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-01-0030

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SY: And what, and what are some of the other groups that you've been president of?

HS: Well, I was, for forty years I've been an officer in our Lutheran church. I helped form the St. Thomas Lutheran Church, I was the first president. And then I've been, for forty years I've been an officer of that church.

SY: And is that a primarily Japanese congregation, Japanese American congregation?

HS: No, it was mixed. But there was, the Niseis that were living in Gardena at that time, we started in Los Angeles when I joined and when I moved to Gardena, that's when I became, we bought a little old house and had meetings in the living room and dining room. And then we did, the patio, they covered the patio and that became our church center. But I was the first president, and I've been an officer of that church for forty years. Finally, I engineered the sale of that. We got, we built a church. We got a grant from the Church, bought property, then built a church on that. And so that lasted from the time we built everything up forty years. Then we were down to forty members, and so I told 'em, I says, "You know," I said, "We're only forty members, but," I says, "we own a parsonage that's worth a hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars, and our church is valued at between five hundred fifty and six hundred thousand dollars." I said, "We got a hundred and eighty-nine thousand dollar mortgage, but," I says, "you realize that forty of us control that much money?" I said, "It's over seven hundred fifty thousand dollars. By the time you pay off the mortgage, it's five hundred fifty thousand dollars." But I says, "It should be used, we should sell the church and use the money for mission purposes." And so the forty of 'em agreed with me right away. I says, "Yeah, forty of us maintain the church and payments, and just every month, doing all the gardening and painting and everything." So they all agreed with me 'cause we're all in our seventies, so that's what we did, and I engineered the sale of the church.

And we used that money, and the first thing I did is I set up a two hundred thousand dollar endowment fund, and I said, "We give four scholarships every year from the interest, but one of 'em has to be a person of Japanese ancestry, if one of 'em is eligible. They get number one choice." And that's the way it's set up. Well, that, somebody else donated more money. We got two hundred seventy-three thousand dollars in that fund right now. And so I'm the contact person, so every year they ask me to go down to Irvine, Concordia College, wherever, so I've been going down there to meet the new recipients of our... but we've done a lot of good with that money. Then the balance of it, we gave a hundred fifty thousand to South Bay Lutheran Church, keep them going, and then -- South Bay Lutheran High School it was -- we gave twenty-five thousand to the Inglewood Lutheran High School they had there. We made good use of the money.

SY: That's wonderful. So you have a church, do you go now to the South Bay Lutheran Church? Do you --

HS: No. One of the ministers in Torrance -- it's called Ascension Lutheran Church -- when I lived in Inglewood, then I used to go there and the pastor became a real good friend, and so, until he retired, until he died, actually. He moved back to Colorado after he retired, but we still kept in contact.

SY: And all this you did while you were working. Doing all this work for the Lutheran Church, you were still working.

HS: Yeah.

SY: Full time.

HS: Took the little house, painted it, and did all the, put brand new plumbing and sprinkler systems in it.

SY: And how many on the, of this group were Japanese Americans?

HS: About maybe ten percent, maybe fifteen percent. It might've grown quite a bit more than that for a while.

SY: So they were friends, were they friends of yours from, from long ago?

HS: No, only ten of us started in Los Angeles, and then it grew twenty, then when it got to be about forty, then we got a grant from the mission board. Pacific Southwest Mission Board says, "Here's seed money to buy a house, buy a piece of property." And so it grew, then we borrowed another two hundred thousand dollars and built a church.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.