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

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: Okay. We are here in Los Angeles interviewing Hal Keimi. It's Tuesday, February 5, 2019, and the interviewer is Brian Niiya along with Emily Anderson, and on the camera is Dana Hoshide, and on drums is... never mind. And we're very happy to have Hal with us today, and thank you for doing this. And we're going to start where we often do, with your parents, and a little bit of the family history that you know. And wanted to start with what you could tell us about your father.

HK: I don't know too much about my dad other than he came from Yamaguchi-ken in 1918. And when he came over, he came over actually as part of another family. I don't know if this is to avoid some of the immigration laws, but he was a Harada when he came over, so he joined the Harada family, which I think was related. And so he lived with them for, I don't know how long. The Harada was a farming family in Orange County. And so I don't know when or how he became a Keimi again.

BN: This isn't the Haradas, the Riverside Harold Harada family?

HK: Harold Harada is not familiar.

BN: Okay. But they were related to your dad in some way.

HK: To my dad. So they were farmers in Bellflower, Downey area, Artesia.

BN: Do you know about how old he was?

HK: Yes, he was born in '98, so he was twenty years old when he came. On my mother's side, all I know about her is that her parents came to California, and I'm just guessing also from Yamaguchi-ken, lived up in northern Cal. And so my mother was born up in northern Cal, and I heard her say that she was born in that little town of San Juan Bautista. And so when she was still grammar school age, her parents decided to go back to Japan, and by then, I guess apparently my mother became accustomed to the U.S., so she said she did not want to go back. So she was able to stay with somebody and so she stayed here in the U.S.

BN: About how old was she when her parents and the rest of the family...

HK: I do not know how old, but I'm guessing maybe somewhere in the grammar school age.

BN: So did you ever know your grandparents and other aunties and uncles on your mom's side?

HK: Nothing on my mother's side.

BN: Because they all, they went and they never came back?

HK: Correct. And I do not know how my mother got connected with my father.

BN: Did your father ever talk about why he came to the U.S.?

HK: He never mentioned it, I have no idea how or why.

BN: So did he then work on the farm of this Harada family?

HK: That I do not know what he did at the beginning, I know that he went to a school or training to try to become an auto mechanic, but apparently that did not follow through. Because eventually my parents got together, got married, and they started a dry cleaning business in Hollywood.

BN: And then where are you amongst the children?

HK: I have an older brother that was born in 1928, so he's three years older than myself.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

BN: And then when you were born, did they already have this dry cleaning business?

HK: When I was growing up, they already had it, so in '31 when I was born, I have no idea what they were doing.

BN: But as far as your own memory has always been...

HK: My early first memory is we had the dry cleaning business in Hollywood. And looking back on it, I wish I could have found out how it was for them because my brother and I were born during the Depression era, so boy, it had to be really tough on them to get by plus raising two kids during that time period. But they did it somehow.

BN: And then just to go back, just so we get this on the record, what was your father's name?

HK: Thomas, Tamotsu Keimi.

BN: Did he adopt the "Thomas" while in the U.S.?

HK: Oh, the "Thomas"? I do not know.

BN: And then what about your mother?

HK: Margaret Kimiko. Family name was Tamura.

BN: So you're born, the family has this laundry in Hollywood. What was the name of the business?

HK: It was a dry cleaning laundry business on Sunset Boulevard. And the storefront had a window, picture of a butterfly, so it was the Cho Cho Dye Works.

BN: Dye works.

HK: Yeah, Cho Cho Dye Works was the name of the shop.

BN: And then did your family live in the back?

HK: We lived in the back.

BN: Can you describe what you remember of the living area?

HK: The living area? Well, the front half was the store, the middle half was the sleeping area, and so there was two double beds, so my parents slept right next to my brother and I. And the back third was the kitchen and I can remember a big metal bathtub, and then a really small toilet room, one toilet and one basin. And there was a kitchen with a gas stove, and I can remember you had to get a match and light the match to light the burner in the gas stove, I can recall that. And that was the shop.

BN: And it's one story.

HK: One story.

BN: Do you remember the address or the cross street?

HK: It was a couple doors east of Sunset and Gower, 6093 Sunset Boulevard. I still remember.

BN: What do you remember about the neighborhood? Do you remember, like, other neighboring businesses, and what was kind of around that area at the time?

HK: Well, on the corner was a drugstore, and next door to our shop was a, it was a pool hall, which I just know it was there, never went in there. Next to that was an old railroad car that was transformed into a diner. And it was called King's Diner because Mr. King was the owner who lived about a block or two away. And that was right there on Sunset Boulevard. And I can remember going in there once or twice, I don't know, to get food for the family or whatever. Behind our shop was an Italian restaurant, and that again, I could recall, my parents or my mom would give me a big pot and said, "Go back there and get a pot full of spaghetti and bring it back for food." So that was the stores right in the immediate vicinity of Sunset and Gower.

BN: Did your family interact and kind of get along pretty well with the neighboring businesses, or did you kind of stick to yourselves?

HK: My memory is I think my family just stuck to themselves, although I think we knew the King family because they only lived a couple blocks away. And Sunset and Gower was known as "Gower Gulch," because in that area, there was, I guess some studios that were hiring actors, and it turned out that a lot of the cowboy actors that were looking for jobs would hang around in that intersection, so that's how it became Gower Gulch. And I think off and on, because some of our customers were some of those cowboy actors.

BN: Did you remember running into anyone kind of famous in coming into the laundry, or even that you would see on the streets?

HK: Oh, I can't recall his name, but I can remember there was one supposedly that we knew or heard of that were in a couple of movies, and offhand I can't recall his name.

BN: Now, in terms of the business part of the laundry/dry cleaning shop, like what was in the front part of it, the public part?

HK: In the shop? Well, you come in and there was a counter. And then directly behind the counter was a big hanger area where I guess my mom would take the clothes or hang, or the ones that were ready to be picked up. And immediately behind that was like a pressing machine where they would press the clothes. There was... what else? That took up the front part of the shop.

BN: And then they did the actual washing or dry cleaning in the back?

HK: No, the washing and the dry cleaning, no, that was shipped out because the shop was way too small for handling that.

BN: And then did they have employees, or was it just purely run by the family?

HK: Just my mother and father.

BN: Did you or your brother have to help out also?

HK: I did not do anything. I think they would not trust me.

BN: But your brother?

HK: No, I never saw him doing any of the work.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: Where did you go to school?

HK: The grammar school was, I would say, a quarter mile, maybe a third of a mile east of our shop. And I remember we walked to the grammar school called Grant School, which was on Wilton Place, between Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard. So I was there all the way up to part of the fifth grade.

BN: And then, at that point, you were...

HK: Then Pearl Harbor took place.

BN: What was the demographics of the school as you remember?

HK: Well, on the east side was the kindergarten, so I spent a year there. And the rest of the ground was the elementary school, and the grounds were mainly dirt, and I remember playing marbles on that area, so it was in a dirt area. And the playground area was dirt, because I remember playing kickball in that small area. I think I've driven by there years ago, and I look at it and amazingly, it's a very small elementary school.

BN: And then who were the other students? Were there other Nisei kids, white, other nationalities?

HK: I think it was mostly all white. There were some Japanese kids. One of my friends was Kazumi Yoneyama, because he lived a few blocks away, and we were in the same grade. But we were never in the same class, but then I knew him. And there were a few other Japanese kids, one boy named Kaihatsu that I remember, same age, same grade.

BN: Now, the surrounding community wasn't a heavily Japanese American area, but were you part of, did you go to a temple or other kinds of Japanese school, other types of organizations in the area?

HK: There was not a Japanese organization in the immediate area, but my folks eventually sent my brother and I to Japanese language school at the language school in what is now known as the Virgil district. And so we used to spend most of the Saturdays there at Virgil district Japanese language school. Otherwise, in our immediate vicinity, there were, I don't know if you'd say several Japanese families that we knew, and so we would visit them. I mentioned this Yoneyama, I would actually walk to his place to go visit him and the other, Kaihatsu was only a couple blocks away and I would go visit with him. Another family, the Fujioka family was only a couple blocks away, so we had close proximity with some Japanese families.

BN: How long did you end up going to Japanese school?

HK: Well, at that time, you started with what they called Book 1, and then two, three, four, five. I don't know if I got past Book 1, so I must have started in 1940, maybe started in '41, beginning of '41, because I didn't get very far. So that's why I know very little Nihongo.

BN: Now, in your home, since your mom is Nisei, did you speak mostly English, then?

HK: Okay, because my mom was Nisei, she was English-speaking, and I don't know how, but my father learned English also. So at home, when I was growing up, English was my home language. Very little Japanese was spoken.

BN: Were they involved in other kinds of community activities, kenjinkai, any kinds of business or professional organizations, that kind of thing, that you know of?

HK: I do not think they had any connections, really serious connections with any Japanese organizations. My recollection is that their main interest was they liked to play tennis, both of them. And so whenever there was a chance, on weekends or even some weeknights, we would pile in the car and go to some local tennis courts. And they would play tennis while we sat around or maybe played around with the tennis balls.

BN: Did you play sports yourself at that point before the war?

HK: Before the war I was never engaged in any particular sports.

BN: That came more later?

HK: Came later, mainly in camp.

BN: In terms of the clientele of the business, who were the customers as you recall?

HK: The customers were hakujins that came in for business. Or you mentioned about customers, I can remember one celebrity that was Fletcher Bowron, who was the mayor of L.A. That I remember because there was one time where my dad said, "Okay, hop in our panel truck, we're going to make a delivery and we're going to go to Mayor Bowron's place. And so I can remember driving up Highland and almost all the way up to the Hollywood Bowl, then we'd turn off and go up into the hill somewhere and made a delivery to Mayor Bowron's place. So that was one of our customers, I don't know why, because supposedly he was anti-Japanese, the records indicated.

BN: Interesting, okay. Did you actually meet him?

HK: No, I did not.

BN: You were just in the truck.

HK: I just stayed in the vehicle.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

BN: So as you mentioned, you were in fifth grade, and then December 7th happens. What do you remember about that day and the immediate aftermath?

HK: I had very little or no recollection of Pearl Harbor, what happened, or what happened when I went to school on the following Monday. I don't recall anybody saying anything to me, the teacher or the students. All I can recall is that my parents said, "We're going to move." So when they found out that we are going to have to leave, there was an aunt and uncle that we were very close to that lived in Boyle Heights. And my parents did not want to get separated from them, so their decision was to close up our shop and go live with my aunt and uncle in Boyle Heights, so that if and when we had to leave, then we would be together, and so wherever we were gonna go, we would go together.

BN: Now, this aunt and uncle, on which side of the family was this?

HK: They were the Tamuras, so that's on my mother's side.

BN: And do you remember, like, how long, like how much time elapsed, and was this after a month or a couple of months, or right before the roundup?

HK: My recollection is, we ended up living in the Boyle Heights area, you know, First Street and Boyle, there's a street that connected it called Pleasant, and we lived on this street called Pleasant, that's where my aunt and uncle lived, just a few houses from that intersection. And we must have been there for only a few weeks, because I remember I had to enroll in the local elementary school. And I remember going to the elementary school, it seemed like, for maybe just a few days, but it was probably maybe a few weeks, and then all of a sudden, we're not there anymore, and then all of a sudden we were in Santa Anita.

BN: So what happened then? What happened then to the business?

HK: To the best of my knowledge, my parents just had to leave their business, not enough time to sell anything. So my best recollection is my parents just lost their business, one hundred percent.

BN: Did you or them ever go by, drive by, like, later after the war and see what became of it?

HK: The next time I think I remember seeing that area, it was no longer a cleaner's, it was a Filipino bakery. That was, I think, several years after the war.

BN: Now, the family that they moved in with in Boyle Heights, what did they do?

HK: My uncle worked a produce stand and market that was just right there at the intersection of First and Boyle.

BN: And they had a big enough house that the four of you were able to...

HK: Well, I guess, fortunately, they were in, like a duplex, so they lived on one side, and the other side apparently was open, or vacant, so we lived on the opposite side. So we were in the same building.

BN: Do you remember anything about, like, what you were feeling at that time? Because all of a sudden you've been yanked out of this school that you've been going to for years, you have friends, and now you're across town in kind of this...

HK: Yeah, well, I was ten years old, I think I should have wondered what was going on. But my recollection is no, just follow along. And my parents never said what was happening, they never mentioned anything to getting kicked out of California, we have to leave, we lost our business, never heard anything about what was happening with them. So I just had to just follow along with whatever I was told to do.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

BN: And then, as you mentioned, after some short amount of time, weeks, you have the second eviction round, what do you remember about that?

HK: Well, I do remember walking into the Santa Anita so-called "assembly center." And I can remember looking up and I was very impressed to see some soldiers up there on top of a platform sitting behind a machine gun. And I thought, "Wow, look at that, that's a machine gun, whoa." I didn't think that they were pointing the thing at us, but I can still remember that as we entered Santa Anita. That was my beginning experience of incarceration.

BN: Do you remember at all having to pack or select things to take with you?

HK: No, I have no idea, so my folks did all that.

BN: Had you been to Santa Anita before?

HK: Previously?

BN: Yeah.

HK: No.

BN: So this is all kind of new.

HK: Correct.

BN: What else do you remember upon entering Santa Anita? You get in and you're assigned to... well, first of all, where did you live, the stables or the barracks?

HK: Okay, so we were one of the lucky ones, we got to live in the barracks. And even more lucky, we were right next to one of the, several mess halls. So for eating, we didn't have walk very far.

BN: Which color mess hall?

HK: We ate in the green mess hall.

BN: Now, most of your friends from Hollywood area were, did they go to Santa Anita, too, or were they somewhere else?

HK: I think some of them had to go there, but for the few months that we were in Santa Anita, I can't recall seeing any of them.

BN: If you saw your old friends. Did you, even though you're in the barracks, did you venture into the stable area and see what the situation was there?

HK: I can remember going there once, because I recall the Harada family that my (father lived with previously) came through, they were in the stable area, so I went to visit them once. And that was enough, because I went into the stables where they had to live, and (...) the smell was so bad. So I think I never went back to visit them.

BN: Now in terms of your, where you lived, the barracks were pretty much newly constructed. Can you describe them as you remember them?

HK: I can't recall very much. No, we were just in one room, the Santa Anita barracks, I'm not sure. I'm guessing they had four rooms in the barracks, I think. And so we were in one of the middle rooms, and for the few months that we were there, I can't recall anything happening that was anything special, out of the ordinary, other than probably being crowded and no privacy, while we were there.

BN: There was a small, so-called riot there. Do you have any memories of that?

HK: I think this is the one that I recall. The so-called "riot" occurred straight down from the main street from where we were living. I just remember a whole bunch of people going down towards the white mess hall area. That was a big gathering, so I guess I didn't want to go get involved, so I just saw a whole bunch of people going in that area, and that's all I know about the so-called riot.

BN: What do you remember about the bathroom facilities there?

HK: Bathroom facilities? I think in our area they had one of the barracks set up for a latrine, and the only thing I can recall is they had one long urinal, the urinal was one long metal tray like, so a dozen people could be urinating at the same time. [Laughs] That's the only thing I remember about the latrine. I can't remember where or how or anything about the shower facilities.

BN: Flush toilets?

HK: I know there were stories about the big shower facility there just outside the grandstand, but that was a big distance, walking distance from our area, so I can't recall if they had more shower facilities elsewhere in the parking lot.

BN: Then were there flush toilets in the bathrooms?

HK: Good question, I cannot recall.

BN: I know at some of the assembly centers there was an issue because the bathroom, the toilets and urinals weren't designed for kids so they were too high. Do you remember, as a ten year old, do you remember...

HK: Oh, okay. No, I don't remember having any problems with the urinating.

BN: And then with the mess halls, were you eating in shifts there, or was it big enough that everyone could go in at once?

HK: All I recall is when it was eating time, we'd just line up and go in and get whatever they're feeding. So I don't know if there was any shifts.

BN: But there was a line.

HK: There was a line to get in and eat.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

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 donít 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.

<Begin Segment 7>

BN: I'm going to jump to Heart Mountain at this point. So after spring and summer, to the fall at Santa Anita, do you remember anything about when you found out where you were going subsequently?

HK: No, I had no idea, and I don't know if my parents knew, but even if they knew, they didn't mention anything, at least to me or my brother. I just remember we were on a train, and we're on our way.

BN: What do you remember about the train?

HK: Very little. Even though I read the records and seeing that going all the way to Wyoming took three days? Or two days and three nights or three days and two nights, that's a long time. But I just remember we had to sit on the bench seats for that length of time. Don't recall much about the dining car because I guess we had to go, to go eat, we had to go to a dining car, and I don't recall what they fed us or what. But we just somehow survived that long trip. And I don't even remember about having to pull the shades down whenever we got to a town, all I know about that is now what I read about it many, many years later.

BN: And then you get to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. What do you remember about your arrival there?

HK: Again, very little. Because we got off the train, and I've just seen videos that they put us on a truck and take us to whatever block or where we're going to live. And so my case, next thing I know, that we're in the corner in the camp, this is way in the north end of the camp, Block 28.

BN: What was your full address?

HK: Block 28, Barrack 13, and Unit D, which is one of the middle rooms.

BN: The middle ones are the medium sized ones?

HK: Medium sized rooms, square, 20x20.

BN: It's just the four of you?

HK: The four of us.

BN: Who lived in that block in terms of, where were people from in that block? Were they all Boyle Heights people?

HK: Well, I didn't get to meet a lot. We met the Shishima family which was in an adjoining barracks, and they were from where Chinatown is right now, (near Owera) Street, that's where they came from. Another family that met in the block was the Sera family, and they're from San Jose.

BN: San Jose?

HK: Yes, Kinji Sera, he became a dentist. And the other half of the block, I think, had several San Jose people.

BN: Was that the first time you met, I assume this is Bill Shishima's family.

HK: That's when I met the Shishima family.

BN: So you're (eleven), and we've already come across two JANM volunteers, future JANM volunteers. Can you describe what you remember of what the barracks looked like when you got there?

HK: What the barracks looked like? No, I never took a look at the barracks to see anything about the architecture. No, just tried to accommodate or adjust to the different kind of living conditions that we had there.

BN: Was your family, over time, did your family add a lot of things, furniture, curtains, all that kind of stuff?

HK: Well, after the first winter, I think either the government or whoever brought in the Celotex panels, big sheets, four by eight, so that was put up on the inside for insulation. And if you could get a few more panels, then you put those in your room to divide the room up by using the Celotex. And then in our case, somebody was able to get some extra two by fours, so we were able to save one bed space by making bunkbeds. So I don't know who did the carpentry, but eventually my brother and I, we just slept on top of each other in bunkbeds, so that gave us a little bit more room.

BN: And were you able to partition the room or subdivide the room?

HK: Yes, I can remember there was a partition just outside of our bunkbed, another Celotex piece that separated our bed from my parents' bed.

BN: Then how far were you within the block, from, like, the mess hall and the latrines and so forth?

HK: Well, if you get to look at the Heart Mountain blocks, Barrack 13 is close to the mess hall. So we were close to the mess hall, but farther away from the latrine. So it was a longer walk if you had to use the latrine, which was a problem during the wintertimes, because the winters were very cold.

BN: What did people call them at the time? I'm using the word "latrine," is that what you, I mean, what did people say? What words did they use?

HK: Well, I guess they used the old "benjo," or even for short, "ben." "I've got to go to the ben."

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

<Begin Segment 8>

BN: And then you mentioned the severe weather coming from L.A. Can you talk about that a little more?

HK: Well, the connection with the latrines, as a kid, one of the things we can remember during the wintertime after we'd take a shower, you dry off, but the towel you used to dry off is now moist. And so for us, maybe it's fifty, sixty yards between the latrine and our room, as you walk fast or slow run back to your room, you swing the towel around in that freezing air. By the time you get back to the doorway, that towel was just stiff. And it was fun, I guess, to do something like that.

EA: So did you do that on purpose, get it to get all frozen?

HK: Yeah, you do that to see if you can get it frozen by the time you get back to your room.

EA: Did you hit each other with that?

HK: [Laughs] No, I don't recall anything like that.

BN: [Laughs] I don't know if that denial would stand up in court.

EA: I know. I feel like if you're... I'm imagining twelve year old boys, if you're going to get your towel frozen, it's got to be for a purpose, Hal. [Laughs]

HK: Oh, maybe some other people, but I don't recall.

BN: It's always the other guy. Did you have, like, appropriate clothing for Wyoming weather?

HK: Okay, well, at the beginning, obviously, no. We're coming from L.A., southern California. And all the camps, the two companies, catalog companies, Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, they made a lot of money off of people in the camps. So we had to start ordering proper clothing from Sears and Montgomery Ward, which got the nickname "Monkey Ward." So Monkey Ward and Sears got a lot of business from all the ten WRA camps.

BN: Did you also get the old army peacoats that were issued?

HK: The peacoats? I don't know if my brother got... my understanding is that they were given out to people of certain, I think you had to be some kind of teenager, older teenager. So I don't know if my brother got one, because I don't think I ever saw him wearing one, because I did not get one, because I was too young.

BN: Right. So your clothing was ordered, your parents ordered from the catalogs?

HK: Whatever I got for winter came from the catalog.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 10>

EA: So we're going to switch gears a little bit, Hal. So as part of your activities as a kid in camp, I know you ended up getting involved with the Boy Scouts. Do you remember how you first found out about the Boy Scouts or what led you to get involved?

HK: No, other than my brother first joined the Scouts... because when I got there, I was too young. I think you had to be twelve years old to be a Scout, so I became a Cub Scout. So I was a Cub Scout for a year or whatever, and my mother even got involved, so my mother was a den mother. And even with her being a den mother, I don't remember what we did as a Cub Scout, any activities.

EA: What troop were you with?

HK: So from the Cub Scouts, and when I became, I guess, old enough, then I became a Boy Scout, and in the camp it was Troop 379. And so the Cub Scout pack was connected with 379, so the Cub Scout pack, I think, was called Pack 37, the first two numbers of 379.

EA: So you don't remember much about the Cub Scouts?

HK: I recall little or nothing about what we did as a Cub Scout.

EA: What about once you were upgraded into Boy Scouts? What do you remember about being in the Boy Scouts?

HK: Well, this is Troop 379, we went to troop meetings. I don't recall much about the activities because I was a first-timer and I just had to follow along and see what everybody else is doing.

EA: So, I know that Heart Mountain ended up with some of the... so Troop 379 is the Koyasan, the big famous Koyasan troop, right?

HK: Correct.

EA: So the other boys in your troop, were those the Koyasan kids mainly, or were there kids from other areas that ended up joining as well?

HK: Oh, okay, I have no idea where the other 379 people came from.

EA: Were the other Scouts in your troop, were they mostly in your same block? I mean, how did you end up getting connected with that troop as opposed to one of the other ones?

HK: I don't know how. My brother had some connection, because he was in 379. So he was in 379, so that's why I ended up in 379. And I do not know how he got started in 379, because there were seven troops there in Heart Mountain.

EA: Did you guys get to go on any local camping trips or things? Because I know you guys did Yellowstone, but were there more local activities that you were able to do?

HK: I do not recall anything other than the Yellowstone (camping trip).

EA: What do you remember about the Yellowstone trip?

HK: The Yellowstone trip? We slept in this one big building. One incident was, one night, there was a bear that came right into the camp area, so that was a big deal. Main thing was just to stay out of the way, maybe go take a look outside and then go back inside the building.

EA: Did you see the bear?

HK: I did not, but everybody was saying there was a bear there, so watch out.

EA: So I know that you got to know Bill Shishima, because you guys were in the same block, and Bill was in a different Scout troop, right?

HK: Correct.

EA: He was in...

HK: 333.

EA: So did the two of you... the two of you hung out. You got to know each other, and did you guys do things together when you were there at Heart Mountain?

HK: We knew each other because we lived right next to each other. And I know I saw a picture of our softball team, and he was in that picture. And he was on the corner, he was not a player, so obviously he was one of our helpers or a coach or assistant coach. So he helped out in that matter, so I saw a lot of them, we were playing some of the sports.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

EA: Did you participate in any of the sports leagues that the Boy Scouts had?

HK: In any of the sports?

EA: Yeah, the Boy Scouts, they also had sports leagues, right?

HK: Okay. I do not recall participating in any of the sports leagues in Scouts.

EA: Were there other organized activities for boys to do in camp besides the Boy Scouts that you were aware of?

HK: Well, I guess there was some baseball leagues because I remember seeing some games there in the block, because the baseball field was just adjoining Block 28. And there were football games. The football games mainly were the high school team. Other than that... and I saw videos of, like a sumo tournament for adults, but I don't recall any other special organized athletics. (Narr. note: There were basketball games in eh new high school gym.)

EA: Did your Scout troop ever do any activities with, like, white scout troops from neighboring areas?

HK: Not that I can recall. I've just seen and read stories about how troops from outside came in and did some activities with the Heart Mountain (troops), but I never participated in any troop activities with any troop from outside the camp.

EA: So were the Boy Scouts, was it a big part of your life in camp that you remember, or was it just one of the things that you did? How significant was being a part and participating in the Boy Scouts for you?

HK: For me it was a minor part, because when I joined the Boy Scout troop, I was the youngest one and knew the least amount, and so I would just follow along, mainly. And so I think I had more participation or experiences playing outside of the Scouting program.

EA: Did you get involved at all with, like, the drum and bugle corps there?

HK: I did not participate in what they called D&B.

EA: What was your impression of how other people saw the Boy Scouts at Heart Mountain? Did people see it as a positive activity, and were they interested in what the Boy Scouts were up to?

HK: Oh, okay. Well, I never talked to anybody, but I would assume that they knew about the Boy Scouts. And when they participated in these big programs, that was a positive part of camp life.

EA: But not a big thing for you? You were too busy breaking into the gym to play basketball.

HK: [Laughs] Okay, yes.

EA: Was your brother more involved? How involved was he with the Boy Scouts?

HK: Well, he must have been (involved) probably for a couple of years, because, as you know, it's a great experience. He became a Life Scout in camp.

EA: Oh, so that's quite high.

HK: That's just one step below Eagle. My understanding of that, they could not become an Eagle Scout because they didn't have the facilities or whatever. But at least my brother went all the way up to Life Scout. I was only able to get to what's called First Class. I think we joined there at the beginning level and (Tenderfoot), Second Class, First Class, and that's as far as I got.

EA: So did you work on earning merit badges? You must have, to get at least a couple.

HK: No, if I continued (when I got to the) level next would be getting merit badges. I did not get any merit badges. I don't know how many merit badges my brother got. I asked him, he says he couldn't remember, he doesn't have his merit badge sash anymore.

EA: Not a single merit badge for you, huh?

HK: Not a single one. I was lucky to pass (first class), you have to pass swimming in order to get First Class. And I barely struggled and passed the swimming test.

EA: So I've heard some, there was also some sad stories associated with the Boy Scouts there. Weren't there a couple of drownings that happened with some of the boys? Do you remember that?

HK: I remember something about that, but I don't know the details.

EA: Okay.

HK: So I don't know if the drowning was in the local river, the Shoshone River, or the swimming hole.

EA: It was the swimming hole.

HK: After a year they dug a big hole there on the camp site, and we had a big swimming pool.

EA: I think, at least the one that I'm thinking of happened at the swimming hole.


BN: Did you know Norman Mineta, who was in your same block?

HK: No. And he was only there for (about two years) because the family left early.

BN: Actually, one thing I wanted to ask, following up with the Scouting is what did you do for uniforms, or did you bring them? Were they made, or did you even have anything?

HK: I guess maybe Sears Roebuck had scouting uniforms, I do not know.

BN: But you did have them?

HK: Yeah, we had uniforms.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

BN: I'm gonna switch subjects now, and I don't know to what extent you would know this, but, of course, one of the seminal, important episodes of the camp was the whole "loyalty questionnaire" episode, and you and your brother were too young for this, but were you aware that was going on and was it an issue with your family, with your parents, aunts and uncles?

HK: Knew nothing about it. And so apparently, because my folks were not connected with any Japanese or JA organizations, so I don't know if they were ever involved with the "loyalty questionnaire."

BN: So there was no discussion or anything about that that you heard.

HK: Nothing, not a word about it.

BN: Did you have any relatives, any cousins or whatever who were, like, draft age and for military service when it became an issue?

HK: No, nothing.

BN: That wasn't really an issue for your family.

HK: Nothing special.

BN: Another thing I want to ask you is, at many of the camps, the borders were sort of permeable. I mean, people were able to get out and explore and fish and do other things. What was it like at Heart Mountain? Were you able to go outside at any time, or was it pretty hard to get out?

HK: Oh. I can remember one time -- so probably had to be at least '44, maybe '45 when we were allowed to go out for a day. And I can remember that I was able to get out and went down to the local town called Cody. And so spent, I don't know, part of a day there in Cody, walked around. I can remember going into the museum. So it's the same museum that's there now, but the museum there now is world class. So the museum when I went into it in '44 or '45 was just a little dinky museum. But I remember walking in there, had no problems. And I did not recall any discrimination incidents with me. I just remember people seeing the signs about "No Japs Allowed," but I was able to avoid any of that. And also in '44 (or) '45, the regulations really relaxed. I remember my whole family, we got like a weekend pass. And so we left the camp, and I don't know how we got to Billings, Montana, which was a close by town, just on the other side of the border. And so we spent at least one night in a nice, big hotel in Billings. And I know we went to a movie, I remember seeing a movie, I don't what the movie was. But I know we spent at least one night in Billings, Montana, and then we came back to the camp.

BN: So these were kind of, you got passes and sanctioned leave. I'm wondering if there were, how hard it was to just kind of sneak out to do things on the outside, if you did that, or if you knew people who did that commonly?

HK: Oh, and the Heart Mountain camp, because it was little or no problems, after about a year (with) the guard towers, they were empty. And so if you wanted to, you just stretch the barbed wire a little bit, you can climb, there was enough space you could climb through the barbed wire fence. And so we would go out hiking or whatever. In the wintertime, because where we lived, we were on the northwest corner of the camp, and there was a small hill. And if it snowed, there was a nice hill there covered with snow, and I guess through Sears Roebuck, we ordered sleds or toboggans. And so we'd go out there and ride down the hill on our toboggan.

BN: So yes, I guess it sounds like security really got much more relaxed as time went on.

HK: Yes.

BN: There was an incident at Heart Mountain, right, where some kids were, were they fired on or whatever for sledding outside the fence, early on.

HK: They were fired on?

BN: I thought so. I don't remember the details now, but this was very early on, in '42, and things were very different, I guess, that you're describing.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

BN: I guess we can move kind of to leaving camp now. Can you talk about how your family left? Because I know they were kind of split.

HK: Yeah, my family split up a lot, so when the war finally ended, the decisions were made, my brother was going to be in the twelfth grade, and so they decided he should leave early enough to get back to L.A. to start his twelfth grade at the beginning, that would be September of '45. So he went by himself, got on the train and we (knew) somebody that lived in Hollywood, a Japanese family that lived in Hollywood that said okay, my brother could stay with him. So he stayed with them so that he could end up going to Hollywood High, which I guess he and myself always wanted to do. So he left and came back and lived in Hollywood with a Japanese family and went to high school. And after high school, he and some buddies decided to join the army, so he ended up joining the army in '46 or '47. And then my father decided to leave the Heart Mountain camp on his own to go find a job somewhere to try to make some money for the family, so that when we get started again, he would have some money to help out with, so he left the camp and he went to the Northwest, I think, Washington or wherever, and he ended up working on the railroad. So that left my mother and myself, so I think the end of October of '45, we were one of the last ones to leave. And I think that was because I got ill, and so I could not leave, so that kept our release or leaving delayed, so we didn't leave until the end of October or early November. And sports-wise, that was a break for me because I had to stay in bed for all of, most of October. And October is baseball World Series time, and so I was able to listen to the 1945 World Series on the radio, so that also helped me on my sports background. So I got hooked on Major League Baseball because I had to stay in camp, and I listened to the '45 World Series. And so eventually we left, got on the train and came back and then we get back to L.A., we ended up in one of the three trailer camps that the government set up for people that were coming back to L.A.

BN: And which camp did you end up in?

HK: The trailer camp? We were in the Lomita trailer camp.

BN: Were the other people in there also, was it largely Heart Mountain people or was it a mixture?

HK: I have no idea who else was in there.

BN: Now, was it the one that was on Lomita airstrip?

HK: When I go by there, I think we were located very close to what's currently the intersection of Crenshaw and PCH, Pacific Coast Highway. And very close to the airport because while we were there, every so often we would see an airplane either taking off or landing, I think mainly it was landing, and it was very close to an airport.

BN: Yeah, so it's got to be the same. But was it all trailers, or were there also barracks that you remember?

HK: It was trailers and barracks, I know that, because one family, coincidentally a Harada family but not related to the Harada I mentioned before, the Harada family lived there, they lived in a barracks. And I know that family because one of the daughters ended up being my sister-in-law, she married my brother. And talking to her, she remembers a little bit about living in the barracks. She doesn't remember much because she was only there for, she said, for a couple of weeks because she got a job as a housegirl somewhere. But she remembers living in the barracks, whereas I lived in a small trailer with my mother.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

BN: And can you describe what you remember about the trailer?

HK: Well, the trailer that we lived in, I can remember, was looking at it from the outside, you'd say, "What a junky looking trailer." So I guess they just picked up old leftover trailers, so it was our home for a few months. And I guess there was cooking facilities, so my mother had to cook some food. And to keep food preserved, we had an ice box, old fashioned ice box. We had electricity for the lights or whatever, but no refrigerator. And so that meant there was somebody that came, that was the ice man, carrying a big chunk of ice, and come in and put it inside of this ice box, and that would last for I don't know how many days before it melts, and then he would come back and replace it again. So we had an old fashioned ice box to keep food preserved. That was our trailer. No toilet facility, so again, we had to walk to someplace to wash up or use the toilet.

BN: And then was there any sort of, like, block arrangement or something like that like the camp that you remember? Like was there an address?

HK: No, I don't recall any address.

BN: Then you said there was a cooking area, so it wasn't a mess hall, you cooked for yourself?

HK: Yes. There were no mess halls, so...

BN: Which meant you had to shop for yourself, too?

HK: I guess, my mother must have, was able somehow to get some food, go down to, a few blocks, there was a Safeway market, and get something to eat.

BN: Did she have a job then?

HK: In the trailer camp? No, I don't think she had any job.

BN: So was your dad then, must have been sending money from his job?

HK: Could be, I do not know.

BN: Was there any sort of... at this trailer camp, any sort of recreational area or anything like that? Any kinds of programs or activities?

HK: Boy, I don't recall any programs there. And I don't know how we were able to manage it, but we had a dog, the dog that we had in Heart Mountain. I don't recall how we got the dog in Heart Mountain, but it was a cocker spaniel, we had it in Heart Mountain, and somehow my folks got it shipped and we had the dog there in that trailer camp.

BN: What was the dog's name?

HK: Smudge, Smudgie. So it was black.

BN: You know, while you were in the trailer park, you were there for a while so you ended up going to a school in the area. Could you talk about that?

HK: Yes. So there was a school, so by then, I'm in the ninth grade, so I had to go to some high school, so about a half a mile or so south of this camp, there was Narbonne High, so I went to Narbonne High for a few months. And I don't recall the education, though I know I met some of the students and they were very friendly, I can recall that. I think one person, can't remember his name, but a Hispanic person, a guy, very friendly and very helpful, to me, anyway, that I can recall, for the few months that I was there at Narbonne High as a ninth grader.

BN: Did you walk?

HK: We walked, yes.

BN: Did you do any sports type of activity?

HK: At Narbonne? No, not part of the school. I know some of us got together from the camp, from the trailer camp, and I remember using the school playground area, we went and played football or something like that.

BN: Just pickup?

HK: Yes.

BN: Some of the trailer parks had issues with water problems, and power outages and so forth. Do you remember any kinds of issues like that?

HK: I do not recall any major problems.

BN: And you didn't have any sense of people that there were more people from Tule Lake or anything like that, in terms of the population there?

HK: No issues.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

BN: And then you're there for a few months, and then what happens after that?

HK: Well, we're there as long as it took for, in my case, my mother to find a job somewhere in the area. Oh, I'd like to mention one thing. One of the big deals that happened for me while we were at the trailer camp was a bunch of us guys said, "Wow, we're back here in L.A., we got to go see the Pacific Ocean." So that was one of the big events that I can remember there. So there was one day that we decided we're gonna walk from the trailer camp to, I think it ended up Redondo Beach, and I think that's maybe six or seven miles or something like that. So we walked all the way, went to the ocean and we got to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time in many years, so that was a big deal for (us at) the Lomita camp.

BN: Good thing you weren't in the valley camp.

HK: What's that?

BN: Good thing you weren't, like, in Burbank or something.

HK: [Laughs] Oh, okay.

BN: Lomita is not far relatively.

HK: Correct. Okay, but eventually my mom, the job that she ended up with as a live-in housekeeper, and for this Caucasian family in Sherman Oaks, so this Sherman Oaks family had a nice house and in the back of the house right next to the garage, was a separate unit that had a full bath and sleeping quarters. So that was where my mother and I spent the next, about year and a half.

BN: So this is like probably the first real bathroom you had had in a few years?

HK: Yeah, correct.

BN: Do you know what the family did, I mean, what the occupation was?

HK: Well, the family (name) was Slaughter. Dang, what did he do?

BN: He obviously must be fairly well-off.

HK: Yeah, it was a nice house, but no, I don't recall what his profession was.

BN: And then your mother did the housekeeping? Did you have to do some things as well?

HK: No. The only thing I can recall is that they had a big side grass yard, so I was the mower, I mowed the lawn. That's the only thing I can recall doing, any yard work.

BN: And then in terms of food, eating, you could prepare your own food?

HK: Yeah, my mother would prepare something, and so when she said, "Time to eat," I would go back into the main house and eat in the kitchen.

BN: But not with the family?

HK: Not with the family.

BN: But were you eating the same food, maybe?

HK: I don't know, whatever my mother was able to scrape up.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

BN: And then from there, you're there for a while, so again, you're going to a new high school now.

HK: This is Sherman Oaks, so the high school was Van Nuys High. And Van Nuys High at that time was a six-year high school. And so I got there still in now '46, so I'm still in the ninth grade, so I had to finish up the ninth grade, so I enrolled in Van Nuys High for the last few months of my ninth grade. And I ended up going to some kind of graduation exercise to graduate from the ninth grade because then ten, eleven, twelve was considered senior high.

BN: And how were you treated there?

HK: Treatment at Van Nuys High? To me, I recall it was good, very good. Met these really good friends, and that was a good experience for me.

BN: And then your father's still away at this point?

HK: Still working somewhere on the railroad.

BN: Are you writing letters or communicating with him?

HK: I did not.

BN: Or even visiting?

HK: My mother was still contacting (my father) to find out what was happening and what they were going to try to do eventually to get the family together.

BN: And he didn't visit you?

HK: No, he did not visit us while we were there on Sherman Oaks.

BN: What was your sense... I mean, I know you're a teenager, but did you have a sense of how your mother was kind of handling the situation? It was a difficult situation, she's separated from the husband -- not separated, but he's living separately, working as a housekeeper, has a son at home trying to keep things together. Did you have a sense of how she was doing or how she was handling that situation?

HK: No, because she never put up any kind of complaints or mention about what it was like. Didn't say what my dad was doing, how he was doing, she just went about her business of taking care of her job, and then hoped that I would be able to just go ahead and finish my schooling. So no discussion at all between what our family situation was and what's going to happen.

BN: Did she have off days and did she have things, friends or did she do hobbies or other kinds of things that she did, or was she kind of on duty all the time?

HK: No, I don't recall anything where we were able to go off together with just my mom and myself to go visit some old friends or whatever, I don't recall doing any of that during the, I think we were there about a year and a half.

BN: Okay, so after the year and a half, what was the next move?

HK: Okay, so somehow my mother and my dad figured, okay, let's see if we can get together and get our own business going again. And so I don't know how or who found this place in L.A. on Vermont Avenue, but it was a dry cleaning and laundry business just like they had before the war. And so I don't know if they purchased it from the person that was there before or what, but anyway, that was the next move. We moved out of the Sherman Oaks place and to another dry cleaning laundry business there on Vermont and right near First Street, you know (by) Virgil junior high. So we went there and then my dad left his railroad job to come and join my mom and then they were back in the dry cleaning business.

BN: Was it a similar arrangement, where the family lived in the back?

HK: We lived in the back just like before the war.

BN: And what was that one, what was this new business called?

HK: They just assumed the same name from the previous owner, it was called El Patio, so El Patio cleaners.

BN: And then you now are switching to yet another school.

HK: Yes, so I'm there on First and Vermont, and that is in the L.A. Unified District, and so I should have been going to Belmont High. But because I was born in Hollywood, always wanted to go to Hollywood High, we knew of a family in Hollywood that said we could use their address as my address. And so we used their address, and so I got on the bus, traveled up Vermont and Sunset and I went to Hollywood High even though I wasn't supposed to.

BN: How long of a bus ride was that? It's a good distance.

HK: Yeah, I don't know, probably an hour.

BN: And then this is a different family than the ones your brother lived with?

HK: Correct, different family.

BN: Because he also, he was doing kind of the same thing.

HK: Yes.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

BN: So what grade were you when you got to Hollywood High?

HK: So Hollywood High was the eleventh and twelfth grade.

BN: Okay, so pretty much two full years there. What do you remember about Hollywood High at that time? What were the other students like and what were the racial demographics of Hollywood at that time?

HK: Hollywood High was still mostly Caucasian. There were a couple of Buddhaheads or Japanese people that I met and friends with. But overall, no problems. And my biggest part of Hollywood High was my sports because of all the sports that I picked up in camp, and it turns out in the twelfth grade, during a PE class, I'm out there, just (playing) football, my PE teacher happened to be the B football coach. And so he comes to me and says, "Come out for the B football team." Never had any idea of going out for a sport, but wow, that was a big deal for me. So the semester had already started for a few weeks, so okay, so I joined the B football team. I was so late, I couldn't even, there were no more helmets, so I didn't even get a helmet, got a leftover uniform. Anyway, that was a good experience, even though I never got to play, because I was probably the last guy on the team, but then that was an experience, I got to play on a high school football team, wow. So the football season ended, and so now I knew about going out for sports. So next came the last semester for me, this is baseball, and I played a lot of the softball, baseball in camp, so I went out for the B baseball team, and I made that team. And so eventually, I ended up playing more innings than anybody on the B baseball team. So that was a big experience for me just playing sports. And I probably would not have gone out for sports if I had gone to Belmont High. And so actually I had go to Belmont High to get permission because once I started playing sports at Hollywood High, now I'm ineligible because I didn't live in (the) Hollywood High (area), so I had to go to Belmont. I went to the principal's office, got an okay to play, and so I ended up playing sports at Hollywood High.

BN: But what position did you play in baseball?

HK: Would you believe, a left-handed third baseman. So maybe that's an indication of how lousy the team was that they would allow a left-hander to play third base, and that's what it was.

BN: But it's hard to... how did you manage that?

HK: Oh, okay.

BN: You could (handle a) bunt?

HK: Yeah, just have to manage, adjust.

BN: You must have been pretty good then, at least, as a hitter.

HK: Well, like I said, I played the most innings, so the coach must have thought I had some kind of ability.

BN: Were you involved in any other kinds of activities or clubs or things at school?

HK: At Hollywood High, no, sports was a big deal for me.

BN: And I don't know if this is even a thing back then, but for earlier generations of Nisei, John Aiso was kind of this iconic figure who went to Hollywood High. Is that still, was that still a thing in your time or something that people knew about?

HK: No, I didn't know anything about Aiso.

BN: Because it was quite a few years earlier.

HK: Yeah.

BN: Okay. Just kind of curious, he's by far the most famous Nikkei alum of Hollywood, I think.

HK: I would think so, yeah.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 19>

BN: And then what did you do after you graduated high school?

HK: After that, well, I went to L.A. City College to see what I could find out. Because a lot of other Japanese Americans went to L.A. City College, too, so I went there for about a year and still didn't know what I was going to do, so I ended up looking for a job. And so, let's see, that was close to '52. So as soon as I dropped out of school, then the Korean War was on, so bang, the draft came along. So I was no longer in school, so I was in the army for two years.

BN: Was your brother still in the army at that point?

HK: Was he what?

BN: Because your brother, you said, had joined the army.

HK: Yeah, he joined the army as soon as he got out of high school, so that's from '46 to '48, so he was out of it.

BN: He was gone by then. So what happened then in terms of... once you got drafted, what happened?

HK: Well, I got drafted, and so the training camp I went to was Fort Ord, which is up in California, right next to Monterey. So I went to what they call basic training, and at the end of basic training, then you get your orders to go ship out somewhere, so then I fully expected to go get shipped to Korea. But what happened to a few people, got picked out to go to a school, clerk typist school. And I'm just guessing, when we first joined the army, you fill out a form, and I think I put down I knew how to type. And so I'm guessing that put me in this list, so maybe a half a dozen of us got picked out to go to clerk typist school at Fort Ord. So I went to clerk typist school, at the end of clerk typist school, then I got assigned what's called "permanent party" at Fort Ord. So I spent two years at Fort Ord. Two years in the army, I never got out of California. But for me, it turned out to be good because I'm right next to Monterey. Monterey has a nice big Japanese community, and so after I got permanent party, I can go to spend, especially Sundays, we'd go to the Buddhist temple service. After service, the local ladies, they had a nice big Japanese lunch that would be provided for service people. And I got to meet a lot of the Monterey families, and they were really super nice. And so that was a nice experience for me, so I was very lucky.

BN: So you do your two years, were you at all disappointed at not going overseas or were you happy?

HK: Well, one was, I was wondering if I would have enough nerve or be good enough to actually point a rifle and try to shoot it and kill somebody, I wanted to know if I could do that. But then otherwise, no, I'm glad I didn't go to Korea after reading about the conditions if you had to go through a winter there, and especially some problems, stories about, because I'm Asian, some problems of where if I'm a good guy or I'm one of the enemies. So no, I'm overall very lucky that I got what I ended up doing, just staying there in Fort Ord.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

BN: And then after your discharge, did you come back to L.A. then?

HK: Yes, came back to L.A.

BN: And then resumed schooling?

HK: No, I didn't know what to do, so I just ended up picking up jobs, I had to work in the market, at a plastic factory (...). And then I guess I met my future wife Barbara, and because she was going to East L.A. college, then SC, I said, "I better go to college, too." And she's going to SC, so I went to SC. And because I had units from LACC, I just went back to L.A. City College and picked up enough units to transfer to SC as a junior. So when I got to SC, I only needed to go two years to get a degree and then stayed one more year to get a teaching credential and become a teacher.

EA: Where did you meet Barbara?

HK: People have asked me that, and both of us, I think, it was probably when we were in one of the bowling leagues, that there were a lot of Japanese bowling leagues. And there was a small alley right there in downtown L.A. called Angeles Bowl, I think it was on Olive about a block north of Olympic. This is no longer there. But there was a league there, we both bowled in that league, and so just went from there.

BN: Sports really influenced your life in many ways, including meeting Barbara.

HK: Yes. Yeah, bowling was big time, there was one time where I was bowling in three leagues at the same time.

BN: Were you still playing basketball at this point?

HK: Yeah, I think I played afterwards, but mainly after Korea was softball and NAU. And ended up joining another softball team, we had a really authentic softball pitcher here called Yoshito Kido. And the team that he was on, I was able to join, and so we played against the, in a municipal league against hakujin, (...) we were very successful.

BN: Were you still a left-handed third baseman?

HK: No, I played first base now.

BN: More appropriately. And when you... well, actually, I wanted to ask you, were you able to gain benefits from the GI Bill for college?

HK: Yeah, I think because I hemmed and hawed around so long, I lost out on the GI. But California also provided veterans money, so I got, I think, a thousand dollars from California. And so when I went to SC at that time, paying by the unit, it was thirty-two dollars a unit. So a thousand dollars went a long ways at that time.

BN: And did you also work while you were going to school?

HK: Yes, I had a part time job, so that actually took away from my, doing something at the school. So as soon as I finished my classes, and mainly in the morning, I went to do a part time job in the afternoon.

BN: Did you know you wanted to teach from the beginning, or is that just something you, that evolved?

HK: No, I didn't know at the beginning except for a short while because one of the persons I met, some Caucasian person, she was the wife of a... COPNS, the other kind of doctor, not an MD. It's that other medical field.


HK: DO, yeah. So I actually was thinking of that, but I realized that would be too difficult. I was in the science field, so I decided maybe I could become a science teacher, so I went to education.

BN: And at that time, at one time not too long before that, it was very difficult for Japanese Americans to be hired as teachers. At that time, was that not an issue anymore?

HK: No. When I was going through SC, no, I didn't feel or hear any kind of problem.

BN: So when you did become a teacher, there were a good number of Nisei who were also teaching by then.

HK: I would say yes.

BN: Then Barbara is also going to USC at the same time?

HK: Yes.

BN: And what was her area?

HK: In business, so accounting.

BN: And then upon leaving, graduating at SC, you said you stayed another extra year to get your credential. Were you able to get a job right away?

HK: Yes, soon as I got the credential, I applied for LA Unified. So from there, then you go and then they send you to various schools if that school says okay. So I went to a few schools and eventually somebody said okay, so I started.

BN: At which school?

HK: This was, in those days it was called junior high, this was out in West L.A., Mark Twain Junior High. It's about a block away from Venice High. So I was there for four years, and so we decided, because we had now moved to Monterey Park, and that's twenty-plus miles across town, I better try to get closer, so I asked for a transfer, and I ended up transferring to South Gate Junior High. And so I went and I was at South Gate Junior High for twenty-six years.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

BN: What kind of teacher were you? I mean, were you seen as kind of mean, hard, easy?

HK: I don't know, you'd have to ask...

BN: The students, I guess.

HK: ...the students, yeah. I don't know, I got by.

BN: Did you also, like, coach?

HK: Yeah, at South Gate Junior High, there was one time where they had, L.A. Unified District had like a tournament, it was called three-pitch softball where your team provides the pitcher for your own batters, but you only get three pitches to hit the ball and do something. So our school had a three-pitch team, and I ended up being the coach, and we ended up winning the city title. So that was interesting. More interesting was, back then it was, junior high was (grades) 7, 8, 9, so every player was a ninth grader except for one player who was an eighth grader, and that eighth grader was the best player on the team. And he is now the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Richard Renteria.

BN: He was a major league player, too.

HK: He was the eighth grader, and he was super.

BN: And did you coach also in the NAU or other Japanese American leagues?

HK: For the kids it was a youth league, Community Youth, CYC, so I coached the Evergreen Knights basketball and baseball.

BN: For a lot of years?

HK: Well, a few years, so I got them when they were midget bees, I think they were eight years old, so I went for, until they were about twelve or so, so that's about four or five years.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

BN: And then I wanted to ask you to go back to Monterey Park. Why did you choose to buy a house there?

HK: Oh, well, we looked around, because we were looking, we looked at some places in the Crenshaw area, and where else did we look? We looked for, and we ended up looking at places in Monterey Park. I guess one place we found was okay for us, and that was in the middle '60s, so we were able to find a place. And then we got a house for under $30,000. [Laughs] And it's worth more than that now.

EA: Just a little.

BN: And then were you consciously looking at... because both Crenshaw and Monterey Park, there were kind of Japanese American communities, were you kind of looking for that?

HK: I think that was part of it. Because there were a lot more Japanese people in Monterey Park than there are now.

BN: I mean, can you talk, I went to get to JANM and stuff, too, but just quickly, can you talk a little bit about, kind of, how Monterey Park has kind of changed over time? Because you've been there for fifty plus years.

HK: How has it changed? Well, I guess because of the influx of the Chinese coming in, so for a while it was known as New Chinatown. But for my wife and I, it was no major deal, because we just went along with our own business. And so the change in population was not a major change for us. Because our neighbors, we were lucky, we had very nice neighbors.

BN: Were the neighbors kind of the same neighbors also for many years?

HK: No, the neighbors have changed. But luckily, the one on one side of us has been there for several years and that turned out to be a very, very nice neighbor.

BN: Did you have kids?

HK: No, we did not have kids.

BN: You did not, okay. I never knew that. So you put in thirty years, right, as a teacher?

HK: Teacher, yes.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

BN: You retired, you're still pretty young. Can you talk a little bit about the activities, the many activities you took on after you retired?

HK: After I retired then... well, I knew I heard about the Japanese American National Museum, and so I wanted to find out more about it. And so I went to a meeting, and this was before they had officially opened up, so they had meetings in an old warehouse now in, what's now the art district on Third Street. So I had a meeting there, one or two meetings there, and said, "Okay, I'll become a volunteer, and so join the volunteers," and I guess the museum actually opened up about a year later in the old Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist temple.

BN: And then did Bill come along at the same time?

HK: Bill came a year, couple years later.

BN: Later, okay. And then Kaz was there earlier?

HK: Yoneyama? I think he was there earlier.

BN: Because he was there when I was there. And then obviously you've stayed more than thirty years. What appealed to you about it?

HK: Just learning about my own culture. Because I know, thinking back, I knew little or nothing, because I never was curious enough to, I never did any investigating. So I thought anything I can learn would be interesting and helpful for me as an individual.

BN: And did you, since you were a teacher, did you mainly do school related tours and so forth?

HK: Yes. So when I joined, then went through some classes or what, and became a docent for the schools that visited the museum.

BN: Do you have any idea how many students you have taken through there?

HK: Oh, through the museum? No, I have no idea.

BN: It must be...

EA: Thousands.

BN: ...tens of thousands.

HK: Oh, no, I don't think so.

EA: Oh, yeah.

BN: And then I think the other big thing you were involved with that I wanted to ask you about was USC.

HK: What about that?

BN: Well, when you retired, you were also volunteering for USC, right?

HK: Oh, yes. So when I retired, I thought, well, I can get to... well, I saw a report that SC wanted some volunteers to help out in the athletic building called Heritage Hall. They wanted somebody to sit at, like an information desk once a week. So I volunteered, and so I ended up going down there once a week for twenty years.

BN: And then you mentioned you would go to all the sporting events at USC?

HK: Yes, so since I was there, I got familiar with all the sports, all the little minor sports, because they had close to twenty varsity sports. So I would go to anything on campus.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

BN: And then you also got involved with taiko, right?

HK: Yeah. I don't how I got involved in that, but I know as a kid I was always, I liked drumming because you've heard of somebody called Gene Krupa?

BN: Yes.

HK: I always like to see or hear about drumming, so somehow I got interested in Japanese drumming called taiko. And so I joined a beginning taiko group, and then by coincidence, while I was at the museum -- so this is early '90s -- the museum every summer gets interns to help out. And one of the interns was Brian Yamane, who now is a big time taiko player, but he was into taiko. And so one of his projects as an intern was he decided he's going to build a drum, a Japanese drum. And so he did that and I helped out a little bit on it. And so when he finished, we had a drum. So now I had a drum, and I'm playing a little bit of taiko, so I decided, well, at the student tours, I can do a fifteen, twenty minute demonstration, and so that's how we started, with one drum. And then we got more drums and now we have enough drums for participation. We have enough for eleven kids to come up and bang on the drums.

BN: Do you still do that now?

HK: Still do that now.

BN: You still did as part of the JANM...

HK: And for one of the optional activities the schools can ask for, they can ask for storytelling, origami, a video or taiko.

BN: And then the other thing I wanted to ask you about was you took up running fairly seriously as well.

HK: Oh, yes, running became a big part of my life when I was actually, I think, middle forties. I don't know what started it, but I was still a teacher and I guess maybe because I heard there was another running teacher at Fairfax High, and he started (...) 5K runs or 10K runs for L.A. Unified teachers. So I started taking up running and so I joined the teachers runs and the other runs. And I liked it so much I ended up doing, I think, six marathons. I really enjoyed running. Running was a lot of fun.

BN: When did you retire from running?

HK: When I retired from running... when was that? It's right after my last marathon. I remember one knee went out, so I had to have a knee replacement, so I had to stop running.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

BN: And then I wanted to ask you about redress. What did you think when you first heard about these efforts to try to get redress?

HK: Oh, okay. Well, at that time, I still didn't know hardly anything about redress or what all these people were doing, or who was doing all this work since the 1970s, took almost twenty years for all of this to come by. And so this is great for them to see if they could see if they could get the government to actually apologize, plus the money. So no, I just had to say, "Well, I'm part of the crowd and glad to go along with it." And sad to hear that you had to be alive, because my father died in '85, so he's the one that deserved the money more than anybody else, but he didn't know anything about it, but that was all part of the process.

BN: But your mother was able to get...

HK: Yes, she was still around.

BN: What happened to your parents? Because we kind of left them having gotten this new business in (the Virgil area). What happened with them subsequently?

HK: Well, they just continued. One kind of unusual part was that when my dad came back to join the business, actually, he went to, I guess, an employment place and signed up for what kind of job? He wanted to be, he put down presser, that's steam pressing pants and so on. So he got a job as a presser making records. So he used the pressing machine to make vinyl records, recordings, at Columbia Records. So that was kind of funny or unusual, I don't know.

BN: Kind of the same thing, I don't know.

HK: So he ended up, he worked at Columbia Records for a few years while my mom did all the work there at this El Patio Cleaners. But he eventually came back and joined. Then they did that business until finally they decided to give it up, and my dad got ill, he got cancer somewhere in his bladder or whatever and (she) took care of him.

BN: Yeah, he would have passed just a few years before the redress bill, because that was '88.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

BN: And I just want to end with asking you about going back to the Japanese American National Museum, and, I guess, how do you, how did it change you, do you think, being involved there for so long?

HK: Oh, it changed me because now I feel like I'm a lot more Japanese American, whereas before, I thought probably just American. When I was growing up, I was much more American than Japanese. I did not like going to Japanese language school. When we went to any Buddhist ceremony I didn't know what was going on and didn't care what was going on. I don't understand the language, so I still don't know exactly what's going on, but I still appreciate what's happening. I believe I'm much more Japanese than many years ago.

BN: How long do you think you'll stay at JANM?

HK: How long? I'm eighty-seven now, so I don't know how long I'm... I might die in another couple of years. [Laughs] Right now, I don't know, it's still pleasant, and if they still want me to hang around, I do that taiko demo or whatever, and help out with other activities at the museum. But no, I don't know how long.

BN: Anything else?

EA: This is a little silly, but can you tell Brian your most recent special performance that you did for the holiday party? You had to fill in, tell him about being "Shogun Santa."

HK: Oh. Well, at this past, every year, the museum has a holiday party, and part of that is to have somebody dress up as Santa Claus and give out gifts to some of the kids and grandkids of some of the museum's staff. And it turns out that Rodney Kageyama, very local person who has been our museum Santa Claus for several years, but he passed on about a week before the party. And so now the museum has to pick up a Santa, and so they ended up picking me for some reason. But anyway, I ended up being Santa, and they had this Santa outfit which did not fit, it was terrible, the beard didn't fit, didn't stay on. It was terrible. So what am I gonna do? Well, I said, because I like taiko, I'm gonna bring taiko in. So instead of just coming out and walking onto the stage, I came in from the back end of the big area with a drum. So I'm banging on the drum coming in and saying, "Hello, Merry Christmas, Ho, ho, ho." And then wandered up to the stage and then ended up giving gifts to the kids.

BN: I think that's a good note to end on, good image. Thank you very much.

HK: Okay, well, thank you for having me.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.