Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bill Hiroshi Shishima Interview
Narrator: Bill Hiroshi Shishima
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 8, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-sbill-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: February 8, 2012, we will be interviewing William Bill Hiroshi Shishima, and we have Tani Ikeda on video. I'll be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. So Bill, I wanted to start with your father. What was his name?

BS: Katsusuke, K-A-T-S-U-S-U-K-E.

MN: And which prefecture is he from?

BS: Wakayama-ken.

MN: Can you share with us what you know about your father's background and how he came to the United States?

BS: I know education-wise he just finished middle school in Japan. And somehow he was working for Norwegian boat company. And when he came to New York, he jumped ship, with all his clothing on, he jumped ship. That's about the extent I know how he got to America, but I'm not sure how he got to the West Coast.

MN: And then you said that when your father came to the West Coast, to California, he joined the U.S. military.

BS: No, no. He signed up for selective service at that time, and it was at Guadalupe. So I don't know, I never knew he was there.

MN: And then from Guadalupe he somehow came over to Los Angeles.

BS: Yes.

MN: And then what did he do in L.A.?

BS: Well, I don't know, job-wise. I didn't know he went to Los Angeles Polytechnic High and he graduated there. Then he got married in 1924 and he had his first child in (1926, and) he graduated from USC (in 1928). So I'm not sure how he sustained himself and the family.

MN: What was he majoring at USC?

BS: In architecture.

MN: And so somehow he got married, he was going to USC which is not... it's an expensive school, it's a private university, had a child, and was able to support everybody, it sounds like.

BS: I know he was working at a hotel, upper class hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, close to Westlake Park. I assume maybe he was a cleanup man, I'm not sure.

MN: And your father was smart enough to get into high school and then into USC. Did he ever share with you how he learned his English?

BS: Never had any idea how he learned, or his education. He never told us.

MN: Now let me ask you a little bit about your mother, because he got married while he was going to college. What was her name?

BS: Hatsuko.

MN: Her maiden name is?

BS: Kida.

MN: And what prefecture is she from?

BS: Also from Wakayama-ken.

MN: Was this an arranged marriage?

BS: I Have no idea. My mother's stepsister is still alive, so I asked her, "Do you know how they got together?" She has no idea either. She's going to celebrate her eighty-eighth birthday.

MN: Now, do you know what year your parents got married?

BS: 1924.

MN: And then he continued to go to USC after he got married, and then you said your...

BS: No, so I assume he was still in high school.

MN: High school.

BS: 1924, because... well, no, I guess he graduated from SC in '28, so close.

MN: And then '26 is when they had their first child, right?

BS: Yes.

MN: After he graduated from USC, was he able to find a job using his degree?

BS: I understand he just made one building, but that's all.

MN: Do you know where this building is?

BS: No idea. Yeah, I wanted to find out but I never found out.

MN: Why do you think he couldn't find a job in architecture?

BS: Because he looked like me. He had an Asian face, and then Depression, too, 1928. So I'm not sure when he started the grocery business, but it was probably right after that.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: So in total, how many children did your parents have?

BS: Seven, but two died very young, one about a year and a half, another one about a half year old. The rest are living yet.

MN: And then where are you in the sibling hierarchy?

BS: I'm the third one, two older brothers.

MN: And then one of your older brothers, the one that passed away...

BS: Yes.

MN: And then a younger sister then.

BS: Younger sister.

MN: And now, where were you born?

BS: I was born right down here, downtown Los Angeles. A midwife, I forgot the name... Toyo Kato. Toyo Kato was the midwife.

MN: Which building were you born in?

BS: 419 1/2 North Main Street, Los Angeles.

MN: And that, today, is a historic building.

BS: No.

MN: No, it's not?

BS: It's not there anymore.

MN: Oh, it's not. I thought it was preserved. Oh, that's too bad.

BS: Yeah, that's before we went to the Hotel Plaza.

MN: That is too bad. What year were you born?

BS: 1930, December 24th.

MN: Right before Christmas. What is your birth name?

BS: My birth name? William Hiroshi Shishima.

MN: Did your parents -- so your parents, when you were born, gave you an English and a Japanese name.

BS: Yes.

MN: What about your two older brothers?

BS: My older brother right above me is Robert Takeshi Shishima. The oldest one, the first son, I only know of Toru Shishima.

MN: So your parents, by the second child, started to give both an English and a Japanese name. But the first child only got a Japanese name.

BS: Well, I don't know. I don't know if he had an English name or not. I always referred to as Toru.

MN: Do you know how your parents picked your name?

BS: No idea, but it seemed like it was a common name during that era, William and Robert.

MN: So when you were growing up, which name did you go by?

BS: In the first nine years (in school), I used Hiroshi. And after that, it was after camp, that's when I changed to William, and then everyone called me Bill.

MN: Why did you change to William after camp?

BS: Because until that time, I was always with Japanese students. But then, in the tenth grade, first time I had Caucasian classmates and they had trouble pronouncing Hiroshi Shishima, so I changed it to my legal first name, William, or Bill.

MN: Now, what is the first language that you learned?

BS: English.

MN: So at home, how did you communicate with your parents?

BS: That was the problem. My dad spoke fluent English no problem, but my mom was broken English and ours was broken Japanese. So any technical thing, we had to go through my dad.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now you mentioned earlier a little bit about your father's work, so what kind of work were your parents doing when you were born?

BS: So it was in the grocery business.

MN: And where was the store located?

BS: In the heart of Los Angeles on Main Street. 411 1/2 North Main Street was the first grocery store that he had.

MN: And then his neighborhood where he had the grocery store, what kind of people lived predominately in that area?

BS: Actually it was Mexican town. North Main street was all Mexican town, but many of the businesses were run by Japanese people. So I always thought that it was sort of the overflow from Little Tokyo on First Street.

MN: So your father's customers, who were they?

BS: The customers were, like I said, all Hispanic or Mexican people, and they came from the area called Chavez Ravine, actually the site of the Los Angeles Dodgers' stadium today. And as I recall, many of the streets were dirt yet. So dirt road, maybe probably no sidewalk, where it's really the country.

MN: So did your family deliver into Chavez Ravine?

BS: Yes. We had, actually, we sold on credit. So people purchased on credit, then when we delivered their goods, they would pay then, sometimes at a later date.

MN: So as you got older, you were able to go to Chavez Ravine on these deliveries. What did you do?

BS: I basically stayed in the truck to make sure no loss by pilfering or anything else. Because I was a little bit too young to carry those big boxes, so they didn't want me to really help.

MN: And then who made the deliveries, your father?

BS: No. We had the hired hands, so the sales clerk. At that time we had customer service, not self service store. So we had extra so-called manpower there.

MN: And then were they Japanese Americans or Latinos?

BS: No, they were all Latinos, yes. So I think my mom probably spoke better Spanish than English because by speaking Spanish, it brought money into the business. So I think she was more fluent in Spanish than in English.

MN: What about your father?

BS: I think he was fluent in both.

MN: Your father spoke English, Spanish and Japanese?

BS: Yes.

MN: And then you were growing up in this neighborhood, when you were a child, who were mainly your playmates?

BS: My playmates were all Hispanic with one exception. I had one Japanese American, and their family ran the hotel that we first lived in. So he was only a year younger than I was, so we were in the same -- not in the same class, but we're playmates. But all the rest were Hispanic or Mexican people.

MN: So did you speak Spanish or learn Spanish at a young age also?

BS: Just a little bit. I learned lots of the grocery store items, but that's about it.

MN: Now, when you were very young and growing up in that area, I guess near Olvera Street, what kind of games did you play?

BS: We didn't have a real playground around there, so the street was our playground. So actually, we played hopscotch there, male and female together, we played hopscotch. And then Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, but it was dangerous because we just played on the sidewalk or sometimes on our side street we played on the street, but that was our playground. Then we had what we call States, so we just looked at the automobiles and looked at their license plate, and every time you saw a foreign state, you get to punch the guy, give him one punch. So we were always trying to look for it first.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: So you talked about this a little bit, but around what age did you start helping your father out at the store?

BS: Probably nine, ten, because then eleven, right after that went into camp.

MN: So nine and ten you're very young. What can you do at the store?

BS: In those days, the soda pop bottles, the buyers had to put a deposit on it, so they always brought back the bottles, whether it's a Coca-cola, 7-up, RC cola, we had to sort them and put 'em in the right case. And then lots of time we just had to empty the soda, too.

MN: So by the time you're helping out, had your father been able to expand into the bigger store?

BS: No. That was mainly the bigger store. I don't recall anything at the smaller store, I was too young.

MN: Do you remember the first store your father had, the smaller one, do you remember, was there a name to that store?

BS: No, I don't recall any name to that.

MN: Can you describe that smaller store to us? And I think you have a photo of that small store, too.

BS: Okay. Here's the front edge of the grocery store here, and then here's, we have the interior right here.

MN: And it has a soda fountain.

BS: So I remember the soda fountain because we were always trying to get soda or ice cream soda there. But other than that, we couldn't do too much help, but sometimes we tried to wash the dishes from the ice cream dishes on Sundays, things like that. But usually they didn't want us to do that because we might break the dishes.

MN: Can you point out where you are in that photo?

BS: That's me right here, just probably between one and two years old right here.

MN: So that's the first store that your father had.

BS: Yes.

MN: Do you have a photo of your second store at all?

BS: Yes, I happen to have it. So here's the general neighborhood, and you could see the city hall here, Los Angeles City Hall. And the first store was about right here, the second store is this corner right here, so it's twice as big. Then we have an interior shot of the grocery store, and it was a service store, so we had at least, usually two butchers and a couple on the grocery side.

MN: So then I see the butcher, the meat counter on this side, and then those workers look like they're Latinos.

BS: Yes.

MN: And everything was in Spanish.

BS: Yes, because, like I said, we all had, all Mexican clients there. And I think once in a while, my dad used to ask this older Japanese girl, she was probably about three, four years older than I, so maybe fifteen years old as a teenager, she used to come and help.

MN: Okay. So your father moved into this... he was doing well enough to expand from the smaller store to a bigger store.

BS: Yes.

MN: How were they able to do that? Do you know how he was able to expand?

BS: I'm not sure, other than I know he had to go early in the morning to the market and then stay up late at night, and he's counting the, I guess the money and everything. What we always liked, that he always come home with a cake and soda. So we always tried to stay up, but most of the time my mother would make us go to sleep because we have school the next day. But I know he's been working day in and day out, and very seldom got day offs, because he couldn't go places on Saturdays and Sundays because those are the busy days at the store.

MN: So did your parents work seven days a week?

BS: I believe so.

MN: And I asked you, like the first store probably didn't have a name. What was the name of the second store?

BS: Mercado Plaza. So it's "plaza market" in Spanish.

MN: How many other grocery stores were near, in the general area of your father's store?

BS: Well, half a block south of our grocery store was another store, but on the next block, there was about two or three more grocery stores about the same size.

MN: So there was a lot of competition.

BS: Yes.

MN: So somehow your father was able to expand despite the competition.

BS: Yes. So I assume he did well, because eventually he leased the hotel there, half a block away. So we ran the hotel there. Would you like to see the picture of that hotel?

MN: Yes, show us the hotel. Do you remember what the name of this hotel was called?

BS: Yes. Hotel was called Hotel Plaza because the Plaza Park was right across the street. So this is an earlier picture, and then this is the latest picture. Because if you look in the background, there's building behind here, and this building is gone now. And ironically, today, this is part of the (L.A. Plaza de Cultura y Artes that opened in April 2011, a Mexican Museum.)

MN: And I think there's a photo of your father in that museum, the current museum in that building now, is that right?

BS: No.

MN: No. Is there an interview? There's something about your family history in there, right?

BS: Yes. There's a picture of the store, the grocery store, and then I was interviewed. So they have me on the interview if you go in the museum there.

MN: You know, you mentioned that your father sold on credit. Do you remember your father complaining about people, like, absconding without paying?

BS: Not really, not too much. But then we had, like I say, all Mexican-speaking workers, so they would go after the money, too.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Now, when you went to make deliveries to Chavez Ravine, how often did you make these deliveries?

BS: I would think once or twice a week, it seems like. And I sort of looked forward to it because it got away from the store. Because we were sort of confined just to the store or just to the streets with our neighbors that played. And they were all businesspeople's children, too. So we were just restricted to the street.

MN: And you mentioned there were like dirt roads up there.

BS: Yes.

MN: Was it a lot of farms up there?

BS: No, not farm, but just seemed like just countryside, real, I guess, undeveloped areas.

MN: So by this time, how many employees did your father have in total?

BS: If I had to guess I would say maybe six person.

MN: Were they all Latinos except for that one Japanese Americans that came in once in a while?

BS: Sometimes, yeah. They were all Hispanic.

MN: You're growing up in this predominately Latino neighborhood.

BS: Yes.

MN: What did you eat at home?

BS: Well, we ate some Japanese food, and then we ate lots of Mexican or Spanish food, too. So that's where I learned to eat the cow's tongue, or the brain, or the intestine. So those are things that the average person cannot stomach.

MN: Can you share with us how... where did your parents get the chorizo that they sold in the store?

BS: They probably had some commercial chorizo but I know they also made chorizo in the store. And I hate to say it, but it looked like they did all the leftover other meats and put it in it, and lots of spices. So I guess it all tastes the same after you spice it enough.

MN: Do you know who taught your parents how to make chorizo?

BS: I would think just the Mexican butchers knew how to do that.

MN: So other than your father's grocery store, how much, how many of the pockets were there Japanese businesses around the area? Was it a lot?

BS: Well, on our same block, the two hotels were run by Japanese. And across the street, there was the dry goods store run by a Japanese. And then across the street again was a, I guess it was a Japanese restaurant. So those were the immediate ones, but I know further down the block, there was many in the hotel business at that time. So in the next couple blocks I know a couple of them, because one of them was my classmate at Maryknoll school also.

MN: And then you're growing up during the Depression. Do you know if that affected your father's business at all?

BS: That I don't know because I was at the latter part of the Depression, so everything started going better.

MN: Now I'm gonna ask about your schooling. You kind of already mentioned it, but which kindergarten did you go to?

BS: Well, kindergarten or... either kindergarten or preschool. I don't think they had preschool in those days. Kindergarten, I went to Union Church on San Pedro Street.

MN: Were your parents Christians?

BS: Seems like they became Christian in the camps. So I'm not sure what they had before that, but we went to a Christian school and then eventually went to Maryknoll Catholic school. It seems like that was because of convenience. Bus would pick us up early in the morning and drop us of late in the afternoon, whereas public schools started later and ended earlier. So they didn't want us to go public school, so we went to a Catholic private school.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now were you the only one in your neighborhood, when you started to go to Maryknoll, were you the only one going to Maryknoll?

BS: No, the other person, my other playmate had the hotel, so we both went to Maryknoll.

MN: What was the ethnic makeup of Maryknoll at that time?

BS: At that time, I would guess there was maybe five hundred students from kindergarten to ninth grade, and ninety-nine percent was Japanese Americans. I know there was one Filipino and one Chinese that I can recall.

MN: So what were the nuns and priests like at Maryknoll? Were they strict?

BS: They were very strict. But they sure taught us how to be polite and courteous to the adults, especially the sisters and the fathers and the brothers there.

MN: So what would happen to a student if they went out of line?

BS: Well, we got slapped on our wrist with a ruler.

MN: Did you ever get hit on the wrist?

BS: I would assume so, but I don't have any scars here. [Laughs]

MN: I assume you brought lunch to Maryknoll. What kind of food did you bring for lunch?

BS: I really don't recall that. But I assume the standard sandwich and maybe once in a while a nigiri or musubi.

MN: I was gonna say, you're going to school with a lot of Japanese kids and Japanese Americans, did you swap lunches with the onigiri and sandwiches at all?

BS: I don't really recall that. But you know, since we had the grocery store, always had lots of lunchmeat or something just to slap into it. But then I recall that sometimes, my brother and myself, we used to make our own hamburger sandwich or even our own tacos. So I learned that when I was real young.

MN: Soft tacos, I assume?

BS: No, deep fried.

MN: What about Japanese language school? Where did you study Japanese?

BS: I really didn't study it. At Maryknoll we had a Japanese class, I believe that was just on Fridays for one hour. And my parents really wanted me to learn English, so she wasn't concerned about my Japanese studying. So I used to do lots of my English homework in my Japanese class, so I know I didn't get too many good grades in Japanese.

MN: So when you were attending Maryknoll, what kind of games did you play there?

BS: Oh, the common games of Tag and Hide and Go Seek and maybe a little bit baseball. But then we had a dirt playground, so we used to play marbles and then a pocket knife games. We used to call it Cut the Pie, so we make a big circle, then with a knife, if it sticks, then we get to draw a line and we choose that half is ours and the other half the other person's. So you're trying to always cut into the other person's so-called land or territory with the knife. So we played that knife game and we never thought it was dangerous. I don't think the sisters or anybody stopped us from playing that.

MN: So other than your neighborhood of Main Street and then Maryknoll dirt yard, where else did you play at? Did you play city hall area?

BS: Yeah, we were just a block and a half away from city hall, and the city hall had a huge grass area and it's on a slope. So we used to go down there and roll down the hill, slope side, or along the edges of the grass, they had maybe a, for lack of a better term, a marble ridge. So we used to go on our homemade coasters and go along that until the security stopped us. So that was the extent of our playground. And sometimes we had sidewalk bicycles, so we used to go along the city hall in our bicycles.

MN: What's a homemade coaster?

BS: Homemade coaster? Oh, regular skates, we used to open the skates up and get a plank of wood maybe twenty inches by six inches and put it underneath that plank, then we'll get a lug box, a box that the vegetables come in, and put it on top and started steering and put a handle on it, and that was our homemade coaster or scooter like vehicle. We had to improvise a lot in those days.

MN: Now you lived on Main Street, and then a few blocks away is Hill Street. What was Hill Street like before the war?

BS: Oh. That was just, the Hill Street was actually on the tunnel underneath the hillside, so that hillside was another place of our playground because it was just all dirt. So we used to take cardboard and climb up to the top of Hill Street and then slide down on the dirt. So we had our own homemade sled or toboggan. So that was another adventure there. But again, no commercial things, just homemade things like the cardboard boxes.

MN: It's all developed now.

BS: Yes. Now even the tunnel's gone, so the hill is gone.

MN: What other creating games did you play that you can remember?

BS: Okay. The milk bottles had a cap on it, so we used to play those and collect them, and we threw it on the ground and if it's on the opponent's cover, then we get to keep it. So that's how we played that. Also, a cup of ice cream, cup of ice cream had celebrities on there, usually movie stars. So we started collecting pictures of the movie stars, and also we exchanged or sometimes played this, for lack of a better term, Slapping the Cover on the Sidewalk, and if it lands on an opponent's one, you get to keep it. So I guess those are some of the games we used to play.

MN: So in a lot of ways, you didn't have, like, store-bought toys. It seems like you made up these games.

BS: Maybe we had the game of checkers, but that's about it. And dominoes, dominoes and checkers, that was about the only games we had.

MN: Now going back to Maryknoll, you shared about sometimes you purposely missed the Maryknoll bus going home. Why did you do that?

BS: [Coughs] Excuse me.

MN: Do you need a break?

BS: No. Sometime we had the desire to get what we called jinjimo. It's a pickled fruit, and we used to stop by at the Far East restaurant there and they used to sell it there, and we used to buy that, I forgot, it was two for a nickel or three for a nickel, just a special treat. And then also at the corner drug store, we used to buy a vial of concentrated cinnamon. So with that little vial of cinnamon, we used to get toothpick and soak it with that cinnamon oil, and then let it dry out a little bit and then we could carry it around and suck on it whenever we wanted, so we had cinnamon stick. And then another thing, there was a corner drug store right there on First and San Pedro Street, so that was sort of like our reading room. So us kids used to go there and read, then when too many children came there, they asked us to leave because it was the comic book section of the drug store, and we used to all look at the comic books there. Oh, speaking of comic books, also on the way home, there used to be a so-called Goodwill store, a secondhand store. So we used to go in there and get our comic book, I think get two or three for a dime. So it was a used one, but still, it was cheaper than paying ten cents for a new one, so we used to get two or three instead.

MN: Do you have a favorite comic book?

BS: It seemed like it was Captain Marvel or Superman.

MN: Now, let's see. You're going to Maryknoll five days a week, then you helped out on deliveries, probably on Saturdays? What did you do on Sundays?

BS: Let's see. I'm not sure. I don't think we went to church then, even though we went to a Catholic school. We were never Baptized, I know, but I don't believe we went to church. So, again, we just had to play around the store, or sometimes we'd get to go downtown Broadway and watch a movie. So my older brother and my other Japanese friend, the three of us used to go to downtown Broadway.

MN: Where did you get the money to go to the movies?

BS: I guess we got regular allowances. Because even to get the comic book or the jinjimo, so we must have had allowances.

MN: Did your parents enroll you in any musical instrument classes?

BS: Yes. I remember we started the violin class, I know we didn't keep it up. That wasn't for me. [Laughs]

MN: Now, as a student of Maryknoll, the bus must have driven through Little Tokyo. But how often did you go to Little Tokyo with your parents?

BS: It's very seldom. I would think once a month at the most, probably once in two months or three months. So I wasn't really familiar with Little Tokyo other than when I used to walk home. And then I know we used to go to the Japanese movie, Fujikan there, and I remember that. I didn't understand the movie, but lots of times it's samurai movie, so sword fighting, things like that. But I always remember that was sort of a mushy atmosphere. Always seemed like it was warm and musty in there. The Fujikan Theater there on First Street.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now I wanted to ask you a little bit about some of the holidays. How did you spend your Fourth of July?

BS: Oh, Fourth of July was real interesting, especially because of fireworks. But still, we couldn't always get firecrackers because of the explosiveness and the safety field, I guess, in those days. So we used to go to Chinatown, which is just a block away and go find shops that could sell firecrackers for us. So that was our excitement, to go to Chinatown. But other than that, we never went to Chinatown other than Fourth of July time.

MN: Now when you were growing up, where was Chinatown?

BS: Chinatown was a block and a half, shall we say, it was east of us. So Main Street, and then the next street was Los Angeles Street, and that's where Chinatown was, Los Angeles all the way down to Alameda Street. But then I believe probably in the late '30s, they started building the Union Station, the train station there, so it took away lots of Chinatown there. And I believe it probably opened up about 1940 or so.

MN: So do you remember if all those people in the earlier Chinatown, were they evicted out of that area?

BS: I would assume so, just the construction area just took over there.

MN: And then you remember China City. Where was that?

BS: Oh, yeah, that was unique because Chinatown to me was real old, all the old buildings. But then when they built China City, just the other side of Olvera Street, which was, China City was north of Olvera Street, so a couple blocks away. But they had nice beautiful shops, Chinese shops, so it had those rooftops that curved over. So it's really, to me, a modern city. But it was all shops. But I used to go there once in a while, look for jinjimo.

MN: So when they got rid of the old Chinatown and built Union Station, did a lot of that move, the Chinatown move into China City area?

BS: Yes, I would assume that's why that became a place.

MN: Let me ask you about, now, the kenjinkai picnics. Did your parents take you to the Wakayama Kenjinkai picnics?

BS: Yes.

MN: What was that like?

BS: Oh, I always looked forward to that. Because usually it was at Griffith Park, Solano Canyon, fairly close by. But that time, we look forward to that because they always had picnics and then competition. Three-legged race, or with a spoon you carry an egg a distance and see how, first one to get across the line. Or potato sack race, get in a gunnysack and hop along. So those were activities and it was always competitive. And I always was sports-minded so I always liked that. Plus, the big bonus was unlimited number of soda water. So they always had big tubs of ice and soda water in there, you just have to go grab it and get a soda. So, oh, seemed like we drank five, six bottles of soda. We really guzzled it up that time.

MN: What kind of obento did your mother make for these picnics?

BS: So usually that was the Japanese style and the Japanese, I don't know what you call it, a Japanese box and you had three, four and the layer. So I remember that. And then they had Japanese programs, too, but didn't understand, but it looked like everyone that had a little bit to drink was able to sing up there. So that's how the entertainment was.

MN: You know the soda that you're talking about, was this the soda made by a Japanese American company?

BS: Yes, I think it was White Star soda company. I think it was right there on Jackson Street in Little Tokyo, White Star.

MN: Now your parents are both from Wakayama-ken, and there was a lot of people on Terminal Island from Wakayama-ken. Did they have friends there?

BS: Yes. Oh, that was another treat. Usually for New Year holidays we used to go over there, and one of the young fishermen, he always used to give us money. So we looked forward to going and seeing him. So I remember that to this day, Mr. Masakazu Hamaguchi, he was always generous with us.

MN: What about Brighton Beach? Did you go there quite often?

BS: Not quite often, but I know we went there. And that's when we saw lots of Japanese there, too. So I don't know if it was part of a picnic there or what, but we always saw lots of Japanese there.

MN: Now how often did you go to the San Pedro Harbor? What did you do there?

BS: Not too often, but again, I think we were able to board Japanese naval ships. They were trainees, but they came from Japan and I don't know why, they always came to San Pedro. And somehow my parents hear that, so we used to go over there and greet them. So I always looked forward to going to that, but it's not that often, but I do remember that. We see, wow, Japanese sailors.

MN: Did you throw the ribbons when they were leaving?

BS: Yes, they had that, yes. Very good.

MN: So during that era, like the late '30s, Japan started to go into China, Manchuria, people here started to help in the war effort.

BS: Yeah. Well, my dad used to do that. What it was was tin foil. And all the cigarettes came in wrapped with tin foil, and then regular paper on the outside. So we used to go along the streets to pick up discarded cigarette packs, take off the wrapper, and collect the foil. Then with the tin foil, we used to make a ball. So it got pretty heavy by the time it got this big, but then they used to send it to Japan. Hope the FBI doesn't hear about that.

MN: Now right before the war, your father leased that hotel that you showed us. What year was he able to get this hotel?

BS: That was in, I believe it was in summer of '41. Summer of '41, so we weren't there very long, just little over a half year and then we had to move.

MN: How big was this hotel? Like how many rooms were there?

BS: It was just a small... it's only on the second floor above the businesses there. So just guess about fifteen rooms, so it's a small one, and out of the fifteen rooms, I think we took two or three rooms, so there weren't too many left.

MN: But your father was doing well enough that he could actually start managing a hotel also.

BS: Yes, so I don't know how he did that.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Now I'm going to get into the war years now. What were you doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

BS: That I really recall, because we were in downtown Broadway at a theater, then we came out maybe three or four o'clock, and the headlines, and the newspaper boy, "War! War! Japs bomb Pearl Harbor!" It didn't faze me. I didn't know really what "Japs" were, for one thing. And then Pearl Harbor, what was that? I didn't know, but I sure know now.

MN: So you're walking back on Broadway, did you encounter any hostility?

BS: No, nothing.

MN: Now, at that time, did you know anybody who was picked up by the FBI?

BS: No.

MN: How did the Latino community react to this?

BS: I didn't feel anything negative, nothing. Other than I know I was going to Maryknoll school, it's all Japanese American, basically. So we said, "Oh, let's go down to downtown Broadway and get our pictures taken, so we could get each other souvenir pictures." So to this day I still have those pictures of half of my class at least. So I have the original pictures. Should have brought it.

MN: Did you take these pictures after you found out you had go to into camp?

BS: Yes. Well, we didn't know at that time when, but we went before that, yes.

MN: Now, how did your parents prepare to go into camp? Did they buy new clothes, new suitcases?

BS: Yes, I know clothes, because we went to Little Tokyo. I got a brand-new forest green sweater. And after we were incarcerated in Santa Anita assembly center, one day I came home without it, and I didn't know I lost it because I used to tie it around my waist. And I must have dropped it on the way home, and that was it. Never heard the end of that, because it was a brand-new sweater.

MN: I would imagine, yeah, your mother must have been upset about that.

BS: And really, actually, I cherished it because it seemed like I used to just get hand-me-downs from my brother. Well, that one, I got a brand new sweater of my own. Didn't last too long.

MN: I guess Santa Anita didn't have a lost and found.

BS: No.

MN: Now, what happened to your father's Mercado Plaza grocery store?

BS: Oh, okay. You know, all that was on a lease, because he's a so-called "alien," and he wasn't, because of the law in California, he wasn't able to own property. So he gave up the lease and sold it to a Chinese family, and he couldn't even sell the truck, so he just gave it to them. So that was a big loss there. But then I know he still had some customers that paid for the credit, so we had one of the workers, Granile, go to collect at the Chavez Ravine, and he came to Santa Anita to pay my dad off. But I assume he got a percentage of that, whatever he collected.

MN: I assume something similar happened to your father's hotel?

BS: I don't know about the hotel. I assume they all paid up. The grocery store was on credit.

MN: Do you remember if your family burned books or images of the Tennouheika?

BS: No. I recall we had it, but I never saw it in camp, so I assume they got rid of it, because we had the picture of Tennouheika on a white horse, I always remember that one.

MN: Did you have to leave something that was very cherished by you behind when you went into camp?

BS: No, other than my friends. I felt sorry, I said, gee, I lose my friends, my playmates. And then my classmates were all Japanese American, but I didn't know I would end up seeing them again. But my neighborhood friends, I missed them all.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now on the day you were to leave for camp, do you remember where your gathering place was?

BS: Yes. We went to Union Church over there on San Pedro street. I believe the address is 123 North San Pedro Street. But we had to be there by noon on May the 9th. So there we got on busses and then we had a police escort to Santa Anita. And we were fortunate, Santa Anita, because we lived on the parking lot of Santa Anita. I say fortunate because my grandmother lived in the horse stables. And as much as I loved my grandmother, I hated to go visit them because of the stench of the prior tenants, the horses.

MN: You mentioned your grandparents who ended up in the horse stalls. Where did they live before the war?

BS: Before the war they lived in San Diego, in a small community called Lemon Grove. And fortunately or unfortunately, we got together at Santa Anita racetrack after May the 9th.

MN: Now, before the war, were you able to visit them out there?

BS: Yes.

MN: What was that like? You're a city boy.

BS: And that was the country. They had an outhouse, and then they didn't have electricity in those days. They had kerosene lamps, and it was really spooky to go out and use the outhouse. But that's what we had to do, and then we visited our grandparents. But it was sort of fun, but yet mysterious, especially evening, dark, and you'd hear the crickets and you're in the countryside, so it's something different.

MN: Now, going back to Santa Anita, what was your first impression of Santa Anita?

BS: Well, it was just, to me it's just a huge, big city of black tarpaper barracks, except for the grandstand. And so the grandstand was really a treat, and we had school in the grandstand. But it was sort of distracting because we saw the young men and women making camouflage nets in one section, then fifty feet away, another class is there, and fifty feet that way another class is there. So just distracting. And then the horse racetrack, that was our playground. So that was our P.E. playground, so we played softball or football or baseball on that dirt. So many activities going on, it's hard to pay attention to the teacher.

MN: And who were your teachers?

BS: I assume they were just the Japanese incarcerated people there, because we had Japanese teachers at that time.

MN: Did you ever get lost at Santa Anita?

BS: Oh, yes. It was very embarrassing. I got lost, and I couldn't find the latrine. And I just had to, I just ended up wetting my pants. Very embarrassing, I was, what, eleven years old already, but I just couldn't find the latrine. I'll never forget that. By the way, in those days, at the camp, we used to carry our own toilet paper around, because lots of times they won't have toilet paper in the latrines. So they used to distribute the toilet papers to the barracks. So we had our own toilet papers. In fact, I either still have it or I gave it to the Heart Mountain Foundation. [Laughs]

MN: So if you had to go to the latrine at night, what happened?

BS: Oh, that was another interesting thing, is the latrine was a couple, two, three barracks away from our unit, and they had guard towers, and the guard towers had searchlights. So if they pick us up, they'll follow us, and then if we go into the latrine, they'll wait for us to get out of the latrine. Then when we get out, they follow us again. That's when we used to play games with the spotlights or the soldiers because we're trying to hide behind a barrack, and then get back to our unit without them following us with the searchlights. So that was one game they're playing with the MPs there.

MN: Now, you're living in the parking lot area, and you could see through the fence, and what was right across the street?

BS: Oh, yeah. Right across the street, I'm not sure if it was Huntington Drive or not, but a nice big theater marquee there. Oh, we wished we could sneak out and go see a movie or so. But we did have movie in the grandstand, but that was special one, and I believe it was all Deanna Durbin movies. So nice, it was sponsored by the Maryknoll church, so it's nice clean living movies. But we wanted to see some shoot 'em up cowboys or cops and robber one, but we didn't get to see those.

MN: Now, you also joined the Cub Scouts at Santa Anita. Can you share that experience?

BS: Oh, yes. Actually, I wanted to join the Boy Scouts, because you had to be twelve years old. And we had to go into camp, that was my first disappointment. I said, "Gee, I can't join the Boy Scouts, I'll be twelve years old in camp." But then when we went to Santa Anita, they had Cub Scouts. So I joined the Cub Scouts, and we had competition against each other. So I got to meet other boys other than our immediate area, so in fact, got to be lifelong friends. I met them in Santa Anita, then we ended up in Heart Mountain, then we ended up in Los Angeles together after the war.

MN: So when you say you had competitions, were these like sports competitions?

BS: Yes, just sports competitions, simple ones. So we found some real athletic boys, I never saw such outstanding athletes like that. I remember one of them was Joe Maruyama, I remember him. And then even after camp he was outstanding. He played for the varsity at L.A. Polytechnic High.

MN: Now do you remember which mess hall you ate at?

BS: Yes. The mess halls, I think we had about seven mess halls, and they were all color coded. So ours, we lived in District 7, so District 7 ate at the Yellow Mess Hall. So, like everything else, we always had to wait in line, eat there. Sometimes we tried to go to a different mess hall, but we had little badges, little buttons. So it has number 7 on it, so District 7 on a yellow background, so we could only eat there. But most of the people tried to eat at the grandstand. They had more, larger so-called cafeteria or eating place, whereas we just had a small mess hall to eat in. Whereas the people in the grandstand had a large area to eat, so we'd try to sneak in over there.

MN: What was the food like there?

BS: Food, I never was too particular about food, so as far as I was concerned it was okay.

MN: You never got diarrhea?

BS: I don't recall that, no.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Do you remember what month you left Santa Anita for Heart Mountain?

BS: I believe it was all, let's see... August or September? August probably. August 1942.

MN: So from a child's perspective you're very young. What did you think about this train ride?

BS: Well, that was sort of exciting. I never rode a train before, and we got to ride on a train. And at that time I didn't know it, but my mother and I think my younger sister got to ride a Pullman car. Pullman car has a sleeping facilities, and she was pregnant at that time, so I guess that's the reason she got to ride that. Whereas we had to ride a coach car. And then it was unfair because we had to pull our window shades down. I was hoping an exciting trip, and we didn't get to see the outside.

MN: Do you remember how many days that ride was?

BS: I don't know, I think no more than two days, I'm not sure.

MN: Did you get any motion sickness?

BS: No, I didn't.

MN: So did the train go straight from Santa Anita and straight to... when it got to Wyoming, did it stop in front of Heart Mountain or did you have to get off and get on a bus to get into Heart Mountain?

BS: No, we got off right there, and we got on trucks, army trucks. So we called them two and a half ton trucks. So we just climbed the board there and just stood on the back of the truck, that was our means of transportation at camp life.

MN: So what was your first impression of Heart Mountain?

BS: Again I thought, wow, big place in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing around us, but the camp again is all black barracks. I thought, wow, we got to live there? That's all I saw. But the mountain looks beautiful over there, I think there was snow on that at that time in August. I don't really recall that. But after a while, our first Christmas, we had a white Christmas, so I remember that.

MN: I think that was one of the coldest Christmas and winter in Wyoming history, isn't it?

BS: Yes, it was minus twenty-eight degrees that time.

MN: How do you live in that kind of condition?

BS: Well, it was, again, it was sort of exciting because I never lived in snow or even see snow fall. Exciting, but yet it got cold. But we're always trying to find enough snow to make a snowball or knock off the icicles off the rooftops. So those were adventures, something different, something new.

MN: Do you remember your address at Heart Mountain?

BS: Yes. We lived in Block 28, Barrack 14, Unit B. That's where we lived, six of us.

MN: At first you lived there and then you moved, right?

BS: Yes. So my kid brother was born in December of '42, so then we had seven so it was a little bit crowded, so we were able to get a total of two units, so we moved to Barrack 18, Units E and F.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Okay. I'm gonna ask about your education at Heart Mountain. First of all, how far was your school from your barrack?

BS: School from the barracks is three blocks away. So it was interesting going to school, especially when it's snowing and a blizzard. Blizzard looks like it comes horizontally across the field. So sometime we had to go walk backwards, because it just hits you in the face, so they walked backwards and go. And it holds you up. Almost stands you up, so it's interesting that way.

MN: Gee, I would think I would just turn around and go back home.

BS: That's what we felt like doing.

MN: But you didn't?

BS: No.

MN: Why not? Would you get in trouble?

BS: Well, school is school, so I guess we had to get there.

MN: So school, is it a grammar school you went to or junior high school or middle school?

BS: Middle school, but I guess they didn't call it that, I don't know. But the first year, it was all the way across the camp, the other opposite end. And we're in the regular barracks, and we didn't have any chairs, we sat on benches, no backs. And I don't recall, not too many books either.

MN: Did you have desks?

BS: No, no desks. Just sitting on benches. And then, the space heater is in one corner. See, if you're close to it it's too hot, if you're far away from it it's too cold. Oh... sometimes we're always trying to rush in and get the middle seats. It was first come, first serve, all benches.

MN: So who were your teachers?

BS: Teachers, we had Caucasian teachers and Japanese American teachers. I understand we didn't have enough credentialed teachers in Heart Mountain so they had to recruit from Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, they recruited credentialed teachers.

MN: How would you compare the education you received at Heart Mountain to what you were getting at Maryknoll?

BS: I would think it's comparable, yes. To me, school was school. I just... only one thing I noticed about the Caucasian teachers, they had trouble pronouncing the names, but subject matter, I don't think they had problems.

MN: Were there any Caucasian students in your class?

BS: Well, in the whole grade level, yes, but not directly in my classroom. I remember Tom Mayne, his dad used to work for the administration at Heart Mountain, so they elected to have him come to school in the camp.

MN: Do you know if because he's one of the few Caucasian students, did he get picked on?

BS: I think so, I think so. I wasn't buddy-buddy, but I used to say hi, but that's about it.

MN: Now you took a shop class. Can you share with some of the items that you made in shop class?

BS: Oh, yeah. That shop class was interesting. Out of bullet shells, we made letter openers. So somehow we attached the shell, and then we made like a sword or a little knife, and we made letter openers. And I had that for a while, but I lost that somewhere along the way.

MN: Where did you get the bullet casings?

BS: So the teacher furnished that.

MN: So I know especially that first year, I keep hearing how cold it was. How often was school closed down?

BS: Well, from a student's point of view, I don't think it was closed down enough. But I think it was rarely, unless it's big heavy snowfall.

MN: So when you saw snow the first time, how did you feel?

BS: Oh, that was... it was cold, and our fingers just be numb, but we still like to try to make a snowball and have snowball fights and everything like that. But one thing, especially when we used to go hiking beyond the fence, they said, "Make sure you..." we used to go pick up the snow and eat it or taste it, they said, "Make sure you don't get the yellow snow." We didn't have to ask why, but we knew when we saw it.

MN: Did you go ice skating?

BS: Yes. Oh, that was another interesting sport. But I guess my ankles were too weak for that, but we were able to purchase our snow skates from either Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward, JC Penney's, those were the catalog companies on those days. So we had to order through the mail, so we looked forward to getting it. After we got it, oh, it was really fun in the snow. Cold, but it's fun and our ankles wore out the first, gets tired. Our ankle gets tired first. Because to really do the skates, you had to do upright. But had weak ankles, so we're on the side of our shoes, too, wore out the side of our shoes.

MN: Can you share with us how the ice rinks were made?

BS: Oh, yes. Ice rinks, lots of time, next to the mess hall. Because the mess hall was a little bit on a slope, and then like a little ditch. So for about fifteen feet to eighty, ninety feet long, this small, filled it with water, and overnight it would get ice. So that was a small ice rink. But then after a while, that was more for kids, a small area. So they used to make a big, a mound, rectangular mound around the park area, maybe the softball place, and fill it with water, and we have our ice skating rink there.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: So I want to now ask you about your Boy Scout activities at Heart Mountain. You joined the Cub Scouts in Santa Anita, and then when did people start organizing the Boy Scouts at Heart Mountain?

BS: Boy Scouts I believe were started right away. And I joined the Boy Scouts in our next block because it happened to be from Maryknoll school, so I knew some of the boys over there. So I joined them, and that was, I assume it was late 1942. And then I think that winter I got pneumonia, and so I was in the hospital a few days. And then when I came out, our block started a Boy Scout troop. So my dad said, "Well, join the block troop because it's local, right there. So I joined the block troop and it happened to be from the St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. So that was Troop 333, I joined them, and happened to be the two leaders who lived in our block, they were members from St. Mary's church, they were the two leaders. So it was really fun. So then the next two blocks, I lived in Block 28, so they recruited in Block 29 and Block 30, two neighboring blocks, so they joined our troop. So now I got to meet new friends in the next two blocks. So that's how our Boy Scouting started in Heart Mountain there.

MN: So how many Boy Scout troops did Heart Mountain have?

BS: We had a total of seven Boy Scout troops. So it was so many that we had our so-called own district. We were the Central Wyoming Council of the Heart Mountain District. So we had seven Boy Scout troops, and we had Boy Scout competition, and then we had athletic competitions, too. By that I mean we had Boy Scout basketball league, and that was divided into two leagues, the older boys and the younger boys. Then also in softball we had two leagues for the older boys and younger boys. So we had lots of activities to keep us busy just in the Boy Scout program.

MN: Now with the sports league, which one were you involved with?

BS: Both basketball and softball.

MN: Did the Heart Mountain Boy Scouts have a drum and bugle group?

BS: Yes. Our main Boy Scout program was centered around the Koyasan Buddhist Temple people that was in numerous numbers in Heart Mountain. So they were able to get their equipment, drum and bugle equipment, sent up to Heart Mountain. So then we had a Boy Scout drum and bugle corps representing the whole camp, not just one troop. So all the Scouts were able to join the camp drum and bugle corps. And that was, I didn't join at the beginning because I'm not musical. But later on I did, but so the beginning, they were performing when a group of people come from other camp, maybe like Tule Lake, when they came, we had a reception with them, with the drum and bugle corps, or we had a reception for the Jerome members. Because Jerome camp closed early, so we had a big load come from Jerome to Heart Mountain. We had Sergeant Ben Kuroki, he was a sergeant in the Air Force, and he came to camp to recruit from the camps. So we had a reception for him. And then after a while we started having farewells to those that are leaving to the service or to other cities of the Midwest or East, so the drum and bugle performed for them also. And then we had, for Fourth of July, Armistice Day parade, we had Boy Scouts participate. I forgot what other parades, but I know Armistice Day, Fourth of July, I'm not sure what else. But they were active.

MN: Sounds like very active.

BS: Yes.

MN: Now were these, when you participated in these programs, was it also with the Girl Scouts?

BS: Sometimes Girl Scouts, especially in parades, they joined us. Then we had so-called majorettes or drum majors, they were the female one that led the drum and bugle also. But we had active Girl Scouts, too, so there's probably more Girl Scout troops. But I think they were smaller in numbers, but there is numbers of Girl Scout troops.

MN: You mentioned a Mr. Nako. Can you share with us a little bit about his background?

BS: Oh. Mr. Nako was a businessman here in Little Tokyo Los Angeles. He was a tailor and he was also the drum and bugle director of Koyasan drum and bugle corps. So we were very fortunate that when he came into Heart Mountain, they were the core and the leaders of the Boy Scout movement in Heart Mountain. But Mr. Nako, being an Issei, he was not able to be a scoutmaster. In those days, you had to be American citizen to be a scoutmaster of the Boy Scout troop. So they had younger adult leaders be scoutmaster. But he took over the drum and bugle corps, he even made a song for Heart Mountain. So we had a Heart Mountain Boy Scout song in Heart Mountain. So we always played that or sang it.

MN: Do you still remember the song?

BS: I know basically the words.

MN: Can you sort of share that with us?

BS: Okay, let's see. [Sings] "Hail to thee, the boys of the mountain, and we're striving on up the scouting trail. Though the dark and clouds of fate may challenge, victory's crowned us aware, be prepared, the scouting spirit, both [inaudible] and model to maintain. Onward forward, upward we are climbing, always for Heart Mountain BSA." I'm not sure if I got all the words correct, but it was something like that. And Mr. Nako did that, and they actually recorded that on a record, but I can't find anyone that has that right now. And I checked with Mr. Nako's son and daughter-in-law, they couldn't find anything on that.

MN: So you said you were in the drum and bugle corps later on.

BS: Yes.

MN: What did you do in there?

BS: I played the trumpet... well, the bugle, but it was piston bugle, they call it. So it had three levers. But like I say, I was poor in music, so I always had to try to memorize it.

MN: And did you borrow the Koyasan equipment and instruments?

BS: Yes, yes. They had regular classes. Regular classes, but, I mean, not school time, but other than school time.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: So your troop, the St. Mary's troop, what other activities did you organize? Did you go camping and hiking?

BS: Yes. In fact, they had the so-called district flag, and it was competition among all the troops. And you got so many points for advancement, you got so many points for hiking, so many points for cooking. So our troop was really a hiking camping troop. So out of the four time presentation in camp, we got it three times. So we really dominated. But our main competition was the Koyasan Boy Scouts, because they were, they had all the leadership, so they really advanced. So they had the most advancement in camp, but it was offset by our hiking and camping. So we always won the district flag there, three out of four times.

MN: So did Koyasan get the other time?

BS: No, they didn't get it. Another troop, I think maybe it was the San Gabriel troop that got it, Troop 343. I remember the number, but I forgot where were they originally from.

MN: So you're talking hiking and camping. Where were you going hiking and camping?

BS: So we went to a nearby river called Shoshone River, but to do that, we had to get permit from the camp to leave, plus we had to make arrangements for the mess hall to have us take some food out. Sometime we had prepared sandwiches, sometime we just had raw ingredients so we could cook it on our own hiking and camping trips. So we stayed sometimes overnight by the river bed.

MN: Did you have to order, like, special tents from the catalogs?

BS: No such thing. We slept under the stars, and we just took our army blankets and rolled it up and hiked to the river and slept in that.

MN: Did you ever hike up Heart Mountain?

BS: No. We wanted to, but we were too young. Some of the older Scouts went, but our troop never did that. Some of the other troops and the older boys did it because it's a full day's hike. It was approximately seven miles away, plus you have to hike around three thousand feet up the mountain. So that's a good day's work. So we never, I know we went closer to the base of the mountain but that's all.

MN: So I know there was competition among the different Boy Scout troops in camp. What kind of competitions, other than softball and basketball, did you have?

BS: Oh, we had Scouting skills, too. For instance, drilling. So on the parade ground, we'd drill around, have various commands, make sure we're following each other's steps, perform the right execution. So we had that, so drill, we had the fire making, or signaling, or first aid problems, we had those, knife and axe for preparation for fire building. So those were some of the Scout skills. And then also compass. So they give us compass directions and see if we end up in the right place. So we did have Scout skills also.

MN: Now how often did Boy Scout troops from outside come to compete?

BS: I could only recall one time that they came to compete with us. We have a so-called jamboree, and then we do those Scout skills, so they participated. I don't think they fared well against our Japanese troops. And by the way, that's where the so-called future senator from Wyoming came into camp as a young kid and he met Norman Mineta, which was also a Cub Scout then and then he eventually became a Boy Scout. But Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson ended up being senators, so they re-met at the White House again.

MN: Were your younger... do you know anybody who was in the same troop as Norma Mineta at the time?

BS: Yes. My friend Hal Keimi, he was my neighbor in camp, and then after camp, we got together, we played ball together during high school and after high school. We coincidentally ended up at the same college, at USC, and we both ended up in teaching. And by coincidence, we retired on the same day.

MN: Is Hal Keimi, you were sharing about sometimes when you had the snowballs, hit the icicles, people come out. Was Hal your target a lot?

BS: Yes. He was my neighbor, he lived in the next barrack. Plus, made it a little bit more closer because his aunt and uncle lived in the next unit to us, but we had a common entryway. And they became my uncle and aunt, so that was Uncle Tommy, Auntie Faith. So even though they were not actually my uncle and aunt, just in respect, call them that, plus my buddy Hal, he called them Uncle and Auntie so we called them Uncle and Auntie also.

MN: Now, let's see. Your Boy Scouts, the Heart Mountain Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts got to visit Yellowstone Park. Can you share what year that was and share about that experience?

BS: Okay. That was in the summer of 1945. I'm sorry, summer of 1944. And our camp director wanted to boost the morale, and he heard that Yellowstone National Park was going to destroy their CCC camp, Civilian Conservation Corps, and they were going to destroy the barracks that were there. So he thought, wow, it'd be a good chance for the Boy Scouts to go up there. So he got in communication with the National Park system, and they okayed us. So we were able to go, about a hundred Boy Scouts at a time for one week, so we got to camp there one week, and then Girl Scouts got to go there for one week, and then the rest of the Boy Scouts got to go there. So we had a nice one-week camping experience. And then one of our projects was to build a bridge across a small creek. So we were able to build that, all the Boy Scouts, I don't believe the Girl Scouts helped, I think it was just strictly the Boy Scouts. So we made that there. And then in the late 1990s, some of us Boy Scouts from camp, we had a reunion, and we were able to make arrangements for the park ranger to take us to that bridge that we made, and we got to see it. It's not workable now, it deteriorated. But we were interviewed by the park ranger, which is an archivist, and so he recorded our story sixty years later.

MN: So this bridge that you made in '44 was still there when you went in 1990s?

BS: Yeah, 1990 or early 2000.

MN: Now, share with us on your drive to Yellowstone, you had a little car trouble.

BS: Yes. Car trouble, our mode of transportation was army trucks, two and a half ton trucks. So we just had to, there were some benches in the back, mainly we just stood up. And after half hour or hour, the truck broke down. So we said, "Oh, no." I don't know how, but we got it fixed somehow and then we got to go home. So we were a little bit later than the rest of the boys, but we eventually got up there to Yellowstone National Park.

MN: Did any of your, either of your parents go along on this trip?

BS: Yes. By coincidence or luck, my dad happened to be committeeman of our troop. So he got to go, I don't know how pulled strings, but there was a few adults, not too many. But he was one of the few that was able to go up there. So, in fact, we were able to take a picture of us two together at the waterfall area and even the Old Faithful area.


MN: Did you folks have any problems with bears?

BS: No, but we did have one problem. And I don't recall it... so the boys, and our troop recalled it, so I must have been in a different barrack. But they said one of the bears came storming through the barracks, so they all left the barrack. And then the last one to be alerted was our scoutmaster. So he came out with an excited look on his face, but that was the only experience that I remember with bears.

MN: So your troop, what did you do, I know you worked on this bridge project. What other activities did you do during that week that you were there?

BS: Well, I assume we just got a truck ride to Old Faithful and Morning Glory, more of the popular sites. Not too much sightseeing because, you know, gas was rationed during World War II. So we couldn't have that, so we did some hiking. I remember we hiked to a Gibbons Falls, so we hiked there. So other than that we just was busy in the camp site and a little bit hiking.

MN: How would you describe your Yellowstone trip?

BS: That was the greatest. See a geyser just shooting up on time at that Old Faithful, that's how it got its name. Almost every hour that spurted up. Then Morning Glory, a beautiful, beautiful hot water pool, so beautiful. Some of the hot water pools we were able to touch, but others, they said, "Don't, it's too hot." There was one called mud pie or mud puddle, so just bubbling mud, that's all it was. So never saw anything like that, so really exciting.

MN: Was there a second trip to Yellowstone Park?

BS: No. That was in the summer of 1944, so prior, I guess the spring of '45, lots of boys started to join the Scouts again. Even though many of them were leaving the camp, still we had lots of new Boy Scouts in anticipation of going to Yellowstone again, but it didn't happen. So they were sort of disappointed, and we were disappointed because we didn't get to go again.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now other than the Boy Scouts, you were also active with the stamp club at Heart Mountain. Can you share with us what the stamp club did?

BS: Yes. I think the stamp club, I think we used to meet about once a month at the activity center in the center of the camp. And we would collect stamps, but our main problem, our project was to learn about it. So we learned about other countries. I remember, I think the country Costa Rica, their stamps are triangular in shape. So it was really a novelty, so we studied that. And then we also had competition. So those that presented the best display on the stamp, whether it's a good write up or whether it's a collection of stamps. So they used to have competition that, so that kept us busy. And we used to order by mail order, and I remember the company name was H.E. Harris Company, and I believe it was in Boston, Massachusetts. And we'll send... the advertisement were in comic books or other magazines. So it says, "Send for free approvals." So approvals, they'll send you a sample of stamps, then you pick the one you want, then you send the money for it back. So they trusted us. They sent us a collection of stamps, and then you pick you want, you pay what you take, and send it back. And if they're satisfied, they'll send you another approval stamps. So that kept us busy, too. So I guess we spent our allowance on that, too.

MN: What about the stamps that came in the mail at Heart Mountain? Did you collect those at all?

BS: Yes, but those were too common. It's the same stamp over and over. So we tried to save different stamps, but most interesting was the United States stamp because you learned history about the people or the events on the stamp. But yet, sometimes we get swayed away, like I say, Costa Rica had triangular stamp. And then, hate to say it, I always remember the Goya stamps, G-O-Y-A. So they were either semi nude or nude pictures of ladies. So I remember we used to try to get those. So even young kids were still interested, I guess, in the opposite sex. [Laughs]

MN: Did you ever get stamps that said "censored" on it? Well, mail that said "censored" on the stamps?

BS: I don't recall that, no.

MN: What happened to your stamp collection in camp?

BS: I still have it today. I had it a little bit after camp, but then, I don't know. And then nowadays, we have, what do you call it? It's all self-adhesive already. So I asked the postmaster, "How do you collect those?" Because it'll stick into the stamp book or the envelope, you can't take it off. But he didn't have an answer. But no, I haven't touched a stamp collection for years.

MN: Now you also started to learn judo at Heart Mountain. Can you share about that experience?

BS: Oh, I guess again that was to take up our time so we won't be delinquent kids. So my dad made me join the judo club, and that was really lots of work, strenuous. Judo itself is not too bad, but preparation to get into competition, we had to so-called duck walk. So we're squatting down on the floor, just what our knees for walking, so that was really strenuous on our legs, but they had to build up our legs. And then we had to learn how to fall, tumble over, different things. And then not because of that, but I got pneumonia. So I had to lay off, then after that, my dad didn't enforce me to go keep up judo. So my judo career lasted maybe three, four months or so, that was it.

MN: So you got pneumonia. Were you hospitalized at the hospital?

BS: Yes, I was hospitalized. And I found out after camp that my so-called Auntie Faith, next door, she says, oh, when I was in the hospital with pneumonia, she came and wrapped up a hot pack around my neck. It's I guess made out of mustard and something else. It really heated up my neck, so it's supposed to be good for me, but I'm not sure how come my mother didn't come. But Auntie Faith came and did that for me. And I found out, I don't recall that, and a couple, five years later, she brought that up to my memory.

MN: Can you share about this mustard pack? Was this common to do before the war when you had a cold?

BS: I think we did that, yes. My mom used to do that at home, and mustard pack, I think we called mustard sheep or something like that. But it was just, heats us up, but it didn't smell too good.

MN: So you wrapped this... what do you, a paste of mustard and you wrap it around your neck?

BS: Yes.

MN: Let me ask you about some of the movies that were shown there, or first of all, where were movies shown at Heart Mountain?

BS: Oh, we had two theater houses, one was called the Pagoda, other one was called Dawn Theater. And it cost us, I think, ten cents. And I wasn't too much for movies, but we saw Buck Roger movies. Buck Roger and probably some cowboys, yeah, cowboy pictures. But then, like I say, I wasn't too interested in movies, plus the fact that to go to the movies, oftentimes you have give up dinner or make arrangements to get food before or after because the line for the theater starts at the time we're served dinner. So unless you go get in line, you can't get in there after dinner, it's too late. So he had to sacrifice or make arrangements, someone get in line for you, and then you get food for them. So you had to plan ahead to do that. But there's one, I remember the title was Going My Way, a Bing Crosby movie. And first time my mother encouraged me to go. In fact, she says she'll give me extra money just to go to that, because I was always trying to save my money for the stamp collection. So I said, no, I don't want to waste it on the movie. So she was willing to give me extra dime just to go see the movie Going My Way starring Bing Crosby.

MN: So did your mother end up going to the movies by herself on that one?

BS: No, I don't know. I don't know if she went to that, but she heard about it, I know, so she wanted me to go.

MN: Do you have any idea who came up with the names of the theaters, the Pagoda and the Dawn?

BS: No idea, but I assume they probably had a competition to name it, and then they select it like that.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Let me ask you about the food at Heart Mountain. You're a growing teenager, were you one of the boys that tried to sneak into the other mess halls to eat?

BS: Yes, sometimes. But usually we could get seconds, too. But I never was particular on food. To me, food is food, and it tastes good or doesn't taste good, I still eat it up. And I know one of the big complaints of most of the people was like the preserves or jams. We seldom got strawberry jam, it was always either grape or... apple butter, yeah. People didn't like apple butter, but it was all right with me. So I enjoyed it. And then once in a while, on Sundays, we had special treats, they gave out slices of watermelon. And I never cared for watermelon, so on those Sunday, my other buddies right away, "Oh, let's go eat," because they know they could get the watermelon from me.

MN: Let me ask you a little bit about the latrine situation. What was it like for you to use these public latrines in camp?

BS: Oh, that was the worst part of camp life. No privacy, and I think initially, people sort of waited to get late in the evening to go use the bathroom, but I think everyone else had the same idea, so that was the busiest time. So you really had to wait then. So there was approximately eight commodes, four on one side, and small partition, and four more on the other side. And to me it was just too embarrassing. You had to sit next to a stranger and do your personal business. The showers were bad enough. You take a shower in a small room, maybe eight feet by ten feet, there was four showerheads on one wall, four more on the other wall, and eight of you are taking a shower just within arm's reach. That was bad enough, but do your personal business, oh, that was gross.

MN: Did anybody in your block build an ofuro?

BS: No, we didn't have any that I know of, unless they had it on the women's side. So some people started building Japanese-style tubs so they could take, soak in a hot bath. But the men's side, we didn't have bathtubs. The women's side had bathtubs, no showers. So some blocks, they partitioned off, and they'd get one of the bathtubs from the woman's side and close it on the men's side and vice versa, shower on the woman's side. That's the only extent that I know of. And Heart Mountain, I understand the women complained about their commodes, so they did get partitions, but still no doors. So at least they got the privacy of a partition.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Now you remembered Estelle Peck Ishigo from Heart Mountain. For those who don't know who Estelle Ishigo is, can you give us a little background who she was?

BS: Okay, Estelle Peck. She was a child from a couple up in San Francisco. The mother was an opera singer, the father was an artist. And they moved around a little bit, and they came to Los Angeles. And they came to Los Angeles, Estelle Peck I think was just out of high school, or something like that. And oh, she was like a foster kid. The parents didn't want to take care of her, so they had people take care of her and stuff like that, and then even put in a foster home. So when she graduated high school, she ran away. And then she was roaming the streets for a while, then she wanted to settle down, so she went to art school. So I don't know what she did for money, but she went to art school, and that's where she met Arthur Ishigo, a Japanese American that was in our class. And then they started going around together, so they got married around 1930. But Estelle being Caucasian and Arthur being Japanese American, they couldn't marry here in California, so they went to Mexico to get married. And then they came back, but when they did that, the mother really disowned her now, so she was disowned by her parents.

So she lived with this Arthur Ishigo, and he got odds and ends job, but he couldn't get an art job. But he got a job in one of the major studios, so he was doing odds and ends at the studios. But he wanted to get acting jobs, too, but he couldn't get it. But then when the war broke out, after December 7th, he got fired on Monday, December the 8th, because he was Japanese and they were at war with Japan. So he lost his job then. Then they were incarcerated into Pomona. Pomona, they were there four or five months, and then they were shipped off to Wyoming. So there, she felt, gee, she didn't get prejudice even though she has a Caucasian face and sort of a tannish, brownish hair, they welcomed her. And she was able to play the violin in a Japanese band, so she performed for many activities or entertainment in a Japanese band, and she stood out like a sore thumb because all the Japanese have dark black hair and she had a brownish tan color hair. But she was accepted there.

And being an artist, she recorded lots of pictures of Heart Mountain camp, whether it's waiting in line to go see the movie, waiting in line to go eat, or waiting in line to see a performance, she did all those. She took, sketched pictures of the latrines and the shower room, the mess halls, so she really recorded life in camp. So she eventually, I think, in about 1970, she published a book, Lone Heart Mountain." So that's when we got lots of artistic pictures of Heart Mountain life.

MN: She really didn't have to go into Heart Mountain.

BS: No. In fact, she made a request, that she said she wanted to stay with her husband, since her husband was required to go in.

MN: Let me ask a little bit about your parents. What did your father do in Heart Mountain?

BS: He worked for Community Enterprise. They, I guess, took charge of the PXs or the... I don't know what else, something else, but PXs. So he went around, maybe, he collected the money or something, but he worked in Community Enterprise there. So he worked, I think, in the drafting office in camp. So I'm not sure what he did there. So we probably got sixteen dollars a month. But the professionals like the doctors and the teachers got nineteen dollars a month, and the pure laborers got twelve dollars a month. So just to let you know what the pay was during, way back in the 1940s, the army private, the lowest rank in the army, got twenty-one dollars a month. So it gives you an idea of what the camp life was.

MN: So in your father's free time, do you know if he made a lot of furniture for your barrack?

BS: No, he must have made some stools or something, but that's about all we had. Probably maybe a desk for us to study at, too. But I remember one, he made a jewelry box, maybe about fifteen, twenty inches long, and about a couple, two, three inches high. Then on the background of the jewelry box, he had the outline of Heart Mountain camp. So that made it, little bit. And I had that after camp, and now... I don't know where it is now.

MN: Somewhere in your house.

BS: Somewhere. Maybe my sister has it.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: So now in 1943, the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" came out. Was this an issue with your family?

BS: Not really. I never heard about it until after camp, and I was too young for that. So it was only for those that were seventeen and older that had to fill that out. But I remember they said, they had the standard questions, "Where were you born?" "Where was your education?" "What's your job?" But the controversial question was number 27. Basically it said, "Are you willing to fight for the United States of America wherever asked?" People didn't know how to answer that because seventeen years old, you're still in high school, does that mean you'll go in the army today if you said yes, or would they wait until after you graduated high school? Or what would happen if you say no? I didn't know how to answer that. Then the real controversial question was question number 28. Basically it says, "Are you willing to be, give up your loyalty to the emperor of Japan and have loyalty to America?" So again, seventeen-year-old, I don't think the young Niseis would have loyalty to the emperor of Japan. So if they said no, they don't have loyalty, so how can they give it up? And if they said yes, then that means they had loyalty to the emperor of Japan, and still the government would look down upon them. And especially it was bad for the Issei people because they couldn't get American citizenship. And if they gave up their loyalty to them from Japan, they're a man without a country. So they couldn't say yes, they'll give it up.

So I think close to a thousand persons in Heart Mountain said no or did not answer it. If you didn't answer it, it's considered a "no" answer, so they were shipped off to Tule Lake. That was the segregated camp for so-called "troublemakers," or those that wanted to go back to camp.

MN: Or go back to Japan.

BS: Yes, I'm sorry. Go back to Japan. Not go back to camp.

MN: Now, during the war years, did you ever hear your father say that he wanted to return to Japan?

BS: No, I never heard that. But I found out later because I asked for his record in the National Archives, oh, maybe twenty years ago I asked for it after he was gone. And then I was reading that, and he did sign up to go back to Japan. But then, in camp, he says, no, he changed his mind. And when he was interviewed how come he changed his mind, he says, oh, he thought it was just an opportunity to go visit Japan and come back. He didn't think it was to stay in Japan. So that's why he said yes the first time, that he wanted to go back to Japan. But he said, the second time, he said no. His life is here in America and he has his family here, so he wanted to stay. So they did approve the second note to go back to Japan.

MN: Now what about your mother? Do you remember what your mother was doing in camp?

BS: No, she was actually a housewife and a new mother again, because my brother was born in December of 1942. So she kept busy nurturing him during the camp years.

MN: Do you recall if your parents ever had a victory garden?

BS: No, I'm pretty sure we did not. Not too many people had so-called gardens or even victory gardens, growing vegetables, because it was a desert-like atmosphere. And then the growing season in Wyoming is very short, so there wasn't too many so-called victory gardens or flowers in camp.

MN: And you got this postcard or photo from Manzanar when you were at Heart Mountain?

BS: Yes. One of my friends, one of my friends from prewar, she wrote to me from Manzanar and she sent me a picture of herself standing by a garden at her barrack. I was, oh, jealous. I said, I wish we had something like that, because in Wyoming we didn't have any greenery, not even trees. So it was really stark, naked, but just barren dirt. So I really envied that.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: Now in 1945, your father was the first in the family to leave the camp. Do you know where he went?

BS: Yes, probably in the spring of '45, people were able to even go back to the Pacific Coast in January 1945. But he went east. First we knew he was going to Minneapolis, St. Paul area in Minnesota, so he wrote to us, he said, "No, I think I'm going to Chicago." Then next thing he said, no, he was at Seabrook Farms, Bridgeton, New Jersey. He said, "Okay, we're going to go there." That was the largest, shall we say, segregation or camp of Japanese Americans there. In fact, Seabrook Farms recruited in the camps to come out and live there and farm at Seabrook Farms, so he said, okay, we'll go there. But the next thing you know, he came back into the camp, and then the war ended. And then he said, "Okay, we'll go back to Los Angeles." So that's, I believe in August of '45, he came back to Los Angeles looking for a place. And then he called out my older brother and myself, my brother was sixteen, I was fourteen, he says, "Oh, come out, then we'll find a place."

So we went to a friend's place, we stayed there a couple nights, and then I found a job at Harbor City rabbit farm. So I got to live there, but I have to work for my food there, so I had to feed the rabbits, clean their droppings, water them before school and after school. So then that way they let me sleep there and they fed me. And then my older brother lived in the Silver Lake area, so sort of an upper middle class place, and he got to work at a Caucasian's house, and he did housework, mow the lawn, wash the dishes, and that's his work. So we called it schoolboy jobs, so he had to go there because my parents couldn't find a place yet. And eventually come closer to November, he found a place in West Los Angeles, so he had my mother, my brother, two sisters come out of camp at that time.

MN: Now, going back when you first heard the war was over, how did you feel?

BS: I thought, well, good, get to go back to Los Angeles and see my old friends.. That was my first reaction. And then, not restrained by the barbed wire fence, go to movies any time we want, didn't have to wait in long lines like that, and eat whenever we want and things like that. Because mess hall, it wasn't bad for me, but I hated the idea to wait in line and then eat like that.

MN: And then you came out, you're doing schoolboy in Harbor City, and is this the first time you're going to school in a predominately Caucasian school?

BS: Yes. Because the elementary school, I went to Maryknoll, which is a Japanese American Catholic school, and then camp was all Japanese, so this was the first time I was exposed to Caucasian, and I didn't have any prejudicial problem with him, but I had problem with my name. I was using Hiroshi Shishima, and they would massacre it. So then I started to use my given first name, which was William, and then from there, they just started calling me Bill. So I dropped my Japanese name after camp because Caucasian students as well as teachers had problems pronouncing my name. So for less embarrassment to myself, I started using William.

MN: So you'd been going to school in camp, at Heart Mountain, and when you started to go to school in Harbor City, were you able to keep up?

BS: Yes, I had no problem, yes. I enjoyed school and Caucasian buddies, seemed like especially at PE time, I was more athletic than a majority of the kids, so I always got chosen first or second to be on someone's team. So I felt great.

MN: Want to share that story about how you got chosen?

BS: Oh, okay. Because usually PE we divide up, okay, you get to play basketball now or softball or football, and usually I got chosen first, but lots didn't remember my name because we're all new in the school. So they called, "I choose that Jap boy." So first I sort of felt offended, but yet, I felt that it wasn't derogatory because I got selected first or early, so I felt good about it. So people started saying "the Jap boy" until they knew who was I was, and then they'll say Bill.

MN: Now when you first came out, in Harbor City you were going to Narbonne, is that right?

BS: Yes, Narbonne High School, yes.

MN: And then you were there for a short while, and then when your rest of the family came out, you went to the west side and went to University High School.

BS: Yes.

MN: Now at Narbonne, you didn't have any problems with the students or the kids? I mean the teachers. And how about University High School?

BS: I didn't have any problems with the students, but one day, I was walking home, and two little children, Caucasian children, no more than five years old, says, "Hi, man." Oh, I felt good. But no sooner this girl said, "Hi, man," the other girl said, "No, he's not a man, he's a Jap." Oh, I felt like hitting her in the mouth then, but I know someone had to teach her that. So that was my first real prejudicial contact, and it happened to be five year old kids, so I couldn't even reason with them.

MN: Now when you were living on the west side, you were renting a house with other Japanese American families. How crowded was this? I mean, did you have to eat in shifts?

BS: Well, we had, I think, three or four bedroom house. So my parents rented out to their friend. So it was just three adults, so it wasn't too bad, because we had seven of us in that house. So they just had their own section, but I'm not sure, I guess we shared the kitchen. And they had the one bathroom, we had one bathroom, that was it. So we just got a little bit cozier with our friends and that was it.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: Now, you're going to this University High, and what kind of work were your parents doing?

BS: At that time, they first opened up a restaurant in Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles. So that was a good distance. But on weekends, I was able to go and wash dishes for them.

MN: What was the restaurant called?

BS: M&S. Yes, M&S Cafe. It was partnership with Miyauchi family, so Miyauchi was the M, and S for Shishima. M&S. It was a small restaurant, probably only about ten to twelve seats on the counter, and two small booths, maybe four or six people could eat there. It was a very small restaurant.

MN: And when you were, you would go and help out there, were there still a lot of African Americans in Little Tokyo at that time?

BS: Yes. It was just sort of transitioning from Little Tokyo to Bronzeville, which was the black community. Then the Japanese started coming back in 1945, so it started changing again. So it was lots of black people in Little Tokyo yet. Then right after that, my dad started a hotel business, so that was over there by skid row or Fifth Street. So lots of them were black community, so I got adjusted to the black community real fast.

MN: So these hotels that your father started to manage, who were his mostly the clients? Were they African Americans?

BS: Yes, mostly. A few Hispanics.

MN: Did you have to help out there?

BS: Yes, we had to use the vacuum cleaner on the hallways, sometimes help make the beds and change the sheets. I had to do lots of odds and ends. Sometimes we had to paint the rooms, so we had to do that.

MN: So while you're cleaning these hotel rooms, what did you find out about a lot of the people who were staying there?

BS: Oh, that was really an eye-opener for me. Sometimes just browse on, look at on the dresser, pictures, and I would see this man, he's dressed up in a woman's outfit and his makeup is beautiful. I thought, "Wow, that's him." I couldn't believe that. So it was the first time I was exposed to people dressing like women. And at that time, too, I was now in high school, and I found out that they had a place in San Francisco that was all men but they dressed like women and act like women there. So that was my first exposure living right outside of my... in skid row, actually.

MN: What did you think about these transvestites? And they were African American transvestites, right?

BS: Yes. I just couldn't believe how beautiful they could be. Other than that, I thought they were a little bit different, I don't know. I said, "Why would they want to be dressed like a woman and act like a woman?" But that was the extent of my experience with them. But they, on the surface they looked like normal people to me.

MN: Did you also see a lot of prostitution in these hotels?

BS: Oh, yes. And as I mentioned, I was high school age then. And oftentimes the street ladies, they walk in, and then some of them would try to solicit me. And then the other prostitutes would tell them, "No, no, that's Papa's boy, so don't mess with him." So yeah, that's another exposure to life. I never knew about prostitutes, what they do, but I sure found out quick.

MN: So when they say, "That's Papa's boy," does that mean that your father was very popular among the prostitutes?

BS: Well, I don't know popular, but business-wise, he rented out the rooms to them, so he knew them, some of them by name. But he was called, referred to as Papa. So they never bothered him on the streets, and sometimes the new ones would bother me or him because they're new, they don't know us.

MN: But he got along with them.

BS: Yes.

MN: Did the LAPD ever harass your family?

BS: No, not that I know of. They patrolled the streets sometimes, but they just say hi to the prostitutes and go by, too. So unless they see them in the act, I guess, they don't bother them.

MN: So there's prostitution going on, did your father rent out the rooms by the hour?

BS: Well, no, by the period of time, that's all. As soon as they leave, that's it, they can't come back in, so they have to rent it again.

MN: And you used to catch your father doing sketching on his free time. What was he sketching?

BS: Yeah. I was puzzled about that, and he used to watch the office and just sit out there, he used to read sometimes, but other times he's sketching, usually buildings. So I always wondered how come, and I didn't find out 'til later that he graduated USC as an architect. So I guess I thought maybe he was a frustrated architect. He never got to practice his profession, but twenty, thirty years later, he's still sketching.

MN: Do you still have those sketches?

BS: No. I wish I had 'em.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MS: So when your father, your family started to manage hotels, which high school did you start going to?

BS: Okay, so that was, again, skid row area, so I went to Belmont High School.

MN: So you're doing a lot of moving around. You went from Narbonne to University High to Belmont High School. How did all this moving around affect your education and your ability to make friends?

BS: Well, I was able to make friends easily enough, and education, I hope it didn't hurt. But I was just an average student anyway. But actually, I went to another school at Santa Ana High School before coming to Belmont, I went to work at a grocery store and gas station. The family that had the rabbit farm asked me to come and do schoolboy work over there in Santa Ana, so I worked there for a while. But again, they wanted to overwork me, so I quit. I came back to Los Angeles and went to Belmont High School.


MN: So you were talking about your school, so you went to Santa Ana school for a while.

BS: Yes.

MN: And then from there you went to Belmont.

BS: Belmont High School.

MN: Let me change the subject and ask you about this group called Su's Plumbers. What was this group?

BS: Okay. Su Plumber was a basketball team. That originally started as a Boy Scout basketball team, and then we wanted to compete in the Japanese league. So we had to have a sponsor, because there's an entry fee, we wanted to get uniform and balls, and we couldn't afford it, so we asked the Boy Scouts to sponsor us. But since we had one non-Boy Scout, they said, no, they can't sponsor us because it's not all Boy Scouts. So Su Igawe happened to be our scoutmaster. He says, "Well, I'll sponsor you personally." So he had the Su Plumbing shop in Little Tokyo, and he decided to sponsor us. So I believe we were the most properly dressed team in the league. We had a regular uniform plus the sweatpants and the jacket. So most teams did not have a jacket and a sweatpants.

MN: So how well did the Su's Plumbers do in the league?

BS: We did pretty good. We won the championship a few times, so we got some nice trophies for Mr. Su Igawe to display. And then we were one of the younger teams, too. So in the papers they would sort of write us off as young kids, but we were still able to win the championship.

MN: Now did your group from the Su Plumbers ever get into fights with other groups?

BS: Not so-called fights, but two of our players on two different occasions at one of the public dances in East Los Angeles got beat up by another team's members. So that happened twice, so I know that wasn't coincidence, but partially maybe because we were a pretty good team and were competition for this other team. So maybe that, I don't know. I'm just projecting that happened.

MN: Did you ever get into fights with this other rival team?

BS: No, I was in pretty good with all the players. I mean, to me, I had a positive attitude, competition is competition. Sometimes you accidently elbow a person, but I just took it as an accident, that they're playing hard, so I didn't take it bad.

MN: Who was this other team, group called?

BS: Oh, I'd rather not say.

MN: Now you said they got beaten up? Did they go to the dances and get beaten up?

BS: Yes, just at a public dance, so it has nothing to do with basketball, but still they were at a gathering that they happened to be at the same place.

MN: Where did they have the dances at?

BS: They had dances all over throughout Los Angeles, but one of the favorite places was on Boyle Avenue, called International Institute. So probably every weekend or every other weekend they always had a dance there.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Now from Belmont High School, what year did you graduate?

BS: I graduated 1948.

MN: And from there what did you do?

BS: And then I didn't want to go to college, but my dad insisted, so I started Los Angeles City College. Then after the first semester I dropped out, and then he said I better go, so I continued. So it took me three years to get out of junior college, a two-year college, because I was working at the same time. So then I got drafted in the army. So one thing about going to college, I stayed out of the army. As soon as I graduated from City College, they were gonna draft me. But I said, "No, I'm going to UCLA." At that time I had conferences with the counselors at UCLA and they told me what classes to take. So I was all set for registration in February. But no, the army says, "No, UCLA didn't give you a deferment because you're not enrolled yet. L.A. City College says, 'No, you graduated already,'" so I got drafted in February 28, 1952.

MN: Where did you do basic training?

BS: I took my basic training up in northern California at Fort Ord.

MN: How did the other soldiers treat you during basic training?

BS: I was treated okay. No outright prejudice against me. It was a big mixture because we had Asians, Hispanic, we had blacks, so we got along okay.

MN: So after basic training at Fort Ord, where did they send you?

BS: Then they said that I'm going to go to Korea, I said, oh, no. So they gave me a leave, and we got on a ship, went to Yokohama, Japan. And when I was there, Yokohama, Japan, they said, oh, they're going to send me to signaling school. I said, well, if you're going to send me to signaling school, I said, send me to clerk typist school. I had two year of college typing and one year of high school typing. And next thing, they said, "Okay." But the next thing I knew, I got orders to go Korea to report to a personnel office. So now I had to change my story. I said, no, I just had one semester of high school typing. So the commanding officer said, "No, it's all right. We don't need speed, we need accuracy." And then technically he apologized to me because he said, "We're in 1 combat zone area," number one. That means you only get one point a month. Whereas if you're in the actual combat area, like the infantry, you get three points a month. So take much quicker to go back home. So he was apologizing to me, but I felt happy. I said, the further away from the front line I'm happier. Because prior to going overseas, my buddy just got back from Korea, he lost his eye, so he had a glass eye. And he told me, "Don't be a hero, keep away from the front line." So I remember that. So I had to say a little white lie when I first went overseas, but then after I got to personnel, I was okay.

MN: Now when you were stationed there, did you have any contact with the South Koreans?

BS: Yes. The South Korean, the general public, in fact, they were so-called houseboys for us. So they worked for the personnel, the government, and then on the side, we would pay them and they would clean our bunks and our living quarters where our office space, sweep and clean it. And then we used to pay them, like the wife of the man, she would do our laundry. And whether it's a hanky or a fatigue jacket, it was ten cents an article. So we paid them ten cents an article. But then, we gave them cigarettes in place of money. So cigarettes, for the GI it cost us ten cents, but on the black market it costs us twenty-five cents. So we gave them a ten cent article, but it's worth twenty-five cents. So they were happy with that arrangement, and it's cheaper for us, too. And by the way, I was learning Japanese from the Korean houseboy. He was fluent in Japanese, so when I used to get letters from my mother, she'd write usually in katakana, but once in a while she'd throw in a kanji and I couldn't read it. So I would help him, so he was teaching me Japanese. So I said, "Okay, I'll teach you the typewriter." So we reciprocated, and I was learning Japanese from him, and he was learning to use a typewriter from me.

MN: Is this when you were also doing a correspondence course in Japanese?

BS: Yes, along that line, I figured, well, I don't know Japanese so maybe a good time, because we had lots of spare time. So I looked into it, under the government programs, and the University of Oklahoma had a Japanese language class, so I enrolled in that. But after a few months I got bored because it takes too long. By the time I get the assignment, I do it, I send it, then they correct it and then send me something else, it took too long and I got too bored, so I dropped out from the University of Oklahoma.

MN: While you were stationed at Korea, did you ever have an incident where you felt your life was threatened?

BS: Well, one time. Like I mentioned, I was in personnel, and personnel in the artillery unit. So the front line is the infantry, behind the infantry is artillery unit, and then since I was in personnel doing office work, I was behind the artillery. But when they, the commanding officer, or the sergeant major, he came and he says, "Oh, we need some volunteers to unload a munition truck that broke down." So I asked for volunteers in our personnel office since I was the personnel sergeant, I asked for volunteers, not any hand would go up. I said, "All right, I'll volunteer, but I need one more person." So that way I was able to get a volunteer. We went to the front line where the artillery were shooting off, and it was very interesting. It was frightening, but it's interesting. It was two mountainsides in the valley. In the valley, they have artificial smokescreens. And that mountain is the Korean, North Koreans, on this mountain is American soldiers, and they're shooting artillery, but they can't see because of the smokescreens. But we had to go unload a truck and transfer to another truck and bring it back. So that was the closest I saw actual combat, but that was too close for me. You could hear them shooting and landing, but nothing up where we were, so it was a little bit in the back yet. That was my closest combat. My major combat was the battle of the Remingtons and the L.C. Smith and the Underwood typewriters.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: So when you had a furlough, were you able to visit your relatives in Wakayama?

BS: Yes, and that was a strange visit. I was now, what, twenty-two years old, in the service, and I found out that my real grandmother was in Japan. Before I came overseas, my mother says, "Well, if you get to Japan, visit your grandmother." I said, "No, my grandmother is in San Diego." At that time I found out that's my step grandmother. But I was twenty-two years old and they kept it a secret to me. And all the time I used to go visit them, just say, "Hi Grandma." And then in the service I found out that she was my step grandmother. So I did have the opportunity, in the service they call it R&R, Rest and Recuperation. So I was able to go to Japan for a week, so I looked up my uncle in Osaka, and then he told me how to get to my grandmother's place. But then, when I went to the train station, it said, no, it takes only a half hour. And my uncle said, "No, it takes three or four hours." So I was scared. I said, too big of a difference, so I went back to my uncle's place, he said, "Oh, yeah, there's another town called Sano, which is just half an hour away." So he said, "No, okay, I'll go with you." So he accompanied me to go to my grandmother's place into the countryside.

By that time, he called my grandmother and said that we're coming. So when we got to that station at Sano, my mother's classmates were there. So half a dozen ladies were there to greet me. I was really embarrassed to see a group of people waiting to visit with me. And then, another embarrassing thing happened. I had my army duffel bag with me, and no problem, my clothing for the week I had in there. My uncle says he'll carry it. My uncle, even though he was my uncle, he was a head shorter than me. I said, "No, no, I got it, no problem." No, he insisted, he almost (took) it off my back. So I said, "Okay, here you are," I gave it to him. What does he do? He turns around and gives it to my grandmother. Oh, I was really embarrassed then. But I said, well, he's the one that gave it to her, not me. But oh, that's how I realized how the Japanese culture is so different from here in America.

MN: So when you were over there, how did you communicate with them?

BS: Oh, I knew just a little bit Japanese, more common terms. So I told them if they speak real slowly to me, I might catch on. So that's how they communicated, so they broke it down and spoke slowly to me, I could catch just everyday phrases. Oh, another thing, interesting thing happened to me. So I went to live in my grandmother's place overnight. But she says, "Oh, go take a bath at the neighbor's place," 'cause they had an outdoor tub, and they didn't want me to do that. Plus, the bathroom, they had an indoor bathroom whereas my grandparents had an outdoor bathroom. So I had to go use my neighbor's bathroom. And then when I woke up in the morning, they didn't wake me up early, but they were up nice and early, so it must have been eight, nine o'clock already. And the neighborhood kids were waiting for me. They said, "Amerika no niisan," and they're waiting to look at me. I was so embarrassed. But they all cherished it, "America no niisan." So that was my experience in Japan for the first time.

MN: You were probably the talk of the town.

BS: Yeah.

MN: So how long were you in the army?

BS: I was in the minimum. I was drafted for two years, but when I came back from Korea, I only had three months left. And I had leave time, so they said, "Oh, might as well be separated," so I only served twenty-one months in the service, active service. And then the inactive service, had to serve, I think, five years or something like that. Nothing, just on paper, then after that I got my discharge paper.

MN: And you were honorably discharged from where?

BS: Right downtown Los Angeles. They just sent me my papers, that's all.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: So now after you returned to Los Angeles, what did you do?

BS: What did I do? Oh, I went to school, yeah. So now, I was planning to go UCLA, but I had too many friends at UCLA, and I says, I won't study. Plus, I always wanted to go USC but I couldn't afford it, but now I had the GI Bill to help me. So I went to USC because that's where I really wanted to go in the first place, because my dad went there, so I wanted to go there. So I went there under the GI Bill.

MN: So at that time, you knew that your father had gone to USC.

BS: Yes.

MN: You know, so you're a second generation USC, and I always understand it's easier for alumni to get in, if alumni have kids, it's easier for them to get in. Did you feel any favoritism?

BS: No, other than because of the GI Bill I thought I'd get in. But along that line, when my son was going, he went to SC and we asked for a scholarship. During the registration time there's many so-called tables or booths, "Apply for this scholarship," so we went. It said, "minority scholarship," so we went there. They said, "No, you're not minority." I said, "We're not minority?" They said, "No, for academic purposes, you're not, Japanese is not minority." So we couldn't get the scholarship. So that was an eye-opener. I found out that Japanese were not a minority, but in general public we are, but for scholastic-wise, no. Then I understand today, they have programs for two generations, they had favoritism. In my days I don't think they had that.

MN: And then you went to USC and then you got married also, right?

BS: Yes. We had what we called... we couldn't have fraternities and sororities that time, so we had the Nisei Trojan Club. So all the Japanese Americans who were members of the Nisei Trojan Club, and somehow I got elected to be president, and my secretary happened to be my future wife. [Laughs] So we got married. In fact, we got married on campus at the University Christian Church, Methodist church.

MN: And then you got your teaching credential?

BS: No.

MN: No?

BS: No. Actually, I graduated in business, business administration. And then I went into the grocery business, but I figured, well, after a few years, I figured I won't make my billions there, so I went back to school, got my credential, and I started teaching.

MN: Where did you teach at?

BS: Excuse me?

MN: Where did you teach at?

BS: Oh, in East Los Angeles called Riggin Elementary. But while I was there, my principal was Mr. Morris Hamasaki, and he passed away when he was principal. So the community wanted to change the school's name. So they petitioned to the school board, and now it's called Morris Hamasaki Elementary School. Only Japanese surname school in Los Angeles City.

MN: So now, before you became a teacher, you said you were working in the grocery business, and then you shared about how you were... is it the Belvedere Optimist Club?

BS: Yes. I was in the Belvedere Optimist Club because it was in East Los Angeles, and it happened to be all Hispanic people other than one other Japanese that worked together with me. So we were two Japanese in there, Japanese Americans, all the rest were Hispanic or Mexicans. So we got to know the businesspeople in East Los Angeles. So that's where the ever-famous Tepeyac restaurant, Manuel Rojas was a member of the Optimists Club, so I started going there. At that time, fifty years ago, it wasn't very busy. In fact, on weekends, the produce man comes on a vegetable truck and sells him the vegetables off his truck. And it was so slow that they were playing cards there on Saturday morning. But now, you're lucky to get a place to eat Saturday morning there.

MN: Why didn't you join the Japanese American Optimists Club?

BS: Because it was more for business-wise. Because the grocery store I was working in at Brooklyn and Ford Market intersection of Brooklyn and Ford Street, and businesses all around there were Mexican or Hispanic, and they had the optimist club there. So for business purposes, I joined them so we'd get them to shop at our place, and we'd go shopping at their place.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: I want to ask you about the Boy Scouts a little bit because you were still active after the war with the Boy Scouts. Now, which troop did you join... or I guess not join, but you actually started to head it.

BS: Well, no, first I joined... when I came out of camp I was fourteen years old. So I was still Boy Scout age, and my parents had the restaurant in Little Tokyo, so I joined Koyasan Boy Scout at Little Tokyo.

MN: So for you, what were some of the hardest skills to master in the Boy Scouts?

BS: The hardest skill for me was swimming and lifesaving, and that was a requirement to get the Eagle badge, which is the highest award you can get in the Boy Scouts. So I just happened to start working at the YMCA downtown, and so I started, I had access to the swimming pool every day. And so I started, I had access to the swimming pool every day because I worked there throughout the summer. Then I got my membership there so I was able to go during school time. So I finally was able to qualify and pass the swimming merit badge and the lifesaving merit badge.

MN: You know, before the war, I always hear people say, Japanese Americans saying that they could not go into a public swimming pool. Maybe on day before cleaning they might be allowed. But you were working at the YMCA. Anybody have a problem with you as a Japanese American?

BS: Not after World War II, no. But I remember this place, Bimini over there on Vermont, they had problems. They would not let Japanese go in there. Then even, I heard even at the coliseum, on certain days, you couldn't get in there. Just on certain days you could get in to swim at the outdoor pool there. But after the war, I didn't feel there was prejudice like that.

MN: So you were a member of Koyasan Boy Scout troop.

BS: Yes.

MN: And then you eventually became scoutmaster there, is that right?

BS: Yes. So what happened there, I was a Boy Scout, and then I was assistant scoutmaster there, and I graduated into the army. Then when I came back, they asked me to be the scoutmaster. So I was scoutmaster there for about three years.

MN: But then you went to Evergreen. What happened?

BS: Okay. So after I was scoutmaster, I resigned and started to grow my own Boy Scout and Girl Scout at home. I got married, I had a girl and a boy, and he came Cub Scout age, he joined the Koyasan Cub Scouts. But then when it came Boy Scout age, he says he didn't want to join Koyasan. I said, "Why not?" The problem was, he wanted to join high school athletics. And Koyasan required that you have to be a drum and bugle member if you join the Koyasan Boy Scouts. So that's three nights a week: patrol meeting, troop meeting, and drum and bugle meeting. So that's three nights a week, so he wasn't able to do athletics in school. So I said, "Okay, you can join Evergreen Boy Scouts then." So that's how he transferred to Evergreen from Koyasan Cub Scouts there for going Boy Scouts. Sort of broke my heart, but at least he joined the Scouts.

MN: Can you share some of the highlights during your time you volunteered in the Boy Scouts? Particularly it was two generations that you were sharing about...

BS: Okay. So as I mentioned, I was scoutmaster at Koyasan. That was 1955 to 1957. And then, when my son came of age, that was later on, so we were now at Evergreen. So I was the assistant scoutmaster there. And backtracking, in 1957, one of my biggest glory days was we had the record of fifteen Boy Scouts getting the Eagle presentation at one Court of Honor. And there was one scout named Ray Miyokawa. And the reason I bring him up, because twenty-seven years later, when I was assistant scoutmaster at Evergreen, I was able to give his son, Roger Miyokawa, his Eagle badge. So to me, that was really a milestone. Give the father and son their Eagle badge. So that was one of my highlights of my Scouting career.

MN: And after this, you started to volunteer at the district level. What was that like?

BS: Volunteer at this district level because I felt that someone has to teach the new scout leaders the Scouting way. So it was adult classes we had once a month, we did a mock meeting. So we'd give them the program to do, some activities to do, and basically hand fed the new scout leaders. So then that way they could go back to the boys and give them a Boy Scout treatment. So I did that for a few years. And it was rewarding to me because at the end, I see young people that want to volunteer, learn the Scout way, and they went and taught the young boys again. So even though I didn't work directly with the boys, I worked with the adults for a number of years.

MN: Did you ever bring up any activities that you did in camp during these training sessions?

BS: Well, yes. Well, we talk about, we don't actually do it, the fire building or cooking or signaling, or knot tying, first aid. So some of those, we try and teach them some of the basic things. So that was rewarding. In fact, again, the Boy Scout troops were very strict. We always learned the basic, whether it's first aid or cooking or camping or knot tying. So we always beat the other troops in competition, the Caucasian troops, compared to the Japanese American troops. And even in the leadership program, was basically the same thing. We're teaching the adults knot-tying skills and stuff, we have competition. I'm finished the knots when they're halfway through doing the knots yet. So they were really amazed, not because of me, but the other Japanese leaders were able to lead way better than some of the Caucasians because of the Boy Scout training as boys, not as adults. So we see it carried through to adult life, too.

MN: And when you were training a lot of these adults, what was the ethnic makeup of these people you trained?

BS: Majority were Hispanic, since it was East Los Angeles area. Once in a while we'd get Japanese Americans, but not too many. It was mainly Hispanic. But the training leaders were, probably half of them were Japanese Americans.

MN: So Heart Mountain last year had this grand opening in 2011 of the interpretive center. And there's this photo of you in your Boy Scout uniform and you're raising a flag. How did you feel about being given that honor?

BS: Oh, that was a great feeling in many ways. Because as a Boy Scout in camp, we raised the flag for a period of maybe one month. Every morning we had to go raise that flag. And it brought back memories, but then it brought back memories and gave me the honor of raising the flag at the grand opening of the museum. And the learning center, it shows America what camp was like, and yet, we were able to practice the American democracy by having the Boy Scouts in camp. And then I was able to raise the flag again at the opening. So our Boy Scout troop, we donated the flagpole for the learning center. So we got organized, we got a few hundred dollars each, and gave them enough money to do the flagpole. So in return, they asked us to raise the flag. So the two of us raised the flag in camp, we got to do it again.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: Now, Bill, you're very active in the community, especially you're a docent at the Japanese American National Museum. Why is it important for you to be active in these organizations?

BS: Mainly it's to give back to the community. But the museum is a little bit more than that. Not only community service, but to tell our story about World War II, because the general public does not know about it. And I felt that everyone in America should know what happened to us during World War II. Basically we were incarcerated, not because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, that was one of the main reasons, but because all the prejudices, all the laws that were against us prior to World War II, which generated the good timing to incarcerate us because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And then, it was the lack of our government, they didn't represent us. And then mass hysteria, war hysteria, and then the media got against us. They actually printed false information in the media making the general public scared that the Japanese are spies and saboteurs and things like that. So I wanted to tell our story, so I put my reparation money back into the museum to let America know what happened to us, and it never happens again. But after 9/11, it almost happened again. There was talk to incarcerate the American Arabs, American Muslim, just because they look like the terrorists, they said, "Put them in camp." So America didn't learn its lesson. So all the more, I think museum is important for the whole United States.

MN: Bill, I'm going to change the subject a little bit, and I wanted to ask a little bit about your last name because it's very unusual. What is the kanji for Shishima?

BS: It's the number four, and then for island, shima. So it's Four Island. But in Japanese, the word shi means "death." So people don't like to use that. So when strangers see my name in kanji, they don't want to say Shishima, so they say, for the number four they say yon, Yonshima. And I never knew about that until I questioned my parents. I says, "How come strangers call us Yonshima?" Because of that, they don't want to say shi because it refers to death, and so they say Yonshima instead of Shishima.

MN: I don't know any Shishima in the L.A. area except your brother, I guess I've heard of his name. Is that a common name in Wakayama where you came from?

BS: It's very unusual. In fact, the reason we got the name Shishima, that was my father's mother's maiden name. Because there was no male in my father's mother's family, so he took his mother's name. So there's no Shishima relatives in Japan because he came over here, and now the only ones here are my immediate family, my brothers or my nephews. So I'm glad one of my nieces kept her name Shishima. So she's Shishima, even though she's married, she's still using Shishima name.

MN: I've asked my questions. Is there anything else that you want to share about, your thoughts, any other thoughts?

BS: Not offhand, no.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

[Showing photographs]

MN: Where is that photo taken?

BS: This photo was taken in the late 1930s when I was going to Maryknoll school in downtown Los Angeles. And this is Brother Paul. It was a Catholic school, so all the men were called brothers or fathers, and the female either were sisters or nuns. And happened to be a group of us here, and this happened to be one of our classmate called Junzo Ohara. Next to him is myself, Bill Shishima, and then my older brother Tak Shishima. And then another classmate in the back is Conrad... forgot his last name, sorry. And then I don't know who that girl is on this side. So this is one of my few early days pictures at Maryknoll school.

MN: How about the Heart Mountain photo?

BS: In Heart Mountain, we didn't have any pictures, but during the war, my uncle, who was living in Salt Lake City, came up and visited us and he took the family picture because we didn't have a camera then. So this is my whole family, as I mentioned earlier, my kid brother was born in camp, so there he is about one or two years old. And then it's unique that his name was Noboru. In Japanese, noboru means to climb. So my dad said he named him Noboru because he's going to climb Heart Mountain. So these are my brothers and this is a picture of myself right here. So my dad, my mom, my two sisters, my older brother, and one younger brother. So camp pictures are very scarce for us because initially we turned our cameras into the government when we first got relocated in May of 1942.

MN: You have a cover of a phone book.

BS: Oh, this is a little bit history. This happened to be a Los Angeles public telephone directory, and on here, we have my dad's hotel. My dad's hotel is here, it was first built way back in 1883. This is called the Garnier Building or Plaza Hotel. So today this is the home of the L.A. Art and Culture Center.

MN: Then I think earlier you had shown us the Garnier Hotel, what it looks like, or the building, what it looks like now.

BS: This too shiny? So this is what the Plaza Hotel looks like. Plaza Hotel was just only on the second floor. The first floor was business, so it was a very small hotel approximately fifteen rooms. And then our family of six at that time, we probably took two or three of those rooms.

MN: I think you have some photos of different angles of your father's store. Did we show those photos?

BS: I don't think so.

MN: From, I think from Main Street.

BS: Is that glare too much or should I remove it? Okay, initially, my dad's grocery store was right here where my finger is pointing to. And then eventually moved to the corner where it's Mercado Plaza. And this is a different view of the same street. Here's Mercado Plaza in the corner, and then the other store was over here.

MN: And there is next to your father's Mercado Plaza is...

BS: Golondrina. Next door to my father's Mercado Plaza store was a restaurant called Golondrina. Today, it's one of the major restaurants on Olvera Street.

MN: And the post office building is still there. Do you have that recent shot that you have of this, the current shot?

BS: These two are basically same view except no buildings. So on the lower right-hand corner is where Mercado Plaza was. But you could see by the setting of the post office and the city hall, where Mercado Plaza used to be.

MN: Now I guess in the stop photo, the current photo that you took in 2002, I guess the freeway goes under there.

BS: Yes, the freeway is right here.

MN: But the post office building really hasn't changed that much.

BS: No, didn't change at all.

MN: But you saw it go up.

BS: Yes. So I assume it's about 1940 it was built.

MN: And did we look at all your photos of your stores, the inside?

BS: I think so.

MN: Did we look at that one you have right there on top?

BS: No.

MN: You don't know who these people are in these photos?

BS: No. Just the one that's carrying the baby is Mr. Tanaka.

MN: And this is your father's first store.

BS: Yes. So Mr. Tanaka worked for my dad, but he made money in the stock market, so he went back to Japan prior to World War II.

MN: Is that baby in his arms, is that you?

BS: I don't know. I don't think so, but I don't know what baby it could be. [Laughs]

MN: Did we cover all the photos?

BS: I think so.

MN: Oh, great. Thank you for bringing the photos in. It's nice to see a visual of the store.

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