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

<Begin Segment 1>

SY: Okay, today is January 31, 2012. We're in the home of Hy and Mitsi Shishino, and we're talking to Hy Shishino; Mitsi's here in the room. It's, we're in Cerritos, California. My name is Sharon Yamato, and Tani Ikeda is on camera. So Hy, can we start with you giving us your full name and date and place you were born?

HS: Well, my first name is Hayao, but that's hard for the hakujins to pronounce it, so that's how it got shortened to Hy when I was, I think I was in high school when it happened. But I was born in Los Angeles, California, June 25, 1924.

SY: And did you have a middle name, or was it just Hayao?

HS: No, just Hayao. And teachers couldn't pronounce it; one of 'em called me Heso. You know what heso means? [Laughs] Bellybutton.

SY: [Laughs] So that, Hy has stuck ever since?

HS: Well, one of my, in high school, one of my Jewish friends, I was absent on Yom Kippur, so he says, "Thank you for observing our holiday." I said, "No, (Paul), I was sick." He said, "No, no. You observed our holiday, so we're gonna make you an honorary Jew." [Laughs] And that's how, they started calling me Hyman, and that's how it got shortened to Hy.

SY: Interesting.

HS: Yeah, I'm an honorary Jew. [Laughs]

SY: So your parents were from what part of Japan?

HS: It's Kagoshima, southern part of Japan.

SY: And both your mother and father were from Kagoshima?

HS: Yeah. And they have a dialect that only Kagoshima people can understand. Not many people have ever heard Kagoshima-go.

SY: Really? And your, is that what your mother and father spoke?

HS: That's all they spoke, but they called it the spy language because nobody outside of Kagoshima could understand what they're saying when they used their own dialect.

SY: Is that true to today?

HS: Yes, it's true today.

SY: Wow. And Kagoshima was also notable for other...

HS: Well, they're samurai were considered the best of its time, and so they were the most trusted samurai in Japan for several hundred years.


SY: So what did your father do in Kagoshima?

HS: Well, he was only nineteen when he came to America by himself.

SY: And do you know why he decided to come to America?

HS: About that time, the samurai, there was no jobs for them once peace was declared and Japan was unified, and so most all the young people at the time, they had nothing to look forward to. So my father came, was it 1900? No... 1910? I forget which one of 'em. He came when he was nineteen years old, he came to America first.

SY: And did he have brothers and sisters in Japan?

HS: Yeah, he was chonan, but I don't know how many brothers and sisters he had. Never really thought about that.

SY: So you didn't know your grandparents, then, his parents?

HS: I never met the grandparents. They, but my, I think my sister-in-law made a family, of the branches and how the, both sides of the family. It's somewhere in my papers, if I haven't thrown it away yet. [Laughs]

SY: But as far as you know, you didn't have a personal relationship with any aunts, uncles in Kagoshima?

HS: No, none of my uncles and aunts, I've, I've never even met 'em. Even though, of course I only went to Japan and I never went to Kagoshima 'cause it's too far south and we were on a, couldn't go down. There's sixteen of us, so we stayed 'round, went from Sapporo down backside of Japan, but my knowledge of, I never went to Japanese school, so my Nihongo is terrible.

SY: Really? So you didn't speak Japanese when you were young?

HS: Never. I only learned it, took me sixty years to learn what I can converse with now. [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

SY: And how did your father meet your mom, your mother?

HS: I really don't know. I think they were just two families... they never said it was baishakunin, but my mother was ten years younger than my father.

SY: And did he, did they marry before your father came to this country? Well, he couldn't have 'cause he was so young.

HS: No, he came first and then he went back, and I think the family set up the marriage. And he didn't have enough money to bring her back, so he had to work one year in America, then he sent her a passage to come one year later.

SY: So she came, do you know when she came to this country?

HS: I think she came in 1920.

SY: And by then your father was, what was he doing in the United States?

HS: He was doing gardening, and then... I thought he was doing in gardening in southern California.

SY: So he came directly to California?

HS: No, he went to San Francisco first, and then I think he came down slowly because I got one picture of him, it shows him in a farm picking, I think it was somewhere near Fillmore because we had Kagoshima friends, good family friends in Fillmore. And so when we were young, several times my father used to drive up to Fillmore to meet this, called the Arima family. That's what I remember. Being Kagoshima, they...

SY: And so he worked primarily, it sounds like he was a farmer, but then somehow he became, he started doing gardening work, before the war?

HS: Well yeah. It was, after he married my mom they were living on Cordova Street, which is one block south of Washington Boulevard, and then --

SY: In Los Angeles?

HS: Uh-huh. And then --

SY: Can you sort of describe that area, because I don't know if everyone knows Cordova and Washington. Is it, was it...

HS: It's, that area, there's very few Japanese. There was only one other family, Uyemura family, that were real, our family had a hundred year relationship this Uyemura family from Japan and the United States. But Washington and Vermont is probably where it was, and it's only about, the next big street, Pico, and then Olympic is where the Japanese town is around St. Mary's area, which covered... but between Washington and Vermont and past Olympic, there was about five thousand Japanese living in that area. That's why they called it St. Mary's or Uptown area.

SY: So that was Uptown, and then you were sort of in between Uptown and Seinan area.

HS: Yeah, just exactly halfway in between both areas.

SY: And there were lots of Japanese in both Seinan and Uptown.

HS: Yeah.

SY: But you know why your dad picked this area in between?

HS: Cordova's right next to Washington Boulevard, and the Uyemura families were, my father lived with them and my mother when they got married. And then what happened was a little later, one of the neighbors on Washington Boulevard had a florist, when he's going back to Japan, he came over and begged my father to buy the florist. And my father didn't know anything about flower shops, but the man kept begging him and begging him, and my father took pity on him, so he bought the flower shop. And there was a house built right onto it, I think it was a little two bedroom house and it was attached to the flower shop, so that's what my father did, florist work, up until evacuation.

SY: So the florist shop was in the area in between these two, so he didn't have Japanese clientele mainly?

HS: It was all, all hakujin. But big Fox West Coast Theater was a block away, and we used to get, people from the theater used to come buy flowers. But the cemetery road's, the cemetery was just half a mile down, people would stop and buy flowers on the way to the cemetery.

SY: So you were raised, then, among a lot of...

HS: Mostly hakujins, because I didn't have, until I went to junior high school, that's when I started meeting all the friends from the Uptown area.

SY: And can you tell us what order your family, where you are in your family and who your brothers, if you had brothers and sisters?

HS: I had one brother, John Atsuo, he was two years older than me. Then I had a sister, Masako, she was two years younger than me. And my youngest brother, Takao, he was two years, so each of us were born two years apart.

SY: And your older brother was named John?

HS: John Atsuo.

SY: And so did he give himself that name, John, English, an American name?

HS: No, my dad gave it to him. It's on his birth certificate as John Atsuo.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

SY: So when your parents came to the United States, then they learned English?

HS: They must've, a little bit. [Laughs] But there was only two years after they, that they got married that John was born.

SY: And you spoke Japanese at home, then?

HS: Well, my mother tried to use English, but she didn't speak too much. [Laughs] I don't remember too much about... I listened to a lot of Japanese, but I never really spoke it until years later, I started learning it word by word.

SY: So you, so did you feel sort of that you had a problem communicating with your parents? I mean, was it --

HS: No, my mom used, I could understand some of the Japanese she was speaking with my father. You learned certain words and things, but never learned proper grammar or anything. [Laughs]

SY: Right. So where, what are your earliest memories of your childhood, then? Was it, was it growing up in the flower shop?

HS: I used to go to the... it wasn't until I turned sixteen that I really started helping out in the flower shop. I'd take my, I had to, well, when I was earlier I had to get up at five o'clock in the morning on every holiday and go with my father, and he would order the flowers and I'd be carrying 'em by the bundles and then go running to the car, then go run back for some more. So my association with the flower market was every holiday, would have to go with him. My older brother, I don't know why, but he never did anything around the shop. But I used to change the water, this big, like that [holds hands apart] full of water, and take it, carry it to the curb and things, change it, but every other day, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, because the water gets real stagnant and smelly. But I was the one that used to do that every time. I started doing that from the time I was big enough to carry those big pots. I just took it on myself.

SY: And was it a, so it was a fairly successful... I mean, how, I'm curious how he got the money to buy the flower shop, and was it successful enough that he...

HS: Well, we barely eked out a living, but when you're poor you never really know how poor things are. All you, just, my dad, whenever I wanted carfare or something, something for school, why, then cash register was there and he'd say, "Whenever you need something, just open -- you don't have to tell me, but you just take nickels and dimes out of the cash register." That's the way he was. He trusted his kids from the time we were small.

SY: That's amazing.

HS: We never got robbed. [Laughs] Cash register was just sitting right on the counter in the flower shop.

SY: That's amazing.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

SY: And you, and so by the time you started school you, I assume -- so what was the elementary school you went to?

HS: It was called Washington Grammar School, which is, I mean, it wasn't too far away, about eight blocks away, so we used to walk every morning, up until the sixth grade.

SY: And all, no other Japanese were in this school?

HS: I think there was only a couple of kids in my class, Japanese. It was predominantly Caucasians.

SY: And there was no Japanese school nearby, so you never went to Japanese school?

HS: The only gakuen was up on Dewy and Olympic.

SY: That was Uptown area.

HS: Yeah, that was Uptown area.

SY: So your parents never...

HS: Well, my dad asked me, I was twelve years old and then he asked me if I wanted to go to Japanese school, but I didn't want to go because I'm left handed and teachers just go, bam [smacks hand], they say, "Use this hand," take a ruler and slap it. I said, "I'm not gonna let any teacher do that." I says, "I'd punch him back." [Laughs] But my kid brother was eight years old, and so he said, "Okay, I'll go." Dad says, "I'll give you a nickel every time you go to Saturday school." So he says, after a while he says, "Dad, you don't have to give me a nickel anymore." He says, "I like it." But it did, it's a good thing he did go because he became an optometrist and a lot of his clientele was Isseis. All the Issei friends come from downtown when they heard that he became an optometrist. I mean, that's how close all of our Kagoshima families were.

SY: So, but the Japanese school was really mostly people from the Uptown area then?

HS: Yeah.

SY: So you didn't really befriend any of those people when you were really little.

HS: No. It was only 'til I got to junior high school when I started making all the friends that lived around there. Then half of the bunch went to Poly High School, which was on Washington and Figueroa. And then my brother, his best friend lived on Pico and Normandy -- they had a nursery there -- and they were together from grammar school to junior high school, so he went to, he was out of the L.A. High School district, but he wanted to go to L.A. High School, so my brother got a permit and then he went to L.A. High School. So I just followed him. I figured he went to L.A. High. But in a way, as I grew up later, I think, I still have pretty good grades and everything, but I'm more manual-minded. I used to tinker with things, take clocks and stuff apart just to see what makes 'em tick. And Poly was more of a manual arts type of school, and that's what I did all my life, is putter around with things, take things apart and learn new carpentry and a little electricity, plumbing and all. In later life, I did everything do it yourself.

SY: And L.A. High was known more as a...

HS: It was predominantly Jewish in those days, and so I learned that when I was, it was about, Jewish... Los Angeles High School and Fairfax High School were predominantly Jewish schools. Most of the, it was three thousand schools in L.A. High School, thirty-two hundred, and I think about, at least forty percent of 'em were probably Jewish, so on high holidays we didn't study. You couldn't do much in classes with at least forty percent of the class not being there, so it was more or less just a, like a study thing. [Laughs]

SY: So do you remember feeling a little different because you were Japanese?

HS: No, I never felt discrimination. Nobody ever called me a Jap when I was growing up. We lived in our own community, and my schoolmates, most of 'em were hakujin.

SY: And did you have close friends that were Jewish, or did you mainly stay to yourself, your family?

HS: L.A. High School, we didn't make really close friends. The only, at lunch time most all of the Niseis would have lunch and eat on the front lawn, and they would all just gather there and talk and kid around. Before the war, it seemed like all the Niseis used to just clutter together, and we didn't really mix that much with the hakujin, other students. It seemed like this, even to this day, I mean, the Niseis kind of all congregate together.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

SY: So you're talking about how many, how many Nisei, then, were there at L.A. High, do you think, roughly?

HS: There's fifteen in my class, that I know of.

SY: And your class was how big?

HS: There was about seven hundred, I think.

SY: So it was a big class.

HS: L.A. High School was about three thousand, I think.

SY: And there were only --

HS: But our graduating class, I think, was seven hundred. So it fluctuates just a little bit up and down.

SY: So socially, did you get together with all the Nisei kids?

HS: I didn't really associate that much. I used to play basketball in high school, so we had the Nisei Athletic Union, so some of our friends from Uptown... and it was about seven of us that played together for about five years.

SY: What is, what was the Nisei Athletic Union?

HS: It was started by, what's the Rafu Shimpo publisher at that time? He started the Nisei Athletic Union and singlehandedly he started the league, and then there was a Double A team where, the good players, and there was an A team, and then there was a... B? I don't think they ever called it a B, but was Double A...

SY: So you played other Nisei kids throughout the city?

HS: Yeah, they played from all over. Each area had clubs.

SY: Like, for instance, what were some of the areas that had teams?

HS: Just about every area had basketball teams. Hollywood had some, downtown had some. I don't remember East L.A., but Seinan had a lot of teams, and then, so I played kind of a mixed bunch for about four years. There were seven of us that were friends, and my brother joined it. So I was still fifteen when I started playing basketball.

SY: And did you get to travel around to play your games, or did you stay --

HS: They had league, they had high school gyms all over the city, and I forget what the name of it, but this one, I think Caucasian guy had a tie-in with the L.A. City School District, and so on the weekends, why, on Sundays, you'd have all these different leagues. There was double A, A, and B, B teams they called 'em. Then you had junior leagues.

SY: But you played other Japanese American teams, not...

HS: It was all Japanese teams.

SY: Yeah. So it didn't involve playing Caucasian kids.

HS: No. Most, that's, during the war it was all Japanese league.


SY: So you were a pretty good athlete, then, in high school?

HS: No. [Laughs] I played junior varsity three years. So last two years I was starting guard, but we weren't that great of a team. We were always about second or third.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

SY: And you graduated high school before the war?

HS: Not really. Technically... when was it? April 29th is when we had to go to camp, so April 28th, I checked out of school. And then -- a little shy of graduation -- but when I was checking out, I never forgot it, but the principal's name was Paul Webb, and he saw me at the attendance desk. He called me in his office, and then he sat me down, and then he pointed his finger and he says, "I don't think you kids deserve your diplomas, so I'm not givin' 'em to you." And he kept his word. And I never said anything about it, but in 1967, the twenty-fifth reunion, my good friend Toru Iura called and says, "Hey, you coming to our," what was it, '67, our fifteen year... it was twenty-five years, 1967 from 1942. But so he said, "Are you coming to the reunion?" I says... [laughs].

SY: The high school reunion.

HS: Yeah, I told him --

SY: You had a high school...

HS: -- I says, "No." I says, "Because officially we're not on the graduation list," 'cause I called the board of education secretary and, when I came up, and I said, twelve of the names I remembered in my class, so I called her up and I said, "Are these names on the Summer '42 graduation thing?" He said, says, "No, they're not." And so I says, well, to heck with it. We're not, still not officially... I think 1977, Toru called me again, he says, "Are you coming?" And Toru, at '67 he went to the principal, and I've never forgotten, Norm Schechter was a, he used to be a referee for the Ram games, but he was one of these fair-minded persons, but he said, "I'll take care of it." So I got a diploma saying in 1967 class. But I said, that doesn't mean anything to me. And so Toru says, "Hard head." [Laughs] So it wasn't until 1987, I think it was, when Warren Furutani was elected to school board, I get another call from Toru and he said, "Hy," he said, "I'm tired of hearing you say you never got a diploma," 'cause his family went to Colorado. They, three families rented a boxcar and put all their possessions in there, so Toru left in April. So anyway, what happened was Warren, I wrote him a letter 'cause Toru kept buggin' me, and then, then I did write to him and then Jackie Goldberg was the president of the school board at the time, so Warren says, "I got this letter from Mr. Shishino." And she looked at that, she said, "That's terrible," and so she got the board to bring it up, and they voted to have a special graduation for us. So I forget, what was it, October or something? I forget, it was '97 or, '87 or '88, but anyway, they had a special graduation ceremony. There was two hundred people. It was, two cinematographers from Japan came. Channels Two, Four, Seven, Nine, and Thirteen, I think they came. And so that night it was on different channels at nine o'clock.

SY: So it was two hundred people graduating?

HS: No, two hundred people attended the special graduation.

SY: And how many...

HS: There was twelve of us that...

SY: Twelve of us, just twelve of you, just from Los Angeles High School.

HS: Still around. But they found fifteen names, but I don't know who the other three were. I only remember the twelve that I grew up with.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

SY: So going back to that, that time during high school, this, I assume this principal called you in after Pearl Harbor, right? It was after Pearl Harbor that he called you in and said you aren't getting a diploma?

HS: Yeah, Pearl Harbor...

SY: Do you remember Pearl, what happened when...

HS: December, yeah. That happened on a Sunday, and Monday when we went to school, everything was so quiet. Nobody said a word, never got called a Jap by anybody. People, all my students that, in my classes and everything, they just were very quiet Monday morning.

SY: Teachers never said anything either?

HS: No.

SY: Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor, the Sunday before?

HS: I think I was just home listening to the radio.

SY: So your parents, do you remember your, the reaction of your family?

HS: Yeah. Well, my dad, he thought Japan was invincible. And he said, "Oh, America..." But he thought Japan was invincible. You know how Japanese, that old samurai spirit. [Laughs]

SY: Being from Kagoshima.

HS: Yeah. [Laughs]

SY: And your, your mother, do you remember her reaction?

HS: Well, she, very quiet person. She's just like my wife, very quiet and very sweet. [Laughs]

SY: And you remember how you felt?

HS: Well really, I don't think the enormity really hit me, 'cause we didn't know anything about politics, government or anything. We just tended to school, and that was it.

SY: So when did it finally hit you, that this was happening?

HS: The worst time was when we were told we had to go to camp.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

SY: But during the period between December and April, there was that...

HS: Curfew from February. After eight o'clock you had to keep the lights shaded, couldn't go anywhere after eight o'clock.

SY: So how did that affect you as a high school student? Did you have to stop all your activities?

HS: You had to. You were, you were not allowed to go more than five miles away from your home. After eight o'clock, if you were gonna travel, you just better be darn sure that you had a good reason. If you got caught after eight o'clock... like that Fred Korematsu, he violated that just on purpose.

SY: But you, you stayed home, and did you have to pull the blinds and...

HS: Yeah. You had to black out as much as possible, shade your lights, keep the shades down and blinds drawn. But they were so afraid that a bomber would come by with all the lights on, so the city was blacked out as much as possible.

SY: Did you remember that, that period of time very clearly? Do you remember being at home, staying inside?

HS: Oh yeah. Just listened to the radio, that's all you could do. But everything was really quiet.

SY: And did you, I assume you had to stop all your basketball games, then.

HS: Yeah. Everything stopped short. But there was one incident where, San Pedro, they started, we didn't even know there was anti-aircraft guns there, and I forget what month it was, but they'd start firing a hundred anti-aircraft shells, and so everybody thought that it was a plane that'd come. But what happened was it was a weather balloon, and on radar I guess it showed up as an unidentified object, so San Pedro and Fermin Point and all that, they had anti-aircraft guns in there shootin' away. And the, I think the most damage came from the shells coming down, falling back to earth. But one Japanese submarine did come off the coast of Santa Barbara and fired about three or four shells. They just came up off, then fired some shells off the Santa Barbara coast. And that was the sum total of any activity. I don't know if, two-man submarine, I think one came and they found one off the coast.

SY: Do you remember that at the time, or is that things that you learned afterwards?

HS: It came out in the papers. We were still taking the Times.

SY: So you would read about it. Your family would read about these things. And so your father read the paper every day, then?

HS: Yeah. He would, he had to learn English pretty fast because being in the, waiting on customers and stuff.

SY: So did it affect his business when the, Pearl Harbor happened?

HS: Business really fell down, but we still managed to keep up until about a week before, and then we closed the shop down the week before evacuation.

SY: And do you remember much about that period where you had to, after you found out you were going to be evacuated, what you had to do?

HS: Yeah, well, we couldn't sell anything. Nobody was a buyer. We just packed up, and in fact, we were only allowed one suitcase. Heck, I didn't have much clothes when I went to camp.

SY: Was he leasing that, he must have been leasing that property that, the florist and the house?

HS: He was renting. It's a month to month rent.

SY: So you just closed it up and --

HS: Just closed it up.

SY: And you didn't have a suitcase. How did you, did you, how, what did you, do you remember what you decided to take when you left for camp?

HS: Well, I didn't have much to take, so it was just... they had these bamboo cases like Mom had, she probably came from Japan with it, that she packed the bedding and stuff like that. See, all we took was bedding and clothes. So all of our clothes were all packed in together with all my brothers' stuff, so that's all I remember. I don't even remember packing anything.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

SY: And how about your younger sister and brother? They, they...

HS: My sister died when she was six years old, in 1932. She had peritonitis, and that really broke Mom's heart. And my older brother, he didn't, we didn't really do too much together with my older brother, but my younger brother, Tak, and I were more close.

SY: So when your sister died, was that, was she given good care? Was she taken... I mean, was the medical care then good for her?

HS: We had a doctor's office next door, a little suite with a dentist and a couple of doctors. Yeah. And when I had... I don't remember going to a dentist at all before the war. I didn't have any cavities, but I don't remember actually going to a dentist before the war. We were very poor. [Laughs] So that's why my teeth are never straight, never had orthodontics. It was too expensive, anyway. We could never have afforded it.

SY: How about the doctor care? Your sister must've spent time --

HS: We had an Armenian, Dr. Kelian. And I remember when my sister was dying, why, then he came, and he would come to the house. Doctors at that time made house calls. I wasn't sick that often.

SY: And how long was your sister ill before she passed away?

HS: I don't know how long she lasted. All I remember is that she went to White Memorial Hospital and she died a little later. But the doctors at that time, he said it was blood poisoning, blood poisoning. But that's, that's all I believed in, is she died of blood poisoning, until about, what, thirty years later when, after we're moving around and then I was unpacking some stuff. Why, then I saw on her death certificate that she died of peritonitis. I says, that's a ruptured appendix, that's what she died of. But all my dad ever said and the doctor said is it's just blood poisoning.

SY: Wow. That must have been a difficult time for your family, then, too.

HS: Yeah, my mother, being the only girl, she was really cute.

SY: You were how old when she passed away?

HS: She was six, I was eight. My younger brother was four. It was two years apart.

SY: So you're pretty young too.

HS: Yeah.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

SY: So then you, going back to, so your memory of the packing up and everything is very, very dim. I mean, you don't remember too much.

HS: Yeah, 'cause I don't remember having to do any of the packing myself because we didn't have that much, but my mother did all the packing. And then, of course, it was just one suitcase apiece. There wasn't that much to pack. But she did pack, we used to have, for weddings they used to have about a forty foot, thirty by forty foot long, anyway, she made a duffel bag out of that, and I know some blankets and clothes went in there. And some of the other stuff she packed in, I don't know what they call, I forget what they call those bamboo cases about this big, something bako. But anyway, she packed some stuff in there.

SY: It wasn't a suitcase?

HS: No.

SY: It was more like a...

HS: It was just a, like an oversized bamboo basket about this way and about this high, and it had a cover, just fit right over it. So she packed some stuff in there and bound it. And then we packed the stuff and sent it to, I think she packed that away and brought that to camp. When you unpack it, then you throw everything away.

SY: And then what happened to things that you did not pack? Do you remember the things that you had to leave behind?

HS: Well, what happened was, we were in between Japanese, Seinan and the Uptown area, so close family friends lived on Olympic and Serrano, right on the corner there, and so the night before we were supposed to report -- 'cause St. Mary's Church is where all of us had to go -- so we, this Yamaguchi family, real close family friends, why, we, all twelve of us, slept on the floor, no blankets or anything, and then got up early in the morning and walked over to St. Mary's Church with our one suitcase.

SY: Now, when you said twelve of you, that was...

HS: Six Yamaguchi family, there was four kids, their pa and mother. They were close family friends, so my dad, in order to go with the St. Mary's group, well then, we slept over there and then went to St. Mary's and signed up.

SY: And is that the Yamaguchi family that was in charge of St. Mary's? Wasn't --

HS: No, no.

SY: Different family.

HS: That's Yamazaki.

SY: Yamasaki, that's right.

HS: Father John, everybody knew Father John, him and his father. But Father John, I mean, he was such a wonderful person. He and his wife, they really made St. Mary's.

SY: But you didn't, when you were young, you didn't go to church there?

HS: No. I'd never been to a church before. Only in camp, Santa Anita, I started going to Federated Christian Church, and my father, after my sister died in '32, my father, he thought that he, sort of a guilty conscience, so he started going to Nishi Hongwanji and then he started collecting for them and raising money. But he became a strong member of Nishi Hongwanji until evacuation. And after the war, why, of course he passed away in '46, Minneapolis, but...

SY: He was still a practicing Buddhist.

HS: Yeah. My mother's still a strong Buddhist. They tried to get me to become Buddhist in camp, but I said, "Okay, I'll go one month and if I don't like it," I said, "then I won't go to church then." 'Cause Dad wanted me to be Buddhist, but then, at that time the ones that were Buddhists spoke only Nihongo, and so when I went, I says, "Well, I don't understand what they're saying," so I says, "Okay, I won't go to church." And then my mother prevailed and she says, "It's better to have some belief than none at all." And so said, "Besides, Hy is too hardheaded." [Laughs] So she let me go and my dad agreed, so I started going with one of my buddies to the, worked within the, started working in the trash crew and then he and I went to work in Orange Mess Hall. And that's how I started getting interested in the kitchen.

SY: But that, but the church was a, was not affiliated with St. Mary's?

HS: No, it was just a Federated Christian Church service in the grandstands, and so there was quite a few people there. And so this one buddy that I worked with, Jimmy Kawasaki, he and I went and, services there...

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

SY: So backing up to when you went, got, by the time you got to St. Mary's and everybody gathered there, what happened after that?

HS: They put us on buses and then it was, what, fifty people to a bus, and I don't know how many, it was five thousand Japanese people living around that area, so I don't know how many buses, but then we were all trucked into Santa Anita. There was the buses, and then they had little jeeps with soldiers with armed rifles.

SY: And everybody, there were, you remember how many people, was it, it wasn't five thousand that gathered at St. Mary's. It was, they did it in --

HS: No, but you couldn't tell how many buses. All we know is when we got on a bus and took off.

SY: And do you remember how you, what your first impression of Santa Anita was?

HS: No, they, we had, the early ones had to live in the stables. It was eight thousand there, but our group was right in the middle of the parking lot. We were, they had...Green Mess, there's, all along perimeter, the Green Mess was on this side, then White Mess and Orange Mess, Yellow Mess was in the very corner. So I don't know how many there were, but that's the mess hall, so we lived right behind the White Mess, so that's where we ate all our meals.

SY: And the people in the stables, they had their own mess hall?

HS: Yeah, there was a, the stable area, they'd go in the grandstand where they had the big, like, cafeteria there, mess line. But the stable area, those people had to endure the smell of the manure and urine. And then all they did was just hosed it down a little bit, but the smell of it still remained, so those people suffered for six months. And then the worst part of it was, see like, this was the horse, the section of the horse stall was about this big from there to here [points], and not quite as, about from there to here, but then that side was the tack room, but the people that, five or six people that would be in this side, had to come from that side, through where the five people were living there. So there was no privacy for any of the people on this side. That was a terrible feature, that.

SY: And the barracks that you were in was built, were built specifically for you?

HS: There were, what, twenty by a hundred and twenty foot long, I think, and then they were divided into four, then they made it smaller. But I remember when you had a ten by twenty room, then they chopped it in half and so they could get more people in. So all you could do was line up five cots, and that's what we had, just that and go out the door and then eat. So you never stayed indoors very long. All you had was one little light in the corner, one little drop light. That was it. But it was a real small, when they cut the unit in half to get more people in there, you were really crowded. So being young, all of us our age would hang around 'til close to eight o'clock or so, nine o'clock. Lights out at nine o'clock.

SY: And what kind of things did you do in, at Santa Anita?

HS: We had basketball teams. Then around the racetrack, they had a softball field there. I remember playing out there. Basketball, they formed teams, so all of us that, ones I played with back in L.A., why, we were all together, the seven of us. We'd been together five years, then half the team went to Amache and half of us went to Santa Anita, so we didn't have any good team after that. We weren't very good to begin with. [Laughs] We were just friends, and we weren't that organized and never had coaching or anything. We just played as a bunch of friends.

SY: So people were leaving slowly while you were there. There were...

HS: Yeah. Not in Santa Anita.

SY: Not...

HS: You couldn't leave camp until you got to the concentration camps.

SY: But didn't they, you said that they were leaving for Amache, your friends that were playing. Were they, some going to camp while you were still at Santa Anita?

HS: Yeah. They started taking 'em by groups, and it was, what, five hundred in a train, so you didn't know where, which area they were going to. All you could, go there... that was one of the saddest moments of life, is watching the friends on there, and every day for a month you'd see hundreds of people on the train. And the, they'd always play "Auld Lang Syne." Boy, when that train pulled out, them playing "Auld Lang Syne," I never forgot that. Boy.

SY: So you, did you know where you, who was leaving? Did you have an idea beforehand?

HS: Yeah, yeah. You'd go to the train, you just go up there and then you would, there's a platform there that we stood on, and so you go down, you could see down the cars where the people were loading. But a lot of times you didn't know, but you could see some of your friends by the windows, and they'd open 'em up and be waving as the trains pulled out.

SY: And you had no idea where they were going?

HS: Nobody did. You never knew until you got there.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SY: So back to what you were doing in Santa Anita before all this started -- how long were you there in Santa Anita?

HS: From April to October. April 29th, I think, we went into Santa Anita, and we left on about October 27th, something like that.

SY: So you were one of the last families to leave.

HS: Yeah, we were the tail end of the people leaving.

SY: And you don't know why you were so late in leaving?

HS: No, the, they just chose by districts, and so most of our block was all from the Uptown area and so most of 'em got sent to Jerome. And then five hundred in this Uptown area were sent to Santa Anita, so most of the Uptown bunch was Father, Father John came with our group, but I remember a lot of my friends were in Jerome. And I don't know if you know Frank Omatsu. He's with the, pretty active downtown, and he was wonderful. I knew him from junior high school through high school.

SY: So when you, again, getting back to what you did for those six months, did you work at all?

HS: We worked, first they put us on a trash crew. All we'd do is get on a big truck and put dirt in one corner of the barracks and then pick some up and go around, pack it down. And then this friend of mine, Jimmy Kawasaki, we were working together and so then he says, "We don't want to keep doing this." So he found a job in the Orange Mess hall, and so we start making salads, and the two of us were choppin' lettuce and the two of us would race each other, got to learn how to handle a knife. And the Isseis would be watchin' us because we're having fun and chopping, so we did all the chopping, the two of us, for salads, and we'd put the big salad things together. We worked, I think that's, after the trash crew I stayed on the Orange Mess until we left for camp.

SY: And did you get paid for that?

HS: Well, you got, I think... this thing was eight, twelve and sixteen, I think, was the scale. And so I think we only got eight dollars. We were peons. [Laughs] The chef probably got about twelve or sixteen.

SY: And your parents, did they, did your father work while he was in Santa Anita?

HS: I don't remember him working in Santa Anita. I don't think he did. There weren't that many jobs for the Isseis. One, there's a block manager, and he was a, his son was a friend of mine in school. But I don't remember him doing anything in Santa Anita. Most of the Isseis, unless they worked in the kitchen as kitchen helpers or stuff like that, but there was no call for a florist, so... [laughs].

SY: Do you remember him, how he was feeling, being treated like this? Was he, did he show --

HS: He never complained or anything. He just took, took it day by day, went to the mess hall. Never, just... course, there was the neighbors. There was three families that were real close from before the war. The Yamaguchi family was the ones that we moved in with, but they lived, our three families, the Nishikawa family, were neighbors all through camp, all through Santa Anita and all through Gila, because they held hands when they signed up at St. Mary's and then registered one after the other. And so I remember it was (9360-9361-9362) was our family number.

SY: So there was, so you all stayed in...

HS: So we were all neighbors.

SY: And close, the parents were close.

HS: All through, all through Santa Anita and all through Gila, our three families were right next to each other. They lived on the front of one barrack, Yamaguchis lived in front of this barrack, and Shishinos were right next to that, so catty corners. So our three families, all through camp, were together.

SY: Wow. And so when you, so the six months, did it go pretty fast, or was it a, did it seem like a long time before you were asked to leave?

HS: Yeah, days go by fast. I mean, you just, you're socializing mostly. You never felt the impact of things, so I know three of us would have breakfast, lunch and dinner together. And sometimes you'd go to, like we lived in Block 33 and in Block 32 were some of my friends, so sometimes I'd eat in Block 32, Block 33.

SY: But mainly it was just talking to other kids and playing sports.

HS: Yeah. We never ate with our parents. We always ate with our friends. And so the ones that we used to hang around with, we had our own block baseball team. I didn't play, I never played hardball and in junior high school we had softball teams, so that's all I knew, but they had formed a block hardball team. I think I played one game, hardball. [Laughs]

SY: It was different, huh? So when you ended up leaving, you had no idea how long the trip was gonna be, where you were going?

HS: No. Well, what happened was we worked five months in camouflage, making camouflage nets. It was a government project, army project --

SY: This was at Santa Anita?

HS: Yeah, at Santa Anita, and it was a one year contract, but it was piecework. And so it was forty-five foot square nets, and so you had a forty-five foot thing and it'd come down and then you start weaving burlap, these little three inch wide, thirty-six inches long, and you wove that in the nets. And we all did piecework, so we finished the contract in five months. Then so, what, from January to May it was, and so when everybody else was getting' twelve dollars a month we did piecework, and I think I got, ninety dollars I made in five months, so I got four hundred and fifty bucks in the bank. And so when camouflage closed in June, why, six of the kids in our block were saying, "We're not gonna rot in camp," so we, they gave you, if you took a job... people in the office there, they had job openings. People were looking for laborers during wartime. So anyway, June 7th, why, some of the guys said, "We're gonna leave camp." So he says, "Why don't you just come along, take a look?" So I just went and signed up, and I didn't know what it was. I just says, "Okay, I'm leaving camp." And six of us, well, it was a summer resort job in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and it was a summer resort job and so I actually, the summer resort, they had hired fifteen from camp and six of the boys were from our block. And so I signed up to work in the kitchen. Never had any experience except mess hall, but so one of the guys that happened on the truck that was leaving was a boy from Santa Maria. Turned out that my father knew his family and he used to go up to Santa Maria to take flowers every time some people from Kagoshima would pass away or get married. But anyway, so he saw Tok and he told, introduced and says, "I want you to take care of each other." And so Tok and I took the job on this summer resort. We worked together.

SY: So backing up a little, the job that you got with camouflage nets, was that at Gila, or was that at, at...

HS: That was in Santa Anita.

SY: That was in Santa Anita. So then in, from Santa Anita you went to Gila, and then from Gila you got the job in Minnesota.

HS: It was northern Minnesota. It was a summer resort job for two months.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SY: So you were, how long were you at Gila?

HS: Actually, from April 29th 'til... no, we got to Gila in October, so I was there from October 'til June 7th.

SY: So you were there about seven months.

HS: Seven months, yeah.

SY: Let's talk a little bit about getting from Santa Anita to Gila, so what was, you remember that experience?

HS: Yeah, they put us on trains and we went through Pasadena, but it was real late at night and so then you had to keep all the shades drawn. And never gave us water or anything, and I know midnight you could, it was going through Pasadena. I remember that. And so we kind of slept because there was nothing else to do. And then about seven o'clock in the morning we got to Casa Grande, I think, 'cause the drop off point from there, buses took us into camp. And the funny thing is when we got into camp and then we saw all of these kids rushing to help unload, and we were saying, "Oh look, this is the blackest people," says, "Jeez, they must be Indians." Turned out some of the guys that were unpacking, they were in Gila in that sun for just a few months and they turned really, I mean, three of the blackest kids, or the ones that I met and I became friends with. [Laughs] But first we said, "Oh, look at those Indians. They're gonna help us unload."

SY: That was, so it was, so it was very hot in, when you got there. When you arrived it was very, very hot.

HS: Yeah. It got to be as high as a hundred and twenty.

SY: Wow. I think --

HS: But you don't really realize the heat when you're, when you're there, 'cause I remember some parent... right behind us was the desert and we were in the very corner of the block, and so this one guy went and built a tennis court out there. He leveled the thing and then watered it down, and so I bought a tennis racket from Sears and I'd go out there and play with a friend. We each ordered tennis rackets. But you hit a ball real hard, trying to ace it, had to go out in the desert to catch it, but you had to watch out for the rattlesnakes. I never saw one out there. Well, I did see one little one, but you had to be careful. So I think you had a clothing allowance, I think one time clothing allowance, so I remember I bought a navy pea coat, and then I bought engineer boots that come up to here, so when I was walking, but I used to walk around camp with that all the time. I remember that's the only pair of engineer's boots I've ever worn.

SY: Must've been during the winter, though.

HS: Well, all through summer, well, I was there, what, October through June, yeah.


SY: What happened on the train when you went from Santa Anita to Gila? Can you tell us what that experience was like?

HS: Well, I remember it was dusty and dirty, and of course I don't have allergies, so I was lucky. But when we were gettin' on, after we were all seated, anyway, there was an MP, I refer to him like a bulldog, but anyway, he had this baton, and I was standing near the entrance and for some reason he just slammed that thing down and said, "Get back," like that. So I thought, "Well, you SOB," I was thinkin' to myself. [Laughs] But you know, it just, I guess when you get a baton and a badge you feel like you're... but it looks like there was a little prejudice involved too, but he just, wham, and he says, "Get back, you."

SY: So was the, that sort of typical of the way the army treated you, or was it just a few people?

HS: That's the only experience that I could remember with an MP, because once you're in the camps... but we lived not too far from the fence, but I heard that when one grandfather was playing, throwing a tennis ball, when the little kid threw it and he came close to the fence, the guard shot and killed him. But I've never heard anybody else say anything about, or nobody's ever looked into the army records and identified the soldier that did the shooting. But if it'd been today's days, that man would've been court martialed and put in a stockade for the rest of his life, but nothing was ever, ever been mentioned about who he was and...

SY: How did you hear this story?

HS: Well, everybody around camp had mentioned that a sentry went and shot and killed one... you know, when something like that happens, boy, it goes around the camp pretty fast. In Santa Anita even, one time I remember they had a shakedown -- that was the Yellow Mess section, which is way over on the side away from us, but there was a bridge going into that section there -- but there's a riot that I heard went on over there, but pretty far away from where we were in the middle of the camp. But they claimed, they had a shakedown and so they kicked everybody out of the barracks, and they claimed that one MP had found cash and put it in his helmet. But when they got kicked out of the, their barracks, there was a small riot over there and the MPs had to come over there with their rifles and everything. And that's the only time I heard of a fairly big commotion there.

SY: And that was at Santa Anita.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

SY: So then by the time you got, so when you got to Gila, do you remember... well, you didn't, you were talking about what you saw when you arrived.

HS: Yeah. [Laughs] Some of the guys, some of the guys that were just the darkest, that I thought were Indians, turned out to be friends that lived in our block. [Laughs]

SY: And do you remember settling, where you ended up being taken to at, what barracks and all that, when you arrived at Gila?

HS: Yeah, they gave you a number and everything, and you had to find it. I remember we were in Block 33, what was it, Barrack 9 and Apartment C. That's, I always remember that.

SY: And the --

HS: I think there were six units in each barrack.

SY: And it was still the family, your family of five?

HS: Yeah.

SY: All in one room?

HS: Uh-huh.

SY: And you remember, and you had the neighbors around you, the same neighbors that you had at Santa Anita?

HS: Yeah. The Ichikawas and the Yamaguchi family were all close by.

SY: So did it feel like it was an improvement over Santa Anita?

HS: It was a little bit bigger. [Laughs] It was.

SY: But the whole experience --

HS: I think it was ten by twenty, something like that. Or twenty by twenty.

SY: So the barracks itself, the room where you were in was bigger.

HS: I don't remember too much about the size in Gila, when I come to think about it. Santa Anita I remember because when you had a twenty by ten and then they cut it down to a ten by ten, that was cramped. [Laughs]

SY: But, and how about the bathroom facilities and all that? Were they an improvement by the time you got to Santa Anita? I mean, I'm sorry, I mean to Gila.

HS: It was still a latrine, but at Santa Anita there was a big barrack and then the latrine was big, pretty big half of it was, one side was female and the other side... but the latrine, like the, in Gila you had a block, what was it, six barracks on each side, then the laundry was in the middle, and then the latrine was, those two were in every block. That's the way it was. And there was a rec hall there. Yeah, so it, it must've been three small units in the middle of the block, or two, for the rec hall.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

SY: So you were able to play, continue playing sports at Gila.

HS: Yeah, we had our own basketball team. They built a basketball court there. Then this Kenichi Zenimura was, in Fresno he was an ardent baseball fan from the time, 1928 or something he got Babe Ruth to go to Japan with six ball players. So the first thing he did was, on one corner of the camp, he built a baseball field, so they called it Zenimura Field.

SY: And how old was he?

HS: He must've been in the, forty, between forty and forty-five I'd say.

SY: So he was older. And he had, did all the kids play there?

HS: Well his, he had a fifteen year old son and a, I don't know, fourteen, fifteen, he had two boys and so baseball was his love, so those two boys were good baseball players from the time they were young.

SY: And was he like a coach too?

HS: Yeah. He coached the team. In fact, our block played against his team, and that's the only time I ever played hardball in my life, 'cause in junior high school we had softball leagues.

SY: So you played, you just played one game? Was that at Gila River, or did you --

HS: Yeah, I only played one game hardball. That's all I, just, our block had two older guys that loved baseball and so they formed a block team, and then we played against Zenimura's team. They were from Fresno. So naturally, they had a good team 'cause Zenimura was coaching. [Laughs]

SY: So was he well-known in the camp as a...

HS: Oh yeah, he's famous -- even afterward, in Phoenix they named a park after him. It's called Nozomi Park, I think, but it's Nozomi, Zenimura Field. And the city of, this little, I forget what town... Chandler? They knew what, actually, I think it was Chandler High School had an all-star high school team, and so Zenimura formed this all-star Gila team, and it went into twelve innings, I think. It was tied at ten-nine. And anyway, the Gila team beat the Chandler all-stars, and so that's written up in our history of Gila. And then I think they went to Heart Mountain too, and played against the Heart Mountain team. I don't know how they got permission to take the team out of camp and go to Heart Mountain and come back to camp again, but...

SY: So you were well-known, this Gila River team was well-known.

HS: Yeah, it was, thanks to Mr. Zenimura.

SY: That's really great. But you, but you continued really playing more basketball than baseball.

HS: Yeah, well, I wasn't very good at either. [Laughs] 'Cause we'd just pick up teams, just did it to bide time.

SY: And your --

HS: I never had a date and I never did anything all through high school. I just played baseball or basketball. [Laughs]

SY: But how about in camp? Were you more social? Did you go to the dances?

HS: There wasn't much dancing because there wasn't a big enough room. One time when one of the, my buddy's sisters was leaving for Chicago, why, we had a small dance in the rec hall. But I remember there was, she played basketball. It was, she, and so they had some of the girls basketball team -- I remember they were from up north, near Walnut Grove anyway -- and so that girls team and my buddy's two sisters, why, then some of us from our block, we had a small dance group and social, but it was nice.

SY: But for the most part, what, there wasn't a big social life among the guys and the girls?

HS: No.

SY: You mostly hung out with other --

HS: I never did any dancing 'til one time when one of my buddies had a recording of Glenn Miller's tunes, and so he was trying to teach me how to dance, so my first dance partner was my buddy Fred. [Laughs] So all we did was kind of do a jitterbug, stepping a little bit, triple time.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

SY: So what else did you do at Gila, besides... did you have, did you work there? Did you get a job at Gila?

HS: Yeah. The Orange Mess is where I worked, about three or four months.

SY: That's where you --

HS: And so when we were leaving camp, it was a summer resort and so...

SY: So you had the mess hall training in camp.

HS: So I took this job in the summer resort, and so I worked in the pantry making salads.

SY: And the mess hall job in camp paid you...

HS: What was it, it was eight, twelve and sixteen, I think, so we got eight dollars.

SY: So that was in Gila. I think we talked about it, but in Santa Anita, but this was in Gila that you were...

HS: It was so pitiful that... [Laughs] You still didn't spend much money. The only thing is candy in the canteen.

SY: So when you, when you worked in the mess hall, was that like, how, was that a full time job?

HS: I think I worked from four in the morning 'til twelve. So I'd get up and, so we'd have breakfast. You'd munch on, one guy would make us scrambled eggs, and one time we had steak, just us. [Laughs]

SY: Nice. So what, and the food, you didn't mind the food at all while you were in camp?

HS: No, but Thursday night was the worst in Santa Anita 'cause every Thursday night they used to serve mutton stew, and you could smell it, like especially in the barracks area, and we were right near the stables. But when they cooked lamb, mutton stew, it smelled like soap, and you could smell. Well, every Thursday night the latrines were, everybody got diarrhea, and there was a line, and the cesspools overflowed. At twelve o'clock at night on Thursday night I could hear, they had to empty the cesspools every Thursday night. Trucks would be going around at midnight and you could hear 'em. But so none of us liked mutton stew. I mean, so a lot of people just carried that over to lamb, so people that were in Santa Anita that had to eat the mutton stew, a lot of people probably still have an aversion to lamb. It was a long time before I ordered lamb chops in a restaurant. But I was kind of forced to eat lamb chops when I got to work in the Radisson Hotel. The cook cooked us a bunch of lamb chops for breakfast. Or was it for lunch? Eleven o'clock, all the kitchen used to sit down and all of us used to have lunch. All the, behind the stoves they'd set up two tables and then all of us would sit down, have lunch together.

SY: So you enjoyed the cooking? Is that something that you kind of took to right away?

HS: Yeah. Working in the mess halls was fun 'cause Jimmy and I used to just chop away, and we had fun at it. And everybody, the head pantry guy, he just left us alone, and they would watch us. [Laughs] But we had fun in the mess hall. We ate pretty good.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

SY: So how did your parents feel when you told them that you were gonna leave to go to Minnesota?

HS: Mom just goes... like that, never said a word. [Laughs]

SY: And your brother, was he, did he stay in camp when you left? Your older brother.

HS: Yeah, he worked in... in Gila what did he do? I don't really remember too much what he did, 'cause I never saw him that much. I was with my friends.

SY: So you were the first to leave in the family?

HS: Yeah. There were six boys that were leaving. They took the job in a summer resort in north, northern Minnesota. It's called Edgewater. No, it's called... I forget what it was. All I remember it was a summer resort job. I didn't even know what it was. But it's called the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

SY: Did you know where Minnesota was?

HS: Pardon?

SY: Did you know where Minnesota was?

HS: No. [Laughs] I just took it, they gave you a... the first one, the oldest one, would get fifty dollars, and the second one in the family would get twenty-five dollars, and railroad fare, one way. And so I think I got the fifty dollars 'cause I was the first to leave, and so they gave me the railroad ticket and it was northern Minnesota. I forget the name of the town, but I remember it was the Edgewater Beach Hotel, and it was right on the lake there. So there was six of us leaving from our block, so there was fifteen of us total running the kitchen in this summer resort. It was only open from, what, July and August was the main time. It must've been, I remember I left camp June 7th, so it opened a few days after that. And so then I remember September it closed, and so then, 'cause Tok had left two days before and had found a room, so he wrote back and told us. And then, so my roommate and Suk Tanaka and I, first thing we did, we got into Minneapolis seven o'clock in the morning, so we knew where the Lou Hotel that Tok had, and his roommate, had, was within walking distance, about six blocks from the railroad station. We walked up there and knocked and woke him up, packed our luggage, then said, nine o'clock, okay, let's go look for a job. Then we went to a hotel and restaurant association, they had a convention, seminar or something at that Edgewater while we were there, so they told the waiters, they said, "Well, if you, one of you boys come to Minneapolis, why, look us up," and he left a card. So when we came, got in, the first thing we did at nine o'clock, we went to the hotel and restaurant. Then they sent us to a cafeteria. We didn't like it, so we came back, then second time they sent us to the Radisson Hotel, and so me and Suk and Tok went there.

The chef came and, in the kitchen, he came to talk to us, and then the first thing he told me was, he says, "Hy," he says, "I'm a Russian and I'm a Communist, but I believe in the Communist principle that all people are created equal, so I'd like to give you boys a chance." And so he put me in the cool meat station, and the one I worked with was a guy that was born in Czechoslovakia, but he was, he came, so he spoke perfect English and everything. But Tok, he was given the job of being the second cook's helper, and so he had, his uncle had a coffee shop so he had a little cooking experience beforehand. And Suk was put in the dishwashing section, and his, thirty-five cents an hour, I got seventy-five cents and Tok got seventy-five cents an hour. And then we thought, well, it's a lot better than ten, twelve dollars a month. So I found out that the fry cook that had been there -- he was Greek -- that worked just opposite me on the other side of the counter, why, he had been there fifteen years and his pay was eighty-seven and a half cents an hour. So I thought, jeez, seventy-five cents is pretty good, and the dishwashers are gettin' thirty-five cents an hour and yet they're all seem, people seem like they were dressed fairly nice and had their own homes. Wonder how they did that.

SY: So when you first got there, were you concerned that there was gonna be a hard time getting a job because you were Japanese?

HS: No, 'cause, well, the hotel and restaurant association sent us, nine o'clock, we went to the first interview and we didn't like it, then we went back. But I guess it was around ten, eleven o'clock when we went to the Radisson Hotel. We got hired the very first day, so we thought, boy...

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

SY: And do you remember any negative reaction from people in Minnesota when you arrived?

HS: No. What the chef did after we left, he put a note up on the board, bulletin board, and it said, "I've just hired three boys of Japanese ancestry." Says, "If anybody has any comments, come to my office." And the first one that he talked to was a fellow named Dan Schouf. He was a big, two hundred fifty pound German, very gentle person, but very religious, and he was a baker's assistant. But when he came up to the kitchen and saw that, the chef asked him, "What do you think?" He says, "It doesn't matter what nationality they are. They're people. It's whether they're good or bad workers. That's the criteria." And so when Tok was, we all used to eat together, but when Dan and Tok were talking, Tok was, had a girlfriend who was very, she was five years older than him, but the two got along. They worked in the hospital in Gila and they fell in love, and so when Dan invited Tok, he said, "Do you want to come to church with us?" 'Cause he was a very devout Missouri Synod Lutheran, and the church was on the outskirts of Minneapolis. And anyway, well, Tok jumped at the chance because his girlfriend said, "I won't marry you unless you become a Christian." And so as soon as he left camp that was his first thought, that he was gonna become a Christian and then get engaged. So Tok says, "Dan invited me to church, but I don't want to go alone." He says, "Will you come with me?" And so I said sure.

And so this, we took a streetcar and it stopped right on the outskirts of town. It was called Edina, Minnesota. Anyway, the church was right across the tracks, and the pastor's house was next door. Well, the pastor was a young minister. He was twenty-eight years old and that was his first calling. It was a little church with a hundred fifty people. But I never forgot, the pastor's name was Harold Schweigert, and anyway, Dan took us, so we started going pretty regular. And so then when Pastor Schweigert, we got to know him a little better, why then, he asked if we would take catechism lessons and find out what Missouri Synod's all about, so he would come either in evenings or on our time off, he came to our hotel room. And so Tok and I would take catechism lessons, and so then I don't know how many months later, why, then he asked us if we wanted to be baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. Well, we both jumped at it, so Tok and I were the first Niseis to become Lutherans in that church, or even in Minneapolis, as far as I know, 'cause I don't know any other Japanese in there. But anyway, Pastor Schweigert's nephew or something was in, taking, becoming a minister in St. Louis where a seminary is, but anyway, Pastor Schweigert wrote to him, and so he says, "You got two Niseis first thing?" Well, his name was Burt Schreiver, but anyway, he was, his best friend was a Nisei named George Shibata, and he was studying to become a Lutheran minister, so they both jumped at it, and so they followed us up. And we're in the history books in St. Louis where the main headquarters of the Missouri Synod Church is, is how we were the first in Minneapolis to become Lutherans.

SY: That's a great story. So you, are you still, so you stayed practicing?

HS: I'm Lutheran, and I've been a Missouri Synod Lutheran all my life. And my three kids all were baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, and so all three of 'em still attend Christian churches.

SY: So this minister really had a lifelong impact on you.

HS: He was such a wonderful person, and we became lifelong friends. I mean, he came to visit me a couple of times, and then one time, why, my daughter said, "Dad, you haven't been back to Minneapolis for a long time." And she was working for an airline, so she says, "I'll give you two tickets," and says, "You go visit Pastor Schweigert." So when I called and told him, he says, "You're staying with us." He says, the first thing he did is they took us to the Radisson Hotel for dinner. We spent three days there with him, went back to the church. Then many years later, why, there was a seminar in Pasadena, so I told, he wrote and told me he's coming. I says, "Okay, Pastor, time to pay back. You're staying at my house for three nights." [Laughs] And I took him around. But he was really a wonderful person, though.

SY: So you always felt very welcome in Minnesota.

HS: Yeah. I think Dan happened to be an usher the day, the first time we went to church, and one fellow walked out and he said something to Dan. He said something about allowing "those people," and Dan remarked, he says, "Well," he says, "you better get used to it, 'cause if you want to go to heaven," he says, "you're gonna see a lot of 'em." That was his remark. That's how Dan was. But he was a wonderful person.

SY: What was Dan's last name?

HS: Schouf. And so...

SY: So you never had any personal encounters with any, or any incidences when you were in Minneapolis at all, as far as...

HS: No. One time there was a dishwasher and he got drunk and he got fired. There was a cook too that... well, there was a cook that I remember, now that I think about it, but he was working the broiler right opposite me and his idea of a broiled steak was burnt on one side and raw on the other, and he served it that way. He got fired right away, but a week later -- 'cause we lived on Seventh and Hennepin, or Third Avenue and Hennepin, and the hotel was on Seventh Avenue, Seventh Street, but anyways, walking distance -- but anyway, when I was walking on Hennepin Avenue, he was drunk and he says, "My son is fighting against Japs like you." He said, "I ought to beat you up." And I said, "Well, you think you wanna, let's go in the alley." So I walked toward the alleyway, I turned around, and he was gone. [Laughs] That's the only time somebody ever called me a "Jap."

SY: Wow.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

SY: So, now in the meantime, what was your family planning to do after -- I assume they were still in, at Gila.

HS: They were in camp, and so I used to write home to my brother Tak all the time. I don't think my brother, he went to Chicago, worked in the Stevens Hotel.

SY: That was your older brother?

HS: Yeah. He hardly ever wrote to me, but I was always writing to Tak and so the letters that I wrote about the nice treatment I got, so they decided to come to Minneapolis.

SY: And that's when they were, they were slowly letting people out of camp?

HS: Yeah. So the first thing they did is, there was a Quakers hospital, they have a hostel like, and so when you're coming out of camp, if you were, asked if they had room, well then they would take anybody that wrote. So my father and my mother and Tak, the first thing they did is they moved into the hostel, and they stayed there for a little while. And then they found, my dad found a job as a florist in Minneapolis, and then my mother stayed there, but they found an apartment right, not too far from the hostel. And so it was still about five miles away from where I was living, so... well, I was living in the hotel yet, so I wasn't too far. In fact, the hotel where we were living wasn't that far from the apartment they had.

SY: So you didn't see much of them even though they were in the city?

HS: I had a good job from eight to five, so, and my dad found the job in the florist three blocks away from the Radisson Hotel, so after work I'd go over there. When they were busy, making wreaths and stuff like that, I would hop in and help 'em. And the owners, they were, when they had too many orders, then Mom would come, Dad would bring Mom, and I'd get off work at five o'clock and here they were working still, so I'd just go in and start helpin' out. This is Jewish, two partners, Arky and Red, I remember, and Arky, he's amazed and he saw me and Mom and Dad all wrapping the roses and all that stuff lickety split, and the other ones, they were just watchin' us. This one, the woman that was working there a long time, she says, "What a family." She kept saying, she just watched us making, my dad put the wreaths together. [Laughs]

SY: So he, they, did they decide to settle there? Or what happened, actually, with your parents?

HS: Well, I used to write home to Tak all the time, and my brother didn't write too much, but then some of my family, they said, well, Minneapolis sounds better, so they just, first thing I knew is, I think it's about September or November, something like that, they wound up coming to Minneapolis.

SY: And that was, do you remember the year? Was that '45?

HS: It was in '45.

SY: So the war was really winding down by that time.

HS: Yeah, it was winding down, so people were leaving camp pretty regular.

SY: And you said your older brother went to Chicago.

HS: Yeah.

SY: Was, so did he leave right after you left camp?

HS: No, it was, he left beet picking with some friends in the wintertime, then come back to camp when the season ended there. And I don't really remember when he left camp because I left camp so early, but he hardly wrote to me.

SY: So were the three sons all eligible for the draft? Were you, when you were in, when you were in camp, were all three of you...

HS: My older brother was eligible, but he never got drafted.

SY: So you don't know if he had to sign the questionnaire or what happened with that?

HS: No.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

SY: And you left camp, so that, did that, did they follow you with a questionnaire? Did you ever have to sign a questionnaire?

HS: I remember, I don't know what time it was, but I remember getting a questionnaire about whether I would... that "no-no" question, I forget when that came up.

SY: Was it when you were in Minnesota?

HS: When I signed up for the draft they asked me if I wanted to go to Fort Snelling, and I told 'em, well, I didn't know any Japanese. So they kind of questioned me, but then, so I was, wasn't asked to volunteer or go to Fort Snelling. That's right next, it's, Snelling's right in between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The only thing divides the two cities is the Mississippi. That's why they call it the Twin Cities. But I wouldn't have made a good soldier anyway. [Laughs]

SY: So you actually never got drafted.

HS: I got drafted in January 3rd of 1946, but the same day that I was, I went to the draft board and then I was inducted. When I went for my physical, right away they said, "Okay, we don't..." I had flat feet and my eyes, so I was 4-C, 4-A, limited service. So I, they didn't need me. But finally in January 3, 1946, when I went for a physical then, they said, "Okay, you're in." Says, "Your liabilities won't affect your service in the army." So I was drafted on January 3, 1946, but that same day my dad went to the hospital. He had pleurisy and then he smoked so much that they found out his lungs were just filled with nicotine, and so he went to Glen Lake Hospital about twenty miles out of time. But then Arky, the flower, one of the partners, when he got the report, he said, "Hy," he says, "Can you take it?" And I says, "Well, tell me what's wrong." He says, "Your dad'll never come out of that hospital alive. His lungs are so full of nicotine." So I just knew it was a matter of time. I think it was about two and a half months he was there.

SY: So he smoked all during...

HS: He smoked all his life, that I can remember.

SY: He was smoking in camp too.

HS: Yeah. I remember when I had to go to the flower market with him we'd have to get up at five o'clock, first thing he did, turn over, light a cigarette and he'd smoke in bed. That's why I've always hated tobacco. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life.

SY: Did he, did he get treated at all during camp, for his, for anything having to do with his lungs?

HS: No. Still smoked, with his money. He was, when he came to Minneapolis and still smoked, but he caught cold and then they said he had pleurisy when they x-rayed his lungs. But then it was so bad that Arky said, "Your dad'll never come out of the hospital alive." So it was about two and a half months later he just slowly passed away.

SY: So how did that affect you, as far as what you were gonna do with your life?

HS: Well, my dad was always one to look -- and he called me, when I was visiting him the last day, he said, he always called me Hayao, he says, "You never had the chance to college, but promise me," he says, "that you'll see that your brother goes through college." And so I supported him from last years in high school through high, through college. So I helped him get started when he, after he worked a while and wanted to open his own practice.

SY: So he was sort of almost like a son in some ways.

HS: [Laughs] Well, I always did everything for him while he was growing up, from high school 'til he finished college.

SY: He was in Minneapolis at the time that your dad died too?

HS: Uh-huh.

SY: And he was in high school then?

HS: Yeah, West High School in Minneapolis.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

SY: And where was your older brother then, when your dad died?

HS: Well, what happened was I'd saved up camouflage money, so I had four hundred fifty bucks when I, which is a lot of money, and I'd saved it. And then working about a year and a half in Minneapolis, I didn't spend any money because six days a week I was gettin' my breakfast, lunch and dinner, so Sunday is the only time I spent for breakfast and dinner and didn't eat that much lunch. But I'd saved up fifteen hundred dollars, so when my roommate went back to camp he and -- Suk -- another buddy named Kaz Miura, they both went back the same time because they were getting drafted, and so they said -- since I worked six days a week, eight to five, I could never bank, so all my money I put in Suk's account. And so Suk was, good thing he was so honest, when he was leaving for the army he handed me the bank book and said, "This is your money." And so I had fifteen hundred dollars, so he knew, so when he went back to camp before being inducted in the army, my dad first thing, he asked Suk and Kaz is, "How's Hy doing?" And so he says, "He's doing better than all of us." Says, "He's got fifteen hundred dollars. None of us got hardly anything saved." And so my dad knew that I had the fifteen hundred dollars. As soon as he comes to Minneapolis, he waited a while then he said, "Let's buy a house." [Laughs] And the fifteen hundred dollars was a down payment on a house, and the house was four thousand dollars. So I thought, I wonder how people could... but I bought a little two story house, has three bedrooms and one bath, and so one bedroom was pretty large and so there's a smaller bedroom and then, there's two smaller bedrooms.

SY: So all of you lived in this house? You lived there too?

HS: Yeah.

SY: While you were in Minneapolis, still working at the Radisson.

HS: Yeah.

SY: And your older brother came to Minneapolis after that?

HS: He came, he came in March or April. I think it was March. But then the family got together the first time at the end of March, I think. And then June 21st, 25th was my birthday, but this Dan Schouf had a bunch of friends over and they were celebrating a birthday at my house. And so then it was pretty hot and so Pastor Schweigert happened to be there and so some of the, couple of friends said, "Let's go swimming in Lake Calhoun." And so my brother just got off work a little before three o'clock, and he said, "Wait, wait, I want to come too." And so then Pastor Schweigert took us to the lake. There was Dan and Ann, Ann came. I don't remember if Dan came, but anyway, she was sitting on the beach in the sand there, so she was watching. My brother went into the lake straight and I went up to here [indicates chest level], then I swam sideways, and then I'm not a strong swimmer, so I swam about ten, fifteen feet and I tried to stand up. I couldn't touch bottom, so then I swam back. As soon as I touch bottom, Ann said, "Where's Johnny? Where's Johnny? I don't seem him." Well, as soon as he hit, going toward the lake, about fifteen feet out, there's a forty-five foot drop off, and that lake is frozen over in the wintertime, so when he hit that drop off it's like ice. He got a cramp and went straight down without a sound. Not even five minutes after we hit the beach. And they didn't find him 'til the next morning. They had grappling hooks and it was forty-five foot long when it caught the bottom, brought him up. But my dad said, "Let's go to the lake," and I said no. I refused, says, "I don't want to see him when he comes up," I says, "because that'll haunt me the rest of my life." So I didn't want to, that's the one thing I didn't want to see.

SY: That was your, and it was not on your birthday but very close. And you were turning --

HS: Yeah, the twenty-first, and the twenty-fifth is my birthday. But that was a Sunday, so we had some friends over, and Dan and Ann were there, Pastor Schweigert came by. That's when they, somebody said, "Let's go to the lake and swim." It was real muggy. It was about ninety degrees, and in that one no air conditioning, and boy, it was really muggy in the house.

SY: That must've been nice to have the pastor, the family there, though, when all of this would, happened.

HS: Pastor Schweigert was a friend all his life, all my life. I forget what year he passed away, but...

SY: And your mom and dad were not there when it happened?

HS: No.

SY: So it must've been tough on your dad and...

HS: Yeah.

SY: Rough. So big --

HS: Well, you know how Issei are, the chonan is supposed to carry on the family and everything, but my brother was very gentle and so actually I did everything around the family. So everybody thought I was the older one, 'cause I was three inches taller than him and I was doing everything around... my brother never had a driver's license, even though he was eighteen. But he just never, I guess one of his friends tried to teach him, but he just said, "No, I'm no good at it." So first thing, soon as I turned sixteen, I got a driver's license and so I did all the flower, and went with my dad to the flower market and did all the deliveries.

SY: So your, you really, then, became the eldest son at that point, so you had to take, did it feel like you assumed more responsibility?

HS: Yeah, I used to take my kid brother to Japanese school every Saturday, and so all my friends would see me driving. And I would be doing all the delivering of the flowers and everything, taking customers around.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

SY: So your, but your, so how much longer after that did your dad get sick? Was it a few years later that your dad became sick, or was it just very shortly after that?

HS: It was in Minneapolis that he caught pleurisy.

SY: So it was pretty soon after your brother died.

HS: Yeah, that was, I guess... he died within six months after we all got together as a family.

SY: So that was very soon.

HS: And my dad died nine months later. I always remember the six months and the nine months, for some reason. Certain things stick in your mind.

SY: That's, must've been a tough time for you, huh?

HS: Yeah. Well, they died, then when I got drafted I came back.

SY: So you got, you got drafted when your dad went into the hospital?

HS: Yeah.

SY: So you were told to report?

HS: I got inducted on January 3rd of 1946.

SY: On the same day that he --

HS: So I told the chaplain, I says, "Hey," says, "I'm the sole supporter of the family." And so the chaplain says, "Well, there's a right way and the army way." But so he put in an application for a dependency discharge. Well, a little later -- but what he did is he asked for a stay of deportation so that I would stay in Minneapolis. And so I think it was a one month, but what happened was some adjutant saw the request and said request denied, so the chaplain looked at that and said, "That man had no authority to do that." He says, "He broke army regulation. It's supposed to go before a board of review." But he says, "That is the ticket to your freedom automatically, really." But he says, "There's a right way and the army way," so he says, "No, what you have to do is apply for immediate transfer to basic training." So I did, and then February I think, I went to Shepherd Field in Texas as part of the Air Corps. And so then went to the chaplain told 'em what happened and so then he sent in my request, and I don't know... then he said, "Oh, you need more affidavits, so you got to get an affidavit from your mother, your father, your brother, and then two friends." And then he came back again and said, "Oh, there's something else," so between the back and forth letters and everything, snail mail, no computer in those days... [laughs]. But anyway, I think when I finally got permission, I think it was sometime in March, and then I got, says, "Okay, you're going home." But they sent me from Fort Snelling down to, what was it?

SY: You were in Texas.

HS: I was in Texas then... anyway, they sent me to San Antonio, that's where I stayed a week in processing and everything. So then when I got my discharge, I remember it was March 23rd, and so then he says, "We'll give you one railroad ticket one way." So what I did is I said, "Okay, route me from San Antonio to Los Angeles," then I could see some of the relatives in L.A., then go to Minneapolis. When I got back, I remember it was about four days that I was gone, and then the first...

SY: So your dad passed while you were in Los Angeles?

HS: No, he passed away not too long after I got back. After I got back, then my dad says, "Okay, now I can die peacefully."

SY: He told you that, huh?

HS: Yeah, he told me that. And then I wrote to, there was one friend, Issei friend in Philadelphia, and so for some reason he wrote letters, but anyway, I sent him a telegram saying, "Dad's dying." And as soon as he got the telegram he telegrammed back, he says, "I'm on my way," says, "I have to see my friend before he dies." And so that evening when I went back to the hospital, I tell him, "Koma-san coming from Philadelphia." He says, "Okay. I'll stay, I'll stay alive another day," he said. And so he came, and then he passed away while Koma-san was there. Yeah, Koma-san stayed a few days extra for the funeral, then he went back to Philadelphia. But I don't know what my dad did for him, but when sometime he had financial difficulty or something, and my thought was that the Isseis had this tanomoshi club -- anyway, twenty of 'em would each put ten dollars a month, then whoever wanted to borrow among the twenty -- but I think when Koma-san had a problem or something my dad got the group to loan him the couple hundred dollars. I think Koma-san never forgot that. But he always said, so I asked my dad, I said, "What did you do that Koma-san feels so indebted to you?" He said, "Oh, it was just a minor thing." But to Koma-san, he never forgot it.

SY: So your dad was pretty, it sounds like he was a pretty generous, helpful...

HS: Well, he always used to say, he says, "I would rather have a lot of friends than just have the goal of makin' money." He says, "Because people that think nothing but money have few friends, but," he said, "I'd rather have a lot of friends, because when times are tough," he says, "the friends will always help you out." And that's what he'd told me all the time, and that was his thing. But so he was always involved in kenjinkai. After my sister died, why, he got real involved in Nishi Hongwanji, and he was always doing things. So my poor mother, half the time she was watching the florist. [Laughs]

SY: So were you, so you were pretty close to your dad at the end, then.

HS: Yeah.

SY: You and he were the ones who talked. He told you all these things about --

HS: Well, since I used to do all the things around the, my brother never touched anything around the florist's or anything, but so he always used to say, he says that, "I never had the chance to go to college, but," he says, "I want you to make sure your kid brother, Takao, gets a chance to go to, the chances you missed."

SY: So he even told you that he wanted you to take care of him, your younger brother.

HS: He was always planning -- he even planned his own funeral. He called, there was no Japanese minister, but there was a Buddhist one, but there was an Episcopalian one in Indianapolis that was visiting the hospital, so two weeks before he died he called him over and says, "I'm Buddhist," but he says there's no one around, so he told him what he wanted on his funeral. So he planned his own funeral, and the minister came and told me that.

SY: So he ended up having a Buddhist funeral by an Episcopalian?

HS: It was just an Episcopalian ceremony, but he was, my dad was, up until the end, I mean, he was just weakening, but his mind was still clear. But he planned his own funeral, and he said, "This is what I want."

SY: So then, that's amazing. And your, and when, so when he passed, then what happened with the florist? And what happened to your mom, and how did she handle that with the business and everything?

HS: Well, she's never one to complain or anything. She's like my wife. [Laughs] Never complained, never, just... never complained when she lost her only daughter. But she was just a very sweet person, took every day as it comes.

SY: So did you feel like you had to take care of her also when your dad passed?

HS: Yeah, my dad always says, "Now you're," he says, "I know that you'll take care of Mom and Tak. But make sure you send him to college." That's the one thing he stressed.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

SY: And how, so you, by this time you were dismissed from the army. They had let you go, so did you go back to working at the restaurant to support...

HS: Well, there was a different chef, and by rights he would've had to, if I'd insisted on it, but since I didn't know the chef and I wasn't gonna push the fact... but so I started collecting the twenty dollars, I think, that they give you when you're, it was twenty dollars, I don't know for how, was it a week or what it was. But anyway, I collected that until finally I just decided, well, I don't have a job, so I said the best thing to do would be go back to Los Angeles. Then my aunt had her son's house in Los Angeles, and so my mom wrote and said if she had room for us. And so she said yes, so I just packed everything up, bought a little Studebaker Champion for nine hundred bucks and bought that, packed some stuff up, and then shipped the other stuff by rail back to Los Angeles. Then I had the little Champion, I drove to Chicago to see my cousins over there. And then my cousin who was working in a warehouse, and so everything in the backseat that I didn't need, he packed up in a shipping carton and mailed it back to my aunt in Los Angeles. [Laughs]

SY: So what did you do with the house, the...

HS: I sold the house. I bought it for four thousand dollars, and the payments were only twenty dollars a month. I said, "No wonder people can buy a house and property there." And I think I sold it with the furniture and everything for seven thousand dollars, so I had that much money and drove with a car that I spent for nine hundred bucks, and I drove all the way back. First I went to Chicago and saw my cousins there, and then I went to Denver, and then my -- my cousin there, he's older, but he was almost the same age as my mother -- then I stayed with them one or two days, and then I drove Denver back to Los Angeles. Then I stayed, lived with my aunt. This is my cousin's mother in Denver, anyway, so he was glad, so he said, "Oh good," he says, "You'll help take care of my mother." And so...

SY: So did you bring your mother and your brother with you when you moved in --

HS: Yeah.

SY: -- when you moved back to Los Angeles?

HS: We drove all the way, I drove all the way. My brother didn't have a driver's license. That's the longest trip, and I don't think I'll ever take a long trip again, never. [Laughs]

SY: So your mother actually, was that your mother's family that was in all these different places, your, or your father's family? The cousins that you visited, was, so...

HS: Well, the Yamauchi family... well, the Yamauchi family and Shishino family are intermarried, so George was a Yamauchi.

SY: So they were, I see, so your friends really became family, then.

HS: Yeah.

SY: So they married into your family.

HS: Yeah, so the Yamauchi family lived in Gardena, so we were always visiting over there.

SY: So who, so who in your family were they married to? How did that happen?

HS: Well, it's in Japan that, that they were married.

SY: So it's your mother's --

HS: But that's why my father and Mr. Yamauchi were brother-in-laws, and so then there was another, Mr. Yamauchi's younger brother, and so our three families were always close all our lives. And we still are.

SY: And you're not sure whether that was on your mother's side or your father's side that you, these, all these, the marriages were...

HS: Between the two Yamauchi families being married, why, basically they were... [laughs].

SY: They were married to your mother's family or your father's family?

HS: That would be my father's family, yeah, come to think of it.

SY: So their family became cousins and you've, so these are --

HS: 'Cause on my mother's side I haven't really met hardly anybody. I think one time I, one of her nieces or nephews came to Los Angeles.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

SY: So when you came back to California, then was it hard? Was that that period of, what, do you remember the year you came back to Los Angeles?

HS: It was July in '46. I remember it was about third of July or something like that.

SY: So it was pretty early, and so a lot of Japanese --

HS: Yeah, I remember it was July because one of my friends passed away in July '46. And you know Miko Taka? Anyway, she was in Block 32 and her, her real name was Betty Shikata, and her brother, Ronnie, was a junior high school and high school friend. But he was in Japan and somehow in the dark, when they were coming from a show or something, there was an embankment, a cement driveway or something, but anyway, during the dark you couldn't see, after a movie, and he fell off this embankment and died of a skull fracture. I remember that was in July of '46, so I remember attending the funeral then.

SY: That's when you were traveling back to Los Angeles.

HS: Yeah. Right after I came back to Los Angeles, why, that's one of the first things I hear, all my friends were at the funeral.


SY: You know, you mentioned Ronnie's sister was Miko Taka, who is...

HS: Well, her real name is Betty Shikata. [Laughs]

SY: And you knew her in camp.

HS: Well, I knew her, I saw her before the war all the time because when you... but I saw the most of, 'cause she was in Block 32, the next block. Every time I'd be walking back and forth, I'd see her.

SY: So, and you kept in touch with her? Or did you, whatever happened to her when, from camp to afterwards?

HS: Well...

SY: You saw her when your, her brother --

HS: The Gila reunions, I'll see her, 'cause I set up reunions in '95, '97, 2000, 2003, and 2006.

SY: Did she, but was she... and by then she was pretty famous, right? By, when she was, she only made one movie, though. Is that right?

HS: No, she was in a couple of others. But Sayonara is the one that she's most known for, but I've seen her before that. And we've had lunches sometimes, 'cause she was in Beverly Hills and then she had a memorial service and all of us were at her house. That's the only time I was at her house in Beverly Hills, but we've kept in touch.

SY: So you, do you... it's an interesting story about how she became famous, right? Do you know that story?

HS: It's never really been clear, but the story that Rafu has published is that during a Nisei Week, the carnival area, somebody was looking for Japanese talent and they happened to see her, and they hired her for that part in Sayonara.

SY: Do you know why she never, why she decided to leave show business? Do you know anything about that? Did she ever talk about that with you?

HS: I don't know. Every time I've seen her she says, "I was never an actress." She says, "I just happened to play that part," but she says, "I've never been an actress," she said. [Laughs] She's very frank about that.

SY: Yeah.

HS: But she had a, I think she was in one other movie that I think I saw. It was a bit part.

SY: You remember her from camp, though. I mean, was she --

HS: Well, yeah.

SY: She was this --

HS: 'Cause I used to walk by and she'd be standing in -- they had the front barrack, unit in the barrack -- and every time I'd be walking back and forth in there, I could see her 'cause one of my best buddies lived right there in the same unit.

SY: She was, was she popular, or someone that all of --

HS: She was only fourteen years old at the time. [Laughs] And I was seventeen, and you don't think about girls at that time. I mean, all we do is sports and hangin' around.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

SY: Same with Michi Weglyn, did you know her at all during camp?

HS: No, not in camp. I didn't meet her 'til many years later, when somehow, I think when Michi was, somehow, on camp stuff and everything... I think Aiko Herzig is the one that mentioned something about Michi, and then she did something. Anyway, on the, when I was doing one of the reunions, I think I wrote to her 'cause I needed her bio. That's what it was, and that's how we started corresponding. And so I forget which reunion it was, but anyway, that's when I contacted her. And then we had a couple of messages back and forth, and then I didn't meet her until she came to Los Angeles to make that... but I remember she did write me one letter one time, when, what was it? This Clarence...

SY: Nishizu.

HS: Nishizu. He went to Philippines 'cause he heard something about a cancer treatment -- and some of 'em was a coffee enema and stuff like that, but I don't know what a -- but anyway, Clarence went there 'cause he had cancer. And so anyway, he told Michi about that, and so she went for that treatment, then coming back, she wrote me about the experiences that she had and stuff. And then she went back to New York. Anyway, but while she was on the plane she wrote to me about the experience of why she went to the Philippines for that enema treatment.

SY: Remember what she said about it? Was she...

HS: No, she didn't. Well, all it was was the letters, so I, you don't ask that, stuff about that. [Laughs] But she's a wonderful person, though.

SY: And how, how did you know Aiko Herzig? Did you, you were in...

HS: She and I were in the same junior high school and high school class.

SY: So you were friends from junior high school.

HS: Yeah.

SY: So she lived in the same are that you did, in that sort of in between.

HS: Well, she lived in, right near St. Mary's Church and I lived on Washington Boulevard, but my only ties were all of the kids in junior high school and high school.

SY: So when she, so she was the one, one of the people who was refused a diploma too, also?

HS: Refused what?

SY: A diploma. When she, did she... she was younger, she was younger than you were.

HS: Yeah, well, she went to Manzanar, so actually, I don't know if she even knew that... 'cause nobody knew that we didn't get our diplomas until, I was the only one. 'Cause the principal called me in the office and, on the day I was leaving, he says, "I don't think you people deserve your diploma, and I'm not giving 'em to you."

SY: Was she in the same class, though, as you were?

HS: Yeah.

SY: But she didn't, so...

HS: But that principal was so prejudiced, and even when they said that all students should get it, I remember the, the acting chairman, superintendent of the L.A. City Schools, he came to Santa Anita and gave diplomas to every class that was eligible, but L.A. High School, not one name was called. And I went up to him and asked him, I says, "How come L.A. High wasn't called?" He says, "Oh?" He says, "I'll take care of it." Never heard a word from him after that. Nobody ever knew anything about it, until Warren got elected, and then my buddy Toru says, "You know," he says, "for forty-seven years they've been saying this is, I'm not a graduate of L.A. High School, and so it's about time you did something." He said, "Now that we've got a Japanese guy on the board," he said, "you write to him and tell him what happened." So a month later I did write him a letter. He looked at it, and so first he called Aiko. I didn't know that that was his mother in law, but he called up, says, "Mom, I got this letter from Mr. Shishino. He says that you were never given credit as a graduate of L.A. High School." Says, "That's right." She says, "I had to take one year of high school class at New York in order to get my diploma. But it doesn't mean anything." She says, "But L.A. High School, I'm not considered a graduate." So that's when I...

SY: So she was one of the people that got the diploma when...

HS: Yeah.

SY: That's a great --

HS: She was in New York, so actually, I hadn't seen her until we had that graduation ceremony in, what year it was, 1987 or something. I says, "My god, forty-seven years we haven't seen each other," gave her a great big hug. [Laughs]

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

SY: So backing up to when you came back to L.A. and you settled, you moved in with your family, right?

HS: Yeah, I moved, me and my mother moved in with my aunt. And Tak stayed a little while, but then he went, moved up to Berkeley.

SY: Started going to school there?

HS: Yeah. He graduated from Berkeley.

SY: And in the meantime you were, you found a job here in Los Angeles?

HS: Yeah, I got a job working, I remember it was the Tail of the Cock restaurant in Restaurant Row for a while. And then I knocked around, worked there a year, and then I went to another restaurant. But people in the restaurant business one year, and boy, you're an old timer. [Laughs] But I don't know how many restaurants I worked in.

SY: So how many years have you, were you in the restaurant business?

HS: That's all I did, is working in restaurants.

SY: From the time you were out of camp to, to, I assume you retired?

HS: Yeah, until I retired, 1987, when I retired.

SY: And you just went from, you went into different restaurants? Did you make changes for any particular reasons? Or did you...

HS: Well, a lot of 'em went broke. [Laughs] But I worked down on Restaurant Row, it's called Tail of the Cock, was a pretty well known restaurant. I worked there a year, and then they changed my hours. I had eight to five and I liked that, but when they changed my hours and I lost Sundays off, then I didn't like that, so I just quit. Then I got another job. The longest I think I worked was about eight years in one restaurant. But they changed chefs, and then...

SY: So you always worked as a, as a cook?

HS: Well, I was pantry first, and then it wasn't until I went to Beverly Hills and I worked with a French chef, Francois Sergeant, and it was a little restaurant called the Salem House in Beverly, on Roxbury and, just a little in on Santa Monica Boulevard. But he was the most wonderful person, but I was working the pantry there and then he decided, the one that he had was a Frenchman, but he drank and smoked, and so he got drunk a few times so Francois fired him, and then he says, "Hy, I'm gonna train you." And so I don't know how many years we worked together, but we got to be known as a team. And a lot of the other chefs around Beverly Hills heard... "Hy, I heard you and Francois are a team." But Francois was pretty well known, but he was a good friend until he died.

SY: So you, did you enjoy that, being a cook? Was that something you really --

HS: That was the only thing I knew, and at least it helped support me and raise my family. So I never made much money, but...

SY: But you enjoyed it.

HS: Well, I didn't have, I didn't know that some of my friends were working in aerospace and stuff like that, but being stuck in, with a family to support and everything, I never went to look for a job. I just went to the cooks' union.

SY: The, because the, you were still supporting your brother, and your mother you were supporting as well?

HS: Yeah.

SY: So that was, that must've been tough for you, huh?

HS: Yeah, it was. I'm making, for a while it was ten dollars a day, and then later on, I think I worked so many years for fourteen dollars a day, six days a week.

SY: And then you eventually, did you eventually move out with, from your aunt's house?

HS: Yeah, I bought a house on... well, I bought a house in Minneapolis first.

SY: Right. And then you sold that.

HS: The one, I sold the house, when we were coming back I had seven thousand dollars. And so then, I had nine thousand, I think, in the bank, and then we lived with my aunt for I don't know how many, I forget how long it was. But then, when I saved up the money, I thought, oh heck. We weren't comfortable living with my aunt, so then I found this little house on Thirty-Sixth Street and it's right near Crenshaw, so I bought that house there, lived in that house until, I think, I got married, just before I got married. Then I sold that place and then bought a four unit place in Los Angeles, by LaBrea and Washington Boulevard.

SY: So when you came back to Los Angeles, did you end up reuniting with a lot of your old friends?

HS: Well, I was pretty busy for a while, but then I'd... yeah, I did wind up, 'cause when I had the day jobs I used to go to the Southwest JACL. And I became secretary one year, treasurer another year. I think that's the only organization I joined that I wasn't president. Every other since then I, every time I've joined an organization I've become a president at one time or the other. [Laughs]

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

SY: So what attracted you to the JACL? Was it just the, what was it about the...

HS: It was social. All of us, what was it, once a month, we'd go there, they'd have a monthly meeting. But that area, why, there's just a lot of new people there.

SY: So the southwest area is the area that you grew up in kind of, that...

HS: Pretty close. The Seinan area, and then living close by there, but a lot of the friends either in the Seinan or the Olympic area, so you had friends all around.

SY: So did you make a lot of new friends in addition to the ones you knew already?

HS: We, I made a lot of new friends because, joining the Southwest JACL, why, then it was all the ones that lived in that area.

SY: And what are some of the other things that you did, aside from working? Were you, what else were you involved with?

HS: Not too much stuff, social or anything like that. But 1950, through the JACL guys that I met, one of my friends, Dick Fujioka, he was pretty well known in JACL's activities in Los Angeles, but anyway, he invited me to one of the activities. There was twenty-five members and it was a club called the Quixotics, and their theme was "in search of the impossible dream." Means finding the right girl. [Laughs] But one of the guys was an artist, and he wrote, like a Don Quixote, so he's a wolf with a hat on, and it says, "In search of the impossible dream." It was good. But I joined that in 1950.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

SY: But what other kinds of things did you do, besides, what kinds of things did --

HS: No, '48 I joined that, 'cause I remember 1948 I was in there, and at that time there was girls' clubs and boys' clubs in every area, Seinan, Hollywood, the Valley, and downtown, and so it was one of those that I think I joined in '48. And so in 1950 her club -- was the Long Beach Girls' Club -- and our Quixotics had a joint...

SY: This is your wife's club? Had a dance?

HS: Well... yeah, it was a dance.

SY: Or a social, some sort of social.

HS: No, I guess her club was having a dance, but one of my buddies, this Boogie Yamaguchi, he told me that this Gooch Ichikawa, one of the, those three family friends, was going around with her sister for four years. And so Boogie says, "Fumi has a sister. She's taller and pretty." He said, "Be just right for you." And that was two years before, and so I was anxious to see what his... then when I saw her at this beach party -- I think it was 1950 -- the next day I called her up for a date. [Laughs]

SY: Love at first sight, huh?

HS: Pardon?

SY: It was love at first sight.

HS: Oh yeah. I mean, I saw her and I thought, boy. From then on, two years, every weekend, I would go... I proposed after a year and a half, but she says, "I'm not sure yet." And finally, two years, she says, all of a sudden, out of a clear blue sky, she says, "Okay, I'll marry you." She says, "But we have to wait a year to make plans." So from 1950 to 1953 we were a couple, and then '53 we got married.

SY: So, and this was, so did you stay a member of the Quixotics while you were dating?

HS: Yeah.

SY: And what other, what kinds of things, was it all social that these guys did?

HS: Every month we used to have a social, so after we got going, well, then I would always take her. They'd have picnics, beach parties.

SY: So it was completely, like, fun social activities for the Nisei guys.

HS: Yeah, strictly social. And good friends, yeah.

SY: 'Cause during that period, weren't there some more, kind of rowdier groups? Do you, did you hear about those, the men's clubs?

HS: Well, there was a club called the Exclusive 20s, and they were a downtown bunch. But they got a bad reputation because a few of the guys were always lookin' for fights, and when a club member gets in a fight, then the others would pile in.

SY: So you never had any problems like that with your --

HS: No, they were a downtown bunch.

SY: You never mixed with anybody else?

HS: No.

SY: So you stayed within your...

HS: Yeah, so I stayed... then they had another younger group called the Exclusive Juniors. And I guess, I never knew any of the ones in that group, but...

SY: But at the time you didn't really know too much about anything else. You just stayed sort of as your own.

HS: Yeah, we stayed in that Seinan area. Good friends.

SY: And after you got married, then was that sort of the end of the club?

HS: No, we still, well, as the, toward the tail end, why, by the time I got married there weren't that many single guys left, so I don't know what happened to the club after that.

SY: And were they all guys, mainly, from Gila? Or were they from --

HS: No, they were all from JACL days in the south, that lived in the Seinan area.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 30>

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.

<Begin Segment 31>

SY: And you've also been long time involved with the Southeast Japanese Community Center. Can you talk a little bit about what you do, what you've done for them?

HS: Well, when my daughter was younger she got a job at Buena Park -- that's Valley View and [inaudible] -- and so she said, "Why don't I buy a house?" She says, "It'll be perfect when you retire." I says, "I don't have money to retire yet." 'Cause I was, what the heck was I? I was fifty years old or something, but anyway, I took a twenty thousand dollar second on my house in Inglewood 'cause it was almost paid off, and so then I bought the house we're living in now in Cerritos. She found it, and so it worked out just right for her because it was only about two miles, three miles where she was working. And so I lived in it, she lived in it four years and got married, so then her and her husband -- her husband is pretty handyman, so he built a house, nice house, and they moved to Bellflower. So then my son Rob said, well, he says, "I could use a place to live. How about I rent it?" So he rented it for four years, then when he got married he said, he and his wife were both CPAs, and so he said, "We're making too much money, so we're gonna have to buy a house." So he says, "Loan me some money." [Laughs] So the money that I had on the house in Inglewood, I loaned him twenty thousand dollars, then I moved into the Cerritos house where I'm living now.

SY: And how did you get involved with the community center here? It's, the area has its own community center, Japanese...

HS: Well, my son in law's father helped build that community center. There was thirteen guys that took out a two hundred thousand dollar loan, and the thirteen pledged, but it was, 1924, the farmers down in that area, they had the foresight to buy two and a quarter acres. And then they had three little white houses, wooden houses, on there. I think in 1924 one of the Isseis was a carpenter, so they built a twenty by sixty long, like, they used it like a judo and kendo, built it. Then it's in... I forget. I moved out here in 1997, 1987, and then that's when I started getting involved, I think, in there. They had a dance club, and so we, she and I started taking dance lessons, and then we had about a hundred and eighty people in the dance club, over a hundred and something regular, but in our monthly dances we had as many as hundred and eighty every month. We made a lot of friends in there. Everybody was learning how to dance in those days. Young people. [Laughs] Nobody takes dance lessons.

SY: So this was all, mainly Nisei that were taking these, were going, using the center.

HS: So that's when I started getting involved in the center, and the dance club. Then I became vice president, president of the dance club. And then two years in that, then I joined the seniors, then I got vice president of that, and then the next year I was president of that for two years. And as soon as I got out of the seniors, then they made me on the board of directors, and the following year I became president of the board of directors. I was there for ten years.

SY: And what kinds of things do they do, this community center, besides the dances?

HS: They have a Japanese school with twelve classes that was completed in 1994. That's just about when I started getting active in there. They have a kendo class with about forty-five, fifty people, and it's really well known in the United States. And they have judo, we have karate, and seniors meet there, and we have ikebana classes. We have all kind of activities there.

SY: Sounds wonderful. So I'm gonna ask again, though, now, how is it, why is that you get so involved with all these things?

HS: [Laughs] I don't know. First thing I know is I'm elected, I got elected to seniors when I wasn't there. I had that for two years. That was, the trick, they says the only way they can get a president is vote for anybody who's not there. Sneaky, these Japanese. [Laughs]

SY: But you've managed to take it on, and it's a lot, a lot of work, a lot of responsibility.

HS: Somebody's got to do it.

SY: So at one time you were probably involved in how many different organizations, pretty actively?

HS: Well, some toned down, but I've always been a member of that Gila Reunion Committee. We had a good treasury. Up until last month, we had twenty thousand dollars in our Gila treasury. And so between the treasury, I think we gave five thousand to the museum, five thousand to the Phoenix JACL, and five thousand to something else. And we, Ben kept five thousand, he said that's for future. It's an old concept because he and I are, whatever we decide, we're the ones that keep the Gila Committee alive. There's only ten members that are left out of the original forty-five.

SY: So you're not planning any more reunions?

HS: No way. Too much work.

SY: So, but the whole idea of preserving the story of the camps, is that something that you still are wanting to do?

HS: Yes, because, like all the ones I've been involved in, we always say, like even, we had ten camps reunion committee, and the thing is that those of us that experienced it, if we don't tell the stories of all the little things that happened and our feelings, he says it's got to be put down like this, because it gets watered down. It's only what the people who experienced it, those things that to be memorialized because a second generation, it's only hearsay. But then by the time the third generation, what the second generation heard isn't always down to the minute details. And so if we don't do it now while we're still alive, why then, it, we don't want it to die out, because that's something that ninety percent of the people in the United States have never heard about and they still don't know. And this is why I keep saying, I says I have to be a part of whatever happens to make sure that the future... because we don't want what happened to us to ever happen to anybody again. It almost happened to the Arabs as soon as the bombings.

SY: So is this, this feeling, you said it started when you joined the reunion committee, this... so did all these memories come back all at once?

HS: No. The incidents, you never forget what your daily life or some of the incidents that happened, but I think our spirit comes from our parents. You know, gambatte, and you just, it happened, it happened, but you don't cry over spilt milk. But you make sure that it's never gonna happen again. That's why when you said you wanted to do this, I says by all means, I says whatever part that I make sure, help make sure that this never happens to anybody again. They say America, things like this can't happen, but it did happen, and people don't know about that.

SY: Do you think that, looking back, that it really affected your parents a lot, or did they just, were they able to --

HS: The Issei never complained. You never heard them say a bad word or what happened, but to them it's just an incident that happened. But I've never heard my mom or my father ever complain about what happened to us in camp.

SY: So they just kept going. They never --

HS: Yeah, they just kept going. Gambare spirit.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

SY: And what, and you were able to support your brother all these years, then? I mean through school, and you made it through, he made it?

HS: Yeah, once he graduated. And then he worked for another optometrist, but when he got a draft notice he went for a draft thing, but he flunked the, an optometrist, he flunked the eye test. [Laughs] He didn't have his glasses on. But the doctor, the optometrist, the doctor didn't know how to examine him, so he says, "You walk down the hall, go get a drink." So the long hallway, and the doctor kept his glasses, so he looked both ways and couldn't see the drinking fountain, so he walked this way [points] and the drinking fountain was this way [points opposite direction]. So the doctor says, "You flunked the eye test."

SY: So he never had to go into the army. That's, that was...

HS: No. So he quit his job, so then I had three thousand dollars, so I says, "Well, I've got this much money." I says, "Why don't you open your own office?" So he said, "Oh, okay." And so then he rented an office in Culver City, and from then on he took off. He became one of the fifty most recognized optometrists from his, graduated from the L.A. School of Optometry. He was honored as one of the fifty at a fiftieth anniversary of the L.A. School of Optometry. I was proud of that.

SY: You have a lot to be proud of, have a very rich life. I mean, as you look back, do you --

HS: Rich in memories, but not in money. [Laughs]

SY: Well, that's...

HS: But my dad always said, he says, "It's better to have a lot of friends than people that just have money for their goal." I never forgot that. But he says, "The friends in life will always help you through in hard times." But he says, "A guy that's just interested in money is too interested in making money and not friends."

SY: So do you feel like you've been rewarded in your later life for all these things? Like for instance, the award you won for, from, the Nisei Pioneer Award, is that, was that a...

HS: [Laughs] You don't go do things for awards. It's just, they come. Because you never think of it, I never thought I'd get Nisei Week. But my cousin, Clarence Arima, was working for Union Paper Supply right on Second in Los Angeles, it was his idea to start Nisei Week. And he was, for some reason, he got all the merchants in Little Tokyo and said, "Let's start a festival." And at the last Nisei Week, what was it, I think when I was honored there was eighteen hundred people participating in the parade and everything, and it was the biggest parade that they had, as far as I know.

SY: And that was your cousin. So did you know that he was doing this when he started it way back when?

HS: Well, I knew that, 'cause he was interviewed in... I think, but I always knew that he was, he knew all the people down in Little Tokyo. But I always knew that he was the one that started Nisei Week. That was 1934.

SY: Wow.

HS: And look how it's grown. But it was his idea to get all the merchants. He said, "This way it'll be good for Little Tokyo business." And that was his main idea.

SY: That's amazing. Yeah, 1934. So, and this was a cousin that you knew all through the camp years and growing up, and after?

HS: Well, I've known him ever since I was a kid because --

SY: He's one of the ones that married into your family?

HS: He was much older. He was much older than us, and so every year he'd come and, on our, he'd bring us Christmas presents every year for all of us kids. That's what I remember the most.

SY: And he was one of the families that married into your family, your...

HS: Well, his mother and my father were first cousins.

SY: I see. Okay. Wow.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

SY: So I'm, now I'm wondering if we missed anything, if there's something that you've, you're, that we've forgotten to cover in your... is there something else that you --

HS: I don't know, there's so many things.

SY: -- that you, well, is there anything else that you, that we haven't covered that you want to mention? Some of the other things that you've done in your, over the last few years? Are there other, other organizations you've been involved with that mean a lot to you?

HS: Well, those two were nice.

SY: Well, tell us about these awards.

HS: There's one from the, after ten years of being president of Southeast Japanese Community Center. We're still connected with SEYO, the Southeast Youth Organization. Anyway, so SEYO nominated me for the Orange County Pioneer of the Year, and so they gave a banquet, four hundred people, and gave me that plaque. And they, in turn, nominated me for Nisei Week, so that's how I got that. But never in my life would I ever dream I'd be nominated for a Pioneer of the Year award.

SY: So both Orange County and Los Angeles have honored you.

HS: Yeah, but like they say, you never do things for honor. You do things for jobs that have to be done, and people recognize it. It's thanks. But so I've been rewarded many times by people that say thank you.

SY: And many, many friends over the years.

HS: Yeah.

SY: You still have, mostly people in the community, Japanese American community, are those the people you consider your best, your closest friends?

HS: Yeah, because that's the most I've been involved with. And I still have some friends at church, at Ascension, and so those are all hakujin friends there. But I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Lutheran Church because they've been so good and the people have been so friendly every time I've gone.

SY: And your children, your daughter, since she started talking to you about camp, have you, was that when you sort of opened up with her? You never...

HS: Yeah, in the eighth grade she kept hearing, says, "How come every time you, your friends meet, they ask what camp you were in?" So that's when I start explaining, so she wrote a, sort of a, one of her thesis on some class that she was having, so then she's been interested ever since. And so when I went to the reunions, like the one in Phoenix, why, her and her husband came. And so I've been the master of ceremonies at every reunion we've had 'cause I guess I'm the one that's always poppin' off, so I've been, more or less, the banquet chairman at every reunion we've had. So now, automatically, nobody would take the speaker's thing, so I was always the one that was the speaker. [Laughs]

SY: And how about your son? Does he, has he gotten involved with talking to you about camp?

HS: No, my daughter's the oldest one so, there's a daughter, a son, and then a daughter. But Cathy's the one that's always more about keeping family history and everything, and so she's in creative memory, so she's making scrapbooks of everything in our lives. So she's really into that, so she's chronicling a lot of the activities and pictures and things. She'll, when I die she'll have a nice photo exhibit. [Laughs]

SY: She's the one we should be talking to. She probably remembers something that we haven't covered that you might... I'm trying to think if there's any, is there any other question that you think I should, that... what is the one on the top there, that award on the top?

HS: That's from Southeast Japanese Community Center and the other one's from the Orange County Coordinator Council.

SY: Okay, so yeah, both. And you're still really involved with Southeast Community Center?

HS: Yeah.

SY: I know, they took, we took the other one down.

HS: That one there [points off camera], that nebuta, that's a collector's item, number thirty-three. But they gave me that as, the five honorees, the Pioneers that year, they gave one of those. They says, "You keep that." They said, "That's a collector's item." So I don't know if it'll have any monetary value, but at least they say they gave me a collector's item. [Laughs]

SY: That's great. And that, and that was just something that was given to you because of your active role in the...

HS: Well, that year, that year, that's one of, the five honorees received one of those. There's a hundred of those out, and that was number thirty-three they gave me.

SY: That's wonderful. Well, I've, it's a, like I said, you've had a very rich life. I'm so glad we were able to capture some of it, some of it on tape.

HS: Yeah, probably I'll wake up and say, "Oh, I should've told you..." [Laughs]

SY: I know. I feel the same way.

HS: That always happens, you know.

SY: [Laughs] But I think we covered a lot.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.