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-1000-462-9

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: How about other things? Because the temple was used as a hostel, so what happened to, like, Buddhist services or Christian services? Did those start happening?

HU: Yeah, I think for a while they didn't have services. Oh, Hongwanji they were returning to hostel, and what was it, Nishi Hongwanji in Boyle Heights, and that was turned into a hostel. And there was an Evergreen Hostel out there, and we used to use that address when we went to school. We were supposed to go to Belmont High School, but we wanted to go to Roosevelt High School and so a lot of us, we used the Evergreen Hostel.

TI: So you wanted to go to Roosevelt, which was in Boyle Heights.

HU: Yeah.

TI: And why, so explain again, why Jefferson High School?

HU: I mean, Roosevelt?

TI: Or Roosevelt, I'm sorry, Roosevelt High School.

HU: Belmont, there weren't too many Japanese, but Roosevelt, there were quite a few Japanese, Boyle Heights people, they were in Manzanar so we knew, we had mutual friends there. And also P Car, on First Street there used to be a P Car that runs all the way to Boyle Heights.

TI: Oh, so that was convenient.

HU: Convenient, you only had to walk maybe four blocks. And then from my place on Fourth Street, there was a trolley going up to, right in front of the high school, so it was very convenient, maybe that was the reason. But mostly my reason was because I wanted to be with the people I knew. So, in fact, our graduating class of '47 had something like sixty-seven or sixty-eight Japanese graduating, so that's a big Japanese group there.

TI: Right, yeah. And all of them had been in camp probably right before that.

HU: Yeah.

TI: And were most of them from Manzanar?

HU: Mostly from Manzanar, and there were a few from Heart Mountain, Topaz.

TI: So here's a question, so you had, like, three years of schooling at Manzanar, and then you come back to Los Angeles and go to Roosevelt. How was the schooling at Manzanar? Was it difficult to finish high school at Roosevelt? I mean, was the academic schooling at Manzanar good enough that it was easy to, was Roosevelt easy or harder, or what was that like?

HU: Well, it depends. That's a good question. It depends on the person, individual. But as far as curricular whatever, it's exactly the same. In fact, I think the principal or vice principal at Manzanar High School was vice principal or something at Roosevelt High.

TI: So he transferred from Manzanar?

HU: Yeah. And then we had, in every class, we had Japanese that we knew of, friends that we knew, and academic standard. I think maybe Manzanar was a little higher, except for some people like me.

TI: And why is that? [Laughs]

HU: I liked to fool around. I'm not that smart.

TI: But then going back to Roosevelt then, so in many of these classes, were the Japanese students, Japanese American students, were they like the top students?

HU: Yeah, oh, yeah. Except for me. [Laughs] They had this counseling thing, so you would sign up for a certain subject, and the counselor there would look at it and kind of help you out. So I signed up for algebra and physics, and I went to the counselor, and she looked at it, she just laughed and said, "You're not going to make it." She said, "I'm going to do you a favor. I will put you in vocational auto shop, and maybe that way, after you get out of school, you might have a job."

TI: Because she just looked at your academic record and said that...

HU: It was Ds and Fs. But the other kids, Japanese were a lot...

TI: So you mentioned that in the graduating class of 1947, there were sixty-plus other Japanese Americans. Did a lot of them... so where did they live? Were they just in houses in Boyle Heights or were they hostels? Where did they come from?

HU: Oh, there was Sumi, I think a cleaning shop, they were living in back of the cleaning shop. And there was Sachi, they had a cafe on San Pedro Street, they were living in back. And my ex-wife, her father had a jewelry shop on San Pedro Street, and they were living in back of the shop. And then on First Street, downstairs was shops, but upstairs, a lot of them were apartments, like there was a corner on Weller Street, Anzen Hardware or something, hardware store, and a Chinese chop suey place, not...

TI: Not Far East?

HU: Not Far East. Oh, above Far East, there was an apartment on top, and another one on the other side of San Pedro, above that was apartments. So a lot of people were living up there.

TI: And was it pretty common for the Niseis who were going to high school, did they all have jobs also, as side jobs or part time jobs?

HU: Yeah, my friend, few of my friends, they were working at a slaughterhouse.

TI: So they would, after school, they would go?

HU: After school, yeah.

TI: That seems like a lot of, that's pretty hard work, too.

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