Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Alan Kumamoto Interview
Narrator: Alan Kumamoto
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 7, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-464-3

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: And just to make sure we have it on the record, you mentioned your mother's name was Flora, your father was...

AK: It was Masakatsu, and so a lot of people called him "Match," he was called "Match-san, Match-san," or "Match." So when he was at Lincoln High School, one of the teachers called him Frank, he couldn't pronounce Masakatsu, too hard. And his friends would all call him "Match," so when he was in the army and everything, they all called him "Match," but he was actually Frank M. Kumamoto.

BN: Did Frank become his legal name?

AK: That was the name he used all the time. I don't know if it was legally changed, but it was the one that he used. I think by default, it became his legal name.

BN: So they kind of knew each other growing up, because they're growing up in the same area.

AK: Right, and all the kids hung out together. So the Olivers was a group. Miss Oliver was a teacher at that school that's there, Amelia Street School. And so she would have after school sessions where she would teach them manners. So that these Japanese kids would learn how to sit properly which fork to use, how to politely say hello. [Coughs] This isn't usually that bad, I don't know what happened. It did clear through. Miss Oliver, there was a book called The Olivers, and she organized them by different age groups. So there were the Midgets and the Pee Wees, the Seniors.

BN: So your dad was, must have been, was he in the original Olivers group, because he's about that age?

AK: He was older, yeah.

BN: Just the Olivers.

AK: Right. And then because he was this kid who would run around and so forth, they all knew who he was. And then my mom was, I would say she was more the shy type, probably, compared to my dad. He was more outgoing.

BN: Given the different religions, was there any, kind of, opposition from the family or anything?

AK: Well, the Suski family was very active at Maryknoll, and the Kumamotos were active over at the Buddhist church with the building campaign or the banquets and all that type of stuff, and there didn't seem to be any conflict, it was before my time, as far as I know. I mean, as a little kid, I would go to both sides. Usually, when I was quite young, I would go with my mom to Sunday service because of the Catholics. We would occasionally go to events that would take place, funerals, weddings, that type of thing, at the Buddhist church or the different Obon, some of the different festivals. But there didn't seem to be any conflict, there was just a separation, and so forth.

BN: You were kind of comfortably raised to do both ways?

AK: Right. And then what happened was after World War II, when we came out here to settle and open up the Suski house, my grandfather's house, we were way out. In those days, you'd have to leave Little Tokyo, you'd have to climb the big mountain over here called Bunker Hill where all the mansions were, and go down the hill, and go up another hill and so forth. Which, right now is maybe three miles, two miles, but it was a far distance. And this was the Bonnie Brae House that my grandfather built. And so when we opened it up, they enroll me in the Union Avenue grade school. However, I was supposed to go into first grade, and the school burned. So I was sent to the parochial school down the street, Our Lady of Loretto, and so that was the grade school, and that was the local church. So my mom eventually became one of the secretaries, or the receptionist over there. And so I went eight years at Our Lady of Loretto Catholic school as one of the few Japanese. Everybody assumed that I would go to Maryknoll because Maryknoll eventually opened up a school and had activities and things over there. But I think one of the things... so from there, what happened was in my eighth grade, my eighth grade teacher said to me, "Why don't you apply to Loyola High School?" which is a private Jesuit Catholic school on Venice Boulevard. She said, "No one has ever gotten in from here." So I took the entrance exams, placed fiftieth or something, and got in. So that became that transition from a grade school that was Catholic to continue on with a Jesuit education, Catholic education. And then my sons went there, and one of our grandsons went there. So we became like a lot of the Caucasian families who have generations of people who go to that particular school, private school.

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