Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hal Keimi Interview
Narrator: Hal Keimi
Interviewers: Brian Niiya (primary), Emily Anderson (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 5, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-458-18

<Begin Segment 18>

BN: And then were you involved with, like, NAU and those kinds of leagues at this time, or was that later on?

HK: No. During that time, somehow I was able to connect with that Bill Shishima again.

BN: Where did Bill go to high school?

HK: Where? He went to Belmont.

BN: Okay, where you should have been.

HK: So if I had gone to Belmont, I would have seen him, but then, I didn't go to Belmont. But anyway, somehow I found out about him, and he was playing basketball. And that was connected with Troop 379, because the 379 Scoutmaster was a local plumber, Sus Igawa, and he had plumbing shop there right on First Street, Su Plumbers. And so Igawa sponsored a basketball team called Su Plumber, and Bill was on the team. And when I connected with Bill, I joined the team, so I was on the same team with Bill for several years.

BN: And wait, this is which sport?

HK: This is basketball.

BN: Basketball.

HK: So we started with the bottom league, which was, at that time they had a B league. And then we played and got good enough to join the A league, and played the A league for a few years and actually, our team got good enough, so we actually played one or two years in the double-A league, which was the top Japanese American league. We played double-A for a couple of years.

BN: You must have been good.

HK: Well, we were fair, but not as good as those other double-A teams.

BN: Who was better between you or Bill?

HK: What's that?

BN: Who was the better player between you and Bill?

HK: Oh, within the Su Plumbers?

BN: Uh-huh.

HK: Oh, Bill was the, for many years he was the best player, because he can shoot and he can score. But when we got better, especially when we got to double-A, we were able to pick up some other players. One was Jim Miyano, and he was a really good player. He's one of the best JA basketball players, and we had him on our team for, I don't know, a year or two before one of the other double-A teams took him away.

BN: Stole them? How many years did you continue to play?

HK: I don't know how many years.

BN: I mean, did you come back to it later after the army and so forth?

HK: Yeah, I don't know. Because the army was '52 to '54, I don't know. I don't think I continued the NAU after the army.

BN: And that time, was it, did you have to go to games all over town?

HK: With the NAU?

BN: Yeah.

HK: Well, wherever the high school was.

BN: Right, how did you get around? Did you have a car?

HK: By then, yeah, that's after the war, yeah, I think I had a car then, or we were able to carpool amongst the players.

BN: And then did you also, like, follow Major League Baseball and so forth as a fan?

HK: Yeah, because of what happened there in the camp there in '44 and '45.

BN: Yeah, since the Dodgers weren't in L.A. yet, who was your team?

HK: Oh, no, locally, on the West Coast, they had a league called the Pacific Coast League.

BN: PCL, right.

HK: So yeah, there were two teams in L.A., they were very big rivals, the Los Angeles Angels, the other one was the Hollywood Stars. And so I was a big Hollywood Star fan.

BN: You would go to the games?

HK: Yes. There was a group called the Knothole Gang, so if you joined that you'd get to sit in the bleachers for cheap prices, so I was part of that.

BN: Was that the era of... god, I'm drawing a blank on his name, the home run hitter?

HK: Steve Bilko?

BN: Steve Bilko.

HK: Yeah, Bilko's around, but he played for the Angels. I didn't like him.

BN: [Laughs] The rival.

EA: Hollywood all the way.

BN: He has his loyalties, as we've discovered. And then was it... was there a following for the other famous Japanese American athletes at the time, the Wally Yonamines, the Tommy Konos and so forth? Or were you just kind of focused on the mainstream stars?

HK: Well, the Japanese American athletes mainly, just the local ones. So basketball, so Herbie Sono and Jerry Chan, those were the big names for me.

BN: These are the local, stars of the local teams. Now, you graduated from Hollywood High. I think you had mentioned the graduation at the Hollywood Bowl, did you get to do that?

HK: Yes, that was one of the perks of Hollywood High. Because the Hollywood Bowl would get volunteers from Hollywood High to help out during, I think, they had an annual Easter sunrise ceremony at Hollywood Bowl, and Hollywood High would always give a whole bunch of volunteers. And as a reward, then Hollywood Bowl said, "Okay, you can use Hollywood Bowl for graduation," so, yeah, I graduated (at) Hollywood Bowl. But it was not a big deal for me because it's during the daytime, and my folks are not going to be able to come because they had to keep the shop going, so I went to my graduation all by myself.

BN: Anyone famous in your class?

HK: In my class, no, no movie stars.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.