Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Richard Iwao Hidaka Interview
Narrator: Richard Iwao Hidaka
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 16, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hrichard-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay so, Richard, I start this with the date and where we are. So today is Thursday, June 16, 2011, we are in the Chicago area in Skokie at the Hampton Inn. On camera is Dana Hoshide and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and today we have Richard Hidaka. And so, Richard, I'm going to start with a question could you tell me when and where you were born?

RH: I was born in Modesto, California, April 11, 1928.

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

RH: Well, Richard, I was named after a friend of my dad's. And my dad always tried to call me Dick but it didn't come out Dick and it didn't come out Richard so it was just like a bark. And so many times a dog would bark at home and I would come running home.

TI: Really? So the way your father would say it was like a Rich or something like?

RH: Like, "Dut! Dut!" It was kind of rough 'cause he was a disciplinarian and he wanted, "If I call you, you come right now." So a dog would bark and I would go running home and, "I didn't call you." [Laughs]

TI: And so tell me about his friend Richard, the one that you're named after?

RH: It was just a guy that he met in San Francisco. My dad worked in the laundry, I don't know where Richard worked, but they were good buddies and my dad had a chance to buy a business in Modesto so his boss says, "Take it, go, it's a good job."

TI: So Richard was his boss?

RH: No, that was his boss.

TI: I see. Was Richard white or was he Japanese?

RH: Japanese. And because the Japanese can't pronounce Richard, I don't know how he got that name either.

TI: And your middle name is Iwao?

RH: Iwao.

TI: So Richard Iwao Hidaka.

RH: Yes, I hardly use it, but just so some people might recognize... well, there might be two of 'em.

TI: And then so we talked a little bit about your father. So tell me your father's name and where was he from?

RH: His name is Torao Hidaka, he came from Miazaki. I think that's an island off of the south end of Japan. That's all I really know.

TI: Do you know anything about his family in terms of the business? What they did or why he came to the United States?

RH: Well, he said that there was no money there, he worked on a farm and when United States opened up well he says, "There's a chance for me to go there and make some money." And my mother said, no, no, and finally after a couple years she says okay and then he came over.

TI: And do you know about how old he was when he came over?

RH: I think he said he was around seventeen.

TI: And earlier you mentioned San Francisco. So did he go to San Francisco first?

RH: Yes.

TI: And do you know about what year this might be?

RH: Well, if he left at seventeen then he would be getting there in 1915 about.

TI: So he was born right before the turn of the century?

RH: Uh-huh, '98.

TI: And so how did he meet your mother?

RH: You know, we don't... we never talked a lot about these things because he being the kind of a man he was we were afraid of him. 'Cause we thought he's going to beat us up or something, you know how those things work. But it seems that my mother was born in Hawaii, a place called Laupahoehoe, and she went to San Francisco and that's how they met each other there somehow. They never talked about it.

TI: So she was born in Hawaii, so that would make her Nisei?

RH: Right.

TI: But then --

RH: But see in '48 they had a (seiche) in Laupahoehoe and wiped out the whole town, and so all the records were gone. So she had to be naturalized because she couldn't prove anymore that she... because she didn't have her birth certificate and they couldn't prove that she was born in Hawaii.

TI: Interesting, well not only that, but I think there was a law that stated if a U.S., like a Nisei married an Issei they would have to give up their citizenship. I think that was called the Cable Act that did that also.

RH: I don't know. Now Jean would know, Jean Mishima, she knows all that kind of stuff.

TI: So what was your mother's name?

RH: Yoso.

TI: And you talked a little bit about your father, he sounds pretty stern. What about your mother? What was she like?

RH: She was just the opposite. And so anytime we had a problem we'd go to her, right.

TI: And you mentioned kind of "us" in terms of more than one, sounds like you had brothers and sisters.

RH: Yes.

TI: So how many brothers and sisters did you have?

RH: Two brothers and two sisters.

TI: And so birth order why don't you kind of walk through in terms of the oldest to the youngest.

RH: I was the oldest. And my brother, George was two, Bill was three, oh wait, there was a brother in between that passed away when he was only fourteen months old. And that was Ben, between George and Bill. And then my sister, Shiz and my sister Reiko.

TI: And when you say Ben passed away at fourteen months, do you know what happened to him?

RH: He caught pneumonia and boom, he died that afternoon.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So you were born, you were the first born, you were born in Modesto. So by then your father had moved to Modesto and did he buy the laundry business?

RH: Yes.

TI: So tell me a little bit about the laundry business. What was it like?

RH: It was a hard business. I think, as I remember, they used to do the wash, hand wash, scrub stuff like that. And then later on my dad bought washing machines and so forth. And then he wanted to expand a little more so he bought a piece of property, built a building on there, had laundry in the back and press machines in the front to iron the clothes. Later on he went into dry cleaning as well but he didn't go into the plant, the dry cleaning plant because it takes time. And he sent the dry cleaning out to another cleaners to have it cleaned and then he would press it. And then he ordered the machinery for dry cleaning but the war broke out and then he was able to cancel the order.

TI: Oh, interesting, so he was kind of going into becoming his own little plant?

RH: Yes.

TI: But that was right before the war.

RH: That's right.

TI: So I want to kind of go all the way back to when it was hand washing at the laundry. So how many people worked at the laundry?

RH: As I remember it was only Mom and Dad.

TI: So they did all the hand washing?

RH: And the ironing and all that.

TI: Oh, that's hard work.

RH: Hard work.

TI: And who were the clients?

RH: Well, the people around there, mostly neighborhood people and then people started dropping off, driving up and dropping off their laundry, picking it up.

TI: Now as you got older, did you start helping at the laundry?

RH: No, I was a sickly child. I really was, and my dad didn't want me to do anything. He didn't want me to do anything so my brother George had to do a lot of the work that I would be doing. And I was so sickly that the doctor would call my dad up and tell him that, "There's this going around, bring your kid in and we'll give him a shot." So every time he says we're going to doc, oh, I knew I was going to get shot so I really didn't want to go. But, yeah, doctor used to do that and I was so sickly that they thought I was going to kick the bucket before my time. Says, "Well, about the time, about fourteen years old he will change, his body will change." And sure enough, that's when we had to go to camp, I was thirteen and everything changed after that.

TI: And so when you're sickly like that... right now I look at you, you look so healthy, so sickly in terms of always getting sick or was there a kind of special... if you were to think back now was there a name for what you had?

RH: No, I can't remember a name but if there was a flu going around or colds going around, something going around, he would say, "Bring him in for... I want to see him," every time get a shot.

TI: And so in terms of activities did they try to keep you inside a lot? And just like read and play inside kind of thing?

RH: Yeah, well, he kept an eye on me all the time, didn't want me to go out and play around like the kids did but I had my ways of getting around that. You know how kids are.

TI: Was part of this also in reaction to losing Ben because Ben died of pneumonia?

RH: Yeah.

TI: I'm wondering if a parent if they lost a child for illness, they would be really really, careful with the other children too.

RH: Yeah, at age five I got pneumonia and my fever went up to a 107 and they thought I was going to die. And doctor says, "Go out and catch some carp," get the blood out of there and bring it up to him at the hospital, "and I'll see to it that the nurses are not around at that time and you bring it in and make him drink it. I can't do that but you can and make him drink it." And then so ever since then he used to keep carp in our swimming pool and stuff like that. Then after a while it just got too much for him to keep care of and so he after they all died he let it go but it was okay.

TI: Because after the hospital he kept feeding you... having you drink the blood of the carp?

RH: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so who was this doctor, a Japanese doctor?

RH: No, white doctor, Dr. Gould, they named a clinic after him over there in Modesto. I think it's the same doctor. I went in there and asked but they couldn't give me a good answer.

TI: So he was kind of naturopathic healer also, this is kind of a natural way of curing illnesses.

RH: You know back then in the '30s, early '30s there was nothing, I mean no antibiotics, no nothing so he just worked out the fever, cold compresses and stuff like that, that was it. So I guess he heard about the carp blood so he said, "Feed it to him."

TI: Now I've never heard that before. So since then, have you heard of other people drinking the blood of carp?

RH: No.

TI: Interesting. I'll have to do a search on Google on there, I'm curious now.

RH: I think it was more the pleurisy because they made a hole in my back and drained my lungs every day. Every day they would do something and drain the lung.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So tell me about school. So were you able to go to school on a regular basis?

RH: Yeah, I was able to.

TI: So tell me about your classmates at Modesto?

RH: I had some good ones and bad ones, but I got a long pretty good with most everybody mostly because athletically I was pretty good. And I played basketball well and played baseball, didn't go into football that much. I guess I was just too weakling, I was skinny as a rail, really was, ninety-eight pound weakling, one of those things.

TI: Now were there very many other Japanese in your class?

RH: Oh, yeah... no, wait a minute, not so much in my class but in the different class that we got together.

TI: So like just in your class, how many other Japanese would there be?

RH: Maybe one, one other Japanese.

TI: And how many people, students would be in one class?

RH: Oh, about thirty, twenty-five, thirty.

TI: And what would the other races be in your class?

RH: There were Hispanics there, mostly white.

TI: Now when you went to school or before you went to school, what language did you speak at home?

RH: Mostly Japanese, yeah, I had a rough time. A lot of the kids did because they spoke Japanese at home and they couldn't mix in with the English and stuff like that. My mother spoke a lot of English to us but my dad wanted us to speak Japanese to him. So needless to say, I didn't speak to him very often.

TI: It sounds like for two reasons, one he was very strict and you're kind of afraid of him and two, it sounds like your Japanese wasn't --

RH: That's right, it wasn't very good. But I speak to Buddhaheads today and a lot of them say, "Yeah, your Japanese is pretty good," but I don't think so.

TI: Well, so going back to when you had to learn more English in school, how did you do that? How did you learn English?

RH: Well, just by talking with everybody else, but I had a rough time.

TI: So it was really just being thrown into that?

RH: Yeah, well, I guess you wouldn't know because you didn't have to go through that but yeah, it's hard to do two languages that are so different that, because I think in Japanese your subject comes first and then your other words come later, description comes later.

TI: Right, so the whole grammar structure is different.

RH: Altogether different.

TI: Now how about your younger siblings, did they have that same problem?

RH: I'm sure they did but by that time it was a little bit easier for them, my sisters especially, because most of the speaking we did at home was English. We had, at the new laundry, we had a lot of people, Niseis working there and they all spoke English 'cause they had to converse with my mom.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So at the laundry we talked about earlier when it was hand washing. When you got the machines it sounds like you started to have people work at the laundry?

RH: Not at the beginning. I think it was around '34, 1934, '35 just right around in there we made the transition to the new laundry. You know my sister keeps changing the year that she was born, but when she was born I remember my dad making the phone calls from the new laundry. So it must have been just before that, '34 or something like that when we moved.

TI: And so this was when he bought some land, built a new building, laundry and did all that. Now when he did that, did he own the laundry, the business, the land and everything?

RH: Yeah, well, you see, Japanese could not own property at that time, well 'til fifty something. Anyway, my mom was born in Hawaii so she says she was an American so I guess they took for granted or she was able to prove that at the time. And so she was able to buy property so it was under my mom's name.

TI: Okay, so that's how they got, you got around that by having it under your mom?

RH: That's right, or they might have used my name or my brother's name, something like that because we were American citizens at the time.

TI: And then you said after you got to the new place, it was a bigger place and then that's when your parents started hiring people?

RH: Oh, yeah.

TI: So how big a operation was this?

RH: Let's see he had one guy in the laundry section and about six in the ironing. I call it ironing but they had these machines that ironed the shirts and pants and so forth. And then he used to get these college kids, we had a junior college in Modesto, and so where the guys were from was Livingston, California there was no junior college so they used to come up to Modesto to get a job and my dad picked them up, paid them room and board plus I think it was a dollar a day and then they went to school during the day.

TI: So your dad had a place for these guys to sleep?

RH: Yeah.

TI: Was that in your house or is it nearby?

RH: He built like a second story building and then the sleeping quarters are up there. So they ate downstairs and they slept upstairs, just a room to stay.

TI: And then downstairs was where the family lived?

RH: No, the kitchen was downstairs, the sleeping quarters were all upstairs.

TI: Including the family's.

RH: Yeah.

TI: And this happened year round and they were there year round? The Livingston?

RH: Yeah.

TI: So it was a pretty big operation?

RH: It was good, yeah.

TI: And was it pretty successful, lucrative, did your father make money doing this?

RH: Yes.

TI: And when they expanded like this, who were the customers? Was it more commercial at this point or still more families doing things?

RH: It was the people that, mostly the white people that lived around there. And a lot of them would drop and then pick up in the evenings, stuff like that.

TI: And the workers were they all, you said Nisei so were they all Japanese?

RH: The Niseis were friends of ours that lived in the area and they would come and go, come in the morning and leave at night, stuff like that.

TI: And then the students that were from Livingston, were they Japanese American?

RH: Yeah.

TI: So any interesting stories or anything about the laundry business back then in the 30s?

RH: Just, we picked up a few things from them but mostly it was just run of the mill things, they came, and they ate, and they worked, and they studied and stuff like that, that's about it.

TI: So with your father making money, did he have things like a car?

RH: Yeah, he had a thing with Dodge brothers, there was brothers that owned a Dodge business and my dad washed their coveralls and things like that and pressed them. And that would be free, I mean, he would do it for them for two years and then he would get a car.

TI: Oh, interesting, so every two years he'd get a car by providing free laundry service to Dodge brothers which was kind of like the dealer I guess, the car dealer?

RH: We called it Dodge brothers, I don't know the name of the place, I don't remember.

TI: So a form of barter I guess.

RH: Yeah.

TI: Laundries for a car. And so was that unusual for a Japanese to get a new car every two years?

RH: I guess, I don't know. I was a little kid at the time so I really don't remember. But I remember when the war broke out, though, we just got the car, no it was a '39 Dodge and as soon as the war broke out, man, they just came after the car.

TI: The Dodge brothers did.

RH: Yeah.

TI: Because it was more like a lease or a loaner.

RH: Well, there wasn't much we could do because it was between my dad and the Dodge brothers, and when the war broke out the FBI came in and took my dad.

TI: Okay, so we'll get back to that later. So what did your dad do with the money he made?

RH: I guess he stashed it someplace, put it in the bank. It wasn't a lot, but he made money.

TI: Would he ever take trips back to Japan?

RH: No, not at that time.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So let's go back to your life. I mean, did you do things like Japanese language school?

RH: Yeah, I had to go to Japanese school I think it was every Saturday. Oh, that was tough 'cause... but like I said I'm speaking all this English and then go to Japanese school, that was tough, didn't do very well.

TI: But then probably all the other students in language school were about the same in terms of their ability.

RH: Yeah, there was only about ten families in the town, so our school was on Saturday and Sundays they would have Japanese school for the church people. Well, church people because they would come in from the country and go to church and then go to Japanese school afterwards.

TI: So the kids who were out in the country, the farmers, they would have a double dose of both church and language school.

RH: Yeah.

TI: Now how did the city kids get along with the country kids?

RH: We got along okay. They were mostly, they went to the Christian church and us guys in the city mostly went to the Buddhist church which was a different church. Anyway, the same place as the Japanese school.

TI: That's interesting, why would the farmers be more Christian than the Modesto families?

RH: I don't know.

TI: Yeah, I'm trying to think about why that would be. That's interesting. So how about you for, so the Buddhist church, was that like every Sunday you would have service?

RH: Yeah, so one day I went to the priest and I says, "You know, I'd rather go hunting than come to church." [Laughs] He says, "Alright, if it's okay with your dad it's okay with me."

TI: So he knew your dad and so he knew that you probably wouldn't ask him.

RH: Yeah, so I went to my mom and my mom went to my dad and asked if it was okay and he says, "Yeah, it's okay." So I went hunting every Sunday after that, never went to church.

TI: And you were like how old then, twelve, thirteen years old?

RH: Yeah, probably thirteen.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So tell me about hunting. So thirteen, Sundays you go out, what kind of rifle did you have?

RH: I had a twenty-two rifle and I would go rabbit hunting mostly.

TI: And was that a pretty common thing for boys your age to go rabbit hunting?

RH: I guess we'd just go out and shoot around and really we never got any rabbits, we never shot any.

TI: So you never brought home a rabbit?

RH: No, I don't remember bringing a rabbit home.

TI: But then tell me why you did it? So you go out, you don't get any rabbits, I mean, so what was the appeal of every Sunday going out?

RH: Getting out of church. [Laughs]

TI: How about other activities, so you would hunt, you talk about sports, did you play on a baseball team outside of school?

RH: Mostly basketball and we played a lot of basketball. We had a basket up in the back of the church and we used to go play over there a lot. And as far as other things I had BB guns and I would go up and down the alley and shooting at birds and stuff like that, shooting at anything.

TI: How about things with the family? You had... the three oldest were boys, did you guys ever go camping or do anything like that?

RH: No, we were pretty much separate, the brothers. I don't remember doing a lot with my brother George or Bill. And mostly I went out on my own.

TI: And why was that? Was that because of the age difference or just different interests or what was it?

RH: I think it was mostly the interests. I used to go with a bunch of other guys, if I didn't go to the camps I think I would've got in a lot of trouble.

TI: So the people you hung out with were kind of a tougher group?

RH: A rowdier bunch, yeah, did a lot of oddball things like I would go down by the river and shoot a lot. I used to take my BB gun mostly in town but later on I went to a lot of hunting with my .22 and there was this farm I used to go to and did a lot shooting out there. They didn't like me because I was shooting all kinds of different directions. When I think about it I says, oh, that was bad.

TI: And so that you were just like picking different targets and just shooting at them? And so if the neighbors were to describe you back then when you were thirteen, how would they describe you?

RH: I don't really remember what they would think, but I think a rowdy I guess, a rowdy kid doing things that normal kids wouldn't do.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So who were, like the friends you hung out with, describe them, were they Japanese or were they white?

RH: Mostly white and at that time we had an influx of, we called them Oklahomians, they came in from Oklahoma out there because they got this pamphlet saying that's lot of work and a lot of things going on so they came out, nothing out here. So just had a lot of people.

TI: And so what did these families do in Modesto if they all came looking for jobs, work, what did they end up doing?

RH: I really don't remember but I do remember these guys, families moving out, coming back, moving out, coming back again, a certain time of the year because I guess there was work at certain places so they'd move out.

TI: So almost like migrant working?

RH: That's right.

TI: So moving to different places, okay.

RH: That's what we got in San Francisco with the Buddhaheads, the Japanese coming in, same thing.

TI: Oh, so that certain times they'd go out seasonally, do work out in the fields and then come back into the city.

RH: That's right.

TI: Back and forth. Yeah, Seattle we saw that with cannery, salmon canneries sometimes seasonally in the summer they'd be in Alaska and then come back in the wintertime.

RH: Yeah, there was a lot of peaches, apricots, grapes and stuff like that, so lot of people had to be irrigating, and then after the irrigation then they had to pick, and then after the picking they had to prune the trees and stuff like that. So there was a lot of work mostly through November but nothing until probably March. In between there the guys would move out and go to different jobs.

TI: Now for the Japanese community, were there, I guess, community-wide events like picnics, like kenjinkai picnics and things like that that you attended?

RH: Yeah, there were usually, every year there would be some kind of a picnic, and Modesto, we would attract maybe fifty families or so. So the usual things, the races and things of that sort, I remember that.

TI: Now anything unique about the food in Modesto? You mentioned peaches, I'm trying to think if there's something that was like a special dish that Modesto people had.

RH: No, I don't remember anything like that. I just ate anything, I still do that, eat anything.

TI: But it was mostly Japanese food?

RH: Well, it's like potluck, everybody brings something and they would eat and then they'd go around to different families and say hello and eat some food there and so forth.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So when you were thirteen, the war started, so December 7, 1941. Why don't you tell me what happened on that day for you.

RH: Well, we went to movie, my brother and I, we went to a movie and when we came out -- no, during the movie a guy shut the movie off, somebody got up there and announced that, "All military personnel go back to your posts right now." So a lot of guys left and then they went back to the movie and after the movie we didn't think too much of it but people were outside buzzing around about a war and the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. Wow, I don't know, so we went home and then we found out more about it.

TI: And when you found out more about it, I mean, did your father or mother say anything to you about what was going on?

RH: No, we didn't know what to make of it. Even they didn't know what to do, so we just went on with life as normal. But it wasn't normal after that.

TI: Before we talk about your father, let's talk about you the next day going to school. What was that like?

RH: Well, the kids didn't talk to me much. They just... like an outcast, didn't talk to me. But after a while we started talking a little bit but not normal like it used to be. Lot of the kids wouldn't talk to me.

TI: So let's talk about your father. So what happened to your father after Pearl Harbor?

RH: Well, on Monday they came around and talked to him, the FBI came and then they took him into the station to talk, a couple hours later he came home. And then did work as normal and I think it was two days later, they came back again, picked him up, and he didn't come back 'til about eight or nine o'clock that night. And then when he came back he just said goodbye, he's leaving for a while, and we didn't know what to make of it. So he just shook our hands, all of us, and the FBI guys followed him out. And as they were leaving, one of the guys went by my bed and you could hear a clunk, and it was like something heavy in the pocket so we knew he was carrying a weapon. But we didn't know who they were, so we didn't see him for two and half years after that.

TI: And when you father came back the first time, so he was on Monday questioned and then he came back, did he seem concerned at all could you tell?

RH: No, he was as stern as usual. So we had supper and went to bed. I think it was the next day or the day after, it was longer than a day after, but they came back.

TI: So why do you think the FBI picked up your father?

RH: Well, he was a chairman of committee in Modesto, so all the older guys, they got together and they had meetings every once in a while, I don't know what it was all about. But they had meetings and I didn't even know he was the chairman of the group, but that's the reason why they picked him up. They picked up the heads of everybody, there was a lot more in the bigger towns and they picked up more people. So when my dad talked about one of the camps that he was in, there was Germans, Italians and some of the Germans' and Italians' families were there. And there was about a total of about 50,000 he said in the camp, so it was a big camp.

TI: Do you know, recall, or know which camp he was at?

RH: Probably at that time it was either Crystal City or Lordsburg.

TI: So Crystal City was more of a family camp so families might be in Crystal City. Interesting. So when they took your father away the second time and when he said goodbye, what were you thinking? You're the oldest son and what was going through your mind?

RH: You know. I had no idea why this was happening and I didn't know that he was... I thought he was going to go for the night actually or a few days maybe. But I never thought that it'd be that long. So after that, things really fell apart because we didn't have anybody telling us what to do. My mom didn't know what to do with the laundry so I guess he wrote a letter or something and then when they found out that there's going to be an evacuation, he says, "Get rid of everything you can, everything." He gave certain machinery more... "Get rid of this one more than this one," and so forth. And she didn't do it, she didn't know what to do with it, didn't know how much to ask for and stuff like that. So these guys came in and I remember buying tools and things of that sort, motors, especially motors, a guy says, "Oh, that one has too many leads, it's not very good but I'll give you so much for it." She says, okay, so she gave it away. And she called my uncle up who lived in Livingston and he came out and helped her out a little bit but still they took advantage of us.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So tell me about your mother during this time. It sounds like she was pretty much overwhelmed with not only the family but then the business, your father leaving, so describe her state at this point.

RH: Well, it was hard for her because she didn't know what was going on, period. She didn't know what to do, she didn't have any idea of how to... what to do, board up the place. My friends came over and they helped a lot and said we got to board up all these windows and all these doors and got everything ready. And we boarded up the best we could, but you know, no matter how good we did it or how much we did, they still broke in and did whatever they wanted. Because they knew that we weren't going to be there.

TI: And so your father had sent a letter telling your mom to sell things but it was just hard for her to do all that. But she eventually did sell stuff but very --

RH: Some, but not enough.

TI: So now that you've boarded up the business and it's time to go, describe what happened then? What happened next?

RH: Well, I remember the day that they said you got to be gone from the state of California or you're going to have to report to a certain spot, a certain place. I think it was the bus station, anyway, it says, "Be there or we will come and pick you up." So being that we didn't have any transportation to get there we just waited for them to pick us up. And so they just put us all on the buses and took us to the bus station and then we're transferred... no, then we went to the train station and got on the train and went to Merced.

TI: Now at this time there were five kids, you were the oldest? And how young were your two sisters? They were the youngest.

RH: Oh, the youngest, she was just a toddler, could hardly walk, yeah, I don't think she was walking yet. '40, oh no maybe she was walking because she was born in '40 and we left actually in '42.

TI: But still quite young.

RH: Yeah.

TI: Two years, maybe two years old or so.

RH: Right, about two years old, yes. Because I think we were transported in May, May of '42 and she would have been two in March.

TI: Okay, so a little bit older than two. Was there anyone to help your... so it's your mother and five kids, was there anyone there to help your mother during this traveling to Merced?

RH: No, I guess the Murakamis could have helped. We were close to another family and they could've helped us, yeah, because they were manager of a hotel and so they didn't have a lot to take.

TI: Okay, so when you get to Merced -- or before we go to Merced, was there anything else that happened during that time period before the assembly center or the journey to the assembly center that, a memory or incident that happened?

RH: No incidents but I remember every now and again we would go down to the railroad tracks where they were transporting these people from Stockton or Sacramento area and they would go by on the train. We would see them and we'd wave to them hello and goodbye.

TI: So they were all Japanese?

RH: Yeah.

TI: And when you saw them, what were you thinking when you saw them go by?

RH: Well, I was thinking that we'll see them in a camp but when we got there it was big camp, you didn't know where anybody was. Unless you want to go to the main office and find out and give names and finding out where they were living. But I didn't know the people that well.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So you go to Merced and what are some of your impressions of Merced?

RH: Well, I don't know. It was a makeshift army camp like because the barracks were laid out like an army camp. Latrines and the washing areas were very little. The places, they had the mess hall and we just sat around and waited for time to eat, time to go to bed and stuff like that. There was nothing to do although there was a field that we played baseball, we used to play a lot of baseball there. And then later on we said it would be good if they could open up... we were right next the baseball stadium, so they opened up the stadium for us to play baseball.

TI: So that was a really nice baseball field.

RH: Yeah, it was. It was the area, big baseball field. I mean, there was a big grandstand and everything.

TI: Nice grass and everything and a real infield.

RH: And then they had regular fence for the outfield, it was a minor league park is what it was. And Modesto had the Modesto Reds, I don't know what they were called in Merced, but Modesto Reds is a Yankee minor league team.

TI: So they would play against Merced.

RH: Yeah, all around the area.

TI: Now when you were in Merced, earlier you talked about how sometimes you would sort of get in trouble or you'd like to do things. Did you ever get in trouble or do anything rowdy while you were --

RH: Not in Merced, we were good boys in Merced.

TI: We'll talk about the next place and see what we can find. During this time, was your mother able to communicate with your father?

RH: Just through letters and the letters that we got back from him were cut out because of location or things that they were doing. And the... what do you call it?

TI: Censors.

RH: Censorship, they cut out a lot of sections. They didn't black it out, they just cut it out. So you really couldn't make out too much about what was happening.

TI: Now how was camp life for your mother? I mean, I was thinking in some ways it might have been easier for her because right before she had to worry about the business and all these other things. But tell me what was it like for your mother?

RH: In the camp it was much easier, all she had to do was take care of the family and then she worked as a waitress in the mess hall so that was her job. And that was our only income. I finally got a job as a dishwasher later on, part time dishwasher.

TI: At Merced or later on?

RH: In the permanent camp, Amache.

TI: Okay. And when your mother worked who took care of your youngest sister?

RH: You know I really don't remember but I think it had to be she came to the, went to the mess hall with her.

TI: So she kind of just tagged along with your mother?

RH: Yeah.

TI: And while your mother was doing that what would you do? I mean you had all this time.

RH: That's when I got into trouble because there was nothing to do. We played a lot of cards, okay, 500, Old Maid and Pinochle.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: We should establish so this is after Merced, this is when you went to Amache? So you're at Amache, you have lots of time on your hands and go ahead.

RH: We didn't have a lot of needs as far as what we needed for the family, but later on we had to make bunk beds and as I remember now, I think the bunk beds came after my dad came back from the internment camp, his internment camp. So he got the lumber somehow, anyway as far as we're concerned, we played a lot of cards, a lot of cards. The cards got so tattered you had to put talcum powder on there so it would slide a little bit. And then I never thought about going to town and buying new cards 'cause we really needed new cards. But a lot of times, being that there was no money, we'd go over there and steal it.

TI: This was in town, you would do that?

RH: Yeah.

TI: And what kind of things, like what would you steal in town?

RH: Just stuff that we'd need. But mostly we would... after they took the guards away, we would sneak out of the camp and go to a nearby town and just do a lot of exploring, a lot of walking. I remember doing some fishing and couldn't catch anything, we could see it in the water, the fish. So we made spears and we speared 'em but took home a bunch of fish one time and we didn't know what to do with them because we couldn't cook 'em. And the mess hall, we couldn't ask the mess hall to fix the fish for us so we just buried it. It was a waste and we quit doing that. But we'd go exploring around that's mostly what we did.

TI: And you mentioned so at some point you said the guards disappeared or went away?

RH: Yeah, after about a year, the first year they just took the guards away because there was no place for us to go to and if we wanted to sneak out we could sneak out easy. And there was nobody that was trying to sneak away, so they just took the guards down. So we were going to burn the guard tower down, they don't need it anymore, and the guys said, "No, don't do that. You're going to get in a lot of trouble," so we didn't do it.

TI: But earlier you mentioned you did do some mischievous things so let's talk about that. What were some things that you did?

RH: Well, my brother, George, they figured out a way, they looked in the police cars that were parked near the high school in the center of the camp because it was a top, the camp was on a hill and it was right on the top. And he went down there and looked in the police cars and all had the ignition keys still in there. He made a note of that and a couple nights later he says, you know let's go up there, push the car down the hill and then we can start the car up and they can't hear it. And so we'd go riding around. Oh, okay, so they did that for a while and they drove around the camp.

TI: But they were pretty young right, to drive a car, they were young.

RH: He was only about... he's a year younger than me so say he was fourteen years old. And some guys knew how to drive a car and so they taught each other how to drive and they drove around the camp. And then finally one of the guys figured out a way that they can drive out of the camp without going through the main gate. Oh, so they drove out and they went to nearby towns all over. The things got bigger and bigger and there was trucks being stolen and police cars and all the trucks, they all left the keys in there. So we'd just take 'em for joy rides. One time it must have been about seven or eight of us and we were riding around this convoy truck and the driver, I don't know how he did it but he drove off the rode into the ditch and drove quite a ways. I says, "Drive a little further and maybe we can get out." The further we drove the deeper we went, and we were about fifteen miles from camp. So finally we says, "Well, we got to back out," so we backed out and it worked. They were able to back all the way out and onto the road again and back to camp. Boy, if we got caught out there, man, we were about fifteen miles from camp, the nearby town called Holly.

TI: Now did you ever get caught? Or did people ever suspect what you guys were doing?

RH: Oh, yeah, they knew we were doing it. They didn't know who maybe or when, so they couldn't pin it down. But one day the four of us took a truck out and went to Granada and we were driving around town and here comes a pair of headlights towards us. So I said, "Stop." I said, "Usually those guys, the town people are asleep by now. Well, why don't you drive down the side road here," and he says, "Yeah, we know where it comes out at the highway, okay." So we did that and lo and behold, the next thing we know there's a spotlight in the window of the cab and the guy steps on the brake, the driver, and so I was sitting next to the driver, there was four of us abreast. And I says, "No, no, step on the gas." And I stepped on his foot on the gas and we took off and the guy kept staying with the truck, so I just turned the wheel and side swiped him off the road. And the next thing we know he come around the other side so we weaved over to that side, it was only a lane and a half dirt road. So the guy stayed in back of us, the cop, and so when we got out to the highway, the guy made a beautiful turn onto the highway, he didn't slow down, but he didn't turn it back fast enough and we went down the ramp going down off the road through a barbed wire fence, through a irrigation ditch and on the other side into the field and the truck came to a stop. We all took off but that cop grabbed the driver of the car and tied him up with his belt, he can't get out 'cause the door is locked, but he knew he could get out. So he just kept his hand over his face and he says, "Oh, he don't know who I am." So when he got into the camps, as soon as he got in there he had to slow down so he just opened the door and ran out and he got away.

Okay, so we had to walk back from out there it was about five miles and we walked back and the next morning I got up, nothing was happening. Just went did my usual thing, went to school, and ten-thirty there's a call come into the room and the guy says, "Is Richard Hidaka in this room?" Yep. "We want him in the front office." Okay, so I went with them to the front office. Why do they want to see me in the front office? When I got there I saw a cop standing there. I said, "Oh, that's it." So with that we got into his police car and drove past the police station. He kept on going and went to the administration building. When I walked into the front door, I saw the other three guys sitting there on the bench. I said, oh, man we got caught. So went to the superintendent and he told us all about what happened. So he says, "Go with the other guys and wait for a minute." So later on he called us all in and he says, "Well, you guys did a little damage to the property, the truck, the car, and it comes out to forty dollars." Well, forty dollars in those days is a lot of money so he says well, you're going to have to pay it. Oh, ain't got forty dollars and there's no way we're going to come up with it but he says, "Since you guys like trucks and cars so much, you're going to wash trucks and cars for the next fifteen weeks all on Saturdays, just on Saturdays, all day, whatever we can come up with." So we washed trucks, cars, buses, and all this stuff. And that went on for about a month for me and then my brother got into some trouble, George. And so says, "Oh, you guys got to leave camp." So he told my dad, "You guys got to leave camp." I think another family had to do the same thing. Got to leave camp by a certain day so my dad says, "Well, my carpenter, you have him working for you," that's me right, he says, "I'll give you my other son to do his work with the guys, and I got to have him make the crates and things so I can leave camp." So I had to do all that work and my brother had to finish out my sentence. [Laughs]

TI: Now was your dad upset at you?

RH: He didn't say a word, he really didn't say a word, never said anything.

TI: Now, I just want to ask a couple clarifying about that great story. When you said the cops, were these the internal security people from camp or were these outside?

RH: No, internal.

TI: So these were Japanese Americans.

RH: Japanese guys.

TI: And so this was all within camp, it wasn't with outside?

RH: That's right, and the Japanese cops, they wanted to send me to prison or something.

TI: So they were pretty mad at you then.

RH: Yeah.

TI: Especially when you try to knock them off the road.

RH: Well, that was a white policeman.

TI: Oh, so that was outside?

RH: No, he was a member of the police department in camp but he was a cop. And I found out years later, years, in '98 actually, in 1998 they were thinking about sending me to Denver, what do they call that, juvenile?

TI: Reform school?

RH: Reform school, yeah. That I found out in '98.

TI: How did you find that out in '98?

RH: One of the kids told me. And he had an in with somebody and he passed away but his brothers are number one with me.

TI: So you were kind of the camp juvenile delinquent?

RH: Yes, I was, number one. There was some bad guys there but I was number one.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Well, there's another story that I'm going to ask you to share. I mean, earlier you mentioned how before the war on Sundays you would like to go out and shoot a .22. Earlier you mentioned how you were able to get access to a gun inside camp. Can you tell me that story?

RH: Well, one of the guys, he was a little off his rocks, crazy. But he was okay, he was a nice guy, and he went out with one of the guys that he worked with in camp had a farm or something way out someplace, and he asked the guy to come out and work for him. So he says okay so he did, he went out and when he came back, he came back with a .22 rifle that he stole off of the other guy, of the owner. And he just liked guns but he didn't know what to do with it when he got back so he says, "You know anybody that wants a gun, a .22 rifle?" And they asked me and I said, "Yeah, I'll take it," so I took it and had it in my room for a long time. As a matter of fact, after I bought three other rifles and brought them into camp which didn't shoot well, and my dad caught me with them so I had to give 'em up. But the other rifle I kept, I held onto it and I killed a pheasant with it and some rabbits and stuff like that.

TI: So where would you get the ammunition for a .22?

RH: Well, I went to town to buy ammunition and I says, you know, if I buy 'em here they'll know that I got a rifle, right? Or a gun, so I says, well, you shouldn't let them know that we have this so we would steal it, a box here and a box there. And then I felt kind of bad but I says, well, we better buy... I got to buy something so I'd buy it and then I had to sign my name to it, who I was and where I lived and so forth. Well, I did work in the farm nearby in the same town and so I used the farm address and it never said anything so I would buy 'em.

TI: So you would buy ammunition or other things?

RH: Just ammunition.

TI: And so they sold it to you?

RH: Yeah. It was like fifty cents a box but you know, yeah, it was hard to buy it. I was afraid to buy it so sometimes I'd use a fictitious name and use the address out there. It didn't matter.

TI: So you, I guess then would take the rifle ammunition and go out and go shoot.

RH: Yeah, just shooting.

TI: Now would other boys follow you and go with you?

RH: Yeah, take turns.

TI: Any other stories like this? These are good.

RH: Well, just buying that three rifles in town and the guy says, well, one of the barrels, guy got mud caught in the barrel and he fired it and the barrel ballooned out a little bit. I said, oh, so what. And then another rifle, the mechanism didn't work well and then the third rifle was a combination of both. But gee, the next day my dad caught me with them, I had to take 'em back.

TI: And so when he caught you with it did he get angry at you?

RH: Yeah, but he didn't do anything. He just, "Go get the guns," and I hesitated for the longest time and he says, "Go get 'em," and finally he shoved me that way and I had to come out with 'em. And all the kids are around the car, everybody saw me with the guns. Yeah, so I took them back and then I did steal a muzzle loading rifle out in one of the farms, we found it in a shed way out in the field and I brought that into camp, and there again, it was so big, the barrel had to be about an inch in diameter and a little bore in there, long barrel, fifty inch barrel, you couldn't hold it up. So I just threw it away. I wish I had it today.

TI: When you mentioned earlier how when they picked up your dad after Pearl Harbor and then you didn't see him for two, two and a half years, during that time period did your relationship with your father change?

RH: Yeah, because he couldn't do anything with us, we were too big at that time.

TI: Because I was thinking when he left you were about thirteen and now you're... when he sees you next you're more like sixteen years old, much bigger, stronger. So I'm just curious how that relationship changed.

RH: He didn't speak to us very much.

TI: In thinking back, do you think he just had a hard time figuring out what to do with you? I'm trying to think what was going through his mind when he's... before he's kind of like the man in charge, everything kind of goes through him, and then he's sent away to an internment camp and then he returns and then all of sudden his oldest son is probably as big as he is. And what's he thinking?

RH: I don't know what he's thinking, I really don't. But the first thing when he came to the camp the police department went to him and told him all about us so he knew everything that happened.

TI: So the internal police said, "So we need you to get your sons back in line," kind of?

RH: I guess, something like that. Yeah, because he was chief of police in one of the internment camps that he was in. I'm thinking Crystal City, but anyway he says of the police, of the Japanese section, he was the chief.

TI: But he never talked to you about your behavior or any of that?

RH: No, I think he might have told me that the police department talked to him about us, me and George and what we were doing.

TI: Now with your father there, did you change your behavior because he was now back?

RH: I think so to some degree, but some of the things still went on. Yeah, I think when we got into that wreck with the truck he was there.

TI: Now in your eyes how had your father changed from before he left and then now when he comes to Amache? What differences did you see in him?

RH: Well, he was much quieter, like he didn't talk to us a lot and he wasn't as stern as he was before, 'cause I think he was a little too busy in Modesto to watch us. But in camp he worked for the fire department and then I didn't see him a heck of a lot, really didn't. He kept out of the way so to speak, let us be. As Jean Mishima said, in camp, the father family head sort of changed because when we ate, we didn't eat together anymore. I ate over there and he ate over there so I didn't see him, really didn't see him much.

TI: So that nuclear family, that family structure really broke down in the case of your family.

RH: Exactly.

TI: Because you no longer ate together and probably from the time you woke up, you're off on your own with your friends and doing things.

RH: That's right.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So, Richard, I want to... we're going to start the second part of the interview. Now I want to go back to some of the mischief that you got into. At the store, you would sometimes steal some things, you talked about the bullets for instance and maybe some other minor things. And then another kind of mischief that you got into was when you stole cars. And I wanted to ask you in terms of the difference in terms of, so one was more outside and one was more internal to the camps. And did you see a distinction between the two?

RH: Yes, in that in the camp, okay, we're already in jail. So what the heck, we're just doing stuff inside the camp and we're getting back to the government for putting us here. I didn't really care about that. After a while, stealing the bullets and stuff like that, I kind of felt bad. I went back to the town -- well, this is about fifty years later -- and I kind of went through the town and looking for the places, it's changed so much that I couldn't find the hardware store anymore where I stole the bullets. I would've donated some money there and say, "Hey, I did this as a kid long time ago, please accept this money," something like that. And even as a child in Modesto I stole some stuff and I went back, place is gone, nothing there.

TI: That's interesting to me that you would want to return to, say the town and pay for those bullets. But then you feel no compunction to do that in terms of the government and what happened in camps.

RH: I pay taxes like everybody else, right? They're stealing money from me, that's the way I see it anyway.

TI: Now when this was going on, before your dad came back, did your mother ever talk to you? Did she ever try to encourage you to be better?

RH: Well, I don't know if she knew. I really don't know if she knew. If she did she never told me about it.

TI: Okay, so where we kind of left the story was your father had kind of bailed you out of your service so you could help him make crates because essentially camp administration told your father, "It's time for your family to leave camp," because you and your brother were getting into so much trouble. So let's pick up the story there. So how do you decide where to go?

RH: Well, when they told us that we have to go, okay. But where are we going? I figured that we were going to go back to Modesto but my dad says he's gotten letters from my uncle in Chicago. And he says that, "This is a good place for business so you should look into it." So on the way home to Modesto, we decided... my dad decided to go to Chicago and go from there. And so he came to Chicago and then we stayed here about a month and we were just taking the trains because we had nothing to do, and we'd take it all the way downtown and that was the end of the line and then come back to the end of the line. And we'd get off and that was about two hours later, so it was something to do and then we'd take a walk out to the lake. And then one day he says, "I bought a business so we're going to move to the north side." And we moved up there and took care of the business and it snowballed from there.

TI: But tell me about Modesto and what happened to the business there. So you had boarded up everything and what happened to that?

RH: Well, he went back there, my dad went back by himself, I think it was in '46, and he wanted to bring back some of the machinery and mainly it was a boiler. And so he crated that and brought that back and the business itself, the machinery, I don't know what he did with that, probably junked all the metal things that were there. And he came back and he talked to a lawyer about selling the business and the property back there and settling with the government. So he got the money, whatever it was, I had nothing to do with that. I don't remember anything. And I remember though there was something like seven or eight thousand dollars involved, but anyway we brought the boiler back here, we bought a piece of property and we were installing the boiler.

TI: And before we continue there I just wanted to ask, what was the condition of the Modesto property after it being boarded up and left alone with all the equipment? What happened in terms of the condition of things?

RH: You know, I saw some photos of that and that's all I saw and he says that it was pretty good shape but you can see where the people had ransacked the building, did whatever they wanted to do.

TI: So there's some vandalism there?

RH: Oh, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Alright, so now we'll go back to Chicago, so install the boiler.

RH: Well, yeah, we were installing the boiler and we couldn't do it ourself, a lot of union things going on which I didn't know anything about. So he had to have the boiler installed and then the inspector came over, check it over, and he says, "Oh, there's a bulge in the bottom of the boiler, it could go any time. But if you give me seventy-five dollars I'll pass it." And my dad says, "No." So he sold the boiler to a junker or somebody and the guy came in and he sold the burner, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, they made a transaction there and he had to go out and buy a new boiler and had it installed and then the inspector says, okay. 'Cause I said, "Well, why didn't you just give him the seventy-five dollars?" And he says, "He'll come back next year for another seventy-five dollars, and then next year for another hundred dollars and a hundred fifty dollars and something like that." He says, "There'll be no end to it." So I said okay.

TI: And okay, so how did the business go?

RH: So it went real well for about ten years or more. Then my dad went with the money that he earned, he finally went to Japan, okay, and he went there and a couple months later he wants to go back again. So he put my brother in charge and he was a smoother talker than me. And so one day I was doing some work in there and I just dropped my tools and I went out for a while, clear my mind. And then I came back and he says, "What are you doing here?" And I says, "I'm coming back to work." He says, "No, man, you're fired."

TI: Your brother fired you.

RH: Yeah, he says, "You're not working here no more." So I says, okay, so I took off. And later on my dad came back and he heard about this and he didn't say anything. And later on he wanted me to come back to work for him and I said, "No, I got a good job," so I had a better job working someplace else, and I never went back. And after that the business went straight down, I don't know, I don't think I had anything to do with it but it just went down. And I think that the clothes, the making of the clothes changed from wool to the synthetic, and so a lot of people started washing their clothes and so forth. And then went down and down and all the dry cleaning business went down and the guys that stayed in business came out back on top. Because the synthetic stuff didn't really work out, but it worked out long enough to put us out of business. So my brother gave up the business and my dad gave it to him and he gave it up.

TI: So in some ways, even though it wasn't really planned by you, it was probably a good time for you to get out of the business because at that point it just started going down and probably was harder and harder for your brother and your father to keep it going.

RH: That's right.

TI: And you were able to get a job. Now it sounds like it was kind of a lot of tension between you and your brother.

RH: Yeah, we really never really got along even during camp life. He went his way, I went mine.

TI: And after this incident where you left the business, were the two of you ever able to connect after that in terms of talking and doing things together?

RH: No, not until he had a stroke recently, like about seven years ago he had a stroke and I would just pick him up at home and take him to breakfast with us. Once a week I'd go to a Korean restaurant, they have breakfast, and he liked that kind of food so I'd pick him up and go. Then about a year ago he had a second stroke and now he can't move at all. So he has to go every place in a wheelchair and I can't do that, and he lives out in Barrington so that's pretty far, fifty miles.

TI: But about seven years ago when you started, when you first started taking him to the restaurant, did the two of you ever talk about the war years or anything in terms of what happened?

RH: No, well, we talk about it once in a while, but just like the fun we had. But I was hanging out with a bunch of other guys that were more adventurous than he, the older guys, they stayed in and played cards and did whatever, like good boys do. And I liked to have fun.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So let's go back to when you first came to Chicago because you were still needing to go to school at this time.

RH: Yes.

TI: So tell me about what school was like in Chicago for you.

RH: Well, at that time it got kind of bad for me because I kind of gave up on education because I've heard stories about guys getting lousy jobs even though they were college educated. And so I just gave up on it and says, nah, but I just did what I felt like doing and that was play basketball over there and I played a little football that one year. But I liked mechanical drawing, and I got straight A's in that but I never pursued that end of it either. But I was good with my hands, my dad taught me a lot about how to do steam fitting work and then he says, "Whenever the tradesmen come over to work, I want you over there and watch him and learn what they're doing and so that you can do it later." And that's what I did and so when I left my dad's business, I was a maintenance engineer and I went to work for different companies and I excelled over there. Finally, I got in with some electricians and I got into the trades and that's what I ended up doing.

TI: So did you go to school or how did you get licensed to do all these activities?

RH: I just learned on the job.

TI: And then at some point do you need to get a license or do you just join the union and that's how you get the jobs?

RH: Well, yeah, I got the jobs because I knew electrical work and I did a lot of union jobs, not being in the union. And I got permits through other contractors and used their name and did the work, but I had to pay them for the permits.

TI: And you did this kind of through your whole career?

RH: I did a lot work that way but whenever the tradesman work petered out and they laid me off, then I did my own work on the side and then when the work picked up again I'd go back and work for the contractors.

TI: Okay, so the contractors knew about you and so whenever they had work they would --

RH: No, they didn't know about what I was doing.

TI: Okay.

RH: That's a hush hush kind of thing.

TI: So who would hire you then?

RH: Big contractors.

TI: But it was kind of underneath the table.

RH: Well, no, it was when they didn't have enough union electricians to do the work, they would pick up what they call the permit workers. Okay, so it was a work that I would help the electricians do, but after a while I could do their work so they kept me on as long as they could. And then when the work petered out and you had to go because the union people didn't have enough work, then I would be laid off. I would look for that kind of time too because I had a lot of side work lined up.

TI: Now did you ever consider knowing that you already had the skills, just go through school just to get accredited and get the license?

RH: Well, yeah, but you know, there's too much BS involved in all this. Chicago is one of those kind of places, payoff, you got to pay off somebody so it's no use to go out and... my time was, I was too old already, forties and fifties, that's getting too old. So you have to grin and bear it and go do the work and do the work on the side, which I did.

TI: I'm curious, in the trades, did you ever face discrimination by being Japanese?

RH: Oh, yeah, you face that every day. I mean, because of my race, I figure that they never called me up to give me a chance to pass the exam so that I could get in there to work with the rest of the guys, get my card. I see that all the time.

TI: Even though you were qualified, you had all the skills and knowledge.

RH: They said if you worked two thousand hours in the trades you could take the test and then if you passed the test you can be a card carrying electrician. And I'd call them and I'd call them and I says, "I want to take the test," said, "We're not giving the test." Following year, the same thing and then when they had a lot of problems with the blacks, those guys took the test so I said, "I want to take the test." And they said, "We're not giving the test." I says, "You're giving to the black guys." "No, that's already over," you know, stuff like that. Who are they crappin', you know?

TI: Did they ever directly though make reference to you being Japanese?

RH: No, never.

TI: So it's all kind of just behind your back and just making it hard for you.

RH: Yeah, and then one time I was working for this company and I says, "You know this job that we're doing right now, you need a permit." Says, "We got permit." I said, "But then it's supposed to be 134 guys working on this job." "Aw, nah, it's okay," and sure enough, the BA comes walking in. And I knew the BA but he didn't remember me, but anyway, he says, "You got to have 134 men working this job, you got to have a 134 license to do this job." And so okay, what do I have to do? He says, "Well, you can join the union, do this..." and says, okay, so my boss says, "Okay, I can take two guys with me, Mike and you if you want to." I said, "Yeah, I'll go." So we went in front of the board, the electrical board, and I saw all these guys, big shots over there and we talked and he says, okay, so now we got a card, Mike and myself got a card, my boss has got a card. Then I quit working for them and I worked for another company, and lo and behold, the BA that was in that office at the time I was interviewed was the BA that came to the job and he says, "Oh, working here now, huh?" And I says, "How do you know me?" He says, "You came in with the two cops." They were policemen, see. And they were doing electrical work on the side also. I says, "Oh, yeah, I remember you now," and so we got to talking a little bit. But you know, that's how they work, that's how... if you don't pay off you don't get in and these guys had to pay off to get in and for me to get the card and all that stuff. Anyway, Chicago is a lot of BS like that.

TI: And so it sounds like in some ways you're a little bit like your father. When I think about this story you told about the boiler inspector, you know he just didn't want to get into that game of paying off, especially year after year so he didn't do this. Sounds like you have a similar streak in you.

RH: Well, yeah, I learned from my dad that part of it too. There's a few things I can say about 'em but I don't want to say too much.

TI: Okay, that's fine.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So after high school, so you went to high school and you're working for your dad but then... let's talk about your military service.

RH: Okay. Back in '46 when we went into the big business starting and then all that stuff, and then Truman was starting that draft again. So I told my dad, "Now Truman wants to start the draft again and so I could get drafted into the army," one way or the other I didn't really care. Okay so he says... I said there was a way that we could, my brother and I were in that time period, so we can join the National Guard, then we can go once a week to the Guard and we can stay home and work on the business, keep it going. So he says, "Okay, that sounds good. So we did that and we were able to stay out of the draft and we worked the business 'cause that was a really a hard time for us. And then the Korean War came on, we volunteered to go into the Army, our division wanted to go into the army. And my dad wanted me to get out of the Guard at that point. I says, "Well, the only way I could think of is if we move out of the state, if I move out of the state." So he sent me to California, to work in California, but I couldn't find anything in California so I came back and asked if I could be reinstated with my old rank because I was a sergeant at the time. And he says, okay, so anyway, we went on and on and on and then in 1955 I think, '55 or '56, my brother fired me.

TI: But you're still part of the National Guard at that time?

RH: No, I dropped out in '52 I think.

TI: And so the unit that volunteered to go to Korea, did they end up going to Korea?

RH: No, we never did. The 40th Division, California division was called up and then three others but I don't remember who they were. I know the 40th because my cousin was in the 40th.

TI: But the National Guard for Illinois never went to Korea.

RH: No.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So this last part is I just want to talk about your perceptions of the Japanese American community in Chicago, right after the war it was pretty large. I mean, there were a lot of Japanese that came from primarily the West Coast, they went to the camps and then to Chicago, similar to your story. And so did you have much contact with other Japanese Americans during this time?

RH: Oh, yeah, we had a lot of Japanese Americans that lived in our area where we were, where we started the business, Clark and Division. There was, oh, maybe 20,000 Japanese in all of Chicago, but Clark and Division, there must have been five, ten thousand right there. Every other person was a Japanese American for a while.

TI: And so what was that like for you to be around so many Japanese Americans?

RH: Oh, it was a fun time, and discrimination was practically nil. Even now you don't see much discrimination but when we go up to Wisconsin, someplace else, that's when you see it.

TI: So within Chicago it was pretty good.

RH: Yeah.

TI: So what were some, you said it was fun, what were some of the activities?

RH: Well, that's when we had a lot of the groups. We had not gangs but groups of guys that get together and they called themselves a name and then they'd have a basketball team and then we had a league. It was pretty strong at that time and then there was a lot of girls so we had girls' league and then we had young kids that wanted to play so we had the... we call it the D league sort of speak, kids that could hardly carry a ball and trying to teach them to play. So we had a lot of fun at that time.

TI: And how about things like dances or social things like that?

RH: Yeah, we would have, every weekend practically we'd have some kind of a party and this group is throwing a party. They were fundraisers for the team so to speak so they could buy uniforms and entry fees and so forth. Yeah, so they would advertise and we'd have something going on every weekend.

TI: And where would these parties happen?

RH: Different places, wherever we could get a place for a dance. They would have record players and we'd have a lot of fun.

TI: Well, then eventually many of the Japanese Americans who were in Chicago just started going back to the coast. Not all of them but some of them did. So why were they going back to the coast?

RH: That was home, okay, now this was a short stop because we couldn't go home in the beginning, right and so we went to different places Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, wherever and people felt that they wanted to go home. And so they went home. My dad might have felt that way but there was nothing in Modesto, it was too small. You go there now, it's a big town, but it's altogether different.

TI: How about for you? Why did you stay? I mean, after you got older and were more on your own.

RH: Well, I went back on a visit a couple of times. The first time I think it was in '68 or '69 and... no, it had to be earlier than that. It had to be in the '50s and I couldn't find any of my old friends, nobody was there. It was so foreign to me, all the places that I'd been and went to, I said, "Nah, this is not for me," so I went back to Chicago and I felt more at home there.

TI: And so now when you think of home does Chicago feel like home to you?

RH: Yeah.

TI: And do you see any differences in terms of the people who decided to stay in Chicago and those who returned to the West Coast?

RH: No, I don't see any difference, no. Some of my friends came out here for a short while. Like I said, they made a short stop out here and then went home. They're just like they usually were. Says, "You made some good friends out here," he says, "were they always like this? Were they out here when you went to camp?" I says, "Yeah, they seem like great people." He says, "They weren't always that way," he says, "they were... you can't trust 'em even now. When I leave for a while I try to get home that day so that they will know that I'm back."

TI: Because what would he be concerned about?

RH: They would ransack his place, they would go in there.

TI: And this is where again? Where would this be?

RH: This was a suburb of Modesto, Ceres. I says, "No, really?" He says, "Yeah, I can't leave this place."

TI: And so very different feeling.

RH: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: One of the things you do today is that you visit schools and you talk about what happened to Japanese Americans. Can you tell me why you do that?

RH: Well, at first my daughter teaches in Springfield, Illinois, a suburb of Springfield. And so she says that the history teacher don't know about the camp life, and so says, "Well, they were talking about camp one time, internment camps, and they talked to me about it." And they said, "Any of your people that you know went to the camp?" "Oh, yeah, my dad was in the camp." "Would he like to come down and talk about that?" And so she asked me and I says, "Yeah, okay, I'll do it." So I've been doing that since about '97, '98, around in there. So I would go down there every year, then one year my wife says, "Do you think they will kick for gas money?" and they said no. So I didn't go that year, but then we got into it with Jean Mishima, she says, "Go ahead," says, "We'll pay for it." I says, "Who?" She says, "Our organization." Oh, okay, so I don't care. I says, "I'll go down there anyway." I've been doing it for a while and that was the only year I missed since about '97.

TI: Now when you first started doing this, how much did the kids know about the camps?

RH: Nothing.

TI: You mean like nothing?

RH: Nothing, they never knew the camps existed.

TI: And then after they hear your story, what's their reaction?

RH: Thank you for letting us know. Thank you for telling us.

TI: Are they surprised that this happened?

RH: Yeah.

TI: Do they believe you?

RH: I don't know if they really -- they sent me thank you notes and stuff like that, so I guess they did. And then at the time actually I had these photos of the camp, camp life, that the director's personal photographer took, and so I showed them all of them and that was like two hundred pictures. I showed it to one of my friends because he wanted to see them and he says, "It's too much, too many pictures," says, "cut 'em down." So I keep cutting it down, cutting it down, now it's about sixty-five pictures now and I think I ought to cut it down more because Jean says they're giving us only about an hour to say everything we want to say. And she takes about twenty minutes herself, so I got to cut it down. And she wants me to tell them about my escapades, so that takes a long time.

TI: But that's the part I think they'll remember the most.

RH: That's right, they do.

TI: And you'll probably connect with them so much more. I think all of sudden it make the whole experience seems much more real and believable because your story is just so authentic in many ways.

RH: Yeah, that's what they say. Do it, do more of it.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So I want to ask about, because when you're in Chicago is when you met your wife?

RH: Uh-huh.

TI: So how did you meet your wife?

RH: Through those groups that I was telling you about. She was in one of the girl's groups, I was in one of the boy's groups. But this one group was my brother's group and okay so he says, "We're going to go to the sand dunes, we're going to meet at this place around nine or ten o'clock," whatever it was. And I says, "Go ahead, I'll find something." And I was the only one that wouldn't be going. And this guy says, "Come on, you ain't doing nothing, come on." And so I went and that's when I met her. I says, holy cow, I just... love at first sight.

TI: Was that for her also?

RH: No, I don't think so. No, I don't think so.

TI: So you fell in love with her and you sort of pursued her?

RH: Yeah, I couldn't remember her name even afterwards. Well, I just knew her as Jane and I didn't know her last name and I asked the other girls what her last name was and where she lived and no one knew or they weren't telling me.

TI: That's a good story. And then you started dating her after that?

RH: Yeah, it took a while, it took a long time because she was so young, she's younger than me.

TI: But eventually you got married and had children?

RH: Yeah.

TI: So how many children do you have?

RH: We had three.

TI: And why don't you tell me their names kind of in birth order.

RH: Okay, first one was Gwynne, G-W-Y-N-N-E, and then Jeffrey and then Larry.

TI: And Gwynne is, she's the teacher down in Springfield?

RH: Yeah.

TI: And where does Jeffrey live?

RH: He lives in Wilmette.

TI: And then Larry?

RH: Larry lives about two miles from where I live.

TI: Okay, so they all kind of stayed, except for your daughter, kind of stayed in the area. So, Richard, those were all my questions I had. Is there anything else you wanted to mention or talk about that... is there something that maybe when you talk to the students or just anything that comes to mind, anything else that you want to talk about?

RH: Well, I didn't mention one thing about during camp life. The guys got to know the mayor of Granada and the mayor was the chief of police, the justice of the peace and what else was he? And then had his own little business on the side where he was buying and selling... buying animals that were killed, like coyotes and things like that and selling the pelts. So he bought a lot of these animals and he would skin 'em and the carcasses would be piled up in his yard, stunk like hell. Anyway we got to know him, he was also a janitor of the high school, he did all kinds of things. Anyway we used to go over there and try to learn to trap coyotes and so we bought a trap from him and he said, "Be careful because the stuff that's inside of this blank shell, .38 shell, is cyanide. So one guy was setting it and it blasted off in his face and killed him so be careful." And so we set the trap out there about half a mile from camp, and we got a magpie. So we just gave it up, but it was one of those things that it shoots up through the middle tube and you put a rabbit fur on the outside and then leave the middle open so that the, when they grab it to eat it, it would just blast off into their lungs and kill them. I mention that because we used to go over there to see him and that's how I got to know these guys about the guns, the three rifles that I bought.

TI: So was the mayor the one who sold it to you or one of his friends?

RH: No, it was one of the guys that was standing on the side there.

TI: I just wanted to clarify. When the mayor told you about the person who got shot in the face and died, that wasn't anyone that you knew, was it?

RH: No.

TI: It was just a story he was telling you so that you guys would be really careful.

RH: That's right.

TI: Good story.

RH: Other than that I can't think of anything that would interest you.

TI: There are probably other things that probably can't tell me that would interest me. [Laughs]

RH: Well, when I came to Chicago I had to straighten out, I really had to straighten out because I knew now I'm in a different ballpark. If I go astray and do these bad things that I did, you go to jail.

TI: Well, Chicago was a pretty rough town though, too, during that time.

RH: Yeah.

TI: And it's almost like in my mind kind of this interesting combination of Japanese Americans coming out of camp wanting to kind of fit in, in kind of a rough and tumble city. And it seems almost a contradiction in some ways.

RH: Yeah.

TI: But apparently it worked really well for many of you.

RH: Yeah, it did, it was hard for me because my dad wanted me to go to college but I told him no. And so I had to work my butt off to get where I got.

TI: Well, Richard, thank you so much for the interview. This was not only very interesting but very entertaining. I really enjoyed this, so thank you.

RH: Okay.

[Narr. note: I got interested in trap shooting in 1961, it was fun and so I pursued it. I joined the Amateur Trapshooting Association. In 1962 the family and I went to "The Grand American" which is big shoot involving the best shooters of the USA and the world. We went to the Grand every year until 1990 then we quit. But in 1964, I shot 94 out of 100 in class D doubles to win my class. I would have stayed for pictures for the magazine, but there disqualification of two men in front of me, didn't know about, so I went home. Also, I was first in my yardage of 20 yards that year.

I persuaded my wife to shoot, because several women at the gun club were shooting. Well she became very good. She won many trophies, as well as, high over all, out shooting the men. I don't remember which years, but, Jane and I won "husband and wife" trophy State of Illinois twice, between 1964 and 1967.]

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