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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, Hank, I just start with the date and where we are. So today is February 6th, we're in Los Angeles at the DoubleTree Hotel. My name is Tom Ikeda, I'm the interviewer, and on camera is Dana Hoshide. And this is reminiscent, we actually did an interview with you back in 2010, Dana was on camera and we interviewed you, and we just did it a few blocks from here, we did it at the Methodist church. And in that interview, we talked a lot about your prewar life in Florin, and then your experiences at Manzanar, and then we just touched a little bit about the postwar. And so I've always wanted to come back and interview you about those, kind of that time right after the war and what it was like. So that's what I'm going to start with, and can you remember when you left Manzanar and how you went from Manzanar to Los Angeles?

HU: Okay. First of all, me and my friends, there were four of us, we took a short-term leave. So that's the first time I got out of camp. And I guess that's when I got introduced to the outside environment, because it's a lot different. At Manzanar we had an easy life, right, like a summer camp. And anyway, we took a bus to Mojave, and then we waited for the train. And in those days, they used Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, because government had a contract. And even in some of these old movies, evacuation movies, you see this train, and it says Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. And so anyway, the train came, and we --

TI: And to just make sure, is this when you did this short-term leave.

HU: Yeah.

TI: And one thing I forgot to say is, this interview is with Hank Umemoto, I forgot to mention that.

HU: Okay, that's okay. It could be anybody.

TI: Short-term leave, you and how many other...

HU: There was Kenji Yada, Roy Yonemoto and Ben Nahoi, and we were all sixteen years old.

TI: Yeah, you mentioned, so you were sixteen years old, and you guys had to get special permission, because you were probably the youngest ones just to be able to go out on your own without your parents.

HU: Right, so we had to get parents' permission, and my mother said, "No way you're going to go." So I went to Mr. Muro, Muro-san was living in Block 2, bachelor block. And Muro-san was more or less involved in Seicho-No-Ie group. Have you heard of it?

TI: No.

HU: It's sort of like Christian Science. It's not exactly a religion, there's God, but it's, according to him, it is a religion, it's more like Christian Science.

TI: And was the name again?

HU: Seicho-No-Ie. So anyway, my mother was attending the meetings and things, and Mr. Muro used to come down once a week and give some lecture on the teachings of Seicho-No-Ie.

TI: So was he kind of like a father figure to you?

HU: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Okay, because your father had passed away.

HU: Yeah, that's right. And so anyway, I went to Muro-san and said, "My mother doesn't want me to go out, so could you talk to her?" And so he did, and my mother gave me permission to go. So anyway, four of us, we went out, went to Mojave, that's where we loaded the train, and there was only one passenger train, most of them were freight trains. And we got on there and Pullman, it was a Pullman car. And it was the first time I see anything like it, because when we went to camp, it was a wooden bench and everything, but this passenger train, it had a soft, covered seat, I mean, it's a luxury seat, oh, wow. And so we found a porter, he kept going, he passed the middle section, he went to the end section saying, here we were, saying, "What's going on?" And he took us into this little room, actually, it was a restroom. And there's a restroom, and in front of the restroom there were about, maybe four feet wide bench on both sides, and they told us to wait there. So we didn't know what was going on, so we thought we were going to just wait for a few minutes. We waited and waited, and you know, the train, it took about seven, eight hours, all the way long.

TI: So this is like a train version of the back of the bus.

HU: Right, right, like black people.

TI: Yeah, so it was kind of a segregated area, away from the regular passengers.

HU: Right. But it didn't occur to us at that time that we were being segregated, because we were in camp, we were naive. The only thing was we were called "Japs" in newspaper, magazine, radio, but there was no actual contact, nobody came to us and said, "Hey, you Japs," right?

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: And before you tell the rest of the story, the four of you, what were you thinking and hoping, going on this excursion? So this was the four boys, sixteen years old? As a group, the first time probably on your own, and you're going to the outside world after living in Manzanar for like three years. What were you thinking?

HU: Oh, we were working on the, this is summer vacation, and we got a job as a roofing crew, and we were putting a new roof on the barrack. And come to think of it, I'm still wondering why we were putting new roof on the barrack when people were leaving. So anyway, every morning we'd pick up the tarpaper and bring it to the site. And one evening, we saw fire, and what happened was the warehouse that kept the tarpaper just went up in flames. So the next morning we went to sort of clean up, and that was it, we were out of a job.

TI: Oh, I see. So summertime, you were out of jobs, you didn't have anything to do, so you felt it'd be good to go out. And was it kind of like as an adventure?

HU: Yeah, it was. And this guy, Roy Yonemura, he was from French Camp, and they had a farm, 15 acre tomato farm. And he had this German immigrant that was a neighbor taking care of his farm. So we already had a contact, so we went, so we trusted, we depended on Roy to make all the arrangements, so when we got there, his name was Joe, neighbor, was there to pick us up. And then we were naive, we didn't think of how to get a job, so we were out of a job for 48, two days. I mean, Joe was kind of looking for jobs for us, but they couldn't find it. And during the meantime, we were living in Joe's shack. I mean, he had a house of his own, he had a little shack for harvesting, the harvest workers.

TI: And I'm sorry, so how long were you kind of doing this for?

HU: Forty-eight hours.

TI: Forty-eight hours, okay, two days.

HU: Yeah. But the thing was, Joe had this hand pump, and then it was situated right next to his outhouse, and we just didn't have the guts to drink it, so we didn't drink the water for forty-eight hours, and of course there was no food, we weren't prepared for that. So we went without food and water for forty-eight hours, and then finally we said, "Hey, we got to do something," and we said, "How much do you have?" And there was a sort of a store. Out in the country, they used to have these gas stations, not that big...

TI: Like a convenience store?

HU: Right. So we had about sixty-seven cents or something like that all together, so we went to the grocery store and then picked up two Royal Crown colas and mustard and bread. And on the way back, we picked up some onions, because it was summertime, so they harvested the onions, and there were a bunch of half rotten onions. So we picked up whatever was not too rotten, onions, and then there was a cemetery, and inside the cemetery was an apricot tree full of apricots. So we took a bunch of that, so we went back to Joe's shack and we had onion and mustard sandwich. And so it was the most delicious lunch we ever had.

TI: Well, the other thing I was thinking as you're telling the story is, this was like, I guess, for you, welcome to the outside world. I mean, all of a sudden, what it's like to be on your own, and not having a place, food, and all that taken care of for you, because that's what your existence was like at Manzanar, now in the outside world, you'd have to figure out all these things on your own.

HU: Yeah. It was fun.

TI: So I know on this trip we touched on it last time, and how you actually did a side trip to Los Angeles before. When you looked at Los Angeles, was that your first time?

HU: That was the first time. First time in any big city. I used to go to Sacramento, and Sacramento back in those days, it was a town sort of...

TI: But Los Angeles was much bigger.

HU: Oh, yeah.

TI: And did you guys go to that Little Tokyo area?

HU: Yeah. Kenji Yada, we used to call him "Wanger," he got his name Wanger in the shower room. He's tall, and people figure, well, he has something that big, so they called him Wanger.

TI: So spell that, W...

HU: W-A-N-G-E-R.

TI: Wanger, okay.

HU: Okay, sort of a big dick type.

TI: [Laughs] That's what I thought he said. Okay, that was his nickname.

HU: Anyway, he grew up in Little Tokyo area. I think he lived on Towne Avenue, Fifth and Towne, there was a Japanese section there where people used to live.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: And what were your first impressions when you saw Little Tokyo, Los Angeles? Because you lived, you grew up on a small farm, and yeah, you may have seen Sacramento, but this was the big city.

HU: Yeah, it was exciting. But then we got out at Union Station for Stockton, and then Wanger, he wasn't too sure. He was definitely young when he left, and he wasn't too oriented in this area, so we took a cab, had to go to Muro-san's hotel. Because Muro-san was married to a Mexican American, and she was running this hotel.

TI: So this like Fourth and Main?

HU: Fourth and Main. In fact, 417 1/2 South Main. So anyway, we asked, there were a few taxi drivers standing around, so we asked them to take us to Fourth and Main Street. And they said, "Well, why don't you walk? It's not that far." At that time, I didn't realize that they didn't want, they don't want us anyway.

TI: Okay, so they weren't trying to save you money, they just didn't want to drive you. Because it was about a mile or so.

HU: Yeah. So we had these heavy suitcases and we walked. But when I come to think of it now, it's just because we were "Japs," they didn't want to give a ride to a "Jap."

TI: And about what time was this? Were there other, was the exclusion zone open long enough that Japanese businesses were starting up again in Little Tokyo? Do you remember kind of the date of this first one? Well, you said summer, so summer 1945, so maybe in June? And so there probably were some families.

HU: Yeah, they lifted the ban in January or February of '45, so when we came down here, there were already Japanese shops. I mean, before that, Little Tokyo was occupied by the black people, but then I think they got, the owners of the buildings, they wanted the black people out, so they had to, I guess they hired this professional crew, kind of relocate them to Watts or Willowbrook or whatever.

TI: And that was to make room for the Japanese to return?

HU: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Now, who were the owners? Were they Japanese owners?

HU: American owners, most of them, and then of course there were Japanese owners, too.

TI: Oh, interesting, okay.

HU: So when we came here in June, I didn't see any black people here. And they were the Japanese small shops opening up, and barber shops, cleaners, little cafes and things like that.

TI: And was this pretty much along, like, First Street?

HU: Yeah, First Street. First Street and also San Pedro Street. Although First Street went all the way down to Main Street just before the police station came up, so then First Street and then San Pedro Street, they were the last shops coming up. And then so...

TI: And then your, so you go to...

HU: Oh, Muro-san's.

TI: Muro-san's place. And he wasn't there yet, he was still back in Manzanar?

HU: Yeah.

TI: So this was his Mexican wife, and the adopted daughter, Hope, I think...

HU: Hope, yeah.

TI: And Hope was, you told me earlier, it's an interesting story because she was Nisei, but she stayed in skid row during the war. She didn't go to Manzanar.

HU: No. And she went to a Catholic, there's a Catholic church around here, Third and Los Angeles, anyway, nearby there was a Catholic...

TI: Oh, right, I think I've seen that.

HU: Yeah, so she went to school there.

TI: So she was just like under the radar and no one bothered her.

HU: Yeah, nobody bothered.

TI: Probably with the last name Muro, they might not have even thought that was Japanese.

HU: And in skid row, they don't bother with people down there.

TI: Now, did you ever talk to her about what it was like living in L.A.?

HU: No. She was kind of quiet, and I think that got, a little later, my article came out in Rafu Shimpo. And the guy, his name was Doi, I forgot his first name, in Seattle, he read it and he says, "Hey, I knew Muro, and he was a very good friend of my father." And then he called me and we talked on the phone, and he was saying that Hope, after Mrs. Muro died, Hope committed suicide and she was about forty years old. And I guess if she had gone to Manzanar and made a lot of friends there, I think she would have been a lot happier.

TI: Because she would have a larger community to support her after her mother.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So how long did you stay in Los Angeles?

HU: Just a few days. Then we went back.

TI: Now at this point, because I know you come back to Los Angeles, and before the war you had the farm in Florin, at this point, did you kind of know that you were going to resettle in Los Angeles and not go back to Florin?

HU: Oh, yeah.

TI: So you knew this at this point.

HU: Oh, yeah, because we had a 40-acre farm, but then my father died and my brother was taking care of running the farm. But then during the war, he was one of those "no-no boys," and hachimaki going, "Wasshoi, wasshoi," and he was sent to Bismarck. And then he went to Japan, so most of my brothers went to Japan. So the Japanese tradition is that the eldest sons would look out after the family or farm or whatever. So my oldest brother Ben was gone, my second oldest, Sam, was gone, and that left, I'm the third son.

TI: Right. So having your oldest brother, and in the last interview you talked about how, after your father died, right after he finished eighth grade, he didn't go to school anymore and he took over the farm, and pretty much was running it as this sixteen-year-old, kind of the age that you were when you left Manzanar, he took over the farm. So when he decided to go to Tule Lake and then renounce his citizenship and go to Japan, how did that affect you? Did that surprise you?

HU: No.

TI: Why didn't that surprise you?

HU: I wasn't thinking that deeply.

TI: Because here he was giving up, in some ways, wasn't it a dream for him? Because he had 40 acres, he had been planting all these new grapevines and everything, so it looked like it was, the land was still there, it was being taken care of. So he had, in some ways, a place to go back to.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So what do you think happened?

HU: I think that during three years, where we lived, it was cultivated, in a few months we were able to harvest the grapes, but we didn't have anybody to do that. So what Ben did was to ask the shipping, freight people to take care of it. So that's why they just harvested, and supposed to be table grapes, but it wasn't up to par, so they sent it to winery.

TI: Not as much value, right.

HU: Then for three years it hasn't been irrigated, pruned or anything. So by the time the war was over, it was sort of worthless. I guess you could revive it. There were, some of our neighbors, they had somebody to lease the land. So when they came out of camp, it was still in good shape. But in our case, it was gone. It wasn't worth reviving it. Of course, I was only sixteen years old, that's why mother... well, actually, Muro-san was so influential, he said, "Well, just get rid of it, and when the war is over, you could leave that in Los Angeles with me." So that's sort of the things we did. I wasn't thinking.

TI: Now, did your brother Ben, so he was, I think, like eight years older than you, or more?

HU: Fifteen. Oh, thirteen.

TI: Thirteen years older? So yeah, he was in his late twenties. Did his whole family go to Japan?

HU: Yeah.

TI: So his wife and he had a child also?

HU: Yeah.

TI: A young boy.

HU: Boy, and I think he had a daughter in camp, wife and two kids.

TI: So I just think about your family and how much it got, when your father died and then your brother going to Japan with his family. Because his wife was pretty important, too. I remember your story of how she would cook breakfasts for you, and you got bacon and eggs for the first time.

HU: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So I'm just thinking, lots of changes were happening.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay, so you now, you return to Manzanar, and you were there just for a couple more months.

HU: Yeah, just not even that much. And a funny thing happened. When I was out here in L.A., I saw this Hawaiian shirt, real yellow and palm trees, real Hawaiian shirt. And I wore that, when I went back to camp I wore that, and one day, my mother came over crying because people were saying that I'm a furyosei.

TI: And what's that?

HU: Furyo is a bum, delinquent.

TI: Because you wore a Hawaiian shirt back?

HU: Yeah. Because in those days, nobody wore Hawaiian shirts. Things were really different, everything was sort of changing.

TI: So when you came back, I guess the word on the street was that you were a delinquent.

HU: Delinquent.

TI: And so you were a bad boy.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So that really upset your mother.

HU: Oh, yeah, she came home crying.

TI: So did that help prompt you guys to leave Manzanar?

HU: No, it had no effect. I kept wearing the shirt.

TI: So what prompted you guys to leave Manzanar then?

HU: We had to. Because I think when they said, when they lifted the order in January or February, there was also stipulation that we had to leave Manzanar by November. So I think the last person to leave Manzanar was a lady on November 22nd, something like that. So we had to leave, and then for most people who had kids going to school, we had to leave before school started over here.

TI: That makes sense. So I looked at the records, and it looks like you left in August, early August.

HU: August 4th or something like that.

TI: And so you go to Los Angeles, and you're staying at Mr. Muro's place. The interesting thing, when I look at the date, is it happened right about the time the United States dropped the atomic bomb. Do you remember that and where you were when you heard about that?

HU: Not really. I remember the day the war ended.

TI: Yeah, so talk about that, because I was going to say, you were in Los Angeles August 15th when Japan, I think the emperor announced the surrender. So what happened in Los Angeles? Because this is the end of World War II.

HU: Yeah.

TI: It's a big deal.

HU: I guess we knew the war was going to be over, Japan had no chance. And I think it was already sort of indoctrinated that the war is going to be over, so it was over, I didn't have any traumatic expectancies. Just like Pearl Harbor, for months or even years before it happened, the Japanese community knew that it was going to be war. So when it did happen, it just happened, it was no big deal to us. That is, for me, it wasn't a big deal.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

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.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: But at this point, you weren't working yet, you were going to school, and your mother wasn't working. So how did you...

HU: From the proceeds of the farm.

TI: Okay.

HU: And maybe, Mother actually never told me about their finances, but maybe she had some cash, maybe she had from before the war.

TI: And so during the day, when you would go to school or be out, what would your mother do?

HU: Nothing. Just...

TI: Stay in the room?

HU: Stay, yeah, cook and wash dishes and wash the clothes. My sister was there for about a year, and she was working at a garment factory.

TI: Okay, so she would leave, too.

HU: Yeah, she would leave eventually.

TI: Now, did your mom have friends that she would get together with?

HU: No, she didn't. I mean, she had friends, but friends from back home, in Boyle Heights and Westside, but then back in those days, the situation was a lot different. Because when my father was alive, people would come visit them, and I remember Mother mentioning that after my dad died, people just weren't friendly. Of course, you have five kids and widow, maybe that's why people just didn't approach her. So when we came up here, there were friends from back home, you go out, but we never asked to stay with them.

TI: How about when she was at Manzanar? Did she have kind of a friend, friends or social circles that she had?

HU: Yes, she used to attend the Seicho-No-Ie meetings, so she had friends. And my sister, she was taking shigin, one of those classic Japanese singing, so they had friends. And, of course, there were neighbors and people in the block, they knew each other and she worked at the mess hall, so she had mess hall friends.

TI: So I'm trying to get a sense, because one of the things, I've heard lots of stories about life in camp. And, yeah, the Isseis, they had, in some cases, they had more time than ever, right, they had time to take art classes and to socialize. But I'm curious what happened after the war. Like your mother, so now they're away from that. Was that a easier time or a harder time for her?

HU: I really don't know. I really don't know. She was so devoted in raising me, I guess. She always seemed happy and contented.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about the neighborhood. I think you mentioned just a little bit that when you would leave in the morning, oftentimes there might be someone, like a homeless person sleeping on the street or something when you left for school or something. So tell me more about the neighborhood, what was that like?

HU: A lot of times by the entrance there, a guy was just leaning against the wall like this, and they had this quart whiskey wrapped up in this paper bag, drinking, puking. So right next to the hotel was a theater, and they showed a Buddhist show, picture, and I can't remember how much it was, twenty-five cents or something, so these bums, homeless, when they had money, they would go there, go inside the theater to spend the night.

TI: Oh, essentially sleep there for twenty-five cents or whatever.

HU: Yeah. So that was a place where most people are homeless. And then, oh, below our hotel was, our hotel was Gilbert Hotel, and underneath was Gilbert Cafe. It was owned by a Japanese family, Kikuchis, and it was just a, it didn't have any table, it was just a counter type of thing, and maybe eight or ten people could sit on the counter. And then next to that was an arcade, and there were two arcades on Fourth Street. The one across the street was larger, they have this shooting gallery and all kinds of things. The one next to our place was small, maybe this wide and maybe a little longer than this room. And they had just pinball machine and maybe a couple of rifle things. And no matter what time of the day you passed by that, there were always sailors. Because, actually, Main Street was a very colorful street, because they had these arcades, and they had burlesque theater, that's another story. Anyway, so there was an arcade there, there was always this young girl, attractive girl in hula skirt. And, of course, across the street was a whorehouse, so it was very convenient for sailors or anybody that wants to have a cheap time. [Laughs]

TI: And during this time, were the police very tolerant? They just let all this go on?

HU: They just let it go on, yeah. I'd see the police walking, but they didn't do anything. I think it was one of those things.

TI: Now, you mentioned the Gilbert Cafe that's run by Japanese, were there other Japanese-run kind of businesses in this area, too?

HU: No.

TI: Okay, so it was just kind of right there, just the Gilbert Hotel and Gilbert Cafe. Now when you had free time, where would you hang out?

HU: Koyasan Temple.

TI: Okay, so what did you do at the temple?

HU: Koyasan, they turned it into a hostel, so they took all the chairs out. And then they put these army steel beds and mattress, so anybody that's coming out of camp, they would go there and they would sleep there for free until they find a place to rent or whatever. And then it was very convenient, a couple of doors down from Koyasan, there used to be a small cafe, just a few tables, and run by an Issei couple. And they had oyako donburi type of thing, and oyako donburi I remember was thirty-five cents, even with tip.

TI: You could have a whole meal for the whole day almost.

HU: Yeah. So it was very convenient, and I used to hang around there because that's where people would come, and that's where I met a lot of guys from other camps. And back in those days, whenever you see somebody, you'd say, "Hey, which camp are you from?" And they say, "Oh, I'm from Rohwer." And I would say, "Hey, I knew a guy that used to be in Rohwer, do you know such and such?" It was one of those things where everybody was so friendly, it was so easy to meet people.


TI: So a place that you would hang out is the Koyasan temple, which was then a hostel. And so I guess a question, so as people came through, were they, it was almost like their first few days in Los Angeles, you would come across people?

HU: Uh-huh.

TI: And so you were kind of the, in some ways, the local who kind of knew things, where things were that you could tell them, maybe places to stay or maybe about school or things like that.

HU: You mean where the whorehouses are? [Laughs]

TI: Where the whorehouses are. [Laughs] So what kind of activities, I get that you would meet people, were there like other activities like dances or games that were played?

HU: No, at that time, in those days, there was no activity. We just kind of hung around and talked. So there was a lot more activities in Manzanar, things to do, but here, we visited the YMCA on, I think they used to have a big one on Hill Street, I think, Fifth and Hill, we used to go there sometimes.

TI: Now did the community ever, were they ever concerned about you and other youth that didn't have, or were just hanging out there? Did they think, "Oh, this is bad and we have to do something for them"?

HU: No, they didn't.

TI: They were, again, probably all busy.

HU: Yeah, too busy. Those were fun days. There were a lot of guys your own age. There were exciting things happening. I mean, a lot different from Manzanar.

TI: And when they, after they spent a few days and they would move on, where would they go? Generally where would they end up?

HU: Like Boyle Heights, they were in the Sawtelle area, they used to go back to Sawtelle area, lot of Japanese there. And, of course, they were people from Jefferson area, Jefferson and Fourth Avenue area. In fact, later on, there was sort of a second Japanese town there on Jefferson, before they moved out to Crenshaw.

TI: And for, especially for maybe people who were a little bit older than you, were there jobs available for people?

HU: Yeah, all kind of job. Janitor, dishwasher, pot washer. In fact, when I worked as a pot washer, it was Lori's restaurant on La Cienega, and they were about five Niseis there. Dishwasher and assistant.

TI: And I'm sorry, did you say that you worked there, too?

HU: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so you got a job there. And do you remember how much did they get paid for a pot washer?

HU: Let's see. It was pretty good. I think it was sixty-five cents, yeah, sixty-five cents an hour. And then later, when I got a job as a handyman at a shoe factory I was getting seventy cents an hour, I think, yay. [Laughs]

TI: A five-cent raise, yeah. And what would you do with your money, the money you made?

HU: Go to movies, I don't know. Then I used to fool around with radios, so I would get radio parts, I would look at a diagram and build my own radio from scratch. There was a radio parts shop on Eighth, was it Eighth? Yeah, Eighth and Main Street, and the whole block was sort of a radio place where people would go there to buy parts and things. So I would go there whenever I had cash, and buy a part, maybe a tool here and tool there, kind of thing.

TI: Now, you were talking about some of the vices like prostitution, something that there was quite a bit before the war was like gambling in Little Tokyo. Did that start up again after?

HU: That I don't know. I haven't heard of any gambling.

TI: Okay, yeah, I was curious about gambling and that other kind of underground, if that happened.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: And then on weekends, what would people do? You and your friends, what would you do?

HU: Just hang around, listen to music. I used to spend a lot of time with Wanger, he used to live on top of the, Y's Cafe, and he used to listen to all the music, American music. And then Muro-san gave me a record, one of those 78s, and Japanese record, and we were playing. I made a turntable out of crates, and anyway, we were playing it, and it was music about ukiyo, the old geisha prostitutes and things, and we didn't know that it was about prostitutes. [Laughs] And Wanger's mother listened to it, and she just bawled us out. "You shouldn't be listening to that kind of music." [Laughs]

TI: You just liked the music.

HU: Yeah.

TI: That's funny. You grew up in Florin where there was pretty much Japanese and maybe some whites, and then you went to live in Manzanar which was almost all Japanese. And now you're in Los Angeles, which is much more diverse racially than you lived before. So tell me how that was for you, I mean, because you had probably Mexicans, Jewish people, Boyle Heights, you probably had some black residents around, but there's different races that you came across. How was that for you, and were there any kind of interesting stories about that?

HU: They were regular people. And one thing I didn't like was they had Jewish holidays that all the Jewish students were able to take off, and there was Russian holidays, but no Japanese holidays.

TI: Oh, they wouldn't allow you take off on Japanese holidays?

HU: Yeah, that's one thing I remember that I was unhappy about.

TI: But you thought it was unfair that the Jewish students got, like, Yom Kippur off and things like that, interesting.

HU: But we all got along.

TI: I want to get a sense of, you saw Little Tokyo like June of 1945, so when families were just coming back. You got here a couple months later in August, and then you kind of lived in this area for three years. Tell me about the change during that time period. Did you see much change?

HU: There wasn't that much change during that time, the beginning part.

TI: So was the population pretty stable? It didn't grow or get smaller?

HU: It might have grown, but haven't noticed it. And then after two years, then I was busy working and trying to make some money.

TI: When you think of Little Tokyo in the time you were there, were there some strong personalities that you remember, people just in the community that kind of stood out? They don't have to be necessarily prominent, but just people that you saw always on the street or something that kind of stood out?

HU: Yeah, I had friends that used to hang around here.

TI: So tell me about some of them.

HU: It was my friend Arata, Sammy Ota, he was a couple years older than me. He graduated high school in Manzanar, and when he came out, he didn't have, his mother died in Manzanar, and his father was older and wasn't working. So he rented a little house in Boyle Heights, and he got a job as a painter, spray painting. So he was supporting his father and he had a kid brother, and he sent his kid brother to college and things. But then he died when he was about thirty-nine, and I don't know was the cause was, but my suspicion is that the spray painting...

TI: Oh, the fumes.

HU: ...the fumes and things shortened his life. He was a fun guy.

TI: How about any other people that kind of stood out? It could be like a minister or anything that...

HU: Let me see... not really. There was Dr. Goto, he operated on my hernia and appendix. And he was, well, he was at Manzanar. And then there were stories about Dr. Goto there, he was transferred to Topaz, and some people say... there's all kind of stories, like the rangers there, before the work at Manzanar they go through this indoctrination course, and she was telling me that the way she learned was that Dr. Goto was sent to Topaz because he was performing abortions. So that was one story there. Then another story is that during the riot, Ishii, a seven-year-old boy, he got shot in the back. Because when they were retreating, they got shot. And then the administrators wanted to cover up the story, so he didn't want Dr. Goto to report that he was shot in the back, that's another story. And then I have my theory that each department head was hakujin, fire department, Free Press, our newspaper, police department, it was always a white person that's head of the department. And Dr. Goto, he was pushed to go there, and he was head of the hospital, which is the largest department, and I don't think that administrator wanted any Japanese to be head of a department so big, so he was transferred to... and then he was replaced by this hakujin doctor. That was just my theory.

TI: Right. And then he ended up back in Little Tokyo and he was your doctor.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Did you ever talk to him at all about camp or anything like that?

HU: No.

TI: Did people talk much about camp during these years?

HU: Yeah, because... well I think, this is just my opinion, but people had a good time. That it wasn't anything, we didn't think of being unjustified, I mean, it didn't even occur to us that we got screwed big time, but that was it. It was one of those things, it was no big deal. So I think, again, we were too busy trying to get adjusted to being accepted into the American mainstream, and I think, yeah, we never talked about it. Things like "concentration camp," we never referred to it as concentration camp. I'm not criticizing, no offense to you. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, that's okay. We had this conversation last time. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, but so here -- and this might be something that you didn't see as much, but in Seattle, I've asked some stories about like the hostels and things, and they said, not for everyone, some people were fine, but some people, when they came back, became really depressed. They got really sad, it was really hard, especially some of the Issei men who couldn't get jobs, and they felt like... because before, during the war, your housing and food were all taken care of, and now you're given twenty-five dollars and say, start all over, if you're in your fifties or sixties, Issei men, and you can't get a job or something, it was really hard. And so in Seattle there are some stories in the hostels that there were several suicides...

HU: Oh, really?

TI: ...of Issei men who just couldn't, decided not to go on. Do you recall any stories like that or any depression or maybe heavy drinking or anything like that that went on in the community?

HU: No. I've known, or I've meet a lot of the Issei people, but they just continued along with their lives. I don't know of anybody that ever complained about camp or being mistreated. But maybe I hung around with different kind of people. But yeah, as far as my contact with the Isseis, I've never heard any complaints. And my mother, I never, ever heard her complain about losing that ranch or anything of that sort.

TI: How about your classmates at Roosevelt? Did you hear any stories of having just difficulties, that they struggled?

HU: No, everybody seemed to be happy. Of course, there were a couple of people that were sort of loner, and even in Manzanar, I knew some guys who were loners, I think for them, I think it was miserable. It's all about people. If you don't have people to talk to, play with, it's very, very depressing.

TI: I was talking to some people, this is a little bit later after you, but like in Boyle Heights, in that area, probably about maybe ten years later, after you graduated, there were Japanese American kind of groups or gangs. And a lot of them got into drugs and stuff, did you see any of that kind of behavior where some of your classmates would do kind of dangerous things or bad things together?

HU: No. I had an employee at my shop, this was a much younger Sansei, and he had, I remember he was sleeping, he had red nose and things, yeah, I've seen in the Sansei generation, later generation, in fact, he died just recently, last month, at age fifty-something. So I've seen the younger generation getting into that, getting into trouble. But in our days, our generation, I didn't see any of that. I guess we were so much under the Isseis' control, rigid control, that we didn't have the opportunity to do those fun things.

TI: Yeah, yeah. How about... another thing I was curious about, when everything is in a state of flux -- and this happened even with the Isseis, I remember when the early stories of the Isseis, when they were recruiting men from Japan to work, there were stories of sometimes people would kind of cheat or they would take money from other people, like there would be kind of the bosses that would skim money, and so there's fraud and things like that. After the war, when people were coming back and everything is just like in transition, were there ever stories of some people being maybe dishonest and cheating each other? Or was it more cohesive, people helping each other?

HU: I think people who were helping each other, very, very courteous, so you see Japanese, you would go out of your way. I remember, I think it was in 1946, my brother and my sister, they were at Seabrook and they moved out to Lodi. The only thing I knew was that he was in Lodi somewhere. So I went to Lodi one day, I was working on the farm out there, and then before I came back, I thought I'll visit them. I went to Lodi, and that was the first time I went to Lodi, and I knew that there was a Japanese community, very strong Japanese community there. So I just walked around until I saw a store, Japanese store with a few guys just hanging and just talking. So I went there and said, "I have a brother, his name is Yosh Matsumoto, and I'm looking for him. Do you know, any of you guys know this guy?" They just looked at each other, and one guy said, "There was a guy that just moved here, he's working at such and such a place picking strawberries." And he said, "I'll take you down," and he drove me all the way.

TI: So people were really helpful with each other.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Like in the community, if there was a family that maybe struggled, maybe like a father died or something, were there ways for the community to support that person? Were there any social services, any kind of community services for that?

HU: I guess they would give the koden, that might help.

TI: Oh, yeah, so koden was a form of that.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Now, was that koden, did that happen a lot before... yeah, I guess it happened before the war.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So that was really important.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Another topic that people don't talk much about, but when you look at some of the reports, things like sexual assault, or other kind of... it'd be like, yeah, sexual assault or someone physically beating someone. Any stories like that?

HU: Yeah. I had a friend, he's dead, but he had a sister, older sister, and she worked at Manzanar hospital, and she was pretty sexy looking. So one day, this guy, I won't mention his name, but he and a couple of other guys, they just took her into this closet and raped her. And we knew about it, but it was something that was not talked about.

TI: So this was at the hospital, she worked at the hospital?

HU: Yeah. She was about maybe sixteen, seventeen.

TI: And these young men were older than she was, or the same age?

HU: Maybe, yeah, about same age or one or two years older. Things were happening, but they don't, they just don't talk about it.

TI: And you said, so some people knew about this, did any of the, kind of, the adults know about this?

HU: Probably. Well, maybe not. I guess we knew about it, but...

TI: And when you about something like that, what happens? Do people try to help the victim in any way, to console her, or what happens?

HU: Nothing. You hear about it, you say nothing, do nothing. It's just one of those codes that...

TI: What about, to the young men who assaulted this woman, like when you see them, do you say anything to them?

HU: No. It's one of those things... yeah, there was another girl that got raped, but it's something that, I don't know, today, you make a big fuss about it and report it, go on the Megan's list or whatever, it's all publicized. But in our generation, we knew it happened, and when it happens, we just don't say anything, and we don't act any differently.

TI: But everyone kind of knows, right?

HU: Yeah, just knows.

TI: Now, so when people know and don't talk about it, we're in Manzanar, say, and there's like a social, like a dance or something, how did people act there?

HU: That's a good question. Yeah, I went to one of those dance, and the girl that got raped, the guy who raped the girl, he went to the girl that he raped and asked for a dance and they were dancing.

TI: Hmm. And could you tell any facial reaction when that happened with the woman?

HU: Yeah, they don't talk, they just, they don't talk. They just dance, but they don't talk.

TI: I mean, that sounds... and why do you think that young man asked her to dance? I mean, it seems like it's kind of, like what you said earlier, if he did this, it would be more like just try to stay away from it, but he asked her to dance, that seems...

HU: Maybe he got a lot of guts. [Laughs]

TI: And when you see that, what did it make you feel when you saw that? Did that make you surprised?

HU: That makes it interesting, he raped her, and he was dancing.

TI: And did you know the woman at all?

HU: Yeah.

TI: Did you ever ask her about that?

HU: No.

TI: But you knew her brother.

HU: Yeah.

TI: How was it for him? I mean, so he knew, right?

HU: He knew, but he didn't talk about it or anything.

TI: And do you think that was... so you saw a little bit of that, do you think that was happening throughout the camp, similar types of things like that?

HU: I would say so, except that they don't talk about it. I'm sure that it was going on.

TI: Yeah, so these are the stories that the community never talks about.

HU: Yeah.

TI: And we kind of know it's out there, and so that's... now, did you ever hear stories of maybe, not so much teenagers, but happening with older adults, similar types of things?

HU: No, I haven't heard anything.

TI: That's okay.

HU: I've heard of couples going into a barrack room and doing it, but...

TI: Yeah, but that was more consensual, right?

HU: Yeah, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So I wanted to now ask you, we did your interview about eight, nine years ago, and then after we did your interview, a few years later you came out with a book. The book was Manzanar to Mount Whitney, and I wanted to ask you, one, why did you write the book, and what the reaction was?

HU: Oh, I really didn't have any intention of turning it into a book. It'd be once a month I wrote a short, maybe a few hundred words, one page essay on some of the things that happened, just for the fun of it. And I continued that for four years. So after four years, I had about fifty stories, and then Karen... and that was it, I was just running for the fun of it. And Karen said --

TI: So Karen's your daughter, right?

HU: Yeah. Says, "Do you mind if I send it to the publisher?" I took that as sarcasm. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so you thought she was kidding, she was joking?

HU: Joking, yeah, she was making fun of me. [Laughs] So I said, "Yeah, go ahead."

TI: Because you didn't think she was going to do it?

HU: I didn't think so. And I was sort of upset because I thought she was making fun of me, but she did, she did send it. And the manuscript -- I wouldn't say manuscript, but things like that goes to a publisher, there was the screening person. They look at it and say, they say, "Oh, maybe this is good, it's worth it." Well, according to the screener, she told the publisher, "Don't bother with it, just forget it." But then what's his name, Malcolm... anyway, the owner of the publishing, Heyday, I guess he was curious, so he read it.

TI: Oh, so the publisher, that's unusual. Usually the reason they have screeners is they get so many, the publisher never, only reads the "good ones," right? The only ones that get through.

HU: Yeah. Somehow, I don't know why he read it, I guess he was sort of curious. He read it and he wrote me and said, "It's too unprofessional."

TI: Your piece was too unprofessional?

HU: Yeah. He said maybe you can get an...

TI: An editor?

HU: ...editor to kind of liven it up or something, and he'll consider it. So I asked Naomi...

TI: Oh, the writer, the mystery writer?

HU: Yeah. But then it was a little different, she tried, but then the publisher had something else in mind. So I worked with the editor at the publishing, and the thing I liked was that they didn't change anything that I wrote, but they coached me and they tried to -- oh, Naomi gave me the idea, came up with the idea of integrating the hiking story with my personal stories. So I'm hiking and I have a flashback of something that relates to that in my life. So anyway, the editor at the publishing she wanted to make it have continuity, from childhood to adulthood. Otherwise, if my story was just nothing but different stories, they wanted to make it sort of a story of a life. And then, so we started doing that, and then there were certain parts of my life that I skipped. Like I was married two times, that I didn't want to talk about that, so that's completely gone. They said, "Hey, fill this up," and other parts, so I ended up writing about twenty-five more stories to fill in all these gaps. And then it was published. It was something that was absolutely unintentional, and I never wanted to be a writer anyway.

TI: Well so it was published by Heyday, what's been the reaction to the book?

HU: It's okay.

TI: Do you know how many books have sold?

HU: Yeah... right now about 2,200.

TI: And so have some people written to you or told you that they read the book and their reaction to it?

HU: Yeah, it's funny. In fact, a few months ago, the guy, his name is Walter Imahara, and he was our neighbor in Florin. And they went to Rohwer, and then after the war, they moved to Louisiana. And Walter's older sister was my classmate, May Imahara, and it was funny because Walter sent me an email and says, "I read your book and you're from Florin." And then we sort of exchanged the notes, and in fact, he told me what happened after moving to Louisiana. In fact, he's coming down this summer because he has a relative in Torrance, so we're getting together.

TI: Oh, so it's been a way to connect with people.

HU: Yeah, it's sort of a funny way to connect.

TI: How about anyone from Manzanar when they read it? Any comments from anyone who was at Manzanar?

HU: Yeah, there's another one, my brother, Ben, had a Kibei friend, what was his name? Sakamoto, and they were both working as police in Manzanar.

TI: The internal...

HU: Yeah. And Sakamoto was sort of instrumental in having Ben declare "no-no" and going to Tule Lake.

TI: And when you say, "instrumental," meaning that he convinced him?

HU: Yeah, he was a Kibei.

TI: Right. So Sakamoto also did the same thing?

HU: Yeah, so he went to Tule Lake, but he stayed here. [Laughs] And then so it's a funny thing, because a hakujin lady out east read my book and told Sakamoto's daughter that Sakamoto is mentioned in this book, is there any relation? So he contacted me and we had lunch and talked about what happened. It was kind of an unusual contact.

TI: Now, has anyone read the book and wasn't pleased? They said, "Oh, Hank, I don't like your book"? Did anyone say that?

HU: I'm sure there are, but they never contacted me. [Laughs]

TI: They didn't tell you to your face, huh?

HU: No.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. Are there any ideas to do another book or to do more writing?

HU: No. That book was just sort of an accident that happened.

TI: So I finished all my questions. Is there anything else that you want to talk about, anything other... I only looked at Little Tokyo, but after that, is there anything else that you think is important to talk about?

HU: Yeah, I think there was a period when it was easy to get into the workforce or to begin life. By that I mean everybody at the same level. And there was nobody that's ahead of you that you had to catch up, and whether you're old or young, we were starting from ground zero, and we had equal opportunities sort of. Younger kids, they were able to get better education because your parents are established, and their older siblings, they're older, and they were able to work and support them and send them to college. But in general, when you're starting out your life, you're beginning at the same level.

TI: You're talking about, like, right after the war?

HU: Right after the war, right.

TI: People essentially had nothing, right?

HU: Right. So for me, if I were nineteen or twenty today and go out in the world, I don't think I could make it.

TI: Oh, interesting. Because you feel like if you started right now, there'd be so many people that have so much more as a starting point, more money, more connections, more education, it would be harder.

HU: Yeah. I can't be washing dishes or pots, I can't be doing gardening. When I started gardening, I was proud, hey, I'm an entrepreneur. But today, you do see any Sansei, Yonsei or Gosei doing gardening. So yeah, I'm very fortunate that I grew up in the time we had equal chance, opportunity. And even in business, I started the printing business in 1973, and I was in it for thirty-three years before I retired. And that was only a short time, only it was twenty, twenty-five years after camp, and it was different than it is today, where we would go to a Japanese restaurant or Japanese barber shop, we patronized somebody that's a Japanese-owned business.

TI: So the community would support you, the Japanese?

HU: Yeah, so I had ready-made customers to begin with, to compete with Speedy and PIP, those big shots. So that way, too...

TI: So what you're saying, I think, is, I guess when you look at your grandchildren, it's a much harder place to survive and succeed.

HU: Unless you're so humble that you don't care about what you do.

TI: That's good. Well, so Hank, thank you again, this was a really good opportunity to get into this. We're almost two hours in, so okay, thank you.

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