Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hank Shozo Umemoto Interview II
Narrator: Hank Shozo Umemoto
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 6, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-462-6

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TI: Well, how about in Los Angeles? Were people celebrating?

HU: No, there was no parade or nothing like that.

TI: How about in Little Tokyo? Was there any talk about, that you noticed, or any reaction in Little Tokyo?

HU: No, funny thing... it was just another day. I mean, war is over, hey, the war is over.

TI: Because in many cases people knew it was going to come to an end.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Or how about maybe sadness, or were people aware of the impact of the atomic bombs...

HU: No.

TI: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because that was devastating.

HU: Because over here, people were more engrossed in, hey, making a living or getting a job, finding a place to live. I think there were a lot of personal things that we were concerned about that we had to think about, worry about, and having the atomic bomb way out there. At least for me, my mother didn't have any effect, it was no big deal.

TI: So let's go back now to, so you're now staying at the hotel on Fourth and Main. So describe that to me, what was that room like?

HU: It was good. I mean, that room was, yeah, about this size here. And my mother and my sister and I was living in it. Then it had a sink, a washbasin in the corner, and there was a little table, mother had this electric skillet, I mean, we had a stove that she used to cook. And of course she used to wash the clothes in the little sink there, and there was one toilet, but it was too, we were on the second story, and there was third story, so each story had one toilet. And I mean, the building must have been built in the early 1900s or even before then. So it had a tank near the ceiling where it filled up, and you put a chain, you would pull it.

TI: Yeah, I remember seeing those in Seattle, where a lot of times, bachelor men would have one room and they would share, and it was one of those old tanks. My grandfather had one of those old ones. And a lot of times, those rooms were just small for the toilets, was there a separate bathroom to use for baths?

HU: Yeah, there was a bathroom, but it was always locked. So during the three years that I lived in there, I think I took a bath maybe no more than four or five times.

TI: Is that unusual? Why was it locked? I would think that that would be... yeah, why?

HU: I don't know, that was his policy.

TI: Oh, so he didn't want to waste water?

HU: Probably, maybe he didn't want to have plumbing problems. But anyway, I think I gave myself a sponge bath once in a while.

TI: And how many rooms were on each floor? You mentioned the second floor and third floor.

HU: Yeah. Our floor, there were... two, three, four, about seven or eight.

TI: And tell me about your neighbors.

HU: Okay, across the hall was Muro-san's family, and then directly across from them they were living there, and there were a few, on our side, I can't remember, there was Watanabe-san and Taniguchi-san and a few others. And then across the hall next to Muro-san was what's his name, this hakujin old man that you could sort of take care of the janitorial work and things. And next one was a call girl, she was pretty good-looking.

TI: I'm sorry, like a prostitute?

HU: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

HU: And then there were a couple more.

TI: Now, did she operate her business out of that room?

HU: I think she used to go out.

TI: Oh, she would go out?

HU: I lent her, she said, "Hey, could you lend me five dollars?" I said sure, and I gave her five dollars, and she gave me the signal. I don't know, they don't do it nowadays, maybe.

TI: I'm sorry, she gave you, say that again?

HU: You know, a handshake, and then you go like that with your index finger, that means, "Let's sleep."

TI: Oh, I didn't know that, okay. [Laughs]

HU: Maybe they don't do that nowadays.

TI: So that was going to be her payment?

HU: Yeah. Five dollars in those days. Except in Fresno, I remember there were a lot of... Fresno is a farming community, and there used to be a lot of Mexican workers, and so it was cheap, two dollars.

TI: For a prostitute.

HU: Well, yeah.

TI: So the other Japanese on that floor, were they in a similar place where they came from Manzanar and they knew Muro-san? Or who were those other people?

HU: They were mostly bachelors, Muro-san's friends.

TI: And how much, do you remember how much rent they charged?

HU: Yeah, twenty-five dollars.

TI: Okay, so it was really, really cheap, inexpensive.

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