of my tongue. (Narr. note: It was Mrs. Ruth Yamaguchi.) Well, she and I both worked on it, and we dug out, we went to university and we sat at Hemingway and the... we went to university, we sat there until we were really freezing to find what it, but we found out that some of the materials, even at that time, were still frozen. We couldn't get it.

TI: And what information were you looking for? What were you researching?

HM: Anything we could find to help us, why we were thrown out, who lived in the properties, so we went to Bureau of Conveyance. I was very fortunate. My cousin was working there, so she said, "What do you need?" and she'd jot it down, so I didn't have to wait. So we got map of Puuloa, who lived there, she gave us all that. Of course, we had to pay a little money for that, so we went to Bureau of Conveyance, went to archives, we went everywhere to find information, then we heard rumors -- my husband was really nice, he was my chauffeur -- went to hear the story, thinking it's, be connected to us. So whatever we did we went crazy. We went all over to find whatever materials we can get, and it really paid off.

TI: And so all this information came back to that office at the service station, you would organize it, and then what would you do with all this information?

HM: And then we had to send it to Washington, D.C., so what we did is we made photostat copy for most of the families, because we were fortunate to get, so those days making, Mr. Nishioka just volunteered, so we photostat copied and everybody sent the same information, the people that belonged to our group, so there were no two different stories.

KN: So how many families total?

HM: There were about twenty-five or so, I think. I forgot the number, but there were quite a few.

KN: So these were all former residents that all sent the same --

HM: Lived in Puuloa.

KN: -- materials in their petitions to D.C.?

HM: Right, uh-huh. So we, you'd be surprised the stories we got between them, all that.

TI: And then what happened? So you sent this all out, all the families sent their petitions there, then what happened?

HM: Then we got denied. Then we got denied. They said there's someone living in that property.

TI: I'm sorry, say it again. They said someone's living there?

HM: Yeah. What, what do you call someone that keeps bees?

KN: A beekeeper?

HM: Yeah. He was white man, of course, so he stayed there. Okay, now we were denied. Now someone told Mr. Nishioka that, Mr. Nishioka's a businessman, so probably, when he must've mentioned to somebody the story must've come out. I don't know how we found, his name was Mr. Hennigan. He lived, he was... so Mr. Nishioka, being a businessman, he said, "Let's go to the post office and find out," because those days everybody had P.O. Box number, no mail delivery. So we all went to Ewa plantation and Mr. Ching was the postmaster. Said, "Yeah, he comes for mail all the time." Ah, he was there during the war days. So we got back into the bandwagon.

TI: So let me make sure I understand this, so the ORA, the Office of Redress Administration, denied your petitions, and the reason they denied it was --

HM: Mr. Hennigan was at the, was still there.

TI: But then he was, he was not Japanese, so wouldn't that, wouldn't that help your case because it was really only the Japanese had to leave and Mr. Hennigan, who was white, was allowed to stay there?

HM: Right.

TI: So that's what you were trying to establish, that he was allowed to stay there?

HM: Uh-huh. So Mr. Nishioka, being a smart man, he said, "Ah, let's go to the post office."

TI: Okay, I understand, so you want to track him down and find him. Okay, so then, so did you find Mr. Hennigan?

HM: Yes, I went to university and found his article at the university. I have it with me. But so that's when we went back to the... Then we had to do the whole ritual again, but we already had the papers with us, so we sent it back and so that's when we got back to the bandwagon.

TI: So you resubmitted your petition establishing that Mr. Hennigan was allowed to stay but the Japanese had to leave, submitted that to the ORA again. And then what happened?

HM: Then I think it took about two years, if I'm not mistaken, to... well, in the meantime there were quite a few correspondence and they sent us the same old questions. So I wrote on the paper one time, "You threw me out. You have my, why do you need?" I was getting nasty by that time, so my husband said, "Watch it, you're gonna get thrown in jail. They're gonna throw the key away." [Laughs] But that's what they did to us. I cannot understand that they would do things like that, the government, knowing that we had nothing to do with it.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

KN: So do you remember that day when the letter actually came and your reaction to it?

HM: I have pictures of that. The first thing my husband -- my husband was our chauffeur -- boy, we ate lot of hamburgers for lunch when we were doing research, lot of hamburgers we ate, so no wonder I put on weight at that time, but the first thing he said when he opened the mail -- we knew that it was the check, government check -- the first thing, when I showed my husband the check, you know what he said? "Mom, yoku yatta," you did well. Because I, we really worked hard for that, because I worked hard for my parents because rightfully that's theirs, not mine. I wanted my parents to get that because, but they passed away before the bill was passed. That's not fair. That's not fair. Rightfully that belonged to my mom and my dad, not us. But I really, I worked for them. At times I was very hurt because they asked us some, such stupid questions and we had to look for information, but I wasn't gonna give up. I did for my parents, I really did. I really worked my pants off then. I wanted to. So when my husband said, "Mom, yoku yatta," that means "you did well," I was very happy. I was happy that somebody recognized that I worked hard. So the first thing I did, I put the check on the hotekesan.

TI: I'm sorry, say that again, the check...

HM: Yeah, opened the check and I put it on the hotekesan, the altar, and I thanked my parents. Because of them I got this.

KN: Were your sisters alive then?

HM: I lost Amy before that, my sister right below, but Miyeko, the youngest --

KN: Do you remember telling her and what was her reaction to all this?

HM: Oh, Miyeko was something else. She was, she had a lot of children, so working on the repatriation was hard for her, so I did everything for her because we had the same information, so I made photostat copies for her and whatever had to be signed I had her sign and I sent it, 'cause she was raising five children. That's a lot of work. [Laughs] So I did for her. But it was a good feeling.

TI: And in the end, how many received checks because of this effort?

HM: I think all the, all the people that worked in the group had.

TI: So do you know how many checks it ended up being, how many people?

HM: I don't know, but there's one family I remember distinctly, I think they had twelve in all.

TI: I'm sorry, twelve?

HM: Yeah.

TI: Wow.

HM: Twelve times twenty thousand.

TI: So that's two hundred forty thousand dollars.

HM: That's lots of money. But I don't know whether I should tell you guys... well, they -- no, I don't think I better tell you that story.

TI: Okay, that's fine. After people start receiving checks, what did people tell you, 'cause you were sort of one of the organizers who got this moving? What did they tell you?

HM: Not one thank you.

TI: No. You got to be kidding me, really?

HM: Of course, we thanked ourselves who worked together. You know, it's so sad I can't think of her name. I can picture her. (Ruth Yamaguchi).

TI: Even some of the people who, maybe, early on weren't supportive --

HM: Who gave us bad time.

TI: -- and they got their checks, they didn't say anything to you?

HM: All the correspondence had our name and telephone number because they had to call us back for information. I was hurt. You know, you shouldn't expect something back when you do something for somebody. That's not, well, don't do it if you want -- but at least "thank you." Uh-uh, no.

KN: Are these families ashamed that they received money or...

HM: I don't know. Maybe they're busy, or, my husband said, probably they thought it was right they got the twenty thousand. Maybe they, it was right they got the --

TI: But even if they thought it was right, they could still say thank you.

HM: Yeah. Well, that's okay. That's human.

TI: When you first started the effort back in, what, 1991, '92, what were people thinking? Did they think there was a good chance that they would get this money?

HM: No.

TI: Did you think there was a good chance you would get this money?

HM: No.

TI: So why do it?

HM: My parents. My father and my mother. I want to, I wanted to be a payback time for what they've sacrificed and what they've lost. By then I was grown up, so my mind was not like when I was a youngster. I really thought about my parents a lot.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: I wanted to ask about the involvement of the JACL, the Japanese American Citizens League, in this effort.

HM: Oh, they were terrific.

TI: So describe what they did. What was their role?

HM: They, they worked bono, right? And we had Bill Kaneko with us. Oh, that guy, you could ask him the most stupid question, you know it's stupid, and he never showed in his face, never, never showed it. We could have asked the same question thousand times, thousand and one times, but Bill Kaneko never showed in his face. And he was such a young man yet. I used to say, "You have milk on the corner of your mouth," that's what Japanese say when you're young, "Oh, you still have milk on the corner of your mouth." That's a phrase the Japanese use. But Bill, he was different for a young man.

KN: So what kind of things did the JACL do besides answer questions?

HM: Japanese American Citizen League, yeah.

KN: So what other things did they do?

HM: They, they gave us a lot of backing. They helped us. That time we were so disappointed and yet Bill was there lifting us up all the time, so I cannot forget Bill Kaneko.

TI: Was this the Honolulu chapter JACL?

HM: Yeah.

TI: How about the national JACL, did they help out, too?

HM: I don't think, I don't know about that, but I know the local did. But they were young attorneys, they were working, and yet unselfishly they helped us.

TI: Did you ever get any resistance from within the Japanese American community, like people saying, people who weren't eligible for the money or anything but said, "Oh, Helene, don't do this. Don't do this"?

HM: "Oh, you want, you're doing it just because you want the twenty thousand dollars."

TI: Right, things like that. Did you get a lot of that?

HM: A lot of that.

TI: And what would you, how would you respond to them?

HM: At first I was very upset. I said, "You didn't go through what my parents went through." I didn't say, "what I went through," but what my parents... because I'm sure a lot of parents, they want to buy property and for the children and all that, but my parents were so advanced in thinking about that and they, their dreams were just slashed, so I, when I started to work on it I didn't think about collecting that. Honestly, I didn't. I wanted my parents to get it. But they were already gone.

KN: Are you telling this story because -- and maybe this is the resistance towards people who are asking to be, in a sense, reimbursed for what had happened -- because people don't know your story here in Hawaii?

HM: You mean the other people?

KN: Yeah.

HM: Well, the, I don't know about the outside, but what my, some of my friends said, "Oh, you only want the twenty thousand dollars." That's all they said. But they didn't know the real, why I was doing that.

KN: And you still feel that there's a stigma here that you pushed this through, even though it was rightfully deserved?

HM: I don't know what people are thinking these days, but I'm sure it's in the back of some people's mind, I'm sure. I'm sure about that. But that's okay what they think about. I did what I was supposed to do.

TI: You know, there's a question that on the mainland I ask about people receive their check, I said, so what did you do with the money, the twenty thousand dollars? What did you do?

HM: Oh, it's, before going there, one step. The group that worked with Mr. Nishioka and myself, we decided how much we're gonna give to the Japanese American Citizens League, so we gave all the members in our group a choice, ten percent, fifteen percent, none at all. So the first thing I did, I got, my husband said, "Yoku yatta," was very proud, and I was very proud that he said that because I gave him bad time. Days he didn't want to go out, "Come on, Bert, let's go." So he was a backer for me. So the first thing I did, I cashed the check. In fact, the following day I went to the bank, I cashed it. I made a check for a thousand dollars and I gave it to JACL. That's just a little small portion. They said, "We don't need it," so, but that's what we, our group decided that we're going to do, so I think a couple of us, I know I can say it that we did that. But that was a small, just a pin drop in a bucket.

TI: To show your appreciation for them?

HM: Yeah. I really, I, but if it wasn't for them and the help that was given I don't think we'd have been that successful. I don't think so.

TI: And then the rest of the money, what did you do?

HM: Okay, so guess what I did? My husband and I, we were lovers, we were good friends, we had a wonderful life. I said, "Bert, I'm gonna take you to Japan." "You sure?" I said, "Yeah, I'm taking you to Japan," so I took him to Japan.

KN: And where did you go? Did you go to meet family members or just for pleasure?

HM: Pleasure. Yeah, so that's what I did. I took him to Japan. So I was the boss when I went. [Laughs] But since he didn't squawk or anything, he was willing to help me out -- of course we got into squabble once in a while, but he helped me. He said, "Do it for Mom and Dad," so here again, he was thinking about my parents.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So Helene, I finished all my questions. Is there anything else that you want to say or talk about, about the experience?

HM: Well, during the Christmas someone sent me a book. I'll show it to you. I've got, if I can get my fingers on it. I don't know whether you've seen this book. I was... it's tight in here.


HM: I don't know whether you guys have written, sent to me for Christmas for Christmas present. Then when I read this it says age ten and up. Okay, that's okay. I'm included in that. But I learned something that I didn't know and I don't think a lot of people would know this. Read this. You'll be surprised.

TI: So in the part that's...

HM: Underlined.

TI: "When Lieutenant Abe returned to his aircraft carrier orders were given for the fleet to return immediately to Japan, canceling the third and final wave of bombings over Pearl Harbor. As history would later prove, this retreat was a most fortunate decision for our country."

HM: Okay, if that had happened, the third attack had happened, we wouldn't be talking here today.

TI: What, you think they would've attacked...

HM: Then we were right at the entrance of Pearl Harbor now. By then I'm sure our country would've been ready.

TI: Oh, in terms of, you think then there would've been a battle right over your house, for instance.

HM: Yeah. So when I read that I was shocked. So I've been doing a lot of reading and doing a lot of research, even today, so people say, "Forget it, Helene. It hurts you." But no, I want to continue it, and I, because it's not gonna come in our history book. I want people to be aware what had happened. Like the internees in, on the mainland, lot of my friends care less.

TI: And that's what, I think, Kelli sort of mentioned earlier, by you sharing your story, more people will understand this part of the history. Because on the mainland this, this part is very not known. I mean, I have done lots of research on Japanese American history, I wasn't aware of families like yours that had to leave in Hawaii, so thank you so much for sharing.

HM: Well yes, it's, it's a good thing that I had good friends that helped. That really helped us. We couldn't have done it if we didn't have help from the others. Because of others we were able to do it.

TI: Good. Anything else?

KN: Thank you for sharing your story. I think it's very valuable.

HM: So I feel so arigatai, so thankful.

TI: Okay, well thank you.

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