Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Clara S. Hattori Interview I
Narrator: Clara S. Hattori
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 8, 2014
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-426-1

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TI: Okay, so today is December 8, 2014, and we're in the Densho offices with Clara Hattori. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and we also have your daughter Karen, who is watching the interview. And my name is Tom Ikeda, and I'm the interviewer. So Clara, I'm just going to start with the question, can you tell me when and where you were born?

CH: My birthday is May 21, 1919, and I was born by a midwife in Sacramento, California, and it was a Japanese midwife. I didn't... we lived in Rocklin, I mean, we lived in Penryn, California, which is not far from Rocklin. And my parents, when they came over from Japan, they were... well, first of all, my dad came over first.

TI: Before we get to your father, so go back to the midwife. Did the midwife come to your house?

CH: No, the midwife had, it was in Sacramento, a little home, in a home, outside of Japantown of Sacramento, California. It was just a home, and I found out that at that time I didn't know too much about it, but later on my dad drove us there and told us that this is where I was born. And so it was just a home, and the lady was still there, that delivered me. And I must have been about seven or eight years old at that time.

TI: By any chance, do you remember her name?

CH: No, I don't.

TI: But when they did midwives, so your mother, after she delivered you, would she stay at the home?

CH: Yeah, she stayed there, uh-huh.

TI: And do you know how long they might stay there?

CH: Gee, I don't know. I don't know any of that. It's just kind of vague, I mean, I've forgotten all of that.

TI: Well, you were a baby, so you wouldn't know that, but I was just curious.

CH: The parents talked about it, and so that's how I remember some of that. But anyway, later on, as we grew older, my dad took us right there. We used to go to Sacramento to the Japantown and buy Japanese food, and it was always pointed out to me that that was the house that I was born in.

TI: And that was in 1919? And so that makes you ninety-five years old.

CH: Ninety-five.

TI: And you'll be ninety-six in a few months.

CH: In May, next May.

TI: So you look... I'm sure people are amazed when you tell them how old you are, because you look so good.

CH: [Laughs] Thank you.

TI: And when you were born, what was the full name given to you at birth?

CH: Just... my dad didn't know, when we lived in Penryn, we worked for, my parents worked for a hakujin couple, and they, when I was born, they said Clara Bow is a very popular actress at that time, and she was very well-known and a Hollywood star and all this. And they thought that would be a nice name for me, and so that's how it got stuck. [Laughs] And then my parents thought, well, the girls, if they have girls, they just won't give them Japanese names. In those days, it was popular to have a Japanese middle name. And being that we probably, the girls would get married and go away, so they didn't, my sister and I never did have a Japanese name. And I have two brothers, of course, they have a Japanese name. My brother's name is Joseph Yoshito Sasaki, and my other brother's name is Ernest Nobuto Sasaki.

TI: But then your sister, what about your sister?

CH: My sister is Mildred Sasaki, with no middle name.

TI: So really, that is interesting. So your parents thought that the girls didn't need...

CH: Girls didn't need any, because they're going to get married and go away from the family, and they don't have to carry the family name.

TI: And in the same way, your sister, was she named after, like, a movie actress?

CH: I don't know how... I really don't know much about my sister's name. Could be that Mrs. Kelson, that was her name, Mrs. KelsonĀ  was the owner of the farm. They were quite an influence on my parents, I think my parents, when they came from Japan, they didn't know too much of anything. And so Mrs. Kelson helped them out a lot, so that's how we were named.

TI: And so growing up, did your parents call you Clara growing up?

CH: In Japanese could you say "Kurara, Kurara." [Laughs]

TI: I was going to ask you about that, because it's not the easiest name to say.

CH: It isn't the easiest name to say in Japanese, no.

TI: So is that what they called you?

CH: Yeah, Clara.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Densho. All Rights Reserved.