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

<Begin Segment 1>

VY: Okay, today is Monday, February 4, 2019, and we're here in Los Angeles, California, with Mary Higuchi. And Dana Hoshide is our videographer, and my name is Virginia Yamada. So, Mary, thank you for sitting down with us for this interview today.

HH: You're welcome.

VY: I'd like to get started by asking you where you were born and what name you were given at birth, when and where you were born?

HH: Okay. I was born January 31, 1939. The name I was given was Hatsuko Yoshioka.

VY: And how about your parents? What were their names and where were they born?

HH: My mother was Kiyoko, maiden name Mayeda. She was born May 17, 1916. My father was born January 25th, his name was Goro Yoshioka, January 25, 1905, and he was born in Kagoshima, Japan.

VY: Where was your mom born?

HH: She was born in Santa Monica, California.

VY: Do you know how they met?

HH: I think it was an arranged marriage.

VY: Do you know anything about their early life before they met? For instance, you said your mom was born in Santa Monica.

HH: Right, she was born in Santa Monica, but her mother died after giving birth. Because at that time they had a huge pandemic of influenza, and I guess millions of people died around the world. And her father died when she was three years old, and she was sent to Japan to be raised by an aunt on her mother's side, and this was in Wakayama, Japan.

VY: And when did she come back to the States?

HH: She came back in her thirties, in her early thirties she came back.

VY: And what did she do when she returned?

HH: When she came back, she worked at the fish cannery, Terminal Island, San Pedro, California. And then after that, soon after that, I guess she was introduced to someone and that's when she got married.

VY: Okay, well then, so before the war, what kind of work did your parents do, do you know?

HH: My father was in the hauling business, he hauled crates of vegetables from the farm to the L.A. produce market. And my mother was a housewife before... because before, she was working in the cannery when she got married. She devoted herself to being a mother.

VY: So were they both in their thirties when they got married, do you think?

HH: I think so, yeah. My mother probably early thirties and my father, since he was ten years older, probably the late thirties.

VY: What was your relationship like with your parents? When you were very little, do you have any memories of that?

HH: I remember it as a very happy time. My parents devoted a lot of time to us, although they were working very hard from early morning to late at night, working on the farm. At night we would always sit at the dining room table and we would do homework, and if we didn't have homework, we would draw, we would write, just do all kinds of pictures and stories with our parents. And my mother used to read Japanese stories to us and tell us stories, and teach us some Japanese.

VY: And so that was your time on the farm. Was that before or after you went to camp? Did your parents have a farm before the war?

HH: No.

VY: Okay, so I want to get back to that, then.

HH: Okay, because my father was, he was hauling crates of vegetables and were farming. We lived in L.A.

VY: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

VY: So, Mary, for your early childhood, your childhood coincides with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan. So to start off with, what camp was your family sent to?

HH: We were sent to Poston, Arizona.

VY: And how old were you during your time there?

HH: Three to, I guess, almost six, or around there. Because when I came back, I was a six-year-old ready to start first grade.

VY: So did you go to school at all during camp?

HH: Uh-huh, we went to kindergarten.

VY: Do you have any memories of school or your classmates or your teachers?

HH: I really don't, but I do remember one gal, Keiko, and we have gotten together pretty recently, so that was great. She's the only one that I've really kept up with.

VY: That's a long time to keep up with someone after all those years. Do you have any childhood memories of what a typical day might have been like, or maybe a sense of what life might have been like for your family before the war? You probably don't have any real solid memories of that.

HH: I really don't remember anything before the war.

VY: Did your parents ever talk about that day, about December 7, 1941?

HH: No, they never talked about that period or our life in camp. It was just never discussed. But I can tell there was some discussion, even with friends, because I would, "In camp..." and then they would go, hush, hush, hush, but I couldn't hear what they were saying, nor was I really that interested in listening in.

VY: You were very little. Okay, so they never really talked later in life about it later? How they prepared to go to camp, how they heard about it?

HH: Off and on I would hear things as I was painting scenes of it, then my mother would mention something about it, but not really. She would not fully talk about it until I showed her one of the paintings I was doing.

VY: Okay, it sounds like your art really helped the two of you have a conversation about that later.

HH: Right, yes. I think it started some conversation, but unfortunately it was not until the end, the end of her life. Before, she didn't want to talk about it, but towards the end of her life I started painting about the camp.

VY: Okay, we'll talk about that more, too. So getting back to your earlier days, how many siblings did you have and who was the oldest?

HH: Okay. I was the oldest, Hatsuko, "Hatsu" means first child. And then Etsuko, my sister, another sister Mitsuko, and Tetsuo. Mitsuko and Tetsuo, the last two, were born in the camp at Poston.

VY: Do you remember your mother being pregnant and giving birth?

HH: No, but I remember an ambulance came and took her away, and maybe that was because she was ready to deliver or something happened where she was taken away.

VY: Did they take her somewhere else in camp?

HH: I don't know where she was taken.

VY: Was she gone for very long?

HH: I really don't remember, but I remember the ambulance coming.

VY: Were you expecting that, or was it unexpected?

HH: I don't think I was expecting another sibling. [Laughs]

VY: Were you happy to have more siblings?

HH: I don't really remember that period, but yes, it added to the daily routine of my mother where she had more to do as far as taking care of someone else and going to the mess hall and different places with all of us.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

VY: So what was the daily routine for your family? What was a typical day for your family there in Poston?

HH: Well, we played a lot, I know. We were always in the sun, playing in the sand with our friends. I have a picture of us with a bucket and filling the bucket with sand, going to school. I don't really remember that much more except for we used to just play around, run around all over. During the daytime, mainly because it was so hot outside, we would play indoors. We would just run through the house and jump on the bed, and we would use it as a, what do you call it, like a trampoline, and we would just jump all around. There were so many thunderstorms in Arizona that when the thunderstorms started thundering, we would start yelling, and we would run to the bed and we would run under the sheets and cover ourselves. We were so scared because it just made these thunderous sounds.

VY: And this was in the barracks?

HH: Uh-huh, this was all in the barracks.

VY: It's interesting because I imagine the barracks weren't that large, but from your child perspective, the way you talk about it, it sounds like a very big place.

HH: Yeah, it was one big room. And then sheets partitioning the different rooms, the bedroom. But we had a lot of fun playing in the barracks.

VY: And were your parents playing with you, or was that something that you and your siblings just kind of did together?

HH: Right. We played a lot with each other and the neighborhood kids, Hide and Go Seek, and just all kinds of things like that.

VY: So how do you think you would describe your childhood in Poston? Like, for instance, if you were maybe talking to one of your grandchildren and explaining to them what your childhood was like in Poston, what do you think you would say?

HH: Well, we didn't have a playground with equipment, swings and so forth, however, we did play outdoors a lot. I guess more indoors because of the heat. I don't know, we enjoyed coloring, paper dolls. But I really don't remember that much more because we were so young at that time, three, four, five.

VY: And you were the oldest, but you were still only six by the time you left. Were you expected to help take care of the younger kids at all?

HH: I guess I was always the Neechan, the older sister, so I had a lot of responsibilities of watching out for them.

VY: Okay, and how about your parents? What did they do in camp?

HH: I don't really remember that much. I know my mother went to sewing classes, she drafted patterns, she learned how to knit, and so when she had the time she would sew our clothes, she would knit sweaters for us. I think she took flower arrangement classes. She kept herself pretty busy with the four kids, and everything had to be hand washed, of course. Washing all the diapers, the cloth diapers and always hanging them, and I could remember the rope being strung across the room with clothes dripping onto, the water dripping onto the floor, because she didn't have a wringer or anything, you just did the best you can to get the water out. And mainly because there was severe dust storms in Arizona, so she had to dry most of her clothes indoors.

VY: How about your father? Did he work in camp?

HH: Yes, he was a cook in camp, but he also was very sick, too. And it had something to do with his stomach ailment, just digestive system, I don't know exactly what. But then he later had that same illness when we came back from the camp, and then he died shortly after that, after we came back.

VY: Did your father, did he learn to cook in camp?

HH: Yes, and he really enjoyed it, too. Because when we came back from camp, he just enjoyed cooking and baking. I remember he was a doer. I mean, if something had to be done, he would just go and do it, and he wanted to bake biscuits, so he took a block of wood, and I remember him whittling away until he had just a smooth, cylindrical form to roll out that biscuit. I don't know if he used a glass cup or something, but he cut out the biscuits. And he used to bake for us and make coffee cake and cornbread. He was just always enjoying cooking.

VY: Sounds delicious. Well, then so did you as a family go to the mess hall to eat, or did you eat in your own barracks?

HH: We did go to the mess hall and eat, but my mother found it really difficult because when we went there, we just wanted to play, run around, and not eat. And so she had a hard time getting us to sit down and eat, and caring for the little ones. So oftentimes we would just stay in the barracks and my father would bring home the food for us and we would eat there in the barracks.

VY: So you guys stayed together as a family unit, it sounds like.

HH: Uh-huh, fortunately, yes.

VY: That's nice. Do you remember... you may not remember, but was your family housed among other families with small children?

HH: I know our neighbor, they were an older couple with three boys, but they were young men. And my youngest sister would always go over to their home, she practically lived there because it was Ojiichan and Obaachan to her, and they really took care of her and took her everywhere they went. They took her on walks, and they would walk her to movie nights, we would have movie nights in the camp and they would take her. So she had friends and we went with them all. It was just so carefree and fun, and we would take our little wooden slatted chairs and go to the movies outdoor, and they hung a sheet out there. It was just like an outdoor movie, it was just very fun.

VY: That's interesting, isn't it, that as children, you and your siblings had time to play and have a childhood, and then when I hear you describe what your parents did, they both worked very hard just to kind of keep things going throughout the day. So it's kind of interesting, the child's perspective.

HH: They just let us play and just be ourselves, and spend as much time as they could after to give us a normal childhood as they could.

VY: Is there anything else about camp that you remember before we leave Poston?

HH: Not really.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

VY: Okay. So after Poston, where did you and your family go?

HH: We moved to Lawndale because they had acreage there. My mother had no background in working as far as a career or skills. My father, the only thing he could do at that point was, we didn't have a truck or anything to start hauling vegetables again, so he started farming, and it was the beginning of learning how to farm and just starting a new life completely all over again. And when we came back, a friend, our neighbor, had said that they would take care of our suitcases and all our boxes of goods that we were not able to take to camp. But when we came back, we went into that barn, and I remember my mother crying because everything was broken in to. There were just a few broken dishes, empty boxes all torn apart, there was nothing there. And so all her wedding gifts, I know she was just heartbroken to come back to that.

VY: So your parents worked a farm. Did they own the farm?

HH: No, they rented it. This was in Lawndale, and I don't know how, but they really worked very hard and I guess really saved their money, and were able to put a down payment on property in Torrance after a few years, 10 acres in Torrance. But my father, again, started getting really sick and he ended up in the hospital. And I remember my mother called for us to come to the hospital to visit my dad, so a friend took us there and he was gone. But she wanted us to see him for the last time, so we did. And I remember being outside that hospital just crying because we didn't have a father anymore. It was very hard for us. I was the eldest, my brother was in kindergarten, and we were all outside the room, all four of us, just crying away.

VY: How old were you?

HH: I was... let's see, I guess I was probably about seven, and my brother was in kindergarten, he was about five or younger, about four.

VY: So you all lost your father.

HH: Yeah, and it was, I think, very difficult for my brother, who was the youngest, the only boy in the family, lost someone who took him, early in the morning they would just go to the pier, Redondo Beach pier and they would go fishing. They would do a lot together, just having the two together. My father had a cardboard and he had wound lots of string around it, and they would go fishing and drop that string, and that's how they went fishing, but he came home with fish.

VY: They caught fish? Did you cook them up and eat them?

HH: I think so, I don't remember too much about it, but we did eat a lot of fish anyway, that was pretty much our diet.

VY: Well, so after that, your mom kept the farm, is that right?

HH: Well, she had to decide what to do. And here she was, a woman without a husband now. Four small kids, what do I do? She can't speak English, she had no other career except for the four kids. And so she decided to keep that farm, and so in a few months we moved to Torrance (in 1951) and she bought an old house in Gardena, had it moved to the farm in Torrance.

VY: Had the house moved?

HH: We didn't have a house, because it was just farm acreage in Torrance. And so she had bought an old house and they had it moved to Torrance, and that's where we grew up, on the farm.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

VY: So do you have memories of working on the farm as a child?

HH: Oh, yes, we worked very, very hard, helping my mom whenever we could. Of course, our schoolwork was always first. Every day it was benkyo shinasai, "study, study, study," benkyo shinasai. She just wanted us to do our very best, and so we did, we did our very best we could. Not straight-As all the time, but we did our very best. She bought encyclopedia books, Britannica, she bought sets of it to make sure we would books to do research with. And she would take us, no matter how busy she was, if we had to go to the library, she would stop, take us to the library to study. We were all very active, she would take us to our school activities. My brother, the youngest, he started walking all the way from Torrance to Palos Verdes country club and caddy for the golfers to earn extra money. And that was miles up the hill to Palos Verdes, and then he would walk home. And the money he saved, he would give to us to go to college when we were going to college. He would give me some money for college expenses, and he helped on the farm by driving the tractor. But after that, I think it tapered off where he was more of a teenager and just started playing around, but he helped. My mother did the plowing, the cultivating, harnessing the horse and cultivating the soil. I don't know how she did it, and she would plow and make rows and rows on these acres of farm. And we would help her by, she would plant cauliflower and we would drop the seedlings along the row, and one of us would come around and put the seedling into the soil and she would help irrigate all night long, she was just a worker.

VY: Had she done any of that before?

HH: No.

VY: So she just figured it out.

HH: It was something she had to do, she had no choice. And she did hire a Mexican worker to come and help her.

VY: Just one person?

HH: Uh-huh. And so he would do the plowing.

VY: Was it a big farm? Did you sell the vegetables?

HH: Ten acres. Ten acres of romaine and cauliflower. Yeah, she did it herself. She is an amazing woman. And even whenever she had the time, she would sew clothes for us, I can't believe all she did, and cook. We started cooking early, too, to help around the house. And I remember when we were all working, my brother would even fix lunch for us, because he was the youngest.

VY: It sounds like you all learned by example, she was such a hard worker and so devoted to her family, and you all learned that kind of work ethic from her.

HH: Right, we just had to work together. We had piano lessons and she bought a piano for us, had us take lessons.

VY: It must have been a very successful farm.

HH: Yeah, she made enough money to support herself. But when she sold the property, because the land was worth a lot by the time she retired, and when we got out of college, that's when she stopped.

VY: So when was that?

HH: In '62.

VY: So she worked that farm for a good (ten) years.

HH: Uh-huh. But then the sad part happens after that. Because after she sold the farm, then we had people that were interested in borrowing money from her.

VY: Because they knew she had money from selling the farm?

HH: Yeah, because then he was the, I guess, the broker kind of like, so he knew she had the money after she sold the property, and that's when he asked to borrow the money to invest in apartments. He was a builder, developer, and he built all these apartment complexes. So we would go drive all the way to Camarillo to go look at the property and my mother was so proud that she owned the apartment. But he was managing it, and lost everything. And so my mother was left with nothing after all her hard work, after all that working and selling the property.

VY: That's so awful. So she never got her money back?

HH: Never got her money back. Never got her money back, and so we had her live with us. And I just cherished those years that she was able to spend with us because we traveled every summer.

VY: What kinds of things did you do with your mom?

HH: We took her to... because she never traveled.

VY: Didn't have time. [Laughs]

HH: She was always working, working and so we took her to Arizona, wherever we would go, to Grand Canyon, to Monument Valley, to Oregon, to Washington, wherever we went, and she just absolutely loved it. We had a camper with a bubble top, and we would camp out, and she just thoroughly enjoyed all those years. And then, later on, she started traveling.

VY: By herself?

HH: With groups and group tours, and she would save her money.

VY: Did her English get better over time?

HH: No. [Laughs] 'Cause she relied on us entirely. All through high school, grammar school, I did all the translation for her.

VY: So your Japanese was pretty good?

HH: No, unfortunately, it's very broken. We were able to communicate and understand each other, but if I really wanted to say something to her, if I was really mad about something, I couldn't really express it the way I wanted to, it was kind of on an elementary level. But we understood each other and was able to have that emotional connection where we emotionally supported each other.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

VY: I want to talk more about your mom. I want to talk a little bit more about your earlier years, too. Like, for instance, before your father died, do you have any memories of things that you did as a family, say, on the weekends?

HH: We went to Japanese school on the weekends, on Saturday. And with Japanese school came a lot of Japanese school picnics, Japanese school programs, Christmas programs, speech contests. My mother supported us and helped us do our homework and supported us all through school. And we did very well in Japanese. Not right now, but at that time during school time, she was able to help us with memorizing and reading. And so when Saturday came, we were all ready for school with our homework completed.

VY: It sounds like education was very, very important. How about Sundays? What did you do on Sundays?

HH: Well, Saturdays after Japanese school was our favorite time, because she would always take us shopping. Because after Saturday when we would come home, she would take us to Old Torrance, and we would be able to buy things at the five and ten, dime store, and buy little trinkets and things for ourselves. So Saturdays were really fun. Sundays, I can't really remember that much except for that we played a lot, and my mother, I think my parents kept working even on Sundays a lot of times.

VY: Did you have a family day, or were there times when, it was time set aside for you as a family to go maybe on an excursion, go to the beach?

HH: And I think that's what we did on Sunday a lot of times. We would go visit friends in L.A. or San Pedro or Long Beach. We would go on picnics, lot of picnics, go to the beach and just relax with the family.

VY: Do you remember what the beach was like? Was there like a certain section you were supposed to go to?

HH: You know what? I don't remember that part because we didn't go there really to play, but it was mostly to go to the pier and go fishing.

VY: I see. Well, how about your friends and neighbors? Were there a lot of other farmers in your area?

HH: Because we lived on the farm, there were farmers living next door, some with families, children our age, so we used to play a lot, run around the farmhouse, we would play Annie-Annie-Over with the horseshoe. And I remember I was waiting for the horseshoe to come down, and there it went, right on my head and made a hole in my head. That was a thing that happened, that they had to rush me to the emergency to get treated for that. I remember we used to play on the stacks of crates that my parents used to crate all the vegetables after they cut them, they'd crate them and stack them up while we went. I went climbing, I was a real tomboy, and I'm always the one that, seems like, got hurt because I was a tomboy. But I climbed to the top of the stack of crates and I said, "Okay, when I count to ten, push the crates, and I'm going to fly down." [Laughs] I thought I was superwoman, supergirl. So anyway, they did, and I went crashing down with the crates and slid across the ground on the dirt, gravel and dirt. I skinned the whole side of my face and broke my arm, and my bone was protruding out, and so I was taken to the hospital again. So, yeah, we did all kinds of things like that. I remember box springs from the bed leaning against the barn. We used to climb on those, and we used to just jump, put our feet down on those springs and just go up and down. I remember my little brother and sister always playing Mama and Papa, and they would carry an old handbag and let's go shopping, and they would go up and down those springs. So we did a lot of (things) like that. And since we were going to the picnics, we would always practice. So we would practice the three-legged race, we would tie our legs together and we would practice. And of course we would be, my sister and I would always win first place because we were so fast, we were coordinated, and we would practice running, so we would end up being first on the races and win those prizes at the picnics.

VY: It sounds like you were very competitive. [Laughs]

HH: Yes, we were.

VY: It sounds like a lot of fun.

HH: Yeah, we had a lot of fun.

VY: What else did you do at the picnics? What kinds of food did you eat at the picnics?

HH: Oh, it was always teriyaki chicken, nigiri, rice balls, and pickles, otsukemono, just typical Japanese food, potato salad, except for potato salad. [Laughs]

VY: And how many people would be there at those picnics?

HH: Oh, there would be just the whole place, the park would be packed with people, with their blankets, and there would be so many games, I mean, we just looked forward to the games.

VY: How about your neighbors and the other farmers? Were they also Japanese American?

HH: Uh-huh.

VY: Mostly?

HH: Yes.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

VY: And when you went into town, like when your mom took you into town on the days to go shopping, what was that like? Were the stores owned by, what was sort of like the ethnic makeup of shopkeepers?

HH: It was Torrance. Torrance was basically a white community. We were just, in my class, we were just a handful of Japanese families. It was just mainly Caucasians.

VY: How did you feel? Did you feel different or accepted or just not think about it?

HH: I didn't really think too much about it. I knew I was different. But the kids really accepted me. We were quite active, like I said, in activities in school, clubs and so forth, so we were officers and we were just quite active in the service clubs. However, I do remember when we were going to Japanese school one day, we had to take the bus because sometimes my parents were too busy working. So we took the bus, and when we got on, I remember this old lady dressed in black, and she was just really old and she got on the bus. And when she saw us, she just gave us the scariest look. She said, "Get these Japs off the bus. Get them off." And she kept yelling that really loud. We were, of course, frightened, and we didn't know what to do, and so we sat there crying, and the bus driver told her to get off.

VY: Told the woman to get off?

HH: Uh-huh, that she needed to take another bus. And she wouldn't. She sat down there and just kept yelling at us. So he drove to the main bus station in Gardena and they took her off, and then he took us to Japanese school, language school, so that was the end of that day. That's all I remember about it.

VY: It made an impression.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

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.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 10>

VY: Okay, so you went to UCLA, and then what? What did you graduate in?

HH: General elementary credential.

VY: And then did you become a schoolteacher?

HH: Yes.

VY: What grades did you teach?

HH: I went into Torrance, went back to Torrance to teach, and that was nice to be back where I graduated from. But it was... I don't know if I should say this, but it was mostly because I felt my education didn't really prepare me for UCLA, and I wanted to make sure that these kids were prepared for higher academics. And it probably was just me, but I didn't feel I was prepared for college. Because all our exams were all true and false.

VY: When you were in...

HH: In high school. And I never had to write an essay question, we never had essay questions. Or we never really had to write papers that required critical thinking. It was just type something from, plagiarizing, practically. I mean, I didn't really use my head and was required to submit papers like that, or have class assignments that required me to write papers. All I did was just, I shouldn't say, but I was not a very... because I wasn't trained that way.

VY: So the education in that area at the time...

HH: At that time, at that time. But it was, I know my sister, younger sister, had a far better education as far as having to do more critical thinking and writing essays and things. But I wasn't challenged in that way.

VY: That's interesting. So you wanted to go back and challenge your students in a way that you had not been challenged.

HH: I mean, when I went back to school, it was just all a lot about discussion, what do you think? What would you do? What do you predict? I mean, it was more getting them to think and write about it. Taking the newspaper and writing an article about it and just really finding out more in depth about what this article was about, and just write, write, write, every single day I had them write, write, write. And I thought that was just really important, which was lacking in my education. And we had a lot of discussions, too.

VY: What kinds of things did you like to challenge your students about? What topics?

HH: Well, whatever we were talking about, whether it was Martin Luther King day or whatever we were talking about, "What would you do and why?" The whys. How do you think it should be? Instead of who, what, when, where, but the whys and hows, getting them to express their ideas. I thought that was real critical.

VY: You taught for many years. Did you keep in touch with many of your students later on, or did any of them come back to keep in touch?

HH: Oh, yes. And they would invite me out to lunch, and they would get together now that they're in college, let me know what they are doing. Their parents had been very supportive. They would remember me and come by during Christmas or drop something off. They would just remember me and appreciate what I did with their kids and how I might have helped them. And they were always keeping me up on the news of the kids.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

VY: How many years did you teach?

HH: Forty-two years, forty-two years.

VY: Were you in the same area the whole time?

HH: Uh-huh, same area in Torrance. It has changed a lot, the population, the demographics.

VY: Well, talk about that a little bit. So you've been in Torrance for almost your whole life. So what kind of changes have you seen there?

HH: Oh, my goodness. When we moved there, we were, like in my high school class, there were just probably, I can count the families on one hand out of my class of a couple hundred. But now, I wouldn't be surprised if almost three quarters of them are of some Asian extraction.

VY: And how about, have you seen changes geographically in the area? Like going from less farm to more city?

HH: Yeah. Because where we lived on Hawthorne Boulevard is now a major highway that cuts across all the cities or thoroughfare, Hawthorne. It's just all commercial buildings all along Hawthorne, lot of tract home, beautiful homes. Even where we farmed, very upper middle class, foothills of Palos Verdes, it's just a very, very nice area. And that's where I live right now, and I love it. The facilities are great, the recreation, what they offer to the citizens, lots of wonderful things, classes and a lot of good things for the kids as well.

VY: Yeah, the area's really transformed. How do you think that affected people at the time, for instance, maybe the farm owners? Do you think they did okay then? Do you think people were ready to kind of transition out of farming?

HH: Well, the people that lived, there were a lot of big farmers, and they continued farming. They bought lots of acreage in Ventura and Camarillo. And yeah, a lot of them...

VY: Kept going.

HH: ...have continued and a lot of them have gotten out of it and have a very successful life now.

VY: Okay, so you think the smaller farmers maybe sold their farms, and the bigger farmers maybe bought some of the smaller farms?

HH: No, they bought new farms.

VY: New farms.

HH: And then the smaller ones sold to developers, because it's all commercial and tract homes now. Torrance has no farmland now.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

VY: Okay, let's see. So let's talk about your life as you transitioned from being a schoolteacher to an artist. How did that come about, and when did you start taking art classes?

HH: Well, in 1989 I saw an ad for a one-day workshop in Palos Verdes, and that's close to where I live. And it was given by a Japanese artist. No, I think it was in Torrance Recreation, a one-day workshop with Henry Fukuhara.

VY: Did that seem unusual, that it was a Japanese artist?

HH: Yes, yes. And I thought, "Wow, I'd love to take this class," it was a one-day workshop. And I went and he was just so pleased to have me in his class, he says, "Why don't you come and paint with us once a month when I go take out a group for outdoor painting?" And so I did, and he really encouraged me, I mean, there was a special bonding that occurred and he was just fatherly, like missing my long-gone father. He just wrote me letters every week encouraging me to read this book, that book, and every time I went out on a Paint Out with them once a month, he would bring me a stack of books and he says, "Go through these books," and he was just so encouraging. If there was a show, he would call me and say, "Make sure you go see this show," or, "Go to this gallery," or, "Come to Santa Monica and see this show." And so I continued to go to his classes when he was teaching at the Emeritus in Santa Monica, and he was the one that guided me through all the ins and outs of the art world. He introduced me to all the very international and very significant watercolorists, and just introduced me, encouraged me to take their classes and so I did. I did pretty much everything.

VY: Sounds like he really took you under his wing and mentored you.

HH: Yes, he did, yes. I was very fortunate.

VY: So tell me again, what year did you, or around what time was that?

HH: This was in 1989 and then that's when my first encounter with Henry, and after that, he did this once a month. And then he started, a few years later he started his Manzanar Paint Outs.

VY: Talk about those, what was that like, and what was the motivation for doing those?

HH: So he invited his group of students to go to Manzanar, so we went there for the weekend, and he would do a demo of Mt. Whitney or go to the Manzanar site, and he would paint there. And then he'd let us go off on our own and paint, and at maybe two o'clock, we would gather together and we critique, we would put all our paintings against the buildings at the visitor center. And we would sit out there and he would crit our work, and that was quite an experience. He was a very good teacher, very good teacher. He gave his demonstration, he was so carefree, he flung his brushes around and he was just really very, very loose. It was amazing what he can do with those few splashes, and they would really register into something emotional, great painting.

VY: How many students would be on these trips?

HH: It first began with our small group of about eight to ten. And gradually through the years, it came to over a hundred. People from all over, I mean, it was word of mouth, people coming from up north, San Luis Obispo, and just everywhere.

VY: Was it primarily art students, or was it just kind of anybody?

HH: It was art students, watercolorists from all over, because he was well-known in our area, plus other areas inland, towards mid-valley, which would be Pomona, Arcadia, he was just well-known, because he taught in Santa Monica as well. And they all flock to be in this group.

VY: How often would the Paint Outs happen?

HH: Once a month.

VY: Do you know why he picked Manzanar?

HH: Because that's where he was incarcerated. He was there, but he never talked about it. He never made it a political theme or political... he just never talked about it, but he just painted the scenery, what was there. I mean, I think that was politically, just to paint the scene, and people going to the site and seeing what it's about. I think it was the first experience for many, many people.

VY: Do you think most of the people that participated in the Paint Outs understood what Manzanar was?

HH: Yes. Yeah, I think they all understood, because they visited the site, went to the museum, read about it, and they know his family was incarcerated there. And they were older, educated group of students. So they knew what happened.

VY: Let's see, what other kinds of art media have you done?

HH: I tried working with acrylics. I love all kinds of art, sculpture, I used to do just anything. I used to just have my kids do blocks of plaster of paris and do sculptures, and do wire sculptures and wood sculptures, and going to the lumberyard and getting all their lumber, and they would build beautiful sculptures. They would sit out when they were through with their work, they would sit outside our classroom and there was this huge tree, and they would sit and draw the branches of the freeway of branches, they just covered a whole page of beautiful paintings. They were so good. Kids have a lot of natural talent if you just ask them to go and study it and try to draw what they see. Did some beautiful work.

VY: Makes me think about your stories of your dad when you talk about that kind of artwork, too.

HH: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

VY: How about... let's talk about your mom, because she was with you for a long time, and it sounds like she also influenced your art in a different way.

HH: Mainly through encouragement and giving me feedback.

VY: Was she very supportive of your artwork?

HH: Definitely. She enjoyed them so much, to see the process, which is going to the places, because she loved traveling, visiting and seeing what becomes of what's out there. Unfortunately she wouldn't try, but I would really have loved to have seen her, but she just had a hard time with it.

VY: What kind of places did you take her to, to paint with, to have her be with you when you were painting?

HH: All over Santa Monica, to the mountains, to the beaches, inland. Santa Monica, even along Redondo Beach, Pomona, just everywhere. We would go just everywhere.

VY: And she would sit with you while you were painting?

HH: Yes, or she would just watch others, she would go to Manzanar, too.

VY: To the Paint Outs?

HH: Uh-huh, Paint Outs, and she just enjoyed sitting there, just observing how everyone approaches their artwork. Just enjoying being out there, just falling asleep in the sun, and finding everyone had dispersed and gone someplace, she's still sitting there. And people would come say, "Mary, your mom is sitting out there alone in the sun." [Laughs] I go, "Oh, okay."

VY: And she went with you, too, to some of the camps as well, right? Did you go visit?

HH: Yes, when they had their pilgrimage to Manzanar, I would take her whenever they had their pilgrimage, when she was alive.

VY: Did you go to any of the other camps?

HH: Yes. Not with her, because she was gone, but after we went to Heart Mountain several times, to Minidoka, to Tule Lake, Amache, and we went to Poston.

VY: Was your mom still around?

HH: No, she was gone by this time. And those, pretty much all of them except for Rohwer and... what's the other one? Rohwer and... my mind just...

VY: Yeah, it just went out of my head, too. Jerome.

HH: Jerome, yes. Thank you. [Laughs]

VY: Well, why do you think you went to visit all these camps and to paint? What was kind of driving you to do that?

HH: Yeah, the connection, what I experienced, but they were all the same, in desolate, faraway places, not really that different, same barracks.

VY: I feel like you were trying to maybe understand where you came from a little bit, or your childhood a little bit more?

HH: Yeah, just trying to understand that period, and where we were sent and why were we sent there? Just making a connection, connecting the dots.

VY: It seems like that work inspired you to do a lot of paintings related to that time in history, and you have a whole series about it. Can you talk a little bit that, the EO 9066 series of your paintings?

HH: I know the first one I did... I'd like to get the painting if you don't mind, or can we do it later?

VY: Yeah, we'll do that later. So, okay, we'll save that for later, because it would be great to talk about that. So, okay, getting back to your mom, she would come with you to travel and to paint, and she went with you to Manzanar. Did that ever cause her to talk about anything in that time, or did she just never want to talk about it?

HH: Just little bits here and there, but not anything really substantial. When I did do a painting and ask her, she would just tighten up. I mean, the look on her face and the anguish, it was just like, "I don't want to talk about it, hanashitakunai." And she just didn't want to talk about it. But if I asked her about different things about the camp, the mess hall, I'm sure she would have freely talked about things. But I don't know, there's a lot of regrets in my life where I wish I would have asked her and spent more time with her asking her those questions. But you get so busy in your life raising those (two) kids, because my husband wasn't around, so I was raising those kids myself. He was really sick. And I wish I would have spent more time just holding her hand, say, "Okaasan, let's go. Tell me about this." I wish I would have done that, so that's a big regret on my part.

VY: It sounds, though, like you did spend a lot of time with her, though, just being with her and traveling with her.

HH: Yeah, and she was just always so appreciative. Always, "Arigatai," she would just say, "Arigato," this is all she would say. She was just, loved traveling and seeing new things, and to continue to learn about the American Indians, she was just so fascinated with everything, even the different scenery, the different lakes, it doesn't matter, the Blowhole, or whatever it was, she was always amazed.

VY: Do you think she was proud of you?

HH: I think she was, but she was one never to express that. But I'm sure she was.

VY: I'm sure she was, too.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

VY: Is there anything that you'd like to talk about that we haven't touched upon yet?

HH: No, but my mantra has always been, in school, do your best. Do your best. In high school and college, when I thought I was going to be kicked out, do your best, do your best. I just kept doing my best, and somehow I was able to graduate and do my best, even in teaching and just maintain a good group of students who remember me and would write, let me know that they still think very highly of what happened and their education and what was offered.

VY: It sounds like you have done your best.

HH: I hope so. [Laughs] I try, even with my kids, I try, but it's not easy, but they seem to be very appreciative. They call all the time and they invite me out to dinner, and they fix special food, love experimenting with food and say, "Come on over, join us." And a grandson who I dearly, dearly love.

VY: How many children and grandchildren do you have?

HH: I have only one grandchild, and my two kids, and they truly mean so much to me. They were both adopted, and my grandson was adopted.

VY: Where were they adopted from?

HH: My children from Japan, my grandson here, in the United States. But truly, they are my kids, they really, really have been a big part of my life.

VY: I can tell.

HH: And I want to continue this. This is why it's important for me to take them to Manzanar and go to a pilgrimage and know a little more about it rather than just reading a paragraph or two in the textbook in high school. I don't think there was even a paragraph devoted to it when they were going to high school. And it wasn't really talked about, so I wanted them to go there and see, and that's why I did those paintings, it's for them.

VY: Okay, well, I think we will take a break and then we'll talk about the paintings. But before we do that, I want to thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story.

HH: You're welcome. It's good to do this, because otherwise, if you just keep it hidden, it's gone forever.

VY: Absolutely.

HH: And this way, it refreshes my memory. And I'm sure I'll go home and say, "Oh no, I forgot to say this or that, tell them about this." But you can't expect very much out of me nowadays. My mind is going quickly. So thank you.

VY: Thank you so much, Mary.

HH: You're welcome.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

VY: Okay, Mary, thank you for bringing these paintings today, and we're going to look at a few of these and if you could just about them and what they represent and why you painted them. And here's the first one, what is this called?

HH: This is called Sayonara Okaasan. I painted this when my mother was almost gone. I mean, she was pretty much gone by this time. I painted it because, during these last hours, we were always holding her hand. She would not let go, on the side of the bed, we sat next to her and all the kids took turns holding her hand and talking to her, telling her, "Thank you, Okaasan, thank you. Arigato, Okaasan." We talked about our life together, and all the wonderful things she did for us. This is how she was at this time, before she left us.

VY: This is a very beautiful painting, Mary. I think anyone who has lost someone, whether it be a parent or a relative or a friend this way, can really feel very strongly, looking at this painting. It's beautiful.

HH: This was at the point where she just wasn't eating anymore, she was just all bones.


VY: Okay, Mary, can you tell us about this paining we're looking at now?

HH: This painting is called The Marble Players. Just shows kids that were incarcerated. They still liked playing their American pastimes, sports, of playing with marbles. The only thing that they could really carry that was small enough, carry to camps. And I remember this was hanging at the Palos Verdes art gallery, and a man who was incarcerated came up to it and looked at it and said, "There I am." He says, "I remember doing this every day after school, during recess, I did this every day. There I am." And he was just mesmerized by this painting. And, of course, it says, "Instructions to all persons of Japanese ancestry. The following instructions must be followed." And of course they ended up in this prison. And while imprisoned there, every day when they went to school, they had to say, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," and I did this in a child-like handwriting. But there's the barracks and the guard tower, and the children enjoying their favorite game of marbles. And even I played marbles. I had the boulders and everything and we used to play all the time, draw that circle in the sand and shoot for the marbles. And we used to be really good at this, and even the girls played as well as the boys.


VY: Okay, Mary, can you tell us about this painting here?

HH: Yes, this is one of my very first paintings, painting about the camps. I drew painted barracks and the guard tower. And I asked my mom, "What do you think?" "Okaasan, what do you think?" And she said, "Hanashitakunai, Hatsuko, hanashitakunai." "I don't want to talk about it, please, I don't want to talk about it." So I said, "Okaasan, can you write it for me?" So I gave her a piece of paper and pencil and she sat at the table writing it in Japanese, about camp. And I can't read it very clearly here, but it says, "Kyampu no koto omoidasu," makes her very sad, mainly because she thought about the children. What's going to happen to my children, kodomotachi? Kodomotachi, she said, "We would come home, and come home fighting and crying, and she said, "Watashi mo..." when we came home, she, herself, "Namida ga, boroboro," the tears came down her face as well. She just could not help crying, because all she kept thinking is, "What is going to happen to my children?" So after she told me the story, I painted the picture of her with these words, first the Japanese and then the English translation. And, of course my father and my mother's tags that they wore to the camp.

VY: Thank you.


VY: Okay, Mary, can you tell us about this painting, and who are the people in this painting?

HH: This is called Okaasan's Journey, my mother's journey. Here she is with her father, Tokujiro Suruki. She was born on May 17, 1916, to her mother, was Kinuko, I think, Kinuko Oshite. There she is, her antique car. This is the actual car, toy car that she was riding in, I had a photo of that. And when she was born, her mother died soon after she gave birth. And her father raised her 'til she was three, and then couldn't do it any longer, so he asked her aunt, my mother's... actually, my mother was raised by this aunt, the Oshites, and here my mother is three years old in Japan being raised by her aunt in Japan. And when she was twenty-one, she came back to America. She was born in Santa Monica, California, but then she came back to America when she was twenty-one. She worked at the Van de Kamp tuna company, seafood company on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California, and here she is, and these are her friends from the cannery. And I was able to meet this one a couple years ago at the Terminal Island picnic, and she remembered my mom. And I think I met one other, I think it was this one, the first one, I met her the year before. But they were able to tell me something about my mom. After she married my father, Goro Yoshioka, he was an Issei from Kagoshima, Japan. My mother was from Wakayama, Japan.

After a few years, they had two children, myself, Hatsuko, the firstborn, and then my sister Etsuko. And here's Hatsuko and Etsuko. We were incarcerated in Poston, Arizona. And my father is not in this painting because I didn't have a picture of him because he was working mostly as a cook in the camps. So this is Poston, Arizona, where we were incarcerated. And then this is a family picture of us, my sister Etsuko, Mitsuko, Hatsuko, me, my mother, and everyone thought we were sisters. [Laughs] And then my brother Tetsuo. We called him Tebo, poor Tebo, he was the only boy. I think it was very hard for him just to have girls around all the time. But anyway, that was our family, because my father had died soon after we came home from camp. So my mother raised basically the four of us through grammar school, high school and college. She sent all of us to college. Somehow we managed, but we all worked hard, working during the summer earning money to pay for our tuition and everything. And my brother, he was able to go to SC because he had the GI Bill. And the three girls graduated from UCLA.

VY: Mary, I'm curious, how long did it take you to paint that?

HH: I don't know. It's a bigger sheet, a full sheet of watercolor, so it probably took me a good week just painting.

VY: Only a week, okay.

HH: Yeah, well, 'cause that's all I did was devote myself to the painting.

VY: Thank you.


HH: This painting is called Naive Newcomers. The subject matter of these people, they were taken from a photo I had of my brother's funeral. He had died maybe a couple years before we were incarcerated, and it was a funeral picture with his casket, with the family, my mother, my sister, me, and my father. And these were all our friends and relatives that were in, at the funeral. I still remember many of them. But since it was taken a few years before we were incarcerated, they were all incarcerated together in different camps, I don't know exactly where they ended up. I portrayed them at a camp with the barracks and the guard tower. And it's called Naive Newcomers because not knowing what was going to happen to them or where they were going, they, of course, dressed up. They were dressed in their Sunday best. Boarding a train with the shades drawn and being so hot on that train. And when they'd come to the place, imagine what a surprise it was to see these tarpaper barracks. The soldiers with guns pointing at them. So this was going to be our new home, desolate, deserted, hot, desert-like. The heat in Arizona could be 120 to 130 degrees during the summer at Poston, and the day we arrived, it was 126 degrees. I found that out when I went to Poston, Arizona, pilgrimage, and a man that had gone the same time we did, from Reedley, told me it was 126 degrees.


HH: This picture, painting, is called Woebegone. It comes from a photograph I saw of my mother when she was about three years old being sent to Japan, of course, looking so sad, not knowing what's going to happen, what's in the future, being alone. She was with my dad, her dad, but he couldn't raise her any longer, so she was being sent to be raised by her aunt. So Mayeda was her maiden name, and these are the products that I saw that were selling at that time in the 1940s, White King detergent, and Gabrielle chocolates. And her name Mayeda with her suitcase ready to go. And I put her in the picture, painting, because that's how old I would have been going into camp.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.