Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hy Shishino Interview
Narrator: Hy Shishino
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Cerritos, California
Date: January 31, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-shy-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

SY: Do you remember talking at the JACL meetings about camp, about what happened to you in camp?

HS: No, we didn't really talk too much about camp stuff. But every time you'd meet somebody you knew you'd say, "Oh, what camp were you in?" So my kids, they always used to ask, they said, "How come you, every time you meet somebody, you always ask what camp you were in?" So then it was when my daughter was in junior high school that she finally asked me what all that stuff was about, so then she said, "Well, I'm writing stories," so she said, "I might as well look up into the history of that." So she wrote a story about how we were put into the camps.

SY: So at the time, like when you first joined the JACL, were you at all angry about what happened to you in camp?

HS: No. Nobody was angry about it. I mean, it's, it happened, it happened.

SY: But eventually, you, did you start to feel more, a little more concerned about the fact that this happened to Japanese Americans?

HS: I think I got more concerned about this when we formed the Gila Reunion Committee.

SY: And that was when?

HS: And that's, we all said, unless we keep what happened alive, only those of us that experienced it can tell the stories because it's like a rumor. He says, "It goes from generation to generation, the story gets changed around." But so he says, "We have to turn around, and what we remember, get it down in oral history or writing." And so this is when I got involved, and I says yeah, while we're alive. And this is why I've been active in the Gila Reunion Committee.

SY: And how did that reunion committee form? What was the, who was the first person to...

HS: Well, it started in 1993, because a guy named Joe Allman -- his wife is Japanese -- was from Phoenix, and he said the fifty reunion will be in 1995, so he says we should plan a reunion. And so in '93 they came, and so Seidyo was a pretty active guy, he was a businessman, and so he was the one that got, formed a committee. But we'd taken cruises and we'd taken vacations together, and so he was good at organizing all those things. He got thirty-nine people and we all went to a Caribbean cruise, and then had another one, we went to Vegas, stuff like that. But that's how, one, we were still even just married couples, why, Sei was always good at organizing things. But he's the one that started the Gila Reunion Committee, for the '95 reunion, and we had about thirteen hundred people. That's the biggest reunion we had.

SY: And what did you, what was your job in the beginning?

HS: Well, I was Sei's assistant, so I was the assistant chairman of the committee. And we had about forty-five members of the committee first. Thirty-nine of 'em were probably on the cruise with us. [Laughs] But it was a real good committee.

SY: A big job too, I imagine, putting together that many people.

HS: Yeah. People don't realize how much money and time is involved in that, but that was almost two years' planning. But it was really successful.

SY: And do you remember what happened at the first reunion? Did you end up talking about camp, or was it, was it more of a social thing?

HS: Well, it was more of a get together and meeting old friends, and so the first chance that a lot of people could get together with the ones that they made in camp. So it was really a joyful gathering.

SY: And then, subsequently, how many reunions have you had?

HS: We had one in, what was it, '95, '97, 2000, 2003, and 2006.

SY: And you became chairman when? When did you become chairman of the...

HS: Well, Ben Tonooka -- [clears throat] excuse me -- but he was kind of quiet and he lived in the same trailer park as Sei, and so Sei says, "You should be chairman." And so he was kind of quiet and shy guy and so he didn't want it, so I says, "You take it and I'll be your assistant." But we did things together. And then after that, then I became, the next one I became chairman, all the other reunions. So technically, I've, ever since '97, the 2000 one, I've still been the chairman, technically. We still have a reunion committee.

SY: So why did you volunteer? What is appealing to you about doing all that work?

HS: I'm just a person that gets involved in stuff. Like I said, seemed like every time I get, I joined a group, I became president at one time or the other. [Laughs]

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.