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Title: Frank Hiratsuka Interview
Narrator: Frank Hiratsuka
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hfrank_2-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so let me start by saying today's Wednesday, June 15, 2011. We're in the Chicago area, in a hotel in Skokie, and in the room we have, Frank, we have your wife, Margaret, we have Jean Mishima from the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, and on camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm Tom Ikeda, the interviewer. And this morning we're here with Frank Hiratsuka. And I should mention, before we get going, that this interview is done in collaboration with the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, that Jean sort of put us in touch with you to do this interview. So, Frank, let's start by, the first question is, just tell me when and where you were born.

FH: Well, I don't know how I was born, but I was born in Alviso, California, July 16, 1926.

TI: So describe where Alviso is.

FH: Well, Alviso is like a suburb of San Jose. It's farming community mostly around San Jose, at that time.

TI: Now, when you were born, were you born at a medical facility, or were you born out of the house?

FH: I really don't know.

TI: So you're not sure if it was a midwife or...

FH: Yeah, there was a midwife involved, so I'm not sure if it was at the hospital or home, but probably home because most of 'em couldn't afford hospital. They were working as farmers at that time.

TI: And when you were born, what was the name given to you at birth?

FH: Frank.

TI: Okay, so Frank. No middle name?

FH: No middle name, no.

TI: So I'm gonna now kind of switch gears, and I want to ask you about your father's family. So during the pre-interview we, I found out that you are actually a Sansei, third generation.

FH: Yes.

TI: So it was your grandfather who first came to the United States?

FH: Yes, I believe so. Yeah, he, he, I don't know what year he came and all.

TI: But tell me as much as you can remember or know about your grandfather.

FH: Well, they worked, I think they did, not sharecropper, but they worked a farm for some, somebody. It was, they did all the farming, and then he ran a sort of a trucking business. He'd pick up from the, produce from the farmers around the neighborhood area in San Jose and then take it into Oakland for (Safeway) or somebody else, whoever was there, Safeway, I guess, at that time, and a couple of other places. Then he'd go into the market -- they had this farmers' market sort of thing early in the morning, when you have leftover produce you bring it there and then they'd sell off the truck to different places. People would come and buy it there.

TI: And do you know why your grandfather came to the United States?

FH: No.

TI: And do you remember what your grandfather's name was?

FH: Nakano was his last name. I always called him Grandpa, I remember. [Laughs] His first name, I know my grandmother's name was (Yei Hakanaka).

TI: (Yei). And do you know how the two of them met? Did they meet in Japan, or did they meet --

FH: Well, he was here first, and then I think his wife died or something, so he, I don't know if he went, he must've gone back to Japan and married, found her and brought her back. So that was his second wife, because my mother was born by another mother. She's the oldest. The rest of 'em are born by (Yei).

TI: Okay. So this is on your mother's side we're talking first.

FH: Yes.

TI: Okay. And besides your mother, did they have any other children?

FH: Oh yeah. They had, let's see, there was, Betty, Dorothy, Mae, and Alice were the girls besides my mother, so that was five girls he had, and three boys. Actually, there was a fourth one, but he died younger.

TI: And what was your mother's name?

FH: Marion Chitosi is her name, C-H-I-T-O-S-I, I think.

TI: Marion, okay.

FH: Marion was sort of like an adopted name for here in the States, 'cause she was born here, then she went back to Japan and she was raised by her grandparents 'til about fifteen years of age. Then she came back here.

TI: So in the birth order, where was your mother?

FH: She was the oldest, the oldest of the children.

TI: Okay, so she was the oldest. And, like, I mean, the other siblings, were they also sent to Japan?

FH: No. She was the only one.

TI: Interesting.

FH: 'Cause, as I said, she was with another, from another mother, and that's why they probably sent her back to her grandmother, to raise until he got established again. But she didn't come back until she was fifteen.

TI: And then you had three uncles also, you said?

FH: Yes.

TI: And what were their --

FH: They're all younger than I am.

TI: They're all younger than you are?

FH: Yes. George is the oldest of the three boys. He's about half a year younger than I am.

TI: Okay.

FH: And then there's Henry, he's about another year and something, and then Jim was just the youngest one. They're all in Hawaii.

TI: Oh, that's kind of, that's an interesting dynamic, to have your, your uncles younger than you are. But you're mother was, so there was quite a bit of an age difference between your mother and your uncles.

FH: There was a little age difference, yeah. Oh, yes.

TI: And so, on your mother's side, your grandfather was sort of like, he would have a truck and so he'd pick up...

FH: Yeah, he had a truck and he would pick up produce from different farmers.

TI: So any other stories or memories --

FH: I remember my aunt used to drive the truck, too, once in a while. She had to go down to Oakland. When he wasn't feeling well she'd drive.

TI: So I'm curious, when you were growing up, so your mother was educated a good portion of her life in Japan, your aunts were born in the United States and grew up here.

FH: Educated here.

TI: Was there, was there, did you see a difference between your mother and her sisters in terms of how they interacted with you, for instance? Did they, like did your aunts seem more American than, say, your, your mother?

FH: Well, I was, my aunts were naturally mainly American. My mother was sort of half there. So the only difference would be that... no, they acted well together. They interacted well together, but I guess they treated her almost like an aunt instead of a, as far as I could see, because she was a little older.

TI: Well, when you were being raised as a boy, did you speak English or Japanese?

FH: English.

TI: With your mom?

FH: I don't know any Japanese, a few words, that's it.

TI: Okay, good. Okay, so I'm gonna switch gears now.

FH: My mother and father used to talk English most of the time.

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