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-1000-456-9

<Begin Segment 9>

VY: Okay, Mary. I just want to go back a little bit to your earlier days, back to when your father passed away. What grade were you in?

HH: I was in seventh grade.

VY: Okay, so you were around eleven or twelve?

HH: Eleven or twelve years old, yeah.

VY: Okay, just wanted to clarify that.

HH: Right.

VY: And then later on, kind of moving forward a little bit, later on in school, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your life as a teenager and as a young woman in Torrance, and if you have any memories about, sort of, your self-image, like going to movies and how that might have affected the way you saw yourself, if you saw yourself reflected in movies during that time.

HH: We didn't really go to too many movies, because we were so busy working on the farm. What was the other...

VY: Well, how about, like for instance, when you were in high school, do you have any memories of things that you did in high school?

HH: Oh, yeah, lots of things. I was just so active in high school, being in all the service clubs, just a wild girl, I guess. We used to have a lot of fun just with our group. We had a lot of parties on the weekends, or not every weekend, but we had a lot of parties together. We were just a good, clean-cut group of kids, not doing anything really mischievous or anything, or just having fun, just getting together. But interestingly, when I went to the class reunion, one of the friends said, "You know, Mary, I wanted to date you in high school, but I couldn't because I wasn't allowed to date you." Because, I guess, being Japanese, he couldn't date me.

VY: And is he white?

HH: What was that?

VY: And was he a white person?

HH: Yes, he was the class president, and he was student body president and he was just...

VY: So he thought his parents would disapprove?

HH: Yeah. And so I found this to be true in general. I mean, I was their friend, their parents liked me, I was always invited to their home, but they didn't want them to date me on a one-to-one basis. Which I wasn't ready for anyway, so I really don't care. And even in college, I was the same way. I was very active at UCLA, I was in social clubs, I was in all the big social clubs that were really popular, and I was Bruin Belles president, where we would go meet the football teams, and any visitors coming, we would be the official greeters, and I was president of that. I really didn't think anything about that, but I remember going up Janss Steps one day. At UCLA it's just a real steep incline of stairs. And this old lady was struggling to get up, so I went and I said, "Can I help you?" And she said, "Get your hands off me." She was just yelling, I was so embarrassed. Because I was Japanese, she didn't want me to even be touching her or being near her. I said, "Can I help you?" And so that was that.

VY: That was probably, what, in the '60s?

HH: Yes. But otherwise, the kids, it was really... we couldn't belong to, we couldn't join sororities or anything at that time.

VY: You mean you weren't allowed to?

HH: We were not allowed to. But I was really active in some of the most sought-after kinds of clubs, and I was really active. And they were really, truly friends, and they would invite me to their parties and the frat-boys would take me and just be really respectful and nice to me, taking me places.

VY: Do you think you would have wanted to join the sororities if you were allowed to?

HH: I was kind of envious because since I was so active, all the people active on campus were from sororities and fraternities.

VY: So you were part of this group and you were basically accepted by most of the people in this group, yet you were still always on the outside a little bit.

HH: Right. And it really didn't affect me that much because I really had to study so hard just to get through school with all my papers and all my studying.

VY: What did you study?

HH: I was in general education. I was in geography first, and then switched to general education. But I always had papers and observations and everything to write up on. And so I was fine with what was going on in my life at school, because I needed that time to devote to my studies. I wasn't a party girl or anything like that. I was kind of awkward from the farms in Torrance.

VY: That sounds interesting. So did you meet any other classmates? Did any of them have a similar background as you? Like were there other kids that had more of a rural background, or were most of them city kids?

HH: Most of them were city kids, but there were some, the Japanese people living in my dorm lived on flower farms, but not necessarily maybe a few, couple of them were from farming families.

VY: Oh, so interesting. So would you say -- maybe you don't know -- but would you say that a lot of your classmates who had a farming background, did they tend to be Japanese American, and do you remember any, like, white classmates or classmates of other ethnic groups that also had a farming background, or were they mostly city kids?

HH: Mostly city kids.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.