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-1000-458-6

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BN: Now, even though you're at Santa Anita, it's the summer, but there was still kind of a makeshift school that went on there. Did you have to go to the school?

HK: Yes, they set up a school. And so I think for me, it was still the last part of my fifth grade. And so the school was in the grandstand, and I can recall they just set up some, like combination bench and tables, I can remember sitting there. And for whatever reason, I can remember Mr. Tan was our teacher, so I don't know if he was one of the incarcerees. I guess that was our teacher for a few months. The other part of the school was, I can remember one time for PE, the teacher or whoever said, "Okay, we're going to go play softball, and we're going to go play on the track, the racing track." So we go out on the racing track, and so we set up some kind of a softball diamond, and so we played softball. And what I can remember is if you hit the ball, the ball would hit the ground and maybe bounce once at the most and then it would just stop. Because if you ever get on a horserace track, the dirt area is really soft for the horses. And so not good for playing softball. I can remember, god, you hit the ball, and it just goes, sticks right in the ground. That's my recollection of Santa Anita softball.

BN: Do you remember other kinds of activities, the talent shows, performances, if there was a big festival, Fourth of July, that kind of thing?

HK: Okay, well, you mentioned talent shows. While we were in Hollywood, I don't know if my dad had any background, but anyway, he got my brother and I to cook up some kind of a comedy skit. And so we actually performed in Little Tokyo, there was a talent show in that building called the Yamato Hall. And so I remember we went up there and did our corny comedy routine. And so when we went to Santa Anita, I don't know how they found out that we had something like that in Little Tokyo, so they had a talent show in Santa Anita, and so we did the same thing in Santa Anita. I remember out in front of the grandstands, we went up and did our corny comedy routine.

BN: Was this in English or Japanese?

HK: In English.

BN: I hesitate to ask, but what was the nature of the routine?

HK: All I can remember is mostly comedy. We used to take tap dance lessons in Hollywood, so I don't know if we did any thirty-second dance routine. But mostly tell corny jokes, "Be careful if you eat a lot of beans. If you're gonna eat a lot of beans, you're going to have a lot of aftereffects, laying farts."

BN: Did you win any prizes from the talent show?

HK: The talent show? No, I don't remember receiving any awards.

BN: You mentioned the softball, but were there any kind of organized sports leagues or things like that that you participated in in Santa Anita?

HK: I did not, but I know there was some games, maybe softball, played. And they had a practice (racetrack) there at Santa Anita. And in the middle of the practice track, there was a large enough area to have, like a softball diamond. And so I know there were games played there, but I did not participate, I don't know if my brother did or not, because he's three years older than (me).

BN: At Santa Anita also, you're not far away from, I mean, it's on the outskirts of L.A. Did you ever have visitors or were your parents' friends from back in the old neighborhood who came to visit?

HK: Oh, okay. Yeah, I can remember one time, and I can't remember who it was that came to visit us, some Caucasian friends that were neighbors, they came and I can remember were standing on the inside of the fence that was, I think, along Huntington Drive. And I can remember talking to some friends through the fence this one time.

BN: Did they bring stuff for you or did you have to...

HK: Not that I know of, but with the fence there, I don't think we could pass anything through the fence.

BN: The other thing I always wonder about with the assembly centers is that -- because they're run by the army -- so people talked about searchlights and patrols and curfew and roll call. Do you remember those things at all?

HK: I don't recall anything about it. I've read stories about searchlights and actually the soldiers coming in like a bed check.

BN: Right. Because theoretically, there was supposed to be night and day kind of roll calls that were done. That was one of the things that sparked the riot, but you don't remember.

HK: I have no recall of any of that.

BN: [Addressing EA] Did you want to...

EA: Yeah. So do you remember there being any sort of Boy Scout or Scouting kind of activities in Santa Anita? Were you aware of anything?

HK: Scouting in Santa Anita, I did not see or hear anything about Scouting in Santa Anita.

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