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-1000-458-9

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: Now, in the fall, this is now, you would be starting sixth grade, right?

HK: When we got there in late August, early September, they had to set up schools. And so when I got put in the schools, then I was put in sixth grade.

BN: Can you tell us about that? I mean, how far away was it from where you were?

HK: Well, (for) the sixth grade, I think the camp administration picked out five different barracks scattered all around the camp for elementary schools. And it turns out, luckily for me, one of the elementary schools was in Block 28. And so I only had to walk a half a block to go to sixth grade. And so the Heart Mountain barracks had six rooms, so apparently they used each room for a different grade. And so I can remember my sixth grade was in one of the big rooms, in barrack (number) 6. And so all I can remember is we had benches up all along (three sides) of the room. So the middle of the room was open for the teacher to talk and have any different activities. And so I don't recall much about activities or what we did, but that was my sixth grade.

BN: And do you remember your teacher?

HK: I do not recall my teacher. I don't know if it was an outside teacher or if it was one of the incarcerees.

BN: Then going forward, you would have gone to seventh and eighth grade also in camp, and was that in a different place now? Because this is middle school.

HK: During the year, during the first year, they started building a six year high school. So the first year, students, seventh grade to twelfth, had to go to one of the barracks. Half a block was used as a six year high school for the first year, but the second and third year, we had a brand new six year high school built right in the middle of the camp, so that was a nice facility.

BN: And you did go there later?

HK: I went to that new high school for grades seven and eight.

BN: Now, what did your parents do in camp? Did they take on jobs?

HK: My mother worked in the mess hall, so she was out in the eating area, so I guess like a waitress or help people or whatever, she worked in that Block 28 mess hall. My father became a policeman in the camp, so he was part of the Heart Mountain police force. And he never mentioned what he did. I have a group picture of the police force and he's on there. Probably whenever they had an event and the Heart Mountain police force was just there to try to keep organization, keep it organized.

BN: And your brother's three years older, so he's, what, fifteen, sixteen?

HK: So he went into camp when he was around thirteen.

BN: So did he or your parents or even other relatives leave the camp to do farmwork on the outside that many people did?

HK: Even my older brother, he remembers, probably on the second or the third year, he said he got a chance to go. And he went and picked sugar beets or whatever. I think he was in Idaho. So he has some memory of doing that. And I think my uncle, Tamura, I think he went out and did some farmwork outside of camp.

BN: Now, in terms of what else you did, can you talk about... I know sports became a big part of your life, but other things? And we'll get to the Boy Scouts, but maybe starting with getting involved in sports there.

HK: Oh, you mention that, yeah, that actually started in the sixth grade, so they started schools in the sixth grade, and somebody decided one activity would be good for sixth graders to have a football league between the five elementary schools. This is tackle football on the ground, that hard ground with (...) rocks in it. And so we played tackle football during that first winter amongst the five elementary schools. It was not eleven man football, probably seven or eight man football. I don't know who decided to do that, but that was one of my beginning areas of playing sports, we played football as a sixth grader.

BN: How did you do?

HK: [Laughs] You had to ask that question. Block 28, 6th grade was the worst team. There's five schools, so we played four games. So we played three games and I think we got slaughtered for the first three games. And the last game was scheduled against the best team. And the best team was the best team because they had one sixth grader that was, looked like twice as big as anybody else, Yuk Nakasako. And so what happened? They cancelled our last game because they thought maybe some of our guys would get hurt trying to tackle that Nakasako. But that was the beginning of my sports part of Heart Mountain.

BN: Later on, what other sports did you get involved with?

HK: Well, I played a lot of softball, and so that got me into the baseball, and that became a big part of my life later. And when they built that new six year high school, during the last two years, that included a very nice gymnasium, and so I got to play there. There were sometimes where we would wake up early in the morning, before sunrise, and somehow somebody was able to open up the gymnasium and we'd go in there and play basketball early in the morning, so I got to play basketball, too.

BN: And is this kind of organized or more informal?

HK: My recollection was just informal. I do not recall, for me anyway, playing in any league or organized games during my last two years.

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