Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Hiratsuka Interview
Narrator: Frank Hiratsuka
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hfrank_2-01

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk about your father now, your father's family. So was he Nisei or Issei?

FH: He was Nisei.

TI: Okay, so let's start with his... or his father.

FH: Well, he's the second oldest. Let's see, there, now I got to remember... Henry was the oldest, my dad, and then Jim, George, Ray, (and Robert), so I guess (six) boys and two girls.

TI: And do you remember the two girls' names?

FH: One was Grace, I think, was the oldest one. She went to Japan with her husband. (Also Tsuneyo)

TI: Okay, but there were two, four, five, (eight) children.

FH: Yeah. Forgot what, what was... Ogino's the first name. I don't remember her first name.

TI: That's okay. Let me ask, what was your dad's name, first of all?

FH: Frank. Yaroku, I think. Yaroku, (Y-A-R-O-K-U) or something like that.

TI: And so your grandfather on your father's side, so what did he do?

FH: I don't remember too much of my grandfather and grandmother on my father's side. Imagine they were farming because Dad was on the farm with them.

TI: And what area were they farming?

FH: San Jose area. That's where they were farming, the same area as my other grandfather and grandmother.

TI: Okay, so it sounds like they were, so your dad grew up more in, as a farmer type?

FH: Yes.

TI: Okay. And how did your father and mother meet?

FH: They never told me. [Laughs] I don't know.

TI: [Laughs] Well, I imagine they would kind of know each other because, just their, kind of the area.

FH: Well, she came from Japan, so I have a feeling that that was something like an arranged marriage.

TI: Interesting.

FH: 'Cause she came back when fifteen, a little young to get married, but last, first, last time I remember is they were working the farm together. That's where I grew up, started anyway.

TI: So let me ask a little bit more about your father, because, so he's Nisei, so he was born in the San Jose area.

FH: Yeah.

TI: And so he would be one of the older Niseis, probably, in the area.

FH: I guess so, yeah.

TI: And so tell me a little bit about him in terms of, was he, like, more American than Japanese, or how would you describe him?

FH: Yes, I would say so.

TI: And what would be some examples of that, when you think of your father being more American?

FH: He used to play, well, can play baseball when they were a little older, I guess, he and his brothers played baseball. The youngest one played football also, but they played in, there was a local Japanese American league, was sort of like in, the teams played different teams and they used to play not semi-pro but amateur baseball. They liked that. And he played tennis a lot with my mother. In Palo Alto they had a court that had lights on it so they could play at night.

TI: Oh, so your mother played tennis together.

FH: Yes.

TI: That's interesting.

FH: But they had, a little while later he gravitated from the farming and he went into working for private families, as a maid, butler, maid, chauffeur.

TI: So kind of domestic help, right?

FH: That was his, that's what he did for the rest of the time he was here.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So I'm curious about the interactions between -- your father was born in the United States, during this time there were still a lot of men from Japan who were arriving in the San Jose area -- I'm just curious in terms of the interaction between your father and the more recent Japanese immigrants. Did you see him do much with Japanese immigrants when you were growing up?

FH: No.

TI: And so who were his friends? Did, were they other Niseis, or...

FH: There weren't too many because he was busy working all the time, so he didn't have a, much of a social life, I don't think.

TI: And so you can't recall any, like parties or anything that he did?

FH: No, not really.

TI: Or picnics? Did you guys go --

FH: Well, they used to go to the Japanese picnics. Everybody, they used to have 'em once a year. I think every community had one somewhere.

TI: And when you think about the picnics, who did your parents sort of socialize with? Were they more with Isseis or Niseis?

FH: Family.

TI: Oh, families. That's right, because of all their siblings and... okay. So let's go back now and talk more about you in terms of some of your childhood memories.

FH: All I remember is I went to a lot of different schools because the family moved a lot.

TI: So explain why your family moved a lot.

FH: Well, they changed jobs. I know he first, the first job he had, I think, was in Palo Alto, 'cause that's where I remember going to grammar school first. I think it was, Litton School, I think, was the grammar school in Palo Alto. From there we went, from there, let me check my notes. Excuse me. I put down the list of schools. I have to read this, if I can read this. Litton School was in Palo Alto, and then I went to San Jose and I think it was Horace Mann Grammar School, and then, that was in San Jose. That's when I stayed with my grandparents for a while.

TI: This was on your mother's side, your mother's parents?

FH: Yeah, my mother's parents. Then they got another job in Piedmont, and so I went to Piedmont Grammar School in Piedmont, California. And then from there went to Piedmont Junior High School, and then we went to, got pulled into camp.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Yeah, let's back up, and so when you were in Palo Alto, so let's talk about your classmates. Were there very many other Japanese classmates?

FH: No. No. I think I was the only one in my school.

TI: And how was that, being the only Japanese in your school?

FH: It was, I was treated normally like everybody else, so it was fine. I didn't have any problems with anyone. There wasn't any discrimination or anything as far as that was, that I noticed.

TI: Now, how about you in terms of a sense of being Japanese? Did your parents ever talk with you, or did you know that you were Japanese and were perhaps, you know, racially different than...

FH: No, it was never brought up on that.

TI: So how about things like Japanese language school? Were you sent to Japanese language school?

FH: Not there. Not in Palo Alto. Later on when I was in Piedmont I went to school for about a year. That was about it.

TI: Now, when I, when I said Japanese language school you had a little, you made a little face, so what was Japanese language school like for you?

FH: It was, it was mostly fun because it was after regular school. We used to go there after regular school and then we came home, so it was sort of a drag, I guess.

TI: [Laughs] So first you said it was fun, then a drag, so...

FH: Well, it was both. I guess there was fun in everything and there's both things. You meet a lot of people I never met before. That was a lot of Japanese that I never met before, but that's about the only time I really had too much contact.

TI: Too much contact with other Japanese?

FH: Japanese, except when I went to my grandfather's place. They used to go there once a week. On their day off they'd go down to his place.

TI: And then when you went to your grandfather's place, then there were a lot more Japanese there? Or what...

FH: No, just the boys who were there, in the family.

TI: Okay. So it sounds like, so when you were growing up, as a young boy, there weren't very many Japanese other than your family.

FH: No.

TI: And most of your contact was probably with family in terms of Japanese.

FH: Yeah.

TI: Until later on, Piedmont, then you mentioned the Japanese language school, and then you...

FH: That was more so than...

TI: Okay, this is, this is good. This is interesting.

FH: Actually, in San Jose I, we went, we used to go to a Japanese school, but that was mostly fun and games.

TI: And so when you would go to a Japanese event like a picnic, were there lots, you have your family, so there's lots of people there, but lots of other Japanese. What would you think when you saw so many Japanese? How did, how was --

FH: It was nice. It was nice. But they all spoke English and everything. It was all, the kids always spoke English there.

TI: Now, did you feel like there was a difference between when you were at school amongst, I think, primarily your white friends, and then you'd go to a Japanese event like Japanese language school or a picnic? Did you feel like there was a difference in how kids played or anything like that?

FH: No, they all used to play the same just about.

TI: Okay. Growing up, what about church? Did you attend church?

FH: Not really. We went to a Buddhist church in Palo Alto for, we didn't really go to church. I went to school -- well, I went there periodically, but not regularly. We didn't attend church regularly.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Earlier you talked about how your family moved around, Palo Alto, San, well, then you went to San Jose with your grandparents.

FH: We went all over.

TI: Then Piedmont. Tell me a little bit about the people your father worked for.

FH: Well, I think his name was Allen. He had a hardware store. I don't remember his name, but he had a hardware store in Palo Alto, and he worked for the family, but then he'd go and help at the store. That's about all I remember with that.

TI: And then when you moved to Piedmont, was it still with the Allen family, or was it --

FH: No, it was a different family. He had two different families in Piedmont. One family was earlier, and then one family was later. The earlier one was, I'm trying to remember the sequence. Let me see if I can figure it out [looks over notes]. I have to figure it out from the school list. Went to Piedmont Junior High... oh, we went, you want to list the schools?

TI: So after, in Piedmont, sure.

FH: High school, there's Piedmont Junior, and then there's, went to one in Centralia. Centralia? Centerville, it was Centerville, California. That's, remember Jackson Perkins rose company, the florist, the rose company wholesale?

TI: No. So it was...

FH: He worked for (Jackson-Perkins).

TI: Okay. And where's Centerville? Where's that nearby, Centerville?

FH: It's right down the line of Centerville, near, it's near, not too far from Campbell. I went to school in Campbell. It's near San Jose, in between San Jose and Oakland.

TI: So how was it for you having to keep moving around and going to different schools?

FH: Well, it's sort of upsetting, but after a while you adapt to it, just do what you can. Music helped because I was into music. I played, so then wherever I went I got into orchestra or band right away, so there was no problem. And that way I met other people.

TI: Okay, so that was kind of your, it was almost like a, I'm not sure, a touchstone or, yeah, something that wherever you went you could...

FH: Utilize it, yeah.

TI: Utilize that as at least a place just to get connected with people. And what instrument did you play?

FH: I played saxophone there, and then later on I played clarinet. But I know at Centerville he had me playing bassoon and oboe, tried me on oboe and a bassoon because he didn't have anybody to play those. And I did a little bit of it, but it's difficult. It's a double reed instrument instead of a single reed. But it was sort of interesting. That made it more interesting because I tried different instruments. Everything he had he brought out and tried it on me.

TI: So it sounds like you were a pretty good musician that you --

FH: Fair, fair.

TI: But you could, you were able to --

FH: I could read the, in songs I could read the music and it was okay.

TI: Yeah, but not only read the music, but also adapt to different instruments.

FH: Different instruments, yeah.

TI: Which would be, which would be hard.

FH: But it's all reeds. It was all reed instruments.

TI: And going back, I forgot to ask, brothers and sisters, did you have brothers and sisters?

FH: No.

TI: Okay, so you're an only child. And that period when you went to go live with your grandparents, so why did you live with your grandparents? Why would you...

FH: Because they had a different job and they couldn't accommodate me there, so they let me stay at Grandpa's.

TI: And so when your father, so it was both your parents?

FH: They worked together.

TI: So when they worked for a family they worked together. Okay. How did they like their work? Did they ever talk about working for these families and whether or not they enjoyed working for these families? Or were some families better than others?

FH: Oh yeah, I'd imagine that's why they moved. But the last place they worked at was a long time. But other than that, well, and some, one time we had to leave because of the war, so that was disruptive.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Okay, well, let's, why don't we talk about that? So the date December 7, 1941, do you remember that day?

FH: Yeah. We were home. They were working and I was listening to the radio, and then I heard that so I went out and told them.

TI: And what was the reaction when you told them?

FH: Almost disbelief, but I guess in a way they had felt something was going on. I didn't notice it, didn't bother me at all, but they seemed to have noticed something was coming, because of the interaction between the countries.

TI: Now, did the outbreak of war affect their employment? Did they have any problems with --

FH: No, no. They wanted, in fact, the one place where we were said that I could stay and be a test case.

TI: Explain that.

FH: They would take care of me and see if we could avoid it, but my folks didn't like that idea.

TI: Oh, so the people that your parents worked for, they were willing to have you stay --

FH: Stay there.

TI: -- in Piedmont while your parents would be...

FH: Would be interned.

TI: Interned, or, or...

FH: Or sent to wherever they were sent to.

TI: But your parents said they didn't want that. They wanted to keep you together with the family.

FH: Yes.

TI: Now did you know that this was a possibility when...

FH: Well, I had heard that. They said, they told me what she said, but they said no, we have to stick together.

TI: Now, do you recall the name of the family that was willing to do this?

FH: No, I don't remember her name anymore. It's been a while.

TI: Okay. That's interesting.

FH: They were very nice people, though.

TI: And for you, when you went to school the next day, what was it like for you at school?

FH: Not bad 'cause I was the only the Japanese there, so I was an oddity, I suppose. But, no, they've all known, they knew me for a while, so they didn't think anything about it.

TI: But, now, how did you feel, though? Because here, I'm sure the big news at school was the, you know, the start of the war, and it's against Japan and your ancestry is Japanese.

FH: Yeah.

TI: So did you have any kind of funny feelings or any feelings about being, having your grandparents coming from Japan, any sense about that?

FH: No, nothing. Because I had been accepted all the time, never had any trouble, so just assumed that it would be the same. And all my friends, the friends at school were all nice and didn't think anything about it. Course, I don't think it really sunk in with our, at our age group. If we were older we probably would've had more different feelings.

TI: And at this point you're about, what, fourteen, fifteen years old? I think you're, you would be, you're born 1926, so about, yeah, fifteen, fifteen years old.

FH: Roughly.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Well, eventually the orders came out for anyone of Japanese ancestry would have to leave the area. Do you kind of remember that time? 'Cause that was about the time --

FH: Yeah, I remember they got together -- there was another family that was in Piedmont, and the name was Nishi. He used to drive the school, Japanese school bus. That's why I went to Japanese school for the year, 'cause I knew him. They got together and then they hired a truck and they went, they moved everything to Reedley, inland to Reedley, which is supposed to be safe zone.

TI: That was still in California, though.

FH: Yes, it was still in California. It wasn't a safe zone after all, but it was at that time, so that's why we went there. There were quite a few Japanese in that area. Well, of course that was a farming community, anyway.

TI: And it was, it was through the, Mr. Nishi that you went, with his family?

FH: Yeah. And our family went.

TI: And the thinking was that Reedley would be a place where you could stay and, and which, you mention a safe zone, so it was out of the first, the first exclusion zone.

FH: The first zone, yeah. 'Cause I remember going to see my grandmother and grandfather at, where they were interned at their separate, their, whatever that first section was, where they got pulled in the beginning. We went to see 'em and we had to stay on the other side of the fence and talk to them.

TI: Okay, so let me make sure I understand this. So when, so earlier on your family left with the Nishis to go to Reedley. Meanwhile, your grandparents were removed from their area and put into, like an assembly center?

FH: Yeah.

TI: And do you remember which assembly center they were at?

FH: No. It was down, Tanforan maybe? I don't remember.

TI: Might've been Tanforan. But the interesting thing was you were able to go visit them.

FH: Yes.

TI: And so that must've been...

FH: That was something else.

TI: Yeah, it must've been odd to, to have a fence sort of separate the two of you.

FH: The families, yeah. I remember that part.

TI: And it almost seemed kind of odd that here they had Japanese families behind the fence and then families like you able to be outside.

FH: Outside the fence.

TI: Outside the fence, going in and out. Did, did your family have any difficulties traveling during that time, like people would stop your father and ask for papers or anything during this time?

FH: No. Never.

TI: Even the guards, I mean, wouldn't they kind of, kind of scratch their heads thinking, here we're supposed to guard these people, but then there's this family that's just walking outside?

FH: I didn't remember even seeing any guards there at that fence. We just went up to the fence and we didn't look around.

TI: Now, how about you? What were you thinking when you would see your grandparents and, I guess, other family members behind the fence? What did you think?

FH: It wasn't very pleasant, but it was, it was upsetting, but at that time, what could you do?

TI: Now, was there any talk about having them stay at Reedley with you, Reedley?

FH: No. I didn't hear them talking about, I think by that time it was too late. If you're in, once you're in the assembly center you're in the, you're in that slot and they got you lined up.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: And tell me about Reedley. Were there very many other families that also moved to Reedley besides you and the Nishis?

FH: I would imagine, but that was quite a few Japanese there to begin with, 'cause that was farming area down there, Fresno, Reedley.

TI: Right. Well, eventually that area also became an exclusion zone.

FH: Yeah. Yeah, we took a train from there to Poston.

TI: Okay, so directly to Poston. No assembly center.

FH: Somewhere, well, near Poston, then a truck, the truck in.

TI: And do you remember, when your family and the others in Reedley got the orders that they had to leave, what that was like? I mean, were people surprised that, 'cause your family thought it was a safe zone.

FH: Yeah, I guess they were sort of surprised since it was supposed to be a safe zone. But even in Reedley it was nice because people were nice and friendly, because there were so many Japanese there that it wasn't strange for another Japanese family to come in.

TI: Now did your parents ever talk to you about what was happening during this time period? Because both were U.S. citizens, you were U.S. citizens, they were educated in the United States, did they ever talk about how they felt about what was going on?

FH: No. No, we never talked about it.

TI: Do you recall any of your, like classmates or teachers, talking with you about what was going on?

FH: Not really. I don't remember it ever coming up in class at all. I think one teacher might've said something about, we're at war, but that doesn't mean that he's, that Frank is, is an enemy. That's, which was very nice, but other than that no one said anything.

TI: And during that time period, were you ever teased or singled out because of being Japanese by your classmates or anyone else?

FH: No.

TI: Okay. So let's talk about Poston. So you take a train, your family and others take a train to Poston, so what are your first impressions of Poston when you got there?

FH: It was dusty, lot of sand, dry. It was sort of warm. And it looked sort of barren. It was all tarpaper shacks. But you're with a bunch of other Japanese, so you figure, well, everybody's in the same boat.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So, Frank, let's get started, but before we go back to Poston, I forgot to ask, when you were in, like Piedmont, where did you guys live? I mean, so Piedmont --

FH: We lived in their house, where we worked, where they worked.

TI: So this was a, so this was a fairly well off neighborhood?

FH: Yes, it was.

TI: And so describe your living quarters when you were in Piedmont.

FH: Well, a room, I guess a regular bedroom. It was always a regular bedroom. In one place in Piedmont I had a bedroom and a bathroom, separate, above the garage.

TI: And when you say a bedroom and bathroom, was this something that you shared with your parents?

FH: No, the bedroom and bathroom were separate for me.

TI: Wow, that's, that's pretty fancy.

FH: Which was pretty nice, yeah.

TI: And your own bathroom too.

FH: Yes, yes. But otherwise we'd share a bathroom.

TI: And your parents would have their own separate bedroom?

FH: Bedroom, yeah. I had my own bedroom.

TI: So they were pretty nice, nice living arrangements.

FH: Yeah.

TI: Okay. And then from there we --

FH: Well, that was part of the reason they'd take the job, because they had some arrangement for that.

TI: And then in terms of food, so would you...

FH: Eat what they had.

TI: So pretty much the same food that they had.

FH: Yeah.

TI: And so would these families have, like a cook?

FH: Part of the time, yes, their cook. Most of the time, like a lot of the time my mother would cook, but a number of places they had cooks separate.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, so now we go from that kind of environment to Poston, and you were talking about how it was dusty, and what were some of the other things you can remember when you first got to Poston?

FH: Remember having to get straw and a bag, and we had to put the straw in the bag and that was our mattress, and we had cots to start with. And they said never put your shoes on the ground because of the scorpions, would go crawling into your shoe, so that's one thing we learned, turn your shoe upside down when you... and the scorpions were around, and wherever there was some moisture you would see them congregate, so they said be careful and watch where you put your hand when you're gonna lean on something because there might be a scorpion there.

TI: Now, did you ever hear of anyone getting stung by a scorpion?

FH: Oh yeah. Yeah.

TI: And what, I mean, how, how bad was it to get stung?

FH: Like a bad bee bite or a hornet sting or something.

TI: And tell me about your room. So here you went from a place where you had your own separate bedroom and, in some cases, bathroom, so what were your living accommodations at Poston?

FH: Well, we had, like ours, we had four beds in one. My uncle stayed with us, my youngest uncle, so there were four of us in one section.

TI: Now why would your younger uncle stay with you? So this was, like, (Ray)?

FH: Well, the other ones were married and he was alone. He was the only one that wasn't married, so he came with my dad.

TI: Okay. Oh, so this was your uncle on your father's side?

FH: Uh-huh.

TI: I see. Okay. So four beds... what did you do when you were in Poston, what kind of activities to, to, during the day, what would be your typical day at Poston?

FH: Would go see somebody, go visit. But we'd go to school. We had, we started a band in (camp), a dance band, so we rehearsed on that. And that was about our activity, unless you played baseball or something else.

TI: So tell me about the band. What, was the name of the band? Did you have a name?

FH: I think, I almost forgot what it was, the Melodiers or something like that. I remember, I don't remember the name for sure.

TI: And tell me what kind of music you played.

FH: Dance, dance band music, the stuff in the '40s, music in the '40s.

TI: So like swing?

FH: I guess sort of swing.

TI: And so when you went to Poston, did you bring a saxophone?

FH: Yes. I could, that I carried. That was my piece of luggage.

TI: And tell me about some of the other players in the band. I mean, what were some of the other instruments that they played?

FH: They had trumpet, trombone, couple, some other saxophones, then this one girl came out and played piano. And I don't know where they got the drum set from, because that's hard to carry. I think they had some stuff around somewhere.

TI: So it's interesting to me that earlier you talked about how you moved around a lot in schools, but it was always, I guess in some ways, comforting that you could always join the orchestra. Your music was that place where you could connect. And it seems like in the same way, when you were moved to Poston you had your music again.

FH: Yeah, it helped connect, bring people together and you got to meet other people, and you got to know them pretty well.

TI: Now, how were the others in terms of musicians? I mean, you had played all the way, for a long time. Were the others pretty good also, or what would you say?

FH: They weren't too bad. No, they weren't, the ones that we had were pretty good. We didn't have an awful lot, but we had some. There was one time we were gonna go to Gila and play, but then they had something happen, some illness took over, something, and we were, we couldn't go for the band. But I went because my grandfather, I think he died in camp, I think, and so we went there for, to Gila. But the band couldn't go.

TI: Before, I want to ask more about going to Gila for you, but I wanted to kind of ask more about the band first, so who would you play for? I mean, you had practice.

FH: You played for the block parties and stuff like that, entertainment, had entertainment something, anyway. We would play.

TI: And so when you say block parties, so you would go to different blocks?

FH: In our blocks, no, in our block.

TI: Okay, so were all the musicians from your block?

FH: Yes. It wasn't a camp wide group, but I think we were the only ones in camp.

TI: And so, I would think because, live music, that you guys would be in demand, that other, other people would hear about it and want to...

FH: Well, most of the time the dances were all records, so they didn't need a band. Besides, they couldn't, they'd have to pay. We didn't, in our case they wouldn't have paid.

TI: [Laughs] Yeah, you guys would've come cheap because you had nowhere else to go.

FH: Yeah, that's true.

TI: So you never played for any other blocks?

FH: We didn't go to another camp and play at all.

TI: Now, when you played at your block, did other teenagers come from other blocks just to listen to you guys?

FH: Possibly. Possibly. But, because it was up on a stage and people'd just pull up their chairs and listen, but it was all sorts of entertainment, singers and different things.

TI: And would you guys ever play at dances, where you'd just play and people would dance?

FH: No, we never go that far because, they would, but I left camp relatively early.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And before we go there, let's go back, so, so your, I guess I can't remember if it was your uncle or somebody, was sick or died at Gila River, and so you went to Gila.

FH: My grandfather.

TI: Your grandfather. And so tell me what it was like going to Gila River. Do you remember what Gila River was like versus Poston? Were they, like, the same or were there differences?

FH: Looked a little nicer, Gila. Course every place looked nicer, I suppose. We took a train and then a truck, both ways.

TI: And can you describe the service at Gila River, what that was like?

FH: You mean the funeral service?

TI: The funeral service, yeah.

FH: Buddhist funeral service. It was a short one.

TI: And where would they have the service?

FH: In one of the rec halls. I don't think they had a special church built at all. Most places didn't. They had to use the rec halls for a church.

TI: And do you recall, was there a cremation?

FH: I don't remember what happened then. I imagine it was a cremation.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So going back to Poston, something that I hear a lot about for people who were at Poston was the heat. It was really hot.

FH: Yes.

TI: So what did, what were some of the things that you did to...

FH: Well, we got a fan, and then you put wet towels over that, and the fan pulls the air in from the outside and the wet towels help cool it off a little. That's about all you could do. You couldn't have an air conditioner. I don't think there were too many around, anyway.

TI: I think some people even dug underneath their barracks so that there was a little cooler space underneath the barracks. Did you see any of that or hear about that?

FH: No, not with the scorpions around. I don't think anybody went underground.

TI: Other memories at Poston, what about, like school? What was school like?

FH: It was, like smaller classrooms, and you had students that were teaching, that were capable, or that had the course, and they'd teach. We had some teachers, full blown teachers, but a lot of 'em weren't. There were just some that were pretty well far in advance to something and then they could teach the courses.

TI: And were theses students who were older or just, like, in your same class?

FH: No, no. College students.

TI: I see. Okay. And how would you compare the education you were getting at Poston with, say, the education you got at Piedmont?

FH: I would say not quite as good. But depended on the students. The students do, if they're motivated then they do, the teacher helps them a lot.

TI: As we were talking about your life it struck me that, even though you were in the Bay Area, you didn't have that much contact with the Japanese community. It was pretty much just the family. Now that you're in a place where there are thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans and that's all you see, so it must've been quite a contrast for you.

FH: Oh, it was different, yeah.

TI: Different. And so how did that, how was that for you? What...

FH: I think it was fine. I think I sort of half enjoyed the meeting and got some friends that were close at this time because we were there all the time.

TI: Now, when you say you got closer, so part of it was you had more time. I mean, you there longer. Did it also help that they were also Japanese? Did that matter to you in terms of, maybe friendships or comfort?

FH: No, that didn't matter. Mattered that you were able to establish a friendship with somebody for a while rather than just for a short time and got to know someone. Like one fellow I know that I was pretty close with was a (Sho Miyamoto). He was in the same block, but he's from Reedley. But he used to play saxophone, so we got that connection together too.

TI: So that music, just playing together.

FH: Yeah.

TI: Now, would you guys practice together, like outside, or where would you guys practice?

FH: No, they had a little, like a small rec room, at the end of one of the barracks they'd have a room and we were able to practice there.

TI: Now, during this time period at Poston, what were your parents doing?

FH: They were working.

TI: And what jobs did they have?

FH: My dad worked for the administrator, Burge. So he was like a chauffeur and assistant. And my mother worked in the kitchen. Lot of women worked in the kitchen.

TI: And with their free time, what kind of things did they do? So after work or on weekends, what type of stuff would they do?

FH: They'd go talk to each other. They didn't go play cards or anything. I don't know what.

TI: How about physical activities, because they, earlier you mentioned how they liked to play tennis?

FH: No, there was none of that. It was pretty warm. That's not the place to play tennis, in the summer.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So earlier you talked about how after a while you left Poston and you left kind of early, so where did the family go?

FH: Morton Grove.

TI: I'm sorry, went to...

FH: Morton Grove.

TI: Morton Grove. And whey there?

FH: That's where they got hired. They were hired by somebody that has a place in Morton Grove. He also had one in Chicago, but they were hired for Morton Grove.

TI: And do you know how your family, your parents got his job? When they were hired, I mean, how did...

FH: Well, they, they applied for, some people sent in things asking for people to come out and work for them, and they would give their references and they'd ask for references from the people that were, and then they'd choose who they would take and they would accept them and have 'em come out. So then that was your guaranteed job. Then you could leave camp, at the earlier stages.

TI: So describe what Morton Grove was like. Where, so what was it like for you?

FH: Well, it was away from there. It was nice. It was a nice, it was a farm. It was technically a farm, but he just raised horses, so it was like a gentleman's farm. It was a nice place. It's not there anymore, but it was a nice place. He had forty-eight acres, I think, in town, which is unusual.

TI: And what, when you went to Morton Grove, what did, did you have to work, or were you just in school, or what did you do?

FH: Just go to school. I helped a little bit, like mow the grass with the tractor or something like that.

TI: Now, when you went to school, did the teachers or the administrators know where you had come from?

FH: Yeah. It was very nice. They accepted me right away. They mentioned it in class.

TI: And were, was anyone curious? Did anyone ask you about what it was like in Poston?

FH: No. No one ever asked me how it was like in Poston.

TI: Now why is that? I would think that someone would be, would ask.

FH: Well, it was not really advertised that we were in camp. It wasn't that well-known, I don't think, because even now a lot of people never knew that we were interned, even still.

TI: Now how about the fact that you were of Japanese ancestry? Was there any kind of, 'cause the war was still going on, right? The war was --

FH: No.

TI: Oh, this was after the war.

FH: Well, it was still going on when we came out. No, because it was a German community, German and Italian community, so there was not too much anti Japanese. There must've been some.

TI: Interesting. Now, the people that your parents worked for, were they --

FH: Jewish.

TI: They were Jewish.

FH: He had a fur and wool wholesale business.

TI: So I'm curious, the family's Jewish, did, were there any discussions or did it ever come up in terms of what was happening to the Jews in Europe, in terms of the Holocaust or anything like that?

FH: No, they didn't talk too much about that.

TI: Or the fact that they were receptive to having Japanese from the camps work for them because of just being, perhaps, more, I don't know, sensitive to what was going on? I'm thinking if you're Jewish and you knew about the camps in Europe, for instance, and you heard about the camps, say, in --

FH: Oh, there was nothing brought up.

TI: So nothing like that.

FH: No. They never mentioned anything about that. Only thing I remember is that they were taking French lessons from some Frenchman that came out to the house, and he'd go over a lot. I remember one time Admiral Gallery came up to the house. He's the one that they captured that submarine. And then I know they knew [inaudible] before, 'cause they had a summer camp up in Canada where they'd go fishing, and he'd go up there once in a while. So that was sort of interesting.

TI: Good. So I'm curious, when you went to Morton Grove, did you play in the band or orchestra?

FH: Oh yeah.

TI: So, again, that was, that was...

FH: Yeah, band and orchestra.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And after you graduate from high school, what was next for you?

FH: Well, that was almost the time for getting drafted, so I went to some, I went to school about, after summer I went to school for about a semester and I got drafted. So I didn't figure in worrying about that at all.

TI: And then, so you got drafted, and then, so what, where did you go next? I mean, where was your basic training?

FH: Basic training was Camp Maxey in Texas. It was near the Texas-Arkansas border, Texarkana. I forgot what the name of the town there was, but it was Camp Maxey.


TI: Okay, so where we left off was you had just, I guess, done your basic at Camp Maxey. And then after Camp Maxey, what's next?

FH: I got sent to Snelling.

TI: When you were in basic training or anything, did you ever face any discrimination, any, especially in the military, did people ever give you a bad time?

FH: No. The only thing I didn't like is when we went into the rec room it was always this country hillbilly music playing because we were in with a bunch of people from that area, so we couldn't listen to our own kind of music.

TI: Even though you were a musician. [Laughs]

FH: Yeah. I didn't have anything to do with that there.

TI: How about, were people aware of the 442 when you were going through basic training? I mean, did you know about the 442 and what they had done in Europe?

FH: We heard about it, but we didn't know too much about it.

TI: So the little that you did know, what did you know about the 442 back then?

FH: It was all Japanese Americans, from Hawaii and United States. Basically it got started by the Hawaiians, the 100th, I think. And they drafted, not enough people volunteered and then they got drafted, too, from here.

TI: But did you hear about some of their activities in Europe and how well they fought or anything like that?

FH: No. We just heard that they were good fighters, but we didn't know what was going on with that.

TI: So then you went to Snelling, which was, at that time, the headquarters for the MIS Language School.

FH: But I didn't go to language school. I worked in cadre. I worked in Company K as a mailman.

TI: Did you ever come in contact with the other Japanese Americans over at Snelling?

FH: Oh yeah. I think my uncle's, my aunt's brothers were in Snelling and I saw one, and he looked just like his brother, so I said, I called his name. He says, "That's not me." I said okay. [Laughs] They were in language school.

TI: But then you weren't, you said you were, like, more the mail area?

FH: Yeah, just a mailman type.

TI: And why did they send you to Snelling? Do you know why Snelling versus someplace else?

FH: No. I thought we were going to Hawaii or somewhere else, but they sent me to Snelling.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: And now we're towards, is this, has the war ended at this point, or is it just about ready to end?

FH: Just about. I think the European war was over, but the... yeah, I keep forgetting when. Must, must've been over, because by the time I went to Hawaii there was no trouble with them. Only thing is I couldn't go to the other islands when I was stationed in Honolulu, and they said because, must've been the war then, but I can't figure out why they wouldn't let me go. They said the transportation is difficult or something. I wanted to go see my aunt's family, and they were Maui and we were on Oahu, but they said I couldn't go.

TI: So describe your, the work you did in Hawaii.

FH: We gave physicals for people coming and going, going into service and leaving service.

TI: Now, how was it for you, because in Hawaii, in Honolulu there's a large Japanese and Japanese American population, and so what was that like for you? Did you go out and do a lot...

FH: No, I would go over and visit my aunt's family, my aunt's sister, whenever I could get over there. They lived on Oahu, so they had a nice little place.

TI: So it was doing that and then staying on base and doing your work.

FH: Yeah, then go around. I had access to transportation. I could get the jeep when I needed one, so we'd go out.

TI: Any other memories or good stories about Hawaii, Honolulu?

FH: Well, my aunt's brother-in-law worked for the -- must've been over because he was home from the 100th, he was with the 442nd, and he was in charge of the bookstore at the University of Hawaii, so I'd go visit. That's the sister that I would visit. I would see him, too.

TI: Did he talk much about Europe, when he was in Europe?

FH: No. It never came up.

TI: And then how long did you stay in Hawaii?

FH: When did I get out? Forgot when I got out. I got to peek at my notes here. Let me see now, November '46 I got out.

TI: You're discharged.

FH: November 1, '46. Came back to the States. We were there for about a week.

TI: And so after you're discharged where did you go?

FH: Home. Morton Grove.

TI: Morton Grove.

FH: Yeah.

TI: And so your parents are still there working?

FH: Still there, oh yeah.

TI: And so what did you do?

FH: Well, I helped, and then I got a job at the, at the pharmacy in town. I worked for this old fellow, Sheridan, Doc Sheridan, they called him, the drugstore in Morton Grove. So I used to help there. Mostly it was part time.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And so what was Chicago like I guess in terms of the Japanese community? Did you do much with the Japanese community, any organizations or anything?

FH: No. Because we lived in Morton Grove, so it was a little difficult getting...

TI: So how far is Morton Grove from downtown Chicago?

FH: about twenty, about twenty-one miles or something. From, to the center of town.

TI: So tell me how you met your wife.

FH: I met her through mutual friends, in Chicago.

TI: And when you, so I'm trying to get a sense of when you're dating back then, where would you go? What kind of activities would you do in Chicago?

FH: Used to go to her place and visit. Had to drive down all the time to go there 'cause she lived down south side of Chicago. But we'd go to parties.

TI: So parties, so describe that. Were they...

FH: Well, somebody'd have a party or something and we would go, I think.

TI: How about your music? Did you continue your music after?

FH: In college, 'cause I started Illinois Pharmacy School and then they had, they had a band, we had a band in college, so I played there and we played dances and stuff there. She had to come and sit and watch and not dance while we played different, different jobs. It was sort of interesting. Then they had a, they had an orchestra in school too. That was a combined medical, dental and pharmacy school, so we had an orchestra, and the dance band was combined pharmacy, medical and dental. Mostly medical students.

TI: Okay. And then when did the two of you get married? Was it during school or after school, after college?

FH: It was during.

TI: And so after you graduated with your pharmacy degree, what did you do after that?

FH: Worked. I was working for Walgreen's for a while, then I, for quite a while, I guess.

TI: And during this time --

FH: And started a store after that.

TI: And during this time your parents continued to work for this Jewish family? [FH nods] So it sounds like it was a pretty good relationship for your parents, to be able to...

FH: Yes. They were nice.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let me just talk a little bit about your family. So you got married, we're gonna interview your wife next, but in terms of children, did you have children?

FH: We have one child.

TI: And what, what's...

FH: He's John.

TI: John, okay.

FH: John David.

TI: Good. So anything else you want to mention during the interview?

FH: Well, we have a step-grandson and then a grandson. The step-grandson is Tim Larson. That's from his wife's, who is, Diane Wagner is who she is. She was married to Larson and they had a child. Then he married Diane, so that's his stepson, step-grandson. He's twenty-three years old. He went to University of Arizona, and he teaches part time at a high school as a coach, basketball coach. He was in the basketball. And then our grandson is Nicholas. He's twelve years old, still in grammar school.

TI: Good. Now, if Nicholas, who's twelve, asked you, "So Grandpa, what, how would you describe your life?" how would, what would you tell them, in terms of, or if he asked, "So Grandpa, what's important, if he learned about your story and all the things that you went through, what are, what's important to you?" What's...

FH: Well, I think family. Margaret. Basically Margaret. She's held the whole thing together.

TI: Yeah, it seemed like family's been a really strong constant in your life throughout, even though you had to move around a lot, you had your family and all your uncles.

FH: Yeah, most of the time at least I was with my parents.

TI: Okay. Well, that's, that's the end of my questions. And so it wasn't that bad, was it? [Laughs] You were worried about it.

Off camera: Tell him where you worked. You didn't just work for Walgreen's.

TI: Yeah, okay. So tell me more about your work.

FH: My work? Well, I worked for Walgreen's, and then I had my own store, and then I worked for Gazelle's in Highland Park, and then I worked for the student health service, I was pharmacy director of student health service at Northwestern University, on the campus at Northwestern. Then I retired.

TI: And of your career, what were some of the things that kind of stand up for you? Is there anything that you really enjoyed in terms of your work? Anything that stood out?

FH: Well, really enjoyed, I enjoyed student health service, except towards the end when we had a different administrator come in, but up to that time it was fine.

TI: And what was it about, when you enjoyed student health services, what, why did you like that so much?

FH: The people were nice to work with. You sort of look forward to going every day. You don't mind, you didn't dread going to work. You enjoyed it.

TI: And helping lots of young people, students.

FH: Yeah, and you meet the young people and talk to them.

TI: Good. So Frank, thank you so much for doing this interview. This was, this was good. This was real interesting.

FH: Okay. Well, glad to help Jean.

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