Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hatsuko Mary Higuchi Interview
Narrator: Hatsuko Mary Higuchi
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 4, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-456-8

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VY: Let's see. We'll finish up talking about school. Do you remember your teachers at all? Were there any teachers that made an impression on you in grade school or even high school?

HH: Yeah. When we came back from the camps, the teacher, I remember, Mrs. Halverson, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Eyman, I remember their names. They were all very nice to us, and they were all very kind. They had a hard time saying our names.

VY: Did they give you different names?

HH: Yes, so Hatsuko became Mary, Etsuko became Betty, Mitsuko became Nancy, Tetsuo became Jimmy. But the two youngest did not keep their names, they gave themselves their own names. [Laughs]

VY: They gave themselves their own names?

HH: Yeah, their own names. Mitsuko, the third child, became Mitzi, she called herself Mitzi, and my brother called himself... they call him Tet, I think Tetsuo, Tat or Tet, something along those lines. Anyway, yeah, we got along fine with our classmates. I remember in fourth grade when we studied about Japan, about the war, I remember crying and sitting there crying. Because when they started talking about the war, I just felt like I was at fault, I was the enemy, and I just felt guilty when they talked about the Japanese.

VY: Do you remember what grade you were in?

HH: Fourth grade.

VY: Had you thought about, or did you know anything about the war before then? Was this your first time learning about it?

HH: Not really, yeah. Not really, it was just... but when they were talking about it, I remember crying. It was a terrible time, I remember, yeah.

VY: Yeah, do you remember how your other classmates responded to that? Did they have similar feelings that you did?

HH: Once in a while I would hear the word "Japs." "Get out, you Japs." But otherwise, my classmates were very, very nice. In fact, couple months ago -- and I haven't followed up on this -- but they said, "Let's get together," these kids from my first grade class. So I will have to do that because they live in Huntington Beach. I'll have to get together with them. They wrote me an email about the birds that we had given them because we had a boxful. Did I say this before?

VY: No.

HH: We had a boxful of the hand carved birds and butterflies my father had made in the camp, a shoebox, and we started giving them to our teachers, and then I started giving them to all my friends. And she said that she doesn't have her bird anymore, that I had given her because it was, I forgot, something had happened to it and she no longer had it, and so that's how we started corresponding together again. But I feel really bad about that because I did give them away, and I had about three broken ones and rejects, and I strung them into a necklace with the two butterflies. And when my mother was really sick, I told her, "Too bad, Okaasan, that we don't have any more of these birds left." And she looked at me and she said, "It's because you gave them away," and that's so true. Because I always must have had this need to be well-liked, just feeling insecure, I don't know what, but I gave them away and it's my fault.

VY: Well, and also it sounds like you really liked these, they were things that your father made and you liked them and you wanted to share them with friends.

HH: He just made so many things, and I don't know what happened to them. He carved sculptures out of the ironwood from Poston. He would go looking for them and make sculptures, and he made vaces, just all kinds of things, but I don't know what happened to them. And I guess changing, moving houses, and I remember them being in the garage. But when I went back to go look at them at my son's living there, but I think when they cleaned it out, they just had everything taken out. And not knowing the history or the story behind them, they just got rid of everything.

VY: It's interesting, I wonder if some of your artistic ability comes from your father.

HH: Well, I remember he used to spend so much time drawing every night with us. I think probably my interest comes from his spending time with us in that way, plus my mother, she loved flower arrangement, and every time we'd go anyplace, anytime we went on a trip, she'd just say, "Kirei ne." she would just be amazed at the beauty of going to see the redwood forest or wherever we went, and just the moss growing on the trees and draping from the trees. She was just so fascinated with the Indian culture and things like that. I think they both, I think I got a little of my mother noticing the shapes and beauty of things, and my father making things. My mother never liked to draw. I would try to encourage her to, give her crayons and paper. "No, dekinai," she can't do it. "Heta," she said she was terrible at it. "Heta, I can't do it."

VY: It sounds, though, like the combination of your father's kind of natural artistic ability and your mom's enthusiasm and love for nature and her surroundings, the combination of those things, I could see how, for you, when you're painting or doing other kinds of art forms, it must be a very comforting space.

HH: Yeah, because my mother did enjoy traveling, too, and learning about new things. And she was just always open to learning whatever she could. She was always reading as well, and she just enjoyed and continued to learn until she died. She just wanted to do everything, traveled everywhere.

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